JERUSALEM — Israel will not be at the center of the expected release of classified US documents by WikiLeaks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday.
The whistle-blower website was reportedly hours away from releasing hundreds of thousands of confidential US diplomatic cables, with several governments fearing damaging revelations.
But Netanyahu said that Israel, a close US ally, would not be “the center of international attention.” … Full article
In the early hours of dawn on Thursday, 21 April 2011, a large force of Israeli soldiers and intelligence officers raided the home of the prominent Palestinian writer and academic Dr. Ahmad Qatamesh (1) in Al-Bireh and arrested him.
An hour earlier, Qatamesh’s wife, 22-year-old daughter and two other female relatives, including a 14-year-old child, were taken hostage by Israeli troops in another apartment to compel him to surrender himself. He was led to “Ofer” detention center in Beitunia.
Ahmad Qatamesh was born in 1950 in a cave in Bethlehem to a refugee family expelled during the Nakba from the village of Al-Malihah, near Jerusalem. Qatamesh earned his diploma in Arabic literature from the UNRWA-run Teacher Training Center in Ramallah.
In 1992, he was arrested by a massive Israeli force in the presence of his then 3-year-old daughter. Accusing him of being a particularly “dangerous” national leader, the Israeli Shabak tortured and ill-treated him (2) for a hundred days, an experience that he articulately exposed in his well-read prison notes titled I Shall not Wear Your Tarboush (fez). After the Shabak failed to produce incriminating evidence, however, an Israeli military court issued an “administrative detention” order against him, in accordance with an emergency law that allows Israel to detain for renewable terms anyone under its jurisdiction without charges, trial or access to the charges against him/her. This unjust procedure was repeatedly condemned as a violation of internationally accepted standards of justice by leading human rights organizations, including Amnesty International. (3)
Qatamesh’s detention was renewed continuously for almost six years, making him the longest serving administrative detainee ever. In April 1998, after a persistent public pressure campaign by Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights activists and organizations, Qatamesh was finally released. (4)
Ahmad Qatamesh earned his master’s degree and later his PhD in political science from a Dutch university through distance learning, as he was under a travel ban by the Israeli occupation.
He then became a thesis supervisor for several Palestinian graduate students of the same university. He authored several books on diverse literary, political and philosophical topics, and he was a sought-after speaker in local universities and research centers. In 2010, he taught a course in the School of Humanities at Al-Quds University.
Qatamesh’s wife, Suha Barghouti, who is a board member of Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Organization and of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, as well as a Steering Committee member of the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO), considered his arrest “an attempt to silence his critical voice and prevent his compelling vision for emancipation and self determination from spreading further in the Palestinian public.” She called on human rights organizations to pressure the Israeli authorities for his immediate release and held those authorities fully responsible for his safety and well being.
His daughter, Haneen, who is on a short break from her studies at the American University of Cairo, commented on her traumatizing experience of being held hostage by Israeli soldiers saying: “They tried to intimidate me by exploiting my deep agony over the idea of being denied my father again, but I firmly confronted them and reminded them of the fate of all colonial powers on our land. In response, their commander shouted that I was as ‘obstinate’ as my father.”
Gerarda Ventura, Vice President of the Euromed Platform of NGOs, expressed deep solidarity of European civil society with Palestinians like Ahmad Qatamesh, whom she called “one of the most sensitive and intellectual people I have ever met,” in their civil struggle for “freedom, justice and peace.”
The Addameer-appointed lawyer who visited Qatamesh the day after his arrest stated that he was not interrogated and that he was informed instead that he would get an administrative detention order. This indicates that the Shabak, again, lack any evidence to build a case against him and proves that he was arrested indeed for his writings and peaceful activism and not any “security” reasons as was claimed by the Israeli authorities.
Praising Ahmad Qatamesh as “an excellent writer, principled researcher and devoted human rights advocate … struggling for freedom and respect of fundamental rights,” Palestinian Legislative Council member Dr. Mustafa Barghouti condemned his arrest by Israel as “a shameless attempt at muzzling him in an unjustifiable attack on his freedom of expression.”
Ahmad Qatamesh’s family has appealed to international agencies and human rights organizations to work for releasing him and all the other Palestinian prisoners of conscience. They also called for ending the draconian policy of administrative detention, which is based on emergency regulations from the era of the British Mandate, as a blatant violation of freedoms and human rights, in particular the right to a fair and just due process.
1. Also spelled “Katamesh” and “Qatamish.”
At Qalandiya: ‘No, you cannot pass.’ (Mahfouz Abu Turk)
When Tamar, one of the Israeli women of the human rights observation and documentation group Machsom Watch (machsom translates to ‘checkpoint’ in English) first telephoned me a few days before we were to meet for me to join her shift at Qalandiya checkpoint in the Palestinian West Bank, she asked me where we could meet. We had planned to meet during the afternoon of Easter Sunday so that she could answer some of my questions about access for foreigners and of rights, if any, at the over five hundred illegal Israeli checkpoints between the occupied West Bank and both occupied East Jerusalem and Israel proper.
“Shall we meet in Beit Hanina or at Qalandiya?” Tamar asked me. Any other Sunday, I may not have had a problem with either spot, but Easter Sunday fell during the Jewish holiday of Passover, and for the entire week of Passover, plus two extra days, we in the West Bank were under military closure. Beit Hanina is a small village in East Jerusalem which borders on the illegal Israeli separation wall, and is within the green line established in 1967. Legally under international law, Beit Hanina and all of East Jerusalem should be under Palestinian control, but these areas are instead entering the forty-fourth year of Israeli occupation.
Hence, to reach Beit Hanina from the West Bank, Palestinians must either be residents of Jerusalem, or have received a military permit to cross the checkpoint (or several checkpoints) that separate them from Jerusalem. Military permits, as one might expect, are not easy to get and are usually issued for sick individuals only to visit hospitals in Jerusalem for a short period of time—often valid for only a few hours. Students and workers can apply for temporary academic or work permits to be in Jerusalem but the Israeli military often does not renew them once they expire, or their holders are forced to enter a lengthy process of renewal, during which they are denied access into Jerusalem. To get any type of permit to cross into Jerusalem, even for Palestinians whose families, villages, and even streets are cut off from their neighbors by the separation wall, the applicant must meet age qualifications. Once a Palestinian child from the West Bank turns twelve years of age, he will be given a blue West Bank identity card and is banned from entering Jerusalem, even with his parents. Those West Bank Palestinians who do have permission to enter Jerusalem are not allowed further than Jerusalem into the 1948 borders of Israel.
I am currently living in the town of Birzeit, close to the de facto Palestinian Authority capital of Ramallah and about twenty-two kilometers from Jerusalem, and as an American, I hold an Israeli tourist visa. As a foreigner with an Israeli visa, I usually do not have problems passing through Qalandiya checkpoint—besides the usual being treated as less than a human, or as part of a herd of cattle along with the Palestinians.
“Well, I don’t know if I can get to Beit Hanina on time, you know, I have to pass through the checkpoint and it is…” I began saying to Tamar.
“Oh right, I know, there is a closure. We’ll meet at Qalandiya, on the Palestinian side, next to the wall,” she answered, knowing quite well that because of the Jewish holiday, the entire West Bank was closed in. Even those with normal permits for school and work would face the threat of not being allowed through the checkpoints, and many checkpoints through the West Bank were simply closed for the entire period. Although Qalandiya would remain open, as it is the main checkpoint between the city of Ramallah and Jerusalem, it would take quite some time to pass through it. Two days before speaking to Tamar, I had gone to Jerusalem on the first day of the closure. Only one lane out of several was open to filter Palestinians and visa-holders through the checkpoint and the wait at that particular time of the day was over one hour. On a normal day, nearly forty thousand people pass through Qalandiya checkpoint. Despite the seventy-five degree heat and the screaming of the female soldiers for people to stay in a line and only pass through the turnstiles one-by-one, it could have been worse. It always can be worse.
Tamar informed me that if we did not spot each other on Sunday afternoon, I could ask anyone around if she was there. Anyone will know you? I asked. “Well yes, after being there eight years, you know…” she replied. And so it was set. I would spend my Easter Sunday afternoon at Qalandiya checkpoint.
I arrived in the West Bank early in January to carry out eight to nine months of research for my doctoral thesis. My field is history, and specifically, the history of the Palestine Mandate. My main reason for being in Palestine then, is not the same as that of many other foreigners who are here as solidarity activists or working or volunteering for NGOs in the West Bank and particularly in Ramallah. I had heard about Machsom Watch some years before, and have high respect for their work: they are a group of Israeli women who since 2001 have taken it upon themselves to bear witness to the injustices and abuses, as well as the system of apartheid and control, that take place at both the hundreds of Israeli checkpoints and military courts which try Palestinian men, women and children for various offenses. They document what they witness and publish it both on their website in great detail, with photos, and also send it to Israeli government officials and representatives. They consider themselves peace activists and against the occupation of Palestine. They are the only group who focuses on what goes on at the checkpoints, and the respect and trust they are held within by the Palestinians is very high. Understandably they are met with suspicion, hostility, offense, and even arrest by the young soldiers who man the checkpoints—for simply watching, documenting, and photographing the checkpoints.
My experiences in passing through the checkpoints are not positive, although as a white female with an American passport I do have some degree of preferential treatment. I would assume that most foreigners, even those who support Israel, have a very eye-opening experience when they pass through a checkpoint and are themselves humiliated or watch other human beings—including the elderly, pregnant women, children, and the sick—humiliated for simply committing the unforgivable sin of being a Palestinian who is attempting to use his denied-right to move about freely. I have certainly seen suffering at the Qalandiya checkpoint and heard innumerable horrible stories of it, since I pass through it every weekday to get to Jerusalem. To pass into Israeli controlled territory, one must use the terminal of Qalandiya, or other checkpoint inspections on foot or by vehicle. At Qalandiya, we can only get into the terminal through a narrow passageway, one-by-one, surrounded very closely on both sides by high metal bars. Then we must wait at first one, then another, then often another, turnstile. Movement through this is controlled by Israeli soldiers some distance ahead, in their offices behind bullet and soundproof glass. For fun or as collective punishment, the turnstiles are often locked for long periods of time as the queue to pass through them grows. If two people try to squeeze through one turn, the turnstile is often locked by the soldier, who screams over the loudspeaker at the offenders and everyone else. Without reason, some lanes of the checkpoint can be announced as closed and everyone standing in front of them must move to the next lane, extending the waiting time. Children are separated from parents in turnstiles and then the queues. When taking the Arab bus from Ramallah to Jerusalem, passengers who disembark at the checkpoint while the bus goes through its own lane, usually are not finished in time to get on the same bus and must wait for another.
The usual scene after I get through the waiting and reach final turnstile, pass through and place my belongings on the metal detector, is the following: I walk to the soundproof window to show my visa to the soldiers behind the glass. They are young, often in their late teens, and despite the fact that they have made us wait for long periods of time in queue, they are texting or on Facebook on their mobile phones, are listening to music in headphones, are napping with their feet on their desks, are eating or drinking, or are joking around. As an American, I am usually waved on through, but sometimes my passport number and details are recorded. The Palestinian ID cards all have electronic chips that correspond with their finger prints, ensuring that they cannot use another person’s ID to pass through checkpoints. I am supposed to be allowed through at all times with a visa, but I was once turned back, even after insisting having a visa means I am allowed in Israel without such checkpoint restrictions, and told that only West Bank ID holders were allowed into Jerusalem that day.
Foreigners and passport holders who entered Jerusalem from Ramallah on the Ramallah-Jerusalem bus were previously allowed to remain on the bus as it went through the bus lane. Those over age sixty-five or who are going to the hospital are also able to stay on the bus. Two soldiers board, often after long waits, and check each person’s ID, fingers on their rifle’s triggers. The soldiers, for any reason, can deny entry to any Palestinian or force them off the bus to walk through the checkpoint. Recently however, all foreigners are treated as Palestinians and are no longer allowed to remain on the bus. It is an interesting situation the Israelis are creating with this new ‘order’: the middle-aged or retired tourists from Midwest America or a small town in Britain who decided to visit Ramallah, or perhaps Bethlehem, for the day but who have no idea of the system of control of the occupation, are made to disembark from the bus on their return to Jerusalem and wait in queue at the checkpoint with the Palestinians. They will see, firsthand, what Israel does not want internationals to see: the humiliation and degradation that takes place at checkpoints. They will be treated as animals as well, pushed through the pen of the checkpoint and screamed at by soldiers over loudspeakers for touching the bars that surround the lanes, getting out of line, not moving fast enough, jamming the turnstiles, or not understanding what they are in fact saying in Hebrew.
The most demeaning thing I witnessed out of many occurred at Qalandiya. I travel in the mornings to Jerusalem, and this happens to also be the time many Palestinians are going to Jerusalem to reach the hospital. One morning while waiting in the bus to have my passport inspected, the soldiers approached a very elderly woman sitting at the front on the bus. I had seen her get onto the bus with great difficulty unaccompanied. She had a large patch over one eye. One soldier inspected her documents, as she had a permit to go to the hospital. He was not satisfied with the permit, and as she was a West Bank ID holder, he told her briskly to get off the bus and walk through the terminal for West Bank ID holders. As it happens, this terminal is a walk away from the bus lane, through several lanes of traffic and through a small opening in a metal fence. For an elderly woman, blind in one eye and by herself on the way to the hospital, making her walk all the way to the other terminal is a cruel injustice. She protested; the soldiers both insisted. She appealed to the bus driver. “Yalla hajji, yalla,” was his response, as there was nothing he could do to oppose the soldiers. She was forced off the bus with several shouts from the soldiers. In another example while waiting in the checkpoint line, a young man and his sister were in front of me and the young man was clearly disabled. His sister passed through the metal detector fine, but when he tried, the detector beeped. He tried again, same thing. The sister began to tell the soldiers behind glass that her brother has braces in his mouth, and this always happened, it was fine. The soldiers would hear nothing of it, and telling her to be quiet, began making the young man, disabled, remove first his coat, then shoes, then watch, then sweater…I was able to pass through as he was taking off articles of clothing and walking back and forth through the metal detector.
For the very ill who are transported to the checkpoint by a Palestinian ambulance, they face life-threatening waits. Palestinian vehicles, even ambulances from the Red Crescent, are not allowed into Israel although there are several Palestinian hospitals in Jerusalem. Instead, a victim of a sudden heart attack or stroke or an infant with sudden respiratory arrest who cannot be treated at a hospital in the West Bank, must somehow have had the foresight to predict their situation, and arrange for theirs and the ambulance’s papers to be sent to the checkpoint or at least presented in order when they arrive at Qalandiya. Obviously, this is impossible. The wait is often very long for ambulances to pass. It is the soldiers—the IDF who are clearly not trained doctors—to decide how dire a patient’s condition is. They need not let them pass even if the patient is near death if their papers are not in order. The job of the soldier is to only let ambulances pass once the vehicle’s and the patient’s papers are in order and the soldiers are assured the patient is not a security threat to the state of Israel. Family members of the patient who are West Bank ID holders—even mothers of infants—are not allowed to cross the check point with the ambulance and so the patient often goes alone. Once the ambulance is let through, it must park just outside the vehicle lane and back up to the awaiting Israeli-licensed ambulance. The patient is transferred from the Palestinian to the Israeli ambulance in order to be taken the rest of the way to the hospital in Jerusalem.
I arrived to Qalandiya on Easter with a good idea of what takes place at checkpoints—not only the insults but also violence and arrests at the hands of the soldiers. Meeting Tamar made this all the more clear, as she recounted stories from various checkpoint-watching in the past eight years of her service to Machsom Watch. Many of the vendors (often children) who make their living at Qalandiya selling water, soda, coffee and tea, sweets, produce, prayer cards and taxi rides to other checkpoints for those denied entry at this one, knew Tamar and spoke Hebrew with her. Others who had recognized her from other times at the checkpoint came to speak with her eagerly. As it was Easter, the terminal was quite full but two lanes were operating. The queue was nevertheless long. The bus lane had been closed all week and so everyone had to pass through these two lanes that day. Those who were allowed into Jerusalem for Easter—very few Palestinian Christians were issued permits to visit the holy city for their holiest of days—had passed through hours earlier. This afternoon, the soldiers allowed two or three people at a time through the first and second sets of turnstiles, with long periods of waiting in between. Some of Tamar’s friends shared their stories, and some were eager to know what her organization did, seeing her name-tag.
After a couple of hours at Qalandiya, I went with Tamar through two other checkpoints in close proximity: Al-Ram and Hizme, also entrances to Jerusalem. At al-Ram, soldiers stop only cars with yellow Israeli plates. This is an internal checkpoint, not on any border, and is set up so that Jews from the nearby settlement do not ‘accidentally’ take the wrong road and end up in Qalandiya refugee camp or checkpoint. If the cars’ occupants are Palestinians, they are allowed to continue on through, but settlers must turn around and take the Israeli-only road to their destination. Upon getting out of the car at the checkpoint with Tamar to observe, one of the soldiers approached us, his gun pointed right at me. Tamar asks him in Hebrew to please not point his gun in such a way. Another soldier, who knows her, comes over to speak with her for a bit and the first soldier turns and walks back to his post.
My Easter Sunday was well-spent—observing the modes of control at the checkpoints. Luckily, there were no incidents in our time at Qalandiya and the other two checkpoints outside of the normal denials of entry. We finished our day with kunefe, an Arabic pastry, at a sweets shop in East Jerusalem. Here, Tamar greeted the staff, all quite familiar with her, and told them she had heard from the soldiers at Qalandiya that the military closure for the Jewish holiday would be extended two extra days. Instead of closure being lifted by Monday morning, it would last until Tuesday night. The cashier shook his head and smiled. “We are waiting for you. Go on, we just keep waiting for you,” he said in reply.
WEST BANK — Palestinian de facto president Mahmoud Abbas said in an interview with Newsweek on Monday that conditions he set for the recently failed peace talks with Israel were proposed by US President Barack Obama.
Abbas threatened then to walk out of resumed peace talks if Israel did not agree to curb settlement activity in the West Bank. He later fulfilled his vows after a settlement freeze expired as peace talks were heightening.
”It was Obama who suggested a full settlement freeze. I said O.K., I accept. We both went up the tree. After that, he came down with a ladder, and he removed the ladder and said to me, ‘jump.’ Three times, he did it,” Abbas said.
Abbas also criticized mediation efforts by US envoy to the Mideast George Mitchell, who made repeated visits to the region for more than two years before coming to a complete halt.
”Every visit by Mitchell, we talked to him and gave him some ideas. At the end, we discovered that he didn’t convey any of these ideas to the Israelis. What does it mean?”
Similarly, Abbas confessed he warned Obama of the dangers of forsaking ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.
He said how Obama dealt with Mubarak was not gracious, and that he wasn’t intelligent in dealing with the Egyptian revolutionaries.
Abbas added that he informed US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the Egyptian revolution that she did not comprehend the consequences of the fall of the then Egyptian regime.
The Bahraini regime is seeking the death penalty against a group of anti-government protesters at a martial court, says an opposition activist.
Seven protesters are accused of killing two security forces during the regime’s crackdown on the popular uprising, former lawmaker Matar Matar told AFP on Tuesday.
He added that the trial was being held in camera, and that lawyers were not given enough time to study the case.
The verdict is expected on Thursday and the prosecution has demanded death sentences, Matar noted.
The seven are Ali Abdullah Hassan, Qasim Hassan Mattar, Saeed Abdul Jalil Saeed, Issa Abdullah Kazem, Abdul Aziz Abdullah Ibrahim, Sadiq Ali Mahdi, and Hussein Jaafar Abdul Karim, according to ex-MP.
People in Bahrain have poured to the streets since February 14 to protest against the Al Khalifa dynasty.
In March, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait deployed their troops in the country to reinforce the brutal armed clampdown against the mass protests.
Security forces have arrested hundreds of people. Scores of protesters have also been killed and many others gone missing during the harsh Saudi-backed crackdown in the Persian Gulf state.
See also Anti-war.com:
By Jason Ditz | April 25, 2011
Seven of Bahrain’s Shi’ite protesters are to be sentenced to death, according to the nation’s state media, for their role in the protests and the deaths of two policemen. The regime claimed the protesters “committed their crime for terrorist reasons.”
Several hundred thousand protesters took to the streets over the past few months to demand democratic reforms and to complain about sectarian discrimination. A strong majority of Bahrain’s population is Shi’ite, but the ruling family is Sunni. The protests ended following the invasion of 1,500 GCC troops, led by Saudi Arabia, to help the government put down the demonstrations.
At least 13 protesters were slain during the rallies, and reports have a number of others dying in custody. The government also reported the deaths of four policemen. They did not indicate how the police were slain, but claimed to have “confessions” from the seven.
Bahrain had seldom used the death penalty over the past several years, and human rights groups had pushed them into a de facto moratorium. With the introduction of martial law to the tiny island nation, it seems this too may be changing.