Jonathan Cook: the View from Nazareth - www.jonathan-cook.net

Following Jesus’ path for last time

While the clashes over land confiscation from Palestinians in the West Bank have been capturing the headlines, another shocking development in the evolution of Israel's wall, in Jerusalem, has gone entirely unnoticed. IIn recent weeks, Israeli bulldozers have finished their work at the Palestinian village of Abu Dis, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, and moved to the very heart of the Holy City: the Mount of Olives. There demolition crews have begun scarring the eastern slopes of the mountain and uprooting hundreds of ancient olive trees. Paradoxically, the place where Israel's activity is concentrated is at a hamlet known as Bait Fagi, which at this time of year is the focus of global Christian attention.

No concession: Will Sharon’s disengagement end Gaza’s occupation?

There is an understandable, though unhealthy, trend among prominent critics of Israel to suggest that any scheme proposed by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that appears to benefit the Palestinians must be an illusion, as Mustafa Barghouti has suggested. But Sharon's "disengagement" plan – the evacuation of settlers and soldiers from the Gaza Strip – would not end the occupation. It would simply reinvent it.

Sharon’s shameful death

If Israel delivered a message with the three missiles that slammed into a Gaza street on Monday morning killing Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, Hamas's spiritual leader, and eight others, few in Israel could agree either on the meaning of that message or to whom it was addressed. Was it directly linked to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's unilateral "disengagement" plan -- the promised evacuation of most Israeli settlers and soldiers from the Gaza Strip -- or was it planned months in advance, as Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom insisted? Did it bring the withdrawal nearer or make it less likely? Would Yassin's death fatally harm Hamas's organisational structure, or send the group's popularity soaring?

Gone bad

Ariel Sharon, buffeted by recent revelations linking him to various corruption scandals, was beset by fresh woes this week as the Israeli media scented yet another dubious deal linked to the prime minister and opinion polls showed his popularity with voters plummeting. The latest allegation came last week from the Ma'ariv newspaper, which reported that Sharon had once had business dealings with a relative of Elhanan Tannenbaum, an Israeli businessman apparently lured into a trap set by the Lebanese Shia group Hizbullah in October 2000. They captured him after he went to Dubai to work out a plan to smuggle drugs into Israel.

Beyond the fences

Israeli officials were badly shaken by the success of two 18-year-old men from Jabaliya refugee camp who exited the Gaza Strip undetected and then penetrated the security of nearby Ashdod's port. The pair detonated their explosives at separate locations, killing 10 Israeli port workers. One of the men nearly reached his supposed target, a fuel depot, where an explosion could have resulted in far higher casualties. The operation was jointly claimed by Hamas and Fatah's military wing, Al- Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade. It was the first time since an electrified fence surrounding Gaza was completed several years ago that a suicide attack has been directly launched from Gaza.

Arab workers face discrimination in Israel

In a shocking re-enactment of Nazi Germany practices, Palestinian construction workers were forced to wear distinguishing marks on their hard hats to differentiate them from other nationalities. As a constitutional committee of the Israeli parliament, or Knesset, met in Jerusalem this month to discuss how best to express the values of Israel as "both a Jewish and democratic country", construction workers outside were building a new wing of the Knesset building. All the Arab labourers wore white hard hats, but on some of the helmets, a large cross had been sprayed in red paint. It was later revealed that security officials had demanded the workers be marked to distinguish them from builders imported from countries like China and Thailand.

Airport security as political bullying

A recent trip by Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, 79, to see for herself what is happening to Palestinians under Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza ended with shocking humiliation. Epstein says she was questioned for five hours by a security team at Israel's Ben Gurion airport when she arrived for her flight home to Saint Louis, Missouri, in the United States. After it was discovered that she had visited the Palestinian cities of Bethlehem and Qalqilya and participated in protests against the separation wall Israel is building, she was taken off to a side room. There she was told to undress. A woman security officer carried out a "strip search of every part of my naked body," she recalls. "The only shame these security officials expressed was to turn their badges around so that their names were invisible.

McBusted: McDonald’s manager admits speaking Arabic led to firing

Abeer Zinaty, the 20-year-old McDonald's employee in Israel who says she was fired by the world's biggest fastfood chain for breaking a ban on speaking Arabic in the workplace, has spoken to the Electronic Intifada of the circumstances surrounding her dismissal. Her account, and document we have seen, flatly contradict claims by McDonald's head office in the US that her dismissal had nothing to do with her speaking Arabic.

Justice still evades Israeli court

Israel's army is continuing to use Palestinians as human shields, despite repeated attempts through the courts to ban the practice. But Israel's justice system is now coming under unprecedented international scrutiny, a fact that might afford Palestinians some hard-won legal victories. The Supreme Court in Jerusalem has been presented with a series of legal petitions from Palestinian farmers and residents regarding the separation barrier in the past month. They are claiming financial losses or separation from family members and emergency services caused by the route of the wall, which in many places cuts deep inside the Green Line, the border until 1967 between Israel and the West Bank.

No Arabic at McDonald’s Israel

A photograph of Abeer Zinaty shows the 20- year-old student from the mixed Arab and Jewish city of Ramle in central Israel wearing a T-shirt branded with the logo "Excellent Worker 2003 – McDonald's Israel". Less than a year later she is unemployed, fired by the world's most famous fast food company. Her crime, according to the branch manager, is that she was caught speaking Arabic to another Arab employee.

The whistleblower returns

With less than two months left before Mordechai Vanunu completes his prison term for revealing 18 years ago the existence of a large Israeli arsenal of nuclear weapons, the government launched the first stage of a damage limitation exercise. The authorities have been preparing public opinion for continuing, in more limited form, the whistleblower's isolation even after he is freed from Shikma jail in Ashkelon on 21 April. Most of his term has been spent in severe solitary confinement. Last week, after a meeting of the inner cabinet, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced that after his release Vanunu would be subject to "appropriate supervisory measures" to keep watch over him, though further details were not provided.

Israel jails foreign workers

At 10 one morning in December last year, the police burst into the bedroom of Melinda Romechio, a 39-year-old Filipino maid employed by a close relative of an Israeli cabinet minister. She was arrested under caution that she would be jailed before her deportation as an illegal foreign worker. Romechio, who had been working legally for the family for seven years, knew her 12-month permit had expired that same morning. What she did not know was that the family employing her, rather than renewing the permit as they had promised, had tipped off the police. Romechio was owed more than $4000 in back pay and overtime that the family wanted to avoid paying.

Future backward

It was a momentous week for the Jewish state. The Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics published the latest census figures for the year 2013 showing that the Arab population in Greater Israel was the smallest ever at just 687,000 compared to a Jewish population of a fraction over eight million. Who could have imagined 10 years ago -- when then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was grappling with an evacuation of settlers in Gaza -- that only a decade later the demographic time bomb would have been so completely defused? At the time, let's recall, the media was full of dire predictions that soon the Palestinians -- in what were often distinguished separately as the West Bank, Gaza and Israel proper -- would outnumber Jews in the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River.

Israelis kill crops to oust Bedouin

Four crop-spraying planes circling overhead have brought silent death to the fields of wheat and barley that Shaikh Salih Abu Darim and his beduin tribe will need to feed themselves and their goats and sheep for the year. The Araqib tribe have farmed the land close to the city of Beer Sheva in southern Israel for generations. But in the past year the Israeli government has declared war on them and some 70,000 other beduin living in 45 communities it refuses to recognise in the Negev (al-Naqab). On 15 January the authorities stepped up the pressure on the Araqib to leave by spraying powerful herbicides on their crops, making the young shoots shrivel and die in the following weeks.

Another dead end

Palestinians are discovering that Ariel Sharon's announcement of "unilateral disengagement" from Gaza is a cleverly constructed trap, writes Jonathan Cook Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's announcement that most of the 7,500 Jewish settlers living in the Gaza Strip would be soon evacuated came as Palestinians were celebrating Eid Al-Adha. That coincident, and the understandable caution which nowadays greets every "painful concession" Sharon makes for his neighbours' benefit, may explain why it took so long for the Palestinian leadership to digest the news.

Camp 1391: ‘I would pray that I’d die’

Mustafa Dirani, once a leader of the Lebanese militia group Amal, had been held in Israeli prisons since he was abducted from his home in the Bekaa Valley by commandoes 10 years ago. In the early months of his detention, interrogators tortured him for news of an Israeli airman, Ron Arad, who was captured in 1986 after his plane was downed over Lebanon.

Skirting the issue

Israel's furious diplomatic activity to sabotage a decision taken by the United Nations General Assembly last December to seek the opinion of its highest judicial body, the International Court of Justice, on the legality of Israel building its separation wall across large swaths of occupied Palestinian territory began to pay dividends at the weekend. By the Friday deadline for submitting affidavits, 31 states had joined Israel in rejecting the court's authority to rule in the matter: 15 member states of the European Union, 10 further members-in-waiting, as well as the United States, Canada, Australia, Russia, South Africa and Cameroon. Britain, Germany and France presented their own, separately written affidavits.

Jesus’s Bathhouse

Przekroj magazine (Warsaw) - February 2004 In the centre of Nazareth, a stone’s throw from Mary’s Well, the place where the mother of Jesus is believed to have drawn the family’s water each day, is to be found a small souvenir shop called Cactus. Its owners, a local Christian Arab, Elias Shama, and his Belgian wife Read More

Skeletons in the closet

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon should have been celebrating this week the first anniversary of his re-election last January. Instead his mind was concentrated on the more pressing matter of his political survival, as the legal noose drew ever tighter around his neck over a series of corruption scandals. At the forefront is the case of a millionaire Israeli businessman, David Appel, who was charged last week with paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to Sharon's family in the form of a bribe. According to the charges, he hoped to use Sharon's influence to secure a huge real estate deal, in what has become known as the "Greek island affair".

The Passion of Christ won’t be showing at the Repression Cinema

Guardian Weekly - 19 December 2003 Weekends in Nazareth, the capital of Israel’s one million Palestinian citizens, are often a dismal prospect. For more than a decade a night out has entailed either leaving town or visiting a pub known locally as the Frank Sinatra, housed in a drab building paid for by the singer Read More