Canada’s top intelligence official has revealed that some cabinet ministers from two provinces are being influenced by foreign governments.
While it’s not common for intelligence and spy officials to speak to media, Richard Fadden, the Director of Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) has revealed some details about the service in an interview with CBC on Tuesday.
In the interview, he expressed his concerns over close relationships that have been established between some political figures of a few provinces — including British Colombia — and foreign countries.
Fadden said that these officials who are also in critical positions make decisions that do not serve the interest of Canada and but are based on priorities of other nations.
These remarks come at a time when Canada is preparing for the G8 and G20 summits that are to be held in the country on 25-27 June.
National security expert Wesley Wark expressed shock that Fadden made these allegations public. He said that such remarks can dangerously put CSIS in the front line of a critical and sensitive political issue.
Wark, who is a professor of political science at the University of British Columbia, however called Fadden’s remarks serious allegations from a credible source that should raise concerns among the Canadian public.
Fadden has announced that the officials who have been spying for foreign governments have concealed their relationships with them but he added there are evidences that show they have changed their public policies attempting to cooperate with foreign governments.
Bethlehem – The demolition of a Palestinian man’s home on Monday was his final lost battle in a string of defeats going back to the 1990s, the Beit Jala man told Ma’an.
In 1992, Israel confiscated several hundred dunums of land belonging to the family, where the tunnels system was created to connect the illegal Israeli settlements of Gilo and Bettar Illit with Jerusalem. What was left undeveloped on the far side of the tunnel road was confiscated, and the farming family was left to find a different source of livelihood.
In 1997, Anton married a Jerusalemite woman, and the two decided to settle in the holy city, where Anton could work. After some effort, they successfully registered him as a Jerusalem resident, and they had two daughters who were also accorded Jerusalem residency status. Anton was able to find work and the family started anew.
In 2004, however, as the final route of the separation wall was set, his family was handed a home demolition targeting ancestral buildings in Wadi Ahmed, on the lands that remained in their possession.
Worried that more of his family land and property would be confiscated, Anton moved back to the home, in an attempt to protect the area from further Israeli encroachment. He said he was worried that the land would be declared abandoned, and his family would lose all that remained.
On the property were two homes, one ancient and one modern. The older building was said to have been several hundred years old, and was used by his family as a Qasr, or an agricultural building where relatives would stay during the harvest season. The building traditionally stored tools and food for the family for the summer and early fall.
“They began asking me questions in 2006,” Anton told Ma’an, “they found that my ‘center of life’ was no longer Jerusalem so in 2007 they stripped me of my Jerusalem residency card.”
Without the card, Anton, like all other West Bank Palestinians was no longer permitted to enter Jerusalem. “I could no longer see my wife, my daughters,” he said.
Anton remained in his Beit Jala home, and his wife and daughter would visit him on weekends and evenings when they could. Then on 25 May 2010, Anton was handed an demolition order for his home and the agricultural building nearby.
The demolitions were carried out on Monday, as the path of Israel’s separation wall continued to wind southward.
BRATTLEBORO — The Nuclear Regulatory Commission confirmed Tuesday evening that a large fiberglass pipe in the recently rebuilt cooling towers at Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor had developed an 18-inch crack and was leaking water.
Another crack developed in a joint in another location along the same pipe, a spokeswoman for the NRC said.
The disclosure of the cracks in the large distribution or header pipe in the east cooling tower comes after Entergy recently completed rebuilding the infrastructure of the two cooling towers over the past three years, after the western tower partially collapsed in August 2007.
Samuel Collins, Region One administrator for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and Donald Jackson, another NRC official, comfirmed the cracks in the cooling tower pipe during a public meeting over the annual assessment of the plant’s operation and condition held at Brattleboro Union High School. There are cracks in cell 1-5 and cell 1-8 in the east tower, which is closest to the Connecticut River.
Until the issue was brought up by Raymond Shadis, senior technical advisor to the nuclear watchdog group The New England Coalition, about two hours into the meeting, neither Entergy nor NRC officials had mentioned the problem, which was discovered Thursday by Entergy. The leaks have already undergone a temporary repair, according to Entergy spokesman Larry Smith.
Smith said the two leaks were spilling about 10 gallons a minute, where the large pipe had tapered to 30 inches in diameter. The pipe, which is 36 inches in diameter at it largest spot, carries 90,000 gallons a minute.
The cracks, which were discovered in fiberplastic pipe that is original to the cooling towers, have been reinforced by strapping, he said.
Unlike the cooling tower collapse in 2007, which also involved the header or distribution pipe, which runs along the top of the cooling tower, the structure under the pipe did not collapse, Smith said.
“It was not a structural issue,” he said. In 2007, the cause of the collapse was traced back to rotted wood in the west tower.
Diane Screnci said after the public meeting Entergy will have to determine what caused the pipe to crack in two different locations.
The NRC and Entergy were busy Tuesday discussing Vermont Yankee in a variety of forums. Earlier in the day, Entergy Nuclear held a press conference in Vernon to discuss the status of the radioactive tritium leak at the plant.
Earlier in the day, Entergy Nuclear officials said insulation left behind by construction workers in 1978 had plugged a key drain, and was directly responsible for the radioactive tritium leak at Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor, which so far has cost the company $10 million in cleanup costs.
Michael Colomb, site vice president for Vermont Yankee, told a gathering of press and community leaders Tuesday that progress was being made cleaning up the radioactive contamination at the site, although months of extracting tritium-contaminated groundwater remained.
The company released its own investigation into the radioactive leak Tuesday and said a design flaw, a lack of monitoring and a lack of corporate will were all to blame for the leak.
The plugged drain, which under normal conditions would have allowed leaking radioactive water from other pipes to drain out to a collection system and treatment, instead allowed water to pool in the tunnel and leak out to the environment through a faulty seam. A variety of radioactive isotopes, not just tritium, but strontium-90, cobalt-60, cesium-127 and others, have been found in the soil.
Colomb said the company had identified 111 “piping runs” that contained radioactive isotopes that were either underground, buried or inaccessible. He said Entergy had determined only five of those 111 pipes needed to be replaced with above-ground pipes.
Vermont legislative leaders and the Department of Health have urged Entergy to replace all underground pipes carrying radioactivity with above-ground systems, which are much easier to monitor to avoid a similar radioactive leak.
So far Entergy has removed 240 cubic feet of radioactive soil from an excavation pit surrounding an underground concrete tunnel, which carried drain lines from the advanced off-gas system, plant officials said.
Additionally, about 130,000 gallons of tritium-contaminated groundwater has been pulled out of a new well, and the company says it plans on extracting 300,000 gallons of radioactive water from the ground near the leak.
With many Entergy employees sporting what appeared to be a new “VY4VT” logo, Colomb said the company remained committed to continuing to operate another 20 years beyond 2012, when its original federal operating license expires.
The site vice president said the costs of the cleanup and continuing costs of increased monitoring are proof the company was serious about turning around public opinion and getting legislative approval for continued operation.
The Vermont Senate voted 26-4 against the plant’s license extension, casting serious doubt on the plant’s future.
But company officials said the vote came at a particularly troubled time during the tritium leak, and that it was confident it would prove to Vermonters the company and the reactor could be counted on for 20 more years.
After the session, William Irwin, radiological health chief for the Department of Health, said he wanted the company to come up with a new method of sampling the contaminated groundwater as it reached the Connecticut River.
While sampling has yet to reveal any measurable levels of tritium, Irwin said he believed the highest concentration of tritium contamination wouldn’t reach the river until later this year, probably in the winter.
So far, while the tritium has shown up in about 20 monitoring wells at the plant, it hasn’t showed up in any private drinking water wells.
Irwin said he was pleased with Entergy’s level of activity and dedication to solving the problem, but he said that hadn’t always been the case.
The past couple of years has been marked with problems, he said.
“The work of the past six months needs to be done on a routine basis,” he said. “It’s not what we had prior to this.”
© 2010 Rutland Herald
Bethlehem – The Free Gaza Movement says it will take the State of Israel to the International Criminal Court over last month’s raid on an aid ship that left nine civilians dead.
Twelve lawyers from countries whose citizens took part in the voyage are collecting evidence and testimonies from passengers, human rights lawyer Audrey Bomse told Ma’an.
The lawyers have asked governments of citizens on board, including the US and UK, to pressure Israel to return passengers’ property taken by Israeli soldiers during the raid on 31 May.
In a statement, the organizers said the seized cameras, camcorders, and mobile phones contain vital evidence of “willful killing, inhuman treatment, wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health and unlawful deportation or transfer.”
As Israel is the occupying power in Gaza, these alleged crimes would constitute a contravention of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Bomse told Ma’an, “We intend to hold Israel responsible for its criminal behavior. As this was done by a state, it amounts to piracy and state terrorism.”
The organizers also claimed that Israeli military personnel used credit cards stolen from passengers.
Two soldiers were indicted last year for using a credit card in Israel which they had stolen from a Palestinian during Israel’s assault on Gaza that began in December 2008.
WASHINGTON – Despite the growing international condemnation and isolation incurred by the government of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the right-wing leadership of the so-called “Israel Lobby” here is riding high in the U.S. Congress.
So far this week, it has chalked up a key victory on Capitol Hill in its longstanding effort to impose “crippling sanctions” against Iran.
It also succeeded in getting a large majority of U.S. lawmakers to fire a shot across the bow of the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which has led the international chorus of criticism against the Jewish state since the deadly Israeli seizure in international waters of a Turkish vessel carrying humanitarian supplies to Gaza.
While privately critical – often scathingly so – of Israel’s recent behaviour, especially the May 31 commando raid, top officials of the administration of President Barack Obama are increasingly reluctant to air their complaints in public lest they harm Democratic prospects for retaining control of both houses of Congress after the mid-term elections in November.
Indeed, Obama will himself host Netanyahu at the White House in what is being billed as a “kiss-and-make-up” session Jul. 6 designed to reassure Jewish voters, in particular, that the two leaders’ contretemps over Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem earlier this spring has been put behind them.
Obama, according to some reports circulating here, hopes to receive a return invitation from his guest to visit Israel in October, a month before the November elections here.
Despite their relatively small number – about two percent of the total U.S. population and about three percent of voters in most elections, Jewish Americans are major donors to political campaigns, accounting for as much as 25 percent of all financial contributions to national campaigns and as much as 40 percent of all contributions to Democratic candidates, in particular.
They are also widely – if often mistakenly – seen by political candidates as virtually unconditional supporters of Israel prepared to reward or punish candidates based on their positions on the Jewish state.
“Every Democrat assumes that the biggest discernible group that contributes to their campaign is Jews,” according to M.J. Rosenberg, a Middle East analyst who worked for the most powerful Lobby group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), in the 1980s.
“…(I)f a donor has a Jewish name, or is known to be Jewish, the assumption is that he or she is pro-Israel and will be offended by any deviation from the [Lobby's] line,” he said.
At the same time, harsh criticism of Israel by the administration risks mobilising the Christian Right, a major constituency of the Republican Party, whose support for Israel’s ruling Likud Party and Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and the occupied territories is based primarily on its theological views.
Thus, with the mid-term elections less than five months away and a succession of polls predicting major gains for Republicans in both houses, Obama and senior Democrats appear eager to avoid clashing with Israel, an impression that AIPAC and its allies are using to maximum advantage on Capitol Hill.
Under pressure from the Lobby, the Democratic leadership in Congress Monday approved sweeping sanctions legislation aimed at third-country companies that do business with Iran without granting Obama the kind of flexibility in implementing the sanctions – particularly as they apply to Russia and China – that he had sought.
While the White House indicated Tuesday that it still hopes to work out some changes in the bill before Obama agrees to sign it, the fact that the administration’s own lobbying efforts had failed to bring along top Democratic leaders on the issue marked a major victory for AIPAC and its allies.
“AIPAC applauds toughest Iran sanctions ever proposed,” crowed the group’s press release after the joint announcement by the leaders of the “conference committee” that was charged with reconciling the differing – and weaker – versions of the sanctions bill that were passed earlier this year by the Senate and the House of Representatives.
“It provides the best hope that political and economic measures can peaceably persuade Iran to end its illicit nuclear programme before it is too late,” the statement added.
In what many observers saw as a similarly impressive display of the Lobby’s strength, 87 of the 100 senators signed an AIPAC-backed letter to Obama that not only supported Israel’s blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza, but also defended Israel’s efforts to enforce it, specifically its attack on the Turkish vessel.
Nine Turkish activists, including one who was also a U.S. citizen, were killed after Israeli commandos opened fire when they encountered resistance to their attempt to board the ship during the night.
“Late last month when Israel learned that groups operating in Turkey wanted to challenge its blockade of Gaza, Israel made every effort to ensure that all humanitarian aid reached Gaza without needlessly precipitating a confrontation,” according to the letter that was jointly circulated by both the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, and the Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell.
“Israeli forces were able to safely divert five of the six ships challenging the blockade. However, video footage shows that the Israeli commandos who arrived on the sixth ship, which was owned by the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation (the IHH), were brutally attacked with iron rods, knives, and broken glass,” according to the letter, which uncritically recited the version of events propagated by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF). “They were forced to respond to that attack and we regret the loss of life that resulted.”
The letter went on to “recommend” that the administration “consider” adding the IHH to the list of “foreign terrorist organisations” and noted that the signers “have additional questions about Turkey and any connections to Hamas”.
Indeed, some lawmakers most closely associated with the Lobby have since called for the administration to suspend military ties with Turkey or to seek its expulsion from NATO.
The letter also “deplore(d)” a resolution approved by the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) that called for “an independent international fact-finding mission” to investigate the incident, adding that Israel, which announced its own investigation, “has the right to determine how (it) is conducted”.
“AIPAC strongly applauds the U.S. Senate’s overwhelming statement of support for Israel’s right to self-defence in the wake of the Gaza flotilla incident and its call on President Obama to continue standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Israel at the United Nations, as Democratic and Republican presidents have done since the birth of the modern Jewish state,” the lobby group said in a release Thursday that also commended a companion letter circulated by the House leadership and signed by more than 315 of the chamber’s 435 members.
“Addressed to President Obama, both letters state emphatically that the United States must continue to stand with Israel in every international forum because it is in America’s ‘national security interest’,” according to AIPAC which stressed the importance of conducting an investigation into “the Turkish terrorist-linked ‘charity’ that led the flotilla”.
*Jim Lobe’s blog on U.S. foreign policy can be read at http://www.ips.org/blog/jimlobe/.
National Review‘s Jay Nordlinger cites a truly repellent (and false) comment made this week by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak to Defense Secretary Robert Gates: “A million and a half people are living in Gaza, but only one of them is really in need of humanitarian aid,” Barak said. Nordlinger points out that Barak was referring to Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, held hostage for years by Hamas, which refuses to permit the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) access to him. After observing that neither “the Cuban dictatorship or Chinese dictatorship permit the Red Cross to see prisoners,” Nordlinger then claims — with the needy victimization that typifies the Right — that “there’d be mass demonstrations in [Shalit's] behalf all over Europe, and on American streets, too” if “Shalit were other than Israeli.” In other words, Nordlinger believes that the Western World would never tolerate the denial of ICRC access to detainees except when the detainee is Israeli.
I’m asking this literally: is Nordlinger ignorant of the fact that the United States of America denied ICRC access to non-Israeli prisoners for years during the prior administration?
The US has admitted for the first time that it has not given the Red Cross access to all detainees in its custody.
The state department’s top legal adviser, John Bellinger, made the admission but gave no details about where such prisoners were held. . . . He stated that the group International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had access to “absolutely everybody” at the prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which holds suspects detained during the US war on terror. When asked by journalists if the organisation had access to everybody held in similar circumstances elsewhere, he said: “No”.
That happened because, among other reasons, the U.S. maintained a network of CIA secret prisons — black sites — where detainees were barred from any and all contact with the outside world for months and even years, including international monitoring groups such as the ICRC. Maybe Nordlinger has heard of someone named Dana Priest, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2006 for revealing, in The Washington Post, the existence of those secret American prisons:
It is illegal for the government to hold prisoners in such isolation in secret prisons in the United States, which is why the CIA placed them overseas, according to several former and current intelligence officials and other U.S. government officials. Legal experts and intelligence officials said that the CIA’s internment practices also would be considered illegal under the laws of several host countries, where detainees have rights to have a lawyer or to mount a defense against allegations of wrongdoing.
As Priest wrote, these detainees — never charged, let alone convicted, of any crime — “exist in complete isolation from the outside world. Kept in dark, sometimes underground cells, they have no recognized legal rights, and no one outside the CIA is allowed to talk with or even see them, or to otherwise verify their well-being.” Even once those black sites were revealed by Priest, the Bush administration explicitly rejected the ICRC’s request for access to those detainees (the ICRC was also long denied access to prisons in Iraq run by the Iraqi Government during the U.S. occupation). And the BBC reported in April of this year that the U.S. continues to maintain a secret prison at Bagram where prisoners are apparently abused and denied ICRC access. Could someone point me to the “mass demonstrations” that took place in Europe and the U.S. over any of these American secret prisons?
This raises an important and under-appreciated point. Many Americans defend the U.S.’s conduct not because they support it, but because they’re completely unaware of what those actions actually are. Many of the people who support what they call the “enhanced interrogation” program really believe they’re defending three instances of waterboarding rather than scores of detainee deaths, because they literally don’t know it happened. And here you have Nordlinger — a Senior Editor of National Review — claiming that denial of access to the ICRC is the hallmark of brutal tyrannies (it is), and arguing that a country could only get away with it if they do it to an Israeli, making clear that he is completely ignorant of the fact that his own Government did this for years (without, needless to say, prompting a peep of protest from his magazine), and reportedly continues to do it. That the U.S. did this systematically just doesn’t exist in his brain; he really believes it’s something only China, Cuba and Hamas do. They really do live in their own universe and just block out whatever facts they dislike while inventing the ones that make them feel good.
UPDATE: Just to convey a sense for how much National Review polemicists care about detainees being denied ICRC access (when it’s the U.S. doing the denying): the only mention found in NR‘s archives of Dana Priest’s revelation that the U.S. was maintaining a network of secret prisons with no ICRC monitoring was this one by Byron York, in which he suggested that, based on the Plame precedent, the persons responsible for the disclosure — but not the ones denying the ICRC access to detainees — should be prosecuted. So it’s not really a surprise that Nordlinger managed to remain completely ignorant of what the U.S. did for all those years, since his “political magazine” barely even mentioned it.
Sudanese officials on Wednesday dismisses allegations saying that the Arab country import arms on a ship intercepted in Cyprus as an “absurd”, saying that the explosives on board were for gold mining firm.
“Sudan has been importing explosives since the early 1990s to work this gold mine, and has never had any problems in the past. It’s the first time this has happened. It’s absurd,” Abdelbaqi al-Gilani, Sudan’s minister responsible for mining said.
“The ship is carrying some explosives for civil work … for quarry face blasting and mining, it has nothing to do with the military,” al-Giliani added.
On Tuesday, Cyprus said it it placed the “Santiago” anchored off the southern city of Limassol under police guard with a suspected military cargo that would contravene a 2004 UN embargo on arms sales and deliveries to Sudan. Cypriot officials examined the vessel after US authorities alerted them that it was carrying a large amount of explosives bound for Sudan.
“The ship is under guard and there are materials that are considered banned, this means either military material or explosives,” Commerce Minister Antonis Paschalides told state radio. “There is definitely military equipment which comes under a ban,” he added without elaborating.
The Sudanese mine at Hassay, 450 kilometers northeast of the capital Khartoum, is Sudan’s first — and only — gold mine.
The Ariab group working the mine is 51 percent Sudanese government owned, while 40 percent of the shares are held by holding group Cominor, created by Canada’s La Mancha and France’s Areva.
An Ariab official, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, confirmed that there were explosives on board the Santiago for the firm. “There are 251 tons of explosives which are for us. I hope they get here quickly, as we need them to be able to continue operation,” the official said. “I don’t know if there is anything else on board the boat, but these explosives are definitely for us.”
Palestinians who choose to study and work abroad are finding out – too late – that they have imperiled their right to return to their hometown.
Last Wednesday afternoon a “shabah,” an illegal sojourner, sat in the small conference room of Jerusalem District Court Judge Noam Solberg. That’s how he was described by Solberg and a representative of the Interior Ministry, attorney Gur Rosenblatt. The illegal resident reads and writes Hebrew, but in the small room he had difficulty following the learned claims of the judge to the effect that a person born in Jerusalem’s neighborhood of Sur Baher 43 years ago, whose parents and grandparents and great-great grandparents are from there, who went to elementary school and high school in Jerusalem, who recently paid NIS 120,000 for a construction permit from the Jerusalem municipality, is an illegal sojourner. In other words, a criminal.
Meet the criminal: Dr. Imad Hammada. He’s a father of three, with a fourth on the way. Married to a nurse who works for the Leumit HMO in Jerusalem. This biography includes other elements that could sound very Israeli: studied electrical engineering in the United States and worked in Silicon Valley to pay for his doctoral studies and to get experience. Speciality: nanotechnology. Frequent visits to his family at home, in Jerusalem.
True, his stay abroad lasted longer than expected, from 1989 to 2007. That’s familiar to us, too. Now, three months after receiving his doctorate, in August 2007, he and his family packed their suitcases and returned home, a year after he received American citizenship. An Israeli company and an American company with a branch in Israel wanted to employ him and changed their minds. The Interior Ministry informed them that he was a tourist.
Tourist? How come? That is how he discovered that the Interior Ministry had revoked his residency status. Through attorney Leah Tsemel he petitioned the Jerusalem District Court sitting as a Court for Administrative Matters, against the revocation of his permanent residency permit. For the past three years he has been living in his homeland, in his city, in his parents’ home – without health insurance for the children, without rights, in constant danger of arrest and expulsion.
“The prolonged illegal stay in the country is to the detriment of the petitioner,” said Judge Solberg in a stern voice. He said that it could be a reason for rejecting the petition out of hand. In the corridors of the District Court on Salah al-Din Street it was said that as opposed to liberal judges David Cheshin and Yehudit Tzur, who have left, Solberg is known for summarily rejecting similar petitions. It turns out that this time Solberg had inner conflicts, as he put it.
It’s natural to go abroad
On the one hand, he said, the illegal stay causes us “to say that this is a reason for rejecting the petition out of hand.” On the other hand, the judge said: “It’s natural that people go [abroad] to study and stay for a while. There’s room for a certain amount of forgiveness when you read that the man works in Herzliya (for a Taiwanese company with a branch in Ramallah ) and his wife works…. My initial feeling is that his connection with Israel is sincere.”
Attorney Rosenblatt mentioned the “illegal stay” of the petitioner several times. Tsemel objected: This argument has not come up until now. My client entered legally and was born here and you know that it’s his right to be here. In principle, said Rosenblatt, “he can leave the court and be arrested by a policeman because he’s an illegal sojourner.” And Tsemel: “In principle he can leave the court and be arrested because he’s an Arab.”
Solberg tried to calm things down. He said he was actually seeking a compromise. Let the petition be erased, he suggested, and let Dr. Hammada ask to begin a proceeding for “family reunification” (with his wife ). The parties had to reply by today. Afterward, next to the stairs, Rosenblatt would explain to Tsemel that it was nothing personal, but that he was operating according to the law.
The 1952 Law of Entry into Israel determines that anyone who is not an Israeli citizen or the holder of an immigrant’s permit or immigrant’s certificate does not have the right to live in Israel, and his residency in Israel is conditional on a residency permit that has been granted to him according to this law.” The Law of Entry was imposed on Palestinians living in that part of the West Bank – East Jerusalem and the surrounding villages – that was annexed to Israel in 1967. “Israel entered us,” bitterly say the people to whom the Law of Entry applies, “It wasn’t we who entered it.” Solberg mentioned that there is logic to the statement that the case of a (non-Jewish ) Frenchman who immigrated to Israel is not the same as the case of a Palestinian who was born in Jerusalem. But it wouldn’t be right, he said, to discuss the matter of principle in connection with the present petition.
In addition to the Law of Entry there are regulations for entry into Israel which stipulate that the expiration of the permanent residency permit: A person will be considered to have settled abroad if one of the following conditions exists: he lived outside Israel for a period of at least seven years; he received a permanent residency permit in that country; he received citizenship of that country. One of the three conditions is sufficient to revoke the resident status of a Palestinian in East Jerusalem.
Until the end of 1995, the authorities were flexible and made do with visits by those living abroad at intervals shorter than “seven years of absence” in order to maintain residency. But in December 1995, during the term of Haim Ramon as interior minister in the short-lived government of Shimon Peres, the policy changed. Without previous warning, people who lived abroad but came for frequent visits discovered that their resident status had been revoked. A prolonged public battle – which involved Palestinian, Israeli and international organizations – created pressure that produced results early in 2000, when the interior minister was Natan Sharansky. In a declaration to the Supreme Court, he promised that the policy would revert to the pre-1995 practice. For those living abroad for any reason, their periodic visits would once again maintain their residency, whereas those who had lived abroad in the past (or who were living, for lack of housing, in a part of the West Bank that had not been annexed to Israel ) would get back their residency status if they proved that the center of their lives was in Jerusalem. With the outbreak of the second intifada in 2000, the Interior Ministry resumed mass revocation of the permanent residency status of East Jerusalem Palestinians.
Imad Hammada is one of 289 Jerusalemites whose residency was revoked in 2007. In 2008, the residency of Murad Abu-Khalaf, 33, a native of Ras al-Amud, who has a doctorate in electrical engineering, was revoked. His family lived in the Baka neighborhood in West Jerusalem, from which it was expelled in 1948. The eight pages of his resume include a series of scientific publications, areas of expertise, fields of research, lectures, awards and prestigious places of work. In 2007, he completed his post-doctorate (with a stipend from the research division of the U.S. Army ). He also visited his family periodically. He knew that upon his return it was likely that he would not be hired for work in Israeli firms, and that he would teach at university. “I wanted to get some experience in the professional world outside the university,” he said two days ago in a phone conversation from his Boston home.
An engineer in Boston
Since 2007, he has been working as a software engineer in an American firm in Massachusetts, The MathWorks, whose clients are the aircraft industry and security firms, including Israeli ones such as Rafael. The U.S. requires those employed in its security industry to receive a green card. This is not permanent residency for family reasons, or that of an asylum seeker – but for purposes of work only, emphasized Abu-Khalaf in the conversation. “Had I known that a green card would lead to the revocation of my right as a resident of Jerusalem, I would have returned after the post-doctorate. But what could I have done then, without practical experience? Sold falafel?”
Deliberations on Abu-Khalaf’s petition will take place in his absence before Solberg next Thursday. Since January 2009, Abu-Khalaf has been seeking legal redress, also with the help of attorney Tsemel. His frequent but short visits (because of job commitments ) in 2009 did not satisfy the authorities. The validity of his travel document expired in January 2010. Since then, he hasn’t seen his parents and his brother. His entire family lives in Jerusalem. His father is a family doctor, his brother is a doctor who works at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem. He lives in Boston and he misses his friends and the streets of his childhood.
Attorney Achva Berman, an assistant to the Jerusalem District Prosecutor’s Office, explained her opposition to permitting his return to Israel: “The policy of the Interior Ministry is a consequence of the sovereignty of the state and its exclusive authority to decide who can remain in its territory. For that purpose stringent criteria were determined, based on weighty humanitarian considerations… The acquisition of the status of a permanent resident in another place in the world… is what leads to the expiration of residency… In recent years (the petitioner ) has even been working in the U.S. By doing so the petitioner severed his connection with Israel.”
Abu-Khalaf is one of 4,577 Jerusalemites whose residency was revoked in 2008, according to the data provided by the Interior Ministry to the Center for the Defense of the Individual. That is the highest number of residency revocations since the policy began in 1995. The previous record was in 2006 – 1,363 people whose residency status expired. In 1995, the number was 91. In 1996, the number 739. In 1997, there were 1,067 cases. In 1991, the number was 20.
It’s believed that the vast majority of cases are people like them – Jerusalemites who went abroad for reasons of higher education and work experience, with the aim of returning after acquiring that experience and funding – intending to ameliorate the quality of their society. Expelling them from their country and from their hometown is the other side of the statistics of poverty and misery that typify Palestinian Jerusalem, which is under Israeli control.
Amira Hass is the Haaretz correspondent for the Occupied Territories. Born in Jerusalem in 1956, Hass joined Haaretz in 1989, and has been in her current position since 1993. As the correspondent for the territories, she spent three years living in Gaza, which served of the basis for her widely acclaimed book, “Drinking the Sea at Gaza.” She has lived in the West Bank city of Ramallah since 1997. Hass is also the author of two other books, both of which are compilations of her articles.
Strasbourg – Council of Europe parliamentarians Thursday called on Israel to completely lift its blockade of the Gaza Strip.
‘Without prejudice to its own security,’ Israel should allow goods to be delivered to the coastal enclave by land and sea, so Palestinians can enjoy ‘normal living conditions,’ a resolution adopted by a large majority of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) said.
PACE, consisting of parliamentarians from the 47 members of the Council of Europe, meets four times a year to debate topical issues and give policy advice to the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
The parliamentarians also criticised the Israeli raid of a Gaza- bound aid flotilla last month as a breach of international law, calling it ‘manifestly disproportionate.’
The group additionally called on Israel to halt the construction of new settlements in occupied territories and East Jerusalem.
Israel’s recent easing of the Gaza blockade was described as a ‘first step’ by the assembly. But completely lifting the blockade is ‘essential’ to lower tensions and revive the dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians, the Italian social democrat and assembly rapporteur Piero Fassino said.
As part of its efforts to bring peace to the Middle East, PACE regularly brings together members of the Israeli Knesset and the Palestinian Legislative Council for talks.