‘Today They Took My Son’–a film by Farah Nabulsi

Posted on January 31, 2017

A new film, soon to be released by Farah Nabulsi, the daughter of diaspora Palestinians. In June of 2016, Nabulsi launched OceansofInjustice.com , a project in which she brought together a website and a short film with the aim of drawing attention to the many injustices faced by Palestinians, especially children. Now in 2017, she hopes to raise awareness even further with this, her second short film, “Today They Took My Son.”

A screening is set to be held in London on February 5, 2017. You can find out more about it here.

Saudi, U.S., NATO genocide in Yemen threatens lives of 18 million Yemenis

RSFP

The United Nation’s aid chief has warned that Yemen is facing the risk of all-out famine this year… Warning, you may find the images in the follwing reports disturbing.

 

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PCHR Weekly Report: 67 civilians abducted, including 10 children; one woman shot and wounded

08 JAN
1:55 AM

In its Weekly Report On Israeli Human Rights Violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories for the week of 29 Dec. 2016 – 04 Jan 2017, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) found that Israeli forces continued systematic crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Israeli forces conducted 74 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank and a limited one in the Gaza Strip. 67 civilians, including 10 children, were abducted. 10 of them, including 6 children, were abducted in occupied Jerusalem.

Israeli attacks in the West Bank:

In the West Bank, Israeli forces stationed at Qalandia checkpoint at the northern entrance to occupied Jerusalem opened fire at Jihan Hashimah (35) from al-‘Issawiya village, northeast of the city. As a result, she was hit with 3 bullets to the leg and then abducted. The aforementioned woman was walking near the cars track when she was shot. Israeli forces claimed she had a knife.

During the reporting period, Israeli forces conducted at least 74 military incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. During these incursions, Israeli forces abducted at least 67 Palestinian civilians, including 10 children. Ten of them, including 6 children, were abducted in occupied Jerusalem. Moreover, two civilians were abducted while participating in Kufor Qaddoum weekly protest in addition to arresting the wounded woman at Qalendia checkpoint. Therefore, during this week, the number of abducted civilians mounted to 70, including 10 children and a wounded woman.

On 02 January 2017, in light of the cold and rainy weather during these days, Israeli forces and their heavy equipment demolished 11 dwellings built of tin plates belonging to al-Jahalin Bedouin family in Sneisel Valley area in al-Khan al-Ahmar, east of occupied Jerusalem, rendering 87 individuals homeless. Most of them were children and women.

On 04 January 2017, Israeli municipality bulldozers demolished a house comprised of two apartments belonging to ‘Adnan Shweiki in Sho’afat neighbourhood, north of occupied Jerusalem. The 300-square-meter house sheltered two families comprised of 14 members, including 10 children, with a rental contract.

On the same day, Israeli municipality bulldozers demolished a house belonging to the family of ‘Amer ‘Ebeido in Beit Hanina village, north of the city. The two-storey house sheltered two families of 8 members, including a child.

Dozens of temporary checkpoints were established in the West Bank and others were re-established to obstruct the movement of Palestinian civilians. 2 Palestinian civilians, one of them was a child, were abducted at military checkpoints.

Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip:

In the Gaza Strip, in the context of targeting fishermen in the Sea, on 01 January 2017, Israeli gunboats opened fire at Palestinian fishermen, northwest of Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip, and chased them. The shooting recurred in the same area on 03 January 2017 and on 04 January 2017 in the western side of Jabalia. The boats were sailing in those incidents within 3 nautical miles. However, neither causalities nor damages to the boats were reported.

On 04 January 2017, an Israeli gunboat hit a fishing boat manned by Mohammed al-Hessi (33) from al-Shati’ refugee camp. As a result, the boat capsized and the fisherman is so far missed. The boat was sailing within 5 nautical miles off al-Soudaniyah shore in the northern Gaza Strip.

In the context of targeting the border areas, on 01 January 2017, Israeli forces stationed along the border fence between the Gaza Strip and Israel opened fire at agricultural fields to the west of the fence. The shooting recurred on 01 January 2017. No casualties were reported.

The illegal closure of the Gaza Strip, which has been steadily tightened since June 2007 has had a disastrous impact on the humanitarian and economic situation in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli authorities impose measures to undermine the freedom of trade, including the basic needs for the Gaza Strip population and the agricultural and industrial products to be exported. For 9 consecutive years, Israel has tightened the land and naval closure to isolate the Gaza Strip from the West Bank, including occupied Jerusalem, and other countries around the world. This resulted in grave violations of the economic, social and cultural rights and a deterioration of living conditions for 2 million people. The Israeli authorities have established Karm Abu Salem (Kerem Shaloum) as the sole crossing for imports and exports in order to exercise its control over the Gaza Strip’s economy. They also aim at imposing a complete ban on the Gaza Strip’s exports. The Israeli closure raised the rate of poverty to 65%. Moreover, the rate of unemployment increased up to 47% and youth constitutes 65% of the unemployed persons. Moreover, 80% of the Gaza Strip population depends on international aid to secure their minimum daily needs. These rates indicate the unprecedented economic deterioration in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli settlement activities:

Israeli Settlement activities continued in the West Bank. On 03 January 2017, Israeli forces and its heavy equipment demolished 14 dwellings and 22 other facilities in Kherbet Tana, east of Beit Foriq village, east of Nablus. Those facilities belong to 15 families comprised of 86 members, including 33 children. It should be mentioned that the Israeli forces demolished dwellings in Kherbet Tana 4 times before in 2016 in order to Empty them of their original inhabitants and seize them under the pretext that they are located within Area C.

Israeli attacks against non-violent demonstrations:

Israeli troops engaged in the use of excessive force against peaceful demonstrations protesting settlement activities and the construction of the annexation wall.

Following the Friday prayer, on 30 December 2016, dozens of Palestinian civilians and Israeli and international human rights defenders organized demonstrations in Bil’in and Ni’lin villages, west of Ramallah, and al-Nabi Saleh village, northwest of the city, protesting against the annexation wall and settlement activities. Israeli forces forcibly dispersed the protests, firing live and metal bullets, tear gas canisters and sound bombs. They also chased the protesters into olive fields and between houses. As a result, many of the protesters suffered tear gas inhalation while others sustained bruises as Israeli soldiers beat them up. Israeli forces also abducted Jamil al-Barghuthi (45) from Deir Abu Mash’al, northwest of Ramallah, and Ghaleb Helmi Shtaiwi (25) from Kafer Qadoum village, while both were participating in the weekly demonstration of Kafer Qadoum village.

Recommendations to the international community:

Due to the number and severity of Israeli human rights violations this week, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) called on the international community to follow certain recommendations. Among these were a recommendation that the international community act to stop all Israeli settlement expansion activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories through imposing sanctions on Israeli settlements and criminalizing trading with them.

In addition, PCHR calls upon the United Nations to confirm that holding war criminals accountable in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is a precondition to achieve stability and peace in the regions, and that peace cannot be built at the expense of human rights.

Click here for the full text of the report.

Palestine news

Electricity shortage causes children’s hospital in Gaza to suspend medical care

Electricity shortage causes children’s hospital in Gaza to suspend medical care 

GAZA (Ma’an) — Health services in a children’s hospital in Gaza will be suspended for more than a day due to a lack of fuel to power its generators, the Ministry of Health of the besieged Palestinian enclave said in a statement on Wednesday.

The ministry said that the al-Durrah children’s hospital would be out of commission for 27 hours due to the power shortage, adding that other hospitals across Gaza faced similar risks.

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It further warned of the terrible consequences of a lack of fuel on the lives of patients dependent on electric and electronic equipment.

Even at full capacity, Egyptian and Israeli electricity grids, together with Gaza’s sole power plant, fail to cover the Gaza Strip’s energy needs and only provide energy to Gaza’s inhabitants for eight hours each day.

The Israeli blockade, which limits the amount of fuel allowed into the Palestinian territory, has also impeded the capacity to repair Gaza’s damaged infrastructure in the wake of a devastating Israeli offensive in 2014.

Gaza’s power plant has not run at full capacity in years, as the enclave has experienced severe electricity shortages over the years, exacerbating already dire living conditions in the small Palestinian territory, leading the UN in 2015 to warn that Gaza could be “uninhabitable” by 2020.

Meanwhile, the World Bank said on Wednesday that the lack of electricity access was severely impeding infrastructure projects to address the Gaza Strip’s “alarming” access to clean water.

Via Ma’an News Agency

Attacking School Children, Hoarding Bodies of the Dead, and Praying at the Wailing Wall

‘Not Behaving Like a Normal State’

[ Ed. note – The life of a Palestinian school child is not easy, as the above video makes clear. Equally difficult can be the problems faced by Palestinian families attempting to hold funerals for loved ones slain by Israeli forces. As I have noted in previous posts (see here and here and here), the Jewish state seems to have a predilection for holding onto corpses–for days, months, sometimes even years. ]

***

Palestinians in Ramallah Stage Sit-in Demanding Return of Slain Palestinian’s Body

Ma’an News

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — Dozens of Palestinians organized a sit-in at the al-Manara square in the heart of Ramallah city in the central occupied West Bank, demanding the release of the body of Maen Abu Qaare and other slain Palestinians still being held by Israeli authorities.

Deputy Secretary General of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DLP) Qais Abd al-Karim said during the sit-in that holding the body of Abu Qaraa was “evidence of the brutality and inhumanity of the Israeli occupation that is still holding dozens of bodies of killed Palestinians.”

Abd al-Karim stressed that more protests of this “brutality” would continue, adding that “Israel not only kills our children unjustly but also holds their bodies in a clear violation to all international laws.”

Abu Qaraa, 23, was killed by Israeli forces on Nov. 3 after allegedly attempting to carry out a stabbing attack near the illegal Israeli Ofra settlement, between the Ramallah-area villages of Silwad and Deir Jarir.

In the days following Abu Qaraa’s death, Israeli forces imposed several road and checkpoint closuresacross the Ramallah district, making travel for residents of the Ramallah district’s northern villages extremely difficult.

Israeli authorities dramatically escalated a policy of withholding Palestinian bodies killed by Israeli forces following the emergence of a wave of unrest across the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel in October 2015, having repeatedly claimed that funerals of Palestinians had provided grounds for “incitement” against the Israeli state.

However, following an uproar of protest among Palestinians over the policy, Israeli authorities began scaling down the practice, although a number of bodies still remain withheld.

When Israeli authorities have decided to return slain bodies and allow funerals in the occupied Palestinian territory, the ceremonies have been typically restricted by a long list of conditions imposed by Israeli authorities, including limiting the number of attendees and the deployment of Israeli soldiers throughout the event.

Palestinian families have also been forced to pay large financial deposits to the Israeli government as a collateral for potential “incitement” during the funerals and to ensure that families abide by Israeli-imposed conditions.

Israeli police announced in June that slain Palestinians from occupied East Jerusalem suspected of “terrorism” would no longer be able to have funerals in their neighborhoods or villages, but would instead be buried in cemeteries chosen by the Israeli police.

A joint statement released by Addameer and Israeli minority rights group Adalah in March condemned Israel’s practice of withholding bodies as “a severe violation of international humanitarian law as well as international human rights law, including violations of the right to dignity, freedom of religion, and the right to practice culture.

“The statement said it appeared “many” of the Palestinians whose bodies Israel was holding had been “extrajudicially executed by Israeli forces during alleged attacks against Israelis, despite posing no danger.”

***

[ Additional ed. note – Stories about cadaver hoarding obviously leave lasting impressions in peoples’ minds and likely are contributing to increasingly negative views of the Jewish state by large numbers of people the world over. You would think this would trigger a heated debate among Jews over whether policies like this are advisable. After all, it’s making everybody look bad! Well as a matter of fact, earlier this month in Jerusalem a major confrontation between Jews from all over the world did occur, and over a policy of the Israeli government.

The showdown, which degenerated at times into violent fisticuffs, pitted members of the different branches of Judaism, i.e. Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, etc., but the bone of contention was not over whether it might be less than savory or kosher to fill the Promised Land’s mausoleums with bursting stockpiles of unreturned corpses. Nor was it over the efficacy of tear-gassing children on their way to school. No. The clash was over the all-consuming issue of which Jews should be allowed to pray at the Wailing Wall, and which should not. ]

Prayer Rights Protest at Jerusalem’s Western Wall Erupts into Clashes

The Guardian

A protest by non-Orthodox rabbis from around the world over equal Jewish prayer rights at the Western Wall in Jerusalem – including mixed gender prayers – descended into violent scuffles amid mounting anger at the Israeli government which they accuse of foot-dragging over the issue.

The demonstration had been called over the failure of the Israeli government to provide a promised egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall, which was agreed in January after three years of negotiations.

Before Wednesday’s protest the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu – who protesters accuse of reneging on a commitment to regularise a liberalised prayer space – called on Jews living outside Israel to show “patience and tolerance” over the issue.

“We have one people and one wall – it’s our wall,” he said. “The less publicly we talk about it, the better chance we have to resolve it. The last thing we need is more friction, as that will make a solution more difficult.”

That call, however, was ignored as several hundred protesters arrived at the site on Wednesday morning, and as some Orthodox men and security officials for the Western Wall Heritage Foundation became involved in scuffles as they tried to remove Torah scrolls being carried by the demonstrators.

Regulations at the site prohibit worshippers from bringing their own Torah scrolls to the premises.

The protest was led by senior rabbis from the reform and conservative movements, including Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the US Union for Reform Judaism.

Witnesses said as the group tried to enter the prayer area of the Western Wall they were pushed and punched by security officials and young ultra-Orthodox men.

The march had joined forces with the monthly attempt by the Women of the Wall group to pray at the Western Wall, also known as the Kotel. The group, which has campaigned for almost 30 years for equal prayer rights – including being allowed to sing, read aloud from the Torah and wear religious clothing – has said it will move its monthly service to the new mixed section as soon as it is functioning.

While segregation of the sexes during prayer is long established within the Orthodox tradition, Conservative, Reform and other liberal forms of Judaism allow men and women to pray together.

The issue of equal prayer rights has become a source of tension between the Israeli government and diaspora Jews, who accuse Netanyahu of reneging on his promises to create a space at the Wall for non-Orthodox Jews to mollify the ultra-Orthodox parties in his rightwing coalition.

Commenting on Wednesday’s events Netanyahu accused the protesters of “a unilateral violation” of agreements of Jewish prayer arrangements.

“The unfortunate incident this morning at the Western Wall does not help advance a solution for prayer arrangements there,” he said. “The prime minister and the Speaker of the Knesset said yesterday to the leaders of the non-Orthodox movements that now is the time for dialogue and not for unnecessary friction. The unilateral violation of the status quo at the Western Wall this morning undermines our ongoing efforts to reach a compromise.”

A new 900-sq-metre egalitarian prayer section, envisaged under January’s agreement, is at the southern, Robinson’s Arch, end of the Western Wall and intended to replace a platform set up as a temporary measure after a compromise reached in 2013. The new section would allow men and women who do not want to pray in a segregated area to pray together.

The expanded area, planned to cost £6m, is intended to accommodate 1,200 worshippers and be officially registered in Israel’s Law of Holy Sites. It will be administered by government officials.

The idea had been to create a prayer space where groups such as Women of the Wall and other non-Orthodox denominations who hold mixed-gender prayers without a barrier separating men from women.

Since that decision, however, new regulations have not been implemented while Orthodox groups have begun using the space for “demonstrative” and segregated prayers.

Both sides in the long-running struggle over prayer rights at the Kotel have escalated their rhetoric in the past month, with those calling for equal prayer rights vowing to push the issue and Orthodox groups determined to resist greater liberalisation by calling on supporters to use Robinson’s Arch as well.

***

[ Final ed. note – Perhaps at some point the world’s patience with Israel will begin to run out–oh, wait! It looks like that moment has already arrived! As a member of the Irish Parliament tells the Israeli ambassador to Ireland in the following video: “I think, along with Desmond Tutu, that the time for treating you like a normal state is over, because you’re not behaving as a normal state.” ]

When Olives Need Harvesting

The challenges faced by Palestinian olive farmers during harvest season each year are considerable. This year has been no different.

Report: Israeli Settlers Steal Harvest of 400 Olive Trees

5 Pillars

Occupying Israeli settlers have stolen the harvest of 400 olive trees planted on private Palestinian land, farmers in Nablus told Ma’an News earlier this week.

Ghassan Daghlas, a Palestinian official who monitors settlement activities in the northern West Bank, told Ma’an that more than 30 Palestinian families from the Nablus district village of Deir Sharaf entered their agricultural lands yesterday after being banned since Friday by Israeli authorities.

According to Daghlas, the families “were shocked to find out that Israeli settlers had picked the olives of 400 olive trees planted in their lands,” near the illegal Israeli settlement of Shavi Shamron.

“Israeli settlers stealing olive harvests is a crime against Palestinian farmers and their properties,” Daghlas said, denouncing “the Israeli government’s knowledge [of settlers’ actions] and the complete silence of international society and human rights organisations.”

Daghlas also demanded compensation for the Palestinian families who lost their olive harvest.

The olive harvest is an important economic and cultural event for Palestinians, with nearly half of all cultivated land in the occupied Palestinian territory planted with olive trees, according to the United Nations.

However, due to illegal settlement expansion, land confiscation, mobility restrictions due to Israel’s Separation Wall, and various permit laws, Palestinian farmers are often unable to access their land and the number of olive trees is dwindling.

This year’s olive harvest season, which began in October, has already witnessed attacks by illegal Israeli settlers and Israeli regime’s restrictions on Palestinian farmers and their lands.

The Palestinian government has no jurisdiction over Israelis in the West Bank, and violent acts carried out by illegal occupying Israeli settlers go unpunished.

Israeli human rights groups Yesh Din and B’Tselem have previously condemned the Israeli regime for failing to protect Palestinians from settler violence or to investigate attacks, particularly during olive harvest season when incidents of attacks occur on an almost daily basis.

***

Gaza Farmers Succeed in Tending to Olive Harvest–With International Support

By Joe Catron

During the recent olive harvest, which lasted from the end of September through October, dozens of Palestinian volunteers joined farmers in their groves near the tense barriers of the Gaza Strip.

The volunteers worked during a week at the height of the harvest season, from 20 to 27 October, in two of the farming districts most often targeted by Israeli forces: Beit Hanoun, around the Erez checkpoint in northern Gaza, and al-Qarara, a town in the Khan Younis area of the southern Gaza Strip.

Along with others near the “buffer zone” separating Gaza from present-day Israel, these areas face regular incursions by Israeli forces, which often send tanks and bulldozers to level farmland. Even more frequent are the bursts of gunfire aimed at farmers or others near the barrier erected by Israel.

These attacks have claimed vast tracts of productive farmland stretching hundreds of meters into the Gaza Strip, converting them to wasteland or fields of low-maintenance crops, most of which are wheat.

Abeer Abu Shawish, project coordinator for the Protection for Better Production campaign — a project of the Arab Center for Agricultural Development — said that more than fifty volunteers joined the effort.

The mobilization involved farmers’ organizations, like the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, and other groups across Gaza.

“Our partner organizations mobilized volunteers to help farmers in the restricted area harvest their olives,” Abu Shawish said. “They’re other farmers, civil society activists, women: all these people joined us this year.”

Destruction

“We can just plant wheat and wait,” said Abu Jamal Abu Taima, a farmer in the village of Khuzaa outside Khan Younis. “Other crops need to be tended every day.”

Abu Jamal’s 50 dunams (a dunam is equivalent to 1,000 square meters), which he plans to sow with wheat after the November rains begin, once contained olive groves as well as greenhouses for an array of vegetables.

“We used to grow enough olives for seventy large bottles of olive oil,” he said. “Now? Six.”

In 2002, Israeli forces began razing Palestinian agricultural areas near the barrier, as well as along the Philadelphi Route by the Gaza Strip’s border with Egypt.

This included the demolition of Abu Jamal’s olive groves and greenhouses, as well as his home. “The Israelis destroyed them with four bulldozers, five huge tanks and three Hummers,” he said.

Since its occupation of the Gaza Strip and West Bank in 1967, Israel has uprooted 800,000 olive trees in those territories, Oxfam reported in 2011. As the graphic design activism initiative Visualizing Palestine recently illustrated, those trees would cover an area 33 times the size of New York City’s Central Park.

By 2013, according to the Palestinian ministry of agriculture in Gaza, Israeli forces had leveled “some 20,000 dunams of land areas planted with half a million trees” in the Gaza Strip, contributing to a local deficit in olive oil production of 60 percent (“Israeli crimes against farmers cause 60 percent deficit in olive production,” Palestine News Network, 24 September 2013).

In the West Bank, the destruction of olive trees by both Israeli settlers and occupation forces continues. Stop the Wall and the Palestinian Farmers’ Union have organized an accompaniment project there, the You Are Not Alone campaign. By 8 November, its volunteers had documented the burning and uprooting of 1,905 olive trees by settlers during this harvest season alone.

Toxic sewage

A report by Stop the Wall states that its list of attacks does not “pretend to be complete.” Among the problems encountered by farmers trying to reach their olive trees are “settlers pump[ing] toxic sewage water on agricultural land” (“Settlers burn and uproot 1,905 olive trees during the harvest season,” 8 November 2013).

On 28 October, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz published excerpts of a list of settler attacks on Palestinian olive groves and farmers maintained by the Israeli army (“Israeli attacks on Palestinian olive groves kept secret by state.”

The Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din has reported that Israeli occupation police “overwhelmingly failed to investigate the incidents and prosecute offenders,” noting that of 211 investigations actually opened between 2005 and June 2013, only four produced indictments (“97.4 percent of investigative files relating to damage of Palestinian olive trees are closed due to police failings,” 21 October 2013).

On 11 September, the Israeli army’s West Bank commander said his troops would destroy olive groves in the town of Yabad for unspecified “security purposes” (“Israeli authorities to destroy olive groves for ‘security purposes,” Ma’an News Agency, 9 November 2013).

“We are still here”

But the destruction of olive trees in the Gaza Strip is largely complete. For years Israel has used armored Caterpillar D9 bulldozers, accompanied by tanks, to clear away olive trees in the “buffer zone.” Farmers in the area, who face the constant threats of both gunfire and leveling of land, have little reason to plant any crop needing regular attention or significant resources, much less crops that require years of careful cultivation and maintenance.

“I want to plant more olive trees, and other things, but cannot,” Abu Taima said. “For now, I plant wheat.”

With exceptions — most notably a 28 October airstrike on an olive grove near Soudanya in the north of Gaza — the Strip’s olive harvest passed more quietly than most agricultural activities in the territory.

“We try to bring international attention to the farmers and discourage Israeli attacks on them,” the Protection for Better Production campaign’s Abu Shawish said. “By supporting them, we encourage them to access their lands and keep using them. It shows the Israelis we are still here, and we can access our lands without any fears. Farmers in the restricted area can resist the occupation by existing on their own lands.”

The Arab Center for Agricultural Development’s programs for farmers do not end with accompaniment, Abu Shawish explained. The organization has conducted intensive leadership training for 100 farmers from the Gaza Strip’s five governorates, in farmers’ rights as well as skills like public advocacy. It has also held awareness-raising workshops for 500 more farmers.

“We are interested in building a social movement for farmers in Gaza,” she said.

The workshops also aim to build popular support for boycotts of Israeli products and the purchase of Palestinian goods among farmers.

“These workshops are about how to encourage farmers themselves to be involved in the boycott campaign, and how they can help the national economy by boycotting Israeli agriculture,” Abu Shawish said.

“We try to encourage farmers to boycott Israeli agricultural goods and buy Palestinian products to support the local economy. It’s raising awareness. At the same time, it’s about getting farmers involved in the campaign itself.”

Abu Taima, too, has a path of resistance.

“For us, the land is something very important,” he said. “We cannot just leave it. We will not have another 1948. We will not leave our lands again.”

Joe Catron is a US activist in Gaza, Palestine. He co-edited The Prisoners’ Diaries: Palestinian Voices from the Israeli Gulag, an anthology of accounts by detainees freed in the 2011 prisoner exchange. He blogs at joecatron.wordpress.com and tweets @jncatron.

***

Poverty-Stricken Gaza Farmers Cheerful with Good Olive Harvest

Xinhuanet.com

GAZA, Oct. 18 (Xinhua) — For thousands of farmers in the Palestinian Gaza Strip, olive harvest season is a chance to gain some money amid the dire economic and living conditions caused by Israeli restrictions on the movement of people and goods.

The family of Kamal Obaid, from Gaza City, work shoulder to shoulder in harvesting their eight donum (1 donum is about 1 acre or a little more than 900 square meters) olive garden with much joy amid a cheerful atmosphere.

In the Gaza Strip, a tiny coastal enclave ruled by Islamic Hamas movement, olive industry has been a major business for thousands of farmers.

The harvest season is largely celebrated by farmers who spend a whole year taking care of the trees to ensure a bountiful crop of olive and an excellent produce of olive oil.

Every single member of Obaid’s family, from grandparents to grandchildren, put their efforts together to harvest their olive trees.

While men harvest the olives using tall ladders, women help by taking different tasks. While some prepare tea for the family, others sit on the ground and very thoroughly pick up the crop and pile it up to be sold.

The 56-year-old man believes this season is the best in decades.

“This season is really great. It is way better than last year. Last season’s whole produce of this garden did not exceed 200 kg, but one tree can produce so much this season which is really great,” Obaid said he collected fresh olive fruits.

The olive harvest season in Palestine starts in the beginning of October till the end of November. Most of farmers sell their crops as raw fruit in local markets, while others take the produce to mills for making oil.

Tens of thousands of olive trees, which are considered symbol of Palestinian culture, have been uprooted by Israeli troops during military conflict with Palestinian armed groups in the past decades in Gaza.

The territory has also been under a tight Israeli blockade since Hamas movement violently took over power there after routing government troops in 2007.

The blockade has pushed Gaza’s two million population deeper into poverty as unemployment rates hit 43 percent.

In the recent years, Israel and Hamas have been engaged in three major wars that claimed the lives of thousands of Palestinians.

According to official figures, Israel’s war on Gaza in 2014 destroyed 10,000 donums of land planted with fruits and other crops, 5000 of them were planted with olive trees.

Obaid was one of those farmers who lost some of their olive trees in the war.

“I have another three donum and a half farm of olive trees and it was totally destroyed during the war in 2014,” the man said bitterly as he watched his grandchildren taking part in the harvest.

Obaid added that the uprooted trees were over 60 years of age, saying it was a grave loss since the farm was a respected source of income for his large family.

“It also provided job opportunities for family members who wait for the seasons impatiently,” he explained.

Thanks to this generous season, the Hamas-run agriculture ministry expected that Gaza will not import any olive or olive oil this year.

According to the ministry, Gaza olive farms are expected to produce some 3500 tons of olive oil and 30,000 tons of olive fruits.

The ministry attributed the abundant crops to last winter’s plentiful rain in addition to planting thousands of new blossoming olive trees after the recent wars.

The olive business is considered to be the backbone of Gaza’s agricultural sector as 38,000 donums in the 360 square km seaside territory are planted with olive trees.

EU Parliament Threatens Turkey with Sanctions for Crackdown on Opposition

November 13, 2016

European Parliament President Martin Schulz

European Parliament President Martin Schulz said the European Union has to think of economic sanctions to introduce against Turkey for its persecution of the opposition.

Since the July 15 foiled coup, the Turkish government has detained or dismissed thousands of people over alleged ties to the putsch organizers.

“We in the European Union should consider what economic sanctions we can impose against Turkey. The reform of the EU Customs Union, of which Turkey is a member, should happen before the end of the year. I cannot imagine that after a wave of arrests of the opposition delegates and journalists, we will expand the Customs Union,” Schulz told the German Bild am Sonntag newspaper, in an interview released on Sunday.

The European Union will halt talks about Turkey joining the bloc, if Ankara introduces capital punishment, Schulz added.

On November 4, Turkish authorities detained 12 members of parliament from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). On Friday, Turkish opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper’s Chairman Akin Atalay was detained by police upon arrival at the Istanbul Ataturk airport, amid mass arrests of the paper’s staff.

The European Union spoke out against what it perceived as multiple cases of human rights violations by Ankara.

Source: agencies

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