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Dec. 16, 2014
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Netanyahu postpones new settlement campaign for days; and Washington rules out a breakthrough during Kerry’s visit
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to postponethe official announcement of establishing 1,400 housing units in West Bank settlements for next week.Israeli army radio reported that Netanyahu does not want to make such a declaration during the visit of Foreign Minister John Kerry to the region, which starts today.The radio said that the announcement of theses settlement units might be made after Kerry leaves "to avoid friction with the United States.” An Israeli political source said on the 27th of last month that his country will issue bids this week to build 1,400 new housing units in West Bank settlements and in East Jerusalem. (Al-Ayyam)

Kerry starts his 10th visit to Ramallah and Israel today
American Foreign Minister John Kerry will arrive to Israel and Ramallah today on his tenth visit to the region within the framework of his tireless efforts to advance the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations forward.Minister Kerry will be holding more than one meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Mahmoud Abbas during the visit.Israeli sources said yesterday that Israel would not formally announce the issuance of new tenders for construction in the settlements during the visit of the US Secretary of State, despite an initial decision to build about 1,400 new housing units in conjunction with the release of the third batch of Palestinian prisoners.Foreign Minister Riad Al-Malki told “Ma’an” that Kerry comes today with ideas and proposals that will be circulated and it will take a long time to develop something around these ideas."(http://maannews.net/arb/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=662037)

Israel suggested a land swap with the PA
Maariv revealed that Israel has proposed to the United States to study the idea of transferring land in the triangle area as compensation for keeping settlement blocs in the West Bank under Israeli control.Maariv quoted Israeli sources described as "Insiders" as saying that the idea was put on the table once during talks with high-level US officials as well as during talks at lower levels.Informed sources confirmed, however, that this idea is not part of the main course of talks conducted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu andUS Secretary of State John Kerry. The paper reported that Israeli judicial authorities examined the judicial aspects of the idea, including the question of the Israeli citizenship of the Arab citizens in the triangle area, which will be under Palestinian control.(http://paltimes.net/details/news/55983/%D8%A5%D8%B3%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%A6%D9%8A%D9%84-%D8%B9%D8%B1%D8%B6%D8%AA-%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%AA%D8%A8%D8%AF%D8%A7%D9%84-%D8%A3%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%B6-%D9%85%D8%B9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B3%D9%84%D8%B7%D8%A9.html)

Israeli journalist urges Abbas to meet Kerry at Jalazone camp
Israeli journalist Amira Hass demanded President Mahmoud Abbas not to meet with US Secretary of State John Kerry in the Moqata’ah, but go to a place that is only five minutes’ walk from the Moqata’ah, the House of Suboh family built on the agricultural neighborhood in front of Jalazone refugee camp and talk there about the necessary security arrangements to protect the security of Israel.Hass said in an article published in the Hebrew daily Haaretz Wednesday, that they have before entering the House to stop near the wall of the House to see what settlers sprayed yesterday where they wrote (there will be a war over Judea and Samaria, Judea and Samaria will shed heavy blood) and focus more on the words (John Kerry, Salamat and wait for what is coming) where settlers also burned three vehicles. Hassadded cynically: "If Kerry does not have some to translate Hebrew, he should only continue five meters into Beit El, and call a settler to come and translate what is written."(http://www.wattan.tv/ar/news/83096.html)

A wide arrest campaign in the village of Tabaqa in Hebron
Occupation forces launched tonight a wide arrest campaign targeting children of the village Tabaqa South of Dura West of Hebron. According to local sources from the village occupation forces raided houses in the village and began to arrest Palestinian children under the age of 18 years, adding that the campaign resulted in arresting 15 children. Among those arrested were: Mahmoud Al-Hriebat (12 years old), Ghaleb Badawi Hamdan (16 years old), Riyad Taysir Abu Ras (16 years old), Amir Naser Abu Hawash and the brothers Muhammad and Qusay Al-Atrash, and Mohammed Yasir Abu Hawash (20 years old)(http://safa.ps/details/news/119465/%D8%AD%D9%85%D9%84%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D8%B9%D8%AA%D9%82%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D9%85%D9%88%D8%B3%D8%B9%D8%A9-%D9%84%D9%84%D8%A3%D8%B7%D9%81%D8%A7%D9%84-%D8%A8%D9%82%D8%B1%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B7%D8%A8%D9%82%D8%A9-%D8%A8%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AE%D9%84%D9%8A%D9%84.html).

Palestinian Ambassador to Czech Republic died
Spokeswoman for the Czech Republic police said that Palestinian Ambassador Jamal Al-Jamal died after an explosion in his residence on Wednesday, after suffering serious injuries, while his wife was seriously injured.Israeli Radio quoted a police official in Prague as saying "a safe that was with Palestinian Ambassador and was moved with him from the old residence to the new residence filled with arms and explosives, in addition to a large amount of money, and when he tried to open the safe it exploded accompanied by his wife and other family members who were in the basement of the House."Prague police confirmed that the blast, which occurred at the Ambassador residence, was not a result of a "terrorist" attack, but due to a mistake in handling explosives.(http://www.qudsn.ps/article/35832)

Abed Rabbo: we will not give up any prisoner who defended the Palestinian cause
Secretary of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Yasser Abed Rabbo, said in response to Israeli Prime Minister's announcement of not having intentions to release prisoners from inside the green line, by saying: "the Palestinian side will not give up any Palestinian prisoner and non-Palestinian prisoner who defended the cause of the Palestinian people."Abed Rabbo described Netanyahu's remarks in this regard as "media ploys."(http://qudsnet.com/news/View/261705/%D8%B9%D8%A8%D8%AF-%D8%B1%D8%A8%D9%87-%D9%84%D9%86-%D9%86%D8%AA%D8%AE%D9%84%D9%89-%D8%B9%D9%86-%D8%A3%D9%8A-%D8%A3%D8%B3%D9%8A%D8%B1-%D8%AF%D8%A7%D9%81%D8%B9-%D8%B9%D9%86-%D9%82%D8%B6%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B4%D8%B9%D8%A8-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%81%D9%84%D8%B3%D8%B7%D9%8A%D9%86%D9%8A/)

Occupation destroys the village of "Kana’an 9" in the Jordan Valley and arrests a number of activists
Israeli occupation forces demolished yesterday afternoon, the village of "Kana’an 9", established by activists in the Jordan Valley area, to emphasize the Jordan Valley area is Palestinian. According to the Coordinator of the National Committee to resist the wall and settlement in Bethlehem, Muhammad Briejeh, activists established yesterday the village "Kana’an 9" in the Jordan Valley in response to the Israeli Government's decision to annex the .Jordan Valley. Youssef Abu Maria, spokesman of the people's Committee in the South, said that an occupation force detained a car with tentsand passengers in the car while heading to the Jordan Valley to establish “Kana’an 9”. (Al-Ayyam,)

Jerusalem: an occupation plan to establish Jewish Heritage Village on the Mount of Olives revealed
National and religious figures revealed an Israeli intentionto establish a heritage village on private Palestinian landsin the Mount Olive on the Western side of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which Israeli municipality of Jerusalem will cut off part of the olive lands belonging to citizens of five meters along the mountain. This was announced during a press conference by the national and Islamic forces in Jerusalem at the Mount of Olives entitled: “the Mount of Olives and the threat of Judaization”, yesterday, at the Commodore hotel in Sawwanah in Al-Tur. (Al-Ayyam)

“Temple activists” demand to open all gates of Al-Aqsa to facilitate incursions of tourists and settlers
Al-Aqsa Foundation for Waqf and Heritage said that the so-called alleged "Temple groups" represented by activist Rabbi Yehuda Glik, they sent an urgent letter to Israeli Tourism Minister Uzi Landau in order to pressure him to open all gates of Al-Aqsa mosque for tourists incursions and not only Al-Magharebah gate, noting in the letter that this will contributes to easing the pressure and accelerates storming tourists intruders and settlers without being bothered to wait in queues.(Al-Ayyam)

Israeli Minister: Jordan Valley must remain part of Israel
Yuval Shtaintes IsraeliStrategic Affairs Minister said that the Jordan Valley is an important element in ensuring the security of Israel and must remain part of it.Shtaintes added that the Israeli Government had confirmed it would continue construction in the West Bank even while negotiating with the Palestinians.Shtaintes said that Manifestations of incitement in the Palestinian Authority areas are beyond all boundaries and cast a shadow on the possibility of a true partner of the peacemaking process, stressing that Israel wants to continue the negotiations between the two sides in terms of mutual recognition and to stop incitement.(Al-Ayyam)

Labor issues a law proposal preventing annexation of the Jordan Valley
Member of Labor, Hilik Bar, prepared a law proposal preventing Israel from Annexing the Jordan Valley; the law will be discussed at the Legislative Committee of the Knesset next Sunday, and presented to the Knesset for voting on Wednesday, according to the Jerusalem Post yesterday.  (Al-Hayat Al-Jadida)
Headlines
** Presidency and the Government mourn Ambassador Al-Jamal (Al-Ayyam)
** A serious deterioration in the health of Sharon and signs for announcing his death within hours (Al-Ayyam)
** Israel: Hamas has conducted experiments on long-range missiles (Al-Ayyam)
** Cairo: police disperse demonstration for students’ supporters of Morsi (Al-Ayyam)
** Netanyahu went through a surgery for removing a tumor from colon (Al-Ayyam)
** Israeli officers: we will pay the price of cuts in the budget during the next war (Al-Ayyam)
** Continuing celebrating Fateh foundation in different districts (Al-Quds)
** Fears of the return of settlers to Abu Rajab house in Hebron (Al-Hayat Al-Jadida)
** MKssend a message to Obama demanding the release of spy Pollard (Al-Hayat Al-Jadida)
Front Page Photos
Al- Quds:Prague – A fireman near Ambassador Al-Jamal residence.
Al-Ayyam:1) Jericho – Palestinian activists in a protest north of the Dead Sea yesterday against occupation decision to annex the Jordan Valley, 2) Prague – Fireman near Ambassador Al-Jamal residence, 3) Sharon.
Al Hayat Al Jadida:1) Ambassador Al-Jamal, 1) protestors near the north coast of the Dead Sea, 3) released prisoner Abu Al-Rub.
Voice of Palestine News
Stringer’s Reports:
Jerusalem:
Q: in what context the call from the Temple groups to open all Al-Aqsa gates comeand what are the fears regarding this issue?
This call comes as part of these groups measures of these activists, most of them are from the hills youth and extreme settlers that continue to storm Al-Aqsa. In this regards let us note what yesterday they attacks Palestinians in the old city and in Silwan, the occupation police secured a rally pf these activists yesterday, making shop owners to close their shops in the old city to protect the rally. In Silwan settlers guard attacks a house in the village, and one of these guards ran over a young Palestinian, while the occupation police intervened to protect the driver. In addition to a series of attacks yesterday by these settlers.
Also, a press conference was held yesterday in occupation Jerusalem, warning against an Israeli plan to Judaize the whole area of Mount of Olives.
Voice of Palestine Interviews
** Khalil Tafakji, Settlements and maps specialist, on Israeli plans to Judaize Mount of Olives.
Q: With regards to revealing a plan in Mount of Olives, how would the effect of implementing this plan?
The Israeli side usually use such planning for strategic aims, 40% of the lands are being confiscated for roads and public buildings, and another 40% for gardens, and at the end there is a clear strategy with regards to the holy city. What is happening now in Jerusalem is an advanced stage of the Jerusalem 2020 plan, and I previously warned against this plan. So now we are talking about these heritage gardens adding them to public gardens, public buildings etc… all is part of controlling the land by Israel according to a strategic clear plan.
Q: This is also related to the plan in Silwan, how would this contribute to surrounding the city and changing its character?
We are talking here about two plans, one in Sheikh Jarrah and another on in Bab Al-Magharebah, the latest is about establishing a tourist area including shops and museums etc... To connect the historic issue (city of David) with the religious issue (Al-Boraq wall) with the sovereigntyissue, meaning we are here and we decide. So what is happening now in Silwan is an advanced stage of excavations, establishing museums and changing the character of the area. the other area is Sheikh Jarrah, also their the authorities confiscated 3445 dunams, where three hotels were established and now they are planning to establish a school on what remained of these lands, this would be part of the policy to connect east Jerusalem with west Jerusalem through settlement projects.
** Riyad Al-Malki, Foreign Affairs Minister.
Q: Is there anything new regarding the death of Palestinian Ambassador to the Czech Republic?
Yes, apparently it was a work accident, meaning that the safe was old, and it was made in a way that if it is being opened in a wrong way, an explosive device attached to its door would explode, and this is what happened, Ambassador Al-Jamal opened the safe without consulting with anyone, the device was activated and the safe exploded. This is what happened…
Q: So, no suspicions of a crime?
Not at all. This is what happened.
Q: Kerry will arrive today to the region, expectations are that he will be presenting some American idea, you had statement regarding this visit, connecting tit to the Israeli decision to annex the Valley, how will the leadership deal with this visit?
First of all, the American administration did not announce the failure of negotiations, nor did we; there is still an American will to continue with the negotiations until its end by April. This visit is a reflection of his will to continue with the efforts, but he know this is not easy and that Israel is placing obstacles, and that what this committee did with regards to annexing the Valley is another obstacle. He thought that this visit might be for presenting ideas for a framework, will be a visit for trying to ease the tension, and see what can be done for the continuation of the negotiations. The decision to annex the valley is not binding since it should be presented to the Knesset.
Q: What do you mean by the decision is not binding, should we bet on the Israeli establishment in such an issue?
No, we believe that ere was a n attempt by some in Israel like this Likud member, she tried to reflect her and some other Likud members’ views, and it is an attempt to pressure Mr. Kerry to and fail the negotiations process, but we are sure that Mr. Kerry will not allow this group to fail his attempts, we know also of some ministers who are against such a decision, this mean that it will have to be reexamined before presented to the Knesset. Israel knows very well that such a decision presented to the Knesset would mean the failure of negotiations and failing the American efforts, and losing the Americans, in addition to Palestinians approaching international organizations. This will mean an Israeli international isolation and sanctions, I think that this was not taken into account by the Israelis and I think that that would be the reason why they will reexamine their steps and withdraw from this law.
Q: With regards to what will Kerry bring, are waiting for any official American ideas to be proposed?
Yes, there are some ideas that is why Kerry is visiting, Kerry knows what are our concerns, and that’s why this visit will be in order to learn more about these concerns, that’s why he did not issue anything written yet. We did not hear yet from Kerry anything about these ideas; he hasn’t told anyone who he is thinking of until now. We should wait and see if he already have any new ideas or only learn more.
More Headlines
Maariv: Netanyahu considers offering “regional concessions" to extend negotiations beyond nine months
Maariv reported today that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is considering proposal including "regional concessions" to Minister Kerry, which may reveal the list of settlements which are believed to be outside major settlement blocs in the West Bank.The paper said that among the proposals made during closed discussions conducted by Netanyahu in recent days, the idea of "stop planning procedures for construction work in settlements outside the settlement blocs for a long period of time,” in order to extend the period of negotiations with the Palestinians until after the nine-month period agreed to at the beginning of March.(http://www.amad.ps/ar/?Action=Details&ID=10011)
Palestinian security document: massive operations in the West Bank if negotiations fail
Yediot Ahronot received a confidential document allegedly prepared by one of the Palestinian security services, relating to the situation in the West Bank if the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations failed, showing that the West Bank will go through an escalation of military operations against Israel.The newspaper was published some information shown in the document today, and said that those who prepared it called on the PA and leaders of security agencies to develop a plan to address these developments in 2014. The document estimates that if negotiations failed, a spontaneous and automatic operations will increase through 2014, and at the same time, Hamas will change its policy in the West Bank, and will work clandestinely to activate military cells in the West Bank, and would not rely on broad popular movements, especially if reconciliation efforts between Fateh and Hamas fail.(http://maannews.net/arb/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=662090)

Violent clashes in Nablus after settlers stormed the "Joseph's Tomb"
Clashes broke out early Thursday between dozens of young men and occupation forces accompanied by hundreds of settlers who stormed the Joseph's Tomb, east of Nablus.Witnesses said that more than 500 settlers escorted by military patrols stormed the Joseph's Tomb, east of the city and performed Talmudic rituals in the area. The occupation army reinforced its presence in the area around the tomb to secure the points of entry and exit of settlers during clashes with youths who threw stones at them, where soldiers fired sound bombs and tear gas towards the young Palestinians and houses. http://www.wattan.tv/ar/news/83140.html)
Arab Press
Kerry’s secret recipe for peace

By Hasan Abu Nimah

After exhaustive media speculation, 11 visits to the region and much anticipation, the secret recipe for a Palestinian-Israeli peace seems finally to have been disclosed.

US Secretary of State John Kerry is bringing his framework agreement to the two conflicting sides, and for a change, in written form this time.

He is right to reduce his overly optimistic expectations for a final peace settlement by April 2014 (by the end of the nine-month period initially set for the latest round of peace talks), seeking, instead, only to get the Palestinians and the Israelis to agree on a general outline.

He is not the first secretary of state to take this way out.

Kerry will be asking the Palestinians to recognize Israel as the state for the Jewish people in return for which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will accept the 1967 lines as a starting point for negotiations.

One cannot be sure at this stage who would accept or reject such a deal. Although both sides have indicated unwillingness, the coming days will decide.

The offer is a win for the Israelis and therefore a total loss for the Palestinians.

Recognizing Israel as a state for the Jewish people is tantamount to renouncing Palestinian history, revoking Palestinians’ past as well as future rights to their historic homeland, depriving Palestinians in present-day Israel of their right to stay in their towns and villages, which were occupied in 1948, and abolishing the right of the Palestinian refugees to exercise their legally recognized right of return.

It would be a national disaster if Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas accepts such terms.

The reference to the 1967 lines presented as a prize to the Palestinians in return for the concession required from them is in fact another concession to Netanyahu.

Security Council Resolution 242 of 1967 demanded that Israel withdraw from all the Arab lands it occupied in June 1967. This is the basis of the “land for peace” and two-state formula.

That means the 1967 lines would not be a starting point for negotiations but the new borders between Israel and the would-be Palestinian state.

By agreeing to the principle of negotiating a new border on the basis of 1967 lines, the Palestinians would be making another substantial concession to Israel; it means those lines would be moved to include all the settlements and the areas Israel is planning to further colonies.

This is what Israel has been guaranteed under the deceptive land-swap formula, already accepted by Abbas.

And that is why the Israelis never agreed to stop building settlements.

Almost 6,000 settler housing units were planned and tendered since the current talks were resumed last July. Now Israel is announcing 1,400 more.

Apparently Israel was granted American approval to announce building projects to help Netanyahu justify the release of about 100 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Palestinian agreement to return to the talks. Cleverly, the release was programmed to happen in installments of 26 prisoners each time. But with each installment more settlement projects are announced.

Abbas returned to the talks after backing off on his initial demand for Israel to halt all settlement construction.

To save face, he watered down his condition to ask for the release of prisoners. The release of one Palestinian prisoner is significant enough, but not if the price is more colonization of Palestinian land.

The other item in Kerry’s peace plan seems to be the extension of the nine-month negotiations for another year. That suits the Israelis a lot because negotiations have only served one purpose so far: providing a suitable cover for continued colonization of Palestinian land.

An additional extension for a year would grant Israel precious time to build and expand comfortably. It also pushes the negotiations into the midst of another US presidential election cycle, when the already remote chance of American pressure on Israel disappears completely.

The extension may also suit the PA by prolonging the period of funding and political survival even if for a limited span. It may also spare the PA leaders the embarrassment of announcing failure even if it is apparent to everyone.

There are serious doubts still on whether Kerry would succeed in having the two sides agree. If they do, it will be a setback. That is because it will indeed allow the problem to grow bigger and become more difficult.

Despite the odds, many still feel comfortable with parroting the two-state solution. But many others have begun to boldly announce the demise of that slogan.

The basic reason for bypassing this slogan is the facts Israel created on the ground while everyone remained silent, even the staunch supporters of the two-state solution.

But that is not accidental. It is well planned by the Israelis. They managed to successfully buy the time they needed to physically prevent the establishment of a second state west of the Jordan River, any political argument in favor notwithstanding.

But Israel’s and Kerry’s plans failed to take into account another factor, recognized by Israeli justice minister and negotiator Tzipi Livni.

Because of its insistence on building settlements, Livni said, Israel is “an entire country that is disconnected from the international reality”.

Livni, according to Ynet on December 30, said: “The world doesn’t understand Israel’s policy of seemingly supporting a two-state solution while continuing to build in the West Bank.”

She should not be treated as a hero or prophet for saying this, as she has been a staunch supporter of Israel’s land conquests, not to mention her role in the Gaza massacre.

Yet, she can see the consequences of Israel’s current path, warning of a growing international financial and economic boycott that “started with the West Bank, but over time … will flow into the rest of the country”.

“The boycott is moving and advancing uniformly and exponentially. Those who don’t want to see it, will end up feeling it,” Livni said.

Her words provide confirmation that the European, American and Arab approach of appeasing Israel and constantly catering to its demands is totally wrong.

Israel only responds to pressure and much more must be applied.(http://jordantimes.com/kerrys-secret-recipe-for-peace)



Was Jesus a Palestinian, a Jew or both?

By Daoud Kuttab

The Israeli Foreign Ministry was quick to reply to the Christmas message of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. They were angry that Abbas, who attended Christmas Mass in the Church of Nativity with High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Catherine Ashton, laid claim to the birth of Jesus.

Abbas followed many other Palestinians in saying that Jesus, born in Bethlehem, was Palestinian. Israelis, who refused a request by a Palestinian Israeli parliamentarian to have a Christmas tree at the entrance of the Knesset, angrily refuted the Palestinian claim. The spokesman of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Yigal Palmor, called Abbas’ claim “rewriting Christian history,” petitioning the Palestinian president to read the Gospels.

Figuring out who Jesus was depends on how you categorize identity. For Palestinians, anyone who was born (or whose ancestors were born) on the geographic areas between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea is Palestinian. While many nationalities have lived in historic Palestine, including Canaanites, Jabusites, Romans, Israelites, Ummayads and others, the term Palestinian is used in an all-encompassing way.

While Israeli officials mocked Abbas and said he "needs a hug from Santa," they didn’t lay "Jewish" claim, even though Jesus was historically and Biblically known to have been born to a Jewish family.

Assigning a specific nationality or identity to Jesus, however, might not be the best way forward for a people who are seeking a worldly state devoid of a religious identity. Palestinian nationalists have for years attempted to separate religion from politics and have sought a secular state. In recent years the idea that the Palestinian state might have Jewish citizens has been discussed. Although Palestinian officials have been vocally opposed to Jewish settlers continuing to live on confiscated Palestinian lands, some have agreed that it would not be totally unacceptable to have Jewish citizens in Palestine so long as they agree to abide by Palestinian law. Judaism is seen by Palestinians as a religion and not a race, so it is easy to combine a national and religious identity.

So from an Arab perspective, in the world there are Russian Jews, European Jews, American Jews, Argentinean Jews, Iranian Jews, Moroccan Jews, Iraqi Jews, Egyptian Jews, Yemeni Jews and, yes, Palestinian Jews. They all exist whether in their country of origin or living around the world, including in Israel. In fact, a large number of Jewish Israelis today are of eastern origin. Generally referred to as Sephardic Jews, they have their own separate chief rabbi and have voted regularly in recent years for a Sephardic party, Shas. Some publicly insist that they are Arab Jews.

In fact, the leading Palestinian faction, Fatah, has often prided itself on being open to Jews. One of its members, Uri Davis, was elected recently to the Fatah Revolutionary Council. Both late leader Yasser Arafat and Abbas have often hosted delegations from the anti-Zionist Neutrei Karta movement, whose members publicly call themselves "Palestinian Authentic Jews."

While today’s Palestinian population overwhelmingly belongs to the Islamic faith, many Palestinian Christians live outside of Palestine, having become refugees or having chosen to emigrate due to the difficulties of life under occupation. In the West Bank today, the CIA factbook says that Palestinian Christians, many who trace their lineage to the first centuries, amount to 8% of the West Bank population. In Gaza, the Palestinian Christian population is less than 1%.

Palestinians, whether Muslims, Christians or Jews, have been calling for years for freedom and independence in a secular democratic state. This call has been amended in recent years to the two-state solution, which assumes a separation of peoples and land. The rise and fall of religious fundamentalism has for years dogged the people of the region, which is why leaders on both sides are making claims and counter claims about the identity of Jesus Christ.

So to answer the question, yes, Jesus, the prince of peace, was born to a Jewish family, and yes, he was born in the Palestinian town of Bethlehem. Jesus can be both Jewish and Palestinian.(http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/12/jesus-palestinian-jewish-christmas.html)


The grim reality of our ‘Little Town of Bethlehem’

By Stuart Littlewood

London’s Christmas was made gloomier this year - and rightly so - by the appearance in the courtyard of St James’s Church, Piccadilly, of a replica of the hated Israeli annexation Wall that threads its thieving way around the Palestinian West Bank.
It’s a life-size representation of the actual eight-metre high Wall surrounding Bethlehem and imprisoning its inhabitants. The project, called ‘Bethlehem Unwrapped’ is a response to a call from the united churches of the Holy Land pleading with churches and communities around the world to “help us get our freedom back.”

The Israelis claim that the monstrous Wall, also known as the apartheid Wall, is to protect its citizens from terrorist attack. But in reality it is carefully routed to bite deep into Palestinian territory in order to steal choice agricultural land and water resources, as well as to seize strategic landscape and communication features and disconnect Palestinian communities from their livelihoods and from each other.

This is not the first time the evil barrier has been replicated by a British church. Over Christmas 2006 at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in my home town of St. Ives in Cambridge shire, instead of enjoying the usual live sheep, cow, donkey and newborn babies at a Nativity scene, visitors were greeted by a grim grey replica of the Wall and photos of the real thing.

Raising awareness

The parish priest wanted to draw attention to the plight of the Palestinian people and replace the romantic idea of a manger crib with the ugly reality of the brutal occupation strangling his congregation’s “Little Town of Bethlehem.” He said he could understand Israel’s need for security but it was wrong to build the Wall on Palestinian land. “The lives of the ordinary citizens of Bethlehem have been devastated... It affects every aspect of their lives: friends and family are separated, earning a living becomes more and more difficult, and access to health care is severely restricted in the town of Bethlehem, which we sing about at this time of the year. If we can provide these people with a few extra basic provisions and give them a little financial support, we can help make their lives more bearable.” He was confident that the people of St Ives would want to express their support for those oppressed people at Christmas.

Because of its despicable purpose, and its sheer cruelty, the Wall contains the seeds of its own destruction

A spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in London called it a cheap public relations stunt, and the enterprising priest took a lot of flak from others who thought there was nothing wrong with Israel’s thuggish ways.

The St Ives parish is twinned with the parish of Aboud in the West Bank. Aboud, once called the City of Flowers, is a historic town of about 2000 people, half Christian, half Muslim, not far from Ramallah. On a hill above is the ancient monastery of St Barbara, blown up by the hooligan Israeli army in 2002. Throughout its long history Aboud is believed to have had no fewer than nine churches. The priest had made regular visits and watched local circumstances grow worse. His replica Wall had the support of his bishop, who said: “It is a dramatic way of highlighting the fact that in Bethlehem today, in particular the ordinary people, still suffer in all kinds of ways as they did in Jesus’ day.”

The effects of the Wall

I’ve been to Aboud myself on a couple of occasions. It is a place one could easily fall in love with, but even here in this one-time Arab paradise the wretched Wall threatens to separate the townspeople from much of their land and olive groves and their water supply. The same goes for many more such lovely places in the Holy Land. In the case of Aboud massive protests have caused the Israelis to adjust the route of the Wall but it will still steal valuable property, restrict personal movement and rob the inhabitants of their freedom.

Condemned as illegal by the International Court of Justice, and ordered to be dismantled, the annexation Wall, with its sinister ‘goon’ towers, continues to be built in utter disregard of international law and other people’s human rights. It is symbolic of all that’s hateful and disgusting about the Israeli mentality. Because of its despicable purpose, and its sheer cruelty, the Wall contains the seeds of its own destruction. It is only a matter of time.

Meanwhile campaigners would do well to max up the potential of the Wall to shock and shame. And it is the Americans who are showing the way. As Finian Cunningham explains, one thing often missing from the Christmas celebrations is a connection between the original historical event – some 2,000 years ago – and how this story relates to present reality. A new billboard campaign now running in the US gives the traditional Christmas story realistic, contemporary meaning. “Massive public hoardings, currently on display in various cities across the U.S., show Mary, pregnant with her soon-to-be-born baby son, Jesus, being led on a donkey towards the ancient Palestinian town of Bethlehem by her husband Joseph. Confronting this weary family is not the occupying forces of the Roman Empire, as in ancient accounts of the nativity, but rather it is the occupying forces of the Zionist Israeli regime.”(http://english.alarabiya.net/en/views/2013/12/31/A-grim-reminder-of-what-surrounds-our-Little-Town-of-Bethlehem-.html)



Is Kerry actually a dishonest broker?

By Saudi Gazette  

And so the game goes on. As 26 more Palestinian prisoners are released from Israeli prisons, the Netanyahu government announces it is to build 1,400 new settler homes in the Occupied West Bank. Yet again we see the Israelis giving with one hand and taking back with both.

Netanyahu knows perfectly well that the whole issue of the illegal settlements in East Jerusalem and on the West Bank represents a major sticking point for the Palestinian Authority as it seeks to negotiate a lasting peace. An end to settlement building has long been a Palestinian precondition to talks.  Yet the construction program goes on. Every time that Israel appears to make a concession, it more than counterbalances it with a new settlement announcement.

What is so interesting about this farcical procedure is the American role. US Secretary of State John Kerry, who this July got Palestinians and Israel’s talking peace again after a three-year break, had brokered the deal whereby 104 Palestinian prisoners would be freed. The releases this week were the third phase of this program.

Publicly at least, Washington has long opposed illegal settlements on Palestinian land. On that basis, when Kerry arranged the “confidence-building” prisoner release, he did not anticipate that Netanyahu would finesse the deal into stealing more of the Occupied Territory.

Or did he?  Have the phone lines from Washington to Netanyahu’s office really been burning hot with angry words?  Has Obama, whose personal distaste for the Israeli prime minister is public knowledge, been warning that the United States can no longer be played for a complete idiot by a Zionist establishment that has no interest whatsoever in a just and lasting peace with the Palestinians?

Since the Israelis have yet again spat in the face of their faithful US ally, what free economic or military goody is the White House threatening to withdraw? What sanction is going to be imposed for Netanyahu’s complete disregard of the spirit of the peace talks that Kerry has worked so hard to nurture?

If past performance is anything to go by, the answer is that Washington will do absolutely nothing bar possibly a little public huffing and puffing.

There can really be only one of two reasons for this. The first is that the Washington political establishment as a whole is so enfeebled by the poisonous influence of the US Zionist lobby that it is incapable of using what ought to be its immense economic and political power to bring its willful and ungrateful Israeli ally into line. Humiliating and shameful though this analysis may be, it is preferable to the alternative which is that the Kerry peace mission is a con trick.

How can a politician as experienced and intelligent as John Kerry be played for a fool by the Israelis? If Kerry had been accumulating airmails for his flights to and from the Middle East since he became Secretary of State, he would never have to pay for another air ticket. He has appeared to throw everything into his peace initiative. And yet, even as he succeeds in having more Palestinian prisoners released,  he fails, in that Netanyahu announces yet more illegal settlements. Or did Kerry know from the get-go that this is what the Israelis were going to do? In which case is he not in fact a dishonest broker whom the Palestinians should no longer trust? (http://www.saudigazette.com.sa/index.cfm?method=home.regcon&contentid=20140102191205)
Opinions
Kerry’s tours and chasing mirage
Al-Quds Editorial
Each time Foreign Minister John Kerry decides to visit the area, there are political expectations about what he intends to do or suggest on the one hand, and Israeli settlements and Judaization steps on the other hand. In his previous visit, an Israeli Ministerial Committee announced a decision to annex the Jordan Valley settlements to Israel; yesterday they discussed a plan to build a large Jewish school in Sheikh Jarrah, Jerusalem.The decision to annex the Jordan Valley settlements came after talksabout Kerry's proposals regarding security include Israeli occupation remaining in in the Jordan Valley area, as if the decision and proposals came to complement each other.
The Jewish school they are talking about is more than just settlement building because it constitutes, according to its location, another ring surrounded east Jerusalem from Mount Scopus, the Hebrew University campus and Shepherd hotel which was destroyed, reaching some homes confiscated under various pretexts, in addition to what they call the “Shimon Hatzadiq cave”. The school they intend establish and the hotels they already established in the area will settlements connect with ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods in West Jerusalem and complete the ring surrounding Arabneighborhoods.
Israeli Prime Minister tries to clearly dodgewhen postponing issuing tenders for establishing 1400 housing units in Jerusalem and the West Bank because of Kerry’s visit, these and other units will be established after Kerry leaves, above all that, they brazenly propose swapping settlements with lands of the Palestinian triangle area inside the green line, in a racist attempt to get rid of some of the Palestinians within Israel, since they want it a Jewish State and condition our acceptance and the abolition of the right of return in any peace agreement that can be reached.
In such situations when policies are incompatible with the most elementary requirements of peace, Kerry is trying to achieve and continue his shuttle tours in order reach peace, and they are talking today about the proposed "framework”, which Minister Kerry would present to Netanyahu and President Abbas, one time they say a framework agreement and some other times a “framework”, in any case, such proposals are rejected in form and substance not only by the Palestinian people, and not only by the Palestinian opposition, but by the leadership, President Abu Mazen confirmed his rejection of any Temporary or transitional solutions, and his refusal for any Israeli soldier remaining on the territory of the future State.
In this case why we don’t stop this farce that is being used as a cover for implementing their plans? Why continue to deal with these proposals while we all know are of no use, even those who led and still lead negotiations insist on this fact? What are we waiting for, how long will this hold? Aren’t there any alternatives for the leadership other than dealing with this?
Anyway, our people expect and demand not to extend the negotiation period if ending it at this point is not possible, since Kerry vainly triesto chase mirage. (Al-Quds)
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