Monday, December 31, 2012


Reem Telhamy performs with the Palestine Youth Orchestra, Beit Eddine Festival, Lebanon 2009.  

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Joshua Sombol: I''ve long been of the opinion that Judaism has a strong suicidal tendency'

Four quotes from an interview of the Israeli playwright Joshua Sombol with the daily Haaretz. I think they speak for themselves:

1) We’re on a plane whose pilots are suffering from vertigo. They think they are soaring, but actually they’re plummeting toward the ground at dizzying speed. Which usually ends in disaster.

2) I have long been of the opinion that Judaism has a very strong suicidal tendency. We’ve already managed to do it twice.
Joshua Sobol

3)(..) I’m an atheist. All the justifications for our being here because of God’s will are worthless. So I have to explain to myself why I’m here.

And what do you tell yourself?
That this place, in the final analysis, saved my parents’ families. They were saved thanks to the fact that they were Zionists. My mother’s family fled from the pogromists in 1922, and my father’s family immigrated from Poland in 1934 because they realized that the ground was burning beneath their feet and they had to get out of there. So the tie to this place is actually historical – because my parents were atheists like me. What they did: building a place that saved them and saved their lives, and I feel obligated to continue what they did.

A tie of gratitude.

Yes. You could say that. And I’ll tell you something else. I think we have an obligation to prove that there can be Judaism that isn’t cannibalistic and barbaric and racist. It’s a battle, in effect, to rescue Judaism from the hands of those who are devouring it. When they say that “thy destroyers ... shall go forth from thee” [Isaiah 49:17], I see the people who presume to carry the banner of Judaism, and in my opinion are its destroyers. And I see the task of people like me as rescuing Judaism from them, proving that it doesn’t have to be Teutonic barbarism.
 4) I think, as Marx said in his day, that the situation determines awareness, and we’re in a situation of an occupying nation that is ruling over another nation and profiting from it. The settlers are living and benefiting at the expense of another people. People say to themselves, “What’s wrong?” They pretend the problem doesn’t exist. Anyone who is located west of the Green Line and votes for the right is, in effect, giving his vote, money and taxes to those living east of it. That’s the division.
The whole article can be found here

Iraqi Sunnis rally against the Shia-led government

 Tens of thousands of Iraqis have taken part in protests in fresh rallies against the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Massive demonstrations took place along a major highway near the city of Fallujah on Friday, declaring the day a "Friday of Honour". The main highway at Ramadi, 100km west of Baghdad, was barricaded for a fifth day, disrupting transit of government supplies along a key trade route to and from Jordan and Syria. Protesters were, however, letting most trucks, carrying private goods, pass along another road through Ramadi.-

Thousands also took to the streets in the northern Sunni towns of Tikrit and Samarra, where they were joined by legislators and provincial officials.In the northern city of Mosul, around 3,000 demonstrators took to the streets.
The rallies appear to be the largest yet in a week of demonstrations, intensifying pressure on the Shia-led government. Protests erupted last week after Iraqi authorities detained 10 bodyguards of the finance minister, who is from Anbar and is one of the government's most senior Sunni officials. Many Sunnis accuse Maliki of marginalising the country's religious minority group by refusing to share power and depriving them of equal rights. The present protests are focused on the ant0-terrorism laws taht Shias say are used mainly against them. However, some analists think the protest may lead to demands for some kind of autonomy for the Sunni parts of the country by analogy with the Kurdish territory.  

Saudi police again kill a man in eastern city Qatif

 Saudi riot police in Qatif

 Riot police during a demonstration in Qatif, Eastern Province. (The picture is from, August 2012). 

A security official in Saudi Arabia says a man was killed in clashes with police in Qatif in the oil-rich eastern part of the country, which is populated by the Shiite minority. Press agency AP quotes the official, who's identity was not revealed as he was not authorized to speak with the press, as saying that a police patrol spotted a number of alleged rioters burning tires near police headquarters in Qatif late Thursday.  Police responded with gunfire when fired upon, he said. Local websites said the man killed in the exchange of fire was 18 years old. More than a dozen people have been killed in clashes since late last year in Qatif, the kingdom's main oil export hub where a majority of residents are Shiite Muslims.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Links for the days between X-mas and New Year

The leftist Israeli site +972 chose a person of the year. And the winner was 'the settler', as settlers are the big winners in Israel these days, according to +972.

Blogger Darth Nader describes the different types of Syrian rebels.
Navigating the Syrian Opposition

Nathan J. Brown,professor of Political Science and International Affairs at George Washington University, describes in detail all that went wrong with the Egyptian revolution. Not really many new insights, but a thorough analysis.

Joseph Massad (Columbia University) about aspects of Zionism that mostly remained in the shadow: Zionism, anti-Semitism and colonialism 

Jerome Slater: What to make of Khaled Meshal. 
 Slater, professor emeritus in political science at the state university of New York, analyses the recent speech by the Hamas leader. He himself also gives a link to a larger article he recently wrote for Harvards Belfer Center about Israel and Hamas.
By the also other posts by Slater on his blog are quite interesting, like for instance the most recent sting he administered to Tom Friedman of the New York Times. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

I wish my Christian readers a very Merry Christmas.

At the same time I express the wish that you are not celebrating it in Bethlehem on the West Bank, as it definitely does not seem the best place to celebrate the birth of Christ, these days. I quote from a piece that Jalal Abukhater wrote in December 2011 on the Electronic Intifada: 
Bethlehem, the city of peace and the birthplace of Jesus Christ, has become a ghetto in the world we know today thanks to the Israeli occupation. With over 23 physical barriers surrounding the city, the apartheid wall cutting through its outskirts, and settlements strangling the city of Bethlehem from all directions, the idea of living there or even visiting this holy city has become an unpleasant and dreadful idea. (...) Israeli settlements are expanding in Bethlehem’s Northern areas and are rapidly engulfing whatever is in their way, including what was once the valley where it is said that angels have announced the birth of Jesus Christ to three local shepherds. In October 2011, Israeli government has approved plans to build 2600 units in Givat Hamatos illegal settlement north of Bethlehem (plans which passed the last planning stage, just this December 2012, AbuP.) which will result in isolating Bethlehem and fully dividing it from its historic twin, Jerusalem.(...)

While most Palestinian Christians from Gaza aren’t allowed entry to Bethlehem, Palestinian Christians from the West Bank have to take long routes across mountains and valleys like “Wadi Al-Nar” pass, and pass through many heinous Israeli road blocks to reach the city. Residents of Jerusalem have supposedly the easiest access through Bethlehem-Jerusalem road, but they too have to go through the humiliation at Israeli checkpoints. Tourists who arrive with Israeli tourism companies reach Bethlehem via buses which do not even go through or stop at Israeli checkpoints. (...) Today, it is easier for an American tourist to access Holy Sites in the Holy Land than for a Holy Land Christian or Muslim.

HRW: Palestinians violated law by launching rockets at populated areas in Israel

A residential building in Kiryat Malachi suffered a direct hit by a rocket fired from Gaza that killed three people and critically wounded an infant on Thursday, November 15 (screen capture Channel 2 News)
A rocket from Gaza killed three Israeli people in an apartment in Kiryat Malachi on 15 November. A little child was wounded.

Palestinian armed groups in Gaza violated the laws of war during the November 2012 fighting by launching hundreds of rockets toward population centers in Israel, Human Rights Watch said in a report released on Monday. Under international humanitarian law, or the laws of war, civilians and civilian structures may not be subject to deliberate attacks or attacks that do not discriminate between civilians and military targets.
About 1,500 rockets were fired at Israel between November 14 and 21, the Israel Defense Forces reported. At least 800 struck Israel, including 60 that hit populated areas. The rocket attacks, including the first from Gaza to strike the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem areas, killed three Israeli civilians, wounded at least 38, several seriously, and destroyed civilian property.
Israel's Internal Security Agency (ISA) said that about half of the rockets fired into Israel were short range, reaching up to 20 kilometers; slightly less than half were medium range, reaching 20 to 60 kilometers, and less than 1 percent were long range reaching over 60 kilometers.
The Israel Defense Forces said that its “Iron Dome” anti-rocket defense system intercepted more than 400 rockets during the November fighting. Of the rockets that hit Israel, the vast majority landed in open areas, causing no injuries or damage. In addition to the locally made Qassam rockets and Soviet-designed Grad rockets long used by Palestinian armed groups, the Qassam Brigades announced that it had launched a locally made larger rocket, called the M75, as well as Iranian-produced Fajr 5 rockets. Officials from Hamas and Islamic Jihad said that Iran had supplied Palestinian armed groups with military support.
The Guardian newspaper quoted an Iranian military official's statement to Iranian media that Iran had not supplied rockets but had provided technical information to Palestinian armed groups that enabled them to build their own Fajr 5 rockets. The Fajr 5 has a reported range of 75 kilometers, capable of reaching the Tel Aviv metropolitan area from Gaza, with 90 kilograms of explosives in its warhead.

 Human Rights Watch research in Gaza found that armed groups repeatedly fired rockets from densely populated areas, near homes, businesses, and a hotel, unnecessarily placing civilians in the vicinity at grave risk from Israeli counter-fire. Unlike during previous fighting, armed groups seem to have fired many rockets from underground tunnels, opening a hatch to launch the munition.
One rocket was launched on November 20 at around 1:30 p.m. just off Wehda Street in Gaza City, about 100 meters from the Shawa and Housari Building, where various Palestinian and international media have offices. “I saw it [the rocket] go up and heard it, and then smoke was in the office,” a witness said.
One man said he saw a rocket launched from the yard of a house near the Deira Hotel in central Gaza City, though he could not recall the date.

 Some rockets launched by Palestinian armed groups fell short and struck inside Gaza. On November 16, a rocket that appears to have been launched from within Gaza hit a crowded street in the Gazan town of Jabalya, killing a man, 23, and a boy, 4, and wounding five people.
 International and Palestinian journalists traveling around Gaza during the fighting told Human Rights Watch that they did not see any Palestinian militants moving in the open, suggesting that Hamas has developed a network of tunnels for personnel and perhaps rockets.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Egyptian constitution is approved in referendum with extremely low turnout

Mohammed Badie, the murshid (guide, leader) of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, looks on while his name is checked on a voters list in a polling station in Beni Sueif, some 110 km south of Cairo (Reuters).

Egypt's disputed draft constitution, the first following last year's uprising, is - as was expected - sure to pass after unofficial results of the Saturday held second round show that around 71 per cent of Egyptians voted in favour. The "yes" vote, which was a narrow 56.5 per cent in the first phase, thereby increased to 64% overall. The turnout is estimated at no more than about 33% in both rounds. Official results are expected to be released no earlier than Monday. 
A victory in the second phase of the constitutional referendum will give a boost to Islamists, who believe the new constitution will pave the way for a smooth and swift transition to democracy under President Mohamed Morsi.
The Nile Delta Menoufiya Governorate, which during the presidential elections in June voted for former Prime minister Ahmed Shafiq, marginally opposed the constitution in the second phase of the referendum, joining Cairo and Gharbiya, who voted the document down in last week's first phase. Particularly in the first round many complaints were laid down, about irregularities like names of deceased people on voting lists, polling stations that that were not supervised by judges or people present at the polling stations (mainly of the Muslim Brotherhood) who tried to influence voters. 

Hours before polls closed, Vice President Mahmoud Mekky announced his resignation. He said he wanted to quit last month but stayed on to help Mursi tackle the crisis that blew up when the Islamist leader assumed wide powers. Mekky, a prominent judge who said he was uncomfortable in politics, disclosed earlier he had not been informed of Mursi's power grab. The timing of his resignation appeared linked to the lack of a vice-presidential post under the draft constitution.

The oppositional National Salvation Front announced that it will hold a news conference on Sunday to announce its stance and outline its plans for the coming period. The NSF was founded by prominent political figures Mohamed ElBaradei, Amr Moussa and Hamdeen Sabbahi. The Muslim Brotherhood thinks that the new constitution, which pave the way for new elections for the maglis as-shaab (lower house of  parliament) and will help to restore stability to the country. The opposition, however, maintains that the new constitution splits the country, as it neglects the rights of Christians, women, workers and farmers among others and contains many other contentious articles concerning the power of the president and the role of the military and the judiciary, among others.  
Meanwhile President Morsi appointed 90 members to the Shura Council, the upper house of parliament, Presidential Spokesperson Yasser Ali announced on his official Facebook page on Saturday. The appointments include senior Muslim Brotherhood leaders such as Essam al-Erian and Sobhy Saleh and military figures such as Adel Morsi, the former head of the Military Judiciary Authority. According to Ali, the 90 appointees include members of 17 parties, 12 of which did not have any representation in the dissolved People's Assembly. Appointees also include constitutional experts, eight women, 12 Copts, eight members of Egyptian churches, five members of Al-Azhar and two of the wounded of the revolution.
Legislative powers, now held by Morsi because the lower house of parliament was dissolved earlier this year, will pass to the upper house under the new constitution.Two-thirds of the 270-member upper house was elected in a vote this year, while the president has the right to appoint one third. Morsi, who was elected in June, had not named them until now.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Israel will press on with plans for 6.000 more homes in E-Jerusalem
 Givat Hamatos (vioklet dot), one of the areas that will be developed according to the plans, will close the ring around East-Jerusalem as it is located between the settlements of Gilo (blue, left of Givat Hamatos) and Har Homa (also blue at the other side). It will block the opening of the Arab parts of the city towards Bethlehem. (ARIJ)  

(Reuters) - Israeli officials said they would press on with plans this week to build 6,000 homes for settlers on land claimed by Palestinians, defying criticism from Western powers who fear the move will hit already faint hopes for a peace accord.
Stung by the de facto recognition of Palestinian sovereignty in a U.N. General Assembly vote last month, Israel announced it would expand settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
An Israeli interior ministry planning committee on Monday gave preliminary approval for 1,500 new homes in the Ramat Shlomo settlement.
The panel will now start discussing plans for another 4,500 homes in two other settlements, Givat Hamatos and Gilo, in back-to-back sessions that could run into next week, ministry spokesman Efrat Orbach said on Tuesday.
Israel counts the three settlements as part of its Jerusalem municipality though they are on West Bank land seized in the 1967 Middle East war.
Israel earlier announced that it will build 3.000 new appartments on the West Bank, for a large part in the area called E1 between Jerusalem and the settlement Ma'ale Adumim. The E1 plan will effectively cut the West Bank in two and virtually insulate it from Bethlehem, Ramallah and the rest of the West Bank.
Givat Hamatos now, no more than a few mobile homes.

Tomatoes and stones for Tunisian president at anniversary in Sidi Bouzid

 Protesters Monday hurled rocks and tomatoes at Tunisia’s President Moncef Marzouki and parliamentary Speaker Mustapha Ben Jaafar in Sidi Bouzid, cradle of the revolution that erupted exactly two years ago.
The incident began after a speech by Marzouki and as Ben Jaafar was about to address the crowd in the poor Tunisian town, where muted celebrations are taking place to mark the anniversary of the uprising.
Moncef Marzouki Faces Sidi Bouzid Protest
President Marzouki is led away by sercurity men.
The country’s marginalized interior has witnessed frequent outbreaks of social unrest amid bitter frustration at the revolution’s failure to bring material benefits.
The security forces swiftly evacuated the two men to the prefecture, or regional government headquarters, an AFP journalist reported. Protesters invaded the square where the speeches were taking place, shouting “the people want the fall of the government.”

The police held back, after violent clashes in Tunisia in recent few months, often following attempts by the security forces to disperse protesters angry over the government’s failure to improve living conditions.
When the president took to the podium Monday, many in the crowd of around 5,000 started shouting “Dégage dégaget!'' (Get out!) – one of the rallying cries of the revolution that toppled the regime of former dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.
Marzouki and the other dignitaries had to be escorted off the stage by security forces.
He had promised economic progress within six months, after meeting residents of Sidi Bouzid, who complained about the lack of infrastructure.
Poverty and unemployment were key factors behind the mass protests that erupted after a 27-year-old street vendor set himself on fire outside the governor’s office on Dec. 17, 2010, to protest against police harassment.
Ongoing insecurity and the crisis in Europe have hampered Tunisia’s economic recovery, after last year’s recession, and unemployment, pegged at around 18 percent, is especially high among young Tunisians, fueling their anger and frustration.
Last month, around 300 people were wounded in five straight days of clashes between police and protesters in the town of Siliana, where a strike swiftly degenerated into violence.
The president, a secular, center-left ally of the Islamist party Ennahda, which heads Tunisia’s ruling coalition, stressed that the government did not have a “magic wand” to fix the country’s problems, and urged patience.
“The government does not have a magic wand to change things ... It will take time to mend what we have inherited from 50 years of dictatorship,” said the president, who was jeered by the crowd.
Marzouki had been heckled earlier in the morning, when he laid a wreath of flowers at the grave of Mohammad Bouazizi, the young fruit and vegetable seller whose act of desperation touched off the Arab Spring.
“The people in government act like they’re punishing us for starting the revolution. Nothing has changed for us,” said Midani Khassemi, an unemployed 36-year-old, who was wounded in last year’s uprising.
The Islamist-led government has struggled to meet the expectations of many Tunisians, with clashes and strikes, as well as attacks by Islamists, multiplying across the country in the run-up to Monday’s commemorations.
Radical Islamists also gathered outside the prefecture in Sidi Bouzid Monday, with members of the Hizb Ut-Tahrir party waving the black flag of the hard-line Salafist movement.
The Salafists have been implicated in numerous acts of violence since the revolution, including against Sufi shrines and art galleries and an attack in September on the U.S. Embassy in Tunis that left four people dead.
Reflecting heightened political tensions, Tunisia’s main labor union, the UGTT, had planned to hold a nationwide general strike last week in protest at an attack on its offices by activists allied to Ennahda. It canceled the strike at the last minute, after reaching a deal with the government.
The country has also been plunged into an impasse over the drafting of a new constitution, which has been delayed by disagreement among lawmakers over whether the political system should be presidential or parliamentary.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Female Saudi filmmaker wins award at Dubai filmfestival

   Haifaa Al Mansour with the main actors in her film, 11-year old Waad Mohammad, who plays Wadjda, and 10-year old Abdulrahman Al Gohani 

The Saudi movie “Wadjda”, directed by Saudi Arabia’s first female filmmaker, Haifaa Al Mansour, won the “Muhr” award for the best Arabic feature film at the Dubai Film Festival on Sunday. The film tells the story of a little girl’s quest to own a bicycle in the kingdom where women are deprived of many rights. The film was shot entirely in the kingdom where cinemas are banned. Waad Mohammed (11), who plays the role of Wadjda, the girl in the film who is testing the boundaries of a woman’s place in a highly conservative society where her love for Western music and fashions land her in trouble, got the award for the best actress.
Saudi's first female filmmaker on her new release, Wadjda
Haifaa al-Mansour
Mansour, born in 1974, studied literature at the American University in Cairo and film at the University of Sydney. Before Wadjda she directed three short films and the award-winning documentary Women Without Shadows about women in the Gulf. She is the first Saudi Arabian woman to direct a feature film. But the “te fact that we shot a film in Saudi Arabia with permission and everything says a lot about the country,'' she said. ''It says the country is embracing art,” she said. “Things are slowly changing.”
During the shooting Mansour was often forced to direct from a van with a walkie-talkie in conservative neighbourhoods where she could not be seen in public together with male crew and cast members. In some areas she had to face screaming local residents who would all shooting activity.
Also some Egyptian filmmakers and actors won awards. Dina Farouk won the Special Jury Prize for Harg wa Marg ('Chaos and Disorder'), a feature film that follows the lives of people living in an isolated community in a garbage dump. Ahmed Ibrahim's short film, Noor, won the Muhr Short Arab Feature award. It tells the story of a young boy who wants to decorate his neighbourhood with festive lights during Ramadan.

Amr Waked won Best Actor in the Muhr Arab Feature category for his performance in revolutionary film El-Sheta Illi Fat('Winter of Discontent'). Waked plays a retired political activist during last year's 18-day uprising that culminated in the ouster of longstanding president Hosni Mubarak. Egypt's Aida El-Kashef, meanwhile, won Best Actress in the Muhr Asia-Africa Feature category for her performance in Indian film 'Ship of Theseus,' which explores several life questions through its chief protagonists: an experimental photographer, a monk and a young stockbroker. The award for the best Asia-Africa feature film went to the Turkish film “Yerlati” (Inside) by Zeki Demirkubuz.
The Dubai International Film Festival; festival lasted from 9 -16 December. Last year the award for the best film went to the Palestinian-Dutch filmmaker Susan Youssef for her film Habibi Rasak Kharba (Darling, there is something wrong with my head) a love story from Gaza, inspired by the classic Layla o Majnoon.     

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Accidental murder of a teener in Hebron

mohammad_salaymeh Muhammad Salaymeh earlier that day celebrated his birthday at school, right: the woman who killed him, Nofar Mizrahi

Less than two weeks after Israeli Shin Bet security agents shot dead a Palestinian with whose car their jeep had collided and who, after that, supposedly attacked them with an axe, a female soldier shot dead a teenager in Hebron under even less credible circumstances. Muhammad Ziad al-Salaymah was killed on his 17th birthday, when passing a checkpoint in order to get his birthday cake from a local bakery. Israeli newspapers reported that he wielded something that looked like a gun. A 19-year old female border guard (Nofal Mizrahi, her name was later placed under a gag order) then opened fire on him and killed him on the spot.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that the gun afterwards turned out to be a plastic toy, but that did not stop the Israeli minister of Internal Security Aharonovitch from praising the police woman's determination and courage. The police woman herself said that it did not make any difference for her that it turned out to be a toy gun. 'Fake gun or not, I did the right thing.

In the meantime it turns out that Muhammad al-Salaymah was a popular boy at school with the larger Hebron community. He was a wrestling champion who represented Palestine in international wrestling tournaments and had won gold and silver medals. Also he studied with the Palestinian Circus School for nearly two years, learning to perform juggling, acrobatics and the human pyramid, the school's manager Shadi Zmorrod told Ma'an.

Israeli police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld told Ma'an on Thursday that he had nothing to add to initial findings immediately after the shooting that Muhammad pointed a fake gun at forces at a checkpoint in the southern West Bank city. However the Palestinian human rights society Al Haq carried out a preliminary investigation that shed a different light on what really happened. I reproduce it below  in its entirety, as the killing of Muhammad was really one of  a series of similar events in which Palestinians are killed with impunity. Shooting instructions are extremely loose and incidents like this one make abundantly clear that Israeli border police and the military don't have the slightest clue about the Palestinian society, fear all Palestinians and see in every single person nothing but potentially murderous terrorists. It is high time that something is done about it.  

Al-Haq is currently investigating the case of Muhammad Ziad al-Salayma, who was killed yesterday evening (Wednesday, AbuP,)on his seventeenth birthday, in the old city of Hebron. The circumstances of his death are currently unclear. However, according to Al Haq’s preliminary investigations, Muhammad left his home yesterday evening at approximately 6:30 pm in order to buy a cake and passed by Checkpoint 160, which is some 100 meters from his house. When he passed the checkpoint, Muhammad was reportedly holding a lighter that resembled a gun, which aroused the suspicion of the Israeli soldiers manning the checkpoint and caused them to have an exchange of words with Muhammad. Following a discussion with the soldiers, Muhammad was shot twice, once in the abdomen and once in the chest, at a short range. Muhammad died around 7:30 pm as a result of the shooting. Shortly afterwards, an Israeli military ambulance arrived at Checkpoint 160 and took the youth to another checkpoint, before transferring his body to a Red Crescent ambulance at 9:40 pm. His body was then taken to Hebron governorate hospital where doctors confirmed Muhammad’s death and that he had been hit by two bullets.
Shortly after the shooting, Muhammad’s parents were informed of their son’s condition. They arrived at the scene of the incident and attempted to enter the Israeli Military ambulance in order to see their son. The Israeli soldiers pushed them away and hit Muhammad’s father, Ziad ‘Awad al-Salayma, on his leg. As a result of his injuries, Ziad was taken to the Hebron governorate hospital for medical treatment to be discharged a few hours later. After midnight, the Israeli military raided the family home and arrested one of Muhammad’s older brothers and one of his cousins.
Muhammad’s body was returned to his parents by Hebron governorate hospital today. Al-Haq strongly condemns the willful killing of Muhammad at the hands of an Israeli soldier. Unfortunately this is not an isolated case; the killings of Palestinian civilians, including children like Muhammad, are the result of the prevailing climate of impunity granted to Israeli soldiers, who are hardly ever held responsible for the violations committed against the Palestinian occupied population. Since 2000, Israel’s rules of engagement have promoted the arbitrary deprivation of life effectively allowing soldiers to open fire on Palestinian civilians even where, like in yesterday’s case, their life is not threatened.
 Al-Haq also calls for immediate, transparent and impartial investigations to clarify the circumstances that lead to Muhammad’s death, with a view to prosecuting the Israeli soldiers responsible for the killing. Additionally, Israel must provide for full reparation to the family of the victim.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Sheikh Abdessalam Yassine 1928-2012


Sheikh Abdessalam Yassine, the leader of Morocco’s largest opposition movement and longtime opponent of two Moroccan kings, died Thursday. He was 84. Yassine, who founded Adl wal Ihsan (Justice and Spirituality), accused the monarchy of being corrupt and dictatorial and questioned its claim to religious legitimacy. His spent a decade under house arrest at the hands of Morocco’s former ruler, King Hassan II.
Formed in 1987, Adl wal Ihsan is officially banned but tolerated, though its members are frequently harassed or arrested by police. The movement advocates an Islamic state and an end to the monarchy, and professes non-violence and preaches compassionate Islam.
It has a sizable following, believed to number hundreds of thousands. Most Moroccans are Muslims, but religion in this North African nation of 32 million is generally more moderate than in many countries in the Arab world.
Born in Marrakech in 1928, Yassine had been a teacher and a school inspector for the Ministry of Education, and from 1965 on, a member of one of the most famous Moroccan Sufi brotherhoods, the Boutchichiyya.Yassine reportedly fell out with the leadership of the brotherhood over its refusal to engage more directly in political matters, and founded his own organisation. Yassine was jailed in a mental asylum for three years for publishing an open letter to King Hassan II, 'L'Islam ou le déluge', denouncing his rule as un-Islamic. Following his release he was kept under house arrest for many years, before eventually being released in the early years of the rule of King Mohammed VI.
Yassine’s pronouncements and more than 20 books, once circulated secretly, are now easier to get because of gradually loosening restrictions and the Internet.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Egyptian opposition calls on followers to vote 'no' in the constitutional referendum

Hamdeen Sabbahi in Mustafa Mahmoud square before starting a march to Tahrir
Hamdeen Sabbahi (Al-Masry al-Youm/Virginie Nguyen)

Egypt's opposition called on its followers Wednesday to vote "no" in  the referendum on a the constitution that will take place on 15 and 22 December. The National Salvation Front's advice came in a declaration read out by front leader Hamdeen Sabbahi. It stated that the authorities must ensure a free and fair vote,  that the referendum should take place over the course of a single day with full judicial supervision, and should be supervised  also by domestic, international and NGO teams.
 In its statement, the front also said that it declined participating in a national dialogue with President Mohamed Morsi because of the lack of consensus over the constitution, while also claiming that Morsi ignored their earlier proposals to end ongoing political tension over the document. It stressed that it "will continue in its quest with the people in overthrowing this Constitution, and that this referendum is not the end, but the struggle will continue''.
Wednesday's call for a "no" vote followed a prolonged debate within the opposition over whether to boycott the referendum. Meanwhile President Morsi issued a decree ordering that the referendum will be held in two stages on 15 and 22 December. The vote had earlier been scheduled for 15 December only. A justice ministry source told Al-Ahram's Arabic-language news website that the decision to hold the vote in two stages had been based on a request by Egypt's Supreme Electoral Commission (SEC), which cited the limited number of judges available to oversee the poll. A number of Egyptian judges have gone on strike following President Mohamed Morsi's 22 November constitutional declaration, which temporarily bolstered his powers. And on Tuesday, the Egyptian Administrative State Council's Judges Club declared its members' refusal to supervise the vote.
In the first stage on 15 December, polling will take place in the governorates of Cairo, Alexandria, Daqhaliya, Gharbiya, Sharqiya, Assuit, Sohag, Aswan and North and South Sinai. On 22 December, polling will take place in the governorates of Qena, Beni Suef, Minya, Menoufiya, Beheira, Damietta, New Valley, the Red Sea, Fayoum, Kafr Al-Sheikh, Giza, Port Said, Suez, Marsa Matrouh, Luxor, Qalioubiya and Ismaliya.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

'Friends of Syria' recognize Syrian opposition, shortly after military command chose new Islamist leadership

 World powers meeting in Marrakesh recognized Syria's new opposition coalition as "the legitimate representative of the Syrian people" and called on President Bashar al-Assad to "stand aside", according to a draft declaration obtained on Wednesday.
The declaration by 130 international representatives comprising the "Friends of Syria" group of nations warned that any use by Assad's government of chemical or biological weapons would be met by a "serious response".
"Participants acknowledge the National Coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people and the umbrella organization under which the Syrian opposition are gathering," said the draft declaration obtained before the meeting of major powers, excluding Russia and China.
"Bashar al-Assad has lost legitimacy and should stand aside to allow "a sustainable political transition" process," said the text of the draft declaration obtained by Reuters.
The recognition comes a day after the America president Barack Obama announced in an interview with ABC that his government has decided to recognize the opposition as legitimate representative of the Syrians. The US at the same time placed the Jebhat al-Nusra (Al-Nusra Front) on the black list of terrorist organizations. This Front has been responsible for several car bomb attacks in Damascus and Aleppo in the past. It is presumably linked to Al-Qaida.
The recognition comes shortly after the opposition reorganized its military command at a meeting in Antalia, Turkey, with was also attended by Western and Arab representatives. Reuters reported that the rebel groups in doing so came firmly under the command of islamist linked groups. Brigadier Selim Idris, a former officer in President Bashar al-Assad’s army, who led the uprising by Sunnis in the city of Homs, was chosen to head the military command. Islamist commanders Abdelbasset Tawil from the northern province of Idlib and Abdelqader Saleh from the adjacent province of Aleppo were named to serve as Idris’s deputies, the source said.

The unified command includes many with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and to Salafists, who follow a puritanical interpretation of Islam. It excludes the most senior officers who had defected from Assad’s military. Its composition, estimated to be two-thirds from the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies, reflects the growing strength of Islamist fighters on the ground and resembles that of the civilian opposition leadership coalition created under Western and Arab auspices in Qatar last month.

Other news of the past few days was that, in the wake of the placement of the al-Nusra Front on the list of terrorist organizations  29 armed resistance groups have signed a declaration that they 'are all Jebhat al-Nusra'.    

Monday, December 10, 2012

Egyptian opposition will not recognize the outcome of the referendum about the Constitution

 presidential palace
 Tanks at the presidential palace. A sit-in continues in spite of the earlier clashes, the barbed wire and the military. The death toll of the clashes of last Wednesday in the meantime climbed to eight after another wounded protester died in hospital. (Al-Ahram Online). 

Egypt's main opposition coalition rejected on Sunday Islamist President Mohamed Mursi's plan for a constitutional referendum this week."We are against this process from start to finish," Hussein Abdel Ghani, spokesman of the National Salvation Front, told a news conference, calling for more street protests on Tuesday.
The Front issued a declaration which said that "The National Salvation Front has decided not to recognise the upcoming referendum and the draft constitution, which it considers farcical." It added that holding the referendum now – following Wednesday clashes outside the presidential palace in Cairo – would only further polarise Egyptian society."The draft constitution does not reflect the hopes and aspirations of the Egyptian people following the January 25 Revolution," according to the the statement. The proposed charter enforced "presidential dictatorship", it said, and neglected the "social and economic needs" of the Egyptian people. 
The Front also slammed a Sunday decision by President Mohamed Morsi to raise sales taxes on several commodities and called for a million-man protest on Tuesday in public squares across the country as a means of escalating against the draft constitution and scheduled referendum.
The Coalition of Islamic Forces, meanwhile, which includes several Egyptian Islamist parties and groups, has called for a two-million-man counter-rally on Tuesday under the banner "Yes to legitimacy."

Earlier the National Salvation Front had rejected the new Constitutional Declaration that President Morsi issued after a 'national dialogue' which was held on Saturday at the presidential palace with the aim of defusing the tension. The National Salvation Front was absent from this meeting, as it had demanded that Morsi would revoke the 22 November Declaration prior to the meeting. In the new declaration, that took the place of the one of 22 November, Morsi's no longer declared himself above the law. However the declaration itself, like earlier presidential decrees, could not be contested in court, it said. It upheld that the referendum about the Constitution will go ahead, but stipulated that a new constitutional assembly can be elected in case the Constitution will be rejected. Also it upheld the possibility of retrials of personalities belonging to the former regime or people responsible for the killing of protesters during the uprising against Mubarak.

The problem with the referendum is that in a country where many are illiterate and most haven't followed more than a few years of primary school, the majority is expected to vote for what the presidency is going to ask them, which is to accept this Constitution. That is exactly what the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist parties are referring to when they say that 'legitimacy' should have its way.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Opposition rejects call by Morsi to dialogue as empty gesture

 Anti Morsi graffiti near the presidential palace. (Aswat Masriyya)

Egypt President Mohamed Morsi has invited all political forces to hold dialogue in an effort to put an end to the ongoing dispute over his 22 November constitutional declaration and draft constitution, stressing that the latter would be put before a popular referendum on 15 December as planned.
"I call on everyone to hold dialogue on 8 December in an effort to work things out with love, the rule of law and determination," he said Thursday in a televised address.
"I will meet with legal experts and opposition figures on Saturday at 12:30 [local time] at the presidential headquarters to come up with a solution to save the nation; some decisions will be discussed, such as maintaining the Shura Council [the upper, consultative house of Egypt's parliament]."
He added: "We shall also discuss the post-referendum roadmap, whether the people reject or approve it .. If the constitution is rejected, I will see to it that a new constituent assembly is drawn up."
Spokesmen for the National Salvation Front, however, said they will not attend. Abdallah al-Sennawy, mouthpiece of the Arab Nasserist Party and chief editor of the party's Al-Arabi newspaper, said “Morsi’s invitation for dialogue will not be accepted by civil forces. The constitutional declaration is still in place, the referendum will be held as scheduled," he said.

 “We will not attend the Saturday meeting," Abdel Ghaffar Shokr, chairman of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party and a member of the front, told Egypt Independent. “This is a mockery of the demands.
In a statement released prior to the speech the Front had stated that it demands that the declaration be cancelled, that the constitutional referendum will be postponed and that members of the Muslim Brotherhood be investigated for assaults on secular activists, and for massive demonstrations on Friday to voice those demands under the motto “the Red Card."
Members of the Muslim Brotherhood have arrested 83 protesters of the opposition ad turned them over to the police. The Brotherhood accused them of being hired thugs. In his speech Morsi repeated this accusation. Ati-Morsi protesters attacked several offices of the Muslim Brotherhood. The headquarters of the Brotherhood in the Moqattam area of Cairo was set on fire. Clashes erupted near the MB-offices in Cairo's Ma'adi-quarter ad in Kafr al-Sheikh.   

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Egyptian opposition Front threatens nationwide protest if Morsi does not retract

 Violent clashes between supporters and opponents of President Mohamed Morsy in front of Presidential Palace in Heliopolis, Cairo, 5 December 2012.
(Egypt Independent)

Five people were killed and 450 wounded when supporters and opponents of President Mohamed Morsi clashed around the presidential palace in Heliopolis on Wednesday. This happened after a sit-in at the palace was attacked by hundreds of pro-Morsy demonstrators. The day before, thousands had marched to the palace. 
Security forces retreated Tuesday night, leaving the area to peaceful protesters who surrounded the palace and quickly covered the walls with graffiti heavily attacking Morsi, dubbing him a “dictator”.  Some then decided to hold a sit-in. 
On Wednesday Morsy supporters attacked the sit in and destroyed the tents, beat the Morsi-opponents up, scattering their belongings around. The Morsi supporters said they were outraged by the graffiti drawn over the palace’s walls. “We were deeply offended by these endless insults,” said a furious Brotherhood member, who was quoted by Egypt Independent. “We came to protect the legitimacy of the elected president.” On Thursday tanks appeared around the palace. Reuters New Agency identified them as troops belonging to the Presidential Guard and Republican Guard, whose taks it is to protect the presidency. 
ElBaradei during the press conference, flanked by Sabbahi (left) and Moussa (Ahram Online).  

Nobel Laureate Mohamed ElBaradei threatened nationwide protests until President Mohamed Morsy responds to calls for national dialogue over the draft constitution and retracts his recent constitutional declaration. ElBaradei was appointed coordinator of the National  Salvation Front on Tuesday. He gave
his warning at a press conference Tuesday night, attended by the leaders of the National Salvation Front.The front is a coalition of political powers opposing Morsy’s 22 November constitutional declaration, which gave him the ability to override judicial decisions. The front brings together ElBaradei of the Constitution Party, Sabbahi of the Popular Current Party, Moussa of the Conference Party, Al-Sayed al-Badawy of the Wafd Party, and other political figures.
Zaghloul al-Balshy, the secretary general of the high elections commission, on Wednesday resigned and said that he is not going to oversee the referedum on the Constitution. Also the presidential advisers Seif Abdel-Fattah and Ayman El-Sayyad quit their job out of protest.
 Vice President Mahmoud Mekki proposed "personal ideas" for a negotiated way out on Wednesday, saying amendments to disputed articles in the constitution could be agreed with the opposition. A written agreement could then go to parliament, to be elected after a referendum on the constitution on December 15. "There must be consensus," he told a news conference, saying opposition demands must be respected to overcome the crisis. Egyptian opposition leader Amr Moussa said that President Morsi should make a formal offer for dialogue, rather than what Mekki had presented as personal ideas to resolve the row.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Media on strike in Egypt

 media strike
 Poster supporting the strike: In Arabic it says: A constitution that terminates rights and restrains freedoms, and in big letters: No to dictatorship. (Al-Ahram Online)

The poster already says it: 12 newspapers and five tv-stations are on strike in Egypt as a protest against the new constitution. The following newspapers don't appear on Tuesday: Al-Masry Al-Youm, Al-Watan, Al-Tahrir, Al-Wafd, Al-Youm 7, Al-Dostour, Al-Shorouk, Al-Sabah, Al-Ahaly, Al-Ahrar, Al-Fagr and Osbooa. The TV channels will go on strike on Wednesday. They are ONTV channels, CBC and Modern channels, Al-Hayat Channels and Dream TV channels.
Already on Monday, Al-Wafd newspaper, Al-Youm 7 newspaper, Al-Watan newspaper, Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper and Tahrir newspaper shared the same headline “No to dictatorship” with the illustration above this posting. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Kuwait: Shiites winners in election that was boycotted by opposition

The general elections in Kuwait have seen en remarkable low turnout of only 26.7%, because of a boycott called for by the opposition. Speaking after an emergency meeting of the opposition, former Islamist MP Khaled Al-Sultan said that “based on information available to the opposition, the turnout of voters was very low at 26.7 percent”. The figure was confirmed by the website of the Information Ministry which was carrying the latest results of the counting of the ballots. There has so far been no official figures on the turnout by the National Election Commission.
Other remarkable fact: Candidates of the Shiite minority in the country won as many as 15 seats in the 50-member National Assembly. It was the first time Shiites got that many seats. In the 2012 majlis which was disbanded they had only nine seats.
The opposition wants the results to be nullified. Former Assembly speaker Ahmad Al-Saadoun described the election as “unconstitutional”, while former MP Faisal Al-Mislem called on elected MPs to resign after the 'clear popular verdict' in the election brought about by the massive boycott.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Morsi sets 15 December as date for referendum about constitution

President Morsi announced Saturday evening during a tv-speech that the referendum about the new constitution wil be held on 15 December.

cairo university  
Tens of thousands of supporters, mainly members of the Ikhwan of Salafists, demonstrated in support of president Morsi at Cairo University on Saturday (Reuters). In fact there were two demonstrations: one of Morsi supporters who had been brought to Cairo in large numbers, and one of opponents of the president on Tahrir. It was the Brotherhood itself that had decided to change the place of the demonstration from Tahrir to Cairo University in order to avoid clahes. In Alexandria both demonstrations met each other. There fights did break out.
The demonstrations turned out to be also demonstrations in favour or against the new text of the Constitution, qhich the Constitutional Assembly unexpectedly finalised on Friday. President Morsi will receive the text Saturday and it is expected that he will endorse it a few hours later, reports Egypt Independent. The same paper published an (unofficial) translation in English, here. 
The new text will be submitted to a national referendum. The oppositional Front of National Salvation in which most secular and liberal parties and personalities are united, and which is adamantly against it as it is the product of an Assembly heavily dominated by Islamists, warned that doing so 'will endanger the country' . The Front prepares  more protests, like new marches towards the presidential palace. 

Kuwait votes amidst big protests

headline4 Oppn holds largest ever election boycott march
 (Photo Kuwait Times)

Kuwait is holding elections on Saturday amidst wide spread protests over changes made to the voting rules last month. In one of the biggest rallies in Kuwait's history tens of thousands took to the streets on Friday to call for a boycot.
“The people want the downfall of the decree,” chanted the massive crowds in reference to the Amiri decree that amended the electoral law cutting the number of candidates a voter can choose from a maximum of four to just one. The opposition has maintained the decree is unconstitutional and will only lead to the election of a pro-government National Assembly by encouraging vote-buying and other corrupt practices.
Kuwait has had months of confrontations between the opposition and government. The crisis was sparked in June, when the Constitutional Court annulled parliamentary elections held in February, in which the Islamist-led opposition made significant gains. The court also reinstated the previous assembly, allied to the ruling family.
After months of protests, Kuwait's emir ordered the dissolution of that parliament and announced new elections. The disputed decree was ordered by the emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Sabah, on 19 Octobert.
 The Kuwait Times reports that about 306 candidates are running for the 50 seats in the Assembly, after a last-minute drama over about 30 candidates who were disqualified by the National Election Commission but then reinstated by the administrative court. Around 23 former MPs and 13 female candidates are among the hopefuls. According to the paper it is the lowest number of former MPs bidding for reelection in any Kuwaiti polls in more than 30 years because all opposition former MPs have boycotted the elections.