June 2009

Israel’s watchdog body on medical ethics has failed to investigate evidence that doctors working in detention facilities are turning a blind eye to cases of torture, Israeli human rights groups claim. The Israeli Medical Association (IMA) has ignored repeated requests to examine such evidence, the rights groups said. The accusations will add fuel to a campaign backed by hundreds of doctors to force Yoram Blachar, who heads the IMA, to step down from his recent appointment as president of the World Medical Association.

Israel’s second largest bank will be forced to defend itself in court in the coming weeks over claims it is withholding tens of millions of dollars in “lost” accounts belonging to Jews who died in the Nazi death camps. Bank Leumi has denied it holds any such funds, despite a parliamentary committee revealing in 2004 that the bank owes at least $75 million to the families of several thousand Holocaust victims.

Canada’s chief diplomat in Israel has been honoured at an Israeli public park – built on occupied Palestinian land in violation of international law – as one of the donors who helped establish the park on the ruins of three Palestinian villages. Jon Allen, Canada’s ambassador to Israel, is among several hundred Canadian Jews who have been commemorated at a dedication site. A plaque bearing Mr Allen’s name is attached to a stone wall constructed from the rubble of Palestinian homes razed by the Israeli army.

The rights of Palestinian children are routinely violated by Israel’s security forces, according to a new report that says beatings and torture are common. In addition, hundreds of Palestinian minors are prosecuted by Israel each year without a proper trial and are denied family visits. The findings by Defence for Children International (DCI) come in the wake of revelations from Israeli soldiers and senior commanders that it is “normal procedure” in the West Bank to terrorise Palestinian civilians, including children.

The decision to prosecute 12 Israeli Arabs over what the local media have described as the “lynching” of an Israeli soldier on a bus shortly after he shot dead the driver and three passengers has been greeted with outrage from the country’s Arab minority. The inhabitants of Shefa’amr, one of the largest Arab towns in the Galilee region and the location of the attack, are expected to stage a one-day strike today in protest against the indictments. Seven of the 12 face charges of attempted murder.

A community in northern Israel has changed its bylaws to demand that new residents pledge support for “Zionism, Jewish heritage and settlement of the land” in a thinly veiled attempt to block Arab applicants from gaining admission. Critics are calling the bylaw, adopted by Manof, home to 170 Jewish families in Galilee, a local “loyalty oath” similar to a national scheme recently proposed by the far-Right party of the government minister Avigdor Lieberman.

Talks between Barack Obama and the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships over the past fortnight have unleashed a flood of media interest in the settlements Israel has been constructing on Palestinian territory for more than four decades. The US president’s message is unambiguous: the continuing growth of the settlements makes impossible the establishment of a Palestinian state, and therefore peace between Israelis and Palestinians. It is one he is expected to repeat when he addresses the Muslim world from Cairo tomorrow.