August 2004

A Gandhi in Jerusalem. The arrival in the Middle East of Arun Gandhi, preaching his grandfather Mahatma Gandhi’s message of love, brotherhood and nonviolence to conflict-weary Israelis and Palestinians, has raised tentative hopes that the bloody conflict may be entering a more reflective phase. But few Palestinians are likely to embrace peaceful protest as a way of attaining statehood – not because Palestinians are hellbent on mindless retribution against Israelis, but because nonviolence is unlikely to be effective as a strategy.

Severe cracks surfaced inside the Israeli government this week as its senior law officers publicly fell out with the defence establishment and the Foreign Ministry over the country’s future strategy in the face of the July verdict of the International Court of Justice that the separation wall being built in the West Bank is illegal. According to a report issued last week by a Justice Ministry team appointed by the attorney general, Menachem Mazuz, Israel is facing international sanctions and its leaders potential prosecution for war crimes unless it begins presenting a fairer face to the world.

Al-Ahram Weekly 26 August 2004   Four years ago Raed Abu Elkian, 27, finished serving in the Israeli army as a Bedouin tracker. Today the entrance to his village in Israel’s southern semi-desert region, the Negev, is marked by a giant concrete block stamped in black ink with the words “Danger. Entry Forbidden: Firing Range”. […]

A little-known team is making football history as the qualifying rounds of the UEFA Cup begin this month. It is the first Arab team to compete in a European championship and the first Arab squad to represent Israel in an international tournament. The team, called Bnei Sakhnin, are carrying aloft the hopes of the Jewish state. But as Sakhnin romped home to a 3-0 victory in their first match, against the Albanian side Partizani Tirana, in a sultry Tel Aviv stadium last week, few Israelis were cheering them on. A mere 2,000 fans turned out at the national stadium in Ramat Gan.

Email from Sakhnin

16 August 2004

The match itself will be little honoured outside the sporting annals, but last Thursday night an obscure team called Bnei Sakhnin made football history in a Tel Aviv stadium by appearing in an international qualifier against the Albanian side Partizani Tirana in the Uefa Cup. They were the first Arab team ever to compete in the European competition. But more intriguingly, as Sakhnin romped home to a 3-0 victory, they carried with them the hopes of Israel’s legions of football fans. It is the first time the Jewish state has been represented in an international football competition by an Arab club.

Israel’s Abu Ghraib

12 August 2004

In a last-minute attempt to head off a mass hunger strike among Palestinian political prisoners, Israel partially reversed this week its policy of blocking most family visits to inmates. Prison authorities declared that an extra 600 prisoners would be allowed to see close relatives. Yaakov Ganot, head of the Israel Prison Service (IPS), instructed the 20 Israeli jails holding Palestinian security prisoners to compile lists of those who had been denied visits for more than a year. Ganot took his decision after Palestinian prisoners submitted 57 demands for improvements in detention conditions, with the restoration of visiting rights top of the list. A hunger strike is due to begin next week.