Thursday, January 31, 2013


A few links for the past week or days:

Food for thought about the French intervention in Mali. Nasser Weddady paints the background to the anger of the Touareg:  
A Disaster 50 Years in the Making

Joel Beinin writes on Jadaliya that the January 25 Revolution is not over. Rather, it has not yet occurred.
 Was there a 25 January Revolution?

Richard Silverstein explains the idea away that Israel's elections brought the centre to power
Why Yair Lapid’s Electoral Success Is Not Really a Centrist Victory

Israel boycots UN Human Rights Review, a novum
Israel Skips U.N. Review on Rights, a New Move

Paul Woodward about the embarrassing hearing in the U.S. Senate of  a candidate secretary of Defense. Israel was mentioned 136 times,. Iran 135 x: 
How the Israel lobby’s toadies savaged Hagel

Syria: Israel attacked military research centre

The Syrian military has confirmed that Israeli jets have carried out an air strike on its territory, but denied reports that lorries carrying weapons bound for Lebanon were hit, the BBC reports. The Syrian army said in a statement that the target was a military research centre northwest of the capital Damascus. Two people were killed and five injured in the attack, it said.
Lebanese security sources, Western diplomats and Syrian rebels say an arms convoy was hit near Lebanon's border. The attack came as Israel voiced fears that Syrian missiles and chemical weapons could fall into the hands of militants such as Lebanon's Hezbollah.
The army statement, quoted in Syria's official media, said: "Israeli fighter jets violated our airspace at dawn today and carried out a direct strike on a scientific research centre in charge of raising our level of resistance and self-defence." The centre, in Jamraya, northwest of the capital Damascus, was damaged in the attack, along with an adjacent building and a car park, the statement said. It said that "armed terrorist gangs", a term the government uses to describe rebel groups, had tried and failed repeatedly to capture the same facility in recent months.The statement specifically denied reports that an arms convoy had been hit.
Hours earlier, unnamed Lebanese security sources reported that Israeli warplanes had struck lorries carrying missiles towards the Lebanese border. The Associated Press quoted a US official as saying the lorries were carrying Russian-made SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Fate of manuscripts in Timbuktu as yet uncertain

Ahmed Baba Institute: Ahmed Baba Islamic Studies Library in Timbuktu, 2009
Photos: The Ahmed Baba Institute.

 The fate of tens of thousands ancient manuscripts in Mali remained uncertain Monday as French troops liberated the city of Timbuktu from Islamic insurgents who were said to have set fire to the library there.
Timbuktu is the last major city occupied by the insurgents, who have held sway there for 10 months, imposing the strict Islamic version of religious law, including carrying out public executions and amputations for crimes.
The city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was an especially vibrant center of Islamic thought in the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries. As the Guardian explains in a retrospective article, the manuscripts collected in the city “cover areas such as medicine and astronomy, as well as poetry, literature and Islamic law. Many were kept for centuries in private family libraries, passed down through the generations.”
In recent years, some 20,000 of these manuscripts were collected in the new Ahmed Baba Institute of Higher Islamic Studies and Research. When the insurgent army occupied Timbuktu last year, they used the 50,000 square-foot complex as a sleeping quarters.
On Monday, Timbuktu mayor Hallé Ousmani Cissé told the Guardian that on Saturday the militants torched two buildings containing the manuscripts. It is not yet known how much damage was done to the library, which had also been in the process of digitizing many of the documents. Many of the documents were stored in underground vaults.
Most are in Arabic, but there are many in other languages, including Songhai, Tamashek, Bambara, Turkish and Hebrew. The oldest dates from the year 1204. 
Ahmed Baba Institute: The Ahmed Baba centre holds the library of the Manuscripts of the Desert

Monday, January 28, 2013

Egyptian NSF-opposition rejects dialogue with Morsi until demands are met

 NSF refuses Morsi
Leaders of the National Salvation Front during the press conference. From left: Hamdeen Sabbahi, Mohammed ElBaradei and Amr Moussa (Photo AP) 

Egypt's National Salvation Front (NSF), a coalition of opposition parties and groups, rejected on Monday an invitation by President Mohamed Morsi to hold talks aimed at resolving the current political crisis.
At a press conference at the Wafd Party headquarters in Cairo, the NSF rejected Morsi's proposed dialogue as a "facade" in a statement read out by Constitution Party leader Mohamed ElBaradei. The statemenmt said that ''certain conditions needed to be met in order to guarantee a serious dialogue".
"We are not against holding talks, but we will not let the Egyptian people down by engaging in fake dialogue," ElBaradei said. "Many missteps have led to the current situation…security measures will not solve the current crisis, but a political solution must be found."
The NSF members, former presidential candidates Hamdeen Sabbahi and Amr Moussa among them along with Wafd Party chief El-Sayed El-Badawi, said they would soon unveil their "conditions" for dialogue. The NSF had earlier proposed five demands that it said were necessary for national consensus. "We met with Morsi earlier, and all we got from the meeting was a dictatorial constitutional declaration," said Sabbahi. "The second dialogue meeting did not accomplish anything either."
 Update: In the absence of the NSF Morsi held the dialogue meeting on Monday with others. Present at the meeting were the head of the Freedom and Justice Party Saad El-Katatni, head of the Salafist Nour Party Younes Makhion, founder of the Strong Egypt Party Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh, head of Al-Wasat party Abou El-Ela Mady, and head of liberal Ghad Al-Thawra party Ayman Nour among others. Results of this meeting without the key opposition figures are as yet unknown.

Israel admits: Ethiopian women were given birth control without their knowledge or consent

Pious Swaying: Worshipers in the crowd moved their hands back and forth as they celebrate Sigd, a festival that marks a recommitment to the Torah. A crowd about 10,000 gathered in Jerusalem for the prayers, speeches and celebration. Sigd was a national holiday in Israel for the first time this year.
Ethiopian Jews celebrate Sigd, a holiday during which they declare thjemsleves faithful to the Thora (Photo Jewish Forward)  

Israel has admitted for the first time that it has been giving Ethiopian Jewish immigrants birth-control injections without their knowledge or consent.

The government had previously denied the practice but the Israeli Health Ministry’s director-general has now ordered gynaecologists to stop administering the drugs. According to a report in Haaretz, suspicions were first raised by an investigative journalist, Gal Gabbay, who interviewed more than 30 women from Ethiopia in an attempt to discover why birth rates in the community had fallen dramatically.
The director general's letter, which amounts to an indirect admission of the practice, came in response to a letter from Sharona Eliahu-Chai of the Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), representing several women’s rights and Ethiopian immigrants’ groups. The letter demanded the injections cease immediately and that an investigation be launched into the practice.

Morsi declares state of emergency in 3 governorates and renews call for national dialogue

Saturday's funeral of 29 of the 32 victims of clashes in Port Said that broke out after a court in Cairo issued 21 death sentences to football hooligans. The funeral lead to renewed clashes and more deaths.  

The Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi on Sunday declared a 30-day state of emergency in Port Said, Suez and Ismailia, three governorates which have witnessed deadly clashes since the second anniversary of the Egyptian revolution on 25 Jan. In tv-speech Morsi said that during these 30 days a curfew will be in place from 9 pm to 6 am. In his speech Morsi  saluted the army and police for "their efforts to protect the country" and called the action by protesters ''against the law and incited by counter revolution. The Egyptian people reject such actions, which are condemned by honorable revolutionaries."
Health Ministry and hospital sources put the death toll from violence in Port Said at 38. Another victim died Sunday after being shot during clashes the day before, Abdel Rahman Farag, senior health official at the Port Said branch of the Health Ministry, said.
Farag told private satellite channel Al-Hayat that 457 people were injured Sunday, with 419 people suffering from tear gas inhalation and 38 sustaining injuries from live bullets and birdshot.The situation escalated in Port Said Sunday after the funeral of 29 victims of clashes that broke out following a court recommended death sentences for 21 people convicted of involvement in the Port Said Stadium violence last year, in which 72 football fans died.
Friday of Rage
Tahrir Square on Friday 25 JKsanuary 2012, the commmemoration of the 25 January revolution of 2011 (Ahram online) 

In Sunday's tv speech Morsi also reiterated a call for national dialogue, which he described as necessary to overcome the ongoing turmoil that has plunged Egypt into deep economic and political crises. "We have no option but to engage in a dialogue, this is the only way to pass the current phase and achieve stability. I decided to invite the political figures for a national dialogue tomorrow'' (Monday).
The National Salvation front, Egypt's main opposition, earlier listed five demands that included forming a new government and amending the "distorted constitution", which was approved by around 64 per cent of Egyptian voters in a national referendum last month.  

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Riots continue in Egypt, more than 30 dead in Port Said after soccer verdict

Clashes have erupted between protesters and security forces near the Interior Ministry in downtown Cairo
Clashes in Cairo lasted until the early hours of Sunday (Virginie Nguyen, Al Masry al Youm)

At least 32 people were killed on Saturday when Egyptians rampaged in protest at the sentencing of 21 people to death over a soccer stadium disaster, violence that compounds a political crisis facing Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, Reuters reports.
Armored vehicles and military police fanned through the streets of Port Said, where gunshots rang out and protesters burned tires in anger that people from their city had been blamed for the deaths of 74 people at a match last year.
The rioting in Port Said, one of the most deadly spasms of violence since Hosni Mubarak's ouster two years ago, followed a day of anti-Morsi demonstrations on Friday, when nine people were killed. The toll over the past two days stands at 41.
The flare-ups make it even tougher for Morsi, who drew fire last year for expanding his powers and pushing through an Islamist-tinged constitution, to fix the creaking economy and cool tempers enough to ensure a smooth parliamentary election.
That vote is expected in the next few months and is meant to cement a democratic transition that has been blighted from the outset by political rows and street clashes.
The National Defense Council, which is led by Morsi and includes the defense minister who commands the army, called for "a broad national dialogue that would be attended by independent national characters" to discuss political differences and ensure a "fair and transparent" parliamentary poll.
The National Salvation Front of liberal-minded groups and other Mursi opponents cautiously welcomed the call.
Clashes in Port Said erupted after a judge sentenced 21 men to die for involvement in the deaths at the soccer match on February 1, 2012. Many were fans of the visiting team, Cairo's Al Ahly.
Al Ahly fans had threatened violence if the court had not meted out the death penalty. They cheered outside their Cairo club when the verdict was announced. But in Port Said, residents were furious that people from their city were held responsible.
Protesters ran wildly through the streets of the Mediterranean port, lighting tires in the street and storming two police stations, witnesses said. Gunshots were reported near the prison where most of the defendants were being held.
A security source in Port Said said 32 people were killed there, many dying from gunshot wounds. He said 312 were wounded and the ministry of defense had allocated a military plane to transfer the injured to military hospitals.
Inside the court in Cairo, families of victims danced, applauded and some broke down in tears of joy when they heard Judge Sobhy Abdel Meguid declare that the 21 men would be "referred to the Mufti", a phrase used to denote execution, as all death sentences must be reviewed by Egypt's top religious authority.
There were 73 defendants on trial. Those not sentenced on Saturday would face a verdict on March 9, the judge said.
At the Port Said soccer stadium a year ago, many spectators were crushed and witnesses saw some thrown off balconies after the match between Al Ahly and local team al-Masri. Al Ahly fans accused the police of being complicit in the deaths.

Elsewhere rioting was continued as well. In Suez protesters stormed a police station on Saturday following fierce clashes with security forces, and freed prisoners there.They also took the weapons that were left behind by policemen who fled the station as it was being stormed. Later on they set fire to a weapons storage facility and a garage after breaking into the Security Department after funerals for victims of Friday's violence in the city. Also in Cairo and other places lashes continued throughout Saturday.

The Muslim Brotherhood has accused opposition groups of "spreading sabotage," in the wake of violent protest that have gripped the country for the past two days.
In a statement Saturday, the Brotherhood said that the opposition's silence after attacks against its offices and Freedom and Justice Party headquarters amounted to them "gloating over Egypt and Egyptians," and accused opposition groups of supporting such attacks.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

At least nine deaths in Egypt at protests marking second anniversary of the revolution

Young protesters on a barricade near Tahrir. (The barricade was erected by the army, a long time ago). Photo AP. 

At least eight deaths were reported in the Suez Governorate late Friday, as well as one death in Ismailia, according to medical and security sources in the area, after protests there turned violent on the day marking the 25 January 2011 uprising, where the first martyr also fell in Suez.
Reports say armed forces have been deployed in Suez to secure strategic institutions. Armed Personnel Carriers and army vehicles were sighted in the governorate.
Sources told Al-Masry Al-Youm that six protesters and two security forces have been killed in the clashes. Officials also said280 people have been injured in the city, according to Reuters. There are also reports of a death in Ismailia, raising the death toll to nine in two governorates.
The Health Ministry has reported only seven deaths, and more than 450 injuries in separate governorates.
There were calls for major protests in Upper Egypt, Nile Delta and the North Coast, including the governorates of Aswan, Qena, the Red Sea, Assiut, Minya, Gharbiya, Kafr al-Sheikh, Damietta, Daqahlia, Suez and Alexandria. By mid-afternoon, protests quickly turned violent in cities across the nation.
Numerous injuries have been reported nationwide and clashes are ongoing in Suez, Alexandria and in Cairo's Tahrir Square.
Hundreds of protesters stormed the front gate of the Kafr al-Sheikh Governorate headquarters on Friday evening. They demanded that the head of the governorate's security directorate hand over the building completely, or they would escalate their actions.The protesters said a revolutionary committee would take control of the directorate.They also demanded that Kafr al-Sheikh Governor Saad al-Husseiny, the FJP's former MP of the dissolved Parliament, step down, and chanted anti-Brotherhood slogans.
Meanwhile in Suez Governorate, 12 police officers were injured in the ongoing clashes between protesters and security forces.
Earlier in the day Thousands flocked to Arbaeen Square after Friday prayers, chanting slogans against the Brotherhood. Heightened security measures were implemented around government institutions there.
The protests quickly turned violent when hundreds of demonstrators allegedly tried to storm the governorate headquarters in the afternoon. Police responded by firing tear gas canisters into the crowd.
Hit-and-run operations between the two sides continued throughout the day outside the municipal building and in the surrounding streets.
Demonstrators chanted, "Bread, freedom, the president lost legitimacy," and held banners reading: "Two years since the revolution, and Egypt still needs another revolution," "The Brotherhood gave up the cause," and "The revolution continues."
Dozens stormed the FJP office in Damanhur, capital of Beheira Governorate in the Delta. Protesters smashed the contents of the office and tore down its banner, then hurled stones at the Central Security Forces to prevent them from approaching.
Hundreds of protesters also clashed with security forces near President Mohamed Morsy's home in Sharqiya on Friday afternoon. Protesters hurled Molotov cocktails and rocks at the police, who responded with tear gas.
Violence also broke out in Ismailia when hundreds stormed the FJP's headquarters in Ismailia City. They reportedly destroyed the office's entrance, then ripped apart the furniture and computers and threw them into the street.
Security forces fired tear gas to disperse the protesters, causing some to be hospitalized for suffocation.
In Beni Suef Governorate, protesters blocked the railways, causing a complete halt of train traffic between Cairo and Aswan. Similar incidents occurred in Gharbiya Governorate, in the cities of Mahalla and Kafr al-Zayat.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

West Bank Palestinians attend funerals of woman and teener shot by Israeli soldiers

Mourners say evening prayers underneath a banner with the picture of Salih al-Amarin, 15, hanging from his home in of Azza Refugee Camp in anticipation of his funeral, 23 January 2013. Salih al-Amarin was shot in the head with live ammunition by Israeli forces on 18 January 2013 during clashes in Bethlehem's nearby Aida refugee camp. Photo Ryan Rodrick Beiler/
Hundreds of mourners on Wednesday attended the funerals of a woman and a teenager shot and killed by Israeli forces in Bethlehem. The death of these two brought the number of Palestinians that have been fatally shot by Israeli forces in January to at least six.
Lubna Hanash, 22, was shot in the head on Wednesday morning as Israeli soldiers in a civilian car opened fire at a group standing at the entrance to al-Arrub refugee camp south of Bethlehem.
She was buried in the Hussein Ubayyat cemetery on the eastern outskirts of Bethlehem.
Update: The Israeli army said that the soldier opened fire when Palestinians hurled firebombs at his car. The killed woman's friend however, Suad Jaara, told Ma'an News later that there was nobody at the spot exept her and Lubna when the soldier started shooting. She herself was wounded in the arm. So again the list of cases like this one, where the army kills under suspicious circumstaces, grows. (End of update) 
 The same day, 15-year-old Salih al-Amarin, from Azza refugee camp, died in hospital. Israeli forces shot him in the head during clashes in Bethlehem on Friday.
Mourners carried the teenager's body from his family home to a cemetery in Aida refugee camp.
Clashes erupted near Aida camp as angry residents threw stones at Israeli soldiers, who fired rubber-coated bullets and tear gas canisters at mourners, injuring 10 Palestinians.
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad issued a statement calling for "strong condemnation from the international community" of these shootings, and urged "immediate intervention to compel Israel to desist from these serious attacks on our people."

Monday, January 21, 2013

Jordanian elections, boycotted by Islamists, will produce a powerless parliament

Parliament building in Amman. 

Jordanians go the polls on Wednesday to elect a new parliament that was supposed to bring real reform. But a boycott by the powerful Muslim Brotherhood and other opposition groups such as the National Reform Front of former premier and intelligence chief Ahmad Obeidat cast a shadow over the process. Tribal leaders, pro-regime figures and independent businessmen are expected to sweep the election.
The Islamist boycott is in protest at constituency boundaries that they call unfair, and at the failure to move towards a constitutional monarchy with an elected premier rather than one named by the king.
"We do not seek the overthrow of the regime. We want to reform the regime. Our boycott was the right decision because a parliament or government that is imposed on people is illegitimate. A comprehensive national dialogue is the solution,"  Zaki Bani Rsheid, deputy leader of the Brotherhood, told AFP.
The Brotherhood boycotted the polls in 2010 also, for a similar reason: in protest at constituency boundaries which they say over-represent loyalist rural areas at the expense of urban areas where the Islamists are strong.
"We hoped to see elections under a national accord  that would produce powerful MPs and put reform on the right track. But that is not the case," analyst Oraib Rintawi, who runs the Al-Quds Centre for Political Studies, told AFP. "The coming election will add to problems instead of solving them.I think the turnout will be low. The opposition will keep expressing themselves in the street, escalating without violence. And I think their first protest after the elections will demand the dissolution of parliament, which brings us back to square one," Rintawi said.
Political analyst Labib Kamhawi said the election will be "disappointing." "The Islamists are boycotting the polls because they are not in their interest, others are boycotting them because the entire process is undemocratic. The result will be disappointing to the people because they feel there is no will for genuine reform."

Sunday, January 20, 2013

New wave of public hangings in Iran

Photo's taken from Iran Human Rights

Two men were executed publicly in Tehran on Sunday, AP reported. Iran Human Rights Watch one day earlier announced that according to the state run Fars news agency, these two were scheduled to be executed in public on January 20. The men were arrested 35 days ago and convicted of "Moharebeh" and "Corruption on earth" for forcefully (using a knife) stealing from a man about 50 days ago. The footage of the stealing episode was spread on YouTube.

Earlier Iran Human Rights reported that on 18 January two men were publicly hanged in Pakdasht (South of Tehran).The state run Fars news agency. identified them as "Siyavash" (27) and ''Mahmood" (28) and said they were convicted of rape.
Iran Human Rights (IHR) had warned these hangings were about to happen, as well as the hanging of a third man (from Varamin prison) in Pakdasht on Thursday. According to IHR reports Siyavash had slit his wrist to avoid being executed. We have no news of the third man who was scheduled to be executed in Pakdasht.
Also a young man identified as Hamed (23) was publicly hanged in the city of Urmia (north-western Iran) on 19 January. According to the state run ISNA news agency the prisoner was convicted of murdering another young man.
IHR adds: Last week another man was hanged publicly in a football stadium in Sabzevar (northeastern Iran)and the flogging sentences of four men were carried out publicly in Sabzevar and Akman (near Semnan).IHR strongly condemns the wave of public executions and floggings in Iran. Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the spokesperson of IHR said: "The international community must react to the horror show of public medieval punishments orchestrated by the Iranian authorities".

Saturday, January 19, 2013

'Palestinian teen killed from behind after he tried to run away'

Two British press accounts of the shooting to death of the16-year old Samir Awad, last Tuesday,  in the Palestinian village of Budrus, 35 km north of Ramallah. The British papers quote eyewitnesses who contradict what the Israeli army said and what was written in the Israeli press. They say that Samir was lured into a confrontation and was shot form behind when he was trying to run away:

The Guardian:
According to villagers, Samir was grabbed by soldiers who were concealed in a trench. He broke free and was running away when a soldier or soldiers opened fire. He was hit by three or four bullets, in his head, torso and leg.
Ayed Morrar, a member of the village popular resistance committee, said: "They shot him in cold blood, they shot him in the back. He wasn't threatening them." He said there had been no stone-throwing at the time of the shooting.
The Daily Telegraph:
A Palestinian schoolboy killed by Israeli gunfire near the West Bank  separation barrier had been reacting to insults shouted by soldiers with  loudhailers before he was shot, eyewitnesses have said.
The claim contradicts an account given by the Israeli army, which says 16-year-old Samir Awad was shot after cutting through a section of the security fence as he tried "infiltrate into Israel".
The teenager died on Tuesday after being shot three times. He was hit from behind as he was running away from Israeli troops in the village of Boudrous, according to his family. 
 Family and friends say Samir was running away from the security barrier after soldiers fired tear gas. As he tried to head towards the school, he was intercepted by two other soldiers who had been hiding in a trench dug by the Jordanian army during the 1967 Six-Day War.
While his friends managed to get away, Samir's escape route was cut off, forcing him to run back towards the barrier. It was at that point he was shot, witnesses say.(...)
Samir's death is one of a growing list of similar incidents in which Palestinians lost their lives and which are never thoroughly investigated. Samir was the fourth young man to die in five days, after two young people in Gaza and one near Hebron. 
Exactly a month ago another of these incidents occurred,  the 'accidental murder' of the teen Muhammad Salaymeh in Hebron, which I documented here. On my Dutch sister blog I wrote about a number of other cases: Hatem Shadid (35) who was shot to death on 4 December 2012 after his car collided with a jeep with four agents of the internal security service Shin Beth. (They said he had approached them with an axe, which was not corroborated by evidence and which his family and friends contested). In June 2010 Ziad Jilani 41, a father of three  daughters) was killed in Jerusalem after his van accidentally collided with some members of the border police when he passed a disturbance. It appeared that the van had previously been hit by a stone. In January 2011 a  Palestinian called Daraghmeh was shot to death at a checkpoint that he approached in a hurry with a broken bottle. It later appeared that the bottle was really a can of cola.
In March 2010 two teenage cousins from the village of Awarta, Faysal and Mumammad Qawariq, were killed when they allegedly attacked a soldier at a checkpoint with a pitchfork. It later transpired that the boys had been sitting at the moment they were killed ad did not have a pitchfork with them. One day later two other cousins, from the village of Iraq Burin this time, Muhammad ad Usaid Qadus, were killed when they returned home and got out of a taxi. They had the bad luck that a clash between villagers and the army were taking place just at that very moment, although some 60 meter from where they got out of the car.
All these cases had one thing in common: nobody was ever brought to justice and the investigations were very superfluous, or there were any at all. Israel has the duty to protect the Palestinians in the territories it occupies. If the Israelis aren't able to remember this on their own, it is time that it is made clear to them that it is mandatory under international law.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Sectarian clashes in Egyptian Qena governorate

Security forces outside destroyed Christian-owned shops in Farshout, Qena on 21 November, 2009.

Tensions between Muslims and Copts in Qena Governorate's al-Marashda Village turned violent after a Muslim family accused a Coptic resident of sexually assaulting their four-year-old child, Egypt Independent reported.
Muslim residents of the town destroyed the shop owned by the accused, as well as three  other shops belonging to other Coptic residents. The vandals then gathered in front of the village church to protest against the alleged abuse.
Salah Mazied, the head of the Qena Security Directorate, sent security forces to the scene. The forces dispersed the crowd and set up a security cordon around the church.
The alleged victim is to undergo a medical examination, and the accused perpetrator has been arrested pending investigation.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Morsi haunted by remarks about Jews he made in 2010

It seems that the Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi has a new problem now that a video has surfaced of remarks he made in 2010, before he was elected president. In the video he said that the negotiations of the Palestinians with Israel have been a waste of time and will lead nowhere (not a baseless remark as far as I am concerned), but he also called us Jews bloodsuckers and descendants of apes and pigs. The U.S. White House and State Department asked for a clarification. AP reported:
The Obama administration on Tuesday gave a blistering review of remarks that Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi made almost three years ago about Jews and called for him to repudiate what it called unacceptable rhetoric.
In blunt comments, the White House and State Department said Morsi's statements were "deeply offensive" and ran counter to the goal of peace in the region. The State Department, noting that a senior congressional delegation is now visiting Egypt, said the remarks complicated efforts to provide economic and military aid to Egypt.
"We believe that President Morsi should make clear that he respects people of all faiths and that this type of rhetoric is unacceptable in a democratic Egypt," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.
Morsi was a leader in the Muslim Brotherhood in 2010 when, according to video broadcast last week on Egyptian television he asked Egyptians to "nurse our children and our grandchildren on hatred." Months later, in a television interview, Morsi referred to Zionists as bloodsuckers who attack Palestinians, describing Zionists as "the descendants of apes and pigs."
"We completely reject these statements as we do any language that espouses religious hatred," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters. "This kind of rhetoric has been used in this region for far too long. It's counter to the goals of peace."
A group of senators, including Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Christopher Coons, D-Del., is currently in Cairo. Nuland said she expected they would make their views known to Egypt's leadership.
For once I'm happy with the U.S. reaction. Morsi - everyone in fact - should know that comments like he made testify of an 8unacceptable and  backward way of thinking (which, by the way, is not common to all  Egyptian Muslim Brothers, nor only to be found in Egypt - unfortunately). 

PS.  I'm not a fan of MEMRI, the agency that unearthed this video. Oh, no. They are an Israeli led organisation whose main job it is to publish as many specimens of  the Jew-hating (or West hating) nature of islamic peoples as possible, so that we understand what a hateful bunch they are. They pose as an unbiased agency, but at the same time zealously scan the most obscure papers and broadcasts in the hope of finding lots of offensive material what they then can present as truly representative of the Islamic world. But as biased as MEMRI is, apperently they sometimes dig up something that really merits to be made known...

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Egyptian train crowded with conscripts derails: 19 dead, over 100 wounded

On the 14th of January, 19 soldiers died and more than 100 were injured in a train derailment south of Cairo, where the last two carriages detached from the rest and derailed. The train was carrying 1,328 Egyptian soldiers headed north from Assiut to Cairo. (photo's Jonathan Rashad/Flickr)

Making sense of Israels recent building plans in occupied territory

Israel’s defence ministry has published plans for 170 new housing units and another 84 guest rooms in the West Bank settlement of Rotem in the Jordan Valley, anti-settlement activists said on Sunday.
The settlement itself previously received government approval, but no building plan was set out, according to Hagit Ofran of the Peace Now organisation.
“Last week it was deposited for public review. It is talking about 200 units, 30 of them are already built. In addition, another 84 units are proposed for guest rooms,” she said.
“It will be deposited for 60 days for the public to file objections. After all objections are collected and heard, the planning committee will decide whether to approve or refuse the plan. Usually they approve it.”

 Building in Ramat Shlomo (Jerusalem)

The Israeli government has moved forward aggressively in recent weeks with settlement construction plans in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, prompting angry condemnation from the Palestinians, and international criticism. The developments can be confusing for those who try to keep track of the Israeli activity in settlements. So many plans and approvals, some of which lethal for the two state solution, make it clear that the Government of Netanyahu decided to push forward as many approvals as possible in order to set facts on the ground before the elections in Israel, as long as they don’t feel a “threat” of any renewal of the peace process. In order to make sense of them, Peace Now made a list:

Following are details of recent developments:
1. E1 and 3,000 new tenders
2. Plans for 6,600 units in East Jerusalem
3. Givat Hamatos
4. Tenders for 1,216 units the West Bank and East Jerusalem 
5. Gevaot: a new city South-West of Bethlehem is approved.

1) E1 and 3,000 new tenders - Following the UN resolution on a Palestinian state, the Government of Netanyahu announced the intention to promote the planning in E1 and to issue 3,000 tenders in settlements and in East Jerusalem. On December 5th, the plans for the construction of 3,426 units in E1 were approved for depositing. See more here: Everything you need to know about E1

2) Plans for 6,600 units in East Jerusalem – in parallel, almost all of the main pending plans in East Jerusalem were promoted. Using a fast track of the planning process, the planning committee in Jerusalem approved plans in Givat Hamatos, Ramat Shlomo and Gilo.
See more details here:

3) Givat Hamatos – Givat Hamatos is a plan that if built, might prevent the territorial continuity between Bethlehem and the Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Zafafa in South Jerusalem, and thus might prevent the possibility for a two state solution with a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem.
The plan in Givat Hamatos is divided into 4 plans (A, B, C and D). The largest and the most lethal of them is Givat Hamatos A, for 2,610 units, got the final approval from the local planning committee on Wednesday (the 19th of December). The Regional planning committee have surprisingly rejected today plan C. However, unfortunately the rejection does not prevent the damage of the other plans. See more here.

4)  Tenders for 1,216 units in settlements – Yesterday, December 19th, the Ministry of Housing published the list of upcoming tenders that will be issued in the next few months, including 1,216 units in settlements and in East Jerusalem. These are part of the 3,000 units announced by the Government following the UN bid and include: 398 units in Beitar Illit; 108 in Karnei Shomron; 167 in Efrat; 102 in Imanuel; 167 in Givat Ze’ev; 106 in Adam (AKA Geva Binyamin); and 168 in Har Homa. Usually it takes a few months to a year from the issuing of the tender till the construction on the ground begins. See maps and full details here.

5) Gevaot: a new city South-West of Bethlehem - The Minister of Defense approved the promotion of a plan to build 523 units in a new settlement called Gevaot, South-West of Bethlehem. This is part of a larger plan to create a city of 6,000 units in an isolated area at the Gush Etzion settlement bloc. This is not a final approval of the plan it allows the promotion and depositing of it and within a year or two to even start the construction. See details and a map here.


'Working in settlements not profitable for Palestinian workers'

Palestinians are often employed to build houses in the settlements
Israeli and international companies that face criticism owing to their activities in the occupied West Bank often attempt to legitimize their businesses in settlements by claiming that they provide labor to Palestinian workers. These claims are just empty words, as the organization Who Profits, a research project by the Coalition of Women for Peace, that monitors the activities of Israeli and international firms which operate in the West Bank, makes clear in a recent report. 
Gross violations of labor rights are common in the West Bank because the Israeli labor regulations,  are rarely enforced in the Occupied Territories, and the workers cannot demand these rights for fear of losing their permits, Who profits reports. In order to work in settlements, Palestinians must obtain work permits from the Israeli Civil Administration, which also entails the approval of the Israeli internal security service (the Shin Bet). This permit can be annulled at any time, especially when workers demand their rights or try to unionize, or if they (or one of their family members) engage in any kind of political activity. This situation exposes Palestinian workers to extortion by the Israeli internal security service.
Israeli employers of Palestinians in settlements have a clear economic interest in maintaining the occupation of Palestinian land and the exploitation of resources, says Who Profits. Companies establish factories in the occupied West Bank mainly in order to enjoy low taxes ad other economic benefits provided by the Israeli government, as well as to have access to cheap Palestinian labor and the indirect benefits of operating in industrial zones with low safety and environmental standards and with very lax monitoring and enforcement.
In the year 2011 the settlements employed 26.831 Palestinian workers with permits, and some 10.000 more worked without permits, most of them in the Jordan Valley during the olive and date picking seasons. Some of them are 12 year old kids. Of the workers 93% are not represented by a union, and the vast majority -also the skilled workers among them - earn less than the Israeli minimum wage, many even less than half the minimum wage. Their wages are often withheld, they don't have any social rights and the working conditions are often dangerous because there is no enforcement of safety regulations.  

According to a study conducted by Dr. Majid Sbeih from Al-Quds University for the Democracy and Workers’ Rights Center in Palestine, 82% of Palestinian workers have the desire and willingness to leave their jobs in the settlements, provided that a suitable alternative is available. However, suitable alternatives will not be found as long as the Palestinian economy is under occupation.
Palestinian workers lost their land and livelihood to the Israeli occupation. 11% of Palestinian workers in settlements work on confiscated lands originally owned by their families or one of their relatives. Providing Palestinians with jobs on their own stolen land is another humiliating insult that they are forced to bear in order to provide for their families.
The political reality of the occupation does not allow Palestinian workers to make a free and informed choice regarding their livelihoods. Most Palestinians are compelled to work in settlements, since their economy is in ruins after 45 years of Israeli military occupation. 
 The document that manifested the structural tourniquets imposed on the Palestinian economy is the Paris Protocol – the economic annex to the Oslo Accords. The Paris Protocol places Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories under a joint taxation envelope, the same currency (New Israeli Shekel), and imposes severe restrictions on manufacturing, exporting and importing goods to and from the Occupied Territories. This trade agreement does not truly promote free trade, but instead seeks to protect Israeli and multinational corporations from competition by local industries. Moreover, this situation blocks the development of an independent Palestinian economy and keeps it as a captive market for Israeli and international companies.
(For the full Position Paper - click here)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Human Rights Watch: Syrian army uses rockets loaded with cluster munition

BM-21 Grad, truck mounted 122mm multiple rocket launcher. Based on ZIL 131.
 BM-21 Grad rocket launcher

 Human Rights Watch reports:
 Syrian forces are using notoriously indiscriminate rockets that contain explosive submunitions. Evidence indicates that Syrian forces used BM-21 Grad multi-barrel rocket launchers to deliver cluster munitions in attacks near the city of Idlib in December 2012 and in Latamneh, a town northwest of Hama, on January 3, 2013. These are the first known instances of Syrian use of ground-based cluster munitions. No information is available on how or when Syria acquired these cluster munitions, which were made in Egypt. Human Rights Watch and others have previously reported use of air-dropped cluster bombs.
Based on interviews with witnesses, analysis of approximately a dozen videos posted online by local activists, and photographs taken by an international journalist, Human Rights Watch has concluded that since at least early December Syrian forces have used BM-21 Grad multi-barrel rocket launchers to deliver 122mm cluster munition rockets containing submunitions of the DPICM-type (dual purpose improved conventional munition).
The attack using these cluster munitions on January 3 on Latamneh killed one civilian man and wounded 15 people, including women and children, while another civilian man was killed by an unexploded submunition left from the attack. Another man, a fighter for the armed opposition group the Free Syrian Army, was killed on December 5 after handling an unexploded submunition left from an attack two days earlier on the village of Banin in Jabal al-Zaweya.

The Soviet-made BM-21 multi-barrel rocket launcher is a truck-mounted system capable of firing 40 rockets nearly simultaneously. The rockets have a range from 4 to 40 kilometers and are notorious for their inability to be accurately targeted due to their lack of a guidance system. The inaccuracy of these rockets exacerbates the danger from the wide area effect of the submunitions they contain. Fired in groups, the rockets can inflict large-scale civilian casualties when used in residential areas, Human Rights Watch said.
The 122mm cluster munition rockets bear the markings of the Egyptian state-owned Arab Organization for Industrialization and an Egyptian company called Sakr Factory for Development Industries. The DPICM submunitions contained in the rockets are designed for both antipersonnel and antivehicle purposes. Each DPICM submunition is the size of a D cell battery and has a distinctive white ribbon. It is not known if the 122mm rockets are SAKR-18 or SAKR-36 variants, which contain 72 and 98 submunitions respectively.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Israeli forces evacuate Palestinian 'settlement' Bab al-Shams at the orders of Bibi Netayahu

 This was Bab al-Shams on Saturday night.

The residents of the Palestinian outpost Bab al-Shams in area E1 were evicted early Sunday morning, but their tents were left standing, in line with a temporary injunction of Israel's Supreme Court. The Palestinians received an eviction order Friday, immediately after the the 'settlement' had been built up. But - in a gesture that had been copied from the Jewish settlers - they petitioned the Supreme Court against the eviction. 
The judge gave a injunction in which he barred the eviction for six days in order to give the plaintiffs time to prove that they own the land, which belonged to one of the Arab villages that Israel included in the Greater Jerusalem area it created after 1967. 
Prime Minister Netanyahu, however, did not want to permit the village to stay there that long. His office said in a statement on Saturday that the government was petitioning the court to retract its ruling on the outpost, and had instructed security forces to block off roads leading to the rocky desert terrain. As a consequence the court granted the state the right to evict the Palestinians, but not to remove the tents, that can stay till the end of the six day period. And a couple of hours later, at 2.30 a.m., Israeli police and border guard officers entered the compound and told a crowd of around 100 to leave the tents that were erected a day earlier. Those protesters who refused to leave were carried down the hill by Israeli officers and detained, but were not jailed. Israeli police vans took them to the West Bank town of Ramallah.
The Bab al-Shams settlement (the name was taken from a novel by Lebanese writer Elias Khoury which is about Palestinian refugees in Lebanon) was a attempt by the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee, the committee that among other things coordinates the struggle against the construction of the Wall, to give a new impulse to the resistance against Israel's settlement activities. The tent village was set up in the area that Israel calls E1, between Jerusalem and the big settlement of Ma'ale Adumim. After the recent decision of the General Assembly of the United Nations to grant the status of observer to the State of Palestinian state, Israel decided to start building in this area, a move it postponed for several years due to objections of the US ad Europe among others, as it will effectively cut the West Bank in two.
 Border Police prepare to evacuate Palestinian E1 outpost [Photo: Ammar Awad / Reuters]
The Bab al-Shams adventure was a gesture of the non-violent popular Palestinian struggle of a kind that makes one hopeful, as it is a splendid way to demonstrate the discrepancy between perceived Jewish rights ad the total absence of Palestinian ones. Nothing shows more clearly that settlement of Palestinian lands is only permissible for Jews. Netanyahu's quick response makes clear - if anything - that there is nothing that the present Israeli government is more afraid of than Palestinians who claim their rights in a non-violent way.          

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Israel threatens to evacuate Palestinian 'protest village'

 'Bab al-Shams'

The Israeli authorities gave Palestinian activists one hour Saturday to quit a protest camp in part of the West Bank where Israel has vowed to build new settler homes, an organiser told AFP.
More than 200 activists erected a 20-tent "outpost" on Friday in the sensitive West Bank corridor east of Jerusalem where Israel plans settlement construction that would destroy prospects of territorial contiguity for a Palestinian state to be. The camp lies between annexed Arab east Jerusalem and the Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim, in the so called E1 sector.

"Members of the Israeli Civil (military) Administration told us this morning that we have one hour to evacuate the site," one of the organisers, Abir Kopty, told AFP. "We have no intention of leaving of our own accord," she added.
Lateron the activists reported that they prempted the eviction order and went to the Israeli high court where they got a stay for six days. They openly acknowledged that they were copying the successful tactics of Israeli settlers, who have helped to expand existing settlements in the West Bank by setting up small outposts without permission and then resisting the efforts of the occupation authorities to evict them. 'We were ready to the eviction order so along with building we went to the court & got suspending order! We are using their tools,' Abir Kopty tweeted. 
The protest outpost, dubbed Bab al-Shams (Gate of the Sun in Arabic), after a novel by the Lebanese writer Elias Khoury, was welcomed on Friday by a senior Palestinian official who described it as a "highly creative and legitimate non-violent" way of protecting Palestinian land from Israeli settlement activity.
 Embedded image permalink
In spite of the fact that the site is surrounded by troops still dozens of new participants maneged to enter the site on Saturday. (Photo Abir Kopty/twitter)

Friday, January 11, 2013

'Israel agrees to resettle Palestinians from Syria only if they relinquish their Right of Return'

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has rejected a conditional Israeli offer to let Palestinian refugees from Syria resettle in the West Bank and Gaza, AP reports.
Abbas asked U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon last month to seek Israeli permission to bring Palestinians caught in Syria's civil war to the Palestinian territories. The request came after fighting between Syrian troops and rebel fighters  in Yarmouk, the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Syria. About half of the camp's 150,000 residents have fled, according to a U.N. aid agency.
Abbas told a group of Egyptian journalists in Cairo late Wednesday that Ban contacted Israel on his behalf. and was told that Israel "agreed to the return of those refugees to Gaza and the West Bank, but on condition that each refugee ... sign a statement that he doesn't have the right of return (to Israel)." "So we rejected that and said it's better they die in Syria than give up their right of return," Abbas said. Some of his comments were published Thursday by the Palestinian news website Sama.
The Israeli condition linked to the resettlement offer made it impossible for Abbas to accept, said Ahmed Hanoun, an official in the refugee department of the Palestine Liberation Organization. "I think the Israelis were not serious about this offer," said Hanoun. "If they were, they would have endorsed the return of these people who live in misery, and not to blackmail them to relinquish their legal rights."
Officials in Israel's Foreign Ministry and Prime Minister's Office declined comment Thursday.

Palestinian film 'Five Broken Cameras' nominated for Academy Award'

Official trailer of '5 Broken Cameras'

Two films critical of Israeli occupation policy were nominated for the 2013 Best Documentary Feature Oscar award on Thursday. "5 Broken Cameras," directed by Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi, and "The Gatekeepers," directed by Dror  Moreh, were among the films chosen rom 15 finalists.
"The Gatekeepers" consists of lengthy interviews with six former heads of Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency. "5 Broken Cameras" is, although the Israeli press informs us that two 'Israeli films' were nominated, in fact a Palestinian film. It documents the struggle of the West Bank village Bil'in against the construction of the Wall, or what Israel calls its 'security fence'. Burnat filmed the first years of his son's life. Five of his cameras were smashed by the Israeli army during that time, as he filmed how friends and family were being shot and injured by Israeli troops.
The film earlier won the World Cinema Directing Award at the Sundance Film Festival in 2012. It  also received the Special Broadcaster IDFA Audience Award and the Special Jury Award at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam in 2011. Dutch IKON tv screened the film on 14 November 2012, to be seen here (Dutch subtitels)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Three senior female leaders of Kurdish PKK murdered in Paris

DHA photo
Sakine Cansiz, one of the founders of the PKK

An office of the Kurdish Institute of Paris was attacked by unknown people in the French capital Paris late yesterday, resulting in the deaths of three women, including one of the founders of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
Sakine Cansız, one of the PKK founders in 1978, Kurdistan National Congress' (KNK) Paris representative Fidan Doğan, and Leyla Söylemez were found dead in the office, located near Gare du Nord station.The women were alone in the office at noon yesterday, the Kurdish association representative Leod Edart said, daily Le Parisien has reported. Their bodies were discovered at around 01:30-02:00 a.m. this morning.
French police have launched an investigation into the incident. The three women were all found shot in the head, but the investigation will unveil further details, according to a police source.

A spokesman for the ruling Turkish AK- party, Hüseyin Çelik, blamed the murder on 'an internal feud' related to the ongoing peace talks between Turkish authorities and Kurdish representatives.
The PKK's Europe representative and executive council member of Kurdistan Communities Union's (KCK) Zübeyir Aydar also said the attack was in response to the talks, in a statement to the Rudaw news portal.
"These attacks are oriented against the talks between İmralı [imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan] and the Turkish government ... This attack was executed by dark forces against the new process," Aydar said, claiming that "dark forces" came from within the Turkish state.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Sri Lankan housemaid and Syrian drugs trafficker this year's first victims of beheading in Saudi Arabia

Demo in 2011 in Colombo for Rizana
The Saudi Interior ministry has confirmed that Sri Lankan housemaid Rizana Nafeek, 23, who was convicted of killing a baby in her care whe she was 17, was executed on Wednesday in Dawadmi, a city located some 380 km away from the capital.  Many requests by the Sri Lankan government and Amnesty International, among others, to  save her life, have thus been proven to have been in vain.
Nafeek flew to the desert kingdom at 17 on a forged passport that said she was 6 years older than she was, without any training or knowledge of Arabic, to work as a maid for a wealthy Saudi family. But Nafeek's dream went horribly wrong within days of arriving at Dawadamissa, a town about 250 miles from Riyadh, in 2005. Her employers accused her of murdering their 4-month-old infant after the baby accidentally choked while being bottle-fed by her. In June 2007, Nafeek was found guilty and sentenced to death by beheading — a conviction that rights groups say was based on a confession made under duress and the forged passport that changed her status to that of an adult. In 2010, the sentence was upheld by Saudi Arabia's highest court.
The Saudi authorities on Tuesday also beheaded a Syrian convicted of trafficking a large amount of narcotic pills, the interior ministry said, in the first execution in the kingdom this year.Mohammed Darwish was arrested “as he was trafficking a large amount of narcotic pills into the kingdom,” the ministry said in a statement carried by official news agency SPA.He was beheaded in Al Jawf province, in the kingdom’s north. Last year, the ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom beheaded 76 people, according to an AFP tally based on official figures.

Israel approves plan for a new big new settlement and legalizes an 'illegal' one

The settlement of Gevaot. Photo: Eyal Hareuveni, B'Tselem.
Gevaot now: home to some 12 families in mobile homes.(Photo Eyal Hareuveni/B'tselem)

The Israeli movement Peace Now reports that the Minister of Defense approved the promotion of a plan to build 523 units in a new settlement called Gevaot, South-West of Bethlehem. This approval will allow the Higher Planning Council of the Civil Administration to convene and approve the depositing of the plan for public review. When the plan will be deposited, the public will be granted 60 days to file objections, after which the Planning Council will hear the objections and then approve the plan. After this final approval, tenders may be issued and the construction may start. This process may take a year or two, says Peace Now.
The plan existed already for some time, the human rights movement B'tselem mentioned the plan in 2009. The plan for the 523 units is part of a larger working-plan of the Ministry of Housing, both movements report, which may result in building a city for several thousands of units, 6.000 or even 13,000 units according to Peace Now.  Gevaot today is a site with several caravans. In 1984 Gevaot was established as a Military Base. During the 90’s the soldiers were replaced by Yeshiva students that occupied the 30 caravans on site. On 2003 the Yeshiva moved to Efrat and only few families stayed in Gevaot to keep the site alive. Officially Gevaot was never announced by the government as an independent settlement. In 1998 the site was included within the Municipal Borders of the settlement of Alon Shvut, which is located 3 km away from Gevaot. This way the Government can claim that the approval of the 523 units is not an establishment of a new settlement but an “expansion” of an existing settlement. Earlier this year it was reported that the Minister of Defense approved the promotion of 60 units in Gevaot, for a community of people with special needs. 

Left Nofei Nehemia, right Rechelim (in between: route 60) 
Peace Now also reports that the Israeli government as well secretly approved the 'non-authorized outpost' Nofei Nehemia' east of the settlement of Ariel: Following the Government decision of April 2012, to retroactively legalize three outposts (Rehelim, Sansana and Bruchin) and to declare them as a new settlements (see also here, Dutch), the Commander of the Central Command issued a few days ago a military order officially establishing the boundaries of Rehelim. According to reports, although the Government decision did not mention the Nofei Nehemia outpost, it turned out that the boundaries of the new settlement of Rehelim includes the outpost of Nofei Nehemia which is located nearly 2 km west of Rehelim, as a “neighborhood” of Rehelim.  
This authorization marks the government’s 10th authorization of illegal outposts, being the only government to ever authorize outposts.
Nofei Nehemia was established in 2002 and contains 32 mobile homes and in the past year another 12 permanent homes were built in it. According to the Quartet’s Road Map, which Israel is internationally committed to, Israel is obliged to evict all of the outposts that were established after March 2001. Nofei Nehemia is the fourth outpost that was established after 2001 that the government is now authorizing. The other three were Mitzpe Eshtamoa, Givat Sal’it and Elmatan (in all of which the Minister of Defense approved the promotion of plans that will legalize them as “neighborhoods” of existing settlements).

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Israeli Election Committee bans ad by Arab party that mocks Avigdor Lieberman singing the Hatikva

 (I lost this post earlier today, due to some malfunction)

Israel's Election Committee Chairperson, Judge Eliyakim Rubenstein, has banned a campaign ad of the National Democratic Assembly (NDA) for mocking Hatikva, the national anthem. The banned ad was to be heard on Israeli radio from Tuesday. Judge Rubenstein said that "from listening to the radio broadcast I learned that it broadcasts Hativka in a distorted manner that ridicules Hatikva, the anthem of the state of Israel. This is not acceptable to me as part of election campaigning. See the ad below. In the beginning and prior to the singing, Foreign Minister Lieberman is heard saying that "I've already tried to pass a law conditioning receipt of an identity card with a statement of loyalty to the singing of Hativka. In the next Knesset I will again attempt to pass this legislation. But now I've reached the conclusion that the anthem should be made suitable for the Arab population, so they can identify with it." Following the singing, the ad asks: "funny? the situation is really not funny. These laws must be opposed. We must not leave the arena to them. This is the time for the NDA. h/t The Alternative Information Centre.

There is more to this ad, though. From the site +972 we learn that there is an original version: Lieberman himself murdering the Hatikva at a party meeting in an unparalleled way:

The Lieberman performance led to some parodies, like this jazzy version: 

 Or a more 'classical' adaptation:

On +972 there is even more. None of these have been banned so far, it seems. But then, these are not used in election campaigns. And oh, they have not been made by Arabs...

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Assad in rare speech proposes national conference.. but not with those 'who betrayed Syria'

In this image taken from video obtained from Syrian State Television, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, Syrian President Bashar Assad speaks at the Opera House in central Damascus, Syria, Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013. Syrian President Bashar Assad on Sunday outlined a new peace initiative that includes a national reconciliation conference and a new government and constitution but demanded regional and Western countries stop funding and arming rebels first. (AP Photo/Syrian State Television via AP video)
 Assad in the Opera house (AP)

 Anybody who so far had preserved the least simmer of hope that in the end the Syrian president Assad and his entourage might bow their heads and try to go for a compromise, can by now wave goodbye to silly ideas like that. Just read Reuters report about Assad's latest speech, today in Damascus:   

A defiant President Bashar al-Assad called on Sunday for national mobilization in a "war to defend the nation", describing rebels fighting him as terrorists and agents of foreign powers with whom it was impossible to negotiate.
Appearing in an opera house in central Damascus packed with cheering supporters, the Syrian leader delivered his first speech to an audience since June last year, and his first public comments since a television interview in November.
He unveiled what he described as a peace initiative to end the 21-month-old uprising. But the proposal, including a reconciliation conference that would exclude "those who have betrayed Syria", was certain to be rejected by enemies who have already said they will not negotiate unless he leaves power.
He spoke confidently for about an hour before a crowd of cheering loyalists, who occasionally interrupted him to shout and applaud, at one point raising their fists and chanting: "With blood and soul we sacrifice for you, O Bashar!"
At the end of the speech, supporters rushed to the stage, mobbing him and shouting: "God, Syria and Bashar is enough!" as a smiling Assad waved and was escorted from the hall.

AFP mentions that Assad accused his opponents of 'carrying the Al-Qaeda-ideology'. 
It also spells out Assad's reconciliation mechanism: 

"Regional and international countries must stop funding the armed men to allow those displaced to return to their homes... right after that our military operations will cease," he said.
After that the government would step up contacts to convene a national dialogue conference with regime opponents "from inside and outside" the country, who do not take orders from abroad.
"We will dialogue with the masters (of their decisions) not the slaves (of foreign powers," Assad said to wild applause from crowds packed into the Dar al-Assad Centre for Culture and Arts in Damascus.
According to the initiative, the conference should draw up a "National Charter" that will be the reference document for the political and economic future of Syria.
"This charter will be put up for a referendum vote," Assad said.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Ahmed Ouyahia, considered likely candidate for president of Algeria, steps down as party head

One of Algeria's most prominent politicians, Ahmed Ouyahia, announced Thursday his resignation as secretary general of the National Democratic Rally. For much of the past year, several major figures in the party have been pushing for Ouyahia to step down. Ouyahia's resignation comes one year before presidential elections, for which he was not long ago considered to be a front-runner, because of his backing by the nation's powerful generals. Algeria regularly holds presidential and parliamentary elections, but true power is believed to be held by a shadowy collection of generals working behind the scenes.President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in power since 1999, announced he would not run for a fourth term next year, leaving the race for the presidency wide open.
 Political analyst Ahmed Adimi of Algiers University, said Ouyahia was pushed out of power by the generals to clear the way for new faces ahead of elections to give the country's politics some semblance of change amid popular discontent. "The powers that be need stability in the parties of the ruling coalition but with new personalities at their head," he said. "Ouyahia's mission is over."
On Friday, the Algerian daily El-Khabar, reputed for its close contacts to security services, suggested that Ouyahia was pushed out because of his barely concealed presidential ambitions.
 Ouyahia represented Algeria in the U.N. Security Council in the 1990s before taking control of the National Democratic Rally in 1999 soon after it was formed. He was prime minister from 2003 to 2006 and again from 2008 to 2012 and was often seen as a rival to the president.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Casualty figures in Syria reach 60.000 and conflict does not seem to be over soon

Clashes intensify near Aleppo’s airport
 Many were expecting the collapse of the Assad-regime in the near future, but Syria-watcher Joshua Landis is of a different opinion. While the UN released new, shocking casualty figures - some 60.000 in two years - Landis predicted that Assad may hold out well into 2014:

“Absent some dramatic increase in external intervention, Assad could still be there in 2014,” says Joshua Landis, a Syria expert at the University of Oklahoma. “There’s nothing obvious in the current dynamic that’s going to force him out. He has barricaded the major cities with layers of security, allowing the impoverished periphery of some to fall into rebel hands, but then using his air power and artillery to devastate those neighborhoods. Almost two years into the uprising and despite the rebels’ recent momentum, they have not yet taken full control of a single major city or town. That’s a bad sign for the rebels.”

He told the Guardian that rebels remain divided, under-funded and poorly equipped. He said:
Ethnic and sectarian divisions make victory difficult. Poverty hurts the regime, but also it hurts rebels, who are scavenging and beginning to cannibalize each other.
The Syrian army, by contrast remains cohesive, fully armed and with a clear command and control structure, Landis pointed out. It has also changed tactics to focus on protecting Damascus and the survival of the regime, Landis claimed.
It has learned it cannot control everything and has fallen back. The south and Damascus is much more difficult terrain for rebels than north and Aleppo.
Meanwhile the UN released a new study into the casualties in  Syria. U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay said in Geneva that researchers cross-referencing seven sources over five months of analysis had listed 59,648 people killed in Syria between March 15, 2011 and November 30, 2012. "The number of casualties is much higher than we expected and is truly shocking," she said. "Given that there has been no let-up in the conflict since the end of November, we can assume that more than 60,000 people have been killed by the beginning of 2013."

 And no, no end in sight.