Protests have continued in the village of Khashamir against the US attacks
[Faisal Ahmed bin Ali Jaber/Al Jazeera]
Anger at US drone war continues in Yemen
Psychiological impact mounts in Khashamir where drones killed a family last year;
Residents still feel "terrorized"
(Rebecca Murray, Al Jazeera 6/7/13)
In his counterterrorism speech on May 27, Barack Obama stopped short of
an apology when he acknowledged civilian casualties by American drones,
saying: "Those deaths will haunt us as long as we live."
For Faisal Ahmed bin Ali Jaber, 54, and his rural village of Khashamir, one deadly accident continues to exact a heavy toll.
The circumstances behind the drone strike are tragic. Faisal said his
brother-in-law, a respected, 49-year old cleric called Salem Ahmed bin
Ali Jaber, delivered a forceful sermon denouncing al-Qaeda’s extremism
at the local mosque.
Salem’s worried father feared retribution from pro-al-Qaeda fighters.
He asked Faisal to advise his son to tone down his rhetoric. But when
confronted, the imam bravely said he would rather die knowing he was
preaching the right message.
Salem’s fate was sealed a few days later, on August 29. Three strangers
- in retrospect, suspected fighters - drove into the village, searching
for the outspoken cleric.
They found Salem at the mosque that
night, surrounded by worshippers. They convinced him to talk with them
outside by a palm grove. Faisal’s nephew, Walid Abdullah bin Ali Jaber,
a 20-year old with the traffic police, accompanied him for protection.
"It was after the evening prayer and I was sitting on my balcony,"
Faisal said, recalling that moment. "There was a light and then a big
noise - I thought the mountains would fall."
Four drone strikes in total, a few minutes apart, violently tore Salem,
Walid and the three visitors to shreds. Amidst the pandemonium,
villagers cowering inside the mosque ran out for safety between
strikes, believing they would die inside.
"You cannot imagine what we found," said Faisal, drawing a slow, deep
breath as he described the nighttime chaos that followed. "We found
body parts scattered everywhere. We tried to collect them all, and
brought them to the mosque to wrap in white cloth."
The repercussions were devastating. The villagers marched the next day,
chanting: "Obama, why do you spill our blood?" But Ymen's President Abd
Rabbu Mansour Hadi met their pleas for answers with silence.
Salem’s mother died two weeks later apparently from shock. Faisal’s
sister Hayat, the mother of Walid, refuses to leave her home, and said
she is "waiting to join my son". Faisal’s daughter Heba was so stricken
with fear she didn’t leave her home for twenty days. She still needs
"The people in the village are so afraid now," Faisal sighed. "Everything has changed. They think they can be killed anywhere."
Rights groups say the damage is serious.
"All that local communities see is the damage and destruction," said
Letta Taylor, a counterterrorism researcher at Human Rights Watch.
"Nothing that suggests that the US and Yemeni authorities care about
President Obama declared that the US will continue to "act against
terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat to the American
people" and that before any strike "there must be near-certainty that
no civilians will be killed or injured".
Analysts point to the key terms "imminent threat" and "near-certainty" as some of those that need to be more clearly defined.
According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, there have been up
to 154 strikes by US drones in Yemen since 2002, with up to 97
civilians included in the almost 800 total killed in the attacks.
Both the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Pentagon’s Joint
Special Operations Command (JSOC) conduct drone strikes in Yemen. The
CIA operates from a secret base in neighboring Saudi Arabia.
US Attorney General Eric Holder recently admitted that four US citizens
have been killed by drone attacks. While al-Awlaki was directly
targeted, he said that the other three, including al-Awlaki’s 16-year
old son Abdulrahman, were not.
One person who grew up under drones is Entsar al-Qadhi, a
representative with the National Dialogue’s counterterrorism
subcommittee. Her central province of Marib was first hit in 2002, and
has been a common target for surveillance and strikes
in recent years.
Al-Qadhi smiled grimly. "Before, there
was a general interest in listening to Osama Bin Laden’s speech and
finding out what he will do next, and how he will terrorise people
more," she said. "Now, we listen to Obama’s speech to find out how he
will next terrorise us."
Israeli soldiers take part in exercises in the Golan Heights near the border with Syria.
Meanwhile, the psychological scars for drone strike survivors fester.
Peter Schaapveld, a psychologist sent by British Charity REPRIVE to
south Yemen to investigate the symptoms, uncovered some dire statistics.
Out of his pool of survivors, he found 70 percent to be suffering from
formal post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and virtually all were
suffering from some symptoms of PTSD.
Schaapveld warns that as long as they continue living under a drone threat, their symptoms will only worsen.
"There is basically a breakdown of society as a result of this," he
said. "Children were not going to school, or if they were the school
teachers did not understand PTSD and sent them home. They were not
benefiting from an education, and this is storing up problems for
"Where there was a strike on the market area, daily commerce was
starting to break down," Schaapveld added. "People were not going to
the markets, because to meet in those areas meant they might be subject
to another strike."
Photo: Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Imagesurtesy Al Jazeera
Golan Heights villages brace for war
as tensions rise between Syria and Israel
(Phoebe Greenwood in Majdal Shams/Golan Heights, Guardian UK, 5/31/13)
A mother in the village of Majdal Shams, on the slopes of the Golan
Heights, who asked not to be named, has been stocking up on rice,
canned food, oil and wheat for the last week. She listens to news
reports of missiles from Russia and Israeli air strikes, she hears the
cracks of gunfire and thuds of mortars just minutes away in Syria and
feels the war coming closer.
"There is an atmosphere of fear now. Everyone is preparing for war, not just me," she says.
As the fast escalating war of words between the Assad regime and Israel
threatens to reignite a conflict that has lain dormant for more than 45
years, villages along the faultline in the Golan Heights are
stockpiling food and medical supplies.
On Thursday Bashar al-Assad threatened to "open a front on the Golan
Heights" should Israel make good the promises of its security chiefs to
prevent Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems becoming
operational on Syrian soil.
"There is clear popular pressure to open a front of resistance in the
Golan and there is Arab enthusiasm and a desire to come and fight
against Israel," the Syrian president told Hezbollah's al-Manar TV.
Many in Majdal Shams, a small Druze village, are convinced that this
political posturing will soon become impossible to back out of. The
community is preparing itself for a war that neither country wants to
The Golan Heights is home to more than 80,000 Druze, an esoteric
Islamic sect whose insular, self-governing communities are accommodated
by governments across the Middle East.
"We are in a very special situation. We
are lucky our village wasn't destroyed in 1967 because Israel considers
us Druze so we are not a target for them. We are Syrian so we are not a
target for Syria or for Hezbollah. We are like an island in this
region," explains Dr Maray Taisseer, a consultant at the Majdal Shams
medical centre and community spokesperson.
Series on the Palestinian 'catastrophe' of 1948 that led to dispossession and conflict that still endures
(Al Jazeera English 5/22/13)
The war, if it comes, may not be a disaster, Taisseer suggests, if it delivers Golan back into Syrian hands.
"Whatever happens in Syria, everyone agrees we should be liberated – it
doesn't matter whether it's by regime or rebel forces. This is Syrian
land and that is clear," he states unequivocally.
The distinctive peaked roofs of Majdal Shams run right up to a new
Israeli military fence, erected at a blistering pace along the 1967
armistice line just six months ago. Families here are divided in their
loyalties to regime and rebel forces but all are committed Syrian
nationalists. The enemy is the Israeli occupier.
The Israeli military has significantly boosted its presence in the
Golan as the Syrian civil war has edged closer. The hilltops are lined
with military outposts and packs of young recruits are drill-marched
along local roads, past fields of Syrian-laid landmines not cleared
since the 1967 war.
If Syrian and Israeli forces do clash on this border, Druze families on
the frontline say they will not leave their homes. Every house has a
bomb shelter and enough food to last several months. They are ready to
weather the next war.
Hussein Khater, 47, is continuing work on a home for his children with a view over the border fence to Syrian hills.
"We still feel Syrian but the most important thing to us as Druze is
our land. This is my land that I am standing on now and I don't care
what government controls it but I won't leave," he says. "I hope there
won't be war here but if there is, it won't be a problem for us."
A message by Dr. Mona el Farra from Gaza
Al-Jazeera English is broadcasting a special four-part series on Al-Nakba
(first broadcast on the Arabic-language network in 2008). The
first 3 episodes can be accessed on demand on Al Jazeera's website. The
4th episode airs Tuesday, May 28 1pm PST and should be added to their
site shortly thereafter.
For Palestinians, 1948 marks the 'Nakba'
or the 'catastrophe'. In human terms, that year saw the mass
deportation of a million Palestinians from their cities and villages,
massacres of civilians, and the razing to the ground of hundreds of
But for Israelis, the same year marks the creation of their own state.
The series attempts to present an understanding of the events of the past that are still shaping the present.
In 1968 British historian Arnold Toynbee stated "the tragedy in
Palestine is not just a local one; it is a tragedy for the world,
because it is an injustice that is a menace to the world's peace."
This story starts in 1799, outside the
walls of Acre (Akka in Arabic) in Ottoman-controlled Palestine, when an
army under Napoleon Bonaparte besieged the city. It was all part of a
campaign to defeat the Ottomans and establish a French presence in the
In search of allies, Napoleon issued a letter offering Palestine as a
homeland to the Jews under French protection. He called on the Jews to
‘rise up’ against what he called their oppressors.
Napoleon’s appeal was widely publicised. But he was ultimately defeated.
Napoleon’s project for a Jewish homeland in the region under a colonial
protectorate did not die, 40 years later, the plan was revived
but by the British.
On 19 April 1936, the Palestinians
launched a national strike to protest against mass Jewish immigration
and what they saw as Britain’s alliance with the Zionist movement.
The British responded with force. During the six months of the strike,
over 190 Palestinians were killed and more than 800 wounded.
Wary of popular revolt, Arab leaders advised the Palestinians to end the strike.
Palestinian leaders bowed to pressure from the Arab heads of state and
agreed to meet the British Royal Commission of Inquiry headed by Lord
In its report of July 1937, the Peel Commission recommended the
partition of Palestine. Its report drew the frontiers of a Jewish state
in one-third of Palestine, and an Arab state in the remaining
two-thirds, to be merged with Transjordan.
A corridor of land from Jerusalem to Jaffa would remain under British
mandate. The Commission also recommended transferring where necessary
Palestinians from the lands allocated to the new Jewish state.
The Commission’s proposals were widely published and provoked heated debate.
As the Palestinian revolt continued, Britain’s response hardened.
Between 1936 and 1937, the British killed over 1,000 Palestinians; 37
British military police and 69 Jews also died.
Few Palestinians, if any, could have imagined they were to become victims of what would later be called ‘ethnic cleansing’.
After 30 years of British rule, the question of Palestine was referred
to the United Nations, which had become the forum for conflict.
On 29 November 1947, the UN General Assembly met to devise a plan for
the partition of Palestine. UN Resolution 181 divided Palestine into an
Arab and a Jewish state, with Jerusalem as an internationalised city.
The Jewish state was granted 56 percent of the land; the city of Jaffa
was included as an enclave of the Arab state; and the land known today
as the Gaza Strip was split from its surrounding agricultural regions.
But making the proposed Arab state all but proved impractical in the eyes of many Palestinians.
When the draft resolution was presented for voting, Arab newspapers ran
a ‘name and shame’ list of the countries that voted for the UN
partition plan, and Arab protesters took to the streets.
Following the partition resolution, Britain announced it would end its mandate in Palestine on 14 May 1948.
Airs Tuesday, 1pm (PST) May 28.
Detained Testimonies from Palestinian children imprisoned by Israel
(+972 Blog, text and photos by Samar Hazboun)
This episode reports on 1948-2008 including the illegal seizure of Palestinian land after the 1967 war.
Dore Stein: Sadly the 'Nakba' is still on going on the ground with
settlement building escalating and Palestinians being forced from their
homes in East Jerusalem, Hebron and elsewhere.
Israel arrests 14 year old U.S. citizen
Mohammad Khaleq is one of more than 8,000 Palestinian children
held by Israel since the year 2000
(Linah Alsaafin, Al Jazeera, 4/15/13)
First (top) story excerpt:
‘Detained: Testimonies from Palestinian Children Imprisoned by Israel’ uncovers
one of the
most painful experiences that Palestinian children endure in the
ongoing Israeli occupation. Through interviews with ex-detainees and
mothers of minors presently in detention, the project documents their
stories and aims to lend a voice to those who are silenced from fear of
past 11 years, according to Defence for Children International, some
7,500 children have been detained in Israeli prisons and detention
facilities. Muhammad Daoud Dirbas, at the age of six, was the youngest
child to have been detained by Israeli soldiers. Such practices are
considered illegal under international law, as are other policies that
children are subjected to, such as solitary confinement.
cases, I (Samar Hazboun) found children who suffer from various
traumas. Some were not able to talk about what had happened in prison;
others burst into tears. Many children agreed to talk “off the
record”; I thus know their stories but was not able to officially
interview them or take their pictures. In some cases, I was able to
talk to the parents once the child left the room, and thus obtained
more detailed information about how the children were dealing with what
had happened to them.
cases, the children suffer from insomnia, involuntary urination,
nightmares, depression, and fear of going out and facing people.
children I interviewed decided not to take further legal action, out of
fear of the repercussions of doing so, and the lack of belief that they
will be guaranteed protection.
It was not
possible to independently corroborate all of the facts told by the
children and their families. These are their stories, in their words.
Dates, names and places have been changed in order to protect the children’s identities.
of Z.S. (17) was attacked on a Thursday night at around 2 a.m. with
stun grenades and tear gas. Six soldiers broke into his family house
and arrested him. The soldiers dragged him to a neighboring settlement
1 kilometer away. During the walk, he was beaten. He was left outside
in the cold, blindfolded, for two hours.
interrogation, he was asked whether he wished to be treated like an
animal or a human being. He responded, “like a human being.” He was
handcuffed and blindfolded, as the interrogator electrically shocked
him several times. He then grabbed his head and banged it against the
wall until a second interrogator came in. The interrogator asked him to
lie on the ground, and started to kick him until he lost consciousness.
Z.S. was released that same day. He has not filed any complaints for fear of the repercussions of doing so.
was accused of belonging to a militant group. He was arrested from his
family home and held in prison for 18 months. He spent 45 days of the
18 months in solitary confinement with his legs and hands tied
together. Various methods of torture were used on him, including sleep
deprivation and emotional blackmail.
When M.K. was moved out of solitary confinement, he endured group punishment. He was not allowed any visits during that period.
raid to arrest M.K., his house was attacked by tear gas and stun
grenades. As a result, his neighbor’s daughter lost hearing in one ear.
M.K. is not allowed to leave the city of Nablus for the next six years.
I.B., 16 years old
cousin was shot dead at an Israeli checkpoint in Nablus at the age of
15. The soldiers suspected he was wearing an explosives belt because of
a wire connected to his ear. It later transpired that it was a mobile
In order to commemorate his cousin, I.B. decided to print posters of his cousin and paste them on the walls of his neighborhood.
This was considered a crime by the IDF.
four days in prison and 18 days in a solitary confinement cell. He was
not able to finish his studies after his imprisonment.
Z.B., 17 years old at the time of his arrest
family was asked by soldiers to immediately evacuate their house with
no prior notice. During the raid on his house, all of the family’s
furniture was broken into pieces.
soldiers finished raiding the house, one soldier twisted his arms while
the second blindfolded him. He and his cousin were arrested. They were
accused of belonging to a Hamas group.
Z.B. has been in prison for nine years now. He is not allowed any family visits.
has been detained seven times so far. The first time, he was arrested
at the age of nine for allegedly throwing stones at settlers.
family is constantly targeted by settler attacks as they live in Hay al
Bustan in Silwan. Their house is slated for demolition as a part of an
Israeli plan targeting the homes (of) Arab citizens in Jerusalem.
attacks are very common in that area. M.O. was attacked by settlers and
beaten up. He suffered from internal bleeding due to the brutality of
5, 2010 M.A. (13) was arrested at 2 a.m. from his family house. He was
accused of damaging settler cars and throwing stones.
was arrested, he was severely beaten. As a result of the torture he
underwent during his time in detention, his trial had to be postponed
because of the visible bruises on his head and body.
was not allowed any visits during his detention. The court ruled to
release him on bail of NIS 5,000 ($1,300), in addition to placing him
under house arrest.
28, 2011 Y.K. (15) went with his father to the fields of the farm they
own, which is located next to an Israeli settlement. The family was
attacked that day by armed settlers who shot Y.K. in the head. He later
His younger brother, 14, was arrested and detained for 45 days.
B.A. (15) was arrested for the first time. Shortly after his release,
he fell ill and was hospitalized. During his stay at the hospital, the
IDF went to his house to arrest him, as he was on a wanted list. When
they did not find him, they arrested his brother instead.
soldiers offered to release his brother in exchange for B.A.,
threatening to raid the hospital. The ”exchange” operation took place
at 6 a.m. and was filmed with the presence of medical staff.
B.A. is in
detention and has attended eight court hearings for participating in a
peaceful protest against the occupation. Under Israeli military law,
all Palestinian protests are illegal.
He is not allowed any family visits.
Documentary photographer and visual artist Samar Hazboun can be followed on Twitter (@Samar_Hazboun).
Her website is here..
Nour Joudah (center) with her class at Friends School
Nour Joudah returns to U.S.,
but continues to fight Israel's arbitrary denial of entry
(Alex Kane, Mondoweiss.net, 4/19/13)
teacher Nour Joudah was denied entry to the West Bank en route to
her only place of employment and has returned to the United States
after fighting the Israeli bureaucracy from Amman, Jordan. Nour Joudah
is a teacher at the Friends School in Ramallah.
Quaker-affiliated school is one of the oldest educational institutions
in Palestine and is an oasis. But the case of Joudah clearly
shows that Israel calls the shots in occupied Palestine. And examining
her story shatters the feeling that the Friends School is worlds away
from a conflict situation.
utterly normal at Friends. Hints of the chaos of the Second
Intifada--when Israeli shells were fired near the school and a bombing
hit a nearby police station--are nowhere to be found. You would be
forgiven if you forgot for a moment that there was an Israeli
occupation. Israeli soldiers, though, still conduct raids in the heart
of Ramallah as they see fit.
Palestinian students who attend the Friends School are well aware of
the occupation and its grip on Palestinian life. The students who
learned English from Nour Joudah are even more viscerally aware of how
Israel controls Palestinian freedom of movement, even if the person has
American citizenship. Israel’s decision to deny Joudah entry left them
without a teacher they adored, and temporarily disrupted their studies.
Izhiman, 14, described Ms. Nour, as they called her, “so friendly...She
makes sure you love to learn,” said Izhiman, in extremely good English.
“I never thought they would do such a horrible thing...This specific
story shows the world how they prevent people from coming home.”
graduate of Georgetown, hails from Clarksville, Tennessee and had been
teaching English at the Friends School since September 2012. She held a
multiple-entry visa from Israel which gave her permission to stay and
work in Ramallah for a whole year. Last Christmas, she traveled to
Amman, Jordan on her way to celebrate the holidays with a friend. But
when she went back to the West Bank in early January, Israeli border
authorities denied her entry for unspecified “security” reasons.
Repeated denials of entry effectively amounted to a revocation of her
Friends School in Ramallah has been funded by USAID, or the United
States Agency for International Development. This, combined with Joudah
being an American citizen, were more than enough reason for American
officials to get involved after Joudah’s first denial of entry. But
Joudah’s citizenship, and her US-government funded place of employment,
didn’t matter to Israeli authorities.
the only place in the world where I feel that it means nothing to be an
American” said Reham Barghouti, a psychology instructor and guidance
counselor at the Friends School who is also an American citizen. She
shared a classroom with Joudah while they both taught at the school.
“If there was any other place that dealt with American citizens in this
kind of way, there would be this whole giant uproar, right? But because
it’s here, I guess, it doesn’t really matter.”
Embassy in Washington D.C. recommended that she try entering at
Ben-Gurion Airport. On February 25, her plane touched down in Tel
Aviv. But despite having a multiple-entry visa, she was again
questioned, detained and denied entry. Judah said Israeli interrogators
asked her for what she called “a list of every young Palestinian that I
knew so that [the interrogator] could create a file of phone numbers to
She was put
back on a plane to Amman the next morning. Joudah denies she was
uncooperative; she says she answered every single question (other than
the request to furnish the names of young Palestinians she knew).
hired Israeli-American lawyer Emily Schaeffer, who is known for taking
on the Israeli government’s discriminatory treatment of
Palestinians. Schaeffer sees Joudah’s denial of entry as evidence
of two trends she has noticed while working as a lawyer: restrictions
on both foreign NGO workers who assist Palestinians as well as
foreigners with Palestinian or Arab backgrounds. Earlier this year,
Haaretz reported that Israel had “renewed restrictions on the
freedom of movement of foreign nationals who live and work in the West
Bank that prohibit them from entering East Jerusalem or Israel.” As for
the other trend, Schaeffer says she has other Western clients who have
had to deal with Israeli discrimination like Joudah has. “Basically,
it’s intended to block the empowerment of the Palestinian community,”
of discrimination is getting renewed attention in the wake of news
reports on a bill sponsored by the American Israel Public Affairs
Committee (AIPAC) that would grant Israel an exemption from
reciprocating visa-free entries to the country. AIPAC is pushing
legislation that would allow Israelis to enter the U.S. without the
hassle of obtaining a visa. Usually, countries reciprocate this
practice with the U.S. But Israel--and AIPAC--are pushing for an
exemption that would effectively allow Israel to discriminate against
travelers it sees as “security threats”--largely meaning people with
Palestinian or Arab backgrounds. “It’s stunning that you would give a
green light to another country to violate the civil liberties of
Americans traveling abroad,” said a Congressional staffer.
See Glen Greenwald column:
"Barbara Boxer, AIPAC seek to codify Israel's right to discriminate against Americans."
the headaches Israel has caused for her, Joudah still manages to see
some light in her situation. She has no regrets having fought the
denial, and says her students have learned some valuable lessons from
Joudah’s students, Nicole Zakkak, said that “one of the most important
things I learned from Ms. Nour was to speak about my homeland and my
rights as a priority.”
added: “As my mother reminded me, 'honey, the whole nation is in exile,
so you’ve never been any different, you just got a reminder."
Iraq's pain has only intensified since 2003
"The country of my birth, already so damaged, is now crippled by fear of all-out civil war.
But in the people there is hope."
(Opinion piece by Sami Ranmadani, Guardian UK, 3/13/13)
Iraq fears return of sectarian war,
this time wth added political dimension
Shias and Sunnis increase attacks amid concern Syria war
could raise violence to levels of deadliest period in nations's history
(Peter Beaumont, Guardian UK 3/13/13)
note: The Guardian UK had an excellent series called "Iraq war: 10 years on"
that included anniversary interviews, stories and analysis.
many articles commemorating the anniversary, I chose to excerpt an
opinon piece by Iraqi political refugee Sami Ramadani who is a senior
lecturer in sociology at London Metropolitan University and was a
political refugee from Saddam's regime.
Sami Ranmadani opinion piece excerpt:
always been painful for me to write about Iraq and Baghdad, the land of
my birth and the city of my childhood. They say that time is a great
healer, but, along with most Iraqis, I feel the pain even more deeply
today. But this time the tears for what has already happened are mixed
with a crippling fear that worse is yet to come: an all-out civil war.
Ten years on from the shock and awe of
the 2003 Bush and Blair war – which followed 13 years of murderous
sanctions, and 35 years of Saddamist dictatorship – my tormented land,
once a cradle of civilisation, is staring into the abyss.
imperialist intervention and dictatorial rule have together been
responsible for the deaths of more than a million people since 1991.
And yet, according to both Tony Blair and the former US secretary of
state Madeleine Albright,
the "price is worth it".
Blair, whom most Iraqis regard as a war criminal, is given VIP
treatment by a culpable media. Iraqis listen in disbelief when he says:
"I feel a responsibility but no regret for removing Sadam Hussein." (As
if Saddam and his henchmen were simply whisked away, leaving the people
to build a democratic state). It enrages us to see Blair build a
business empire, capitalising on his role in piling up more Iraqi
skulls than even Saddam managed.
people are fully aware, too, that Saddam committed all his major crimes
while an ally of western powers. On the eve of the 2003 invasion I wrote the for the Guardian:
"In Iraq, the US record speaks for itself: it backed Saddam's party,
the Ba'ath, to capture power in 1963, murdering thousands of
socialists, communists and democrats; it backed the Ba'ath party in
1968 when Saddam was installed as vice-president; it helped him and the
Shah of Iran in 1975 to crush the Kurdish nationalist movement; it
increased its support for Saddam in 1979…helping him launch his war of
aggression against Iran in 1980; it backed him throughout the horrific
eight years of war (1980 to 1988), in which a million Iranians and
Iraqis were slaughtered, in the full knowledge that he was using
chemical weapons and gassing Kurds and Marsh Arabs; it encouraged him
in 1990 to invade Kuwait…; it backed him in 1991 when Bush [senior]
suddenly stopped the war, exactly 24 hours after the start of the great
March uprising that engulfed the south and Iraqi Kurdistan…; and it
backed him as the 'lesser evil' from March 1991 to September 11 2001
under the umbrella of murderous sanctions and the policy of
But when it was no longer in their interests to
back him, the US and UK drowned Iraq in blood. That war has still not
been consigned to history – not for the people of Iraq or the region.
even counted the dead yet, let alone the injured, displaced and
traumatised. Countless thousands are still missing. Of the more than 4
million refugees, at least a million are yet to go back to their
homeland, and there still about a million internal refugees. On an
almost daily basis, explosions and shootings continue to kill the
The US and
UK still refuse to accept the harmful consequences of radioactive
depleted uranium munitions, and the US denies that it used chemical
weapons in Falluja – but Iraqis see the evidence: the poisoned
environment, the cancer and deformities. Lack of electricity, clean
water and other essential services continues to hit millions of
impoverished and unemployed people. Women's rights, and human
rights in general, are daily suppressed.
And what of democracy, supposedly the point of it all? The US-led occupying authorities nurtured a "political process"
and a constitution designed to sow sectarian and ethnic discord. Having failed to crush the resistance to direct occupation, they resorted to divide-and-rule to keep their foothold in Iraq. Using torture, sectarian death squads and billions of dollars, the occupation has succeeded in weakening the
social fabric and elevating a corrupt ruling class that gets richer by
the day, salivating at the prospect of acquiring a bigger share of
Iraq's natural resources, which are mostly mortgaged to foreign oil
companies and construction firms.
sectarian and ethnic forces, either allied to or fearing US influence,
dominate the dysfunctional and corrupt Iraqi state institutions, but
the US embassy in Baghdad – the biggest in the world – still calls the
To add to
the increased tension within the country, the war in Syria is
threatening to create a wider regional conflict, with Iraq
and Lebanon being sucked in.
war on Iraq has been an unmitigated disaster, with genocidal dimensions
for the Iraqi people, and continues to fuel conflicts and sow discord in the region.
There was once a strong democratic unifying
force in Iraq, but this was crushed by the CIA-backed Ba'athist coup of
1963, and Saddam's regime. The re-emergence of such a force is now the
Iraqi people's only hope.
Key Hamas leader accepts 1967 borders, embraces pragmatism
(Analysis by Dahlia Scheindlin, 972mag.com*, 4/6/13)
* +972 is a blog-based web magazine
that is jointly owned by a group of journalists, bloggers and
photographers whose goal is to provide fresh, original, on-the-ground
reporting and analysis of events in Israel and Palestine. Our
collective is committed to human rights and freedom of information, and
we oppose the occupation.
The name of the site is derived from the telephone area code that is shared by Israel and Palestine.
(combines +972 analysis and parts of interview)
An exclusive interview in Al-Monitor published
Friday with deputy foreign minister of the Hamas government, Dr. Ghazi
Hamad by Israeli journalist Shlomi Eldar, explains the far-reaching
change in attitudes under way in his movement and the unchanged
approach of not recognizing Israel.
is considered to be very close to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh,
whom he once served as spokesman, and to the chief of Hamas' political
bureau, Khaled Meshaal, the movement’s newly reelected leader.
is certainly the word interviewer Shlomi Eldar, one of Israel’s top
television reporters covering Palestinian affairs, wants readers to
remember. Dr. Ghazi Hamad heads the “pragmatic wing” of Hamas and the
interview is all about the changes of policy, external relations, and
possibly even ideology.
The +972 analysis of the interview discusses three specific points, two internal and one related to Israel:
the context of Palestinian politics, Dr. Hamad works to convey
institutional legitimacy. He emphasizes that Mashal was re-elected to
the head of the political bureau through a participatory political
Hamad: "First of all, we must remember that these were democratic
elections, and as such, they are a credit to the movement. Elections
for Hamas’ other institutions ended a year ago, and that was the last time that the Hamas
He may have
been overstating the “democratic” case – it’s not exactly a popular
primary but the top layer of a multi-layered delegate structure – the
shura council – that elected Mashal. Still, Hamad clearly wants to
convey the legitimacy of the decision-making process and political
stresses the commitment to advancing the long-stagnant plan for
Hamas-Fatah reconciliation. Hamad discusses some of the mechanics of
how this could happen, which indicates a serious effort and also
highlights a change from the past.
movement expressed confidence in its leaders."
Hamad: "There is an extensive political and diplomatic program
which we must advocate and work toward, and that includes joining the
official institutions of the PLO. Those are our objectives, and that is our new approach."
come to pass, it could help erode Israel’s widely-embraced notion that
there is “no partner,” because the Palestinian leadership is too
divided to agree or implement an accord.
with relation to Israel, Hamad states openly that Hamas accepts 1967
borders without recognizing Israel. It’s not the first time Hamas has
indicated support for 1967 as the basic borders. Khaled Mashal stated
so last November, in a CNN interview on the day of the ceasefire that ended the Pillar of Defense war in Gaza:
Mashal: "We have two options… the way of peace and a Palestinian
state, according to the border of 1967 with the right to return. And
this is something we have agreed upon as Palestinians, as a common program."
that Hamad now explicitly and repeatedly states acceptance of ‘67
lines, to an Israeli interviewer, shows much greater clarity on this
But in the same breath Hamas says: “We do not say ‘two states,’” and “Hamas does not recognize Israel.”
this mean? In fact, it is only confusing if one fails to appreciate the
symbolic aspect of politics, diplomacy, conflict and political change.
Hamas has opted to become a player rooted in the world
of political facts, rather than fantasies that are de-linked from
reality. In reality, its leaders know that there will be no Palestinian
state west of the Green Line, and its policy statements reflect that.
is also a symbol of political community. It is the community of
resistance against Israel (“as long as the occupation continues,” he
says. If Palestine is 1967, then this is a finite struggle). It also
distinguishes them from Fatah, which is increasingly identified with
failure to end the occupation, or even blamed for perpetuating it.
was once the primary meaning of “resistance.” Yet Hamas has largely
relinquished violence now: Hamad emphasizes that “armed struggle
remains a right,” but that “popular uprising” (the term for the unarmed
protests – ds) is the tactical preference.
Ghazi Hamad: "Hamas put a stop to its resistance [terrorist attacks]. It respects the cease-fire. There has been a major change in policy."
the remaining symbol of Hamas’ political identity is resistance to
recognizing Israel – a symbolic measure in itself, for it affects the
life of no one. It clings to this even as its policies now acknowledge
recognition in any formal form will be a major symbolic concession to
the other side. Israel will probably eventually negotiate with Hamas,
in some combination with other Palestinian leaders. Recognition of
Israel is also a bargaining chip for that stage; one that would not
logically be surrendered beforehand.
committed ideological players in a conflict cannot be expected to
change rapidly or openly, and their symbolic identity will be the last
to go. But consider this: Turkish journalist Mustafa Akyol reads
Israel’s apology to Turkey as a sign of incremental openness to dealing
with moderate Islamic political forces. By analogy, we might hope that
Hamas’ empirical analysis of the situation has shifted, and its policy
has followed. Maybe its symbolic stance is next in line.
A rehearsal for the Somali group Waayaha Cusub, while in exile in Kenya.
Now the group is to headline at the Mogadishu music festival.
Photograph: Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images
Somali rapper leads rebirth of music n Mogadishu
after years of oppression
(Jessica Hatcher, Guardian UK, 3/28/31)
Shiine Akhyaar Ali took to the stage in Mogadishu this week, it was the
first time the Somali rap star had performed in his former hometown. It
was also the capital's first proper music festival in more than 25
hip-hop collective Waayaha Cusub is headlining the open-air Mogadishu
music festival, has been through a lot to get here. The group he formed
with fellow Somali refugees angered the Islamist militants who used to
run Mogadishu, with their lyrics attacking al-Shabaab and its al-Qaida
Who is Behind this trail of destruction?
They galvanize people on the street for their wicked cause
They profess to be Muslim yet wield machetes
2007, gunmen believed to be working for al-Shabaab fired 17 shots at
him and left him for dead in his adopted home, Nairobi. Ali was hit
five times but survived to fight back, using words as his weapon. "He's
Martin Luther King crossed with Tupac," said Daniel Gerstle, one of the
Cusub are among artists from seven countries playing in Mogadishu, a
city that used to have a thriving music scene. Al-Shabaab, the latest
insurgents to control the city during more than two decades of
conflict, banned music in 2009, forcing most musicians to quit or flee.
Even after the Islamists were chased out of Mogadishu in 2011, this
once diverse and bustling seafront city remains one of the world's most
dangerous places, with regular suicide bombs and assassinations.
organisers concerned that the festival will be a target for
anti-western militants, security is tight. Details and dates of the
five-day festival were kept secret until 12 hours before Wednesday's
opening ceremony, when about 200 young men and women attended an
invitation-only concert. By 10pm, the dancefloor was packed. "This has
never been seen before in Mogadishu," 23-year-old Abdi Kafi Hassan said.
festival is made up of a series of events spread over four days in
different locations. The schedule is fluid and venues have not been
publicly confirmed. The organisers are building towards the final
"reconciliation concert", open to all Somali young people, where a
crowd of more than 2,000 is expected. This may be held off until Monday
for security reasons. "It's baby steps," Gerstle said to the musicians
after last night.
festival consultant and veteran of running events in conflict zones,
said all the secrecy was necessary. "The fear of being attacked is
real," he said. "We are seen as such a legitimate target."
are held in secure compounds and accompanied by a pickup truck carrying
five private security guards armed with AK-47s whenever they leave
Ariana Delawari, who in 2011 became the first woman of Afghan descent
to perform live rock in Afghanistan, said she was nervous. "I'm
definitely way more scared to be in Somalia than Kabul," she said.
security isn't the only headache for organisers: logistics have proved
equally difficult. Brookman said among the various challenges was the
struggle to find enough metal piping to build a six-metre-high rig for
a young Somali woman to do acrobatics.
speakers, sound system, lighting and stage for the final concert are
all still on a cargo ship in the Indian Ocean, en route from the Kenyan
port of Mombasa. Driving the equipment overland was impossible, as it
would have meant crossing al-Shabaab lines.
whatever happens, the presence of al-Shabaab will be felt at the
festival. Ali said that, shortly after he arrived in Mogadishu, an
18-year-old named Muhammad came to see him at his hotel. Muhammad
confessed that he had been part of Amniat, al-Shabaab's intelligence
agency. He told Ali that al-Shabaab had lured him with the promise of
money, paradise and all the women he could ever want. He asked Ali
forgiveness for the attack on him and said that he wanted to take to
the stage at the festival to tell young Somalis that al-Shabaab was not
the way forward.
me to write a song about his story," said Ali, who will bring Muhammad
on stage on the final day of the festival. "He will tell others that
the promise of women and rape is not right."
And after Mogadishu, the music tour moves on to Dadaab in north-eastern Kenya, the biggest refugee camp in the world.
The 'Mavi Marmara' Photo: Reuters/Emrah Dalkaya
"Sorry" says Israel's Netanuyahu,
opening way for diplomatic relations with Turkey
(Sheera Frenkel, Hannah Allam and Roy Gutman, McClathcy Newspapers, 3/22/13)
Netanyahu apologizes to Turkey over Gaza flotilla
(Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post, 3/22/13)
Israeli Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu apologized Friday to Turkish Prime Minister Recep
Tayyip Erdogan, ending a nearly three-year-long feud in a phone call
brokered by President Barack Obama.
Obama said that "the timing was right" for Israel and Turkey to begin
repairing diplomatic relations, which were frozen when Israeli naval
commandos raided a Turkish ship, Mavi Marmara, that was attempting to
break an Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip; nine Turkish nationals on
board were killed.
Netanyahu apologized for the raid Friday, admitting that there had been
"operational failures" and offering compensation for those killed.
Israeli officials said the phone conversation had lasted 10 minutes,
and by its end the two leaders had agreed to begin normalizing
diplomatic relations. Just four years ago, Turkey was considered one of
Israel’s closest allies in the region. The two countries staged regular
joint military training exercises and had an open line of communication
among the various divisions of their armed forces. Israeli pilots
trained in Turkish skies, improving their capability to carry out
long-range missions such as possible strikes against Iran’s nuclear
Netanyahu, in turn, can tell his intelligence and military echelons to
resume lucrative arms deals with Turkey and the sharing of information
vis a vis Iran, while Erdogan can boast that he forced an apology out
of the Israeli premier.
Erdogan’s office announced the Israeli apology. "Israeli Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu has apologized to the Turkish nation for all errors
that caused loss of life and injuries, and the Turkish prime minister
accepted this apology on behalf of the Turkish nation," the press
release said. It quoted Netanyahu as telling the Turkish premier that
Israel has lifted restrictions on the entrance of goods for civilians’
use to Palestinian territories including Gaza.
Turkey, for its part, agreed to drop all charges against a group of
former Israeli military commanders including former chief of staff
Lt.-Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi.
Netanyahu said he saw the interview that Erdogan gave the Danish
newspaper recently, in which Erdogan stepped back from his statement
equating Zionism with racism, and Netanyahu expressed his appreciation
for the clarification.
Erdogan had told Denmark’s Politiken newspaper that he would not take
back his comments from several weeks ago that Zionism was a crime
against humanity. He did, however, try to explain them as a
misunderstanding.“My several statements openly condemning anti-Semitism
clearly display my position on this issue. In this context, I stand
behind my remarks in Vienna,” said Erdogan in the interview, which was
Dan Arbell, a scholar of Middle East policy at the
Brookings Institution in Washington, wrote in December of small signs
that Turkey and Israel might finally be moving toward a rapprochement.
Turkey, he wrote, had tired of watching the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt
“take center stage” in orchestrating a cease-fire between Israel and
Hamas and felt marginalized on the most recent negotiations on Gaza. In
addition, Arbell added, as the Syrian crisis encroaches on Turkey’s
borders, the Erdogan administration would seek improved intelligence
cooperation with Israel.
In recent months, Israeli officials have expressed increased concern
that the ongoing civil war in Syria could spill out onto Israel’s
borders, and that the vast weapons stockpiles – including chemical
weapons and anti-aircraft systems – could make their way into the hands
of hard-line Islamist movements. Turkey shares similar concerns,
especially as hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees have sought
refuge in southern Turkey and used the border between the two countries
to plan attacks and move weapons into the hands of opposition forces
fighting against Syrian President Bashar Assad. Israeli officials have
pushed, in the past, for a contingency plan to be formed that would
secure not just Syria’s chemical weapons, but also other weapons
"Israel does not want to see a situation like that which happened in
Libya when (former Libyan leader Moammar) Gadhafi fell, when the
weapons went to the highest bidder. They do not want a free for all,"
said retired Israeli Brig. Gen. Michael Herzog.
Saturday, March 16, the Rachel Corrie Foundation Marks the
10th Anniversary of Rachel's Stand in Gaza with a Call to Action
excerpt from Rachel Corrie Foundation website:
Corrie was a 23-year-old American peace activist from Olympia,
Washington, who was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer on 16
March 2003, while undertaking nonviolent direct action to protect the
home of a Palestinian family from demolition.
Since her killing, an enormous amount of solidarity activities have been carried out in her name around the world.
March 16th, the Rachel Corrie Foundation marks the 10th anniversary of
Rachel’s stand in Gaza. It has been an extraordinary, challenging
ten-year journey for our organization, for the Corrie family, and for
those in our community and beyond who have worked tirelessly for
justice and peace in Palestine and Israel, in the world, and at home.
dynamic weekend of events will be a kick-off to a year of Peace Works
events. We encourage you to participate in the kick-off by
completing at least one action from our Call to Action.
Now, we call on you – individuals, organizations, and communities - to join us in these actions.
Caterpillar, Inc. now on its faulty actions and explanations!
Challenge the appearance of CAT’s Washington Director of Government
Affairs at AIPAC! Tell CAT to own up to its business with Israel
and to end its complicity in violations of human rights and
international law in Israel/Palestine. See how to help here.
President Obama to use his March Mideast trip to see for himself, to
demand compliance with U.S. laws and policies, and accountability for
how U.S. tax dollars are used by Israel. See how to help here.
your support for the rights of Palestinians that Rachel, many other
internationals, Israeli activists, and Palestinians have stood to
defend! Reflect, connect the dots, and strengthen your
community’s commitment to justice for Palestinians and peace in the
Mideast. See how to help here.
Rachel Corrie wrote,
international media and our government are not going to tell us that we
are effective, important, justified in our work, courageous,
intelligent, valuable. We have to do that for each other, and one
way we can do that is by continuing our work, visibly.”
this March anniversary as an opportunity to make some noise and be
visible in our support for equal rights for Palestinians,
accountability and justice, and an end to Israeli occupation!
remember, act, and celebrate together – how we (like Rachel) have stood
this past decade for justice, freedom, equality, and peace in the
Middle East and beyond – and let’s think together about how we move
ahead to make freedom for Palestine a reality.
A Palestinian youth is arrested by Israeli border policemen following clashes with Israeli forces at the Shuafat refugee camp
in Jerusalem on February 9, 2010 during the second day of an arrest operation.
(Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)
Israeli Abuse of Palestinian Children In Prison 'Systematic'
and 'Institutionalilzed' Says UN Report
(Huffington Post, Agence France Presse by Hazel Ward, 3/6/13)
Israel Mistreats Palestinian Children In Custody, UNICEF Reports
The United Nations Children Fund estimated that 700 Palestinian children aged 12-17,
most of them boys , are arrested, interrogated and detained by the Israeli military, police
and security agents every year in the West Bank
(Haaretz, Reuters 3/6/13)
children detained by the Israel Defense Forces are subject to
widespread, systematic ill-treatment that violates international law, a
UNICEF report concluded, outlining 38 recommendations to improve the
protection of children in custody.
Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) estimated that 700 Palestinian children
aged 12-17, most of them boys, are arrested, interrogated and detained
by the Israeli military, police and security agents every year in the
occupied West Bank, noting the rate was equivalent to "an average of
two children each day."
no other country are children systematically tried by juvenile military
courts that, by definition, fall short of providing the necessary
guarantees to ensure respect for their rights," it said.
the maximum sentence for children of 12 and 13 is six months, the
penalty rises dramatically from the age of 14 when a child can face a
maximum penalty of between 10 and 20 years depending on the
circumstances, it said.
the 22-page report that examined the Israeli military court system for
holding Palestinian children found evidence of practices it said were
"cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment according to the
Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention against
Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said officials from the
ministry and the Israeli military had cooperated with UNICEF in its
work on the report, with the goal of improving the treatment of
Palestinian minors in custody.
will study the conclusions and will work to implement them through
ongoing cooperation with UNICEF, whose work we value and respect," he
to the report, ill-treatment of Palestinian minors typically begins
with the arrest itself, often carried out in the middle of the night by
heavily armed soldiers, and continues all the way through prosecution
pattern of ill-treatment includes ... the practice of blindfolding
children and tying their hands with plastic ties, physical and verbal
abuse during transfer to an interrogation site, including the use of
painful restraints," the report said.
In some cases, they suffered prolonged exposure to the elements and a lack of water, food or access to a toilet.
it found no evidence of any detainees being "accompanied by a lawyer or
family member during the interrogation" and they were "rarely informed
of their rights."
interrogation mixes intimidation, threats and physical violence, with
the clear purpose of forcing the child to confess," it said, noting
they were restrained during interrogation, sometimes for extended
periods of time causing pain to their hands, back and legs.
have been threatened with death, physical violence, solitary
confinement and sexual assault, against themselves or a family member,"
Most children confess at the end of the interrogation, signing forms in Hebrew which they hardly understand.
found children had been held in solitary confinement for between two
days and a month before being taken to court, or even after sentencing.
court hearings, children were in leg chains and shackles, and in most
cases, "the principal evidence against the child is the child's own
confession, in most cases extracted under duress during the
interrogation," it found.
almost all children plead guilty in order to reduce the length of their
pretrial detention. Pleading guilty is the quickest way to be released.
In short, the system does not allow children to defend themselves,"
Most of the minors are arrested for throwing stones.
based its findings on more than 400 cases documented since 2009 as well
as legal papers, reports by governmental and non-governmental groups
and interviews with Palestinian minors and with Israeli and Palestinian
officials and lawyers.
Palestinians carry the body of Arafat Jaradat during his funeral in the West Bank village of Saeer.
Photograph: Ammar Awad/Reuters
Israel arrests Palestinian human rights activists
(by Jillian Kestler-D'amours, The Electronic Intifada, 3/01/13)
Palestinian Arafat Jaradat gets hero's funeral
after death in Israeli custody
officials say autopsy results show that Arafat was tortured during
Israeli interrogation and was bruised over his body with two broken
ribs (Guardain UK, 2/25/13)
Electronic Intifada article excerpt:
protests continue across Palestine in support of thousands of prisoners
languishing in Israeli jails, local organizations say that the Israeli
authorities have increased their pressure on Palestinian human rights
is a way to [break] the principle of solidarity between the Palestinian
people and the Palestinian prisoners, and the case of the Palestinian
prisoners in the conscience of the Palestinian people,” said Mourad
Jadallah, a legal researcher with Addameer, a Ramallah-based prisoners support group.
2012, Israeli soldiers arrested Jadallah’s colleague, Ayman Nasser,
from his home in the West Bank village of Saffa, near Ramallah, in the
middle of the night. He was taken to Jerusalem’s infamous Russian
Compound prison — Moskobiyyeh in Arabic — and kept in isolation for
weeks of interrogation.
reported that he was held in painful, stress-inducing positions during
interrogation sessions that sometimes lasted for more than 20 hours,
was barred from sleeping, psychologically intimidated and frequently
denied access to a lawyer and to proper medical care.
use of torture, the Israelis also coerced witnesses — other Palestinian
prisoners held in Israel — to incriminate Nasser. These witnesses later
testified in front of an Israeli military court that they gave false
statements ("The Shin Bet's dream investigation," Haaretz, 2/10/13) Nasser is currently being held in Israel’s Megiddo prison; his next hearing will take place on 4 March at Ofer military court.
pressure on Palestinian human rights defenders and organizations
continued unabated into 2013. Another case that has drawn widespread
criticism was the arrest and continued detention of 28-year-old
Palestinian activist Hassan Karajah, also from Saffa.
The youth coordinator at Stop the Wall,
a Palestinian grassroots movement against Israel’s wall in the West
Bank, Karajah was arrested from his home in the middle of the night on
arresting Hassan and taking him away, blindfolded and shackled, in an
Israeli army jeep, the soldiers confiscated computers, cell phones,
paperwork and family photos from the home, and threatened and
interrogated other family members.
one of the youth activists well-known within the youth circles in
Palestine. He is one of the recognized, youth leaders who can organize
[people],” said Jamal Juma’, coordinator of the Stop the Wall campaign.
trying to be aggressive and to finish their colonial project in the
West Bank. They don’t want any Palestinian, organized reaction. Anybody
that they think that he can be influential on the street, [with] the
people, of course he will be targeted because they want to continue
their project quietly,” Juma’ told The Electronic Intifada.
to Addameer, Karajah has lost 16 kilos (35 pounds) since his time in
prison began, and was not given the correct dosage of medication for
nerve damage in his leg.
Hassan as well as all the other Palestinian prisoners should be
[released]. There is no crime that has been committed, other than being
committed to their cause and their people and trying to defend the
rights of their people and the rights of humanity. [They] are in
[prison] for values that [they] believe in that don’t belong just to
Palestinians, but to the whole world,” Juma’ added.
Killed in custody Tens
of thousands took to the streets across Palestine earlier this week to
show their anger at a Palestinian prisoner’s death in Israeli prison.
Thirty-year-old Arafat Jaradat — a father of two from the West Bank
village of Sair — was killed in Megiddo prison on 23 February. An
autopsy revealed signs of torture on Jaradat’s body, including
laceration marks, broken bones, bruises and cuts.
death has drawn attention to what many say is the widespread use of
torture in Israeli interrogation centers and prisons, medical neglect
of prisoners, and the lack of accountability with which Israeli
According to Israeli human rights group B'Tselem,
between 2001 and 2011, 700 complaints were filed to the Israeli
attorney general on behalf of detainees alleging torture was used
against them. To date, not a single criminal investigation was launched
into these complaints ("Failure to investigate alleged cases of ill-treatment and torture" 1/1/11).
Kestler-D’Amours is a reporter and documentary filmmaker based in
Jerusalem. More of her work can be found at jkdamours.com.
A still from Emad Burnat's Oscar-nominated documentary 5 Broken Cameras.
Photograph: Majdi Mohammed/AP
The Israel-Palestine drama will play out at the Oscars
Awards ceremony will make history this year with the first ever
nomination of a feature documentary made by a Palestinian. 5 Broken
Cameras was filmed and directed by Emad Burnat, a resident of the
occupied Palestinian West Bank town
of Bil'in, along with his Israeli filmmaking partner Guy Davidi.
What does a
Palestinian farmer wear on the red carpet in Hollywood? We were almost
prevented from knowing, as Burnat, his wife and 8-year-old son were
detained at Los Angeles International Airport and threatened with
deportation. Despite his formal invitation from the Academy of Motion
Picture Arts and Sciences as an Oscar-nominated filmmaker, it took the
intervention of Oscar-winning documentarian Michael Moore, who now sits
on the Academy Board of Governors, followed by Academy attorneys, for
Burnat and his family to gain entry into the country.
5 Broken Cameras is in competition at the Oscars with an Israeli documentary, The Gatekeepers, a film that features interviews
with the six surviving former directors of Israel's Shin Bet, the
country's secret internal security service, which functions as a sort
of hybrid of the US FBI and CIA. In the film, all six condemn the
current practices of Israeli occupation and settlement expansion.
remarkable case of life imitating art, as celebrities gather for the
entertainment industry's biggest gala of the year, the Israel/Palestine
conflict is being played out on the streets of Tinseltown.
Hours after regaining his freedom, Burnat issued a statement that read:
"Last night, on my way from Turkey to Los Angeles, CA, my family and I
were held at US immigration for about an hour and questioned about the
purpose of my visit to the United States. Immigration officials asked
for proof that I was nominated for an Academy Award for the documentary
5 Broken Cameras and they told me that if I couldn't prove the reason
for my visit, my wife Soraya, my son Gibreel and I would be sent back
to Turkey on the same day."
He went on:
"After 40 minutes of questions and answers, Gibreel asked me why we were still waiting in that small room. I simply told him the truth: 'Maybe we'll have to go back.' I could see his heart sink."
birth in 2005 was the motivation for the film. Emad Burnat got his
first camera then, to record his fourth son growing up.
At that time, the government of Israel began building the separation
wall through Bil'in, provoking a campaign of nonviolent resistance from
the Palestinian residents and their supporters. As Burnat recorded the
protests, his cameras were smashed or shot, one by one, destroyed by
the violent response from the Israeli army and the armed Israeli
Dror Moreh is the Israeli director of The Gatekeepers. Moreh told me:
"The settlements are the biggest obstacle to peace. If there is
something that will prevent peace, it's the settlements and the
settlers. I think this is the largest and most influential and most
powerful group in Israeli politics. They're basically dictating the
policy of Israel in the last years. I think that definitely for the
Palestinians, the settlements are the worst enemy in their way to the
homeland. When they see everywhere, in Judea and Samaria now, the settlements that are built like mushrooms after rain,
they see how their country is shrinking."
Broken Cameras and The Gatekeepers are up for the Oscar against other
very compelling nominees: How to Survive a Plague, about the AIDS
epidemic; The Invisible War, about rampant, unprosecuted rape in the
U.S. military; and Searching for Sugar Man, about renewal for a
musician long thought dead.
Burnat finished his statement on his detention at Los Angeles International Airport:
"Although this was an unpleasant experience, this is a daily occurrence
for Palestinians, every single day, throughout the West Bank. There are
more than 500 Israeli checkpoints, roadblocks, and other barriers to
movement across our land, and not a single one of us has been spared
the experience that my family and I experienced yesterday. Ours was a
very minor example of what my people face every day."
of which documentary wins, the 2013 Oscars mark a historic shift in the
public dialogue on Israel/Palestine, a long-overdue shift to which 40
million television viewers will be exposed.
The Islamic Revolution’s founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (L)
greeted in 1979 in Tehran by
his supporters during his return to Iran
after 15 years in exile in Iraq and France
How Ayatollah Khomeini sanctioned the deaths
of 20,000 'enemies' of the state
tribunal at The Hague publishes a report illustrating the regime's
crimes against humanity (by Peter Popham, Independent UK 2/7/13)
horrors visited on tens of thousands of Iranians in the years after the
Islamic revolution were spelled out as the Iran Tribunal published its
final judgment. The Tribunal found that during the 1980s
the Islamic Republic was guilty of the murder of between 15,000 and
20,000 political prisoners.
the Russell Tribunal set up by Bertrand Russell and Jean-Paul Sartre to
investigate American war crimes during the Vietnam war, the Tribunal,
sitting in The Hague, set about documenting and publishing the crimes
against humanity committed by the Islamic regime that have been
referred to as Iran’s Srebrenica after the massacre by Ratko Mladic’s
Bosnian Serb forces on Muslims during the Balkan wars. British QC
(Queen's Counsel) Sir Geoffrey Nice, a member of the Tribunal’s
Steering Committee, told The Independent: “There are a number of such
tribunals around the world, but what is particularly striking about
this one is that it was started and seen to fruition not by lawyers but
by the Iranian diaspora itself, by people who had themselves been
It was in
1981 that Iran’s new Islamic government, with Ayatollah Khomeini as its
figurehead, rounded on the leftists and others who had come together
with the Islamists to bring down the autocratic rule of the Shah two
years earlier and gave them two choices: convert or be liquidated.
the 1980s the Islamic Republic of Iran went about arresting,
imprisoning and executing thousands upon thousands of Iranian citizens
because their beliefs and political engagements conflicted with the
regime,” the judges wrote. “The religious fervour of these crimes makes
them even more shocking: for instance, a woman’s rape was frequently
the last act that preceded her execution in Iran, as under the ‘Sharia’
law guidelines, the execution of a virgin female is non-permissible.”
Shekoufeh Sakhi, today writing a PhD thesis in Political Philosophy at
the University of Toronto, told the Tribunal how she had been forced to
sit blindfolded and motionless in a sort of coffin from dawn to late at
night while her jailers bombarded her with Islamist propaganda and
recordings of the “confessions” of fellow-prisoners who had been broken
by the torture.
Sakhi explained, there was nothing haphazard or unconsidered about the
regime’s long reign of terror. As a left-wing 14-year-old in Tehran she
had taken part in the uprising against the Shah alongside the
Islamists, but by 1982 things had changed. “Iran was now at war with
Iraq, and now the mood of the regime was, ‘if you’re not with us you’re
against us.’ Revolutionaries like me came to be seen as
counter-revolutionaries and fifth columnists. They rallied their base
support against us and divided the country in two.”
1981 there was a wave of arrests and summary executions. Ms Shekoufeh
went underground but the following February the Revolutionary Guards
arrested her. “It was amazing and bewildering,” she recalled. “Those
who had been in jail during the Shah’s time said this was much worse.
The big difference was that they weren’t going after big organisations
– my organisation had already fallen apart – but were collecting
everybody who had the motivation to be ‘different’. The jail was so
full of high school students you could hardly move. The project was
mass conversion.” The executions had been a way of softening up the
youth for conversion.
Shekoufeh who proved stubborn were given the “coffin” treatment – nine
months of sensory deprivation and complete immobility. “It was a
horrible psychological torture,” she said. “You couldn’t move, talk,
cough, sneeze, if you did they’d beat you up. There were constant
sermons and Islamic teaching classes through the loudspeakers. The
whole point was to empty the person of their own identity, making you
an empty shell then filling you up with their garbage. After two or
three months I felt I was losing my mind, losing control of my sense of
reality. A lot of people had nervous breakdowns.”
Geoffrey Nice commented, “The Tribunal is a very major thing. The most
important thing is that people can say what happened, they can put it
on the record. Now the UN could be pressed to have their own commission
Iran’s government was invited to the Tribunal but neither replied nor took part.
Maryam and Zainab Abdulhadi embrace inside Bahrain's airport upon Marjam's return from exile
Bahraini activist's triumphant return
Amid a groundswell of support for the Al-Khawaja family to win the Nobel Prize,
daughter Maryam ends her exile
(by Lawrence Weschler, Salon.com 1/11/13)
A worthy, necessary Nobel honoring the Arab spring
(by Lawrence Weschler, 1/11/13)
(first person of Lawrence Weschler)
The remarkable Al-Khawaja family continue to bedevil the dictatorial royal regime of Bahrain in ever more confounding ways.
article A worthy, necessary Nobel honoring the Arab spring I reported
on a growing worldwide groundswell of support behind the notion of the
entire Abdulhadi family being considered for this coming year’s
Nobel Peace Prize. I described, among other things, the 52-year-old
father Abdulhadi’s longtime commitment to nonviolent resistance in
support of democratic civil society and against the profoundly
repressive regime of the Al Khalafa royal family (local allies, alas,
of the United States, which stations its Fifth Fleet there in
Bahrain). I described his brutal arrest following the suppression
(largely by the neighboring Saudi army) of the short-lived Pearl
Revolution in early 2011; the farcical trial that ensued with its
apparently predetermined life sentence; the repudiation of that trial
(and others like it) by the regime’s own hand-selected International
Commission; the refusal of the regime to recognize its own commission’s
recommendations; the 110-day hunger strike that Abdulhadi launched in
early 2012 in response to the regime’s failure to honor those
recommendations; his eventual suspension of the hunger strike amid
regime assertions that the their own judiciary would be embarking on a
good-faith review of all those sentences; and the final court’s blithe
verdict reconfirming Abdulhadi’s ridiculous life sentence, and those of
all his colleagues in the civil society movement.
also described the ongoing brave activism of other members of
Abdulhadi’s family — his wife, two sons-in-law, and especially his two
daughters, 29-year-old Zainab (mother of a toddler) in Bahrain
(who has been arrested no less than seven times in the past two years
for undertaking demonstrations both alone and at the head of peaceful
throngs, as a result enduring countless months in prison herself); and
25-year-old Maryam on the outside, where, taking advantage of her
Danish citizenship (attained back in the ’90s when the family had
attained political asylum in the country), she has been tirelessly
advocating on behalf of her father and the cause of Bahraini and more
generally Gulf democracy in her role as the acting president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR).
And now this press release from the BCHR:
Acting President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights; and Deputy
Director for the Gulf Center for Human Rights, Maryam Al-Khawaja, has
decided to travel to Bahrain Friday, 11 January 2013.
purpose of Maryam Al-Khawaja’s trip to Bahrain is to visit her father
and uncle in prison as well as to see family members. Additionally, she
will be observing the human rights situation on the ground as her
colleagues Nabeel Rajab and Sayed Yousif AlMuhafdhah remain in prison.
decision to return was particularly brazen, given the regime’s repeated
denunciations of her activism abroad — and it definitely put
hard-liners in the country in a bind: Should they just allow the return
(given the activist’s remarkable effectiveness and the further
attention her return could bring to her family’s cause), or should they
stop her at the airport, refusing admittance to the country (thereby
only adding to her stature and fanning the flames of the international
campaign on the family’s and its movement’s behalf)?
Alkhawaja was granted a two week visa. However, a Bahraini human rights
activist who asked not to be named was quoted in a BBC story he
was fearful that Maryam could find herself serving a lengthy jail term.
“She could be charged over her tweets against the king and serve five
years under a new law that was passed in December,” he said. But
would the regime dare arrest her? And if it did, would such an
act have any other effect than simply to add to the luster of the
Al-Khawaja family’s brightening authority?
Relatives of Samir Awad mourn after the 17-year-old
died of gunshot wounds on 14 January.
(Issam Rimawi / APA images)
How the media let Israel get away with murder
(Charlotte Silver, Opinion/Editorial, The Electronic Intifada 1/17/13)
spends a lot of time talking about secure borders and how the need for
them drives its policies regarding the Palestinians. With few
exceptions, the media act as willing promoters of this perversion of
and 15 January, four young Palestinians — aged 17 to 22 — were shot
dead by Israeli occupation forces. The murders took place in the Gaza
Strip and at different points along Israel’s wall in the West Bank. In
all instances the Israeli army justified the use of lethal force by
invoking its need to protect the integrity of the wall and Israel’s
January, 22-year-old Anwar Mamlouk was reportedly just outside the
Jabaliya refugee camp in Gaza when Israeli soldiers gunned him down.
day, Odai al-Darawish, 21, was shot to death at three o’clock in the
afternoon while crossing Israel’s wall in the West Bank to get to work
in Israel. Initially, Israeli sources claimed the soldiers shot
al-Darawish in his legs, in accordance with the “rules of engagement”
("Israeli troops kill Palestinian trying to cross barrier", The Chicago
Tribune, 12 January 2013).
medical sources quickly revealed that he was hit in the back,
indicating that he was likely shot while trying to run to safety
("Israeli forces shoot, kill worker south of Hebron", Ma’an News Agency, 12 January 2013).
Jarad was aged 21 and a farmer from Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza
Strip. He was shot in the forehead by an Israeli sniper on 14 January
while working his land.
al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City tried to remove the bullet from his
severely injured brain, but Jarad died after surgery.
Shooting a schoolboy
January, Samir Awad, a 17-year-old from Budrus, a West Bank village
located near Ramallah, was shot from behind in the head, torso and leg
while running away from soldiers.
just completed his last exam before school break and had joined a group
of boys to protest the wall. Samir’s family has lost five acres of land
with 3,000 olive trees due to the construction of Israel’s wall; Samir
had also been jailed three times for his participation in
demonstrations ("Israeli forces shot youth in back as he ran away say Palestinians", Guardian UK, 15 January 2013, see above photo).
reports of these murders have been scant where they exist at all. For
example, the press is in disagreement over the circumstances of Anwar
Mamlouk’s death. Reuters reported that Anwar’s brother, Hani, stated
that Anwar had been studying outdoors when he was shot ("Israeli forces kill Palestinian along border with Gaza: Hamas", NBC
News.com/Reuters, 11 January 2013).
however, relayed only the Israeli military’s version of events and
reported that Anwar had entered the “forbidden area” along Gaza’s
boundary with dozens of other Palestinians ("Gaza: Palestinian farmer killed by Israeli gunfire", BBC, 11 January 2013).
Shifting the blame
York Times took the murder of Samir Awad, the fourth in the spate of
Israeli willful killing of unarmed Palestinians, as an opportunity to
remark on the “growing unrest” in the West Bank, bizarrely shifting
culpability for the deaths onto Palestinians "Israeli forces kill Palestinian at barrier", NYT, 15 January 2013).
reporter Isabel Kershner pivots the focus of the January 14 murder away
from Israel’s trigger-happy soldiers operating in a world of endless
and unquestioned impunity and onto Palestinians’ “simmering
restiveness”; their increased participation in “disturbances” of the
“relative stability” that Israel has tried to maintain; and their “dire
financial crisis that has prevented the Palestinian Authority … from
paying … government workers.”
there is no explanation provided as to why the PA has not been able to
pay its tens of thousands of workers, namely that Israel has stolen the
Palestinians’ tax and customs duty funds.
Omitting key facts
This is how
The New York Times turns the cold-blooded murder of a teenage boy into
a deliberately obfuscating story that describes an opaque haze of
“tensions” and “growing unrest.”
exonerating cloud of ambiguity is kept afloat by the newspaper’s
methodical omission of facts: not only the facts of the recent murders,
but those of the countless incursions, demolitions and violence that
Israel perpetrates against Palestinians every week ("Weekly report on Israeli human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territory", Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, 10 January 2013).
the kind of facts that, if properly reported by the journal of record,
would allow readers to know that it is Israel who is the violator of
the terms of the country’s own precious “borders.” Proper reportage
would give stark and unassailable lie to the notion that it in order to
protect these borders, it must shoot and kill innocent men and boys, or
women and girls.
Deferring to Israel
truth of what happened to the four dead Palestinians lies outside
stories in which gunned-down youths are identified by their intentions
to trespass, and in which the wall is described as designed to keep out
“terrorists.” Yet the BBC, The New York Times, Reuters and AP all
deferred to Israeli military sources to report on the deaths of four
young people. The result is that their readers are told that Israeli
soldiers followed the proper protocol to protect Israel’s sovereignty
notable exception of British newspapers the Guardian and The
Independent ("Did Israeli troops deliberately provoke boy, only to shoot him in the back?" Independent, UK 16 January 2013), the media
dutifully joined ranks with the State of Israel, grinding out the
useful fiction that implicates these dead young Palestinians as menaces
to the security and stability supposedly maintained by the chimera of
borders, it’s exceedingly likely that the grief-stricken parents of the
slain youths would love to see the existence of any kind of boundary on
Israel that might protect their children from the presence of a
threatening, violent and usurping entity.
Charlotte Silver is a journalist based in occupied Palestine and San Francisco. Follow her on Twitter: @CharESilver.
Will 2013 be the year American Jews secede from Israel?
If AmericanJews think what is being done in their name is self-destructive and oppressive,
it stands to reason they would want it to stop
(Bradley Burston Blog, Haaretz 1/01/13)
note: above link requires registration
the new year dawns, there are mounting signs that 2013 may be the year
in which U.S. Jews – in the main, liberal in outlook, committed to
tolerance, pluralism, and a vigorous, sincere pursuit of peace –
effectively secede from this state of Israel.
committed to supporting the existence of an Israel which balances
Israeli and Jewish culture with respect for minority rights, democratic
values. They will stay active in promoting the welfare of Israel's
American Jews are already distancing themselves in word and deed from a
government it sees as arrogant and short-sighted, enslaved to a runaway
train of settlement, dismissive of the rights of Palestinians and other
non-Jews, cold to the concerns of a sinking middle class and the
drowning disadvantaged, contemptuous of the concerns of the larger
catalysts: settlement expansion - especially as it strikes at
Israeli-Palestinian peace prospects and mocks Washington – and
backhanded insensitivity to the rights and ritual of non-Orthodox Jews.
weeks, some of Israel's most influential defenders in the States have
warned of hardline Israeli policies and parties which could lead "to
the destruction (the self-destruction) of Israel" (Jeffrey Goldberg),
and "national suicide" (Thomas Friedman).
Israelis who will do anything not to be reminded that American support,
anchored by U.S. Jewry, is the strategic asset which makes all other
strategic assets possible. The 2012 election, after all, saw prominent
members of the ruling Likud-Beiteinu, notably Knesset Deputy Speaker
Danny Danon, actively campaigning for the defeat of President Obama.
But that was then.
Israel's election campaign nears its home stretch, the heavily favored
Likud-Beiteinu party, which encompasses the principal authors of nearly
all of the anti-democratic legislation of the last four years, offers
fresh voices and perilous new avenues for alienating American Jews from
for example, Moshe Feiglin, who will enter the Knesset following the
January 22 election. Something of his political philosophy can be
gleaned from a 2004 article on radical settlers, in which Feiglin spoke
to Goldberg, then writing in the New Yorker:
non-Jews have a say in the policy of a Jewish state?” Feiglin said to
me. “For two thousand years, Jews dreamed of a Jewish state, not a
democratic state. Democracy should serve the values of the state, not
destroy them.” In any case, Feiglin said, “You can’t teach a monkey to
speak and you can’t teach an Arab to be democratic. You’re dealing with
a culture of thieves and robbers. Muhammad, their prophet, was a robber
and a killer and a liar. The Arab destroys everything he touches.”
Jews want to know what is being done in their name. In the name of
Judaism. And if they think that it is self-destructive, oppressive,
blockheaded and wrong, it stands to reason they would want it to stop.
Jews are tiring of being told that opposing Israel's policies puts
Israelis in danger. Blackmail is not persuasion. If the hard right is
so certain that it can get along without American Jewish support, it
may all too soon get the chance to find out.
Fighters of the hard-line Salafi group Ansar Dine in August. The group has controlled Timbuktu
and much of northern Mali since a coup d’état and a successful revolt against the central authority in March.
Romaric Hien/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
France launches air strikes on Mali rebels; Al-Qaeda linked fighters pushed back from key town
(Al Jazeera 1/12/13)
France Battling Islamists in Mali
(NY Times 1/11/13)
Islamist's Harsh Justice is on the Rise in North Mali
(NY Times 12/18/12)
combined excerpt and background:
international standoff with Islamists controlling northern Mali took a
decisive turn on Friday, as French forces engaged in an intense battle
to beat back an aggressive rebel push into the center of the Mali which
is a former French colony.
been in flux since a March coup allowed Islamists and Tuareg
separatists to seize the entire northern half of the country.
to an urgent plea for help from the Malian government, French
airstrikes have halted the advance of Islamist rebels in the key town
of Konna as more than 100 people were reported to have been killed in
the fighting. Konna is considered a gateway towards the capital
Bamako 375 miles further south.
Mohamed, spokesman for Islamist group Ansar Dine who along with
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (A.Q.I.M.) operate a drug trafficking
and kidnap economy in northern Mali told Al Jazeera: "The
terrorist French military bombed Konna. The hospitals are now filled
with the injured - women, children and the elderly are the main
victims." "It's impossible to know how many have been killed, but
the number is huge," he said. "Only five of those killed were our
fighters. The rest are all innocent civilians."
(see video at above Al Jazeera headline link: "Ansar Dine spokesman and analyst comment on Mali")
was only two months ago that [French President] Francois Hollande said
there would be no combat troops on the ground," said Al Jazeera's Rory
Challands, reporting from Paris.
yesterday evening, he said not only were French troops being sent to
Mali, but that they were already there. Things are moving incredibly
official in Mali said the fighters had been driven out of Konna, but
that the city, which was captured by the rebels earlier this week, was
not yet under government control.
introduction of Western troops upends months of tortured debate over
how — and when — foreign nations should confront the Islamist seizure
of northern Mali. The Obama administration and governments around the
world have long been alarmed that a vast territory roughly twice the
size of Germany could so easily fall into the hands of extremists,
calling it a safe haven where terrorists were building their ranks and
seeking to extend their influence throughout the region and beyond.
months, the Islamists have appeared increasingly unshakable in their
stronghold, carrying out public amputations, whippings and stonings as
the weak Malian army retreated south and African nations debated how to
find money and soldiers to recapture the territory.
(See above related article link: "Islamist's Harsh Justice is on the Rise in North Mali")
President Hollande said the operation is aimed in part at protecting
the 6,000 French citizens in Mali, seven of whom are being held captive.
Desire Ouedraogo, the Economic Community Of West African States
(ECOWAS) commission president, said on Saturday that the bloc had
authorized the immediate deployment of troops to Mali.
The organisation has been talking for months about a military operation to oust the rebel groups from northern Mali.
Islamist groups Ansar Dine and A.Q.I.M. have been a presence for years
in the forests and deserts of Mali, a country hobbled by poverty and a
relentless cycle of hunger.
Islamists provoked a military strike by capturing the village of Konna
remained unclear. While the UN approved a plan for deployment, it had
not been expected until September and even then it was not expected to
include Western forces.
prize the Islamists evidently sought — capturing the major Malian
government airfield nearby in Sévaré, which is vital for any military
intervention in the north of Mali — seemed to be outside their grasp on
the Islamists, moreover, is a far cry from retaking the north. While
tens of thousands of civilians have fled the area, many others remain
in the ancient city of Timbuktu and other towns under Islamist control,
leaving them highly vulnerable in the event urban warfare breaks out.
Israeli tank in Beirut in 1982.
Photograph: David Rubinger/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Image
Arabs are 'losing faith' in America: lessons from Lebanon 1982
declassified secret British government documents shed light on the
elusive search for an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement (Ian Black,
Guardin UK, 1/04/13)
British state papers declassified from
1982 – the traditional three decades after the event, provide still
relevant insights into the 1982 Lebanon war .
The war began in a sense in London, where, on June 3, a Palestinian
gunman shot the Israeli ambassador, Shlomo Argov. It was clear from the
start that the hit team was not from the PLO but from the dissident
Iraqi-backed outfit run by Abu Nidal, Yasser Arafat's sworn enemy.
Israel's prime minister, Menachem Begin, egged on by his defense
minister, Ariel Sharon, went to war against the PLO in Lebanon anyway.
"Abu Nidal, Abu Shmidal," another Israeli minister said.
Then, as now, Washington was where things happened, and it was American
envoys who tried to cobble together a ceasefire. There was also some
discomfort. "The Americans are concerned at the extent to which the
Israelis have misled them at every stage of their Lebanese operation,"
the British ambassador reported after meeting Alexander Haig, Reagan's
secretary of state. "There are continuing divisions within the
administration but it looks increasingly likely that, as usual, the
pro-Israeli faction will have its way."
Brian Urquhart, a senior British UN
official, had a "blazing row" with a US diplomat and demanded pressure
on the Israelis to allow humanitarian access since "the Americans and
the other Arabs were apparently not prepared to do anything in the face
of what looked like mass murder of the Palestinians by the Israelis."
back to Guardian UK excerpt:
Dore note: The following is a quote from pg. 200 of John Quigley's book Palestine and Israel: A Challenge to Justice:
"... in June 1982 Israel again invaded Lebanon, and it used aerial
bombardment to destroy entire camps of Palestinian Arab refugees. By
these means Israel killed 20,000 persons, mostly civilians, and while
it occupied southern Lebanon it incarcerated 15,000 persons, according
to the Internationl Committee of the red Cross..."
"Israel claimed self-defense for its invasion, but the lack of PLO
attacks into Israel during the previous year made that claim dubious..."
Of the Lebanon war material released so
far by the British National Archives, the most riveting document is a
secret "UK Eyes Alpha" assessment by the Joint Intelligence Committee
on June 22 1982. Its insights remain valid, mutatis mutandis, to this
The deputy manager of al-Aqsa TV, Mohamed Abou Oun,
"Much of the Arab world sincerely believes that the United States
administration had connived in, if not positively blessed, the Israeli
invasion. Many of the moderate Arab leaders, including the Jordanians,
Saudis and Egyptians are dismayed that the United States has failed to
use its leverage over Israel effectively to deter new aggression and to
prevent occupation of more Arab land. The perception that the United
States has acquiesced in the Israeli action will be seen as evidence of
double standards when the administration is condemning the use of force
to settle disputes in other parts of the world.
"It has all but destroyed, for the time being, Arab faith in the
willingness of the United States to use its leverage with Israel to
obtain a solution to the Palestinian problem which takes account of
Dore note: The above quote is from 1982 and 30 years later it is as true today as it was then.
inspects the car that two al-Aqsa cameraman were riding in
when an Israeli missile struck them in Gaza City on November 20, 2012.
The Israeli military said that Mahmoud al-Kumi, 29, and Hussam Salama, 30,
were “Hamas operatives” but gave no information to support the claim.
© 2012 Fred Abrahams/Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch Report
Unlawful Israeli Attacks on Palestinian Media;
"Anyone responsible for deliberately or recklessly committing a serious violation
of the laws of war should be prosecuted for war crimes."
(Human Rights Watch, 12/20/12)
Killing the Messenger;
Israel's campaign of targeting Gaza's journalists
is the latest chapter in a history of violence against local media
(Murtaza Hussain, Al Jazeera Opinion, 12/20/12)
Human Rights Watch excerpt:
Four Israeli attacks on journalists and
media facilities in Gaza during the November 2012 fighting violated the
laws of war by targeting civilians and civilian objects that were
making no apparent contribution to Palestinian military operations.
The Israeli government asserted that each of the four attacks was on a
legitimate military target but provided no specific information to
support its claims. After examining the attack sites and interviewing
witnesses, Human Rights Watch found no indications that these targets
were valid military objectives.
“Just because Israel says a journalist was a fighter or a TV station
was a command center does not make it so,” said Sarah Leah Whitson,
Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Journalists who praise
Hamas and TV stations that applaud attacks on Israel may be
propagandists, but that does not make them legitimate targets under the
laws of war.”
Israeli officials sought to justify attacks on Palestinian media by
saying the military had targeted individuals or facilities that “had
relevance to” or were “linked with” a Palestinian armed group, or had
“encouraged and lauded acts of terror against Israeli civilians.” These
justifications, suggesting that it is permissible to attack media
because of their associations or opinions, however repugnant, rather
than their direct participation in hostilities, violate the laws of war
and place journalists at grave risk, Human Rights Watch said.
Official statements that reflect the
military having adopted an unlawful basis for attacks are evidence of
war crimes because they show intent.
Under international humanitarian law, or
the laws of war, journalists and media workers are civilians and
therefore immune from attack unless they are directly participating in
France recognizes Algeria colonial suffering;
On November 20, the IDF targeted a car on a Gaza City street with two
cameramen from al-Aqsa TV, Mahmoud al-Kumi, and Hussam Salama, killing
them both. The deputy head of al-Aqsa TV, which is the official
television station of the Hamas government in Gaza, told Human Rights
Watch that al-Kumi and Salama were cameramen covering the conflict and
were returning from filming in al-Shifa Hospital in a car marked “TV.”
The two men’s families, interviewed separately, said the men were
neither participating in the fighting nor members of any armed group.
Human Rights Watch found no evidence, including during visits to the
men’s homes, to contradict that claim. Hamas’s armed wing, al-Qassam
Brigades, has not put either man on its official list of killed
fighters– an unlikely omission if the men had been playing a military
Al-Kumi, 29, was married with three children, ages two, four, and five.
Salama, 30, was married with four children, ages eight months, two,
three, and five.
“He did not fight for Hamas or Fatah – nothing,” Salama’s father,
Mohamed Salama, told Human Rights Watch. “He had nothing to do with any
of the factions.”
The IDF provided no specific information that the men were Hamas
fighters or otherwise directly participating in the hostilities.
Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said that those working for Hamas media cannot be considered journalists.
When asked in a television interview about the attack on the Shawa and
Housari Building, Regrev said that the IDF had targeted Hamas
“communications facilities” on the roof and that no foreign journalists
were hurt. When pressed about the seven wounded media workers on the
floor below, he replied: “There is the al-Aqsa station, which is a
station that is a Hamas command and control facility, just as in other
totalitarian regimes the media is used by the regime for command and
control and also for security purposes. From our point of view, that’s
not a legitimate journalist.”
Regev and other Israeli officials provided no information to
substantiate the claim that al-Aqsa TV or al-Quds TV were operating as
command and control facilities in either of the high-rise buildings or
elsewhere in Gaza.
“Israeli officials have dangerously
and unlawfully blurred the distinction between civilians who call for
or support military attacks and those who directly participate in
attacks,” Whitson said. “This claimed justification for attacking
civilians opens the door to war crimes.”
Under the laws of war, it is unlawful to attack facilities that shape
public opinion, such as the media; neither directly contributes to
Radio and television antenna towers are civilian objects protected from
attack, making the attacks on the two buildings unlawful, Human Rights
A Human Rights Watch visit to the building one week after the strikes
and interviews with employees from four of the five offices, including
al-Sawaf, uncovered no information to suggest that any of them were
used for military operations. In the absence of a demonstrated military
objective, the strikes over two days were unlawful attacks on civilian
objects, Human Rights Watch said.
Shrapnel from one of the munitions on November 21 struck an apartment
across the street, killing two-year-old Abdulrahman Naim and wounding
his brother and cousin.
International law obligates states to investigate serious violations of
the laws of war. Victims of violations and their families should be
promptly and adequately compensated. Anyone responsible for
deliberately or recklessly committing a serious violation of the laws
of war should be prosecuted for war crimes.
The armed conflict between Israel and Hamas and armed groups in Gaza
from November 14 to 21 involved unlawful attacks on civilians by both
sides. At least 103 Palestinian civilians and four Israeli civilians
died during the fighting.
President Francois Hollande tells Algeria's parliament French rule in Algeria was "brutal and unfair""
(Al Jazeera, 12/20/12)
Falling short of an apology, President
Francois Hollande has acknowledged France's colonization of Algeria was
"brutal and unfair".
"For 132 years, Algeria was
subjected to a brutal and unfair system: colonization. I acknowledge
the suffering it caused," Hollande told the Algerian parliament on
Thursday on the second and final day of a landmark visit to the North
"We respect the act of memory, of all the memories. There is a
duty of truth on the violence, the injustices, the massacres and the
torture," he said of the 1954-1962 Algerian war which ended in Algerian
independence and France's withdrawal.
Referring to specific atrocities, Hollande cited the massacres at
Guelma, Kherrata and Setif, where nationalist unrest that broke out at
the end of World War II was brutally suppressed by French forces,
leaving thousands dead.
"On May 8, 1945, when the world triumphed over brutality, France forgot its universal values," Hollande said.
The truth "must also be spoken about the circumstances in which
Algeria was delivered from the colonial system, in this war whose name
was not mentioned in France for a long time, the Algerian war" of
independence, he added.
"Establishing the truth is an obligation that ties Algerians and
French. That's why it is necessary that historians have access to the
Al Jazeera's Jacky Rowland, said that Hollande's statement marked
a landmark shift in France's attitude to Algeria by recognizing in
clear unequivocal terms that the colonial system was profoundly unjust
Rowland said Hollande's statement was met by a rapturous applause
and has begun a new chapter for relationships between the two
countries, but that there is still room for more development in coming
The French president said after
arriving in Algeria on Wednesday that he had not come to say "sorry"
for the crimes committed during the colonial period.
But he stressed the importance of recognizing what happened as a
way of beginning a new era in relations between the two countries,
bound together by human, economic and cultural ties.
More than half a million Algerians live in France, and hundreds
of thousands hold French nationality, but many others are frustrated at
not being able to obtain visas and seek a better life in Europe.
Hollande promised to "better accommodate" Algerians seeking to
move to France and to streamline the visa process, saying that doing so
was of "mutual interest".
It is necessary to "manage the flow of migrants" but the demand
for visas "must not become an obstacle course, or worse still, a
humiliation," he told the Algerian parliament.
On arrival, Hollande was received with full honours by his
Algerian counterpart Abdelaziz Bouteflika, and said he wanted relations
between their countries to be a "strategic partnership between equals".
The leaders later signed a declaration of friendship and co-operation.
The socialist president, accompanied by a 200-strong delegation,
visits Algeria after a period of lukewarm ties under his right-wing
predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy.
Help and Hope for Gazan Children
Middle East Children's Alliance
is working on specific projects on behalf of Palestinian children (Click to donate to MECA)
MECA founder and Executive Director Barbara Lubin
wrote the below letter from Gaza this past week:
I have spent this past week in Gaza and have so much I want to share with you.
I met with friends, partners and many people on the streets and in the
camps. There is so much physical and psychological devastation after
the November attacks on Gaza. So much emphasis is placed on food and
medicine in times of crisis, which is obviously needed and important.
But I believe the most important medicine we can give the children of
Gaza is providing programs that assist children in understanding their
pain and moving forward so they can have healthy and happy lives. This
medicine does not come from taking a pill. It comes from committed
professionals, like the amazing women I have met here in Gaza. They are
psychologists, social workers, teachers and art therapists, who spend
each day healing the wounds of war.
After careful consideration and consultations with many of our local
partners in Gaza, we have chosen to invest the donations so many of you
generously made for MECA's relief work into pyscho-social programs.
MECA is working in partnership with the Red Crescent Society and Afaq
Jadeeda Association to reach children who have been directly impacted
by Israeli attacks and to train mothers and caregivers in how to
support the children in their community during this traumatic time.
At MECA we understand that when illnesses are caused by polluted and
salinated water, the solution is not to send medicine after they get
sick. Rather, we provide safe, clean drinking water so they do
not get sick in the first place. So while the movement for an end to
the Israeli siege and occupation grows, MECA is doing what we can to
help Palestinian children in Gaza thrive today.
On Monday I accompanied a team of psychologists and social workers from
the Red Crescent Society as they led a session for 18 children. When
the children arrived, the expressions on their faces were something I'd
never seen before—little eye contact, expressionless and very fearful.
But after an hour and a half, the Red Crescent staff had most of the
children smiling, laughing and expressing their emotions through art,
counseling, and group exercises. Some children will need more
intense psychiatric assistance, and the aid you provide will help MECA
deliver this service to the children in need. I was so proud to
be supporting this vital work and I know you will be too.
Ali Farka Toure
Ali Farka Toure's Music Banned in Northern Mali
(Thomeas Fessy, BBC 12/6/12)
In northern Mali, music silenced
as Islamists linked to al-Queda drive out artists
(Sudarsan Raghavan, Washington post 12/6/12)
BBC article excerpted:
After making northern Mali's "Blues"
music famous around the world, Ali Farka Toure is a legend in his home
town of Niafunke, where he was mayor until his death in 2006.
The memorial to him is still intact but his music is no longer heard in the town's streets.
"The town has gone silent," says 28-year-old farmer Ousmane Maiga (not his real name) over the phone. "It's way too quiet".
Islamist militants linked to al-Qaeda have taken over Niafunke, which
sits on the banks of the river Niger 100km (60 miles) south-west of
They have introduced a strict social code: Women and girls must be
covered, young men cannot wear loose trousers and all forms of music
Residents say two young men were whipped last month after they were caught smoking tobacco.
Toure was just one of a host of stars who have turned music into one of Mali's best known exports.
"Music is so much part of our culture," says Mr Maiga. "It's everywhere
here, I miss listening to it over tea with my friends on the weekend. I
miss attending wedding ceremonies and baptisms."
All time great
It was the music of northern Mali that Toure took to the world, its
lilting, mournful tones reaching an international audience when he
teamed up with his US soulmate, Ry Cooder, to produce the
Grammy-winning album Talking Timbuktu in 1994.
He was ranked by Rolling Stone magazine
as among the 100 great guitarists of all time and starred in the Martin
Scorsese documentary, Feel Like Going Home, which traced the roots of
the blues back to West Africa.
But these roots are now threatened. Niafunke and other towns in northern Mali have been plunged into a cultural darkness.
Islamist extremists have banned everything they deem to be against Sharia, or Islamic law.
"They are destroying our culture," says another of Mali's most famous singers, Salif Keita.
"If there's no music, no Timbuktu, it means that there is no more
culture in Mali," he adds, sitting in the grounds of his home on the
small island he owns on the river Niger outside the capital, Bamako.
Keita is referring to the destruction in June of the ancient shrines in
Timbuktu's mosques. The buildings were Unesco World Heritage Sites but
considered by the Islamists to be idolatrous.
Dozens of musicians have fled south since the crisis began, among them Khaira Arby "the Voice of the North".
She cannot return to her home in Timbuktu because Islamists have
threatened to cut out her tongue, according to members of her band who
have also fled south.
She first stayed with a cousin but has resigned herself to renting a
house in Bamako after she realised that she could be displaced for
longer than she thought.
Gaza Diary Part 1
(Greg Manahan, Aljazeera 11/26/12)
Gaza Diary Part 2
(Greg Manahan, Aljazeera 11/27/12)
"Islamists have jammed radio airwaves,"
she tells me while her guitarists and percussionist adjust their
instruments for an evening rehearsal in her small living-room.
The two guitars are plugged into one small amplifier producing a
heavily distorted sound. The band's equipment was looted when rebels
marched into Timbuktu.
Arby sits on the edge of her sofa. She looks sad, but soon her eyes close and her voice climbs and falls with the guitar riffs.
Song completed, she tries to make sense of what is happening to her
country. "They're even confiscating mobile phones and replacing
ringtones with Koranic verses," she laments.
From Timbuktu to Gao, telephones have become the only way to listen to
music lately. Those who have risked turning a stereo on have
immediately attracted the attention of the Islamist police. Their
equipment would be either seized or smashed.
Now mobile phones with memory cards are the main target for Islamist militants bent on banishing music.
The country's transitional authorities are divided and seemingly
incapable of reclaiming the north of the country from the Islamists.
Plans to dispatch a regional peacekeeping force have yet to be put into
All the while the threat to the culture of Mali mounts. The destruction
of the shrines in Timbuktu and the silencing of the country's rich
tradition of music highlight the threat posed by the Islamists.
"It's like a whole new life for us," according to the farmer Ousmane
Maiga. "A life we haven't chosen under the constant watch of people who
pretend to live according to Islam."
Greg Manahan, an Irish peace activist,
recounts his time spent in Gaza - from arriving shortly before the
assassination of Ahmed Jabari to his departure after Israel's assault
was in full swing.
In part 1, Manahan arrives in Gaza to do a film about an Irish ship
attacked by Israel and goes on to explore ordinary life and civil
society in the small territory - shortly before Israel launched its
Operation "Pillar of Defence".
In part 2, Manahan goes to hospitals and meets people critically injured by Israel's bombing of the Gaza Strip.
Though the best arable land in Gaza is along its south-eastern border,
all of that land has been bulldozed by military activity, which has
stripped Gaza of much of its vital food basket. Rizq Abu
Ridah, one of my companions, explained that, depending on who the
Israeli commander is on any particular day, the location of the
"no-man's-land" changes. Some days the Gazans in the area can farm what
little is available to them - on other days, if they labour in the same
area they will be shot at.
Our host, the clan patriarch, Abu Ayman,
took care to tell me that all of the food - the cheese, humus, olive
oil and breads - were made from locally grown produce on their farms,
but that their yields were becoming smaller every year due to the
Israeli army encroaching further into their land. This, he said, was a
problem facing all farmers in the Gaza Strip.
My driver, whom the government had provided, pointed out a water tower
to me in the middle of the town of Khuzaa. He said: "Teen martyr,
Israeli rocket." The teenager, he said, and another young man, had been
effecting repairs on the tower - which is one of the few ways the
people of rural Gaza can collect fresh, clean water - when the Israeli
controllers of the camera tower, which is about 700m over the border,
ordered a strike, which had killed the teenager. I asked when this had
happened. "Two weeks ago," was the reply. This would have been one of
the presumably targeted killings that is never, in my view, reported in
Gaza, tragically, is unique in having a Ministry of Detainees. It is
referred to as "the prisoners' ministry". According to B'Tselem, the
Israeli human rights NGO, and the NGO Addameer, an organisation of
prisoners' lawyers, there are currently nearly 5,000 Palestinian
political prisoners in Israeli custody. These include, the groups say,
children, 10 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, and 189
women. In addition, they say 186 Palestinians are on "administrative
detention" - which is a form of internment without charge or trial, in
which a military commander can order detention for six months and renew
it again after six months - and do this as many times as he likes.
I saw a young woman writing down details
given by an elderly lady who leaned on a stick. I asked one of my
translators to find out what was happening. She told me that the woman
was blind and was dictating a letter to her imprisoned son. I brought
my camera forward and sat down with her. Her voice showed little
emotion; she seemed resigned. "Mustafa, my son, has been in prison for
22 years," she told me. I asked her what he had done. "He was a member
of the resistance."
5 Lies the Media Keeps Repeating About Gaza
I asked her how often she visited her son. "I'm not allowed to," she
replied. I followed up by asking her when was the last time she had
heard from him. "Twelve years ago." I was speechless.
Many more female protesters told similar tales of separation and of not knowing how their children were.
Back at the ministry, I was shown a prisoners' museum. This is a grim
vista of medieval horrors that apparently displays the various methods
of stress positions and torture that released prisoners have described
on their return from Israeli prisons. Around the walls there were
pictures of the prisoners who, the ministry says, succumbed to the
torture and are now considered "martyrs".
As a documentary filmmaker, I wanted to see the institutions that
supported ordinary civil society life in Gaza. I was particularly
intrigued to meet the man who had gone so far out of his way to assist
my arrival in Gaza, Dr Mofeed Mukhalality, and I spoke with him at the
Ministry of Health. We discussed the issues facing the Gaza
Strip's healthcare system. "The main problems we have as a result of
the siege are lack of medicines, medical disposables, equipment and
I then asked about clinical problems that were unique to Gaza. He had
an extensive list: "Malnutrition, severe burns from candles which catch
fire in small poor dwellings, congenital diseases and cancers that we
can't explain. We have people presenting with myocardial infarction in
What were the causes? "Poor diet and stress."
Dr Barquoni spoke at length to explain the congenital diseases that
have only started manifesting, he said, in the past few years. He said
that he and his colleagues were seeing children with Gulf War syndrome.
In his experience, Gaza was the only place outside of Iraq, the United
Kingdom and the United States to have young patients with these
I asked him if he was accusing Israel of using depleted uranium
munitions. "I don't know for sure because I need a study done of the
land and the patients, and I have the resources for neither," he
responded. One thing he did make clear was that these patients all came
from the border areas with Israel, where the highest concentrations of
tank fire by Israeli forces had occured.
The Minister for Sport, Culture and Youth Affairs greeted us at the
stadium - a site which Israeli forces completely destroyed on November
17. The Minister invited us to attend a cultural festival with both
Palestinian and Egyptian performers. We accepted the invitation and
made our way to the studios of Al Aqsa TV, the government-run TV
station. This site too was destroyed on November 18.
(Omar Baddar, Huffinton Post, 11/19/12)
As Israel continues to pound Gaza, the
Palestinian death toll of the latest round of violence has crossed the
100 mark. Thus far, the American media has given Israeli officials and
spokespersons a free pass to shape the narrative of this conflict with
falsehoods. Here are the top 5 lies the media doesn't challenge about
the crisis in Gaza:
1. Israel Was Forced to Respond to Rockets
to Defend Its Citizens
CNN, like many other American outlets,
chose to begin the story of the latest round of violence in Gaza on
November 10th, when 4 Israeli soldiers were wounded by Palestinian
fire, and the IDF "retaliated" by killing several Palestinians. But
just two days before, a 13 year old Palestinian boy was killed in an
Israeli military incursion into Gaza (among other fatalities in
preceding days). Is there any reason why those couldn't be the starting
point of the "cycle of violence"? The bias was even more blatant in
2008/09, when Israel's massive assault on Gaza (which killed 1400+
Palestinians) was cast as self-defense, even though it was acknowledged
in passing that Israel was the party that broke the ceasefire agreement
in place at the time. Are the Palestinians not entitled to
self-defense? And if indiscriminate Palestinian rocket fire is not an
acceptable response to Israeli violence (which it absolutely isn't),
how can indiscriminate Israeli bombings of Gaza ever be acceptable? And
why is the broader context, the fact that Gaza remains under Israeli
blockade and military control, overlooked?
2. Israel Tries to Avoid Civilian Casualties
It must be aggravating for Israel's
propagandists when high-ranking political officials slip and get off
the sanitized/approved message for public consumption. Yesterday,
Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai said the "goal of the operation is
to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages." Not to be outdone, Gilad Sharon,
son of former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, said "we need to
flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza." If you're
thinking this is just rhetoric, consider the fact that, according to
Amnesty International, Israel "flattened... busy neighborhoods" into
"moonscapes" during its last major assault on Gaza in 2008/09. And it
wasn't just human rights organizations that were exposing Israeli war
crimes in Gaza, but Israeli soldiers whose conscience could not bear to
remain silent about the atrocities they had committed were also coming
3. This Is About Security
If, for some odd reason, you cannot decide whether it is official
Israeli spokespersons or soldiers of conscience and human rights
investigators who are telling the truth, consider this question: If
Hamas has only managed to kill 3 people despite being bent on killing
civilians with thousands of indiscriminate rockets, how has Israel
managed to kill several dozen Palestinian civilians when it is using
sophisticated precision weapons to avoid civilian casualties? In just
one Israeli attack yesterday, Israel killed more Palestinian civilians
in a matter of minutes than the total number of all Israelis killed by
rocket fire from Gaza over the last 3 years. The truth is exposed by
the utter disregard for civilian life we see in practice, reaffirmed by
testimonies and investigative evidence.
If Israel's main objective were indeed
to end the rocket fire from Gaza, all it had to do was accept the truce
offered by the Palestinian factions before the Jabari assassination.
And if the blockade of Gaza was just about keeping weapons from coming
in, why are Palestinian exports from Gaza not allowed out? Why were
food items ever restricted? The truth is, this isn't about security;
it's about punishing the population of Gaza for domestic Israeli
political consumption. When Gilad Sharon recommended the decimation of
Gaza, he justified it by saying "the residents of Gaza are not
innocent, they elected Hamas." Sharon may find this posturing to be
rewarding in some circles, but it's actually the very same logic used
by terrorists to attack civilians in democracies. Are Israeli civilians
considered legitimate targets of violence because they elected right
wing Israeli leaders who commit atrocities against the Palestinians? Of
course not, and only a broken moral compass can keep this principle
from consistently applying to Palestinian civilians as well.
4. Hamas Is the Problem
Between their religious right-wing
domestic agenda, and their refusal to renounce violence against
civilians, I'm most certainly no fan of Hamas. But whenever you hear
Israel try to scapegoat Hamas for the crisis in Gaza, there are two
things to consider. First, Hamas hasn't only showed preparedness to
have a truce with Israel if Israel ended its attacks on Gaza, but has
also suggested (though with mixed signals) that it is open to a
two-state solution. Second, and more importantly, Hamas didn't come to
power until 2006/07. Between 1993 and 2006 (13 years), Israel had the
more moderate, peaceful, and pliant Palestinian authority (which
recognizes Israel and renounces violence) to deal with as a partner for
peace. What did Israel do? Did it make peace? Or did it continue to
occupy Palestinian land, violate Palestinian rights, and usurp
Palestinian resources? What strengthened Hamas and other extremists in
Palestine is precisely the moderates' failure to secure any Palestinian
rights through cooperation and negotiations. The truth is entirely
inverted here: it is Israel's escalating violations of Palestinian
rights which strengthen the extremists.
5. There is a Military Solution to this Conflict
This is not the first time, and probably
not the last, that Israel has engaged in a military campaign to pummel
its opponents into submission. But are we any closer to ending this
conflict today after decades of violence? The answer is a resounding
no. After the 2006 war in Lebanon, Hezbollah emerged stronger. After
the 2009 war on Gaza, Hamas remained in power and maintained possession
of thousands of rockets. Israel's military superiority, while indeed
impressive (thanks to $30 billion in U.S. military aid this decade), is
not stronger than the Palestinian will to live in dignity. The way to
end the firing of rockets in the short term is to agree to a truce and
end the blockade of Gaza. The way to resolve the entire conflict in the
long term is to end Israel's illegal occupation of Palestinian lands
and allow the Palestinians to exercise their right to
self-determination. We're probably close to a ceasefire agreement to
end this round of violence. The real challenge is ending the Israeli
occupation for long-term peace and security for Israelis and
Older Related Articles/Books:
The BBC Bias on Palestine
Bad news From Israel
(Greg Philo, Mike Berry)
More Bad News From Israel
(follow-up book reviewed by Ronan MacDubhghaill)
Heartbroken father and BBC journalist, Jihad Mashharawi, holds the body of his 11-month old baby,
at Shifa hospital, after he was burnt alive by an Israeli air strike on their family house in Gaza City, Nov. 14
Hamas leader Jabari killed amid talks on long-term truce (Nir Hasson, Haaretz 11/15/12)
Hours before Hamas strongman Ahmed
Jabari was assassinated, he received the draft of a permanent truce
agreement with Israel, which included mechanisms for maintaining the
cease-fire in the case of a flare-up between Israel and the factions in
the Gaza Strip. This, according to Israeli peace activist Gershon
Baskin, who helped mediate between Israel and Hamas in the deal to
release Gilad Shalit and has since then maintained a relationship with
Baskin told Haaretz on Thursday that senior officials in Israel knew
about his contacts with Hamas and Egyptian intelligence aimed at
formulating the permanent truce, but nevertheless approved the
“I think that they have made a strategic mistake," Baskin said, an
error "which will cost the lives of quite a number of innocent people
on both sides."
"This blood could have been spared. Those who made the decision must be
judged by the voters, but to my regret they will get more votes because
of this,” he added.
According to Baskin, during the past two years Jabari internalized the
realization that the rounds of hostilities with Israel were beneficial
neither to Hamas nor to the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip and only
caused suffering, and several times he acted to prevent firing by Hamas
He said that even when Hamas was pulled into participating in the
launching of rockets, its rockets would always land in open spaces.
“And that was intentional,” clarified Baskin.
In recent months Baskin was continuously
in touch with Hamas officials and with Egyptian intelligence as well as
with officials in Israel, whose names he refused to divulge. A few
months ago Baskin showed Defense Minister Ehud Barak a draft of the
agreement and on the basis of that draft an inter-ministry committee on
the issue was established. The agreement was to have constituted a
basis for a permanent truce between Israel and Hamas, which would
prevent the repeated rounds of shooting.
The Obama Administration's unstinting financial, military, and diplomatic support for Israel
is a key enabling froce in the conflict
(Glenn Greenwald, Guardian UK, 11/17/12)
“In Israel,” Baskin said, “they decided
not to decide, and in recent months I took the initiative to push it
again.” In recent weeks he renewed contact with Hamas and with Egypt
and just this week he was in Egypt and met with top people in the
intelligence system and with a Hamas representative. He says he formed
the impression that the pressure the Egyptians applied to the
Palestinians to stop shooting was serious and sincere.
“He was in line to die, not an angel and not a righteous man of peace,”
Baskin said of Jabari and of his feelings in the wake of the killing,
“but his assassination also killed the possibility of achieving a truce
and also the Egyptian mediators’ ability to function.
“I am mainly sad. This is sad for me. I am seeing people getting killed
and that is what is making me sad. I tell myself that with every person
who is killed we are engendering the next generation of haters and
terrorists,” adds Baskin.
A central premise of US media coverage
of the Israeli attack on Gaza - beyond the claim that Israel is
justifiably "defending itself" - is that this is some endless conflict
between two foreign entitles, and Americans can simply sit by
helplessly and lament the tragedy of it all. The reality is precisely
the opposite: Israeli aggression is possible only because of direct,
affirmative, unstinting US diplomatic, financial and military support
for Israel and everything it does. This self-flattering depiction of
the US as uninvolved, neutral party is the worst media fiction since TV
news personalities covered the Arab Spring by pretending that the US is
and long has been on the side of the heroic democratic protesters,
rather than the key force that spent decades propping up the tyrannies
they were fighting.
it's just been staggering to see how tilted US media discourse is:
Israeli officials and pro-Israel "experts" are endlessly paraded across
the screen while Palestinian voices are exceedingly rare; the fact of
the 45-year-old brutal occupation and ongoing Israeli dominion over
Gaza is barely mentioned; meanwhile, every primitive rocket that falls
harmlessly near Israeli soil is trumpeted with screaming headlines
while the carnage and terror in Gaza is mentioned, if at all, as an
According to Haaretz, Israel's Interior
Minister, Eli Yishai, said this about Israel's attacks on Gaza: "The
goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages." Let me
know if any of the US Sunday talk shows mention that tomorrow during
their discussions of this "operation".
Signs of Torture on Deceased Blogger, Family Under Pressure to Keep Silent(International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, 11/9/12)
Blogger Dies in Detention, Torture Suspected;
Rampant Impunity leads to another Death in Iran's Prisons
(International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, 11/8/12)
Committee to Protect Journalists demands Iran explain blogger's death (11/9/12)
Iranian Blogger Dies in Custody
(Farnaz Fassihi, WSJ, 11/9/12)
The Iranian Judiciary should immediately investigate the death of a
young blogger, Sattar Beheshti, during interrogations and hold the
responsible officials accountable, the International Campaign for Human
Rights in Iran said today.
Severe Birth Defects Soar in Post-War Iraq
(Julia Kallas, IPS News, 10/26/12)
Those Laboratory Mice Were Children
Iraq: Special Weapons Have a Fallout on Babies
Beheshti’s death in custody raises serious concerns about the ongoing
ill-treatment of prisoners of conscience in Iran while security and
intelligence agents operate in an atmosphere of complete impunity.
“Beheshti’s death is certainly due to his circumstances in prison and
once again the culture of rampant impunity inside prisons has claimed
the life of another innocent victim. It is highly probable he died of
injuries sustained due to torture under interrogations,” said Hadi
Ghaemi, the Campaign’s spokesperson.
Beheshti, a 35 year old blogger, was arrested on October 30 at his home
in Tehran. On November 6 authorities contacted his family informing
them of his death in custody without further explanation.
Persian-language media have described him as a worker who blogged on
rights violations. In his last blog postings before his detention, he
wrote on Iran’s foreign policy in Lebanon as well as the hunger strike
of Nasrin Soutoudeh, the prominent human rights defender held at Evin
Prison and the winner of this year’s Sakharov Prize by the European
Since November 6 it has not been possible to contact the family despite
repeated attempts by the Campaign. The Campaign believes the family is
under orders by the authorities to keep silent and might be in danger
for speaking out regarding his death in custody.
In its June 2011 report, “Deaths in Prison: No One Held Accountable,”
the Campaign documented the deaths of 17 political prisoners inside
Iran’s prisons since 2003;no investigations have ever been launched
into these deaths and no one has been held accountable.
“The international community must focus on the dire situation of
political prisoners in Iran. It is literally a matter of life and
death,” said Hadi Ghaemi of the International Campaign for Human Rights
A new study confirms what many Iraqi
doctors have been saying for years – that there is a virtual epidemic
of rare congenital birth defects in cities that suffered bombing and
artillery and small arms fire in the U.S.-led attacks and occupations
of the country.
The hardest hit appear to be Fallujah, a city in central Iraq, and Basra in the south.
In Fallujah, between 2007 and 2010, more than half the children born
there had some form of birth defect, compared to less than two percent
in 2000. The total number of birth defects observed by medical
staff at Al Basrah Maternity Hospital more than doubled between 2003
Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, a lead author of the latest study published in
the Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, entitled
“Metal Contamination and the Epidemic of Congenital Birth Defects in
Iraqi Cities,” reports that in the case study of 56 Fallujah families,
metal analysis of hair samples indicated contamination with two
well-known neurotoxic metals: lead and mercury.
IPS correspondent Julia Kallas spoke with Savabieasfahani about Iraq’s
health crisis and the long-term consequences of exposure to metals
released by bombs and munitions.
Excerpts from the interview follow.
Q: You focused on Fallujah and Al
Basra. Is there any indication that this problem could be affecting
other Iraqi cities as well?
A: Some other places are seeing similar situations but there are no
publications to indicate it. There is a great possibility that other
places that have been bombed are also showing similar things.
Your study found serious deformities in infants as late as 2010. How
many years will the health effects of the war continue to be felt?
Satellite images suggest Sudan military complex
A: Speaking as an environmental toxicologist, I think that a long as
the environment is not cleaned, as long as the source of this public
contamination is not found and as long as people are exposed to it
periodically on a daily basis, I think this problem will persist.
And what we can see is that they are actually increasing. I think that
the best step right now is to do large-scale environmental testing –
test water, air, food, soil, everything that comes in touch with
people. Test them for the presence of toxic metals and other things
that are in the environment. And once we find the source, then we can
clean it up. Unless we do that, this is going to continue to happen
because people are getting exposed.
Q: What kind of munitions would be responsible for this type of large-scale contamination?
A: We have referenced a couple of U.S. military documents and it is the
kind of things that could lead to this version of metal as indicated in
the references. Various metals are contained in small arms ammunition.
But it could be anything from bombardments, from the bombs that come
down on the place, or bombs that exploded from the tanks, or even
bullets. They all have similar metals in them, including mercury and
lead poisoning, which is what we have found in the bodies of the people
who live in these cities, Fallujah and Basra.
Q: Are you aware of any formal reaction to your research by the Iraqi, U.S. or UK governments?
A: The U.S. Defense Department responded to the report by saying that
they do not know of any official reports that indicate any problems in
Al Basrah or Fallujah.
Q: How is the local health care
system coping with an emergency like this? And how can contamination
management and medical care procedures be provided in these areas?
A: I know that the hospitals in the two cities that we studied are
overstretched and as far as that is a concern there are ways to help
these hospitals. We need to organise doctors, scientists and people who
are professionals in this area to help clean up. Organise them, bring
them to these two cities and get them to start working. However, all of
that requires financial and other kinds of support. Financial and
political support together will help to make that happen.
hit by Israeli airstrike killing two people
(Haaretz, AP/Jack Koury, 10/27/12)
'Israeli attack' on Sudanese arms factory offers glimpse of secret war
(Ian Black, Guardian UK, 10/25/12)
The Sudanese government has accused
Israel of bombing its Yarmouk military complex in Khartoum last week,
killing two people and leaving the factory in ruins.
On Friday, Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir said that Israel carried out the strike in reaction to changes in the region.
Sahrawi women at refugee camp
(Mohamed Messara/European Pressphoto Agency)
Occupied Western Sahara:
"The reckless behavior is a manifestation of Israel's concerns and
nervousness about the political and social upheavals in the region and
about the progress of Sudan," the Kuwait News Agency (Kuna) reported.
Sudan's Minister of Information Ahmed Belal Othman, meanwhile, said
that the Sudanese government would take "more decisive steps" against
Israeli interests, which he described as "legitimate targets" for Sudan
following the alleged strike.
Othman also told reporters that evidence at the site pointed to Israeli
involvement in the incident. "The sophisticated warplanes and weapons
used in the attack are available to no country in the region except
No one in Israel is admitting that its pilots carried out a long-range
raid against a munitions factory in Sudan, said to be supplying weapons
to the Palestinian movement Hamas in the Gaza Strip. But no one is
denying it either.The attack appears to offer a rare glimpse of a
secret war that has been going on for years.
Senior analysts in the Arab world have characterized the alleged strike
as a rehearsal aimed at sending Iran a clear message that Israel will
not hesitate to strike distant targets.
Another tantalising glimpse of this clandestine war came in January
2010, when suspected Mossad agents assassinated Mohammed Mabhouh in a
Dubai hotel. Mabhouh was described as the link man between Hamas and
Iran. The following year a mysterious missile strike on a car near Port
Sudan airport killed his replacement.
Detailed evidence of Israel's efforts to block arms shipments to Hamas
(and to Hezbollah in Lebanon) surfaced in WikiLeaks documents.
They demonstrated that Sudan was warned by the US in January 2009 not
to allow the delivery of unspecified Iranian arms that were expected to
be passed to Hamas in Gaza around the time of Israel's Cast Lead
offensive, in which 1,400 Palestinians were indiscriminately killed.
Israeli media has reported that the Israeli air force carried out at
least two secret operations in Sudan in January and February 2009. The
first involved the bombing of a convoy carrying arms through Sudan to
Gaza, in which 119 people were killed. And a ship at a Sudanese port
was bombed from the air.
RFK Center Report Expresses Major Concern Over Impunity for Human Rights Violations
by the Moroccan Governement
Report excerpt with background info from Dore Stein
On August 31 an international delegation
of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights (RFK
Center) concluded a visit to evaluate the human rights situation in
Moroccan-controlled Western Sahara and the Sahrawi refugee camps near
Morocco forcibly annexed the northern two-thirds of Western Sahara in 1976, and the rest of the territory in 1979, an action
Preliminary Observations In Moroccan-Controlled Western Sahara
that no other country recognized, and the Polisario Front, the
political/military organization representing the indigenous Sahrawi
people, waged a bitter battle for independence that led to a cease-fire
in 1991. There has been a political impasse over its status ever since.
In 1976, the Polisario Front formed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic
Republic (SADR), establishing a government in exile in the refugee
camps near Tindouf, Algeria.
Over 100 UN resolutions have reaffirmed
the right of self-determination of the Sahrawi, the indigenous people
of Western Sahara. The SADR is a member of the African Union (AU) and
has been recognized as a state by approximately 50 countries. No
country has recognized the sovereignty of Morocco over Western Sahara.
The delegation met with a variety
of organizations and individuals who presented information
about cases of disappearances, torture, arbitrary detention, police
brutality, threats, intimidation, and extrajudicial executions. The
delegation also received complaints about the violation of the rights
to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and freedom of
During the visit to El-Ayoun, the delegation observed two or more
police or military vehicles stationed on almost every street
corner. Many of the Sahrawi interviewed described living in a
"climate of fear."
The delegation also received testimony of many cases of police
brutality against non-violent demonstrators. The delegation witnessed
one such incident in which one uniformed police officer and three
individuals, identified by civil society organizations as State agents,
attacked a woman who was peacefully protesting.
A major concern for the delegation is the nearly absolute impunity for
human rights violations. For instance, in spite of the numerous
denunciations of cases of torture received by the delegation, over the
past five years, only one state agent was successfully prosecuted for
committing an act of torture.
The delegation met with family members of victims of forced
disappearances who informed the delegation about the prevailing
impunity. The impunity affects the cases of force disappearances from
the 1960's to more recent cases.
The delegation met with representatives
of a group of seven people who were arrested and charged with treason
upon their arrival in Morocco after criticizing the Moroccan government
from Algeria. The group was imprisoned and is now on provisional
release, pending a final decision.
The delegation received information indicating a pattern of attacks and intimidation against human rights defenders.
The case of Aminatou Haidar best symbolizes the state of oppression
confronted by human rights defenders in Western Sahara for more than
Aminatou Haidar is one of Western Sahara's most prominent human rights
defenders. After years of illegal imprisonment, torture, and abuse
under the Moroccan occupation, Ms. Haidar courageously maintains a firm
commitment to non-violence. In 1987 Aminatou was "disappeared" after
participating in a peaceful demonstration. While in detention, Aminatou
was tied to a wooden plank with her head down, and repeatedly kicked,
had chemical-soaked cloths forced in her mouth, and received electrical
shocks all over her body. During the entire period of her detention,
Ms. Haidar was blindfolded, kept in inhumane conditions and totally
isolated from the outside world. Her health has been permanently
damaged by the abuse suffered at the hands of the Moroccan police.
On June 17, 2005, again Ms. Haidar was brutally beaten and injured by
the police during a peaceful demonstration in El-Ayoun. She was then
arrested at the hospital, after being treated for a wound requiring 12
cranial stitches and for three broken ribs. She spent seven months of
detention in the infamous "Black Prison" of El-Ayoun.
Today, the Moroccan authorities continue to harass Aminatou Haidar by
restricting her freedom of movement, violating her right to
trial, and by having plain-clothed police officers constantly
The RFK Center's Mission was also
subjected to intimidation and harassment that obstructed their ability
to work. The delegation is deeply concerned about the possibility
of retaliation to the people that collaborated with the RFK Center.
Preliminary Observations in the
Sahrawi Refugee Camps
The RFK Center delegation considers that in Moroccan-controlled Western
Sahara, the overwhelming presence of security forces, the violations of
the right to life, liberty, personal integrity, freedom of expression,
assembly, and association creates a state of fear and intimidation that
violates the rule of law and respect for human rights of the Sahrawi
people. The Robert F. Kennedy Center asks the Government of Morocco to
put an end to the pattern of violence that affect the Sahrawi people
that support the independence of Western Sahara.
Women have a very prominent role in Sahrawi society and in the administration of the camps.
Khaira Arby; refugee in her own country
The delegation heard concerns about food ration quantity and quality,
and the lack of opportunity amongst a highly educated population, where
women's literacy rate is around 95 percent.
The delegation observed conditions in the camps, which cannot be
accepted as part of any permanent standard of living. These conditions
include, among others, permanent exposure to extreme heat, and limited
electricity and sanitation., While basic living standards may be
adequate in refugee camps as part of a temporary solution, after four
decades these standards are no longer acceptable and are seriously
affecting the life's dreams and aspirations of more than 100,000 people.
Can musical Mali play on?
Islamism is on the march and threatening to wipe out the country's cultural heritage
(by Rose Skelton, Independent UK, 8/18/12)
Music in Northern Mali is Silenced by Islamist Extremists
(by April Peavey/Marco Werman, The World 8/23/12)
In Mali, where music has been an
integral part of life for generations, a tolerant form of Islam has
been practised by the majority of its population.
However, in Mali's northern desert, this is no longer the case.
Al-Qaeda linked Ansar Dine militants and other hard-line Islamic groups
(collectively known as "the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West
Africa [MUJAO]" hijacked a decades-long rebellion by ethnic Touareg
rebels and now
control much of the vast desert region of Mali (2/3 of the country).
As of Wednesday, the music stopped in
the north of the country. All secular music under their control
has been banned, except the singing of Koranic verses. They say they
are enforcing the strict Islamic code of law known as Sharia. The rule
went into effect months after a military coup in Mali destabilized the
government, leaving militants and hard-line Islamic groups controlling
the north. Hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee,
sacred shrines in Timbuktu have been destroyed for being "un-Islamic",
and now the country's rich musical history is being threatened.
Malian artists have exported their music with more success than perhaps
any other country in sub-Saharan Africa. Artists such as the singers
Salif Keita and Oumou Sangare; Toumani Diabate, the Touareg band
Tinariwen and the late guitarist Ali Farka Toure are just some of the
older generation who laid the foundations for younger musicians, such
as Rokia Traore and Ali's son, Vieux, to take Malian music to an even
Malian music has not only been exported across the world, it has helped
bring the world to Mali. Music festivals, such as the renowned Festival of the Desert
, where U2's Bono performed this year, had helped the
country achieve a status that neighbouring African countries could only
dream of – that of a tourist destination. Now, its fortunes have
When soldiers unseated the president in a coup lasting a matter of
hours, the military shattered the image of Mali as one of Africa's most
successful democracies. The Festival of the Desert is being moved
elsewhere, probably to refugee camps outside Mali say its organisers,
and Mali is suddenly off the tourist map – a huge blow for the
country's fragile economy.
The political turmoil – which shows no signs of ending without armed
conflict – has hit musicians hard. Musicians in the north have
had their instruments and amplifiers burnt. They have to
and sing in hiding.
Gunmen from the powerful Mikdad clan in the southern suburbs of
Beirut. They have abducted a Turkish businessman and several Syrians in
retaliation for the kidnapping of one of their relatives by Syrian
rebels. Photograph: Reuters
Lebanon aghast as return of sectarian kidnappings raises spectre of civil war
International touring artist Khaira (pronounced HI-ra) Arby
is a refugee in her own country,
relocated from Timbuktu to Bamako where she lives in a tiny room on the
top floor of a youth centre. She has been staying there since
April. Since Timbuktu was over-run by Ansar Dine, she cannot go
home. Arby cannot retrieve her instruments. All her
animals have died. She doesn't know who is in her house.
"I've lost a lot of things," she says mournfully. "My heart is broken."
Khaira Arby has no of of practicing her art or making an income. She is
one of Mali's better known musicians and there are hundreds like her.
“There’s a real sense of music being strangled there” says Rose Skelton.
Ms Arby, who at least has a place to shelter is one of the lucky ones.
When the northern cities of Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal fell to the
extremists, her fellow musicians who remain in the north were silenced.
Pheno S, a young rapper in Gao, says he can no longer work because of
the rebellion. "Please don't forget us," he says over the phone,
desperation in his voice. Like many in Mali, Pheno is hoping for
As scores of musicians consider leaving the country, many believe it
would be a tragedy for one of the world's great musical nations, and
the final nail in the coffin for its tourism industry.
Chris Kirkley, who writes the African music blog Sahel Sounds
recorded musicians all over Mali, says many of those he works with have
left for Niger, Mauritania or Algeria.
The Ngoni lute player Bassekou Kouyate,
nominated for a Grammy last
year for his album I Speak Fula
, says he might take his family to
neighbouring Burkina Faso if things don't change. "We only have two
things, cotton and culture," says Mr Bassekou. "Without that, we
have nothing. All of the awards in the world have been awarded to Mali
because of its music. If people come to destroy that, then they are
destroying the heart of Mali."
Spillover of Syrian war threatens to unravel regional certainties
and exposes fragile foundations of Beirut's postwar settlemen
(by Martin Chulov, Guardian UK, 815/12)
Kidnappings bring Syria's civil war to Lebanon
(by Loveday Morris, Independent UK, 8/16/12)
A country born out of crisis and hewn ever since by uncertainty
takes a lot to unsettle. But more than 20 years after its civil war
ended, Lebanon is again being forced to confront one of its most
pervasive fears: sectarian kidnappings.
A picture of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria under the boot
As many as 50* people largely Syrians, were kidnapped this past week
including a Turk and a
Saudi by members of a prominent Shia family, the
Mikdad clan, from the Bekaa valley, not far
from the Syrian border.
The mass kidnappings came after Hassan Meqdad was abducted by rebels in
Syria and shown, blackened and bruised, admitting to being a sniper
sent from Lebanon by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in a video
posted online. His family has denied he is a member of the group.
Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE and Kuwait who have strongly supported the
Syrian opposition, responded to the mass kidnapping by telling their
citizens to leave Lebanon immediately.
The turmoil in neighbouring Syria is showing that the civil war-era
enmity, long since disavowed in Lebanon, remains more of a problem than
many in Lebanon want to acknowledge.
And so, too, do the issues that have plagued Lebanon since its own
savage 15-year conflict ran out of steam: a political class that
remains implacably divided, a government that cannot assert its
sovereignty and an entrenched system of sectarian patronage that cannot
allow a representative nation state to rise from the ruins of war.
As the Syrian uprising has morphed into full-blown civil war, Lebanon
has been fruitlessly looking
for ways to safeguard itself from what
many people believe will be an inevitable spillover.
With Syria now teetering, there is a growing fear among all layers of
Lebanese society that nothing can be done to save the country from
turmoil. And this time, many believe it feels different to the lead-up
to the civil war, or any phase of it from its eruption in 1975 to its
gradual end in 1990.
Even members of the Lebanese establishment, long accustomed to the
byzantine ways of the region say a potentially historic – and dangerous
– shift is underway.
"This is the unravelling of the Sykes-Picot agreement," said Walid
Jumblatt, the leader of Lebanon's Druze sect, in reference to the
secret agreement between the British and French in 1919, which carved
up the Levant into spheres of influence in the wake of the Ottoman
empire's demise. "We are seeing the end of what was created 90 years
ago. The consequences will be very, very, grave unless they are managed
Syria was stitched together as a nation state between the end of the
first world war and the start of the second. And Lebanon's development
as a country followed roughly the same timeframe.
However, neither state – and especially Lebanon – has ever been truly
comfortable in its own borders, or skin. Both are patchworks of sects
that have often been at odds with each other and which are very much
affected by regional dynamics.
"These agreements are breaking down," said Jumblatt. "The Alawites
could move into the north of their country and establish a homeland
near Latakia and that would change the situation in Lebanon hugely."
Lebanon's Shias, for decades a minority but now more of a demographic
force, are aligned to Syria's Alawites, who are regarded as an offshoot
of Shia Islam. Hezbollah, the political bloc that represents most of
Lebanon's Shias, is heavily invested in the survival of Syria's leader,
Bashar al-Assad, writes the Guardian's Martin Chulov, as is the
regional Shia heavyweight, Iran.
A potential partition of either country would be a seismic change in the regional dynamic.
*Update: Maher Meqdad, a
spokesman for the clan, said that 21 hostages had been
released because it was decided they were not linked to the Free Syrian
Army (FSA). It is not clear how many they still hold.
While concern was being raised of a spillover from Syria to Lebanon, a
bizarre turn of events saw things go the other way. It emerged that passengers of an Air France flight that was
diverted from the Lebanese capital Beirut due to unrest in the city,
only to touch down in war-torn Damascus instead, were asked to chip in
to help pay for the plane to be refuelled.
The Boeing 777, carrying 176 passengers, was supposed to be rerouted to
the Jordanian capital Amman, but couldn't secure a flight path and was
forced to land in the Syrian capital due to lack
of fuel. During a
two-hour wait on the runway the crew then asked how much money was on
board after the airport demanded a cash payment, likely due to concerns
that any credit card transaction may not be processed due to financial
sanctions. The airline said that it eventually reached an alternative
of a member of the Free Syrian Army, a group fighting to oust him.
Photo: Tyler Hicks/The New York Times
Syria After the Fall(by Vali Nasr, NY Times Op-Ed , 7/28/12)
Response to Op-Ed by Turkish journalist and blogger Mahir Zeynatov (7/30/12)
The 16-month conflict in Syria that has
left more than 20,000 Syrians dead has reached a tipping point, but not
one that promises a quick end to the fighting according to Vali
Nasr. With or without Bashar al-Assad as its leader, Syria now
has all the makings of a grim and drawn-out civil war: evenly matched
protagonists who are not ready for a cease-fire, and outside powers
preoccupied with their own agendas and unable to find common ground.
There is no easy way out of such a
stalemated struggle, and this one threatens the stability of the whole
Middle East. So Nasr argues that the United States and its allies must
enlist the cooperation of Mr. Assad’s allies — Russia and, especially,
Iran — to find a power-sharing arrangement for a post-Assad Syria that
all sides can support, however difficult that may be to achieve.
The administration and its critics alike may think that involving Iran
in any resolution to the conflict would throw Tehran a lifeline and set
back talks on Iran’s nuclear program. But a breakup of Syria — and the
chain of events that such a breakup would inevitably set in motion —
poses a graver threat to the Middle East and to America’s long-run
interests in the region than does Iran’s nuclear program. And Iran has
much more influence with the Assad leadership than does Russia.
If the Syrian conflict explodes outward, everyone will lose: it will
spill into neighboring Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey. Lebanon and
Iraq in particular are vulnerable; they, too, have sectarian and
communal rivalries tied to the Sunni-Alawite struggle for power next
For now, the Assad government has enough support and firepower to keep fighting, and
it shows no sign of giving up. Most members of Syria’s Alawite,
Christian and Kurdish minorities, along with a slice of its Sunni Arab
population, still prefer Mr. Assad to what they fear will follow his
fall; together, those groups make up perhaps half of Syria’s
population, the rest of which is largely Sunni Muslim.
The opposition's ranks are divided among some 100 groups with no clear
political leadership. Even if Mr. Assad were to step down voluntarily,
his Alawite military machine and its sectarian allies are likely to
fight on, holding large chunks of territory.
Syria would then fracture, with the fighting deciding who controls what
area — a larger version of Lebanon in the 1970s. There would be ethnic
cleansing, refugee floods, humanitarian disasters and opportunities for
There is still time to prevent the worst from happening in Syria.
Even in the face of vetoes from Russia and China, which feel that the
West overstepped its United Nations mandate in Libya, the United States
and its allies are still focusing on international pressure and support
for the opposition to bring down Mr. Assad. That is the wrong goal,
because it will not end the fighting.
Instead, the aim of diplomacy according
to Nasr should be to devise a post-Assad power-sharing arrangement that
all sides could sign on to. That, rather than more pressure on the
government and more bickering among the outside powers, could finally
persuade Syrians who are still in Mr. Assad’s corner to abandon the
There are reasons to hope that Russia and Iran would join the
bargaining. Both wish to rebuild their damaged prestige in the Arab
world, and Iran is concerned about the fate of more than a million
Shiite Muslims in Syria. As for the West, Mr. Assad’s fall, without a
transition plan, would be a Pyrrhic victory — the beginning of a
A transition plan also must include Turkey, which has a long border
with Syria and the military muscle to influence the conflict.
But the single most important participant would be Iran. It alone has
the influence on Mr. Assad and the trust of various parts of his
government to get them to buy in to a transition.
Mahir Zeynatov argues that Iran is an unreliable and unpredictable
country. According to him history shows it would be a mistake to bet on
Iran's words and pledges. For years, the Western countries have worked
tooth and nail to move Syria out of Iran's orbit. Zynatov asks
how could Western nations ask Iran to play a constructive role in Syria
when it believes that Iran should have no business in the country?
Syria is a battleground between Sunni majority, backed by US allies
such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, and Alawite minority, supported
by Hezbollah and Iran according to Zeynatove rather than a fight for
He believes realities on the ground make it impossible to work with
Iran for a peaceful solution in Syria due to regional bickering and too
much antagonism between the U.S. and Iran. Besides, Zeynatov says it is
hard to imagine that Syrian rebels will agree to any role Iran would
play in Syria's transitional government.
Mahir Zeynalov has his own blog
and is a writer for the Today's Zaman daily based in Istanbul, Turkey.
He's also a former Los Angeles Times correspondent.
Medics defy the regime and treat a wounded Syrian rebel in a hospital near Aleppo
The Aleppo life-saver calling for weapons to save lives
(by Kim Sengupta, Independent UK, 8/4/12)
Vali Nasr former assistant to late diplomat Richard Holbrooke, is the
dean of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins
University, who advised President Obama’s special representative for
Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Dr Mahmoud al-Shami spoke quietly: “This
will sound strange, a medical man saying something like this. But you
know only patch up people for so long. Most of the seriously injured we
can’t save anyway. You realize that only way to end this would be to
defeat Basher al-Assad. Civilians are being killed by the regime.”
Among those killed were doctors. The burned bodies of three of them -
Basel Aslam, Moussab Barad and Hazim Batikh - were found a few days
after their arrest by the Mukhbarat, the secret police, at the end of
June. They were all young and had been working in the poorer sections
of the city. Later a pharmacist, Abdel Baset Arja, died while in
detention. All had been accused of helping terrorists; their real
crime, say the opposition, was to treat victims of the regime; the
executions a warning to colleagues not to make the same mistake.
Many medics have taken heed. The director of a hospital very near the fiercest frontline
of the city described to The Independent the frustration of not being able to get his staff
to work at such a desperate time. Dr Mohammed Ahmed - not his full name
– said: “I am not blaming them, people are very scared, for themselves,
for their families. Some are too scared even
to talk to me on the phone. I called 19 people and only two even
answered. They do not want things like that on their record if Assad,
Allah protect us, returns. Arja, the fourth man they killed, did not
even come to the hospital, he was just selling us medicine.”
The conditions, even for a conflict zone, were grim at the hospital.
There is never enough of a stock of medicine and the power supply, with
a shortage of fuel for generators, fluctuate. In addition to coping
with the medical problems the hospital faces the very real danger posed
by this brutal conflict, it has been targeted from missile and mortar
attacks half a dozen times in the last two weeks. The background noise
of explosions, helicopters and ambulances careering around on streets
of rubble were reminders of just how critical the situation was on the
The hospital is treating around 50 patients a day, almost all of them
injured due to the fighting. At present it has five doctors and two
nurses working a rota. Dr Ahmed, an orthopaedic surgeon, the only
specialist, says: “We really need around 12 doctors, some with
specialisation, and two nurses per doctors. So you see how difficult it
is to deal with complicated cases.”
One such case is brought in, a man shot in his lower stomach. The
bullet is a hollow point ‘Dum Dum’ which has torn up his internal
organs. Dr Shami - not his full name - pointing at the operating table
with a buckled leg with a pool of dark red blood underneath said: “We
shall try to send him across the border into Turkey, but I don’t think
he’ll survive the journey. We have to concentrate
on lives that we can actually save.” The patient, in his early 20s,
stretched out his right hand, eyes wide open and imploring. He died the
next day in the hospital.
The use of Dum-Dum bullets is illegal
under international laws on combat. “So you think Assad’s people are
abiding by the law in other matters? Is the shelling of residential
areas with tanks legal? The use of aircraftto bomb civilians? Do you
think this regime will stop and say ‘Oh no, we must not dothat, it’s
illegal’”, Dr Shami snorted.
Hazem al-Halali - another adopted name - graduated from the hospital
and decided to stay and help in Aleppo rather than return to his home
in Damascus. He is a member of
a group of doctors called Noor Al-Hayat (Light of Life) working in
areas which had seen the worst violence during the revolution.
The three doctors who were killed were fellow members of Noor
and Dr Halali is now believed to be on a Mukhabarat death list.
“They have told us not to treat people here, to send them to the
government hospital. But a lot of people don’t want to go, they
think they might be arrested or killed. We are talking about ordinary
people here, not revolutionary fighters.”
The opposition boasts that unlike the regime it does not mistreat its
prisoners. There have been, in fact, instances of summary executions of
captured officials, especially of those belonging to the loyalist
paramilitary, the Shabiha, and the Mukhabarat.
A field hospital had been set up by the revolutionaries further to the
east of the city. Three soldiers, prisoners, arrived, all of them
wounded, one quite seriously with a lot of blood around his neck and
The two soldiers able to speak had the familiar refrain to the one
heard from others in the same situation; they were conscripts and had
no choice but to serve Basher al-Assad, they had tried to defect in the
past but never had the opportunity and, at the same time, the plea they
did not know
just how bad things were.
A few rebel fighters heckled, calling the two prisoners liars, but not
in a way which was particularly threatening. The soldiers continued to
look scared. One repeated that the situation was calm where he came
from in Damascus; he could not have known about the dreadful things
happening elsewhere. A doctor cleaned out deep cuts on his forearm and
shoulder and told him he would be alright.
As the soldier was led away, the doctor said quietly. “Kofar Batna, he
comes from Kofar Batna. He said nothing was going on in there. That is
not true, just I myself know of three people who were killed there; one
of them was my wife’s cousin. Who knows, this man may have been among
Massoud Barzani, president of the
semiautonomous Kurdistan region of Iraq
Any move to cut funding to Iraqi Kurdistan
in a dispute over oil sales would be a declaration of war
(by Jane Arraf, Al Jazeera, 7/28/12)
Massoud Barzani: Flying the Kurdish Flag
(Al Jazeera Interview 7/28/12)
There are more than thirty million Kurds - most of them living in an overlapping area
Disputed oil contracts
of Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey.
It is said to be the biggest ethnic community in the world without a
homeland. In some of the countries in which they live, they are
prevented from speaking their language or obtaining citizenship.
Saddam Hussein, the former Iraqi leader, used chemical weapons against
the Kurds, destroyed their villages and killed tens of thousands of
them during his rule. The bodies are still being unearthed.
The US encouraged them to rise up against Saddam when his forces were
driven out of Kuwait in 1991 but then left them hanging.
Thousands died fleeing to Turkey as refugees.
But the no-fly zone that the US, British and French established to
protect them from Saddam's attacks, allowed them to break away from
Iraqi government authority, while remaining part of Iraq.
Since 2003, the Kurdish region has become the most stable and prosperous part of Iraq, fuelled by oil and Turkish investment.
And while relations with Turkey have improved, they have worsened with
Baghdad - with disagreements over oil, land and politics that some fear
could turn violent.
Massoud Barzani, the Kurdish president, has emerged as a crucial player
in Iraqi politics and as the leader of Kurdish aspirations in the
In an interview with Al Jazeera this week, Massoud Barzani said his region would
take measures to counter any military threat from the Iraqi government.
The comments, in the Kurdish leader's first international interview in
months, appear to serve notice to the government in Baghdad that he
does not intend to back off on the escalating dispute over its
authority over the region.
He has warned that Iraq's Kurds could seek independence if they do not
get what they need from Baghdad. And that his region will not be
dragged down by the rest of Iraq.
The Iraqi government considers the
Kurdish region's contracts with oil companies such as Exxon Mobil and
its plans for direct oil exports illegal. The Kurds argue that the
contracts are in line with the constitution and say they have been
forced to sell crude because of delayed revenue transfers from the
Sinem Sahin, whose classmates were arrested for political activism, speaks at a solidarity protest. Credit: Lindsay Oda/IPS
Anti-Terror Laws Stalk Turkish Students
(by Lindsay Oda, IPS, 7/17/12)
Barzani said the issue could be solved if political parties agreed to pass an oil and gas law.
"Cutting the budget of the region from Baghdad we would consider
it a declaration of war and Baghdad will be held responsible for
the consequences," he said.
Asked to explain what that would mean, the Kurdish president said:
"It’s obvious what it entails. It's premature [to talk about that now]
but certainly the moment they do that [cut budget] then we consider it
a war declaration."
Barzani said he would not accept the current political situation to
continue and said his region would find ways to counter any threat
arising out of the Iraqi government's purchase of F-16 fighter jets
from the US.
"If Baghdad or the federal government thinks about the usage of such
things then we will be obliged to go back to the times when we had to
think about how to target the F-16s in order not to allow them to reach
here. We hope this will not be the case but we have to get ready."
"For us, F-16s do not differ from MIG 19s or MIG 21s. We have seen them being used against us. We have seen tanks, artillery
and other weaponry being used against our people. We have seen large
numbers of troops being used against our people. Our fear is not of
that. Our fear is the mentality that still believes in using planes,
and tanks to solve the problems. We do not believe that that will solve
the problem. This is the wrong approach and the misery and the troubles
that Iraq faces today is a result of that kind of mentality. Therefore
we do not want that to be repeated again."
768 student activists are currently imprisoned in Turkey’s jails.
Joining armed groups is something for youths
Rights activists charge that the country’s stringent anti-terror laws
are responsible for hounding students protesting human rights
violations against the country’s Kurdish minority.
Academia, human rights activists, and members of the secularist
opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) are growing increasingly
disconcerted by the number of young people caught up in the
government’s aggressive clampdown on perceived opponents.
Between 2005 and 2007, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)
amended a series of laws, causing a 2.8-fold increase in the number of
people detained on terrorism charges by 2011, according to the Ministry
of Justice. This number has continually increased in 2012.
Student arrests began to climb with the creation in 2006 of ‘assize’
courts. These state security courts came under intense pressure from
the Europe Union for alleged human rights abuses but instead of being
held accountable, they were granted punitive powers by the government
to apprehend political dissidents.
“They specialise in trying organised crime, but their main aim is to
try political ‘crimes’,” said Mehmet Karli, professor of international
law at the Galatasaray University.
Anti-terror laws have also been used to imprison journalists, artists, activists, and even non-AKP members of parliament.
A lawyer and activist working on behalf of arrested students,
Olguner Olgun, estimates about 90 percent of the imprisoned students
are Kurdish, and that most were arrested for demanding Kurdish rights.
“There are serious problems with respect to the rights of Kurds
in Turkey. Some (students) expressed discontent, but the fact that
there is a PKK doesn’t mean that all Kurds are members of the PKK and
engaged in violent activity,” said Karli, who has read over 200
indictments of students detained for terrorism, but has yet to find any
connection with violent activity.
Anything from Facebook messages to text messages are used as evidence,
according to Olguner. Anonymous witnesses can’t be cross-examined,
making their evidence difficult to challenge in court.
The majority of arrested students are languishing in pre-trial
detention, where they are forced to wait months before they are
presented with a statement from police or allowed contact with lawyers.
Olguner said that the average waiting time before a first trial is six
In most countries, a person is innocent until proven guilty. In Turkey,
specifically with cases of terrorism, authorities assert a person is
guilty and detain him or her until the defendant is proven innocent.
The average minimum of hearings before a verdict is six. Given those
statistics, a student may be detained for three years before receiving
“Our biggest difficulty is getting true knowledge of these cases
published in Turkish media. The media works for the AKP, and don’t
reveal the truth to the public,” Saymadi told IPS.
But the prevalence of independent media has enabled word to spread,
with news of detainees appearing on solidarity blogs, Facebook groups,
and left-wing news websites.
normally engaged in animal herding to do.
Photograph: May Ying Welsh/Al Jazeera
Northern Mali: A dying land
Amid desertification and drought, tensions rise as rival armed groups vie for control of the improverished region
(May Ying Welsh, Al Jazeera, 7/8/12)
There is nothing to do here now but wait for war.
The youths of northern Mali are falling in line into one armed
organisation or another. Training camps are everywhere, no matter which
side you want to join, and the atmosphere is primed for inter-communal
Northern Mali has imploded from a mix of poverty, drought, guns,
corruption, marginalisation - and destabilisation following the fall of
Libya's Muammar Gaddafi - while the primary vector of this chaos
remains the long-suffering Tuareg populace.
It was they who launched the current conflict in January this year,
when secular Tuareg MNLA rebels started an uprising against the Malian
state, just as they have done four times previously, in revolts dating
back to the early 1960s. MNLA fighters say their people have been
marginalised and oppressed for half a century, and now they want their
As we pass Tuareg villages emptied of people, the smell of death is all around; the stench rises and falls wherever we go.
Tens of thousands of cows and sheep have collapsed and died, starved
for pasture in this year's drought - their carcasses now melting in the
These are herds that people have spent years building up, through
tremendous hardship. They are the pillars of life for the Tuareg, and
usually the only thing they own. Watching their animals starve is a
Now the UN says droughts in the African Sahel are set to deepen and
become more frequent, as rainfalls dry up and global warming takes its
toll - a disaster for all people of the region, almost entirely
dependent on farming and animal herding.
The Islamic police station of Timbuktu
A tall, strapping Senegalese man with short cuffed trousers steps out
of the police truck holding an entire vehicle mounted machine gun in
one hand, ammo belt trailing, as if the weapon were just a cheerleading
baton. His name is Abu Darr Darr, and he is known for going
around Timbuktu with a leather camel whip, lashing women who fail to
wear hijab - a job that is less and less necessary each day.
Here youths from Mali, Mauritania, Senegal, Niger, northern Nigeria and
across the Sahel come to join the Islamic police of Ansar al-Din, an
Sanda Ould Boumana says "Our mission is simply to institute Sharia law
in the areas we control and the areas we will control in the future,
Youths who join Ansar al-Din are
immensely proud. This is something for them to do - better than sitting
in the village or following dying animals. Who wants to end up like the
old men in the road carrying half dead sheep to market when you can
have guns, money, cars, international connections and power? When you
can be someone important and belong to a brotherhood and do everything
in the name of Allah? When people are afraid of you and look at you
Mad Max world
Inside the cool, air-conditioned dispatch, we meet the men in charge.
Police chief Hassan - a Malian Tuareg - and "Adam" - a Mauritanian who
participated in the November 2011 hostage taking and killing of a
tourist in Timbuktu. Adam says he was going to don an explosive belt
and blow up the Festival du Desert, Timbuktu's annual international
music festival, but other commitments prevented him from getting around
It is almost undoubted among people here that there will, eventually,
be war - likely with some form of Western involvement - and everyone in
Timbuktu is waiting for the bombs to fall.
Over the years, Al Jazeera has witnessed
a quasi-lawless land of simmering Tuareg rebellions, state-run
drug-smuggling mafia and militia, alongside al-Qaeda fighters,
kidnappers and bandits, all hosted by one of the world's poorest people
- animal herding families, wholly dependent on a drying land.
And that was in normal times.
Now, following the total withdrawal of the state, and the MNLA's
failure to replace it with another, northern Mali has become a Mad Max
world of roving armed groups, where having a gun and a gang is
important for survival.
Even the children are taking up arms.
We saw scores of Tuareg child soldiers in northern Mali, especially
among al-Qaeda-linked groups. Many come from communities that are
extremely isolated and poor - where it is normal for a child to walk
hours each day to bring water from distant wells, normal for children
to lose a parent due to a lack of medical care, normal to be
illiterate, and where every 10 years it is normal to lose some, half,
or all of one's animals, and to start once again from zero.
All it takes to recruit a child like this is to give his parents
charity, promise to make a man of the boy and teach him the Quran - a
sound proposition to many Saharan families who have received little or
nothing from the Malian state.
One of the Tuareg mujahideen, a quiet soul named Ahmed Ag Mohamed Al
Ansari, told Al Jazeera with utmost sincerity he joined Ansar al-Din
because "now we are in a time of troubles and wars.
"I know I’m going to die anyway, so at least I want it to be for the sake of God."
A woman in a veil votes in Tripoli.
Photograph: Manu Brabo/AP
Libya's politicians finally wake up to discover the power of women;
registration has led even the most conservative parties to join the
rush to woo the female electorate (Chris Stephen, Guardian UK, 7/7/12)
Libya's new women politicians seize chance to vote
(Hadeel Al Shalchi, maammews.net, 7/7/12)
Less than a year after an uprising ended four decades of autocratic
rule by Muammar Gaddafi, Libya held its first nationwide vote in 60
years on Saturday, July 7. The election will determine the
make-up of a national assembly that will in turn appoint a prime
minister and cabinet ahead of full general elections under a newly
drafted constitution to be staged next year.
Among the kaleidoscope of political party posters that cover every
spare surface in Libya for this weekend's elections, one stands out:
that of Al Watan, a hardline Islamist party.
Al Watan is led by Abdul Hakim Bilhaj, the former jihadist fighter who is suing the British
government for alleged complicity in his CIA rendition and
torture. He is a man not widely known for liberal social values.
However, his posters give the most prominence to a female candidate wearing a modern white
jacket and, most extraordinary of all, no hijab – in a country where the ubiquitous headscarf is all but compulsory.
Opinion is divided about whether Bilhaj is truly a convert to feminism, but he has felt
the urge to court the female vote. He is not alone. Across
the political spectrum, parties – all led by men – have been scrambling
to grab a slice of the female vote.
"Initially political parties were opposed to women, now it's changed,"
said Alaa Murabit, of Voice of Libyan Women, which campaigns for women
in politics. "In the past few weeks we have seen men pay
attention. They have suddenly become pro-women. How much is
honest I don't know."
Two events have caused this seismic shift in what remains a deeply
conservative country, where few women drive and female swimsuits are
The first was voter registration. When the elections were
organised, the government – which has two women in the cabinet – did
not think it necessary to appoint a single woman to its election
commission. But when registration numbers began to roll in, it
was clear that women were as enthused as men by the first election in
more than four decades. More than a million women signed up to
The second event goes by the name Najud al-Kikhia. In May this
little-known female politician not only won a seat on the council of
Benghazi, Libya's second city, but got more votes than any male
candidate. Since then, pollsters have been anxiously reviewing
policy, and election posters are the most visible signs: parties of all
shades now portray beaming women candidates.
Under Gaddafi, Libya's approach to women's rights verged on the
bizarre, with the dictator employing a female state executioner.
He kept a contingent of female bodyguards with him at all times,
although the lurid murals of scantily clad, bazooka-wielding, Amazonian
warriors on the walls of their base in Tripoli gives a clearer idea of
his view of women in uniform.
It is clear that last year's revolution produced a change in
expectations among men and women. Women's groups were some of the
first to form after the eight-month civil war and fierce lobbying this
year secured a 10% quota for female candidates in the 200-seat
Yet expectations among women's groups are modest. "Most women,
they will probably ask their families who they should be voting for,"
said Murabit. "Maybe 15% will vote after studying the
politics. But it's something."
A strong current of social and religious conservatism means their role
in politics is still questioned by many Libyans. In reality women
have a fragile place in a Libyan society that is resolutely
patriarchal. A male backlash has already begun, with many
election posters showing female candidates being defaced and slashed by
"The women I work with tell me they wouldn't vote for a woman, that a
man will lead better," said Fatima Gleidan, a 47-year-old woman and
What women want changed were indignities such as being told who to
marry, or being met with a barrage of innuendo if they walk into a
coffee bar. "I want to wear the hijab," one woman told me.
"What I do not want is some politician telling me I must wear it by
"We really need an overhaul of our rights especially in issues of
divorce, child custody and inheritance," Amani Benzeitoun, a shopper in
Tripoli said of areas in which many women say they face discrimination.
Attitudes like that suggest Libya may emulate other "Arab Spring"
countries, where women who marched side-by-side with men to oust
entrenched dictators have since been sidelined.
Dooler Campbell protesting in Beit Ommar,
near the Karmei Tsur settlement. June 23, 2012
24 Hours in Israeli Custody:
The arrest of an American activist in Palestine
(by Dooler Campbell, Mondoweiss.net 6/29/12)
name is Dooler Campbell, and I am a U.S. American activist currently
living and working in the West Bank. I am a graduate student at SIT
(School for International Training) in Brattleboro, VT, working on my
Masters in Social Justice in Intercultural Relations. I came to
Palestine in the beginning of March to see firsthand what the situation
was like here, in order to become a more effective advocate for justice in the region.
When I first arrived in the West Bank, I was working with Palestine Solidarity Project and the Center for Freedom and Justice
in Beit Ommar, an agricultural village of about 16,000 people, located
about halfway between Bethlehem and Hebron. My work there consisted of
writing reports and documenting arrests, military incursions and settler violence in the area, assisting farmers in tending their land, leading tours of the area, and coordinating the international volunteers.
Ommar is surrounded by five Israeli settlements. Beit Ommar residences
occasionally face acts of violence from the settlers, against their
crops, property and against the Palestinians themselves, which go
unpunished by Israeli courts.
settlements, which are illegal under international law according to the
4th Geneva Convention, were built on privately owned Palestinian
land stolen from Beit Ommar farmers, and fences have been built around
some of the settlements preventing these farmers from accessing their
land. Beit Ommar is under Area C, which means it is under complete
Israeli civil and military control. A watchtower is situated at the
entrance of the town, and the soldiers regularly harass Palestinians at
the entrance, raid Palestinian homes almost nightly, and close the
town’s market so the farmers are unable to sell their fruits and
vegetables. Beit Ommar has the highest rate of arrests in the West
Bank, when the vast majority of its inhabitants are just farmers trying
to live their lives and work their land.
protest of the land theft, illegal settlement construction and military
violence, the Beit Ommar Popular Committee organizes weekly peaceful
demonstrations every Saturday. Despite the demonstrations being
completely non-violent, they are always violently suppressed by the
Israeli military. I have been going to the Beit Ommar demonstrations
almost every week for nearly four months, and in that time, I have been
choked and grabbed by the throat four times, kicked, beaten with batons
and shields, shot in the back with a teargas canister, and targeted
with a concussion grenade that exploded on my ankle and left burn marks.
In the past month, however, they have been arresting someone every
week—Israelis, Palestinians and internationals alike. The reports can
be found on Palestine Solidarity Project's website. This past Saturday,
I was one of three activists arrested, and one of two who were actually
taken to jail. Here is the full story of my arrest:
was arrested during the weekly demonstration in Beit Ommar. We were
protesting the illegal settlements and the recent attacks on
Gaza. As usual, the soldiers met
our peaceful demonstration with violence. They kicked us, beat us with
their shields, and pushed us to the ground. The soldiers announced that
it was a closed military zone and that they would start arresting us
after 5 minutes. Younes Arar, a
member of the Beit Ommar Popular Committee, told the soldiers that he
was on his own land and that they should be the ones to leave. We sat
down on the ground, refusing to move.
five minutes later, they moved to arrest Younes. A Scottish activist
and I held onto him, trying to protect him. They beat us away, and as I
was trying to get to Younes again, the soldiers arrested me as
well. As we approached the settlement, my wrists were tied with zip-ties. They tied Younes’s hands as well,
and blindfolded him before they started to hit him on his face and his neck.
about an hour or so, we were taken to the Hebron police station for
interrogations. Taking my lawyer’s advice, I stated my case but refused
to answer any questions beyond that. I told him I did not see the map
of the closed military zone, which the soldiers are required to show
before making an arrest, and that I
did not interfere with soldiers’ work, and I told him about the soldiers’ violence against me. The officer continued to
ask me questions about who organized the demonstrations, who were the
leaders, what was I doing in Israel, what was my purpose at the
demonstration, etc etc, but I maintained my right to remain silent,
which he then informed me would be used against me.
the excuse that I “refused to cooperate” with the investigation, they
cuffed my ankles and wrists (they did the same to Younes), and they
took Younes and me to Moskobiyya prison. Younes informed me that it
used to be known for its severe torture practices, and that many
prisoners have died here in the past.
Inside the prison, they removed the cuffs from my ankles and wrists and took all
belongings. I was then taken into a small private room by a female
guard and told to take off all of my clothes. I tried to leave my
underwear on, but she said I needed to remove everything. She wanted to
make sure I didn’t have a knife, she told me.