US Committee Approves Bill that Cuts Aid to Palestinians

A US House of Representatives committee yesterday approved a bill that would sharply reduce the $300 million in annual US aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) unless it halts payments to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and to the families of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces.

As reported by Reuters, the House Foreign Affairs Committee backed the “Taylor Force Act” by voice vote, without opposition, a sign of bipartisan support for the legislation.

A previous version of the bill, which “would have completely cut off US economic assistance to the West Bank”, met with opposition from some Democratic lawmakers forcing a compromise.

The bill is named after an American citizen killed by a Palestinian assailant last year. To become law, the bill must pass the full House and Senate, and be signed into law by President Donald Trump. “Congressional aides said they expect a vote in the House before the end of 2017,” Reuters stated.

Reuters added that “similar legislation has been passed by two Senate committees, but there was no immediate word on when the full Senate might take up the bill”.

Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who introduced the bill with Republican Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., told Al-Monitor he’s “concerned” with some of the revisions in the House. “We’ve got probably 90 [Senate] votes for our version, but we’ll talk with our House colleagues. I’m glad they’re making progress.”

According to Al-Monitor, “current US law already requires a dollar reduction in US economic assistance to the West Bank for every dollar the PA spends on the martyrs’ fund”.

“Furthermore, although the bill would cut funding that ‘directly benefits’ the PA, the United States does not currently provide direct budgetary support to the PA itself; instead, much of the US economic assistance is used to pay off PA debts to Israel,” the site added.

(MEMO, PC, Social Media)

Israel-Funded App Destroys Al-Aqsa Mosque, Builds Temple in Its Place

An Israeli tourist exhibit has launched an app which allows visitors to Jerusalem to virtually destroy Al-Aqsa Mosque and replace it with a Jewish temple, furthering the government’s stated commitment to dismantle the Muslim holy site.

The smartphone app is part of a government funded exhibition entitled “The Western Wall Experience”. When the app is pointed towards the mosque compound, it makes the Dome of the Rock disappear and replaces it with an image of a Jewish temple.

This allows visitors “to pose for a souvenir photograph” in an imagined landscape where the Muslim holy sites have been destroyed.

The app is also sponsored by the Zionist group Aish Hatorah, whose founder Rabbi Steven Burg, tweeted pictures of how the temple appears on the app.

Burg is also the former director of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, a Los Angeles-based Israel lobby group which is building a “Museum of Tolerance” on top of one of Jerusalem’s oldest Muslim cemetery, expected to open in 2018.

Israel has continued to perpetuate the myth of the existence of a Jewish temple at the site of Al-Aqsa Mosque, despite archaeological evidence to the contrary. It has used the search for the alleged temple to justify excavations under the Noble Sanctuary, weakening its foundations.

Government funded extremist groups, such as the Temple Movement, have already made detailed blueprints in preparation for the building of a Jewish temple. Hundreds of settlers regularly storm the Al-Aqsa compound in coordination with Israeli forces, performing rituals and pledging to destroy the mosque, whilst Muslim worshipers are left outside.

Last month, Israel also announced that it would follow the US and prepare to leave the UN cultural body UNESCO, after complaining repeatedly of the organization’s allegedly anti-Israeli resolutions. UNESCO has endorsed the Palestinian right to several sites in the occupied territories on multiple occasions, and last year voted in favor of a resolution that denied any connection between Al-Aqsa Mosque and Judaism.

(MEMO, PC, Social Media)

Israel Demolishes Palestinian Bedouin Village for 121st Time

Israeli authorities on Thursday morning demolished the Bedouin village of al-Araqib in the Negev desert in southern Israel for the 121st time, leaving all the families in the village homeless, according to locals.

Residents of the al-Araqib have rebuilt the village 120 times after each demolition, the latest of which was October 25.

An Israeli court ruled in August that six residents of al-Araqib must pay 262,000 shekels (more than $72,000) for previous demolition costs, in addition to 100,000 shekels ($27,693) to cover the costs of the state’s lawyer. It was only the latest payment in which the village has had to compensate Israel for its routine demolitions in the village.

According to al-Araqib residents, before the latest court ruling, the village was ordered to pay more than two million shekels (approximately $541,000) for the cumulative cost of Israeli-enforced demolitions carried out against the village since 2010.

Al-Araqib is one of 35 Bedouin villages considered “unrecognized” by the Israeli state. According to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), more than half of the approximately 160,000 Bedouins in the Negev reside in unrecognized villages.

The unrecognized Bedouin villages were established in the Negev soon after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war following the creation of the state of Israel.

Many of the Bedouins were forcibly transferred to the village sites during the 17-year period when Palestinians inside Israel were governed under Israeli military law, which ended shortly before Israel’s military takeover of Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in 1967.

Now more than 60 years later, the villages have yet to be recognized by Israel and live under constant threat of demolition and forcible removal.

Right groups say that the demolition of unrecognized Bedouin villages is a central Israeli policy aimed at removing the indigenous Palestinian population from the Negev and transferring them to government-zoned townships to make room for the expansion of Jewish Israeli communities.

(Ma’an, PC, Social Media)

Harsh Conditions for Palestinian Women in Israeli Jails

“Harsh” and “painful” conditions await Palestinian women held in Israeli prisons, a lawyer speaking on behalf of the PLO’s Committee for Prisoners and Freed Prisoners said on Sunday. According to Hanan Al-Khatib, who visited Al-Damoun Prison on Saturday, the Israeli occupation authorities are “completely isolating the prisoners from the outside world.”

She added that women prisoners are prevented from family visits under the pretext of security; their older sons especially are banned from seeing them. They are also placed in solitary confinement and exposed to “humiliating” searches and other such “provocative measures”.

The treatment, Al-Khatib pointed out in a media statement, starts in the van on the way to prison, with “dirty insults” and worse hurled at the prisoners. These are followed by humiliations during medical treatment and overcrowding; as many as 22 prisoners can be held in just two holding cells.

The PLO Committee noted that the health and psychological conditions of the women prisoners are “difficult and painful”. The Israeli prison service, it is alleged, causes such suffering intentionally.

Citing the example of Nisreen Hassan Abdullah from Gaza, the Committee explained that she is the mother of seven children and has been in prison since 2015. She has had no visits since then and has not been allowed to see any family member since she was imprisoned.

Khadija Rabaee from the occupied West Bank is a mother of six. The Israeli occupation forces attacked her children when they arrested her. She is being held under administrative detention, with neither charge nor trial.

(MEMO, PC, Social Media)

Steve Bannon: Trump’s Pledge to Israel Secured His Election Victory

President Donald Trump’s pledge to support the State of Israel boosted his election victory, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon said.

Speaking at the Zionist Organization of America’s annual gala in New York yesterday, Bannon said that Trump was the staunchest supporter of Israel since President Ronald Regan. Bannon mentioned the boost Trump had gained by pledging his loyalty to Israel through his promise to relocate the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

According to Bannon, Trump’s campaign had refined a clear message: “Destroy the physical Caliphate of ISIS [Daesh], designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, decertify the Iran deal, and move the embassy to Jerusalem.”

That message, said Bannon, had enabled Trump to recover from a 16 point deficit and gain significant ground on Hillary Clinton. He informed the 1,000 plus audience that he and his team had gained “100% degree of metaphysical certitude” that Trump, with his assertive pro-Israeli message was going to win.

Bannon also mentioned that Trump would not have succeeded in his election bid without the support of American Jewish billionaire and Republican donor, Sheldon Adelson.

“That victory would not have come without one other person besides Donald Trump – Sheldon Adelson. It is not about resources. It is about counsel, guidance and wisdom. You’ve gotta remember, folks, that we were down by double digits almost the entire time.”

In addition to being the owner of an Israeli daily newspaper, Adelson is thought to be the donor behind a network of tax-exempt entities in the US which are financing activities in the West Bank that violate international laws. He was the target of a lawsuit by Palestinians for supporting war crimes.

(MEMO, PC, Social Media)

A Dentist, Later Found Dead, Administered Poison to Arafat: Fatah Member

Member of Fatah Revolutionary Council, Adly Sadeq said yesterday that the late Fatah, PLO and Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Yasser Arafat was poisoned by a dentist, Quds Press reported.

In a television interview, Sadeq said that all the investigations show that a dentist served the poison to Arafat and later on the dentist was found murdered in his apartment. “The investigation stopped here,” he said.

But he called for opening a new investigation after the emergence of new links, pointing fingers at Israel after the death of the dentist. He said the investigators were unable to investigate the Israelis.

He also said that Washington summoned a number of senior Palestinian officials and requested that they ask Arafat to leave his home, but he refused.

Arafat died on November 11, 2004 in a military hospital in Paris. French doctors said that he died due to a brain hemorrhage, but Palestinians believe Israel was behind his death.

(MEMO, PC, Social Media)

Israel Prepares BDS Blacklist, Includes Amnesty International

The Israeli government is currently preparing a blacklist of the local and international organizations and activists who call for boycotting Israeli institutions, products and events, local media sources revealed yesterday.

On Sunday, the Israeli Ministerial Committee on Legislation passed a law against activists who encourage the international boycott of Israel, under which they are likely to be sued or fined.

Israel Hayom quoted legal officials yesterday describing the blacklist as “a database of the boycotting organizations, which can be prosecuted under the new law.”

According to the amended law, “a body or person who encourages any sort of boycott of Israel or Israeli institutions simply for being Israeli is liable to be sued for 100,000 shekels [$28,280] without proof of damages, and for 500,000 shekels [$142,500] if tangible damage is proven to have been caused.”

According to the agency, the blacklist includes Amnesty International, which has called on its website, in international ads, and on its Facebook page for all countries to boycott products from the occupied West Bank, and to impose a weapons embargo on the Jewish state, claiming that Israel is guilty of war crimes and that the settlements constitute a war crime.

The list also includes the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, the world’s most widely spread movement that calls for boycotting Israel. BDS was established in 2005 with the aim to end the international support for Israel’s oppression against the Palestinians and to pressure Israel to comply with international law.

(MEMO, PC, Social Media)

Gaza Marathon Attracts Runners, Cyclists, Paralympic Athletes

Hundreds of men and women took part in a reconciliation marathon organized by the Palestine Athletic Federation (PAF) in Gaza on Friday.

The race involved runners, cyclists and paralympic athletes in a celebration of the reconciliation between the Palestinian political factions, sending what was described as a “message of hope” to the world.

The event was marred, however, when a crane collapsed onto participants and onlookers. Palestinian medical sources said that 23 people were wounded, one of them seriously. Most were treated on the spot, though, or were able to leave hospital immediately after receiving first aid.

(MEMO, PC, Social Media)

Israel Advocates EU to Halt Aid to Palestinians

Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, is trying to stop EU aid from ending up in the hands of Palestinian prisoners or their families, under the pretext that they are “terrorists” or “families of terrorists”, Israel Hayom newspaper reported on Friday.

According to the newspaper, the Zionist Union MK Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin, a member of the Diplomatic-Security Cabinet, is mobilizing support for the project; she has received the blessing of Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and six other MKs from various factions so far.

“Figures we have collected show that every month, some €4.5 million in EU funds are divided among those who carried out terrorist attacks against Israel and the families of terrorists,” Nahmias-Verbin told Israel Hayom.

“It is hard to convince Israelis – on the Right or the Left – that the Palestinians want to promote the peace process as long as donations from countries throughout the world, especially Europe, are transferred to murderers rather than benefiting the Palestinian population.”

The Israeli MK, the newspaper said, had sent a letter to the new EU Ambassador to Israel, Emmanuel Joffre, briefing him about her project and its goals. She also asked for a meeting along with other MKs to discuss the issue.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has previously asked the Palestinian Authority to stop paying former prisoners and families of current prisoners, claiming that they are terrorists or families of terrorists.

Critics of the Israeli occupation have pointed out that while Israel calls Palestinian resistance fighters “terrorists” its government has recently rewarded an Israeli soldier who shot dead an already wounded, motionless Palestinian in Hebron.

(MEMO, PC, Social Media)

Cuba Stands in Solidarity with Palestine at UN

Cuban diplomat, Silvia Rodriguez, affirmed that Cuba supports a two-state solution to bring an end to Israel’s occupation of Palestine.

Cuba has demanded that the United Nations immediately implement measures aimed at bringing an end to the violations and abuses suffered by the Palestinians as a result of half a century of occupation and aggression perpetrated by Israel.

The socialist-led island’s position was expressed by Ana Silvia Rodriguez, a Cuban diplomat present at the Fourth Committee of the General Assembly, a body that deals with issues related to decolonization and special politics.

“The Palestinian people continue to suffer profoundly, for more than 50 years of illegal foreign occupation and illegal Israeli policies and practices in grave violation of international law, including humanitarian law and human rights,” she complained.

Silvia Rodriguez referred to reports introduced at the UN which address the existing scenario in the Palestinian territories, marked by occupation, confiscation of land and property, colonization through settlements, forced displacements and collective punishments.

The diplomat urged the Security Council to act on behalf of Cuba to stop these crimes and demanded an end of the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, a measure applied for more than a decade with serious humanitarian consequences.

She stressed that it’s regrettable that the Security Council, the body in charge of maintaining international peace and security, has not been able to reach an agreement that definitively ends Israel’s aggression and colonizing practices perpetrated against the Palestinian people.

Silvia Rodriguez wrapped up her speech by affirming that Cuba supports a two-state solution to bring an end to Israel’s occupation of Palestine which would afford relief to the suffering of the Palestinian people.

(Telesur, PC, Social Media)

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