North Korea agrees to first talks with South in two years

Koreas thumbing noses at – grin.

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Officials from Kim Jong-un’s regime and Seoul government will meet in demilitarised zone next week

North Korea has agreed to South Korea’s offer to hold talks next week, in what will be the first high-level contact between the two countries for more than two years.

The talks – the first since December 2015 – will take place in a village that straddles the demilitarised zone (DMZ) between the two countries and come amid international concern over Pyongyang’s ballistic missile and nuclear programmes.

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Trump’s threats against the Palestinians should worry Israel

The Netanyahu government is celebrating Trump’s recent declaration and threats against the Palestinians as victories, but Jerusalem should wait before opening the champagne. 

Palestinian burning a picture of US President Donald Trump during a protest against US President Donald Trump's latest decision to recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in Rafah, in the Southern Gaza Strip on December 8, 2017. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Palestinian burning a picture of US President Donald Trump during a protest against US President Donald Trump’s latest decision to recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in Rafah, in the Southern Gaza Strip on December 8, 2017. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

The Trump Administration on Tuesday threatened to withhold millions of dollars in aid that it sends to the Palestinians each year, accusing them of not wanting to negotiate a peace deal with Israel.

Nikki Hailey, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, said the U.S. would stop funding the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) — the UN agency responsible for providing aid to Palestinian refugees — if the Palestinian leadership refuses to return to American-led peace talks. Washington is the agency’s biggest donor; it sends around $300 million a year to the agency, roughly a third of which is designated for aid to residents of refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza.

It possible that the U.S. president’s threat included Washington’s aid to the Palestinian Authority, which amounts to another $300 million dollars or so a year. The Trump administration has presented these threats as a response to the Palestinian leadership’s decision to reject continued American stewardship of the peace process. That decision was itself a response to Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and his commitment to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

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While Trump’s threats may be intended to punish the Palestinians for their lack of “appreciation or respect” for U.S. leadership in the region (as the president tweeted), his threats should also worry Israel.

Until the signing of the Oslo Accords, Israel was responsible for managing the day-to-day lives of Palestinians in the occupied territories. Infrastructure, welfare, education, health, and other services were all Israel’s responsibility as the occupying power. Oslo transferred much of that responsibility to the newly created Palestinian Authority, and the two sides passed on the bill to the international community—mainly the U.S., European Union, and Arab states. The idea was that foreign aid would act as a crutch to enable Palestinian development while the occupation came to an end and an independent Palestinian state rose in its place. In parallel, UNRWA would continue to provide aid to 810,000 people in the West Bank alone, operating 19 refugee camps, 96 schools, 43 medical centers, and more.

The peace process died and was buried, and yet the Oslo Accords—designed as an interim agreement meant to end in 1999—continue to serve as the loose framework for relations between Israel and the Palestinians. The U.S., the E.U., and the Arab states have continued to fund the PA and UNRWA, while allowing Israel to maintain the occupation under “luxury” conditions: full control of the territory, full control over the lives of the people, but without any responsibility for them and without being burdened with any serious cost. The justification for that arrangement’s continued existence was the illusion of a peace process. For the past 25 years, half the duration of the occupation, peace was supposed to come at any moment.

But now Trump has changed the equation: if the Palestinians refuse to accept Washington’s leadership of the peace process and its conditions, then there shall be no peace process, and therefore no funding to the PA and UNRWA. The problem is that if there is no peace process, and therefore no funding, then the PA and UNRWA will have to cut their services—close schools, and fire employees—and they alone will not pay the price. Angry protests in response would likely be aimed at Israel, or could undermine the PA’s strength and legitimacy.

Cuts to the PA budget and protests in the street would also likely affect the PA’s security forces, which essentially serve as Israel’s security contractor on the ground, and whom the Israeli defense establishment relies on to keep the peace and help prevent terrorist attacks. In short, one way or another, cutting off the PA’s main sources of funding will erode the framework that has until now sustained Israel’s occupation deluxe.

Trump threatens to shatter not only the underlying assumptions of the framework that subsidizes the Israel occupation (through Palestinian institutions and the UN), but also the illusion of a peace process and the two-state solution (which Netanyahu’s Likud party rejected, again, this week). The Netanyahu government may see these changes as a victory, but in the long-term it is difficult to know where the collapse of the status quo will lead. Israel’s leadership should wait before popping open the champagne.

ASIA/INDIA – Hindu radicals attack a Catholic college

Racists posing as Hindu are still racists! Except for them, your race is your religion of your poligion!

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Vidisha – Hundreds of police deployment was done at the St. Mary’s Post Graduate College in Vidisha, Sagar Diocese in Madhya Pradesh, central India as Hindu right-wing groups threaten to perform Hindu rituals in the premises.
“Calm has returned to the place now as only policemen on watch have remained in the area. We thank once again the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singhji and the Madhya Pradesh police force. And a big thank you for your prayers. The Fathers and Sisters and other personnel are in a state of shock. Do continue to pray for them,” said Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary general of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India , who is following the issue, told Fides news.
On January 4, more than 900 Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad , one of the Hindu right wing student groups threatened to gather and forcibly perform “Aarti of Bharat Mata” and other Hindu goddesses in the college.
“The Madhya Pradesh police assured church authorities full police protection. The priests who manage the College, however feel that the situation is potentially very dangerous as over 900 activists were expected to gather in violation of police orders. There was already an aggression earlier on 30 December despite the presence of 20 policemen. We need to pray more. We are in touch with the Federal Home Ministry,” said Mascarenhas.
“We thank our Home Minister Singh for directly intervening to ensure safety of our Institution and priests, nuns, college personnel and staff and students. A large crowd of activists were reported to have gathered outside the college wanting to enter the premises. But a huge battalion of police is confident of dealing with the situation,” Bishop Theodore added.
It can be recalled that during the last Christmas season, a group of Hindu radicals seminarians and priests of Satna were attacked, when they were in the villages for Christmas carols.

Report: 909 violations against Palestinian journalists in 2017

PNN/ Ramallah/

The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate announced the summary of its annual report for freedoms 2017 in special press conference on Wednesday.

The report recorded 909 violations between 1-1-2017 and 31-12-2017, including 740 by Israeli and 169 local violation by Palestinian authorities in West Bank and Gaza.

PJS president, Nasser Abu Baker focused in his opening speech on the dramatic increase in the number and nature of these violations, he also mentioned that the FAJ will gather today in Cairo to discuss the Palestinian situation.

“With this sharp escalation in the Israeli violations against our journalists, it is shameful to see increase in violations by local authorities” Abu baker said.

The PJS president condemned Facebook step in closing 158 Palestinian accounts based on Israeli request.

To his part, president of the independent commission of human rights “ICHR” Ammar Dowik praised the role of journalists, mainly in field, as they face high risk of Israeli violations. He mentioned also the partnership between ICHR and PJS in following up the violations and dealing with its.

Deputy minister of the ministry of media Mahmoud Khalifah said that the Israeli violations against the Palestinian journalists targets their narrative and aims to prevent the truth.

The Head of freedoms committee in PJS Mohammed Allaham introduced the main indicators and numbers in the report. The report said the second half of last year witnessed higher percentage of violations, the highest months were December followed by July.

Allaham said that the nature of violations in 2017 was different. “October witnessed Israeli closure for 8 offices of 3 media production companies by military orders, with raiding and closing 2 radio stations, two journalists were sentenced by 2 years because of their professional activities as journalists, financial panelty targeted 25 journalist and 28 journalists still in Israeli jails”.

The main numbers and indicators in the report are:

– The total violations in 2017 were 909, with 37% increase from 2016 numbers.

– Israeli violations are 740 “81% of the total” and the Palestinian violations are 169 “19% of the total”.

– Israeli violations in 2017 are more than 2016 by 183 violation “33% increase”.

– Palestinian violations in 2017 are more than 2016 by 64 violation “61%” increase.

– The highest violations recorded in Jerusalem by 137 violations “18% of the total”, followed by Hebron and Ramallah.

– Last December witnessed 147 violations, all by occupation forces, “20% of the total”, with increase by 406% from December 2016.

– December Also witnessed organized incitement campaign by Israeli media and social media against Palestinian journalists.

– The journalists have faces new violations by Palestinian authorities in nature, mainly the electronic crimes law, blocking and prohibiting 29 websites since last June, arresting the journalists Foad Jaradah in Gaza for 2 months, and arresting 7 journalists in WB with sentencing some of them.