This month, Israel continues the extension of its barrier fence on the border with Egypt while EU officials report a sharp increase in settler violence against Palestinians. According to the findings of a recent UN report, this increase is congruent to an escalation in Israeli government repression, including the uses of live ammunition, against Palestinian civilians. Moreover, a new spate of Israeli aggression against the beleaguered Gaza Strip saw scores of Palestinians killed in what has been characterised as an attempt to derail Palestinian national reconciliation. The peace treaty between Hamas and Israel was also broken this month following Israel's assassination of Zuhair al-Qaisi, the head of the Gaza Popular Resistance Committee. On the US front, the power of money and the ability of the Israel Lobby to influence US politics took prominence as the race for the Republican Party nomination for presidential candidate continues.
The newest frontier fence that nearly completes the physical isolation of Israel from its neighbors is being extended. The Israeli government claims the barriers is necessary as a deterrent against terrorism, illegal infiltration, drug smuggling and regional unrest as well as to disengage Israel from the Middle East.
The Israeli Supreme Court has rejected a petition from the Israeli government seeking a postponement to the dismantling of the large illegal West Bank settler enclave of Migron. The High Court issued an earlier order for the settlement, built on private land, to be dismantled by 31 March.
The UK's Advertising Standard Agency (ASA) has blocked an advert promoting a book on Northern Israel after it received 'no less than 350 complaints'. The ad features a map of Israel which does not define the internationally recognised occupied territories of the Golan Heights, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The complaints followed the launch of a successful campaign to highlight the misleading advert by several pro-Palestinian organisations, including Friends of Al-Aqsa [FOA]. Chair of FOA, Ismail Patel stated: "This shows what collective efforts can achieve in bringing a halt to Israeli propaganda – together, we thwarted Israeli attempts to wipe the West Bank and Golan Heights off the map."
A report from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has criticised the Israeli army's use of live ammunition against unarmed Palestinian civilians expressing deep concerns regarding Israel's continued neglect in bringing its security forces to account for perpetrating crimes against Palestinians.
The Egyptian brokered peace treaty between Hamas and Israel was broken this month following Israel's assassination of Zuhair al-Qaisi, the head of the Gaza Popular Resistance Committee.
The Palestinian political prisoner, Hana Shalabi, ended her 43-day hunger strike late in the month after reaching a deal with Israeli authorities which will see her deported to the Gaza Strip for three years. However, fellow Palestinians have warned her that her stay in Gaza may become rather more permanent than anticipated. Palestinian officials in Gaza and the West Bank have voiced strong objections to her deportation.
As the race for the Republican Party nomination to be presidential candidate featured heavily in the media, the power of "the Israel lobby" to influence such decisions was highlighted by Thomas L Friedman in the New York Times. As he put it, "money in politics has never been more important for running campaigns and the Israel lobby - both its Jewish and evangelical Christian wings - has never been more influential, because of its ability to direct campaign contributions to supportive candidates." Friedman asked whether Barack Obama "is the most pro-Israel president in history or just one of the most" in an article in which he pointed out that, "in his address to AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby, [Obama] offered the greatest support for Israel that any president could at this time". This was ostensibly about the debate over Iran's alleged nuclear weapons programme, but it provided yet another opportunity for the machinations of the Israel lobby to be laid bare for all to see.
MEMO hosted three female politicians from the Tunisian an-Nahda party this month for a series of public and private events to discuss achievements and challenges facing Tunisian post-Ben Ali and the revolution.. The three guests included the highest ranking female politician in the Arab world, Ms Mehrezia Labidi. A full review of the public event, held at SOAS, can be found here.