Tuesday, May 21, 2013
The eight candidates that got the green light.
Today's Tehran Times, a conservative Iranian newspaper, reported that the Iranian Interior Ministry late on Tuesday announced that the Guardian Council has approved eight candidates for Iran’s June 14 presidential election. It named the following candidates: Saeed Jalili, Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel, Mohsen Rezaei, Hassan Rohani, Mohammad Reza Aref, Mohammad Gharazi, Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, and Ali Akbar Velayati. Of them Jalili (picture top extreme left) is a cionfidant of the supreme guide, Ali Khamenei, and the man who was till now Iran's top-negotiator in the last rounds of talks about nuclear issues with the West. Velayati (top extreme right) is a former Foreign minister under Rafsnajani and Moussavi. Rezaei (down, second form right) has been a former commander of the Revolutionary Guards (pasdaran) and Mohammed Reza Aref (down, extreme right) has been a minister of commucations and vice-president under ex-president Moahmmed Khatami. This last one man might be the most pro-reformist candidate.
The most important aspect of the announcement of the Iranian ministry of the Interior, however, was that two well known names were not mentioned, namely those of ex-president Ali Hashemi Rafsanjani, and of the aide of the present president Ahmadinejad, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie. Rafsanjani took sides in the past with the former reformist candidates Moussavi and Karoubi, who both were side lined during the last presidential elections and are still under house-arrest. Ahmadinejad's aide Mashaie is a man viewed with distrust by Khamenei's camp as it considers him to lead a current that seeks to set aside clerical influence. Both candidates were in fact the most interesting two of the whole lot, as they both Incorporated potential challenges to Khamenei and his leading conservative trend.
Monday, May 20, 2013
The last of the SemitesJewish opponents of Zionism understood the movement since its early age as one that shared the precepts of anti-Semitism in its diagnosis of what gentile Europeans called the "Jewish Question". What galled anti-Zionist Jews the most, however, was that Zionism also shared the "solution" to the Jewish Question that anti-Semites had always advocated, namely the expulsion of Jews from Europe.
It was the Protestant Reformation with its revival of the Hebrew Bible that would link the modern Jews of Europe to the ancient Hebrews of Palestine, a link that the philologists of the 18th century would solidify through their discovery of the family of "Semitic" languages, including Hebrew and Arabic. Whereas Millenarian Protestants insisted that contemporary Jews, as descendants of the ancient Hebrews, must leave Europe to Palestine to expedite the second coming of Christ, philological discoveries led to the labelling of contemporary Jews as "Semites". The leap that the biological sciences of race and heredity would make in the 19th century of considering contemporary European Jews racial descendants of the ancient Hebrews would, as a result, not be a giant one.
Basing themselves on the connections made by anti-Jewish Protestant Millenarians, secular European figures saw the political potential of "restoring" Jews to Palestine abounded in the 19th century. Less interested in expediting the second coming of Christ as were the Millenarians, these secular politicians, from Napoleon Bonaparte to British foreign secretary Lord Palmerston (1785-1865) to Ernest Laharanne, the private secretary of Napoleon III in the 1860s, sought to expel the Jews of Europe to Palestine in order to set them up as agents of European imperialism in Asia. Their call would be espoused by many "anti-Semites", a new label chosen by European anti-Jewish racists after its invention in 1879 by a minor Viennese journalist by the name of Wilhelm Marr, who issued a political programme titled The Victory of Judaism over Germanism. Marr was careful to decouple anti-Semitism from the history of Christian hatred of Jews on the basis of religion, emphasising, in line with Semitic philology and racial theories of the 19th century, that the distinction to be made between Jews and Aryans was strictly racial.
Saturday, May 18, 2013
|Copies of the Tamrod petition|
Hundreds of marchers coming from Sayyeda Zeinab Mosque and Mostafa Mahmoud Mosque arrived in the square, before hundreds more arrived from Shubra, carrying mock coffins and raising aloft crosses in a symbolic gesture of remembrance of recent victims of sectarian violence.
The Tamrod movement is a new phenomenon in Egypt, but the word Tamrod is the new buzz word in opposition circles. It all started with three activists from the Kefaya movement, an opposition group which has been calling for political reform since 2005. The movement wanted to organize a strong street action against the deteriorating political and economic conditions. The founders recruited volunteers from different political backgrounds, drafted a petition and declared the birth of the movement on May Day. Since then, it has been a huge success. In a news conference last week, Tamarod claimed that in less than 10 days it collected more than 2 million signatures through the efforts of its volunteers in the streets, and via the online form of the petition.
The movement has headquarters in Cairo, organizers in every governorate, and a strong network of volunteers, whose numbers significantly increased after the National Salvation Front, the April 6 Youth Movement, the Constitution Party, the Egyptian Conference party and many other Muslim Brotherhood adversaries officially joined the movement.Legally the significance of collecting signatures is doubtful to say the last, according to the constitution it will remain without results as far as Morsi's term as president is concerned. But the impact of a mass campaign like this one may book results in another way. Hasan Nafa'a, professor of political science at Cairo University, is an outspoken supporter of Tamarod and he points at a petition in 2010, the National Awareness Campaign, which in vain tried to influence then president Mubarak to organize free elections and political reform. The campaign of 2010 didn’t topple the regime, but it did spread unprecedented levels of involvement and awareness in the streets, according to Nafa'a. ''And today the opposition must use all and every peaceful means of resistance against a regime that betrayed the values of the revolution".
Saturday, May 11, 2013
Former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani threw himself into Iran's election race on Saturday as a flurry of heavyweight candidates rushed to beat the registration deadline in the most unpredictable contest for decades.Rafsanjani, 78, who was president from 1989 to 1997, is expected to draw some support from reformists because he backed the opposition movement whose protests were crushed after the last, disputed election in 2009.
The election comes at a critical moment, as Iran reels from international sanctions over its disputed nuclear program and faces the threat of attack by Israel if it attempts to acquire a nuclear weapon - an intention it strenuously denies. A vast field of more than 400 candidates have thrown their names into the ring as potential successors to outgoing president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Shortly before Rafsanjani's announcement, Saeed Jalili, a hardline conservative who is seen as close to Khamenei and has led rounds of so far unsuccessful nuclear talks with world powers, entered his name as a candidate. Soon afterwards, ISNA news agency reported the registration of Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, an aide to Ahmadinejad and a man viewed with intense distrust by conservatives. Khamenei's camp sees Mashaie as leading a "deviant current" that seeks to set aside clerical influence in favor of a more nationalistic doctrine.
With Iran's economy reeling from international sanctions over the nuclear dispute, the outcome of the contest on June 14 will signal the extent of Khamenei's control at the summit of power in the Islamic Republic.
Public execution in Kermanshah on 6 May 2013 of three men convicted of murder. (Photo Iran Human Rights).
Iran carries on with its executions. According to the organization Iran Human Rights in the past two weeks at least 31 people have been executed through hanging. Four prisoners were hanged in Semnan Province (northern Iran) early in the morning of 9 May, reported the Iranian state media. According to the Iranian state broadcasting one prisoner, who was not identified by name, was hanged in the prison of Semnan. He was convicted of carrying 72 kilograms of heroin, said the report. The state run Iranian news agency Fars reported that three prisoners were hanged in the prison of Shahrud (Semann Province, northern Iran) on the same day. These prisoners were identified as "A. S." convicted of possession and trafficking of 2900 grams of heroin, "M. Kh." and "H. R." for participation in possession and trafficking of 3894 grams of heroin.
Three prisoners were hanged in the prison of Isfahan (Central Iran) early on 7 May. According to the Iranian state broadcastin the prisoners were convicted of possession and selling and buying of 77 kilograms of heroin and crack. None of them was identified by name.
Four prisoners were hanged in the prison of Arak (central Iran) on 2 May. They were identified as "M. Y." born in 1988 convicted of buying and possession of 4 kilograms of crack, "M. H." for possession of 780 grams of concentrated heroin, "A. A." for possession and attempt to sell 243 grams of crystal, 3 kilograms of Hashish and 2900 grams of opium, and "M. J." for possession and buying of about 800 grams of crystal, said the report.
On 26 April the Iranian state news agency Aftab reported that four prisoners were hanged in the prison of Kerman, all of them had been convicted of drugs smuggling. Four other prisoners convicted of drug related charges were hanged in the prison prison of Kerman a week earlier. On Sunday 28 April two prisoners were hanged in the prison of Varamin (near Tehran), according to the state run news agency Fars. They were identified as Ghasem B. charged with possession and trafficking of 400 grams, and Hadi Kh. charged with possession and trafficking of 547 grams of crack.
Friday, May 10, 2013
The most remarkable news of this week was without doubt the volte face that the US has made with respect to the uprising in Syria. So far the US stand has always been to refrain from direct intervention. But at the same time it demanded that president Assad must go and it supplied the rebels with arms, in cooperation with Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Also it was at odds with Russia and China, who both refused a to let Assad down a priori and campaigned for a negotiated settlement.
This week these differences were solved at once. The American Secretary of State John Kerry payed a visit to Moscow, during which he held lengthy meetings wit both President Vladimir Putin and the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. And Tuesday evening at the of the visit, both Kerry and Lavrov announced that Russia and the US have agreed to work towards convening an international conference to find a political solution to the conflict in Syria.The conference should be convened at the end of May and must try to convince both the Syrian government and opposition to accept a solution based on the core elements of the final communique issued on 30 June 2012, after the UN-backed Action Group for Syria meeting. This meeting of a year ago called for an immediate cessation of violence and the establishment of a transitional government that could include officials serving under President Bashar al-Assad and members of the opposition. Kerry said that the conclusion e of this meeting, which was never carried out, as yet was ''the important track to end the bloodshed in Syria." And he added that 'it must not be a "piece of paper" but rather "the roadmap" for peace."The alternative is that there is even more violence," he added. "The alternative is that Syria heads closer to an abyss, if not over the abyss and into chaos."
So all at once the US dropped the demand that Assad must leave beforehand (although American offcials said that the US still prefers that he steps down) and left the military option. Russia at the other hand is no longer so adamant that Assad stay. "We are not concerned by the fate of any individual,'' minister Lavrov said. ''We are concerned by the fate of the Syrian people." .
Apparently the US have realized that continuing this war and pushing for the fall of Assad is not bringing the desired solution. What changed the US-diplomats' mind? Was it the fact that the war - which so far already cost some 70.000 people their lives and has caused millions to flee their homes - does not seem to lead to a conclusion soon? Far that islamist factions in the end would be the winners? That Syria was on its way to become a second Iraq?
At any rate, Abdel Bary al-Atwan, the editor in chief of the Arabic daily Al-Quds al-Arabi had an answer (I quoted this from Juan Cole's blog):
What is the secret word that caused this big change in the US stand and imposed this sudden retreat and shift from the military options that were put on the table before to diplomatic options to reach a political solution through negotiations between the rival parties that have resorted to weapons and bloody confrontations throughout the past two years?And although I doubt that this was the only reason behind the US decision to back down, Al-Atwan may have a point. Take a look for instance at these recent comments (In Foreign Affairs) on the Syrian situation by the former director of the Israeli secret service Mossad, Efraim Halevy:
This secret word is made up of seven letters, Israel, in addition to the fear for Israel’s existence within safe and stable borders, ridding it of the specter of war, removing the biggest danger that faces it, which is chaos, and the fear that Syria might become a base for Al-Qa`ida.
Israel knows one important thing about the Assads: for the past 40 years, they have managed to preserve some form of calm along the border. Technically, the two countries have always been at war -- Syria has yet to officially recognize Israel -- but Israel has been able to count on the governments of Hafez and Bashar Assad to enforce the Separation of Forces Agreement from 1974, in which both sides agreed to a cease-fire in the Golan Heights, the disputed vantage point along their shared border. Indeed, even when Israeli and Syrian forces were briefly locked in fierce fighting in 1982 during Lebanon’s civil war, the border remained quiet.
Israel does not feel as confident, though, about the parties to the current conflict, and with good reason. On the one hand, there are the rebel forces, some of whom are increasingly under the sway of al Qaeda. On the other, there are the Syrian government’s military forces, which are still under Assad’s command, but are ever more dependent on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah, which is also Iranian-sponsored. Iran is the only outside state with boots on the ground in Syria, and although it is supporting Assad, it is also pressuring his government to more closely serve Iran’s goals -- including by allowing the passage of advanced arms from Syria into southern Lebanon. The recent visit by Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Salehi to Damascus, during which he announced that Iran would not allow Assad to fall under any circumstances, further underscored the depth of Iran’s involvement in the fighting. It is entirely conceivable, in other words, that a post-Assad regime in Syria would be explicitly pro–al Qaeda or even more openly pro-Iran. Either result would be unacceptable to Israel.
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
On 8 May it is Jerusalem Day, the day on which Israelis celebrate the 'unification' of Jerusalem. ACRI, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, published a fact sheet for the occasion, which lists all the 'benefits' that the Palestinians of East-Jerusalem experience since Israel annexed their part of the city after it was conquered in 1967:
East Jerusalem – Facts and Figures
Population: 371,844 Palestinians, comprising 39% of Jerusalem’s total population.
Poverty Rate: 79.5% of East Jerusalem residents and 85% of East Jerusalem children live below the poverty line – the worst rate of all time.
Welfare Offices: 3 offices in East Jerusalem serve more than one third of Jerusalem’s population while 18 such offices operate in West Jerusalem; a fourth East Jerusalem office is expected to open; individual social worker’s caseloads in East Jerusalem are approximately double those of West Jerusalem.
Children at Risk: In 2012, welfare services identified 7,748 at-risk children in East Jerusalem; 86 children who suffered from violence and neglect were taken out of their homes over the past three years; because of the shortage of welfare workers, not all cases are fully and speedily attended to.
Shortage of Classrooms: Only 46% of students study in official municipal schools; there is a chronic shortage of over 1000 classrooms in East Jerusalem; despite commitments made by Israeli authorities to the courts, only several dozen classrooms are built annually.
Shortage of Pre-Kindergartens: There are 10 municipal pre-kindergartens in East Jerusalem as compared to 77 municipal pre-kindergartens in West Jerusalem for the secular sector and 96 for the national-religious sector; a government decision to apply the Free Education Law to children aged 3-4 cannot be implemented across East Jerusalem.
Secondary School and University: The drop-out rate for 12th graders in East Jerusalem is 40%; students who pass the Palestinian high-school matriculation tests (“Tawjihi”) find it difficult to gain acceptance into Israeli universities; some of the degrees offered by Palestinian universities, including the local Al-Quds University, are not recognized in Israel.
The rest is to be found here on ACRI's site.