Archive | May 13th, 2011

Signs of Chaos in Syria’s Intense Crackdown

NOVANEWS

 

NYT

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Syrian forces carried out raids in towns on the outskirts of Damascus and a besieged city on the coast on Thursday, as the number of detainees surged in a government campaign so sweeping that human rights groups said many neighborhoods were subjected to repeated raids and some people detained multiple times by competing security agencies.

The ferocious crackdown on the uprising, which began in March, has recently escalated, as the government braces for the possibility of another round of protests on Friday, a day that has emerged as the weekly climax in a broad challenge to the 11-year rule of President Bashar al-Assad.

Residents have reported that hundreds of detainees are being held in soccer stadiums, schools and government buildings in various towns and cities across the country, some of them arrested in door-to-door raids by black-clad forces carrying lists of activists.

Others have said the arrests are often arbitrary, sometimes for little more than a tattered identity card, in a campaign that seems motivated to bully people to stay indoors and to restore a measure of the fear that has buttressed the Assad family’s four decades of rule. Many men have been forced to sign a pledge not to protest again, residents said.

“The reaction of the authorities has excluded any possibility of having a rational solution,” said Rassem al-Atassi, the president of the Arab Association for Human Rights in Syria, in Homs, the country’s third largest-city and a center of the uprising.

Mr. Atassi himself was released last week after being detained for 10 days.

“I only see this crisis becoming worse,” he said. “There’s no political solution.”

The brutality of the repression has led the United States and the European Union to impose some sanctions on figures in the leadership, though not on Mr. Assad himself. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton moved the United States a step closer to calling for the ouster of Mr. Assad on Thursday as she denounced the crackdown.

“The recent events in Syria make clear that the country cannot return to the way it was before,” Mrs. Clinton said before a meeting in Greenland among Arctic nations. “Tanks and bullets and clubs will not solve Syria’s political and economic challenges.”

The Obama administration has criticized the Syrian government repeatedly and imposed some sanctions on several senior security officials, but it has not yet pursued aggressive diplomatic measures, including action at the United Nations Security Council.

Mrs. Clinton said that the United States would now pursue “additional steps to hold Syria responsible for its gross human rights abuses.”

“There may be some who think this is a sign of strength,” she said, “but treating one’s own people in this way is in fact a sign of remarkable weakness.”

A senior official elaborated that sanctions were being considered on additional Syrian officials. That could include Mr. Assad himself.

Bouthaina Shaaban, an adviser to Mr. Assad, said this week that Syrian officials thought that the American condemnations so far were “not too bad.”

In the meantime, its military has besieged Dara’a, the southern town where the uprising began with protests over the arrests of youths, as well as Baniyas and Homs.

The detentions have piled up so rapidly that assembling a tally has become guesswork. Syria’s National Organization for Human Rights put the number at 9,000. Wissam Tarif, the executive director of Insan, a human rights group, said his organization had recorded 8,000 people arrested as of May 3. In the past week, he said, they had recorded 2,800 more — though, as with the National Organization, he said he suspected that the number was much higher.

“The numbers are in the thousands,” said Khalil Maatouk, a Damascus lawyer who works with prisoners and detainees. “Those who were released told me that the jails are packed, and they’re using stadiums and government buildings to keep them all.”

The Syrian government has acknowledged the crackdown, calling it a response to an armed uprising of militant Islamists, saboteurs and even ex-convicts. American officials have acknowledged that some protesters are armed, though they are a distinct minority, and reports from refugees fleeing across the Syria-Lebanon border suggest that armed clashes between security forces and their opponents have erupted this week in Homs.

Amnesty International, based in London, said it had firsthand reports of torture and beatings of protesters detained by security forces. Ammar Qurabi, president of the National Organization for Human Rights, said people who took part in the rallies were detained, while those identified as leaders or as having chanted slogans against the government were tortured.

Indeed, human rights groups said the abuse might be part of the government’s aim: many detainees are released after a few days so that they can share their experiences, spreading fear among those who might be willing to join the demonstrations.

The groups sketched a portrait of free-wheeling campaigns that sometimes seemed methodical and that other times showed little organization. Mr. Tarif said that in Baniyas, an oil industry town on the coast, security forces carried out a wave of arrests, collected information and then returned a few days later for another wave of arrests.

Other times, he said, young men were arrested, released and then picked up by a competing security branch, which still had their names on circulating lists. Some had even already signed a pledge, admittedly under duress, not to protest again. “The local branches aren’t even coordinating,” Mr. Tarif said.

The crackdown has played out along a crescent from the Mediterranean coast through Homs to drought-stricken regions of southern Syria. On Thursday, most arrests were reported in Baniyas and the nearby town of Bayda, along with the towns on the outskirts of Damascus where protests have proved to be especially resilient. Many residents described a pattern in which the military entered first, followed by the security forces and then armed men in plain clothes, known as shabeeha.

The Syrian military said it had ended its operations in Homs, and residents reported that 10 tanks had withdrawn from the hardest-hit neighborhood, Bab Amr. After a day of shelling and gunfire, and sporadic shots heard before dawn, the area was relatively quiet on Thursday, a resident there, Abu Haydar, said by phone. “Most of the people have left Bab Amr,” he said. “It’s too dangerous.”

Residents fleeing Homs for the Lebanese border said some had taken up arms against the security forces in Bab Amr.

“Men are not sleeping at home,” said Umm Amina, a 53-year-old woman who left the Homs region on Wednesday. “They all sleep outside on the street and keep their rifles next to them to protect their women and their houses from the shabeeha.”

The government has sought to forcefully keep campuses silent in Damascus and Syria’s second-largest city, Aleppo, which has been relatively quiet so far. But while students in Aleppo said that dozens of their associates had been arrested in past weeks, hundreds of people were reported to have protested Wednesday night at the university there.

“We couldn’t just watch news of the daily killing in Homs, Baniyas and Dara’a,” said a law student who gave his name as Maher. “We are university students from all of Syria’s provinces, and we want to express our sympathy with our people.”

Posted in SyriaComments Off on Signs of Chaos in Syria’s Intense Crackdown

Clinton vows to increase pressure on Syrian regime

NOVANEWS

 

Washington – The United States will work with other countries to increase pressure on the Syrian government following weeks of brutal crackdowns on protesters, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday.

Clinton called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to end the violence against his people, warning that he faced additional international isolation if the violence continued.

‘President Assad faces increasing isolation, and we will continue to work with our international partners in the EU and elsewhere on additional steps to hold Syria responsible for its gross human rights abuses,’ Clinton told reporters while visiting Nuuk, Greenland.

Clinton accused al-Assad’s regime of killing hundreds of people since the demonstrations began in March, as well as using torture and detaining individuals illegally to quell the protests.

‘There may be some who think that this is a sign of strength, but treating ones own people in this way is, in fact, a sign of remarkable weakness,’ Clinton said.

The mass protests show that Syria cannot return to the ways of the past, Clinton said, while urging the regime to reconsider its close relationship with Iran.

‘Tanks and bullets and clubs will not solve Syrias political and economic challenges. And relying on Iran as your best friend and your only strategic ally is not a viable way forward,’ Clinton said.

‘Syrias future will only be secured by a government that reflects the popular will of all of the people and protects their welfare,’ she added.

The US also already placed sanctions on officials in Syria behind the violent crackdown.

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Prelude to IsraHeLl’s War on Egypt–Shin Bet: Egypt doing little to stop Gaza arms smugglers

NOVANEWS

New security agency report says Cairo’s grip on Gaza border lax; Strip’s militant groups’ weapon caches pose growing threat to Israel

A Shin Bet document paints a bleak picture of Gaza arms smuggling operations and states that the potential threat they pose to Israel has increased since the Egyptian revolution.

According to Shin Bet data, hundreds of rockets capable of hitting targets within a 12-25 mile range, have been smuggled into the Gaza Strip since last year.

In addition, some 1,000 mortar shells, dozens of anti-tank missiles and tons of both explosives and explosive-manufacturing materials, have found their way into the hands of Gaza militants in the past year.

During the Mubarak era, Egypt applied substantial efforts to foiling weapon smuggling operations. Among those were the underground steel wall project, meant to physically block smuggling tunnels, which is still under construction; and the deployment of motion sensors along the border.

Still, the Shin Bet said Egypt’s effort did little to significantly reduce weapons smuggling across its border with Gaza. The report does qualify the statement, saying the dismal results can be attributed, in part, to objective difficulties, like the country’s 745-mile border with Sudan, and its trouble contriving the tunnel-riddled Rafah area.

Currently, Cairo is busy trying to stabilize the new regime, meaning its tight border control has become lax, the report said.

The Shin Bet said that Iran plays a key role in assisting Islamic Jihad and Hamas – which are eager to acquire weapons that would put them on equal footing vis-à-vis the IDF – in obtaining such weapons.

Gaza’s militant groups are interested in increasing their ability to target the Israeli home front, mostly by utilizing long-range rockets; and Iran, according to the Shin Bet, is directly involved in supplying such weapons.

The Shin Bet draws the main smuggling route starting in Iran, through to Sudan, on to Egypt, then to the Sinai Peninsula and from there into Gaza.

Posted in EgyptComments Off on Prelude to IsraHeLl’s War on Egypt–Shin Bet: Egypt doing little to stop Gaza arms smugglers

Leader of Libyan opposition group to ask White House for recognition

NOVANEWS

 

Mahmoud Gibril

Washington (CNN) — A top Libyan opposition leader said Thursday the United States should recognize his group.

In an interview on CNN’s “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer,” Mahmoud Gibril said when he meets with White House national security advisor Tom Donilon on Friday, his main message will be to clear up “misperceptions” about extreme elements in the opposition and to ask for formal recognition.

“We need the recognition as the sole legitimate interlocutor of the Libyan people,” said Gibril, the interim prime minister of Libya’s Transitional National Council (TNC).

To date, the United States has not recognized the opposition formally, although it has provided aid. Italy and France have recognized the opposition group.

What’s next for the “Arab Spring?”

Speaking earlier in the day, Gibril also said the United States should turn over some of Libya’s frozen assets to his group because “a human tragedy is in the making right now.”

He said Libyan rebels are facing a “big hurdle” in getting the U.S. government to free up some of the more than $30 billion in frozen Libyan assets to help those suffering under embattled leader Moammar Gadhafi’s regime.

“Time is the crux of the matter, because having solved this problem in a matter of four or five weeks might be too late,” Gibril told a group gathered at the Brookings Institution.

Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, said Wednesday he is currently drafting legislation that will allow some of the money to be transferred to the TNC.

“It will not come from the American taxpayer. It will come from Col. Gadhafi himself,” Kerry said.

Kerry, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, said during a Thursday hearing on Libya that the TNC has made “quite remarkable” progress.

“They’ve begun to develop institutions which can provide basic services for their people, they are thinking about how to deal with humanitarian dislocation and challenges and while some institutions are going to have to be built from scratch over a period of time,” Kerry said.

But others in Congress have concerns.

“Do we have confidence in the people to whom we are providing assistance?” ranking Republican Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana asked at the hearing.

Gibril acknowledged some skeptics have questions about “cracks and disagreements” within the council.

Quoting the doubters, he asked rhetorically, “‘Are we safe with this TNC? Are we safe with this group?’” Then he gave his response: “The TNC represents the whole Libyan territory; this is a national umbrella encompassing all Libyan regions.”

Gibril said the council is not a political organization, but is instead is an administrative organization managing the Libyan opposition until the Gadhafi regime falls and Libyans elect their leaders though a democratic process.

He is headed to the White House and Capitol Hill on Friday to meet government officials.

Last March Gibril met privately with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she was in Paris for a meeting with the Group of Eight foreign ministers.

At the State Department on May 5, Clinton said, “Clearly on our agenda is looking for the most effective ways to deliver financial assistance and other means of supporting and helping the opposition.”

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Despite Pakistani Opposition, US Seen Escalating Drone Strikes

NOVANEWS

 

antiwar.com

US drones fired a number of missiles against the North Waziristan Agency of Pakistan today, killing at least eight people that officials termed “suspected militants.” The strikes were the third salvo in the week and a half since the death of Osama bin Laden.

The number of strikes would not have been unusual earlier in the year, but after a period of relative calm they suggest the Obama Administration is once again pushing for an escalation against the tribal areas.

The escalation couldn’t come at a worse time for the Pakistani military, which is under growing scrutiny for allowing the US to conduct a raid against Abbottabad unnoticed. The Pakistani military has repeatedly demanded the US stop the drone strikes in recent weeks, and the strikes again give the appearance that they have no control over what the US decides to do.

The drone strikes are likely to be even more controversial going forward as, despite repeated US insistence that Osama bin Laden and others were in Pakistan’s tribal areas, he was found in Abbottabad, not far from the capital city but far from the tribal lands so often under attack.

Posted in Pakistan & KashmirComments Off on Despite Pakistani Opposition, US Seen Escalating Drone Strikes

Nakba commemorations begin in Israel/Palestine, activists prepare for worldwide marches

NOVANEWS

 

Return March Galilee participants

THE 14TH ANNUAL “MARCH OF RETURN” WAS HELD BETWEEN TWO PALESTINIAN VILLAGES THAT WERE DESTROYED IN 1948, AL-DAMUN AND AL-RUWAYS. (PHOTO: JILL KESTLER D’AMOURS, ALTERNATIVE INFORMATION CENTER )

Thousands mark Palestinian Nakba in Galilee
[photos] AIC 12 May — Several thousand Palestinians and their supporters gathered in the Galilee on Israeli Independence Day, 10 May, to mark the Nakba,the forced exodus of approximately 750,000 Palestinians from their homes before and during the creation of Israel in 1948. The 14th annual “March of Return” was held between two Palestinian villages that were destroyed in 1948, al-Damun and al-Ruways. Participants in the march waved Palestinian flags, chanted for the Palestinian right of return and held signs displaying the names of the over 400 Palestinian villages that were destroyed during the Nakba. 

Palestinians commemorate 63rd anniversary of the Nakba
MEMO 12 May EXCLUSIVE PICTURES The Islamic University of Gaza hosted an exhibition commemorating the 63rd anniversary of the Nakba [The Palestinian Catastrophe], with various pictures and cartoons depicting the forced migration and expulsion of Palestinians from their land and from thriving villages and bustling cities. The nationwide massacres, killings and terrorism that Palestinians suffered during the Nakba have had a lasting effect on the physical and social landscape of Palestine today. Children opened the exhibition with a symbolic walk from the UN headquarters in Gaza to the IUG, carrying placards and large keys signifying the right of return of all Palestinian children to the home of their parents and grandparents. The placards contained the message “We are returning to…” and the names of towns their families had originated from.

Security forces on high alert ahead of ‘Nakba Day’
Ynet 12 May — Defense establishment reinforces troops deployment in Jerusalem, West Bank ahead of weekend preceding Palestinian day of mourning over Israel’s inception.


Video: Return to Palestine — Take to the streets on Nakba – May 15, 2011

It is true that the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab people resisted the establishment of a racist regime in Palestine. And they still do. It is only normal. If anyone comprehends the extent of the injustice that has been committed against the Palestinian people, they would not even ask why they are so determined in their pursuit of justice. And if anyone knows the history of the Palestinian struggle, they would realize that this people will continue to resist in every form until they see the justice they have so longed for restored.
On 15 May 2011, the world is invited to express its understanding, solidarity and support to a people that has resisted… and continues to do so, for Justice in Palestine. 

Return to Palestine March May 15
[English after Arabic] In Lebanon the Return to Palestine March will set out towards the Palestinian/Lebanese borders on Sunday May 15, 2011, on the day commemorating the 1948 Nakba. The March will include various Palestinian and Lebanese civil and popular organizations and associations, professional associations, federations, NGOs, political parties and groups, in addition to independent activists from different regions and refugee camps around Lebanon.
This March will take place in order to affirm the right of all Palestinians to return to their homeland and their properties, from which they were forcibly uprooted in 1948 by Zionist terrorism and violence.
This popular and peaceful March will include thousands of Returnees from various refugee camps and their partners and supporters from diverse groups representing the Lebanese political and social spectra.

And more news from Today in Palestine:

After leaving Cairo this morning at dawn, the 80 activists of the ‘Restiamo Umani’ convoy have entered Gaza at 4pm after crossing five Egyptian check-points.

The convoy, whose goal is to return to the place where Vittorio Arrigoni has spent his life, wrote a first report – posted on www.vik2gaza.org – “We are going to Gaza, Vittorio is with us”.

63 years of the Nakba

by ADAM HOROWITZ on MAY 12, 2011

 

From the video’s YouTube page: 

To reply to the Gaza youth Manifesto, and with no additional words to the ones spoken with true heart on this video, we give you, The Manifesto. A simple, true, self-explanatory, expression of what we’re sick of.

As these days mark the 63rd memory of the Nakba, our people all around the world, revolt, and object to the injustice and hatred we are met with on a day to day basis, just because we’re Palestinians and just because we exist.

I urge your humanity and your conscience, to spread on this video, so the 15th of May 1948, wouldn’t ever be forgot, and so Palestinians would once more have their freedom and rights back; especially the right of return.

Salamat,
Two randoms from Palestine.

 

Over a dozen innocent Palestinians had been killed by Israeli police, but The Guardian wasn’t interested.

It was 2001 and Jonathan Cook, a foreign desk editor at the paper, had just returned from from Israel reporting that police in Nazareth had murdered 13 non-violent Arab protestors during the second intifada the year before. Cook expected his editors at the “leftwing” paper to jump at the story, but he was sorely disappointed.

“I felt like I really grasped something,” says Cook, whose findings led him to conclude that the victims were unarmed and that police had essentially implemented a shoot-to-kill policy. His story went against the state’s official narrative — which was that armed Arabs in Nazareth had turned violent — but his conclusion was confirmed by a subsequent government inquiry. The Guardian, however, didn’t publish his investigation.

Cook, who holds an MA in Middle Eastern Studies, had long felt that mainstream coverage of the region missed key aspects of the story. The Guardian’s rejection of the Nazareth story disturbed him more deeply. He decided the problem required an out-of-the-ordinary solution.

“I suddenly thought I’ve got to do something radical here and go and test my views, immerse myself somewhere in the Middle East and really check if the problem is with me or with the newspapers.”

So he left The Guardian for Nazareth, taking a year’s leave to report on Palestinians inside Israel, a group largely ignored by the mainstream. Ten years and three books later (Blood and ReligionIsrael and the Clash of Civilizations and Disappearing Palestine), he’s still here, he says, because here is where the story is.

“Being in Nazareth has allowed me to see things here in a different kind of light.”

On April 19th of this year, 43 families from Nahr al Bared, a refugee camp in north Lebanon, moved back to their newly constructed homes, after four years of displacement. 83 more families are expected to return in the coming weeks, as UNRWA (United Nations Relief & Works Agency) completes the final touches on the homes, and still 5,000 are hoping to return in the coming years as UNRWA seeks more funding to reconstruct the rest of the Palestinian refugee camp that was destroyed in 2007 by the Lebanese Armed Forces.

One woman will not return, however, Fatima, whose age I never knew but I guessed as I traced her life through the telling of her stories of exile from Palestine in ’48; to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon which lead to her 2nd displacement during the war of the camps in the 80’s; and finally to Nahr al Bared, her final resting place where she died, alone, waiting to return to Palestine. I never discovered her age, and it was never recorded in any of her UNRWA papers.

I first moved to Lebanon at the end of 2007, about 6 months after Nahr al Bared, Lebanon’s second largest Palestinian refugee camp, was destroyed. Over 3,000 buildings built over a period of 60 years were left in rubble, an entire city turned to a ghost town in less than a week. More than 5,000 Palestinian families, almost 35,000 persons were displaced, some for the 2nd and 3rd time, leaving behind their livelihoods, belongings, history and future. As in 1948, the people of Nahr al Bared were misled to believe that if they left their camp in order to allow the Lebanese Army to detain the Islamist group Fatah al Islam, they would return within days. But they discovered a little too late not only was their camp eliminated, but it was closed off for 4 months after it was destroyed, preventing the families from retaining their belongings, or what was left of their homes, pictures of dead mothers and fathers, books and stories from their history, and most importantly land and ownership papers to reclaim their lands lost in 1948. All was gone…disappeared…turned into dust.

I first met Fatima in one of the schools she was living in after she was displaced from Nahr al Bared.

Two takes on the Hamas-Fatah unity agreement

by ADAM HOROWITZ on MAY 12, 2011

 

And here’s history professor Joel Beinin writing about the agreement on the Jewish Voice for Peace website about what it means for the peace process:

A unified Palestinian leadership will be more representative, hence more likely to be able to deliver on any agreement it might reach, and also in a stronger position vis a vis Israel in any peace negotiations that might be held. PM Netanyahu somberly intoned that President Abbas can either have peace with Israel or peace with Hamas. He seems incapable of understanding that in addition to responding to popular Palestinian and regional Arab pressures, it was necessary for Abbas to seek an agreement with Hamas because the Palestinian Authority could not reach a peace agreement with Israel on terms any Palestinian would accept.

No Israeli government has ever offered Palestinians a state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital and anything approaching sovereignty over its territory, its underground water resources, its borders, and its airspace. The 1993 Oslo Accords did not stipulate the establishment of a Palestinian state. Israel’s Labor Party introduced a plank in its platform accepting a Palestinian state only on the eve of its electoral defeat in 1996. The subsequent Likud government was too intransigent even for President Clinton. At Taba in January 2001 the two sides came “agonizingly close to reaching an agreement” including the issues of Jerusalem and refugees, as the lead negotiators for both sides – Yossi Beilin and Yasir Abed Rabbo – wrote in a New York Times op-ed (Aug. 1, 2001). Prime Minister Ehud Barak cut those negotiations off shortly before the Israeli elections that ousted him from power, claiming that he did not want to obligate the incoming government. Since opinion polls correctly predicted an overwhelming defeat for Barak and Labor, why didn’t he let the negotiators finish their job and turn the election into a plebiscite on the agreement? It isn’t necessary to discuss the entrenched opposition of Prime Ministers Sharon and Netanyahu to terms acceptable to any Palestinian leader. Netanyahu vehemently opposed a Palestinian state until June 2009. His settlement expansion policy since then has ensured that his words were even more deceitful than usual.

The abysmal performance of the Obama administration on Palestinian-Israeli peace has also encouraged the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation. Why would a president elected with a strong popular mandate based in part on repudiation of the Middle East policies of his predecessor not seize the opportunity to press for something that would have substantially repaired the grievous damage to the credibility and national security of the United States in the region of the world which is arguably most central to our national security? Yes, it would have expended a great deal of political capital. Obama would have been mercilessly attacked by the Zionist lobby, its acolytes in Congress, and the birthers, who would have taken this as proof-positive that he is a foreign-born Muslim. But many American Jews, who overwhelmingly voted for Obama, would have strongly defended a serious effort to end the conflict. Aren’t presidents elected to lead?

The international steering committee for Freedom Flotilla 2 recently released a statement announcing that its sail date has been pushed back to the third week of June, at least partly because of the June 12 Turkish elections. The committee also announced the addition of a Swiss-German boat to the flotilla, making the total number of boats 15, more than twice as big as last year’s flotilla. Countries participating will include France, USA, UK, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Greece, Turkey, and other countries

The flotilla is sailing despite a recent Israeli Defense Forces broadcast that reported that the country would prevent the second freedom flotilla from reaching Gaza “at all costs.” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently called on UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as well as the European Union to put pressure on groups to stop the impending flotilla. In response, the flotilla Steering Committee released a statementon April 11 that called on governments, the international community and the United Nations not to succumb to Israel’s intimidation.

When you see a picture of an African man in the news, he is often carrying an automatic rifle. So the remarkable life story of my friend Richard Achi, a social worker in his mid-30s who guided me around during my recent trip to a Cote d’Ivoire on the edge of a brief civil war, may come as something of a surprise.

Most press accounts leave the entirely misleading impression that the brave Western reporter is alone in Africa, or scouring Baghdad by himself. In fact, nearly always the visiting journalist relies on a “fixer,” sometimes a local journalist, who is especially vital when there is violence. (Once in a while, certain American newspapers, to their credit, do let the local person share the byline.)

Richard Achi proved his worth within an hour of my arrival at the Abidjan airport. The police stopped our Peugeot 505 shared taxi at a roadblock, and minutely inspected every single item in my backpack while making the other passengers wait. Off to the side, I could see Richard quietly negotiating. “I gave them 2000 francs (about U.S. $4),” he said afterward. “And I persuaded them not to take any of your stuff.”

We spent the next week and a half in traveling around southeastern Cote d’Ivoire, as a disputed election moved the country closer to full-scale fighting. One of the sides, those supporting the corrupt and undemocratic former president Laurent Gbagbo, had violently attacked French expatriates in the past, so my American passport might not provide immunity. The remaining handful of Western journalists actually left the most conflicted areas later because it got too dangerous.

Richard used his cellphone every hour or so to call ahead, to establish which were the “hot” areas we should avoid. I speak French, but I still could not have understood much of what was going on around me. I looked around and saw “Africans,” (all of whom were perfectly friendly). Richard looked around and interpreted the complex ethnic and political differences that I could never have perceived, and we acted accordingly.

The informal roadblocks set up by the rival factions could be especially tricky. On my last day, we had to negotiate a dozen or more of them on our way to the airport, careful not to provoke the young men, who were as yet only armed with sticks and clubs.

What is vital to remember here, as the writer Graham Greene never stopped emphasizing about his own travels to dangerous zones, is that we visitors have “a round trip ticket.” I jumped on Air France flight #709 and I was gone. Richard Achi remains in Cote d’Ivoire, when in the weeks or months or years to come someone may still aggressively come up and ask him why he was guiding that foreigner around back in March 2011.

Peace demands challenging Israel’s exceptionalism

by OMAR BARGHOUTI on MAY 12, 2011

 

Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League repeats the mantra that by advocating comprehensive Palestinian rights, including full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel and the UN-sanctioned right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes from which they were forcibly displaced, the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement is “de-legitimizing” Israel and threatening its very “existence.” This claim is frequently made by Israel lobby groups in an obvious attempt to muddy the waters and to push beyond the pale of legitimate debate the mere statement of facts about and analysis of Israel’s occupation, denial of refugee rights, and institutionalized system of racial discrimination, which basically fits theUN definition of apartheid.

Specifically, what is often objected to is the demand for full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel. One can only wonder, if equality ends Israel’s “existence,” what does that say about Israel? Did equality destroy South Africa? Did it “delegitimize” whites in the Southern states of the U.S. after segregation was outlawed? The only thing that equality, human rights and justice really destroy is a system of injustice, inequality and racial discrimination.

The “delegitimization” scare tactic, widely promoted by Israel’s well-oiled pressure groups, has not impressed many in the West, in fact, particularly since its most far-reaching claim against BDS is that the movement aims to “supersede the Zionist model with a state that is based on the ‘one person, one vote’ principle” — hardly the most evil or disquieting accusation for anyone even vaguely interested in democracy, a just peace, and equal rights.

In this vein, right after Israel’s occupation of Gaza and the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) in 1967, the great Jewish-American writer I.F. Stone presciently wrote:

“Israel is creating a kind of moral schizophrenia in world Jewry. In the outside world, the welfare of Jewry depends on the maintenance of secular, non-racial, pluralistic societies. In Israel, Jewry finds itself defending a society in which mixed marriages cannot be legalized, in which non-Jews have a lesser status than Jews, and in which the ideal is racist and exclusivist.”

Had he lived long enough, Stone would have seen far more damning evidence of this “schizophrenia” in the everyday discourse of Israel’s apologists in the U.S. With every racist law that passes in the Israeli Knesset, they go into high gear to stifle awareness and any possible denunciation of it in the public arena, leading to an absurd situation where, compared to most U.S. media sources, major Israeli papers have become much more tolerant of opinions that sharply criticize Israeli policies.

Vittorio Arrigoni, Onadekom (Calling You)

by ADAM HOROWITZ on MAY 12, 2011

 

The above video was made by the Gaza-based rap groug DARG Team. They say the song that it being sung during the chorus was Arrigoni’s favorite Arabic resistance song. 

Posted in Palestine AffairsComments Off on Nakba commemorations begin in Israel/Palestine, activists prepare for worldwide marches

On Palestinian Reconciliation

NOVANEWS

Alain Gresh

From Le Monde Diplomatique,

Egypt Behind The Hamas-Fatah Agreement

On Wednesday 4 May, representatives of thirteen Palestinian factions in Cairo will meet to sign the agreement they’ve reached. This ceremony follows an understanding that was reached a few days ago between Hamas and Fatah, under the aegis of Egypt.

The text provides for the formation of a government of technocrats or independents, the holding of presidential and legislative elections within a year, the reform of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and a solution to the division of the security forces. As provided by the Oslo Accords, the PLO and it alone is empowered to hold peace talks with the Israeli government (read “Palestinian factions sign reconciliation deal,” Al-Jazeera, May 3.)

This text will undoubtedly further the Palestinian Authority’s campaign for recognition by the UN General Assembly of an independent Palestinian state in the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. For this reason, it elicited an immediate rejection by the Israelis – who have already begun to take retaliatory measures, including stopping the payment of taxes they collect on behalf of the Palestinian Authority – and has received a very cold reception from the U.S. administration. It is still unclear how it will be implemented, but the text reflects the profound changes affecting the region.

The agreement between Fatah and Hamas took by surprise everyone who has been watching the two sides negotiate for years without success. The reasons for this agreement are numerous, some relating to the Palestinian situation, others to regional developments, particularly changes in Egypt.

The motivation for Fatah and Hamas

Since the revolutions in the Arab world, both sides have faced the rise of a real, if limited, protest movement. Here, the goal was not “the fall of the regime” but “the fall (i.e. the end) of the division.” Both responded with a mixture of pressure and repression, but also by making the popular demands their own.

More broadly, the two organizations are at a strategic impasse. The peace process is dead, and the entire Fatah/PA policy of negotiations has been met with solid rejection by the Israeli government. Likewise Hamas, which speaks of resistance, but in practice seeks to maintain a cease-fire with Israel and even to impose it on other Palestinian factions.

The frustration of Mahmoud Abbas is well illustrated by the Newsweek article (Dan Ephron, 24 April) “The Wrath of Abbas.” Most notably, he recounts his conversation with Barack Obama, who asked him to withdraw from discussion in the UN Security Council the draft resolution condemning Israeli settlement. He denounced the pressure and even threats of U.S. President. Remember that this resolution was defeated by one vote (with veto power), the United States, against the votes of all fourteen other member states. It’s also apparent that the Palestinian president had to take account of developments in Egypt – to which I’ll return below.

Hamas is also struggling on the ground. In addition to the strategic stalemate, it faces Salafist groups, some linked to al-Qaida, which accuse Hamas of failing to resist and of not bringing about sufficient Islamization of society. On the other hand, the continued Israeli blockade and the daily difficulties of the population have partly undermined its strength in Gaza.

But other reasons, also related to the Arab Revolt, have pushed Hamas towards compromise. The demonstrations in Syria and their violent repression by the regime weaken one of their main allies, an ally which has hosted the external leadership of Hamas since its expulsion from Jordan. The fact that Sheikh Youssef Al-Qardhawi, one of the most popular preachers in Sunni Islam, who is seen as linked to the Muslim Brotherhood (from which Hamas is an offshoot), has strongly condemned Assad only lead the organization to distance itself, although it has denied any intention to settle elsewhere. (On the situation in Syria, read the article in Le Monde Diplomatique’s May edition by Patrick Seale, “Fatal blindness of the al-Assad in Syria“) . On the other hand, events in Bahrain and the violent anti-Shiite propaganda issuing from the Gulf countries, have exacerbated tensions between Shiites and Sunnis in the region. Hamas is not only part of the Muslim Brotherhood movement, but also receives some of its funding from wealthy Gulf businessmen, who do not have look at all favorably upon its alliance with Iran. Under these conditions, a reconciliation with Fatah and especially with Egypt is a necessity for Hamas.

Changes in Egypt

The agreement between Hamas and Fatah reflects above all the new Egyptian foreign policy. Cairo – without breaking with the U.S., and without jeopardizing the peace treaty with Israel – is extricating itself from the policy of submission to American and Israeli interests. Mubarak opposed unity between Fatah and Hamas, mainly because he feared the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood in his country. He saw Gaza as a security issue, and participated in its blockade. Now that the Muslim Brothers are preparing to participate in the September elections in Egypt, and perhaps even in government, such fears are no longer appropriate. Especially since the democratic climate in Egypt allows for stronger expressions of popular solidarity with the Palestinians and massive rejection of the blockade, which the government has to take into account.

The Egyptian foreign minister has insisted that the Rafah crossing point be opened, calling the Israeli blockade “shameful” (read “Egypt to throw open Rafah border crossing with Gaza“, Ahram online, 29 April). Almost more important is the statement by Egyptian Chief of Staff Sami Anan,  who warned Israel against any attempt to interfere in Cairo’s decision (Egypt warns Israel: Don’t interfere with opening of Gaza border crossing, Haaretz, 30 April). Another Israeli source reported him saying: “The Israeli government must show restraint when it discusses peace talks. It must refrain from intervening in internal matters of Palestine”. (“Egypt to open Rafah crossing“, Y-Net, 29 April).

This turnaround is reflected in Egypt’s relations with Iran, where there is talk of restoring diplomatic relations between the two countries. Tehran, like Damascus, has welcomed the inter-Palestinian agreement. “There’s a new feeling in Egypt, that Egypt should be respected as a regional power,” said an Egyptian specialist in international relations, quoted by David Kirkpatrick, “In Shift, Egypt Warms to Iran and Hamas, Israel’s Foes“, New York Times, April 28, 2011.

Posted in Palestine AffairsComments Off on On Palestinian Reconciliation

Dorothy Online Newsletter

NOVANEWS

Dear Friends,

6 items below, which I haven’t time to introduce this evening.  Am on my way out the door in 10 minutes.  However, I think that you will find them interesting, especially the one about Israel setting dogs on Palestinians who want to look for work, even though they have not been given permits that allow them in.  Whatever else, please don’t miss reading the final item.  It gives me hope.  We sorely need a comparable movement of young people in Israel who will say “enough!” and demand justice for the Palestinians so that all peoples here can enjoy security and peace.  Down with demography!  Up with democracy!

Enjoy,

Dorothy

=========================================

1.  Haaretz,

May 12, 2011


Ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, or, democratic Israel at work

While we are still desperately concealing, denying and repressing our major ethnic cleansing of 1948 – over 600,000 refugees, some who fled for fear of the Israel Defense Forces and its predecessors, some who were expelled by force – it turns out that 1948 never ended, that its spirit is still with us.

http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/ethnic-cleansing-of-palestinians-or-democratic-israel-at-work-1.361196

By Gideon Levy

It happened on the day after Independence Day, when Israel was immersed in praise of itself and its democracy almost ad nauseam, and on the eve of (virtually outlawed ) Nakba Day, when the Palestinian people mark the “catastrophe” – the anniversary of the creation of Israel. My colleague Akiva Eldar published what we have always known but for which we lacked the shocking figures he revealed: By the time of the Oslo Accords, Israel had revoked the residency of 140,000 Palestinians from the West Bank. In other words, 14 percent of West Bank residents who dared to go abroad had their right to return to Israel and live here denied forever. In other words, they were expelled from their land and their homes. In other words: ethnic cleansing.

While we are still desperately concealing, denying and repressing our major ethnic cleansing of 1948 – over 600,000 refugees, some who fled for fear of the Israel Defense Forces and its predecessors, some who were expelled by force – it turns out that 1948 never ended, that its spirit is still with us. Also with us is the goal of trying to cleanse this land of its Arab inhabitants as much as possible, and even a bit more. After all, that’s the most covert and desired solution: the Land of Israel for the Jews, for them alone. A few people dared to say it outright – Rabbi Meir Kahane, Minister Rehavam Ze’evi and their disciples, who deserve a certain amount of praise for their integrity. Many aspire to do the same thing without admitting it.

The revelation of the policy of denying residency has proved that this secret dream is in effect the establishment’s secret dream. There one doesn’t talk about transfer, heaven forfend; nobody would think of calling it cleansing. They don’t load Arabs onto trucks as they once did, including after the Six-Day War, and they don’t shoot at them to chase them away – all politically incorrect methods in the new world. But in effect that’s the goal.

Some people think it’s enough if we make the lives of the Palestinians in the territories miserable to get them to leave, and many have in fact left. An Israeli success: According to the Civil Administration, about a quarter of a million Palestinians voluntarily left the West Bank in the bloody years 2000-2007. But that’s not enough, so various and sundry administrative means were added to make the dream come true.

Anyone who says “it’s not apartheid” is invited to reply: Why is an Israeli allowed to leave his country for the rest of his life, and nobody suggests that his citizenship be revoked, while a Palestinian, a native son, is not allowed to do so? Why is an Israeli allowed to marry a foreigner and receive a residency permit for her, while a Palestinian is not allowed to marry his former neighbor who lives in Jordan? Isn’t that apartheid? Over the years I have documented endless pitiful tragedies of families that were torn apart, whose sons and daughters were not permitted to live in the West Bank or Gaza due to draconian rules – for Palestinians only.

Take Dalal Rasras, for example, a toddler with cerebral palsy from Beit Omar, who was recently separated from her mother for months only because her mother was born in Rafah. Only after her case was publicized did Israel let the mother return to her daughter “beyond the letter of the law” – the cruel letter of the law that does not permit residents of Gaza to live in the West Bank, even if they have made their homes there.

The cry of the dispossessed has now been translated into numbers: 140,000, only until the Oslo Accords. Students who went to study at foreign universities, businessmen who tried their luck abroad, scientists who went abroad for professional training, native Jerusalemites who dared to move to the West Bank temporarily – they all met the same fate. All of them were taken by the wind and expelled by Israel. They couldn’t return.

Most amazing of all is the reaction of those responsible for the policy of ethnic cleansing. They didn’t know. Maj. Gen. (res. ) Danny Rothschild, formerly the chief military governor with the euphemistic title “coordinator of government activities in the territories,” said he heard about the procedure for the first time from Haaretz. It turns out that not only is the cleansing continuing, so is the denial. Every Palestinian child knows, and only the general doesn’t. Even today there are still 130,000 Palestinians registered as “NLR,” a heartwarming IDF acronym for “no longer a resident,” as though voluntarily, another euphemism for “expelled.” And the general who is considered relatively enlightened was unaware.

This is an absolute refusal to allow the return of the refugees – something that would “destroy the State of Israel.” It’s also an absolute refusal to allow the return of the people recently expelled. By next Independence Day we’ll probably invent more expulsion regulations, and on the next holiday we’ll talk about “the only democracy.”

========================

2.  Haaretz,

May 12, 2011


IDF confirms sets dogs on illegal Palestinian laborers

Several laborers have been injured by dog attacks; when laborers tried to file complaints with police, they were arrested on suspicion of tearing the fence.

http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/idf-confirms-sets-dogs-on-illegal-palestinian-laborers-1.361160

By Gideon Levy

Hundreds of Palestinian day-laborers who enter Israel without a permit have been facing a new threat recently – IDF soldiers at the separation fence are siccing dogs on them.

Since the beginning of last month, soldiers with dogs have been lying in ambush near a breach in the fence, between the Bedouin refugee village Ramadin and Kibbutz Shoval in the Negev.

Every night hundreds of West Bank Palestinians gather at this point to seek work the next day in the nearby Jewish and Bedouin communities.

Several laborers have been injured by dog attacks and some have been hospitalized for treatment. When the laborers tried to file complaints with the Kiryat Arba police, they were arrested on suspicion of tearing the fence and indictments have been filed against them.

Ala Hawarin, 22, of Dahariya, was injured in the arm and thigh when a dog attacked him as he was crossing the fence line. He went to Hebron for treatment, where the doctors told him two of his fingers would remain paralyzed. When he went to file a police complaint the following day he was arrested.

The B’Tselem human rights group has records of seven dog attacks from the last few weeks, all from the same area.

Earlier this week soldiers set dogs on dozens of Palestinians returning home at midday through the fence breach, following the closure Israel had imposed for Independence Day. A number of laborers were injured.

The IDF spokesman admitted, in response to Haaretz’s query, that soldiers were using dogs on Palestinians “taking adequate precautions to prevent unnecessary injury.”

“Every detailed complaint received by the military prosecution is examined and dealt with accordingly,” he said.

==============================

3.  Haaretz,

May 12, 2011


Palestinian official: Stalled peace talks would make intifada hard to stop

Speaking with Army Radio ahead of planned Nakba day protests across West Bank, Fatah man Abbas Zaki says the Palestinian street will act according to how hopeful it is of achieving peace.

http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/palestinian-official-stalled-peace-talks-would-make-intifada-hard-to-stop-1.361277

By Haaretz Service

Tags: Israel news Middle East peace Hamas Gilad Shalit

The Palestinian Authority would not be able to prevent another intifada in the face of stagnant peace talks with Israel, a senior Fatah official told Army Radio on Thursday.

The comment was made as officials in both Jerusalem and Ramallah urged that passions be kept in check during the three days of Palestinian commemoration of the Nakba – the establishment of the state of Israel regarded by Palestinians as a catastrophe.

Leaders on both sides indicated Wednesday that they did not believe that Nakba events and protests would spin out of control during the days of protest declared by Palestinians.

Speaking with Army Radio on Thursday, Abbas Zaki, a senior Fatah official and member of the Fatah delegation to reconciliation talks with Hamas, said that, faced with Mideast uprisings, the Palestinian Authority would not be able to suppress popular unrest.

“The Palestinian leadership facing a [diplomatic] impasse could not quiet the Palestinian street who had watched the achievements of other [Mideast] peoples,” Zaki said.

The Fatah official reiterated the danger of popular unrest in the West Bank faced with stalled peace talks with Israel, saying that the Palestinian people would “plan their efforts according to how hopeful they are.”

The Fatah official said that an upcoming unity government with Hamas would honor any agreements between the PA and Israel, saying: “The government is Abu Mazen’s [Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas] government and he is committed to reaching peace with Israel and to the Israeli partner, if such a partner be found.”

With regards to future security arrangements following Hamas’ inclusion, Zaki also said that all militant groups would be dismantled of their weapons, adding that the only army would be that of the Palestinian government.

Zaki also spoke to Army Radio concerning the fate of ongoing efforts to reach a prisoner exchange deal that would secure the release of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit.

“We are against keeping people in prisons,” the Fatah official said, adding that “that is why we shall demand the release of all 5,800 Palestinian prisoners. We will welcome any exchange deal for Shalit since it its not right to make one person pay that price.”

================================

4.  Haaretz,

May 12, 2011


Israel remaining calm ahead of Nakba Day protests

Top PA officials have evinced irony about the wide-scale preparations now undertaken by the IDF in advance of the days of protest, which will begin on Friday.

http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/israel-remaining-calm-ahead-of-nakba-day-protests-1.361167

By Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff

Hundreds of stickers were pasted on electricity poles in Ramallah on Wednesday, calling on residents to take part in Nakba parade demonstrations on Sunday. The stickers were written as though they were a letter sent from an exiled Palestinian refugee to the city of Haifa. “My beloved Haifa, I’ll be with you soon,” the stickers declared. Not surprisingly, the announcements were signed neither by Hamas nor Islamic Jihad, but rather by the PLO’s refugee department. In internal Palestinian discourse, the Palestinian Authority still stands by its hard-line ideological stance demanding a right of return for 1948 refugees.

At the same time, voices in Jerusalem and Ramallah urged that passions be kept in check during the three days of Palestinian commemoration of the Nakba – the establishment of the state of Israel regarded by Palestinians as a catastrophe. Despite the media’s inherent tendency to foster dramatic expectations, leaders on both sides do not believe that things will spin out of control during the days of protest declared by Palestinians. Top PA officials have evinced irony about the wide-scale preparations now undertaken by the IDF in advance of the days of protest, which will begin on Friday.

IDF preparations are not being undertaken on the basis of specific intelligence information. Instead, they are precautionary. In the unlikely event of demonstrations slipping out of control of Palestinian security forces, and turning into mass marches on Jewish settlements, or violent clashes at checkpoints, IDF soldiers will be deployed at key points along the West Bank, starting tomorrow.

Orders given to the security forces are clear: Soldiers are to do their utmost to refrain from firing live bullets and causing Palestinian casualties, which would possibly lead to an escalation of violence.

Meanwhile IDF officers are in constant contact with their counterparts in the Palestinian security forces. On Wednesday, coordination meetings were held among some IDF officers and PA counterparts. With regard to some possible flash points, security men from the two sides will try to work out in advance various tactical compromises, with the aim of allowing protestors to vent passion, without being dragged into direct confrontation with IDF soldiers.

Israel’s assumption that the PA will prevent a confrontation is not based entirely on what Palestinian security men are telling IDF officers. Popular protests will serve the Palestinian cause, but a slide toward violence will harm it. As things stand, the international community views the Hamas-Fatah accord with skepticism; outside observers have taken note of recent Palestinian terror attacks against Israelis, at Itamar and Jerusalem. In the build-up toward the Palestinian diplomatic maneuver at the United Nations next September, the PA needs to demonstrate control, not lack thereof.

All these comments apply to circumstances in mid-May, but not to next September. Next fall, if broad international support for a Palestinian statehood declaration is not accompanied by any changes on the ground, things will be very different. The gap between expectations and reality is likely to lead, as outgoing Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin hinted yesterday, to bitter disappointment that could explode into violence. Under such a scenario, the PA might not know how to contain the protest; in fact, it’s not at all clear that it would want to.

==============================

5.  Herald Tribune,

May 11, 2011

A Year After Israeli Raid, 2nd Flotilla to Set Sail for Gaza

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/12/world/middleeast/12iht-M12-TURK-FLEET.html?_r=1&ref=middleeast

By SUSANNE GÜSTEN

Riding the ripples of the Golden Horn, the Mavi Marmara tugs at its moorings in the shipyard where it is being readied to head back into troubled waters.

A flotilla of 15 ships carrying humanitarian aid and activists from 100 countries will sail for Gaza next month, in a second attempt to break the Israeli blockade of the Palestinian territory, organizers announced this week.

Almost a year ago, Israeli naval commandos stormed a previous flotilla sailing to Gaza, killing nine pro-Palestinian activists on the Mavi Marmara, one of six ships in the fleet. The plan to send a new flotilla to Gaza raises the specter of a fresh confrontation between Turkey and Israel.

“Freedom Flotilla II will leave during the third week of June, with ships departing from various European ports,” a coalition of 22 nongovernmental organizations said after a meeting in Paris on Monday.

The Mavi Marmara, which was released by Israel in July, was towed back to Turkey and arrived in Istanbul to a hero’s welcome in December, after which it was taken in for repairs.

Now tied up under the Istanbul skyline for some last preparations, the ship should be seaworthy again by the end of the month, its owners said.

“The Mavi Marmara has become a symbol for the Gaza cause in the whole world,” Gulden Sonmez of the Humanitarian Relief Foundation, the Turkish nongovernmental organization that owns the ship, said in an interview this week. “So we are planning to set forth again with the same ship.”

At dawn on May 31 last year, Ms. Sonmez stood on the observation deck of the Mavi Marmara, shouting orders as Israeli helicopters hovered overhead and commandos boarded the ship. Her colleague Cevdet Kiliclar, who managed the relief foundation’s Web site, was shot and killed while taking photographs “just three or four steps away from me,” she recounted.

Now Ms. Sonmez, who is on the board of the foundation, plans to embark on the Mavi Marmara once again and will be one of 150 activists making the trip.

Within 48 hours of application forms being posted on the foundation’s Web site last week, some 2,000 people had volunteered to partake in the journey, she said.

Although Israel has warned that it will continue to enforce its Gaza blockade, the Humanitarian Relief Foundation does not expect another raid on its ship, Ms. Sonmez said.

“I don’t think Israel will make the same mistake again,” she said. “I think Israel knows that it has isolated itself.”

Not everyone agrees with her.

“If the ship sails, it will be a disaster,” said Osman Bahadir Dincer, a specialist in Middle Eastern affairs at the International Strategic Research Organization in Ankara. “In this atmosphere in the Middle East, we do not need a provocation,” Mr. Dincer said by telephone this week. “This would absolutely be a provocation.”

Relations between Turkey and Israel have not yet recovered from the crisis over the last flotilla. “We are waiting for our basic demands to be met, an apology and compensation,” a senior Turkish official, who asked not to be identified, said this week.

“Since Turkey and Israel are not at war, the Israeli Defense Forces killed innocent civilian citizens of a friendly country.”

A report by the U.N. Human Rights Council found that Israeli interception of the ship on the high seas was “clearly unlawful” and that its treatment of passengers “constituted a grave violation of human rights law and international humanitarian law.”

But the report, published in September, also noted “a certain tension between the political objectives of the flotilla and its humanitarian objectives,” finding that the primary motive of the nongovernmental organizations was political.

“We hope to be able to put this behind us and we have the will to do so,” the senior Turkish official said. “But Israel should move forward as well.”

“Turkey would like to preserve its relations with Israel and once our expectations are met, we will start normalizing our relations,” he said.

For the moment, however, there is little prospect of this, said Mr. Dincer, the Middle East expert. Elections on June 12 prevent Turkey from taking a step forward, while Israel has been hampered by its volatile government coalition, Mr. Dincer added. “Both sides cannot go forward,” he said.

The flotilla crisis last year followed a series of conflicts that had soured relations between the two countries.

Turkey and Israel had long prided themselves for being the only Western-style democracies in the Middle East. But ties began to unravel after the Israeli intervention in Gaza, when the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, stormed off the stage at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2009 after an angry exchange with the Israeli president, Shimon Peres. A year later, another quarrel erupted when an Israeli official humiliated the Turkish ambassador by seating him on a lower chair and dressing him down in front of TV cameras.

These incidents are the symptoms, not the cause, of fundamental changes in the relationship between the two countries and within Turkey itself, Mr. Dincer said. “Turkey is no longer the country it was in the 1990s or the 2000s,” when relations with Israel were based on “elite relations” between the military and political leaderships, Mr. Dincer said.

“Turkey is more democratic now, and society plays a much more important role in Turkish politics,” he said, arguing that it was no longer possible to maintain bilateral relations from the top down. “Instead, we must build relations between the two societies, involving civil society and the media and nongovernmental organizations.”

Meanwhile, the Mavi Marmara must not sail, Mr. Dincer warned.

“They have to be stopped, somehow, by someone,” he said about the Humanitarian Relief Foundation, asking that the group consider Turkish national interests. Another attack at sea would fuel attempts to “isolate Turkey from the West,” Mr. Dincer argued.

The Turkish government, while at pains to distance itself from the flotilla, has made it clear that it will not intervene to bar the convoy from sailing.

Israeli allegations that Turkey is behind the flotilla do not reflect the truth, the senior Turkish official said. But in a free society, he added, nongovernmental organizations can do as they like, within legal limits.

“We believe that such initiatives as this convoy will cease only when Israel’s unlawful blockade on the Gaza Strip is lifted, as the situation in Gaza disturbs the conscience of all humanity,” the official said. “It doesn’t seem possible for Israel to reach lasting security as long as the unlawful blockade remains in place.”

Turkey has warned Israel not to attack the ship again, the official said. “Last year, we had notified Israel a multitude of times that it should avoid by all means resorting to force, and act responsibly,” he said. “We are reiterating these warnings once again today.”

==========================

6.  The Guardian,

12 May 2011

Reinventing the Palestinian struggle

Inspired by the Arab spring, a new generation of Palestinians plan to fight the occupation with mass, nonviolent protest

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/may/12/palestinian-struggle-arab-spring

Khaled Diab

Fatah supporters take part in a rally celebrating the reconciliation agreement between Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas. Photograph: Ismail Zaydah/Reuters

With the world’s attention focused on the tumultuous changes gripping Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Libya and Syria, one may be excused for thinking that all is quiet on the Palestinian-Israeli front.

So why haven’t Palestinian youth risen up like their counterparts elsewhere in the region to demand their rights?

Well, it is not for want of trying. Inspired by events in Tunisia and Egypt, and following the date-based example of counterparts elsewhere in the Arab world, a new youth movement dubbed by some as the March 15 movement has emerged in Palestine.

The date refers to the day when organisers employing social media, text messaging and word of mouth managed to draw thousands of protesters on to the streets of Ramallah and other parts of the West Bank, as well as Gaza City.

However, in contrast to other popular uprisings in the region, their demands were not wholesale regime change, despite the undoubted failings of both Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza, and the absence of a democratic mandate for both parties.

“Our top priority is to end the divisions within Palestinian society. This is the only way to deal with the occupation,” explained Z, one of the founders of the movement in Ramallah, who wished to conceal his identity for professional reasons.

Some of the others involved in March 15 are also reluctant to reveal their identities, partly as an expression of the decentralised and “leaderless” approach preferred by Middle Eastern protesters tired of authoritarianism, and partly to avoid popping up on the radars of security services run by the PA, Hamas or Israel.

Despite its relative success on 15 March, the movement has not managed to replicate the most successful ingredient of the protests in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Bahrain: constant pressure from the streets. This is partly due to the two-tiered nature of the oppression facing Palestinians, and the restrictions on their movement imposed by the occupation. “Unfortunately, we have two levels of repression in Palestine: Israeli and domestic,” says Z, who is in his early 20s.

In addition, there is the psychological barrier of widespread despair and disillusionment afflicting wide swaths of the population, which the Arab spring is just beginning to chip away at. Most Palestinians I have met since I moved to Jerusalem a few weeks ago speak enthusiastically and excitedly about the Egyptian revolution.

“The problem among Palestinians is that revolutions are nothing new, yet nothing changes or things get worse,” Z observes. “Neither uprisings nor negotiations have worked, Palestinians believe – we’re still under occupation.”

And after two intifadas separated by the Oslo peace process, the net outcome for Palestinians has been to witness the gradual vanishing of their historic homeland and the space for a future nation spliced and diced into ever smaller portions, with many of the choicest cuts going to settlers.

Nevertheless, hope is emerging, Z insists. The surprise recent reconciliation agreement signed by Fatah and Hamas, which many reckon was partly due to youth activism, as well as the rapidly changing regional realities, has been a boost.

Z told me that a new generation of Palestinians, many of whom were born around the time of the first intifada, are ready to reinvent the struggle.

Drawing lessons from the failure of the violent second intifada and the success of the largely peaceful first intifada, as well as the now-proven power of mass, nonviolent protest to instigate change in the region, this generation of upcoming leaders plan to fight the occupation with weapons of mass disobedience. “We want to employ ‘smart’ resistance,” Z says.

“A moderate, peaceful intifada is coming. Can’t say when, but it is inevitable,” he adds confidently. “We’re trying to create a snowball effect. In Egypt, it took a decade to get to this stage.”

Palestinian activists, often in collaboration with the Israeli peace movement, have been quietly laying the groundwork for nonviolent resistance in recent years, as demonstrated, for example, by the constant stream of protests against house demolitions and evictions, and the Israeli separation wall.

Being the dreamer that I am, I cannot shake the vision in my head of the joint Israeli-Palestinian activism infecting the masses, with large-scale joint action as the most effective way to end the occupation and bring about peace.

In my vision, squares in cities across Israel and Palestine would be filled with people rallying around a single goal: “The people demand an end to the occupation.” Protesters on both sides would also pitch tents at checkpoints to demand their removal and, who knows, perhaps one day have their own Berlin wall moment.

But Z doesn’t believe there is much scope for broader joint action. “We have no problems working with Jews and Israelis. We’re against racial discrimination and so shouldn’t discriminate ourselves,” he says. “However, we don’t feel the majority of Israelis care enough or are interested in our plight to do anything about it. Besides, there isn’t enough mutual trust.”

Z and his comrades are busy formulating a post-reconciliation strategy that seeks, first and foremost, to strengthen the Palestinians internally and prepare them for statehood, and employ this greater unity and strength to bring the occupation to an end.

“We need new political faces and parties. We need renewal through youth,” Z says.

Posted in Middle EastComments Off on Dorothy Online Newsletter

Mondoweiss Online Newsletter

NOVANEWS

Nakba commemorations begin in Israel/Palestine, activists prepare for worldwide marches
May 12, 2011 10:41 pm | Kate

Return March Galilee participants
The 14th annual “March of Return” was held between two Palestinian villages that were destroyed in 1948, al-Damun and al-Ruways. (Photo: Jill Kestler D’Amours, Alternative Information Center )

Thousands mark Palestinian Nakba in Galilee
[photos] AIC 12 May — Several thousand Palestinians and their supporters gathered in the Galilee on Israeli Independence Day, 10 May, to mark the Nakba,the forced exodus of approximately 750,000 Palestinians from their homes before and during the creation of Israel in 1948. The 14th annual “March of Return” was held between two Palestinian villages that were destroyed in 1948, al-Damun and al-Ruways. Participants in the march waved Palestinian flags, chanted for the Palestinian right of return and held signs displaying the names of the over 400 Palestinian villages that were destroyed during the Nakba.

Palestinians commemorate 63rd anniversary of the Nakba
MEMO 12 May EXCLUSIVE PICTURES The Islamic University of Gaza hosted an exhibition commemorating the 63rd anniversary of the Nakba [The Palestinian Catastrophe], with various pictures and cartoons depicting the forced migration and expulsion of Palestinians from their land and from thriving villages and bustling cities. The nationwide massacres, killings and terrorism that Palestinians suffered during the Nakba have had a lasting effect on the physical and social landscape of Palestine today. Children opened the exhibition with a symbolic walk from the UN headquarters in Gaza to the IUG, carrying placards and large keys signifying the right of return of all Palestinian children to the home of their parents and grandparents. The placards contained the message “We are returning to…” and the names of towns their families had originated from.

Security forces on high alert ahead of ‘Nakba Day’
Ynet 12 May — Defense establishment reinforces troops deployment in Jerusalem, West Bank ahead of weekend preceding Palestinian day of mourning over Israel’s inception.

Video: Return to Palestine — Take to the streets on Nakba – May 15, 2011
It is true that the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab people resisted the establishment of a racist regime in Palestine. And they still do. It is only normal. If anyone comprehends the extent of the injustice that has been committed against the Palestinian people, they would not even ask why they are so determined in their pursuit of justice. And if anyone knows the history of the Palestinian struggle, they would realize that this people will continue to resist in every form until they see the justice they have so longed for restored.
On 15 May 2011, the world is invited to express its understanding, solidarity and support to a people that has resisted… and continues to do so, for Justice in Palestine.

Return to Palestine March May 15
[English after Arabic] In Lebanon the Return to Palestine March will set out towards the Palestinian/Lebanese borders on Sunday May 15, 2011, on the day commemorating the 1948 Nakba. The March will include various Palestinian and Lebanese civil and popular organizations and associations, professional associations, federations, NGOs, political parties and groups, in addition to independent activists from different regions and refugee camps around Lebanon.
This March will take place in order to affirm the right of all Palestinians to return to their homeland and their properties, from which they were forcibly uprooted in 1948 by Zionist terrorism and violence.
This popular and peaceful March will include thousands of Returnees from various refugee camps and their partners and supporters from diverse groups representing the Lebanese political and social spectra.

And more news from Today in Palestine:


Land, property, resources theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Settlers

Israel ‘exploiting Jordan Valley resources’
JERUSALEM (AFP) 12 May — Israel has systematically exploited the resources of the Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank, favoring settlers over Palestinians, an Israeli rights group said on Thursday. A report [see below] by B’Tselem said Israel dominated the land, water resources and even tourist sites along the strip of land which runs along the eastern flank of the West Bank, in what appeared to be a prelude to a de facto annexation of territory … B’Tselem said the 9,400 Jewish settlers living there were able to develop intensive agriculture because they received water allocation equal to one third of the water accessible to the West Bank’s 2.5 million Palestinian residents … It also accused Israel of taking control of 77.5 percent of land in the area, including major tourist attractions like the northern shores of the Dead Sea.
http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=386996

Dispossession and exploitation – Israel’s policy in the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea
B’Tselem report — Israel exploits the natural resources there more than in the rest of the West Bank and prevents Palestinians from using most of the area’s land and water resources. [3 sections, with video]
http://btselem.org/Campaigns/2011_Jordan_Valley/English/index.html

Demolition warnings to Walaja residents
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 12 May — Demolition orders were handed out to seven families in Al-Walaja, the village closest to the ongoing construction of Israel’s separation wall. Village council member Adel Al-Atrash told Ma‘an that the orders were handed out on Wednesday night, and residents were given 72 hours to appeal to the courts to stop the demolition process … Residents of the southern West Bank village are overwhelmingly refugees, driven from the historic Al-Walaja, located just across the valley from the current population center. The village was, in 1948, the second largest land area after Jerusalem, but was cut down to one third the size when Israel declared statehood that year.
http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=387089

Palestinian home rebuilt by UK volunteers served 72-hour demolition notice
MEMO 12 May — … Israel has since 1967 demolished over 25 homes in the village. This home was originally demolished seven years ago and three generations of the Aburizeq family have had to live together in an old damp concrete portacabin in a nearby refugee camp. As the home was rebuilt in April, the mother of the family wept as she saw her home rising again after seven years. She said, “I was dead and you have given me back my life.”
http://www.middleeastmonitor.org.uk/news/middle-east/2345-palestinian-home-rebuilt-by-uk-volunteers-served-72-hour-demolition-notice

Palestinian trees destroyed in ongoing settler vandalism
AIC 12 May — In the early morning of 12 May 2011, Palestinian farmers discovered that during the night unknown perpetrators had vandalized ten olive trees in the Humra valley, near At -Tuwani in the South Hebron Hills. The trees and the land belong to At-Tuwani resident Salman Jibrin Raba‘i … A spokesperson for the Raba‘i family remarked that, due to the late spring rains, they had expected a good olive harvest this year. One olive tree in the area produces an average of twelve kilos of olive oil. Therefore, the cumulative loss of these damaged trees’ production is a substantial financial blow to the family. The property owners called the police in order to lodge a formal complaint. Due to numerous prior similar incidents in the area, Palestinians suspect that the perpetrators are likely settlers from the nearby Havat Ma’on settlement outpost.
http://www.alternativenews.org/english/index.php/topics/settlers-violence/3585-palestinian-trees-destroyed-in-ongoing-settler-vandalism-harassment

Video: Israeli army force 6 families out of their land in Amniyr, South Hebron Hills
Christian Peacemaker Teams — On Friday, May 6, the Israeli military declared the area of Amniyr, a Palestinian village south of Yatta, a closed military zone and chased away the families who own the land, after demolishing structures and trees on the land the day before. The demolitions occurred at 5 a.m. on Thursday, May 5, when the military destroyed six shacks and uprooted 150 olive trees in Amniyr. Photos available at: http://cpt.org/index.php?q=gallery&g2_itemId=22860
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_profilepage&v=tVFzTCKSerI

Nablus checkpoint closed as settlers stone cars
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 12 May — Israeli forces closed the Nablus-area Huwwara military checkpoint Thursday afternoon, following incidents of rock-throwing that hit Palestinian cars, that local officials said was done by local settlers. Ghassan Doughlas, the Fatah official charged with monitoring settlement activity in the northern West Bank, said dozens of settlers from the nearby Yitzhar settlement threw rocks at Palestinian cars causing damages, but no injuries … An Israeli military spokeswoman said the checkpoint was closed for “routine activity” and said she was not sure when it would re-open for Palestinian vehicles.
http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=387055

Ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, or, democratic Israel at work / Gideon Levy
Haaretz 12 May — While we are still desperately concealing, denying and repressing our major ethnic cleansing of 1948 – over 600,000 refugees, some who fled for fear of the Israel Defense Forces and its predecessors, some who were expelled by force – it turns out that 1948 never ended, that its spirit is still with us … My colleague Akiva Eldar published what we have always known but for which we lacked the shocking figures he revealed: By the time of the Oslo Accords, Israel had revoked the residency of 140,000 Palestinians from the West Bank. In other words, 14 percent of West Bank residents who dared to go abroad had their right to return to Israel and live here denied forever. In other words, they were expelled from their land and their homes. In other words: ethnic cleansing.
http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/ethnic-cleansing-of-palestinians-or-democratic-israel-at-work-1.361196

Violence

VIDEO: One day when children were children
Pal Monitor 12 May — Five buses containing 200 excited children pulled up at Ramallah’s old Ottoman Court building this Saturday around noon. The children were from villages where every Friday is devoted to popular resistance, and the goal was to give them a day of food, fun and games instead of fears of tear gas, Israeli soldiers, and arrests of family members … The kids came from the West Bank villages of Bil‘in, Ni‘lin, Nabi Saleh, and Ma‘sara and from the neighborhood of Silwan in Jerusalem. The three coordinators of the event got the idea for a children’s day off after seeing what the children go through in the villages where demonstrations and violent confrontations between their families and Israeli soldiers are a normal part of their everyday life … Week after week, the three friends saw children getting shot at with tear gas canisters, rubber bullets, and sound grenades and have soldiers raid their homes.
http://www.palestinemonitor.org/spip/spip.php?article1806

IDF confirms sets dogs on illegal Palestinian laborers / Gideon Levy
Hundreds of Palestinian day-laborers who enter Israel without a permit have been facing a new threat recently – IDF soldiers at the separation fence are siccing dogs on them. Since the beginning of last month, soldiers with dogs have been lying in ambush near a breach in the fence, between the Bedouin refugee village Ramadin and Kibbutz Shoval in the Negev. Every night hundreds of West Bank Palestinians gather at this point to seek work the next day in the nearby Jewish and Bedouin communities … Ala Hawarin, 22, of Dahariya, was injured in the arm and thigh when a dog attacked him as he was crossing the fence line. He went to Hebron for treatment, where the doctors told him two of his fingers would remain paralyzed. When he went to file a police complaint the following day he was arrested.
http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/idf-confirms-sets-dogs-on-illegal-palestinian-laborers-1.361160

Gaza

Worker dies in Rafah tunnel
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 12 May — A 17-year-old tunnel worker died Thursday morning, after sustaining a massive electric shock while he was pulling goods through a smuggling tunnel underneath the Egyptian border. The incident occurred in the Rafah area, and police identified the teenager as Hassan Ash-Sha‘er, 17, from Khan Younis.
http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=386993

Shin Bet: Egypt doing little to stop Gaza arms smugglers
Ynet 12 May — New security agency report says Cairo’s grip on Gaza border lax; Strip’s militant groups’ weapon caches pose growing threat to Israel
http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4068013,00.html

Gaza crossing open for limited goods import
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 12 May — An estimated 250-260 truckloads of goods will enter Gaza via the Strip’s sole operating crossing with Israel, officials told Palestinian liaison officer Raed Fattouh.
http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=386982

Activism / Solidarity / BDS — and opposition

Film Trailer – “The Wanted 18”
Long trailer for the Palestinian animated documentary film “The Wanted 18” — The most powerful army in the Middle East in the chase of 18 cows.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJcfJTELmoM&feature=share

Background for the film: The cows of Beit Sahour
Beit Sahour, the town where I live, is famous throughout Palestine for its fierce devotion to independence and amazing use of nonviolence during the first intifada. Beit Sahour launched a community-wide tax strike in protest of the occupation. But more impressively, Beit Sahour managed to boycott every Israeli produce on the market. Sahouris met all their needs without relying on Israeli goods. All of their needs, that is, except milk, That’s where the cows of Beit Sahour come in. Here’s my friend Helen to tell the story.
http://inpalestine.blogspot.com/2006_07_01_archive.html

VIDEO: ISM in Gaza 28 Apr
4 May — KHOZA‘A, Gaza Strip. A couple weeks after one its members was killed, the International Solidarity Movement is back at work in Gaza. Its activists are little known outside of the strip but inside the enclave they are very much appreciated by Palestinians, especially those who live in areas which other organizations do not cater to. By doing so ISM members often end up in very dangerous situation as our reporter found out.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-a-riv7Q1vU

Stay Human convoy enters Gaza
12 May 2011 | Vik2Gaza After leaving Cairo this morning at dawn, the 80 activists of the ‘Restiamo Umani’ convoy have entered Gaza at 4pm after crossing five Egyptian check-points. The convoy will remain in the Gaza strip until the 17 of May to meet the Palestinian people who day by day are trying to resist the Israeli military occupation. The convoy will also join the commemorations for the thirtieth day of Vittorio’s death and for Nakba, the day of the Palestinian catastrophe, which will take place between the 14 and the 15 of May.
Meanwhile, a second convoy, with over 100 buses, will leave from Tahir square in Cairo, the square that has become the symbol of recent popular revolutions in the Middle Aast , and will try to cross the Rafah pass on the 15 of May. This is a collective movement that wants to show full support to the fight of the Palestinian people for self-determination, to their everyday resistance against military occupation and to the right of all Palestinian refugees to come back to their land.
http://palsolidarity.org/2011/05/18260/

Egypt urges cancellation of pro-Palestinian march
CAIRO (AP) 12 May — Egypt is urging activists to cancel a rally aimed at crossing from Egypt into the Gaza Strip to show support for the Palestinians. In a statement Thursday, authorities called on activists to give priority to internal issues and “to prevent any repercussions that might result from this march.” … A Facebook campaign called for rallies Friday and a march toward the border on Sunday, called the “Sunday of Liberation.”
Egypt’s powerful Muslim Brotherhood has come out in support of a rally in central Cairo on Friday but does not favor the march on Gaza.
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110512/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_egypt_palestinians

Rift appears over Gaza flotilla report
ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News 12 May — The U.N. panel investigating Israel’s deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla faces a major stalemate, with Turkey threatening to drop out over wording in a draft report that it sees as favoring the Israeli view. Ankara’s strong reaction to the draft wording, which falls short of saying Israel violated international law in the raid last year, has delayed the announcement of the panel’s findings.
http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=un-probe-to-flotilla-attack-faces-deadlock-2011-05-12

Center-right MEPs come out against new Gaza flotilla
JPost 12 May — 15 vessels, 1,500 people hope to break blockade at end of month … LONDON – Plans for a new protest flotilla to Gaza are “an act of provocation” against the State of Israel and should be strongly condemned by the European Union, two prominent members of the European Parliament said on Wednesday … The proposed flotilla was also criticized by EU foreign policy chief Ashton. Speaking in Strasbourg on Wednesday, she said living conditions in Gaza are “awful” in part owing to the Israeli blockade, but added: “I don’t consider a flotilla to be the right response.”
http://www.jpost.com/International/Article.aspx?id=220166

Congress members urge Erdoğan to prevent 2nd flotilla
JPost 12 May — Letter addressed to Turkish PM says: “If flotilla organizers carry out confrontational plans, Israelis will have little choice but to raid vessel” … Thirty-six members signed onto the letter, spearheaded by Rep. Steve Israel (D-New York) and Rep. Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma).
http://www.jpost.com/International/Article.aspx?id=220272

Detention / Court action

Brother of female detainee targeted, family home raided
Silwan, Jerusalem (SILWANIC) posted 12 May — A large force of Israeli troops raided the Shoyoukhi family’s home yesterday [8 May] in Silwan in search for 14-year old Mohammed Shoyoukhi. When troops failed to capture Mohammed (having spent the night at his sister’s house), his elder brother was arrested instead as a means of blackmailing Mohammed to present himself at the police station. The contents of the family home were reported to be damaged or even destroyed by raiding forces. Mohammed presented himself at the station later that day, accompanied by his mother. He was then subjected to a gruelling investigation alone after his mother was expelled from the room.
http://silwanic.net/?p=15722

Israeli troops kidnap Hamas official Abu Tabana
Al-KHALIL, (PIC) 12 May — A large number of Israeli troops stormed the home of senior Hamas official Adnan Abu Tabana in Azzeitoun suburb southwest of Al-Khalil city and took him to an unknown destination after ransacking the house, Ahrar center for prisoners’ studies said on Thursday. Director of the center Fouad Al-Khafsh stated that Abu Tabana, one of the most prominent national figures in Al-Khalil city, gave a speech during a march he led a few days ago calling for bridging the rift in the Palestinian arena and releasing political detainees.
The Israeli occupation forces (IOF) kidnapped at dawn Thursday nine Palestinian citizens at least in different West Bank areas. Local sources said the IOF stormed at an early hour today many villages and towns in the West Bank and forced children, women and everyone inside some homes to stay outdoors as they were ransacking them.
http://www.palestine-info.co.uk/En/default.aspx?xyz=U6Qq7k%2bcO

IOF kidnap three Palestinians from Bil‘in village
RAMALLAH, (PIC) 11 May — The Israeli occupation forces (IOF) stormed Tuesday evening Bil’in village near Ramallah city and kidnapped three young men. Local sources said the troops entered the village through the gate of the eastern segregation wall and fired flash and smoke grenades during the raid. They broke into the house of Abdulfattah Bernat and rounded up his two sons, Mohamed and Ahmed, in addition to his brother-in-law Ahmed Betillow. The soldiers took the three young men blindfolded and in chains into the area behind the wall, according to the sources.
http://www.palestine-info.co.uk/En/default.aspx?xyz=U6Qq7

Bethlehem man marks 20 years in prison
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 12 May — The Gaza City detainees center announced Thursday the upcoming 20th anniversary of a Bethlehem man in Israeli custody. Adnan Al-Afandy, 40, from the Ad-Duheisheh refugee camp, was detained on May 13, 1992. He has another 10 years to serve on his sentence, on charges of belonging to the Islamic Jihad movement and of stabbing two settlers during the First Intifada. His first 70 days of detention were spent in interrogation, during which period he was kept in solitary confinement
http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=386988

State drops charges against rightist
Ynet 12 May — The State Prosecutor’s Office withdrew the charges it pressed against the extreme right-wing activist Noam Federman “for a lack of evidence” on Thursday.http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4067797,00.html

Political / Diplomatic / International

Source: Abbas new PM, Fayyad, Haniyeh deputies
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 12 May — President Mahmoud Abbas will hold the post of prime minister in the coming technocrat transitional government, sources close to the matter have told Ma‘an. Current caretaker Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, and Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh – or an alternate Hamas figure chosen by the party – will both act as deputies to Abbas, the source revealed Wednesday night, adding that Fayyad will also assume the role of Minister of Finance.  Formerly rival factions Hamas and Fatah have reportedly agreed to the appointments, with the proviso that both former prime ministers will hold the same political weight within the new cabinet.
http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=386957

Abbas determined to retain Fayyad as PM of Fatah-Hamas cabinet, report says
Haaretz 12 May — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has told Egyptian officials that incumbent Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is his only candidate to head the burgeoning Palestinian unity cabinet, the London-based Arabic daily Al-Hayat reported on Thursday.
http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/abbas-determined-to-retain-fayyad-as-pm-of-fatah-hamas-cabinet-report-says-1.361257

Hamas adviser: PM should be Gaza-based
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 12 May — The prime minister of the new transitional Palestinian government should be based in the Gaza Strip, an adviser to Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said Wednesday. After confirming reports that a meeting between Fatah and Hamas would take place next week to agree the members of the transitional government, Yousef Rizqa went on to say that the seat of government should not be solely in Ramallah.
http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=387077

Abbas: I won’t run for president again
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 12 May — President Mahmoud Abbas reiterated Tuesday that he would not run for president again, telling the PLO leadership in Ramallah that he was “serious” about his decision … Abbas also said he was serious about the reconciliation deal with Hamas despite doubts.
http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=386850

Palestinian official: Stalled peace talks would make intifada hard to stop
Haaretz 12 May — Speaking with Army Radio ahead of planned Nakba day protests across West Bank, Fatah man Abbas Zaki says the Palestinian street will act according to how hopeful it is of achieving peace.
http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/palestinian-official-stalled-peace-talks-would-make-intifada-hard-to-stop-1.361277

Turkey’s Erdoğan: Hamas is a political party, not a terrorist group
Haaretz 12 May — Hamas is not a terror organization, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in an interview with U.S. television late Wednesday, saying he felt the recently penned Palestinian reconciliation agreement was an essential step toward Mideast peace. Erdoğan’s comments came one day after Hamas Gaza strongman Mahmoud Zahar said that while his organization would accept a Palestinian state within 1967 borders, it would never recognize Israel, as a result of the damage such a move would do to Palestinian refugees in the “diaspora.”
http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/turkey-s-erdogan-hamas-is-a-political-party-not-a-terrorist-group-1.361230

Berlusconi: No to unilateral PA bid
Ynet 12 May — Congratulating Israel on 63 Independence Day, Italian PM emphasizes support, says unilateral recognition wrong way to strike agreements between nations
http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4067510,00.html

Other news

Israeli Arab sector has fastest growth potential says Bank Hapoalim CEO
Haaretz 12 May — The Israeli business community is paying increasing attention to the potential of business development among Israel’s Arab population … Bank Hapoalim currently has 19 branches in Arab population centers and plans to open five more in the coming year.
http://english.themarker.com/israeli-arab-sector-has-fastest-growth-potential-says-bank-hapoalim-ceo-1.361183

Video: ‘Let’s pull Shalit out of Gaza ourselves’
Ynet 12 May — Ultimatum issued to Israel, Hamas in video uploaded to internet. Group of four ad men threaten to break through Erez crossing if no prisoner swap seal is struck by June 21
http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4067831,00.html

60% of Israelis satisfied with State
Ynet 12 May — Most secular, traditional and religious Jews believe State fits their values, but only 21% of haredim feel the same way, Ynet-Gesher poll shows. Fifty-five percent of population say maintaining Jewish majority is most important thing … Each of the four sectors ranked “securing a Jewish majority” first. This was the response of 52% of seculars, 64% of traditional Jews, 58% of religious Jews and 42% of haredim.
http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4067492,00.html

US Christian group warns Palestinians of apocalypse
[photos] RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 12 May — At least half a dozen billboards recently went up across the West Bank warning Palestinians of an impending judgment day, slated according to the signs, for May 21.  At the entrance to Birzeit, and several roads leading into the West Bank cities of Ramallah and Jericho, the signs — some in English, some in Arabic — advise travelers to “cry unto God” and are directed to the website of the US-based religious group.
http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=386765

Analysis / Opinion

Israel’s security elite joins the opposition / J.J. Goldberg
Forward, 11 May — It probably won’t surprise you to hear that the leaders of Israel’s security establishment, the people who’ve led the fight against the state’s enemies for decades, are more frightened now than they’ve been in a long time. You might be shocked, though, to hear what’s got them in a panic … What scares them most is their prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. How do I know? Because they’re saying so, right out in public, some in broad hints, others in just so many words … There are 18 living ex-chiefs: seven Mossad, six IDF and five Shin Bet. No fewer than eight of them are actively working against Netanyahu in one way or another. Another four have made their alarm publicly clear, though they aren’t aggressively campaigning right now. That’s 12, if you’re keeping score. Two of them have openly called Netanyahu’s policies and leadership a threat to Israel’s future — just in the past few weeks.
http://www.forward.com/articles/137697/

All Netanyahu needs is to say one magic number: 1967 / Ari Shavit
Haaretz 12 May — The international community is tensely waiting to hear Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s words to the U.S. Congress in 12 days’ time. Yet it will not be words that determine how the speech is received, but rather a number. If Netanyahu does not specifically mention the number 1967, the world will reject his speech from the outset. Israel’s future hangs today on the prime minister’s ability to utter the four digits he has not yet uttered – one, nine, six, seven: 1967. Netanyahu? 1967? Not a chance – unless he realizes the seriousness of the situation. Unless he realizes that our backs are to the wall and we must change direction. Unless he rises above himself and becomes a statesman and a leader.
http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/all-netanyahu-needs-is-to-say-one-magic-number-1967-1.361194

www.theheadlines.org (archive)

In the name of Vittorio Arrigoni, the ‘Stay Human’ convoy has entered Gaza
May 12, 2011 08:46 pm | Stay Human Convoy

After leaving Cairo this morning at dawn, the 80 activists of the ‘Restiamo Umani’ convoy have entered Gaza at 4pm after crossing five Egyptian check-points.

The convoy, whose goal is to return to the place where Vittorio Arrigoni has spent his life, wrote a first report – posted on www.vik2gaza.org – “We are going to Gaza, Vittorio is with us”.

The convoy will remain in the Gaza strip until the 17 of May to meet the Palestinian people who day by day are trying to resist the Israeli military occupation. The convoy will also join the commemorations for the thirtieth day of Vittorio’s death and for Nakba, the day of the Palestinian catastrophe, which will take place between the 14 and the 15 of May.

Meanwhile, a second convoy, with over 100 buses, will leave from Tahir square in Cairo, the square that has become the symbol of recent popular revolutions in the Middle East, and will try to cross the Rafah pass on the 15 of May.

This is a collective movement that wants to show full support to the fight of the Palestinian people for self-determination, to their everyday resistance against military occupation and to the right of all Palestianian refugees to come back to their land.

Follow the Stay Human Convoy via:

Web: vik2gaza.org/en/
Twitter: twitter.com/#!/vik2gaza
Facebook: www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002318810069&sk=wall

63 years of the Nakba
May 12, 2011 03:49 pm | Adam Horowitz

From the video’s YouTube page:

To reply to the Gaza youth Manifesto, and with no additional words to the ones spoken with true heart on this video, we give you, The Manifesto. A simple, true, self-explanatory, expression of what we’re sick of.

As these days mark the 63rd memory of the Nakba, our people all around the world, revolt, and object to the injustice and hatred we are met with on a day to day basis, just because we’re Palestinians and just because we exist.

I urge your humanity and your conscience, to spread on this video, so the 15th of May 1948, wouldn’t ever be forgot, and so Palestinians would once more have their freedom and rights back; especially the right of return.

Salamat,
Two randoms from Palestine.

Reporting from the perspective of 1948 – a profile of Jonathan Cook
May 12, 2011 03:37 pm | Jon Dillingham

Over a dozen innocent Palestinians had been killed by Israeli police, but The Guardian wasn’t interested.

It was 2001 and Jonathan Cook, a foreign desk editor at the paper, had just returned from from Israel reporting that police in Nazareth had murdered 13 non-violent Arab protestors during the second intifada the year before. Cook expected his editors at the “leftwing” paper to jump at the story, but he was sorely disappointed.

“I felt like I really grasped something,” says Cook, whose findings led him to conclude that the victims were unarmed and that police had essentially implemented a shoot-to-kill policy. His story went against the state’s official narrative — which was that armed Arabs in Nazareth had turned violent — but his conclusion was confirmed by a subsequent government inquiry. The Guardian, however, didn’t publish his investigation.

Cook, who holds an MA in Middle Eastern Studies, had long felt that mainstream coverage of the region missed key aspects of the story. The Guardian’s rejection of the Nazareth story disturbed him more deeply. He decided the problem required an out-of-the-ordinary solution.

“I suddenly thought I’ve got to do something radical here and go and test my views, immerse myself somewhere in the Middle East and really check if the problem is with me or with the newspapers.”

So he left The Guardian for Nazareth, taking a year’s leave to report on Palestinians inside Israel, a group largely ignored by the mainstream. Ten years and three books later (Blood and ReligionIsrael and the Clash of Civilizations and Disappearing Palestine), he’s still here, he says, because here is where the story is.

“Being in Nazareth has allowed me to see things here in a different kind of light.”

According to Cook, reporters living in the Jewish-majority news hubs of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv tend to see the current conflict as starting in 1967 with the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. This perspective lends too much weight to “security concerns” and enables Israel to skirt its responsibilities to the Palestinians, he says. Living in Israel’s Arab capital Nazareth, however, opened Cook up to the historical dimensions of a conflict at least as old as 1948. That’s the point at which “the story” begins for Palestinians, who do not celebrate the 1948 War of Independence, but instead commemorate the Nakba, or “catastrophe.”

“He’s pretty much on the button,” says veteran BBC journalist Bill Hayton, referring to Cook’s coverage of Israeli Arabs. Hayton, who made a film about the Bedouin of the Negev Desert for a 1998 edition of Simpson’s World on BBC World, says Cook’s focus on the Palestinian minority in Israel is “a good perspective from which to asses the various claims about Israel’s democratic identity.”

“He [Cook] is looking at issues which are crucial to the region but largely suppressed,” according to Hayton.

Working in Nazareth both during and after the second Intifada helped Cook see the big picture.

“Most interesting to me was that what was going on in the Occupied Territories, which all the other journalists would say is the story, was just a reflection of things that were going on, or had gone on, here before,” says Cook, whose work on travel restrictions within Gaza was chosen alongside other articles on Israeli human rights abuses as one of Project Censored’s25 most important censored stories of 2009-10.

“Israel’s policies in the Occupied Territories were devised before the occupation began, in its treatment of Israeli Arabs, especially in terms of land confiscation and creating conditions to break down the community’s social fabric,” Cook says.

“All of this was done inside Israel to an Arab population that posed no security threat, raising the question of whether many of Israel’s current policies towards the Palestinians are really security-related.”

But major papers generally avoid this kind of narrative, according to Cook. Policies like that of the Guardian, which rotates Middle East correspondents after two or three years, hinders in-depth reporting, he argues.

“I remember a foreign editor once saying that the reason [for the time limit] was that they [reporters] tended to ‘go native,’” Cook explains. “What he meant was that they started to get sympathetic to the Palestinian point of view.”

Cook argues from experience that The Guardian isn’t the anti-Israel paper it’s often thought to be. While the paper might go out of its way to condemn the occupation, Cook says more incisive questioning of Israel’s capacity to be both a Jewish and democratic state, or critiques of aspects of its security doctrine, are left out.

David Edwards and David Cromwell, editors of media criticism website Media Lens, and co-authors of Guardians of Power: the Myth of the Liberal Media, and Newspeak in the 21st Century, have published several of Cook’s critiques of the mainstream media.

“Cook is a rare example of a successful corporate journalist with the integrity and insight to perceive and expose the deep structural flaws in the profession that embraced him,” they wrote in an email to this reporter.

But where is a critic of Israel to go once he’s disillusioned with what even the mainstream left’s flagship paper has to offer? Nowadays the answer is, of course, online.

Though he is now on staff at The National, an Abu Dhabi-based newspaper, it is unlikely the job would have come around had he not earned a reputation for years as one of the online alternative press’s most dogged Israel-Palestine reporters. Since giving up his byline at The Guardian, Cook’s unique perspective has found a comfortable home in the dynamic world of smaller online publications. His articles on websites like Counterpunch and Electronic Intifadaare widely cited in circles concerned with Israel-Palestine issues.

“The internet made people like me possible,” says Cook, who wrote solely on the internet for nearly three years.

“You can’t live on it but it does mean you can be heard,” says Cook. “It means you can make some kind of impression.”

Getting picked up on blogs and gaining a loyal internet fan-base gave Cook more visibility than he’d ever had. But Internet visibility is not without it’s pitfalls.

“In some ways it’s bad as a mainstream journalist to get visible like that because newspapers don’t like it,” says Cook. “You get recognized for having a certain kind of view or you get associated with a certain kind of website or kind of online readership and the newspaper doesn’t want to be associated with it.”

But Cook has made his heterodox views work for him, and for now he’s staying in Nazareth, a place that he says complicates the simplistic narrative that Israel wants to present.

“Israel wants us to see it as a conflict between Jews-civilization-good guys, and Muslims-terrorists-bad guys,” says Cook, “and Nazareth doesn’t fit into that at all.”

Jon Dillingham is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. He is an MA candidate in the Specialized Journalism program at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

I saw the same look in Fatima’s face as my grandparents’– the look of the Nakba
May 12, 2011 03:35 pm | Yasmine Moor

On April 19th of this year, 43 families from Nahr al Bared, a refugee camp in north Lebanon, moved back to their newly constructed homes, after four years of displacement. 83 more families are expected to return in the coming weeks, as UNRWA (United Nations Relief & Works Agency) completes the final touches on the homes, and still 5,000 are hoping to return in the coming years as UNRWA seeks more funding to reconstruct the rest of the Palestinian refugee camp that was destroyed in 2007 by the Lebanese Armed Forces.

One woman will not return, however, Fatima, whose age I never knew but I guessed as I traced her life through the telling of her stories of exile from Palestine in ’48; to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon which lead to her 2nd displacement during the war of the camps in the 80’s; and finally to Nahr al Bared, her final resting place where she died, alone, waiting to return to Palestine. I never discovered her age, and it was never recorded in any of her UNRWA papers.

I first moved to Lebanon at the end of 2007, about 6 months after Nahr al Bared, Lebanon’s second largest Palestinian refugee camp, was destroyed. Over 3,000 buildings built over a period of 60 years were left in rubble, an entire city turned to a ghost town in less than a week. More than 5,000 Palestinian families, almost 35,000 persons were displaced, some for the 2nd and 3rd time, leaving behind their livelihoods, belongings, history and future. As in 1948, the people of Nahr al Bared were misled to believe that if they left their camp in order to allow the Lebanese Army to detain the Islamist group Fatah al Islam, they would return within days. But they discovered a little too late not only was their camp eliminated, but it was closed off for 4 months after it was destroyed, preventing the families from retaining their belongings, or what was left of their homes, pictures of dead mothers and fathers, books and stories from their history, and most importantly land and ownership papers to reclaim their lands lost in 1948. All was gone…disappeared…turned into dust.

I first met Fatima in one of the schools she was living in after she was displaced from Nahr al Bared.

She was one of 15,000 people who ended up in the neighboring camp of Bedawwi. She shared a classroom with three other families, and her only belongings were the long dress she had on, her scarf and a mattress that UNRWA had given her a few weeks back. The families took over four UNRWA schools because they had nowhere else to go, and like all the refugee camps in Lebanon, Bedawwi was crowded. The schools were the only free space these families had. So UNRWA gave them mattresses, blankets and some cooking utensils until a long-term solution was found. The families used some of the blankets to divide the space in the classrooms, and to give each other some privacy. I noticed Fatima sitting in the corner, a short, frail woman with silver hair and a broken leg. As soon as I saw her, I imagined this was what my grandparents’ exile and displacement was like, except the cement walls of the schools were modern day tents. I have the stories of their exile from Beir Sheba stored in my head. I’ve imagined it over and over again, and here I was witnessing yet another catastrophe, the Nakba of Nahr al Bared. Seeing Fatima, I saw my grandfather…and my grandmother and all of my people who were made refugees in 1948. I saw the despair and shattered hopes, the same look I saw in my grandparents’ faces. They arrived in Gaza, and were handed a tent and some cooking utensils. Fatima was placed in a school and handed a mattress and a blanket. History was repeating itself, and here we were, Fatima, a Palestine refugee in Lebanon displaced for the third time, and me, a 3rd generation refugee from Gaza who has never seen Palestine 48, and I was bearing witness to her refugnesses. I became her soul mate. I learned she had no living family members, her only daughter killed in a car accident several years ago, so she was on her own, had been for several years. And she injured her leg when she was rushing to get out of her house when the camp was being bombed. An ambulance picked her up and brought her to the school. She didn’t take any of her belongings with her because she thought leaving was temporary.

After about three months of meeting Fatima, I was able to secure her housing in one of UNRWA’s pre-fabricated temporary housing units. UNRWA moved about 300 families to the new units, a temporary solution until the camp was to be reconstructed. UNRWA also could not afford to keep the schools in Bedawwi closed, with over 300 families living in four schools. So 1 million dollars was used to transport and install these trailers in the area next to the destroyed camp, so at least some families could return to the area adjacent to the camp. I too moved to the camp. I visited Fatima in her housing unit every other week, made sure she had the food she needed and delivered her medicines. I convinced one of our UNRWA doctors to also make house visits because she couldn’t walk to the health clinic. Her leg never healed, in the two and half years I knew her.

She told me the same stories of 1948 my grandfather told me, except she ended up in Lebanon, not Gaza. She was born in the Palestinian village of Sa’sa’, near the town of Safad in what is now northern Israel. She must have been in her teens or 20’s when she was exiled because her mother died and she became responsible for her siblings. She said she married late, a Fatah freedom fighter in Sabra & Shatila. She spoke of her husband a lot, Hussein. She described him so vividly, tall, dark hair, big brown almond shaped eyes with fire inside them, she said. She was proud to have married a freedom fighter. I learned all the details of the Israeli invasion in 1982 and the “War of the Camps.” She was one of the women who cooked for the freedom fighters, fed them and washed their clothes before they went into another battle to protect the camps. But her story was sad; Hussein was driven out of Lebanon in the early 80’s, I imagine during the massacre of Sabra & Shatila, where Arafat and his resistance fighters were driven out. He was never heard of again. Fatima and her daughter were left without a home, so she migrated after the massacre and the destruction of Sabra & Shatila to the North, settling in Nahr al Bared.

I heard about the house she built in Nahr al Bared, taking her almost 20 years to finish. She opened up a little shop and received some money from Fatah, enough to support herself and gradually build her house. She furnished it, and even built an extra floor for her daughter when she marries. It was where she was going to die she said, her comfortable 3- bedroom house, with its kitchen, surrounded by her grandchildren in her bed with a picture of Hussein on her dresser.

In the three years I was in Lebanon, every year I took Fatima to the Nakba’s commemorations in Nahr al Bared, on May 15th. Community centers would hold events, mostly for children to learn about the Nakba of 48 and the Nakba of Nahr al Bared in 2007. The events were to remember our history, and to celebrate our resilience. Fatima was one of the oldest people in the camp, so she was always a guest of honor. She always said, we don’t want to return to Nahr al Bared, we want to return to Palestine. She made sure to say it to all the children, so they don’t lose sight of Palestine and our roots. Sadly this year she will not tell her stories of our Nakba, or remind the children of Nahr al Bared of our history.

The last time I saw her was before I left Lebanon in September 2010. She asked me with doubt about the reconstruction of Nahr al Bared and I told her it will in fact be rebuilt. I showed her pictures of the beginnings of the reconstruction, and in excitement she asked me to confirm that her house will be rebuilt in the same area that it was before. I learned of her death when I visited Lebanon in February of this year. I tried to get a permit to get into Nahr al Bared, which continues to be sealed off by the Lebanese Army, and entrance is only allowed with permission. I discovered from one of the UNRWA social workers that she had passed away a few weeks before, and her housing unit has since been unused…and locked.

Fatima didn’t know she would be displaced for a 3rd time, and she would die in a 3 by 6 meter room with a sink to be used as a kitchen, and a small bathroom, on a thin mattress, without Hussein beside her, without the keys to her house in Palestine or in Nahr a Bared. She would die of a broken heart, at the loss of everything, only to be left with a refugee ID and a failed promise of a durable solution to her refugneesss.

She never returned to her house in Nahr al Bared, and she never returned to Sa’sa, in Northern Israel. She died with a yearning to see her land, and the bitter taste of injustice in her mouth. So while Israeli’s celebrate the day of their so called independence, we will commemorate not only one, or two, but many days of catastrophes, for we never forgot, for being refugees is a constant reminder of the day of Nakba.

Two takes on the Hamas-Fatah unity agreement
May 12, 2011 03:30 pm | Adam Horowitz

And here’s history professor Joel Beinin writing about the agreement on the Jewish Voice for Peace website about what it means for the peace process:

A unified Palestinian leadership will be more representative, hence more likely to be able to deliver on any agreement it might reach, and also in a stronger position vis a vis Israel in any peace negotiations that might be held. PM Netanyahu somberly intoned that President Abbas can either have peace with Israel or peace with Hamas. He seems incapable of understanding that in addition to responding to popular Palestinian and regional Arab pressures, it was necessary for Abbas to seek an agreement with Hamas because the Palestinian Authority could not reach a peace agreement with Israel on terms any Palestinian would accept.

No Israeli government has ever offered Palestinians a state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital and anything approaching sovereignty over its territory, its underground water resources, its borders, and its airspace. The 1993 Oslo Accords did not stipulate the establishment of a Palestinian state. Israel’s Labor Party introduced a plank in its platform accepting a Palestinian state only on the eve of its electoral defeat in 1996. The subsequent Likud government was too intransigent even for President Clinton. At Taba in January 2001 the two sides came “agonizingly close to reaching an agreement” including the issues of Jerusalem and refugees, as the lead negotiators for both sides – Yossi Beilin and Yasir Abed Rabbo – wrote in a New York Times op-ed (Aug. 1, 2001). Prime Minister Ehud Barak cut those negotiations off shortly before the Israeli elections that ousted him from power, claiming that he did not want to obligate the incoming government. Since opinion polls correctly predicted an overwhelming defeat for Barak and Labor, why didn’t he let the negotiators finish their job and turn the election into a plebiscite on the agreement? It isn’t necessary to discuss the entrenched opposition of Prime Ministers Sharon and Netanyahu to terms acceptable to any Palestinian leader. Netanyahu vehemently opposed a Palestinian state until June 2009. His settlement expansion policy since then has ensured that his words were even more deceitful than usual.

The abysmal performance of the Obama administration on Palestinian-Israeli peace has also encouraged the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation. Why would a president elected with a strong popular mandate based in part on repudiation of the Middle East policies of his predecessor not seize the opportunity to press for something that would have substantially repaired the grievous damage to the credibility and national security of the United States in the region of the world which is arguably most central to our national security? Yes, it would have expended a great deal of political capital. Obama would have been mercilessly attacked by the Zionist lobby, its acolytes in Congress, and the birthers, who would have taken this as proof-positive that he is a foreign-born Muslim. But many American Jews, who overwhelmingly voted for Obama, would have strongly defended a serious effort to end the conflict. Aren’t presidents elected to lead?

The Fatah-Hamas agreement will enable President Abbas to present a united front when the Palestinian Authority asks the UN General Assembly to recognize a Palestinian state, as it plans to do in September. Although it may break the current impasse and put increased international pressure on Israel, there are also problems with this strategy. Some diaspora Palestinians are critical of it because it limits Palestinian aspirations to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and excludes their voices from Palestinian political decision-making.

Whether or not the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation results in more effective action at the UN, it is good for the Palestinian people and ultimately good for the Israeli people. It expresses the long overdue recognition that the twenty-year-long US-brokered “peace process” has failed. The Palestinian people will therefore need to rely, first and foremost on themselves, and secondly on other international forces – the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, young Israelis who are working in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle, European states, perhaps more democratic Arab regimes, and eventually China. This will require more democratic Palestinian grassroots politics. A more unified and more democratic Palestinian people will be more capable of reaching a peace agreement with the Israeli people that guarantees the rights and the security of both peoples in Israel/Palestine.

‘Freedom Flotilla 2- Stay Human’ to set sail in late June
May 12, 2011 01:29 pm | Daryl Meador

The international steering committee for Freedom Flotilla 2 recently released a statementannouncing that its sail date has been pushed back to the third week of June, at least partly because of the June 12 Turkish elections. The committee also announced the addition of a Swiss-German boat to the flotilla, making the total number of boats 15, more than twice as big as last year’s flotilla. Countries participating will include France, USA, UK, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Greece, Turkey, and other countries

The flotilla is sailing despite a recent Israeli Defense Forces broadcast that reported that the country would prevent the second freedom flotilla from reaching Gaza “at all costs.” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently called on UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as well as the European Union to put pressure on groups to stop the impending flotilla. In response, the flotilla Steering Committee released a statement on April 11 that called on governments, the international community and the United Nations not to succumb to Israel’s intimidation.

The flotilla is also occurring after Egypt’s recent announcement that it will permanently open the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip. The upcoming and past boat missions, however, are primarily challenging Israel’s maritime and naval blockade on the Gaza Strip, which is particularly devastating to one of Gaza’s key industries, fishing.

The flotilla will include an American boat named the Audacity of Hope. The U.S. Boat to Gaza Coalition has recently launched a letter writing campaign called “To Gaza With Love.” American citizens are encouraged to write letters addressed to the Palestinians of Gaza stating their solidarity. U.S. Boat describes, “Whether it’s a letter from a U.S. mother to a mother in Gaza, a child in the U.S. to a child in Gaza, or letters from students, teachers, business people, religious leaders to their counterparts in Gaza, the siege cannot withstand the power of our words to break through.”

The entire flotilla recently changed its name to “Freedom Flotilla- Stay Human”, in memory of the recently murdered Italian activist Vittorio Arrigoni. Arrigoni, who was one of 44 activists to participate in a boat mission to Gaza in 2008, stated that the day he arrived in Gaza was the happiest of his life.

Daryl Meador is a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a member of Students for Justice in Palestine.

Richard Achi should not exist (but he does, in Cote d’Ivoire)
May 12, 2011 12:41 pm | James North

When you see a picture of an African man in the news, he is often carrying an automatic rifle. So the remarkable life story of my friend Richard Achi, a social worker in his mid-30s who guided me around during my recent trip to a Cote d’Ivoire on the edge of a brief civil war, may come as something of a surprise.

Most press accounts leave the entirely misleading impression that the brave Western reporter is alone in Africa, or scouring Baghdad by himself. In fact, nearly always the visiting journalist relies on a “fixer,” sometimes a local journalist, who is especially vital when there is violence. (Once in a while, certain American newspapers, to their credit, do let the local person share the byline.)

Richard Achi proved his worth within an hour of my arrival at the Abidjan airport. The police stopped our Peugeot 505 shared taxi at a roadblock, and minutely inspected every single item in my backpack while making the other passengers wait. Off to the side, I could see Richard quietly negotiating. “I gave them 2000 francs (about U.S. $4),” he said afterward. “And I persuaded them not to take any of your stuff.”

We spent the next week and a half in traveling around southeastern Cote d’Ivoire, as a disputed election moved the country closer to full-scale fighting. One of the sides, those supporting the corrupt and undemocratic former president Laurent Gbagbo, had violently attacked French expatriates in the past, so my American passport might not provide immunity. The remaining handful of Western journalists actually left the most conflicted areas later because it got too dangerous.

Richard used his cellphone every hour or so to call ahead, to establish which were the “hot” areas we should avoid. I speak French, but I still could not have understood much of what was going on around me. I looked around and saw “Africans,” (all of whom were perfectly friendly). Richard looked around and interpreted the complex ethnic and political differences that I could never have perceived, and we acted accordingly.

The informal roadblocks set up by the rival factions could be especially tricky. On my last day, we had to negotiate a dozen or more of them on our way to the airport, careful not to provoke the young men, who were as yet only armed with sticks and clubs.

What is vital to remember here, as the writer Graham Greene never stopped emphasizing about his own travels to dangerous zones, is that we visitors have “a round trip ticket.” I jumped on Air France flight #709 and I was gone. Richard Achi remains in Cote d’Ivoire, when in the weeks or months or years to come someone may still aggressively come up and ask him why he was guiding that foreigner around back in March 2011.

(There were lighter moments, such as when we got to see the rumor mill in production. One afternoon, as we motored peacefully in a crowded minivan between Aboisso and Ayame, a young man in front of us bellowed over his cellphone in the Agni language. The other passengers started to chuckle. “He’s lying,” Richard explained. “He’s saying it’s hot here; there are gunshots all around. He’s probably trying to impress a young woman.”)

But during our travels, we were never really in danger. That is because even in a country that did break out into civil war a few weeks later, the overwhelming majority of people were not violent. Most everyone did have strong and conflicting views about who had actually won the presidential election. But very few people were actually willing to assault their neighbors about it.

Television reports give the distorted impression that entire populations go crazy, like zombies in a horror film, burning and killing. In fact what usually seems to happen is that whether it is Cote d’Ivoire this year, or Sierra Leone and Liberia in the 1990s, bands of young men, manipulated by ruthless and grasping politicians, promote violence – which can be ferocious and vicious – while most people try to stay out of the way. Once the short war broke out in Cote d’Ivoire, for example, several thousand young men fought and some committed massacres, but one million refugees fled the fighting.

Richard Achi’s entire life is the antithesis of violence. Richard is medium height, sharp looking, and courteous. He is married, with a 2-year-old daughter, Jacqueline. He says one of the major influences in his life is his long commitment to the Boy Scout movement. (He gives the word a French pronunciation: ‘skoot.’) His Troop was connected with the local Catholic Church. He joined in his early teens, stayed active through his university days, and volunteered as an Assistant Scoutmaster until the political crisis interfered. “Scouting is at the heart of my outlook,” he says. “Scouting is how you teach a child to become an independent adult. You have the formal educational system on the one hand; on the other, you have Scouting, a school of life, where you show young men how to live in the community with others.”

Richard spent much of his youth in Bouake, a medium-sized city in the center of the country. “Every Easter Vacation, or around Christmas and New Year’s, our Scout Troop would go on hiking and camping trips in the countryside,” he says. “Part of the Scout Promise is to serve others. So during our campouts we would clean the village church, or help the local women to fetch water.”  He adds: “Scouting promotes patience, love, and especially humility. It was important for us, for example, to carry buckets of water, to show that we are no better than the rural people who have to do it every day.”

In the Scout movement, Richard discovered his calling – working with boys in early adolescence. “These are critical years,” he says. “It is then that they can start to fall into bad company, when they are exposed to drugs, alcohol, tobacco – and sex.”

Richard’s years at the University of Cote d’Ivoire were hard, because he had little money. He had to leave the university branch at Bouake in 2002, due to the political crisis, and transfer to Abidjan. During his first semesters, there was no room for him in the dormitory, so he slept on a friend’s floor. To earn money, he worked as a tutor, and then taught high school, but the $70 a month salary was not enough. Despite his grueling schedule, he still had time to win election to a student organization.

After a few years, he ran into the grim reality in most third world countries; unemployment is stratospheric, even – in some cases especially – among the educated. He explains: “Once a year, the government gives an exam, and 40,000 sit for it. But only 300 government posts are available.”

Nearly a decade later, very few of his friends from university have found suitable jobs with their diplomas. In Abidjan’s Cocody neighborhood we met up with his friend Andre, who, like Richard, is a graduate in history. I told them that when unemployment in the United States is over 10 per cent, it is a crisis. They laughed sadly. “Here, it is the reverse,” they said. “We would be happy if formal employment passed 10 per cent.”

The college graduates and near-graduates cannot afford to sit around all day. Many of them survive by “marketing” – they use the English word – which means walking all over town all day trying to sell “gadgets,” items such as can openers, or toys, making a few francs on each transaction. “Of course you are ashamed; you become depressed,” Richard says. “You run into guys that you went to primary school with who tease you for wasting time and money going to the university when you only ended up in the same place they are.”

At first, Richard Achi was lucky. He got a job with UNICEF educating young adolescents about AIDs. (The incidence in Cote d’Ivoire is over 7 per cent among adults 15-49 – not as high as in southern Africa, but still dangerous.) But then his contract ended, and he was out in the street again.

He had noticed that children with handicaps were increasingly forgotten as the economic and political crisis bit more deeply. “Also, kids were getting hurt due to the fighting in the north, so there were more of them,” he explained.

So Richard Achi asked an international organization for start-up funding, and established his own small school for 30 or so handicapped children, in the relatively safe southeastern zone of Cote d’Ivoire. The kids live at the school, and Richard and two older mamans (“mothers”) look after them. The children all call Richard “tonton,” or uncle.

In fact, the school could not function if the children themselves, who range in age from 6 or 7 on up to 18, did not do most of the cleaning and cooking themselves. They are quite a sight: polite, serious and grown-up beyond their years; you can see in their eyes how much they adore Richard Achi. “I don’t believe in hitting kids, even though it is still the custom here in Cote d’Ivoire among some people,” he says. “Sometimes you must punish a child, but all you really have to do is ask them to go off to the side, and think quietly about what they have done wrong and how they have hurt other people.”

Unfortunately, the international agency that had been funding the school was poorly managed, and the crisis made things even worse. Richard has not been paid for nearly a year. He keeps the school going by doing odd jobs on the side, and with donations of food and clothing.

When I look at my daily newspapers and TV news programs, I normally do not see African men like Richard Achi portrayed there. I could read the novels of V.S. Naipaul that are set in Africa and not meet anyone like him there, either. Yet my experience over many years of visiting the continent, including stretches of living there, leaves no doubt that although Richard is exemplary, he is far from unique. If anything, most Africans in their day to day lives are more like him than they are like the greedy and brutal cliques that cling to political power – and that make life miserable for everyone else.

After I got back to New York, I used Western Union to send Richard Achi another donation to help his school. Here is part of the e-mail message he sent me in response: “Thank you from the deepness of my heart. Your donation will be put to good use. You can’t imagine how much the money is a breath of air for us. May God give you the reward that you deserve.”

Peace demands challenging Israel’s exceptionalism
May 12, 2011 12:20 pm | Omar Barghouti

Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League repeats the mantra that by advocating comprehensive Palestinian rights, including full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel and the UN-sanctioned right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes from which they were forcibly displaced, the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement is “de-legitimizing” Israel and threatening its very “existence.” This claim is frequently made by Israel lobby groups in an obvious attempt to muddy the waters and to push beyond the pale of legitimate debate the mere statement of facts about and analysis of Israel’s occupation, denial of refugee rights, and institutionalized system of racial discrimination, which basically fits the UN definition of apartheid.

Specifically, what is often objected to is the demand for full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel. One can only wonder, if equality ends Israel’s “existence,” what does that say about Israel? Did equality destroy South Africa? Did it “delegitimize” whites in the Southern states of the U.S. after segregation was outlawed? The only thing that equality, human rights and justice really destroy is a system of injustice, inequality and racial discrimination.

The “delegitimization” scare tactic, widely promoted by Israel’s well-oiled pressure groups, has not impressed many in the West, in fact, particularly since its most far-reaching claim against BDS is that the movement aims to “supersede the Zionist model with a state that is based on the ‘one person, one vote’ principle” — hardly the most evil or disquieting accusation for anyone even vaguely interested in democracy, a just peace, and equal rights.

In this vein, right after Israel’s occupation of Gaza and the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) in 1967, the great Jewish-American writer I.F. Stone presciently wrote:

“Israel is creating a kind of moral schizophrenia in world Jewry. In the outside world, the welfare of Jewry depends on the maintenance of secular, non-racial, pluralistic societies. In Israel, Jewry finds itself defending a society in which mixed marriages cannot be legalized, in which non-Jews have a lesser status than Jews, and in which the ideal is racist and exclusivist.”

Had he lived long enough, Stone would have seen far more damning evidence of this “schizophrenia” in the everyday discourse of Israel’s apologists in the U.S. With every racist law that passes in the Israeli Knesset, they go into high gear to stifle awareness and any possible denunciation of it in the public arena, leading to an absurd situation where, compared to most U.S. media sources, major Israeli papers have become much more tolerant of opinions that sharply criticize Israeli policies.

The job of defending Israel and guaranteeing the ongoing flow of billions of U.S. taxpayers’ money into its coffers despite its multi-tiered system of oppression has only become more precarious in view of the Arab democratic spring and Israel’s subsequent loss of its most loyal “ally” in the region, the former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak. With Arab publics asserting their rights and insisting on democratic governance, the near future may well witness the rise of freely elected Arab governments, especially in Egypt, that are far more in sync with popular demands for supporting the Palestinian struggle for self-determination. Israel is terrified at this prospect, as it would further undermine its status as a state above the law of nations.

Though it still commands indisputable influence in Congress and a menacing sway that helps it to muzzle debate over Israel’s increasingly indefensible flouting of international law and basic Palestinian rights, the lobby was rocked by recent scandals and allegations of espionage for Israel which have shattered its once invincible image in the American mainstream. An important consequence of this near-fall from grace has been that the myth, long cultivated by the lobby, that U.S. and Israeli interests fully converge is starting to crack.

John Mearsheimer, expert on the Israel lobby, explains, “The combination of Israel’s strategic incompetence and its gradual transformation into an apartheid state creates significant problems for the United States. There is growing recognition in both countries that their interests are diverging ….” The head of the U.S. Central Command, Gen. David Petraeus, and Vice President Biden have both admitted that Israel’s policies towards the Palestinian people are undermining U.S. security. Even the head of Mossad stated before Israel’s parliament last year that “Israel is gradually turning from an asset to the United States to a burden.”

Irrespective of the debate on Israel’s true value to the U.S. establishment, grassroots campaigns for Palestinian rights have been gaining considerable ground in the U.S. since Israel’s war of aggression against the besieged Gaza Strip in 2008-09. Advocating freedom, justice, and equality for all humans, irrespective of identity, the non-violent, Palestinian-led, global BDS movement has grown at an impressive rate, shedding a bright light on the exceptionalism with which Israel is treated in the U.S. The fact that BDS categorically and consistently opposes all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism, has further extended its reach into the Western mainstream.

Despite substantial investments of money and projection of intimidating power, the Israel lobby has largely failed, to date, to quell the spread BDS activism on US campuses and in liberal circles. Realizing this, several lobby groups have resorted to McCarthyesque measures to bully academics and cultural figures into toeing the line set by the lobby regarding Israel, a tactic that has backfired and led to alienating a burgeoning group of Americans, especially younger Jewish Americans.

Having largely lost the battle for hearts and minds at the grassroots level in several key European and other states, and due to a significant rise in negative ratings of Israel in the U.S. public, Israel’s lobby groups in the United States are desperately trying to safeguard Israel’s impunity. Cognizant of the circumstances and dynamics that marked the final stages in the struggle against South African apartheid, Israel is only too well aware of the dire consequences of its militarist, unjust, and patently discriminatory policies being exposed to the U.S. public, its last bastion of popular support around the world. Without challenging Israel’s exceptionalism, however, the prospects for comprehensive and sustainable peace based on justice will remain dim.

This post originally appeared on the Huffington Post.

Vittorio Arrigoni, Onadekom (Calling You)
May 12, 2011 12:15 pm | Adam Horowitz

The above video was made by the Gaza-based rap groug DARG Team. They say the song that it being sung during the chorus was Arrigoni’s favorite Arabic resistance song

Posted in Middle EastComments Off on Mondoweiss Online Newsletter

Syria: Calculation Mistake

NOVANEWS

 

Dr Bassem Hassan

Picture this:

You are a 16 year-old high school student. It’s Friday morning, second period… Algebra. The teacher walks in and gives that pop quiz he’s been promising all week: a sheet of paper with a one-line question on it. You take one look at it and realize that you will solve this in 10 minutes tops. You know this. You’ve got it. You WILL ace this quiz!

Monday morning. You get the quiz back and to your horror, you got a failing grade! You cannot believe it. What went wrong? You were absolutely convinced that you did it correctly. You followed the tried and true method. Step by step, one equation after the other. There is NOTHING wrong here. You go to the teacher and you ask what you did wrong and he points you to the second line where you made this small, but significant, calculation mistake which rendered everything that came after it a series of errors, culminating in the wrong answer.

That is exactly what the Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad has done with his decision to violently repress the pro-democracy protests in his country. He has made a small, but significant, calculation mistake and all what will follow from it will yield all the wrong answers. The Syrian regime was in an enviable position relative to its counterparts in other Arab countries. The vast majority of the protesters on the streets of Syrian cities were not calling for the president to step down, nor even for the regime to change. Even some of the major opposition intellectuals in Syria and abroad clearly stated they were willing to work with the young president to institute much needed reforms, as long as he was willing to engage in genuine and deep reforms, and initiate the process quickly. Syrians were asking to live in a more free, transparent and responsive political system.

They were asking for a clamp down on corruption and for their basic economic needs to be met. They just wanted to live in dignity and some measure of political freedom. When seen from this perspective the response of the regime is grossly exaggerated and unnecessarily violent. Such a bloody, brutal, response to such relatively modest demands – by comparison to Egypt for instance – can only mean that the regime is excessively paranoid. It also might suggest that major elements within the regime feel directly threatened by any demand for greater freedom, or perhaps more importantly, clamp down on corruption.

Thus, Bashar Al-Assad chose oppression over dialogue and in that he has made his calculation mistake. He used all the right equations from the dictatorship handbook. He is applying them with all the tried and true methods. Yet, once your initial calculation is in error, the answer will be wrong. The calculation error lies in the fact that the Syrian president is neglecting two major issues. First, this is a genuine popular revolt, not an insurrection by militants. Had he responded positively and openly, he would have won the support of his people. As it stands, even if the security forces manage to oppress the uprising for now, the regime, as well as the president himself, have lost any remaining legitimacy in the eyes of the Syrian people.

This means that the rest of his rule will have to rely even more heavily on oppressive measures, making him even more beholden to the old guard and security chiefs within his regime, and making another uprising that much more likely. Second, by oppressing the popular civilian uprising, he in fact strengthens, not weakens, the more fundamentalist elements within Syria and forces the moderates to go underground. Thus, even if there were to be no more popular uprisings, the regime risks dealing with an armed rebellion or even civil war in the not so distant future.

Just like the student in our metaphor, Bashar Al-Assad had a choice and had the time to carefully consider his options and revise his calculations before handing in his decision. Alas, by choosing violent oppression over dialogue, security over democracy, and oligarchy over social justice, he has made a calculation mistake… one that will ensure that whatever answer he arrives at will be the wrong one.

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