Monday, January 24, 2011
Saturday, January 22, 2011
By DALIA NAMMARI
RAMALLAH, West Bank -- A Palestinian reporter tagged in a Facebook image that mocked the Palestinian president said Saturday he faces trial for insulting a public figure despite already being detained for more than 50 days.
Mamdouh Hamamreh said security forces detained him in September, just hours after the image appeared on his Facebook feed. The picture showed President Mahmoud Abbas standing next to an actor who plays a villain on a popular Syrian soap opera, the reporter said.
Abbas' security forces have previously mined social networks to catch dissenters. In November, an atheist blogger was arrested after posting incendiary comments about Islam on Facebook.
Hamamreh works for Al-Quds TV, which is sympathetic to the militant Islamic group Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip after seizing it from Abbas' forces in 2007. Since then, Abbas' self-rule government forces have frequently cracked down on suspected Hamas loyalists, including reporters, in the West Bank.
Gaza's Hamas rulers have also gone after Abbas loyalists, opponents and reporters. Riham Abu Aita, a media rights activist, said about 30 reporters were detained in the West Bank and Gaza in 2009, but did not have figures yet for 2010.
Ghassan Khatib, spokesman for the Abbas government, said there is considerable free speech in the West Bank but that special circumstances needed to be taken into account - an apparent reference to the bitter rivalry between Abbas and Hamas.
Hamamreh said he was held for over 50 days in a Palestinian lockup after the picture appeared on his feed. He said he had nothing to do with the image. He was released in November and a hearing has been set for next month.
"I censor myself now," Hamamreh said. "I'm careful of what I say."
In another development, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she "deplores" the continued imprisonment of prominent Palestinian activist Abdullah Abu Rahmeh by Israel. Since 2005, Abu Rahmeh has been a key figure in weekly protests against Israel's separation barrier which cuts into West Bank land.
He was to have been released Nov. 18, after serving his yearlong sentence. However, earlier this month, an Israeli military court extended his sentence by four months following a request by a military prosecutor.
Israel has portrayed the weekly protests as violent riots. Routinely, Palestinian demonstrators throw stones at Israeli forces who fire tear gas, stun grenades, rubber bullets and at times live rounds.
Ashton has spoken out on Abu Rahmeh's behalf in the past.
In Friday's statement, she said the Palestinians have the right to engage in peaceful demonstrations.
Abu Rahmeh is a "peaceful Palestinian activist committed to nonviolent protest against the route of the Israeli separation barrier through his West Bank village of Bilin," she said.
Associated Press reporter Diaa Hadid contributed to this report from Jerusalem
Monday, January 17, 2011
unidentified army officer during the weekly cabinet meeting in his
Jerusalem office, Sunday, Jan. 16, 2011. Israeli authorities said
Sunday they are moving ahead with a new proposal to build 1,400
apartments in a contested part of Jerusalem, enraging Palestinians who
denounced the plan as another settler land grab. Photo: Sebastian
Scheiner / AP
HOUSTON CHRONICLE _Israeli PM: Tunisia reflects regional instability
By DIAA HADID Associated Press © 2011 The Associated Press
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's prime minister said Sunday that the unrest
in Tunisia over the weekend shows why Israel must be cautious as it
pursues peace with the Palestinians.
Benjamin Netanyahu told his Cabinet that the violence surrounding the
ouster of Tunisia's longtime president illustrated the widespread
instability plaguing the Middle East. He also said it underscored the
need for strong security arrangements in any future peace deal with
"We need to lay the foundations of security in any agreement that we
make," he said. "We cannot simply say 'We are signing a peace
agreement,' close our eyes and say 'We did it' because we do not know
with any clarity that the peace will indeed be honored," he said.
Palestinians accused the Israeli leader of searching for excuses.
"If there was a tsunami in Asia, a flood in Latin America or a lunar
eclipse, Netanyahu would use it as a pretext not to negotiate," said
chief negotiator Saeb Erekat.
Netanyahu, who leads the hawkish Likud Party, has long made security a
top demand for any future peace deal with the Palestinians.
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has spent several years
reforming his security forces, which now include hundreds of officers
who have received U.S. training.
Both U.S. and Israeli officials have praised the progress of the
Palestinian forces in cracking down on militants and maintaining law
and order in the West Bank.
Israeli officials say the forces are limited in their capabilities.
They also note that the Gaza Strip, the other territory claimed for a
future Palestinian state, is ruled by the Hamas militant group.
The Palestinians have refused to negotiate with Israel until Netanyahu
renews a freeze on Jewish settlement construction in captured areas
claimed by the Palestinians.
Israeli officials said they were concerned — but not overly worried —
over the safety of Tunisia's tiny Jewish community, which is
concentrated on the southern island of Djerba and in the capital,
Tunisia has experienced looting, arson and random violence since
autocratic President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was driven from power
Tunisia's 2,000 Jews generally have good relations with the Muslim
majority, but in 2002 an al-Qaida suicide bombing targeting a
synagogue on Djerba killed 19 people, including 14 German tourists.
"I don't think they will face problems but we have to take everything
into account and get prepared if something will happen, but I don't
think it will," said Israel's deputy prime minister, Silvan Shalom,
who was born in Tunisia and moved to Israel with his family as an
His views were echoed by Israel's Foreign Ministry and tour operators
who send Israelis to Tunisia.
Israelis frequently visit Tunis for tourism and to discover their
roots. There are some 100,000 Israeli Jews of Tunisian descent,
according to Michael Laskier, a North Africa expert at Israel's
Tunisian Jews speaking anonymously to Israel Radio said they feared
for their safety, but no violence has been reported against them.
"We saw the situation deteriorate in seconds," said one man who
identified himself as a local community leader. "The gangs are taking
advantage of the fact that there is no government. Nobody is in charge