Revealed: An Arab prince’s secret proposal to sell the Western Wall to the Jews

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Revealed: An Arab prince’s secret proposal to sell the Western Wall to the Jews

A quixotic overture by a courageous prince lay hidden in files at the UK Colonial Office for 90 years, where this author discovered it. Now it can proudly take its place in history

On August 29, 1929, Prince Mohamed Ali Pasha, the uncle and future regent to King Farouk of Egypt, walked into the British Embassy in Istanbul and hand-delivered a letter to British Ambassador Sir George Clerk. The letter was addressed to the British High Commissioner for Palestine, Sir John Chancellor. The prince asked Ambassador Clerk to forward the letter to Chancellor in Jerusalem.

The prince had written and signed the letter less than one week after the shocking August 24, 1929, massacres in Hebron, following months of rising tensions at the Western (Wailing) Wall. The letter began by deploring the violence, with the prince expressing hope the Arabs and Jews could settle their differences peacefully. The prince then offered a stunning suggestion:

My proposal for a solution is that, instead of fighting or dealing unjustly by one party or the other, it would be infinitely better to come to an understanding. The Mohametans may be willing to accept a sum of money which would help them to do good for the community and as the Jews are rich, if this thing [the Wailing Wall] is so much desired by them, there seems no reason why they should not pay for it. If this could be done, it would avoid coercion and possibly injustice to one or other of the parties. Certainly I am sure the Mohametans and Arabs will not accept a small sum such as £10,000 or even £20,000 for a matter in which their honour is so far involved… Let them give £100,000 and I feel sure this would settle the difference.

This is the story of Prince Mohamed Ali Pasha’s surprise proposal to sell the Western Wall to the Jews, revealed here for the first time.

***

The Temple Mount and the Western Wall today represent the defining religious symbols of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The same was true during the 1920’s, following the British conquest of Palestine. Muslims and Jews clashed repeatedly over the Wall throughout the 1920’s.

The Jews claimed rights of prayer at the Wall, the only surviving remnant of the ancient Temples and the holiest and most sacred site for Jews to pray. Jews had been praying at or near the Wall nearly continuously since the Roman conquest.

‘The Mohametans may be willing to accept a sum of money which would help them to do good for the community and as the Jews are rich, if this thing [the Wailing Wall] is so much desired by them, there seems no reason why they should not pay for it’

The Muslims, for their part, also regarded the Wall (or the Buraq, named for Mohammed’s steed whom the Angel Gabriel, according to Muslim legend, tethered to the Wall at the end of Mohammed’s celestial journey from Mecca) as an Islamic Holy site that had been dedicated as Wakf property nearly a millennium ago. The Muslims asserted absolute ownership of both the Wall and the narrow strip of pavement facing the Wall. Prior to 1967, as shown in the following photograph, the pavement was sandwiched between the Wall on one side and an area of small dwellings, known as the “Moghrabi Quarter,” on the other side:

The Western Wall and narrow strip of pavement, late 19th Century (Library of Congress).

The Muslims refused to accord the Jews any rights to pray at the Wall, for fear the Jews would use that as a wedge to encroach further on Muslim property and eventually seize control of the entire Temple Mount area. During Ottoman times the Jews would pay small bribes to bring chairs and benches to the Wall, even as the Ottoman authorities issued formal rulings banning such practices as late as 1911.

After the British captured Jerusalem in December 1917, General Allenby immediately pledged to honor the so-called Status Quo prevailing at the Holy Sites. Allenby’s pledge became embedded as a legal concept five years later in Article 13 of the Mandate for Palestine, requiring the British to “preserve existing rights” at the Holy Sites.

The British soon found themselves caught in the middle between conflicting Jewish and Muslim assertions of rights and claims to the Western Wall and the pavement facing the Wall. The Mandatory authorities struggled to enforce the shaky Status Quo that had prevailed during Ottoman times, when Jews were allowed to utter individual prayers at the Wall, but not allowed to take any steps which could be viewed as asserting symbolic ownership of the Wall. Thus, the British enforced the Turkish ban on the Jews bringing chairs and benches to the Wall, as well as most other accoutrements of congregational prayer.

Jewish Legion soldiers at the Western Wall after British conquest of Jerusalem, 1917 (Public Domain)

The tensions led to controversy at the Wall during Passover 1922, Yom Kippur 1923 and Yom Kippur 1925. The most notable confrontation occurred on Yom Kippur 1928, when the British Deputy District Commissioner for Jerusalem, E. Keith-Roach, ordered the forcible removal of a screen (mehitza) the Jews had placed on the pavement in front of the Wall to divide men from women, causing the Jews to file an angry protest with the League of Nations. Tensions continued escalating during 1929 as the Mufti, Haj Amin al-Husseini, launched the so-called Buraq Campaign to galvanize Muslim and Arab Nationalist sentiment around the Wall dispute. The Jews likewise formed groups to “defend” their asserted rights to the Wall.

The tensions reached boiling point and exploded into violence in August 1929. On Tisha b’Av (August 15) 1929, a group of Jewish youth marched to the Wall, where they raised the blue and white flag, listened to a brief speech from one of their leaders, and sang the Hatikvah. The Muslims held a counter-demonstration the following day, the Prophet Mohammed’s birthday. The Muslim demonstration quickly turned violent, resulting in the murders of several Jews outside the Old City. The violence continued throughout the following week, culminating in the Hebron massacre of August 24, 1929, where approximately 60 Jews were butchered.

Jews flee the Old City of Jerusalem, August 1929. (US Library of Congress / Public Domain)

While the history of the violent clashes at the Wall during the 1920s has been told many times, less-known were various attempts by the Jews and British to strike a deal with the Muslims to buy the area in front of the Wall and the Wall itself.

Sir Ronald Storrs (Library of Congress / Public Domain)

In the spring of 1918, for example, Chaim Weizmann approached the British military government about buying the Wall and pavement area, along with the Moghrabi dwellings. The Military Governor, Sir Ronald Storrs, floated the idea with the Muslim community. Storrs reported the Muslims were offended, and “it would be a grave error of policy for the Military Government to raise the question at all.”

In August 1918, another British Official, Brigadier General Sir Gilbert Clayton, told the Muslims they might be able to secure “a large sum of money for a property which is to-day of little value.” The Muslims, however, opposed any such initiative, fearing it would be the first step toward Jewish encroachment on the Temple Mount.

In October 1918, Clayton notified London of an unauthorized Jewish attempt to buy the Wall, interfering with Clayton’s ongoing, quiet efforts to persuade the Arabs to consider selling the Wall:

“Up to quite recently signs were not wanting that the Moslem Dignitaries and notables were beginning to be impressed with the arguments explained to them at great length in favour of the scheme [for the Jews to buy the Wall]. The hopelessness … of obtaining the funds to put into effect … the restoration of the Haram es Sharif, the possibility of replenishing the Wakf coffers and so promoting Moslem education of a liberal scale, the comparative unimportance and squalor of the buildings and their [Moroccan] inhabitants in the precinct, the lurking fear that they might have one day to yield for nothing (as a City improvement scheme or otherwise) that for which they would now receive a very large sum of money – these and a variety of other considerations appeared to be modifying a ‘non possumus’ attitude into one of critical apprehension and fear of the effect on the local and general Islamic world. From the moment, however, that an attempt was apparently made by a Jerusalem Jew (doubtless without the knowledge of the Zionist Commission) to get into direct pecuniary contact with the Moslems concerned something approaching a panic set in, and from that day things have gone from bad to worse in so far as concerns the Zionist hopes in this respect.”

In 1926, a Jewish effort was launched to buy properties in front of the Wall as a first step toward acquiring the entire Moghrabi area and eventually the Wall itself. In early October 1928, Frederick Kisch, a Jerusalem-based Zionist official proposed, in a confidential letter to the Zionist Executive in London, that the Muslims be compelled to sell the pavement and the Moghrabi area to the Jews for £100,000, “in exchange for another suitable area in the Old City, with the inevitable addition of a cash payment for the benefit of the Wakf authorities.”

But these efforts, like those preceding them, went nowhere.

Three unique initiatives

Suddenly, however, in the days immediately following the Hebron massacre, three new initiatives appeared. While none of these new initiatives succeeded, their close proximity to each other and the dramatic nature of their presentation make them, especially Prince Mohamed Ali Pasha’s proposal, unique in the history of Mandate Palestine.

The first initiative came from a prominent Egyptian Jew, the Baron Felix de Menasce, the President of the Israelite Community in Alexandria. On August 26, 1929, only two days after the Hebron Massacre, Menasce walked into the British Embassy in Paris and met with Adrian Holman, the Second Secretary at the Embassy. Later that day Holman cabled the Foreign Office in London and reported as follows:

“[Menasce] explained to me at some length that the frequent cases of rioting at the Wailing Wall were due to the fact that the buildings surrounding the Wall were in the hands of the Moslems and had always been looked upon by the British Government as bearing a religious character. It had consequently always proved impossible for the Jews to buy the buildings in question and thus prevent troubles in the future. He maintained that the buildings were purely civil as opposed to religious and that the present moment might be an opportune one for the British Government to reconsider the possibility of arranging for the Jewish community to buy the buildings for demolition or other purposes. He was sure that if this were done, the Jewish community throughout the world would easily be able to find the necessary sum of money.”

George W. Rendell of the Foreign Office’s Eastern Division responded to Holman’s cable on September 7, noting the Muslims viewed the Wall as a religious site and would not be willing to sell the nearby dwellings to the Jews. Rendell poured more cold water on the idea, adding, “[t]he Colonial Office are, I think, familiar with the advantages and difficulties of a solution on the lines of the Baron de Menasce’s proposal, and seeing how overworked they are at the moment with a variety of Middle Eastern crises, I am not adding to their correspondence by passing the suggestion on to them.”

Dr. Chaim Weizmann. (AP Photo 1938)

Menasce sent a handwritten letter in French to Weizmann reporting on his meeting with Holman at the British Embassy in Paris. Menasce wrote, “J’ai la conviction c’est le moment psychologique de transfer tout l’argent necessaire, si jamais les Juifs deraint acheter ce Wakf …” (“I am convinced that if the Jews are ever going to buy this Wakf, this is, psychologically, the right time to find all the necessary money …”) No record has been found indicating whether Menasce had been acting on Weizmann’s behalf, or whether Weizmann ever responded to Menasce.

The second initiative came from Pinchas Rutenberg, the Managing Director of the Palestine Electric Corporation. On August 29, 1929, three days after Menasce’s meeting at the British Embassy in Paris, Rutenberg sent a letter to Lord Reading (previously known as Rufus Isaacs, a Jew and Chairman of the Palestine Electric Corporation), urging the British government to expropriate the entire area in front of the Wailing Wall to create “a suitable and dignified Jewish praying place.”

This was not the first time expropriation had been floated, but never at such a high level. Rutenberg was the preeminent Jewish businessman in Palestine and the future Chair of the Va’ad Leumi. Lord Reading took matters to the very highest level of the British Government, forwarding Rutenberg’s letter to Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald the next day, with a cover letter of endorsement:

“I would therefore earnestly represent that the necessary measures should be adopted as soon as practicable to make a complete end of this cause of dispute by expropriating the more extended area, as suggested by Mr. Rutenberg in his letter to me. I understand that this could be accomplished without interfering with any part of Moslem ‘Holy Ground.’”

But nothing came of Rutenberg’s expropriation proposal. The Colonial Office reacted negatively, noting “the present time is not opportune for considering the question of compulsory expropriation… Quite apart from the legal aspect, such action would be intensely resented by the Moslems and we have taken the line hitherto that expropriation is out of the question.”

In addition, High Commissioner Chancellor had already told the Permanent Mandates Commission (PMC) of the League of Nations in July 1929 that the first conclusion he came to after arriving in Palestine as High Commissioner and studying the Western Wall issue was that “there must not … be any attempt to expropriate, in favour of the Jews, the area of the pavement in front of the Wall.”

Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini (Library of Congress / Public Domain)

However, at that same PMC meeting, Chancellor disclosed he personally had asked the Mufti to consider selling the Moghrabi dwellings (“mean hovels,” as he described them) to the Jews, assuming the Jews would pay to relocate the Moghrabi inhabitants to superior accommodations elsewhere. Chancellor explained the Jews would be able “to make there a courtyard surrounded by a loggia where they could say their prayers in peace and in dignified surroundings.”

Weizmann embraced the idea and had £70,000 at the ready. But the Mufti rejected the plan, even after Chancellor suggested the Mufti consider an indirect sale, whereby the Mufti would transfer the property to the Mandatory Government as middleman, which would then complete the sale to the Jews, thereby allowing the Mufti to avoid looking as if he had sold Muslim property to the Jews.

An unprecedented proposal

The third initiative involved Prince Mohamed Ali Pasha of Egypt. Ali Pasha had built the famous Manial Palace on Rhoda Island on the Nile River in Cairo. The prince was the uncle of and future Regent to Farouk, the future King of Egypt. Those who knew Ali Pasha regarded him as a “very liberal-minded man,” with a “courtly bearing.” Storrs described Ali Pasha in his memoirs as “Prince Muhammad, afterwards Regent, with his great “lucky” emerald ring, the revived Oriental splendours of his Manial Palace, his courtly bearing and graceful entertainment; his fine devotion to his mother.” The Jewish, Alexandria-based lawyer Alec Alexander once described Ali Pasha as “the one person who could use his good offices to bring about peace between Muslims and Jews.”

Prince Mohamed Ali Pasha (Public Domain)

In an amazing coincidence of history, Ali Pasha entered the stage on August 29, 1929, the same day Rutenberg had sent his letter to Lord Reading, and only three days after Menasce’s meeting with Holman at the British Embassy in Paris.
On that fateful day of August 29, 1929, Ali Pasha, while on a visit to Istanbul, hand-delivered to the British Ambassador to Turkey, Sir George Clerk, a letter addressed to High Commissioner Chancellor in Jerusalem. The letter contained a stunning proposal from Ali Pasha for settling the Muslim-Jewish dispute over the Western Wall:

“Having heard about the troubles going on in Palestine between Jews and Mohametans, and having a certain knowledge of the Arab and Mohametan aspirations, I thought I might be of service outlining a proposal by which this quarrel might perhaps be ended peacefully.

The Mohametans and Arabs having been masters in Palestine for over one thousand years, they are fighting for their honour and do not want to lose anything which they have acquired as a possession. They fear that either through administrative channels or by force they will be compelled ultimately to relinquish rights they have held for so long.

Every one knows that in every country in law after the lapse of a certain period proprietary rights are established. In this case the rights of the Mohametans go back one thousand years.

My proposal for a solution is that, instead of fighting or dealing unjustly by one party or the other, it would be infinitely better to come to an understanding. The Mohametans may be willing to accept a sum of money which would help them to do good for the community and as the Jews are rich, if this thing is so much desired by them, there seems no reason why they should not pay for it. If this could be done, it would avoid coercion and possibly injustice to one or other of the parties.

Certainly I am sure the Mohametans and Arabs will not accept a small sum such as £10,000 or even £20,000 for a matter in which their honour is so far involved. In Zurich the Zionists have collected £240,000 for Palestine. Let them give £100,000 and I feel sure this would settle the difference.”

Although the letter does not specifically mention a “sale” of the Wall, Ali Pasha made clear in his meeting with Ambassador Clerk that selling the Wall was precisely his intention. According to Clerk’s contemporaneous recollection of their conversation, Ali Pasha “submit a suggestion which would, he thought, provide a solution to the question of the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem;” specifically, “the idea of the Jews buying the Wall.”

Ali Pasha’s letter was extraordinary. No one in the Muslim world had previously – or ever since – proposed to sell the Western Wall to the Jews. Surely Ali Pasha never spoke a word of this to anyone in the Muslim world, as he lived peacefully for nearly three more decades

But Ambassador Clerk never forwarded Ali Pasha’s letter to High Commissioner Chancellor in Jerusalem. Instead, Clerk sent Ali Pasha’s letter directly to the Foreign Office in London, along with a cover note adding his own observation that “the idea of the Jews buying the Wall has long been considered and rejected, and recent events seem scarcely favorable to the idea of the Muslims accepting even as fancy a price as £100,000, supposing the Jews were prepared to offer that sum.”

The Foreign Office kept Clerk’s original cover letter in its files, together with a copy of Ali Pasha’s letter. The Foreign Office made the following file notation regarding the prince’s letter:

Foreign Office File entry, E 4557/204/65 (September 3, 1929; photo by the author).

W. L. Knight of the Foreign Office made a sarcastic handwritten file entry several days later:

“It would appear from the last para. of the prince’s letter that while the Jerusalem Arabs would scorn to sell their honour cheap, they would probably be prepared to do so for £100,000!”

Foreign Office File entry, E 4557/204/65 (September 10, 1929; photo by the author).

The Foreign Office later recorded the prince’s letter in its official index for 1929 as, “Suggested sale of wall to Jews by Moslems: proposal of Prince Mohamed Ali Pasha:”

Foreign Office Index, 1929 (photo by the author).

The Foreign Office sent the original of Ali Pasha’s letter, along with the calling card Ali Pasha had given to Ambassador Clerk, to the Colonial Office, where both items were tucked inside an envelope and filed away for the next 90 years.

The prince’s calling card, given to the British Ambassador to Turkey, Sir George Clerk, on August 29, 1929 (CO 733/163/5, British National Archives, London; photo by the author).

Ali Pasha’s letter was extraordinary. No one in the Muslim world had previously – or ever since – proposed to sell the Western Wall to the Jews. Surely Ali Pasha never spoke a word of this to anyone in the Muslim world, as he lived peacefully for nearly three more decades. Nor is there any evidence he had any authority from the Muslim authorities in Jerusalem to make the offer. But his letter nevertheless represents an extraordinary and courageous – if not somewhat Quixotic – step for a highly prominent Arab and future Regent to the King of Egypt to have taken so soon after the August 1929 violence.

The letter also seriously undermines Muslim claims regarding the holiness of the Buraq. Surely Ali Pasha would never have dreamed of proposing to sell any truly sacred Muslim shrines, such as the Dome of the Rock or the Al Aqsa Mosque, to the Jews. Clearly he did not regard the Western Wall as even a minor Muslim religious site. Indeed, no evidence exists of any Muslim prayer or veneration at the Buraq since the 7th Century Muslim conquest of Jerusalem.

Moreover, during a 1930 courtroom trial presided over by three League of Nations-approved judges, pitting Muslims against Jews regarding their respective rights and claims to the Wall, the Jewish side offered evidence that the Muslims had repeatedly defiled the Wall and the pavement. Dr. Mordechai Eliash, the Jerusalem-based lawyer representing the Jewish side, said the following in his opening statement (pages 53-54 of the transcript, the only surviving copy of which is located at King’s College, London):

“Evidence will be brought before you that time and again the Wall was desecrated by actually smearing human excreta on its stones. Filth and rubbish were always allowed by the Mughrabis to accumulate there, while time and again have Jewish individuals and organized communities paid for the sweeping and cleaning of the area in front of the Wall, and it will be shown to you that it was through Jewish intervention that a sewage drain was not laid close to the Wall …”

In any event, no record was found of any further action by Ali Pasha or the British Government regarding Ali Pasha’s proposal, nor is there any evidence in Chancellor’s files or his diary proving or even hinting he ever learned of the letter’s existence.

The original Ali Pasha letter, containing the only Arab offer ever to sell the Wall to the Jews, remained buried in the Colonial Office files for the next 90 years.

Prince Ali Pasha’s letter, August 29, 1929 (CO 733/163/5, British National Archives, London; photo by the author).

Prince Ali Pasha’s letter, August 29, 1929 (CO 733/163/5, British National Archives, London; photo by the author).

Two of Israel’s leading historians of the Mandate era, Professor Motti Golani of Tel Aviv University and Professor Hillel Cohen of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, examined Ali Pasha’s letter and the related documents at the author’s request last year. Both professors said they were unaware of Ali Pasha’s letter or of any prior publication mentioning it. Golani called it a “major discovery.” Cohen initially noted the absence of any specific reference to “selling” the Wall in the text of Ali Pasha’s letter, but after reading Clerk’s cover letter to the Foreign Office, Cohen acknowledged Ali Pasha’s letter indeed conveyed an implicit offer to sell the Wall.

One lingering question remains: is it possible Ali Pasha and Menasce knew of each other’s initiatives? Two very prominent Egyptians, one Muslim and one Jewish, within three days of each other separately approached the British Embassies in Istanbul and Paris to float the idea of the Jews buying the Western Wall and the surrounding area. Perhaps they had coordinated their efforts and stage-managed them as carefully as possible to avoid detection. Or perhaps neither had any idea of the other’s activity, and their visits to the British Embassies in Paris (Monday) and Istanbul (Thursday) of the same week were purely coincidental. We will leave that mystery for others to solve.

In any event, Prince Mohamed Ali Pasha’s letter stands as a remarkable testament to the bravery and creativity of this urbane and worldly Egyptian prince, who at great personal risk launched an initiative to bring peace to the Muslims and Jews of Mandate Palestine.

Law and the Arab-Israeli Conflict by Steven E. Zipperstein

The prince’s letter, concealed in the files of the Colonial Office for the past 90 years, can now proudly take its rightful place in history.

********

Steven E. Zipperstein is the author of the forthcoming book “Law and the Arab-Israeli Conflict: The Trials of Palestine” (Routledge, March 2020), from which this article is derived. Zipperstein, a former United States federal prosecutor, is a senior fellow at the Center for Middle East Development at UCLA. He also teaches in UCLA’s Global Studies program and School of Public Affairs, and as a visiting professor at the Buchmann Faculty of Law, Tel Aviv University.

(Copyright Steven E. Zipperstein, 2020)

Tens of thousands pray at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem in Selichot (forgiveness) prayers, early on September 27, 2019. (Mendy Hechtman/Flash90)
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Israel: Likud hopeful Sa’ar says two-state solution with Palestinians is an ‘illusion’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Likud hopeful Sa’ar says two-state solution with Palestinians is an ‘illusion’

Attacking PM from the right, challenger blames Netanyahu’s ‘endless concessions’ for helping perpetuate the idea that a Palestinian state is the only way to achieve a peace deal

Likud MK Gideon Sa'ar speaks at a conference at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, December 15, 2019. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar speaks at a conference at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, December 15, 2019. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Gideon Sa’ar, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s sole challenger in the upcoming Likud party leadership race, said Sunday that a two-state solution with the Palestinians is an “illusion,” and attacked the premier for giving the notion credibility over the last decade.

“Throughout the world they say that a two-state solution remains the path to an agreement,” Sa’ar said, speaking at a conference.”I have to say to you, this is not a position that helps anyone. Two-states in an illusion.”

Sa’ar said this had been shown through decades of negotiations based around two-states that had failed to bring peace. He also blamed the Palestinians for “never being able to agree to a compromise, despite very generous offers.”

Sa’ar castigated Netanyahu for perpetuating the idea that two-states was the only solution, accusing him of making “endless concessions” to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during the last decade, including settlement building freezes in the West Bank.

He also referred to Netanyahu’s famous speech at Bar-Ilan University in 2009, in which the prime minister expressed support for the creation of a Palestinian state. Netanyahu has since said conditions for statehood no longer exist in the current reality in the Middle East.

Sa’ar said that the solution needs to be an autonomous Palestinian entity linked together in a federation with Jordan. “Between the Jordan River and the (Mediterranean) Sea there cannot be another state,” he said.

Sa’ar appeared to be trying to outflank Netanyahu from the right ahead of the Likud party leadership vote, set for December 26. However, Netanyahu has in recent years also moved away from tacit support for a two-state solution and has, over the last few months, been promising to annex the Jordan Valley in the West Bank if reelected.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks before a map of the Jordan Valley, vowing to extend Israeli sovereignty there if reelected, during a speech in Ramat Gan on September 10, 2019. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

Likud MK Sharren Haskel on Sunday said she would back Sa’ar, becoming the fourth lawmaker to publicly endorse him. Most Likud MKs have announced support for Netanyahu, with a few notable lawmakers keeping mum. Despite the defections, Netanyahu is expected to defeat Sa’ar handily.

The vote marks the first real challenge to Netanyahu’s leadership of the party in 14 years. He and Sa’ar are the only contenders who have announced they will run in the primary.

Sa’ar argues that Netanyahu is divisive and has proved he cannot put together a coalition, after failing to muster a governing majority following two national elections in April and September. Israel will go to polls again on March 2.

Sa’ar has expressed his opposition to a two-state solution in the past. Earlier this year he was one of a group of right-wing lawmakers who sent a letter to US lawmakers warning that calls for a two-state solution are “far more dangerous to Israel” than efforts to boycott the Jewish state, and urging them to refrain from such appeals in the future.

“We believe (the proposed resolution) contains a grave error because it expresses, among other things, support for a so-called ‘Two-State Solution,’ meaning the establishment of a ‘Palestinian state’ in the heart of tiny Israel… We would like to make our position clear that the establishment of a Palestinian state would be far more dangerous to Israel than BDS,” they wrote.

A crane is used at the construction site in the West Bank settlement of Amichai on September 7, 2018. (AFP/Thomas Coex)

The letter was sent to the offices of the four congressmen who co-sponsored a resolution that condemned BDS but also called for a two-state solution — Brad Schneider, Lee Zeldin, Jerry Nadler and Ann Wagner. It was written and sent at the initiative of Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan, the Land of Israel caucus in the Knesset and the National Conference of Likud, an informal group of hawks within the ruling party.

Creating a Palestinian state in the region would “severely damage” both Israel’s and America’s national security, the Israeli legislators wrote.

In recent years the Trump administration has moved away from its support for a two-state solution.

Last month US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the US was softening its position on Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Pompeo repudiated a 1978 State Department legal opinion that held that civilian settlements in the occupied territories are “inconsistent with international law.”

US moves that have weakened Palestinian efforts to achieve statehood have included President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the moving of the US embassy to that city and the closure of the Palestinian diplomatic office in Washington. These moves have been widely, though not universally, welcomed in Israel.

Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and his point man for the Middle East peace process, has said that the administration’s as-yet-unreleased peace plan would avoid speaking about the two-state solution.

“I realize that means different things to different people,” he said earlier this year. “If you say ‘two states’ to the Israelis it means one thing, and if you say ‘two states’ to the Palestinians it means another thing. So we said, ‘let’s just not say it.’ Let’s just work on the details of what this means.”

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Saudi: Israel Strikes Hamas in Gaza after Rocket Fire

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Israel Strikes Hamas in Gaza after Rocket Fire

Sunday, 8 December, 2019 – 12:15
Rockets are launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, November 13, 2019. (AP)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Israeli jets bombed several Hamas positions in Gaza early Sunday, hours after three rockets were fired from the Palestinian enclave toward southern Israel.

The military said in a statement the airstrikes targeted military camps and a naval base for Hamas.

There were no immediate reports of casualties, reported The Associated Press.

On Saturday evening, Israel announced that its air defenses, known as “Iron Dome,” intercepted two of three missiles coming from Gaza. Later, it said all three rockets had been shot down.

No Palestinian group claimed responsibility for the rocket fire. The Israeli army said Hamas was responsible for any attack transpiring in Gaza.

Cross-border violence between Israel and Palestinian factions in Gaza has ebbed and flowed in recent years. Last month, the two sides fought their worst round of violence in months.

Leaders from Hamas and the smaller but more radical Islamic Jihad are in Cairo, talking with Egyptian officials about cementing a ceasefire that would see some economic incentives and easing of restrictions on Gaza.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned at his weekly cabinet meeting Sunday that no steps would be made toward any form of ceasefire as long as rocket fire continued.

He said last month’s onslaught, in which 34 Palestinians were killed, including a top militant commander, would be just a “promo” to what came next if aggression from Gaza continued.

Hamas has fought three wars with Israel since seizing Gaza in 2007 and dozens of shorter skirmishes.

Israel: US Christians build field hospital in Gaza

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

US Christians build field hospital in Gaza, deepening rift between PA and Hamas

PLO official claims project, funded by pro-Israel evangelical donors, serving ‘military, intelligence and security’ purposes, but terror group brushes off concerns

Construction of field hospital in the Gaza Strip near the Erez crossing. (Screenshot from the Friend Ships-Project-Camp Gaza Facebook page)

Construction of field hospital in the Gaza Strip near the Erez crossing. (Screenshot from the Friend Ships-Project-Camp Gaza Facebook page)

A field hospital being built by a US Evangelical Christian aid group in the northern Gaza Strip has become a source of controversy for the already feuding Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership and the Hamas terrorist group that controls the coastal enclave.

An official in the West Bank has claimed the project, spearheaded by pro-Israel donors, is a front for American and Israeli intelligence operations, an allegation Gaza’s rulers have dismissed as “unfounded.”

Over the past several months, trucks carrying materials and equipment for the hospital have entered Gaza, which suffers from inadequate health infrastructure. Now American volunteers affiliated with Friend Ships, the aid group, have begun building the medical facility adjacent to the Erez crossing, the sole pedestrian passageway between Israel and the enclave.

Pictures posted on Facebook last week showed the volunteers erecting tents a short distance from the barrier separating Israel and Gaza.

The construction of the hospital is one part of the unofficial ceasefire understandings between Israel and terror groups in Gaza, which the Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership has fiercely protested.

From Syria to Gaza

Friend Ships, whose evangelical founders Don and Sondra Tipton have expressed strong support for Israel, has described the project as “a multi-faceted mobile (tent-based) medical facility.”

النجاح الإخباري – Al Najah News@NewsNajah

نشطاء ينشرون صور للعاملين في المستشفى الامريكي المنوي إقامته شمال غزة، يظهرون فيها بلباس عسكري أمريكي، مما اثار جدلا على منصات التواصل الاجتماعي حول اهداف المستشفى.

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“We will have [telemedicine] for worldwide consultation with specialists, a large children’s play area, hydroponics training program and distribution center,” the organization’s website said.

Friend Ships, which is headquartered in Louisiana, plans to eventually provide a wide range of health services at the hospital, including cancer treatment, physical therapy, post-traumatic stress disorder therapy, dental care, among others, according to the group’s website.

The hospital will include equipment that Friend Ships used for a similar project close to Syria, Al-Monitor, a news site based in Washington, reported in June.

The group also operated a field hospital in the Golan Heights in 2017-2018 with Israel’s permission, where medical staff treated some 7,000 Syrians.

The medical facility in Gaza will include 16 wards with a “focus on diagnosing patients with hereditary or life-threatening diseases” and receive funding from the Qatari government, the Al-Monitor report said.

Mohammed al-Emadi, a Qatari envoy who maintains contacts with Hamas, the PA and Israel, told a press conference in May that the hospital will occupy an area equivalent to 40 dunams.

Exploring Israel on the weekend

Friend Ships has also been advertising opportunities to volunteer at the hospital, highlighting the chance to travel through Israel on days off.

“Friend Ships Camp Gaza will offer a wonderful opportunity to work in an important and productive project and at the same time, to see and enjoy the Biblical sites of Israel,” its website said.

A post on the Friend Ships Facebook page said volunteers will learn about the region and “become part of what God is doing there today.”

Sondra Tipton, one of the founders of the organization, told a Louisiana news outlet in 2015 about her passion for Israel: “We feel like it’s very important for people to realize that Israel is a true democracy and a true friend to the United States and then from a Christian point of view, the Bible is emphatic about the land of Israel being the apple of God’s eye and how, as believers in Jesus, we need to stand with the Israelis.”

Illustrative: An injured Palestinian man arrives at a hospital to receive treatment following an Israeli air strike in Beit Lahia, in the northern Gaza Strip, on December 8, 2017 .(AFP/Mohammed Abed)

Friend Ships, the IDF, and the Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories, the branch of the Defense Ministry responsible for liaising with the Palestinians, declined to comment.

Brewing controversy between Palestinian factions

In the past week, however, the hospital has transformed into a major source of controversy between the rivals Fatah and Hamas.

After Palestinian news sites reported on the photos of the volunteers last Tuesday, which were posted on the Friend Ships Facebook page, a number of Fatah, PA and PLO officials lashed out at the project.

Senior Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmad claimed on Palestine TV, the official PA television channel, on Monday, that the hospital was for “military, intelligence and security” purposes. He later confirmed to The Times of Israel that he was referring to the US and Israeli intelligence.

PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh accused the hospital on Monday of serving the Trump administration’s peace plan.

PLO Executive Committee member Wasel Abu Yousef told The Times of Israel on Tuesday that he believed the hospital was deepening the division between the West Bank and Gaza because its planning and construction was not coordinated with the PA.

Friend Ships has since removed almost all of its posts related to the hospital from its Facebook page and wiped other information about it from its website.

Hamas, meanwhile, has pushed back against the Ramallah-based Palestinian officials’ allegations, calling them baseless.

“The statements of Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh and PLO Executive Committee and Fatah Central Committee member Azzam al-Ahmad are based on false and unfounded data,” Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassim told Dunya al-Watan, a Gaza-based news site on Tuesday. “They wove them together with imaginary information.”

Hamas deputy chief in Gaza, Khalil al-Hayya, also questioned the intentions of the hospital’s critics. But he said the terror group would not hesitate to shut it down if it determined the humanitarian project was against its interests.

Hamas senior political leader Khalil al-Hayya during a press conference at the end of two days of closed-door talks attended by representatives of 13 leading political parties held in the Egyptian capital Cairo on November 22, 2017 (AFP/Mohamen El-Shahed)

“If we found anything in it that undermines our national or security interests, we will tell them to leave,” he told the Islamic Jihad-linked Palestine Today on Tuesday.

A source familiar with the details of the project, who asked to remain nameless, called the claims leveled against the hospital “complete nonsense.”

An official in the Hamas-run health ministry declined to specifically comment on the hospital, but said that it welcomes any effort to improve the health sector in Gaza.

“The Israeli restrictions on movement of goods and people have totally undermined the health sector. We are dealing with a major shortage in our hospitals in terms of medicines and medical supplies,” the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said in a phone call. “So we believe any efforts to mitigate these dire circumstances are positive.”

Israeli officials have said they maintain limitations on movement to prevent terror groups in Gaza from importing weapons or the means to build them into the territory.

Talal Okal, a Gaza-based analyst, said he thought the hospital shows that the ceasefire understandings between Hamas and Israel were moving forward.

“It s a clear indication that Hamas and Israel are advancing the understandings,” he said in a phone call. “But what we really need in Gaza is to improve the existing hospitals and health centers. We don’t need a field hospital.”

AFP contributed to this article.

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Israel: In surprise change, 13 countries vote against pro-Palestine UN resolution

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

In surprise change, 13 countries vote against pro-Palestine UN resolution

States led by Germany change their voting pattern in favor of Israel, opposing Division of Palestinian Rights, although motion still passes by wide margin

View of the United Nations General Assembly during a vote the US-imposed embargo on Cuba on November 7, 2019. (Evan Schneider/ UN)

View of the United Nations General Assembly during a vote the US-imposed embargo on Cuba on November 7, 2019. (Evan Schneider/ UN)

Over a dozen countries on Tuesday abruptly changed their voting pattern at the United Nations in Israel’s favor, opposing an annual resolution expressing support for a pro-Palestinian UN agency traditionally critical of the Jewish state.

Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Lithuania, Netherlands, Romania, Slovakia, Brazil and Colombia for the first time voted against the resolution regarding the Division of Palestinian Rights at the UN Secretariat.

In past years, these countries had abstained on the resolution.

“I am pleased that this significant group of countries has decided today to voice a clear moral stance against discrimination toward Israel at the UN,” Foreign Minister Israel Katz said in a statement. “This represents an important step in the long struggle against the prejudiced bias toward Israel at the United Nations. Particularly noticeable is the shift in the stance of several member states of the European Union and I trust that the remaining EU members will adopt this position soon.”

The UK, France and Spain abstained, as they do every year.

The resolution — co-sponsored by Comoros, Cuba, Indonesia, Jordan, Kuwait, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, United Arab Emirates and Yemen — still passed with a comfortable majority, with 87 “yes” votes, 54 “no” votes and 23 abstentions.

UN Watch

@UNWatch

The resolution titled “Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine” was adopted by a vote of 147 – 7 – 13.

The U.S., Canada, and Australia voted No.

See text here: https://undocs.org/en/A/74/L.15 

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UN Watch

@UNWatch

The resolution titled “Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat” was adopted by a vote of 87–23–54.

A group of EU states who last year abstained switched their votes to No, including:

🇩🇪 Germany
🇳🇱 Netherlands
🇩🇰 Denmark
& more

See text here: https://undocs.org/en/A/74/L.16 

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Katz also thanked the United States, Canada, Australia, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, Nauru and Kiribati who again voted against the resolution.

The New York-based Division for Palestinian Rights is notorious among Israeli officials and pro-Israel advocates for its harsh criticism of Israeli policies. It serves as the Secretariat of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and organizes international conferences that usually focus on bashing Israel. It is also responsible for the annual observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People on November 27.

The resolution passed Tuesday states that the Division for Palestinian Rights “continues to make a constructive and positive contribution to raising international awareness of the question of Palestine and of the urgency of a peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine in all its aspects.”

“This body represents the structural discrimination against Israel in the UN arena and uses UN manpower and budgetary resources to promote a Palestinian narrative while simultaneously encouraging a distinctly anti-Israel agenda,” Katz said.

According to Hillel Neuer, the executive director of Geneva-based UN Watch, the surprising change in the voting pattern of 11 EU states has to do with “an unprecedented focus” on Germany, whose Foreign Minister Heiko Mass earlier this year pledged to oppose the unfair treatment of Israel at the UN.

“I think Germany felt the need to modify some of its anti-Israel votes, and that this rare EU split at the GA allowed Netherlands, Austria and others to follow,” Neuer told The Times of Israel. “We were disappointed that countries like the UK, France and Spain did not join this principled opposition.”

“With it’s ‘no’ this year, Germany expresses its criticism on the disproportionally high number of resolutions that are critical of Israel,” Germany’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement. The ministry further said that there was no reason for the special status enjoyed by the Division for Palestinian Rights.

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Israel: Defense minister green-lights new Jewish neighborhood in Hebron

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Defense minister green-lights new Jewish neighborhood in Hebron

Naftali Bennett praised by right, slammed by left over move to double number of Jews living in flash point West Bank city

People walk near houses belong to Jewish settlers in the West bank city Hebron on November 12, 2018. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

People walk near houses belong to Jewish settlers in the West bank city Hebron on November 12, 2018. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

Newly installed Defense Minister Naftali Bennett on Sunday announced his approval for planning of a new Jewish neighborhood in the flash point West Bank city of Hebron, in a decision that was quickly praised by the right and bashed by the left.

The Jewish community in Hebron is made up of several enclaves located deep in the heart of the largest Palestinian city. The roughly 1,000 Jewish settlers there live under heavy military guard amid some 215,000 Palestinians. It has been the scene of numerous stabbings and other violent incidents between Palestinians and Israelis in recent years.

Hebron differs from other Arab West Bank cities in that it is home to a Jewish community that, per the 1997 Hebron Agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, lives in an area under Israeli control — about 20 percent of the city, known as H2. This community has existed for hundreds of years, though with several gaps during the 20th century.

On Sunday, the defense minister’s office said in a statement that Bennett, who serves in a transitional government, had ordered the relevant offices within the Israel Defense Forces to inform the Hebron municipality that planning was starting for the new neighborhood near the city’s old market.

The land of that market has been under Jewish ownership since the early 19th century. Local Jews fled following the 1929 massacre in which some 65 Jews were murdered by Arab mobs. After Israel gained control of the city in 1967, it approved the construction of a Palestinian market that was active until the 1990s.

In this Monday, June 5, 2017 photo, the Mayor of Hebron Tayseer Abu Sneineh greets a shopkeeper at a market in the West Bank city of Hebron. (AP Photo/Nasser Shiyoukhi)

The statement said the neighborhood would double the number of Jewish settlers in the city, and create Jewish “territorial continuity” between the existing Avraham Avinu neighborhood and the Tomb of the Patriarchs holy site.

“The market’s buildings will be demolished and new stores will be built instead,” the statement said. “The rights of Palestinians on the ground floor will be preserved as they are today.”

New Right party leader Naftali Bennett speaks during a press conference at the Expo Tel Aviv on September 5, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Bennett made the decision following a series of discussions with the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories and the Civil Administration — which serves as the military liaison to Palestinians — as well as the Shin Bet and other security officials, the statement added.

The Committee of the Jewish Community of Hebron hailed the announcement, saying in a statement that it “thanks Defense Minister Naftali Bennett from the bottom of the heart for the decision to return Jewish life to the Jewish property in Hebron. Taking the lands of the murdered out of the hands of the murderer, the Hebron mayor, is an act of historic justice for which the Israeli nation has been waiting for 90 years.”

The statement was apparently referring to the then-mayor of Hebron who allegedly ordered the 1929 massacre.

New Right MK Ayelet Shaked, the former justice minister, also commended the decision by Bennett, her party leader, calling it “a historic and important decision.”

“As justice minister I worked for two years to free the land from a legal entanglement in which it was for many years, and the neighborhood had waited about a year for the defense minister’s approval. Bennett’s courageous decision will boost the Jewish community and develop the city.”

However, the decision was slammed by left-wing and Arab lawmakers.

Joint List party leader Ayman Odeh participates along with residents of the northern Arab Israeli town of Akbara in a demonstration against a hate crime carried out in their village the previous day,. November 1, 2019. (David Cohen/FLASH90)

The leading Arab lawmaker in Israel called the decision a “dangerous step that deepens the occupation regime over millions of Palestinians.”

“The war against peace continues,” Joint List leader Ayman Odeh added in his statement, condemning the “dangerous and messianic vision of the right.”

MK Ofer Cassif, the only Jewish member of the Joint List, made a reference to Baruch Goldstein, a Jewish terrorist who murdered 29 Palestinians at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron in 1994 and was subsequently shot and killed.

“Baruch Goldstein is looking from hell at Defense Minister Naftali Bennett and swelling with pride,” he said, warning that the move would escalate violence. “Apparently more people being killed is a price Bennett is happy to pay as election bribery to the Kahanists” — followers of the late rabbi Meir Kahane.

MK Tamar Zandberg of the Democratic Camp called the move a “win” for the ideology of the racist far-right former lawmaker Kahane.

“Someone who establishes Jewish neighborhoods in the heart of the capital of Israel’s apartheid, instead of dismantling them, is a messianist who intentionally harms the State of Israel,” she said.

Palestinian Authority senior negotiator Saeb Erekat blamed the move on the recent US announcement that it no longer views settlements as “inconsistent with international law.”

Dr. Saeb Erakat الدكتور صائب عريقات@ErakatSaeb

Israel’s decision to build a new illegal settlement in occupied Hebron is the first tangible result of the US decision to legitimize colonization;this cannot be taken out of the context annexation: Concrete measures,including sanctions against settlements are an Int.responsibility

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Ashrawi Accuses Israel of Expelling Witnesses to Its Oppressive Practices

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Ashrawi Accuses Israel of Expelling Witnesses to Its Oppressive Practices

Tuesday, 26 November, 2019 – 12:30
HRW’s Omar Shakir at Ben Gurion Airport after being expelled from Israel. (File photo: AFP)
Tel Aviv- Asharq Al-Awsat
Israeli authorities expelled Monday Human Rights Watch (HRW) Israel and Palestine Director Omar Shakir after Israel’s Supreme Court had upheld the government’s deportation order on November 5 and gave him until November 25 to leave.

Israel argues that Shakir actively supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. He denies that his HRW work and pro-Palestinian statements he made before being appointed to the HRW post in 2016 constitute active support for BDS.

Hanan Ashrawi, member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), slammed the deportation as an Israeli desperate measure to conceal its war crimes and violations.

Ashrawi said that expelling Shakir is a desperate action consistent with the unlawful practices of the occupation regime. She described it as an alarming wake-up call to all those who seek peace and justice for both sides that Israel will resort to extreme measures to hide the truth.

“Israel is getting rid of local and international witness of its crimes,” she warned.

HRW held a press conference in Jerusalem hours before Shakir’s departure flight and indicated that Shakir would continue his role remotely from Amman, Jordan, relying on a network of researchers in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza to conduct fieldwork.

Shakir condemned the decision as an escalating assault on the human rights movement.

“If the Israelis can deport somebody documenting rights abuse without facing consequences, how can we ever stop rights abuse?” said Shakir.

Speaking at the conference, he said that Israel joins the likes of Venezuela and Iran in barring Human Rights Watch researchers, but it, too, will not succeed in hiding its human rights abuses.

“This decision shows why the international community must reboot its approach to Israel’s deteriorating human rights record. A government that expels a leading human rights investigator is not likely to stop its systematic oppression of Palestinians under occupation without much greater international pressure.”

Palestinians Slam PA Ban on 59 Websites

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Palestinians Slam PA Ban on 59 Websites

Wednesday, 23 October, 2019 – 10:45
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the Fourth National Forum for the Fourth Industrial Revolution during the forum’s opening session in the West Bank city of Ramallah, September 9 2019. (Nasser Nasser/AP)
Ramallah- Asharq Al-Awsat
A Palestinian court decision to block access to 59 news websites and Facebook pages has drawn criticism and sparked widespread controversy, anger,x and growing calls for stopping the “gagging” policy.

In a rare move, Abbas’s government called on the attorney general to overturn the latest decision by Ramallah Magistrate’s Court.

Government spokesman Ibrahim Milhem said in a statement that the PA government urged administrators of social media pages and news sites to “follow professional and moral standards in publishing news and media items.”

He stressed the government’s respect for international conventions that guarantee the protection of freedoms and its strong respect for the independence of the judiciary and non-intervention in its affairs.

The decision was made at the request of the Palestinian prosecution.

In its petition to the court, The prosecution argued that the sites disseminate harmful content about the PA and its officials and are likely to be used to incite lawlessness.

The court’s decision was leaked after prosecutors sent it to Internet companies in the Palestinian territories.

The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate held a press conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Tuesday, a day after the news of the blockage was leaked.

Syndicate Head Naser Abu Baker called it a “black day” for the press in Palestine.

“The judiciary must protect freedom in Palestine,” he stated. “It should not restrict it.”

He said that the syndicate appealed against the decision and announced that it is against any previous agreements with the Public Prosecution.

“What is required now is for the court to cancel this decision and amend the law on cyber crimes with respect to freedom of information.”

Abu Baker described the decision to block websites as a blow to the government and its efforts to establish media freedoms.

In this context, Palestinian officials and factions rejected the “gagging” policy.

Hanan Ashrawi, member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) Executive Committee, expressed dissatisfaction with the decision.

“Blocking access to websites or imposing other measures that prevent access to information or restrict freedom of expression are in complete contradiction with the Palestinian Basic Law,” she stressed in a statement.

 

Hamas Controlled Zoo: Cramped Gaza Zoo Reopens, Only Months After Closure

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Cramped Gaza Zoo Reopens, Only Months After Closure

Sunday, 22 September, 2019 – 11:30
Two lions and three cubs are penned in cages only a few square metres in size at a zoo in the Gaza Strip VIA AFP
Asharq Al-Awsat
A lioness is beaten with sticks while her cubs are dragged away — a Gazan zoo closed after a long campaign has reopened, with conditions seemingly as bad as ever.

The Rafah Zoo in the southern Gaza Strip was known for its emaciated animals, with the owners saying they struggled to find enough money to feed them.

In April, international animal rights charity Four Paws took all the animals to sanctuaries, receiving a pledge the zoo would close forever, AFP reported.

But last month it reopened with two lions and three new cubs, penned in cages only a few square meters in size.

Critics say the owners want to bully Four Paws or other animal welfare organizations into giving them thousands of dollars to free the animals into their care.

Four Paws paid the zoo’s owners more than $50,000 in the year before its closure for medical treatments, food and caretakers.

The zoo’s owner insists the reopening is solely for the enjoyment of local residents.

Meanwhile, when AFP visited the zoo recently, the badly stuffed corpse of a lion was displayed near the entrance. An ostrich in a three-meter-square pen pecked endlessly at the cage’s bars, while two monkeys sat chewing on litter.

At the far end the lion and lioness were kept in separate cages, each only a few square meters.

The owners were seeking to remove the cubs from their mother to play with visiting children.

To do so they hit the lioness with sticks and banged on the cage to confuse her, with staff later taunting her when the cubs had been taken out.

“A lion needs 1,000 square meters to play in. Here they have seven square meters,” Mohammed Aweda, a prominent animal enthusiast in Gaza, told AFP.

“The zoo won’t survive during the winter, because they are lacking in daily goods which cost a lot. For you or I or anyone who owns a zoo (in Gaza), the economy is very tough.”

The newly reopened zoo’s manager Ashraf Jumaa, from the same family that owned the old one, said they brought the new lions through tunnels from Egypt. However others suggested they were bought from another animal centre in northern Gaza.

He denied they wanted to blackmail Four Paws.

“The first goal is entertainment, not trade. The main reason we reopened the zoo was people in the area that supported us,” he said.

He said it would be less expensive because there were fewer animals, but admitted they would struggle to afford enough food once the cubs were fully grown.

“Every day they will need between 22 and 30 kilos of meat costing between 100 and 150 shekels (between $28 and $43),” he said.

They currently receive around 50 visitors a day, he said, with tickets on average costing two shekels (around $0.50).

Four Paws said footage it saw from the zoo was “very concerning”.

“The animals are not kept in species-appropriate conditions. They seem to be in bad conditions and urgently need medical attention and proper food,” it said

An official from the Gaza agriculture ministry, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there had been no coordination regarding the zoo’s reopening.

According to AFP, he said Gaza needed a large park meeting international standards.

Saudi’s: Pressure on Netanyahu to Expand Hebron Settlement

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Pressure on Netanyahu to Expand Hebron Settlement

Wednesday, 4 September, 2019 – 11:45
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks on as he arrives to review an honor guard with his Ethiopian counterpart Abiy Ahmed during their meeting in Jerusalem September 1, 2019. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
Tel Aviv – Ramallah- Nazir Magally and Asharq Al-Awsat
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing pressure by settlers to announce an expansion of the Jewish settlement in Hebron, political sources have revealed.

The Palestinian Authority warned of an expected visit by Netanyahu to Hebron, describing this visit as a “colonial” move.

The sources said that Netanyahu is likely to yield to pressure despite the international criticism and strong Palestinian condemnation he would be subjected to.

Netanyahu’s planned visit is “racial and colonial,” the Palestinian Foreign Ministry said, noting that it comes at a time he is seeking to secure more votes from the right-wing.

It pointed out that the visit comes also in line with “Israeli plans to Judaize the old city of Hebron, including the Ibrahimi Mosque.”

The Ministry further deplored policies on settlement expansion in the occupied Palestinian territories, along with the crimes of destroying houses, mosques and institutions.

It also warned of the risks and consequences of the Israeli PM’s visit, especially after the occupation authorities took discriminatory measures against the residents of Tel Rumeida, the Old City and its vicinity in preparation for the visit.

The Ministry called on the international community and international organizations to “assume legal and moral responsibility towards the suffering of the Palestinian people in Hebron.”

Hebron was a prosperous commercial city, until a settler doctor carried out a massacre in 1994 when he entered the Ibrahimi Mosque during fajr prayers and shot the worshipers, killing 29 Palestinians, while the Israeli army killed 20 others.

Yitzhak Rabin’s government was offered the chance to evict settlers from Hebron, but he failed to do so and he protected them militarily with a fence, which was later used to tighten the noose on the city mainly under Netanyahu’s rule.