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Did you know?

Settlements Generate Virtually No Economic Activity
"A recent Israeli government report estimated there are…$250 million in annual exports — [only] 0.55 percent of the national total — from the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, territories the international community generally considers illegally occupied."
Jodi Rodoren cited by Richard Silverstein, 22 Jan 2014

Daily acts of violence committed by Jewish Israeli citizens against West Bank Palestinians
"These incidents — now particularly heightened during the olive harvest season — are not the aberration from the norm, but a regular feature of life in the occupied West Bank. In 2012, over 7,500 Palestinian olive trees were destroyed. In the 5-year period between 2007 and 2011, there was a 315 percent increase in settler violence."
Mairav Zonszein, Israel Must Stop Settler Violence, 8 November 2013
Police impunity
After their own investigations establishing a prima facie violation, Btselem has lodged over 280 complaints of alleged police violence in the oPt since the start of the second Intifada: "we are aware of only 12 indictments" Btselem April 2013
Runners in the first ever Bethlehem Marathon were forced to run two laps of the same course on Sunday 21 April 2013, as Palestinians were unable to find a single stretch of free land that is 26 miles long in Area A, where the PA has both security and civil authority. See Marathon report
30th March, land day.
On 30 March 1976, thousands of Palestinians living as a minority in Israel mounted a general strike and organised protests against Israeli government plans to expropriate almost 15,000 acres of Palestinian land in the Galilee.The Israeli government, led by prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and defence minister Shimon Peres, sent in the army to break up the general strike. The Israeli army killed six unarmed Palestinians, wounded hundreds and arrested hundreds more, including political activists. All were citizens of Israel.
* Out of 103 investigations opened in 2012 into alleged offences committed by Israeli soldiers in the occupied territories, not a single indictment served to date
Yesh Din, 3 Feb 2013
* In total, out of an area of 1.6 million dunams in the Jordan Valley, Israel has seized 1.25 million − some 77.5 percent − where Palestinians are forbidden to enter.
Haaretz editorial, 4 Feb 2013


Hamas on the move. From Shi’ite axis to Turkish-Qatari orbit

Hamas realignment leaves ‘Resistance Axis’ reeling

Hugh Naylor, The National
Nov 03, 2012

JERUSALEM –It has been called the “Axis of Resistance”, but the anti-US alliance of Iran, Syria and Hizbollah and Hamas is disintegrating.

Hamas’s decision to align itself with Sunni-led countries such as Qatar and Bahrain has come as a major blow to the axis also reeling on several other fronts.

The Qatari emir’s visit to Hamas-ruled Gaza last month underscored the degree to which the axis has unravelled and sent a powerful message the governments in Damascus and Tehran, which views the Arab Gulf state as an arch foe.

Taher Nunu, a Hamas spokesman, said last week that the head of the Bahrain Royal Charity Organisation, Mustafa Al Sayed, would soon tour the Palestinian enclave, further underlining Hamas’s changing approach to foreign policy.

Cracks first appeared in the axis when Hamas angered the Tehran government, an important patron, for failing to maintain its loyalty to Bashar Al Assad as the uprising against his rule started 19 months ago.
Compounding the group’s woes, Iran’s economy is showing signs of distress from biting western sanctions over its nuclear programme, Syria’s president is fighting for his regime’s survival and Hizbollah in Lebanon is under fire from opponents who blame it for the assassination of an anti-Syrian intelligence official.

That Hamas, a Sunni Islamist group, has allied itself with Sunni powers reflects the faultlines in the Middle East, say analysts.

Hamas was the only Sunni member of the axis, which consisted of Shiite Iran and Hizbollah in Lebanon and the Alawites of Mr Al Assad’s regime (Syria’s minority Alawites are followers of an offshoot of Shiite Islam).

“We’re seeing basically the resistance axis becoming much more vulnerable and under duress. So even if it survives, it’s really under tremendous pressure,” said Fawaz Gerges, director of the Middle East Center at the London School of Economics.

“The Hamas shift to the Saudi-Qatari-Turkish orbit represents a major nail in the coffin of the resistance axis,” he added. “Now you are talking about Iran and Syria and to a lesser extent Iraq and this undermines the social element because Hamas added the very important Sunni dimension.”

Less than a decade ago, the axis seemed to be on the rise and so too Shiite Islam following the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime marked the end of Sunni domination in Iraq as a Shiite government came to power. The government in Baghdad has since warmed ties with Iran – much to the chagrin of the US and its Arab allies.

In 2004, Jordan’s King Abdullah – a US ally – warned of a developing “Shiite crescent” in the region.

But the Arab Spring has empowered Sunni Islamists, who won democratic elections in Egypt and Tunisia,
reversing the momentum the Jordanian monarch had warned about.

In Syria, too, the rebels fighting to topple Mr Al Assad are Sunni.

“The fate of the alliance rests on the future of the Assad regime,” said Bilal Saab, Middle East analyst at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California.

“If Assad goes, Iran and Hizbollah will suffer and find it much more difficult to plan, coordinate, and communicate.”

Still, Mr Assad could very well triumph, which Iran would “trumpet as a major success”, said Yossi Alpher, former director of Tel Aviv University’s Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies.

But if the Syrian leader does indeed fall, Israel and the Sunni-Arab states would face a new challenge.

“Iran and its nuclear ambitions will remain an issue and you could possibly have a Syria run by extremists, and Israel, the West and the Arab moderates will be faced with determining whether the alternative is actually better,” Mr Alpher said.

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