Sunday, October 31, 2010

Hanin Zoabi to Electronic Intifada: no chance for a two-state solution

There is now "no chance" for a two-state solution in Palestine. So said Haneen Zoabi, a Palestinian member of Israel's parliament, the Knesset, in an interview with The Electronic Intifada (EI) on 29 October in Chicago. "The reality goes more toward the one state solution," Zoabi said, "whether a democratic one-state solution, or a binational one-state solution."
Elected in 2009, Zoabi represents the National Democratic Alliance, and is the first woman to be elected on the list of an Arab party in Israel.
"We are struggling for a normal state," Zoabi explained, "which is a state for all of its citizens, [in] which the Palestinians and the Israeli Jews can have full equality. I recognize religious, cultural and national group rights for the Israelis, but inside a democratic and neutral state."

In May, Zoabi participated in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and was aboard the Mavi Marmara when the ship was attacked by Israeli commandos in international waters. Nine activists were killed and dozens injured in the Israeli attack. Zoabi strongly criticized Israel's official inquiry into the incident. Although a member of Israel's parliament and an eyewitness, Zoabi has not been asked to testify before the inquiry -- called the Turkel Committee -- but has attended its sessions with other witnesses. She told EI of the open bias and political statements of the committee members, stating "They do not look for the facts. They are just looking for a way to justify the Israeli attack."

Asked about the prospects for the current US-brokered "peace process," Zoabi said Israeli society and parliament "doesn't feel the need for peace. They don't perceive occupation as a problem. They don't perceive the siege as a problem. They don't perceive oppressing the Palestinians as a problem, and they don't pay the price of occupation or the price of [the] siege [of Gaza]."
While Palestinians suffer intensely, Israel, Zoabi said, viewed its relationship with the Palestinians primarily as a "security problem," which it has largely resolved through the siege of Gaza, the separation wall in the West Bank, and by "security coordination" with the Palestinian Authority.

For the full interview of  Zoabi with the Electronic Intifada´s Ali Abunimah (including a video), click here.

Caterpillar suspends shipment of D9 bulldozers to Israel

According to Sydney Levy of the Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) the Israeli press is reporting that Caterpillar is withholding the delivery of tens of D9 bulldozers—valued at $50 million—to the Israeli military. The D9's are weaponized bulldozers that are used to destroy homes and orchards of Palestinian families. They are the same bulldozers as the one that killed Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old American peace activist, seven years ago when she tried to protect the home of the Nasrallah family in Gaza.
That's why the next part of the story is even more amazing. The news reports say that the deliveries have been suspended  because Rachel's parents, Cindy and Craig Corrie, are bringing a civil suit against the government of Israel in a court in Tel Aviv. (for more reports on the trial click here). The deliveries are to stop during the length of the trial. JVP takes this as an indirect admission by the company that these bulldozers are being used to violate human rights and to violate the law. The Corrie story is just one of the stories.

A suspension of the sale of bulldozers is what JVP has been asking Caterpillar for over seven years now. Caterpillar and the U.S. government, however,  have neither confirmed nor denied the news. And news reports describe the company's move as a temporary decision only. 
According to the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions (ICAHD), since 1967 almost 25.000 houses have been demolished in the occupied territories, of which at least 11.795 houses in the last ten years. In most of these cases, if not all of them, D9 bulldozers have been used.. 

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Suicide bomber kills 25 Shiites at cafe in Kurdistan

A suicide bomber has killed at least 25 people and injured dozens in a town north of Baghdad, Iraqi officials say.The attacker is believed to have detonated an explosives vest in a cafe in the town of Balad Ruz, in Diyala province.The AP news agency quotes the mayor as saying most of the victims were men playing dominos and drinking tea in the cafe when the explosion happened.
The area is said to be home to manyy Shias of Kurdish origin.
It is the first major bomb attack in Iraq in more than a month.

Yemen even more under scrutiny after discovery of 'ink-bombs' on their way to US-synagogues

It is clear that the traffic to and from Yemen will be even more under scrutiny and that the US and the West in general will be even more interfering in internal situation of the country after the interception in the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates of  two small packages containing explosive material that were being shipped  from Yemen to synagogues in the Chicago area in the US.

The packages were discovered on Friday at East Midlands airport, in Nottingham, around two hours north of London, and in Dubai, a major Gulf business hub. Both contained toner cartridges for computer printers packed with powder and attached to wires.
Jane Harman, a Democratic congresswoman from California who ists on the Homeland Security Committee of the House of Representatives, said the packages contained the explosive substance PETN.  One used a mobile phone as a detonator, while the other had a timer.PETN is the same substance that was packed into the underwear of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian man who attempted to ignite a bomb on board an airliner over the United States on December 25 last year.
President Barack Obama said in a press conference on Friday that it was sure that the packages originated in Yemen, "We also know that al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a terrorist group based in Yemen, continues to plan attacks against our homeland, our citizens, and our friends and allies," he said.
The discoveries came after a tip from Saudi Arabia, the White House said, triggering a major security alert on three continents as officials scrambled to check other cargo bound for the United states from Yemen.

One package, found in the United Kingdom, was on board a UPS cargo plan, while the other, in Dubai, was found in a FedEx sorting facility.

The discovery will certainly have consequences for the relations of the West with Yemen. The USA is already active in Yemen. It provides assistance to the Yemeni military with attempts to locate and neutralize presumed Al-Qaeda units. In April president Obama took the unusual step to approve the targeted killing of imam Anwar al-Awlaki, who carries dual Yekeni and American citizenship. By so doing Al-Awlaki became the first U.S. citizen ever placed on the CIA-target list. Also US drones are used in attacks on presumed Al-Qaeda militants, which have also killed civilians  on severeal occasions and which have been criticized by Amnesty International. "The U.S. government has deployed drones in Yemen to kill those it describes as 'high value targets', a practice that has been increasingly criticised as involving unlawful killings," Amnesty said in August. Apart from the militarey involvement the West is also involved in attempts to bolster the government of Ali Abdullah Saleh. The question remains however to what extend such attempts will bear fruit as long as Saleh is in power, since the president has shown a remarkable inability of late to come to terms with the opposition in the north (th Houthi's with whom he concluded a cease fire, but stil not areal agreemnet), the south and even the important tribal federations in the centre of the country.

The BBC reminds us that Al-Qaeda, although certainly not aiming exclusively at Jewish targets, has more often choosen specific Jewish gatherings or buildings, probably because such targtes atre not only perceived to be connected with the hated Isarel,m but also as a kind of pars pro toto for attacks on Western values in general. The BBC gives the following list of  Al-Qaeda attacks on Jewish targets:
  • April 2002: Suicide bombing at synagogue in Djerba, Tunisia kills 19. Al-Qaeda claims the attack
  • Nov 2002: 16 people killed in suicide bombing al-Qaeda claims to have carried out of Israeli-owned hotel in Mombasa, Kenya
  • May 2003: 45 killed in bomb attacks in Casablanca, Morocco, on targets including Jewish cultural centre. Group linked to al-Qaeda blamed.
  • Nov 2003: Two synagogues in Istanbul, Turkey, bombed, killing 23. Al-Qaeda claims responsibility
  • Oct 2005: Germany sentences four Arab men accused of links to al-Qaeda of planning attacks on Jewish targets

Friday, October 29, 2010

Human rights defender Singace, blogger Abdulemam + 23 others on trial in Bahrain

The trial of 25 Shia Muslim opposition activists has opened in Bahrain, five days after a tense general election.The activists have pleaded not guilty to charges of plotting to overthrow the Sunni-led government and to supporting "terror cells" in the Gulf kingdom.
Some of the accused have told the court that they were tortured. Rights groups have criticised the government for arresting dissidents and curtailing media freedoms in the run-up to last Saturday's poll. Amnesty Internationale reported that in the months preceding the election as much as 250 people have been arrested.

The original 23 suspects  were unexpectedly joined by two other defendants, including the well known blogger Ali Abdulemam (here on a picture taken after his arrest).  The men were charged with forming an illegal organisation, resorting to terrorism, financing terrorist activities and spreading false information, according to the indictment.

Among the accused coup plotters is prominent rights activist Abdul-Jalil Singace (picture left), who was taken into custody in August when he returned from London with his family. All suspects face possible life sentences if convicted.
In the kingdom Bahrain a Sunni minority rules over a Shia majority. This has been causing problems from time to time, as the Shias - who make up 70% of the country's 530,000 citizens - press for greater political power. Parliamentary elections give the Shias only a limited role, as all legislation has to pass a Shura (Senate) in which all members are appointed by the king and the ruling Al-Khalifa family. The Shias complain that they are excluded from any key policymaking roles or top posts in the security forces.

Hariri urges all Lebanese to stop cooperating with Special Hariri Tribunal

Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on Thursday called on all Lebanese to boycott the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), which looks into the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. “Whoever cooperates with the Special Tribunal is working against the Resistance,” he said in a televised speech, adding that the STL is sending all data gathered on Lebanon to Israel.The Hezbollah chief also said that investigators from the STL have threatened some people, including doctors.
“We have evidence to prove it.”
He addressed the issue of Wednesday’s incident in Dahiyeh, asking, “Why would the STL need the medical records of women affiliated with Hezbollah? Who of you would agree to allow someone to look at the medical records of your women?”
An STL team was attacked by a group of around 30 women at a gyneacology clinic in Hezbollah-controlled Dahiyeh, southern suburb of Beirut, snatching a briefcase but causing no injuries The investigators had scheduled a meeting with Dr. Iman Charara – who runs the clinic.The-Hague-based STL condemned the incident, saying no act of violence would prevent the probe from moving forward.
Nasrallah also said that the international tribunal was given access to all telecommunications information since 2003, files of students enrolled in Lebanese universities between 2003 and 2006 as well as the fingerprints of 893 Lebanese people.
 He added he received information that the US is pressuring STL Prosecutor General Daniel Bellemare to speed up the process of issuing the verdict, reiterating that members of his party will be indicted in the Rafik Hariri murder.“We have reached a very dangerous point where we can no longer remain silent…Our honor has been breached.”

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Kahane' fascist Kach movement is still very much alive in Israel (1)

Arabs protesting against the demonstration of the 'Land of Israel Movement' demonstration are teargassed. (Picture Al-Jazeera)

Supporters of the late rabbi Meir Kahane, founder of the Jewish Defense Ligue in the US and of the fascist Kach movement in Israel, which in the 90-ties was forbidden by the Israeli high court, have shown - an not for thye first time - that Kahane's ideas and movement are still very much alive. A day after attending a memorial service at the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Kahane's death, dozens of his supporters traveled under the banner of the 'Land of Israel Movement' from Jerusalem to the northern Arab town of Umm al-Fahm on Wednesday to protest against the Islamic Movement under tight police security. They were faced by hundreds of residents of the town and surrounding communities. Massive police forces fired tear gas and stun grenades at dozens of Arab and left-wing protestors, some of whom began hurling stones. The rightists were returned to their buses following the protest, and police forces stormed the crowd and arrested nine of the stone throwers.
Knesset Member Afu Aghbaria (Hadash) was lightly injured in the leg, apparently by a stun grenade. Knesset member Hanin Zoabi (Balad) sustained light wounds as well and was treated in a local clinic. A soldier disguised as an Arab was also wounded and evacuated to a hospital. Protesters said afterwards that in all 15 people were wounded, most of them by tear gas inhalation.
Itamar Ben Gvir, Baruch Marzel (second from right) and member of Knesset Michael Ben Ari (right). The picture was taken  a couple of months ago, after Ben Gvir was arrested for insulting Obama's (then) Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel during the latter's visit to Jerusalem.

Rightist Itamar Ben-Gvir said during the protest that "only in the State of Israel a faction can call for a third intifada, organize a flotilla and hurt IDF soldiers, while we're helpless." His protestors chanted, "Death to terrorists". Knesset Member Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) said the Islamic Movement (of sheikh Raed Salah) was part of the global al-Qaeda terror organization. "We are not afraid," he shouted. His colleague, Baruch Marzel, said that "if we concede Umm al-Fahm we’ll concede Tel Aviv too," while the protestors continued to chant, "Death to the Arabs" and "Umm al-Fahm is Jewish."
Umm al-Fahm mayor Sheikh Khaled Hamdan claimed that "this mess taking place here this morning is insane. It's not normal that 1,500 policemen have to be brought here because of one racist lunatic. We are not the one looking for a provocation. This visit is creating a provocation in the entire region.

Kahane's fascist Kach movement is still very much alive in Israel (2)

Hundreds of Land of Israel Movement activists and supporters of the radical movement Kach held a memorial service on Tuesday to mark 20 years since Rabbi Meir Kahane's assassination.

The assembly was held at the Ramada Renaissance Hotel in Jerusalem. During the meeting shirts, books and other Kahane items were sold. Speeches of the late Kahane were screened as well, while protestors went wild, clapping every time he said "Arabs out".
The founder of the Temple Institute, Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, said under cheers of the audience: "Leaders who have ruined our country always tell us that no one can teach them how to love Israel. But this love they are referring to makes them establish an Ishmael state in Israel. If, G-d forbid, an Ishmael state will be built, we will destroy it."
Knesset Member Michael Ben Ari (National Union) also spoke. He said that a picture of Kahane stands on his office desk and on his desk at the Knesset plenum, next to his book and that he sometimes tells the picture: 'It is not a simple task to represent you; you stand up to countless attacks and I must say that your truth isn't a popular one. But Rabbi Kahane taught us not to speak the truth in the morning according to last night's poll results, as the prime minister does."

MK Ben Ari went on to say that the radical right-wing groups have been going through two tough decades since Kahane's murder, but that he 'was given twice the amount of time for my speech honoring Rabbi Kahane at the Knesset today, the same speech I wasn't allowed to give a year ago."
Activist Baruch Marzel mentioned the memorials devoted to the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. "Fifteen years ago memorials began for this one man. The state wasted millions on his legacy. There are almost no cities without a street or a hospital named after him. But after all of this, less and less people participate in his memorial services, because the truth gets clearer and clearer as years go by."
 The head of Yeshiva of the Jewish Idea, Rabbi Yehuda Kroizer, said, "Rabbi Kahane became a symbol and as time passes, instead of his Torah disappearing we see how vital it really is. In his book, Rabbi Kahane wrote that we are living in times of redemption, which is why he viewed Israel as part of God's plan. We must proudly carry on this mission assigned to us, and not grovel before the world's nations or the enemies of Israel, but only stand firm and strong."
Kach activist Haim Pearlman (small picture), currently under house arrest after his suspected killing of four Arabs in the 1990s, was also among the participants. The wife of the 'Jewish terrorist,' Keren Pearlman, told Ynet: "Today everybody knows that 'Kahane' is not a dirty word."

Kahane' fascist Kach movement is still very much alive in Israel (3)

For the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the death Meir Kahane the following comic appeared last week on an Israeli website called the Israel News Network, which is associated with Arutz Sheva and the settler movement. The comic, which is also available in print, is apparently meant to make the children of the settlers acquainted with the racist and fascist heritage of Kahane who was a strong proponent of kicking all Arabs out of (the whole of) the Land of Israel. The comic has been translated by Dena Shunra.

Miracle Man. Writing: Naama Nieman Illustrations: Dikla Sagiv

[Top right panel]
[Blue shirt boy:] I’m so sad I didn’t get to meet him.
[Gray shirt man] At least you got to be named after him.
[White shirt man:] You can study his books and get to know his theory. Rabbi Kahane left many books behind, and many lessons that he gave were recorded and disseminated widely.
[Plaid shirt man:] While you did not know him personally, the stories let you know him.
[Green shirt boy:] True, I really feel as though I had seen him myself.

[top left panel]
[Green shirt boy:] We are apparently only at the beginning of the road…
[Blue shirt boy:] Thank you for everything you taught us.
[Plaid shirt man:] You’re welcome. My prayer for you is that you have the privilege to put into practice the things that you learned.

[Middle row, right panel]
[yellow caption:] At home…
[Man with moustache] Hello, Meir-David, you’ve finally gotten here. Come see what I found.
[Blue shirt boy:] A MOVIE?
[Man with moustache] A movie about a popular meeting

[Middle row, middle panel] [VCR, TV, Kahane speaking]
[Middle row, left panel]
[Man with moustache] Did you hear what Rabbi Kahane Said? It’s just incredible, the meeting was held in 5750 [1990], when the PLO and its leader, Arafat, were considered the greatest enemies of Israel. Anyone who dared meet with Arafat was considered a traitor and tossed into prison, and then Rabbi Kahane said in his speech that you only have two options: either Kahane or Arafat.
[Blue shirt boy:] I do not understand. What is so incredible? What exactly does he mean?

[Bottom row, right panel]
[Man with moustache] He means that if they don’t listen to him and don’t get the Arabs out of the country, the day will come that there will be no choice and we’ll bring into here our greatest enemy.
[Bottom row, middle panel] [probably moustache man again] What’s incredible is that to our great sorrow, years later that did indeed happen, and Arafat came into the country.
[Bottom row, left panel]
[Blue shirt boy:] How did he know that? Was he a prophet?
[Man with moustache] No, he just knew how to see reality as it was.

[Top right panel] After the holiday of sukkot 5751, Rabbi Kahane went abroad, to give lectures in the U.S. At a lecture in New York, in a big Jewish college.
[Top middle panel] An Arab approached the stage and shot him twice.
[Top left panel]
[Plaid shirt man] Rabbi Kahane fell dead, and had enough time to say “Shma Yisrael”.
[Blue shirt boy] That is so sad!
[Green shirt boy:] And the funeral?

[Middle row, Right panel] His remains were brought to Israel. The funeral came right out of here, out of the Yeshiva. Before the coffin arrived the area was full of masses of people, all the streets by the Yeshiva were filled with more than 150,000 people…
[Middle row, Middle panel]
[Green shirt boy:] Were there so many people who loved him?
[Plaid shirt man] Yes, apparently so. Rabbis and public leaders eulogized him, including the Rishon LeZion, Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, may the memory of that sainted man be blessed. He said as follows:
[Middle row, Left panel] People were not sufficiently familiar with Rabbi Kahane, his righteousness and scholarship, his fear of God. Rabbi Kahane gave much money to families and helped the many people who turned to him.

[Bottom row, Left panel]
[Plaid shirt man] I will tell you another story: the Kabala expert Rabbi Meir Yehuda Katz, may the memory of that sainted man be blessed, the rabbi of the Wailing Wall, joined the funeral procession and said:
[Bottom row, Left panel]
I dreamt tonight that the Messiah, descendant of Joseph*, was murdered in the United States. I could not sleep well, and when I woke up I heard the news that Rabbi Kahane was murdered.
[Yellow panel] * Traditionally, the Messiah, descendant of Joseph, deals in the practical and material salvation of the People of Israel.

[Top right panel]
[Green shirt] So what was the activity in the Kach Movement?
[Moustache man] It was very important to Rabbi Kahane to spread the truth and bring redemption closer. Every day he would go from place to place, throughout the country, and call on Jews to wake up.
[Beard man] He had conferences, took part in events, visited towns, villages, and markets and initiated meetings at homes. It was very important for him to connect with the people.
[Top left panel] At least three times a week the Rabbi would go to a popular meeting, and each such day he would hold at least three popular meetings in different places.
[Middle row, Middle panel] What were the main messages he gave in those talks?
[Middle row, Left panel] He called for the removal of the goyim from the land of Israel.
[bottom row, right to left]
[1] for retuning the Temple Mount to Jewish control
[2] for establishing Jewish sovereignty over all parts of the land of Israel
[3] and for restoration of Jewish honor.
[4] [Moustache man] I also remember that he also talked a lot about the social problems:

Top panel, clockwise, starting from the fist in the star]
Never again
Never again humiliation of Jews!
Never again Jews being slaughtered!
Never again desecration of God
Instead, Jews standing erect.
With no fear of the goyim.
[lower right panel]
[Blue shirt] I’m so glad you named me for him. I did not know how fortunate I was. When will I be able to meet Baruch Marzel already?
[Moustache man] I’ll call and coordinate a meeting with him. You know that it’s [very cold?] in Hebron. Maybe we’ll combine the meeting with him with a Vatikin prayer at the Patriarchs’ Burial Grave.
[Lower left panel] How nice! I haven’t been at the Patriarchs’ Burial Grave for a long time. I’m sure Elkana and his father will be glad to join.

[Top row, Right]
[Moustache man] I can also tell you an interesting story that I just read in a new book by Rabbi Shlomo Zalamn Auerbach, who was one of the greatest rabbis in our generation and lived next door to the Jewish Defense League offices.
[Blue shirt] Which would later be called the Kach movement…
[Top row, Left] Moshe Nieman, who was Rabbi Kahane’s right-hand man, says that when Rabbi Shlomo Zalamn Auerbach used to pass by the Kach Movement offices…
[Middle row, Right] He used to punch a fist, with a big smile on his face, and say “right on!” to the activists.
[Middle row, Left]
[Blue shirt] A fist?! Why a fist?
[Moustache man] The symbol of the Jewish Defense League was a star of David with a clenched fist inside it.
[Bottom row, Right] And that symbol is also a story in its own right. After the liberation of the German death camps, in WWII, a picture was found on one of the walls, showing a star of David with a fist inside, and the Yiddish words: “Jews! Revenge!”
[graffiti:] Yiddalach! Nekama!
[Bottom row, Middle] The picture was drawn by a Jew before he was murdered in the Holocaust.
[Bottom row, Left] Rabbi Kahane adopted the symbol, but added to it the words: “Never again!”

[Top panel, Top segment then clockwise]
He brought up the subject at demonstrations, everywhere possible;
Dance troupes that came to the U.S. from the Soviet Union were showered with boos from the Jewish Defense League Members;
Russian diplomats were afraid to walk free, lest they be hurt.
[sign] Let my people go.
Demonstrations were held in front of every Soviet embassy around the world.
And that was how the problem of the Jews in the Soviet Union came into international consciousness.
[Lower right panel]
[Blond, blue-eyed man] Excuse me for jumping in. My name is Dmitry. I heard that you’re talking about Rabbi Kahane.
[Green shirt] Ha! There’s another person who knows him…
[Lower left panel] No, no, I’m sorry to say that I did not have the privilege of getting to know him, although I did get to see him once!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ex-Shin Bet head and ex-minister Dichter cancels visit to Spain out of fear for arrest

MK Avi Dichter (Kadima) was planning on taking part in an international peace summit in Spain over the weekend, but was forced to cancel over fears he would be arrested, and possibly imprisoned, by Madrid authorities, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Tuesday. According to report several days ago, a Spanish organization called The Madrid Coalition, invited Israeli and Palestinian representatives to take part in a summit focusing on the peace process and the Saudi initiative.
The Madrid Coalition works in cooperation with the former Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos. The summit organizers decided to invite a small group of MKs from Israel to take part in the summit. Former Shin Bet Chief MK Avi Dichter was set to lead the delegation.
Earlier this week, Dichter requested to look into the possibility that he may face legal action in Spain over complaints against him for his involvement in the Salah Shehade assassination, which took place when Dichter was head of Shin Bet) and for his involvement in Operation Cast Lead, Dichter was Ministerof Public Security at the time). After looking into the legal aspects of the situation,
Madrid officials told Dichter that Spain did not intend to offer him immunity from arrest or interrogation, after which he cancelled his participation in the event. 

Dichter is not the frst to get in trouble in this way. Former Foreign minister Tizipi Livni (Kadima) and former Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon had to cancel visits to London in 2009 for similar reasons. A warrant was also issued in Britain for Ehud Barak, but as an acting member of government the case did not have a chance in court.  (more about that here, in Dutch)  

Tareq Aziz, Saddam's hypocritical defender, sentenced to death

Saddam Hussein's longtime foreign minister Tariq Aziz was sentenced to death by hanging Tuesday for persecuting members of Shiite religious parties under the former regime.
Iraq's high criminal court spokesman Mohammed Abdul-Sahib did not say when Aziz, 74, would be put to death. The death sentence followed his conviction of taking part in a Saddam-led campaign that hunted and executed members of the Shiite Dawa Party, of which current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is a member.
Aziz, a Christian who became the international face of Saddam's regime, can appeal the sentence. He has already been convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison for his role in the 1992 execution of 42 merchants found guilty of profiteering. He also received a seven-year prison sentence for a case involving the forced displacement of Kurds in northern Iraq.
Aziz's son, Ziad, said that the death sentence was "unfair" and "illogical", because his father was the victim, not the criminal, since Dawa Party members tried to assassinate him in 1980. "This is an illogical and an unfair sentence that is serving political goals of the Iraqi government.Tariq Aziz himself was the victim of the religious parties that tried to kill him in 1980, but now he is turned to a criminal," AP quoted Aziz' son  as saying.
However, calling Tareq Aziz 'a victim' sounds somewhat ridiculous to my ears. Tareq Aziz, whose real name is Mikhail Yuhanna, was long one of the people who belonged to the inner crowd of Saddam Hussein. Originally editor in chef of the party newspaper, Saddam made him his foreign minister and later his vice-prime minister. As such he must not only have been aware of,  but in fact have been partaking in most decisions and have been an accomplice to the acts of genocide against the Kurds in the eighties, and against the Shiites in 1991, apart from the war crimes against Iran en all other atrocities committed by this exceptionally cruel regime.  In 1980 he escaped a bomb attack by members of al-Da'awa, after wich an unknown  number of people (among them prisoners) were executed by way of reprisal.  I met Aziz at a reception in Baghdad in October of that year and he was joking about the whole event which left him as good as unhurt. It may be true that Aziz personnally did not kill people and that the gun which he carried when I met him, was only ceremonial and part of the Ba'ath uniform that people of his rank used to wear. However, as a member of the small bunch of decision makers he was undoubtely aware of all that happened. As far as I know, it was Aziz who first hinted that Iraq was going to use poison gas against the Iranian troops (in een interview with Le Monde, in the early eighties he made a remark that they were goingt to be killed in the way one kills insects). So his son's reaction to the conviction is typical of the hypocrisy  of the Ba'athists who always used to argue that they had to be tough because the were dealing with separatists (Kurds), religious fanatics (Shiites), criminals (people critical of their regime) and - last but not least - bloodthirsty Iranians, while forgetting that it was they who had started the war in the first place.  

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Opposition belonging to the Shiite majority wins almost half of the seats in Bahraini parliament

 Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, an uncle of King Hamad, brings out his vote. Sheikh Khalifa has been Bahrain's  prime minister since 1971. (Picture Arab News) 

Bahrain's main Shi'ite opposition group, Wafaq, won all of the 18 seats it contested in Bahrain's parliamentary elections which were held on Saturday. It thereby won almost half of the seats, which amount toa totalof
40, election officials announced. In the outgoing assemblee Wafaq hold 17 seats.
The result was expected as the districts the group contested consisted mainly of Shi'ite populations. The opposition says the government has apportioned districts in bsauch a way that the Shi'ite opposition is prevented from gaining a majority in the assembly.
The run-up to the vote was overshadowed by a broad security crackdown against some Shi'ite opposition groups in August that also targeted bloggers and human rights activists.
Amnesty International, on 18 October reported that
'as many as 250 people – including clerics, students, members of human rights organizations and charities, and opposition activists have been detained since August. Almost all are believed to be members of the Shi'a community, the majority population in Bahrain, whose rulers are mostly members of the Sunni minority. (...) In September, amid growing tension, the government suspended the board of the legally registered Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS), accusing it of "legal and administrative irregularities" and co-operating with "illegal organizations", after it had publicly criticized the government for violating the human rights of those arrested in August.
Bahrain, home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet, has a Shi'ite Muslim majority population but is governed by the Sunni al-Khalifa dynasty, which its allies Saudi Arabia and the United States see as a bulwark against the regional influence of Shi'ite power Iran.
Sunni groups allied to the government, Al Asalah and Al Menbar, as well as independents, were also contesting. The two Sunni Islamist groups Al Asalah and Al Menbar that held a combined 15 seats in the outgoing assembly looked set to lose some of their seats to independents as they only won three seats directly, with another seven of their candidates having to enter a second round of voting next Saturday.
The justice ministry said turnout was 67 percent of eligible voters, down from 72 percent in 2006.
Bahrain's parliament has limited powers. All bills have to pass the Shura (an upper house) whose 40 members are all appointed by the king. Ultimate power in the country rests with the ruling family.

Viva Palestina convoy enters Gaza from Egypt

Activistts of the 'Viva Palestina' aid convoy for Gaza with more than 100 cars and lorries with aid wordth about 5 million dollars have crossed into the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip through Egypt's Rafah crossing. 
The multinational Viva Palestina ship arrived at Egypt's port city of al-Arish from Lattakia, Syria, on Thursday. About 300 activists then flew into al-Arish airport and converged with the ship's passengers before entering Gaza.
The activists had initially joined up in Syria from Turkey, Algeria, Morocco, Jordan, and more than two dozen other countries.The convoy was organised by George Galloway a British politician. Galloway himself was not with the convoy, however, as he has been banned from Egypt after activists from a previous aid mission clashed with police in January in El-Arish, 45km from Gaza. Zaher Berawi, the spokesman for the convoy, said he hoped the issue of Galloway's banning could be resolved in the future.
Viva Palestina originally departed from London on September 18 and arrived in Syria two weeks later.
The activists then waited for over two weeks in Lattakia for permission from the Egyptian authorities for the shipment, which includes medical supplies and school equipment, to be allowed to enter al-Arish port.
Hamas officials and hundreds of Gazans welcomed the convoy, waving Palestinian flags and also those of countries participating in the mission.
The aid does not include any building materials, which the Egyptian authorities did not allow, as part of the agreement permitting the activists to enter Gaza for three days.
Several dozen survivors from the Israeli attack on May 31 on the Turkish aid ship the Mavi Marmara were among those in the "Viva Palestina" convoy.

After a presence of 29 years, High Court bans police from Egyptian universities

Entrance to Cairo University (Photo Ahmad Masry, Al-Masry al-Youm).

An Egyptian court upheld a ruling on Saturday to end the presence of police on university campuses. Several Cairo University professors filed a suit saying the presence of Interior Ministry security units, in place since the early 1980s, was illegal and they should be replaced by civilian guards employed by the university.
A lower court ruled in the professors' favor in 2008, citing the universities' right to independence. The High Administrative Court upheld the decision in Saturday's judgment, rejecting an appeal from officials including the prime minister and the interior minister.
'The presence of permanent interior ministry police forces inside the Cairo University campus represents an impairment of the independence guaranteed to the university by the constitution and the law,' the court said.
The decision to install interior ministry police on public university campuses dates back to September 1981, when President Anwar Sadat rounded up political opponents. The ruling comes in the run-up to Egypt's parliamentary elections, scheduled for Nov. 28. The court ruling is final, but the government may still use emergency powers, as it has done in the past, to circumvent the law.
Baheiddin Hassan, head of the Cairo Center for Human Rights, applauded the ruling, with the reservation of the part that still requires the presence of civilian guards. He added that the Administrative Judiciary is a bastion in the defense of freedom, adding that the ruling upholds the justice of demands made by students, professors and human rights organizations.
In a declaration to the newpaper Al-Masry al-Youm, Hassan  predicted, however, that the ruling may not be implemented, 'since the current regime has no respect for the judiciary'. In addition to this, he warned that 'the presence of civilian guards represents another form of security interference in university affairs.'

Human Rights Watch, in a report called 'Reading between the Red Lines, The Repression of Academic Freedom in Egyptian Universities', wrote in 2005 that the Egyptian government uses three main tools, in various combinations, to stifle academic freedom: 'a pervasive police presence on campus, the political appointment of key administrators, and a series of laws that regulate internal affairs produce a university system under strict control of the state. "University education in Egypt cannot produce proper intellectuals," said Ahmad Taha, a poet and former professor. "It is nothing more than a government office. Using these instruments of repression, the state dictates what material can be taught and studied, restricts what opinions can be expressed and how, and interferes with meetings of professors and students. In so doing, it undermines the autonomy universities need to protect academic freedom and violates basic human rights.
About the presence of police units the report said: 'Different branches of the state police, under the authority of the Ministry of the Interior, monitor most aspects of state university life. University guards are stationed at campus gates and have offices in each faculty. Plainclothes members of the state security forces roam campuses to stop spontaneous expression, such as speeches or posters. The police also hire or coerce students into spying on each other. Those belonging to the student club "Horus" are notorious for intimidating their fellow students; this club, or usra, which has branches at the major universities, works for President Mubarak's National Democratic Party (NDP) and receives financial and moral support from the activities department in each faculty. Together these forces strive to silence activist students and deter other, less political students from joining them. They suppress specific expression while creating a general climate of fear.
University guards control access to the campus, keeping people both out and in and heavily scrutinizing politically active students in particular. They make it very difficult for visitors to enter the university, and students of various political leanings told Human Rights Watch of being detained or searched at the gates.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Palestinians report wave of attacks on farmland as olive harvest is in progress

Settlers attacked residents of Kifl Haris village in Salfit and stole their olives, witnesses said. Locals reported that residents of the illegal Ariel settlement attacked villagers as they harvested their olives. Meanwhile, settlers supported by Israeli soldiers destroyed farmland in Al-Baq'a east of the West Bank city of Hebron, residents said.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said she would look into the report.
Palestinian farmers have reported a wave of attacks by settlers since the olive harvest began in early October. On Tuesday, settlers set fire to Palestinian crops on farmland in the Husan village in the southern Bethlehem district, and on Friday fires started by settlers were reported in Qalqiliya and Nablus in the northern West Bank.
An Israeli rights group said Tuesday that over 90 percent of investigations into offenses against Palestinians carried out by Israeli settlers in the West Bank fail. Yesh Din's statistic was part of a report that suggested Israeli authorities have failed to prosecute Israeli settlers suspected of vandalizing Palestinian crops.

Settlers on West Bank started building four times faster than before building freeze

Jewish settlers have started building more than 600 homes in the West Bank since a building freeze expired last month, Peace Now has said. The pace of building is four times faster than before the ban was put in place.
Yariv Oppenheimer, one of the leaders of Peace Now, said that more details about the building will be
released in a report on Monday. Hagit Ofran, another Peace Now activist, told the BBC that she estimates that work has started at about 600 housing units since the end of the construction freeze and that she is completing the survey in order to know the exact number. She added that construcion  is at different stages. In   some places 'it is only levelling the ground that has started and in others, it's the very foundation that is now being dug.'
A separate count by the Associated Press news agency estimated that ground had been broken on at least 544 new West Bank homes since 26 September, when Israel lifted its 10-month freeze on most new settlement building in the West Bank.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Amnesty complains: crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt

The Egyptian parliament
Amnesty International accused Egypt on Tuesday of arresting dozens of Muslim Brotherhood members to disrupt the opposition group's elections campaign ahead of a parliamentary vote in November. Police have arrested more than 150 people since the Islamists' leader, Mohammed Badie, announced on October 9 that the group would contest 30 percent of parliament's elected seats in the election. Seventy have been released.
The Brotherhood runs its candidates as independents as the party itself is oulawed. It won 88 seats, or a fifth of parliament's seats in the last election in 2005.
"The 70 still held include supporters of Muslim Brotherhood election candidates and several regional leaders of the organization," the London-based rights group said. "Those arrested appear to be detained solely on account of their association with the Muslim Brotherhood organisation," a statement quoted Middle East director Malcolm Smart as saying. Said Haddadi, a Middle East researcher for Amnesty, told AFP "the arrests were clearly taken to disrupt their campaigning. This isn't new. Whenever there is an election Muslim Brotherhood members are arrested and opposition members are harassed."
In 2005, the government, under heavy US pressure to push democratic reforms, reached a deal with the Brotherhood that allowed it to contest a limited number of seats, according to the Islamists' then leader, Mohammed Akef. But when the Brotherhood appeared to be making rapid gains, police cracked down by closing polling stations and arresting Brotherhood supporters.
Meanwhile, Egypt's main satellite operator has shut down another 12 private television channels on grounds of "violating broadcasting licences".
Earlier this month, Cairo ordered the suspension of the licences of five channels after accusing them of violating the terms of their contracts with NileSat and breaching broadcasting ethics.

UN-envoy Ad Melkert unhurt after attack on his convoy in Iraq

Ad Melkert, the special envoy to Iraq and former Dutch politician, escaped unhurt on Tuesday in an attack on a United Nations-Iraqi police convoy in which he was riding. The convoy was hit by a roadside bomb when it was leaving Najaf, 160 km south of Baghdad, killing one policeman and wounding three others.
Elsewhere in Iraq, 11 people were killed after blasts ripped through the home of a senior Iraqi police commander in the northern city of Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein. The attackers planted bombs and left a booby-trapped motorbike near the house of Lieutenant-Colonel Qais Farhan, commander of the emergency response unit of Tikrit. Four people were also wounded in the explosion, including Farhan. The dead included three children and four women, all of them relatives of the police commander.

Meanwhile, in Samarra, 95km north of the capital, Baghdad, a roadside bomb struck a police patrol, killing two policemen and wounding two others, while in Baghdad two bombs planted in buses wounded 15 Iranian pilgrims, officials said.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Netanyahu wants to make loyalty oath for new Israeli citizens also compulsory for Jews

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he wants to include Jews in a bill that requires people taking Israeli citizenship to swear loyalty to the country as a Jewish state. The bill has still to be passed by the Knesset.
.Mr Netanyahu's office said on Monday that he had instructed Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman to prepare a draft bill that would also require Jews to pledge allegiance to Israel 'as a Jewish and democratic state'.
The original proposal to require some citizens - mainly Israeli Arabs - to swear allegiance to a Jewish state has proved deeply divisive within Israeli society, and on Saturday thousands protested against the bill in Tel Aviv. Israeli media reported last week that all five ministers from the left-leaning Labour party voted against the proposal, as did three cabinet members of Netanyahu's own Likud. It had been welcomed by right-wing ministers in the coalition cabinet, including ultra-nationalist Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. The bill was meant to be a trade off. Netanyahu decided to support it in order to buy the support of Lieberman for a building freeze of 60 days in the West Bank settlements. 
The law has angered Israel's Arab minority. Recognition of Israel as a Jewish state is a news demand that Netanyahu  is making as part of an eventual peace deal with the Palestinians. The PA, however, reject it, as the Palestinians have already  recognised Israel as a state. They argue that recognizing it as a 'Jewish' state will prejudice the rights of the non-Jewish minorities and preclude a deal on the Right of Return of the refugees of 1948.
The fact that Netanyahu now wants to make it also compulsory  for Jews to take the oath may seem to take away some of its racist character. But that is only a difference in appearance, as the demand remains no less discriminatory for the spouses of Israeli Palestinians from Jordan or the West Bank who want to become Israeli citizens, or for Arabs in general. Also some haredi (strictly orthodox Jewish) circles have a problem with the new requirement, because they don't recognoze a Jewish state that is not ruled according to Jewish (halakhic) law. And, I may add, Jewish people like myself who don't agree with the qualification 'Jewish and democratic state' will of course have a problem with their conscience as well.

Five months for Israeli soldier who stole from Mavi Marmara

Israel's military court sentenced a soldier of the Israeli army to five months in military jail for stealing equipment from the Turkish aid ship Mavi Marmara, one of the ships of the Free Gaza Floitrilla which tried to sail to Gaza at the end of May. On board the Mavi Marmara nine people were killed by Israeli commandos.
The cadet, in training to be an officer, was sentenced within the framework of a plea bargain under the terms of which he confessed to having taken electronic equipment. In addition to the jail term, the soldier was fined NIS 700, demoted to the rank of private and removed from the officer training course.
Following the sentencing, the soldier expressed remorse and explained that he had made a mistake.According to the plea bargain, the officer took the items from the ship while it was docked at the Ashdod port in September.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Israeli strike kills two in Gaza

A Palestinian succumbed to his wounds sustained Sunday morning during an Israeli airstrike northwest of Gaza City, bringing the death toll up to two. A medical source identified the second Palestinian killed in the bombings as 22-year-old Muhammad Hisham Zaqout. Earlier, Gaza medical services spokesman Adham Abu Silmiyya said Mahmoud Jabir Washah, 21, was killed when Israel's air force struck the As-Sudaniyya neighborhood near Gaza City. 
A statement by the Israel Defense Forces said that Israel Air Force attacked 'terrorist cells' planning to launch Qassam rockets or mortar bombs at Israel. According to Palestinian reports, Israel Navy attacked a Hamas training facility north of Gaza city.

"The IDF will not tolerate any attempt to harm Israeli citizens and IDF soldiers, and will continue to act firmly against terror," an army statement said Sunday, adding that Israel held "Hamas solely responsible for the situation in Gaza and for maintaining the peace there.
Earlier this month, Palestinian medical officials and witnesses reported that an Israeli aircraft struck a car traveling south of Gaza City, wounding three people.
According to Palestinian witnesses, the Golf car was hit by one missile. Medical officials confirmed the three people injured in the strike were taken to a hospital in the centre of the Gaza Strip.
An Israeli army spokeswoman said the main target of the strike was Ahmad al-Ashkar, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) militant group.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Egyptian government robs opposition of use of mass-SMS's ahead of elections

Egypt's telecommunications regulator has imposed new restrictions on mobile text messages ahead of legislative elections. Companies sending out text messages en masse – known as SMS aggregators – must now obtain licenses.
Opposition activists say the new regulation stifles their ability to mobilise voters. Reform groups in Egypt have come to rely increasingly on the internet and mobile phones to organise and mobilise their supporters, tools which have enabled them to sidestep government harassment. The Muslim Brotherhood used text messages as a campaign tool for its candidates in the 2005 elections. That year it won 88 seats, or 20 per cent of the total parliament seats.
The telecommunicatoins ministry said the decision was not supposed to curb political activity, but rather to protect people from "random" text messages about sensitive issues.

Only registered political parties can apply to use mass text messages in the upcoming elections. The National Democratic Party, the ruling party of presidnet Hosni Mubarak, has already been granted a permit. The Muslim Brotherhood, though, which cannot compete as a party as it is officially banned and whose candidates can only have participate as independents, will not be able to use them.
Moustafa el-Naggar, a member of a new reform movement led by Nobel Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei, said his group was contemplating using mass text messages to mobilise its members. "They are trying to strip the opposition of all its tools. But we will find new ones," he said.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

New chapter in 'Freeze soap': PA ready to recognize Israel 'as whatever' state within borders of '67

Palestine: little, less, lost?

Senior Palestine Liberation Organization official Yasser Abed Rabbo said on Wednesday that the Palestinians will be willing to recognize the State of Israel in any way that it desires, if the Americans would only present a map of the future Palestinian state that includes all of the territories captured in 1967, including East Jerusalem.
In response to U.S. State Department Spokesman Phillip Crowley's statement on Tuesday night that the Palestinians should respond to the Israeli demand, Abed Rabbo told Haaretz, "We want to receive a map of the State of Israel which Israel wants us to accept."
"If the map will be based on the 1967 borders and will not include our land, our houses and East Jerusalem, we will be willing to recognize Israel according to the formulation of the government within the hour," added Rabbo.
Abed Rabbo continued, "It is important for us to know where are the borders of Israel and where are the borders of Palestine. Any formulation the Americans present – even asking us to call Israel the 'Chinese State' – we will agree to it, as long as we receive the 1967 borders. We have recognized Israel in the past, but Israel has not recognized the Palestinian state."

Abed Rabbo's remarks were in reaction to a statement of U.S. State Department spokesman Jim Crowley who on Tueday said that the US was still trying to find a formula to overcome the settlements impasse and to allow the two sides to resume direct negotiations. He made clear that Washington wanted the Palestinians to make some kind of counter-proposal to the proposal Israeli prime minister Netanyahu had made, namely that Israel would consider an extension of two months of the building freeze in the settlements on the West Bank, if the PA would recognize Israel as a Jewish state. 'Prime Minister Netanyahu has offered his thoughts on both what he's willing to contribute to the process, what he thinks he needs for his people out of the process, we would hope that the Palestinians would do the same thing, Crowley told reporters. He also offered support for Netanyahu's stance, saying the United States regarded Israel as a Jewish state. 'We recognize that Israel, you know, is a -- as it says itself -- is a Jewish state,' Crowley said.

And so the Settlement Freeze Soap is continued. It started with US-promises of a basket full of goodies for Israel if it was willing to continue the freeze for another 60 days. Next Bibi tried to bribe his minister of Foreign Affairs, Lieberman, in coming aboard by backing a draft law to make an oath of loyalty to the 'Jewish and democratic State Israel' compulsory for all non-Jews who wish to obtain Israeli citizenship. The US pressurized the Arab Ligue in the meantime to give the US one more month to try to find a formula to end the impasse. After that there was Netanyahu's 'offer' to the Palestinians,
which was rejected out off hand by the Palestinians. And the 'next Act' in this comedy series  was Crowley's demand that the Palestinians make 'some kind of counter proposal' to Netanyahu. We'll see what's next.
(Will be continued) 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Free Ahmad Sa'adat

Today I ask your attention for an action  to free Ahmad Sa'adat: 
Ahmad Sa'adat, the General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, has been held in isolation in a series of prisons since March 16, 2009, with his isolation renewed again and again by occupation courts. He has been transferred from prison to prison, and is currently held in the isolation section of Ramon prison in the Naqab (Negev) desert. The Campaign in Solidarity with Ahmad Sa'adat in Palestine is calling upon all supporters to take action.
Click here to take part 

Some background:
On August 27, 2001, PFLP General Secretary Abu Ali Mustafa was assassinated by a missile shot from an Apache helicopter by the Israeli military as he worked in his office in Ramallah.  Following the murder of Abu Ali Mustafa, Ahmad Sa'adat was elected General Secretary of the PFLP.

 In retaliation for the murder of Abu Ali Mustafa, on October 17, 2001, fighters from the PFLP's armed wing assassinated Rehavam Ze'evi, the tourism minister in Ariel Sharon's Israeli government, the leader of the Moledet party, an extreme racist party whose program is based on the expulsion and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from all of Palestine. After the killing of Ze'evi, Sa'adat was arrested and held in a Palestinian Authority prison. He stayed there  for over four years, and, in January 2006 he was elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council on the Abu Ali Mustafa slate.

  On March 14, 2006, the Israeli army laid siege for twelve hours to the Palestinian prison at Jericho holding six political prisoners. Israeli bulldozers and tanks attacked the prison while the Israeli military issued threats of assassination against the prisoners. The assault caused the death of two Palestinians, the injury of twenty-three more, and the abduction of Ahmad Sa'adat and five other political prisoners from Jericho to Zionist prisons. These men had been held in the Palestinian Authority prison at Jericho, under U.S. and British guards. Immediately prior to the Israeli assault on the prison, the U.S. and British guards abandoned their posts, clearing the way for the attack. The U.S. State Department blamed Palestinians for the siege, stating that the democratically-elected Palestinian Legislative Council leadership had indicated its willingness to release these illegally-held political prisoners.
The abduction of Sa'adat in 2006.

Since his abduction - a blatant violation of Palestinian sovereignty - Sa'adat's trial has been repeatedly postponed and delayed. Israeli Attorney General Menachem Mazuz admitted shortly following the abduction that there was insufficient evidence to indict Sa'adat in the assassination of extreme racist Israeli minister Rehavam Ze'evi in 2001.Instead, Sa'adat was indicted on a wide array of political charges in a hearing on March 28, 2006 at Ofer Military Base in Ramallah.
On December 25, 2008, Sa'adat was sentenced to thirty years in the occupation prisons for these entirely political charges. His extensive sentence is the highest sentence delivered in the occupation courts for a political charge. 

On October 22, 2009, Sa'adat faced yet another hearing on his isolation at the Israeli military court at Bir Saba (Be'er Sheva).  At the hearing, Sa'adat's isolation was extended by six additional months. His personal books have been confiscated and he is routinely denied access to television, newspapers or any other source of information. He continues to be denied family visits, including visits from his wife Abla. In the prison yard, Sa'adat has been held handcuffed and in ankle shackles and allowed only one-hour of exercise/recreation. All of this has been 'justified' by the occupation authorities as 'punishment' for giving two cigarettes to another prisoner.
Click here to join the campaign to free Ahmad Sa'adat

Farmland razed in village where recently mosque was burned

Israel's Civil Administration razed farmland and a barn owned by a resident of the Beit Fajjar village in the southern West Bank district of Bethlehem on Monday.
Raed Taqatqa, the land owner, said Israeli forces sought to control the area near the village's main road and that of Al-Ma'sara, the site of demonstrations against Israel's separation wall.
Taqatqa said the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that he was the owner of the land in question and that he had a right to reclaim the area. He added that settlers often raided his land and have threatened him to return.
 Beit Fajjar is the same village where on 4 October the mosque was damaged by fire that most probably was started by settlers. Coincidence??

Palestinians reject horsetrading effort by Netanyahu out off hand

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered the Palestinians a trade off on Monday to revive peace talks they quit -- a new freeze on building in settlements if they recognize Israel as a Jewish state.The Palestinians immediately rejected it.  "If the Palestinian leadership will say unequivocally to its people that it recognizes Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people, I will be ready to convene my government and request a further suspension," Netanyahu told parliament. "This is not a condition but a trust-building step, which would create wide-ranging trust among the Israeli people, who have lost trust in the Palestinian will for peace over the last 10 years," he said.

"All settlement is illegitimate, it must be frozen for a return to negotiations," said Nabil Abu Rdainah, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. "The issue of the Jewishness of the state has nothing to do with the matter," he told Reuters, adding that the Palestinians had already recognised Israel in 1993 and that this should suffice.

The Palestinian leadership argues that recognition of Israel as a Jewish state would compromise the rights of Arab citizens of Israel who make up 20 percent of the population. Such a move, Palestinian officials say, also would effectively forgo the right of return of Palestinian refugees who fled or were forced from their homes in Arab-Israeli wars to return to territory that is now Israel. (Reuters)
The direct talks were kicked off in Washington on September 2. Netanyahu made his move on Monday,  three days after the Palestinians and Arab powers had given the United States a month to persuade Israel to declare a new moratorium.

Monday, October 11, 2010

PA admits textbook that tells both the Israeli and Palestinians narratives - Israel bans it

No comment needed:

The Palestinian Authority's Education Ministry approved the use of a history textbook that offers the central narratives of both Palestinians and the Zionist movement, marking the first time that the accepted Israeli position is being presented to schoolchildren in the West Bank, Haaretz said.
The cover of the Palestinian book. The title says 'Learning the other's historical viewpoint'

Work on the textbook, which is entitled "Learning the Historical Narrative of the Other," began 10 years ago as part of a joint project initiated by (the late ) Professor Dan Bar-On of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Professor Sami Adwan of Bethlehem University, with input from numerous Israeli and Palestinian history teachers.
The completed edition of the textbook was published last year. It includes material on the genesis of the Zionist movement in the 19th century through events of the past decade. Each page in the book is divided into three sections of equal size. The Israeli narrative is presented on the right, the Palestinian narrative on the left, and down the middle are empty lines in which the students are asked to fill with their thoughts.

The textbook is the result of a joint Israeli-Palestinian-Swedish collaboration to promote coexistence through education. It will be taught in two high schools near Jericho, the Palestinian Education Ministry said.
Israel has banned the book, which was used in a high school in the area of Sderot. Next week, the Education Ministry is scheduled to summon the principal of this school for "clarification" after he had permitted the use of the textbook by students in a special supplementary educational course.
A spokesman of the PA, however, laer on the day denied that the PA had approved the book. 

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Arab Ligue gives US exta month to save 'peace talks', Abbas wants US recognition of state

 Egyptian Foreign minister Ahmed Abul Gheith and Arab Ligue Secetary General Amr Moussa. (The picture was taken at an earlier meeting of Arab ministers in March).

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has told Arab powers he may seek U.S. recognition for a Palestinian state taking in all of the West Bank should peace talks with Israel stay stalled, an aide said on Saturday.
The idea, raised during close-door Arab League deliberations in the Libyn city of Sirte on Friday, could step up pressure on Israel to extend a freeze on Jewish settlement building in the occupied territory, without which Abbas has said peace negotiations cannot continue.
Arab foreign ministers endorsed that Palestinian position, but  said they would reconvene in a month to discuss "alternatives" mooted by Abbas. Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told Reuters these included "asking the United States to recognize the state of Palestine on the 1967 borders" and studying the possibility of a similar U.N. recognition through a Security Council resolution. A diplomatic source at the Arab League meeting told Reuters another of the alternatives put forward by Abbas was for him to threaten to step down unless settlement building is halted. Abbas had been expected to address Arab heads of state gathered in the Libyan town of Sirte on Saturday, but aides said the Palestinian president would not deliver a speech.

In their meeting on Friday the Arab ministers agreed to give the US another month to try to keep Israeli-Palestinian peace talks from collapsing. The Arab leaders want the US to persuade Israel to renew a freeze on West Bank settlement construction.
They have supported the Palestinians' decision to stop direct talks with Israel unless the Israelis agree to halt all settlement construction in the West Bank. The Arab decision represents a compromise as the US struggles to prevent a total collapse of direct negotiations between the two sides that began last month.
Al Jazeera reported from Sirte that there are divisions in the Arab League as to how to proceed. Countries like Libya and Syria do not support the resumption of peace talks while Israelis continue to build settlements, but "so-called moderate countries" such as Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia are interested in exploring "different venues". This does not come as a surprise. These countries rely heavily on American backing and have been under pressure to vot fo a continuation of the peace talks. Special envoy George Mitchell paid them visists last week, after his attempt to bridge the gap in the Israeli and Palestinian positions collapsed.

Raid on Free Gaza Flotilla: family of victims bring case before ICC in The Hague

The International Criminal Court is being urged to prosecute members of the Israeli defence force for the raid on the Gaza-bound aid ship Mavi Marmara.The British newspaper The Guardian learned that lawyers acting for Turkish citizens injured or killed when Israel intercepted the flotilla on 31 May have written to Luis Moreno Ocampo, the court's prosecutor, claiming there is an "overwhelming" case for prosecution.

The request is a significant step towards a criminal investigation by the court, which experts say has jurisdiction to prosecute those involved in the raid despite Israel not recognising its jurisdiction.

"The attack on the flotilla occurred in international waters, which directly violated many parts of international law as well as international public and criminal law," said Ramazan Ariturk, a partner at Elmadag Law Office, the Turkish legal body that is representing the Turkish victims and the human rights group IHH. "The crimes committed by Israeli Defence Forces should be prosecuted and the International Criminal Court is the sole authority which is able to do that."

Last month a UN report into the incident, in which nine Turkish activists were killed, accused Israel of violating international law. According to the report Israel "betrayed an unacceptable level of brutality" during the raid. Also it stated that the attack on the flotilla "constituted grave violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law". Israel called the report "biased and distorted".
It has created its own state-appointed inquiry, headed by retired supreme court justice Jacob Turkel. A
government spokesman pointed out that also an investigation is underway under the auspices of the UN secretary general. He called further investigations redundant and unnecessary, and said the might contribute to further alienation between otherwise friendly countries, " according to The Guardian.

Neither Israel nor the Palestinian territories are parties to the Rome statute, which established the international criminal court. An investigation of incidents involving the two countries is possible only after a reference from the UN security council. But the Turkish victims' lawyers say the involvement of Turkey with the Mavi Marmara and the fact it was sailing under the flag of the Comoros Islands give the court with jurisdiction. Both countries are members of the ICC.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Soldier who abused female Palestinian prisoner identified

This video circulated a few days ago on the internet, after it had been shown by Al-Jazeera. It's yet another example of how some Israeli soldiers apparently abuse Palestinians after they have been arrested. (Remember Eden Abergil, the female soldier who surfaced earlier with similar pictures?). This one shows  a soldier who performs a kind of belly dance around a frightened female prisoner, who is handcuffed and blkindfolded and is leaning against a wall.

 It did not post it at first, considering that there are probably examples of abuse which are far worse, and also because of lack of time and space. But now, there is reason to do it as yet. Thanks to my twitter friend Dena Shunra we now know wo this soldier is. Dena found his Facebook page, from where I post a picture here.
The name of the soldier is Avi Jakobov. According to his Facebook page he is working in the liquor sector and right now he seems to be in Berlin, where he takes part in the 'Oktoberfest' as a bartender. (This information comes from the Tikun Olam blog of Richard Silverstein, who also got his first information from Dena). Is anybody familiar with his exact wherabouts? And could someone try to get him arrested for war crimes, maybe?

Two more things should be mentiond. First the reaction of the Israeli army after Yakobov's video had been surfaced. Did theystart an inquiry? In order to punish him? No, wrong. The army spokesman issued  the following statement:
The video clip, which has aroused many reactions in the wider world, brought the IDF to the conclusion that it must explain better to soldiers the dangers of uploading video and images embroiled in controversy.
Which tells us that apparently the Israeli army is more concerned with its image than with the moral standards of its employees.
Another fact: Also Yakobov's victim has been identified. The French press agency AFP found her. It is Ihsan Dababseh (35) from a village near Hebron, who was arrested and aftrwards convicted to 22 months for her membership of the Islamic Jihad. AFP quoted her as follows:

“I saw the video on Al-Jazeera. I did not sleep last night so I felt humiliated and frustrated “, said Ihsan Dababseh, after the international television retransmission of these images broadcast from YouTube Monday by an Israeli channel.
“The sound of laughter of the soldiers and the music echoed in my ears,” said the young woman from the village of Nuba, near Hebron in the south of the occupied West Bank.
She said he contacted the Prisoners’ Club, a Palestinian NGO, and is considering legal action against the Israeli army.

Thanks to Dena Shunra I'm able to provide some additional information. It is taken from the Hebrew on the blog of Yossi Hurvitz ( ) who did some additional research. Dena was kind enough to translate it:

The incident occurred in December 2007, at the Etzion Division base, behind the base warroom. A short while thereafter Yakobov & the other soldier placed a military cap on Dababseh's head, at which point the Deputy Division Commander, lieutenant colonel Guy Osheri, arrived on the location and shouted at the soldiers.

When a large Israeli paper contacted Israel's military spokesman about this, the spokesman claimed that Yakobov had been tried and sentenced to 21 days in military prison. Soldiers on the spot testify that this is untrue: they were called in for an investigative conversation, educational conversations were later held on the base. Yakobov was grounded, as far as can be determined without a military procedure. One of the soldiers involved said that his impression was that Osheri was under the impression that such a procedure would give his unit a bad image. This is a well-known issue in the IDF. Yakobov was not imprisoned. It will be noted that Yakobov was apparently imprisoned later, due to another incident, of being drunk on the job. It could be that that is what the unit told the military spokesman had been Yakobov's punishment. The military spokesman has only limited ability to verify exact details of an incident that occurred nearly three years
ago, since most of the soldiers involved have already been discharged,and record-keeping is notoriously inaccurate in Israel's army.

Some reports on the Internet say that Yakobov is in German. In fact, he is in Israel, and sounded quite stunned over the phone. He said he had just woken up and refused to answer questions.

Yakobov's name was not published, although his friends identified him on facebeook and informed him that he had become a celebrity. The security authorities have the toxic policy of hiding the identify of soldiers who committed war crimes.

Interesting is that Yossi tells us that Yakobov is in Israel. Initially it was reported that Yakobov was in Germany, but Yossi phoned him and found him at home. Yossi reminds his readers of Issaschar Shadmi who was found guilty as one of the perpetrators of the massacre of Kfar Qassem in 1956 (48 dead, 23 women and children among them) and was sentenced to a ridiculous low fine (less than an Israeli Lira). Yossi suggests that we (people in Israel and bloggers) start an effort to publish the names of people who thus abused Palestinians in order to have them punished. As yet Yossi Gurvitz has only published this in Hebrew, but he might come with a follow up on his English blog, here which is anyhow worthwhile to read).