Archive | December 27th, 2013

UN Officials: We Demand Answers for US Wedding Massacres in Yemen


Special Rapporteur Juan Méndez: ‘A deadly attack on illegitimate targets amounts to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment’

– Sarah Lazare, staff writer

Children gather near car destroyed in 2012 by a U.S. drone air strike in Azan, in the southeastern Yemeni province of Shabwa. (Photo: Reuters / Khaled Abdullah / Files)A suspected U.S. drone strike that killed 16 civilians attending a wedding in Yemen violates humanitarian law and must be accounted for, declared UN experts on Thursday.

“A deadly attack on illegitimate targets amounts to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment if, as in this case, it results in serious physical or mental pain and suffering for the innocent victims,” said Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Méndez, according to a UN statement.

“If armed drones are to be used, States must adhere to international humanitarian law, and should disclose the legal basis for their operational responsibility and criteria for targeting,” said Christof Heyns, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. “Yemen cannot consent to violations of the right to life of people in its territory.”

Local security officials report that 16 civilians were killed and over 10 injured when drone missiles struck two wedding processions on December 12.

Despite this mass civilian death, confirmed in numerous media reports, the U.S. government has so far refused to disclose information on the legality, targets, and victims of these strikes.

The Obama administration has been famously secretive about the covert drone wars of the United States while claiming that their civilian death count is low, despite reports from Bureau of Investigative Journalism researchers who have documented high numbers of civilian deaths in Pakistan and Yemen

As Tom Engelhardt recently pointed out, while much media reported that the wedding was an “unlikely target” that was struck mistakenly, there is in fact nothing unlikely or unique about this wedding tragedy.

According to “the count of TomDispatch, this is at least the eighth wedding party reported wiped out, totally or in part, since the Afghan War began and it extends the extermination of wedding celebrants from the air to a third country — six destroyed in Afghanistan, one in Iraq, and now the first in Yemen,” writes Engelhardt. “And in all those years, reporters covering these “incidents” never seem to notice that similar events had occurred previously.”

He adds, “The only thing that made the Yemeni incident unique was the drone. The previous strikes were reportedly by piloted aircraft.”

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Majority of I$raHell Public Wants to Teach Peace: Poll


‘It would seem that the public is more open to the Palestinian narrative than some of its political leaders’

– Common Dreams staff

A mural promotes peace in Palestine. (Photo: mkream/ cc via Flickr)A new survey out Wednesday found that, contrary to the actions of their political leaders, the majority of the Israeli public favors teaching peace in schools and believes the Palestinian narrative should be presented to students.

According to the findings, which were presented at an education conference at Tel Aviv University, 64.5 percent of those polled agree with the notion that the Palestinian narrative should be introduced to the students and 51 percent agree that schools must present information describing Palestinian culture and society favorably in an attempt to expand knowledge about them.

Similarly, 60.2 percent are opposed to the ban on teaching “the events connected to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict showing the Jews in a negative light,” writes Haaretz reporting on the survey conducted last week by Hamidgam Project Ltd.

“It would seem that the public is more open to the Palestinian narrative tha[n] some of its political leaders,” said Prof. Daniel Bar-Tal of Tel Aviv University, one of the conference organizers. The seminar was held to discuss the extent to which the Israeli school system should teach peace.

According to Bar-Tal, these findings contradict recent actions of the country’s education leaders.

“In recent years,” he said, “the Education Ministry has rejected textbooks that tried to present both narratives, and every time some right-wing politician thought that Jewish schoolchildren were exposed to a different narrative, he or she would raise a hue and a cry, to the extent that one couldn’t utter the word “nakba” [“disaster” in Arabic, referring to the establishment of Israel.]”

Haaretz continues:

The results of the survey indicate that 82.5 percent of the public agrees that teaching openness and critical thinking must be a major goal of the school system, while 71.3 percent oppose the assertion that it is necessary to wait with such education “as long as the conflict with the Palestinians is unresolved, in order not to undercut our position.”

A similar number, 72.9 percent, believes that Israel and the Palestinian Authority must coordinate their tuition, in order to present the other side in a more positive light and to begin teaching for peace before an agreement is reached. In addition, 67.9 percent are convinced that the school system should regularly arrange meetings between Jews and Arabs as part of the curriculum.

However, Haaretz reports that along the “surprising” support for peace, 65.5 percent of the respondents said they also believe that the school system must “teach Jewish and Zionist values without taking a critical stance” and 81.1 percent oppose the idea of teaching the younger generation that Judea and Samaria in the occupied West Bank are not a part of the State of Israel—stances that Bar-Tal said resemble the “positive attitude in principle that the Jewish public shows towards democracy, which comes to an abrupt end when we’re talking about giving equal rights to Arabs who are citizens of the State of Israel.”

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Egypt Designates Muslim Brotherhood as “Terrorist Organization” in Attempt to Crush Dissent

by Juan Cole

A file photo dated April 2011 shows the then Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohammed Badie (3rd row, 3-left) standing amongst members of the group’s Shura Council as they pose for a group photo after their meeting in Cairo, Egypt. Egyptian state television reported today that the Egyptian government has labeled the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group. The government on has blamed the Muslim Brotherhood for an attack that targeted a regional police headquarters in northern Egypt which killed 15 people and injured more than 130. Photograph: EPA/Khaled Elfiqi

Supporters of ousted Egypt’s Islamist President Mohammed Morsi chant slogans during a rally, in Nasser City, Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, July 4, 2013. (Credit: AP/Hassan Ammar)In Egypt, the interim appointed government of Prime Minister Hazem Biblawi, backed by the military junta that made the coup of July 3, on Wednesday formally categorized the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. The decree was published by the feared Interior Ministry (kind of like US FBI but with torture) on its Facebook page.

It was a startling further turnaround in the fortunes of the Muslim Brotherhood, founded in 1928 by schoolteacher Hassan al-Banna as a form of political Islam (injecting religion into politics). After being semi-banned during the presidency of Hosni Mubarak (r. 1981-2011), the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party was recognized as legitimate. It won the parliamentary elections of late fall 2011 and in June of 2012 its standard-bearer, Muhammad Morsi, won the presidency. After a year in office, Morsi’s heavy-handed and sectarian ruling style and a shrinking economy had turned millions of Egyptians away from him. In late June massive public demonstrations demanded that he stand for a recall election. On July 3, the powerful Egyptian officer corps intervened to place Morsi under arrest and to conduct a nationalist coup against Brotherhood rule. In the aftermath, 2000 high Brotherhood officials were arrested, and major sit-ins were cleared by main force, leaving about 1,000 dead (thought that number includes some police shot dead by Brotherhood snipers).

In the six months since late June, the Brotherhood has gone in Egyptian law from a legitimate party that won free and fair elections to a mere terrorist plot.

Al-Shorouk Online reports in Arabic that Muslim Brotherhood “activity” is now prohibited as ipso facto a form of terrorism. That is, if Muslim Brotherhood women hold a coffee klatch and discuss worship, they are now engaging in terrorism. It is also terrorism to preach in favor of the organization orally or in writing or any other medium, and it is terrorism to donate funds to the organization.

Continuing to assert that you belong to the Muslim Brotherhood after today makes you a terrorist. The Egyptian government has conveyed its decision to other Arab nations that signed the 1998 anti-terrorism convention.

The armed forces and the police have been charged with with protecting universities and guaranteeing that students will not be safe from the terrorism of this group, and that public edifices are secure.

The decree justified this Draconian step with reference to the blowing up of the security directorate in the provincial city of Mansoura, which killed some 14 persons and wounded 140, some of them high-ranking police or domestic security officials. Yet the placing of the Brotherhood in the category of terrorist organization was carried out, al-Shorouk notes, before any formal inquiry into the Mansoura bombing and before there was clear evidence of Brotherhood involvement.

Muslim Brotherhood activists, undeterred, announced that they would publicly demonstrate on Friday without a permit against the decree, under the rubric of “The coup is terrorism.”

Egyptians on social media pointed out that the military government of Col. Gamal Abdel Nasser (r. 1954-1970) had attempted similarly to ban and extirpate the Muslim Brotherhood but had failed.

The core support for the Brotherhood probably stands at around 20% of the country, and obviously another 31%, not themselves adherents of political Islam, would be willing to vote for or support the Brotherhood’s civil party under the right circumstances. If the US declared 20% of Americans terrorists, that would be 60 million people and it would cause a lot of trouble to attempt to marginalize them all.

Other Egyptians on Facebook or Twitter expressed the conviction that the military government stigmatized the Brotherhood in this way so as to have a way of damning any sort of oppositional activist as a terrorist.

Dalia Ziyada of the Ibn Khaldoun Center for Human Rights asked President Adly Mansour to define more exactly what terrorism is and how the category is arrived at, and asked him to issue a list of terrorist organizations in Egypt. She vowed to continue to try to get the US and Europe also to brand the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization.

Muhammad Abu Hamid, a former member of parliament, accused the April 6 Youth Organization, a secular left-of-center group, of having been a mere tool whereby the Brotherhood overthrew the Egyptian government.

This sort of accusation shows the ways in which, once one major political group in Egypt is made taboo, the taboo can be spread to other, unrelated groups merely because they oppose the military government.

The true enormity of what Egypt’s military junta did on Christmas Day, 2013, won’t become apparent immediately. But over time it will likely destabilize the country and contribute to a revival of political Islam and of Muslim terrorism.

It will also further damage the prospects of democracy in the region. Why would any group risk playing the democratic game if they thought at any moment all their electoral victories could be wiped out and they could find themselves behind bars (after having had the presidency!) and accused of terrorism.

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Obama’s New Normal: The Drone Strikes Continue


There has been yet another violent attack with mass casualties. This was not the act of a lone gunman, or of an armed student rampaging through a school. It was a group of families en route to a wedding that was killed. The town was called Radda—not in Colorado, not in Connecticut, but in Yemen. The weapon was not an easy-to-obtain semiautomatic weapon, but missiles fired from U.S. drones. On Thursday, Dec. 12, 17 people were killed, mostly civilians. The London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism has consistently tracked U.S. drone attacks, recently releasing a report on the six months following President Barack Obama’s major address on drone warfare before the National Defense University (NDU) last May. In that speech, Obama promised that “before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured—the highest standard we can set.” The BIJ summarized, “Six months after President Obama laid out U.S. rules for using armed drones, a Bureau analysis shows that covert drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan have killed more people than in the six months before the speech.” In a nation that abhors the all-too-routine mass killing in our communities, why does our government consistently kill so many innocents abroad?

One significant problem with assessing the U.S. drone-warfare program is its secrecy. U.S. officials rarely comment on the program, less so about any specific attack, especially where civilian deaths occur. As Obama admitted in the speech, “There’s a wide gap between U.S. assessments of such casualties and nongovernmental reports. Nevertheless, it is a hard fact that U.S. strikes have resulted in civilian casualties.” The BIJ’s estimate of the death toll from U.S. drone strikes during the past 12 years in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia is well over 4,000.

While the U.S. media shower attention on the hypothetical prospects that in the next few years, will deploy clever little drones to deliver your holiday orders, it is important to take a hard look at what these airborne robots are actually doing now. “Democracy Now!” correspondent Jeremy Scahill has been exposing U.S. covert warmaking for years, most recently in his book and film “Dirty Wars.” The film was just shortlisted for an Oscar for best documentary. After the Academy Award nomination was made, he told us, “I hope that people pay attention to these stories, that Americans will know what happened to the Bedouin villagers in al-Majalah, Yemen, where three dozen women and children were killed in a U.S. cruise missile strike that the White House tried to cover up.”

In his NDU address, Obama said, “We act against terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat to the American people.” Neither Obama nor any of his aides have explained just what kind of threat the wedding convoy presented to the American people. The government of Yemen, following local custom, made reparations to the victimized families, reportedly delivering 101 Kalashnikov rifles and a little over $100,000.

These rural villages in Yemen are caught in the middle of a violent conflict, as Human Rights Watch wrote in an October report titled “Between a Drone and Al-Qaeda.” Just one month to the day before Obama gave his address at the NDU, Farea al-Muslimi, an eloquent young Yemeni man who spent a year attending a U.S. high school, spoke before a congressional hearing. Six days before he testified, a drone strike hit his village of Wessab. Farea said: “What Wessab’s villagers knew of the U.S. was based on my stories about my wonderful experiences here. … Now, however, when they think of America, they think of the terror they feel from the drones that hover over their heads, ready to fire missiles at any time. What the violent militants had previously failed to achieve, one drone strike accomplished in an instant. There is now an intense anger against America in Wessab.” He ended his testimony with the hope that “when Americans truly know about how much pain and suffering the U.S. air strikes have caused … they will reject this devastating targeted killing program.”

The scenes of senseless violence in the U.S. form a list of sorrow and loss: Columbine, Tucson, Aurora, Newtown, Littleton. With the ongoing work of committed activists, courageous journalists and responsible officials, perhaps Americans will recite as well the names Gardez, Radda, al-Majalah, Mogadishu and the many more sites of drone strikes still cloaked in secrecy.

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5th anniversary of the Zio-Nazi Holocaust in Gaza

Special Report on Palestinian Political Prisoners and detainees from the Gaza Strip
Since1967 the Israeli occupation arrested more than 700,000 Palestinians, 250,000 of whom were residents of the Gaza Strip making up 35% of all arrests, a high percentage considering the small size of the Strip, and the small population compared to the number of Palestinians in the West Bank and 1948 occupied Palestine.
Numbers today: 
By the end of October 2013 around 4,996 Palestinian political prisoners and detainees and prisoners in Israeli jails, 386 from the Gaza Strip. Amongst them who have been in detention for over 25 years. Prisoners from Gaza are often in ill health, isolation and have life sentences, as well as other prisoners who although their sentences have ended but still in detention which comes under the ‘Unlawful Combatant’ Law.
What is noteworthy is that the Israeli occupation adds to the total systematic violations against Palestinian political prisoners and detainees, three additional violations specific and dedicated against prisoners from the Gaza Stip.
Gazan detainees have been prevented from receiving visits from family members from July 2007 until May 2012 after Gilad Shalit swap deal.They also face insistence that they be treated according to ‘Unlawful Combatant’ laws. In addition, tens of Gazans are abducted due to Israeli invasions and detained without charge under the pretext of crossing the boarders of the land and sea blockade imposed upon the Strip seven years ago.
Collective Punishment Policy:
 Since the capture of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2006 by Palestinian faction groups, Israel imposed a collective punishment policy against Palestinian political prisoners and detainees. Gazan prisoners were also victims of this policy as the occupation approved in July 2007 a legislation that would ban prisoners from the Gaza Strip from receiving any visits from their relatives and loved ones.
More than two thousand Gazan prisoners were affected since the enforcement of this law in 2007, while number of them still suffer this ban.
This move has seen a lot of condemnation and denunciation from Palestinian and International organisations and bodies which all called for real pressure to be exerted upon Israel to end such blatant violations of prisoner rights. Such violations contradict entirely with the Fourth Geneva Convention where it is clearly stated in Article number (116) that prisoners have the right to be periodically and routinely visited at least once every two months. Human rights activists also regarded the Israeli occupation’s insistence to impose collective punishment policies as ones that would further establish Israel’s image as a racist entity which still employs
The ‘Unlawful Combatant’ Law an Illegitimate Law: 
 In 2002, the Israeli occupation authorities enacted the ‘Unlawful Combatant’ law in an attempt to give false legitimacy to its repressive practices against prisoners, and to evade any legal accountability for stripping them of their legal and humanitarian rights.
The law defines unlawful combatants as ‘persons acting against the security of Israel’, a loose definition which the occupation authorities made to be used as a pretext against Palestinian prisoners whenever it wanted.
The law gives the Israeli army broad powers to arrest and indict Palestinian citizens for indefinite periods without filing an indictment or presenting evidence of conviction before the courts, and of course without the detainee or his lawyers knowing the reason for the arrest.
The Israeli occupation had stepped up the use of this law against the people of the Gaza Strip since 2007 when it declared Gaza as ‘hostile entity’, and started treating detainees on the basis of this law and not as ‘prisoners of war’. This is a fact that human rights activists consider an evasion of international humanitarian laws where the occupation escapes from legal accountabilities with respect to the rights of these detainees. This presents clear evidence of Israeli violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
The Fourth Geneva Convention confirms under articles 66, 71, 72, 73 and 74 the right of a detainee to receive a fair trial before an independent body, as well as his/her rights to be informed of the charges against him/her and to defend or assign a lawyer to defend him/her. Israel absolutely violates this through its enforcement of the ‘Unlawful Combatant’ law.
Through monitoring of these violations under the pretext of the new law, it was found that 15 prisoners were arrested and dealt with according to this law during the war on Gaza in late 2008. It should be noted that this figure is that of documented cases only and that the occupation often conceals the true figures for such cases.
By mid of 2011, 6 prisoners from the Gaza Strip had completed their sentences but remained imprisoned under the excuse that they were unlawful combatants, another violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention which states in articles 132 and 134 that prisoners have the right to be freed immediately after his/her sentence finishes.
Frequent kidnapping of fishermen: 
 The Oslo Peace agreement that was signed between the Palestinian Authority and Israel states that Palestinian fishermen are permitted the sail to a depth of 20 miles from the shores of Gaza. The Israeli occupation did not commit to this agreement, and ever since the agreement was signed began reducing the sailing distance stipulated by the agreement.
Today, Israeli forces do not permit Gazan fishermen from sailing a distance of more than 3 miles, although the minimum distance to make fishing possible is no less than 10 miles into the sea. Gaza’s fishermen now constantly face shooting, shelling, raids on their boats and arrests from the Israeli naval forces. Seven fishermen were kidnapped by the occupation during January 2012 alone.

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The NSA Paid to Steal Your Private Data

A Criminal Government at Work

As the people of this country, and much of the world, observe the year-end holidays, we can look back on 2013 as the year when any illusion of genuine democracy was dashed by the remarkable revelations about the police-state surveillance that watches us. Last week, we saw a deeply disturbing stroke added to that incrementally developing picture.

In the ever-expanding and groan-provoking saga of the NSA’s attack on our privacy, it was revealed that the agency paid a major Internet security firm to insert a flawed encryption formula into the company’s software. The news, sparked by leaks from Edward Snowden and first reported by Reuters [1], raises serious questions about the security of popular encryption programs and indicates that the U.S. government was consciously involved in massive and very destructive fraud.

The revelations indicate that the NSA paid $10 million to RSA, one of the most prominent encrytion software companies in the world, to include the NSA’s own encryption formula in a very popular and heavily used encryption product called “Bsafe”. While Bsafe offers several encryption options, the default option (the one you use if you don’t specifically choose any) is the NSA’s own code.

The massive attack on encryption by the NSA has been reported before but this recent revelations about payments made demonstrate an intentionality to defraud and a complete disregard for the law, honesty and people’s rights. RSA offered a partial and fairly weak statement[2] of defense. The NSA has yet to comment.

“Encryption” is a computerized function, ubiquitous on the Internet, that scrambles data so it can’t be read unless the reader has a “key”, a small piece of computer code that the encryption program uses to “decrypt” the data and render it readable. Some of us use it to encrypt email, do Internet chat or voice-over-IP communications (an Internet telephone protocol). Most of us have probably used it to send data like credit card numbers when we purchase something. It’s the thing that makes private communications on the Internet private.

Nothing revealed indicates that encryption itself doesn’t work. In fact, the NSA’s attack on encryption is proof of strong encryption’s usefulness and security. The agency didn’t “crack” encryption; it apparently can’t. Rather it developed its own, faulty encryption code that allowed it to read data encrypted using that code. Then it paid RSA to use that code in its products. To understand how this works, we have to understand RSA standard encryption.

The fact that it’s called RSA encryption shows how prominent the products of this company are. RSA encryption uses a two-key system. When you start working with the encryption program, it generates your public key (a string of numbers and letters) and an accompanying “private key”. You let everyone know your public key; mine is on my business card. You *never* let anyone know your private key.

If I want to send you an encrypted message, I get your public key and use software that will encrypt the data using that key — encryption software lets me keep a library of people’s public keys so it can do the encryption automatically. You receive what I sent and then apply your private key (which is stored on your server or computer) to decrypt the data and read it. All of this happens in seconds and it is absolutely foolproof — unless, of course, the company that made the software uses a key generating method that allows it to decrypt the message without having anyone’s private key.

It’s like building door locks that can all be opened with a special key. That’s what the NSA designed and it paid RSA to include that “backdoor” in its software and offer that version of the encryption scheme as the default on its Bsafe programs.

What’s disturbing is that millions of computers use Bsafe (and many more use some RSA-based encryption method). What is even more disturbing is that many of the programs that use “Bsafe” are for Androids and other cell phones: devices rapidly becoming the information device of choice for many people all over the world. But what’s most disturbing is that this piece of technological flim-flam may not be limited to Bsafe or even to RSA programs. Other companies that build widely-used encryption include Symantec, McAfee, and Microsoft and experts now suspect the NSA may have bribed them as well.

“You think they only bribed one company in the history of their operations?” asked Bruce Schneier, one of the world’s premier information security experts [3]. “What’s at play here is that we don’t know who’s involved. You have no idea who else was bribed, so you don’t know who else you can trust.”

The NSA has frequently said its only purpose in data capture and analysis is to catch criminals and terrorists. Most Americans would consider that a legitimate, even laudatory, goal of law enforcement. But when you capture information on everyone to catch the criminal, law enforcement is operating like a police state. Captured information is usually stored and having information on everyone’s communications is against the law and there’s a reason for that. When a government decides that legal activity you’re involved in is now illegal, it can use that data to repress that activity and the history of governments is that they will frequently declare illegal such activities as organizing against their policies.

That’s why the Constitution stricty forbids this type of data gathering under the First and Fourth amendments: the states that united to approve the constitution didn’t trust a central government with the power to intrusively and massively gather information on its citizens.

The use of encryption means that the intent of the data exchange, particularly with email, is to be private. People speak to each other in privacy all the time and nobody would argue that a private communication means that there is illegal activity. Moreover, privacy is our right and why we go private is not the business of anyone but the people we are speaking with privately. It’s certainly not the government’s business. In fact, this concept of “privacy” has long been a pillar of Internet communications which is why encryption programs are so popular on-line.

But this a step beyond the “capture all information” programs the NSA has admitted to and been sharply criticized for: the subject of the recent report by the President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies [4] that found that the NSA had “over-stepped” its mandate and rights.

Devising a fraudulent system of encryption, building a back-door into it and then paying companies to offer this to the public as a fool-proof, default assurance of privacy is hardly over-stepping. It’s a conscious, cynical, fraudulent and extremely dangerous attack on the principle of Internet privacy, reflecting our government’s complete disdain for our rights.

It also demonstrates the dangers of relying on corporate-developed encryption when there are several free and open source alternatives costing nothing and involving the work of developers whose only purpose is their commitment to a free Internet. Brad Chacos of PC World wrote an article last September [5] with several excellent suggestions but finding solutions is really a matter of doing Internet searches for this. Using those solutions now becomes not a choice but a necessity.

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2013: Assessing the Conflict in Syria and Egypt

The War Continues

2013 has expectedly been a terrible year for several Arab nations. It has been terrible because the promise of greater freedoms and political reforms has been reversed, most violently in some instances, by taking a few countries down the path of anarchy and complete chaos. Syria and Egypt are two cases in point.

Syria has been hit the hardest. For months, the United Nations has maintained that over 100,000 people have been killed in the 33 months of conflict. More recently, the pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights concluded that at least 125,835, of which more than third of them are civilians, have been killed.

The UN’s humanitarian agency (OCHA) says that millions of Syrians living in perpetual suffering are in need of aid, and this number will reach 9.3 million by the end of next year.

OCHA’s numbers attempt to forecast the need for aid for the year 2014. However, that estimation reflects an equally ill-omened political forecast as well. There are currently 2.4 million Syrian refugees living in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. The number will nearly double to 4.1 million by the conclusion of next year. Considering the growing political polarization between the Syrian parties involved in the conflict, and their regional and international backers, there is little hope that the conflict will die away in the near future.

In fact, the simple narrative of a conflict between a central government and an opposition is no longer applicable, since the opposition is itself fragmented into many parties, some with extreme religious agendas. The early discourse that accompanied the Syrian conflict, that of freedom, democracy and such is also of little relevance, considering the level of brutalities and the multiple objectives declared by the various fighting forces. But for Syrians, it is a lose-lose situation.

Syrians involved in this war understand well that a prolonged conflict could mean that the country faces the risk of complete breakdown, and that a Somalia or an Afghanistan scenario is in the offing. Then, few would even care to remember the original reasons of why the war started in the first place, as several generations of Syrian refugees would be doomed to live the same fate as the unending Palestinian refugee experience.

However, there is a glimmer of hope. The recently signed landmark deal between Iran and six other countries – the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany – could in fact usher in at least the mere possibility of resorting to dialogue in resolving the crisis in Syria. True, the deal was related to Iran’s nuclear program, but since all of these countries are active participants in the Syrian war, with much influence over the warring parties, their consent would be necessary for future dialogue between Damascus and the opposition to bear fruit.

A major question however will continue to surface: even if the secular Syrian opposition agrees to a future arrangement with the current Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, will that have any bearings on other extremist forces fighting their own cause? Even with the most optimistic assessments, the Syrian conflict is unlikely to be settled in 2014.

The same assessment is also relevant in the case of Egypt. In 2013, the conflict in Egypt has taken on a different dimension, although most media (Arab and international) are so saturated by half-truths and/or intentional misinformation. It is almost impossible to reach a level-headed understanding of what is transpiring in the most populated Arab country.

One main reason behind the confusion is that reporting on the Jan 25, 2011 revolution was overly sentimental and simplified. In some aspects, the bad guys vs. good guys scenario continues to define the Egyptian turmoil. The Egyptian media is a prime example of that. Since the well-orchestrated June 29 protest, followed by a military coup in July 03, some secular forces affiliated with the revolution lined up in support of the very forces affiliated with the deposed Mubarak regime. Both camps united in opposition of a government affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) – itself affiliated with the revolution. It gets more convoluted still, since the Islamic Salafist al-Nour Party has no problem siding with the military, in support of its newly drafted constitution, although it was al-Nour that tirelessly lobbied for a Sharia-driven constitution under the leadership of deposed President Mohammed Morsi. It was that kind of pressure that drove many secularist parties away from the committee that attempted to draft an earlier constitution, leaving the MB isolated. Al-Nour and secularist parties are now standing in the same political camp.

‘Dirty politics’ doesn’t even begin to describe what has befallen Egypt, for the violent dimension of this politicking is unknown in the modern history of the country. Nearly 20,000 Egyptians are now sentenced or facing trials for belonging or supporting the ‘wrong’ political camp. The military-backed government is now unleashing a ‘legal onslaught’, freeing those who affiliated with the Mubarak regime and imprisoning those affiliated with the MB. On Dec 21, the toppled president Morsi was referred by Egyptian prosecutors to a third criminal trial on “charges of organizing prison breaks during the 2011 uprising, spreading chaos and abducting police officers in collaboration with foreign militants,” reported the Associated Press.

Brotherhood lawyer Mohammed el-Damati described the purpose of all of this as an attempt to defeat every single achievement of the January revolution. “They are going over Jan. 25, 2011, with an eraser,” he said. But will they succeed?

While the military enjoys a great sway over every facet of power in Egypt, the Egyptian people are no longer passive participants. Reversing the achievement of the revolution will not necessarily affect the collective mindset that gave the Egyptian people the kind of zeal that made them stand and fight for their rights. No military diktats or legal maneuvering can erase that. 2014 is likely to be a year in which the nature of the conflict in Egypt changes from that of military vs. MB, into a non-elitist conflict that surpasses all of this into something else, perhaps a struggle that will recapture the spirit of the first revolution.

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The State and Revolution – How can Socialism be built?


Harpal Brar, Chairman of the CPGB-ML, gives a presentation summarising Marx’s teachings on the state. Key quotations and ideas are drawn from Marx and Engel’s seminal work, “The Communist Manifesto”, Engels’ “Origin of the Family, private property and the state”, Marx’s “Critique of the Gotha Program”, Engels’ “Anti Duhring”, Marx’s “18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte” and “The Civil War in France”, and Lenin’s “The State and Revolution.”

It’s an excellent introduction to Marxism, and totally exposes the commonly peddled fallacy that workers can simply vote for socialism – or a social democratic party, such asLabour in Britain – in order to solve their problems.

Workers cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery (the capitalists’ parliament, army, police force, judiciary, etc.) and use it to achieve their own ends. Bourgeois rule, connections and interests run through these institutions, like the lettering in a stick of Brighton Rock.

The capitalists’ ‘democratic’ state must be smashed, and the working class must have a state of its own, to ensure society and the economy are actually organised in our own interests.

This workers’ state – the dictatorship of the proletariat – will then wither away over a historical epoch, as its functions cease to be necessary, in the transition to the higher stage of communism, when the economic formula “from each according to their ability; to each according to their need” will be applied to production and distribution of goods, well-being and culture.

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U.S. to move 3000 Terrorists to Romania


As it became known from the Romanian Foreign Ministry employees dialogue in a social network “WordPress” (, currently the U.S. andthe Romanian government are negotiating the deployment about 3 thousand representatives of the terrorist organization “Mojahedin-e Khalq” (MEK) on the territory of Romania. It is assumed that in the case of the Romanian leadership consent members of the group will be compactly settled near the city of Craiova.

According to Ioana Raiciu and Dana Marca, the Romanian Foreign Ministry employees, the U.S.State Secretary and the Romanian Foreign Minister discussed the issue of militants migration during the meeting in Brussels in early December. John Kerry’s adviser Jonathan Weiner who deals with the problem of MEK migration is to arrive in Romania with the same purpose.

I turned to the Romanian Foreign Ministry press service for confirmation of these data by phone using the telephone numbers listed on the ministry’s website, but they refused to give anycomments, saying this is a too sensitive issue.

Indeed, the disclosure of the information about moving about 3 thousand terrorists to the country is sure to cause a violent public backlash against the government. At the same time, the information leak to the Internet possibly means that Romanian authorities are trying to test the waters before making official statements.

So what sort of an organization the “Mujahedin-e Khalq” is?
“Mojahedin-e Khalq” is an Iranian Islamist terrorist organization in exile, which advocates the overthrow of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Since its inception in the mid 60s, this group has made numerous assassination attempts on the Iranian leadership, murdered the U.S. military personnel and civilians, supported the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979 calling for the execution of embassy staff.

In 1981 MEK members killed 70 Iranian officials including the prime minister, the president and the head of the judiciary. A decade later, they organized a coordinated attack on the Iranian embassies in 13 countries. During the Iran-Iraq War, 1980-88, the group fought against Iran on the side of Saddam Hussein. In total the organization killed more than 50 thousand people in different countries.

In 1997, the U.S. State Department put the MEK into a list of terrorist organizations. And in 2002, the European Union did the same, but in 2009 the EU crossed it out of the list. And in 2012, the United States followed the example. At the same time, the organization is still considered a terrorist one in Iran and Iraq.

One can hardly say that the MEK has completely abandoned the ideas of terror. According to theAmerican TV channel NBC and other media reports, the MEK played its role in the assassinationof Iranian nuclear scientists. According to other data, the organization was also involved in the murder of Mojtaba Ahmadi, the IRGC cybersecurity service commander, as well as in a serious accident at the factory for the production of heavy water in Arak in autumn 2013.

According to the American TV channel CNN, a terrorist organization has a strict military structure. The MEK headquarters is based in the so-called Ashraf “refugee camp” in Iraq (link to video of CNN:

You can see a straight column in blue and white uniform marching on a spacious area framed bythe lion sculptures. According to Michael Ware, the author of the video, back in 2007 Camp Ashrafnumbered about 4,000 fighters and was one of the best military bases in Iraq. The MEK has more than 2,000 tanks, artillery, armored personnel carriers and air defense means. The territory is a small town with shopping malls and hospitals, blooming gardens, monuments and fountains, which is totally unexpected in war-torn Iraq.

Moreover the Iranian Mujahideen are considered to be involved in undermining the bus with Israeli tourists in the Bulgarian resort of Burgas in summer 2012. The Bulgarian secret services allegedlyaccused Lebanese Hezbollah but the group rejects all charges despite the fact that it took the responsibility for many terrorist attacks previously.

The terms of an agreement are still unknown. However, the U.S. is likely to use all available means and methods of pressure and persuasion to make Traian Basescu take the right decision. It is obvious that the United States doesn’t really care about the interests of Romania and its people as well as the security in the Balkans.

CNN Report: Mojahedin in Iraq (MEK or PMOI)

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Zio-Nazi forces continue systematic attacks against Palestinian civilians and property in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt)

  • Israeli forces launched series of aerial and land attacks on the Gaza Strip.

–       A child was killed and a woman and her 2 children were wounded in al-Maghazi refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip.

  • Israeli forces have continued to open fire at the border areas in the Gaza Strip.

–       In excessive use of force, Israeli forces killed a Palestinian civilian and wounded his brother in the northern Gaza Strip

–       8 Palestinian civilians, including a child, were wounded in the northern and southern Gaza Strip.

  • A member of the Palestinian General Intelligence Service was killed in Qalqilia.

–       A child was wounded during an Israeli incursion into Tulkarm.

  • Israeli forces have continued to use excessive force against peaceful protesters in the West Bank.

–       8 demonstrators, including a child, were wounded in Bil’in weekly protest, west of Ramallah.

–       Many civilians suffered tear gas inhalation.

  • Israeli forces conducted 58 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank and a limited one in the Gaza Strip.

–       At least 37 Palestinians, including a child, were arrested.

–       Israeli forces distributed leaflets with portraits of fathers of young men who are allegedlywanted and held those fathers responsible for their sons’ acts.

  • Israel has continued to impose a total closure on the oPt and has isolated the Gaza Strip from the outside world.

–       Israeli forces established dozens of checkpoints in the West Bank.

–       At least 5 Palestinian civilians were arrested at checkpoints in the West Bank.

  • Israeli navy forces have continued targeting Palestinian fishermen in the sea.

–       Israeli naval forces opened fire at Palestinian fishing boats in the northern Gaza Strip.


Israeli violations of international law and international humanitarian law in the oPt continued during the reporting period (19 – 25 December 2013).


During the reporting period, in the Gaza Strip, Israeli forces killed 2 Palestinians, including a 3-year-old child, and wounded 12 others, including 3 children and a mother of 2 of them, in several aerial and land attacks in the Gaza Strip and other shooting incidents along the border fence. In the West bank, Israeli forces killed a member of the Palestinian General Intelligence Service (GIS) in Qalqilia amd wounded 8 civilians, including a child in Bil’in weekly protest, west of Ramallah. Moreover, a child was wounded in an Israeli incursion into Tulkarm.

In the Gaza Strip, on 20 December 2013, in an excessive use of lethal force, Israeli forces killed a Palestinian civilian and wounded his brother while they were near the border fence, north of Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip. According to investigations conducted by PCHR, Israeli forces used excessive force as the crime was committed in the daylight and it was clear they were civilians collecting plastics and metals near the border fence.

On 24 December 2013, after an Israeli soldier was killed by a Palestinian sniper on the borders of the Gaza Strip, Israeli forces launched several aerial and land attacks on civilian objects and on training sites of Palestinian armed groups. As a result, a child was killed and a woman and her 2 children were wounded.

On 20 December 2013, 2 civilians, including a child and a coal-supplier, were wounded when a group of civilians headed to the east of Jabalia, in the northern Gaza Strip, and threw stones at Israeli soldiers positioned along the border fence. Israeli soldiers opened fire at the stone throwers, wounding 2 of them, including a child, and a coal-supplier standing in front of his shop around 70 meters away from the borderline.

On the same day, 2 Palestinian civilians were wounded when Israeli forces stationed along the border fence, east of Khan Yunis, opened fire at a group of civilians who were present on agricultural lands to the west of the border fence.

On 21 December 2013, a Palestinian civilian was wounded when Israeli forces stationed along the border fence, east of Khan Yunis, opened fire at a group of civilians who were present on agricultural lands and streets to the south of the border fence.

On 23 December 2013, a Palestinian civilian was wounded by 3 bullets when Israeli forces stationed along the border fence in Beit Lahia opened fire at him when he was at Beit Lahia beach.

On 24 December 2013, a worker was wounded by 2 bullets to the right hand and thigh when Israeli forces stationed on the northern borders of the Gaza Strip opened fire at a group of workers who were collecting metals in al-Ghoul area, northwest of Beit Lahia, about 200 meters away from the fence.

In the context of targeting fishermen in the sea, on 20 December 2013, Israeli forces stationed off al-Waha resort, northwest of Beit Lahia, opened fire sporadically at Palestinian fishing boats that were sailing about 3 nautical miles offshore. However, neither casualties nor material damage were reported.

In the West Bank, on 19 December 2013, Israeli forces killed a member of the GIS in the centre of Qalqilia, claiming that he was wanted and he opened fire at Israeli soldiers.

On 25 December 2013, a child was wounded when Israeli forces moved into Tulkarm and responded by firing sound bombs and tear gas canisters at stone throwers.

Israeli forces continued the systematic use of excessive force against peaceful protests organised by Palestinian, Israeli and international activists against the construction of the annexation wall and settlement activities in the West. As a result, 8 protestors, including a child, were wounded in Bil’in weekly protest. In addition many civilians suffered tear gas inhalation and others sustained bruises as they were beaten up by Israeli soldiers in that protest and other protests in the West Bank.


The full report is available online at:

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