Palestinian medical workers can drive into Israel for the first time in 15 years

JERUSALEM A small number of Palestinian drivers were given permission on Tuesday to enter Israel, marking the first time in 15 years that vehicles with Palestinian license plates gained access to the country.

The decision to issue about 100 vehicle permits to Palestinian medical workers authorized to serve in Israeli hospitals was made by Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the head of Cogat, the Israeli government body that coordinates civil activities in the Palestinian territories.

This is a significant step intended to assist doctors in completing their live-saving mission, said Brig. Gen. David Menachem, the deputy chief of Cogat. The success of this step will be evaluated in accordance with an assessment of the security situation.

In total, about 30,000 Palestinians with work permits can enter Israel, but they have had to pass through Israeli military checkpoints by foot for a decade and a half because of security concerns. The new arrangement will allow some vehicles with white Palestinian number plates, distinct from the yellow Israeli plates, to pass through the checkpoints.

The restrictions on Palestinians entering Israel were placed after their second intifada, or uprising, began in 2000. Before that, many more Palestinians had worked inside Israel. Some restrictions have been eased in recent years, after a period of relative calm.

In an interview with the Palestinian news agency Maan, Mordechai indicated that the move to issue vehicle permits was part of an effort to further ease restrictions on Palestinians who work or want to work in Israel. He said similar steps will be taken in the future to allow businessmen to enter Israel.

Last month, Israeli authorities announced that Palestinian men older than 55 and women older than 50 could enter Jerusalem without any permit. Also, married men older than 22 will now be eligible to seek work permits, Maan reported.

Husam Zomlot, an adviser to Fatah, the Palestinian political party that controls Palestinian areas in the West Bank, said the new permits for Palestinian medical workers were just correcting a very ill-conceived policy that had been in place for 15 years.

I hope that this marks the end of Israels decades-long use of collective punishment to inform a political agenda, Zomlot added.

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Palestinian medical workers can drive into Israel for the first time in 15 years

Israel's Zionist Union Calls Iran Nuclear Deal 'Problematic'

Israels Zionist Union is calling on the countrys government to engage in intensive talks with the U.S. over the recently reached accord on the Iran nuclear agreement framework. The political alliances co-leaders Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni urged the Jewish states leadership to seek clarification of areas they perceive as problematic in the deal between the Islamic Republic and the so-called P5+1 group of world powers.

The Zionist Unions lack of confidence in the accord also prompted it to present an alternate plan of action in the event Iran violates its terms, according to the Jerusalem Post. In a document released Sunday, the political alliance encompassing the Israeli Labor Party and Hatnuah said Israel should seek the authority to take military action against Iran to protect itself from an agreement that has real potential dangers for the long term — dangers it indicated must be eradicated by the time Iran and the P5+1 group sign a comprehensive deal, presumably circa June 30.

The P5+1 group consists of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — China, France, Russia, the U.K. and the U.S. — plus Germany.

Clearly criticizing the approach employed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to this point in the negotiating process between Iran and the P5+1 group, the Zionist Union said in the document: Instead of a policy that leaves Israel without a meaningful influence on the world powers decision-making process, Israel must immediately hold a comprehensive, intimate and deep strategic discussion with the U.S. about all of the relevant issues and to complete the discussion before the completion of the final agreement.

The Zionist Union aims to allow for the empowering of the Israel Defense Forces in a way that will give Israel an American umbrella and the unrestricted ability to act against threats and violations both of the deal and against our regional enemies that are supported by Iran, the Jerusalem Post reported.

With 24 of the 120 seats in the national legislative body called the Knesset, the Zionist Union also proposed the final agreement allow for the gradual removal of sanctions on Iran only after the Islamic Republic proves it is scaling back its nuclear program by allowing for inspections and eliminating its existing reserve of enriched uranium, the Post said.

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Israel's Zionist Union Calls Iran Nuclear Deal 'Problematic'

Tampa Jewish Community Center offers Holocaust remembrance

In honor of Yom Hashoah (April 16), more widely known as Holocaust Memorial Day, the Tampa Jewish Community Center will present a live Skype discussion with filmmaker Steven Pressman, writer and director of 50 Children: the Rescue Mission of Mr. and Mrs. Kraus.

The award-winning film tells the story of Gilbert and Eleanor Kraus, who rescued 50 children from Nazi Germany and brought them to the United States.

All are invited to attend the showing and talk from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, Yom Hashoah. The day of remembrance, established by Israeli Parliament in 1951, falls two weeks after Passover. In Israel, entertainment venues close on Yom Hashoah and a bell signals a moment of silence at 11 a.m.

Throughout the United States, synagogues and Jewish organizations honor the day with speakers including survivors, authors and historians.

“To survivors, the Holocaust remains real and ever-present, but for some others, 60 years makes the Holocaust seem like a part of ancient history,” said Brandy Gold, the center’s arts and cultural director. “It is important that we honor this day so that we will always remember.”

The day differs from the United Nations’ Holocaust Remembrance Day, which takes place in January.

The message remains the same, said Jack Ross, executive director of the Jewish Community Center.

“The lesson of the Holocaust is universal,” Ross said. “It is important not only that we never forget but that we never let it happen again.”

The center strives to educate the community about Judaism, Jewish and Israeli history, and related culture. On April 26, it will celebrate Israeli Independence Day with a Concert in the Park from 2 to 6 p.m. on its campus at 13009 Community Campus Drive. The event will include food, live music and a 6 p.m. showing of the film Above and Beyond, the story of the volunteer airmen who laid the foundation for the Israeli air force.

For more information, visit jewishtampa.com.

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Tampa Jewish Community Center offers Holocaust remembrance

Israel official: Israeli fire killed UN peacekeeper in Israel-Hezbollah flare-up in January

JERUSALEM An Israeli security official says the Israeli military was responsible for the death of a Spanish U.N. peacekeeper during an outbreak of violence between Israel and Hezbollah militants on the tense Israel-Lebanon border in January.

The official said on Tuesday that Cpl. Francisco Javier Soria Toledo was accidentally killed by Israeli artillery following a Hezbollah attack that killed two Israeli soldiers.

The official says Israel did not intend to harm U.N. forces. She spoke on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to talk to reporters.

After the incident, Spain’s U.N. ambassador blamed Israel and the U.N. Security Council condemned the killing. A U.N. diplomat said Israel apologized to Spain, but Israel had not publicly admitted responsibility.

Israel’s military presented its investigation of the incident to the Spanish army.

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Israel: Military action against Iran still 'on the table'

A senior Israeli government minister on Monday warned that taking military action against Iran’s nuclear program is still an option despite last week’s framework deal between world powers and the Islamic Republic.

The comments by Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s minister for strategic affairs, reflected the alarm in Israel over last week’s deal, which offers Iran relief from economic sanctions in exchange for scaling back its suspect nuclear program. Israeli leaders believe the framework leaves too much of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure intact and could still allow it to develop the means to produce a nuclear weapon.

Steinitz, a confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s, said the government would spend the coming months lobbying the world powers negotiating with Iran to strengthen the language in the deal as they hammer out a final agreement. While stressing that Israel prefers a diplomatic solution, he said the “military option” still exists.

“It was on the table. It’s still on the table. It’s going to remain on the table,” Steinitz told reporters. “Israel should be able to defend itself, by itself, against any threat. And it’s our right and duty to decide how to defend ourselves, especially if our national security and even very existence is under threat.”

Israel considers a nuclear-armed Iran to be a threat to its survival, pointing to years of Iranian calls for Israel’s destruction, its support for anti-Israeli militant groups and its development of long-range ballistic missiles that could be armed with nuclear warheads. Israel which is widely believed to be a nuclear power says a nuclear-armed Iran would set off an arms race in the world’s most volatile region.

The framework agreement was announced last Thursday in Switzerland after years of negotiations between Iran and world powers.

The deal aims to cut significantly into Iran’s bomb-making technology while giving Tehran relief from international sanctions. The commitments, if implemented, would substantially pare down Iranian nuclear assets for a decade and restrict others for an additional five years. Iran would also be subject to intrusive international inspections.

Netanyahu believes the deal leaves intact too much of Iran’s suspect nuclear program, including research facilities and advanced centrifuges capable of enriching uranium, a key ingredient in a bomb. He also says the deal fails to address Iran’s support for militant groups across the Middle East.

Since the deal was announced, Washington has tried to calm Israeli nerves and on Monday, White House official Ben Rhoads gave a pair of televised interviews promising continued U.S. support for Israeli security.

Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser, told Channel 2 TV that sanctions will be “snapped back into place if the Iranians don’t comply.”

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Israel to Detain Female Palestinian Lawmaker for 6 Months

The Israeli military has placed a female Palestinian legislator under detention for six months without trial, a lawyer for the lawmaker said Monday.

Khalida Jarrar, a senior political leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a left-wing Palestinian militant group, is being held for alleged activities in a hostile organization, lawyer Mahmoud Hassan said.

Jarrar, 52, is being held under Israeli administrative detention, which allows Israel to hold detainees for up to six months at a time without charges, the lawyer said. The detention and any extensions are approved by a judge, and evidence can be kept from defense lawyers.

Israel says administrative detentions prevent attacks by militants. Rights groups say international humanitarian law permits administrative detention in exceptional cases, but that Israel is out of bounds with its large-scale use of the method.

The Israeli military arrested Jarrar last week for disobeying an Israeli order barring her from the West Bank city of Ramallah. The military said her arrest was due to “substantial concerns about the safety and security of the region.”

The military had no immediate comment Monday on the six-month detention order.

A Palestinian prisoners’ advocate, Qadoura Fares, said the arrest is an Israeli punitive political act. He said Israel is holding 16 Palestinian lawmakers in jails, most of them administrative detainees who are members of the Islamic militant group Hamas.

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We saved Jews thrice, Netanyahu should revise history lessons – Iranian FM

IRAN: Iran has no intention of destroying Israel and has actually saved the Jews three times in history, but the current Israeli regime is a threat to Tehran, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has said in an interview with American media.

Speaking with NBC, Zarif slamed the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, after he once again said in his Monday’s speech before the US Congress that Iran openly threatened to wipe Israel off the map.

The Iranian FM urged Netanyahu to refresh his knowledge of history as his comments have not only “distort[ed] realities of today,” but also go against the Bible and Jewish sacred texts.

“He even distorts his own scripture. If you read the book of Esther, you will see that it was the Iranian king who saved the Jews…” Zarif said.

The Iranian Minister called Netanyahu’s accusations “truly regrettable” stressing that they refer to “an entire nation which has saved Jews three times.”

“It is truly, truly regrettable that bigotry gets to the point of making allegations against an entire nation which has saved Jews three times in its history: Once during that time of a prime minister who was trying to kill the Jews, and the king saved the Jews; again during the time of Cyrus the Great, where he saved the Jews from Babylon, and during the Second World War, where Iran saved the Jews,” he said.

“We’re not about the annihilation of Jews,” Zarif stressed, reminding the channel that 20,000 Jews reside in Iran “in peace” and even have their own representative in parliament.

“We have a history of tolerance and cooperation and living together in coexistence with our own Jewish people, and with Jews everywhere in the world. If people want to espouse fear mongering to fan such hysteria in the world, that’s to their detriment,” Zafir said.

On the contrary, he stressed, the current Israeli regime “is a threat” to Iran as it’s a regime “that engages in the killing of innocent children, a regime that engages in acts of aggression.”

“Israel threatens to use force against Iran almost on a daily basis… Of course, if they did use force against Iran, we would defend ourselves, as we have done with great sacrifice in the past. But we are not invading, we are not threatening anybody. We have not threatened anybody for 250 years,” the Iranian FM said.

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We saved Jews thrice, Netanyahu should revise history lessons – Iranian FM

Palestine formally joins ICC

Palestine has formally attained membership of the International Criminal Court, a move that could open the door to possible war crime indictments against Israeli officials despite uncertainty over its wider ramifications.

The accessionon Wednesdayis another landmark in the Palestinian diplomatic and legal international campaign, which gained steam in 2014.

The Palestinians moved to join The Hague-based court on January 2, in a process that was finalised on Wednesday, setting the scene for potential legal action.

Palestine has and will continue to use all legitimate tools within its means in order to defend itself against Israeli colonisation and other violations of international law, said senior Palestinian official Saeb Erakat.

Al Jazeeras Jonah Hull, reporting from The Hague, said despite their membership, the Palestinians may still have to wait for the ICC to begin investigating Israelis accused of war crimes.

This is such a heavily politicised case, that the court will have to think hard before taking action against the Israelis. It may be years before we something.

Diana Chehade, a former ICC official, told Al Jazeera, preliminary examinations could be completed by the end of this year, but the court would not investigate cases already being looked in to by other judicial institutions.

Based on the principle of complimentarity, the ICC would not investigate if an Israeli judicial institution is investigating a war crime to ICC standards, Chehade said.

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Palestine formally joins ICC

Palestine Officially Joins International Criminal Court

The Hague: Palestine formally joined the International Criminal Court on today, a move the Palestinians hope could open the door to the possible prosecution of Israelis for alleged war crimes.

The accession was marked at a behind-closed doors ceremony at the court’s headquarters in The Hague, exactly 90 days after Palestine joined the court’s founding Rome Statute.

Palestinian foreign minister Riad Malki received a symbolic copy of the Rome Statute at the ceremony.

The Palestinians have already sent the court documents authorising the prosecutor to investigate alleged crimes in the Palestinian territories since June 2014.

The unrest in June escalated to the summer war between Israel and Gaza militants, which left 2,200 Palestinians dead and 73 on the Israeli side.

So far, no formal ICC investigation of Israeli officials has been launched.

Any such probe of alleged Israeli crimes committed in Gaza would also include an investigation of the firing of rockets and mortars by Hamas militants at civilian areas in Israel.

Despite Israel not being a signatory to the world’s only permanent court for the most serious crimes, the tribunal could prosecute Israelis for alleged crimes committed on Palestinian territory.

The ICC would face challenges in arresting Israeli suspects however as it does not have its own police force and relies on the cooperation of member states.

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Palestine Officially Joins International Criminal Court

Palestine: Show Israel the red card

Updated: Tuesday, 31 Mar 2015 17:18 | Comments Palestine fans at a recent Asian Cup clash with Jordan in Melbourne

The Palestinian Football Association will ask the FIFA Congress in May to suspend Israel, accusing it of continuing to hamper its soccer activities.

Despite efforts by FIFA president Sepp Blatter to ease tensions, the Palestinians remain frustrated at restrictions they say Israel imposes on the movement of their athletes between the Gaza Strip and the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

The Palestinian Football Association also cited curbs Israel places on the import into Palestinian territories of sports equipment and on visits by foreign teams and individuals.

In 2013, Blatter established a task force which included himself, the Israeli and Palestinian soccer chiefs and the heads of the European and Asian soccer confederations to examine the Palestinian complaints and to try to resolve them.

But Palestine Football Association president Jibril Rajoub said he has lost patience, and he has called on FIFA to show Israel “the red card”.

Israel cites security concerns for restrictions it imposes in the West Bank, where the Western-backed Palestinian Authority exercises limited self rule, and along the border with the Hamas Islamist-run Gaza Strip.

But it says it has eased travel for Palestinian athletes between the two territories, which requires passage via Israel.

In December, Rajoub called on FIFA to sanction Israel after Israeli troops entered the offices of the Palestine Football Association. An army spokesman said at the time soldiers were seeking a wanted individual and were not targeting the premises because of its links to soccer.

The Palestinian draft resolution calls for Israel’s suspension because its actions “inhibit our ability to develop the game”.

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Palestine: Show Israel the red card

Taboo memory: The solidarity that selective history tries to erase

Last week, the Missouri History Museum justified censoring public discourse and silencing Palestinian voices by claiming that comparing Palestine and Ferguson is like comparing apples and oranges. That the museums director had no qualms with discussing Ferguson and Ayotzinapa side-by-side indicates that her main concern is not the difficulty of comparing different cases of oppression but the inclusion of Palestine in particular. Selectively censoring Palestinian voices and culturefrom their childrens artwork, to their cuisine and especially their solidarity with Fergusonis nothing new.

With growing ties between #BlackLivesMatter and Palestine, the Anti-Defamation League and other groups are reviving a deliberate campaign of selective history: relegating the solidarity between black and Palestinian liberation movementspast and presentto taboo memory.

The tactics of this campaign have not changed. When groups like the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the Committee of Black Americans for the Truth about the Middle East and most prominently the Black Panther Party linked Zionism to the racial capitalism of U.S. imperialism, pro-Israel organizations smeared these black activists as anti-Semitic. Huey Newton, co-founder of the Black Panther Party, had this to say:

We want the Palestinian people and Jewish people to live in harmony. We support the Palestinians just struggle for liberation one hundred percent. We will go on doing this, and we would like for all the progressive people of the world to join our ranks in order to make a world in which all people can live.

Transnational American studies scholar Alex Lubin has documented how the Black Panther Party approached Palestine as a touchstone around which to theorize a global revolutionary politics. The Panthers Minister of Information, Eldridge Cleaver, published several solidarity statements from the Palestine Liberation Organization in the Black Panther Intercommunal News Agency. As early as the second volume, Cleaver began extending the PLOs (initial) anti-imperialist politics to label black Americans as colonized; therefore, knitting black liberation into a global map of communities struggling against colonialism and racial capitalismfrom South Africa to Algeria, Chile, Puerto Rico, Cuba and, yes, Palestine.

Meanwhile, a group of Arab and other Mizrahi Jews in Israel began referring to themselves as Israeli Black Panthers. The Israeli Panthers organized against the racialization of non-Ashkenazi Jews (of non-European descent) as black, meaning second-class citizens. Group members mainly protested the legacy of discriminatory housing, wage and land-ownership policies, which dispossessed Mizrahi Israelis ever since they were recruited to the settler state for demographic strength and cheap labor.

During their short-lived history, Israeli Panthers organized against white supremacy within Israel itself but never did completely extend their anti-oppression work to include Palestinian decolonization. Nonetheless, Reuven Abergel, a founding member of the Israeli Panthers, has described how in his memory (which is more radical than the groups actual history) the Israeli Panthers connected their struggle to that of black anti-colonialists in the U.S. and, at one point, to the liberation of occupied Palestinians as well.

So when activists in Ferguson and around the world express solidarity with Palestine, they are not recklessly juggling apples and oranges. Ferguson to Palestine builds on a deep history of solidarity. Regardless of your opinion on that stance, it has complex roots that need to be examined and understood. Expunging that history altogether is racist. Silencing its contemporary iterations is selective. Until the (Selective) Missouri History Museum publicly acknowledges that fact, they should change their mission statement to what they really stand for: erasing the narratives of people of color from public discourse.

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Taboo memory: The solidarity that selective history tries to erase

For Hamza: Arms Sanctions against Israels Everyday Terrorism

Mar 25 2015 / 8:54 am

A flattened neighborhood in Gaza as a result of the Israeli war. (Mohammed Abed, supplied)

By This is for the child that is searching for an answer,

I wish I could take your tears and replace them with laughter,

Long live Palestine, Long live Gaza! Lowkey

By Vacy Vlazna

Meet little Hamza Musab Almadani of Khan Younis, Gaza.

Look carefully, look tenderly, dont turn away. Please dont turn away as all the nations of the world have, for decades, turned away from Palestine.

Hamza is Palestine.

Look carefully at Israels savage violation to his once perfect little body when on the 25th July 2014, Israels soldiers loaded and fired pale blue artillery shells that discharged white incendiary rain on Gaza in hundreds of phosphorous-impregnated felt wedges as Hamza and his family slept.

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For Hamza: Arms Sanctions against Israels Everyday Terrorism

Palestine unity gov't agrees on emergency budget

Ramallah, March 25 (IANS) The Palestinian unity government has said it agreed on an emergency budget and sent it to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for approval. The government on Tuesday said in a statement issued in the aftermath of its weekly meeting that agreeing on the emergency budget was decided after the Israeli decision of withholding the Palestinian tax revenue dues since early …

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Netanyahu apologizes for remarks about Arabs during Israel election

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves to supporters at Likud Party headquarters in Tel Aviv on March 18, 2015 REUTERS

JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized to Israel’s Arab citizens on Monday for remarks he made during last week’s parliament election that offended members of the community.

The move appeared to be an attempt to heal rifts and mute criticism at home and in the United States. Netanyahu drew accusations of racism in Israel, especially from its Arab minority, and a White House rebuke when, just a few hours before polling stations were to close across the country, he warned that Arab citizens were voting “in droves.”

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s reelection will likely bring new tension between Israel and the U.S. Netanyahu opposes President Obama’s nucl…

Netanyahu, who’s Likud Party won re-election in the vote, met with members of the Arab community at the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem on Monday and apologized.

He said he knows his “comments last week offended some Israeli citizens and offended members of the Israeli-Arab community.”

“This was never my intent. I apologize for this,” Netanyahu said. “I view myself as the prime minister of each and every citizen of Israel, without any prejudice based on religion, ethnicity or gender.”

“I view all Israeli citizens as partners in the building of a prosperous and safe state of Israel, for all Israelis,” he also said.

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Netanyahu apologizes for remarks about Arabs during Israel election