Archive | December 4th, 2013

Turkey: The New Model?

NOVANEWS

By: Ömer Taşpınar

Editor’s Note: The following is a chapter written by Ömer Taşpınar from the book, The Islamists Are Coming: Who They Really Are, co-published by the Wilson Center and the U.S. Institute of Peace.

In the twenty-first century, Turkey is arguably the most dynamic experiment with political Islam among the fifty-seven nations of the Muslim world. It also offers seminal lessons for the Arab world, despite the tense history (especially during the Ottoman Empire) and many differences.

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) went through five incarnations before it found a balance that voters would embrace but the military would also accept, albeit reluctantly. Its evolution reflects how democratic traditions and institutions can both interact with and moderate political Islam, at least in one geostrategic country. In Turkey, a tradition of free and fair elections and capitalism has encouraged Islamic parties to play by the rules. Turkey’s radical secularism, enforced by the military, has also tamed the strident religious dogma that once landed Islamic politicians in trouble—and even in prison.

The AKP is a political party with clear Islamic roots. It pragmatically moved to the center-right over a decade, mainly to escape the fate of its defunct predecessors. The party’s success, however, has had little to do with ideological factors. Turkish voters have been primarily concerned with bread-and-butter issues. In June 2011, they once again voted for political stability and rewarded Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for the country’s growing prosperity and better social services, particularly in health care and housing.

The victory for the AKP was historic. It was only the second time since the beginning of Turkey’s multiparty democracy in 1946 that a political party had won three consecutive elections. And it was the first time that a party actually increased its percentage of the vote at each succeeding election. The AKP received 34.28 percent of the vote in 2002. It won 46.58 percent in 2007. And it scored 49.90 percent in 2011.

It was a striking reversal. All previous Islamist parties in Turkey had been shut down by either military intervention or rulings by the constitutional court: The National Order Party, founded in 1970, was banned by the Constitutional Court in 1971. The National Salvation Party, founded in 1972, was outlawed after the 1980 military coup. The Welfare Party, founded in 1983, was banned by the Constitutional Court in 1998. The Virtue Party, founded in 1997, was banned in 2001.

Turkey is notable because its Islamist parties have reemerged, more moderate and pragmatic, after each closure. “Autocratic regimes in the Muslim world often ban religious parties, which then go underground and turn violent. Turkey’s Islamists have taken a different path. Despite being repeatedly outlawed and ejected from power, pious politicians have shunned violence, embraced democracy, and moved into the mainstream,” The Economist noted in 2008. “No Islamic party has been as moderate and pro-Western as the AKP, which catapulted into government in 2002 promising to lead Turkey into the European Union.”

Erdoğan, who founded the party, actually rejects defining the AKP in religious terms. “We are not an Islamic party, and we also refuse labels such as Muslim-democrat,” he said in 2005. The AKP leader instead calls the party’s agenda “conservative democracy.”

The AKP’s journey from political Islam to conservative democracy is not just the result of political expediency or respect for the red lines of Turkish secularism. The evolution of Turkey’s capitalism under the leadership of Turgut Özal in the 1980s created an entrepreneurial Muslim bourgeoisie in the conservative heartland of Anatolia. The new Muslim bourgeoisie had a greater stake in politics—and became more engaged.

These “Islamic Calvinists” have been more concerned about maximizing profits, creating access to international currency markets, and ensuring political stability than about introducing Islamic law or creating a theocracy. Turkey now has thousands of such small and medium-sized export-oriented businesses, often referred to as “Anatolian tigers.” Most support the AKP. Beginning in the 1990s, the party’s assumption of political power gradually moderated the radical elements within Turkish political Islam.

The AKP leadership clearly views the party as a model for other Muslim countries. On June 12, 2011, Erdoğan told thousands who had gathered to celebrate the AKP’s landslide victory, “Sarajevo won today as much as Istanbul. Beirut won as much as Izmir. Damascus won as much as Ankara. Ramallah, Nablus, Jenin, the West Bank, [and] Jerusalem won as much as Diyarbakir.”

The Beginning

The rise of Islamic politics in Turkey was in large part a reaction to the traumatic birth of a modern state after the Ottoman Empire collapsed following World War I. Since the 1920s, Turkey’s official ideology has been Kemalism, which grew out of the ultrasecular views of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic. The Kemalists pursued a top-down project of radical modernization. In an ambitious drive to import European civilization, the republic disposed of the governing caliphate, the Arabic alphabet, Islamic education, and the Sufi brotherhoods that were an important part of both religion and culture.

Kemalist Turkey adopted Western legal codes from Germany, Italy, and Switzerland, together with the Latin alphabet and the Western calendar, Western holidays, and Western dress. The country’s official history and language were reworked. A new education system glorified pre-Islamic Turkic civilizations at the expense of the country’s more recent Ottoman past, and many Arabic and Persian words were purged to create an “authentically” Turkish vocabulary. Even the Arabic azan, the call to prayer, was no longer allowed in its original form and had to be chanted in modern Turkish, to the dismay of pious Muslims.

Yet despite massive reforms, secular Kemalism barely infiltrated Turkish society at large. The rural and pious masses of Anatolia remained largely unaffected by the cultural reengineering in Ankara, in contrast to the military, the bureaucracy, and the urban bourgeoisie, who embraced or adapted to Kemalism’s superficial Westernization. The cultural gap between the Kemalist center and the Anatolian periphery soon became insurmountable. A Kemalist slogan in the 1920s acknowledged that the Turkish government ruled “For the people, despite the people.”

Religious conservatives and ethnic Kurds actively opposed the Kemalist mission to create a Westernized, secular, and homogenous Turkish nation-state. Between 1923 and 1938, the new Kemalist government unleashed its military to suppress a series of Kurdish and Islamist rebellions.

Turkish politics entered a new era after 1946. When the Cold War divided up the world, Turkey’s decision to turn toward the West and join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) fostered a transition to multiparty democracy—and a realignment of political forces between left and right. Kurdish discontent found its place in the socialist left, while political Islam was part of the anticommunist right. Behind the scenes, the military remained a powerful force. It intervened in 1960, 1971, and 1980 to restore a sense of Kemalist order against both leftist and conservative parties.

But in 1991, after the Cold War ended and communism collapsed, Turkey’s identity problems rapidly resurfaced. The right and left were no longer able to absorb the passions of Kurdish and Islamic dissent. Turkey was polarized along two axes: Turkish versus Kurdish identity on the one hand, and Islamic versus secular identity on the other. The result was the “lost decade” of the 1990s—a decade of war with Kurdish separatists, polarization over the role of religious values, economic turmoil, and unstable coalition governments.

Islamist Victories

In 1994, the Welfare Party—the third incarnation of the pro-Islamist Party—shocked the Kemalist establishment by winning local elections nationwide and capturing control of Turkey’s two largest cities, Istanbul and Ankara. The party was headed by Necmettin Erbakan, who had close connections with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. After seven decades, Turkey’s secular tide was ebbing. A year later, the Welfare Party won the largest bloc in parliamentary elections, putting an Islamist-led coalition in charge of the entire country.

The Welfare Party’s victory was short lived. Alarmed that the new government would adopt an overtly Islamic agenda, the military stepped in. Turkey’s generals feared that the government would suppress secular opposition, allow Islamic dress in universities, and abandon Turkey’s Western alliances. In fact, however, the Welfare Party actually adhered to most mainstream Turkish political practices. It did try to plant sympathizers in ministries it controlled, but so had many previous governments. Still, the secular press warned of an imminent Islamist revolution.

On February 28, 1997, the military—with wide backing from civil society and the secular media—forced Erbakan and his party out of power. The bloodless coup had major unintended consequences. It spurred serious soul-searching among Turkey’s Islamists, eventually sparking a generational and ideological rift within the movement.

The Welfare Party’s pragmatic young leaders—notably Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (not to be confused with Erbakan) and Abdullah Gül—recognized the red lines of Turkish secularism. (Erdoğan, then mayor of Istanbul, learned the hard way. In 1999, he spent four months in jail for reciting a poem with Islamic undertones.) After participating in democratic politics for more than three decades, Turkey’s Islamists had already tempered their views to win a wider following at elections. By the late 1990s, political Islam was ready to fully integrate into mainstream politics.

In 2001, Erdoğan created the Justice and Development Party, the fifth and final incarnation of the pro-Islamist party, from the ashes of the dissolved Welfare Party and the Virtue Party. He crafted the term conservative democracy—rather than an Islamic reference—to explain his political agenda. He understood that political liberalization would consolidate the AKP’s power base.

To achieve two crucial objectives, Erdoğan put democratic reforms at the top of his agenda, seeking to comply with European Union (EU) membership guidelines. The move earned him the support of Turkey’s business community, liberal intellectuals, and pragmatic middle class. It also won him political legitimacy in the eyes of the military. After all, European recognition had long been the ultimate prize in Atatürk’s vision of a Westernized Turkey. And by giving priority to social services, the AKP also appealed to the impoverished underclass. Erdoğan’s strategy paid off. In November 2002, the party won the largest bloc of seats in the parliamentary elections.

Reforms

Between 2002 and 2006, the AKP government passed a series of reforms to harmonize Turkey’s judicial system, civil-military relations, and human rights practices with European norms. Through its formidable grassroots network and with governmental institutions now in its hands, the party made health care and housing credits more accessible, distributed food, increased grants for students, improved the infrastructure of poorer urban districts, and made minority rights for Kurds and non-Muslims a priority.

Reforms were not confined to politics. The party also managed to get the Turkish economy back on track after the economic crisis of 2001 by following International Monetary Fund guidelines.

Between 2002 and 2011, the Turkish economy grew by an average rate of 7.5 percent annually. Lower inflation and interest rates led to a major increase in domestic consumption. And the Turkish economy began to attract unprecedented foreign direct investment, thanks to a disciplined privatization program. The average per capita income rose from $2,800 U.S. in 2001 to around $10,000 U.S. in 2011, exceeding annual income in some of the new EU members.

Yet even as the AKP adopted a more liberal order, Kemalist segments of Turkish society grew increasingly suspicious that it had a hidden agenda. They feared that the AKP was exploiting the EU membership process to diminish the military’s political role and, eventually, the Kemalist legacy. They balked, for instance, at AKP measures to increase the ratio of civilians to military officers on the National Security Council, elect a civilian to head the National Security Council, remove military representatives from the boards of the Council of Higher Education and the Radio and Television High Council, and grant broadcasting and cultural rights to Kurds.

On foreign policy, Prime Minister Erdoğan’s willingness to compromise on the question of Cyprus also polarized Turkish politics. The AKP backed a United Nations plan to reunify the island; the military adamantly opposed the plan. The deadlock was an important obstacle to EU membership—and the pro-Islamist party actually appeared more willing to compromise than either the secularists or the military. A subsequent investigation revealed that a military coup over the Cyprus question was barely averted in 2004 because of divisions among the Turkish generals.

Polarization

Turkey’s internal divisions deepened between 2006 and 2008. The AKP had long wanted to lift the ban on Islamic dress—or wearing of headscarves—in universities and end discrimination against graduates of Islamic high schools (such as special criteria for their university entry exams). The AKP had strong popular support for both steps. More than 50 percent of Turkish women covered their heads.

Party leaders preferred to promote reform by building a national consensus rather than by challenging the secularist establishment head-on. But secularists remained wary. They pointed to Erdoğan’s brief attempt to criminalize adultery in 2004, his appointment of religious conservatives to bureaucratic positions, and AKP attempts to discourage the sale of alcohol.

Tensions between the AKP and the military climaxed after Erdoğan announced he would nominate Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül for the presidency. The presidency is a prestigious though ceremonial post—but also the last bastion of secularism in the eyes of the military and the opposition.

On April 27, 2007, the generals staged the country’s first “e-coup.” They posted a warning on the military’s website that “if necessary, the Turkish Armed Forces will not hesitate to make their position and stance abundantly clear as the absolute defenders of secularism.” Given Turkey’s history of military interventions, the note was a thinly veiled threat that a more conventional coup might be in the offing.

In a sign of the AKP’s growing self-confidence, Erdoğan did not back off. He instead decided to defy the generals by calling early elections. The AKP won a landslide victory in mid-2007 with almost 47 percent of the votes—compared with 34 percent in 2002 when it came to power. The election was a public rebuke to the generals.

The AKP crowned its victory when parliament elected Gül to the presidency. But the military shadow still loomed over Turkey. The top brass stayed away from the inauguration. And in 2008, Turkey’s chief prosecutor tried to have the AKP closed on grounds that it pursued an Islamist agenda to subvert the secular republic. The party survived this “constitutional coup” attempt by a whisker. The court voted against closure by just one vote.

Consolidation

Between 2008 and 2011, the AKP consolidated its gains. Despite the political turbulence, Turkey weathered the global financial crisis of 2008 with remarkable success. The economy continued double-digit growth rates in 2009, after a brief recession. By 2012, Turkey’s unemployment rate and budget deficit were at record lows.

In June 2011, the AKP won its third consecutive electoral victory with nearly 50 percent of the vote. The country’s global stature also reached new heights. As uprisings shook the Middle East, reformers in Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Syria, and Tunisia often cited Turkey and the AKP as models.

The AKP also consolidated its supremacy over the military—a first since the creation of the modern state. On July 29, 2011, the military’s chief of staff resigned after a disagreement with Erdoğan about staff promotions. The same day, the heads of the army, navy, and air force requested early retirement. By early 2012, half of all Turkish admirals and one out of ten active-duty generals were in jail for plotting against the government. It was a paradigm shift for a country that had experienced three military coups and constant military meddling for almost a century.

Key Positions
Democracy

The AKP heralds democracy; its more seasoned politicians have participated in free elections for two decades. But Turkey remains polarized, with its opposition parties ever more concerned about creeping authoritarianism and Islamism. Opponents call the government a civilian dictatorship and deplore its use of the judicial system to neuter the military, the opposition media, and rival political parties.

Opposition fears are reflected in the court case against Ergenekon, a shadowy organization with possible ties to the military. The judiciary launched the case in 2007, shortly after AKP’s second electoral victory, claiming that Ergenekon had planned a coup. The prosecutor accused hundreds of military officials, journalists, and political activists of involvement. Leaked documents claimed the Ergenekon network was tied to several bombings and assassinations, which were intended to create chaos and justify a military coup. AKP critics contended that the Erdoğan government used the case to silence its secular opponents. The AKP responded that it did not control the judiciary—which had even tried to ban the party as recently as 2008.

Minorities

The status of Turkey’s Kurdish population has been the AKP’s Achilles’ heel. Kurdish aspirations have been thwarted largely by legal and political obstacles that are the remnants of the 1982 constitution written under military rule. Despite the AKP’s rhetorical commitment to deal with Kurdish expectations, Erdoğan has not spent the political capital needed to expand the limited political space for Turkey’s ethnic groups. He now seems to have resorted to the classic Turkish mantra that there can be no democratization when the country is facing terrorism. As a result, violence has only grown in the Kurdish southeast.

Women’s Rights

The AKP has done nothing formal to alter women’s rights. To the contrary, by pushing for EU membership and harmonizing Turkish laws with European standards, the AKP has eliminated some of the legal obstacles that discriminate against women in the labor market and civil code. But the AKP is also clearly a conservative and patriarchal political party. Erdoğan’s understandings of family values and gender equality are not progressive.

Until recently, the restraints of Turkey’s strong secular constitution impeded observant Muslim women more than secular females. Women who wear hejab, or head covering, were banned from official events and public university classes, for example. Erdoğan sent his two daughters, who cover their hair, to American universities abroad because they could not attend Turkish colleges. In 2011, the AKP changed the legislation dealing with dress codes in public universities and legalized hejab. The restrictive dress code for civil servants, however, remains in place.

The West

AKP leaders claim that membership in the European Union is their strategic priority. Yet the AKP has demonstrated growing self-confidence by expanding Turkey’s reach and diplomatic relations beyond the West. The EU’s reluctance to embrace Turkey formally and the European economic crisis have also led the AKP to look to the Middle East, Africa, Russia, and Central Asia as areas where Turkey can exert soft power—what Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu called Turkey’s “strategic depth.” Analysts dubbed the activist Turkish foreign policy “neo-Ottomanism.”

Yet the AKP had almost no problems in Turkey’s relations with the United States. “Americans used to ask: Who lost Turkey? Now they are busy asking questions about the success of [the] Turkish model,” a senior AKP official quipped. The AKP even decided to host NATO radar installations needed for the new U.S. missile-defense system against Iran.

Israel

For decades, Turkey had the closest relations of any Muslim state to Israel. Under the AKP, Erdoğan even mediated briefly between Israel and Syria during 2007 and 2008. The AKP foreign policy generally sought “zero-problem with neighbors.” But as the AKP deepened Turkey’s ties to Iran and the Hamas government in Gaza—including AKP efforts to facilitate humanitarian aid to Gaza—tensions deepened with Israel. Erdoğan also once called Syrian President Bashar al Assad his “brother,” although after the Syrian uprising began in 2011, Turkey called for Assad to step down. Erdoğan also opened Turkey for Syria’s opposition summits, defecting soldiers, and refugees.

By 2012, Turkey instead seemed to have “zero neighbors without problems,” a senior diplomat said, because of growing problems with neighboring Syria, Iran, and Israel.

The Future

Under the AKP, Turkey is still not a liberal democracy, despite the pattern of multiparty elections. Compared to the lost decade of the 1990s, however, it has become a more multifaceted democracy, with elections, public opinion, opposition parties, parliament, the media, and civil society all exerting more power. For the first time in the republic’s history, Turkey’s performance is also totally in civilian hands. The military, once empowered to check civilian politics, is no longer strong enough either to step in or to threaten to take action. And the party with Islamic roots has undertaken more reforms required for EU entry than any of Turkey’s secular parties.

The AKP government feigned modesty about its standing in the Islamic world. “We are not presenting ourselves as a model,” Erdoğan told an audience of Turkish journalists in 2011. “Maybe we are a source of inspiration or a successful example in some areas.” Yet Turkey’s experience with Islamist politics—no longer simply an experiment—was widely cited both inside and outside the Muslim world.

By 2012, however, the AKP had also exposed serious democratic shortcomings. It increasingly cracked down on its critics, especially those in the media. After a decade in power, Erdoğan had also failed to follow through on promises of a new constitution and reforms that would address pivotal issues facing the country—the Kurdish question, human rights, and freedom of expression. Because of mounting Kurdish terrorism and Erdoğan’s populist instincts, the more power Erdoğan won at the polls, the less interested he appeared in taking those steps.

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Western Sponsored Humanitarian Crisis in Syria: Foreign Supported Insurgency Responsible for Civilian Deaths

NOVANEWS
Global Research

 

Creating a humanitarian crisis in Syria , whether real or fabricated, and holding the Syrian government responsible for it as a casus belli for foreign military intervention under the UN 2005 so-called “responsibility to protect” initiative was from the very eruption of the Syrian conflict the goal of the US-led “Friends of Syria’ coalition.

Foreign military intervention is now ruled out as impossible, but what the Inquirer columnist Trudy Rubin described on last November 29 as “the biggest humanitarian crisis in a decade” was created and this crisis “is worsening and no end is in sight” according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) on November 11.
Objective and non-objective as well as official and non-official reports about the responsibility of the Syrian government are abundant, but that of the insurgents has been for too long covered up and only of late come under the scrutiny of human rights organizations and media spotlight.
The early militarization of civilian protests in Syria aborted all prospects for a long overdue peaceful change in Syria and created the largest humanitarian crisis in the world today.
Militarization opened the Syrian doors wide for foreign military, intelligence and political intervention to turn a national conflict between the haves and have-nots into a regional and international one.
More importantly, unguardedly and grudgingly but knowingly the so-called “Friends of Syria” also opened the Syrian doors to al-Qaeda linked offshoots as an additional weight to enforce a “regime change;” in no time they hijacked the armed leadership of the marginal local armed insurgency and became the dominant military power out of the control of the intervening regional and international powers who financed, armed and logistically facilitated their infiltration into Syria.
The responsibility of the “Friends of Syria,” both Arab and non-Arab, for the militarization and the ensuing humanitarian crisis was highlighted by the US former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s call on Syrian rebels not to disarm as much by the Turkish, Saudi and Qatari opposition to a political solution through the upcoming Geneva – 2 conference next January 22.
When the United States last December added al-Nusra Front to its list of terrorist organizations, topped by al-Qaeda, supposedly to tip the balance in favor of what is called, in US terminology, the “moderates” against the terrorists in the Syrian insurgency, it was a measure taken too late.
The US measure was only a green light for the beginning of another war inside the Syrian war, this time launched by The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Da’āsh) against all others in the insurgency, including al-Nusra Front.
The end result was further exacerbation of the Syrian humanitarian crisis, for which the United States & partner “friends” could not be absolved of responsibility and should be held accountable.
The responsibility of the insurgency, which is politically sponsored, financed, armed and logistically facilitated by them, is now unfolding to uncover the fact that the militarization of the early legitimate peaceful protests has created the largest humanitarian crisis in the world today by the military tactics the insurgents used.
These tactics include mortar shelling of civilian densely populated areas under government control, targeting public services infrastructure of power, oil and gas, hospitals and health clinics, schools and universities, stealing public warehouses of strategic basic food reserves, dismantling and stealing public and private factories, flour mills and bakeries, interrupting or cutting transportation and traffic on highways, assassinations, extrajudicial killings and public beheadings, suicide bombings in city centers, targeting and besieging minorities, destroying and desecrating all religious and historic relics, flooding Syria with tens of thousands of foreign mercenary fighters obsessed by the al-Qaeda-like bizarre interpretations of Islam who violently compete among themselves for local leadership and war exploits because they are controlled by competing foreign intelligence agencies, and subjecting the population who come under their control to their brand of Islamic law courts, fatwas and orders, which dumped women out of society altogether to be reserved only for their sexual needs, etc.
However, exploiting the fact that the regular army was deployed along some seventy miles of the ceasefire line for a confrontation with the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) on the Syrian Golan Heights and trained for a regular warfare, their strategic military tactic was from the start to entrench themselves among the civilian population, using them as human shields, in countryside towns and villages where the army has no presence and where even the police and security agencies maintain minimal presence or none at all.
The early successes of the insurgents were military exploits against peaceful civilians; they were not achieved in military vs. military battles. It was enough for a few rebels to hold any such peaceful town or village hostage, but it needs an army operation to kick them out.
Except for the northern city of ar-Raqqah, which Da’āsh turned into what the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar on last November 8 defined as “Syria’s answer to (Afghanistan’s) Kandahar – the birthplace of the Taliban” since the rebels stormed the city early last March, the Syrian state maintains control and presence in all the major cities.
But the official Arab Syrian Army had been on the defensive for some two years since the eruption of the insurgency in 2011. It needed this time to adapt, train and allocate counter insurgency units to fight in irregular city wars.
Since its strategic victory in al-Qaseer early last June it has gone on the offensive and is rapidly gaining more ground and achieving successive successes ever since.
However, the insurgency bears the main responsibility, mainly during the “defensive” interval, for the civilian plight; waves of refugees and displaced people came out from the areas under their control to find refuge either in government held cities or across the nearest borders with neighboring states. The latest largest wave of refugees of the Syrian Kurds into northern Iraq had nothing to do with government and was caused by infighting among insurgents.
The fact that the Syrian state and government were reacting rather than acting against the insurgency is now coming to light. This fact is now acknowledged by the UK-based opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which reported on this December 3 that it had documented the death of (50,927) government soldiers versus (36228) insurgents including (6261) non-Syrian fighters.
Rebel infiltration into countryside towns and villages was the main reason for more than two million internally displaced civilians who left their homes as soon as they could out of fear either of the rebels themselves and their practices or the inevitable government retaliation. They were taken care of by the government in government shelters.
In addition to Christians and other minorities targeted by the rebels who posture as the defenders of Sunni Islam, most of the refugees and those displaced are Sunni Muslim Syrians and more than one million of them are hosted by their compatriot Alawites in the west of the country, a fact that refutes the narrative of the US government and media about a “civil” and “sectarian” war in the country.

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20 Years after Declaring the International Day of Persons with Disabilities: Deterioration of the Palestinian Disabled Persons’ Conditions Continues

NOVANEWS

Yesterday, 03 December 2013, marked the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. In 1992, at the conclusion of the United Nations Decade of Disabled Persons (1983-1992), the General Assembly proclaimed 3 December as the International Day of Disabled Persons (Resolution 47/3).  This resolution came so as to stress the importance of respecting, advocating and protecting the rights of disabled persons worldwide.  Such rights are based on the general principles of human rights, including the International Bill of Human Rights, which contribute to realizing equality between people without discrimination based on gender, ethnicity, color or social standing.  This occasion coincides with the slogan proclaimed by the UN this year in order to break barriers and open doors for a society that embraces everyone.  The deterioration of disabled persons’ rights in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) systemically continues as a result of the Israeli serious violations against Palestinian rights, in addition to the ongoing internal split, especially in light of non-application of Law No. 4 of 1999 on the right of persons with disabilities and international standards of human rights, including the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

According to data available at the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the number of disabled persons has mounted to around 113,000 persons, forming around 2.7% of the total population.  75,000 of whom live in the West Bank, making up 2.9% of the West Bank total population, and around 38,000 live in the Gaza Strip, making up 2.4% of the Gaza strip total population.  The percentage of disability among males is 2.9% compared to 2.5% among females.  The above data indicates a steady rise in the number of disabled persons in the oPt due to sustaining injuries resulting from the Israeli military attacks since the beginning of Al-Aqsa Intifada in 2000.  According to documentation of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), since the outbreak of the Intifada in September 2000, Israeli forces and settlers have killed 7,017 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, including 5,340 ones in the Gaza strip, and 1,790 ones in the West Bank.  94 civilians have sustained disabilities, including 15 children and 7 females.  Moreover, around 21,496 Palestinians were injured, including 18,262 ones who were injured during al-Intifada and Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip.  More than 600 persons suffered various disabilities especially during the 2008-2009 Israeli offensive and latest Israeli offensive in 2012.  Dozens of injured persons had to undergo amputations of the lower or higher limbs or even both of them.  Additionally, the number of persons with disabilities who were injured in the Gaza Strip mounted to more than 110.

In the Gaza Strip, the rights of disabled persons have continued to deteriorate due to the ongoing Israeli policy of imposing the illegal closure, which is a form of collective punishment banned under the international humanitarian law. Conditions of the disabled persons have worsened due to the deteriorating humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip resulting from the Israeli-imposed tightened restrictions on the freedom of movement of people in addition to the serious and catastrophic shortage of fuel and power supplies, medicines and medical supplies, including assisting medical devices.  This affects the major services offered to disabled persons and denies them access to services of health, water, clean drinking water, environmental health and education and rehabilitation.  Care and rehabilitation associations for persons with disabilities suffer from ongoing crises due to the daily outages of electricity for long hours – around 12-16 hours daily.  These associations fail to offer health services and rehabilitation, which depend on electricity supply.  On the other hand, hundreds of disabled persons are not able to come from their houses to these associations or practice their normal life due to their inability to move, especially persons with mental and physical disabilities who depend on assisting devices when moving.  The Gaza hospitals are unable to provide many health services to disabled persons due to the ongoing electricity outages in these facilities resulting in not turning on hundreds of medical devices required for disabled persons in different medical departments.  The closure imposed on the Gaza Strip since 2007 has resulted in the ongoing deterioration of economic and social conditions of disabled Palestinian persons as they and their families suffer extreme poverty and lack of care and rehabilitation services and necessary medical devices.

Persons with disabilities have suffered the implications of the Palestinian political split for the last 7 years at the level of enjoyment of their civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights.  The economic and social conditions of them increasingly deteriorate due to the non-application of the Palestinian Law no. 4 of 1999 on the rights of disabled persons and absence of well to promote and protect their rights under the international convention on the rights of persons with disabilities.  Standards of living, which these persons and their families should enjoy, have aggravated due to irregular payment of social allowances to them for long periods, which may extend to 4 consecutive months, despite their low financial value.  Disabled persons still suffer poor services included in the card of persons with disabilities in the Palestinian law such as health care services, rehabilitation, education, employment, training, adequate facilities and the easy access to them in addition to their rights in the fields of entertainment, sports, and participation in the cultural life in society.  The disabled have been waiting for the issuance of the disabled card, which gives them access to the main services in the fields of health, rehabilitation, training and education, for over 13 years.

The situation of the rights of disabled persons has deteriorated due to the internal split that resulted in two governments in Gaza and Ramallah. This split hinders any true amendment of policies, measures, legislations and systems, which deny the disabled persons their rights, especially the rights codified in the international instruments relevant to the disabled persons’ rights in general.

On the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, PCHR:

1.     Calls upon the international community to exert pressure on the Israeli forces to put an immediate end to all human rights violations perpetrated against disabled Palestinians, including killing and injury;

2.     Calls upon the international community to ensure Israel’s respect for international human rights, especially those pertaining to the rights of disabled persons;

3.     Calls for an immediate end to the ongoing internal division that has had a catastrophic impact on the rights of Palestinians in general and on the rights of disabled persons in particular; and

4.     Urges the Palestinian Authority to implement the provisions of the Rights of Disabled Palestinians’ Law No. 4 of 1999, and calls upon ministries and governmental organizations to respect the law pertaining to the disabled persons’ quota of at least 5% in the number of employees in these institutions.

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BOYCOTT ZIONIST RACIST G4S

NOVANEWS
Deborah Fink

 

Freelance singer & singing teacher
Dear all,

Despite my complaint a few months ago, Linked in are still advertisng jobs with this notorious human rights abuser.

A few weeks ago, when I saw another job, I tried to revist my complaint but the system wouldn’t let me. Then the job had gone. But today, I found another one so have submitted a new complaint, but quoting the ticket number they gave me last time.

I would be grateful if everyone could submit a everyone, as we need to apply more pressure now.

To complain, you have to scroll down the page and ‘Help Centre’. Then on this page, you click onto ‘contact us’. I think it’s at the top. I daren’t go back to check in case I lose this page.

I’ve pasted on my orginal complaint.

Thanks,

Debbie

I was concerned to see that ‘Linked in’, has advertised job with G4S (for teaching English & Maths). I am asking linkedin, to not advertise jobs with such a disreputable and dangerous company.

G4S are complicit in the occupation of Palestine as they move Palestinians to Israeli jails where their relatives can’t visit them. Palestinian children are detained and torture is carried out in these prisons where G4S provides security.

G4S have been contracted by the Home Office to provide accommodation to asylum seekers. Women & children are detained in such accommodation which is infested with cockroaches, e.g. in Yorkshire. You may remember that G4S killed Jimmy Mubenga, the Angolan asylum seeker, while trying to deport him. This is not the only case where they have killed someone while deporting them.

G4S are also at the forefront of privatisation- they will bid for anything going, e.g. the rape crisis (sexual assault) centre in the Midlands. They are the last company who should be running such a centre!

For more information, please go to stopG4S.net

Posted in ZIO-NAZI, CampaignsComments Off on BOYCOTT ZIONIST RACIST G4S

Indian Scheme of ‘Great Wall’ along LoC in Kashmir

NOVANEWS

By Sajjad Shaukat

With the technological advancement, new era of economic development has changed the world

in a global village. Long-awaited agreement which was concluded between Iran and six world

powers on November 24, this year has endorsed this fact that Tehran is more interested in the

welfare of its people than to continue war of nerves with the US-led European countries on the

issue of its nuclear programme.

Taking cognizance of the modern world trends, Pakistan signed a number of trade agreements

with India, which allowed India exports of multiple items across the Wagah border. During the

visit of India’s External Affairs Minister S M Krishna to Pakistan on September 9, 2012, both

the countries also signed a memorandum of understanding on cultural exchanges in addition to

agreeing on new cross-Line of Control (LoC) Confidence Building Measures related to trade

and travel. It was due to Islamabad’s positive efforts through Aman-Ki-Asha and back door

diplomacy that it is sincere in building bridges of peace with New Delhi. In this regard, while

addressing the recent International Literary Cultural Conference at Lahore, Prime Minister

Nawaz Sharif pledged to resolve all outstanding issues with India besides lifting the visa

restrictions. In the recent past, Pakistani prime minister’s foreign affairs adviser Sartaj Aziz who

visited New Delhi held a meeting with Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid to

defuse tension at the Line of LoC and to restore the peace process. While keeping pressure on

Pakistan, Khurshid said that “the conditions of the dialogue cannot be met till there is peace and

tranquility on the LoC.”

Unfortunately, India has failed to reciprocate with the same spirit to improve relations with

Pakistan. Instead, it has always acted upon duplicity by raising false allegations against Pakistan,

its army and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) for sponsoring terrorism inside India and especially

in the Indian occupied Kashmir. In this respect, recently, tension arose between both the

countries when Indian military conducted a series of unprovoked firings across the LoC, and

international border killing a number of soldiers of Pak Army and innocent civilians in wake of

war-like strategy which still continues. On January 6, 2013, Indian soldiers crossed over the LoC

in Kashmir and attacked a Pakistani check post, killing one Pakistani soldier and injuring many

troops. Similarly, Indian troops also shot dead two Pakistani soldiers on January 10 and 15.

In order to justify its open aggression, India concocted a fabricated story of accusing Pakistan

Army of killing its five soldiers on August 6, 2013. In this context, Indian External Affairs

Minister Salman Khurshid, Defence Minister AK Antony and the opposition fundamentalist

party BJP including Indian media blamed Pakistan Army for killing its five soldiers.

It is mentionable that on September 29, 2013, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held a meeting in the sidelines of the annual UN

summit. Afterwards, Indian National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon told reporters, “Both

agreed that the precondition for forward movement in the relationship, which they both desire,

is really an improvement of the situation on the Line of Control.” However, their dialogue ended

with optimistic note, but in his speech in the General Assembly on September 28, Prime Minister

Singh had allegedly said, “It is equally important that the terrorist machinery that draws its

sustenance from Pakistan be shut down.” Showing New Delhi’s contradictory approach, he also

said that Jammu and Kashmir was an integral part of India, and in this context there could never

Nevertheless, talking about the twin terrorist attacks in the Indian occupied Kashmir, which

targeted a police station and a military camp, killing 14 personnel of army and police, Salman

Khurshid wrecked the Nawaz-Manmohan talks when he blamed Pakistan’s ISI and the army in

While, Indian military high command failed in producing dead bodies of alleged terrorists who

had crossed the LoC from Pakistan to Indian-held Kashmir. The ground realities proved that

it was just propaganda against ISI, and Pak Army, as indicated by the Indian media, Congress

Vice-president Rahul Gandhi and leaders of the Hindu fundamentalist party, BJP.

On the one hand, Indian top officials have been accusing Pak Army and ISI of sponsoring

terrorism in India and the Indian-held Kashmir, on the other, India’s media revealed in

September, this year that on a defence ministry directive, asking for the creation of covert

capability—the military intelligence unit, Technical Services Division (TSD) was set up by the

Indian Army Chief Gen. VK Singh (R), which conducted covert operations in Pakistan. Besides,

in an Indian TV Channel, Gen. VK Singh openly confessed that TSD was raised by India to

operate inside Pakistan, particularly in Balochistan and Azad Kashmir to conduct terrorism and

to bribe the politicians in the Indian-held Kashmir to crush the militancy (Kashmiri freedom

In fact, under the pretext of cross-border terrorism, New Delhi not only suspended the peace

process of dialogue with Pakistan, but also decided to implement its scheme of erecting a Great

Wall along the LoC in Kashmir. A recent report published in the Economic Times disclosed

that Indian authorities are planning to construct a 10-meter high embankment along 198-km

stretch of international border which separates Indian held Kashmir from Pakistan. The security

wall will be higher and wider than both the Berlin Wall and serpentine barrier being created by

Israel. It will be 135-feet wide and will pass through 118 villages of Districts Jammu, Kathua and

Reportedly, initial work on the wall has begun and revenue papers for designated land in 86

villages have been processed to get NOC from the state government. A joint land demarcation

in 44 villages is likely to start soon. Although the total cost estimation has not been made public,

yet it has been decided that Indian Home Ministry will fund the project, while it will be handled

by Border Security Force (BSF).

Nonetheless, besides new pretension of the LoC violations, in the past too, New Delhi availed

various crises to suspend the process of Pak-India talks. For example, in 2002, under the

pretension of terrorist attack on the Indian parliament, India postponed the dialogue process.

Again, in 2008, India suspended the ‘composite dialogue’ under the pretext of Mumbai terror

attacks which were in fact, arranged by its secret agency RAW.

In the recent past, the Indian former officer of home ministry and ex-investigating officer Satish

Verma disclosed that terror-attacks in Mumbai and assault on the Indian Parliament were carried

out by the Indian government to strengthen anti-terrorism legislation, particularly in the Indian

While, Indian top officials have always accused Pakistan of various subversive acts of terrorists,

but it is quite silent over Hindutva (Hindu nationalism) terror which has obtained a new face, as

Indian RAW, country’s high officials and fundamentalist parties have co-relationship.

Particularly, in January 2013, Indian Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde revealed that

organized training camps run by the fundamentalist parties, RSS and BJP were promoting Hindu

Terrorism, and were behind the Samjhauta Express, Meccca Masjid, Ajmer Sharif and Malegaon

blasts. He also disclosed that these parties were involved many times in Hindu Muslim violence

in India, especially Gujarat and Babri Masjid incident.

It is noteworthy that Indian Hindus are followers of Chanakya (Say some thing else and do some

thing else). This fact has been verified by the misdeeds of Hindu fundamentalist parties like

BJP, RSS, VHP, Shiv Sina and Bajrang Dal which have missed no opportunity to communalize

national politics of India even under the Congress rule. With the support of Indian officials

and RAW agents, these parties have been launching anti-Christian and anti-Muslim bloodshed

coupled with the dissemination of Hindutva.

Notably, although the purpose of the Great Wall is to deter cross-border intrusions into the

Indian controlled Kashmir by Pakistan, yet New Delhi intends to conceal its own state terrorism

in Kashmir, and seems determined to keep its illegitimate control on that region. While, with the

help of Israel, India has already built 12-feet high twin fences along the LoC, running parallel to

each other with an eight-foot gap in the middle-filled with coils of razor-sharp concertina wire.

India has also installed special instruments like thermal imagers and sensors to make the fence

impregnable. In this context, the construction of the Great Wall will symbolize the by-gone days

of the Cold War. Such a decision not only runs against the demands of time, but also uncovers

real face of New Delhi-indicating Indian deep seated animosity and hatred against Pakistan.

India must know that Kashmir is a disputed territory and it would be illegitimate to erect such a

Great Wall which would also further stretch distance between the people of Kashmir, living both

sides of the LoC which divides Azad Kashmir and Indian occupied Kashmir. This scheme will

also be rejected by the Kashmiri people, as they desperately desire to have closer contacts with

their Kashmiri brethren across the LoC.

Regrettably, Indian war-like diplomacy, followed by another move like the scheme of Great

Wall will further escalate tension between New Delhi and Islamabad. It is likely to take them

away from the peace process by creating obstacles in the practical solution to their bilateral

issues, particularly of Kashmir. This plan could further intensify arms race between both the

neighboring nuclear countries, ultimately resulting into regional instability, turning hope for

peace and prosperity into state of distress.

Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants,

Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations

Posted in India, Pakistan & KashmirComments Off on Indian Scheme of ‘Great Wall’ along LoC in Kashmir

Druze youth likely headed to prison for conscientious objection

NOVANEWS

Omar Sa’ad reports to Zio-Nazi army induction base and announces his refusal to enlist. He is expected to be sentenced to prison. Sa’ad has declared his refusal to be ‘both nationally and conscientiously motivated.’

“I was  raised  first and  foremost as a human  being, and as such I feel that I cannot possibly aim an assault weapon at any other human being, be it Arab, Jewish or whomever,and so it has always been clear to me that I will not be able to join the army,”  says Omar Sa’ad, a young Druze viola player from the village of Maghar.

Sa’ad is now expected to be sentenced in a disciplinary proceeding to a period of up to one month in  a Nazi military Camp for refusing conscription after reporting to Nazi induction base Wednesday morning.

While Muslim and Christian Arabs with I$raHelli citizenship are exempt from military service, Druze men are required to serve for three years.(Druze women, however, are exempt, as are religious Jewish women.)

Sa’ad was accompanied to the Tiberias induction base, where he was ordered to report, by activists from the Communist party (Hadash), of which he is a member, including MK Mohammad Barakeh. He was also joined by activists from New Profile and Yesh Gvul, along with other young conscientious objectors. Supporters held a small vigil and concert at the gates of the Nazi induction center. One person was detained at the end of the vigil.

Sa'ad, friends and supporters at a vigil and concert outside induction base. Sa'ad on the viola (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

As is the case with most conscientious objectors, Sa’ad is likely to be sentenced, imprisoned and then called for service on the day after his release from prison, whereupon his renewed refusal would lead him back behind bars in a cycle of imprisonment that can go on for an unlimited period of time. Natan Blanc, the last outspoken conscientious objector, had to go through 10 incarcerations and spend half a year in jail before being exempted from military service.

It is known that authorities tend to be harsher with Druze objectors than with Jewish ones.

 “I know I’m  going to prison, and I  know there’s no way of telling how long it’ll be, but I am willing to endure this and not be a part of their army,” 

Sa’ad said his conscientious objection is derived from both a pacifist and humanist agenda, as well as a Palestinian national identity, he explained.

It was over a year ago when Sa’ad was first approached by military authorities and required to report for physical examinations and personal interviews. While Jewish objectors usually show up for these tests and announce their refusal there, it is customary amongst Druze objectors to refuse any kind of cooperation with the Nazi army. Such was the case with Sa’ad—instead of showing up he sent the defense minister and prime minister the following letter:

I refuse [the draft] because I am a man of peace who despises  violence of all sorts; I think the military is based on both physical and mental violence. Since I got the draft order my life has changed, I became more nervous,my thoughts  have  become  distracted, I remembered  thousands of dreadful images, and I couldn’t imagine myself wearing military uniform and participating in  the  suppression of my  Palestinian  people or  fighting my Arab brothers.
'' I oppose recruitment to the IDF and any other army for conscience and nationalistic reasons. I despise injustice and oppose occupation; I loathe intolerance and restriction of freedoms. I hate those who detain children, the elderly and women.I am a musician, I play the viola, I have preformed in many places and I have musician friends in Ramallah, Jericho, Jerusalem, Hebron, Nablus, Jenin, Shfa’amr, Eilabun, Rome, Athens, Amman, Beirut, Damascus, Oslo, and we all play for freedom, humanity and peace, our weapon is the music and we shall not have any other weapon'' .
''I belong to a sect that suffers discrimination by law. How could I fight those who are closest to us, our family members in Palestine, Syria, Jordanand Lebanon? How could I hold a weapon  against my siblings and countrymen in Palestine? How could I be a soldier at Qalandia or any other checkpoint stopping a Ramallah man from entering his  city of Jerusalem when I myself have experienced the wrongs of checkpoints? How could I protect the racist separation fence? How could I be a jailer to my own people when I know that most prisoners are prisoners of justice and freedom ? ''
''I play music of joy, of freedom and of a just peace that is based on the cessation of settlements, an exit of occupiers from Palestine and the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, a release ofprisoners and a return of refugees to their homes.'' 
'' Many in our sect obey the law and enlist—but what has that gotten us? Discrimination on all fronts, poverty in our villages, our lands’ confiscation, a lack of industry. Our villages suffer the lowest rates of university and the highest rates of unemployment. The Security Service Act has detached us from our Arab roots…I will not be fuel to your fire of war and not a soldier in your army.”

Army regulations allow for conscientious objector status only when a candidate to military service declares that he or she is a “complete and utter pacifist” who resists all kinds of violence and not solely the occupation.

Although Sa’ad’s declaration could qualify under these conditions, he was not summoned to the army’s conscientious committee. The only answer he received to the above initial statement of refusal was a letter saying that it “will be taken into consideration.”

The following is a video of Sa’ad speaking with Social TV earlier this year:

 

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UK Must Not Hide Drone War Involvement Behind ‘Special Relationship’, Court Hears

NOVANEWS

WASHINGTON – December 3 – A UK court has heard that fear of damaging its relationship with the US must not be used as an excuse for hiding the truth of British involvement in the CIA’s covert drone war.

The argument was heard in the Court of Appeal in the case of Noor Khan, who is asking the Foreign Secretary to clarify the Government’s position on sharing intelligence for use in CIA strikes, and challenging the lawfulness of such activities.

Mr Khan, from Datta Khel, North Waziristan, lost his father, Malik Daud Khan, in a March 2011 strike which hit a local meeting of elders which had gathered to resolve a chromite mining dispute. Mr Khan is being assisted by human rights charity Reprieve and lawyers Leigh Day in bringing a judicial review of the UK Government’s reported policy of providing support for the CIA’s drone campaign.

The case comes as the Islamabad-based charity Foundation for Fundamental Rights (FFR) files a contempt petition in the Peshawar High Court (PHC) against the Pakistan Government for failing to implement a court decision handed down in May 2013 which demanded that the Government of Pakistan take all possible steps to end US drone strikes.

The case was initially filed by FFR, a sister organisation of Reprieve, on behalf of the families of victims killed in a 17 March 2011 strike on a tribal jirga. In response to the petition, the PHC had declared CIA strikes in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) to constitute a violation of Pakistani sovereignty and a breach of international law. The court had ordered the Pakistani Government to take immediate action to stop future attacks including if need be stopping drones with force.

Kat Craig, Reprieve’s Legal Director, said: “Drones that killed Noor Khan’s father – and have killed hundreds more civilians in Pakistan – are the US’ weapon of choice in their illegal ‘war on terror’. The UK government is wilfully refusing to reveal whether and how they facilitate this secret war. Fear that our friends in the US will be annoyed is nothing like an acceptable excuse for continuing to keep these details under wraps.”

Commenting on the petition in the Pakistan High Court, Shahzad Akbar, Director of the Foundation for Fundamental Rights and Reprieve fellow, said: ‘After the orders of the PHC and election of a new government, victims of drone strikes were hopeful for the implementation of their fundamental right to life. Unfortunately the new government seems to be a continuation of the old system which does not adhere to the rule of law and therefore it is up to the Court to gets its orders implemented.’

Posted in UKComments Off on UK Must Not Hide Drone War Involvement Behind ‘Special Relationship’, Court Hears

I$raHell criticism of Iran deal ‘frustrating’ White House

NOVANEWS

Netanyahu and Obama in frequent ‘businesslike’ telephone contact over Iranian nuclear agreement, report says

Times of Israel

The White House has been left “very frustrated” by the recent public criticism by Israeli officials of last week’s interim nuclear deal between Iran and Western powers, according to a Tuesday report that cited US officials close to the Obama administration.

The US is attempting to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue through diplomacy and sanctions, but is “not determined to avoid a confrontation with Iran at any price,” as some Israeli officials have said, according to a Tuesday article in the Haaretz daily.

“We understand that on the Iranian issue there is public support in Israel for a hard line,” a senior US official told the paper. He added that the administration was “not looking to avoid a confrontation with Iran… but there is a window where sanctions, new leadership in Iran and international unity give us a chance to solve this thing diplomatically more than any time before. We got our leverage and we want to use it.”

The disagreement between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama over Iran is something the US administration has “learned to live with” and is not seen as “a crisis,” according to the report, which noted that dialogue between the two countries remained frequent and “businesslike.”

The senior official said that “we understand that Netanyahu will always take a harsh public line on Iran” but noted that “disagreements on the interim agreement harm our cooperation over the more important thing,” namely, the comprehensive agreement with Iran over its nuclear future, to be drawn up over the next six months.

The interim agreement, announced early last week, sets a six-month limit for Iran and the West to agree on a final status agreement regarding Iran’s nuclear power. In the meantime, the interim deal rolls back some of the economic sanctions imposed on Iran, in return for increased international inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities and a limit to uranium enrichment by the Islamic Republic.

The prime minister and other Israeli officials have been publicly critical of the interim deal, saying that it does not go far enough in reducing Iran’s nuclear capability.

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I$raHell among most corrupt developed states, study finds

NOVANEWS

israeliflag

Times of Israel

Israel is perceived by local experts as being among the most corrupt in the developed world, according to a global survey of 177 countries released Tuesday by the watchdog group Transparency International.

Transparency International’s annual Corruption Perceptions Index, which surveys countries based on local and international experts’ opinions of public sector corruption, ranks more than four-fifths of countries in the Middle East below 50 on a 100-point scale in which zero is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean.

Israel received a score of 61, well above the global average of 43 and the Middle Eastern average of 37. The figure placed Israel as the 36th-least corrupt country — by perception — out of the 177 in the survey, a rise of three spots since the last study, but came in at 23rd-least corrupt among the 34 OECD member countries.

The survey also found that Israelis feel that political parties, religious institutions and civil servants are among the most corrupt entities in the country. A full 79 percent of respondents felt that political parties were corrupt or extremely corrupt, 73% said religious bodies were corrupt, and 60% said public officials and civil servants were corrupt.

In comparison, only 21% said the IDF was corrupt or extremely corrupt, 33% said the judiciary was corrupt, and 49% said business was corrupt.

Three countries in the region that have faced persistent upheaval dropped notably in the rankings over the past year, with Yemen’s rating falling five points to 18, Syria dropping nine points to 17, and Libya down six points to 15. Iraq also dropped from 18 to 16.

Israel’s ranking has remained relatively stable and is “not bad,” said former state comptroller and retired judge Micha Lindenstrauss, who heads Transparency International’s Israel branch, but he still called on the government to “increase transparency in its operations.” Israel must do “everything it can” to increase its standing among the OECD nations, Lindenstrauss told Army Radio on Tuesday.

The index measures the perception of corruption in the public sector.

Christoph Wilcke, Transparency’s director for Middle East and North Africa, said that there is a general feeling of corruption across the board in the Middle East, including police, judiciary, and government procurement offices.

“Imagine what it takes for a country to root out corruption — it always takes institutions with people in them who have levels of integrity and a system of independent oversight,” he said.

“In conflict situations, all of that goes out of the window right away… almost all sectors entrusted with public government functions are seen as corrupt,” Wilcke added.

Denmark and New Zealand tied for first place with scores of 91, followed by Finland, Sweden and Norway. Australia and Canada tied in ninth with scores of 81. Britain was 14th with 76 and the United States tied with Uruguay in 19th place with a score of 73.

Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia tied for last place with scores of 8.

The survey, first conducted in 1995, draws on a variety of sources that capture perceptions of corruption, including World Bank and World Economic Forum assessments, the African Development Bank’s governance ratings, and Transparency International’s own Bribe Payers Survey.

Greece, one of the countries hit hardest by the European financial crisis, ranked in 80th place with a score of 40, though that was still an improvement of four points over last year’s result. By contrast Spain, whose economy is also suffering, dropped six points to 59 points and placed 40th on the list.

Transparency’s Western Europe coordinator, Valentina Rigamonti, said that while Spain has seen several scandals and has approved little new anti-corruption legislation, Greece has announced an anti-corruption drive, convicted a former minister on embezzlement charges and has taken other action.

“These are really little steps in the fight against corruption but they are signs the government is trying to do something,” Rigamonti said. “The government showed they can do something but now, and in the long term, we need to see some more changes — especially in implementation.”

Most significant in Europe, however, is that the perception in most countries changed very little, she said.

“It’s stagnation and governments need to act more,” Rigamonti said. “Corruption is still a big problem in Europe.”

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Yair Lapid: Discord with US over Iran deal is a ‘family dispute’

NOVANEWS

Israel has ‘earned the right to be more concerned than anyone else,’ says finance minister, adding that he knows the ‘US means well’

Times of Israel

Israel’s very public disagreement with the US over the interim nuclear deal signed in Geneva between Iran and world powers last weekend is a dispute “within the family,” Finance Minister and Yesh Atid party head Yair Lapid said Monday.

In an interview with CNBC, Lapid lauded Israeli-American ties, stressing that “the kind of intimacy we have with the United States government” is “maybe [Israel’s] most strategic asset.”

“I think it’s OK to have disputes within the family as long we keep it within the family — I think we’re still in the framework of [being] within the family,” Lapid repeated in an attempt to calm the tensions that have flared between the Netanyahu government and the Obama administration since the P5+1 world powers and Iran began meeting in the Swiss capital last month to hammer out a deal that would curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for eased international sanctions.

“We understand the US means well and is doing its best under very complicated circumstances [but] we think we have earned the right to be listened to,” Lapid insisted.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has publicly slammed the Geneva interim accord with Iran, signed early last week, as a “historic mistake.” And officials in Jerusalem have repeatedly castigated President Barack Obama for overseeing a failed negotiating process with Iran under which, they claim, Iran’s nuclear weapons drive is not being thwarted while the sanctions pressure against Iran is collapsing.

“I would like to dispel any illusions. Iran aspires to attain an atomic bomb,” Netanyahu said while on a state visit to Italy Sunday, adding that he would not be silent” when “interests vital to the security of Israel’s citizens are in danger.”

The US has issued its own retorts, with US Secretary of State John Kerry taking to the airwaves last week to say that the deal in fact made Israel safer. “You have to be able to show that you’ve gone through all of the diplomatic avenues available before considering other alternatives,” he said during an interview with ABC News.

Others weren’t quite so diplomatic, with one unnamed senior White House official calling Netanyahu’s reaction to the deal “weak” and “desperate.”

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert launched a public attack against Netanyahu Sunday for his “utterly misguided” policy of publicly confronting the United States, accusing him of causing an unprecedented and acutely dangerous rift in bilateral diplomatic relations.

“We’ve declared war on the American government. You can’t deny this,” Olmert said at panel discussion at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.

Israel has “earned the right to be more concerned than anyone else,” Lapid stressed.

“People have to remember that when they wonder why we have been so loud against this agreement with Iran. For us it’s not academic or theoretical, it’s existential. Here’s a regime that’s been loud about its wish and commitment to the destruction of Israel,” he said.

The Israeli government has been a strong advocate of increased sanctions on Iran despite the deal, lobbying Congress to pass a new bill that would see additional punitive measures imposed on the Islamic Republic.

Earlier Monday, the Washington Post revealed that “a bipartisan juggernaut of senior senators” was currently working through the Thanksgiving recess to forge a new agreement aimed at passing a new sanctions bill against Iran before Christmas — a move the Obama White House has strongly urged against, arguing that it could thwart talks to reach a final deal with Tehran on curbing its nuclear program, set to begin in January.

“Our view is that passing these sanctions during the life of the negotiations would complicate the negotiations in a number of ways,” said an administration official quoted in the report.

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