From the BBC:

The Israeli army has demolished a number of buildings in West Bank, including one that Palestinians said was a long-established mosque.

Israeli officials said the structures were temporary and built without permits in a military fire zone.

Palestinian villagers said the mosque was built before 1967 when Israel occupied the West Bank.

The UN has criticised Israel for demolishing Palestinian property and prohibiting construction in the zone.

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By Barbara Crossette, for the Nation:

As Indians prepare to celebrate the country’s sixty-third Independence Day on August 15, an eruption of deadly violence in the picturesque countryside and towns of Kashmir is a reminder that many Kashmiris still do not consider themselves part of India, and profess that they never will.

On paper, their claims are valid. The United Nations, and many countries individually, have never recognized as part of India what the Indian government calls its state of Jammu and Kashmir. The UN has its second-oldest peace monitoring mission there, after the Middle East. Both were established in 1948. In Kashmir, some forty-plus lonely UN monitors—from Chile, Croatia, Finland, Italy, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Sweden and Uruguay—have little to do except remind locals by their presence that the world knows that Kashmiris are still there, waiting.

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Jamal Abdi, for Foreign Policy:

A game plan to draw the United States into a third war in the Middle East may be quietly unfolding before our eyes.

Late last week, Republicans in the House or Representatives unveiled H.Res.1553, a resolution providing explicit support for an Israeli bombing campaign against Iran. The measure, introduced by Texas Republican Louie Gohmert and forty-six of his colleagues, endorses Israel’s use of “all means necessary” against Iran “including the use of military force”.

“We have got to act,” Gohmert has said in regard to the measure. “We’ve got to get this done. We need to show our support for Israel. We need to quit playing games with this critical ally in such a difficult area.”

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From the NYT

By Jim Rutenberg, Mike Mcintire,  and Ethan Bronner, for the New York Times:

Believing that Christian help for Jewish winemakers here in the occupied West Bank foretells Christ’s second coming, they are recruited by a Tennessee-based charity called HaYovel that invites volunteers “to labor side by side with the people of Israel” and “to share with them a passion for the soon coming jubilee in Yeshua, messiah.”

But during their visit in February the volunteers found themselves in the middle of the fight for land that defines daily life here. When the evangelicals headed into the vineyards, they were pelted with rocks by Palestinians who say the settlers have planted creeping grape vines on their land to claim it as their own. Two volunteers were hurt. In the ensuing scuffle, a settler guard shot a 17-year-old Palestinian shepherd in the leg.

“These people are filled with ideas that this is the Promised Land and their duty is to help the Jews,” said Izdat Said Qadoos of the neighboring Palestinian village. “It is not the Promised Land. It is our land.”

HaYovel is one of many groups in the United States using tax-exempt donations to help Jews establish permanence in the Israeli-occupied territories — effectively obstructing the creation of a Palestinian state, widely seen as a necessary condition for Middle East peace.

The result is a surprising juxtaposition: As the American government seeks to end the four-decade Jewish settlement enterprise and foster a Palestinian state in the West Bank, the American Treasury helps sustain the settlements through tax breaks on donations to support them.

A New York Times examination of public records in the United States and Israel identified at least 40 American groups that have collected more than $200 million in tax-deductible gifts for Jewish settlement in the West Bank and East Jerusalem over the last decade. The money goes mostly to schools, synagogues, recreation centers and the like, legitimate expenditures under the tax law. But it has also paid for more legally questionable commodities: housing as well as guard dogs, bulletproof vests, rifle scopes and vehicles to secure outposts deep in occupied areas.

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From the BBC:

A mosque near the Palestinian West Bank city of Nablus has been damaged by fire, officials say.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas says the fire was caused by Jewish settlers, and that it could jeopardise Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Israeli media reports reports said an electrical short circuit may have started the blaze.

But Israeli security officers investigating the fire have not yet determined its cause, police say.

The mosque was gutted by the fire, which also destroyed holy books.

Lubban al-Sharqiya, the village where the mosque lies, is close to three Jewish settlements, AFP reports.

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Image from the Economist

From the Economist:

EVEN as the Americans strive to jump-start fresh talks between Israelis and Palestinians, the Israeli government has been using the hiatus to intensify the refashioning of East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians see as their future capital. This week the city’s Israeli mayor, Nir Barkat, unveiled his latest plan to turn Palestinian districts into Jewish biblical heritage parks. Fearing that their half of the city is being cast in an increasingly Israeli mould, Palestinian stone-throwers clashed with Israeli forces on the Haram al-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, which Muslims venerate for its al-Aqsa mosque, Islam’s third-holiest shrine, and which Jews revere as the site of the biblical Temple. While George Mitchell, Barack Obama’s envoy, is yet again bidding to open “proximity talks” between the two sides, the Palestinians have been literally losing ground.

Unlike previous Israeli prime ministers, who built on the open hilltops above Arab population centres in the West Bank and on the edge of Jerusalem, Binyamin Netanyahu and his officials are concentrating on Jewish settlements bang in the midst of them. Car-parks and conservation areas, rich with Israeli symbols, are sprouting across East Jerusalem. Settlers with state protection are opening religious schools there. Scarcely a week passes without an Israeli newspaper heralding new Jewish housing units being built in Arab districts. Israeli archaeologists are scraping away the eastern parts of the city’s Arab surface in search of a Jewish past. Last month one of them declared she had “probably” found King Solomon’s city walls.

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