Israel Crushes Local Dissent, Attacks Global Criticism

RAMALLAH - Israel is
lashing out at international criticism and attempting to crush local
dissent in what appears to be growing sensitivity to reproach of its

Several recent incidents have dominated media headlines,
including the arrest of a Jewish-American journalist on the grounds of
security, threats by an Israeli minister against international
diplomats and the arrest of Israeli and Palestinian peace activists.

The raid on a foreign activist's home in Ramallah, supposedly
under full Palestinian control, by a large Israel Defence Forces (IDF)
contingent allegedly for a visa infringement, and her subsequent arrest
at gunpoint and deportation has also raised eyebrows.

"We will not allow a situation where every country will kick
us. If there will be an attack on Israel, we will leave all options
open, including the expulsion of ambassadors," Israel's deputy foreign
minister Danny Ayalon said on Saturday.

"We do not want to argue with anyone, but we will not sit idly
by," he added. Ayalon's outburst followed, amongst other incidents, a
much publicised political confrontation with Turkey over a Turkish TV
programme critical of Israel.

This outburst led Israeli analyst and journalist Zvi Barel to
comment acerbically in the Israeli daily Haaretz, "Britain wants to
boycott Israeli goods? We'll summon the British ambassador and have him
sit on a bed of nails''.

"The United States handles the settlements unfairly? We'll point an
unloaded gun at the American ambassador's head and pull the trigger,
just to scare him. We're not murderers. We're just trying to frighten,
which, as is well known, creates respect. Just ask the Godfather," was
Barel's scathing comment.

Furthermore, Haaretz recently broke a story over the extent of
Israel's political blackmail of the Palestinian Authority (PA) over
last year's Goldstone report, which has received unanimous support
internationally, and highlighted how sensitive the Jewish state is to
negative publicity.

Justice Richard Goldstone was sent by the U.N. to the region
to investigate war crimes committed by both Palestinian resistance
groups and the IDF during Israel's military assault on Gaza last year.

His report overwhelmingly criticised Israel's deliberate targeting of
Palestinian civilians and its disproportionate use of force.

Goldstone's report was due to be transferred from the U.N.
General Assembly to the Security Council after receiving overwhelming
support from the U.N. Human Rights Council.

To everybody's surprise, not least the Palestinians, PA President
Mahmoud Abbas asked for a vote on the report's recommendations to be
postponed until March this year.

According to Haaretz, Abbas' request to the U.N. Human Rights
Council to delay the vote followed a meeting with Yuval Diskin, the
head of Israel's domestic intelligence agency, the Shin Bet.

Abbas was warned by Diskin that "if he did not ask for a
deferral of the vote on the critical report on last year's military
operation, Israel would turn the West Bank into a 'second Gaza'." A
senior IDF officer is alleged to have made similar threats to the PA at
around the same time.

Diskin, who reports directly to Israeli Prime Minister
Benyamin Netanyahu, also warned the Palestinians that the easing of
restrictions on movement within the West Bank would be revoked as well
as permission to operate a second mobile phone company Wataniya.

The PA would have lost tens of millions of dollars in compensation payments to the company.

Israeli sensitivity to its critics was highlighted again several weeks
ago in the early hours of the morning when the Ramallah apartment of
Czech national Eva Novakova, 28, was raided by Israeli soldiers after
they broke her door down.

Israeli armed personnel carriers surrounded the area while about 20
heavily armed soldiers took up positions on surrounding rooftops.

Novakova was forced at gunpoint to dress and was subsequently
arrested and deported to Prague on the grounds she had overstayed her
visa. She was denied access to a lawyer.

As Ramallah is supposedly under full Palestinian control, this
kind of military operation is usually reserved for arresting armed
Palestinian resistance fighters who are suspected of involvement in
attacks against Israelis.

Critics allege Novakova's political involvement in peaceful protests
against Israel's separation barrier, which expropriates Palestinian
farmland illegally for the benefit of Israeli settlers primarily, and
the international support received for the protests, is a more likely
explanation for the overkill.

In a further crackdown on an increasingly critical media, the
arrest and detention of Jared Malsin, a Jewish-American journalist and
English editor at the Palestinian news agency Maan, at Tel Aviv's Ben
Gurion airport last week has sparked outrage.

Malsin, who has been based in the West Bank for two years, was
accused of being a security threat for writing reports hostile to
Israel and reporting from within the Palestinian territories.

On Friday, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
called for Malsin's deportation order to be revoked while The Committee
to Protect Journalists called for his immediate release.

"We condemn this intolerable violation of press freedom," said
Aidan White, IFJ general secretary. "The ban of entry in this case
appears to be a reprisal measure for the journalist's independent
reporting and that is unacceptable."

Meanwhile, in another development Hagai Elad, the Israeli head
of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, was amongst a group of
13 activists arrested last week for a peaceful assembly in East
Jerusalem against Palestinian home demolitions and expulsions.

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