Saturday, July 31, 2010

Haaretz reveals: population of Golan Heights also forcefully expelled and their villages destroyed

Golan 1967. In the foreground an abandoned Syrian tank.

The following is part of an article in Haaretz´ Friday supplement of 30 July 2010. A remarkable article, in that it concedes that the original population of the Golan Heights, which were captured in 1967, did not flee as most textbooks nowadays would still tell you, but in fact were driven out. The story tells us that Israel used th same tactics and methods to ´clean´ the Golan as was used in expelling the majority of the Palestinians in Israel proper in 1947-48. The year 1967 was - if we may borrow these words from Ilan Pappé - a replay of the ´ethnic cleansing of Palestine´. Haaretz:

 What happened to the 130,000 Syrian citizens living in the Golan Heights in June 1967? According to the Israeli narrative, they all fled to Syria, but official documents and testimonies tell a different story. 

The aroma of ripe figs fills your nostrils as soon as you enter the village of Ramataniya. At the height of summer, they're overripe and the smell of fermentation is oppressive. With no one to pick it, the fruit rots on the trees. With no one to trim them, the roots and branches grow wild, cracking the black basalt walls of the nearby houses, reaching through empty window frames, and destroying stone walls in the yards. Neglect and ruin are everywhere. The red tiles have vanished from the roofs. The floor tiles have been removed. Any belongings were confiscated or plundered decades ago. Bars still cover some windows, but the doors are gone. The occasional snake pokes out from beneath a heap of stones that were once part of a wall; birds peck at the rotting figs, and an enormous wild boar wanders skittishly down the path. Suddenly it stops and takes a look back, as if debating whether to stake a claim or run for its life. In the end, it flees. Of the dozens of Syrian villages that were abandoned in the Golan Heights after the Six-Day War, Ramataniya is thought to be the best preserved. Apparently thanks to the brief period of Jewish settlement here in the late 19th century - and not because of its Byzantine history - it was declared an archaeological site right after the 1967 war and thereby saved from the bulldozers. But the fate of the rest of the Syrian localities in the Golan Heights was completely different: Apart from the four Druze villages at the foot of Mount Hermon, they were all destroyed, in most cases down to their very foundations. 

However, the fires in recent weeks that wiped out the shrubs and weeds exposed their remains, which attest that more than 200 villages, towns and farms flourished in the Syrian-ruled Heights before the war. Many of the houses crumbled over the years due to the ravages of weather and time. Others were blasted by Israel Defense Forces troops during live-fire training exercises there. But most were wiped off the face of the earth in a systematic process of destruction that began right after Israel's occupation of the Golan.
Only the Syrian outposts and army camps there have remained largely untouched, their concrete-and-steel fortifications searing reminders of the terror waged in the Golan against Israelis, who suppress memories of the civilian life that flourished in the alleyways and homes of Ramataniya and the other villages.
The 1960 Syrian census in the Golan Heights listed Ramataniya as having 541 inhabitants; on the eve of the Six-Day War, there were 700. According to most estimates, in 1967, the population of the entire area conquered by Israel there ranged from 130,000-145,000. The data are based on the census and a calculation of natural growth.
In the first Israeli census of the Golan, conducted exactly three months after the end of the fighting, there were just 6,011 civilians living in the entire Golan region. For the most part, they lived in the four Druze villages that remain populated to this day. A minority lived in the city of Quneitra, which was returned to Syria following the Yom Kippur War. So, in less than three months, more than 120,000 people either left of their own accord - or were expelled.


Remains of the destroyed village Manshiya

Like Ramataniya, the other villages in the Syrian Golan Heights also had largely homogeneous populations. Five villages in the north, for example, right at the foot of Mount Hermon, were home to Druze. The Alawites lived in three villages to the west - one of which, Ghajar, still survives. Around Quneitra were 12 Circassian villages; to the south were 14 Turkmenic villages. Christians lived mostly in villages along the road that leads from the southern part of the Golan Heights to the Rafid junction. The Golan was also home to Armenian, Kurdish, Mughrabi and Hourani minorities.
Almost 80 percent of the inhabitants in the Golan were Sunni Muslims, mostly descended from nomadic tribes that tended flocks there in the 19th century and later settled there. In 1967, only 2 percent of the area's population were nomads. Also living in the Golan were 7,000 Palestinian refugees whose villages were destroyed during the War of Independence.
Most people lived in small farming villages of 200-500 residents. The main sources of livelihood for Quneitra's 20,000 inhabitants involved agricultural commerce and the processing of local raw materials. Contrary to the popular notion in Israel, and based on scholarly research, only a small minority of the population was employed by the Syrian security establishment.

In an article entitled "Hopeful truths of the new reality," published in Life Magazine on September 29, 1967, then Israeli defense minister Moshe Dayan presented his version of what happened to the Golan residents. The army broke through along the entire front stretching from the Jordanian to the Lebanese borders, to a depth of 20 kilometers. The entire area, apart from seven Druze villages, was now abandoned, he added, because as the Syrian troops retreated, the civilian population took its herds and fled eastward, afraid of being caught in the cross-fire or becoming targets of bombing and shelling.
Other Israeli politicians, army personnel and spokesmen described the Syrian population's flight in similar terms. In a letter to the UN secretary general, Israel's UN representative, Gideon Rafael, responded to claims by the Syrian representative that tens of thousands of civilians had been expelled from their homes following the war. Rafael wrote that "most of the population of the Golan Heights fled prior to the Syrian forces' withdrawal. Out of a population of about 90,000, 6,404 remained."
Newspapers at the time took a similar tack. An article by Yehuda Ariel in Haaretz in late June 1967 asserted that "the villages in the Golan were all abandoned without exception. The residents all feared revenge [attacks]. No man or woman thought to remain on their property and continue working the land. They abandoned everything and fled."

The hospital of Quneitra, the main city of the Golan. Israel gave Quneitra back to Syria after the Yom Kippur War of 1973, but first destroyed it by blowing up most of its buildings.  

Over the years, the Israeli narrative concerning the flight of Syrian civilians from the Golan during the war found its way into textbooks and historical literature. "In addition to the outposts, the Syrians had positions and fortifications in many of the villages in the Golan," wrote Ze'ev Schiff and Eitan Haber in their 1976 book "A Lexicon of the Israeli Army." "These villages were home mostly to Turkmens, Circassians and Druze. Most abandoned their homes during the Six-Day War. It was primarily the Druze who remained."
In his book, "History of the Golan," Nathan Schur, author of more than 20 books and 100 articles about Jewish history, quoted Israel's official response to the UN vis-a-vis Syrian claims about the expulsion of civilians: "Prior to their withdrawal, Syrian military authorities instructed the inhabitants of the villages in the Golan to abandon their homes and property, and to immediately leave their villages for exile within Syria. Only the inhabitants of the Druze villages in the northern Golan did not heed this instruction. The inhabitants disappeared from all the other villages all at once."
In a historical-geographical lexicon published by the Defense Ministry, the entry for the Golan Heights reads: "In the Six-Day War it was conquered by the IDF and a majority of its inhabitants fled."

Remains of ancient synagogue in Manshiya, in the process of being restored.

Davar reporter Idit Zertal wrote shortly after the victory of June ´67, from the Golan: "On a narrow dirt path, all of a sudden, this odd convoy appears ... Women, children, and a few old people on foot or riding on donkeys. They attached white fabric or paper to sticks as a sign of surrender. When they got to the main road, an Egged bus full of Israeli soldiers arrived. The people of the convoy, trembling with fear, crowded against the bus and reached out toward the windows. The weary and dusty soldiers who'd fought here ... [against Syrian soldiers] hiding in the homes of the villagers who were now asking for mercy, turn their heads. They cannot look at this awful sight of humiliation and surrender. An Israeli officer tells the returning villagers to go back to their homes and promises an old man riding a donkey that no harm will come to them. Only an army with a tremendous sense of power, with a sense of destiny, could treat the vanquished this way."
But the attitude of this powerful army changed: In fact, on the same day the military correspondents visited the Golan and described the Syrians' return to their villages, Col. Shmuel Admon, the IDF commander in charge of the region, issued an order declaring the entire Golan a closed area. "No one shall enter the Golan Heights region from the outside, and no one shall depart the Golan for an outside region, except with permission from the commander of IDF forces here," said the order, threatening violators with up to five years' imprisonment.
The movement of Syrian civilians was thus halted. IDF records show that dozens of local residents who tried to return home were arrested daily and brought to the courthouse in Quneitra. There, most testified that they had come to collect belongings that were left behind. Others said they'd intended to return for good. All were imprisoned and later expelled.
But those who managed to sneak through and reach home often found that nothing was left. "I don't remember exactly when it was, but a few days after the end of the fighting, maybe less than a week, we received an order to start destroying villages," says Elad Peled, commander of the IDF's 36th Division in the war. For 10 days after the end of the fighting, his division was responsible for the conquered part of the Golan Heights, at a time when local villagers apparently attempted to return to their homes.
Peled does not recall which forces demolished the homes. "It was an administrative matter, I was preoccupied with the combat aspects," he says, but adds, "With some of the homes no tractor was needed. It could be done with just a hoe."
The whole article can be found here.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Settlers take over another large Palestinian house in Old City of Jerusalem

Members of the extended Quirresh family sitting in front of the house from were they were eveicted. Some 90 people loose the roof over their head if the court will decide in favour of the settlers.

Jewish settlers on Thursday took over a building in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City and evicted dozens of Palestinian tenants, AP reported. Before dawn Thursday, more than two dozen settlers from the Ateret Cohanim settlement group entered the building in the Muslim Quarter. Nasser Quirresh, one of the evicted tenants said 90 members of his extended family live in the house, which is just a few dozen yards (meters) away from the main Muslim and Jewish shrines — the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Western Wall.
Quirresh said his family has been renting the house for the past 60 years, and that the owner is living abroad.
The family's lawyer, Samer Zoabi, said the settlers bought the building in 1987, and went to court repeatedly to get the Quirresh family evicted. Zoabi said the courts ruled each time in favor of the tenants. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said authorities were trying to determine whether the settlers held a proper eviction order.
The takeover comes at a time when the U.S. is struggling to restart Israeli-Palestinian talks. The international community, led by the U.S., has urged Israel to refrain from any steps that could raise tensions in east Jerusalem, including evictions and house demolitions. U.N. envoy Robert Serry said in a statement that he deplored "today's unacceptable action by armed Israeli settlers who forcibly took over a building, which is home to nine Palestinian families." He urged the Israeli authorities to remove the settlers from the property and allow the Palestinian tenants to return. In the statement, Serry called on Israel to "refrain from provocative actions in east Jerusalem."
Quirresh said he and most of the other members of his family were at a wedding when the settlers, accompanied by police, entered the building by force. He said his older brother, wife and children remain inside the building, refusing to leave. The other family members took up positions in the narrow alley outside the building, sitting on chairs. Neighbors brought them sandwiches. Meanwhile, settlers installed security cameras and barbed wire on the roof of the two-story building. Zoabi said he was seeking a court order to get the settlers evicted.
Over the years, about 2,000 Israeli settlers have moved into buildings Jews bought in established Arab sections of east Jerusalem, including the Old City, to make it harder to partition the city.  In addition, some 190,000 Israelis live in Jewish neighborhoods that have been built in east Jerusalem since 1967.
Police in front of the door. (Pictures Hagit Ofran)

Hagit Ofran of Peace Now visited the place and saw the families sitting on chairs
and waiting to hear from the court whether their urgent appeal to let them go back home was accepted. When the court order ordered the eviction of the settlers till Sunday, when the hearing of the main case takes place, there was a sigh of relief and joy. The Palestinians gave the order to the policemen and asked them to evict the settlers. The policemen didn’t do anything. The settlers appealed against the decision and the police was waiting for the decision. Later in the night the court accepted the settlers appeal and decided that the settlers may stay in the house.
So on Sunday the court will decide. Strange that we never hear about a case where it is the other way round: Settlers evicted by Palestinians with the help of the police.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


I´m off to the land where the delicacies in these pictures originate from and I´m travelling without a pc.This blog is  temporarily closed till 30 July.

Renewed heavy fighting with Houthis in N-Yemen

Tribesmen in northern Yemen.

At least 33 people have been killed in several days of clashes between government-backed tribes and so-called Houthi rebels in Yemen. The fighting started after a government-allied tribe attacked attacked a Houthi stronghold in the northern province of Amran, local officials and tribesmen said.Medical and security officials told the Associated Press that 12 rebels and 21 tribesmen were killed. According to the Houthis the Yemeni army supported the tribal fighters, but Ali Abdullah Saleh, the president, blamed the clashes on zealous supporters from each side.Since the government and rebels signed a ceasefire in February several clashes have taken place, but this week's skirmishes were the heaviest.
The fighting came at the ame time that the Houthis on Monday stated their support for a recent agreement signed between the country's ruling party and the opposition, aimed at creating a national dialogue between Yemen's political rivals. They said that the agreement, sealed between the ruling General People's Congress and a coalition of opposition parties, will pave the way for a "comprehensive dialogue which excludes no one". It is said to be aimed at finding ways of implementing a February 2009 deal for national dialogue and postponing a parliamentary election until April 2011 to allow time to amend Yemen's constitution.

On Tuesday, the Houthis also voiced support for an offer by the emir of Qatar, who visited Sanaa,  to help consolidate the truce between them and the Sanaa government. The conflict with the Houthis first broke out in 2004. housands of people have been killed in the conflict which first  broke out in 2004, with the last battle ending in a February truce.

 Earlier, at the beginning of this month, the government and the Houthis revealed that they had signed a 22-point agreement which involves the Houthis carrying out the six steps that the government decided upon earlier to stop the war in Sa'ada and Harf Sufian in Amran.The Minister of Local Administration and the Deputy of the Prime Minister for Defense and Security Affairs, Rashad Al-Alimi, visited Sa'ada governorate last month and approved the agreement.
 The government asked Abdulmalek Al-Houthi (picture)  to make his supporters return to their own areas and promised that security forces would not stop them. It also stipulated that Houthis must not hide in mosques, schools or government establishments. The government demanded that Houthis not intrude upon the local authority's affairs and stop arresting people.
Both the Houthis and the government promised to release all of Sa'ada's war prisoners and to stop creating road barriers. For their part, the Houthis agreed to stop digging trenches, hiding in the mountains, and creating checkpoints.The Houthis agreed to submit the weapons and evacuate all public establishments and private buildings, including people's houses. The agreement also mentioned that land mines should be removed from Sa'ada, Al-Malaheet and Harf Sufian.
The government said that it will return all suspended teachers and will give them their suspended salaries as well. In addition, it said that it will allow internal displaced persons (IDPs) to return to their homes and will compensate all victims of Sa'ada's war.
The agreement was signed by the mediator Sheik Ali Naser Qarsha, the representative of the Houthis, Yosif Abdulla Al-Fishi, and the government representative, Colonel Ali Bin Ali Al-Qaisi.
The conflict between the northern Shiite Houthis and the state gos back to 2004 and ended with a ceasefire in February.  According to non-official statistics, the sixth phase of the war in Sa'ada (August 2009 - February 2010) killed more than 12,000 and caused more than 350,000 to flee their homes. There are also tensions in the south where the Southern  Movement, a coalition of opposition groups, has a range of demands from economic and social improvements to full independence for the regions of former South Yemen.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Posing as a Jew in order to have sex rape

An Arab resident of Jerusalem who had consensual sex with a woman who believed him to be Jewish, was convicted on Monday of rape by deception and sentenced to 18 months in prison by the Jerusalem District Court.
Sabbar Kashur, 30, was convicted as part of a plea bargain. According to the indictment, Kashur met the complainant in September 2008 in downtown Jerusalem, presenting himself as a Jewish bachelor looking for a serious romantic relationship. The couple then went to a nearby building and had sex, after which Kashur left the building without waiting for the woman to get dressed.When the woman found Kashur was not a Jew but an Arab, she filed a complaint that resulted in charges of rape and indecent assault.
In the verdict, deputy president of the Jerusalem district court Tzvi Segal, along with fellow judges Moshe Drori and Yoram Noam, wrote that although this wasn't "a classical rape by force," and the sex was consensual, the consent itself was obtained through deception and under false pretenses. "If she hadn't thought the accused was a Jewish bachelor interested in a serious romantic relationship, she would not have cooperated," the judges wrote. Segal further wrote that this was not a case to be resolved by having the convicted defendant undertake community service, as was suggested by the defense team in the plea bargain.

"The court is obliged to protect the public interest from sophisticated, smooth-tongued criminals who can deceive innocent victims at an unbearable price - the sanctity of their bodies and souls," Segal wrote.
"When the very basis of trust between human beings drops, especially when the matters at hand are so intimate, sensitive and fateful, the court is required to stand firmly at the side of the victims ... otherwise, they will be used, manipulated and misled, while paying only a tolerable and symbolic price," he wrote.

Would the complaint of this lady have stood a chance in Holland, France or South-Africa? This is racism pure and simple. 

 PS. Noam Sheizaf of the blog Promised Land had this to say about the verdict: 

The main reason for which the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, founder notorious Kach party, was kicked out of the Knesset in the 80’s was the set of racist bills he tried to pass in the Israeli parliament. One of the most well known of them was intended to make sexual relations between Arab and Jews a criminal offense. In his verdict verifying the Knesset’s decision not to let Kahana run again for election, Meir Shamgar, the president of the Supreme Court, wrote that Kahane’s actions were reminding “the worst harms that were imposed upon our people.”
These are different times.
Many men lie to get sex. Now we know which lies are forbidden in Israel.

PS II And this is what Gideon Levy of Haartez said (as quoted in The Guardian):

Gideon Levy, a liberal Israeli commentator, was quoted as saying: "I would like to raise only one question with the judge. What if this guy had been a Jew who pretended to be a Muslim and had sex with a Muslim woman?
"Would he have been convicted of rape? The answer is: of course not."

Monday, July 19, 2010

Israel continues its demolitions and expulsions in Jordan Valley

One year ago, on 16 June 2009,  Israel demolished in Jiftlik in the Jordan Valley, where mostly Bedouin live. Three families (28 persons,18 of them children) lost their houses. Also some animal sheds and three water wells were destructed. 

Israel's Civil Administration began demolishing over 20 farmer's sheds in the Al-Farisiya area in the northern Jordan Valley on Monday morning, officials said. Director of the Save the Jordan Valley campaign Fathi Khdeirat described the demolitions as an "Israeli policy of collective displacement, aimed at expanding settlement outposts in the northern Jordan Valley."
Khdeirat added that in addition to the sheds, homes and barracks were also razed in the process. Onlookers said they believed the recent increase in demolitions across the Jordan Valley were aimed at changing the area's demographic map "to serve its settlement project."
A spokesman for Israel's Civil Administration said the structures razed on Monday were abandoned tents in a fire danger zone. Owners were issued the order on 27 June, he said, but did not appeal the decision. The official said the area was evacuated because of fire risks.

The Al-Farisiya area is zoned under Area C, which falls under full Israeli security, planning, and construction control. The UN has reported an increase in demolitions across Area C, which encompasses 60 percent of the West Bank. In early July, Israeli authorities demolished Palestinian homes in the Ras Al-Ahmar area, near the northern Jordan Valley district, which residents say remain ongoing. A month earlier, settlers established an illegal outpost in the area following which military guards told locals that they would no longer be permitted to get drinking water from a well nearby the outpost. "We were told to get water from the other villages and collect it in tanks," village representative Abdallah Bisharat said.
Gideon Levy, quoting people from Machsom Watch, wrote that the demolitions on 1 July concerned 15 families. One week earlier 16 more families got demolition or evacuation orders. 

Netanyahu bragging about how he wrecked Oslo

Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu paid a visit to a bereaved family in the settlement Ofra, in 2001 when he wasn't in the government anymore. On the tape - which was filmed without his knowledge - he brags about how he wrecked the Oslo agreements. Also he tells that he knows how to handle the United States. 'America is a thing that can be pushed easily....'  

Attacks against Iraqi Sunni militia kill 43

Photo Reuters

A suicide bomber has killed at least 43 people and wounded another 40 in western Baghdad, Iraqi police told Al Jazeera. The attack on Sunday occurred when members of the government-backed Sahwa militia lined up to be paid at an office in the Sunni district of Radwaniya. In a seperate incident, a suicide bomber stormed a local Sahwa headquarters in the far western town Qaim, near the Syrian border, and opened fire on those inside. The Sahwa fighters returned fire, wounding the attacker, who then blew himself up as they gathered around him, killing three and wounding six others, police officials said.
The Sahwa militia, or 'Awakening movements' took up arms against al-Qaeda in late 2006 with US backing.
Its fighters, recruited from among tribesmen and former anti-government fighters, are credited with turning the tide in the war against al-Qaeda in Iraq.In the past six months many Sahwa fighters and members of their families have been killed in revenge attacks.

Control of the Sahwa passed to Iraq in October 2008, and their wages - said to have been cut from $300 under US leadership to $100 monthly - have been paid, often late, by the Shia-led government. 
The attack in Baghdad took place as Sahwa fighters gathered outside a military base to collect their pay.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Al-Jazeera: settlements dump wastewater on Palestinian land

Israeli settlements dump wastewater in een canal that runs through Palestinian lands and refuse permission for the PA to divert the water through a system of pipes and pumps.  

Hundreds killed in new clashes in Darfur


 JEM rebels

Nearly 400 people have been killed in recent clashes between the Sudanese army and Darfur's main rebel group, according to Sudanese state media. Most of the people killed - more than 300 - were members of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM).Also eighty-six soldiers were also reportedly killed in the fighting earlier this week.
United Nations peacekeepers in Darfur confirmed that there were at least two major clashes between the two sides.The under-equipped peacekeepers, with a mandate to cover an area the size of Spain, said they were also investigating reports of a third clash in Daba Tago, near the north Darfur settlement of Mellit.
General Al-Tayeb al-Musbah, of the Sudanese army, told the state-run Suna news agency that the army destroyed "scores of Jem vehicles" during the fighting. Jem has not yet commented on the clashes.
Violence has been increasing in Darfur in recent months. The United Nations said that nearly 600 people were killed in the region in May, making it the bloodiest month in Darfur in nearly two years.
Fighting has been particularly heavy around the Jebel Moon region, where more than 150 people were killed in a single battle.The renewed fighting is one reason why peace talks between Jem and the government were suspended in May.

HRW report: Syria lost a decade as far as human rights reforms are concerned

 Bashar al-Assad with his wife Asma

In his inaugural speech on July 17, 2000, the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad spoke of the need for "creative thinking," "transparency," and "democracy." However, the period of tolerance that followed al-Asad's ascent to power was short-lived, Human Rights Watch asserts in een report released on 16 July.
In the Report, 'A Wasted Decade', HRW points to the fact that when Assad came to power it looked as if Syria was living through a'Damacus Spring'. Groups were meeting in private houses and discussing an new political future and the highpoint was the shutting down of the dreaded Mezze prison whereby hundreds of  politcal prisoners were set free. owever Syria's prisons quickly filled again with political prisoners, journalists, and human rights activists. The report lists 92 names since Assad jr's ascent to power.  In the most recent examples, Syrian criminal courts in the last three weeks separately sentenced two of Syria's leading human rights lawyers, Haytham al-Maleh, 78, and Muhanad al-Hasani, 42, to three years in jail each for their criticisms of Syria's human rights record.

Promises by al-Asad for new laws that would broaden political and civil society participation have not materialized. In March 2005 he told journalists that "the coming period will be one of freedom for political parties" in Syria. However, Syria is still a de facto single party state with only the Ba`ath Party able to operate freely.
"Whatever hopes Syrians might have had for a new era of political openness under al-Asad's rule have been dashed," HRW's Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson said. The Kurdish minority, estimated to be 10 percent of the population, is denied basic group rights, including the right to learn Kurdish in schools or celebrate Kurdish festivals, such as Nowruz (Kurdish New Year). Official repression of Kurds increased further after Syrian Kurds held large-scale demonstrations, some of which turned violent, throughout northern Syria in March 2004 to voice long-simmering grievances. Despite repeated promises by al-Assad, an estimated 300,000 stateless Kurds are still waiting for the Syrian government to solve their predicament by granting them citizenship. Syria has emerged from its Western-imposed isolation since 2007, with officials from the US and European countries reaching out to Damascus and regularly meeting with al-Asad. According to Whitson Assad has no excuse to continue to stall on reforms. "Now that he has emerged from his internationally imposed isolation, he should open up his country."

Friday, July 16, 2010

Lebanese parliament indecisive on issue of granting rights to Palestinian refugees

The Palestinian camp Ain al-Helweh near Saida (Sidon)

Lebanon's parliament on Thursday postponed to 17 August talks on the controversial issue of granting the Palestinian refugees in the country the right employment, social security, medical care, and ownership of property.
A deep divide over the motion has emerged between Christians and Muslims in the 128-strong parliament, which is equally split between the two confessions. Christian parliamentarians -although on other issues often deepjy divided - are unanimous in their refusal to grant Palestinians property rights, fearing the move would lead to permanent settlement and giving the mainly Sunni Muslim refugees full-fledged citizenship. Palestinians have consistently said they refuse Lebanese citizenship. Members of Sunni Prime Minister Saad Hariri's ruling bloc have stepped up talks with their Christian Maronite allies on an alternate proposal, which will likely not include a clause on property, in a bid to come to an agreement.
Christian MPs have also lashed out at the cash-strapped UN Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA), accusing it of trying to shift its responsibilities to the shoulders of the Lebanese state. "UNRWA's budget is shrinking and it is failing to meet its responsibilities and placing them on Lebanon," MP Sami Gemayel of the Maronite Kataeb (Phalange) party said before going into the meeting. "That is dangerous because if the international community is no longer responsible for this matter and is trying to throw all responsibility on Lebanon, we have begun to move step by step towards naturalisation."
Lebanon houses close to half a million Palestinian refugees, according to UNRWA, who live in a dozen impoverished camps across the country. Lebanese officials have said no more than 300,000 refugees actually reside in Lebanon.

At least 26 killed, 300 wounded in attack by Sunni rebels in Iranian Baluchestan

The death toll from twin suicide bombings at a Shiite mosque in predominantly Sunni southeast Iran has risen to 26. Hossein Ali Shahriari, parliamentarian from the city of Zahedan where the attacks occurred, told this  on Thursday, according to the Iranian press agency IRNA. He put the number of wounded at more than 300.
Among those killed were a members of the elite Revolutionary Guards.

The Sunni Muslim rebel group Jundollah said it was behind the attacks, telling Al Arabiya TV in an e-mail that it had carried them out in retaliation for Iran's execution in June of the group's leader, Abdolmalek Rigi. Rigi was hanged after being convicted of carrying out other deadly attacks. His younger brother Abdolhamid was hanged one month earlier in Zahedan. The suicide bombings took place near Zahedan's Grand Mosque, and Jundollah said they were carried out by relatives of Rigi and were aimed at a Revolutionary Guards gathering. The group said the suicide attacks were carried out by Abdolbaset Rigi and Mohammad Rigi. It warned of more operations to come.
Zahedan is the capital of Sistan-Baluchestan province which shares a border with Pakistan. The province is known for its instability and faces frequent clashes between police and drug dealers, smugglers and bandits.
Iran accuses Jundollah of having links to al-Qaeda and has also accused Pakistan, Britain and the United States of backing Jundollah to create instability in southeast Iran. All three countries have denied this, and Jundollah denies having any links with al-Qaeda and says it fights for more rights for the Sunnis in Baluchestan.  

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Report: Israeli attack on Iran would provoke long war with unpredictable consequences for the region

 President Ahmadinejad inspects an Iranian nuclear facilty (Reuters)

An Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities would start a long war and probably not prevent Iran from eventually acquiring nuclear weapons. That is the conclusion of  study by a British think-tank, the Oxford Research Group, which promotes non-violent solutions to conflict. It said that military action is not a  solution to prevent Iran to acquire nuclear weapons ambitions.
"An Israeli attack on Iran would be the start of a protracted conflict that would be unlikely to prevent the eventual acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran and might even encourage it," it said in a report. It would also lead to instability and unpredictable security consequences for the region and the wider world, it added.

The report is written by Paul Rogers, professor of peace studies at the University of Bradford. It says that it is unlikely that the US would  take military action against Iran, but that Israel's capabilities had increased. According to the report Israel could use long-range strike aircraft it acquired from the United States, combined with an improved fleet of tanker aircraft, in combination with long-range drones. Also it is possible that it can make use of support facilities in northeast Iraq and Azerbaijan. All of which increase Israel's potential for action against Iran, according to the report. Israeli leaders usually speak only of leaving all options on the table. Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon, however, said in May that Israel had the capability to hit Iran.

Any Israeli strike would be focused not only on destroying nuclear and missile targets, but would also hit factories and research centers and even university laboratories to damage Iranian expertise, the report said.
This would cause many civilian casualties, it added. Military action would include the direct bombing of targets in Tehran and probably include attempts to kill technocrats who managed Iran's nuclear and missile programs, the report said.

Iran's responses to an Israeli attack could include withdrawing from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and immediate action to produce nuclear weapons to deter further attacks, the report said. They could also include missile attacks on Israel, closing the Strait of Hormuz to push up oil prices and paramilitary or missile attacks on Western oil facilities in the Gulf. After a first strike, Israel might have to carry out regular air strikes to stop Iran developing atom bombs and medium-range missiles, the report said. "Iranian responses would also be long-term, ushering in a lengthy war with global as well as regional implications," Rogers said.

The Oxford report estimates that it might take three to seven years for Iran to develop a small arsenal of nuclear weapons if it decided to do so. It said there was no firm evidence such a decision had been taken by the leadership of the Islamic Republic. The United Nations Security Council imposed a fourth round of sanctions on Iran last month over a nuclear program the West suspects is aimed at developing atomic weapons in secret. Iran says it wants nuclear energy for peaceful uses only. According to the report alternatie options for the West to deal with a possible Iranian nuclear ambition would be to redouble efforts to get a diplomatic settlement or accept that Iran may eventually acquire a nuclear capability and use that as the start of a process of balanced regional de-nuclearization, the report said.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Arrested suspect of Jewish terrorism claims to have worked for Shin Bet

Pearlman. Photo (Moti Kimchi, Haaretz)

 No lack of strange stories in Israel. One after the other. This one is about the arrest of a muderer of Arabs, who says he acted at the request of the internal security services, Shin Bet. This is what YNet reports:

 Jerusalem police on Tuesday night arrested Kach activist Haim Pearlman on suspicion of involvement in the murder of a number of Palestinians. He is also suspected of attempted murder and illegal possession of a firearm.
Sources close to Pearlman said the Shin Bet persuaded the Kach activist to commit the alleged acts. "He has proof of this. The Shin Bet is operating out of vindictive motives," one of them said.
Pearlman, 30, is suspected of murdering a number of Arabs in the 90s, in what was called the "serial stabber" affair. His associates said he was recently asked by the Shin Bet to serve as a collaborator and was offered NIS 1,500 (about $390) in exchange for any piece of information. According to Pearlman's associates, when he failed to provide any relevant information, a Shin Bet operative visited his home to try to persuade him to harm Arabs. On one occasion, the associates said, the Shin Bet operative asked him to murder Sheikh Raed Salah,the head of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel.They said Pearlman has tapes that verify their claim, adding that he was arrested because the Shin Bet fears the tapes' transcripts will be published in the press. "(The arrest) was an act of pure vengeance," one associate said.
Pearlman, a resident of Givat Washington in central Israel, served time in the past for his involvement in an attack on two Arabs at a Jerusalem supermarket during the funeral procession of Talia and Binyamin Zeev Kahane (the son of the late Meir Kahane, the founder of the Kach movement, and his wife), who were shot dead by Palestinians as they were driving home from Jerusalem on the Ramallah bypass road.
Attorney Adi Keidar, who is representing Pearlman, said, "The Israeli public is about to be exposed to one of the most embarrassing affairs, which will reveal the methods of operation of the security agencies that tried to coerce the suspect into linking himself to acts he had nothing to do with."

Again attacks on offices of security services in South Yemen

 Street in Zinjibar, in the Yemeni province of Abyan.

Unknown gunmen assaulted two south Yemen security offices on Wednesday in coordinated attacks, setting off fighting in which at least three people were killed, police said. Witnesses and security sources said attackers on motorcycles roared into the police headquarters and the office of an intelligence agency handling political security in the town of Zinjibar. They opened fire as officers gathered in ranks for the morning roll call.
"A large number of gunmen attacked the political security and the General Security (police) offices at the beginning of the workday. Security guards fired on them, and there are dead and wounded on the scene," a police source said. "It is believed that the attackers were members of al Qaeda," he added.
Witnesses reached in Zinjibar told Reuters they saw five people believed dead on the street. They added that after the attack and subsequent clashes, the gunmen sped away on their motorcycles.
A doctor at a hospital in the Abyan province where the wounded were taken confirmed three deaths and said at least nine others were wounded, most of them security agents. A security source said the dead included an attacker and two security men.
On 2 July gunmen on motorcyles killed a senior officer of the security services. He was the second killed in less than a month. Eleven people were killed on 19 June during an attack at the headquarters of the security services in the southern capital Aden.  

Court offers Hamas parliamentarian Abu Tir a choice between expulsion or jail

Mohammed Abu Tir in court. (Photo Noam Moskowitz YNet).

The Jerusalem Magistrates' Court on Wednesday gave a ruling on the case of Mohammad Abu Tir, member of the Palestinian parliament for Hamas, in which it offered him a real develish choice. The Hamas parliamentarian, who was born and lives in the district Abu Tor of East Jerusalem, will either be expelled from Israel or remain in jail. If he accepts to be expelled, which taes effect on Sunday.,  he has to sign a paper that he will not return to Israel and to make a deposit of 50.000 shekels (about $ 13.000). If he remains in jail he has to pay considerable sums as well.

Abu Tir was arrested in 2006, together with about 60 other Hamas officials, after Hamas in Gaza had taken the Israeli corporal Gilad prisoner. Abu Tir's residence permit for Jerusalem was taken from him and he served four years in prison, from which he was released in May. Shortly thereafter he was arrested and at the beginning of the month, an indictment was filed against Abu Tir in the Jerusalem Magistrates' Court for remaining in Israel illegally. According to YNet Israel offered him during his years in jail to renounce his political activity and quit Hamas in exchange for which he would be permitted to return to Jerusalem. Abu Tir alledgedly refused this.
The deportation of someone who was born and lived in Jerusalem for political reasons has hitherto never occurred and is therefor a precedent It is also completely illegal. East Jerusalem is occupied territory under international law and the Geneva Conventions forbid to expel inhabitants of occupied lands. Three other members of the parliament for Hamas who await a similar verdict, are holding a protest demonstration in a tent in East Jerusalem

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Knesset revokes priviliges from Arab member Hanin Zoabi due to her participation in Gaza flotilla

A fake Iranian passport for Hanin Zoabi (Picture Haaretz)

The Israeli parliament, the Knesset on Tuesday revoked privileges from MK Hanin Zoabi, due to her participation in the Gaza aid flotilla in May. With a vote of  34 against 16 MKs it voted in favor of invalidating her diplomatic passport and revoking her right to receive funding for legal expenses.
Zoabi, a member of the Arab Balad Party, spoke at a hearing before the vote and said the Knesset's conduct proved that ther was no democracy in Israel. She went on to say that, far from revoking her rights, the other MKs should be protecting them. "You should have protected me from the racism against me because of my opinions," she said.
"A debate such as this cannot be held in a proper fashion, and it would shame any other parliament in the world," said the Arab MK. "You can't claim that democracy exists here. I am an MK and I have the right, even the duty, to fight for my positions.I am an MK from Balad, which means I oppose the occupation and the blockade. Not only do I represent the opinions of my people, I represent those of other Arab MKs. I also represent a global consensus."

MK Anastassia Michaeli (Yisrael Beiteinu), who had previously attacked Zoabi on the stand, now presented her with an Iranian passport bearing her picture. She was thereafter removed from the plenum. But before she left Michaeli told Zoabi, "Most of the Arabs in Israel are smart enough and faithful enough to the state to open their eyes after your incitement. You do not represent them. I take your loyalty to Iran seriously and suggest that you appeal to Ahmadinejad for citizenship and a diplomatic Iranian passport. In the meantime allow me to supply you with a temporary passport that will certainly benefit you in your incitement tours, because we will be revoking your Israeli passport tonight."

MK Shai Hermesh (Kadima) told the Knesset why it would be wrong to push Zoabi out of  parliament. He quoted David Ben Gurion who once preferred to add Moshe Dayan to his cohorts. "I prefer to have him pissing out from my tent, rather than from outside in. Pushing Zoabi out from the Knesset would be a mistake. The damage she will do as a movement outside parliament that can accuse Israel of apartheid is inestimably greater than the damage she can do from inside," according to Hermesh.

{I'd like to add a remark concerning Geert Wilders, our Dutch member of parliament who is an great fan of Israel. If the Dutch parliament would have acted towards him like the Israeli one at present is behaving  towards Zoabi, he would have been  a new immigrant in Australia by now.}

Demolishing houses in Issawiya

Confidence building measures?

Sheikh Raed Salah sentenced to five months for spitting at a border policeman

Sheikh Raed Salah (Picture Ma'an News)

Israel's Jerusalem District Court sentenced Sheikh Raed Salah to five months imprisonment on Tuesday for spitting on an Israeli border guard in 2007. The leader of the Islamic Movement in Northern Israel's earlier  nine months, that was reduced. His sentence takes effect as from 25 July.
A lawyer at the hearing told Ma'an that the ruling, which saw Salah convicted of assault, was unprecedented.
Palestinian member of Israel's Knesset Haneen Zoabi, who was present at the ruling, described it as an "unjustified. This is an exaggeration, and not an objective ruling ... Israel treats Palestinians not as citizens but as enemies. This hostile dealing comes across all institutions, not just politically or in the Knesset, but also the court system, which is supposed to protect the rights of its citizens," Zoabi said.
Salah was indicted on assault charges following reports that he spat on a border guard in East Jerusalem's Old City in 2007 during a rally against Israeli construction near the Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound.
(This version CORRECTS that Salah was convicted for spitting on a border guard and not for his involvement in the Freedom Flotilla.)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Druze from Golan accused of spying, house search causes uproar

Majdal Shams on the occupied Golan.

A Druze man suspected of committing crimes against state security was the target of a raid on the Golan village of Majdal Shams on Sunday that turned violent as thousands of locals tried to prevent police from searching for him.That is what Haaretz reported on Monday after a gag order had been lifted. It seems the purpose of the raid, which was orchestrated by the Shin Bet security services and the National Unit of International Investigations, as to search for Fada Sha'ar, 27. YNet reports that the raid in fact was baout a search of his house, because the man himself, a musician who studied  several yeras in Syria and lateron in Egypt, was arrested upon his arrival at Ben Gurion airport,  when re returned from France. He has been remanded in custody for eight days on suspicion of, as Ynet report, spying for an enemy country. The precise content of the case against him is unknown, because it is still under gag order. Sha'ar is the number so and so much in what appears to be a modest string of similar spying cases, the last one of which is the case agianst Amir Makhoul and Omar Said from Haifa who are still in jail, waiting trial .

Overturning a police car

 What caused the uproar in Majdal Shams, the biggest Druze village on the occupied Golan, was the way the police forced itself into Sha'ar's house. A crowd of several hundred people closed the building in and three officers were held prisoners inside for several hours. Extra forces were called in, skirmishes broke out and some people were injured.
Fada Sha'ar's father complaned bitterly to Ynet about the way the police handled the matter. He went to the airport in order to welcome his son whom he had not seen for several years. Then he got him on the phone telling him that he was not able to get off the plane, and next he got someone on the phone who told him son was arrested. This and the way the police tried to burst into his house, was deeply offending and unacceptable for him and for the Druze community, he told the paper.   

Update 14/7: Majed Sha'ar, the father of the arrested musician, was arrested as well on Wednesday. It is not clear what the charges against him are. The case is under gag order.

Germany bans Turkish aid organisation IHH

Thomas de Maizière, the German minister of the Interior, (Christian Democratic Union), on Monday outlawed the Turkish charity IHH, because it has been giving aid to organisations in the Gaza Strip which are considered to be subsidiaries  of Hamas. The banned charity has no ties with the charity of the same name in Istanbul. De Maizière:   
«Unter dem Deckmantel der humanitären Hilfe unterstützt die IHH seit einem langen Zeitraum und in beträchtlichen finanziellen Umfang im Gaza-Streifen ansässige sogenannte Sozialvereine, die der Hamas zuzuordnen sind», sagte de Maizière. Das «geradezu zynische Verhalten der IHH» komme schon in der Vereinsbezeichnung «Internationale Humanitäre Hilfsorganisation» zum Ausdruck. Sie missbrauche die Hilfsbereitschaft gutgläubiger Spender, um mit dem für vermeintlich gute Zwecke gespendeten Geld im Ergebnis eine terroristische Organisation zu unterstützen.
Da die Hamas Gewalttaten gegenüber Israel und israelischen Staatsbürgern ausübe, beeinträchtige sie die friedliche Verständigung des israelischen und palästinensischen Volkes, sagte de Maizière weiter. Organisationen, die sich unmittelbar oder mittelbar von deutschem Boden aus gegen das Existenzrecht Israels richteten, hätten ihr Recht auf Vereinigungsfreiheit verwirkt.
 In translation:
Under the pretext of humanitiarian aid, IHH supports since long and with substanbtial sums so called social organisations in the Gaza Strip which can be considered to belong to Hamas, Maizière said.The cynical behavior of IHH is already clear from the way it calls itself Ínternational Humanitarian Aid Organisation, according to him. He said it abused the generosity of trusting contributors by using the money that was given to ostensibly charitable goals to support a terrorist organisation.
Because Hamas exerts violence against Israel and Israeli's it inhibits the peaceful relations between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples, De Maizière said. Organisations which, from German soil, either directly or indirectly act in contravention of Israels right to exist loose their freedom of association, the minister said..

Well, I thought that Holland was rigid in its refusal to consider the fact that Hamas has more faces than the Ezzeddin al-Qassam Brigades and that - maybe - also the blockade of Gaza is not exactly contributing to peaceful relations between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. But Germany is even more rigid.
The banned organisation is, by the way, not a part of  IHH (İnsan Hak ve Hürriyetleri İnsani Yardım Vakfı) in Istanbul, one of the main organizers of the Free Gaza Flotilla which was attacked and intercepted by the Israeli marine on 31 May. The Istanbuli IHH said in a declaration on its website: The ''Germany-based Internationale Humanitären Hilfsorganisation has no relation to us, that is to IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation in Turkey. In various European countries such as Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, several organizations exist and operate in the same field as us under similar names and logos with our organization. Those organizations carry no actual links to our foundation. IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation only works with partner organizations everywhere it goes to.''

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Slavery still exists in Yemen

Hut in which slves are hold in Yemen. The picture was taken by the weekly Al Masdar, which  devoted an article to slavery in Yemen. The two pictures of interviewed slaves are from the same artcile. The Yemen Times published a translation.

The National Organization for Defending Rights and Freedoms, a Yemeni human rights organization known locally as “Hood,” launched a national anti-slavery campaign on Sunday following reports in local media that there are hundreds of slaves in remote areas of northwestern Yemen, The Media Line reported.
The rights group called on the country’s prosecutor-general to prosecute slave masters. Also it asked the government to build housing complexes on a fertile plot of land to help those emancipated from slavery get a new start.
“We asked the government to look into the problem and the general prosecutor to investigate,” Khaled Al-Anesi, a lawyer with the National Organization for Defending Rights and Freedoms told The Media Line. “They promised to investigate the problem but we don’t yet have a clear idea what they will do. We will follow up with them.”
The campaign follows a series of investigative reports in Al Masdar, an independent weekly newspaper, which claim there are some 500 slaves in the Al Zohrah district of Al Hudaydah Governorate, west of Sana’a and in the Kuaidinah and Khairan Al-Muharraq districts of the Hajjah Governorate, north of the capital. The paper claimed that a number of sheikhs and local authorities are slave owners.
“There is no clear figure as to how many slaves there are but it’s a big problem, with many people who are slaves in many areas,” Al-Anesi claimed. “Since we announced the campaign we have receiving a number of specific complaints from victims of slavery. We have their names and their addresses and we know who owned them.” He said th slaves can’t run away because no one will help them. “The government neglects the problem and there are no organizations in civil society to help them. They have nowhere to go.”

Yemen’s human rights ministry has reportedly sent a fact-finding committee to the two districts and the National Organization for Defending Rights and Freedoms now claims that after consultations with community leaders in the affected areas, it believes the number of slaves is likely much higher than originally estimated.
The organization is arranging a group of volunteer lawyers to visit regions of the country where slavery is believed to be most prevalent to provide legal assistance to slaves and warn their owners that they will face legal action if the slaves are not freed.

Rights advocates say there are two common forms of slavery in Yemen: ‘inheritance’ and migration. With inheritance, the descendants of the slave’s owner upon death inherit a slave and their family. In the case of migration, poor migrants arriving in Yemen from Africa find themselves indebted to businessmen who helped pay their passage.

“In Yemen there is a social class of people called ‘the servants,’ who have usually come from Somalia or other African countries, who live in a stage of bondage and are very widely disregarded in society,” Christoph Wilcke, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa Division told The Media Line. “It has to do with dark skin, being foreign and living in poverty or in debt.”

The Arab slave trade goes back well over a millennium and Arab slave traders are estimated to have enslaved between 12 and 20 million people. Slavery was common throughout the Arabian Peninsula until it was abolished in 1962. Since then, holding someone in servitude is punishable by up to 10 years of prison time under Yemeni law.

Rights advocates, however, say the remnants of slavery still exist throughout the region, with women and children trafficked to the Gulf States from Eastern Europe, the post-Soviet states, Africa and Asia, and migrants forced into servitude to pay off debts of passage.

“Property in Islamic law is so well protected that if you fail to repay debt, you can be held liable not only with your own property but with your liberty,” Wilcke said. “While this is only one particular angle of Islamic law, you could call it codified custom which still exists on the books in many countries in the region, including Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and a number of Muslim countries in the Middle East.”

Friday, July 9, 2010

Demonstrations against murder of Khaled Said in several Egyptian cities

In front of the journalists syndicate. Picture by one of the participants transmitted via twitter

Hundreds of Egyptians protested in Cairo and other cities on Friday over the death of an activist, whose case has raised calls for political change. Khaled Said, 28, died on June 6 in Alexandria. Witnesses and rights groups say two policemen dragged him out of an Internet cafe and beat him to death. Official autopsies said he choked on a plastic roll of drugs, but two officers will stand trial.The demonstration was organized by a Facebook group called "We Are All Khaled Said."
The extent to which web groups can turn online support into street protests is being watched closely before a parliamentary election this year and a presidential poll the year after.
President Hosni Mubarak, 82 who has been in power since 1981, has not said if he will run in 2011. If he does not, many believe he will seek to push his son, Gamal, 46, into office.Other online groups calling for change have also emerged, including ones backing Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog who has said he might run for president.
The Said protest group, which has about 180,000 online backers, told its followers to wear black T-shirts and stand silently at specified places. A group in Cairo, barred from a site it intended to use, regrouped outside the journalists' syndicate. "Officer, how can you sleep at night when you are torturing the people," they chanted.
Smaller numbers elsewhere in Cairo stood at intervals along streets in silence, some reading the Koran. The Facebook group told protesters not to stay in groups in order to circumvent an emergency law that can restrict even small gatherings.
"If many people stand and protest, surely there will be an end to torture," said Fatima Mohamed, 24, who turned up after learning about the protest plan on Facebook.
A few hundred stretched along the seaside boulevard in Alexandria, some holding black flags with Said's image, a witness said. Dozens protested in Damietta and Tanta, other witnesses in these cities said.
Extra police were at planned protest sites. Egypt's police are usually swift to contain protests and often heavy handed, tending to limit protest numbers to no more than a few hundred.
The death of Said, who posted an Internet video purportedly showing two policemen sharing the spoils of a drug bust before he died, raised concerns among Egypt's U.S. and European allies.

Analysts say such groups have yet to show they can rally mass protests in a country of 78 million to force change on a government that has huge security forces at hand. But protests are drawing unwelcome international attention, they have said.

BDS is growing

 The trend towards BDS of Israel is gaining momentum. After artists like Elvis Costello and the Pixies called off tours of Israel and after boycott actions  in ports in California and Norway, more actions are emerging. The trade unions at the Kochi port, the former Cochin, one of the main ports of India,  decided to boycott Israeli ships and cargo, a decsion which may affect Indo-Israeli trade. The unions, comprising those affiliated to the Left parties, the Indian National Trade Union Congress and the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, took the decision at a meeting on Wednesday. After India ended its long diplomatic freeze with Israel in the 1990s, trade has steadily increased. Imports include machinery and engineering goods, solar equipment and raw materials used in tyre manufacture.

At the meeting, the union leaders condemned Israel's recent attack on an aid flotilla to Gaza, killing several activists. The attack at sea had drawn worldwide criticism, the speakers said. In a statement, they said Israel should lift the inhuman embargo and end the atrocities.

A British children’s educational movement has voted to boycott Israel at their annual gathering in Sussex.The Morning Star reported that the Woodcraft Folk, which runs weekly sessions for children including singing, dancing, craft and eco-projects, voted for the boycott at their conference in Ashdown Forest, west Sussex.
The emergency motion was proposed by international secretary Paul Bemrose, who said it had been prompted by the deaths of nine Turkish activists on the Gaza flotilla. A majority of the 150 delegates at the conference backed a complete boycott until the Gaza blockade is lifted.

The film star Meg Ryan (picture) stayed away from the Jerusalem Film Festival this year, follwing the raid on the Free Gaza Flotilla. Meg Ryan cancelled an existing agreement with the festival, shortly after the attack on the ships. With Dustin Hoffman negotiations that were still underway were broken off after the nine Turks got killed in the attack on the Mavi Marmara.  

Thursday, July 8, 2010

At least 60 dead in attacks on Shia pilgrims in Baghdad

Updated Thurdsday, 2.00 pm
At least 60 people have been killed in attacks across the Iraqi capital, including 32 in a suicide bombing that targeted pilgrims commemorating a revered Shia saint, Iraqi police say. Since Tuesday also over 300 peole have been wounded.

Iraqi officials said two blasts on Thursday, the latest in a string of bombings in Iraqi capital, killed seven people, pushing the death toll in the recent attacks to 60.One bomb in the central Bab al-Muazam neighbourhood killed four people and wounded 46, while a second bomb in the southeastern Mashtal district killed three and wounded 31.
 The deadliest attack occurred on Wednesday in northern Baghdad's predominantly Sunni Muslim neighbourhood of Adhamiya. A suicide bomber killed 32 people and wounded more than 90 as Shia Muslim pilgrims were about to cross a bridge leading to the shrine where Moussa Kadhim, a revered imam, is buried. The attack took place near the bridge where 900 people died in 2005 in a stampede sparked by a rumour that a suicide bomber was about to strike.
 Earlier on Wednesday, police said an improvised explosive device [IED] had exploded in Baghdad's southeastern Jadida district, followed by another one in Futhaliya district, in the east of the city, killing five Shia pilgrims and wounding 36 others. But hundreds of thousands of pilgrims - defying the attacks - remain in the Iraqi capital for Thursday's culmination of the religious festival.
 The mausoleum of imam Moussa Kadhim has previously been targeted by bombers. In April  2009, two female suicide bombers blew themselves up near the shrine, killing 65 people, including 20 Iranian pilgrims, and wounding 120 others. The Twelver Shiites worship 12 descendants and followers of the profet Mohammed  Imam Moussa Kadhim is the seventh of them.
The attacks offer a clear indication of the determination of some circles to exploit Iraq's political vacuum and destabilise the country as US troops head home. Iraq has been without a new government since the March 7 election, which produced no clear winner. 

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Israeli soldier, who ignored white flag in Gaza and killed two women, indicted for manslaughter

The Israeli military Advocate General major-general Avichai Mandelblit decided Tuesday to charge a soldier with manslaughter for allegedly shooting and killing two Palestinian women during Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip last year. The incident took place on January 4 in Juhar a-Dik, near Gaza City, when a group of about 30 Palestinian civilians, including women and children, approached an Israeli military position.
The group, according to several eyewitness accounts, was waving white flags.At a certain point, one of the IDF soldiers from the Givati Brigade opened fire, killing a mother and daughter – 35-year-old Majda Abu Hajjaj and her 64-year-old mother Salama. The incident was later thoroughly investigated by B’Tselem and mentioned in the Goldstone Report. During a military probe shortly following the incident, one soldier was picked out as responsible for opening fire at the group of civilians. 
The Israeli army also announced Tuesday that Mandelblit had decided to launch a new criminal investigation into an air force bombing of a home in the Zeitoun neighborhood of Gaza City which was occupied at the time by close to 100 members of the A-Samuni family. 

Human Right Watch
 There were in fact 11 cases during the Gaza war in which Israeli soldiers unlawfully shot and killed Palestinian civilians, including five women and four children, who were in groups waving white flags to convey their civilian status, Human Rights Watch said in a report released on 13 August 2009. HRW urged the Israeli military in the report to conduct thorough, credible investigations into these deaths to tackle the prevailing culture of impunity. The 63-page report, “White Flag Deaths: Killings of Palestinian Civilians during Operation Cast Lead,” was based on field investigations of seven incident sites in Gaza, including ballistic evidence found at the scene, medical records of victims, and lengthy interviews with multiple witnesses – at least three people separately for each incident.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Quizz: what do you actually know about the occupation?

HaMoked, Center for the Defense of the Individual, sees it as its main task to provide assistance to Palestinians in the occupied territories whose rights are violated (that's all of them as far as I can see). On its website HaMoked has a nice quizz for the more aldult members of the family: What do you actually know about the occupation? Highly recommended, particularly for those among us with a penchant for cynicism.. In order to play, click here.  

Iran complains that some countries refuse to refuel its passenger planes

Iran says that Britain, Germany and the United Arab Emirates are refusing to provide fuel to Iranian passenger planes.The move, which has not been confirmed, follows unilateral sanctions imposed by the US, the Isna news agency reported.
Iran is facing tougher sanctions designed to impede the development of its nuclear programme.
Tehran says its nuclear industry is for peaceful purposes but Western powers fear it is trying to develop a bomb.
"Since last week, our planes have been refused fuel at airports in Britain, Germany and UAE because of the sanctions imposed by America," Mehdi Aliyari, secretary of the Iranian Airlines Union, told the news agency.
He said the national carrier Iran Air and Mahan Airlines had both run into refuelling problems.

 However, a spokeswoman for the Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC) told Reuters that it was continuing to supply Iranian jets with fuel."We have contracts with Iranian passenger flights and continue to allow refuelling," she said.
A spokesman for the UK's Civil Aviation Authority told the BBC that such a move would be down to individual fuel companies.Germany's Transport Ministry said the refuelling of Iranian planes was not banned under EU or UN sanctions.However, he could not comment on whether any individual providers were refusing to fuel Iranian aircraft.
The US sanctions prohibit the sale or provision to Iran of refined petroleum products worth more than $5m  over a year. Paul Reynolds, World affairs correspondent for the BBC News website, said it might be that fuel companies are worried that their sales over a year might add up to $5m, in which case they could face a possible ban on doing business in the US.

Syria imprisons aging human rights defender; should clarify disappearance of 52 prisoners

A Syrian military court jailed on Sunday the 79-year-old lawyer Haytham Maleh (picture Reuters), who campaigned for decades for an end to the emergency law, to a sentence of three years. Haytham Maleh is considered by Amnesty International to be a prisoner of conscience detained solely for expressing his peaceful and legitimately held views.
Haytham al-Maleh was arrested on 14 October 2009, detained incommunicado for one week and then brought to trial before the Second Military Court in Damascus, although he is a civilian. He faced two charges, “conveying within Syria false news that could debilitate the morale of the nation” and “weakening national sentiment”. These “catch-all” charges are commonly used by the Syrian authorities to prosecute and imprison peaceful critics and human rights activists.
The charges arise from an interview Haytham al-Maleh gave in September 2009 to the European-based satellite broadcaster Barada TV, in which he criticized the lack of democracy, the excessive powers wielded by security officials and official corruption in Syria and his published writings exposing human rights abuses.
Haytham al-Maleh is a long-standing human rights defender. He is the former head of the Human Rights Association of Syria, an independent human rights organization founded in 2001 but which was forced to close down at least partly as a result of harassment by the authorities.
He has been summoned and questioned on numerous occasions in recent years and he was previously imprisoned between 1980 and 1986 for protesting against government restrictions on trade union rights.

Two others
Two other prominent human rights lawyers are currently imprisoned in Syria. On 24 April 2007 Anwar al-Bunni was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment on a charge of “conveying within Syria false news that could debilitate the morale of the nation”. On 23 June this year Muhannad al-Hassani was convicted of the same charges now being brought against Haytham al-Maleh and sentenced to three years in jail.

'Lost' Prisoners 
Amnesty International has called on the President of Syria to reveal exactly what happened to 52 prisoners who went missing during and after disturbances at a military prison that also left at least 22 people dead. Families, lawyers and human rights organizations have campaigned for an independent investigation into the disturbances but the Syrian authorities have revealed few details about them or what happened afterwards.
The clashes between inmates and military police at Saydnaya Military Prison near Damascus began on 5 July 2008. Unconfirmed reports say the violence erupted after police officers shot dead nine Islamist prisoners. According to these reports, Military Police officers threw copies of the Qur’an on the floor during a routine search of the prison, and then shot dead nine Islamist prisoners who tried to pick them up. Unarmed Islamist prisoners are said then to have overpowered the police, taking several hostages together with the prison director, and to have seized their guns and mobile phones – which they used to call their families to alert them and local and international human rights organizations about what was happening.
They said they were protesting to demand that their lives be spared and that measures be taken to improve prison conditions. Communication between prisoners and the outside world then stopped. Later, families of prisoners held at Saydnaya reported seeing ambulances shuttling between the prison and Teshrin military hospital in Damascus, apparently carrying those killed and injured at the prison.
At least 17 prisoners and five Military Police officers are said to have died during the protests.
Amnesty International sent Syrian President Bashar al-Assad the names of the 52 prisoners missing from Saydnaya requesting that their fate and whereabouts be clarified.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Fadlallah, highest Shia cleric of Lebanon, dies at 74

Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadallah, Lebanon's most influential Shia cleric, has died in Beirut at the age of 74. He was  admitted in hospital last month suffering from internal bleeding.
Fadlallah was born to Lebanese parents  in 1935 in Najaf, the centre of Shia scholarship in Iraq. He studied Islam more than 20 years in his birthplace before moving to Lebanon in 1966. He attained the status of marja, or 'source of emulation', the highest level of authority amongst Shia clerics.
Fadlallah was often described as Hezbollah's 'spiritual guide', but he never held a role within the organisation. He did support some of its actions, however, endorsing suicide attacks against Israel. Also he issued a fatwa  in 2009 that forbade normalised relations with the Jewish state. At the same time, he condemned other suicide attacks that targeted civilians, like the Moscow subway bombings earlier this year. He also condemned the September 11 attacks on the United States, saying they were 'not compatible with sharia law'.
In 1985 there was an attempt on his life. A bomb consisting of 200 kg of dynamite exploded at some tens of metres from his home in Beirut. Fadlallah escaped unharmed, but the bomb destroyed a seven story building and a cinema and killed at least 80 people while wounding 256. Most of the killed were women and girls who had just left a mosque. It was widely suspected that the CIA and it's director William Casey were behind the attack, as a revenge for the attacks on the American embassy and the American marines in the beginning of the eighties.
Fadlallah was also a staunch critic of American foreign policy in the Middle East, accusing it of bias in favour of Israel. While the West criticised him for his politics, conservative Islamic scholars often condemned Fadlallah for his moderate views. Fadlallah was widely known for his views on women, describing men and women as equals, and issuing a fatwa in 2007 which encouraged women to defend themselves against violence. He condemned honour killings, and permitted female masturbation, but favoured the hejab as a means to preserve women's dignity. He also issued a ruling banning female circumcision.
His extensive charitable works added to his popularity. Fadlallah established a network of schools and orphanages in Shia suburbs of Beirut and in southern Lebanon.
Fadlallah was an early supporter of the Iranian revolution and of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Iran's first supreme leader.But he eventually became a critic of the concept of vilayet-e-faqih, the Iranian system of government in which a Shia religious leader exercises absolute authority. He was quoted as having said that no Shia authority had a monopoly on the truth, not even Khomeiny. Instead he oriented himself more on the line of ayatollah Ali al-Sistany.With Sistani and the Iraqi Hawza (highest religious council) he fell out, however, on the issue of the role of the Iraqi Da'awa Party of  Nuri al-Maliki. Fadlallah, belonged to the Da'awa ands was it's spiritual guide, while Sistani was much more oriented towards a modern role for the state.

Update Thursday 8/7:
Iraq's prime minister is in Beirut to pay his respects for Lebanon's late top Shiite cleric.
Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah was one of the founders of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Dawa party. He was also believed to be the party's religious guide until his death on Sunday following a long illness.A 100-member Iraqi delegation took part in his funeral south of Beirut on Tuesday that drew tens of thousands of mourners.