Israel fast-tracks new US embassy in Jerusalem


US consulate in Jerusalem, Feb 24, 2018. (photo: Ammar Awad / Reuters)

The Finance Ministry will allow the Jerusalem municipality to waive the required permits.

By Staff | Reuters | Mar 27, 2018

“We will not allow needless bureaucracy to hold up the transfer of the American embassy to Jerusalem, Israel’s eternal capital.”
— Israeli Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon

Israel has expedited construction permits to enable temporary quarters for the US Embassy to open in Jerusalem as planned in May, the Finance Ministry said on Tuesday.

US President Donald Trump in December broke with other world powers by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and announcing the US Embassy would be moved there from Tel Aviv.

Trump’s reversal of decades of US and broad international policy was welcomed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a “historic decision.” But it drew criticism from around the world and outraged Palestinians, who want a capital for their own future state in eastern parts of the city.

Israel has said the Embassy will be opened on May 14, the 70th anniversary of its founding. A US official said it would be located at a provisional site in Jerusalem that now houses a US consular section.

Building a permanent embassy could take several years.

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At 31, my first glimpse of life outside Gaza


Abier Almasri (photo: Human Rights Watch / Reuters)

I try not to think about how, later this month, I will enter the Erez checkpoint from the Israeli side and cross back into Gaza, unsure when, if ever, I will be allowed to leave again.

By Abier Almasri | Reuters | Mar 16, 2018

Friends and family back home keep asking, “How’s life outside Gaza?” I can’t answer. How to tell people who live on four to six hours of electricity daily that high-rise buildings in New York leave their lights on 24 hours a day, simply because it looks nice? How it feels to live without generator noises, the deafening roar of Israeli military drones at night, or the constant fear of imminent conflict? Or that you can hop on a bus, train or plane on a whim, without needing a permit, and travel across the world?

I was born and grew up in Gaza. My father was a soccer coach for many years and his stories about his travels to other countries always made me want to travel too. But Israel imposed a land, air and sea blockade on Gaza in 2007 and has kept Gaza mostly closed ever since. So I never made it out until now, at age 31, I was allowed to leave — for just a little while.

I work for a global human rights organization and spent months seeking the exit permit from the Israeli government that would allow me to leave, to participate in security and research training sessions, to attend key organizational meetings, and to meet colleagues based just a short drive away in Jerusalem or Ramallah — to say nothing of those overseas. But I faced obstacles every step of the way to obtaining the documents and permissions I needed simply to get out of Gaza itself — until I got a phone call on January 28.

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Palestinians hold day of mourning after 773 shot with live ammunition


A wounded Palestinian is evacuated during the clashes between demonstrators and Israeli troops. (photo: Barcroft Images / Xinhua)

At least 15 killed when Israeli soldiers open fire during mass demonstrations in Gaza.

By Hazem Balousha and Oliver Holmes | The Guardian | Mar 31, 2018

“There is fear that the situation might deteriorate in the coming days.”
— Tayé-Brook Zerihoun, assistant UN secretary general for political affairs

Gaza hospitals, running low on blood and overstretched by the huge number of wounded, were reeling after one of the enclave’s bloodiest days outside of open war, in which Israeli soldiers shot 773 people with live ammunition, according to the ministry of health.

Fifteen of the wounded died, said the ministry spokesperson Dr Ashraf al-Qidra. “Most of the dead were aged between 17 and 35 years old,” he said. “The injuries were on the upper part of the body.” He added that the remainder of the wounded, some of whom were in a critical condition, had been “shot with live ammunition.”

The violence erupted on Friday after mass demonstrations took place demanding the right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants to land in Israel.

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More Arabs than Jews live in Israel and Palestine, according to Israeli Army


Palestinian women at the Qalandiyah checkpoint, 2016. (photo: AP)

The Israeli Army presented data to the Knesset showing 6.8 million Palestinians now living in Israel-Palestine, but only 6.5 million Jews.

By Yotam Berger | Haaretz | Mar 26, 2018

“Between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean there is an equal number of Palestinians and Jews, and that’s nothing new. That’s why the crossroads where we presently find ourselves is clear: either two states based on 1967, or one state that is an apartheid state, or one democratic state in which everyone has the right to vote. There is no other option, and at least this simple truth has to be stated clearly.”
— Knesset Member Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint List

The Israeli army presented data on Monday to a Knesset panel which show that more Arabs than Jews live between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River.

According to Civil Administration’s deputy commander Col. Haim Mendes, five million Palestinians live in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. This figure does not include the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, or the 1.8 million Israeli Arabs. According to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, as of September 2017 some 6.5 million Jews live in Israel. . . .

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Film: In the Image (Fri, Apr 13)


Pushing for Change: Mideast Focus Ministry Film Series V

This film explores the daily lives of Palestinian women living in the West Bank. It portrays their stories in a novel and eye-opening manner through footage captured by the women themselves. Their courage is inspiring as they persist in working for change — and to pave the way for future peace in the region.

Date: Friday, Apr 13, 2018
Time: 7:00 – 9:00 pm
Location: Bloedel Hall
St. Mark’s Cathedral
1245 10th Ave E
Seattle, WA  98102
Information: Event website
Admission: Free

Event Details

Our concern is to help balance the limited and confusing media coverage of the Holy Land. We use compelling films as an entry point for reflection and discussion. As Christians, we respond to Christ’s call to seek justice and love the oppressed. As Americans, we ask: Can we reconcile this calling with our government’s massive financial support of Israeli military operations? We hope the time will come when Jews, Muslims and Christians will again come together in harmony in the Holy Land.

In this series, we see how people pushed to bring about a safe country for the Jewish people, and how today others are still push- ing for safety and change. Do our efforts for change lead to peace and justice . . . or not?

More information here →

Palestinians set to reject US peace plan


A girl holds a Palestinian flag in front of Israeli troops during clashes in Ramallah, Mar 7, 2018. (photo: Mohamad Torokman / Reuters)

The peace plan contemplated by the Trump Administration will offer Palestinians limited sovereignty over limited territory.

By Uri Saver | Al-Monitor | Mar 25, 2018

The plan is much closer to the Israeli position than the Palestinian:

  • Two states
  • Palestine would comprise about half the West Bank
  • Gaza would be included if Hamas disarms
  • Israel would control West Bank security and border crossings
  • East Jerusalem would be part of Palestine, but not the Old City
  • No right of return

Despite growing tensions with the Palestinians, US President Donald Trump still intends to reveal a US peace plan for the Middle East. The plan will apparently be divulged right after the US Embassy moves to Jerusalem and after Trump’s meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

According to a senior US diplomat in Tel Aviv, the fact that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas refuses any contact on the matter with US officials and that he had bad mouthed David Friedman, the US ambassador to Israel, has not altered Trump’s determination. Actually, messages on the evolving plans are conveyed nowadays to Ramallah by Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. More so, the March 20 meeting in Washington between Trump and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was largely dedicated to two major topics: the common front against Iran in the region (including the Iran nuclear deal issue) and Israeli-Palestinian peace.

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Quick facts about the Nakba


Haganah fighters expelling Palestinians from Haifa, May 12, 1948. (photo: AFP / Getty Images)

Today Palestinians in Gaza will take part in the March of Return to mark the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, when some 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from the newly-created State of Israel.

By Institute for Middle East Understanding | May 13, 2015

  • The “Nakba” (“catastrophe” in Arabic) refers to the mass expulsion of Palestinian Arabs from British Mandate Palestine during Israel’s creation (1947–49).
  • The Nakba was not an unintended result of war. It was a deliberate and systematic act necessary for the creation of a Jewish majority state in historic Palestine, which was overwhelmingly Arab prior to 1948.
  • The Nakba’s roots lay in the emergence of political Zionism in 19th-Century Europe, when some Jews, influenced by the nationalism then sweeping the continent, began emigrating as colonists to the Holy Land, displacing indigenous Palestinians in the process.
  • The Nakba did not end in 1948. It continues today, in the form of Israel’s ongoing appropriation of Palestinian land for Jewish settlements in the West Bank and for Jewish communities inside Israel.

Tomorrow, Palestinians in Gaza will take part in the March of Return to mark the 70th anniversary of the Nakba (“catastrophe” in Arabic), when some 750,000 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed to make way for a Jewish-majority state of Israel. Many of the participants will be Nakba survivors and their descendants, who have been denied their internationally-recognized legal right of return to the lands they were expelled from during Israel’s establishment.

Here are some quick facts about the Nakba.

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