Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Record price of $ 2,4 million for work by Mahmoud Said

  Mahmoud Said, Les Chadoufs.

A work by the Egyptian painter Mahmoud Said has been sold for $2.4m at an auction in Dubai - a record price for an artist from the Middle East. The painting, called Les Chadoufs, shows Egyptian peasants drawing water from the Nile. Christie's, the auctioneers, had originally estimated the painting's value at up to $200,000.The record-breaking painting was one of 25 being sold by Mohammed Said Farsi, a former mayor of the Saudi port town of Jeddah. Altogether, Mr Farsi's paintings fetched $8.7m (£5.7m). Another artwork by Mr Said went on sale at the auction on Tuesday night, reaching $900,000.Most of the buyers were from the Middle East, Christie's said, but others came from the US, Europe and Asia.
Mahmoud Said is considered to be the creator of the modern Egyptian school of painting. He lived 1897-1964. Les Chadoufs was painted in 1934 and is considered his masterpiece.
Below two other works by him, auctioned by Christie's in 2008 for much lower prices  On top: View of Sirros, below: The Lighthouse of El-Maks:

Severe prison sentences for 'Hizbollah cell' members in Egypt

The 'Hizbollah defendants' in their cage in court (Reuters)

An Egyptian Supreme State Security court on Wednesday sentenced 26 defendants who had been charged with membership in the Lebanese resistance group Hizbullah, conspiracy and terrorism charges.
Four of the indicted were given life sentences, while two were given 15-year prison sentences, and 15 received ten-year prison sentences. The rest were given between seven and six-month prison terms.
Four of the defendants were tried in absentia. Amon them were three of the four who got life sentences (one of them the supposed Lebanse leader of the group, Muhame Qublan). The rest appeared in the dock, shouting "God is great!" and claiming that the court was working for the interests of "the state security of Israel" 
The defendants, two Lebanese, five Palestinians, one Sudanese and 18 Egyptians, were found guilty of "collecting intelligence for the interest of a foreign entity, possessing explosive material, spying and plotting against interests in the Suez Canal, digging smuggling tunnels between Egypt and Gaza, and planning attacks against Israelis and against resorts popular with them." They were arrested in November 2008.
When questioned in court, the defendants denied working against Egypt's interests. They had pleaded not guilty, saying they were in Egypt to transfer weapons and material aid to Palestinian resistance forces inside the Gaza Strip.
On Wednesday, and before handing down the sentences, presiding judge Adel Abdel Salam Gomaa said in response to the claims: "Does supporting the Palestinian resistance include collecting information on Egyptian [interests] in the provinces of north and south Sinai, pinpointing tourist resorts [for attack], renting property overlooking the Suez Canal, making explosives and keeping them with [one of the defendants] in the province of North Sinai?"
He added that the group had intended to harm the Egyptian economy or "sever the veins" of its people. "These men have dared to question what Egypt has done for the Palestinian people," the judge said.
In the dock, and after the judge's speech, several of the defendants cried out "Shame on you!" in addition to shouting slogans about Jerusalem.
Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Hiezbollah, had admitted earlier that one of the men was an agent for the movement but denied any plan to harm Egypt.He said that the Hezbollah member had been assigned to smuggling weapons to Palestinian fighters in Gaza.
In past sessions, state security prosecutors had asked for death sentences for six of the defendants, charging them with espionage and treason as well as receiving aid not only from Hizbullah but also from Iran.
Local and international rights watchdogs have repeatedly accused Egypt's emergency courts of lacking the basic standards for a fair trial. No appeals are allowed in verdicts issued by the supreme emergency state security courts. Only the president can overturn a verdict and order a retrial.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Bashir reelected in fraudulent elections

President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has won Sudan's first open elections in 24 years in a result that confirms in office the only sitting head of state wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes.

Bashir won 68 percent of the presidential vote, while Salva Kiir retained his job as the president of Sudan's semi-autonomous south, with 92.99 percent of the vote in that race, Sudan's National Elections Commission announced.
Bashir is expected to form a coalition with Kiir as the country heads toward a 2011 referendum on whether south Sudan should split off and become Africa's newest state.
Bashir had hoped a win in a legitimate vote would help him defy the ICC warrant, in which he is accused of ordering a campaign of murder, torture and rape in Sudan's Darfur region.But the election, meant to mark Sudan's transformation into a democratic state, were marred by widespread charges of fraud, including from Kiir's Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), suggesting the new ruling coalition will be a fragile one.
Bashir appeared on state television soon after the result saying the Sudanese people "have achieved this moral victory before the eyes of the world in a civilized, high class and shared manner."He added that Sudan would hold the southern referendum "as scheduled." Many southerners fear Bashir will try to disrupt the plebiscite in a maneuver to keep control of the south's oil.

Kiir said he felt "total dismay" about reports of election irregularities and promised to investigate all complaints. "No amount of intimidation or provocation will lead us back to war. We will maintain security and prepare our people for the referendum in 2011," he told journalists in the southern capital Juba, going on to congratulate Bashir on his win.
A breakdown of the presidential votes showed massive majorities of up to 95 percent for Bashir in most northern states, although those percentages dipped in three states of Darfur and border regions.
Kiir won overwhelmingly in every southern state.
Bashir's victory was dismissed by opposition parties. They boycotted the vote, citing fraud.
"They cooked the figures -- (Bashir) didn't get 51 percent of the vote," UMMA Reform and Renewal leader Mubarak al-Fadil told Reuters. "His campaign was conducted under one party system with all the foundations of a police state ... it was a farce."
 Human Rights Watch said the win gave Bashir no extra legal immunity against the ICC charges.
North-south tensions bode poorly for full implementation of the peace deal, including next year's referendum.
Any major delay to that vote would be unacceptable to southerners, who most believe overwhelmingly want secession.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Abbas urges Obama to impose solution

Abbas during his speech on Saturday which was broadcasted by  Palestinian tv.

George Mitchell, Obama's special envoy to the Middle East has wrapped up his visit to Israél and the Palestinian territories and has returned to Washington, while his aides remain in te area and will continue to work on furhering 'proximity talks' between Israël and the PA. Mitchell will be back on Friday,
During Mitchells visit Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has urged Barack Obama to impose a peace deal and has rejected the idea of establishing a state within temporary borders.
"But don't tell me it's a vital national strategic American interest ... and then not do anything."
"Since you, Mr. President and you, the members of the American administration, believe in this, it is your duty to call for the steps in order to reach the solution and impose the solution - impose it," Abbas said on Saturday.
Speaking to members of his Fatah party in Ramallah, Abbas said Israel and the Palestinians should resume peace talks on the terms of full statehood, with such talks wrapping up within two years.
"We won't accept a state with temporary borders,'' he said. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz wrote on Friday that Israeli prime minister Netanyahu was willing to discuss a Palestinian with tenporary borders in part of th occupied territories, but the Palestinians fear that the tenmporary borders might become definite borders.
Palestinian officials have said privately that they believe only strong US intervention can break the impasse with Israel. Still, Abbas' blunt public appeal was unusual, they said. AFP reported that Mitchell invited Abbas to meet priesnt Obama next month in Washington. Abbas's aise did not confirm this yet.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Six wounded at demonstration against no go zone in Gaza

Demonstration against the no go zone. The picture is taken some tiem ago.(Photo Ma'an)

Six people were injured, one seriously, by live fire from Israeli forces as Gaza residents and international solidarity activists gathered in the central Strip on Saturday to protest the enforcement of the no go zone, Ma'an reports.
Eyewitnesses confirmed that first three, then six were injured, one seriously, as protesters marched with Palestinian flags towards the buffer zone area enforced by Israel around the Gaza border. Coordinator of medical services in the Gaza Strip Adham Abu Silmiyya said three of the six injured were evacuated to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in central Gaza, with one man in serious condition.
Coordinator of Beit Hanoun popular committee Saber Az-Za'aneen identified the injured foreign activist as 28-year-old Bianca Zammit from Malta. He said she was hit by live fire in the foot, and confirmed that she was one of the three evacuated to hospital. A statement from the International Solidarity Movement said Zimmit was shot while filming the demonstration, at a distance of approximately 80-100 meters.

The statement identified the other two hospitalized victims as Nidal Al Naji, 18, who the group said was shot in the right thigh, and Hind Al-Akra, 22, who was shot in the stomach and has undergone emergency surgery.
Bianca Zammit is being treated at the Aqsa hospital. (Photo Ma'an)
An Israeli military spokesman confirmed shots were fired in the area, but said they were "warning shots meant to drive away" the group of protesters. He noted they were "very close" the the border fence, and area he described as a "combat zone." The no-go area means 20 percent of the arable lands in Gaza are inaccessible to local farmers, who are fired on by Israeli forces patrolling the area if they approach the buffer. The zone extends 150-300 meters into the Strip from the Green Line, or the 1967 border, from which Israel claimed to have pulled out in 2005.
Update 25 April: Malta filed an official protest with Israel on Sunday after a Maltese woman was shot and injured by Israel Defense Forces soldiers during a protest in Gaza on Saturday. In a statement, the Maltese Foreign Ministry said it "deplored and condemned in the strongest possible terms" the shooting of Bianca Zammit in Gaza on Saturday. The protest note was sent to the Israeli government via the Maltese Embassy in Israel. Malta said the Israeli soldiers' attack was "totally unwarranted" and called for a thorough investigation into the incident which took place near a refugee camp. Foreign Minister Tonio Borg is expected to raise the issue on Monday during a meeting of European Union foreign ministers.

Who will protect Palestinians from growing settler extremism?

Settlers have set fire to Palestinian crops near Nablus. The culprits are almost never caught, and if so the chances that they will be convicted are extremely slim. (Picture Ma'an)

Haaretz features a good article about the impunity of settlers who increasingly  behave violently or commit acts of vandalism and the helplessness of  Palestinians vis a vis this phenomenon. Is there anybody out to protect them? Hardly, one could say. The police does not do a great job, to say the least, the army is there to protect the settlers - not the Palestinians, prosecuters are reluctant to prosecute and even the courts don't do much to uphold justice. 

By Lisa Goldman
Last week in Hawara, a town near Nablus, someone defaced a mosque with spray paint. The graffiti included Hebrew writing and a Star of David. Residents of a Jewish settlement nearby had vandalized Palestinian property in Hawara on previous occasions, so both the Israel Defense Forces and the Palestinian villagers accused settlers of committing the latest crime. Israel's official position is that it is a deserving, ecumenically-minded custodian of religious sites of all faiths, so the IDF Spokesman was quick to issue a condemnation and promise an investigation.

The defacing of mosques in the West Bank is relatively rare - "only" four incidents were brought to the attention of Yesh Din, an Israeli NGO that monitors law enforcement in the West Bank, over the past five years. But destruction of Palestinian property and acts of violence against Palestinian civilians occur frequently, often several times per week. Over the past few months, they have become more frequent and more violent. Many of these incidents are known as "price tag" operations, whereby settlers destroy Palestinian property as a response to the IDF's having dismantled an illegal outpost. The settlers, say West Bank field workers for various NGOs, are becoming bolder.

The more egregious acts of settler violence are reported in the Israeli media, although rarely with prominence, but most incidents fail to attract the attention of the major news outlets at all - because they occur so frequently that they have become unremarkable, because most Israelis are numb to these stories, and because Palestinians are increasingly reluctant to file a police complaint. Why bother to enlist the help of the police when, as Yesh Din has documented, more than 90 percent of legal cases involving settler violence end with their being closed due to "lack of evidence"?

When Jews, Muslims and Christians deface one another's holy sites or places of worship, the story is

reported widely by the Western media - especially when the culprits are members of the group backed by military and political might, as is the case of the Jewish settlers in the Palestinian-majority West Bank. And so the story of the defaced Hawara mosque was reported widely in major news outlets, including The Washington Post and The New York Times, with accompanying photos. But the chances of the perpetrators being arrested and put on trial are very slight. In the cases of the four mosques previously vandalized, allegedly by settlers, two investigations are officially ongoing, and two have been closed for lack of evidence.

Lior Yavne, Yesh Din's research director, says that investigations into complaints filed against settlers by Palestinians fail for a number of reasons. The civil police of Judea and Samaria are understaffed and underfunded. Jewish suspects are almost never included in police lineups. The police frequently fail to verify the alibis of Jews, or to make arrests.

Investigations fail to result in convictions even when eyewitnesses provide accurate descriptions of Jewish suspects seen at or fleeing the scene, holding incriminating evidence - as in a case reported earlier this month by the Jerusalem Post's Dan Izenberg. According to the April 6 article, a settler from Kedumim was caught by police last summer, fleeing a burning Palestinian orchard while holding a jerrican filled with flammable liquid, and with the smell of the liquid on his hands. The suspect refused to answer police questions during interrogation; and less than a year later, the courts dismissed the case for "lack of evidence." Michael Sfard, Yesh Din's legal advisor, described the court's decision as "scandalous."

Palestinian villages are increasingly unprotected by the IDF, which does provide extensive protection for Jewish settlements. At the same time, however, Palestinians are not allowed to possess weapons; the IDF arrests people caught with knives or guns in their possession. Settlers, on the other hand, are permitted by law to carry weapons.

Meanwhile, the IDF is acting according to increasingly draconian orders to suppress non-violent demonstrations against the occupation that are organized and led by grassroots Palestinian movements. Leaders of popular resistance organizations are dragged from their beds during night raids, arrested and jailed - often indefinitely. The villages in which demonstrations take place on Friday mornings have been declared closed military zones. Those who violate the army's orders and come out to demonstrate are regularly shot at with rubber bullets, doused with skunk gas, beaten and arrested.

For Palestinians in the West Bank, the sense of helplessness and frustration must be enormous. When they are attacked, they can almost never hope for justice within the framework of the legal system. Nor are they allowed to defend themselves. Nor can they expect the IDF to protect them. And even when they protest these injustices using nonviolent methods - marching, chanting and waving flags - they are punished with arrests and violence, with dehumanizing skunk gas and beatings. So what happens when there is no legal recourse or justice for the injured and no real civic structure, and when the moderates are systematically crushed? Surely these are the ideal psychological circumstances that make people vulnerable to the beckoning finger of extremism.

Lisa Goldman (picture) is a freelance journalist and blogger, and a social media consultant for Yesh Din.

Goldstone as yet welcome at grandson's bar mitzva

Cartoon by Jonathan Shapiro (Zapiro) of the South African Guardian and Mail. The good news is that in the meantime the Board of Deputies of the Jewish Community in Johannesburg has reversed its decision. Richard Silverstein, the blogger who was the first to publish the fact that Goldstone had been banned from his granson's bar mitzva, was also the primary source for the good news that  Judge Goldstone as yet is welcome to attend the bar mitzva and will have a meeting with the South African Zionist Federation and other Jewish representatives to discuss the so called Goldstone report aftrards. A great victory for the bloggibg community, kol hakawod to blogger Silverstein.

At least 69 dead after series of attacks on Shiite mosques in Baghdad

 Sadr City after the bombs went off (AP)

 The bloodiest day of the year in Iraq left at least 69 people dead in a series of bombings in mainly Shiite areas Friday — concerted attacks seen as demonstrating the resilience of the Sunni-led insurgency after the slaying of two al-Qaida leaders last weekend, AP reports.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki blamed the attacks as usual on Al-Qaida and baathists. In a statement Friday night he said the insurgents were trying to fight back after Iraqi security forces killed the two al-Qaida in Iraq leaders on April 18. 'The cowardly terrorist attacks that occurred today were intending to cover the great success achieved by the security forces through the killing of the leaders of wickedness and terrorism, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri,' al-Maliki said. He also called on Iraqis to stand firm against Baathists, former members of the Baath Party that ruled Iraq under Saddam Hussein.

Friday's apparently coordinated attacks came in a two-hour span shortly after the Shiites' call to prayer across the capital. The major blasts were in former Shiite militia strongholds, near three Shiite mosques.
In the vast eastern Baghdad slum of Sadr City, hundreds of worshippers knelt on prayer mats in the streets surrounding the offices of anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr when the deadliest blasts went off.
Four strategically located car bombs timed to maximize the carnage killed at least 36 people and wounded nearly 200, according to hospital and police officials.
Two of the bombs exploded in the mainly Shiite neighborhood of Zafaraniyah, killing one person and wounding 12. Two others targeted mosques linked with prominent Shiite political leaders. A car bomb at the Hadi al-Chalabi mosque in the Hurriyah neighborhood killed eight people and wounded 19. The mosque is named after the father of Ahmed Chalabi, who was behind much of the faulty intelligence that resulted in the U.S.-led invasion and had a hand in purges which cost many Sunni government functionaries with tis to the Baath their jobs.  A bomb targeting the Muhsin al-Hakim mosque killed 14 people and wounded 36. That mosque is named after the grandfather of Ammar al-Hakim, a leading Shiite political figure whose party has ties to Iran.
In the past, such bombings would be followed by revenge attacks by militias against Sunnis, but the retaliatory violence ebbed after al-Sadr's forces were routed by U.S.-Iraqi offensives in 2008.
Three people died in scattered violence elsewhere in the capital.
Bombs also ripped through the houses of Iraqi policemen in the former insurgent stronghold of Anbar province, killing at least seven people, including a soldier trying to defuse one of the devices, authorities said.
April has been the deadliest month in Iraq so far this year, with more than 263 civilians killed in war-related violence, according to an Associated Press count. Still, violence is dramatically lower than past years.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Angry Letter to Elie Wiesel by Sheikh Jarrah Activists

Har Homa, a neighbourhood of East-Jerusalem.  This part used to be called Jebl Abu- Ghneim.

 A hundred Sheikh Jarrah actvivists, people who live in Jerusalem, have written an angry letter in response to Elie Wiesel's letter on Jerusalem, which was published a few days ago as ads in he Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal. Haartez and the blog Mondoweis published this earlier, but I took the integral text from Jerry Haber, the Magnes Zionist. The letter shows clearly how out of touch with reality Wiesel's text was (at least in the eyes of these people who live there). Also it is impressive to see whose names are there among the signatures. I saw the names of Bernard Avishai, Avishai Margalit, Moshe Halbertal, Zeev Sternhell. Reuven Kaminer and Avrum Burg, just to name a few. 

Dear Mr. Wiesel,
We write to you from Jerusalem to convey our frustration, even outrage, at your recently published letter on Jerusalem. We are Jewish Jerusalemites – residents by choice of a battered city, a city used and abused, ransacked time and again first by foreign conquerors and now by its own politicians. We cannot recognize our city in the sentimental abstraction you call by its name.

Our Jerusalem is concrete, its hills covered with limestone houses and pine trees; its streets lined with synagogues, mosques and churches. Your Jerusalem is an ideal, an object of prayers and a bearer of the collective memory of a people whose members actually bear many individual memories. Our Jerusalem is populated with people, young and old, women and men, who wish their city to be a symbol of dignity - not of hubris, inequality and discrimination. You speak of the celestial Jerusalem; we live in the earthly one.
For more than a generation now the earthly city we call home has been crumbling under the weight of its own idealization. Your letter troubles us, not simply because it is replete with factual errors and false representations, but because it upholds an attachment to some other-worldly city which purports to supersede the interests of those who live in the this-worldly one. For every Jew, you say, a visit to Jerusalem is a homecoming, yet it is our commitment that makes your homecoming possible. We prefer the hardship of realizing citizenship in this city to the convenience of merely yearning for it.

Indeed, your claim that Jerusalem is above politics is doubly outrageous. First, because contemporary Jerusalem was created by a political decision and politics alone keeps it formally unified. The tortuous municipal boundaries of today's Jerusalem were drawn by Israeli generals and politicians shortly after the 1967 war. Feigning to unify an ancient city, they created an unwieldy behemoth, encircling dozens of Palestinian villages which were never part of Jerusalem. Stretching from the outskirts of Ramallah in the north to the edge of Bethlehem in the south, the Jerusalem the Israeli government foolishly concocted is larger than Paris. Its historical core, the nexus of memories and religious significance often called "the Holy Basin", comprises a mere one percent of its area. Now they call this artificial fabrication 'Jerusalem' in order to obviate any approaching chance for peace.

Second, your attempt to keep Jerusalem above politics means divesting us of a future. For being above politics is being devoid of the power to shape the reality of one's life. As true Jerusalemites, we cannot stand by and watch our beloved city, parts of which are utterly neglected, being used as a springboard for crafty politicians and sentimental populists who claim Jerusalem is above politics and negotiation. All the while, they franticly "Judaize" Eastern Jerusalem in order to transform its geopolitics beyond recognition.
We invite you to our city to view with your own eyes the catastrophic effects of the frenzy of construction. You will witness that, contrary to some media reports, Arabs are not allowed to build their homes anywhere in Jerusalem. You discover see the gross inequality in allocation of municipal resources and services between east and west. We will take you to Sheikh Jarrah, where Palestinian families are being evicted from their homes to make room for a new Jewish neighborhood, and to Silwan, where dozens of houses face demolition because of the Jerusalem Municipality's refusal to issue building permits to Palestinians.
We, the people of Jerusalem, can no longer be sacrificed for the fantasies of those who love our city from afar. This-worldly Jerusalem must be shared by the people of the two nations residing in it. Only a shared city will live up to the prophet's vision: "Zion shall be redeemed with justice". As we chant weekly in our vigils in Sheikh Jarrah: "Nothing can be holy in an occupied city!" Respectfully,
Just Jerusalem (Sheikh Jarrah) Activists

1. Ada Bilu 2. Alon Harel 3. Amiel Vardi 4. Amit Lavi 5. Amit Miller 6. Amos Goldberg 7. Ariela Brin 8. Assaf Sharon 9. Avichay Sharon 10. Avishai Margalit 11. Avital Abudi 12. Avital Sharon 13. Avner Inbar 14. Avrum Burg 15. Barbara Spectre 16. Bernard Avishai 17. Daniella Gordon 18. Dani Schrire 19. Daniel Argo 20. Danny Felsteiner 21. Daphna Stroumsa 22. David Shulman 23. Diana Steigler 24. Dolev Rahat 25. Dorit Gat 26. Dorit Argo 27. Edna Ulman-Margalit 28. Eitan Buchvall 29. Eli Sharon 30. Freddie Rokem 31. Galit Hasan-Rokem 32. Gideon Freudenthal 33. Gil Gutglick 34. Guga Kogan 35. Guy Feldman 36. Hagit Benbaji 37. Hagit Keysar 38. Haya Ofek 39. Hillel Ben Sasson 40. Ishay Rosen-Zvi 41. Itamar Shappira 42. Jonathan Yaari 43. Judy Labensohn 44. Judy Labensohn 45. Julia Alfandari 46. Levi Spectre 47. Liran Razinsky 48. Maya Wind 49. Mical Raz 50. Michael Ritov 51. Miriam Farhi-Rodrig 52. Mirit Barashi 53. Mirit Barashi 54. Moshe Halbertal 55. Naama Baumgarten-Sharon 56. Naama Hochstein 57. Nadav Sharon 58. Neria Biala 59. Nili Sharon 60. Noa Lamm-Shalem 61. Oded Erez 62. Oded Na'aman 63. Ofer Neiman 64. Omri Metzer 65. Paul Mendes-Flohr 66. Peter Lehahn 67. Phil Spectre 68. Ra'anan Alexandrowicz 69. Ram Rahat 70. Ray Schrire 71. Reuven Kaminer 72. Roee Metzer 73. Ronen Mandelkern 74. Roni Hammerman 75. Sahar Vardi 76. Sara Benninga 77. Sharon Casper 78. Shir Aloni Yaari 79. Shir Sternberg 80. Shlomi Segall 81. Silan Dallal 82. Silvia Piterman 83. Tal Shapira 84. Tamar Lehahn 85. Tamar Rappaport 86. Uri Bitan 87. Yafa Tarlowski 88. Yaron Gal 89. Yaron Wolf 90. Yehuda Agus 91. Yonatan Haimovich 92. Yoram Gordon 93. Yotam Wolfe 94. Yuval Drier Shilo 95. Zehava Galon 96. Zeev Sternhell 97. Zvi Benninga 98. Zvi Mazeh 99. Zvi Schuldiner

Goldstone gets 'Annual Tikkun Award' for upholding best ethical values of Jewish community

 The American magazine Tikkun, issued by the progressive community of the same name led by rabbi Michael Lerner in the Bay Area, has invited judge Richard Goldstone to celebrate his grandson's bar mitzva in Califonia. In a statement released on Friday, rabbi  Lerner said: 
  We in the peace community both in Israel and around the world see  Justice Goldstone as upholding the best ethical values of the Jewish  community, so we are outraged at the treatment he has received. The most  recent, the banning of him from his own grandson's Bar Mitzvah in South  Africa, led us at Tikkun to invite him to do his grandson's Bar  Mitzvah here in the United States where many Jews would honor him. He  was delighted with the invite, but said it was too late. So we have  decided to award Judge Goldstone the annual Tikkun Award at the  celebration of our 25th Anniversary in the Spring of 2011. Other  recipients who appeared at previous conferences include Abba Eban, Allen  Ginsberg, Irving Howe, Alred Kazin, Letty Cottin Pogrebin, Marion  Wright Edelman, Yehuda Amichai, Senator Paul Wellstone, and James  Hillman.
Lerner also pointed out that Goldstone gave ample room to Israel to cooperate with his investigation and that his report was no more than an invitation to the Israelis to start their own investigation.
For those of us in the Jewish community who recognize that  Israel's treatment of Palestinians and its overt violations of human  rights are not only a rejection of traditional Jewish values, but are  also dangerous both to the survival of the State of Israel and to the  future safety of the Jewish people living all around the world, the  pressure put by Judge Goldstone on Israel to clear its name was a  welcome breath of fresh air, the declaration said.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Rabbi's to Goldstone: 'we want to offer you our deepest thanks for upholding the principles of justice'

Dear Judge Goldstone,
As rabbis from diverse traditions and locations, we want to extend our warmest mazel tov to you as an elder in our community upon the bar mitzvah of your grandson. Bar and Bat Mitzvah is a call to conscience, a call to be responsible for the welfare of others, a call to fulfill the covenant of peace and justice articulated in our tradition.
As rabbis, we note the religious implications of the report you authored. We are reminded of Shimon Ben Gamliel's quote, "The world stands on three things: justice, truth, and peace as it says ‘Execute the judgment of truth, and justice and peace will be established in your gates’ (Zekharya 8:16)." We affirm the truth of the report that bears your name.
We are deeply saddened by the controversy that has grown up around the issuing of the report. We affirm your findings and believe you set up an impeccable standard that provides strong evidence that Israel engaged in war crimes during the assault on Gaza that reveal a pattern of continuous and systematic assault against Palestinian people and land that has very little to do with Israel's claim of security. Your report made clear the intentional targeting of civilian infrastructures such as hospitals, schools, agricultural properties, water and sewage treatment centers and civilians themselves with deadly weapons that are illegal when used in civilian
This is the ugly truth that is so hard for many Jewish people to face. Anyone who spends a day in Palestinian territories sees this truth immediately.
Judge Goldstone, we want to offer you our deepest thanks for upholding the principles of justice, compassion and truth that are the heart of Jewish religion and without which our claims to Jewishness are empty of meaning. We regret that your findings have led to controversy and caused you not to feel welcome at your own grandson's Bar Mitzvah. We believe your report is a clarion call to Israel and the Jewish people to awaken from the slumber of denial and return to

Rabbi Everett Gendler
Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb
Rabbi Brant Rosen
Rabbi Brian Walt
Rabbi Haim Beliak
Rabbi Michael Lerner
Rabbi Arthur Waskow
Rabbi Michael Feinberg
Rabbi Shai Gluskin
Rabbi David Shneyer
Rabbi David Mivassair
Rabbi Laurie Zimmerman
Rabbi Douglas Krantz
Rabbi Margaret Holub
Rabbi Rebecca Alpert
Rabbi Mordecai Liebling
Rabbi Phyllis Berman
Rabbi Zev-Hayyim Feyer
Rabbi Eyal Levinson
Rabbi Doron Isaacs

More names added:
Rabbi Gershon Steinberg-Caudill
Rabbi Erin Hirsh
Rabbi Michael Rothbaum
Rabbi Benjamin Barnett
Rabbi Julie Greenberg
Rabbi Linda Holtzman
Rabbi Ayelet S.Cohen
Rabbi Jeffrey Marker
Rabbi Nina H.Mandel
Rabbi Victor Reinstein

This comes from the Mondoweisss  and Tikun Olam sites:The letter is supported by Taanit Tzedek- Jewish Fast for Gaza , Shomer Shalom Institute for Jewish Nonviolence, Tikkun and the Shalom Center. Whoever is a rabbi and would like to add his/her name to this statement, send an e-mail to Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb (rabbilynn at earthlink dot net. I would think  there's room for more rabbi's).

Update 22/4:  In a letter to the South-African newspaper BusinessDay, Goldstone accused chief rabbi Warren Goldstein of South-Africa that he made it 'less, and not more' possible for him to attend his grandson's bar mitzva.

Goldstein one day earlier wrote in the same paper that he empathised with Goldstone’s “anguish as a grandfather”, but called on him to understand the pain his report had caused. “Under difficult circumstances and amid heated emotions I, together with the rabbi and executive of the Sandton shul, ensured that he would be free to attend the bar mitzvah; and we did our utmost best to persuade those who wished to protest not to.

But people did not need his permission to protest in a “free democracy”, he said.

Goldstone is his letter condemned the chief rabbi’s “questionable and unfortunate approach”, saying Goldstein had “brazenly politicis e(d)” a family occasion.“His rhetoric about ‘open synagogues’ simply does not coincide with how my family and I have been treated,” he said.The chief rabbi had at no stage “reached out” to his family.

Israel should be alarmed: BBC poll puts it in one category with Iran, Pakistan and N-Korea

 People celebrating the birth of Israel 62 years ago. Today a BBC-poll puts Israel in the category of pariah states.

Views of the US around the world have improved sharply over the past year, a BBC World Service poll suggests.For the first time since the BBC started these annual polls in 2005, America's influence in the world is now seen as more positive than negative (46% against 34%) .The improved scores for the US coincided with Barack Obama becoming president.

In 2009 Germany is viewed most favourably (59% sees it favourably), followed by Japan (53), the UK (52), Canada (51) and  France (49%).The EU scores 53%

For Israel the result of the poll is devastating. Its rating is a 19% low. It must be embarrassed to find itself in the company of Iran (15%), Pakistan (16, and North-Korea (17), while Russia gets 30%.  Nearly 30,000 people in 28 countries were interviewed for the poll, between November 2009 and February 2010.

The poll results almost coincide with the celebration of Israels 62th birthday for which The Jerusalem Post wrote in an editorial, apparently unaware of the BBC poll:

And Israel at 62 suffers growing pariah status, singled out for demonization in diplomatic forums, in legal arenas and in the media – its historic legitimacy undermined, its defensive measures assailed, its very right to survive questioned. Iran is central to this assault, bolstered by the bizarre partnership of the radical Left and the fascist Right in much of Western Europe and beyond. Here, once more, we depend on the US’s upright moral compass and the fundamental ethics of its citizens to counterbalance the United Nations and other skewed forums.
Pariah status. The Post is right. Except for the fact that it is highly unlikely that a coalition between Iran, the radical Left and  fascist Right is responsible for this dramatic fall in popularity in the 28 countries where the poll took place. Israel at 62 would be wise to look in the mirror and think twice. It's  not Iran, nor the radical Left or even the fascist Right that builds settlements on occupied land, or fought two bloody wars in Libanon and Gaza in the last four years.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

'No One knows Whether They Would Rescue A Stranger'

 Look what M.J. Rosenberg writes on his blog about Elie Wiesel (who a few days ago wrote an ad of a whole page in newspapers like the New York Times about the 'Jewish attachment to Jerusalem'):

I am always intrigued by Elie Wiesel who seems to believe that, as a victim of the Holocaust, he is, by definition, a righteous man.
 But he's not. Status as a victim does not confer righteousness. All Wiesel knows is that he suffered. He does not know what he would have done if he was a German, Pole, Ukrainian or...any of the other nationalities of Europe in whose midst Jews were murdered by the millions.
Would he have opened the door for the non-Jewish stranger if his life, and those of his family, would be jeopardized by doing so.
His actions indicate that he wouldn't. He is a great humanitarian, except when it comes to Palestinians (to whom he is indifferent). In other words, he is a humanitarian except in situations where his own tribe is perpetrating cruelty. But the test for any of us is not our empathy to our own, but our empathy to the other -- especially when "our own" is perpetrating the injustice.
Wiesel fails that test. And so do Israelis who do not fight to end the occupation. And their Jewish organizational cutouts here.

(For the rest of the article click here)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Palestinian Prisoners Day

Marwan Barghouti, possibly the best known Palestinian prisoner, celebrated his 8th year in prison last week.

 On Saturday it was Palestinian Prisoners day. Al Jazeera quoted the following figures: 

More than 7,000 Palestinians, including 270 who are under the age of 18, are currently held in Israeli prisons, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) said in a statement released to coincide with Prisoners Day, which Palestinians mark on Saturday.
Three of the prisoners have been in jail for more than 30 years, and 315 for more than 15 years, PCBS said in the statement.
It is estimated that around 9,000 Palestinians are detained every year by Israel for either armed resistance or acts of civil disobedience. According to Human Rights groups, up to 700 teenagers and children were detained last year alone.
Three hundred Palestinians, who are under the age of 18, are currently held in Israeli prisons.
 6,155 prisoners are from the occupied West Bank,
 400 prisoners are from within Israel and occupied East Jerusalem,
 745 are from the Gaza Strip,
 33 of the prisoners are women,
 300 of the prisoners are under the age of 18 years,
 296 are under administrative detention
 800 of these prisoners face life imprisonment,
 570 have been sentenced for 50 years,
 460 have spent between 10-15 years of their 50-year sentences,
 110 have spent more than 20 years in prisons,
 13 have spent more than 25 years in prisons,
 3 prisoners have spent more than 30 years in prison,
 1 prisoner, Nael al-Barghouthi, has spent more than 32 years in prison,
 720 prisoners are currently serving between 10 and 50 years,
 40 prisoners have been sentenced for 20 years,
 130 prisoners have been sentenced for 15 years,
 245 prisoners have been sentenced for more than 10 years,
 325 prisoners have been in prison from before the signing of the Oslo agreement,
 555 prisoners were imprisoned prior to al-Aqsa intifada of September 2000,
 2,000 sick persons are in prison, of which
 160 have permanent medical conditions, and
 16 have fatal medical conditions including cancer,
 1 Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, is being held by Hamas.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Protests against namesgiving of 'Ésplanade Ben Gurion' in Paris

A namesgiving ceremony on Friday at the banks of the Seine in Paris in the presence of Israeli president Shimon Peres drew some protests. The new name is Esplanade Ben Gurion and the comments in the video speak for themselves. The blog Jews sans frontières called it the 'ethnic cleansing promenade' and  said that it was a reminiscense of France's own colonial past and days of white supremacy. It added:
"Ben Gurion" is the figure of speech, Palestine is its literal referent, Jacques Massu is its allegorical meaning and the Marechal Pétain is its timeless eschaton. From now on, never visit Paris without a stroll on the Esplanade Marechal Pétain. 
Quite bitter.

Wiesel and his emotional attachment to Jerusalem as opposed to Khalidi's description of reality

Wiesel did it again. Some days ago there were reports that Netanyahu asked him to use his influence on Obama (whom he accompanied on a visit to Buchenwald last year) to defuse the tension between the two governments. And here we are. In an ad that appeared in the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal Wiesel jumps on the subject of Jerusalem:
"For me, the Jew that I am, Jerusalem is above politics," he writes. "It is mentioned more than six hundred times in Scripture - and not a single time in the Koran...the first song I heard was my mother's lullaby about and for Jerusalem.''

In the ad, titled "For Jerusalem", he also writes that Jews, Christians and Muslims are able to build their homes anywhere in Jerusalem and that only under Israeli sovereignty has freedom of worship for all religions been assured in the city.

It's not exactly true what Wiesel says here. Freedom of worship was guaranteed for Muslims, Christians and Jews (except Israelis) all over the world only before Israel captured East-Jerusalem. What he says about the freedom for Jews, Christians and Muslims to build their homes anywhere in Jerusalem is a lie, the freedom only applies to Jews. And when he pretends that Jerusalem was not mentioned in the Koran, he omitts the story of Mohamed's journey to heaven on the back of the flying horse Buraq, which supposedly took off from and landed on the exact spot where now the Haram al-Sharif is located.

But these are not the main points here. What really matters is his remark 'Jerusalem is above politics', meaning that for him Jerusalem's Jewishness is above question. In fact the gist of the ad is to leave all discussions about the issue till an as yet distant and ill defined future::
"Why tackle the most complex and sensitive problem prematurely? Why not first take steps which will allow the Israeli and Palestinian communities to find ways to live together in an atmosphere of security.''
Wiesel's ad was answered by an open letter from Debra DeLee of Americans for Peace Now in which she said among other things that Jerusalem is not just a Jewish symbol. It is also a holy city to billions of Christians and Muslims worldwide.  And alsothat follow your advice - to indefinitely postpone Israeli-Palestinian negotiations over Jerusalem - amounts to a future of blood and tears for Israelis and Palestinians alike. It is not a prescription for trust and hope, but for perpetual strife. DeLee sent him a map of the city and invited him to a tour of East Jerusalem together with experts of Peace Now the next time he would be in Israel.

 Recent map published by the BBC. The figures relate to places which are in the news because of friction between Jews and Palestinians and/or because of building projects. 1) Gilo, 2)Pisgat Zeev, 3) Sheikh Jarrah, 4) Ramat Shlomo, 5) Silwan, 6) The Wall

But the real answer to Wiesel appeared, a few days before Wiesel published his ad, in Foreign Affairs (quoted by Mondoweiss) by the hand of University of Columbia historian Rashid Khalidi (picture). Khalidi explained that there is nothing 'disputed' about areas in East-Jerusalem, because everything Israel has ever done there is in clear contravention of international law. Also he pointed to the fact that some 40 generations of  Arab, Muslim and Palestinian leaders are buried in the ancient Mamilla cemetery (over part of which the Wiesenthal Center is building a Museum of Tolerance (!).. And next he wrote:
Today, Jerusalem is the geographic center and communications hub of the West Bank. By walling the city off from its Arab hinterland and building fortresslike settlements in concentric rings around the city -- and, increasingly, within its remaining Arab neighborhoods -- Israel has succeeded in fragmenting and isolating Arab population centers within the city. These settlements also hinder the flow of north-south traffic through the West Bank, leaving Israel as the master of a terrain speckled with tiny Bantustan-esque islands of Palestinians....
When it comes to Jerusalem, a final-status negotiation that begins from the status quo -- the result of successive Israeli governments establishing settlements as faits accomplis -- will be unacceptable to any Palestinian leader. Even a return to the status quo ante of 2000 is insufficient, given Israel’s aggressive reshaping of Jerusalem’s surface and subterranean landscape since the 1980s. One need only walk through the streets of Jerusalem with a sense of what they once looked like to understand how takeovers of key buildings; strategically placed new housing developments, roads, and infrastructure; extensive archeological excavations; and the digging of a vast network of tunnels under and around the Old City were intended to fragment Arab East Jerusalem and permanently incorporate it into Israel.
 In the end, only a negotiation in which all of Jerusalem is placed on the table will suffice.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Egyptian NGOs and political movements will eventually be restricted even more by new law

 Demonstration of the Kifaya movement in 2005 against a fifth term for presindet Mubarak who at the time was 77. The protesters hold papers with te Arabic word kifaya (enoug) on top.

A draft law in Egypt curbing the independence of local NGOs has angered aid workers and bodes ill for civil society. The bill, which is due to go to parliament, would tighten the government’s supervision of local NGOs. They fear that the governmenmt will try to mute opposition in parliamentary elections later this year and presidential elections next year.
“Egypt’s civil society is crippled already with laws that curb its freedom,” Baheieddin Hassan, head of local NGO the Cairo Centre for Human Rights Studies, told IRIN. “The new law will inhibit civil society even more by doing what amounts to nationalizing it.”
The new law, which was leaked to the local Arabic press on 7 March, would usher in a new government-appointed association called the General Federation for Civil Society Organizations. The new organisation will be responsible for authorizing the work of local NGOs. Civil society activists and NGOs who work without authorization from, or registration with, this association would risk prison sentences. 

Many civic organizations, from human rights NGOs, to pro-democracy think-tanks, to single-issue advocacy groups have managed to escape the grasp of the government for years, allowing the proliferation of a strong and increasingly sophisticated civil society in Egypt. In addition to that there are also groups that have aggressively lobbied for change and political reform, including the protest group Kefaya (Enough) and National Society for Change, of  Mohamed el-Baradei, former chief of the international atomic energy watchdog. El-Baradei is currently touring Egypt to rally support for political and constitutional reform.

“These movements and non-profit corporations seem to have unnerved the government on many occasions by their continuous demands for reform,” said Hafez Abu Saeda, secretary-general of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, by far the country’s largest rights group. “So the government thought up this law to bring them all to an end.”

Instead of receiving funding directly from donor organizations and countries, NGOs will have to apply to the Social Solidarity Ministry for it to decide whether they deserve the funding. “These applications must, of course, go to a state security office for investigation,” said Hassan. “This means that Egypt’s state security will manage the whole thing.”
 Officials from the Social Solidarity Ministry deny this. They said the proposed law aims to regulate Egypt’s civil society and not impede its work. “We’re still discussing all views in this regard,” said Aziza Youssef, head of the civil society section in the ministry.

New discoveries from Graeco-Roman era in Egyptian oasis

Des archéologues égyptiens ont découvert dans l'oasis de Bahariya, à 300 kilomètres au sud-ouest du Caire, quatorze tombeaux remontant à l'époque gréco-romaine, il y a 2 300 ans, dont l'un contenait une momie de femme, parée de bijoux. Ces découvertes ont été faites lors de travaux pour la construction d'une maison de jeunes, a précisé le ministère de la culture égyptien, lundi, dans un communiqué.
 It´s the sheer endless story of archeological discoveries in Egypt. In the same oasis Bahariya in 1996 a number of 17 tombes were discovered, containing 254 mummies. No country seems to be so rich in ancient treasures. Already the Graeco-Roman Museum in Alexandria is too small for its collection. And here is another discovery of 40 graves, no less. The photos (Reuters and AP respectively) show a women´s sarcophagus, a gold plate representing the four sons of the god Horus and a man´s mask.     

Monday, April 12, 2010

After three years the clothes arrive in Gaza..... damaged beyond repair

Gaza merchants were relieved last week when Israeli officials announced an easing of a ban on clothing items that would soon be permitted to enter the Strip; stocks relegated to strorage units in Ashdod since 2007 were finally set to be transferred in. However, when merchants recieved the goods on Thursday, they were damaged beyond repair.
Khan Younis clothing retailer Khaled Abu Sahlul said he was devastated when he unpacked a container of jeans stored in Ashdod since 2007. "I was shocked when I opened the containers, the jeans had been left out in the rain for days, months, maybe even years and were damaged beyond repair."
Abu Sahul estimated that 80% of his order was not fit for sale, "What am I going to do with 35,000 pairs of soiled jeans?" he asked.
In addition to the cost of the clothing, Abu Sahul said he paid 1,700 shekels (461 US dollars) per month over the last year to store the merchandise. "I thought I was paying that much to make sure the clothes were out of the rain," he said.
The merchant estimated his losses at more than half a million shekels (136,000 US dollars), and despairs at the thought that the nine other containers he is still paying to store in Ashdod are similarly ruined.
Palestinian crossings liaison officer in Gaza Raed Fattouh said officials in Ramallah sent a letter of protest to Israeli officials. The letter demanded compensation for the damages, as well as storage fees for Abu Sahlul and dozens of other merchants, but Fattouh was not optimistic that shop owners would see reparations in the near future.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Alarming new military orders will make it possible to expell anyone from the West Bank

Translation of the order. Source: wensite HaMoked.

Hardly did we learn about Anat Kamm and the fact that th Isareli judicial authorities ar going to prosecute her in her role as whistleblower instead of the generals who ignored High Court rulings and would rather kill than arrest, even if that menat killing inocent bystanders, or we hear yet even more disturbing news  Blogging becomes a full time job in this way.

The new news is about new military orders (see illustration) by which people can be expulsed from the West Bank or imprisoned if they are found to be ´illegally´ in the area. The human rights organisation HaMoked has this to say about it:
On Tuesday, April 13 2010, the Order regarding Prevention of Infiltration (Amendment No. 2) and the Order regarding Security Provisions (Amendment No. 112) are to enter into effect. The orders, signed by the previous GOC Central Command, Gadi Shamni but not revealed, are worded so broadly such as theoretically allowing the military to empty the West Bank of almost all its Palestinian inhabitants. Despite the severe ramifications of the orders, the authorities did not publicize their existence among the Palestinian population as required, which raises grave concerns that they intended to pass them secretly without public debate or judicial review.
The orders substantively change the definition of “infiltrator” and in effect apply it to anyone who is present in the West Bank without an Israeli permit. The orders do not define what Israel considers a valid permit. The vast majority of people now living in the West Bank have never been required to hold any sort of permit to be present therein.
The military will be able to prosecute and deport any Palestinian defined as infiltrator in stark contradiction to the Geneva Convention. There is a possibility that some of the deportees will not be given an opportunity for a hearing before being removed from the West Bank as, according to the orders, the deportation may be executed within 72 hours whereas it is possible to delay bringing a person before the appeals committee for up to eight days from issuance of a deportation order.
HaMoked states that based on Israel’s current policy, the orders are expected to be initially used against Palestinian residents of the West Bank whom Israel wishes to transfer to the Gaza Strip, despite the fact that many of them were born in the West Bank or lawfully relocated thereto. Israel is further expected to use the orders to deport foreign passport holding spouses of West Bankers abroad. This category includes tens of thousands of individuals. However, the definition of “infiltrator” which exposes a person to a prison term of three to seven years could, in principle, be applied to any person the military commander wishes ill, including Israeli and international citizens who are present in the West Bank.

Noam Sheziaf of the blog Promised Land and Amira Hass of Haaretz explain that the order changes the definition of infiltrator as it used to be in a law of 1969: a person who had come from an ´enemy country´ like Syria, Lebanon or Jordan. And this is done in the following way
´a person is presumed to be an infiltrator if he is present in the area without a document or permit which attest to his lawful presence in the area without reasonable justification.” Such documentation, it says, must be “issued by the commander of IDF forces in the Judea and Samaria area or someone acting on his behalf´.
 The vague formulation and the total absence of any indication which paper will be considered  the demanded
doceumenatin that somebody is legally present in the area where he or she is, make virtually any inhabitant eligibale to be deported or put in prison as HaMokd stated. But as Noam Sheizag argues, t is unlikely that the new order will be used as a means for mass expulsion in the foreseeable future, as Israel would get in trouble with the rest of the world if it would expell Palestinians by the thousands in broad daylight. Rather it is expected to be used as an instrument to get rid of  nasty demonstrations againts The Wall in placeslike Bil´in and Ni´lin or of popular resistance in general and people who - with increasing succes - advocate BDS (Boycot, Divestment and Sanctions) campaigns against Israel, its settlement policy and the inequalty of the Palestinians.
Also it must be argued that  these new amendments take away the very last illusions anyone might still have about the viability of the Oslo agreements and what came thereafter. Not only is Israel at will taking land it has occupied for its continued settlements policy, now it is also going to decide whether the inhabitanst of these lands are there lawfully or not. Israel already made incursions in areas like Ramallah and Nablus, areas which are nominally under the jurisdiction of the Palestine Authority, to arrest any people it wanted. Now it even takes the liberty to determine whether the people of the land, the subjects of the PA, are there legally or have to be deported. Nothing is sacred for this Israeli government. That´s very, very disturbing, indeed.