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Signs of the Times for Mon, 20 Mar 2006

16 Mar 06
JERUSALEM -- Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz instructed forces on Thursday to step up targeted killings and anti-terror operations in the West Bank.

Mofaz told a security meeting in Tel Aviv that the Jericho operation sent a clear message to the other side that Israel will not compromise when it comes to its national security principles.

On Tuesday, Israeli forces raided Palestinian prison in the West Bank city of Jericho and took six wanted Palestinians to an Israeli prison.

Due to intelligence indicating terror groups were planning attacks against Israel, Mofaz decided that closure imposed on the West Bank over the Purim holiday would continue until the beginning of next week.

In advance of the Israeli general elections scheduled for March 28, Mofaz decided that security forces would deploy throughout the c

March 16, 2006
GAZA, Palestine - Amnesty International called on Israel to end expanding settlements and constructing the Apartheid Wall in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The amnesty, in a letter sent to all the Israeli candidates in the upcoming parliamentary elections said," these practices are regarded as a violation of human and international laws and that settlements and the Wall are against international law and a violation for the Palestinians' basic human rights."

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By Charley Reese
17 Mar 06
Let's play a fantasy game to check on our belief in human rights. Let's suppose that in a mythical state, a governor announced a campaign to punish African-Americans for alleged violence.

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17 Mar 06
The Fatah movement of the Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, has refused to join a government being formed by Hamas.

Fatah spokesman Azzam al-Ahmad said weeks of talks on Hamas' political programme had failed.

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Patrick O'Connor
Al-Ahram Weekly
16-22 March 2006
Issue No. 786
The media reports that the Gaza Strip is no longer under Israeli control, but two weeks ago I was blocked from entering Gaza from Egypt by Israeli agents. The day before, two French citizens were prevented from entering for a sister city project in Gaza. Israeli authorities invoked "security reasons" and false claims of links to terrorism, a typical strategy used against foreign supporters of Palestinian rights. Despite the fanfare over Israel's August "Gaza disengagement", Gaza remains a prison, with no visitors allowed.

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By John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt
17 Mar 06
For the past several decades, and especially since the Six-Day War in 1967, the centrepiece of US Middle Eastern policy has been its relationship with Israel. The combination of unwavering support for Israel and the related effort to spread 'democracy' throughout the region has inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion and jeopardised not only US security but that of much of the rest of the world. This situation has no equal in American political history. Why has the US been willing to set aside its own security and that of many of its allies in order to advance the interests of another state? One might assume that the bond between the two countries was based on shared strategic interests or compelling moral imperatives, but neither explanation can account for the remarkable level of material and diplomatic support that the US provides.

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Gulf Daily News
18 March 2006
ENIN: An eight-year-old Palestinian girl was shot dead by the Israeli military in the northern West Bank last night.

Iqbar Zayed was riding in a car driven by her uncle in Yamun, east of Jenin, when she was hit, Palestinian hospital sources said.

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By Amiram Barkat
The situation of world Jewry is much better than Israel and the major Jewish organizations would like us to think, says historian Dr. Antony Lerman, the new director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research in London.

In his opinion, all of the talk in recent years about a new form of anti-Semitism that is camouflaged as criticism of Israel is nothing but pure drivel. True, he says, there are more instances in Europe of attacks on Jews by Muslim immigrants, but the problem can be easily resolved: as soon as Israel agrees to a "just solution to the Palestinian problem."

True, he says, the murderers of the young Jew in France last month chose their victim because "all of the Jews are wealthy," but he still doubts that this is enough to make the murder an anti-Semitic incident.

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18 March 2006
The Palestinian president will accept Hamas' cabinet line-up, but will press the group to make changes to its government agenda, which calls for resistance by any means to end Israeli occupation, aides say.

Nabil Abu Rudaina, spokesman for the president, said on Saturday that Mahmoud Abbas would not reject the cabinet because he believed he should give Hamas a chance to set up its government.

"In my view, the president is not going to reject the Hamas government because he is not willing to block a government that will win a confidence vote in parliament," said Abu Rudaina.

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NATHAN GUTTMAN Jerusalem Post correspondent, THE JERUSALEM POSTMar. 19, 2006
A new study, claiming that the pro-Israel lobby in America caused the United States to skew its Middle East policy in favor of Israel, is stirring controversy in the pro and anti-Israel communities in the US.

The 81-page report, written by John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt for the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, argues that the pro-Israel lobby in the US managed to convince American lawmakers, officials and US public opinion to support Israel, even though this support runs counter to America's own national interests.

"The overall thrust of US policy in the region is due almost entirely to US domestic politics, and especially to the activities of the 'Israel Lobby,'" the paper writes, adding that while other lobbies have tried to affect US foreign policy, "no lobby has managed to divert US foreign policy as far from what the American national interest would otherwise suggest, while simultaneously convincing Americans that US and Israeli interests are essentially identical."

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17 March 2006
Fatah officials have asked the Palestinian president to resign, dissolve the Palestinian Authority and return responsibility for the occupied territories to Israel in protest against Tel Aviv's actions.

Fatah officials said on Friday the idea of scrapping the Palestinian Authority (PA) was debated for the first time on Thursday night by the Fatah central committee, which controls Mahmoud Abbas's faction.

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IMEMC & Agencies - Thursday, 16 March 2006, 18:53
All of the bakeries in the Gaza Strip are closed. Dependent on imports of flour, the 1.2 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, the most crowded place on earth in terms of population to land area, are now facing an unprecedented food crisis due to Israeli closures that have prevented the import of the grain.

Completely controlled by Israeli military forces, the borders of the Gaza Strip resemble prison walls and gates around this crowded and undernourished strip of land along the Mediterranean Sea. The coastlines themselves are also tightly controlled, so that in most parts of Gaza, children spend their entire lives growing up within view of the sea, but unable to access it.

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By Stephen Zunes | March 17, 2006Foreign Policy In Focus
The origins of the March 14 Israeli raid of a Palestinian prison in Jericho are rooted in another Israeli raid on a Palestinian city in 2001.

On August 27 of that year, Israeli occupation forces assaulted the offices of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) with a U.S.-supplied helicopter gunship and missiles. Their target was PFLP leader Abu Ali Mustafa, who was killed instantly. The PFLP vowed to retaliate.

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Chris McGreal in Jerusalem
Saturday March 18, 2006
The Guardian
The former US president Jimmy Carter has described Israel's "colonisation of Palestine" through expanding Jewish settlements as the single greatest obstacle to a resolution of the conflict.

Mr Carter, 81, who negotiated the 1978 Camp David peace accord between Israel and Egypt, wrote in the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz yesterday that Israel's actions doom any Palestinian state to a "dismal" future and will perpetuate violence across the Middle East. "The pre-eminent obstacle to peace is Israel's colonisation of Palestine," he wrote. "Israel's occupation of Palestine has obstructed a comprehensive peace agreement in the Holy Land, regardless of whether Palestinians had no formalised government, one headed by Yasser Arafat or Mahmoud Abbas, or with Abbas as president and Hamas controlling the parliament and cabinet.

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By Alison Weir
Palestine Chronicle
19 Mar 06
We discovered that an AP cameraman had filmed the entire incident. This cameraman had then followed what apparently is the usual routine.

"The trend toward secrecy is the greatest threat to democracy." - Associated Press CEO, in a speech about the importance of openness

"The official response is we decline to respond." - Associated Press Director of Media Relations, replying to questions about AP

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