Isn't it utterly absurd that there are some aghast at the suffering of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and utterly unconcerned with that in Yarmouk, the Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus now besieged by forces loyal to Syrian dictator Bashar Assad... and vice versa...? A brutal winter storm in the region has exacerbated the suffering in both blockaded enclaves, and most Palestinians assuredly grasp the obvious symmetry. In some quarters, however, a sort of ideological blindness seems to prevail: Assad's apologists are of course outraged at the agony in Gaza, but find that in Yarmouk invisible. The US State Department, in turn, exploits Yarmouk for propaganda against Assad, while displaying no such concern for Gaza...
Palestinian olive harvesters along with Israeli volunteers assisting in the harvest were attacked Oct. 20 by settlers armed with iron bars near the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar, according to the organization Rabbis for Human Rights. There were apparently no serious injuries in the incident, but the victims are still being examined by medics. The Palestinian Authority complains that settler aggression, specifically destruction of olive trees and groves, has increased in recent weeks, as the harvest season started. More than 100 olive trees have been uprooted in Krayot village, south of Nablus, Palestinian authorities saud. Ghassan Daghlas, who monitors settler activities in this sector of the West Bank on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, blamed settlers from the settlement Ali. (Haaretz, JP, Oct. 20)
The Israeli High Court is set to rule this week on the forced expulsion of all residents of the village of Khirbat Zanuta, southwest of Hebron in the West Bank. Israel Civil Administration ordered the demolition of Zanuta in 2007, on the absurd grounds that structures in the village were built without permits, but the High Court ruled that year that authorities must "find a solution" for the villagers before any eviction. But last year the Zionist organization Regavim, with a base of support among local Israeli settlers, succeeded in reviving the case by filing a new request for demolition. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, which represents the Zanuta residents, says that in a High Court hearing last year, "the justices delivered harsh criticism of the State for its intent to demolish the village without suggesting a solution for its residents." But the demolition request was not dismissed, and villagers fear imminent eviction.
Israeli forces used bulldozers to demolish the "unrecognized" Bedouin village of al-Araqeeb in the Negev desert on July 16—for the 53rd time in three years. The demolition came one day after thousands of Palestinian, Israeli Arab and Bedouin protesters took to the streets in towns across the West Bank, Gaza and inside the Green Line to oppose an Israeli bill that would forcibly expel tens of thousands of Bedouins from the Negev. Araqeeb, home to some 500 people, is one of about 40 Bedouin villages in the Negev not recognized by Israel's Land Authority. Following the 38th demolition of Araqeeb last year, villagers said they wanted apply with the Guinness Book of World Records to claim a record for the number of times Israel has demolished a village.
Israeli forces surrounded but did not ultimately attack the Ahfad Younis protest camp estabished by Palestinian activists outside Jerusalem during Obama's visit to Israel and the West Bank. But as Obama moved on to Jordan March 23, two Palestinian youths were critically wounded as Israeli forces fired rubber-coated steel bullets on protester at Anata north of Jerusalem. Several people suffered from tear-gas inhalation. Five people were also injured in the Ramallah area village of Beit Liqya during a protest against Israel's separation wall. (Maan News Agency, Al-Monitor, March 22)
Israel may have to soon forfeit its long-touted claim to being the Middle East's only democracy. The new coalition government agreed to March 15 between Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu and Habayit Hayehudi is calling for a rewrite of Israel's Basic Law that would officially make the state's democratic character subservient to its Jewish character. Earlier versions of the bill, pushed by Kadima MK Avi Dichter, contained controversial measures that sparked an outcry, leading to it being shelved. These included a mandate for the state to invest resources to promote Jewish settlement with no similar obligation to do so for other ethnic groups. Another stated that Arabic would no longer be considered an official language, but rather would merely have a "special status." (Haaretz, March 17)
Preliminary results of Israel's election show Benjamin Netanyahu weakened but likely to serve a third term as prime minister, in a shift toward what mainstream accounts call "the center." Netanyahu's bloc made up of the right-wing Likud and far-right Yisrael Beitenu came out on top with 31 seats out of the 120 in the Knesset—down form 42. Coming in second, the new "centrist" Yesh Atid (There is a Future), led by ex-TV personality Yair Lapid took a projected 19 seats. The center-left Labor, once the mainstay of Iraeli politics, came in third with only an estimated 15 seats. Arab parties are projected to have won 12 seats. The biggest party in the last Knesset, the "center"-right Kadima, dropped from 28 seats to none. (Foreign Policy's Middle East Channel blog, JTA, Jan. 23) But an election-time controversy demonstrated the degree to which ultra-right positions have become mainstreamed in Israeli politics...