Wednesday, June 30, 2010

British Methodists ban products from Israeli settlements

The Methodist Church today voted to boycott all products from Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories becoming the first major Christian denomination in Britain to officially adopt such a policy.The decision was made at the church’s Conference in Portsmouth, an annual gathering which decides Methodist policy.
The official stance of the church, the fourth largest Christian denomination in Britain, will be to boycott any products made on Jewish settlements on the West Bank. Lay Methodists will also be encouraged to follow the church’s lead.
The move will inevitably put Methodists on a collision course with Britain’s Jewish community. The Board of Deputies of British Jews had already expressed concern over a 50-page report which had been compiled by a Methodist committee and sent to all its churches before the conference explaining why a boycott was justified.

Police arrest Abu Tir, one of four Hamas politicians facing expulsion from Jerusalem

Police arrested Hamas official Mohammed Abu Tir on Wednesday for failing to comply with orders to leave his East Jerusalem home. Abu Tir was arrested at the entrance to the city's southeastern Armon Hanatziv neighborhood, and taken for questioning at the Russian Compound police headquarters.
Police are expected to ask a court on Thursday to remand Abu Tir in custody. In early June, Jerusalem police confiscated Abu Tir's Israeli identity card, along with those of three other Hamas legislators - Mohammed Totach, Khaled Abu Arafa, and Ahmed Atoun - giving them until July to leave Jerusalem.Israel had warned the four men in the past to renounce membership of Hamas or risk losing residency rights in East Jerusalem.

All four men  were arrested a few months after taking part in the Palestinian national elections in January 2006, writes Jonathan Cook They remained in jail until recently as “bargaining chips” for the release of an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, who is being held captive by Hamas. The loss of residency will leave the politicians stateless.
Mahmoud Abbas, the PA's president has condemned the measure and said that he will take the matter up with the US. Hatem Abdel Kader, Fatah’s minister for Jerusalem affairs, was warned this month by the Shin Bet, Israel’s secret police, that he would have his residency revoked if he continued his political activities in the city.
Hassan Jabareen, the director of the Adalah legal centre for the Arab minority in Israel, said a “very dangerous precedent” was being set. “It is the first time Palestinians in East Jerusalem have had their residency revoked for being ‘disloyal’ and this could be used to expel many other residents whose politics Israel does not like,” he said. Abu Tir, 60, was supposed to leave on June 19, but has so far evaded expulsion. “I will not willingly leave the place my family has lived for 500 years,” he said last week.
Israel has based its decision on the Entry into Israel Law of 1952, which governs the naturalisation process for non-Jews. It allows the interior minister to revoke citizenship and residency in some cases.“The purpose of this law is to oversee the entry into Israel of foreigners,” said Mr Jabareen. “The Palestinians of East Jerusalem did not enter Israel; Israel entered East Jerusalem by occupying it in 1967.”
 Richard Falk, UN special rapporteur on the human rights in the Palestinian territories, said the expulsion may constitute a war crime.
 The revocations of the politicians’ residency comes in the wake of a rapid rise in the number of Palestinians who have been stripped of Jerusalem residency on other grounds, usually because a resident has studied or worked abroad. In 2008, more than 4,500 Palestinians lost their Jerusalem residency, interior ministry figures show. The number has been steadily rising since 1995, when 91 Palestinians were stripped of their rights. According to Israel, a total of 13,000 Palestinians have had their residency revoked since 1967.
The loss of residency is seen by the Palestinians as part of a wider Israeli strategy to weaken their hold on East Jerusalem and its holy sites.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Syria dismisses 1200 teachers wearing the niqab

Hundreds of Syrian teachers wearing the face veil were dismissed from their schools as the Ministry of Education said they undermine the secularism of the state. Syrian Minister of Education Ali Saad said in a meeting with heads of Teachers Syndicate offices that the dismissal of 1,200 teachers who wear the face veil (niqab) was necessary, the Lebanese daily As-Safir reported Tuesday. Saad justified his decision by arguing that the face veil is not in line with the secular policies followed by the state as far as education is concerned.

“Education in Syrian schools follows an objective, secular methodology and this is undermined by wearing the face veil.” He also pointed out that the face veil disrupts the teaching process as it hinders eye contact, which is extremely important for the relationship between teacher and student. 
The ministry’s decision affected teachers in various parts of Syria, especially the governorates Rif Dimashq in the south west and Aleppo in the north where teachers in nearly 300 schools in each were dismissed. The number dwindled remarkably in the capital Damascus, while some governorates were not affected at all like Quneitra in the south.
The dismissed teachers, half of which have contracts with the ministry, were transferred to the Ministry of Local Administration, especially in the municipalities. Several of the dismissed teachers submitted complaints which the minister promised will be thoroughly studies. “We will look into their complaints and all they won’t lose their rights,” he said.
The ministry’s decision was treated with enthusiasm by both the public and the intelligentsia. The feminist website Syrian Women Observatory said that the face veil is a sign of going back to the dark ages and constitutes a call for extremism and warned of its negative impact on students, especially children.
Syria is ruled by the Arab Socialist Baath Party, Syrian branch, since 1963. The Baath is thoroughly secular and as a conequence Syria's state institutions are secular as well.

Turkish autopsy report: Israelis on Mavi Marmara shot to kill

Journalist Cevdet Kiliçlar (38) moments before he got killed. His only weapon was a camera with which he was taken pictures till the very end. He may even have photographed his killer, but the camera was taken by Israel. (The picture is a still, taken from a tape by Iara Lee, Cultures of Resistance). 

All but two of the nine Turks killed in an Israeli raid on the Mavi Marmara aid ship for Gaza were shot more than once, and five died from bullet wounds to the head, according to forensic reports. The documents, penned this month, were made available to AFP Tuesday by lawyers for the victims' families, who have petitioned Turkish prosecutors to investigate the May 31 bloodshed on the Turkish Mavi Marmara ferry. "The findings make it clear the Israeli forces shot to kill the activists and not to overpower them," one of the lawyers, Yasin Divrak, told AFP.
The youngest victim, 19-year-old Furkan Dogan, a dual Turkish-US national, was shot five times, including twice in the head, the report said. A bullet that pierced his face was fired from close range, it said, adding he was hit also in the back of the head.
The forensic experts failed to detect other close-distance shots on the remaining victims. All nine bodies had been washed before being brought to Turkey and their clothes were either blood-soaked or otherwise unfit for analysis, making it impossible to reach a conclusion on the ranges of most shots, according to the documents.
Journalist Cevdet Kiliclar, 38, the web editor of the Islamist charity IHH that led the ill-fated campaign, was killed by a single bullet that hit him between the eyebrows, the report said.
Divrak drew attention to the autopsy of 61-year-old Ibrahim Bilgen, which included the discovery of a tiny bag containing pellets, still intact in his brain, which the report said was was fired from a hunting rifle.
"It is not a type of weapon that we have ever heard of," he said.
Israel says its commandos used force after they were attacked with sticks and stabbed as soon as they landed on the Mavi Marmara, which was sailing in international waters. But the activists insist the troops opened fire as soon as they landed.
The bloody ending to the aid mission, which had aimed to break the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, plunged ties between Turkey and Israel, once close allies, into deep crisis.
Turkey has dismissed a commission set up by Israel to investigate the raid, insisting for a UN-led international probe.
 A single bullet between the eyebrows. (Picture IHH)

AFP got the autopsy reports the same day that IHH, the humanitarian organisation that organized the flotilla, published a detailed report about the mission and the Israeli attack. In order to see it click here

Monday, June 28, 2010

Agreement between Yemeni government and Houthis is not working

Abdulmalik al-Houthi, leader of the Shia rebels in the northern governorate of Saada (see picture) , has accused the government of reneging on amnesty promises made by President Ali Abdullah Saleh on 22 May. Saleh had announced an amnesty for all imprisoned southern separatists and Houthi rebels in the north during a speech to commemorate unification in 1990. 
"Instead of releasing our fellow citizens in line with President Saleh's amnesty, security authorities in the government are launching new arrest campaigns against our men," al-Houthi said in a statement on 22 June.
According to local media reports, fewer than 800 of the more than 3,000 prisoners believed to be covered by the amnesty have been released.
Asked why the government had not released all of the prisoners under the amnesty, Interior Ministry official Lutfi Nisari said only: "This is a presidential affair." A security source told IRIN on condition of anonymity the government had only released minor offenders, such as those who had sympathized with al-Houthi, but continued to detain those accused of violent acts against the state. “Gunmen arrested on battlegrounds or masterminds of the rebellion will be referred to the competent courts for trial,” he said. 

Eyewitnesses hve given accounts of several fights that have killed dozends in the last few months since the ceasefire. Also roadblocks (on both sides' persist. Internally dipsced persons,m who had retruned to their homes have been force to floee again for the fightig, Irin reported. 
 Southerners demonstrate

The north is not the only region where the problem have not been solved. In the south police made 30 arrests in the aftermath of tha attack on 19 June on the headquarters of the security services in the provincial capital Aden. The authorities said the 30 belonged to Al-Qaeda. Local sources with ties to the southern separatist movement, however, said that the 30 had nothing to do with Al-Qaeda but were randomly arrested because they belonged to the secessionists. On Friday there were demonstrations in Aden after one of those arrested died. Police said the cause of his death was an attack of asthma. According to the protesters he died because of wounds that were inflicted when he was tortured.
Within the secessionist movement opposition was voiced against Salem al-Beidh, former president of the former republic of Southern Yemen. Al-Beidh, who resides in Germany, is head of the Supreme Southern Movement Council SSMC. The head of a different movement, the Supreme Southern Council (SSC), Hasaan Ba Awn, accused Al-Beidh to have been the reasons that four protesters in Lahj and Al-Dhale losttheir lives recently. Al-Beidh supported  violent means of protest which in turn caused violent reprisals by the army, was what Ba Awn said.
In  the Egyptian capital Cairo a meeting has taken place of the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) the coalition of Yemeni oppostion parties. Organizer and financier was Hamid al-Ahmar, the leader of the biggest tribal association of Yemen, but he himself did not attend. One of the points discussed was the question whether the opposition is serious in trying to find an alternative for president Ali Abdallah Saleh. Al-Ahmar said in a statement that he himself can´t be a candidate, because Al-Saleh is from the same tribe, which would undermine the credibility of such a move. He suggested to pick someone from the south.   


Lebanese and Palestinians demonstrate for more rights for refugees

Thousands have demonstrated in Downtown Beirut Sunday to pressure the government into granting full civil and economic rights to the 400,000 Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon. Groups from the country’s 12 Palestinian refugee camps joined with politicians, activists as well as Lebanese and Palestinian NGOs in pushing for the right to work and the right to own property.
Calls to improve access to the Nahr al-Bared camp, which has remained under strict military guard since the outbreak of hostilities between the army and extremist group Fatah al-Islam in 2007, also featured prominently in the event.
The demonstration, thought to have numbered over 5,000, took place outside of the UN headquarters. It was originally scheduled for outside Parliament but permission was denied by the army. Representatives for the Lebanese Communist Party, the Progressive Socialist Party and the Fatah Movement all spoke or at the event.
Luisa Morgantini, former vice president of the European Parliament and chair of the Delegation for relations with the Palestinian Legislative Council addressed the crowd through a pre-recorded message. The Future Movement, which organizers claim had promised to send speakers, and who have publicly come out in support of the right to work, failed to send representatives.
The protest culminated with the low-key delivery of a petition to Adnan Daher, Secretary General of the Lebanese Parliament. It contained calls for the right to own property, the right to mobility and the elimination of Article 59 of the work law, which restricts the Palestinian right to work.
The organizers are discussing an additional protest timed to coincide with the next parliamentary debate on Palestinian rights, scheduled for July 5. The Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) leader Walid Jumblatt introduced plans in parliament to improve the conditions for the Palestinians. The draft was rejected by a coalition of Christian parties, led by the Kataeb-party, who fear that granting rights will be the first step to full naturalization. Despite remaining marginalized in many cases, Palestinian refugees living in Syria, Jordan and other parts of the Arab world have largely been granted equal citizenship rights, if not given outright nationality.The Palestinians in Lebanon however don´t ask to be naturalized.

Israel confiscates seven donated oxygen machines for Palestinian hospitals

Seven oxygen machines donated to the Palestinain Authority by a Norwegian development agency were seized by Israeli officials en route to hospitals in the West Bank and Gaza, the Ramallah-based health ministry said. The machines, the ministry said in a Thursday statement, were confiscated by Israeli officials who claimed that the generators attached "came under the category of possible use for non-medical purposes" if they were delivered to the southern Gaza governorates.
While only one generator was bound for southern Gaza, all seven were taken, the statement said, and "all were badly needed for medical treatment." The six others were bound for government hospitals in the northern Gaza, inducing the European Hospital in Gaza City, the Rafdieyah hospital in Nablus, and other facilities in Ramallah and Hebron.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Power plant runs out of fuel, Gaza in the dark 12 hours a day

An emergency electricity program was implemented throughout the Gaza Strip on Saturday, after officials announced that the sole power station shut down a day earlier due to a massive fuel shortage. Gaza Electricity Distribution Company (GEDCo) said the remaining 137 megawatts the station could produce with its limited fuel reserves would be distributed across districts for six hours on Sunday, followed by 12 hours without electricity. "This will be repeated again and again until any major changes to the amount of available energy," a statement from GEDCo read.
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza released a statement Sunday afternoon, saying the power cuts "seriously impacted basic services provided to 1.7 million Palestinians, including drinking water and health and sanitation services." The cuts also caused "extreme suffering to at least 36,860 students who have been attending final exams of the Genera Certificate of Education (Tawjihi) since 12 June 2010."
The problems with the fuel delivery is not new. Shortages have occurred more times. The problems  started in February, one month after the European Union at the request of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah stopped paying the fuel bill for Gaza. Since then Ramallah reproaching the Gaza authorities that they don't pay enough, while Gaza tells Ramallah that they pay all the revenues after deduction of some necessary costs  to Ramallah. At least part f the problem seems to be that unemployment in Gaza reaches levels of 80% and that people simply don't have the money to pay the electricity bills. 

YNet describes how the Palestinians steal their own water

Isareli bulldozer destroys Palestinian irrigation canal near Hebron.

I really love this. In YNet a reportage about the theft of water by Palestinians. It happens on the West Bank. And what YNet seems to miss altogether is that the Palestinians actually are stealing their own water. This is what Amnesty International in 2009 wrote about the Palestinians in relation to the availability (or non availability) of water: they have accces to only 20% of what is available to the Israelis. On my Dutch blog I refered to it here).
This is what YNet wrote:

"This is lawlessness," Yigal Klein, chairman of the secretariat at the Pnei Hever settlement, told Ynet. "The Palestinians are connecting to the pipes with trucks or via an illegal system of pipes, and we don't have water in the morning. Children want to wash their faces before they go to school, and the faucets are empty. Even a cup of coffee becomes a rare commodity."
The phenomenon, according to Israel Water Authority, has already reached the proportions of a serious issue. "The pumping fro these illegal drillings come to a massive quantity of 10 million cubic meters of water a year," said a senior water official. "The Palestinians are connecting illegally to the supply lines of Mekorot and are causing a shortage in Hebron, Kiryat Arba, Yatta, and the surrounding villages." (For the whole article click here)

 Theft .. of their own water. (Picture YNet/courtesy of Mekorot wter company).

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Killing by police leads to large protests in Egypt

 Thousands of Egyptians, shouting 'Down with Hosni Muarak'  have demonstrated on Friday in Egypt's second city, Alexandria, against the death of Khalid Said, 28, who was reportedly beaten to death by policemen on 6 June. Among the protesters was Mohammed El Baradei, who has emerged as the most important person among Egypt's oppostional drive towards democratization and change.
The reason for the protest was that the death of Said was proof of police brutality which the police subsequently has tried to cover up.Witnesses said Said was at an Internet cafe in Alexandria when two plainclothes policemen entered, tied his arms behind his back and roughed him up, including smashing his head against a marble slab, according to published interviews with the cafe owner, Hassan Mosbah.
As the Egyptian correspondent of the Miami Herald writes, Said then was dragged outside and shoved into a neighboring building. His assailants continued to beat him, ramming his head against an iron gate, steps on a staircase and the walls of the building, according to a report released by the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, an independent advocacy group that reconstructed the events through interviews with witnesses. By the time his attackers were finished with him, Said's teeth were broken, his jaw was dislocated and blood seeped from his lifeless body. His relatives say the police targeted him because he'd circulated a video that allegedly showed a group of police officials sharing a haul of drugs they'd seized. The Interior Ministry denied these reports and claimed that Said choked to death on a package of marijuana that he tried to swallow as the police chased him.
The Egyptian government, at first dismissive of the case, is still investigating. Prosecutors have asked to question the two policemen who arrested Said to determine how he sustained the injuries that are visible in his authopsy photos, according to the state-run newspaper Al-Ahram. What has enraged the Egyptian opposition and blogging community is that two athopsies performed by the government confirmed that Said's death was caused by swallowing a package of marihuana that choked him, while at the same time in the Egyptian blogosphere pictures are widely circulating of his badly injured head and face. The protesters hav asked for a third authopsy to be performed by independent experts and a thorough investigation. International human rights organisation Human Rights Watch has communicated a similar demand.
The fact that Khalid Said's death has grown out to the dimension of such importance is yet more proof of the fact that discontent with the regime is growing.  

Friday, June 25, 2010

Israel expels four Hamas-parliamentarians from Jerusalem

Muhammad Abu Teir (Photo), member of the Palestinian parliament for Hamas,  has until Friday to leave Jerusalem, Israeli police informed him late Wednesday. Officials said the Palestinian Legislative Council member was reached by phone at his Sur Baher home after sundown Wednesday with news that upon order of Israel's High Court, his residency rights would soon be voided.
On Sunday, this court declined to overturn a military order expelling the official, saying in its ruling that the issue would be left up to a district court, where a petition against the move was filed last September.
Israel has stripped thousands of Palestinians of their Jerusalem residency since capturing the eastern part of the city in the 1967 Six-Day War.
However, revoking the residency of the four Hamas politicians would mark the first time Israel acts in that way against Arab residents of the city because of their political affiliation.
Jerusalem police confiscated the Israeli identity cards of the four Hamas legislators - Mohammed Abu Teir, Mohammed Totach, Khaled Abu Arafa, and Ahmed Atoun - in early June and gave them until July to leave the country. All four have refused to give up their duties within the Hamas Legislative Council.
Israel had warned the four men in the past to renounce membership of Hamas or risk losing their residency rights in East Jerusalem.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Gaza commitments yet unfulfilled

Some fodder for cynics: 
On Sunday, Israel’s Cabinet issued an encouraging statement promising to remove many of the restrictions on civilian goods entering Gaza, including those needed for economic activity. 
What has changed on the ground since the announcement and more generally, since international pressure mounted on Israel in the wake of the May 31 flotilla incident? The list of consumer goods permitted into Gaza has been expanded to include previously banned items such as ketchup, mayonnaise, and children’s toys. Ah, yes, and chips (french fries) as well, for dipping into the ketchup. But that’s about it.
We are therefore puzzled by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s statement that “we are already seeing a significant growth in the scope of the civilian goods entering Gaza.” There has been no significant change in the volume of trucks entering Gaza, as is evident from Gaza Gateway’s graphs. Last week, for example, 654 trucks entered Gaza, including via the grain elevator, similar to the number that entered in the week before the flotilla incident (662). This week, as of yesterday, the fourth of five working days for the crossings, approximately 567 trucks had entered Gaza, which is consistent with the policy, since June 2007, to allow entry of approximately 25% of what Gaza residents need.
Indeed, it is hard to see how more goods could enter Gaza, given that the one crossing still operating – Kerem Shalom (Kerem Abu Salam) – is working at near capacity with an average of 110 trucks per day of goods, five days per week. The “significant growth” mentioned by Mr. Netanyahu would be difficult unless Israel opens some of the crossings it has sealed over the last three years, including Karni Crossing, Gaza’s commercial lifeline, with a capacity of 1,000 trucks per day.
In any event, as Dan Ephron notes in Newsweek today, without the ability to export finished products and receive raw materials (they are still not being allowed in), economic recovery in Gaza will remain elusive.
Anyone surprised? 

Swedish dock workers block goods to and from Israel

From the Global BDS Movement's site:
By midnight on the 23rd June the Swedish Dock-workers union week-long blockade of goods to and from Israel started. The ongoing nation-wide blockade in Swedish harbors, that is based on the request of the united Palestinian union-movement, is The Swedish Dockworkers Union's attempt to contribute to pressure Israel into:
1. Lifting the blockade on Gaza
2. Allowing an independent, international investigation of what happened at the Israeli boarding of the so called Freedom Flottilla when nine people were shot to death.
In the harbor of Gothenburg the blockade were initiated without any complications. About ten containers, both Israeli imports and exports were immediately identified in the container terminal. All of which have been separated and will stand untouched in the harbor of Gothenburg until the end of the blockade at 24:00 the 29th of June.
The Swedish Dockworkers Union have explained the motives behind the unions blockade of Israeli goods in two articles:

The Swedish action follows on the heels of  a similar, short action in Oakland, California:
Hundreds of protesters condemning Israel's recent raid on an international flotilla bound for Gaza are picketing at the Port of Oakland, where an Israeli ship is due to arrive.The demonstrators gathered Sunday to prevent the incoming ship from being unloaded. The dock's day shift of longshoremen agreed to not cross the picket line.

Lawsuits against Israeli leaders in Greece and Belgium

33 Greek citizens who took part in the Gaza-bound flotilla that was stopped by the IDF last month are planning to sue senior Israeli officials, including Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and Navy chief Eliezer Merom, Army Radio reported on Wednesday.The Greek activists also plan to sue soldiers and police officers who participated in the IDF's interception of the Turkish-flagged ship the Mavi Marmara, which resulted in the deaths of nine activists.
According to flotilla participants, Israel violated Greek criminal law as well as international treaties when it stopped the ships by force outside of Israel's territorial waters.The lawyer for the plaintiffs announced the intended lawsuits at a news conference in Athens.

Two Belgian lawyers announced on Wednesday that, working on behalf of a group of Palestinians - including, significantly, one who is a Belgian national - they were intending to charge 14 Israeli politicians, including Ehud Olmert, Ehud Barak, Tzipi Livni and Matan Vilnai, for crimes against humanity and war crimes. The lawyers, Georges-Henri Beauthier and Alexis Deswaef said they were acting on behalf of 13 Palestinian victims from Gaza, and an additional man - Anouar El Okka, a Belgian doctor of Palestinian origin. 
Much of the 70-page complaint is based on the Goldstone report, Agence France-Presse reported. The claim includes an attack on a mosque near the Jabaliya refugee camp during which 16 civilians, including children, were killed. The plaintiffs were either wounded or lost a relative in the attack, the news site wrote.
Lawyers reported estimated that Belgium's attorney general will evaluate the case to determine whether it provides just cause to open a case against the senior Israeli officials "already by the end of August."
The claims follow the filing suit by French activists against Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak over the Israeli army's conduct during its raid of the Freedom Flotilla which saw nine passengers killed by Israeli commandos in international waters on 31 May. The move forced Barak to cancel a Paris visit.
An arrest warrant was issued against Livni in the UK in December 2009 after British lawyers filed suit against the official on behalf of Palestinian respondents for her role in Operation Cast Lead.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Settlers rampage near Bethlehem, insult parlementarians in Hebron and threaten to evict Palestinians in Silwan

Confrontation at Safa (Photo Ma'an)
  Furious after the Israeli government demolished two houses in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday, Israeli settlers attacked Palestinian property in the latest incident of the "price tag" phenomenon. Dozens of residents of the illegal Israeli settlement of Bat Ayin, in the Bethlehem Governorate, were seen throwing stones and empty bottles at Palestinian homes in Safa, an adjacent village next to the Beit Ummar town north of Hebron.
Israeli soldiers began firing tear-gas canisters and stun grenades at the crowd around dawn, lightly injuring a number of Palestinians, Muhammad Awad, spokesman for the Palestine Solidarity Project, told Ma'an. Settlers were prevented from setting fire to fields, he added.

Israeli settlers in East Jerusalem on Wednesday threatened to forcibly evict four Palestinian families they claim are living on property belonging to Jews in the neighborhood of Silwan.
The settlers said they would hire private security firms to implement the evictions if the four families, which include 40 individuals, do not leave by July 4.
The Palestinian families are living in a structure that was once a Yemenite synagogue in Silwan, located near the neighborhood's controversial Beit Yonatan structure.Beit Yonatan, a seven-story residential structure, was built illegally in the heart of the predominantly Palestinian neighborhood by the nationalist association Ateret Cohanim. Despite police discussions in preparation for the evacuation of Beit Yonatan several weeks ago, the implementation has been postponed until at least the end of the month. There is a standing order, issued two years ago, to evacuate and seal Beit Yonatan, where ten Jewish families reside. Jerusalem municipal officials have yet to enforce the order, despite court rulings and orders from the former attorney general. Meanwhile, the Beit Yonatan settlers claimed on Wednesday that police have not evicted the Palestinian families due to political constraints and have warned they would take matters onto their own hands next month. 

Confrontation in Hebron. (Photo Ynet).
 A confrontation broke out Wednesday morning between right-wing activists and Knesset members from the Hadash party who were touring the West Bank city of Hebron.
 Police refused to intervene in the heated argument, which did not turn violent apart from one shove. 

 As soon as the lawmakers stepped off the bus, extreme rightists Itamar Ben-Gvir and Baruch Marzel shouted, "Traitors, enemies of Israel, get of here." During the tour Ben-Gvir yelled at MK Mohammad Barakeh "Go to your doghouse".  The rightists also shouted towards the lawmakers and the leftists who accompanied them, "We are all Shayetet 13 (commando unit that raided the Gaza-flotilla). You belong to the group Marmara." 
MK Dov Khenin said the rightists threatened to murder him. "Hadash joined a tour organized by Breaking the Silence and a major commotion ensued. We are trying to listen to the (leftists') explanations, but the rightists are constantly shouting. Some of them even threatened to kill us like in Dir Yasin (Arab village captured by the Etzel and the Lechi forces in 1948)," he said. 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Israel presents its new spokesman: Tony Blair

 How wonderful that Didi Remez follows the Hebrew press and from time to time translates items like this one - together with the warning that this is NOT satire. Good for him, I nearly got confused. The teaser of the article from Tuesdays Maariv reads: Quartet envoy at the forefront of  the Israeli hasbara. And the headline: Israel presents: spokesman Blair.
After this introduction the text itself is almost superfluous, but here it is nevertheless - thanks to Didi's blog Coteret :
It turns out that Quartet envoy to the Middle East Tony Blair was the person who in fact presented to the international media the change in the policy of the Israeli government on the Gaza blockade. This was decided in coordination with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. And what was the prime minister’s contribution to helping Israeli PR efforts? He made do with a short statement to the press that he gave at the Likud faction meeting, and another laconic statement in English that was given to the foreign media.
Indeed, since two evenings ago, Blair has been going from one television studio to the next; he gave six interviews in two days, he handled tough questions from interviewers and he is trying to employ his great experience to enlist support in international public opinion for the relaxing of the blockade and for Israel’s new policy.
Netanyahu’s aides explained that the most important arena was that of the media and international public opinion. It was therefore decided that it would be better to have Blair present the important change in the government’s policy since he is considered objective and of international stature and since the decision about relaxing the blockade was made in coordination with him.
Blair met in Israel yesterday with a series of public figures and politicians, among them Regional Development Minister Silvan Shalom, Deputy Prime Minister and Intelligence Affairs Minister Dan Meridor and Opposition Chairwoman Tzippi Livni. Earlier he met in Ramallah with PA Chairman Abu Mazen and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
 Blair of international stature? Well, I could buy that. But objective? Read what he told the Jerusalem Post on Monday:
Anyone thinking of organizing an aid flotilla for Gaza should instead utilize the legitimate existing land crossings, where Israel is now lifting restrictions on civilian goods,' Blair said.'If we imple ment this policy so that the things that people are trying to bring in by flotilla you can bring in through the legitimate existing crossings, do it that way,' he urged in an interview with The Jerusalem Post.
So it's better to shelve all those attempts to break the blockade and cooperate with the Israelis, is what he councils us. And that long before we could even get an idea whether the Israelis are going to let building materials through, will make exports possible or - maybe the most important of all - okay the import of raw materials and the flow of people, both of which are needed for the industry in Gaza to start a process of recovery.
Blair a mediator? Blair objective? As objective and trustworthy probably as when he told British parliament in 2002 that the invasion of Iraq could not be avoided because of it's possession of weapons of mass destruction. Then he was Bush's man, now he serves Netanyahu. Blair the hasbarist.


Israeli human rights group B’Tselem today (21 June, TP) stated that the Security Cabinet decision on Gaza represents the first baby step in the right direction of bringing Israel's policy in line with its obligations. Though the implementation of the policy remains to be seen, any relaxation of the stringent restrictions on imports is to be welcomed. However, this cannot be the end of the conversation. The goal is not to improve humanitarian assistance but to obviate it.
Gaza needs to rebuild a self-sustaining economy, which requires import not only of foodstuff and commercial goods but also raw materials for manufacturing, industry and agriculture. It also requires a regulated system for exports, which addresses security concerns, as well as ability for people to travel in and out of Gaza for all functions of daily life. - (My Italics, TP.)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Jerusalem planning committee approves demolition of 22 houses in Silwan

The Jerusalem Planning and Construction committee approved Monday a plan by Mayor Nir Barkat dubbed "King's Garden", which calls for the demolition of 22 houses in Silwan in East-Jerusalem. In their place an archaeological park is to be founded.The Palestinian homes targeted for demolition are in Silwan’s al-Bustan quarter, which Israel calls Gan Hamelech - the "King's Garden" - because the biblical King David supposedly wrote his psalms in the neighbourhood.

The plan calls for the construction of shops, restaurants, art galleries and a large community center on the site where some say the biblical King David wrote his psalms. The whole plan will eventually be part of a biblical fun parc. The 22 displaced families would be allowed to build homes elsewhere in the neighborhood, though it's not clear who would pay for them.
The contested site is a section of a the larger Silwan neighborhood, which is home to some 50,000 Palestinians. Also some 70 Jewish families, belonging to Elad, a settler movement heavily subsidized from the united States, have settled in the area. Demolitions in Silwan have made the neighborhood a hub of tension between Palestinians and Jews. On top of that Elad is executing an excavation project for which tunnels have been constucted which have caused numerous spontanious collapses of street pavement and parts of buildings.  

City councilman Meir Margalit, of the Meretz faction, on Monday called the mayor "a clumsy amateur" for bringing the plan to a vote just two weeks before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with the US president."The world will thus recognize that it is dealing with pyromaniacs. The mayor needs to understand that the municipality is too much for him, and for the sake of the delicate balance of the city remove the plan from the agenda," Margalit said."Let us have no doubt that this is not a professional plan, it is a political plan. It contains no humanitarian considerations for the residents but only aims to strengthen Israeli sovereignty in Silwan."   

Israeli officials say that all of the 88 Palestinian homes in Silwan are built illegally. It is extremely difficult for Palestinians to obtain construction permits in East Jerusalem, so many families build their homes without the required paperwork. Barkat's proposal would allow residents of the other 66 Silwan homes - the ones not slated for demolition - to retroactively apply for construction permits, according to a report in the Jerusalem Post.

Obama's Middle East politics extremely impopular in.. . the Middle East

Jim Lobe of IPS writes about interesting results of a Pew Rearch Center's Global Attitudes Project about Obama's freign policy. Most interesting is the all time low Obama's Israel-Palestine policy scores. in countries like Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon it is well above the 80 % disapproval, or even close to 90%. Also in Europe, Latin-America and Asia it is considered far from succesful. Also the enthousiasm for his Iraq and Afghanistan policies is not that great in the same countries. (For the Pew Center, click here
Overall Obama's performance is still rather popular. It is, however, declining, particularly in Middle eastern and Muslim countries.

Lebanese aid ships will sail via Cyprus to Gaza

The Lebanese newspaper An Nahar reported on Monday:

Transport Minister Ghazi Aridi confirmed that the ministry allowed organizers of a Gaza-bound aid flotilla to sail from the northern port city of Tripoli to Cyprus before heading to the Hamas-run territory.
Aridi's remarks on the vessel "Julia" on Sunday night came as Israel's Haaretz daily reported that the Jewish state had initiated diplomatic efforts designed to prevent the departure of at least one ship, carrying 50 to 70 Lebanese women and food aid. Israel has been in touch with the U.N., U.S., France, Spain and Germany. It has also been speaking with the Vatican because "Mariam" is expected to include several dozen Catholic nuns, Haaretz said.
However, according to Aridi the ship was not named "Mariam," stressing that the voyage was christened "Mariam" in honor of Virgin Mary.
While confirming that "Julia's" first destination will be Cyprus and not Gaza, the minister stressed that he won't sign on any illegal sail.Aridi also stressed that "Julia's" voyage to Cyprus was not in violation of Security Council resolution 1701 and that the vessel would undergo a technical checkup before it sails from Tripoli.
The Lebanese government is responsible of its decision, Aridi added.
However, Israeli military sources warned that it would be very easy to take control of Iranian and Lebanese ships because they are from countries which are in enmity with the Jewish state. They told Haaretz that they would deal firmly with them.
Two Iranian Red Crescent boats also plan to depart for the blockaded enclave.
Cartoon by Naji al-Ali 

Ynet adds that also a second ship, the Naji al Ali, named after the famous Palestinian cartoonist who was  murdered in 1987, will sail to Cyprus. The Naji al-Ali will be carrying 25 European activists, including parliament members, and some 50 journalists. 

Update Tuesday: A ship that will carry aid from the Iranian Red Crescent Society to the Gaza Strip will leave on June 27 carrying 1,100 tons of supplies and 10 people on board, Abdolrauf Adibzadeh, the head of the organization, said in Tehran today. The vessel, which will head to the coastal strip ruled by the Hamas militant group through the Suez Canal, is not looking for a confrontation with Israel, he added.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Suicide bombers target bank in Baghdad and kill 26

Many of the victims of Sunday's twin bomb blasts in Baghdad were women [AFP]
Two car bombs have exploded outside the headquarters of the Trade Bank of Iraq in Baghdad, killing at least 26 people and injuring 53 others, security officials have said.
The near-simultaneous blasts occurred shortly after 11am on Sunday in the Yarmouk neighbourhood in western Baghdad.
Iraqi security forces say suicide bombers drove two cars laden with explosives to the bank, then detonated them.
"Each car was loaded with 80 kilogrammes of ammonium nitrate," the Baghdad operations command said.Five bank guards were killed in the explosion, and six others were wounded, according to Hussein al-Uzri, the bank's chairman.One of the two bombs exploded near an office of Iraq's interior ministry where Iraqis apply for their national ID cards. Many of the victims from that blast were women, according to the Iraqi army.

The Yarmouk district is not far from Baghdad's heavily-guarded Green Zone. The bank is one of the public sector's most active financial institutions and has been working to encourage foreign investment in Iraq.
Banks have become frequent targets for both criminals and fighters in recent months. A June 13 raid on Iraq's central bank killed 15 people which the security forces blamed on the remnants of al-Qaeda in Iraq. And gunmen stole $6.5m from a Baghdad bank last summer.
Sunday's bombings occurred after a string of attacks in the capital on Saturday evening.

Iran hangs leader of sunni rebel movement in Baluchistan

The leader of a Sunni militant group has been executed in Iran for his involvement in "terrorist" attacks in the Islamic state, state media report. Abdolmalek Rigi, head of Jundallah, was hanged at dawn at Tehran's Evin prison in the presence of the families of its victims, the Irna news agency said.
Mr Rigi was accused of being behind a series of deadly bombings and raids in the province of Sistan-Baluchistan.He was arrested in February while on a flight from Dubai to Kyrgyzstan.
Founded in 2003, Jundullah (Soldiers of God) says it is fighting to defend the human rights, culture and faith of ethnic Baluchis.The majority of Iran's ethnic Baluchi population live in Sistan-Baluchistan and adhere to the Sunni branch of Islam. They claim that as a minority in a Shia state, they are persecuted by the authorities.
Jundullah has said it was responsible for a string of high-profile attacks in Sistan-Baluchistan, including a suicide bombing near the Pakistani border that killed 42 people, including six senior Revolutionary Guards commanders, and a bombing in a Shia mosque in Zahedan that killed 25 people.
Mr Rigi's younger brother, Abdolhamid, was captured in Pakistan in 2008 and extradited to Iran. State media reported that he was executed last month in Zahedan after being convicted of terrorism.

PKK and Turkey: an old war flares up again

Wounded Turkish soldiers are evacuated

The battle between Turkey and the Kurdish rebels of the PKK has flared up anew in recent weeks after militairy operations against PKK-positions in northern Iraq which, according to the Turkidsh military, killed at least 130 members of the PKK. The military lost 43 personnel.
The escalation of violence followed a major air assault on May 20 on rebel positions in Hakurk region of the northern Iraq in which several warplanes bombed a large area to kill about 100 rebels.It was the largest air assault on the rebels since a 2008 ground operation into Iraq that saw many guerrillas return to bases along the border after Turkish units withdrew. The Turkish military says around 4,000 rebels are based just across the border in Iraq and that about 2,500 operate inside Turkey.
Also hundreds of elite commandos crossed into Iraq for a daylong operation to hunt down a group of rebels who were escaping after an attack near the border town of Uludere. Intelligence reports suggested that the rebel casualties, also in a coordinated air strike, were about 20.

The PKK said this month they had scrapped a year-old unilateral cease-fire and resumed attacks against Turkish forces because of military operations against them. The cease-fire had come as Erdogan's government worked on plans to boost Kurdish rights to help end the conflict. However, the process has faltered and it suffered a setback in December when the Constitutional Court banned the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) on charges of links to the PKK.

As a result of the renewed tension Turkish troops and Kurdish militants on Saturday again clashed in the Hakkari province in southeast Turkey, in a fight that killed eight soldiers and 12 rebels.Two more soldiers were killed when they trod on a land mine. The battle at Semdinli, near the border with Iraq, prompted the armed forces to hit Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets inside northern Iraq.
The PKK militants touched off the fighting with an attack on an army border unit at about 2 a.m. "Reinforcements were sent to the region and throughout the night support was provided to the conflict zone by attack helicopters and artillery. Separately, the Air Force struck targets identified in the northern region of Iraq," the Turkish General Staff said in a statement.

More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict since the PKK launched its insurgency in 1984 with the aim of creating an ethnic homeland in the country's southeast. The rebels say they now want greater rights and autonomy for Turkey's estimated 12-15 million Kurds.

Gunmen set free Al-Qaeda suspects with attack on Aden security headquarters that kills 11

 The political security headquarters in the At-Tawahi neighbourhood of Aden after the attack.

At least 11 were killed and 12 wounded Saturday morning in Aden, South Yemen, as unidentified gunmen attacked the Political Security office. Most of the dead people were soldiers. The initial fingerprint of the operation is pointing to the al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), security sources said.
About five gunmen wearing military uniforms stormed the security building in the At-Tawahi area near the port, and opene fire with automatc weapens and rocket propelled grenades.
During the attack, an unknown number of prisoners suspected of being members of Al-Qaeda were set free by the operators, security source affirmed. Although, the clash lasted for nearly half an hour, all the assailants together with the released prisoners escaped successfully.Three women including the secretary of the director of the Political Security, were among the dead persons.
 The attack came amid a flag ceremony at the Political Security Organisation (PSO) headquarters, one security official told Reuters news agency, which was one of the reasons why so many were killed and wounded.

The attack came a day after The al-Qaeda network on Friday urged tribal leaders in Yemen not to turn over its fighters – also known as the ‘mujahidin’ – to the government, according to a statement published on Islamist websites.
The statement accused the government of killing ‘innocent people as well as children and women, under the pretext that some members of these tribes are wanted,’ referring to the death of the deputy governor of Yemen’s Marib province last month. Jabir al-Shabwani and five of his companions were killed when his car was hit by a missile in an airstrike that was targeting al-Qaeda member Mohammed Saeed bin Jaradan in Marib, 190 kilometres north-east of Sana’a. The statement urged the Abida tribe, to which al-Shabwani belonged, not to support ‘the US agent Ali Abdullah Saleh’ (th Yemeni pesident).
‘Who kills your women and children? Are they the mujahidin or Ali Abdullah Saleh?’ said the statement.
The Yemeni government has urged the handover of al-Qaeda fighters and threatened punishments for those who harbour the militants. Homes of al-Qaeda sympathisers have regularly been destroyed in recent times.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Mariam, Lebanese aid ship with only women aboard, set to sail on Sunday from Tripoli to Gaza

Samar al Hajj is the coordinator of the Lebanese aid ship that with about 50 women and mediacal supplies is to leave the northern Lebanese port of Tripoli on on Sunday. Samar Hajj is the wife of general Ali al-Hajj, former chief of interbal security in Lebanon and one of four generals who had been indicted in relation with a car bomb that killed Lebanese prime minister Rafic Hariri and 22 others in 2005. Here she makes the victory sign after her husband was released for lack of evidence in April 2009.

Lebanon and Egypt's prime ministers slammed Israel on Thursday over warnings against an all-women Lebanese aid ship that aims to break the Gaza blockade."The Israeli government continues to threaten Lebanon," Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri said in response to a question at a news conference with the Egytian premier, Ahmed Nazif,who was in Lebanon on a two day state visist.
"There are fleets coming from Europe," he added. "Will the Israeli defence minister attack Europe or other countries sending aid to Gaza?" "Enough lies ... Israel's actions are not humanitarian and rejected by all human rights treaties."
For his part, Nazif warned that an Israeli attack on the women's ships "might have dire consequences as we saw with the Turkish Freedom flotilla." "The region is facing a crossroads between the will for peace, which all Arab states voice and the international community supports, and Israel's reluctance and intransigence," Nazif said.
A group of Lebanese women activists joined by Europeans and journalists are planning to sail for Gaza on a ship -- christened "Mariam" in honour of the Virgin Mary -- in the latest bid to break Israel's four-year blockade of the Hamas-ruled territory. Thde ship is planned to leave the northern Lebanese port Tripoli on Sunday. ''We are all independent women who believe in breaking the siege on Gaza and are committed to the enmity of the Zionist entity," said Samar Hajj, who is coordinating the trip. She stressed the women were not affiliated with Hizbullah, or any other political organization."This has nothing to do with Hizbullah even though it is an honor for us to be supporters of the resistance," said Hajj. She added that so far 50 women -- Muslim, Christian and secular -- had signed up for the trip on board the cargo ship "Mariam." Among them are 30 Lebanese and 20 foreigners, including several European nationals.She said all the logistics for the trip had been handled by the Free Palestine Movement, a non-governmental organization.

The plans for a women-only operation comes as Israel faces an international backlash over its deadly May 31 seizure of a six-ship aid flotilla bound for Gaza, in which nine Turkish activists were shot dead by naval commandos.

On Thursday, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak warned Lebanon it would be responsible for any "violent and dangerous confrontation."  Israel's UN ambassador on Friday urged the government of Lebanon and the international community to prevent a small group of ships from trying to break the blockade of Gaza, warning that Israel 'reserves the right to use all necessary means to stop the vessels'.Gabriela Shalev, Israels representative at the UN used these words that forebode an new confrontation in  a letter to UN-chief Ban Ki Moon.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Israel releases damning new 'evidence' that the attackers of the Mavi Marmara were in fact the victims

 Israel's Foreign ministry  released a new video on Friday, no doubt taken from the many camera's, tapes and laptops they stole with other belonings like papers, cellphones, creditcards and even money from the passengers of the Mavi Marmara on May 31. On the video, recorded on may 30, Bülent Yildirim the head of the Turkish humanitarian organisation IHH holds a speech in which he tells his audience that the ships will continue their trip in spite of Israeli threats. He says things like: 'If we show fear, they will win once again. We don't want to be recorded in Allah's book as cowards', and 'If you send the commandos, we will throw you down from here and you will be humiliated in front of the whole world.' Also an unidentified man tells similar things in Arabic and the crowd, apparently Turks and Arabs, shouts Allahu akbar. 

 So now we are convinced, aren't we? These men really were terrorists. Or..?

Well convincing it certainly is for the Israeli meatheads who really believe that the attackers were the victims - that poor little Israel had no other option than to attack and kill -  and who on Wednesday put Yildirim's organisation IHH on Israels 'terror watch list'. And this - putting IHH on the 'terror watch list' - was really the only news there was in this whole silly report in Haaretz, Ynet and the Jerusalem Post.

O my, the poor soldiers...

The difficult images of Israeli commandos tied up and bloody on the deck of the Marmara that were published by Turkish newspapers have had significant effects on soldiers who have been away from the battlefield for more than a year. Ynet learned that at least four Navy combat soldiers have recently contacted the Defense Ministry to report that the media images of the injured soldiers have instigated a worsening in their mental and psychiatric conditions.
One of the soldiers, who was released from the military just last summer after serving in one of the Navy's secret units, recently contacted the Defense Ministry rehabilitation department with a request that the depositions on his condition be updated after the images of the clashes on the Marmara flooded him once again with the difficult images he was confronted with during his service.
 This same young man enlisted to the IDF with no medical or psychological conditions. However, due to the nature of his service, he was persistently exposed to threat. In the deposition on his condition, he reported that he did not receive any training on how to deal with such situations and their repercussions, one of which is that he has a hard time falling asleep at night. His condition then worsened, and he suffered from nightmares, prompting his mental health officer to hospitalize him in a psychiatric ward.

Next Ynet will surely inform us about the nightmares of the passengers of the Mavi Marmara? And of the family members of those killed?

EU, like US, expands sanctions against Iran over Russian objections

European Union leaders agreed tighter sanctions against Iran on Thursday, including measures to block oil and gas investment and curtail its refining and natural gas capability. The measures, which go substantially beyond those approved by the United Nations on June 10, are designed to pressure Tehran to return to talks on its uranium enrichment programme which Western powers believe is designed to produce nuclear weapons. 
Russia sharply criticized the EU and the United States for imposing additional sanctions on top of those that Moscow agreed to support in the U.N. Security Council last week."We are extremely disappointed that neither the United States nor the European Union is heeding our calls to refrain from such steps,"Russian news agencies quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying. President Dmitry Medvedev (picture) in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, prior to a visit to the US, next week, also criticised the additional sanctions. Medvedev said in the interview that the United States had nothing to lose by imposing additional sanctions, as it has no ties with Iran, unlike Russia and China."We didn't agree to this when we discussed the joint resolution at the U.N.," Medvedev said. "We should act collectively. If we do, we will have the desired result."

The steps, which could come into force within weeks, will focus on trade, banking and insurance, transport including shipping and air cargo, and key sectors of the gas and oil industry.The energy sector sanctions will prohibit "new investment, technical assistance and transfers of technologies, equipment and services related to these areas, in particular related to refining, liquefaction and liquefied natural gas technology," the heads of state and government said in their statement, issued during an EU summit in Brussels.The measures, drawn up in discussions over the past week, go beyond what some diplomats had foreseen and are likely to put strong financial pressure on Iran, which is the world's fifth largest crude oil exporter but has little refining capability.

The United States made its additional sanctions public one day earlier, on Wednesday. Timothy Geithner (picture), the US secretary of the treasury identified some 20 petroleum and petrochemical companies as being under Iranian government control, a move that puts them off limits to US businesses under a general trade embargo. It added Post Bank of Iran to the list of specially designated proliferators of weapons of mass destruction as the 16th bank in Iran that the US has sought to cut off from the international financial system. The US action also aims to thwart Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines from skirting previous sanctions by renaming its vessels and shifting them to new front companies.
The treasury blacklisted five such companies, identified 27 new vessels blocked under the sanctions, and updated entries for 71 others that were renamed, reregistered and flying new flags.The new sanctions also take further aim at Iran's Revolutionary Guard, blacklisting its air force and missile commands over their activities in the development of ballistic missiles.
Earlier on Wednesday Iran announced that it will build four new reactors to expand its atomic research.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, in a televised speech vowed to force the West to "sit at the negotiating table like a polite child" before agreeing to further talks. Iran will not make "one iota of concessions", he said, adding that he would punish world powers for the UN sanctions before announcing new conditions for negotiations. "You showed bad temper, reneged on your promise and again resorted to devilish manners," the Iranian leader said.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Human Rights Watch rings alarm bell about female circumcision in Iraqi Kurdistan

Human Rights Watch has called on authorities in the autonomous Iraqi region of Kurdistan to ban the practice of female circumcision. A report issued by the group on Wednesday said the practice was widespread in Iraqi Kurdistan. It called on the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to enact legislation to ban the practice on young girls or unconsenting adult women. It also called on the KRG to launch a public awareness campaign on its damaging and dangerous consequences.
Female circumcision - a practice which has no basis in Islam although it is encouraged by some clerical authrities -  is virtually unknown in the rest of Iraq, and it is not clear why it seems to have taken root in Iraqi Kurdistan, a deeply traditional and often tribal society. There are no comprehensive statistics, but a number of recent surveys have shown it to be surprisingly widespread.One survey carried out early last year by the KRG's Human Rights Ministry suggested that 40% of girls and young women had undergone the procedure in the Chamchamal area, between Kirkuk and Sulaimaniya. An earlier study by the German-Iraqi NGO Wadi in a broad area between Irbil, Sulaimaniya and Kirkuk yielded an even higher average figure of more than 70%.

A third soldier may be indicted for misconduct during Cast Lead operation

 The Abu Hajjaj family house, Photo B'tselem

Wow, after 18 months of investigations into the conduct of the Cast Lead operation in December-January of 2008-2009 during which more than 1400 Palestinians were killed, Israel may indict a third soldier for not behaving in a proper way, Ynet reports. The man, a sergeant of the Givati Brigade, is said to have opened fire at a group of 31 people who were fleeing an area where shots were fired and who were carrying white flags. The sergeant had not received orders to shoot. A mother of 64 and her daughter (35), both belonging to the Abu Hajjaj-family were killed as a result of his shooting. 
Israeli military prosecution has already submitted two earlier indictments against soldiers who participated in the Gaza operation – one for theft and illegal use of a credit card, the other for overstepping authority in a case where soldiers ordered a Palestinian child to open suspicious bags for them. Now a decision is expected on the most sensitive case. 
Ynet tells us:  About two months ago the military advocate told the soldier that before the case was decided he would be entitled to a hearing. However, the case was described as a "killing", indicating the advocate's intention to indict the soldier for a serious offence, though it is possible that a milder indictment may be submitted in the end.  Because of the sensitivity of the case, the military police will be present during the hearing. Military sources said to Ynet that it is a complex case that requires thorough investigation. They noted that the case had been handled with no regard for the allegations in the Goldstone Report.
Goldstone? No God forbid, this was an Israeli investigation. And since it was a' complex' one, we have to understand that it took 18 months to reach this stage. Still it is unclear what kind of indictment will follow. For those who want to read about what happened: B'tselem published a testimony of  Farhaneh Abu Hajjaj, one of the family members, in April 2009. It can be found here. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Paris names a square after the poet Mahmoud Darwish

Photo Ma'an News, Omar Rashidi

The late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish has been honored with a square in his name in the city of Paris. It was the first time such a thing happend outside his homeland. The 'Place Mahmoud Darwish'  was unveiled Tuesday by Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoe in the presence of PA-president Mahmoud Abbas and officials from the French Foreign Ministry, ambassadors from several Arab states, UNESCO, and French and Arab artists living in the city. Darwish himself lived in Paris on and off for years, traveling between the French city and Beirut during his years of exile. The sign of the new 'place' bears a line of Darwish: ''We love life if we find a way to it, '' which is taken from the following poem:

And We Love Life

And we steal from the silkworm a thread to build a sky and fence in this departure.
We open the garden gate for the jasmine to step out on the streets as a beautiful day.

We love life if we find a way to it.

And we plant, where we settle, some fast growing plants, and harvest the dead.
We play the flute like the color of the faraway, sketch over the dirt corridor a neigh.
We write our names one stone at a time, O lightning brighten the night.

We love life if we find a way to it...

(translated from the Arabic by Fady Joudah)

In April there was a ceremony in Paris whereby an esplanade was named after Ben Gurion. That drew angry protests from people who immediately called it the 'ethnic cleansing promenade'. 

Ireland expels Israeli diplomat over killing Hamas-official in Dubai

The Irish Republic is to expel an Israeli diplomat over the use of fake passports in the killing of Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mahboub in January in Dubai. Forged British, French, Australian, and German passports were also used in the Dubai operation.The UK and Australia have already expelled Israeli nationals over the forgeries.

Foreign Minister Micheal Martin said an investigation had proved that eight Irish passports used in the operation were forgeries. Mr Martin said in a statement that Israel had been "requested to withdraw a designated member of staff of its embassy" and that he expected the request would "be quickly acceded to. The misuse of Irish passports by a state with which Ireland enjoys friendly, if sometimes frank, bilateral relations is clearly unacceptable and requires a firm response," he said. In Jerusalem, foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said the Israeli government regretted the Irish decision, which he said was "not in line with the importance of our relationship with the Irish government".
Mr Martin said the Irish had co-operated closely with British and Australian authorities in their investigation of the killing. He cited "the inescapable conclusion that an Israeli government agency was responsible for the misuse and, most likely, the manufacture of the forged Irish passports associated with the murder of Mr Mabhouh". Irish authorities had asked for Israeli help in their investigation, he said, but such efforts had "yielded no response and no denial of Israeli involvement".
Six of the eight fake passports used the numbers of existing Irish passport holders, while the other two contained invented numbers conforming to the Irish format, the foreign ministry said.Mr Martin said those whose passport numbers had been used had been issued with new passports and that he was confident this would allow them "to travel free from any suspicion".

Last week it emerged that authorities in Poland arrested a suspected Israeli agent in connection with Mr Mabhouh's death.Germany is seeking his extradition over a forged German passport used by one of the killers.