Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Saudi toll in fight against Houthis is 73 dead

Saudi Deputy-Defense minister prince Khalid bin Sultan shakes hands with Saudi troops near theYemeni border. 

AL-KHOBA/JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia has given Yemeni infiltrators still hiding in the southern border village of Jabiriya 24 hours to vacate the area or face death. “They have 24 hours to surrender, or we will destroy them,” Prince Khaled bin Sultan, assistant minister of defense and aviation, warned Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters in this border town, Prince Khaled said 73 Saudi soldiers have been killed, 470 wounded and 26 missing since fighting broke out in November between Saudi forces and Yemeni infiltrators. “We believe that 12 (of the missing soldiers) were killed, while we do not know about the fate of the remaining 14,” the minister said.
He said the number of wounded had reached 470, adding that the majority of them had been treated and had left hospital, while 60 still remained in hospitals. He said the enemies had suffered heavy losses during the military operation.
This is the first time the Kingdom has given a death toll for the fighting between Saudi forces and Yemeni intruders, which began more than a month and a half ago. On Nov. 3, rebels killed a Saudi border guard and occupied two villages inside Saudi territory.
The following day, Saudi military jets began bombing enemy positions. Prince Khaled said that the main operation is now over. “The southern border is now under the complete control of Saudi forces.”
Informed sources told Arab News that the southern border area was calm on Tuesday.
Prince Khaled said Saudi forces would remain in the area until the last of the intruders are expelled.
“What we are doing now is bringing things to normal. We have also made arrangements to prevent infiltration and other crimes,” the minister told reporters.
He indicated that the infiltrators were backed by foreign parties. “It seems that their allegiance is not to their country.” He praised Saudi forces for their bravery and their efforts in driving away the intruders.

Egypt blocks Gaza Freedom March

Egyptian authorities rejected a request by international activists Monday to stage a scheduled march to the Gaza Strip through the Egyptian border town of Rafah to mark the one-year anniversary of Israel's three-week-long assault on the coastal enclave during which more than 1400 Palestinians were killed.
"Some international organizations have requested permission for a solidarity march--the 'Gaza Freedom March'-- into the Gaza Strip," the Egyptian Foreign Ministry declared in a statement. "Egypt finds it difficult to cooperate with this march in light of the sensitive situation in the Gaza Strip."

According to Codepink, an American rights group, march organizers had set November 30 as a cut-off date for registration in order to give Egyptian officials sufficient time to clear would-be participants for entry into the strip.

Egypt often acts sensitively--and, at times, aggressively--to international solidarity campaigns with the Gaza Strip, which has been ruled by Palestinian resistance movement Hamas since 2007. In October, the 'Miles of Smiles' solidarity group was denied entry into the territory for five weeks on the grounds that it had not obtained official authorization. The group came with 220 wheel chairs for Palestinians who had become disabled as a result of the Israeli attack.
 In February the German-Egyptian peace activist and blogger Philip Rizk waqs detained for four days for attempting to cross into the Gaza Strip 'illegally'. In the same month, Magdy Hussein, head of Egypt's frozen Islamist Labor Party, was sentenced to two years in jail by an Egyptian military court for illegally crossing into the territory during the assault. On the domestic front, meanwhile, the Egyptian government has been cracking down on Gaza solidarity protests, fearing that these might bolster the popularity of its foremost political rival, the Muslim Brotherhood opposition movement, which has historical and ideological ties with Hamas.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

US helped Yemen attack Al-Qaeda members but killed civilians instead

Tribal leaders from the Yemeni region of Arhab.

WASHINGTON — The United States provided firepower, intelligence and other support to the government of Yemen as it carried out raids this week to strike at suspected hide-outs of  Al Qaeda within its borders, The New York Times reports. The paper quotes American officials familiar with the operations. They said that the American support was approved by President Obama and came at the request of the Yemeni government. Yemeni officials said their security forces killed at least 34 militants in the broadest attack on the terrorist group in years. A range of Pentagon, military and intelligence officials declined to provide details of the reported attacks, which, according to ABC News, included American missiles.

The sattacks occurred on Thursday in the governorate of Abyan in the Arhab region. Residents of Abyan said that there was no al-Qaeda training camp in the area and that the raids had destroyed several homes.
Abbas al-Assal, a local human rights activist who was at the scene, said 64 people were killed, including 23 children and 17 women. 'The government wants to show the world that it is serious in pursuing al-Qaeda elements and that the south of Yemen is a refuge for al-Qaeda. That is not true at all,'  al-Assal told the Associated Press by telephone. Ali Mohammed Mansour, an inhabitant of the area, gave similar casualty figures, and said that he helped bury the dead in a mass grave.

Mohammed Hazran, Abyan's deputy governor, said that 10 al-Qaeda suspects were killed in the attack, including Mohammed Saleh al-Kazemi, a Saudi who had resided in the country since fighting in Afghanistan.
He was imprisoned in Yemen for two years before being released in 2005. But a provincial security official said that 'grave mistakes occurred in the operation due to failures of information, which led to a large number of civilian deaths'.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Ashton said what had to be said

'East Jerusalem is occupied territory together with the West Bank. The EU is opposed to the destruction of homes, the eviction of Arab residents and the construction of the separation barrier.'

Well, finally some firm words from a European dignitary,  in this case the newly appointed European Foreign Minister Jane Ashton baroness of Upholland. (Upholland !?). She said it in her maidenspeech for Members of the European Parlement on Tuesday in Strassbourg.

The baroness called Israel's recent decision to temporarily freeze settlement growth outside Jerusalem a 'first step', a cooler qualification than the EU foreign ministers who last week took 'positive note' of the move.
She also said that 'we're deeply concerned about the daily living conditions of people in Gaza', and added that 'Israel should reopen the crossings without delay' in order to let food and other much needed goods through.

On top of that she had some veiled criticism of  Tony Blair, the special representative of the Quartett (consisting of the US, EU, UN, and Russia) to Israel and the Palestinians, who has not achieved anything in the two years or so that he is active in this function. 'The Quartet must demonstrate that it is worth the money, that it is capable of being reinvigorated,' se said. ' I have talked about this with both sides in Jerusalem, to Mr Blair and the [US] secretary of state.'
Ms Ashton's office said that she plans to travel to the Middle East to meet leaders in late January or early February, with Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iran also high on her agenda.

So, what is so remarkable about these words? That nobody expected  this from her, who previously was a minister of Commerce in the Commission and was considered to be rather inexperienced as far as 'big' politics were concerned. That she said what should have been said much earlier by the EU and this same clear way. And that she left out niceties towards Israel like it being the only democracy, threatened by terrorists, that the Palestinians should immediately return to the negotiating table, and so on  Had not she, but someone like our Dutch minister Maxime Verhagen been sitting in her chair it would have been otherwise, be sure of that. So let 's rejoice  that it's Upholland and not Holland (as Anja Meulenbelt today more or less suggested on her blog).

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Olmert, last year, offered a state without Jerusalem

Haaretz  Today published the “map for a permanent solution with the Palestinians” that was proposed by the former Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, to the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas in September last year. The “peace plan”, Olmert presented does not include any withdrawal from Jerusalem, annexes all settlements surrounding Jerusalem, and also annexes all settlement blocs to Israel, writes Saed Bannoura of  IMEMC. The plan was never made public.
Olmert offered areas in the Negev desert and some areas near the Gaza Strip, in addition to a passage between Gaza and the West Bank. According to the plan, Israel annexes 6.3 %  of West Bank areas and evacuates isolated settlements located deep in the West Bank.
It keeps the settlement blocs of Maaleh Adumim, Ghush Tzion, Ariel, and all settlements located around the Old city of Jerusalem, and considers East Jerusalem and its settlements as part of the state of Israel.
 Noteworthy is that the implementation of the Olmert plan would have required the evacuation of tens of thousands of settlers and the removal of hallmarks of the West Bank settlement enterprise such as Ofra, Beit El, Elon Moreh and Kiryat Arba, as well as the Jewish community in Hebron itself. 
 The former Prime Minister offered  the Palestinians 5.8% of  Israel’s lands in return,  mainly desert areas, in addition to offering a ‘safe passage’ between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.  He offered transferring 327 kilometers of “Israel’s land’ to the Palestinian Authority; the areas are in the Beit She'an Valley near Kibbutz Tirat Tzvi; the” Judean Hills” near Nataf and Mevo Betar; and in the area of Lachish and of the Yatir Forest.
For the map belonging to the plan, click here.
As for the refugees issue, the plan rejects the internationally guaranteed Right of Return, and only offers allowing a limited number of refugees into the Palestinian territories, and not to their cities and towns wiped out in 1948 by the creation of the state of Israel. Haaretz said that Olmert and the former United States administration, under George Bush, reached an understanding for the development of the Negev and the Galilee in order to house the settlers who would be evacuated from some West Bank settlements. Some of the settlers would be moved to West bank settlement blocs.

Houthi rebels say US planes took part in bombardments

Demonstration in a southern Yemeni town. The  crowd is holding a poster with a picture of a protester who was killed in a previous demonstration.

Houthi rebels in the north of Yemen reported on Tuesday air strikes on several different areas of Sa’adah by American warplanes. The attacks lasted from Sunday evening until early Monday morning and killed 120 pople, according to the Houthi's.
The accusation came one day after the rebel forces accused Saudi Arabia of sending their own air force into Yemeni airspace, killing 70 people in an attack on a market in Razeh.
"The American warplanes completed over twenty-eight air raids on Razeh, Shada, Dhyah, and Ghamer, from Sunday evening until dawn. The aircraft were extremely advanced, carrying huge ordinances. They (the Americans) have been following our positions through the use of satellites,” a statement released by the Houthi' s said.
"In addition to the American attacks, more than 375 missiles have been launched from Saudi territories into al-Malahaid, al-Mamdood, al-Dukhan and al-Rumaih Mountains,” the statement emphasized.

General David Petraeus, who now heads the United States Central Command, gave an exclusive interview to Al Arabiya on Sunday where he discussed Washington's support of Yemen and Iraq and the country's relationship with Syria.
The general said the U.S. is providing security support to Yemen within the framework of military cooperation provided by Washington to its allies in the region. He emphasized that U.S. ships found in Yemeni waters are not only there for monitoring but for also for stopping the flow of arms to the Houthi rebels. He stopped short however of admitting that the US is actively heping the central Yemeni government.
Human Rights Watch condemned Yemeni security forces for abuses in the country's south, including the killing of at least 11 unarmed protestors during the past two years, in a report released on Tuesday.
Yemeni forces had "carried out widespread abuses in the south -- unlawful killings, arbitrary detentions, beatings, crackdowns on freedom of assembly and speech, arrests of journalists, and others," said the global rights group.
On six occasions in 2008 and 2009, "security forces opened fire on unarmed protesters, often without warning and aiming at them from short range. At least 11 people were killed and dozens were wounded," said the HRW report.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Bedouin 'not yet ready' for democracy, 61 years after birth of the state

Amram Kalani (in the middle with kipa and microphone), appointed chairman of regional council of Abu-Basma, visits a school in one of the villages. 

Six years ago the Israeli government established the regional council of Abu- Basma for a number of Bedouin villages near Beer el-Sabe (Beer Sheva) in the Naqab (Negev) desert. This happened after a long batlle of these villages to be recognized. Ten of them got their official recognition, several others are still waiting te be made official. The council was put under the leadership of an appointed Israeli mayor. The council  is responsible for providing certain services for residents of the unrecognized villages as well. Approximately 30.000 people fall within its jurisdiction.
One of the tasks of the mayor was to prepare elections that were to be held one year later. They were postponed instead, till December 2009, supposedly because the inhabitants of the Abu Basma region were not yet sufficiently prepared. But just one month before they finally were going to take place, the Israeli Knesset on 16 November adopted a special amendment to the Regional Authorities' Law, which again postponed the elections.This time for an indefinit period.
The new law will maintain the government-appointed council, which is comprised of a majority of Israeli Jewish members and chaired by Amram Kalani, someone close to the orthodox right-wing Shas party, to which the Interior minister, who initiated the amendment of the law, also belongs. 
The new law gives the Interior minister absolute power to declare the postponement of the first election of a Regional Council after its establishment. No period of time is specified. Prior to the new amendment, the law stipulated that elections must be held within four years.
 The Human Rights Organization Adalah, which is mainly concerned with the right of the minorities in Israel, will challenge the law. Adalah attorney Ala' Mahajneh sent an urgent letter on 9 November 2009 to the Interior Minister, Eli Yishai, and Knesset Speaker, Reuven Rivlin, demanding that they reject the proposed amendment and remove it from the Knesset's voting agenda. The letter also demanded the holding of elections. Now that the amendment has been adopted, Adalah is petitioning the High Court.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Israels genuine efforts to get the Palestinians back at the table

It is really moving to see how serious Israel is about the ten months building freeze on the West Bank (Jerusalem excluded) and not touching the building of schools, kindergartens, politice, administrative, community buildings and buildings like gas stations, pumping stations for water and sewerage, electricity, etc.,
For the settlers this is an unusual situation, or should we use the word that Hillary Clinton used, 'unprecedented'. In order to cool their anger over the unprecendentedness of this hardship they took to the streets, demonstrated, quarreled with policemen (picture) and stopped inspectors who are charged with the task to oversee the measure, even though the government at the last minute okayed 84 new buildings containing 492 housing units on top of the 2500 that already had got the green light beforehand. There were only 20 inspectors to check the mesure,  much too few for the task, and therefor Defence minister Ehud Barak took it upon himself to urgently hire an additional 40 of them. Also Barak visited a number of settlements to try and cool the stirred emotions.
Meanwhile the leaders of Yesha, the organization of settlements, visited the prime minister to protest the unusual measure. It was going to harm them economically, they argued, and would frustate younger settlers who wanted to start a family for themselves, as it was going to frustate 'natural growth'. Netanyahu received them with a stern face and tol them the following which I took from his website, the stress of some passages included:
  "The Cabinet decision is the optimal decision for the State of Israel in the complicated diplomatic situation in which we presently find ourselves, and given the various challenges facing us.  We made this tough decision in order to advance Israel's broader interests.  This step makes it clear to the main elements around the world that Israel aspires towards peace and is serious in its intention to achieve peace, while the Palestinians refuse to begin peace negotiations.  This step makes it clear who is refusing peace."

Prime Minister Netanyahu added: "This order is one-time only and it limits the duration of the suspension.  There are nine months and three weeks left.  Once the suspension has expired, we will continue to build.  I want to make it clear: The future of settlement will be determined only in a permanent peace agreement."
In this way we know that the freeze is really a one time thing which is not going to be repeated under whatever circumstances, and that serves only one purpose, namely to make clear to the world who is peace loving and who is not.
Whether the world really will be impressed, remains to be seen. However inside Israel it is a different matter.  There it is -at least to judge from the press - the talk of the day. Ari Shavit of Haaretz heaped praise on the prime minister in way one might rather exspect from a Saudi journalist than an Israeli one. He made us believe that Netanyahu has come more to the left than the late Yitzhak Rabin.. At the other end of the spectre the leftist Yossi Sarid (Meretz) wrote an op-ed in Haaretz in which he vented his anger over the fact that Netanyahu had calld the settlers 'our brothers'. We are not relatives, he wrote:

''When I see how they are burning with desire to use improper means, setting fields afire, chopping down olive trees, hitting children on their way to school, beating soldiers and chasing away inspectors, I immediately look at myself to make sure that they are not me.'' Sarid also referred to an incident on Thursday, in which a settler ran over a Palestinian a few times with his Mercedes (picture), after the Palestinian had entered a settlement with a knife in his hand and had been shot. The Palestinian miraculously survived, the settler was released after questioning.
However, the Yesha leaders scored their point during their visit to Netanyahu. A special ministerial committee was set up, comprising among others the ministers Barak and Benny Begin, to oversee that the freeze is performed with the least possible harm to the settlers.
 Very moving, all these efforts to secure a lasting peace.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Swiss have learned nothing since 1940

The Swiss will never learn. This Sunday they voted 57,5% for a ban on further minarets in their country, on top of the four they already have (the picture is of one of them, in the place Wangen, near Olten). The vote was inspird by the ultra right Swiss Peoples party (Schweitzerische Volkspartei). A happy party represenative in the Swiss parliament,  told afterwards that it was not against muslims or theur right to practice their relegion, bot only against th minaret, which he called ' a political symbol for introducing the sharia step by step. Forced marriages and cemetaries separating the pure and the impure, things we never had in Switzerland'.
Of course nobody believes that the minaret is anything but a symbol for a mosque, just like a clocktower is for a church. So the vote is really against the spread of mosques, and a clear expression of xenophobia and racism, something the Swiss have always been good at. It is worth remembering the so called 'Bergier Commission', which in 1999 looked into Switzerland's behavior during the Second World War vis a vis the Jews. It concluded that Switzerland without any outside pressure in 1938 followed the example of nazi-Germany of making a difference between Jews and others by introducing a special stamp in their passports. Also it closed the borders as off 1940 for Jewish refugees, which meant the death of 24.000 of them. Said the report. It is well possible that the number of people that could have been saved was in fact higher.

The vote drew lots of angry reactions from moslim personalities and organisations all over the world. In the Netherlands the local racist Geert Wilders and his followers announced that they will ask the Dutch Government to hold a similar referendum. Once more Wilders, who is a fan of Israeli far rightists like Avigdor Lieberman, showed his real face. Would he realize from what kind of pool he draws his followers? The Israeli blogger Noam Sheizaff (The Promised Land) wrote that he could imagine the Israeli far right celebrating this vote, as once more proof that they are not alone in their fight againts Palestinians and Arabs, which they perceive as a fight aginst islam and a 'clash of civilizations'. But, writes Sheizaf, The historical irony, of course, is that our allies in this cultural war to the joy of the Israeli Right. are the same political forces – if not the same people – that used to persecute our grandparents just a few decades ago. Since there aren’t that many Jews today in Europe, the xenophobes of the Old World decided to pick the Blacks and the Muslims as their current enemies, much

Friday, November 27, 2009

Germany: general.minister and ass. minister resign over Kunduz bombing which killed civilians

A German general and and an assistant minister of Defense have resigned because they did not tell the truth about a bombardment early September on two fuel trucs which had been hijacked in the Afghan province Kunduz by the Taliban. The trucs got stuck in the mud of a river bank. The Taliban first asked local villagers to help them to get the trucks moving again, and when that did not succeed they abandoned the trucks and told the villagers to help themselves to the fuel.
What the German authorities apparently told parliament is that the people killed in the attack where all members of the Taliban. What they had on their desks, however, was reports of the Afghan government that 69 Taliban were killed as well as 30 villagers. After the tabloid Bildzeitung revealed this, the assistant minister and the general had to go, while the former minister of Defense, Jung, who has a different portfolio now, is under pressure to leave. [Update: also Jung, presently minister of Social Affairs, resigned on Friday].
What makes me angry is these numbers of 69 and 30 that the Germans  keep repeating. They were fake. As fake as the elections that kept Karzai for another five years in power. In Germany apparently nobody reads papers other than the German ones. The British Guardian went to the spot of the tankers and reported that only civilians got killed. Their number was estimated at at least 100 at the time. I mentioned that on my other blog, here and here. (See also Juan Cole's blog who repeats the number of 100 civilians as well).
The whole affair is illustrative for the way Nato countries operate in Afghanistan. Like blind elephants who want to believe that they are 'helping Afghanistan on its way to peace and security'. The peace of the dead, it seems.

Eid mubarak

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

New wave of arrests among students in Iran

Students meet during the protests against the rigged presidential elections in June. 

Scores of Iranian students have been arbitrarily arrested and prosecuted in recent days, as authorities apparently seek to stifle protests expected on 7 December, National Student Day, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran reported today. Detentions of students have occurred throughout Iran. The Campaign has received information of such detentions in Isfahan, Babol, Chaharmahal-o-Bakhtiari, Shiraz, Ilam, Kermanshah, Ghazvin, and in Tehran in Azad University, Tehran University, Amirkabir and Elm-o-Sanaat.
“In order to silence the student movement, a wholesale crackdown on Iranian students is underway, which not only violates their rights, but also disrupts their studies and the lives of their families,” stated Hadi Ghaemi, a spokesperson for the Campaign.
Little or no information has been disclosed by the authorities about students in detention. In some cases, students have been expelled from their universities following their arrests, or subjected to university disciplinary procedures. Some have been sentenced to prison terms and lashings. In other cases, the detainees have been arrested in connection with their participation in peaceful demonstrations.
Students in general face restrictions on the freedom of expression in teh ilamic republic of Iran, but the situation has worsened under Ahmadinejad.

Houthis say Saudi attacks failed - new separatist demonstrations in the South

The UN administerd Mazraq camp in North Yemen. It is estimated that the war against the Houthi´s has caused 175.000 poeple to fly their homes.

Houthi rabels in North Yemen on Tuesday accused Yemen’s army of cooperating with Saudi forces to launch attacks against them.They also said they had defeated Saudi assaults from across the border. ‘The people’s army charged with protecting the border is cooperating with the Saudi army in bombing and ground attacks... against the country and its sons,’ a statement from the Houthis, said.
The Houthis also said, in a separate statement, that they withstood Saudi attacks into Yemen.
‘The Saudi attack continued on three fronts, but two were broken by Monday evening,’ it said.
‘The attack on the third front continued until night, but was broken completely and the (Saudi) aggressors suffered heavy losses in men and materiel.’
Witnesses in the frontier area told the newsagency AFP that clashes between the Saudis and rebels continued on Tuesday, and that there were intense artillery strikes and air raids on Houthi positions all along the border.
The witnesses could not see if the bombardment and air raids were launched by Saudi or Yemeni forces. The rebels said that after they had defeated the Saudi advance, bombing resumed along the border, and continued until early on Tuesday. The bombing targeted the Jebel Al Dukhan, Jebel Rumayh, Jebel Al Madoud, Malaheez, Shedah and Hasama areas and various border villages. 
The Saudi army joined the fighting on 4 November after rebels killed a border guard and occupied two small villages inside Saudi territory. They said they did so because the Saudis had broken theur word that they would not permit the Yemeni army to use Saudi territory around the Jebel Dukhan to attack the Houthis from there.

In the meantime there were renewed clashes in the South between security forces and demonstrators. Five ¨people were killed, included two soldiers, in the southern province of Shabwa. The deaths came on Wednesday when security forces and soldiers tried to stop thousands of pro-secession protesters from entering the city, AFP quoted an unnamed local official as saying. Ten people were wounded at the entrance of the provincial capital of Ataq, 500 kilometers southeast of Sana'a, he said. 

The war against the Houthi´s in the  North, rebels of the Zaidi (sevener shiite faith, the faith of the ruler of Yemen who was deposed in thje 1962 revolution) dates back to 1994 when theri first leader Hussein al-Houthi was killed and replaced by his brother Abdel-Malik al-Houthi. The war flared up after presidnet Ali Abdalla Sale declared a policy of the scorched earth in August of this year. 
The problems in the South dates back to the early nineties. The two Yemens, the North and the communist peoples republic of the South were united in 1990, but in 1994 the South seceded again  and there was a bloody civil war that was won by the North. This year there have been many demonstations and clashes throughout the South of people who renew demands for independence of  the South. The picture has been taken during a demonstration on 27 October in the city of Nabilin.   

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Abtahi, fomer Iranian vice-president, gets 6 years

Mohamed Ali Abtahi, a former Iranian vice-president has been sentenced to six years in jail in connection with the protests against the fraudulent Iranian election in June that returned president Ahmadinejad to power.
Abtahi - the pictures show him before and during his trial - was vice-president under president Khatami from 1997 - 2005. During the election campaign he was an adviser to Mehdi Karroubi, one of the opposition candidates. During his process he was accused of instigating street protests. The daily Jahan  e-Eqtesadi reported that he was informed of the sentence on Saturday. The paper quoted his daughter that he was brought home from jail, that he house was searched and that lateron he was taken to a courtroom where he heard his sentence.

Iranian judiciary said last week that five people have been sentenced to death and 81 have received jail terms of up to 15 years in connection with protests and violence after the vote. They did not give  names. The sentences can be appealed.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Soccer war Algeria - Egypt

The news is serious: Angry Egyptians were demonstrating on Friday for the second day in front of the the Algerian embassy in the Zamalek district in Cairo. The night before there were no less than 2000 people there, clashing with riot police, overturning two police cars and demanding that alle Algerians leave Egypt. Eleven policemen and 24 demonstrators were wounded.
The reason is soccer. Last week Egypt played Algeria. Both countries are arch rivals when it comes to soccer and the tension was high already then: the bus with the Algerian team was attacked on the way from Cairo airport to the  hotel en a few players were (lightly) hurt by broken glass.
Egypt beat Algeria 2 - 0. After that a play off was needed, because both countries ended wit the same amount of points in their pool. On wednesday night the two teams met again in the Sudanese capital Khartoum - on neutral ground. There Algeria beat Egypt 1-0. Thanks to a goal by defense player Antar Yahya it´s the Algerians that will go to Johannesburg in 2010. But afterwards there was more beating: Algerian fans chased Egyptians in the streets of Khartoum with knives and all sorts of weapons, Egyptian radio- and tv-reporters fled and were isolated for hours in a resataurant, the sons of president Mubarak had to take refuge in their hotel. People were wounded, one Egyptian girl reportedly lost an eye.
The next day Egypt summoned the Algerian ambassador and recalled its own ambassador from Algiers. The Egyptian football Federation condemned the behaviour of the Algerians and withdrew from the North-African Football Federation. It´s a full blown crisis. 

PS. What I almost forgot: after the first match the Algerian newspaper Al Shorouq reported that Algerians had been killed in Cairo (which wasn´t true). After that angry Algerian mobs burned Egyptian flags in the streets of Algiers (see video). As you can see on the above picture the Egypians yesterday answered in kind.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

What if these rabbis had been imams and their books had been fatwas

Only a week or so after the arrest of Jewish terrorist Jaacov (Jack) Teitel who shot and killed at least two Palestinians, there was the news story about one rabbi Yitzhak Shapira who heads the yeshiva (school for religious higher learning) Od Yosef Chai in the settlement Yizhar, not far from Nablus. Shapira published a book in which he explains that the killing of gentiles (including children) is permitted if they pose a danger to Jews, or might do so in the future.
There were some shocked reactions. How could one reach such conclusions on the basis of  religious principles that most people understand to contain quite different values.- values more like 'Thou shalt not kill', or the well known dictum by the ancient rabbi Hillel: 'Don't do what is hatefull to you, to someone else.´ But one should not have been that much surprised. Shapira is not alone. And he had his predecessors, as will be told below.

This is what Shapira says in his book 'Torat haMelekh, The Kings Tora:“In any situation in which a non-Jew’s presence endangers Jewish lives, the non-Jew may be killed even if he is a righteous Gentile and not at all guilty for the situation that has been created…When a non-Jew assists a murderer of Jews and causes the death of one, he may be killed, and in any case where a non-Jew’s presence causes danger to Jews, the non-Jew may be killed…The [Din Rodef] dispensation applies even when the pursuer is not threatening to kill directly, but only indirectly…Even a civilian who assists combat fighters is considered a pursuer and may be killed. Anyone who assists the army of the wicked in any way is strengthening murderers and is considered a pursuer. A civilian who encourages the war gives the king and his soldiers the strength to continue. Therefore, any citizen of the state that opposes us who encourages the combat soldiers or expresses satisfaction over their actions is considered a pursuer and may be killed. Also, anyone who weakens our own state by word or similar action is considered a pursuer…Hindrances—babies are found many times in this situation. They block the way to rescue by their presence and do so completely by force. Nevertheless, they may be killed because their presence aids murder. There is justification for killing babies if it is clear that they will grow up to harm us, and in such a situation they may be harmed deliberately, and not only during combat with adults.”…
In a chapter entitled “Deliberate harm to innocents,” the book explains that war is directled mainly against the pursuers, but those who belong to the enemy nation are also considered the enemy because they are assisting murderers. 
(One explanations might ne needed here: Din Rodef is a Tamudic term for a situation in which an
an individual attempts to commit murder. In that case the Halacha permits a bystander to use force, even deadly force, to stop the potential murderer, whether he is Jewish or not).
 Shapira and his co-author, rabbi Yosef Elitzur (who incidentally, is the son of rabbi Michael Hershkovitz, a teacher at the far right yeshiva Mercaz haRav in Jerusalem) also advocate revenge attacks: "Revenge is an essential [war] need to prove that evil behavior does not pay off." Therefore, "sometime one must commit ruthless acts that are designed to create the correct element of fear." And "One does not need a decision by the nation to permit the spilling of blood of those from the evil empire. Even individuals attacked by the evil sovereignty can retaliate."

At least the inhabitants of the Palestinian village Burin, which is right next to Shapira´s settelement Yizhar, don't have to wonder anymore why it is quite normal that for time to time their olive trees are sowed off or why they are being harassed on a more or less regular basis. 

But Shapira and Elitzur are not the only ones at Od Yosef Chai (=Yosef still lives) yeshiva who think like that. In 2003 their collegue rabbi Yosef Paley was arrested and (briefly?) detained on charges of incitement to murder after he wrote an article in which he advocated to chase away or murder all males in a population after it had been defeated. In war, he wrote, the main mitvah (command) was ''not to leave the conquered population in the area we conquered. The fleeing whould flee and those that don't should be killed. Every male over 13 (and thus destroy the national existence)''...''So we must not strive to leave under our rule the conquered population after it is defeated. If they escape, all the better. And if they don't escape, kill every male, or at least act act towards their migration to other countries.''

So, after Paley wrote things like that some years ago, nobody should have been  that much surprised right now that his collegues appear to have similar ideas.The Shin Bet could have been aware of it,  one would think. But, it goes even further than that. Shapira's predecessor (and teacher) at Od Yosef Chai was nobody else than rabbi Yithak Ginzburg, a follower of date of the the notorious rabbi Meir Kahane, whose racist party was forbidden in 1994 after one of his followers, Baruch Goldstein, a medical doctor, had killed 29 Arabs and wounded more than 100 others during prayer in the Ibrahim mosque in Hebron. Rabbi Ginzburg (picture) devoted a booklet to this murderous Goldstein  Goldstein, under the title 'Baruch haGewer (Baruch the Man) . In an interview with Maariv (12 Januari 2001) he said this about the book: ''Dr Baruch Goldstein was a Jew with a warm hart, a doctor who saved lives. What he did was against his character, but he believed that he was saving the Jewish community in Hebron. In the pamphlet that I wrote about him I explained the complexity of his action and I came to the conclusion that we can learn a lesson from him. He was one hundred percent sane, so sane that he could overcome his fear of the Arabs and give up his life for Israel. This is what makes me feel that he gave his life for the Name of God.''         

An from the same Maariv-interview: 'First of all I would suggest that we target Arab property. Rather than saying let's throw all the Arabs out of Israel, we should say let's take their work from them and do it ourselves. Next I would suggest wiping out all terrorists. Anyone with blood on his  hands, must be killed immediately rather tha waiting while he sits in jail and than gets released. It'spossible to get rid of a terrorist cell in less than an hour. Yamit, a city in Israel, was dismantled in less than one hour, one hour! So it's possible to do the same thing with Beit Jala. Soldiers shooing on Arabs is a good thing. It's what the Torah says. Simple logic says that straight away one must target the closest Arab village and destroy it to its very foundation. Afterwards one need to do a good deed and immediately establish a Jewish settlement next to the destroyed village. ''

''The Arabs who hate us don't have the right to live in this country. They want to take the land that does not belong to them, so they are also robbers. The concept of the Thirld World which is the most primitive on the scale of nations, refers to the Arabs who are the lowest rung on the scale. According to Kabbalah, the Jewish people are the most advanced people in mindand spirit, but Yishmael is a nation of slaves and the character of of a slave is licenscious and undisciplined.''


Another example of the moral standard of Israeli rabbis: A few times the past weeks soldiers of the Israeli army have refused to evacuate so called 'illegal outposts' on the West Bank or have demonstrated against doing so. All of these soldiers are members of th Kfir Brigade, a brigade that for the most part is deployed in the West Bank and doing work like manning checkpoints, patrolling, doing house searches  and making arrests. The men are drawn in increasing numbers from West Bank settlements,... and also from yeshivot in these settelments. One of the rabbi's that inspired them to refuse to evacuate Jews is rabbi Eliezer Melamed (picture) of the yeshiva of Har Bracha. In a book called Revivim that is distributed among all the graduates of his yeshiva, he wrote: 'It's a simple halacha (law) is that it is forbidden for any person, whether a soldier or an officer ... to participate in the strictly forbidden act of expelling Jews from their homes and handing over any portion of the Land of Israel to enemies. Those who violate this violate several commandments of the Torah ... Moreover, anyone who considers the situation realistically knows with certainty that any such action encourages those who hate us and endangers the lives of many in Israel."


In the choir of rabbinical voices of the last weeks, also the IDF's chief rabbi mde his voice be heard. In a pre-army yeshiva program last week he told soldiers that he who "shows mercy" toward the enemy in wartime will be "damned." This brigade general Avichai Rontzki also told the yeshiva students that religious individuals made better combat troops. Speaking Thursday at the Hesder yeshiva in the West Bank settlement of Karnei Shomron , Rontzki (who himself lives in the settlement Itamar) referred to Maimonides' discourse on the laws of war. That text quotes a passage from the Book of Jeremiah stating: "Cursed be he that doeth the work of the Lord with a slack hand, and cursed be he that keepeth back his sword from blood." One woul almost be happy that the Army'chief rabbi at least goes no further than to damn soldiers that not fight and kill with their whole heart and soul and are weaklings that show mercy.

The questions that have to be asked about Shapira, Ginzburg and the likes of them (unfortunately they are far from alone) are: Why did nobody anything to stop this dangerous racism and incitement? Why is nobody doing it right now? (It seems that Ginzbug has been charged once, but the persecution dropped the case and lateron gave as an excuse that his file had been lost).
Another matter of interest is: How come the 'lessons' of Ginzburg, Shapira and Co, differ from the nationalist school of Rav Kook and his Mercaz haRav? This school of thought (in a litteral but also a a more abstract sense) grew out in the eighties to be the spiritual ´mother´ of Gush Emunim. One of its main credo´s was that the ´redemption of the land of Israel´ (Judea and Samaria of course included) would lead to the redemption of th Jewish people.  The school groomed leaders like Hanan Porath, Moshe (Kiryat Arba) Levinger, Chaim Druckman and Yoel bin-Nun, leaders of the hard core of Gush Emunim which played a big role in the early years of the settlement of the West Bank. But it  did not advocate killing Arabs. It´s teachings were that the Arabs were permitted to stay as long as they accepted that this was the land of the Jews and would obey their rules, or otherwise they whould be encouraged to leave.
The late Meir Kahane and his (in 1994 fobidden) Kach Party played a role in a gradual transformation towards an even more militant approach, which did not refrain from violence and murder to reach its goals.  Both Ginzburg and the Hebron killer Goldstein were followers of Kahane. But what seems to have laid a new fundament under the deadly Ginzburg and Shapira approaches, is the fact that the Chabad movement of the late Lubavitcher rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson (picture) soem two decades ago made a switch from an ultra-religious movement only concerned with social and religious matters towards movement that also became ultra- nationalist. Many of the yeshivot of later years became strong bastions of the Chabad-movemnet and Od Yosef Chai is no exception. Ginzburg is a Chabadnik and so was Golstein in a way, who was very proud of the fact that his mother was a Schneerson and a distant relative of the rebbe in New York.

One of the basic teachings of Chabad, it seems, is the conviction that God made the Jewish soul of a higher quality than the souls of the goyim, which are consequently worth less (although it seems tthere is a kind of scale - one can be higher or lower on the ladder). It's this distinction among the value of souls, that makes Ginzburg and his pupils speak about 'Íshmaelites' and their slave nature. Also this  perception of the value of human life makes it easy to talk about the killing of gentiles in a way that - strangely enough - reminds us of Hitler and his talk of Herrenvolk and Lebensraum. How is it possible that this is going on and not too many authorities or friends of Israel are crying woolf? What if these people would have been imams? And their books would have been fatwas (what in a way they are) to kill Jews in a similar manner?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Palestinian BDS movement asks Gulf states to boycott firms that work on Jerusalem light rail

Light Rail bridge in West Jerusalem built by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. The bridge is part of the light rail system that is to run partly through occupied territory. Under: carriage delivered by Alstom.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in Palestine, a grouping of Palestinian civil society organisations, has turned its focus on the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which is preparing to build a multi-billion dollar railway to link its six members.
The BDS campaign has called on the GCC and its member states to shun French transport giants Alstom and Veolia, both of which are involved in the construction of the Jerusalem Light Rail (JLR), an Israeli project that is expected to link the eastern and western parts of Occupied Jerusalem as well as Jewish colonies on the West Bank.

The BDS campaign has proven successful in Europe, where companies have excluded the two transport companies from tenders and divested from them, leading to a loss of $7 billion to $8 billion in opportunity cost, according to campaigners. 'Despite these important achievements in the West, no Arab state, especially in the Gulf, has to date excluded Alstom or Veolia from bidding for their public contracts,' the movement said in a press release. The two companies are facing a lawsuit in France filed by the Palestine Liberation Organisation and a French advocacy group, Association France-Palestine Solidarité for their activities in Occupied Jerusalem.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lebanon has a cabinet!

Well, well, Lebanon has a cabinet. Akhiran! After almost five months of wrangling and talking and foot-dragging. It seems that the task of Hariri jr, the prime minister became somewhat easier after king Abdullah visted Damascus a while ago and Syria and Saudi-Arabia became closer.
It's a national cabinet, consisting of 30 ministers according to the formula: 15-10-5, which means that 15 of them belong to the 14 March coalition of Saad Hariri, 10 to the oppositional  8 March coalition, and 5 have been nominated by president Sleiman.
Two things were  worth to be mentioned: The christian Kataeb party of Amin Gemayel (14 March) was not happy with the fact that it got only one ministry (Social Affairs) and that it wasn't Education. It threatened to withdraw from the coalition but didn't do it after all (at least not yet).
Th other thing was that among the ten ministers of the 8 March coalition there are two ministers belonging to Hezbollah, while also one of the ministers appointed by president Sleiman is close to Hezbollah. This is important. There is a clause that one third plus one of the ministers is able to block unwelcome proposals. Ten opposition ministers plus one appointed one might, for instance, block a proposal to view Hizbollah differently than as a force that embodies the resistance in the South against Israel and as such has the right to carry arms.
Apart from these facts it's also worth mentioning that Hariri's 14 March coalition in fact no longer constitutes a majority,  after the Druze PSP defected to the other side some three months ago. This is not a factor that promises stability. But for a learned opinion about the rest it is better to pay a visit to the site of Qifa Nabki.  He also has a list of names.

Anti-Jewish slogans on captured Saudi army trucks

It took me some time to figure out what this was. It apparently is a Saudi army vehicle that has been captured by the Northern Yemenite Houthi -rebels (why does everybody spell their name as Houti, it is more logical to write Hawthi). On the side they have attached a Houthi sign. It reads:
      God is great,
      death to America,
      death to Israel,
      curse the Jews,
      Islam is the victor.
I don't know why they are anti-Jewish. Sa'ada, the main city the rebels stem from, used to have quite a number of Jewish inhabitants (artisans and antique dealers, mostly). I visited some of them and their leaders in 1994 and wrote about the fact that they were secretly evacuated by the Americans and the Mossad. At the time I regretted that, because it meant the loss of the last remnants of a very special culture.
It appears in the meantime that the Saudi's are still fighting the Houthi's.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Netanyahu meets Obma: no big deal

"The President and Prime Minister Netanyahu discussed a number of issues in the U.S.-Israel bilateral relationship," the bland White House read-out of the meeting says. "The President reaffirmed our strong commitment to Israel’s security, and discussed security cooperation on a range of issues. The President and Prime Minister also discussed Iran and how to move forward on Middle East peace."
That was all the communiqué mentioned after Netanyahu finally met with president Obama on Monday night, Laura Rozen tells us. No big deal, it seems. It wasn't, though Laura Rozen adds something.The reason why it took several days before the White House agreed to a meeting, she writes, was that the White House wanted something in return. And that something was, as the Wall Street unveiled, a committment on Netanyahu's part that he would express stronger support for negotiations on a Palestinian state in his speech for the (big) general assemblee of United Jewish Communities on Tuesday. Which he did, he appealed to Mahmoud Abbas to come sit an negotiate. Again: big deal. Or?     

Monday, November 9, 2009

Saudi's still fighting with Yemeni Houthi rebels

Saudi Forces are still fighting with Yemeni Houthi rebels in the Jizan border area between the two countries. On Saturday prince Khaled bin Sultan bin Abdel-Aziz, the Saudi assistant minister of Defense and Aviation, who is in the Jizan area, had said that everything was under control. On Monday however, he said that operations continued and that Saudi forces were arresting all people who were connected to the Houthi-rebels in the area. Also he said that an area as wide as 10 km from the border was still being attacked with artillerie and from the air. The whole area ( including several villages)  had been evacuated in the past days, so that anybody who would be found  inside was considered to be an infiltrator with whom would be dealt harsly, he said. (On the pictures, above: arrested Houthi rebels are taken away - don't they look like kids? Down: evacuated inhabitants from the area temporarily live in tents).
 According to medical and official Saudi sources seven Saudi's have been killed in the fighting, among them four women who died when a house was hit by a rocket. Some 78 people were wounded. As for the rebels the number give  varied wildly. Some sources mentioned that 40 had been killed, while scores would have been arrested.

Abdel-Malik al-Houthi, the revel leader contacted the newspaper the Yemen Observer on Thursday by email and told that the Houthi's occupied the Jebel Dukhan area inside Saudi territory also last October, but left after a deal with the Saudi authorities that the Yemeni army would not be allowed to enter that position. 'However, earlier this week the Yemeni army attacked us from there,' he wrote. According to Al-Houthi the rebels after that took control of the area. On Tuesday they clashed with a Saudi bordr patrol during which one Houthi and one Saudi border guard were killed and 11 border guards were wounded. That was the beginning of the present round of fighting.
On Sunday the rebels also reported that they shot down an airplane of the Ye,meni airforce. The plane, a Sukhoi-bomber, was the third one in several weeks. According to the government in Sana'a, however, it went down due to a mechanical malfunction. In Sa'ada, the antique northern city from were the Houti's stem, the government destroyed with artillerie and tank fire a number of houses in which a number of rebels had taken shelter.

The Houthi-rebellion started in 2004 with an police-action to arrest the former parlementarian Hussein al-Houthi. The action soon escalated into a full scale rebellion of the northern region, which is predominatly Zaidi (sevener shiíte), as opposed to the Sunni government in Sana'a. This was the region from where before the 1962 coup the Yemeni rulers came, but nowadays the North feels that it is neglected and under-represented. Early in the fighting in 2004 Hussein al-Houthi was killed but his brother Abdel-Malik took over. For five years the war went off and on, with large scale destruction - sometimes whole villages have been leveled - and huge numbers of displaced persons (human rights organisations estimate their number on 150.000 so far). Since August of this year the fighting entered a new intense fase, after the government started a campaign called scorched earth.    

Question Kirkuk resolved, Iraq has an election law at last

Kirkuk, the citadel and surroundings

The Iraqi parliament has finally adopted an election law which takes away the last obstacles for elections that had been scheduled in januari 2010. The law is a victory for the Kurdish Alliance, because it stipulates that for the elections the 2009 census will be used. That means that a Kurdisch victory is as good as certain and Kirkuk could after the elections be claimed to be part of Kurdistan, since there has been a large influx of Kurds in recent years. Arabs and Tukmens who don't want te become part of Kurdistan, wanted to use the 2004 census in which Arabs constituted a clear majority in the area..
The law was adopted on Sunday evening, with 141 of the 275 members voting in favour. The vote ended weeks of impasse during which parliament was not able to come to an agreement.
Kirkuk, which is the centre of the oil industry in Kurdistan (which in turn is one of the main oil centres in Iraq) was long a disputed area. Under Saddam the city was heavily Arabized and the Kurds were driven out. The Kurds maintain that in recent years most of the Kurds that had been chased away, returned, but this is being disputed. Kirkuk had always been a mixed city with a strong Turkmen and Arab presence and much of the recent Kurdish immigration may have been politically motivated and engineered by the government of the three Kurdish provinces that together constitute Iraqi Kurdistan. For that reason the new law contains a clause that the census lists will be carefully srcutinized and if more than 5% irregularities will be found, any  55 members of parliament may ask for a recount of the vote.
Also the new law stipulated that the voting lists in the wholeof Iraq will be open, which means that the lists will contain the name of each candidate. But candidates will be tied to a party and will not appear as idividuals.
Iraqi president Al-Maliki praised the outcome of the votre. The American president Obama also hailed it and called it 'an ímportant milestone'. Washington's plans for a troop withdrawal are tied to the new elections and so the fact that no further delays have to be feared is welcome news in the White House. In Baghdad, however, there was some uncertainty as to whether 23 January is still feasable as date for the elections after all the delays. The date of 16 April was mentioned als an alternative.  

The Wall Must Fall

Picture Ma'an News

Coinciding wit the festivities around the fall of the Berlin Wall, 20 years ago, Palestinians on Monday had their own celebration. Ma'an News reported that some 100 people broke through the Qalandia checkpoint near Ramallah and tore down a slab of the wall that Israel euphemistically uses to call the 'Separation Barrier'. The demonstrators carried Palestinian flags and set fire to a pile of car tires at the other side of the Wall. In order to bring down the concrete slab they used a truck. Israeli military responded by firing at the crowd but there were no reports of casualties.
The demonstrators were right of course. The Berlin Wall was wrong, and this one is no less wrong. Bravo: also this wall must fall.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Tunisian blogger arrested - and freed again

For a few days there was an alarm: Tunisian Fatma Riahi, alias Fatma Arabicca was arrested on 4 November. She is supposedly the woman behind the blog DebaTunisie and supposedly responsible for the terrific cartoons on this blog (in French).
Today Sunday 8 November however the news in the Tunisian blogsophere where Fathma is very popular, was that she has been released. Her lawyer said that as yet there have been brought  no charges against her. One has to be careful, though. Press freedom and freedoms in general aren't really distributd that generously in Ben Ali's Tunisia

In the meantime. take a look  at one of the cartoons of which Fatma supposedly is the author. There are many more of those on the DebaTunisie blog that van be found here.

Tunisia Watch reports that also journalistst have been harrassed. Independent journalist Slim Boukhdir was stopped in the steet on 21 Octover by five men and forced into a car. They drove him to an empty spot, beat him up, took his cell phone, clothes, identity papers, home keys and money and threw him unto the street. A collegue of his, Taoufik ben Brik, was summoned to a police station in connection with a complaint that he would have assaulted a woman in the street. He was arrested and will appear before a judge on 19 November. Both men had in the past written stories critical of  president Ben Ali 

Friday, November 6, 2009

´Israel not a tolerant society´

Al Aqsa mosque: not recognized as a holy site

Israel discriminates against minority groups in the country including Muslims, Jehova's Witnesses, Reform Jews, Christians, women and Bedouin. That is stated in a report by the American State Department´s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

The report says that the 1967 law on the protection of holy places refers to all religious groups in Israel, including in Jerusalem, but "the government implements regulations only for Jewish sites. Non-Jewish holy sites do not enjoy legal protection under it because the government does not recognize them as official holy sites."

At the end of 2008, for example, all of the 137 officially recognized holy sites were Jewish. Moreover, Israel issued regulations for the identification, preservation and guarding of Jewish sites only. Many Christian and Muslim sites are said to be neglected, inaccessible or at risk of exploitation by real estate entrepreneurs and local authorities.The report makes it clear that practices that have become routine in Israel are considered unacceptable in enlightened countries and should be corrected.

General Assembly adopts Goldstone report

The United Nations General Assembly on Thursday endorsed the Goldstone report about the Israel attack on Gaza report on the Gaza war. The 192-member body adopted a resolution to this effect by a vote of 114-18, with some countries absent or abstaining. The resolution calls on the Security Council to act if either side fails to launch credible investigations within three months.

 The resolution endorses the report by the expert panel chaired by South African Judge Richard Goldstone which concluded both Israel and Palestinian militants committed war crimes and possible crimes against humanity. The resolution calls on Israël to start within three months a credible investigation of allegations that war crimes were committed. Also the 'Palestnian side' is asked to do so. If they fail to do so, the matter will be brought before the UN Security Council. It is exspected however that in that case the US will use its veto. 

 Apart from Israel and the United States, a number of European countries including Italy, Poland and the Czech Republic voted against the resolution. Also the Netherlands voted against, in yet another  clear demonstration that the stated policy of its foreign ministers, Maxim Verhagen, that he puts a strong emphasis on human rights issues, is nothing but empty words. But the European Union was split, with others including Britain and France abstaining. Most developing countries voted in favor.

Israel's Deputy Ambassador Daniel Carmon told the assembly the resolution "endorses and legitimizes a deeply flawed, one-sided and prejudiced report of the discredited Human Rights Council and its politicized work that bends both fact and law."
U.S. Deputy Ambassador Alejandro Wolff said the resolution was flawed in several respects, including its failure to name the Hamas militant movement that rules Gaza. He also said a demand for international supervision of any Israeli and Palestinian investigations was "unhelpful."

Abbas will not run for president

And here is, after Saeb Erakat's small bombshell that the PA may have to abandon the two state solution because of the expansion of the settlements, another - bigger - bombshell. Mahmoud Abbas on thursday announced in a televised speech that he is not going to take part in the January 2010 elections for which he himself recently called.
"I informed the central Fatah committee that I am not interested in presenting my candidacy for the upcoming presidency, and this decision is not meant for tactical purposes or manipulation," he said. 

So anothter moment of truth. The question is now who is going to replace Abbas. Fayyad, the prime minister? He is not a member of Fatah, so it's unlikely. But then it's unlikely that there will be elections anyhow. Hamas is not going to take part and not going to allow them being hold in the Gaza Strip. And that would make them rather useless. It was a strange decision after all to call fo elections before the Egyptian brokered reconciliation was a fact. It's still a question mark who wrecked the process and why, as the agreement was in fact finalized and okayed by both, before Hamas asked for a dealy of days in order to get some clarifications and Abbas pushed this election date through, in spite of the fact that the agreement stipoulated elections in June or July.
Anyhow, for the moment it seems that the Palestinians aren't 'a partner for peace' anymore and this  time for real. Not for what is called  'the peace process' that is.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Moment of truth for Mahmoud Abbas and the PA?

  Saeb Erakat, Palestinian chief negotiator, wednesday at a press conference in Ramallah: 

 Palestinians may have to abandon the goal of an independent state if Israel continues to expand Jewish settlements and the United States does not stop it. It may be  time for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas  to "tell his people the truth, that with the continuation of settlement activities, the two-state solution is no longer an option," Erekat told a news conference.  (...) Erekat said (US Secretary of State) Clinton -- who praised as unprecedented Netanyahu's offer to temporarily limit construction in West Bank settlements to 3,000 additional housing units -- was only opening the door to more settlements in the next two years. The alternative left for Palestinians is to "refocus their attention on the one-state solution where Muslims, Christians and Jews can live as equals," Erekat said. "It is very serious. This is the moment of truth for us."

Is this a threat? Or is it genuine? In any case this language is unheard of from the mouth of the Palestinian Authority that has been  so cooperative with the US and Israel in the past

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

House of Representatives should be ashamed of itself

As exspected the American House of Representatives has with 344 - 36 adopted a non-binding resolution in which it ask the administration to ignore the Goldstone report about the December January attack on Gaza.

 According to Haaretz:

The report "paints a distorted picture," said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. It "epitomizes the practice of singling Israel out from all other nations for condemnation."
The Ros-Lehtinen/Berman resolution defines the report as "biased and unworthy of further consideration," U.S. Representative Howard Berman, chairman of the Foreign Relations committee, said recently at the Jerusalem Conference.
Democratic Congresswoman Nita Lowey, Chairwoman of the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, warned lawmakers that further consideration of the Goldstone report could seriously harm Middle East peace negotiations.

From the comments, and the resolution itself, it was clear that the House respresentatives had not read the Goldstone Report. Nevertheless, it seems that 36 voting against (and 22 voting 'present' which is a mild form of critique) is a step in the right direction. These members gave AIPAC a cold shoulder.

To show how wrong the House was in throwing Goldstone away (and with him B'tselem, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty and the whole Human Rights community of this world), hereby the letter that Goldstone wrote more than a week ago, to the members that inititated the resolution:

The Honorable Howard Berman
Chairman, House Committee on Foreign Affairs

The Honorable Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
Ranking Member, House Committee on Foreign Affairs

October 29, 2009

Dear Chairman Berman and Ranking Member Ros-Lehtinen,

It has come to my attention that a resolution has been introduced in the United States House of Representatives regarding the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, which I led earlier this year.

I fully respect the right of the US Congress to examine and judge my mission and the resulting report, as well as to make its recommendations to the US Executive branch of government. However, I have strong reservations about the text of the resolution in question – text that includes serious factual inaccuracies and instances where information and statements are taken grossly out of context.

I undertook this fact-finding mission in good faith, just as I undertook my responsibilities vis à vis the South African Standing Commission of Inquiry Regarding Public Violence and Intimidation, the International War Crimes Tribunal on the former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the International Panel of the Commission of Enquiry into the Activities of Nazism in Argentina, the Independent International Commission on Kosovo, and the Volker Committee investigation into the UN’s Iraq oil-for-food program in 2004/5.

I hope that you, in similar good faith, will take the time to consider my comments about the resolution and, as a result of that consideration, make the necessary corrections.

Whereas clause #1: “Whereas, on January 12, 2009, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed Resolution A/HRC/S-9/L.1, which authorized a `fact-finding mission’ regarding Israel’s conduct of Operation Cast Lead against violent militants in the Gaza Strip between December 27, 2008, and January 18, 2009;”

This whereas clause ignores the fact that I and others refused this original mandate, precisely
because it only called for an investigation into violations committed by Israel. The mandate given to and accepted by me and under which we worked and reported reads as follows:

“. . .to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law that might have been committed at any time in the context of the military operations that were conducted in Gaza during the period from 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009, whether before, during or after”.

Whereas clause #2: “Whereas the resolution pre-judged the outcome of its investigation, by one-sidedly mandating the `fact-finding mission’ to `investigate all violations of international human rights law and International Humanitarian Law by . . . Israel, against the Palestinian people . . . particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, due to the current aggression’”

This whereas clause ignores the fact that the expanded mandate that I demanded and received clearly included rocket and mortar attacks on Israel and as the report makes clear was so interpreted and implemented. It was the report carried out under this broadened mandate – not the original, rejected mandate – that was adopted by the Human Rights Council and that included the serious findings made against Hamas and other militant Palestinian groups.

Whereas clause #3: “Whereas the mandate of the `fact-finding mission’ makes no mention of the relentless rocket and mortar attacks, which numbered in the thousands and spanned a period of eight years, by Hamas and other violent militant groups in Gaza against civilian targets in Israel, that necessitated Israel’s defensive measures;”

This whereas clause is factually incorrect. As noted above, the expanded mandate clearly included the rocket and mortar attacks. Moreover, Chapter XXIV of the Report considers in detail the relentless rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel and the terror they caused to the people living within their range. The resulting finding made in the report is that these attacks constituted serious war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity.

Whereas clause #4: “Whereas the `fact-finding mission’ included a member who, before joining the mission, had already declared Israel guilty of committing atrocities in Operation Cast Lead by signing a public letter on January 11, 2009, published in the Sunday Times, that called Israel’s actions `war crimes’;”

This whereas clause is misleading. It overlooks, or neglects to mention, that the member concerned, Professor Christine Chinkin of the London School of Economics, in the same letter, together with other leading international lawyers, also condemned as war crimes the Hamas rockets fired into Israel.

Whereas clause #5: “Whereas the mission’s flawed and biased mandate gave serious concern to many United Nations Human Rights Council Member States which refused to support it, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cameroon, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, the Republic of Korea, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland;”

This whereas clause is factually incorrect. The mandate that was given to the Mission was certainly not opposed by all or even a majority of the States to which reference is made. I am happy to provide further details if necessary.

Whereas clause #6: “Whereas the mission’s flawed and biased mandate troubled many distinguished individuals who refused invitations to head the mission;”

This whereas clause is factually incorrect. The initial mandate that was rejected by others who were invited to head the mission was the same one that I rejected. The mandate I accepted was expanded by the President of the Human Rights Council as a result of conditions I made.

Whereas clause #8: “Whereas the report repeatedly made sweeping and unsubstantiated determinations that the Israeli military had deliberately attacked civilians during Operation Cast Lead;”

This whereas clause is factually incorrect. The findings included in the report are neither “sweeping” nor “unsubstantiated” and in effect reflect 188 individual interviews, review of more than 300 reports, 30 videos and 1200 photographs. Additionally, the body of the report contains a plethora of references to the information upon which the Commission relied for our findings.

Whereas clause #9: “Whereas the authors of the report, in the body of the report itself, admit that `we did not deal with the issues . . . regarding the problems of conducting military operations in civilian areas and second-guessing decisions made by soldiers and their commanding officers `in the fog of war.’;”

This whereas clause is misleading. The words quoted relate to the decision we made that it would have been unfair to investigate and make finding on situations where decisions had been made by Israeli soldiers “in the fog of battle”. This was a decision made in favor of, and not against, the interests of Israel.

Whereas clause #10: “Whereas in the October 16th edition of the Jewish Daily Forward, Richard Goldstone, the head of the `United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict’, is quoted as saying, with respect to the mission’s evidence-collection methods, `If this was a court of law, there would have been nothing proven.’”

The remark as quoted is both inaccurate and taken completely out of context. What I had explained to The Forward was that the Report itself would not constitute evidence admissible in court of law. It is my view, as jurist, that investigators would have to investigate which allegations they considered relevant. That, too, was why we recommended domestic investigations into the allegations.

Whereas clause #11: “Whereas the report, in effect, denied the State of Israel the right to self- defense, and never noted the fact that Israel had the right to defend its citizens from the repeated violent attacks committed against civilian targets in southern Israel by Hamas and other Foreign Terrorist Organizations operating from Gaza;”

It is factually incorrect to state that the Report denied Israel the right of self-defense. The report examined how that right was implemented by the standards of international law. What is commonly called ius ad bellum, the right to use military force was not considered to fall within our mandate. Israel’s right to use military force was not questioned.

Whereas clause #12: “Whereas the report largely ignored the culpability of the Government of Iran and the Government of Syria, both of whom sponsor Hamas and other Foreign Terrorist Organizations;”

This whereas clause is misleading. Nowhere that I know of has it ever been suggested that the Mission should have investigated the provenance of the rockets. Such an investigation was never on the agenda, and in any event, we would not have had the facilities or capability of investigating these allegations. If the Government of Israel has requested us to investigate that issue I have no doubt that we have done our best to do so.

Whereas clause #14: “Whereas, notwithstanding a great body of evidence that Hamas and other violent Islamist groups committed war crimes by using civilians and civilian institutions, such as mosques, schools, and hospitals, as shields, the report repeatedly downplayed or cast doubt upon that claim;”

This is a sweeping and unfair characterization of the Report. I hope that the Report will be read by those tasked with considering the resolution. I note that the House resolution fails to mention that notwithstanding my repeated personal pleas to the Government of Israel, Israel refused all cooperation with the Mission. Among other things, I requested the views of Israel with regard to the implementation of the mandate and details of any issues that the Government of Israel might wish us to investigate.

This refusal meant that Israel did not offer any information or evidence it may have collected regarding actions by Hamas or other Palestinian groups in Gaza. Any omission of such information and evidence in the report is regrettable, but is the result of Israel’s decision not to cooperate with the Fact-Finding mission, not a decision by the mission to downplay or cast doubt on such information and evidence.

Whereas clause #15: “Whereas in one notable instance, the report stated that it did not consider the admission of a Hamas official that Hamas often `created a human shield of women, children, the elderly and the mujahideen, against [the Israeli military]’ specifically to `constitute evidence that Hamas forced Palestinian civilians to shield military objectives against attack.’;”

This whereas clause is misleading, since the quotation is taken out of context. The quotation is part of a section of the report dealing with the very narrow allegation that Hamas compelled civilians, against their will, to act as human shields. The statement by the Hamas official is repugnant and demonstrates an apparent disregard for the safety of civilians, but it is not evidence that Hamas forced civilians to remain in their homes in order to act as human shields. Indeed, while the Government of Israel has alleged publicly that Hamas used Palestinian civilians as human shields, it has not identified any cases where it claims that civilians were doing so under threat of force by Hamas or any other party.

Whereas clause #16: “Whereas Hamas was able to significantly shape the findings of the investigation mission’s report by selecting and prescreening some of the witnesses and intimidating others, as the report acknowledges when it notes that `those interviewed in Gaza appeared reluctant to speak about the presence of or conduct of hostilities by the Palestinian armed groups . . . from a fear of reprisals’;”

The allegation that Hamas was able to shape the findings of my report or that it pre-screened the witnesses is devoid of truth. I challenge anyone to produce evidence in support of it.


Justice Richard J. Goldstone