weekly feature includes news and opinion from the Middle East (and beyond) often ignored by the
mainstream media followed by music from the relevant country or culture.
was originally conceived to focus attention on relieving the
humanitarian crisis in Gaza which has been under a severe blockade
imposed by Israel since 2006. Gaza Corner has evolved to include the
Middle East, Magreb, Kurdistan and Turkey.
Survivors Describe Entire Families Being Massacred
in Brazen Islamic State Attack on Kobane
(Samuel Oakford, Vice News, 6/27/15)
Peter Clifford Blog: Syria and Iraq News
combined excerpt :
During two days of global terror last
week at least 27 worshipers during Ramadan were killed by a suicide
bomber in a Shiite mosque in Kuwait, 39 tourists including
including 15 were slaughtered at a beach resort in Tunisia. IS claimed
responsibility for these atrocities. Also in Africa Al Shabab
murdered 30 people in Somalia. And the severed head of a businessman
hung on a factory gate in a quiet corner of the Rhône-Alpes region of
France in a killing apparently inspired by the IS-style beheadings in
Syria, Libya and Iraq.
The mainstream press focused on the Tunisian and French terrorist attacks because the deaths involved Europeans.
There was another terrorist attack and it was by far the most gruesome
and bloodiest. But because it took place in Syria where death is
a daily occurrence, it received far less coverage.
It happened in Kobane where 200+ women,
children and elderly were murdered - some in their sleep. Many more are
The attack on Kobane and the nearby village of Brakh Bootan marked the
biggest single massacre of civilians by IS in Syria since it killed
hundreds of members of the Sunni Sheitaat tribe last year, said Rami
Abdulrahman, who runs the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Kobane is a Kurdish border town, a stones throw from Turkey. Kobane has
become a symbol of Kurdish resistance because the Kurds of Kobane were
the first fighting force to successfully stand up to the Islamic State
at a time when IS seemed invincible after its conquest of Mosul (Iraq)
and Raqqa (Syria).
Last October it appeared a genocidal massacre of horrific proportion
was imminent in Kobane. 200,000 civilians fled into Turkey. But
backed by determined and skilled fighters and US air support IS
was expelled from Kobane after a 4four month siege. The date was Jan 27
2015 and since then until last Thursday, the Kurds had recaptured 200+
villages from IS and not ceded any of the territory.
The success of the Kurds against IS is the only example thus far of the US working with a capable partner on the ground.
Just last week, IS was driven from the strategic border town of Tal
Abyad, cutting off vital northern supply lines to IS Syrian
headquarters in Raqqa. The Kurdish YPG with help from the FSA and US
airstrikes are only 30 miles from Raqqa, the capital of the IS Caiphate.
Perhaps as retribution for these defeats
Islamic State (IS) fighters staged a surprise attack on Kobane.
The militants targeted civilians with drive-by killings and massacred
entire families during a brazen suicide mission.
Concurrent with the primary attack on Kobane early on Thursday morning,
the IS Jihadists attacked the village of Berxbatan (Barkh Butan) on
Kobane Canton’s southern frontier.
The death toll there is now reported as 33 villagers, many of them having been beheaded, and at least 15 wounded.
The Kobane surprise attack began when IS fighters detonated a series of
car bombs in Kobane. Questions are being asked if the attackers made it
in from the Turkish side, and if so, why Turkey didn't stop them.
The reason that this IS force was able to penetrate into the heart of
Kobane is that they had shaved off their beards and were wearing
Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) and Free Syrian Army
(FSA) uniforms. Their vehicles were also decked out with Burkhat
Al-Firat, YPG and FSA flags. Burkhat Al-Firat (“Euphrates Volcano”) is
the combined force fighting the Islamic State.
A second objective of the IS fighters disguising themselves to gain entry to Kobani is to instill paranoia in the population.
Following the primary suicide bomb attack at the frontier gate, the IS
Jihadists then attempted to take control of the Kaniya Kurda
neighborhood including the Doctors without Borders Hospital.
With the Jihadist group were many snipers who proceeded to shoot
randomly at anybody on the street and who also broke into a number of
homes wiping out entire families.
Dozens of IS fighters entered the town.
Some speculate there were IS sleeper cells in Kobane. Kobane
locals confirm most of the IS fighters were speaking Turkish,
Kurdish and Arabic.
Kobane is miles from current front lines giving many residents a sense
of security. Many people who ventured out of their homes out of
curiosity after hearing the suicide bomb explosions were gunned down.
In some incidents, Kurdish-speaking IS fighters knocked on the doors of
houses, beckoning families outside and into a hail of bullets.
By Saturday, the remaining IS forces in Kobane had either been killed
or fled the town. The number of civilians killed since bands of IS
fighters infiltrated the town early Thursday has exceeded 200 and is
likely to rise as the search for bodies continues the majority are
women, children and elderly. At least 54 IS fighters were reported
VICE News obtained testimony collected by a local NGO worker who
interviewed victims at a hospital in Turkey. International human rights
workers corroborated the accounts as legitimate.
Ibrahim Jasim, the manager of a bakery in Kobane, said Thursday morning began as usual, but quickly descended into bloodshed.
"I left my house to go to the baker, as usual, unaware of what was
going on," he said. "When I arrived to the bakery I saw the bodies of
my three workers outside of the bakery. They had most likely been
targeted by snipers from the MSF building, as the baker is visible from
there," he added, referring to a Doctors Without Borders hospital
captured by IS.
"When I was standing there, a sniper fired at me and wounded me in the chest," he said.
A 30-year-old woman named Fatma, also
speaking from a hospital just across the Turkish border, said she was
on her way to Amel hospital in Kobane early Thursday to retrieve the
body of her father, who had passed away hours earlier of natural
causes. As she entered the town's center in a car with her husband and
one of his friends, IS gunmen pulled up alongside and began firing
wildly into the vehicle. The militants, she said, yelled "Kouffars! We
have come for you," as they shot, referring to them as infidels.
"They shot my husband in the head, his
brains splattered in front of my eyes on the car," Fatma said. Her
husband's friend was also killed by gunfire. Fatma, who is more than
eight months pregnant, said she threw herself out of the car and was
rescued by Kurdish YPG soldiers. Taken to Turkey, doctors were able to
deliver her baby in an emergency procedure, and both survived. Her
other children remained in Kobane, and she was not sure of their fate.
Kurds fight Kurds in Syria
(Mahmut Bozarslan; Al Monitor, 6/25/15)
Another woman, 19, said that her entire family was shot to death
outside of their home in Kobane. The woman was herself wounded, and she
wept uncontrollably as she spoke from a hospital inside Turkey. She was
unable to count the number of family members who perished.
A woman in her mid-50s, who did not give her name, said IS fighters
captured her from her house and held her hostage. "I was taken by ISIS
to the field hospital — there outside the hospital they shot me in the
leg and told me to call my children to come and take me away," she
said, using another common abbreviation for IS. "I called my children
but could not reach them.
"Thank God, later I learned that this was a tactic they used to get
people out so they could kill them," the woman said, explaining that
she was able to escape and crawl to the Turkish border, where she was
recovering in a hospital. The fate of her family was unclear.
Locals also reported that IS snipers set up around Kobane to pick off civilians who ventured outside.
Given the strong Kurdish grip on the area, the IS mission appeared to
be suicidal and intended to kill civilians. Many are now seeing
the IS attack as revenge for the capture of by Kurdish forces of Tal
Abyad and for getting far too close (30 mi) to their “Syrian capital”
The Evil That Dare Not Speak Its Name:
A considerable number of Kurds, most of them from Turkey, have joined the ranks of IS in Syria and Iraq.
The impoverished province of Bingol, home to some 267,000 people, has
emerged as a major IS recruitment base in Turkey’s predominantly
Kurdish southeast. Official figures are not available, but locals
estimate at least 600 young men have joined the jihadist group, lured
through religious indoctrination and various promises, including money
Bingol stands out as a strongly conservative region whose population is
overwhelmingly Zaza, an ethnic subgroup in the Kurdish fold.
Mehmet Kurt, a Bingol University academic who studied radicalization in
Turkey’s southeast told Al-Monitor that a complex mix of “strong
historic and social dynamics” nourish radicalization in Bingol.
Kurt said that the question of whether Zazas are really Kurdish or not
— a debate that has intensified in recent years — contributed to an
identity crisis among the Zazas, which often resulted in religious
affiliation superseding ethnicity.
(By Sandy Tolan, Truthdig, 6/14/15)
Palestinian workers wait to cross at the Israeli checkpoint in Jalameh,
south of the West Bank city of Jenin, on their way to work in Israel.
(Mohammed Ballas / AP)
Journey through a fractured landscape
(By Sandy Tolan, Mondoweiss, 6/18/15)
note: Sandy's website is Ramallah Cafe
Debris thrown by Israeli settlers into a net above
the Palestinian market in the old city of Hebron.
(Photo: Manfred Schweda/ thisfabtrek.com)
Making music under occupation
A conversation with veteran journalist Sandy Tolan about his new book, "Children of the Stone: The Power of Music in a Hard Land.”
He tells the story of Ramzi Aburedwan and his journey from stone
thrower during the first Intifada to music student to music teacher,
transforming the lives of thousands of Palestinian children living
under the Israeli military occupation in the West Bank.
Sandy is also author of "The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East."(Your Call Radio, KALW, 55 min, 6/19/15)
The Flute at the Checkpoint
(by SandyTolan, Huffington Post 4/30/15)
combined excerpt from first two listed stories under Gaza Corner:
For years the “A-word” has been
off-limits in polite conversation about Israel’s treatment of
Palestinians. The A-word, we have been told, unfairly singles out the
Jewish state and its use is perhaps even anti-Semitic. Such
declarations can have a powerful silencing effect.
However, in 2002 Archbishop Desmond Tutu broke the taboo, writing in
the British newspaper The Guardian that “the humiliation of
Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks” reminded him “of what
happened to us black people in South Africa.”
Four years later Jimmy Carter committed a similar indelicacy with the very title of his bestseller, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.”
A wave of condemnation of the former president followed.
For the most part, in the mainstream U.S. press at least, the decorum
that forbids use of the A-word remains in place. Yet increasingly, as
Israel continues to colonize the West Bank with settlers, and its army
ensures their dominion over the lands they occupy, adhering to the
A-word ban requires shielding one’s eyes, or, at a minimum, engaging in
What, after all, to call a system of
legalized discrimination based on ethnicity and religion in which one
group has full voting rights and the other does not? What to call a
system under which one people can travel freely on roads built
specifically for them, whisking through checkpoints because of their
religion and the color of their license plates, and under which the
other must submit to inspection at military kiosks frequently manned by
snipers? A system under which one population in hilltop enclaves is
protected by troops and military surveillance towers, while the other
is subjected to frequent night raids by those same troops? Under which 40 percent of the adult male
population has been forced to spend time in prison? Under which one
group’s “civil administration” can designate a town of the other group
as a historic archeological site and evict all the residents, who then
must move into tents? Under which soldiers ordered Palestinian bathers
out of a public swimming pool last spring so Jewish settlers could have
a swim, alone and unbothered by the darker-skinned native population?
Numbers tell a certain kind of grim story in the landscape of Palestine:
109,000: the number of West Bank settlers, excluding East Jerusalem, in
September 1993, the time of the christening of the Oslo accords on the
White House lawn.
350,000: the number of those settlers today — a tripling during something called the “peace process.”
40,000+: the population of Maale Adumim, well inside the West Bank, but considered a “suburb” of Jerusalem by Israel.
20,000: the number of settlers in Ariel, where the separation barrier
snakes a third of the way inside Palestinian lands to make the
settlement part of “greater Israel.”
18: The number of Israeli settlements directly encircling the hoped-for
capital of the Palestinian state, East Jerusalem, cutting off the city
from the rest of Palestine, but for a piece of land called E-1, which
Israel plans to develop.
Roads 60, 443, and myriad other randomly-chosen numbers:
smooth-as-glass highways slicing through West Bank Palestinian lands,
but for long stretches reserved for almost exclusively for settlers.
Yet the numbers, telling as they may be, can’t begin to evoke the
feeling of the transformed Palestinian landscape, nor the profound
power imbalance that defines relations between Israel and the
Palestinians. Only a road trip through Palestine can do that.
Our destination was the old city of Hebron, one of the most surreal
tableaus of the entire tragedy of Palestine and Israel, where 500 to
600 Jewish settlers, many of them from the United States, are protected
by at least 1,500 soldiers in a city of 170,000 Palestinians.
We walked through the moribund Old City
of Hebron, where urban settlement blocks stand brick to brick with
Palestinian homes in a contorted geographical designation known as H-2.
This arrangement was sanctioned by the international community in an
agreement signed by the Palestinian Authority as part of the Oslo
“peace process.” Israel had insisted that a few hundred settlers be
allowed to stay in a neighborhood of tens of thousands of Palestinians
because of a long Jewish presence there. The current settlers say they
live in Hebron to honor the memory of Jews massacred there by
Palestinians in 1929, during riots over Jewish immigration to
Palestine. Yet the current settlers, among the most extremist of all
Israelis, have little or no connection to the descendants of those
massacred. Some of the descendants have denounced the Hebron
settlements, pointing out that some Palestinian families sheltered Jews
in the massacre; they call for removal of the settlers.
Today, the 1,500 Israeli soldiers, more than twice the number of
settlers they were sent to protect, spend much of their time escorting
their charges from one part of the city to another. When the armed
escort squads push through the narrow alleys of Old Hebron, life on the
Palestinian street freezes; such is the primacy of Israel’s settlement
project. Steel screens above the old Arab casbah protect the
Palestinian vendors against a stream of trash, bottles, plastic chairs
and bags of feces that the settlers hurl down from above. This is
We walked toward Shuhada Street, the once-bustling main street of
Palestinian life. H. (our guide) stopped; as a Palestinian, he is not
allowed to walk there. The street was nearly vacant. The doors on some
of the shops were welded shut; access to some homes is now possible
only by ladder, or, in one case, a rope to a window.
We came upon one of H-2’s 120 military checkpoints and other obstacles ensuring separation between Arab and Jew.
Around the bend we came to a tiny mosque, whose imam, H. told us, is in
his nineties. He wants to retire, but if he does, he fears the settlers
will take over the modest building. So he hangs on, despite increasing
obstacles. The latest: 24 massive concrete blocks, each 16 feet high,
cutting of the imam’s path from his home on the hill just above. Now
the 92-year-old must walk a mile to reach the mosque.
Nearby stood a Palestinian elementary school, its entire perimeter
marked with looping razor wire. Many of the children must cross
checkpoints to get to the school, walking past graffiti in English
saying “Gas the Arabs!” and sometimes enduring a gantlet of flying
stones and rotten vegetables and attacks from settlers’ dogs. Across
from the school lies a flat expanse of asphalt. Once this was a play
area for the school. The old soccer and volleyball grounds have been
replaced by a parking lot for buses from the settlements.
It was from an adjacent settlement, Kiryat Arba, in 1994 that a settler
from Brooklyn named Baruch Goldstein emerged, traveling with his Galil
automatic rifle to the Ibrahimi Mosque and somehow getting through
Israeli security before gunning down 29 Palestinians as they prayed.
Survivors beat him to death. Today Goldstein is revered among some
settlers. At his gravesite in Kiryat Arba, these words are inscribed:
“He gave his soul for the people of Israel, the Torah, and the Land.
His hands are clean and his heart good. …”
We headed to the Ibrahimi Mosque, also known as the Cave of the
Patriarchs. The call to prayer from this mosque, H. told me, is often
banned by the Israeli authorities, who say it bothers the settlers.
Power in Hebron, as it does across the
West Bank, lies most clearly in the hands of Israel; Palestinians are
no match for Israel’s military might or its political influence with
the United States, the world’s sole superpower. Palestinian power lies
instead in sumud, or steadfastness: a determination to persevere and to
live for a better day, confronting Israel on moral grounds while hoping
the world will one day bear greater witness to the facts on the ground.
Life in Mosul one year on:
“Existence,” declares a popular Palestinian slogan, “is resistance.”
But the system in which they exist cannot stand in the long run. And
although some commentators and others, even after looking at the facts,
may continue to decry the use of the A-word—A for Apartheid—to me it
matters little what we call it. I am also fine with comparing these
conditions, and others like them all over Palestine, to the legislated
racism and racial violence that were known in America as Jim Crow.
Whatever we call it, it is separate and unequal. And like apartheid, like Jim Crow, it is destined for the dustbin of history.
'Isis with all its brutality is more honest
than the Shia government
Islamic State (IS) militants conquered Mosul,
Iraq’s second largest city, in a lightning advance in June 2014. Here,
residents of the city share their experiences of life under IS.
[stories are both pro and anti IS; local residents excerpts below headlines]
(Mona Mahmood, Guardian UK, 6/10/15)
What's life like under Islamic State?
reveals how Islamic State wields power over people's everyday lives in
Iraq's second city, Mosul, a year after it was captured.
videos obtained by the BBC's Ghadi Sary show mosques being blown up,
abandoned schools, and women being forced to cover up their bodies.
[These BBC produced stories are anti-IS; local residents excerpts below headlines]
A Glimpse Of Life In Mosul
BBC reporter Ghadi Sary speaks with NPR's Arun Rath about secretly
filmed videos obtained of harrowing conditions in the Iraqi city of
Mosul, which is controlled by the self-declared Islamic State. The videos, smuggled out of the city, feature ordinary people describing and documenting their lives under ISIS rule.(NPR, 6/13/15)
background articles and resources:
Citizens of Mosul endure economic collapse
and repression under Isis rule
Many Sunnis were glad to see the Iraqi army go when Islamic State took over – but for many the situation is now far worse(Mohammad Moslawi in Mosul, Fazel Hawramy in Irbil and Luke Harding; Guardian UK, 10/27/14)
note: Mohammad Moslawi is the pseudonym of an Iraqi reporter in Mosul
Mosul Eye is the pseudonym of a local historian who has been secretly
documenting IS's activities in Mosul. While it is not possible to
verify the blogger's identity, Iraq watchers believe the accounts are
The Islamist Phoenix:
The Islamic State and the Redrawing of the Middle East
In this book world-renowned terrorism expert Loretta Napoleoni
demonstrates that while Western media portrays the Islamic State as
little more than a gang of thugs on a winning streak, the organization
is proposing a new model of nation building.
"A vital contribution to our understanind of what is happening in the Middle East." Chris Hedges(Seven Stories Press - 2014)
Excerpt from "Life in Mosul: One year on":
- Widow and mother of four, 33
Last June, Isis took over Mosul and
dominated the scene in the city. I advised Kareem, my husband, to leave
his job and for us to flee together to Turkey. He was nearly convinced,
but learned that he would be murdered soon if he did not assist Isis in
repairing damaged vehicles left by the Iraqi army to use in their
I will never forget the day when my husband rushed out early in the
morning to a deserted military camp in the suburbs of Mosul to fix
damaged military equipment belonging to Isis. He was killed by an air
Isis men kept coming to my husband’s parents’ house during the funeral
in a pickup loaded with food for us and for the mourners. They also
brought $300 in cash for the kids with a promise to keep sending $100 a
month as a pension.
I struggled to cope with my children’s
daily demands. I sold my daughter’s bracelets at the jewellery shop,
and went back the next day and slipped on a ring and walked out, hoping
the owner would not recognise me with all the women wearing the veil. I
walked out of the shop but the owner stopped me, and a woman from the
Isis female security forces took me to their centre.
Ghazwan Abdul Rahman -
“Why did you steal the ring?” an Isis interrogator asked me. I answered
in tears, “I’m a widow of an Isis martyr with four children. I needed
money to feed my children and pay the rent. Please forgive me.”
I was questioned by two judges. The second day after my last hearing, I
was taken from my room by three Isis women to another room where an old
man was standing. He said: “Tie her to the table.”
I was tied firmly, and another man came with a sword in his hand. When
I saw him, I began to shout, “Mercy, have mercy on me.” I screamed and
begged him to leave me alone. He looked so determined. I wanted to run
away but couldn’t. I couldn’t believe the whole scene, and thought it
was a nightmare. The man did not hesitate before chopping my left hand
at the wrist. The whole world turned into black in my eyes and my legs
were numb. No words in humanity’s dictionary can describe my pain and
feeling at that horrifying moment. I fainted immediately.
My eldest daughter wept all the time whenever her eyes met mine in the
hospital. I was discharged and went home. I tried to commit suicide a
few times by strangling myself but the image of my little children kept
stopping me. I live now for them and have vowed to make sure they all
finish their education and marry only the men they love.
High school graduate, 19, supports Isis
I was chatting with my friend about
college when all of a sudden I received a hell of a push on my back. A
towering man in Isis clothing was pushing aside any man obstructing his
way towards the owner of the bakery. “I want some bread now, I can’t
wait and need to go back to my other fighter brothers,” he said.
But the owner told him to join the queue like the others. The argument
heated up and the Isis fighter lost his patience, and directed a kick
to the face of the owner, filled his bag with bread and dashed away
after leaving some money on the table.
Dr Firas Ghalib -
We were all in an absolute silence
watching without being able to say a word or do anything. The owner was
bleeding from his nose. Two or three men ran to help and stop the
bleeding while the owner vowed that he would complain to the sharia
court. After two days, Isis police from the sharia court were in the
bakery asking witnesses if the fighter or the owner provoked the
situation and attacked first. All the men in the bakery confirmed that
the fighter was the offender and the owner was merely trying to be fair
and keep customers in queue. The sharia court verdict was in favour of
the bakery owner and the Isis fighter had to apologise to him publicly.
Then he was kicked out of the caliphate for his uncivilised behaviour.
Isis succeeded in winning people’s hearts in Mosul from the first day
they liberated the city for being modest, unprejudiced and cooperative.
They restored the dignity and pride of the Sunni man in Mosul after
enduring a great deal of humiliation and revenge under successive Shia
governments since the US occupation of Iraq.
Corruption was widespread and eroding all the city facilities, which
were like a huge military barracks suffocating people. The city did not
witness any reconstruction for the entire last 10 years despite all the
billions that were poured into the city council.
Mosul now lives in a golden era. Though world media is in an effortless
campaign to mar the image of Isis fighters, show them as brutal
terrorists and monsters, on the contrary they are most welcomed in
Mosul for the great sacrifices they have offered to protect Sunni
people from the Shia army’s inhuman practices in Mosul and other Sunni
provinces in Iraq.
None of the people in Mosul who pledged their allegiance to Caliph
al-Baghdadi want Shia militias to get close to Mosul. I would be the
first to fight these militias who come to sow destruction and killing
among Sunnis. We have seen their atrocities in Tikrit and Jurf
al-Sakher against isolated civilians.
Mosul is more stable and safe now, my father can leave his shop open
and go for prayers, and no one dares to steal a straw from the shop.
Civil services are better now, like power and water, and roads are more
clean. I spend most of my free time praying in mosques and attending
courses in Islamic sharia and hadith*.
* Hadith - collections of the reports of the teachings, deeds and sayings of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.
Neurologist, 45, father of two children
I know a professor at Mosul University
who was caught by the Isis hisbah (religious police) in a room with his
female colleague correcting students’ final exams notes. The penalty
was that he had to marry his female colleague or get 30 lashes. The
professor refused as he already had a wife and children, and he
accepted the lashes.
Basheer Aziz -
I was with my wife in the car driving towards my parents house, and my
wife had to take off her veil to breastfeed our little baby. The veil
was keeping the blowing air off the baby, who was also terrified of her
mother’s face being covered. Not that long after, an Isis hisbah patrol
saw me and maintained that my wife should wear the veil under whatever
circumstances, otherwise I would be in trouble.
I left Mosul with my wife and two children recently and went to Irbil.
College graduate, 26, supports Isis
Mosul before Isis was like a grand,
horrifying prison. The bus had to stop by countless army checkpoints
where there were feverish hunts for men’s IDs. Often, the whole bus
would wait for an hour or two while a soldier was engaged in beating a
passenger who happened to be not holding his ID.
Islamic State is the dream and utmost desire of any Muslim. We longed
to be governed by the holy Qur’an’s rules and the prophet Muhammad’s sunnah.*
* Sunnah is the way of life prescribed as normative for Muslims on the
basis of the teachings and practices of the Islamic prophet Muhammad
and interpretations of the Islamic holy book, the Quran.
Now, with any call to prayer, all shops are shut down. Men have to grow
their beards. Any act of adultery will be dealt with either by stones
or lashes. The penalty of looting is a hand cut and men are imprisoned
for publicly harassing women.
Then Isis diwans (departments for health, complaints, preaching and
mosques, education, almsgiving, hisbah and services) were established.
The almsgiving department is in charge of collecting taxes to divide
among needy families. Each family receives $25 a month, an amount that
will be raised to $50 with the harvest season, in addition to a good
portion of wheat, rice, sugar, pickles, food oil and fuels.
Recently, an exclusive market for women
was opened in Mosul to allow them to do their shopping at ease. There
is no ban on women driving. The Isis municipality is doing its best to
keep roads clean and paved, setting up lampposts, providing water and
power and repairing the damage from coalition air strikes.
Excerpt from BBC "Inside Mosul":
I feel so proud being part of Isis, it granted me freedom. We live in
glory now except for the coalition air strikes that spread panic and
fear among the civilians.
I disagree with Isis practices against Christians, Yazidis and other
minorities in Mosul. I’m still in touch with our Christian neighbours
and wish they would come back shortly. All people in Mosul are in
disagreement with the demolition of ancient sites in Mosul, and some
Isis militants are not happy either.
There is an acute financial crisis in Mosul now due to lack of jobs.
Only those who receive monthly salaries from the government in Baghdad
are surviving in Mosul. People do not know if Isis will last forever,
or if another military organisation will come and exact revenge on
those who were working for Isis. Depression is widespread among people
of Mosul now.
At the same time, most of the people are against the return of the
corrupt politicians or Shia militias who will destroy the city, not
liberate it as they claim. Isis with all its brutality is more honest
and merciful than the Shia government in Baghdad and its militias.
"Since IS took the city, it has been
applying the 'Laws of the Caliphate', as it calls them. The minimum
punishment is flogging, which is applied for things like smoking a
"Theft is punished by amputating a hand, adultery by men by throwing
the offender from a high building, and adultery by women by stoning to
death. The punishments are carried out in public to intimidate people,
who are often forced to watch.
"I know many people who have been arrested by IS. Some of them are my
relatives. Some were killed because they were in the security services.
Others have been released. They tell unimaginable stories of atrocities
committed by IS in its prisons.
"Many who come out prefer not to speak. They stay silent, because they're terrified that if they speak, they'll be rearrested."
"Daily life has changed in an indescribable way. There are no jobs anymore. The poor have been left to the mercy of God.
Spirit of Humanity’ Photo Contest Winners
"I have lost my job and have been forced to abandon my studies. Like
everyone else, I am denied my basic rights. According to IS, everything
is 'haram' (forbidden) and so I end up just sitting at home all the
time. Even simple leisure activities like picnics are banned now in
Mosul, under the pretext that they are a waste of time and money.
"IS takes a quarter of everyone's salary as a contribution towards paying for rebuilding the city.
"The group has even replaced the imams in the mosques with pro-IS
people. Many of us have stopped going to the mosques because those
attending are asked to give an oath of allegiance and we hate that.
"Meanwhile, my brother was given 20 lashes just because he didn't shut his shop during prayer time.
Numerous disasters and increasing
conflict are negatively impacting the lives of millions of people
across the Middle East and North Africa. In response, innumerable
individuals, volunteers and professional humanitarian workers are
providing those in need with essential protection and assistance, often
under dangerous circumstances.
To capture this Spirit of Humanity, the World Humanitarian Summit
which was initiated by the UN Secretary General and will culminate in Istanbul in 2016, launched its first photo contest.
Many of the pictures showed the hardship of daily life and the
suffering of children, men and women living in conflict zones or
refugee camps. But despite the misery and the constant fear, the
photographers managed to catch glimpses of hope and moments of joy.
The winners are Islam Mardini from Aleppo and Mohammed Muhaisen from Gaza.
The photos are stunning.
A group of children play outside their destroyed house in the Al Zaytoun area in Gaza City.
© Mustafa El Halabi
Have a look.
(click above for all 27 photos)
When pain and suffering make it impossible to speak, feelings show through the eyes.
© Karim Ahmed
Israeli rights groups join battle to save
symbol of Arab resistance to evictions
The fate of the
West Bank Palestinian village of Khirbet Susiya has attracted worldwide
attention. Now bulldozers are set to displace its residents yet again
(Peter Beaumont, Guardian UK, 6/6/15)
Palestinian village Khirbet Susiya
under imminent threat of demolition
Susiya reflects Israeli authorities’ policy throughout Area C of West Bank
excerpt from Guardian UK article:
In the cool of evening, the Palestinian villagers of Khirbet Susiya go about their business.
A beekeeper in a protective suit and veil moves among his hives with a
smoke can. Others use the warm wind blowing from the nearby Negev
desert to separate rough legumes from chaff. Shepherds move their
animals across the low, rolling yellow hills while children run about
It appears a peaceful scene. Except that, for a third time in almost
three decades, the few hundred villagers who live in crude temporary
houses dotted about this area of the south Hebron hills of the occupied
West Bank are under imminent threat of a new forced displacement.
Last month an Israeli high court judge
ruled against the villagers’ injunction seeking to halt Israel’s
planned destruction of Khirbet Susiya. Now the village has become the
centre of a growing international campaign over its future which has
drawn in European diplomats and human rights campaigners.
Khirbet Susiya is home to between 250 and 350 villagers – depending on
the season – who live in around 100 structures and eke out an existence
largely from subsistence agriculture.
Built on a scrubby ridge of limestone pavement, the houses of Khirbet
Susiya are closely overlooked by a neighbouring Israeli settlement
built on land expropriated from the villagers – illegal under
international law – and, unlike the Palestinian village, connected to
public services. On the other side of the nearby road is an
archaeological site also run by settlers. Khirbet Susiya is sandwiched
It is this proximity – critics allege – that underlies Israeli plans to
move the villagers. The residents say that the destruction of their
homes would mean the latest in several forcible expulsions from their
land for which they have deeds going back to the Ottoman era.
In 1986 they were expelled from their original village and the
army expelled the residents again in 2001 during the second intifada.
While Israel claims the structures in Khirbet Susiya are illegal
because they were put up without building permits, critics say that
Israel’s civil administration has a policy of rarely issuing building
permits to non-Jews in Area C – the part of the occupied territories
under full Israeli administration. Although the Israeli court accepted
the villagers’ ownership of the land, it ruled that they did not have
permission to build there.
Seventy-year-old Mohammad Ahmad al-Nuwaja has lived on the land around
Susiya most of his life. “I was born in Tal Arad, but after the Nakba
[‘the catastrophe’ as Palestinians call the mass displacement that
occurred when Israel was founded] we moved here. We are the original
owners of this land,” he explains. “We have deeds from the Turkish time.
“They claim these houses were built
without permits. We have applied so many times and the Israelis
rejected permission. They claim we don’t have the infrastructure to
support living here, but they are the ones who won’t allow the
infrastructure. We were offered land in exchange for moving from here
near Yatta [the neighbouring town visible from Khirbet Susiya] but they
have no right.”
The long saga of Khirbet Susiya is symbolic of a wider problem of
demolition and displacement affecting unrecognised villages in both the
occupied Palestinian territories and Bedouin communities in Israel
itself. According to Rabbis for Human Rights, an Israeli NGO which has
been supporting the village in its efforts to get planning permission:
“The village of Palestinian Susiya has existed for centuries, long
before the establishment of the [Jewish settlement of Susiya in 1983.
There is documentary evidence of a settlement in the area dating back
to 1830, and it is also marked on British mandatory maps from 1917.”
There are indications, however, that the Israeli military intends to go
ahead with the demolition. The latest threat to Susiya was prompted by
a complaint three years ago by Regavim
, a rightwing Israeli NGO, which uses the courts to insist on the demolition of Palestinian buildings it argues are illegal.
Dore note: Regavim's motto is "Ensuring the responsible, legal and environmentally friendly use of Israel's national lands."
The villagers’ plight was described in a recent report by the Israeli
human rights organisation BT’selem. “The state has been abusing the
residents of Khirbet Susiya for many years: the army and the civil
administration have repeatedly removed the residents from their homes,
in which they have lived since before 1967, when Israel occupied the
“The [Israeli] civil administration is
responsible for all aspects of civilian life in area C and is
theoretically supposed to promote the wellbeing of the local
population. In practice, the administration uses its planning systems,
in which Palestinians are not represented, to prevent them from
promoting solutions that would meet their needs, barring them from
building legally and from connecting to water and power supplies.
US blocks push for Middle East nuclear arms ban
“The authorities also systematically refrain from protecting the
residents of Khirbet Susiya from settlers who attack them or vandalise
their property, and restrict their free access to the main town in the
Nasser Nuwaja is a resident who has been leading the campaign to save it.
“Since the court ruling, people here have gone to bed not knowing
whether the bulldozers would come in the morning. It is like trying to
balance on a chair with only one leg and not knowing when you will fall
off. People here are living on edge.”
And for now international pressure remains their best hope. “We’ve been
campaigning hard on this issue,” said one European diplomat.
“We are trying to put pressure on the Israeli government to prevent the demolition.”
Although the villagers will try to go to court again on 3 August many
are fearful the village will be destroyed and moved again. “God forbid
they demolish Susiya again,” says Nasser. “But if they do, we will
* US, UK and Canada opposed Egyptian plan for nuclear-free region
* Israel is Middle East’s only nuclear-armed power
Pictures of the secret Dimona nuclear reactor in Israel,
showing where the plant has allegedly been camouflaged. Photograph: space imaging
has been stealing nuclear secrets and covertly making bombs since the
1950s. And western governments, including Britain and the US, turn a
blind eye. But how can we expect Iran to curb its nuclear ambitions if
the Israelis won't come clean?
combined excerpt from all 3 articles:
month-long review conference on the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty (NPT) ended in failure over disagreements on the issue of a
Middle East atomic weapons ban.
A senior Israeli official said on condition of anonymity:
“The United States kept its commitment to Israel by preventing a Middle
East resolution that would single out Israel and ignore its security
interests and the threats posed to it by an increasingly turbulent
In reality, neither US nor British intelligence believe Iran has decided to build a bomb.
Egypt, backed by other Arab and non-aligned states, proposed that the
UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, convene within 180 days a regional
conference on banning weapons of mass destruction (WMD) as called for
at the 2010 NPT review meeting.
Ban voiced disappointment that NPT parties were “unable to narrow their
differences on the future of nuclear disarmament or to arrive at a new
collective vision on how to achieve a Middle East zone free of nuclear
weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction (WMD)”.
Despite the fact that the Israel's nuclear programme has been an open
secret since a disgruntled technician, Mordechai Vanunu, blew the
whistle on it in 1986, the official Israeli position is still never to
confirm or deny its existence.
When the former speaker of the Knesset, Avraham Burg, broke the taboo
last year, declaring Israeli possession of both nuclear and chemical
weapons and describing the official non-disclosure policy as "outdated
and childish" a rightwing group formally called for a police
investigation for treason.
In an extraordinary feat of subterfuge, Israel managed to assemble an
entire underground nuclear arsenal – now estimated at about 200 nuclear
bombs and missile warheads – and even tested a bomb nearly half a
century ago, with a minimum of international outcry or even much public
awareness of what it was doing.
Meanwhile, western governments have played along with the policy of "opacity" by avoiding all mention of the issue.
But through the cracks in this stone wall, more and more details
continue to emerge of how Israel built its nuclear weapons from
smuggled parts and pilfered technology.
The tale serves as a historical counterpoint to today's drawn-out
struggle over Iran's nuclear ambitions. The parallels are not exact –
Israel, unlike Iran, never signed up to the 1968 NPT so could not
violate it. But it almost certainly broke a treaty banning nuclear
tests, as well as countless national and international laws restricting
the traffic in nuclear materials and technology.
list of nations that secretly sold Israel the material and expertise to
make nuclear warheads, or who turned a blind eye to its theft, include
today's staunchest campaigners against proliferation: the US, France,
Germany, Britain and even Norway.
Meanwhile, Israeli agents charged with buying fissile material and
state-of-the-art technology found their way into some of the most
sensitive industrial establishments in the world. This daring and
remarkably successful spy ring, known as Lakam, the Hebrew acronym for
the innocuous-sounding Science Liaison Bureau, included such colourful
figures as Arnon Milchan, a billionaire Hollywood producer behind such
hits as Pretty Woman, LA Confidential and 12 Years a Slave, who proudly
exclaimed in a recent Israeli documentary:
"Do you know what it's like to be a twentysomething-year-old kid [and]
his country lets him be James Bond? Wow! The action! That was exciting."
Israel had few qualms about proliferating nuclear weapons knowhow and
materials, giving South Africa's apartheid regime help in developing
its own bomb in the 1970s in return for 600 tons of uranium oxide,
known as yellowcake.
Israel's nuclear-weapons project could never have gotten off the
ground, though, without an enormous contribution from France. The
country that took the toughest line on counter-proliferation when it
came to Iran helped lay the foundations of Israel's nuclear weapons
programme, driven by by a sense of guilt over letting Israel down in
the 1956 Suez conflict, sympathy from French-Jewish scientists,
intelligence-sharing over Algeria and a drive to sell French expertise
In Dimona, French engineers poured in to help build Israel a nuclear
reactor and a far more secret reprocessing plant capable of separating
plutonium from spent reactor fuel. This was the real giveaway that
Israel's nuclear programme was aimed at producing weapons.
By the end of the 50s, there were 2,500 French citizens living in
Dimona, transforming it from a village to a cosmopolitan town and yet
the whole endeavour was conducted under a thick veil of secrecy.
The Israelis admitted to having a reactor but insisted it was for entirely peaceful purposes.
Throughout the 60s it flatly denied the existence of the underground
reprocessing plant in Dimona that was churning out plutonium for bombs.
Israel refused to countenance visits by the International Atomic Energy
Agency (IAEA), so in the early 1960s President Kennedy demanded they
accept American inspectors. US physicists were dispatched to Dimona but
were given the run-around from the start.
The US physicists sent to Dimona were not allowed to bring their own
equipment or collect samples. Before each American visit, the
Israelis had built false walls around the row of lifts that descended
six levels to the subterranean reprocessing plant.
As more and more evidence of Israel's weapons programme emerged, the US
role progressed from unwitting dupe to reluctant accomplice.
The US policy continues to this day - most recently (as discussed above) blocking a proposal for
a nuclear free Middle East. Meanwhile Israel appears to be continuing to trade on the nuclear black market, albeit at much reduced volumes.
Avner Cohen, the author of two books on Israel's bomb, said that policy
of opacity in both Israel and in Washington is kept in place now
largely by inertia. "At the political level, no one wants to deal with
it for fear of opening a Pandora's box. It has in many ways become a
burden for the US, but people in Washington, all the way up to Obama
will not touch it, because of the fear it could compromise the very
basis of the Israeli-US understanding."
The Bedouin of Palmyra
It is from touching your thick calloused hand
I become aware
the sun that I merely look upon as day
sculpt your drought-inflicted skin.
You examine my palm
gently squeeze each finger
to comprehend my delicacy,
a consequence from the sheltering sky.
In the olive and palm tree grove
where the guttural gurgle of camels
linger in the night breeze,
an obscured brook languishes
with occasional shuffle among the leaves.
You observe the pregnancy of the predictable moon
while I fill my mouth with sugary dates.
“Maybe rain will make you restless”.
“Come now”, you said,
“I will never go beyond the desert.
Ancient stones are my chronicle
sand washes me clean
I feed on earth’s nectar
dreamless under the Bedouin sky.”
Dore and Musa in Palmyra in 2004
ISIS Seizes Historic Syrian City Palmyra
Some of the most beautiful and well-preserved ruins of antiquity
face destruction as forces loyal to Assad withdraw
(Kareem Shaheen, The Guardian UK, 5/21/15)
(photo by Clara Hsu)
ISIS seizes Syrian military base near Palmyra
as it consolidates grip on city
(Kareem Shaheen, The Guardian UK, 5/22/15)
Resident: ISIS is 'everywhere'
in full control of ancient Syrian city of Palmyra
Isis took Palmyra, a Silk Road hub of the ancient world and a Unesco world heritage site with magnificent ruins, on Wednesday.
Palmyra is home to some of the most magnificent ancient ruins from
antiquity, and its fall has led to fears that Isis fighters will
destroy much of its cultural heritage as they have done in historic
sites such as Nineveh.
The city already was a caravan oasis when Romans overtook it in the
mid-first century. Its importance grew as a city on the trade route
linking the Roman Empire to Persia, India and China, according to the
British historian and novelist Tom Holland has described Palmyra as "an
extraordinary fusion of classical and Iranian influences intermixed
with various Arab influence as well."
"Mesopotamia, Iraq, Syria, this is the wellspring of global
civilization," he said. "It really couldn't be higher stakes in terms
The Islamist extremists have shown no hesitation destroying such
history, propagandizing that destroying idols or false gods follows in
the footsteps of the Prophet Mohammed, who smashed statues in Mecca. In
fact, they've often made a show of it.
Besides destruction, ISIS could also try to profit from its rampage,
said Fawaz Gerges, professor of Middle East studies at The London
School of Economics.
"They have networks that allow them to traffic in cultural treasures,"
adds Gerges, the author of the forthcoming book "ISIS: A Short
History." "They have made tens of millions of dollars selling artworks."
Isis has not released images of
any assault on Palmyra ruins. The militant group is also now in control
of two major gas fields near the city which supply the power stations
of western Syria.
The UN high commissioner for refugees said 11,000 civilians had fled
Palmyra since the Isis offensive began, settling in nearby villages.
The city was home to internally-displaced people from other areas of
Syria, many of them now fleeing again.
“People are arriving exhausted, scared and in increasing numbers,” said
Bhajat Al Arandas, an official with Al-Birr Society, which is working
with UNHCR to distribute aid to the refugees. “They fled their homes in
Palmyra and neighbouring villages with hardly anything and report there
is no water, electricity or working mobile phone network [in the city].”
But two-thirds of residents are believed to still be in Palmyra,
raising fears of retribution from Isis, which has already executed
members of a rebellious tribe called the Shaitat that it accused of
fighting alongside government forces.
The Assad regime had claimed that it evacuated most of the civilians in
Palmyra before withdrawing from the city. But citing what she said were
credible sources, UN spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said there were
reports of government forces preventing civilians from leaving until
they themselves fled and Isis took control of the city.
“Isil has reportedly been carrying out door-to-door searches in the
city, looking for people affiliated with the government. At least 14
civilians are reported to have been executed by Isil in Palmyra this
week,” she said, using another acronym for Islamic State.
The following is an excerpt from the
Middle East Children's Alliance (MECA)
"Each year on May 15th, Palestinians in
Palestine and around the world commemorate the Nakba or “catastrophe”—
the massive uprooting, terror, destruction and ethnic cleansing
that Zionist forces carried out in order to create a Jewish majority
Palestinian women in Galilee (now part of Israel)
Officially, this is the 67th anniversary of the Nakba but it actually
began in 1947, before the “Arab-Israeli War.” That year, 250,000
Palestinians—more than 25% of the population—were driven from their
land and their homes. A total of 800,000 Palestinians were driven out
or fled in terror; 531 villages were destroyed.
For Palestinian refugees there are two powerful symbols of the
Nakba. Many still hold the keys to their original homes, which
are handed down from one generation to the next. The keys
represent the hope and the commitment to realizing the right of return.
The other symbol is the tent, which is part of the refugees’ past,
present and a constant threat. In 67 years, Palestinian refugee camps
have grown enormously.
The original Nakba continues when the Israeli military bombs homes in
Gaza, when the Israeli government carries out “administrative
demolitions” of homes throughout East Jerusalem; when stateless
Palestinians, along with Syrians, flee the tragic war in Syria and are
forced to survive again in tents in neighboring countries.
Since MECA started in 1988 we have always stood with the people holding
the keys and struggling for their right of return. And our work
has always been focused on those surviving in tents or living with the
reality or the threat of displacement — especially children.
Today, we join Palestinians all around the world to commemorate the
Nakba and renew our commitment to refugees in Palestine and throughout
the Middle East. We know that justice is only possible when the right
of return becomes a reality.
fleeing to Lebanon during the ethnic cleansing 1948
(photo courtesy MECA)
For more about the Nakba:
Israel continues to criminalise marking Nakba Day
Activists now face difficulty in commemorating Palestinian dispossession
during Israel's founding due to Israeli law.(Patrick Strickland, Al Jazeera, 5/14/15)
Forced to leave grapes on the vine:
the open wounds of May 1948(Rami Almeghari, The Electronic Intifada, 5/14/15)
Nakba Day is not just about remembering -
it is about the Palestinians' return(Ben White, Middle-East Eye, 5/15/15)
67 years ago, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine unfolded through
expulsions, massacres, and demolitions. Hundreds of villages were
emptied, then levelled; centres of Palestinian urban life and community
disappeared; columns of refugees took flight at the barrel of a gun.
Israeli military attacks Nakba Day
A society was dismembered and fragmented. In the months and years after
1948, the army of the State of Israel, formed from the militias who had
occupied and 'cleansed' village after village, used bullets and
landmines to keep out the refugees trying to return home.
Nor is it just about remembering – it is also about the ongoing Nakba,
and resistance to the apartheid horror of Palestine today: the
systematic discrimination faced by Palestinians with Israeli
citizenship, the Gaza prison camp, the military regime and matrix of
control in the West Bank.
protests with live (Mondoweiss, 5/16/15)
Series on the Palestinian 'catastrophe' of 1948
that led to dispossession and conflict that still endures(click above to access Series)
"The Nakba did not begin in 1948. Its origins lie over two centuries ago…."
MECA Action:Help Dr. Mona El-Farra exit Gaza
and raise awareness of the ongoing blockade
Turks feat Saudi alliance will drag country into war in Syria
So begins this four-part series on the 'nakba', meaning the
'catastrophe', about the history of the Palestinian exodus that led to
the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948, and the establishment of the state
Arab, Israeli and Western intellectuals, historians and eye-witnesses
provide the central narrative which is accompanied by archive material
and documents, many only recently released for the first time.
Opposition politicians in Turkey have charged President
Recep Tayyip Erdogan with leading Turkey to war in Syria.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (left) is bid farewell by Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud
after their meeting at Riyadh's Erga Palace in Saudi Arabia on March 2, 2015.
| Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Turkey has long been implicated in the depths of the Syrian crisis, the
Turkish public is newly anxious over claims that the Turkish Armed
Forces are preparing to invade Syria to set up a buffer zone following
the fall of Idlib in late March to the Al-Qaeda affiliated Jabhat
Turkey's opposition party fears Erdogan might go to war in order to
cancel the upcoming legislative elections if Erdogan thinks he won't
get the 400 parliamentary seats he so covets.
Turkey's military is one of the most dominant in the region and second in size only to the U.S. within NATO.
The possibility of Turkey becoming a party to the Syrian civil war was
also being driven by eyewitness reports that weapons financed by Saudi
Arabia and others were entering Syria from Turkey and that Turkish
units were deploying along the border.
A military source along Hatay’s border, where the massing of Turkish
troops is visible, told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that there
are no preparations for a cross-border operation.
Mehmet Ali Edipoglu, CHP parliamentary foreign relations committee
member, said, “There have been military movements toward the border for
the past two months. Then came the fall of Idlib. That war was 15
kilometers [9 miles] from our border. Of course there is a possibility
of Turkey entering the war in Syria. But I think, instead of Syria, it
is more likely that we will enter Iraq for the Mosul operation. Our
army is not happy with our Syria policy. The soldiers are very uneasy
about this. I don’t think that such a war is likely.”
It is no secret that despite a long history of rivalry, Turkey has
built momentum with the Saudis if not to enter Syria now, then to
galvanize a proxy war that in the long term could be even more
perilous. After meetings with Saudi King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud
during a visit to Riyadh Feb. 28-March 2, Erdogan had told journalists
that they had agreed to boost support to the Syrian opposition to allow
them to produce results.
agreement stipulated that in return for Turkey’s support of the Saudi
operation against Yemen, the two countries would join forces against
the Syrian regime and form a bloc to counter Iranian influence in the
region. Given the Saudi-Turkish agreement, the surge in activity along
the Turkish-Syrian border cannot be a coincidence. The fall of Idlib
followed palpable new military activity. According to one claim,
developments in Syria are being managed from the Antakya Operations
Room under the control of US and Turkish intelligence officials.
The ongoing rapprochement between Turkey and Saudi Arabia also includes
a softening of the Saudi's hostility toward the Muslim Brotherhood, a
key sticking point for Turkey.
Aaron Stein, a Turkey expert at the London-based Royal United Services
Institute, said Saudi King Salman has led a strategic shift to align
his country more closely with Turkey and Qatar on Syria policy, with a
focus on uniting Islamist fighters to battle both the Syrian regime and
Islamic State extremists.
“He may dislike [the Muslim Brotherhood]," Stein said of the Saudi
king, "but he has realized that the war against them was dividing the
Arab world, and preventing unity on key Saudi foreign policy goals like
rolling back Iran and defeating Assad -- which the Kingdom views as
being one and the same.”
Riyadh and Ankara have shared the goal of arming Assad's opposition
since the early days of the Syrian civil war, which has now been going
on for four years. But relations between the two have frayed as they
have repeatedly found themselves on opposite sides of other regional
conflicts such as Israel's most recent war in Gaza which Erdogan
characterized as "genocide by israel" while the Saudis refrained from
publicly criticizing Israel.
Existence of the Saudi-Turkish partnership was exposed by the use of
TOW anti-tank missiles against regime forces at Idlib and confirmed by
the Syrian opposition.
observers believe that the unlikely cooperation between Saudi Arabia
and Turkey has been spurred in part by the perception that Iran and the
U.S. are moving closer together.
Beyond the nuclear framework agreement that Iran reached with six world
powers earlier this month, Iran-backed forces and the U.S. have also
been in a tacit alliance against the Islamic State in Iraq. By propping
up Shiite militias there, Iran has played a major role in the effort to
retake Iraqi territory from the militant group.
"It’s an alliance that’s being forced by the perceived success of the
Iranians,” said Firas Abi Ali, a Middle East senior manager at the risk
analysis firm IHS, referring to the rapprochement between Saudi Arabia
and Turkey on the issue of Syria.
Ali added that without international sanctions, Iran would likely be doing even more to help Assad.
“Iran has been engaged in Syria with one hand tied behind its back as a
result of the sanctions," he said. "Without that constraint, the
perception among the Sunni states -- Turkey and Saudi Arabia -- would
be that they need to contribute significantly more to match what they
fear will be an increased Iranian commitment."
Will the alleged efforts succeed in dragging Turkey into a military
adventure? Many people following developments believe that in light of
the mechanisms imposing moderation and oversight in Turkey being in
disarray, only tactical objections by the military can rule out such an
eventuality. The objections of the military can best be summed up as
follows: If Turkey enters, it can’t exit. The war will spread to the
Palestinians inspect a damaged classroom of the UN school in Jabalia, northern Gaza, in July. Photograph:Mohammed Saber/EPA
Israel responsible for Gaza strikes
on UN schools and shelters, inquiry finds
condemns attacks, including strike on UN school that killed 20 people
and wounded dozens, ‘as a matter of the utmost gravity’
(Peter Beaumont, Guardian UK, 4/27/15)
A Palestinian girl cries while receiving treatment for her injuries caused by an Israeli strike.
Photograph: Khalil Hamra/AP
a closer look at Israeli strikes on UNRWA
UN-run schools acting as civilian shelters have been hit seven times during Israel’s Gaza offensive. We catalogue them in detail
"It is a moral outrage and a criminal act.” – UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon (Raya Jalabi, Tom McCarthy and Nadja Popovich, Guadian UK, 8/8/14)
excerpt from (top) 4/27/15 article:
Israel was responsible for striking
seven United Nations sites used as civilian shelters during the 2014
Gaza war and within those seven UN sites 44 Palestinians died and 227
others were injured. This is the conclusion of an inquiry ordered
by UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon.
More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed
during the Gaza conflict last July and August. Sixty-seven Israeli
soldiers and six civilians in Israel were killed by rockets and attacks
by Hamas and other militant groups.
Releasing the report last Monday, Ban condemned the attacks “as a
matter of the utmost gravity” and said “those who looked to them for
protection and who sought and were granted shelter there had their
hopes and trust denied”.
Ban insisted that UN locations were “inviolable”.
The issue is particularly sensitive as the locations of all UN
buildings – including schools used as shelters – are routinely provided
to the Israeli military and updated in times of conflict.
Ban’s criticism was contained in the published summary letter of a
confidential internal report, commissioned by the secretary general in
November, running to 207 pages.
There is a link to a 3:00 video where Ban-Ki-moon states "nothing more shameful than attacking sleeping children".
Although the report has no legal status,
the disclosure of the inquiry’s findings comes at a difficult time for
Israel on the international stage, facing increasing international
isolation over its policies and following the acceptance of the
Palestinian Authority as a signatory to the International Criminal
Court earlier this month.
The attacks on UN schools being used as shelters were among some of the
most controversial incidents of the war.
International humanitarian law
– while complex – requires attacking forces in areas where there are
non-combatants to protect civilians and adhere to the principle of
proportionality, safeguards even more stringent when civilians are
under UN protection.
In one of the most serious incidents, the UNRWA school in Jabaliya was
struck by Israeli fire, killing 20 people and wounding dozens.
In another incident that saw Israeli munitions strike a UN school in
Beit Hanoun 15 Palestinians were killed in the playground as they
awaited evacuation while dozens more injured.
Israeli sources had originally tried to suggest that the attack had been due to a Hamas weapon falling short.
The UN inquiry – separate form an inquiry launched by the UN Human
Rights Council – was headed by retired general Patrick Cammaert, a
former officer in the Dutch military and included military and legal
The details of the contents of the board of inquiry are confidential
and only Ban’s covering letter has been made public. Conceding that the
report was of “considerable interest” he said he had taken the decision
to release a summary of the inquiry’s findings.
When Ban visited Gaza in October, he
said the destruction was “beyond description” and “much more serious”
than what he witnessed in the Palestinian territory in 2009 in the
aftermath of Israel's Operation Cast Lead.
ISIS executes three Eritrean asylum seekers deported by Israel
It should be noted
the three victims signed “voluntary departure” forms, although most
asylum seekers and NGOs see this as another form of deportation, since
the other option afforded to asylum seekers is indefinite detention at
Holot in the middle of the Negev Desert.
government recently announced its intention to begin forcefully
deporting Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers. Refugee organizations
are concerned that the state refuses to reveal its back channel deals
with “third countries,” and worry that those same countries will not
guarantee the safety of asylum seekers.
Likud minister: Drowning of migrants justifies Israeli policy
Just one day after
950 asylum seekers drown on their way to Italy, Israel’s transportation
minister praises the government for preventing migrants from entering
Ban said on Monday he has established a group of senior managers to
look into the inquiry’s recommendation. A number of questions remain
unaddressed in the summary of the report, not least the issue of what
communications there were between UN staff and the Israeli military in
particular ahead of the attack on the school in Beit Hanoun when UN
staff are understood to have communicated to Israeli forces their
intention to bus out civilians who were waiting for evacuation at the
time of the attack.
Also unaddressed is why Israeli forces fired on designated protected
locations outside of the principle of immediate self-defence when they
were aware of concentrations of civilians sheltering there.
Chris Gunness, spokesman for UNRWA, which runs Gaza’s UN schools said:
“The inquiry found that despite numerous notifications to the Israeli
army of the precise GPS coordinates of the schools and numerous
notifications about the presence of displaced people, in all seven
cases investigated by the Board of Inquiry when our schools were hit
directly or in the immediate vicinity, the hit was attributable to the
“The board confirms the use by the IDF of weaponry such as 120 mm high
explosive anti-tank projectiles and 155 MM high explosive projectiles
on or in the surrounding area of UNRWA schools where civilians had
taken refuge. In the incidents investigated at least 44 people were
killed and 227 injured including women and children. In none of the
schools which were hit directly or in the immediate vicinity, were
weapons discovered or fired from. If it were confirmed that militants
did fire rockets from our schools we would condemn it, just as we
robustly we condemned other violations of our neutrality.”
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz
(Likud) sees lessons for Israeli policy in the tragic massacre of 700
asylum seekers who drowned when their vessel capsized on Sunday in the
Mediterranean Sea. Posting a photo showing rows of corpses brought to
shore by rescue workers, Katz wrote the following caption,
which is translated here from Hebrew:
“Hundreds of migrants from Africa drowned to death close to Italy in a
disaster that horrified all human beings. Europe is having a difficult
time dealing with the migrants, and with creating solutions for this
difficult issue. While there are differences between us (the migrants
traveling to Europe must cross a sea while those heading for Israel
have a direct overland connection), you can see the rectitude of our
government’s policy to build a fence on the border with Egypt, which
blocks the job-seeking migrants before they enter Israel. The elections
are over — you can give us some credit now.”
Only four days earlier, Katz published a sombre Facebook statusabout
Holocaust Remembrance Day (with a gratuitous claim that Israel now
faces another Holocaust — i.e., from Iran’s nuclear program).
Katz seems not to remember some basic historical information about
events leading up to and immediately after the Holocaust. When Israeli
and Jewish schoolchildren around the world are taught about the Shoah,
one of the most-emphasized points is that the Jews trying to escape the
Nazis were denied refuge by nearly every country in the world. And that
the Nazi regime felt it had carte blanche to carry out its genocide
because the world had demonstrated its indifference to the fate of the
Jews. They are taught about the 1938 Evian Conference, initiated by
Franklin D. Roosevelt, which brought together representatives of 32
states for over a week in that Swiss resort town to discuss the
possibility of taking in more refugees from Germany and Austria, which
were then the only two countries under Nazi rule. But none would agree
to expand their quotas. After the war, Jewish survivors of the death
camps who tried to make their way to Palestine by boat were turned away
and forcibly interned by the British army on the nearby island of
The comparisons are so obvious that they should not need mentioning.
They should be obvious to the government of Israel, and to Yisrael Katz
specifically. Israel is a country that uses the Holocaust to justify its policies
even its very existence — but somehow politicians like Netanyahu, Katz,
Miri Regev and others seem to believe that compassion begins and ends
Katz demonstrates an almost pathological
lack of compassion with his gleeful-sounding status, in which he makes
political capital of a catastrophe.
Pre-army students to Netanyahu:
Over the past few years, Israel has treated the asylum seekers from
sub-Saharan African very badly. It has refused to consider their
refugee status, refused to grant them the right to work
legally,imprisoned them and deported them by force.
Israel is not the only country to treat asylum seekers badly. In Europe
and in the United States, governments dither over refugees because
right-wing, populist and racist opposition politicians have put them on
the defensive. But in Israel those right-wing, populist and racist
politicians are the government.
Stop deportation of refugees
Over 130 students
from pre-military academies send a letter to the prime minister,
calling on him to learn the lessons of the Holocaust and put an end to
Israel’s policy of deporting Sudanese and Eritrean asylum seekers.
Israel to indefinitely imprison asylum seekers
who refuse deportation
In a move
unprecedented in Western countries, Israel’s outgoing interior minister
announces plan to compel asylum seekers to leave the country. Israel’s
High Court has repeatedly struck down laws that authorized the
indefinite detention of asylum seekers.
Israel has granted refugee status
to 0.07% of African asylum seekers
Israel has not
granted a single Sudanese asylum seeker refugee status, in spite of a
wave of migrants fleeing violence, according to official state
statistics, submitted to the High Court of Justice on February 16. In
all, the government has granted refugee status to only 0.07% of the
5,573 Sudanese and Eritreans who have applied for asylum in the country—
a mere four individuals.
African imigrants speak out about life
in Israel's detention centres
includes a 7 minute documentary which captures the lives of Sudanese
and Eritrean refugees living in limbo in Israel.
NBC News Alters Account Of
Correspondent’s Kidnapping In Syria
2012, numerous American factions were pushing for U.S. intervention in
Syria to bring down the regime of Bashar Assad, who throughout the War
on Terror had helped the U.S. in all sorts of ways, including torturing
people for them. But by then, Assad was viewed mostly as an ally of
Iran, and deposing him would weaken Tehran, the overarching regional
strategy of the U.S. and its allies. The prevailing narrative was thus
created that those fighting against Assad were “moderate”
with the leading one dubbed “the Free Syrian Army.”
As it turns out, the “moderate” “Free Syrian Army” was largely a myth
according to Greenwald. By far, the most effective fighting forces
against Assad were anything but “moderate,” composed instead of various
Al Qaeda manifestations and even more extreme elements.
In December 2012 – as the pro-intervention cause was strengthening – a
group of six journalists working for NBC News, including its star
international reporter Richard Engel, was kidnapped inside Syria. They
were held for five days, threatened with death, treated inhumanely, and
forced to record a video in which Engel was made to call for an end to
U.S. involvement in Syria. Scrawled on the walls of the room where the
video was recorded was graffiti of pro-Assad messages along with
well-known Shiite references.
Journalists working for NBC including Richard Engel on far left held in detention
during an elaborate kidnapping ruse by Syrian rebels. Click photo for video.
obvious intent was to make it appear that these NBC journalists had
been kidnapped and mistreated by Shiite forces associated with Assad.
Once they were released, Engel quickly gave numerous interviews
including the "Today" show just hours after emerging. Engel
's unequivocal narrative was that the captors were aligned with Assad
and that he was rescued by anti-Assad forces. That then became
unquestioned fact on NBC.
Engel appeared on the Rachel Maddow show on December 21.
Engel described how the rebel commander heroically tried to sacrifice
his own life to save the journalists, but to no avail: the
“pro-government forces” brutalized, tortured and threatened the
reporters and even executed some of the rebels."
The ordeal ended, Engel said, only when his pro-government captors
accidentally ran into a rebel checkpoint, where the rebels heroically
killed some of Assad’s forces and freed the journalists, treating them
with great compassion.
Three days earlier, in a December 18 appearance on Maddow's show, Engel
– after describing how brutal and inhumane his captors were – actually
linked them to both Iran and Hezbollah in response to a question from
There were ample reasons at the time to be suspicious that this was a
scam (perpetrated on (not by) Engel and his fellow captives) to blame
Assad for the abduction. There was skepticism expressed by some
independent analysts – although not on NBC News. According to Glenn
Greenwald the brilliant political science professor and blogger As'ad AbuKhalil, (angryarab.blogspot.com) was highly skeptical from the start about the identity of Engel’s captors.
AbuKhalil himself examined the video and wrote:
"I looked at the video and it is so clearly a set up and the slogans
are so clearly fake and they intend to show that they were clearly
Shi’ites and that they are savages."
As it turns out, that seems to be exactly what happened. On April 15 Engel posted a new statement on the NBC news website where he wrote:
“The group that kidnapped us was Sunni, not Shia” and that “the group
that freed us” – which he had previously depicted as heroic anti-Assad
rebels – actually “had ties to the kidnappers.”
Several rebels and others with detailed knowledge of the episode said
that the safe release of NBC’s team was staged after consultation with
rebel leaders when it became clear that holding them might imperil the
rebel efforts to court Western support.
Nobody can blame Engel – a courageous reporter, fluent in Arabic – for falling for what appears to be a well-coordinated ruse.
the same is most certainly not true of NBC News executives. In writing
his new account, Engel does not mention the most important and most
incriminating aspect of the New York Times reporting: that NBC
officials knew at the time that there was reason to be highly skeptical
of the identity of the captors, but nonetheless allowed Engel and
numerous other NBC and MSNBC reporters to tell this story with
virtually no questioning.
The NY Times states that “Mr. Engel’s team was almost certainly taken
by a Sunni criminal element affiliated with the Free Syrian Army, the
loose alliance of rebels opposed to Mr. Assad.” That rebel group is
“known as the North Idlib Falcons Brigade” and is “led by two men, Azzo
Qassab and Shukri Ajouj.” NBC executives knew that this was at
least very possible even during Engel’s kidnapping, and yet the NY
"NBC executives were informed of Mr. Ajouj and Mr. Qassab’s possible
involvement during and after Mr. Engels’s captivity. Still, the network
moved quickly to put Mr. Engel on the air with an account blaming
Shiite captors and did not present the other possible version of
In other words, NBC executives at least had ample reason to suspect
that it was anti-Assad rebels who staged the kidnapping, not pro-Assad
forces. Yet they allowed Engel and numerous other NBC and MSNBC
personalities repeatedly and unequivocally to blame the Assad regime
and glorify the anti-Assad rebels, and to link the kidnapping to
Iran and Hezbollah, all with no indication that there were other quite
NBC refused to respond to the NY Times and The Intercept's questions about that.
believes this Engel story is about what appears to be a reckless
eagerness, if not deliberate deception, on the part of NBC officials to
disseminate a dubious storyline which, at the time, was very much in
line with the story which official Washington was selling.
About this story, Professor AbuKhalil emailed this comment:
"This is a culture: they all were part of a charade to promote and
champion the Free Syrian Army when that very army was kidnapping
innocent Lebanese Shi’ites and killing people on sectarian grounds."
He also passed along an email from a Western correspondent based in the
region, asking not to be identified, who said: “Everybody knew that it
was a Sunni group tied to the [Free Syrian Army] that had kidnapped
[Engel] from the moment it happened: people were talking about it in
South Turkey, journalists, opposition people.”
Yet Richard Engel in his April 15th mea culpa states that once he
learned from the NY Times that the kidnapping may have been an
elaborate ruse he "spoke to multiple U.S. law enforcement and
intelligence sources who had direct knowledge of our case. They all
said they did not doubt our story back in 2012 or anytime since."
(Dore note: which suggests Engel's intelligence sources are lying or maybe not so intelligent.)
noted above, Engel claimed repeatedly that the anti-Assad rebels killed
some of his pro-government captors when rescuing him. He stated the
same thing in a Vanity Fair article he wrote recounting his kidnapping.
But as the New York Times notes, Engel now acknowledges that he never
saw a body.
Origin of Islamic State Yarmouk Attack
past five months there has been a wave of assassinations inside Yarmouk
Camp which targeted a diverse group of individuals. They were all
killed professionally and mysteriously, and included activists
affiliated to Fatah, Hamas and other Palestinian factions. This wave
was finally confronted with the assassination of Yahya Hourani (aka Abu
Suhaib), a former Hamas official in Yarmouk, and a leading medical aid
Bayt al-Maqdis (ABM), which is linked to Hamas, first accused IS in the
nearby al-Hajar al-Aswad area of orchestrating the murder, then
detained IS members. Within twenty-four hours, IS raided the camp and
besieged the Diaspora Office which is run by ABM. IS quickly took
control of most of the southern parts of Yarmouk, which had previously
been under the control of al-Nusra Front, sparking suggestions that
there had been a prior agreement between the two groups about allowing
scenario unfolds for the Palestinian fighters, Yarmouk Camp’s future
looks bleak, irrespective of whether IS controls it fully or partially,
or whether it is recovered by the Palestinian groups – either ABM or
some faction loyal to the Syrian regime. Palestinians in Yarmouk will
continue to pay a heavy price until the Syrian crisis reaches a stable
and permanent outcome, or major changes take place in the battlefield
in southern Damascus. If IS remains in control of parts of the camp, an
increasing number of civilians will attempt to leave, as IS’s
indifference to the popular sentiment will alienate more people and
make their daily lives even more miserable.
Yarmouk destruction April 2015 photo by AFP
When the Islamic State (IS) group
entered Yarmouk in southern Damascus lApril 1, the Palestinian refugee
camp was thrust back into the media spotlight.
Caught between the rockets of Syrian government forces and IS, factions
inside Yarmouk, chiefly the (anti-Syrian regime) Palestinian group
Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis (ABM), fought fierce gun battles with IS.
With concern over the fate of the camp growing, the PLO sent a
delegation from the West Bank to Syria to discuss the plight of the
refugees with Syrian authorities. An initial statement from PLO
official Ahmad Majdalani said that Palestinian factions had agreed to
cooperate with Syrian government forces inside the camp to counter IS.
However, another statement released shortly afterwards from the PLO
leadership in Ramallah contradicted this, saying that they refused to
be drawn into military actions.
Residents of Yarmouk offer a very different version of events.
“Palestinian militias allied to Bashar
al-Assad like the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General
Command [PFLP-GC] are the ones who dragged the camp into the Syrian
conflict,” 30-year-old journalist Ahmad, a resident of the camp, told
Middle East Eye via Skype on Thursday. (Dore note: Ahmad's last name
and journalist credential is not provided).
“Before, the camp was a safe haven, a
neutral zone for people in the areas around it," Ahmad said. "These
militias, led by PFLP-GC’s Ahmad Jibril, are the ones who began
kidnapping and arresting activists within and around the camp and
handing them over to the regime.”
Anwar Abdul Hadi, a PLO official based in the government-controlled
capital of Damascus, said on Sunday that 2,000 people were evacuated
from the camp to the capital under the protection of the Syrian army.
Shaml Media, a Palestinian media network in Syria, was the first to
contest the PLO’s claims, tweeting out that only 180 people left
Sources within the camp who spoke to various humanitarian organisations
within Yarmouk told MEE that approximately 200 people left on the day
the PLO issued its statement.
“They weren’t evacuated,” said Ahmad. “I can confirm that the regime
forces did not offer a safe passage for the ‘evacuation’ of the
refugees. Rather, the refugees took refuge outside the camp.”
"Here in southern Damascus we are under siege but there are 6 or 7
neighborhoods that are linked to each other. It is possible to move
from one to another, like moving from island to island. This is what
southern Damascus is like" said a Yarmouk resident.
It remains unclear as to how exactly the 200 residents managed to make it to the government-controlled part of the capital.
“No one goes to the regime-controlled entrances,” Ahmad explained.
“It’s just not checkpoints they’ve erected; it’s an entire
battleground, with snipers ready to shoot at anything moving.”
Presence of IS exploited by factions for media
Salim Salamah of the Yarmouk emergency
team and based in Sweden, admitted to the confusion surrounding the
news of the residents fleeing.
“We need to distinguish between two things,” he said. “The displacement
of the people from the camp within southern Damascus and the
displacement of the people from the camp to outside, who are now in the
Ahmad said that Yarmouk, a 2.11-square-km area (less than a sq
mile) that used to house 160,000 people are now reduced to around
Since IS entered Yarmouk on April 1, a total of 4,000 residents had
fled to nearby neighbourhoods. "Most of the people that managed to
leave are now living in schools or in the streets," Ahmad added.
Military entry will bring further death
Anger at the PLO has risen in the camp, especially since the
announcement that Palestinian officials would be meeting with Syrian
authorities who Yarmouk residents see as responsible for the camp’s
Fawzi Hameed, the head of the civil society organisations in Yarmouk,
stated that a military solution would only bring more devastation.
“We stress that the entry of the military will bring about further death and destruction and is not the solution,” he said.
Analysts say that the renewed attention
that Yarmouk is now under masks the complicity of both pro- and
anti-government factions that contributed to Yarmouk's demise.
“Everyone is trying to profit from the camp’s suffering,” Ahmad said.
“They all want to turn Yarmouk into a Kobane to achieve their victories
on the backs of the flesh of the civilians,” referring to the Kurdish
city that garnered major media attention after IS overran the city and
the US-led military coalition started a bombing campaign against the
Speaking through Skype, Ahmad halted a few times as the whining of a
Syrian military plane sounded overhead. After a couple of loud booms,
he apologised and said he would call back later as he had to move to
the lower ground of the house he was in.
“One thing we have to be mindful of is that the presence of the Islamic
State in Yarmouk provides other sides, the opposition factions and the
government regime alike, to exploit the media in a favourable way,” he
“There are limited battles on the outskirts but IS did not enter the camp - this is all for the media" claims Ahmad.
Meanwhile the media has turned a blind eye to the government forces’
role in starving Yarmouk’s residents in favour of intensive reporting
on the army’s alleged military proposition to enter the camp in order
to repel IS. Yet Yarmouk’s residents maintain that the biggest threat
they encounter is from the Syrian military airstrikes on the camp.
“Media sources have reported that there
are massacres and mass beheadings in Yarmouk,” said Abu Ahmad Huwari,
the secretary-general of the Palestinian National Body for Yarmouk
camp, pointing out that this has caused families who were previously
displaced from the camp to panic. (Dore note: two beheadings have been
“We in Yarmouk assert that there is no truth to these reports, and we
confirm as civil society organisations that there are airstrikes that
kill civilians, and that we will remain in the camp in order to ensure
a dignified life and to ensure the return for our families,” he
declared. “We will not leave the camp despite the barrel bombs or the
gun battles. We will only leave if we go back to our land in Palestine.
For now, we demand a safe passage so that food and medical supplies can
enter for our people.”
Aerial bombings biggest danger
Ahmad dismissed claims of an IS takeover of the camp.
“Here I am, talking to you and smoking,”
he said. “I can go down to the store in the street and buy a pack of
cigarettes, and I won’t be beheaded by IS because I am not living in
2 short films made inside Yarmouk by Palestinian youth:
“They didn’t impose their rule and declare Yarmouk as part of their
caliphate,” he added. “Their presence should not be confused with
controlling the camp.”
The airstrikes remain the biggest danger to the civilians.”
“More than 30 barrel bombs targeted the camp in the last nine
days,” Salim Salamah said. “On Wednesday night 16 barrel bombs fell on
the camp, including one that targeted Palestine Hospital. These aerial
bombardments are extremely destructive and are in no way comparable to
the ground invasion of IS.”
“If medical and food supplies don’t enter the camp within the next 48 hours, the result will be beyond tragic,” he said.
This film is the outcome of a workshop via Skype with twelve young
Palestinians under siege in Yarmouk. This film expresses four daily
realities of this siege. While finalizing the film, the situation in
Yarmouk worsened and it became difficult for them to meet together.
Following the attack on Yarmouk by IS last week people involved in the
making of the film were killed as detailed below.
Pasted from the closing credits:
During the four months it took to make this film, Abed one of the
filmmakers, lost his father to a regime sniper. Another of the
filmmakers, Abdallah, was subject to a kidnapping attempt. Jamal
Khalife, one of the filmmakers, was killed during the attack of IS on
Yarmouk camp. (Jamal was also one of the filmmakers on the film
"Blue".) Firas Naji, coordinator of Wahid Center, was assassinated in
his home. Wahid Center was the main partner in making this film.
This is just a small glimpse of the siege on Southern Damascus.
Blue is a moving film about a young pianist who rolls his worn piano on
a cart into the middle of a street in Yarmouk, and plays amid rubble
and mortar shells falling.
Islamic State Seizes Palestinian Refugee Camp in Syria
(Anne Barnard, NY Times, 4/4/15)
ISIL seizes most of Syria's Yarmouk refugee camp
Thousands of Palestinian refugees trapped in the Damascus camp,
where heavy shelling has been reported since Wednesday
(Al Jazeera/AP, 4/04/14)
Thousands of Palestinian refugees queuing to receive food in Yarmouk camp, Damascus, Syria.
18,000 Palestine refugees remain trapped in the Yarmouk neighbourhood of Damascus
”To know what it is like in Yarmouk, turn off your electricity, water,
heating, eat once a day, live in the dark, live by burning wood”
Anas, Yarmouk resident.(unrwa.org/crisis-in-yarmouk; March 2014)
Syria: ISIL Conquest of Yarmouk Palestinian Camp
refutes Israeli Propaganda(Juan Cole Blog, 4/2/15)
Yarmuk Refugee Camp
and the Syrian Uprising:
A View from Within(Nidal Bitari, palestine-studies.org, Vol 43, 2013/2014)
combined source excerpt:
(Al Jazeera, AP, UNRWA, NY Times, Reuters, Juan Cole, Nidal Bitari and Dore Stein)
It's been a heavy week for news coming
out of the Middle East dominated by the framework for a nuclear
agreement with Iran, Palestine attaining membership of the
International Criminal Court and Saudi Arabia launching an air war on
Yemen along with other Gulf and north African countries, with
logistical support from the U.S.
However, mainstream American news sources did not include an alarming
news story that will be the focus of this Gaza Corner. Even
prominent public radio programs such as National Public Radio's Morning
Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition Saturday and PRI's The
World (from doing searches on their websites), all failed to
cover the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe of 18,000 Palestinian
civilian refugees trapped within less than a square mile in Damascus,
This past Wednesday the Islamic State (IS) fighters launched a
lightning assault on the Yarmouk camp. Yarmouk is an "unofficial"
refugee camp and was home to the largest Palestinian refugee community
in Syria. Yarmouk is just six miles from downtown Damascus, marking
IS's deepest foray yet into Syria's capital. Human Rights groups
say IS now controls 90% of the camp.
click above to enlarge
First built for Palestinians fleeing the
1948 Arab-Israeli war, Yarmouk was once considered to be the de facto
capital of the Palestinian refugee diaspora. Yarmouk prospered as a
safe haven for Palestinians. Prior to the Syrian civil war, it
had more than 150,000 refugees living there. It had been a bustling
commercial center with a huge market with its own mosques, schools and
public buildings. Though people still refer to it as a “camp”, tents
were replaced with solid housing soon after its founding in 1957. As
well as being home to Syria’s largest community of Palestinian
refugees, it also housed some 650,000 Syrians.
Prior to the IS attack, Yarmouk has been under a brutal government
siege the last two years. It is a prison for its remaining residents,
who survive on little food and water, with no hope of escape.
The fate of the 18,000 Palestinian civilians is unknown (the number is
approximate as it includes anywhere between 1,000 and 4,000 Syrians) as
civilians are trapped amid intense shelling and clashes. The Syrian
regime reacted to the attack by adding it’s own barrage of artillery
into the mix, adding to the civilian casualty count. A local
activist reported: “The regime forces are shelling the camp with
mortars. They hit the emergency entrance for Palestine hospital. Some
civilians were killed from it.”
Earlier today in what was described as "Breaking News" Reuters
and the New York Times showed video
with footage uploaded to social
media that purports to show surface-to-surface missile launches by
Syrian regime forces targeting the Yarmouk refugee camp.
On Thursday, April 2, the day after IS entered Yarmouk, this urgent call to action
The IS attack came days before a deal to
ease the humanitarian situation for civilians in the camp was set to
come into operation.
Al Jazeera's Stefanie Dekker said that
despite calls from the United Nations and activists, the Syrian
government was unlikely to open a humanitarian corridor for 18,000
civilians who are still in the camp.
"It is a complex situation. The government forces control the northern
part [of the camp] towards Damascus. It is their priority to keep the
capital safe," said Dekker. "The fact that ISIL fighters are less than
10km away is of a huge concern. If they allow a humanitarian corridor,
who will be coming out?"
There are reports that mosques are blaring calls for blood donations in
the areas surrounding the camp as hospitals received wounded civilians
Among the 18,000 civilians trapped in Yarmouk are 3500 children.
There are 560,000 Palestinian refugees living in 12 Palestinian refugee
camps in Syria - 95%, or 480,000 have been unable to escape
and are still there in the midst of this horrific war.
In a detailed March 5 Guardian UK article
article by Jonathan Steel, he
described Yarmouk "as a refugee camp designed as a safe haven for the
Palestinian diaspora that had become the worst place on earth.
electricity for months. No piped water. No access for food. Worse
still, no chance for people to leave or return." Some called it
Syria’s Gaza, but its plight was even worse.
Yarmouk has been under a government-imposed blockade since
mid-2013. It grabbed international attention more than a year ago after
images emerged of emaciated children and gaunt adults wasting away
under the toll of the siege. (click for article
Baby Israa al-Masri died of a hunger-related illness on January 11, 2014 in the Yarmouk camp [AP]
The U.N. has said more than 100 people have died there from starvation
and illnesses exacerbated by hunger or lack of medical aid. Tests
conducted in 2014 on a random sample of patients found that 40% had
In October 2013, in a sign of how bad things had become, the imam of
Yarmouk’s largest mosque issued a fatwa that permitted people to eat
cats, dogs and donkeys.
Since 6 December, the siege has once again become impassable as UNRWA
reports that it has not been able to deliver any food at all.
Christopher Gunness, spokesman for the UNRWA for Palestinian Refugees
described the situation in the camp before the attack as "beyond dire".
"Since July 2013 there has been an almost total siege, there's been almost no water, no electricity," he said.
"We have reports of women dying in childbirth through lack of medicines, we have reports of children starving to death."
UNWRA's website has a page called Save Yarmouk and these quotes under a heading Voices fr Yarmouk:
”To know what it is like in Yarmouk, turn off your electricity, water,
heating, eat once a day, live in the dark, live by burning wood” –
Anas, Yarmouk resident.
"Most houses have no doors or windows, and in the snow storm life
became harder. We depend on radishes and lettuce and green things grown
in the camp, but those food items had frozen. The water pipe exploded
because of the snow." – Raed'a.
"There is no wood, we are burning furniture and clothes to keep warm.
People have burned their bedrooms, chairs, living rooms. We are burning
things which are not purely wood, which has caused many health
problems." - Ra'eda.
"The most difficult thing is when my kids get up in the morning and ask
for milk and bread and it is not available and I have to give them a
radish or some vegetable, and sometimes that is not available." – Mahd.
"At 7am I walk one kilometer to get water for my home. I usually spend
five hours a day collecting water, but I only collect water every five
days because it is only available every five days."
– Aziz, aged 10
The day after IS entered Yarmouk, prominent writer and journalist Juan Cole
wrote a blog
which provides essential historical context:
"On Wednesday, the extremist Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) group, known for its
brutal beheadings and mass murder, took over the Yarmouk Palestinian
refugee camp inside Damascus city limits. Palestinian women and
Christians and male secularists are at special risk now. Had they been
living normally in their homes in what is now Israel, with their own
state, they would not have been left vulnerable to this fate. Refugees
and stateless people not only have no courts or armies to defend their
rights, they are not even recognized as having the right to have rights.
The Israelis ethnically cleansed three fifths of the Palestinians of
British Mandate Palestine in 1947-48, creating enormous refugee crises
in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon that roiled the
region through the subsequent decades and continue to contribute to
instability in the region. Some 70% of the Palestinians cooped up by
the Israelis in the open-door concentration camp called Gaza are
descendants of refugee families from what is now Israel, some living
only an hour’s walk from the homes that were stolen from them. Some 40%
of Palestinians in Gaza are still living in refugee camps, despite
Israeli direct rule 1967-2005.
Propagandists who excuse the ethnic cleansing campaign and the
continued explicit denial to Palestinians of the right of citizenship
in a state often maintain that it should have been possible for “the
Arabs” to “absorb” the Palestinians. But in international law, the
state that committed the ethnic cleansing is responsible for it and for
reparations, not the hapless neighbors on whom the refugees were
The Palestinians expelled by Israelis to Syria are a case in point.
They have grown through natural increase to some 400,000 (Syria’s
population is 23 million). Many of these Palestinians still live in
refugee camps. Among the more prominent is Yarmouk, a camp that had
until recently come to have 160,000 residents and now has only about
18,000. Palestinians are not Syrians and do not have Syrian
citizenship, but they were given substantial rights as residents in
None of that means anything now that the Syrian state is in collapse.
Some 90 percent of the population of Yarmouk has fled, caught in the
cross-fire of the civil war. with tens of thousands of refugees made
refugees all over again.
Does it mean anything for the displaced Palestinian victims of the Israelis that they are “Arabs” among Daesh murderers? Palestinians continue to suffer, not only under Israeli military
occupation, but wherever they are stateless refugees, open to the cruel
turns of fate that beset the powerless."
Amnesty International Report
Unlawful and deadly:
Rocket and mortar attacks by Palestinian armed groups
during the 2014 Gaza/Israel conflict
(Amnesty International, Vice News and Dore Stein)
Palestinian armed groups in Gaza committed war crimes during last summer's Operation Protective Edge,
which left more than 72 Israelis dead. The alleged crimes include
rocket fire that resulted in the deaths of six Israeli civilians,
including one child according to a March 26 report by Amnesty International (AI). (click above link for access to 68 pg. PDF file)
Protective Edge was an Israeli 51-day invasion into the Gaza Strip that
began on July 7, 2014. Israelis say it was an effort to stop rocket
fire; Palestinians say the rocket fire was a result of continued
ceasefire violations committed by the Israelis.
During the 'war on Gaza' (Dore Stein's phrase), Palestinian armed
groups responded by firing thousands of unguided rockets and mortars
towards Israel, in many cases directing them towards Israeli civilians
and civilian objects, in violation of international law according to
the Amnesty International report. These attacks killed six civilians in
Israel, wounded others, and damaged civilian property. The conduct of
Palestinian armed groups also endangered civilians in the Gaza Strip.
In one case, the available evidence according to Amnesty International,
indicates that a rocket fired by a Palestinian armed group on 28 July
2014 killed 11 children and two adults in the al-Shati refugee camp,
north-west of Gaza City. If the projectile which landed in the al-Shati
refugee camp is confirmed to be a Palestinian rocket, it would mean
that attacks launched by Palestinian armed groups during the 2014
conflict killed more civilians inside the Gaza Strip than in Israel.
The Amnesty International report does not address the summary killings
of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip by Hamas forces for alleged
“collaboration” with Israel during the July/August 2014 conflict, which
will be the subject of a forthcoming report.
Israeli forces also committed serious violations of international law
during the hostilities, but these are not the focus of this report.
Some of the Israeli violations, including attacks that constituted war
crimes, have been analysed in previous Amnesty International reports,
and additional reports will be published in the coming months.
Dore note: It's worth distinguishing that unlike the Palestinians who
fight with mostly crude unguided rockets, the Israeli Defense Forces
possess advanced weaponry such as precision guided bombs and missiles
yet still killed at least 1585 Gazan civilians including over 500
children and 300 women, and more than 11,000 Gazans werw injured
according to the Amnesty International report. It seems to me the IDF
either intentionally targeted the civilians or had really bad aim which
is hard to believe.
critical of Hamas and other armed groups in Gaza, the Amnesty
International report clears Hamas of using the civilian population of
Gaza as human shields, an accusation commonly employed by Israeli
"There is no evidence of any use of Gazans as human shields by Hamas or
any other armed group," according to Deborah Hyams, an Amnesty
International researcher who contributed to the report.
Dore Note: Apparently Amnesty International did not deal with the
question of whether the Israeli Defense Forces used Palestinians as
human shields which has been reported and documented.
criticism of the Hamas government is that they do not build bomb
shelters for the residents of Gaza, a fact that many feel contributes
greatly to the lack of safe areas. VICE News asked Amnesty
International 's Hyams whether the lack of bomb shelters could be
attributed to Hamas policies, or the Israeli siege of Gaza.
"It's potentially both," the researcher began. "The siege has made all
construction difficult, not just in the area of bomb shelters." Hyams
went on to address the common criticism that Hamas builds tunnels
instead of shelters: "There's a point to be made there, but we aren't
necessarily criticizing the tunnels. If they aren't used to attack
civilian targets, they are a legitimate tactic. But if you can build
tunnels, why not build shelters?"
Israel's Operation Protection Edge brought an unprecedented level of
death, destruction, damage, and injury to the occupied Gaza Strip. More
than seven years of Israeli blockade, imposed in June 2007 after Hamas
took over Palestinian governmental institutions in the Gaza Strip, had
already inflicted a severe cumulative toll on infrastructure, health
systems, and all aspects of life in the territory. The 1.8 million
Palestinians squeezed into the Strip could not leave, as the borders
were sealed and no place inside the Strip was truly safe. There are no
bomb shelters or warning systems to help protect civilians in the Gaza
Strip. At the height of the hostilities according to the report an
estimated 485,000 people had fled to UN schools, government schools,
and other public buildings, or were staying with relatives, but several
UN schools sheltering displaced civilians came under attack.
Dore note: Assessing blame for attacks on U.N. schools was not part of this report. However, Human Rights Watch investigated three attacks on Gaza schools which occurred on July 24 and 30, and August 3, 2014, that killed 45 people, including 17 children.
the Israeli side, bomb shelters, advanced warning systems, and Israel’s
Iron Dome missile defence system helped limit civilian casualties in
many areas. However, the conflict provided renewed evidence that
vulnerable communities in Israel, particularly Bedouin villages in
Israel’s southern Negev/Naqab region, many of which are not officially
recognized by the Israeli government, lacked protection. On both
sides, civilians once again bore the brunt of the third full-scale war
in less than six years.
Dore note: I'm not sure how Amnesty International draws the conclusion
that on both sides civilians bore the brunt of casualties.
According to the report, 66/72 Israeli deaths were members of the
Israeli Defense Forces. The report sources the UN Office for the
Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), confirms over 2,250
people were killed in the Gaza Strip, at least 1,585 of whom were
civilians, including 538 children and 306 women. More than 11,000
Palestinians were injured, up to 10% of them permanently. It is obvious
the Gazans bore the brunt of the third full-scale war in less than six
years, as they always do.
the Israeli nor the Palestinian authorities have conducted credible,
independent investigations meeting international standards following
previous conflicts, and those responsible for violations have
consistently escaped accountability. Since the 2014 conflict, Israel’s
investigations into the actions of its forces have once again been
conducted by the Israeli military itself, and there is no indication
that the Palestinian authorities are investigating violations by
Palestinian armed groups.
"To date, the situation with domestic investigations on both sides is
not looking good. Israeli investigations are conducted by the Israeli
military, and there's a huge conflict of interest there,"
Amnesty International researcher Hyams declared, criticizing Israel's
method of inquiry. "On the Palestinian side, we just don't know of any
investigations into alleged crimes," she concluded.
An independent commission of inquiry established to investigate all
violations of international humanitarian and human rights law committed
in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) “in the context of the
military operations conducted since 13 June 2014, whether before,
during or after” is due to report to the UN Human Rights Council in
June 2015. Amnesty International has consistently urged both the
Israeli and Palestinian authorities to co-operate with the UN
Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict. Israel’s
Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced in November 2014 that Israel
would not co-operate with the Commission, and the Israeli authorities
have refused to grant its investigators access to Israel or the OPT.
pattern of impunity for serious violations and crimes, as well as
evidence that both sides were committing further crimes during
Operation Protective Edge, led Amnesty International to call for an
International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation into crimes under
international law committed in Israel and the OPT. Palestine’s
accession to the ICC, which will take effect on 1 April 2015, and its
submission of a declaration accepting the Court’s jurisdiction from 13
June 2014, are important steps towards justice for victims on both
Dore note: The Amnesty International report fails to point out that
Israel and the United States are not signatories to the Rome Statute of
the International Criminal Court and as such have no legal obligations
resulting from ICC rulings.
Amnesty International acknowledges In the Methodology portion of the
report that it has been unable to send a delegation of researchers,
including military experts, to visit the Gaza Strip since the beginning
of Operation Protection Edge in July 2014. The Israeli
authorities have refused, up to the time of finalizing this report,
more than six months after the hostilities ended, to allow Amnesty
International and researchers from other international human rights
organizations to enter the Gaza Strip through the Erez crossing with
Israel, despite the organization’s repeated requests since before the
beginning of the conflict. The Egyptian authorities have also not
granted Amnesty International permission to enter the Gaza Strip
through the Rafah crossing with Egypt, again despite the organization’s
Amnesty International has consequently had to carry out research in the
Gaza Strip remotely, supported by two fieldworkers based in Gaza.
Among several report recommendations, one conclusion states "Israeli
authorities should completely lift the blockade on the Gaza Strip,
including permitting the unrestricted transfer of construction
materials into the Gaza Strip and the transfer of goods from Gaza to
Israel and the West Bank, subject only to necessary and proportionate
security checks, as an essential step towards addressing the shelter
and protection needs
To mark Nowruz, the Persian New Year, which commences on the first day of spring, President Obama released a video greeting
to the Iranian people. “For decades, our nations have been separated by
mistrust and fear,” he said. “Now it is early spring. We have a
chance—a chance—to make progress that will benefit our countries, and
the world, for many years to come.” The message was pegged to the tough
diplomatic endgame over a deal to prevent Iran from making a nuclear
bomb. The deadline for the negotiations is March 30th.
By now, Secretary of State John Kerry has almost certainly spent more
time with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, than with any
other foreign minister in the world. Unofficial relations between the
two countries seem closer today than they have been at any time since
the 1979 takeover of the American Embassy in Tehran.
The tenor of the negotiators’ personal relationships was evident after
news reports announced the death of Sakineh Peivandi. She is the mother
of the Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, and of his brother Hossein
Fereydoun, who is one of the negotiators. Kerry and Secretary of
Energy Ernest Moniz, a nuclear physicist who recently joined the
American negotiating team, paid a condolence call on Fereydoun in
Lausanne. In a press statement, Kerry said, “We share in their grief .
. . and we keep their family in our thoughts.”
An Iranian news agency released several pictures of the visit. In one,
Kerry and the President’s brother are walking toward each other with
open arms, about to embrace.
These images and others, which would have been considered treasonous in Tehran not long ago, were widely shared on social media.
Serious obstacles remain, Obama noted in his video greeting. They are
said to primarily concern Iran’s nuclear research and development
programs and the terms for lifting the punitive international sanctions
imposed on Iran over the past decade.
More troubling, the United States and France are split: France insists
that Iran disclose all past military research and development
activities that could be used to build a warhead to deliver a
weapon and that sanctions be lifted in slower phases.
A potential deal faces even bigger challenges down the road. In his
video message, Obama said, “There are people, in both our countries and
beyond, who oppose a diplomatic resolution. My message to you—the
people of Iran—is that, together, we have to speak up for the future we
Senators Bob Corker, a Republican, and Robert Menendez and Tim Kaine,
both Democrats, introduced a bill this month that would require Obama
to submit the text to Congress for review. More than three hundred
House members sent a letter to the White House this week demanding that
any permanent sanctions relief require new legislation.
Senator Lindsey Graham warned Thursday that he would move to suspend
U.S. funding of the United Nations if it moved to lift sanctions on
Iran before receiving congressional approval. And two Republican House
members, Peter Roskam and Lee Zeldin, asked colleagues to co-sign a
letter to Obama threatening to cut off funding for the negotiations.
Near the end of his video message, Obama quoted the fourteenth-century
Persian poet Hafez on the joys of a new season, and said, “This moment
may not come again soon. I believe that our nations have an historic
opportunity to resolve this issue peacefully—an opportunity we should
not miss.” Getting an agreement from the Iranians may prove easier than
winning approval in Washington.
The New Yorker article does not mention that 47 Republican Senators who at minimum violated the spirit of the Logan Act
by sending an open letter to Iran's leaders warning them that they’ll
reverse any nuclear deal Iran signs with President Obama's
administration after he leaves office.
The aim was to sabotage the negotiations.
This letter may be a violation of federal law, breach of national security, and sets an incredibly dangerous precedent.
The Logan Act is a law that's been on the books since 1799. Although
laws are more than their written words and must be viewed with context
and precedent in mind, here is what it states:
"Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who,
without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly
commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any
foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to
influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any
officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies
with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States,
shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three
years, or both."
If you believe the Logan Act has been violated, here is a petition
can sign. It demands these Senators be charged with violating the Logan
Act for attempting to sabotage negotiations with Iran.
B'Tselem is the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories
March 8, 2015International Women’s Day
States of combat and human rights
violations have a distinctive impact on women. It is important that we
hear their voices. In honor of International Women’s Day we asked
Palestinian women to interview other Palestinian women about their
hopes, dreams and sources of inspiration.
March 4, 2015Civil Administration demolishes ‘Ein Karzaliyah
for the second time this winter
Israeli authorities demolished all
structures in Khirbet ‘Ein Karzaliyah in the northern Jordan Valley,
for the second time this year. Bulldozers raked the dirt road leading
to the community, preventing access by car. This cruel harassment of a
particularly vulnerable population is part of Israel’s policy aimed at
displacing thousands of Palestinians from communities throughout Area
C. B'Tselem urges Israel to allow residents of Khirbet ‘Ein Karzaliyah
to remain where they have lived and grazed their flocks for 25 years
March 2, 2015
Soldier’s video of military dog attack on a Palestinian boy published
today. The media reports that the military stated it would investigate
the incident and take measures to prevent its recurrence. However, the
attack was part of an official military operation which was likely
approved by the senior command. MAG Corps has yet to respond to
B’Tselem’s demand for an end to the policy of dog attacks on
Feb 26, 2015What would it take for the authorities to stop olive tree vandals rampaging in the Southern Hebron hills?
In the past two months vandals destroyed
Palestinian olive groves in four locations in the Southern Hebron
hills, near the settlements Susiya and Mitzpe Yair. All incidents
occurred only several hundred meters apart, under the nose of the
Police and army, who appear to have not lifted a finger to stop this
Feb 23, 2015
Civil Administration dismantles, confiscates
water pipes in Khirbet Yarza, Jordan Valley
On 29 Jan. 2015, the Civil
Administration dismantled water pipes recently installed for the small
shepherding community of Khirbet Yarza in the Jordan Valley and
confiscated the parts. Before the installation, the community relied on
rainwater and private water purchase. This is one measure of several
taken by Israeli authorities to displace thousands of Palestinians
living in Area C. As the occupying power in the West Bank, Israel must
allow residents to maintain their lifestyle, permit them to build
legally, and provide them water and electricity.
Feb 15, 2015
Khirbet 'Ein Karzaliyah:
Israeli authorities continue persecution of a tiny community in Jordan Valley
Khirbet 'Ein Karzaliyah is a tiny
community of 24, including 14 minors, who live off farming and
shepherding in the Jordan Valley. Israeli authorities have repeatedly
attempted to expel the community from their place of residence and have
repeatedly demolished their homes, as part of a decades-long policy to
expel thousands of Palestinians living in dozens of shepherding
communities scattered throughout Area C. On 22 January 2015, bulldozers
again demolished all the community’s structures, for the fourth time
since January 2014. ‘Aref Daraghmeh, B’Tselem’s field researcher in the
Jordan Valley, documented the trail of destruction the bulldozers left
behind on 22 Jan.
Feb 9, 2015Israel’s High Court of Justice to state:
Demolish nine structures in the settlement of Ofra
In a dramatic ruling, Israel's High
Court of Justice accepted a petition filed by Palestinians from the
West Bank village of 'Ein Yabrud together with Israeli human rights
organizations B'Tselem and Yesh Din, and instructed the state to carry
out demolition orders issued for nine structures built for the
settlement of Ofra on the villagers' land. Most other structures in the
settlement were also unlawfully built on privately-owned Palestinian
land, without permits. B'Tselem welcomes the ruling but notes that the
overall picture remains unchanged: Israel has been taking over
Palestinian land in the West Bank for years, whether by gaining control
of private land or by appropriating public land for settlement use
under the guise of 'state land'.
Feb 8, 2015
Video: Khuza'a, the Gaza Strip, Jan. 2015
Safiyeh a-Najar from Khuza'a describes
life after Operation Protective Edge in a 1:49 video. The town of
Khuza'a lies in south Gaza, about 500 meters from the Israeli border.
The town council listed some 15,000 residents before the operation, in
about 2,000 homes. Residents told B’Tselem that on 22 July 2014, 2 days
after ground forces entered Gaza, the town was heavily attacked and
many fled to schools in nearby Khan Yunis. The UN listed 556 homes
damaged, 336 of them destroyed. Many residents still live in UN
schools, trailers, or with relatives. Some, like a-Najar's family, are
living in rough conditions among ruins.
Safiyeh a-Najar is a Palestinian mother
of 8. In the video she invites the camera person into her bombed out
home. I transcribed some of her words: "We are suffering greatly
from the winter's cold. Our house is ruined. It's inhumane the way
we're living. We didn't sleep last night. We kept a fire going
all night. I had sheep. I had olive trees. It's all been ruined.
Everything is in God's hands. I don't want anything, just to have my
home back the way it was."
Jan 28, 2015
Full 63 pg report: (pdf)
Click for summary
On Wednesday, 28 January 2015 B’Tselem
published its report on the policy of attacking residential buildings
in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge.
The report addresses one of the
appalling hallmarks of the fighting in Gaza this summer: bombings in
which hundreds of people were killed – constituting more than a quarter
of all of the Palestinians killed in the fighting. Time and again
Palestinian families suffered much grievous loss of life. In a single
instant, so many families were ruined, with the wreckage of their lives
mirroring the devastation of their homes. Hamas made explicit its
intention to harm Israeli civilians. In contrast, the Israeli
government claimed that it acted to prevent harm to civilians in Gaza.
Is that the case?
Jan 18, 2015
Military steps up use of live 0.22 inch bullets
against Palestinian stone-throwers
Recent months have seen a dramatic rise
in Israeli security forces’ use of live 0.22 inch caliber bullets in
clashes with Palestinians in the West Bank. The firing of this
ammunition is an almost weekly occurrence in the West Bank in sites of
protests and clashes. Most of those injured have been young
Palestinians, including minors. Yet, in the last two months, one
Palestinian woman, at least three photographers, and a foreign national
who was taking part in a demonstration were also hit by these bullets.
The military commander in the West Bank, Brig. Gen. Tamir Yadai,
confirmed that the military had adopted a policy of firing live
ammunition at stone-throwers.
Mali's main rebel group asks for delay on peace dealTuareg rebel alliance says it has asked for "reasonable delay"
for consultations before signing.
(Al Jazeera/AFP, 3/1/15)Worries over Mali peace
(Matthaei, Katrin, Yaya Konate, (Deutsche Welle 3/6/15)
The Malian government has signed a peace agreement with some northern
rebel groups but the main Tuareg armed coalition asked for more time to
consult its grassroots.
The main members of the alliance, the National Movement for the
Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and the Arab Movement of Azawad (MMA) now
have a difficult task ahead of them. Azawad is a term that supporters
of independence use to refer to the vast expanse of northern Mali, an
area three times as big as France. The task will be difficult because
their base comprises a variety of ethnic groups and very diverse
players. In the eyes of some Tuareg clans and armed groups, the
negotiators are returning home empty-handed. In the course of the
negotiations, they had to give up their most important demand for broad
autonomy or a federal structure.
It is very difficult for the rebels to succeed in convincing the
majority of the fighters to accept the agreement, Paul Melly of the
Chatham House think tank in London told DW. "There are lots of young
men, many of whom have taken up arms. There are not really very many
job opportunities in the far north - the formal economy is quite
limited." In the far north, he said, many rebels made a living
smuggling drugs or arms via Algeria. The lucrative business would be
jeopardized if the central government regained control over the area.
Rinaldo Depagne of the International Crisis Group also sees the
representatives of rebels in a difficult position. "Either they sign
against the will of a major part of the population, or they don't sign
and are held responsible by the international community for the failure
of the agreement," he told DW. If they refused to sign the agreement,
they would also alienate Algeria, the most important regional player.
The deal provides for the transfer of a raft of powers from Bamako to
the north, a large swath of territory the Tuareg refer to as "Azawad".
Algeria and the United Nations have led mediation talks in the capital
Algiers since last July between ministers and six armed rebel groups
amid a surge in violence that threatened to jeopardise the peace
The armed organisations which took part are dominated by Tuareg and
Arabs, however, and no "jihadist" group was invited to the dialogue.
Tuareg separatists have spawned several rebellions in the north since the 1960s [EPA]
In northern Mali, music silenced
Fighters linked to al-Qaeda seized control of northern Mali for more
than nine months until a French-led military intervention launched in
2013 partly drove them from the region.
The 30-page "Agreement for Peace and reconciliation in Mali from the
Algiers Process", seen by the AFP news agency calls for "reconstruction
of the country's national unity" in a manner that "respects its
territorial integrity and takes account of its ethnic and cultural
The draft deal proposes "greater representation of the northern populations in national institutions".
as Islamists drive out artists(Sudarsan Raghavan, Washington Post, 11/30/2012)
Khaira Arby, one of Africa’s most
celebrated musicians, has performed all over the world, but there is
one place she cannot visit: her native city of Timbuktu, a place
steeped in history and culture but now ruled by religious extremists.
The Causes of the Uprising in Northern Mali
(Andy Morgan, thinkafricapress, 2/6/2012)
The Crisis in Mali:
One day, they broke into Arby’s house and destroyed her instruments.
Her voice was a threat to Islam, they said, even though one of her most
popular songs praised Allah.
“They told my neighbors that if they ever caught me, they would cut my tongue out,” said Arby, sadness etched on her broad face.
Northern Mali, one of the richest reservoirs of music on the continent, is now an artistic wasteland.
A Historical Perspective on the Tuareg People(Devon DB, Glboal Research 2/1/2013)
The Tuareg are a people that have lived
in northern Mali as early as the fifth century BCE. After establishing
the city of Timbuktu in the 11th century, the Tuareg traded, traveled,
and conquered throughout Saharan over the next four centuries,
eventually converting to Islam in the 14th century, which allowed them
to gain great wealth. This independence was swept away when the French
colonized Mali when they defeated the Tuareg at Timbuktu and
established borders and administrative districts to rule the area until
Mali declared independence in 1960. The Tuareg people have consistently
wanted self-independence and in pursuit of such goals have engaged in a
number of rebellions.
Leaked cables show Netanyahu’s Iran bomb claim contradicted by Mossad
The first was in 1916 when, in response to the French not giving the
Tuareg their own autonomous zone (called Azawad) as was promised, they
revolted. The French violently quelled the revolt and subsequently
confiscated important grazing lands while using Tuaregs as forced
conscripts and labor – and fragmented Tuareg societies through the
drawing of arbitrary boundaries between what is now Mali and its
This did not end the Tuareg goal of an independent, sovereign state.
Once the French had ceded Mali independence, the Tuareg began to push
toward their dream of establishing Azawad once again.
However, Modibo Keita, Mali’s first President, made it clear that independent Mali would not cede its northern territories.
The Tuareg were greatly oppressed by the government of Modibo Keita, as
they were singled out for particular discrimination, and were more
neglected than others in the distribution of state benefits.
between Israeli secret service and Netanyahu revealed in documents
shared with the Guardian and Al Jazeera along with other secrets
including CIA bids to contact Hamas
• Read the leaked document here
(Seumas Milne, Ewen MacAskill and Clayton Swisher, The Guardian UK, 2/23/15)
Mossad contradicted Netanyahu
on Iran Nuclear Programme
Spy Cables reveal Mossad concluded that Iran was not producing nuclear weapons, after Netanyahu sounded alarm at UN in 2012.
(Will Jordan, Rahul Radhakrishnan, Al Jazeera, 2/23/15)
Binyamin Netanyahu’s dramatic
declaration to world leaders in 2012 that Iran was about a year away
from making a nuclear bomb was contradicted by his own secret service,
according to a top-secret Mossad document.
A secret cable obtained by Al Jazeera's Investigative Unit and shared
with the Guardian UK newspaoper reveals that Mossad sent a top-secret
cable to South Africa on October 22, 2012, that laid out a "bottom
line" assessment of Iran's nuclear work.
It is part of a cache of hundreds of dossiers, files and cables from
the world’s major intelligence services – one of the biggest spy leaks
in recent times.
The secret report stated Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad concluded that Iran was “not
performing the activity necessary to produce weapons”. The report
highlights the gulf between the public claims and rhetoric of top
Israeli politicians and the assessments of Israel’s military and
Media reports and public comments by senior current and former
officials have frequently indicated dissent from within Israel's
security services over Netanyahu's alarmist messaging on Iran.
Writing that Iran had not begun the work needed to build any kind of
nuclear weapon, the Mossad cable said the Islamic Republic's scientists
are "working to close gaps in areas that appear legitimate such as
Such activities, however, "will reduce the time required to produce weapons from the time the instruction is actually given".
That view tracks with the 2012 US National Intelligence estimate, which
found no evidence that Iran had thus far taken a decision to use its
nuclear infrastructure to build a weapon, or that it had revived
efforts to research warhead design that the US said had been shelved in
The disclosure comes as tensions between Israel and its staunchest
ally, the US, have dramatically increased ahead of Netanyahu’s planned
address to the US Congress on 3 March.
The White House fears the Israeli leader’s anticipated inflammatory
rhetoric could damage sensitive negotiations between Tehran and the
world’s six big powers over Iran’s nuclear programme. The deadline to
agree on a framework is in late March, with the final settlement to
come on 30 June. Netanyahu has vowed to block an agreement he claims
would give Iran access to a nuclear weapons capability.
President Obama will not meet Netanyahu during his visit, saying
protocol precludes a meeting so close to next month’s general election
The papers include details of operations against al-Qaida, Islamic State and also the targeting of environmental activists.
The files reveal that:
• South Korean intelligence targeted the leader of Greenpeace.
• Barack Obama “threatened” the Palestinian president to withdraw a bid for recognition of Palestine at the UN.
• The CIA attempted to establish contact with Hamas in spite of a US ban.
The cache mainly involves exchanges between South Africa’s intelligence
agency and its counterparts around the world. One of the biggest hauls
is from Mossad.
The Mossad briefing about Iran’s nuclear programme in 2012 was in stark
contrast to the alarmist tone set by Netanyahu, who has long presented
the Iranian nuclear programme as an existential threat to Israel and a
huge risk to world security. The Israeli prime minister told the UN:
“By next spring,
at most by next summer, at current enrichment rates, they will have
finished the medium enrichment and move[d] on to the final stage. From
there, it’s only a few months, possibly a few weeks before they get
enough enriched uranium for the first bomb.”
He said his information was not based on
secret information or military intelligence but International Atomic
Energy Agency (IAEA) reports.
Loud calls to action
Behind the scenes, Mossad took a different view.
The report states that Iran “does not appear to be ready” to enrich
uranium to the higher levels necessary for nuclear weapons. Iran has
always said it is developing a nuclear programme for civilian energy
ast week, Netanyahu’s office repeated the claim that “Iran is closer
than ever today to obtaining enriched material for a nuclear bomb” in a
statement in response to an
Mossad had been at odds with Netanyahu
on Iran before. The former Mossad chief
Meir Dagan, who left office in December 2010, let it be known that he had opposed
an order from Netanyahu to prepare a military attack on Iran.
The spy chief said it would be a "stupid idea" to attack Iran before
other options were considered. "An attack on Iran before you are
exploring all other approaches is not the right way," Dagan had said.
His comments would likely have been informed by his former agency's analysis reflected in the document obtained by Al Jazeera.
Other members of Israel’s security establishment were riled by
Netanyahu’s rhetoric on the Iranian nuclear threat and his advocacy of
military confrontation. In April 2012, a former head of Shin Bet,
Israel’s internal security agency, accused Netanyahu of “messianic”
political leadership for pressing for military action, saying he and
the then defence minister, Ehud Barak, were misleading the public on the Iran issue.
follow murder of young Turkish woman
(Selin Girit, BBC 2/19/15)
The murder of student Ozgecan Aslan has led to protests in Turkey (EPA)
Ms Aslan's murder comes amid a dramatic rise in violence against women in Turkey (BBC)
The 20-year-old was killed on public transport as she made her way home (AFP/Getty)
Turkey has been mourning the murder of a young woman for the last week.
Özgecan Aslan, a 20-year-old psychology student, was stabbed in a
minibus while resisting a rape attempt on her way home. Her
bodywas found burned and dismembered. Three men have been arrested in
connection with her murder.
Not long after this incident, another woman's dismembered body was
found dumped in a bin. Her husband of 17 years admitted to the murder.
Women's rights organisations have for years been trying to raise
awareness about the rise in violence against women that has taken place
in the last decade.
According to local reports, between 2003 and 2010 there had been a 1,400% increase.
Many women think that this is linked to
the policies or rhetoric of the governing party in Turkey, which has
its roots in political Islam and has been in power since 2002.
Feminist lawyer Hulya Gulbahar says the murder of Ms Aslan is the last
straw. "The government is constantly making
propagandist statements such as 'women and men being different by
nature' or 'motherhood being the sacred role of women'. So we are
facing a political violence here," she argues.
President Erdoğan has tried to introduce laws to curb abortion and has
also advised women to have at least three children. Turkey's
Deputy Prime Minister, Bulent Arinc, commented last year that women
should not laugh out loud in public. Last month, Health Minister
Mehmet Muezzinoglu said: "The best career for women is motherhood."
In Turkey, most women's murders are perpetrated by their partners or ex-partners.
Asking for a divorce is one of the main causes leading to murder. However, women get killed for it seems for any reason.
Recent court cases include putting too much salt in food, answering a
phone call too late, wearing leggings, looking for a job or having a
The circumstances of Özgecan Aslan's death have prompted a wave
of empathy both on the streets and social media. Many men
thought: "It could have been my daughter, my wife or my girlfriend."
That prompted a wave of empathy. Both on the streets and on social media.
Ms Aslan's name appeared more than four million times on Twitter.
Women started sharing their own experiences of sexual abuse and
Hulya Gulbahar says that Ms Aslan's murder might be a watershed moment in their struggle to prevent violence against women.
"This society always finds excuses to justify the rape and murder of
women. But now there is no excuse to whitewash the murder. "Women
and men from all political backgrounds have been protesting since
Ozgecan's death. I think this gives a hopeful message for Turkey."
Turkish women share
stories of abuse
(Gemma Newby Blog, BBC, 2/17/15)
The attempted rape and murder of a young woman has electrified social media in Turkey.
Turkey rallies over murder of woman
And now hundreds of thousands of women are sharing their own stories of sexual abuse.
who 'resisted rape'
(Selin Girit, BBC, 2/15/15)
Thousands of people in Turkey have
protested the murder of a young woman who allegedly resisted an attempt
by a bus driver to rape her.
Turkish President Erdoğan slams women
Police discovered the burnt body of Ozgecan Aslan, 20, in a riverbed in
the city of Mersin, on Friday. They have arrested three men in
connection with her death - a minibus driver, his father and a friend.
Ms Aslan, a psychology student, was kidnapped on Wednesday on her way home.
The driver allegedly tried to rape her. She reportedly fought him off
with pepper spray, but was then stabbed to death. She was also hit on
the head with an iron pipe. The brutality of the murder caused an
outcry across Turkey.
At the protest was a gender studies academic who would only give her
first name, Zeynep. She thought Ms Aslan's murder was of a political
"It is the result of the radical Islamic atmosphere created by the
government. The men say that women should be conservative. They think
if they are not conservative, they deserve this kind of violence," she
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has its roots in political Islam and has been in power since 2002.
Women's rights organisations say violence against women has risen
sharply in the last decade. Last year alone, almost 300 women
were killed at the hands of men and more than 100 were raped, according
to local reports.
protesting Özgecan’s murder by dancing
(Hurriet Daily News, 2/16/15)
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has
harshly criticized some women’s organizations who have protested the
killing of Özgecan Aslan by dancing, saying it was not a part of
Turkey president Erdoğan:
What place does this have in our culture? It’s like enjoying death,”
Erdoğan said in his first public response to the murder of Özgecan
Aslan on Feb. 16.
He was referring to a protest held by a group of women, including Aylin
Nazlıaka, a woman lawmaker from the ranks of the Republican People’s
Party (CHP), who took part in an event to raise their voices against
rape, sexual harassment and violence against women by singing songs and
dancing on Feb. 14.
Women are not equal to men
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
has said women cannot be treated as equal to men, and has accused
feminists of rejecting motherhood.
The ugly truth about Israel's actions in Gaza
(Gideon Levy, Haaretz, 2/5/15)
Haaretz requires registration
"You cannot put women and men on an equal footing," he told a meeting in Istanbul. "It is against nature."
Smoke, dust and debris rise over Gaza City after an Israeli strike on August 8, 2014,
during the 51-day Operation Protective Edge. Photo by AP
(mostly from Gideon Levy opinion piece)
What a huge diplomatic achievement:
Israel has succeeded in getting the Canadian law professor William
Schabas to resign from his post as head of a UN inquiry panel into
potential war crimes in Gaza.
Through persistent surveillance, Israel’s intelligence and propaganda
branches revealed that Schabas had once received a $1,300 fee from the
PLO. Conclusion: he sold his soul to the devil.
Professor Schabas, regarded as an authority on international law, said
it had not occurred to him that having been paid $1,300 by the P.L.O.,
for consulting on the statute of the International Criminal Court,
would be an issue. “I wrote a small paper of a technical nature,” he
said. “I do this all the time. I’ve acted for all kinds of governments
and organizations and individuals.”
The professor also said that he had been subjected to a stream of vulgar and violent emails and several death threats.
One needs a great deal of chutzpah and arrogance to dig anew into the
pasts of Israel’s critics in an effort to assassinate their character,
as in the case of Richard Goldstone, merely because they dared to
criticize the state. As far as Israel is concerned, the fate of anyone
who criticizes the country is sealed. He’s an anti-Semite,
anti-Israeli, greedy or driven by ulterior motives.
In Israel’s eyes there’s no such thing as conscientious individuals who
are genuinely and truly shocked by its acts. As far as Israel is
concerned, there are no justice-seeking people of law, or simply decent
ordinary people, who were aghast at what it did in the Gaza Strip last
But the truth is just the opposite.
It was impossible not to be
appalled by what the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) did in Gaza last
summer — unless you’re a propagandist, a liar or a racist. In any case,
it’s impossible to support Israel in view of what it is doing to the
Palestinians. Nor is there a way to be an international law expert and
sympathize with what Israel is doing.
Professor Schabas, the commission and a 12-member staff proceeded with
their work, albeit forced to hear witnesses and experts in Geneva and
Jordan because Israel refused to allow the investigating teams to visit
Israel or the occupied West Bank. They could not enter Gaza from Egypt
because of the deteriorating security situation in northern Sinai.
report (click for 49 pg PDF file report)
released last week (“Black Flag: the legal and moral implications of
attacking residential buildings in the Gaza Strip, summer 2014”)
recounted what had so rapidly been forgotten: war crimes.
B’Tselem investigated 70 cases of bombarding residential buildings, in
which 606 people were killed in their homes or near them, over 70
percent of them children, women and elderly people. The mind boggles.
The most moral army in its most immoral spectacle yet, with the
missiles aimed at buildings’ rooftops and all its “warnings.”
The victims’ blood is crying out. But not in Israel. Here the
propaganda and media have done their job. In the election campaign
there’s no mention of the most important event in the outgoing
government’s term. Even the opposition dares not mention it. The
(centre-left political alliance ) the Zionist Camp
it would have done the same (“in the war on terror there’s no coalition
and opposition,” Zionist Camp candidate Isaac Herzog said last week).
Even the fate of 20,000 people who still remain homeless, about half a
year after the bombardment, in Gaza’s winter, is of no concern to
anyone here. They’re Palestinians.
Soon the report of the panel without Schabas will be released. It won’t
be “balanced,” as Israeli propaganda is demanding, because the
situation is far from being balanced. The five Israeli citizens and 67
soldiers who were killed will likely be mentioned in it, as will the
thousands of rockets fired at Israelis. But even with the panel’s new,
“balanced” head, the report will mention that in the summer of 2014
Israel committed atrocities beyond all proportion in the Gaza Strip.
There’s just no other fair way to describe it.
Professor William Schabas’ resignation from his post as head of the UN
panel to investigate the war in Gaza is seen in Israel, inexplicably,
as a huge diplomatic achievement. Now, Israel believes, it will be
treated in a more balanced way by the panel’s new head, Mary
McGowan-Davis, who once wrote a more agreeable report about Israel.
But what is the importance of a more balanced inquiry leader, as long as Israel refuses to cooperate with the inquiry panel?
Israel’s main argument is against the United Nations’ double standard
in investigating its deeds. The state claims that as long as the United
Nations is not investigating states like Syria or North Korea, it
should not make demands of Israel.
But a state that frequently compares itself to European states and to
the United States cannot hold both ends of the stick. A state that
wants to be treated like a Western state must respect the international
institutions, rather than place itself in line with the most abominable
states to demand “justice.”
Israel’s position regarding the UN inquiry would have gained more
legitimacy had it tried to speed up its own investigations into
Operation Protective Edge, including those launched by the Knesset’s
Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and the state comptroller. But
the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee suspended its inquiry.
Geerdink: Dutch journalist facing five years in prison in Turkey for
'terrorist propaganda' after highlighting the struggle of the Kurds
(Chris Green, The Independent UK, 2/3/15)
Dutch journalist says she is doing her job. Turkey says she is helping terrorists
includes audio interview w/ Frederick Geerdink
(PRI's The World, 2/6/15)
Turkey indicts Dutch reporter
over PKK 'terror propaganda'
(Umut Uras, Al Jazeera, 2/3/15)
In Washington, Turkish minister highlights
press freedom, bans critical journalists
(Mahir Zeybnalov, Today's Zaman, 2/6/15)
combined excerpt from above headlined stories:
Frederike Geerdink, a Dutch
journalist based in southeastern Turkey has been officially indicted by
Turkish prosecutors for spreading "terrorist propaganda" on social
media. The charge refers to tweets
posts as well as her weekly column on Diken
, an independent Turkish news website.
Geerdink is charged with spreading propaganda for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)
that has been fighting against the Turkish state since mid-1980s. She is facing one to five years in prison.
In the past years, many local journalists, mostly ones with Kurdish origins, have been arrested under the same law.
Dore note: According to the Comittee to Protect Journalists, Turkey was the world’s worst jailer of journalists in 2012 and 2013. China was number one in 2014.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently claimed “there is no
freer press, in Europe or elsewhere in the world, than in Turkey”.
Geerdink settled in Istanbul in 2006
before moving to Diyarbakir, the largest city in Turkey’s predominantly
Kurdish south-east, where she has documented the Kurds’ struggles.
Geerdink says she's essentially being charged for doing her job as a
President Erdogan claims press in Turkey
To date, the long-running insurgency by PKK militants demanding greater
autonomy in Turkey has left an estimated 40,000 people dead. A
ceasefire with Turkey was agreed in 2012, but talks have stalled in
recent months. Ms Geerdink said that as a journalist, the subject was
too important for her ignore.
“I’ve always been interested in identity issues – I think that’s
eventually what human rights boil down to,” Geerdink said. “The Kurdish
issue is the biggest that Turkey has, it is the country’s biggest
problem, so for a journalist it’s very relevant.
"For the Kurds, they have not been able to live their identity for more than a century now, being suppressed.”
The rub is in how Turkey views Kurdistan. "Now, 'Kurdistan' is not an
official country," Geerdink notes, "but Kurdistan is known for a
struggle for human rights that is going on here. And this struggle is
framed in Turkey as 'terrorism.'"
Geerdink claims she's the first Western journalist since the 1990s to face this kind
of government action. Part of the problem, she says, may be that she
started writing in Turkish in the past year, and not just in English
and her native Dutch. "And that is getting on the state's nerves."
Some might be tempted to return home rather than face the prospect of
spending years in a Turkish jail. But Ms Geerdink said she has no
intention of leaving and intends to fight her case – which may drag on
for more than a year – as a matter of principle.
“I hope it will draw more attention to the Kurdish issue,” she said.
“Everybody is supporting me, but today 16 Kurds were taken into custody
for putting a table on the street and starting a signature campaign for
the freedom of [the jailed PKK founder] Abdullah Ocalan.
“This is happening every day in the south-east of Turkey, and it
doesn’t get a lot of attention. This anti-terrorism law is being
misused on a very, very big scale.”
is freer than anywhere else in the world
(Ben Tufft, the Independent UK, 12/14/14)
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, claimed “nowhere in the world is the press freer than it is in Turkey”.
Mr Erdogan defended his regime's record on press freedom stating that
"the press is so free in Turkey that one can make insults, slanders,
defamation, racism and commit hate crimes that are not tolerated even
in democratic countries."
Recently a 16-year-old boy was arrested when he read a statement
critical of the ruling AK party and the president, implicating him in
corruption. It was claimed the teenager had "insulted" the president.
The boy was released pending a trial, but could face up to four years in jail if convicted.
Johann Bihr, a spokesman from Reporters Without Borders
, (pdf file, see pg 8)
said "Turkey ranked 154 out of 180 in our 2014 Press Freedom Index.
Kurdish victory in Kobane defeat for Turkish policy
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressly
ruled out the northern Iraq model for Syria's Kurds.
(comprehensive analysis by Amberin Zaman, Al-Monitor.com, 1/29/15)
People gather to celebrate in the Kurdish-dominated city of Diyarbakir
in southeastern Turkey
after Kurdish forces took control of the Syrian
town of Kobani, Jan. 27, 2015.
(photo by Reuters/Sertac Kayar)
Rift between PM, President grows
following Kobane statement
(Today's Zaman, 1/26/15)
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu's recent
praise for Kurds who resisted an armed siege by the Islamic State
in the Syrian border town of Kobani has been taken as a sign of a
growing conflict with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who claims that
any sympathy and assistance for Kurdish groups fighting in Syria amount
to support for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
Kobane is liberated from Islamic State Siege
(Opinion by Dore Stein, 1/27/15)
(Spelled Kobane in Kurdish regions and Kobani in the West)
Tom Bowmans's report on Kobane
(3:55, click above to listen)
During September and October of 2014 Gaza Corner
focused on the siege of Kobane where the Islamic State was poised to commit a genocidal Kurdish massacre.
After a 134 day siege, Kobane was liberated on January 26. This
was a result of sustained US air strikes and determined resistance from
the disciplined Kurdish forces.
The Syrian Kurds practice an egalitarian society unlike any place I
know. People are treated as equals. There are no gender or class
distinctions. There is religious tolerance. This victory is a watershed
moment in Kurdish history. The Kurds are one of the indigenous peoples
of this region and the largest stateless people in the world.
The destruction in Kobane resembles what happened to Gaza over the
summer. Refugees cannot return to Kobane in meaningful numbers because
of a lack of food, medicine, housing, electricity etc. World powers and
humanitarian agencies are needed to assist the rebuilding of
Kobane. Turkey should not block humanitarian corridors as it has
done in the past.
Contrary to a report from NPR's Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman
during All Things Considered on January 27, the significance of
Kobane surviving as a Kurdish canton cannot be overstated.
At the end of the interview, Tom Bowman concludes with the statement: "...hundreds of air strikes for a small town."
Is Bowman suggesting this 'small town' did not justify the large commitment of US air strikes?
This 'small town' Kobane had served as a last refuge for Syrians of all
faiths fleeing IS and the Syrian military. Its population more
than doubled to a half million as desperate Syrians from Raqqa, Homs
and elsewhere sought safe haven in Kobane.
When IS captured Mosul during the summer
and acquired a vast array of modern American heavy weaponry, the
calculus changed. The US re-entered Iraq militarily and started bombing
IS which forced a strategic retreat into Syria. IS had previously tried
to capture Kobane but had been rebuffed for two years. But with their
newly acquired massive weaponry, IS set their sights on Kobane again.
Capturing Kobane was more than symbolic as it would enable IS to
control much of the Syrian/Iraqi 510 km border with Turkey.
IS faced stiff resistance once again. Because of its military advantage, IS eventually controlled a majority of Kobane.
A genocidal massacre was imminent as Kobane was nearing collapse.
The Kurds were running out of food and ammunition. The US had
turned a blind eye up until that point. But at that moment the US
strategy changed 180 degrees. An air strike campaign was initiated to
assist the tenacious Kurdish fighters. US C-130 cargo
planes also dropped desperately needed aid and weapons.
Why the change?
Remember IS had been acquiring territory at a frightening pace and had
not faced meaningful resistance. IS already occupied Mosul and Raqqa.
Yet the Kurds had fought off IS with mostly rifles against tanks,
rockets and mortars for more than a month.
The US noticed.
The US needs competent fighting forces
on the ground in Syria and Iraq. The Kurds are an obvious choice to be
part of the answer.
The US already witnessed the Syrian Kurdish militias YPG and (female)
YPJ, and the PKK secure a human corridor for the initial rescue of the
Yezidis off Sinjar Mountain in Iraq. This is something the Iraqi army
and Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga were not able to do.
The US did not publicly credit the Kurds for the initial Yezdi rescue
because of not wanting to offend Turkey who considers the PKK and their
Syrian cousins terrorists. When Turkey joined NATO, the US and EU
obliged Turkey by adding the PKK to the global terrorist list. The PKK
has launched attacks inside Turkey for 30+ years due to Turkey's
oppression of the Kurds since the creation of Turkey.
The Kurdish struggle has nothing to do with the US or the EU.
'Terrorist' is a manipulated label in geopolitical linguistics.
All indigenous resistance movements are labelled terrorist by the
governments they oppose. American revolutionaries who founded the
United States were considered terrorists by the British and so it goes.
Dream Defenders, Black Lives Matter & Fergusion Reps
Take Historic Trip to Palestine
The decision to assist the Kurds in
Kobane with air strikes was also helped by sympathetic Western media
coverage which is enamored with Kobane's egalitarian society and female
Turkey did nothing to prevent the fall of Kobane until late in the
siege. Tom Bowman's assertion that Turkey provided a weapons corridor
for Kobane's Kurds provides zero context. Since the start of the 134
day siege, Turkey vetoed any form of weapons being sent to the YPG/YPJ
in Kobane. Only when the US pressured Turkey did President Erdogan
finally relent and allow Iraqi Peshmerga forces to cross into Kobane
with desperately needed heavy weapons.
Turkey does not want Kurds or IS on its border. It likely wished IS and the Kurds would destroy each other. When that did
not occur, Erdogan hoped the Iraqi Peshmerga or the Free Syrian
Army would control Kobane which also did not develop. But Turkey also
knows it would face massive unrest from its large Kurdish population
(22%) if Kobane were to fall. Thus they reluctantly allowed Pershmerga
heavy weaponry to enter Kobane which was an important element in the
ouster of IS from Kobane.
Tom Bowman's piece also fails to convey the historical significance of
the liberation of Kobane. Kurds are an indigenous people of the region
and comprise the largest stateless population on earth. In 1920 The Treaty of Sevres,
signed between the Ottoman Empire and Allied forces, envisaged the
creation of a Kurdish state. The plan was annulled after the Turks won
its war for independence. In 1923 The Treaty of Lausanne
established the boundaries of Turkey and divided the Kurds among Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria.
Kobane is part of the ancestral land of the Kurds. Kobane has become a
symbol that has unified the Kurds of Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran and
renewed hopes that its homeland, Kurdistan, ('Nishtiman') promised in
1920 is still possible.
Leaders from American racial justice movements
connect with Palestinians living under occupation
at the forefront of the movements for Black lives and racial justice
have taken a historic trip to Palestine this week to connect with
activists living under Israeli occupation.
Black journalists, artists and
organizers representing Ferguson, Black Lives Matter, Black Youth
Project 100 (BYP100), and more joined the Dream Defenders for a 10-day
trip to the occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel.
Ahmad Abuznaid, Dream Defenders' legal and policy director and a co-organizer of the delegation, said that the goal of the trip was to make connections.
“The goals were primarily to allow
for the group members to experience and see first hand the occupation,
ethnic cleansing and brutality Israel has levied against Palestinians,
but also to build real relationships with those on the ground leading
the fight for liberation,” wrote Abuznaid. “In the spirit of Malcolm X,
Angela Davis, Stokely Carmichael and many others, we thought the
connections between the African American leadership of the movement in
the US and those on the ground in Palestine needed to be reestablished
Abuznaid said the trip represented a chance to bring the power of Black organizing to Palestine.
The delegation met with refugees,
Afro-Palestinians, a family that was kicked out of their house by
settlers in East Jerusalem, and organizations representing Palestinian
political prisoners, Palestinian citizens of Israel, and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS).
Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors said apartheid is what immediately struck her about what she saw on the ground.
“This is an apartheid state. We
can't deny that and if we do deny it we are apart of the Zionist
violence. There are two different systems here in occupied Palestine.
Two completely different systems. Folks are unable to go to parts of
their own country. Folks are barred from their own country.”
Community organizer Cherrell Brown said she saw many parallels between state violence against Palestinians and Black Americans.
“So many parallels exist between how
the US polices, incarcerates, and perpetuates violence on the black
community and how the Zionist state that exists in Israel perpetuates
the same on Palestinians,” Brown said.
Brown also commented that the struggles are not the same.
“This is not to say there aren't
vast differences and nuances that need to always be named, but our
oppressors are literally collaborating together, learning from one
another - and as oppressed people we have to do the same,” she said.
Hip-hop was a unifying force
for the delegation, Pargett said, commenting that Palestinians have
been inspired by hip-hop in the US and use it as a tool to amplify
their own voices.
St. Louis-based rapper and activist Tef Poe said his experience in the camps connecting through hip-hop was the best day of his life.
Naima Shaloub Sings Ferguson-Gaza Blues
(Electronic Intifada, 1/24/15)
Naima Shaloub: This
video captures the first live performance of this song on
November 28, 2014 at The Sound Room in Oakland, as well as various
clips from moments in Gaza, Ferguson, Oakland, and elsewhere.
Written and sung by Naima Shalhoub,
Bouchaib Abdelhadi - Oud
Jeremy Mitchell - Drum kit
Timothy Wat - Piano
Video editing and music performance filming by The Pixel Pushrs
Film clips from various sources.
learned, seen and felt the systemic connections between the racial
oppression of Palestinians in Palestine, as well as the racism against
and mass incarceration of Black people in the United States for quite
August, however, when the attacks on Gaza were happening at the same
time as the Ferguson protests and the wider call to draw attention to
police brutality against Black and brown people, the grief was
overwhelming. As an artist, I couldn’t help but write a song attempting
to draw the connections between the two.
A Message From the Dispossessed
(Opinion by Chris Hedges, Truthdig.com, 1/11/15)
Both peoples experience oppression
stemming from the global prison-industrial complex. It is no
coincidence that Gaza is the largest open-air prison while the United
States has rampant incarceration rates and death rates of Black and
The histories of slavery and
colonization continue to haunt and fuel the present. I felt called to
write something that tells somewhat of a story of the deep
contradictions at present as well the lives lost in the name of
so-called “security” and “democracy.”
Being an Arab American, I have an
intimate relationship with contradictions, with living in a country
that sponsors the oppression of many. Nina Simone said that “it is an
artist’s duty to reflect the times.” I take that call seriously and
just hope to join the choir of many who came before me that really put
their life on the line with their music in the name of justice, freedom
I work weekly with a group of
incarcerated women in San Francisco county jail facilitating music
sessions in hopes to create a safe space behind bars that intervenes on
the isolation and confinement of the prison-industrial complex and
offers a place where incarcerated women can express and share their
voices and creativity. My debut album Borderlands will be intersecting
with this work. I’m currently working on it and plan to record and
release it by early summer.
The terrorist attack in France that took
place at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo was not about free
speech. It was not about radical Islam. It did not illustrate the
fictitious clash of civilizations. It was a harbinger of an emerging
dystopia where the wretched of the earth, deprived of resources to
survive, devoid of hope, brutally controlled, belittled and mocked by
the privileged who live in the splendor and indolence of the industrial
West, lash out in nihilistic fury.
We have engineered the rage of the dispossessed. The evil of predatory
global capitalism and empire has spawned the evil of terrorism. And
rather than understand the roots of that rage and attempt to ameliorate
it, we have built sophisticated mechanisms of security and
surveillance, passed laws that permit the targeted assassinations and
torture of the weak, and amassed modern armies and the machines of
industrial warfare to dominate the world by force. This is not about
justice. It is not about the war on terror. It is not about liberty or
democracy. It is not about the freedom of expression. It is about the
mad scramble by the privileged to survive at the expense of the poor.
And the poor know it.
If you spend time as I have in Gaza,
Iraq, Yemen, Algeria, Egypt and Sudan, as well as the depressing,
segregated housing projects known as banlieues that ring French cities
such as Paris and Lyon, warehousing impoverished North African
immigrants, you begin to understand the brothers Cherif Kouachi and
Said Kouachi, who were killed Friday in a gun battle with French
police. There is little employment in these pockets of squalor. Racism
is overt. Despair is rampant, especially for the men, who feel they
have no purpose. Harassment of immigrants, usually done by police
during identity checks, is almost constant. Police once pulled a North
African immigrant, for no apparent reason, off a Paris Metro subway car
I was riding in and mercilessly beat him on the platform. French
Muslims make up 60 to 70 percent of the prison population in France.
Drugs and alcohol beckon like sirens to blunt the pain of poor Muslim
The 5 million North Africans in France are not considered French by the
French. And when they go back to Algiers, Tangier or Tunis, where
perhaps they were born and briefly lived, they are treated as alien
outcasts. Caught between two worlds, they drift, as the two brothers
did, into aimlessness, petty crime and drugs.
Becoming a holy warrior, a jihadist, a champion of an absolute and pure
ideal, is an intoxicating conversion, a kind of rebirth that brings a
sense of power and importance. The converts believe they live in a
binary universe divided between good and evil, the pure and the impure.
As champions of the good and the pure they sanctify their own
victimhood and demonize all nonbelievers. They believe they are
anointed to change history. And they embrace a hypermasculine violence
that is viewed as a cleansing agent for the world’s contaminants,
including those people who belong to other belief systems, races and
Hamas Condemns Charlie Hebdo attacks
(Agence France-Press, 1/10/15)
When you sink to despair, your religion
is all you have left. Muslim prayer, held five times a day, gives you
your only sense of structure and meaning, and, most importantly,
self-worth. And when the privileged of the world ridicule the one thing
that provides you with dignity, you react with inchoate fury.
It is dangerous to ignore this rage. But it is even more dangerous to
refuse to examine and understand its origins. It did not arise from the
Quran or Islam. It arose from mass despair, from palpable conditions of
poverty, along with the West’s imperial violence, capitalist
exploitation and hubris.
The cartoons of the Prophet in the Paris-based satirical weekly Charlie
Hebdo are offensive and juvenile. None of them are funny. And they
expose a grotesque double standard when it comes to Muslims. In France
a Holocaust denier, or someone who denies the Armenian genocide, can be
imprisoned for a year and forced to pay a $60,000 fine. It is a
criminal act in France to mock the Holocaust the way Charlie Hebdo
mocked Islam. French high school students must be taught about the Nazi
persecution of the Jews, but these same students read almost nothing in
their textbooks about the widespread French atrocities, including a
death toll among Algerians that some sources set at more than 1
million, in the Algerian War for independence
colonial France. French law bans the public wearing of the burqa, a
body covering for women that includes a mesh over the face, as well as
the niqab, a full veil that has a small slit for the eyes. Women who
wear these in public can be arrested, fined the equivalent of about
$200 and forced to carry out community service. France banned rallies
in support of the Palestinians last summer when Israel was carrying out
daily airstrikes in Gaza that resulted in hundreds of civilian deaths.
The message to Muslims is clear: Your traditions, history and suffering
do not matter. Your story will not be heard.