Middle East Monitor - Creating New Perspectives Bringing you the latest and up-to-date news from the Middle East. We go one step further, facilitating a better understanding of the issues facing the Middle East. https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/component/content/frontpage Fri, 31 Oct 2014 10:13:42 +0000 MEMO en-gb Former Israeli Ambassador to Washington: I do not doubt that Obama will refrain from using veto https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/americas/14988-former-israeli-ambassador-to-washington-i-do-not-doubt-that-obama-will-refrain-from-using-veto https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/americas/14988-former-israeli-ambassador-to-washington-i-do-not-doubt-that-obama-will-refrain-from-using-veto The former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Danny Ayalon recently said he would not be surprised if US President Barack Obama did not use the US veto in the upcoming decision on the Palestinian state. "I do not doubt that President Obama will refrain from using the US veto to abort the draft resolution for the establishment of a Palestinian state and to end what he calls the Israeli occupation".

Ayalon warned, "This is the crisis that is plaguing US-Israeli relations and it is rather unprecedented. The US' position could result in increasing regional threats towards Israel".

Ayalon called on both American and Israeli parties to work to restoring status quo of bilateral relations.

American newspaper, The Atlantic published an anonymous American politician's statement on Wednesday, "Netanyahu is a coward and he will not carry out any attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities. His only concern is remaining on the political scene and he will never do anything that could ensure a peace agreement with the Palestinians".

The US National Security Council issued a statement emphasising that this quote was nothing more than an opinion published in a newspaper, and does not reflect the sentiments of the US government.

In response to the statements that were made on Wednesday Netanyahu said, "I appreciate our deep rooted and long lasting relationship with the United States. While it is true that since our establishment we have had our differences with them, these differences of opinion will never succeed in harming our relationship with one another."

The US government's official criticism of Israel happened after Department of State Spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, condemned Israel's decision to expedite the construction of 1060 new settlement units in Jerusalem. Netanyahu responded by rejecting the US' condemnation and insisting building in Jerusalem regardless would continue regardless.

Earlier this month, Palestinian officials issued a proposal to the UN Security Council outlining the termination of the Israel military occupation and the establishment of a Palestinian state by January 2016. The Security Council is one of the most important institutions within the United Nations and is responsible for keeping international peace and security in accordance with Chapter 8 of the Charter of the United Nations. The Security Council has legal authority over the governments of the Member States and considers that its decisions are binding for the Council's Member States (as cited in Article 4 of the Charter).

The Council consists of five permanent members with veto power the Russian Federation, China, France, the United Kingdom and the United States. Their status as permanent members is due to the victories of the Second World War.

]]>
noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 30 Oct 2014 18:36:54 +0000
US exceptionalism makes it a poor choice as world leader https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/americas/14987-us-exceptionalism-makes-it-a-poor-choice-as-world-leader https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/americas/14987-us-exceptionalism-makes-it-a-poor-choice-as-world-leader With a growing list of US military interventions around the world, and their accompanying human rights abuses including the ongoing shame of Guantanamo Bay in the background, it is difficult to imagine a more unsuitable candidate as the leader of the free world than the American president. Indeed, as American hegemony is imposed on the rest of us with increasing frequency, the term "free world" itself has to be called into question. How can the people of the world be "free" when America takes upon itself the "right" to dictate how countries are governed and by whom? Equally, how can the people of America believe that their country is a force for good when it often destroys democracy, using very undemocratic means, in the name of protecting democratic freedoms? The refusal to accept democratic election results in Palestine and Egypt spring to mind as two recent examples.

According to Seumas Milne in the Guardian, "The Middle East is now in an unparalleled and unprecedented crisis. More than any other single factor, that is the product of continual US and western intervention and support for dictatorships, both before and after the 'Arab spring', unconstrained by any system of international power or law." The key word is towards the end of that paragraph. America's "unconstrained" interventions around the world, particularly in the Middle East, take place beyond the scope of the international laws and conventions by which the rest of the world are judged and expected to abide. Far from making the United States an aspirational model for other countries, this in fact makes it a poor choice to be world leader in anything, least of all international politics.

The doctrine of exceptionalism as practised by the US has its roots in its days as a British colony, which fed into the belief that the culture and very nature of the nascent state had unique qualities. Despite the apparent lack of imperial ambitions (in stark contrast to European states), this was supposed to make it able to rule foreigners "benignly". Hence, it soon acquired a number of colonial possessions in the likes of Puerto Rico and Hawaii, among others.

In the modern era, US exceptionalism is manifested in a number of ways; for example, its refusal to allow UN inspections of its America's massive arsenal of nuclear weapons. This policy has been adopted by Israel, despite the General Assembly approving a resolution in 2012 calling on the government in Tel Aviv "to open its nuclear programme for inspection". As usual, the United States was one of six member states voting against the resolution, the others being Israel itself, Canada, Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau. The latter three are so dependent on US aid that their votes against UN resolutions which require Israel to comply with international norms are virtually guaranteed. Canada, of course, has an extremely pro-Israel, right-wing government and is far from the immigrant-friendly state that its own myth making would have us believe. Like his predecessors, US President Barack Obama is blind to Israel's nuclear hypocrisy, which has been called "the elephant in the room", not without reason.

Infamously, the US government has refused to ratify the Rome Statute which founded the International Criminal Court, even though it is a signatory. To do so would oblige American citizens to be subject to international law and open to prosecution for human rights abuses. In refusing to allow its people and, tellingly, its soldiers, to be judged by international standards, America stands alongside Sudan and, surprise, surprise, Israel. The ICC is pursuing the president of Sudan, which has never claimed to be a democratic state in any case, so its own claim to exceptionalism is at least understandable, if not acceptable. The US and Israel, however, both claim democratic status; in fact, this is used to justify any number of undemocratic activities, including alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity.

It is no wonder, therefore, that the US and Israeli governments make every effort not to be judged by international standards. Hypocritically, they often proclaim to be setting democratic norms, which is transparently nonsensical, as is the argument that Israel is held to different standards to other rogue states. This is trotted out regularly by pro-Israel lobbyists seeking to divert world attention from Tel Aviv's ongoing abuse of international laws and conventions, crimes against the people of Palestine and apparent immunity from accountability. Most recently, this was cited by British actress Maureen Lipman as one reason for her not to vote Labour at the next election; party leader Ed Miliband's support for recognition of the state of Palestine is, she claimed, support for a "ludicrous piece of propaganda". She threw in the "anti-Semitism" argument for good measure.

For those of us who believe that international law should be upheld regardless of who breaches its tenets, US hegemony over world affairs, and Israeli influence over US foreign policy (about which see The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy by Professors John J Mearsheimer and Stephen M Walt) should be a cause for serious concern. Not only has America no right to claim even a modicum of neutrality as a broker in the so-called peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, it has no right to claim that it is policing the world for the good of everyone else.

America, it must be understood, does nothing unless it is deemed to be in its own interests, which have a nasty habit of matching those of its politicians, often to their benefit. The exception could arguably be its no-questions-asked backing of Israel, but broadly-speaking the rule is that US interests take priority. Such a selfish approach is illustrated by the world oil market. Although not a member of OPEC, the United States has major oil reserves and last week it was claimed that it was holding too much in storage; it is "on track" to overtake Saudi Arabia as the world's leading oil producer. Which begs the question, why have successive governments in Washington, influenced heavily by neoconservative ideology, gone to war in order to "protect" oil supplies from Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait? The answer, of course, are those ubiquitous "US interests" and the fact that exceptionalism is a cornerstone of neocon ideology. Put bluntly, America wants to use oil from the rest of world and, when the sources dry up, as they must, it will have its own oil supplies to fall back on. As is said, very selfish, and that is another reason why it is totally unsuitable to be a role model for the rest of the world.

American, and Israeli, exceptionalism, therefore, is something that we should all question. Israel is not being subject to "one law" while others are judged by another; as a supposed democracy (the "only one in the Middle East", according to its supporters), Israel should be accountable for its actions, as should the United States. Only when international law is truly international in purpose and implementation can we ever expect justice to prevail for all people and all nation states. Until that time, US hegemony should be interpreted for what it is; a practical exposition of the doctrine that "might is right", which is anything but a force for good in an increasingly dangerous world.

]]>
noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Ibrahim Hewitt) frontpage Thu, 30 Oct 2014 18:30:41 +0000
UN: Israel is raising doubts about its commitment to peace https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/americas/14986-un-israel-is-raising-doubts-about-its-commitment-to-peace https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/americas/14986-un-israel-is-raising-doubts-about-its-commitment-to-peace A senior official at the United Nations has said that Israel's commitment to build 1,060 settler homes in East Jerusalem raises serious doubts about the country's commitment to peace with the Palestinians.

On Monday, senior Israeli officials announced that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to accelerate the construction of new settlement units in East Jerusalem.

Due to Israel's recent plans and the growing sense of Palestinian concern over Israeli actions, Jordan has called upon the UN Security Council to hold an urgent meeting in the hopes that they will take preventative measures or condemn Israel's action. It is highly unlikely that the Security Council, consisting of 15 members, will take any concrete action.

The Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs in the UN Jeffrey Feltman said: "If Israel implements its plans to expedite settlement construction, they would raise serious doubts among members of the international community regarding their commitment to a long-lasting peace with the Palestinians because building more settlements prevents the Palestinians from having any semblance of a politically viable state."

Riyad Mansour, the observer for Palestine in the UN, confirmed Feltman's statement by reiterating that the establishment of more settlements will prevent Palestinians from having a viable state in the future with East Jerusalem as its capital. Mansour went on to say that every day new actions are taken to prevent the viability of an independent Palestinian state and that Israel's actions have led to the continued erosion of the possibility for a two-state solution.

Mansour also expressed his concern for the way that Israel is dealing with religious holy sites in Jerusalem, including the Holy Mount. He added that Jerusalem is under siege and that Israel's provocations towards Al-Aqsa Mosque bring about an increased threat of violence.

Israel's permanent representative to the UN Ron Prosor condemned Mansour's statements saying: "The Palestinians are committed to fabricating myths and half-truths about Israel. I am here to say one truth: Israel is not an occupier. We are not settlers. Israel is our homeland, we belong here and Jerusalem will remain our eternal and undivided capital."

Prosor showcased a copy of the Old Testament as proof of this belief that Jerusalem has a 4,000-year-old Jewish history. "It says a lot about the international community when they are appalled at Israel for building homes for Jews in Jerusalem but say nothing when Jews are killed. This demonstrates their level of hypocrisy."

And yet, while the United States remains Israel's faithful ally, they too criticise the Israeli government's settlement expansion. Since the war on Gaza this summer, there has been an increase in tensions in Jerusalem on an almost daily basis. Israeli forces have clashed with Palestinian protestors who have been throwing stones. Tensions also increased following the numerous visits of extremist Jews to Al-Aqsa Mosque and its courtyards. Netanyahu has vowed to continue Israel's changes to Al-Aqsa platform.

]]>
noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 30 Oct 2014 18:26:21 +0000
Malala to donate prize for Gaza schools https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/14985-malala-to-donate-prize-for-gaza-schools https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/14985-malala-to-donate-prize-for-gaza-schools Nobel peace laureate Malala Yousafzai is to donate $50,000 towards rebuilding schools in Gaza, she announced Wednesday.

Malala was speaking in Stockholm where she received the World's Children's Prize. She announced that she would donate all the prize money to the United Nations relief and works agency for Palestine refugees, UNRWA.

In her speech, Malala said: "I am honored to announce all my World's Children's prize money will go to help students and schools in an especially difficult place - in Gaza."

She said the UN agency was "performing heroic work to serve children in Gaza, in very difficult circumstances."

"The needs are overwhelming - more than half of Gaza's population is under 18 years of age. They want and deserve quality education, hope and real opportunities to build a future," she added.

The money will help rebuild 65 schools that were damaged in the recent Israeli onslaught on the Gaza Strip.

"Palestinian children have suffered terribly and for too long. We must all work to ensure Palestinian boys and girls, and all children everywhere, receive a quality education in a safe environment. Because without education, there will never be peace. Let us stand together for peace and education because together we are more powerful," said Malala.

Commissioner-General of UNRWA, Pierre Krahenbuhl, said in a statementWednesday that they were "deeply touched" by the donation of the prize money.

Krahenbuhl said that the donation "will lift the spirits of a quarter of a million UNRWA students in Gaza and boost the morale of our more than 9,000 teaching staff."

"Their suffering during the fighting was devastating and your kindness will do much to ease the pain of recent months."

Malala has become a "symbol of the boundless potential that lies within each and every child on earth," Krahenbuhl said.

"You are an aspirational figure to the next generation in Palestine and beyond. You are an inspiration to all of us," he told Malala.

UNRWA is a United Nations agency which helps about five million Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Its services include education, health care, relief and social services.

The Pakistani Taliban shot Yousafzai in the head in 2012 for campaigning for girls' education in Pakistan. She miraculously survived the attack and was given treatment at a leading hospital in the U.K., where she now lives.

Earlier this month, the 17-year-old became the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

]]>
noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 30 Oct 2014 18:20:51 +0000
Benkirane: Morocco's relationship with Turkey is "deeply rooted in history" https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/14984-benkirane-moroccos-relationship-with-turkey-is-qdeeply-rooted-in-historyq https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/14984-benkirane-moroccos-relationship-with-turkey-is-qdeeply-rooted-in-historyq Prime Minister of Morocco Abdelilah Benkirane said that his country's relationship with Turkey is "deeply rooted in history and is based on brotherhood, cooperation and advocacy".

The statement was made exclusively to the Anadolu Agency on the sidelines of a celebration in Rabat, at the residence of Turkish Ambassador Ugur Ariner, tomark the 91st anniversary of the Turkish Republic.

The Moroccan prime minister said he considered "the current transitional period that is being experienced in Turkey after Recep Tayyip Erodgan's inauguration has led to the strengthening of relations between the two countries, both on the regional and state levels".

During his speech Ariner said: "The bilateral relationship and level of cooperation between both Turkey and Morocco has greatly developed in the recent period and on many different levels and areas."

He called on construction companies in his country to "increase the rate of investments in Morocco and to contribute to the evolution of Morocco's economic fabric". Ariner said he considered Morocco to be the most stable and economically promising country in West Africa and Africa in general.

King Mohamed VI of Morocco sent a telegram to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday expressing his sense of pride and happiness for the cooperation and brotherhood between the two countries.

The Moroccan monarch stressed his country's keen interest in "increasing the level of cooperation with Turkey on various issues including the framework of international organisations and active roles in the pan-Mediterranean region at large, in which both Morocco and Turkey both play an active role".

The ceremony was attended by a number of Moroccan parliamentary and government officials as well as representatives from numerous diplomatic missions.

]]>
noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 30 Oct 2014 18:18:08 +0000
UNRWA and displacing 'inspiration' https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/14983-unrwa-and-displacing-inspiration https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/14983-unrwa-and-displacing-inspiration Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Malala Yousafzai has declared her intention to donate her winnings from the World Children's Prize to UNRWA. The $50,000, according to statements on the UNRWA website, will be utilised to rebuild a school ruined during "Operation Protective Edge". Through rhetoric replete with symbolism detracting from reality, the gesture reflects the constant fluctuations between necessity and acquiescence, with Palestinians as recipients of aid remaining within a perpetual depletion of freedom.

UNRWA's Gaza Situation Report detailing the ramifications of Israel's colonial massacre between October 21-28 states that 18 schools are still serving as shelter for displaced Palestinians. Reconstruction of dwellings as well as UNRWA premises feature as a priority for the agency, reflecting its inability, due to its function as part of the UN, its dependence upon imperialist financial aid to carry out projects, as well as Israel's constant human rights violations against Palestinians and restrictions upon the organisation.

The cycle of human rights violations and humanitarian aid is incessantly evoked. The agency has requested an emergency relief fund of $1.6 million for "early recovery and reconstruction priorities in the Gaza Strip". Reconstruction of shelter to aid homeless Palestinians has been estimated at $680 million by UNRWA. Yet, the Palestinian narrative and restrictions imposed upon the enclave have once again served as a mere background to provide a context for recent celebrity donations.

In his statement, UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl thanked Malala for her gesture which he said "will lift the spirits of a quarter of a million UNRWA students in Gaza and boost the morale of our more than 9,000 teaching staff there". The statement went on to allude to UNRWA's alleged "profound belief" in education as a means of resistance against oppression and isolation.

It concluded: "You are an aspirational figure to the next generation in Palestine and beyond." The conglomeration of necessary statements is uttered within a context that requires vestiges of adulation, yet the issue of oblivion can be clearly discerned.

Rather than highlight the issue that Palestinians have enough inspiration from several generations' struggle against colonial violence, Malala's recent contribution – a fragment of aid welcomed but by no means a solution, has transcended the limits of usual gratitude. Implicit within the statement is not only Malala's struggle in favour of education which has formed the basis of her narrative, but also the manner in which imperialism has sought to create useful ideals extracted from a situation created by the US in the first place. The strategy of exalting and celebrating individual victims to serve as a link between perpetual imperialist violence and the meagre attempts at alleviating the imposed suffering through insufficient financial aid is, for UNRWA, a celebrated trend.

Gaza's reconstruction is already embroiled within several restrictions that will increase hardships for Palestinians in the enclave. To laud a necessary donation as an ultimate expression of altruism, in particular given the wider framework within which international recognition is bestowed, renders UNRWA complicit in the strategy of ignoring political implications in favour of temporary illusions eliciting unsustainable promises of future autonomy for Palestinians.

]]>
noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Ramona Wadi) frontpage Thu, 30 Oct 2014 18:11:29 +0000
Cyprus: Tripartite meeting with Egypt and Greece is not against Turkey https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/14982-cyprus-tripartite-meeting-with-egypt-and-greece-is-not-against-turkey https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/14982-cyprus-tripartite-meeting-with-egypt-and-greece-is-not-against-turkey The tripartite meeting held yesterday between the foreign ministers of Egypt, Greece and Cyprus was not aimed at forming an alliance against Turkey, the Ambassador of Cyprus in Cairo Sotos Liassides said.

In exclusive statements to the Anadolu Agency, Liassides said the meeting came in the framework of discussing a number of regional and international issues, at the forefront of which are the situation in Palestine, Iraq and Libya.

The ambassador said: "This meeting [held in Nicosia] is not directed against Turkey, but rather to discuss ways of cooperation between the three countries as we aim to collaborate within the region."

"If Turkey continues with its actions within our economic region by sending its warships and research vessels, the only way we can deal with Turkey is by looking to international law for arbitration."

Commenting on media reports of the establishment of a tripartite alliance against Turkey, the Cypriot ambassador said: "This initiative (in reference to the tripartite meeting) is not against Turkey, but to ensure the safety of our area, and if it Turkey wants, it can join."

He added: "If we manage to solve the Cyprus problem, the participation of Turkey would be welcomed, but unfortunately, until now Turkey still continues its practices."

Liassides added, "Our purpose in this meeting is to support and improve bilateral relations with Egypt. This cooperation aims to make our region a zone of peace. So it is not a meeting against Turkey."

The meeting came ahead of the summit to be held in Cairo on November 8 between the Egyptian President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi, Greek President Karolos Papoulias and President of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades.

]]>
noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 30 Oct 2014 16:58:13 +0000
Amnesty calls on Algeria to reverse decision to deport Syrian refugee https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/14981-amnesty-calls-on-algeria-to-reverse-decision-to-deport-syrian-refugee https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/14981-amnesty-calls-on-algeria-to-reverse-decision-to-deport-syrian-refugee Amnesty International yesterday called on Algeria to reverse its decision to deport a Syrian refugee, after he was found not to have the correct documentation.

In a press statement, Amnesty said: "The Algerian authorities may be preparing to forcibly return an 18-year-old Syrian refugee after he entered the country without official legal documentation."

The statement added: "Moustafa Albakkor, 18, fled Syria in 2012 to escape the crisis that had begun in 2011 and entered Turkey where he was officially recognised as a refugee by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). He travelled to Algeria in August 2014."

"He was arrested on 18 August and detained in El-Oued Penal Institution, in the north-east of the country. He was tried on 12 October 2014, sentenced to one year's imprisonment and fined 50,000 Dinars ($600) for 'entering the country with forged travel documents'."

Amnesty said Albakkor's appeal is scheduled for November 5 and he may be forcibly deported to Syria, putting his life at risk. The group called people to take action and write to the Algerian Minister of the Interior Tayeb Belaiz "urging them [Algerian authorities] to uphold their international obligations, under the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1969 Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa, to provide international protection for those fleeing serious human rights violations and the armed conflict in Syria.".

It is estimated that here are approximately 15-20,000 Syrian refugees in Algeria, many of whom live in shelters according to figures published by the Algerian Ministry of the Interior.

]]>
noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 30 Oct 2014 15:24:07 +0000
Israel closes Al-Aqsa Mosque https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/14980-israel-closes-al-aqsa-mosque https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/14980-israel-closes-al-aqsa-mosque IMAGES

Interior Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch today ordered the closure Al-Aqsa Mosque in the wake of an assassination attempt on the extremist Rabbi Yehuda Glick.

Police shut the compound to all worshippers and visitors until further notice, Israeli newspaper Ynet News reported.

The step came after an assassination attempt on the notorious extremist Rabbi Glick took place in the city yesterday evening.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported Aharonovitch saying hundreds of police have been sent into Jerusalem as reinforcements since the morning, in addition to the already bolstered forces that have been operating in the city.

Witnesses said there is a heavy police presence in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan, adjacent to the Old City, and a helicopter circled overhead.

Tensions have risen steadily in the eastern side of Jerusalem since just before the savage Israeli war on Gaza that ended in August, with almost nightly clashes between Israeli occupation forces and Palestinian protesters throwing rocks at them.

A major focus of Palestinian anger in the past few weeks has been Jewish settlers moving into largely Arab neighbourhoods and increasing numbers of desecrations by Orthodox Jews, including some politicians, accompanied by Israeli police to Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Glick is a central extremist in "Temple Mount" movements and a symbol of the struggle for the Jewish desecration of Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Israeli authorities turned right-wing Likud Member of the Knesset Moshe Feiglin, who tried to make his way onto the holy site this morning, back in response to the shooting of Glick.

[widgetkit id=443]

]]>
noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 30 Oct 2014 15:19:42 +0000
Whose side is Turkey on? https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/europe/14979-whose-side-is-turkey-on https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/europe/14979-whose-side-is-turkey-on Patrick CockburnOver the summer Isis – the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – defeated the Iraqi army, the Syrian army, the Syrian rebels and the Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga; it established a state stretching from Baghdad to Aleppo and from Syria's northern border to the deserts of Iraq in the south. Ethnic and religious groups of which the world had barely heard – including the Yazidis of Sinjar and the Chaldean Christians of Mosul – became victims of Isis cruelty and sectarian bigotry. In September, Isis turned its attention to the two and a half million Syrian Kurds who had gained de facto autonomy in three cantons just south of the Turkish border. One of these cantons, centred on the town of Kobani, became the target of a determined assault. By 6 October, Isis fighters had fought their way into the centre of the town. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan predicted that its fall was imminent; John Kerry spoke of the 'tragedy' of Kobani, but claimed – implausibly – that its capture wouldn't be of great significance. A well-known Kurdish fighter, Arin Mirkan, blew herself up as the Isis fighters advanced: it looked like a sign of despair and impending defeat.

In attacking Kobani, the Isis leadership wanted to prove that it could still defeat its enemies despite the US airstrikes against it, which began in Iraq on 8 August and were extended to Syria on 23 September. As they poured into Kobani Isis fighters chanted: 'The Islamic State remains, the Islamic State expands.' In the past, Isis has chosen – a tactical decision – to abandon battles it didn't think it was going to win. But the five-week battle for Kobani had gone on too long and been too well publicised for its militants to withdraw without loss of prestige. The appeal of the Islamic State to Sunnis in Syria, Iraq and across the world derives from a sense that its victories are God-given and inevitable, so any failure damages its claim to divine support.

But the inevitable Isis victory at Kobani didn't happen. On 19 October, in a reversal of previous policy, US aircraft dropped arms, ammunition and medicine to the town's defenders. Under American pressure, Turkey announced on the same day that it would allow Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga safe passage from northern Iraq to Kobani; Kurdish fighters have now recaptured part of the town. Washington had realised that, given Obama's rhetoric about his plan 'to degrade and destroy' Isis, and with congressional elections only a month away, it couldn't afford to allow the militants yet another victory. And this particular victory would in all likelihood have been followed by a massacre of surviving Kurds in front of the TV cameras assembled on the Turkish side of the border. When the siege began, US air support for the defenders of Kobani had been desultory; for fear of offending Turkey the US air force had avoided liaising with Kurdish fighters on the ground. By the middle of October the policy had changed, and the Kurds started giving detailed targeting information to the Americans, enabling them to destroy Isis tanks and artillery. Previously, Isis commanders had been skilful in hiding their equipment and dispersing their men. In the air campaign so far, only 632 out of 6600 missions have resulted in actual attacks. But as they sought to storm Kobani, Isis leaders had to concentrate their forces in identifiable positions and became vulnerable. In one 48-hour period there were nearly forty US airstrikes, some only fifty yards from the Kurdish front line.

It wasn't US air support alone that made the difference. In Kobani, for the first time, Isis was fighting an enemy – the People's Defence Units (YPG) and its political wing, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) – that in important respects resembled itself. The PYD is the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which since 1984 has been fighting for self-rule for the 15 million Turkish Kurds. Like Isis, the PKK combines fanatical ideological commitment with military expertise and experience gained in long years of guerrilla war. Marxist-Leninist in its original ideology, the PKK is run from the top and seeks to monopolise power within the Kurdish community, whether in Turkey or Syria. The party's imprisoned leader, Abdullah Ocalan, the object of a powerful personality cult, issues instructions from his Turkish prison on an island in the Sea of Marmara. The PKK's military leadership operates from a stronghold in the Qandil Mountain in northern Iraq, one of the great natural fortresses of the world. Most of its fighters, estimated to number seven thousand, withdrew from Turkey under the terms of a ceasefire in 2013, and today move from camp to camp in the deep gorges and valleys of the Qandil. They are highly disciplined and intensely dedicated to the cause of Kurdish nationalism: this has enabled them to wage a war for three decades against the enormous Turkish army, always undeterred despite the devastating losses they have suffered. The PKK, like Isis, emphasises martyrdom: fallen fighters are buried in carefully tended cemeteries full of rose bushes high in the mountains, with elaborate tombstones over the graves. Pictures of Ocalan are everywhere: six or seven years ago, I visited a hamlet in Qandil occupied by the PKK; overlooking it was an enormous picture of Ocalan picked out in coloured stones on the side of a nearby mountain. It's one of the few guerrilla bases that can be seen from space.

Syria and Iraq are full of armies and militias that don't fight anybody who can shoot back, but the PKK and its Syrian affiliates, the PYD and YPG, are different. Often criticised by other Kurds as Stalinist and undemocratic, they at least have the capacity to fight for their own communities. The Islamic State's string of victories against superior forces earlier this year came about because it was fighting soldiers, such as those in the Iraqi army, who are low in morale and poorly supplied with weapons, ammunition and food, thanks to corrupt and incompetent commanders, many of whom are liable to flee. When a few thousand Isis fighters invaded Mosul in June they were in theory facing sixty thousand Iraqi soldiers and police. But the real figure was probably only a third of that: the rest were either just names on paper, with the officers pocketing the salaries; or they did exist but were handing over half their pay to their commanders in return for never going near an army barracks. Not much has improved in the four months since the fall of Mosul on 9 June. According to an Iraqi politician, a recent official inspection of an Iraqi armoured division 'that was meant to have 120 tanks and 10,000 soldiers, revealed that it had 68 tanks and just 2000 soldiers'. The Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga – literally 'those who confront death' – aren't immensely effective either. They are often regarded as better soldiers than the soldiers in the Iraqi army, but their reputation was won thirty years ago when they were fighting Saddam; they have not done much fighting since, except in the Kurdish civil wars. Even before they were routed by Isis in Sinjar in August, a close observer of the peshmerga referred to them derisively as 'pêche melba'; they were, he said, 'only good for mountain ambushes'.

The Islamic State's success has been helped not just by its enemies' incompetence but also by the divisions evident between them. John Kerry boasts of having put together a coalition of sixty countries all pledged to oppose Isis, but from the beginning it was clear that many important members weren't too concerned about the Isis threat. When the bombing of Syria began in September, Obama announced with pride that Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Turkey were all joining the US as military partners against Isis. But, as the Americans knew, these were all Sunni states which had played a central role in fostering the jihadis in Syria and Iraq. This was a political problem for the US, as Joe Biden revealed to the embarrassment of the administration in a talk at Harvard on 2 October. He said that Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the UAE had promoted 'a proxy Sunni-Shia war' in Syria and 'poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad – except that the people who were being supplied were al-Nusra and al-Qaida and the extremist element of jihadis coming from other parts of the world'. He admitted that the moderate Syrian rebels, supposedly central to US policy in Syria, were a negligible military force. Biden later apologised for his words, but what he had said was demonstrably true and reflects what the administration in Washington really believes. Though they expressed outrage at Biden's frankness, America's Sunni allies swiftly confirmed the limits of their co-operation. Prince al-Waleed bin Talal al-Saud, a business magnate and member of the Saudi royal family, said: 'Saudi Arabia will not be involved directly in fighting Isis in Iraq or Syria, because this does not really affect our country explicitly.' In Turkey, Erdoğan said that so far as he was concerned the PKK was just as bad as Isis.

Excluded from this bizarre coalition were almost all those actually fighting Isis, including Iran, the Syrian army, the Syrian Kurds and the Shia militias in Iraq. This mess has been much to the advantage of the Islamic State, as illustrated by an incident in northern Iraq in early August when Obama sent US special forces to Mount Sinjar to monitor the danger to the thousands of Yazidis trapped there. Ethnically Kurdish but with their own non-Islamic religion, the Yazidis had fled their towns and cities to escape massacre and enslavement by Isis. The US soldiers arrived by helicopter and were efficiently guarded and shown around by uniformed Kurdish militiamen. But soon afterwards the Yazidis – who had been hoping to be rescued or at least helped by the Americans – were horrified to see the US soldiers hurriedly climb back into their helicopter and fly away. The reason for their swift departure, it was revealed later in Washington, was that the officer in charge of the US detachment had spoken to his Kurdish guards and discovered that they weren't the US-friendly peshmerga of the Kurdistan Regional Government but PKK fighters – still listed as 'terrorists' by the US, despite the central role they have played in helping the Yazidis and driving back Isis. It was only when Kobani was on the verge of falling that Washington accepted it had no choice but to co-operate with the PYD: it was, after all, practically the only effective force still fighting Isis on the ground.

And then there was the Turkish problem. US planes attacking Isis forces in Kobani had to fly 1200 miles from their bases in the Gulf because Turkey wouldn't allow the use of its airbase at Incirlik, just a hundred miles from Kobani. By not preventing reinforcements, weapons and ammunition from reaching Isis in Kobani, Ankara was showing that it would prefer Isis to hold the town: anything was better than the PYD. Turkey's position had been clear since July 2012, when the Syrian army, under pressure from rebels elsewhere, pulled out of the main Kurdish areas. The Syrian Kurds, long persecuted by Damascus and politically marginal, suddenly won de facto autonomy under increasing PKK authority. Living mostly along the border with Turkey, a strategically important area to Isis, the Kurds unexpectedly became players in the struggle for power in a disintegrating Syria. This was an unwelcome development for the Turks. The dominant political and military organisations of the Syrian Kurds were branches of the PKK and obeyed instructions from Ocalan and the military leadership in Qandil. The PKK insurgents, who had fought for so long for some form of self-rule in Turkey, now ruled a quasi-state in Syria centred on the cities of Qamishli, Kobani and Afrin. Much of the Syrian border region was likely to remain in Kurdish hands, since the Syrian government and its opponents were both too weak to do anything about it. Ankara may not be the master chess player collaborating with Isis to break Kurdish power, as conspiracy theorists believe, but it saw the advantage to itself of allowing Isis to weaken the Syrian Kurds. It was never a very far-sighted policy: if Isis succeeded in taking Kobani, and thus humiliating the US, the Americans' supposed ally Turkey would be seen as partly responsible, after sealing off the town. In the event, the Turkish change of course was embarrassingly speedy. Within hours of Erdoğan saying that Turkey wouldn't help the PYD terrorists, permission was being given for Iraqi Kurds to reinforce the PYD fighters at Kobani.

Turkey's volte face was the latest in a series of miscalculations it had made about developments in Syria since the first uprising against Assad in 2011. Erdoğan's government could have held the balance of power between Assad and his opponents, but instead convinced itself that Assad – like Gaddafi in Libya – would inevitably be overthrown. When this failed to happen, Ankara gave its support to jihadi groups financed by the Gulf monarchies: these included al-Nusra, al-Qaida's Syrian affiliate, and Isis. Turkey played much the same role in supporting the jihadis in Syria as Pakistan had done supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan. The estimated 12,000 foreign jihadis fighting in Syria, over which there is so much apprehension in Europe and the US, almost all entered via what became known as 'the jihadis' highway', using Turkish border crossing points while the guards looked the other way. In the second half of 2013, as the US put pressure on Turkey, these routes became harder to access but Isis militants still cross the frontier without too much difficulty. The exact nature of the relationship between the Turkish intelligence services and Isis and al-Nusra remains cloudy but there is strong evidence for a degree of collaboration. When Syrian rebels led by al-Nusra captured the Armenian town of Kassab in Syrian government-held territory early this year, it seemed that the Turks had allowed them to operate from inside Turkish territory. Also mysterious was the case of the 49 members of the Turkish Consulate in Mosul who stayed in the city as it was taken by Isis; they were held hostage in Raqqa, the Islamic State's Syrian capital, then unexpectedly released after four months in exchange for Isis prisoners held in Turkey.

Had Erdoğan chosen to help the Kurds trapped in Kobani rather than sealing them off, he might have strengthened the peace process between his government and the Turkish Kurds. Instead, his actions provoked protests and rioting by Kurds across Turkey; in towns and villages where there had been no Kurdish demonstrations in recent history tyres were burned and 44 people were killed. For the first time in two years, Turkish military aircraft struck at PKK positions in the south-east of the country. It appears that Erdoğan had thrown away one of the main achievements of his years in power: the beginnings of a negotiated end to the Kurdish armed insurgency. Ethnic hostility and abuse between Turks and Kurds have now increased. The police suppressed anti-Isis demonstrations but left pro-Isis demonstrations alone. Some 72 refugees who had fled to Turkey from Kobani were sent back into the town. When five PYD members were arrested by the Turkish army they were described by the military as 'separatist terrorists'. There were hysterical outbursts from Erdoğan's supporters: the mayor of Ankara, Melih Gökçek, tweeted that 'there are people in the east who pass themselves off as Kurdish but are actually atheist Armenians by origin.' The Turkish media, increasingly subservient to or intimidated by the government, played down the seriousness of the demonstrations. CNN Turk, famous for showing a documentary on penguins at the height of the Gezi Park demonstrations last year, chose to broadcast a documentary on honeybees during the Kurdish protests.

How great a setback would it be for Isis if it failed to capture Kobani? Its reputation for always defeating its enemies would be damaged, but it has shown that it can stand up to US airstrikes even when its forces are concentrated in one place. The caliphate declared by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on 29 June is still expanding: its biggest victories, in Anbar Province, have given it another quarter of Iraq. A series of well-planned attacks in September saw Isis capture territory around Fallujah, forty miles west of Baghdad. An Iraqi army camp at Saqlawiyah was besieged for a week and overrun: three hundred Iraqi army soldiers were killed. As in the past, the army proved incapable of staging an effective counteroffensive despite support from US airstrikes. On 2 October, Isis launched a series of attacks which captured Hit, a town north of Ramadi, leaving the government holding only a single army base in the area. Isis forces are today very close to the Sunni enclaves in west Baghdad: until now these have remained quiet, though every other Sunni area in the country has been in turmoil. According to Isis prisoners, the Isis cells in the city are waiting for orders to rise up in co-ordination with an attack from outside the capital. Isis might not be able to seize all of Baghdad, a city of seven million people (the majority Shia), but it could take the Sunni areas and cause panic throughout the capital. In wealthy mixed districts like al-Mansour in west Baghdad half the inhabitants have left for Jordan or the Gulf because they expect an Isis assault. 'I think Isis will attack Baghdad, if only to take the Sunni enclaves,' one resident said. 'If they hold even part of the capital they will add credibility to their claim to have established a state.' Meanwhile, the government and the local media doggedly play down the seriousness of the threat of an Isis invasion in order to prevent mass flight to safer Shia areas in the south.

The replacement of Nouri al-Maliki's corrupt and dysfunctional government by Haider al-Abadi hasn't made as much difference as its foreign backers would like. Because the army is performing no better than before, the main fighting forces facing Isis are the Shia militias. Highly sectarian and often criminalised, they are fighting hard around Baghdad to drive back Isis and cleanse mixed areas of the Sunni population. Sunnis are often picked up at checkpoints, held for ransoms of tens of thousands of dollars and usually murdered even when the money is paid. Amnesty International says that the militias, including the Badr Brigade and Asaib Ahl al Haq, operate with total immunity; it has accused the Shia-dominated government of 'sanctioning war crimes'. With the Iraqi government and the US paying out big sums of money to businessmen, tribal leaders and anybody else who says they will fight Isis, local warlords are on the rise again: between twenty and thirty new militias have been created since June. This means that Iraqi Sunnis have no choice but to stick with Isis. The only alternative is the return of ferocious Shia militiamen who suspect all Sunnis of supporting the Islamic State. Having barely recovered from the last war, Iraq is being wrecked by a new one. Whatever happens at Kobani, Isis is not going to implode. Foreign intervention will only increase the level of violence and the Sunni-Shia civil war will gather force, with no end in sight.

Patrick Cockburn is the The Independent's Iraq correspondent. View his profile here. This article was first published on the London review of books.

]]>
noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Patrick Cockburn) frontpage Thu, 30 Oct 2014 15:06:51 +0000
Would-be peacocks and tiny red poppies https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/14978-would-be-peacocks-and-tiny-red-poppies https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/14978-would-be-peacocks-and-tiny-red-poppies Israeli politicians and spokespersons sound like roosters who think they are peacocks when they boast of "the most moral army in the world," its "surgical strikes," their wonderful "Iron Dome" (paid for by the U.S.), and their status as "the only democracy in the Middle East." From that lofty spot, they spew contempt for "the Palestinian culture of death and hatred" and claim that "Palestinians use their children as human shields." (In this writer's profession, such a statement is known as projection.) The day after ISIS shocked the world with its video of American journalist James Foley being beheaded in cold blood, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu linked Hamas to ISIS—claiming Hamas to be "the enemies of peace; they are the enemies of all civilized countries and I believe they are the enemies of the Palestinians themselves."

Western leaders dutifully parrot whatever the Israeli rooster says. "Hamas has unilaterally and grossly violated the humanitarian cease-fire," intone John Kerry and Ban Ki-moon, who described as "outrageous" and "barbaric" the alleged capture of an Israeli soldier on his way to kill in Gaza. No equivalent words were used to describe the deaths of more than a hundred Palestinians every day during Israel's 50-day assault. But Kerry's words were not enough to satisfy Netanyahu, who warned the secretary of state, "Don't ever second guess me again on Hamas!"

Nor is it only in time of war that the arrogance and entitlement of Israeli politicians are on display: it can be found when they try to intimidate critics with the accusation of anti-Semitism, when they censor mention of the occupation, when they monopolize human suffering through the industrialization of the Holocaust, and when they blur the reality of profound inequalities with the falsehood of rigged "peace talks."

Emulating their political leaders are a growing number of Israelis, whose bragging and incitement to violence have now reached unprecedented levels:

David D. Ovadia, an Israel Defense Forces sniper, boasts of murdering 13 Gazan children in one day and promises to kill more. In pro-war demonstrations, Israelis adopted a vicious new racist chant mocking the killing of children: "tomorrow there is no school in Gaza, they don't have any children left." Israelis wear T-shirts with the image of a veiled pregnant woman who has a sniper target on her abdomen, with the words, "One shot, two kills."

Rabbi Dov Lior from the illegal Kiryat Arba settlement issues a statement endorsing the killing of children and other civilians: "During war we are allowed to punish the enemy population by any punishment we find worthy, such as denying supplies or electricity and also bombing the whole area."

In an Internet post Knesset member Ayelet Shaked called for the slaughter of Palestinian mothers who give birth to "little snakes" and the demolition of their homes. "They have to die and their houses should be demolished so that they cannot bear any more terrorists," said Shaked, adding, "They are all our enemies and their blood should be on our hands. This also applies to the mothers of the dead terrorists who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there."

On the Israeli radio program "Hakol Deburim," Prof. Mordechai Kedar of Bar-Ilan University maintained that "The only thing that deters a suicide bomber is the knowledge that if he pulls the trigger or blows himself up, his sister will be raped."

Yochanan Gordon posted a column on the Times of Israel website titled, "When Genocide is Permissible." In it he articulated the difference in the Palestinian and Israeli regard for life, and asked, "What other way is there to deal with enemies of this kind, other than to obliterate them completely?"

These statements are not mere rhetoric; they are consistent with the practices of the Israeli occupation forces, especially during the latest war on Gaza.

We Palestinians are like red poppies with their brief and fragile lives. The "international community" has not been impressed with our beauty, however, and has failed to flatter us. On the contrary, we are often told that our reach for liberation is senseless and cannot flower. Nonetheless, we have faith in our collective ability to beautify the bare mountainside and inspire a revolutionary spring among the oppressed of the earth.

The world may call this romanticism, but it is wrong. Palestinians are pursuing justice realistically, aware of the risks involved and the sacrifices demanded. We realize that our lives are irreplaceable and that past wrongs cannot be made right in such a way that returns everything to normal, as if nothing had happened. The people of Gaza seek to meet their basic human needs, to lift the siege, to expand the fishing zone, to live, to farm, to travel abroad, to have access to education and medical care without exposing themselves to oppression and humiliation. For the right to live in dignity, the people of Gaza are willing to risk death. Is it so strange that, for some, death itself is more acceptable than oppression and humiliation? Is it so hard to imagine that, for some, bleeding in the service of attaining dignity is more important than life-giving blood itself? In their yearning for liberation, Palestinians are prepared to make many sacrifices, in keeping with their faith in a just and peaceful afterlife.

In Palestine today, there is grief but not despair, disappointment but not bitterness at a world whose ignorance and moral numbness has permitted so much cruelty to befall us. We realize that the gates of freedom are often opened by injured hands. We have seen that nonviolent and violent resistance alike are met by Israeli violence, making both tactics equally costly in human lives. We have learned that whatever route we seek to liberation, we will not be spared the brutality of the occupation. Palestinians are not following the principle of "An eye for an eye," but of "For the sake of the roses, we bear the thorns." The resistance does not seek revenge, even given the destruction and casualties Israel has visited upon us. The Israeli army has killed and injured thousands of our women and children; our resistance has killed a few dozen of its invading soldiers in order to push them away and obtain freedom.

As a psychiatrist, I provided treatment to injured Gazans admitted to hospitals in Jerusalem and the West Bank. Their most frequent reaction to the enormity of the destruction that has laid waste to their lives was, "Allah is sufficient for us and He is the best disposer of affairs." Betrayed by the "international community," these people have placed their trust in a power that they believe to be higher than that of Israel, the United Nations and the government of the United States. Their profound faith is stronger than Israeli "smart" missiles and the techniques of professional psychiatrists. This is one of the secrets of the short lives and long memories of beautiful red poppies.

Palestinians were once peaceful farmers, until they were displaced and transformed into refugees. When they gathered in peaceful demonstrations, such as on Land Day, the Israelis shot them like hunted birds. When Palestinians threw stones during the first intifada, Yitzhak Rabin instituted a policy of breaking their bones. When some blew themselves and their enemies up to protest Israel's excessive brutality, Israel used the pretext to erect a wall. When Palestinians held free and fair elections to choose their leaders, Israel and the U.S. turned Gaza into a ghetto and an "Island of the Despised." Then Palestinians began to manufacture rockets and dig tunnels in response to the siege (the resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto had tunnels too!).

A Pretext for War

Almost every non-Arab Israeli family has a member who is actively involved in killing our children. Instead of assuming responsibility for the death and cruelty they inflict on us, "enlightened" Israelis want us to listen to their "fear of Palestinian terrorism." But this war cannot be viewed as an isolated event. Gaza's rockets and tunnels are simply the latest pretext, since Israel was founded upon and has been living all along on war crimes. It has destroyed our villages and committed horrific massacres for more than six decades—long before our resistance groups were born.

Israel's ongoing aggression and destruction are meant to bury our hopes alive and force us to acquiesce to the status quo. But even though it is easier to remain oppressed than to aspire to liberation, we Palestinians will not surrender. We will never relinquish our resistance to our oppressors. The Palestinians are not a dead people; we, too, have a "self" to defend in the face of Israel's unremitting dehumanization and aggression. As its Arabic meaning implies, Gaza will remain a thorn in the gorge of the occupation until a free and liberated Palestine is resurrected.

But the fight of the Palestinian resistance to lift Israel's siege is not only a story of pain and agony, despite the horrendous destruction and loss, and despite the world's complacent silence and perfidy. It is also an epic, a saga, a narrative of the courageous acts of heroic and legendary figures who are in truth simply ordinary people: medical and civil defense personnel who worked ceaselessly, journalists who risked grave danger, families who took in the needy and dispossessed to share with them their homes and limited resources.

The Palestinians are holding up despite all. The damage done to Gaza will not dampen our morale or weaken our resolve. There will always be red poppies growing on the tunnel roofs, amid the ruins, in the scorched earth. We will stand in solidarity and protect our poppies from being uprooted. We know that what we must do to be treated as humans is to treat ourselves as well as others in a humane way.

Palestinians are proud to have survived Israel's latest attacks without submitting to a humiliating surrender. Indeed, we look forward to the future, and to many seasons when the beautiful red poppies will fill the mountains and valleys of our beloved land. 

Samah Jabr is a Jerusalemite psychiatrist and psychotherapist who cares about the wellbeing of her community—beyond issues of mental health. This article was first published on wrmea.org

]]>
noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Samah Jabr) frontpage Thu, 30 Oct 2014 15:01:32 +0000
First and only shipment of cement enters Gaza https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/14977-first-and-only-shipment-of-cement-enters-gaza https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/14977-first-and-only-shipment-of-cement-enters-gaza EXCLUSIVE IMAGES

Israel has permitted the first shipment of only 400 tonnes of cement to enter the Gaza Strip and be distributed to a select number of traders under the supervision of international monitors.

In an effort to appear to be aiding the delivery of aid to Palestinians in Gaza, Israel allowed the cement to enter the Strip during UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's recent visit and no bags have been allowed in since.

The government was forced to register the names of a few beneficiaries who were given a few dozen bags of cement each, less than they would need to repair their homes.

MEMO Photographer: Mohammad Asad

[widgetkit id=444]

]]>
noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Mohammad Asad) frontpage Thu, 30 Oct 2014 14:32:38 +0000
PA: Israel's escalation in Jerusalem is a declaration of war on our people https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/14976-pa-israels-escalation-in-jerusalem-is-a-declaration-of-war-on-our-people https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/14976-pa-israels-escalation-in-jerusalem-is-a-declaration-of-war-on-our-people The Palestinian Authority is holding the Israeli government responsible for what it described as "a dangerous" escalation in occupied Jerusalem, considering this move "a declaration of war on the Palestinian people and its sacred places," Anadolu agency reported.

According to Anadolu, Abbas's spokesperson Nabil Abu Rudeina told WAFA news agency that the closure of Al-Aqsa Mosque "was a brazen challenge and dangerous behaviour, and will lead to more tension and instability and create a very dangerous atmosphere".

"We hold the Israeli government responsible for this dangerous escalation in Jerusalem that has reached its peak through the closure of the Al-Aqsa mosque this morning," he said.

Abu Rudeina called on the international community to "take action immediately in order to stop this aggression because with such attacks and dangerous escalation, Israel is declaring war against the Palestinian people and their holy places and against both the Arab and Islamic nations".

Various clashes broke out on Thursday morning in a number of East Jerusalem neighbourhoods after Israeli occupation forces killed former prisoner Mutaz Hijazi in his Jerusalem home and decided to completely close off Al-Aqsa Mosque until further notice.

The Israeli police accused Hijazi of being responsible for the attack on Yehuda Glick, a right-wing Jewish rabbi who frequently calls for the storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque and its eventual destruction. Glick was shot on Wednesday evening in Jerusalem and badly wounded.

According to the Guardian newspaper, the Islamic Jihad movement issued a statement recognising Hijazi as one of its members, but did not claim any responsibility for the attack.

]]>
noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 30 Oct 2014 14:21:49 +0000
Hamas denounces Israel's closure of Al-Aqsa Mosque https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/14975-hamas-denounces-israels-closure-of-al-aqsa-mosque https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/14975-hamas-denounces-israels-closure-of-al-aqsa-mosque IMAGES

Palestinian Islamic movement Hamas today denounced Israel's closure of Al-Aqsa Mosque, Felesteen newspaper said.

Member of Hamas' political bureau Mousa Abu-Marzouk said: "The closure of Al-Aqsa Mosque in the face of worshipers is a dangerous precedent which cannot be accepted or be passed without any reason."

Abu-Marzouk wrote on Facebook: "Calls for storming Al-Aqsa Mosque must be faced." He called for the residents of Jerusalem to do this saying: "You have the right. No one can harm you."

He also called on Arabs and Muslims around the world to help saying: "This is your mosque and the place where your Prophet (PBUH) was ascended to heaven. What are you doing?"

This morning, Israel closed Al-Aqsa Mosque and forbade worshipers from entering it citing the assassination attempt of an extremist Jewish rabbi yesterday as the reason for the closure.

[widgetkit id=443]

]]>
noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 30 Oct 2014 14:13:23 +0000
US officials dismiss Netanyahu criticism https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/americas/14974-us-officials-dismiss-netanyahu-criticism https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/americas/14974-us-officials-dismiss-netanyahu-criticism The spokesperson of the US State Department, Jen Psaki, described an American official's strong criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as "inappropriate and counterproductive".

During Wednesday's daily press briefing, Psaki said: "I spoke with Secretary [John Kerry] about this this morning, and he certainly feels strongly that a war of words is not productive from either side."

She noted that Kerry would clarify to Netanyahu when they next speak that this does not represent the State Department's position; however, she explained that there would not be an apology.

When questioned about the crisis in US-Israel relations, she said: "We express concern and there is disagreement," but insisted that the US's relationship with Israel remains strong. "Our security bonds have never been greater and the ties between our nations are unshakeable," she said.

Writing for the Atlantic magazine, American journalist Jeffrey Goldberg published an explosive article on Tuesday quoting a senior US official as saying that Netanyahu was a "coward" and a "chickenshit" because he is more interested in political gain than peace.

Goldberg warned that relations between the two long-time allies had reached a "full-blown crisis".

"The good thing about Netanyahu is that he is scared to launch wars ... The bad thing about him is that he will not do anything to reach an accommodation with the Palestinians or with the Sunni Arab states. The only thing he is interested in is protecting himself from political defeat ... He is not [Yitzhak] Rabin, he is not [Ariel] Sharon, he is certainly no [Menachem] Begin. He's got no guts," one official, reported to be a high-ranking member of the Obama administration, said.

White House spokesperson John Earnest was also at pains to stress that the unnamed official's comments did "not reflect the personal views of the president of the United States," noting that Obama is committed, as always, to Israel's security.

In response to the comments, the Atlantic quoted US National Security Spokesperson Alistair Baskey as saying that US President Barack Obama has "forged an effective partnership" with Netanyahu and the two men consult each other regularly.

According to a subsequent report in the magazine, US National Security Advisor Susan Rice also insisted that, "The relationship is not in crisis," adding that, "The relationship is actually fundamentally stronger in many respects than it has ever been."

Responding to the criticism, Netanyahu said: "I will not make concessions that will endanger our country ... Our ultimate interests, first and foremost security and the unity of Jerusalem, are not the top priority for those anonymous sources who attack us and me personally."

]]>
noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 30 Oct 2014 14:08:39 +0000
UN to discuss Egypt's human rights record https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/14973-un-to-discuss-egypts-human-rights-record https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/14973-un-to-discuss-egypts-human-rights-record Head of the Egyptian Human Rights Council Abdel-Ghaffar Shokr said that the UN Human Rights Council will discuss three reports about Egypt on November 5, the Anadolu Agency reported.

Shokr said the three reports cover the human rights situation in Egypt for the last four years. One of them, he said, was issued by the Egyptian Human Rights Council, the other by the Egyptian government and the third by a group of independent Egyptian organisations.

"After the discussion of the human rights situation in Egypt in the previous four years," he said, "discussion will be opened to the organisations and states."

The consortium of the independent Egyptian human rights organisations, which consists of 19 organisations, issued a joint report yesterday explaining the human rights situation in Egypt over the past four years.

According to the joint report, Egypt has witnesses a "huge deterioration of human rights and failed to lessen violations and work on guaranteeing the rights which need political, security, economic, social and judicial change".

In the report, the organisations said: "As a result of the violent repression, carried out by the security services, especially dispersing protests and demonstrations, using lethal weapons heavily and disproportionately, human rights were exposed to flagrant violation and thousands were killed."

"The consecutive governments have not succeeded in putting an end to the violations of people's right to live, which has been practiced against the army and the civilians by the terrorist groups that started in Sinai and expanded to other Egyptian cities, including Cairo and claimed hundreds of lives."

Meanwhile, the government committee which is taking part in the periodical human rights review is holding a meeting headed by the Justice Minister Ibrahim Al-Henedi to review the latest formula that Egypt would use in response to the accusations.

]]>
noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 30 Oct 2014 14:02:26 +0000
Sweden to grant $200 million to Palestine https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/14972-sweden-to-grant-200-million-to-palestine https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/14972-sweden-to-grant-200-million-to-palestine Sweden is set to give Palestine up to 1.5 billion kronor ($200 million) in aid, Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom has announced, hours after it became the first European Union country to officially recognize Palestine as a state.

Wallstrom said in a statement on Thursday that Palestine fulfilled the criteria for recognition as a state in international law despite it not having fixed borders, and would receive between 500 million kronor ($68 million) and 1.5 billion kronor under a five-year assistance plan.

Wallstrom said: ''There is a territory, there is also a population. There is also a government with the opportunity to exhibit internal and external control."

Sweden has previously recognized states - Croatia in 1992 and Kosovo in 2008 - even though they lacked effective control over parts of its territory, Wallstrom said, underlying that Palestine was a similar case.

]]>
noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 30 Oct 2014 12:23:31 +0000
Must we dance to Saudi tune over Muslim Brotherhood? https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/14971-must-we-dance-to-saudi-tune-over-muslim-brotherhood https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/14971-must-we-dance-to-saudi-tune-over-muslim-brotherhood Last February the Prince of Wales paid a formal visit to Saudi Arabia. It was his second in less than a year, and his 10th official trip to the Saudi kingdom.

He spent a cheerful few days. However, by no means all of it was pleasure. As often in the past, his Saudi hosts left the Prince in no doubt as to their opinions on crucial issues. In particular, I understand that the Saudis eloquently articulated their intense bafflement and dismay that the Muslim Brotherhood, which is banned in Saudi Arabia, is nevertheless permitted to operate freely in London.

When Prince Charles returned home, he repeated these frustrations to the Prime Minister, as well as Foreign Office officials. Shortly afterwards it emerged that Sir John Jenkins, British ambassador in Riyadh, had been appointed to investigate the links between the Muslim Brotherhood and terrorism.

The timing is telling. Sir John's investigation came only a few weeks after the Saudis themselves had classified the Brotherhood as a terror group. Egypt, whose President Sisi had carried out a coup d'etat against a democratically elected Brotherhood government, had already taken this step. So Britain's investigation gave a certain legitimacy to Saudi assertions that the Muslim Brotherhood uses violence for political ends. Sir John Jenkins, however, has done a thorough job. He has travelled widely across the Gulf and North Africa in his search for the truth. From the Saudi point of view he has been much too thorough.

By last July the report was complete. Sir John, insist Whitehall sources, had discovered no grounds for proscribing the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group. In theory, that should have been that. Sir John's report should have been published by now, gathered dust and been nearly forgotten. This has not been the fate of the Jenkins document.

The problem is that Sir John failed to reach the conclusion that the Prime Minister, Prince Charles and their vociferous Middle Eastern allies wanted. They had hoped for confirmation that the Saudis had been correct in their assessment of the Brotherhood. Sir John Jenkins's exculpation has caused grave affront to powerful interests, and has led to a long, vicious Whitehall battle that began over the summer, persisted throughout the autumn and shows no signs of ending.

Publication of the Jenkins report as originally written would infuriate the Prime Minister's Saudi allies – and not just them. The United Arab Emirates have long been agitating for the defenestration of the Brothers. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed has the Prime Minister's personal telephone number, and does not hesitate to use it to voice the UAE's anxiety that Britain is not taking a firm enough line.

The former prime minister, Tony Blair, is another who has been agitating on behalf of the UAE against the Brotherhood, both in public and (I am told) in person with the Prime Minister. Then there is the £5 billion order of British Typhoon fighter jets, vital to the future of BAE Systems, and to which David Cameron has attached his personal credibility. It has been in suspense since the inquiry began, and observers are beginning to suspect it will go to France instead.

To sum up: the British Arab lobby is in full cry. The presence of this lobby at the heart of government is not widely grasped or understood. Unlike the Pro-Israel lobby (with which it is, nevertheless, very closely allied) there are few obvious institutional structures or pressure points. The British Arab lobby is inchoate. It is powerfully represented at the heart of the British military and intelligence establishments, while its connections with the oil and defence industries remain profound. Relations with the British monarchy run very deep.

The ties are longstanding. Indeed the alliance between the House of Saud and the British can be traced back to Henry St John Philby, father of the traitor Kim Philby, and for many years adviser to the Wahhabi chieftain Ibn Saud, founder of the modern Saudi state.

Britain all but created Saudi Arabia. Thereafter our alliance with the Saudis has been at the heart of our Middle Eastern policy. The Saudi alliance proved invaluable against Nasser of Egypt, the Soviet Union in Afghanistan and later on Saddam Hussein of Iraq.

The results in the short term have been effective. Over the long term Saudi Arabia has played an essential role in the rise of al-Qaeda and other terror groups. In the past few years it is pretty widely accepted that Saudi financed and supported Isil, which is causing mayhem across much of Syria and Iraq. In an irony of history, Isil may well, in due course, turn its fire on Saudi Arabia itself.

This week the Emir of Qatar is in London. According to advance briefing from 10 Downing Street, the Prime Minister was to lecture the Emir on his alleged funding of terror. But the Emir is entitled to feel aggrieved that no such public dressing down has been dealt out to Saudi Arabia and some of the other Gulf States.

It should not be forgotten that Qatar is hated across the Gulf not because it finances terror, but because it has stretched out the hand of friendship to the Muslim Brothers. The Brotherhood was founded in 1928 in the wake of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. In many ways it is a spiritual movement, there to enable people to apply the principles and norms of Islam to their everyday lives, comparable in some ways to the Christian Democrats in Germany.

There seems no real question that, like other anti-colonial movements, it was involved in violence in its early days. But the organisation now credibly maintains that it has turned its back on violence for several decades. It seeks power through normal political means. In sharp contrast with the autocratic model embraced by the Gulf states, today's Muslim Brotherhood is at heart in almost all countries an attempt to reconcile Islam and democracy.

It is detested by the Saudis and UAE for exactly this reason. Democratic Islam and the autocratic Saudi model are irreconcilable. For the past five years Saudi King Abdullah has been the Prince Metternich of the Arab spring, leader of the counter-revolution, helping to bring about the downfall of the Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere.

I have often spoken to supporters of the Brotherhood about the long years of exile many of them spent in London. It is very moving to learn how profoundly they came to admire the institutions of the British state: parliament, democracy, the rule of law. They all mention their disappointment that British foreign policy has failed to live up to our values.

One of the defining features of our modern foreign policy is the alliance with extreme Sunni Islam. Again and again we overlook its often murderous refusal to tolerate even the faintest intuitions of democracy and human rights, and tolerate its links to terror.

The reason is simple: money, trade, oil, in a number of cases personal greed. The British establishment is hooked on Saudi Arabia. No wonder the rats are trying to get at Sir John Jenkins's report. Next time Prince Charles brings news from his Saudi friends, the Prime Minister should tell him to get lost.

This article was first published on the Telegraph.

]]>
noreply@memonitor.org.uk ( Peter Oborne) frontpage Thu, 30 Oct 2014 12:17:31 +0000
UK condemns Israel's settlement expansion in Jerusalem https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/14970-uk-condemns-israels-settlement-expansion-in-jerusalem https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/14970-uk-condemns-israels-settlement-expansion-in-jerusalem Minister for the Middle East Tobias Ellwood today condemned the Israeli government's announcement that it plans to build 1,060 new housing units in East Jerusalem.

A statement issued by the British Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Elwood saying, "The United Kingdom condemns the Israeli government's announcement this week to proceed with plans to build 1,060 new housing units in East Jerusalem."

He added: "This is an ill-judged and ill-timed decision which makes it harder to achieve a two state solution with Jerusalem as a shared capital. Such announcements make it more difficult for Israel's friends to defend it against accusations that it is not serious about peace"

]]>
noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 30 Oct 2014 12:11:26 +0000
Arrests and extended detentions continue in occupied Jerusalem https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/14969-arrests-and-extended-detentions-continue-in-occupied-jerusalem https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/14969-arrests-and-extended-detentions-continue-in-occupied-jerusalem The Palestinian Prisoners Club announced that an Israeli court in occupied Jerusalem has extended the detention of six Jerusalemites and arrested two minors, while two others were conditionally released, Al-Quds newspaper reported on Wednesday.

The newspaper cited Mufeed El-Haj, a lawyer for the Palestinian Prisoners Club, who explained that the detention has been extended for Qusay Shweiki and Mehdi Abbasi under the pretext of allowing the occupation authorities to complete their investigations of them.

The Israeli court also reportedly extended the arrest of brothers Mohammed and Mahmoud Abu Cherkhah under the pretext of needing to complete the judicial procedures, as well as extended the detention of Mohammed Ghaith and Nemr Bashir for the purpose of holding a court hearing for them on Wednesday.

According to Al-Haj, the court issued a decision to release two other brothers, Mohammed Najib and Sameh Naguib, on bail for 250 shekels each, after the signature of a third party, in addition to other conditions including home confinement.

In a related development, the Israeli police arrested two minors from the Shuafat neighbourhood of occupied Jerusalem: Mohammed Al-Joulani and Abdul Rahman Sabbah.

]]>
noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 30 Oct 2014 11:54:58 +0000
Journalists Against the Coup: Creating a buffer zone in Sinai helps achieve Zionist aims https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/14968-journalists-against-the-coup-creating-a-buffer-zone-in-sinai-helps-achieve-zionist-aims https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/14968-journalists-against-the-coup-creating-a-buffer-zone-in-sinai-helps-achieve-zionist-aims The crimes committed by the Egyptian authorities in the Sinai including the displacement and killing of innocent people, are the execution of a US scheme, and serve the interests of the Zionists as they want it to become a buffer zone to facilitate their occupation of it in future, a member of Journalists Against the Coup said yesterday.

The group's coordinator, Ahmad Abdul Aziz said the group is not at odds with the army but with its leaders who are traitors who turned their backs on legitimacy. He added that the movement strongly condemns any hostility towards soldiers because spilling any Egyptian blood is forbidden.

]]>
noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 30 Oct 2014 11:51:53 +0000
Egyptian Revolutionary Council condemns repression and displacement in Sinai https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/14967-egyptian-revolutionary-council-condemns-repression-and-displacement-in-sinai https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/14967-egyptian-revolutionary-council-condemns-repression-and-displacement-in-sinai The Egyptian Revolutionary Council has announced its condemnation of the repressive measures, including forcible displacement, carried out by the post-coup authorities against the residents of the Egyptian side of Rafah, saying that these measures amount to collective punishment.

The council issued a statement obtained by MEMO that raised serious questions over what these measures would actually achieve in the fight against terrorism, pointing out that: "This clearly shows [President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi's] failure in this war because a real war on terrorism should achieve the interests of the citizens as well as the safety and security of the country, not strip the citizens of their rights, uproot them from their land and force them out of their homes."

In the statement, the council lamented that the crimes being carried out by the post-coup regime against its citizens even surpass those committed "during the [Israeli] occupation of this land".

"The loyal Egyptian army paid a high price for the liberation of the Sinai from Israeli occupation. They paid in sacrificing their souls and blood in order to give the Egyptian residents of Sinai their sovereignty and control over their lands," it said.

The council also argued that these "these repressive measures carried out by the current military leaders against our brothers in Rafah represent the real terrorism", adding that they harm not only the residents of Sinai, but also all citizens loyal to Egypt.

The council concluded the statement by declaring: "Live long Egypt. Glory for the martyrs!"

]]>
noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 30 Oct 2014 11:43:07 +0000
Settlers living on Gaza's border seek refuge in Galilee https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/14966-settlers-living-on-gazas-border-seek-refuge-in-galilee https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/14966-settlers-living-on-gazas-border-seek-refuge-in-galilee The departure of settler families from the areas surrounding the Gaza Strip to the Galilee is ongoing since the recent assault on the Strip, Israeli newspaper Maariv said.

The newspaper pointed out that the majority of families in the areas adjacent to the Gaza Strip left their homes and moved to the northern region of Galilee in light of the deteriorating security situation and the fear of a repeat of the war.

Maariv said the residents of the kibbutzim feared Palestinian fighters would enter their properties through underground tunnels.

One settler was quoted as saying: "We are not ready for a new round of military confrontation with the Gaza Strip, and we cannot face another round of fear and terror, such as those that lasted 51 days."

He said he began searching for a safe, permanent home for his family in the Galilee, away from the rockets and mortars.

]]>
noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 30 Oct 2014 11:36:25 +0000
Human rights coalition calls for demonstrations in Geneva in solidarity with Arab detainees in the UAE https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/14965-human-rights-coalition-calls-for-demonstrations-in-geneva-in-solidarity-with-arab-detainees-in-the-uae https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/14965-human-rights-coalition-calls-for-demonstrations-in-geneva-in-solidarity-with-arab-detainees-in-the-uae A coalition focused on human rights in the Arab countries, which includes 13 European human rights organisations, has called for a demonstration to take place in front of the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva on Thursday, to protest against the UAE's continued detention of 204 people "in inhumane conditions" and "without specific charges", Anadolu news agency reported on Wednesday.

Safwa Issa, the executive director of the International Centre for Justice and Human Rights, one of the members of the coalition, told Anadolu that: "Among those detained are 108 UAE nationals, 28 Egyptians, six Algerians, five Tunisians, 11 Yemenis, three Qataris, three Syrians, three Palestinians and three Comorians, as well as one detainee from Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. There is conflicting information about the existence of Libyan prisoners, with numbers ranging between nine and 30 detainees."

She said that: "The organisations that are calling for a demonstration demand that the UAE authorities reveal the fate of these people and publish information about their places of detention, in addition to allowing their families to visit them. The organisations also strongly condemn the human rights abuses that the detainees are suffering."

She added that: "The UAE state has been arresting activists and human rights activists from different nationalities since 2012; some of them are languishing, to date, in the UAE jails and some of them have been subject to torture and cruel and degrading treatment."

According to the coalition, several reports issued by international human rights organisations confirm that detainees in the UAE have been subjected to disappearances and detentions in secret prisons for long periods of time, without the knowledge of their parents nor with any lawyer present, resulting in many violations of their rights.

Anadolu noted that it was not possible to get an official response from the UAE authorities on such accusations at the time this story went to press.

The alliance of human rights organisations includes: the International Centre For Justice and Human Rights, Rights for All, Libyan Organisation of Solidarity, Organisation of Justice for Egypt, the Euromid Observer for Human Rights, Coalition of Egyptians in Europe for Human Rights, Association of Victims of Torture in Tunisia, Libyan Centre for Freedoms and Development, Organisation of the Libyan Community in Switzerland, the UK-based Emirates Centre for Human Rights, the British Sergeant for Human Rights , the Austrian Friends of Humanity Association and the Association of the Families of Libyan Prisoners in the UAE.

]]>
noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 30 Oct 2014 11:10:24 +0000
Unclear international strategy surrounding the battle of Ain al-Arab https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/14964-unclear-international-strategy-surrounding-the-battle-of-kobani https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/14964-unclear-international-strategy-surrounding-the-battle-of-kobani In recent weeks, Western media has focused on the battle in the city of Kobani (Ain al-Arab), northern Syria, between Syrian rebels and Kurdish factions on the one side and the Islamic State (ISIS) on the other.

Since the United States and its Arab allies initiated their first airstrike against ISIS in Ar-Raqqah, an ISIS stronghold in Syria, the extremist group has dispersed, effectively expanding its presence. ISIS began fighting on new fronts and has recently reached the front lines of the city of Kobani.

The battle has drawn the support of the international coalition against ISIS. Within the city of Kobani, however, there are complex political factors to be addressed as the city enters the global battle against terrorism.

Ain al-Arab, also known in Kurdish as Kobani, is a Syrian city with a majority Syrian Kurdish population but which is also home to Arabs, Turkmen and Armenians.

Since 2012, Kobani has been under the control of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), the armed wing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD). The party was a strong ally of the Assad regime in northern Syria at the start of the Syrian revolution.

Numerous Syrians consider the PYD a "separatist" group and have serious concerns that the PYD intends to establish a "Syrian Kurdistan" in the north of the country. This idea has caused many revolutionaries to be skeptical of the party, questioning whether it has lingering connections with the Assad regime.

The PYD "might have had connections [with the Assad regime], but they cut them because of the regime's silence on the war that ISIS started on Kobani," said Mustafa Ebdi, a Syrian-Kurdish journalist and the managing editor of KobaniKurd.

The PYD has gained control of three major parts of northern Syria, which some believe is a step towards the formation of a "Syrian Kurdistan". The areas comprise: Al-Jazeera, which includes Al-Hasakah and Qamishli, Afrin and its suburbs, and Kobani.

"We used to consider the party as autocratic, because it only accepted its own beliefs, arrested activists, and fought with the media," Ebdi explained, noting that the way the people used to see the PYD has changed since the battle started.

"With ISIS getting closer, things have changed. The party [PYD] is now fighting to protect the city."

It is critical that the history and motivations of the PYD be taken into consideration as the international community intervenes and determines which factions to support on the ground. This will be especially important as US funds are allocated to rebels who will lead the next phase and fill the ISIS gap in the north.

Unquestionably, ISIS wants to expand its control over Syria, and Kobani would be a substantial gain for the group. The Kurdish city is the last step in their battle to gain control over the border with Turkey, which has become the escape route for more than 100,000 Syrian Kurds who fled during the first three days of fighting.

"ISIS wants Kobani to complete their control over the border and to get rid of the Free Army and the Kurdish forces," explained Ebdi.

Ebdi, who is currently reporting from within Kobani, told MEMO that Kurdish forces have unified in the fight against ISIS.

ISIS has been attacking Kobani from three sides since they took control of Ar-Raqqah in May 2013.

Turkey and Iraq's Kurdistan

Earlier this week, Iraqi Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani agreed to send Peshmerga fighters to Ain Al-Arab to "assist the PYD in the fight against ISIS".

Regardless of the fact that they are helping Syrians in their fight against terrorism, this support is still considered a foreign intervention on Syrian soil.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that his country will allow Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters to join the battle in Kobani, entering Syria through Turkey. This decision signifies a change in Ankara's relations with the Kurds, given the fact that Turkey has viewed PYD as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a party it has been in conflict with for 30 years.

In addition to the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) has already sent fighters to fight against ISIS in Kobani, led by prominent FSA leader Abdul Jabbar Al-Oqaidi. In a press conference in Ankara last week, Erdogan said he welcomes the FSA to fight in Ain Al-Arab.

"We clearly said that our approach is very positive towards the Free Syrian Army's fighting in Syria. We always said that they were our first preference in Syria," Erdogan said.

The intention of the FSA has always been to maintain Syria as one united country. The FSA has been fighting alongside the Kurds against ISIS in Kobani, despite the fact that this involvement might push the regime to advance on the rebels in other areas, such as in Aleppo.

"Syrians, regardless of their religion and ethnicity, are siblings by blood and soil," said Wael Al-Khatib, the general coordinator of a Free Officers group – composed of defected officers from the Syrian military. Al-Khatib told MEMO via Skype that the FSA went to Kobani to deliver a message of unity to the people.

"Our first concern is to keep Syria as one," he stressed.

He said Kurdish forces are not lacking or in need to equipment, ammunition or soldiers.

"To the people of Kobani, our hearts are with you," written on a banner on Thursday in the liberated areas of Homs, central Syria.

International and US involvement

After several weeks of airstrikes by the US-led coalition in and around Kobani, the United States decided to provide aid to Kurdish fighters in the city. Last week, US helicopters dropped weapons, ammunition and medical aid via parachute to the Kurds in the city. Mistakenly, items landed in the hands of ISIS fighters, according to a video published by an ISIS account on YouTube.

The US has been hesitant to arm moderate rebels, concerned that weapons would fall into the hands of extremist groups.

"The West has interests in Syria that are above everyone," explained Al-Khatib. "They [the West] want to accomplish their aims through Kurds not for Kurds."

Recently, an anonymous US senior official told the Washington Post that Syria's rebel forces will be trained by the US military and its coalition partners to "defend territory" that is already in rebel control, and not to defeat ISIS. The official, however, did not mention who would fill the ISIS gap in the future.

Regarding US intervention, the official spokesperson of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), Salem Al-Meslet, last week published a statement criticising the US for its "unclear" strategy of arming specific groups rather than arming a national body. According to the statement, the strategy "represents an additional threat to the revolution's path and to the unity and sovereignty of the Syrian territory."

"The West doesn't sympathise with Kurds or others, but they support their own interests," Al-Khatib added.

In another statement, the SNC described the US-led coalition's strategy to be a "selective policy" that would harm the "national interests" of Syria.

The US strategy in Syria, particularly with regards the Kurds, is contributing to the threat of splitting Syria into many states, causing conflicts among Syrians. Ending dictatorships and terrorism in Syria, as the US claims is its intention, must be pursued through the creation of a national army representative of all factions that believe in the principles and values of the Syrian revolution, countering terrorism, and achieving the Syrian people's aim for freedom, justice and dignity.

Abdulrahman Al-Masri is a Syrian freelance journalist. Follow him on twitter.

]]>
noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Abdulrahman Al-Masri) frontpage Thu, 30 Oct 2014 10:52:06 +0000
Egypt's Israeli tactics in Sinai https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/inquiry/14963-egypts-israeli-tactics-in-sinai https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/inquiry/14963-egypts-israeli-tactics-in-sinai An attack against the Egyptian military in the Sinai peninsula on Friday resulted in the death of 31 soldiers. No group has yet claimed responsibility, but reports suggest that the deadly assault was likely carried out by al-Qaida-inspired groups in the area.

The military regime wasted no time taking advantage of the situation to tighten its grip on power. Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, the military-officer-in-a-suit who came to power on the back of July 2013's military coup against the elected government, declared a state of emergency.

And in a "presidential" decree Monday, he outlined further measures which will make it easier for the military to stamp out its opponents under the guise of fighting a broadly-defined "terrorism".

All state facilities, including universities, roads, bridges and power stations, are now defined as military. This means that military trials for civilians are back, despite the regime's solemn promises to democratise.

While a regime official told The Guardian's Patrick Kingsley that the law was aimed only at "terrorists committing serious crimes against the military and police," in fact it is broadly defined, allowing military trials against civilian opponents of the regime. The same anonymous official tellingly said: "Do you really think that the government will apply those military trials [to] activists without justification?"

The re-defining of areas of the country as "military zones" is closely reminiscent of Israeli tactics against Palestinian civilians in the occupied West Bank. Any time Palestinians mount a protest against the various forms of Israeli occupation (be it the apartheid wall, the settlements or the checkpoints) Israeli soldiers instantly declare the area a "closed military zone". Daring to violate these "zones" is an offence that can result in imprisonment, serious injury or death at the hands of Israeli army thugs.

This is only one of the many parallels, and shared strategies and tactics between the Israeli occupation regime and the Egyptian military regime. This should come as no surprise; both are part of the regional order imposed by US imperial hegemony. Both regimes are generously funded with billions of dollars in US tax payers' money.

Soon after the Sinai attack, Sisi reportedly said that Egypt was fighting "a war of existence". This is another propaganda theme long beloved of Israeli army officers and politicians (who are quite often the same people). Any sign of Palestinian resistance, armed or unarmed, political or diplomatic, is declared as a threat to the very existence of the Israeli entity. Such intense paranoia is a sign that the Israeli project for the region does not have much of a shelf-life.

Reports on Tuesday stated that Egypt has already begun demolishing Egyptian homes in Rafah, near to the Gaza Strip, in order to create a 500m-wide "buffer zone" to protect against the "threat" of weapons smuggling.

Some 580 homes are said to be under threat of destruction. And again: Israel has done the same, in the very same area. During the second intifada, Israeli bulldozers in Gaza cleared out huge areas in the Palestinian town of Rafah (close to Egyptian Rafah, but on the other side of the Egypt-Gaza boundary line). Countless Palestinian homes and livelihoods were destroyed and levelled to the ground, all the name of "fighting terror". The American activist Rachel Corrie, crushed to death by one of these army bulldozers, was only one of the many to die at the hands of the Israelis during that period.

Egypt's military regime has made it a mainstay of their propaganda to agitate against Palestinians in Gaza, scaremongering against them using compliant state media, which frequently indulges in outlandish conspiracy theories. Palestinians in Gaza in general, and Hamas in particular were said to be behind all sorts of ills to befall Egypt since the 2011 democratic uprising that overthrew previous military dictator Hosni Mubarak. This is another parallel with Israel, since anti-Palestinian agitation is the very lifeblood of Israeli politics.

While al-Qaida-like groups in the area are a genuine threat, it can easily be argued that the Egyptian regime's brutal tactics in the region, as well as its enthusiasm for doing Israel's dirty work there have opened the door for these groups.

Until Egypt is restored onto the path towards democracy, fanatic armed groups can never really be defeated. Military solutions of such conflicts cannot suffice without a political settlement.

An associate editor with The Electronic Intifada, Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who lives in London.

]]>
noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Asa Winstanley) frontpage Thu, 30 Oct 2014 10:39:08 +0000
Defeat could turn out an advantage for Tunisia's Islamists https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/africa/14962-defeat-could-turn-out-an-advantage-for-tunisias-islamists https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/africa/14962-defeat-could-turn-out-an-advantage-for-tunisias-islamists Tunisia is a small country with a big audience. The process of electing a parliament and a president matters, not only because it keeps the democratic process alive, but also for the signals it sends the rest of the Arab world. Tunisia, the cradle of the revolution, keeps on setting the agenda.

But the signals it sends are many and various, and the western audience listens only to what it wants to hear. To a jubilant French media, Nidaa Tounes' victory over Ennadha was the victory of laicite loosely translated as secularism or the separation of church and state over its polar opposite, Islamism. It was the victory of pro-western modernity over religious conservatism, the good guys over the bad.

Ennahda were the bad guys because they should not have won in 2011. Democracy produced the wrong result. Essentially two faced, Ennahda preached the virtues of democracy to the West, while quietly laying the foundations of the Caliphate it wanted all along. Ennahda thus "allowed," or at the very least, did nothing to stop political assassinations of leftists to take place, according to this narrative.

But Tunisia also sends other messages to other audiences. Secularism is not the only hallmark of Nidaa Tounes. The force with the strongest adhesive power binding this heterogenous party together is a negative. Nidaa Tounes is defined by not being Ennahda, or any of the other two parties Congress for the Republic (CPR) and Ettakatol which shared power with Islamists since 2011.

This is why Nidaa Tounes does not now want to share power with any of the troika. Both Nidaa Tounes and CPR are secular, in the French meaning of the word. The center-left CPR should have more in common with Nidaa Tounes, than the Popular Front, which is composed of communists, marxists and Arab nationalists, and could form one of Nidaa Tounes' coalition partners.

Little of this matters to Nidaa Tounes. Other factors are at play. The party is first and foremost the vehicle of its leader Beji Caid Essebsi, who served under the governments of both Bourghiba and Ben Ali. If this passenger does not go on to win the presidency, there is a real question over the roadworthiness of the vehicle Nida Tounes itself. One of Essebsi's advisers admitted that Nidaa Tounes was the extension of the regimes the revolution has blown away. Anadolu News Agency quoted him as saying: "We are an extension to the Ben Ali regime with one exception and that is the freedom of speech," which was not available (then).

Without Essebsi does Nidaa Tounes exist as a party with a coherent message? And will a coalition formed with a host of minor parties be stable? There is at least the risk that Ennahda could regularly form a blocking majority in parliament, composed of smaller parties that defected to it on single issues.

If the primary battleground of the next parliament will be an economic one, with the new government tempted to make unpopular decisions to lift subsidies, the poisoned chalice of unpopular government in a transition period will have been gratefully passed from Ennahda to Nida Tounes. This could be just what the Islamist party wants.

For Ennahda, a defeat which leaves it the second most powerful political force could be no bad thing. Think of where it came from -- prison and exile and where it is now, a permanent fixture on the Tunisian political scene. This is consistent with other polls measuring the popularity of political Islam even in those Gulf countries which are doing everything they can to bury it.

A poll conducted by the Washington Institute, not a think tank known for its sympathy to Islamism, found the Brotherhood still attracted a "surprisingly large minority" in those countries which moved heaven and hell to suppress it -- 31 percent of Saudis, 34 percent of Kuwaitis, and 29 percent of Emiratis. Hamas, its Palestinian offshoot, scored even higher 52 percent of Saudis, 53 percent of Kuwaitis, and 44 percent of Emiratis.

As Abdulkhaleq Abdullah, professor of political science in the UAE tweeted: "For the percentage of support for the Muslim Brotherhood in the UAE to be 29 percent despite all the intensive media, official and unofficial campaign against them, is a percentage that deserves a pause and a thorough reading."

Considering what has been thrown at it in the last two years -- all the money at the command of the Saudis and Emiratis, the media campaign, the arrests, imprisonment and torture, the Brotherhood enjoys a hard and increasingly hardened core of support across the Arab World.

This of course does not help either side to move forward. Most of the money and power is located on the counter-revolutionary side of the fence, while most of the protest is on the other side. As long as that cleavage exists, neither side can triumph over the other. The flame lit in Tunisia and Egypt will not be snuffed out.

There are other messages from this result. The defeat of Ennahda in the parliamentary elections in Tunisia put to rest the myth that once elected Islamists would be unwilling to give up power, that the movement is essentially exclusionary. This was the charge leveled at Mohamed Morsi -- that he could not form coalitions and presided over the Ikwanisation of all the institutions of state, and the charge Nida Tounis leveled repeatedly at Rached Ghannouchi.

The reality is that he has done nothing but form coalitions and make compromises, which cost him dear. He compromised over the inclusion of the word sharia to get the constitution. He voted against a law that would have excluded members of the old regime from taking part in elections. He paved the way for his own apparent defeat. He put the process of getting a constitution through above the result. He weathered in the process, what his own supporters were calling a soft coup.

Ennahda is playing a longer game. This election has turned the charge of exclusionary politics on its head. When in 2011 Ennahda won 89 seats, they took the premiership but gave the two other most important political prizes, the presidency and the head of parliament to secular parties. They need not have, because they were clear winners. The gap between first place and second in 2011 was 60 seats.

This time around the gap between first and second in the parliamentary elections is much thinner -- 15 seats and Nidaa Tounes does not seem to want to share out the goodies. So the question this time around is not whether Ennahda is exclusionary, but whether Nidaa Tounes is. Will the winner attempt to take all this time around? Will it deal with Ennahda as a legitimate political force? Much will depend on the answer.

This article was first published on the Huffington Post. Follow David Hearst on Twitter.

]]>
noreply@memonitor.org.uk (David Hearst ) frontpage Thu, 30 Oct 2014 10:33:57 +0000
UN: At least 7,000 unsecured explosive items remain across the Gaza Strip https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/14961-un-at-least-7000-unsecured-explosive-items-remain-across-the-gaza-strip https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/14961-un-at-least-7000-unsecured-explosive-items-remain-across-the-gaza-strip A UN body has estimated that at least 7,000 explosive items remain to be secured or destroyed in the Gaza Strip, following Israel's attack over the summer.

The figure from the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) is contained in the latest monthly report on the Occupied Palestinian Territories by UN OCHA, published yesterday.

In the aftermath of an Israeli assault unprecedented in scale and ferocity, UNMAS has stressed that Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) "continue to pose a serious risk to civilians and impede humanitarian operations."

Basing their assessment on "the scope of damage to buildings and a minimum failure rate of 10 per cent", UNMAS believe there to be "a minimum of 7,000 explosive items" that "remain to be secured or destroyed." These are "concentrated in the remains of destroyed or damaged infrastructure."

UNMAS cite seven civilian fatalities and 14 injuries due to ERW since the end of hostilities in late August. Last Wednesday, a four-year-old Palestinian boy was killed by unexploded Israeli ordnance, with Maanreporting him to be the tenth person killed by such ordnance.

According to UNMAS, having deployed to Gaza on 27 July, they expect "the intervention to last at least until the end of 2016." By the end of September, 197 sites had been cleared, and 16 aircraft bombs had been defused at the request of UNRWA.

UNMAS is also providing education to Palestinians in Gaza concerning unexploded ordnance, such as the distribution of 15,000 flyers in critical areas.

UNMAS collaborates with various UN bodies to provide a coordinated response to the problems of landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERWs).

]]>
noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 30 Oct 2014 10:25:45 +0000
Sweden is first EU member to recognise Palestine as state https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/14960-sweden-is-first-eu-member-to-recognize-palestine-as-state https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/14960-sweden-is-first-eu-member-to-recognize-palestine-as-state Swedish flagSweden's newly elected center-left government has officially recognised Palestine as a state on Thursday, making it the first EU member to do so.

"Today the government takes the decision to recognise the state of Palestine," Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said in a statement published in the Swedish daily, Dagens Nyheter.

By recognising Palestine as a state, Wallstrom said Sweden wanted to first give its support to "the moderates among the Palestinians." She referred to those "who will govern the complex Palestinian policy and those who soon will again have to sit down at the negotiating table," in the statement released Thursday.

On October 3, Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Lofven had announced that his country would recognise Palestine as a state.

"The conflict between Israel and Palestine can only be solved with a two-state solution, negotiated in accordance with international law," Lofven said. "A two-state solution requires mutual recognition and a will to peaceful coexistence. Sweden will therefore recognise the state of Palestine."

The decision comes after the Social Democrats won the Swedish parliamentary elections, in alliance with the Greens and the Left Party on September 14.

Countries such as Hungary, Poland and Slovakia also recognise Palestine as a state; however they had done so before joining the European Union.

Although the U.N. General Assembly approved the de facto recognition of the sovereign state of Palestine in 2012, the European Union has not followed suit

On Thursday, the EU condemned Israeli plans to build 2,610 settlements in Givat Hamatos located in southeast Jerusalem.

''This represents a further highly detrimental step that undermines prospects for a two-state solution and calls into question Israel's commitment to a peaceful negotiated settlement with the Palestinians,'' the European Union External Action said in a statement released Thursday.

]]>
noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 30 Oct 2014 10:20:38 +0000
The European Union calls on Iran to suspend all executions https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/14952-the-european-union-calls-on-iran-to-suspend-all-executions https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/14952-the-european-union-calls-on-iran-to-suspend-all-executions The European Union expressed its deepest regret over the execution of the young Iranian woman Rehanna Jabbari and sent its "deepest condolences to Jabbari's family especially her mother". The EU called on Iran to suspend all executions.

Catherine Ashton, the EU High Representative of the Union of Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said in a press statement released on Tuesday, "The European Union deeply regrets the Iranian Judiciary's lack of forgiveness in their trial process despite Ms Jabbari's insistence that she was merely defending herself in the wake of a sexual assault".

The statement went on to express the EU's, "Sense of concern over the increasing number of executions in Iran despite criticism from the international community and the debate as to whether or not execution is a fair punishment to begin with".

The statement also, "Calls on the Iranian authorities to suspend all executions and to consider banning the death penalty".

The US Department of State also condemned the Iranian authorities' decision to use the death penalty in Rehanna Jabbari's case.

The EU's statement went on to explain that Rehanna Jabbari killed Dr Morteza Serbandi (aged 26) after he tried to rape her and expressed its growing sense of concern of the general direction of court trials in Iran.

The US Department of State emphasised that the Iranian judiciary carried out the death penalty against Ms Jabbari despite the international community's objection to the ruling, as they question whether or not Iran was carrying out a fair trial.

The Iranian Revolutionary Court sentenced Ms Jabbari to death a few days ago after she had been held captive in prison for killing Iranian doctor and former Iranian intelligence employee, Moerteza Serbandi seven years ago.

Rehanna Jabbari admitted to her crime by saying that she did kill Serbandi out of self-defence after he tried to rape her.

The court ruled Serbandi's murder as a pre-meditated attack based on an email found in Jabbari's inbox where she wrote, "I will kill him tomorrow", in reference to the doctor. The scene of the crime was allegedly open to the public.

It is important to note that Jabbari's case sparked an international outcry from both women's rights and international human rights organisations.

]]>
noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Wed, 29 Oct 2014 16:35:26 +0000
Death toll rises to 43 after barrel bombs are dropped on a displaced persons camp in Idlib https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/14959-death-toll-rises-to-43-after-barrel-bombs-are-dropped-on-a-displaced-persons-camp-in-idlib https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/14959-death-toll-rises-to-43-after-barrel-bombs-are-dropped-on-a-displaced-persons-camp-in-idlib The death toll after a Syrian army helicopter dropped barrel bombs on a displaced persons camp in the northern province of Idlib has reached 43 while dozens of others have been wounded, according to the Syrian opposition coalition.

In a statement issued by the Syrian Revolution General Commission, one of the most prominent media coalitions in Syria, it stated that over 43 civilians were killed while dozens were wounded as a result of the Syrian army helicopter dropping four explosive barrels on the Abdeen village camp for displaced persons in the southern countryside of Idlib. A copy of this statement was obtained by an Anadolu news agency journalist.

The Commission explained that the number of victims is likely to increase due to high critically wounded casualty figures.

It also pointed out that the Abdeen camp, which was targeted by the attack, included displaced people from rural villages near the northern province of Hama and Idlib who have fled their homes following clashes between the regime and opposition forces over the past few weeks.

The information provided by the commission has not yet been confirmed by an independent source or the Syrian regime which imposes restrictions on dealing with the media.

The "explosive barrels" are an old Soviet weapon consisting of metal barrels filled with highly explosive materials as well as iron filings and small metal shrapnel. The Syrian regime has adopted their use by dropping them from their air in order to bomb residential areas controlled by opposition forces.

]]>
noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Wed, 29 Oct 2014 17:42:34 +0000
France: Construction of new settlement units in occupied East Jerusalem is illegal https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/14958-france-construction-of-new-settlement-units-in-occupied-east-jerusalem-is-illegal https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/14958-france-construction-of-new-settlement-units-in-occupied-east-jerusalem-is-illegal The French Foreign Ministry on Wednesday condemned Israel's recent announcement stating its intention to build over 1,000 settlement units in occupied East Jerusalem.

France claimed the move, if confirmed, would be illegal.

A statement from the ministry said the announcement has come "at a time when tensions are already high in Jerusalem."

"France is concerned about the recent unrest and restricted access to Al-Aqsa Mosque," read the statement. It also called for "the respect for all holy sites in Jerusalem and for the city's multicultural dimension because any challenges to the status quo would pose a major threat to stability."

Earlier today, Spain also condemned the announcement.

The UN Security Council is holding an emergency meeting on Wednesday regarding the increased Israeli settlement activity in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, according to a diplomatic source from the Argentinian delegation, who is currently President of the United Nations Security Council.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu retorted yesterday: "We will continue to build in Jerusalem, our eternal capital. We have built in Jerusalem, we are building there now and we will continue to build there."

Netanyahu approved plans on Monday for the construction of 1060 new settlement units in occupied East Jerusalem.

]]>
noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Wed, 29 Oct 2014 17:22:22 +0000
Torture in Israeli prisons: 200 methods used against Palestinian prisoners https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/14957-torture-in-israeli-prisons-200-methods-used-against-palestinian-prisoners https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/14957-torture-in-israeli-prisons-200-methods-used-against-palestinian-prisoners Hundreds of torture methods used against Palestinian prisoners during interrogations conducted in Israeli prisoners have been observed by human rights organisations and prisoners' rights associations.

A report by the United Nations lists around 200 methods of torture. The Israeli rights group B'Tselem listed around 105 torture methods. Regardless of the number, all these reports indicate a grave level of violations perpetrated against Palestinians following their arrest.

Fouad Khuffash, director of the Ahrar Centre for Prisoners' Studies and Human Rights, suggests that torture can be divided into two categories; physical and psychological. Some believe that psychological torture is less harmful than physical torture, but the mental scars left by both can leave prisoners traumatised long after their release.

Khuffash adds: "Torture in Israeli prisons is systematic and starts from the moment a prisoner is arrested, not from the moment they begin interrogation. This is a premeditated and staged scenario that changes according to the case of the detainee and the nature of their file. Investigators alternate and play various roles assigned in advance to each investigator."

Fahd Abu Al-Hajj, director of the Abu Jihad Centre for Prisoner Affairs at the University of Jerusalem, noted that there are 73 methods of interrogation considered to be the "most popular" in Israeli jails. These methods demonstrate the barbarism of the occupation and its lack of respect for basic standards of human rights, he stated.

He added: "Nothing evidences this more than the repeated death of prisoners under interrogation, the most recent of which was the death of the prisoner Raed Al-Jabari."

Al-Hajj believes that the use of torture is systematic, adopted by the Israeli intelligence services and that no prisoner detained in any Israeli prison is spared.

He also explained that these methods range between severe beatings, putting prisoners under cold water followed by hot water, cuffing or restraining them with their arms behind them and then tying them to a door or window for long periods of time, often lasting hours. Prisoners are also made to sit on chairs and beaten with sticks until they lose consciousness. These beatings may target sensitive areas of their bodies which have the potential to leave long-term negative effects, sometimes leading to chronic diseases.

Forms of torture

Israeli human rights organisation B'Tselem acknowledged in its report that 105 torture methods are used against Palestinian detainees which are considered serious violations of human rights. A UN human rights committee described the torture in Israeli prisons as "crossing the line", noting that Israel's brutal methods of torture included breaking backs, pulling fingers apart and twisting testicles.

Israeli intelligence bases their torture of detainees on the so-called secret guidelines that were approved in 1987, after the outbreak of the first Intifada. These guidelines allow them to apply "moderate" physical and psychological pressure on prisoners. This gives a legal cover to the torture practiced by Israeli intelligence agents.

In the last 10 years, interrogators have decreased their use of torture, moving away from physical torture and instead used harsh psychological methods that can leave enduring scars, while continuing to use direct physical torture of varying degrees.

Mohammed Kilani, who has experienced many interrogations, noted that his solitary confinement which exceeded two months during which he was forced to remain chained to a chair, was the harshest method of torture he has suffered.

He also added that throughout the entire prison system across the globe, there exists no torture method that has not been thought of or used by the Israeli authorities at some point.

According to statistics, around 72 prisoners were killed as a result of torture in Israeli prisons since 1967, out of a total number of over 200 prisoners who died behind bars.

The first prisoner to die as a result of being tortured was Yousef Al-Jabali who died on January 4 1968 in a Nablus prison. Many prisoners have since followed him, such as Qassem Abu Akar, Ibrahim Al-Rai, Abdul Samad Harizat, Attia Za'anin, Mustafa Akkawi, and others, including the most recent, Raed Al-Jabari.

]]>
noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Wed, 29 Oct 2014 16:55:22 +0000
Houthi militants storm state university in southern Sanaa https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/14956-houthi-militants-storm-state-university-in-southern-sanaa https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/14956-houthi-militants-storm-state-university-in-southern-sanaa Houthi militants stormed Dhamar University in southern Sanaa on Wednesday, according to a university source.

A source that preferred to remain anonymous told Anadolu news agency that "Houthi militants carrying light and heavy artillery, including RPG launchers, stormed the university in the Dhamar province in southern Sanaa, entered the president's office and stole the university's official seal."

According to the source, "the militants stormed the university under the guise of the Popular Committees, citing university corruption as their reason for staging the attack."

Leaders from the Houthi Ansar Allah group could not be reached for comment.

The Houthis have controlled capital Sanaa since September 21, when they signed an agreement with Yemen's presidency aimed at ending the country's ongoing political stalemate.

Since their control of Sanaa, the Houthis have stormed government, civilian, and military headquarters in the same manner and occupied them. They have also interfered in financial and administrative affairs, such as matters of recruitment, paying salaries and financial benefits. This is also occurring in various private institutions, including universities, according to security officials and eye-witnesses.

]]>
noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Wed, 29 Oct 2014 16:50:07 +0000
Government turns on Sufis after getting rid of Brotherhood https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/africa/14955-government-turns-on-sufis-after-getting-rid-of-brotherhood https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/africa/14955-government-turns-on-sufis-after-getting-rid-of-brotherhood The Egyptian government has recently decided to exclude more religious minorities from the political scene having already eliminated the Muslim Brotherhood's presence in quite a frightening way. The new scapegoats for the Egyptian political arena are the some four million citizens who consider themselves loyal to the Refai-Sufi tradition in the country. This particular sect of Sufism has been practicing its own code of law for approximately 118 years.

This war on Sufism in Egypt began with the Ministry of Awqaf's recent decision to remove the Mosque of Sidi Ahmed Al-Refai from under its jurisdiction and place it under the control of the Ministry of State Antiquities. While the Ahmed Refai mosque is a central and key location for all Sufis following the Refai tradition, the Egyptian government now claims the site is of archaeological importance not just to Sufis but also to every citizen of Egypt. Consequently the mosque will no longer be available for public access as a place of holy worship and instead will be considered an important archaeological site for the entire country.

This is not the fist time that the Egyptian government has tried to pull a religious site away from the Sufi community. There was another attempt in 1998 when the council of ministers issued a decision that sought to seize control of any building of archaeological importance within a certain period. Although the Sidi Ahmed Al-Refai mosque was initially among the buildings in question, the government's attempt ultimately failed due to the Sufi community's insistence on maintaining control of their holy shrines. The situation calmed briefly only to ignite again in 2004 when the Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities issued decision number 243, ordering the evacuation of the Refai Mosque due to its classification as an important archaeological site. The tourism police were ordered to prosecute all violators and trespassers according to article 117 of the antiquities protection law issued implemented in 1983.

The Sufi community remained steadfast in their efforts during these attempts by declaring that the Refai mosque is a sacred shrine for their followers. The international Sufi community stood by their Sufi brethren in their fight against Egyptian authorities.

On 14 July 2014, the Egyptian authorities issued decision number 164 to the Ministry of State Antiquities where it was decided that: "The Minister of Awqaf has agreed that all occupants must evacuate the Refai Mosque so that it may be handed over to the Ministry of Antiquities".

In addition, the government also decided to confiscate the home of the Refai Sufi Sheikh Tariq Yaseen Al-Refai because he allegedly lived in part of a historically significant mosque. Sheikh Tariq Yaseen Al-Refai responded by saying, "The government has waged a new fight with the Sufis after they were already subjugated under the Muslim Brotherhood's rule, which saw to the destruction of many Sufi shrines. Yet a new government has come to fight the Sufis and our way of thought".

Sheikh Al-Refai called upon the state to resolve this impending crisis though he remained sceptical of state and Brotherhood forces "working together to see to the demise of Sufi thought".

Al Refai directed his statements directly to Al-Sisi when he said: "We participated in the June 30th revolution and we played a very clear role. Four million Sufis came out to the streets to see to the removal of President Morsi from office and in return we ask you to respect and protect our holy shrines. We are a large reason for your being president".

"We do not have a single party that represents us and in spite of this we have never tried to create our own party. Why must the government insist on standing against us? The state must respect the Sufis, their sheikhs and the importance of this mosque", Al-Refai continued.

]]>
noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Tareq Al-Dib) frontpage Wed, 29 Oct 2014 16:45:23 +0000
Washington worried over suspension of "oppositional organisation" in Bahrain https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/americas/14954-washington-worried-over-suspension-of-qoppositional-organisationq-in-bahrain https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/americas/14954-washington-worried-over-suspension-of-qoppositional-organisationq-in-bahrain The United States expressed concern after a Bahraini court banned the country's main opposition group, Al-Wefaq, for three months on Tuesday, just weeks before a parliamentary election the group had already said it would boycott.

Al-Wefaq draws most of its support from the Shiite majority in the Sunni-ruled nation.

The spokeswoman for the US Department of State, Jen Psaki, said the following in response to the decision: "We are worried that such an action will work against establishing a favourable climate in the country and its progress towards comprehensive and effective political action."

The Bahraini authorities filed a lawsuit against Al-Wefaq and called for the termination of the group's activities, which allegedly violated the law of associations.

Political parties are banned in Bahrain, as in other Gulf Arab monarchies. Al-Wefaq has the status of an association.

The Ministry of Justice for the Kingdom of Bahrain issued a press statement in which it declared: "The lawsuit filed against Al-Wefaq is a direct result of the organisation's unwillingness to adhere to the law. The group continuously violates many legal regulations by holding illegal conferences."

Al-Wefaq denied the Ministry of Justice's claims and declared that the measures carried out by the government are "blatant political decisions carried out against the group."

]]>
noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Wed, 29 Oct 2014 16:42:29 +0000
Shlomo Sand on his new book, How I Stopped Being a Jew https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/resources/interviews/14953-shlomo-sand-on-his-new-book-why-i-stopped-being-a-jew https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/resources/interviews/14953-shlomo-sand-on-his-new-book-why-i-stopped-being-a-jew EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

"Winter here in Tel Aviv is wonderful," Shlomo Sand tells me, before adding: "I think it's the only thing here that is wonderful."

A Professor of Contemporary History at the University of Tel Aviv, Sand's published work has attracted much controversy. His new book, How I Stopped Being a Jew, is a personal account of the author's break with secular Judaism; such an identity, he says, means belonging to a select group which comes with a set of privileges he would like to renounce.

"In Israel there is no doubt that to be a Jew means power and privilege," he says. But this is at the expense of Arab-Israelis, who are not Jewish, and are therefore second class citizens. Worse still, such privileges are unreachable thanks to the nature of secular Judaism. If you believe in God you can become a religious Jew, for example, or with a lot of effort you can become British, French, a Labour Party member. But for Sand's Palestinian students to become secular Jews, first they would have to become religious, then secular.

"For the first time in my life I define that being a secular Jew is to belong to an exclusive club that you cannot join. Nobody can become a secular Jew if he is not born to a Jewish mother. I decided I didn't want to join, for the rest of my life, a club that you cannot join."

"Because the Israeli state declares itself as a Jewish state, being a Jew in Israel is to be a privileged person. To give you an example, if Great Britain declared it is not a state of all British people but only of English Christians, to be an English Christian person will be a privilege in this state. There is a lot of the population who are not Jews, and cannot become Jewish. This is one good reason not to consider myself in Israel as a Jew."

Still, despite its selective nature Israel is often held up as the only democracy in the Middle East. Sand says that a liberal, political culture does exist within Israel – the fact that his book was published there, and became a bestseller, is proof of that. But a real democracy, it is not. Israel is not looking out for the good of its citizens, believes Sand, but the benefit of Jews across the world.

Not only are Sand's Arab-Israeli pupils citizens of a state that doesn't belong to them, Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are living without any political or civil rights, says Sand. "It's not 47 days or weeks or months. It's 47 years. It's a historic period – Israel cannot be defined as a democracy when it's keeping a population without any basic rights...Tunisia can maybe become the first stable democracy in the Middle East. Maybe."

Israel could start by defining itself as an Israeli state, rather than a Jewish state, says Sand, or even as a republic or a monarchy.

As for longer term plans for the country, Sand explains that "morally" he prefers one state. "We are living too close with Palestinians to live completely separate, it's not possible. But politically, when I'm thinking of a political project that can progress in the Middle East, I don't believe in the one state solution. The Israeli Jewish society is a very racist society. To become a minority in their own state overnight, I don't think that it's possible."

Sand is keen to distinguish himself from "writers of the Zionist left," like Amos Oz, by pointing out that this isn't a project of divorce. "I don't want a pure Jewish Israeli state at all. I think that any separation will still keep Arabs in Israel and maybe Jews in Palestine. But I think that the only political solution for the moment, even if there are so many settlers, colonisers, in the Occupied Territories, is a separation on the border of 67. It doesn't mean that I believe that we can realise this project. But it's more realistic than one equal state between Arabs and Jews."

As for the settlers, Sand tells me that if he were in the place of Bibi Netanyahu he would ask the Palestinian Authority to offer them a choice of continuing to live in their houses, in equal conditions, as Palestinian citizens in a Palestinian state. Or give them the choice to go back to their homeland near Tel Aviv or near Haifa. "It depends on the will of the Palestinian Authority because you have to understand that the fact there are settlers is not the fault of the Palestinians, it is the fault of the Israeli government. Israel has to find a solution for it."

Then there are the 5 million Palestinian refugees who live in camps in the surrounding countries. Sand believes that Israel has to recognise responsibility for what happened in 1948 and the Palestinian refugee problem. But he believes that the right of return cannot be realised without the destruction of the Israeli state.

He also believes that continuing to educate children in the Palestinian refugee camps that one day they will come back to Haifa and Jaffa is criminal. "Keeping them 67 years in this camp is a crime in itself. Yes, Israel committed the first crime by throwing them away when they established their state. But the second criminals are the Arab states that kept them in this camp."

Instead, Israel has to accept a number of refugees and share the responsibility with surrounding Arab countries. "You can't give them back the house you destroyed, but you can recognise what you did, first of all, and secondly you can pay a lot for it."

"This is one of the conditions I think as an Israeli I would put forward in any peace process in the Middle East," he continues. "Palestinians would receive Syrian, Lebanese or Jordanian nationality as one of the conditions of the process. If I am against the right of return it doesn't mean I am against the return of some number of Palestinians to the Palestinian state."

As it is now, Israel cannot survive, says Sand. There are a number of references to apartheid in Sand's book, a contentious term when used in relation to Israel.

"In the Occupied Territories it is pure, pure apartheid, even if it's different from South Africa. Jewish settlers do not live with Arabs. Arabs do not have the right to live in Jewish settlements. They are completely separate. The only contact between Israelis and Palestinians in the Occupied Territories is when Palestinians come to build houses for the settlers. They don't live together; they don't go to school together. Then tell me why I cannot apply the word apartheid?"

In fact only this Sunday Israel's Defence Minister Moshe Ya'alon ordered that it be made illegal for Palestinian labourers working in Tel Aviv to catch Israeli buses, which travel through the West Bank and onto settlements, back home.

"They say this is a security measure. It's becoming a parody because the workers are checked in the morning. If they have bombs they could set them off in Tel Aviv, in Haifa. Why take the bomb back on the road, back in the evening to their village?" Sand believes it is not actually a "security measure," it is a result of settlers not wishing to travel on buses with Arabs. "Yes, it is a Jewish apartheid. History is a stage of victims and hangmen, who are changing places all the time. The victims of yesterday can become the hangmen of today. The hangmen of today can become the victims of tomorrow."

In the opening chapter of How I Stopped Being a Jew, Sand has written that one of the motivations to write this essay was "to place a large question mark against accepted ideas and assumptions that are deeply rooted, not only in the Israeli public sphere but also in the networks of globalised communication." Does he believe his book has had this effect?

"Not at all. A book can never, never change the world. The reason that I write is the belief that books can't change the world, but when the world comes to change, people are looking for other books. This is the reason that I continue to write... I think it can make people less racist," he adds, admitting that he has received hundreds and hundreds of letters in response to his work. "If my book helped people not to be racist, I achieved my goal."

"Today I am so desperate and so pessimistic I think that any action to force Israel to leave the Occupied Territories and to stop this situation is acceptable. Besides one thing – terror."


]]>
noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Amelia Smith) frontpage Wed, 29 Oct 2014 16:36:32 +0000
Iran protests UAE's map for the IAEA https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/14951-iran-protests-uaes-map-for-the-iaea https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/14951-iran-protests-uaes-map-for-the-iaea Iran has announced that it filed a complaint against the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) due to the United Arab Emirates' use of "a false name for the Persian Gulf", according to reports from FARS news agency.

The protest was made by the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI) after the organisation's public relations department studied the IAEA's Country Nuclear Power Profiles (CNPP) which compiles background information on the status and development of nuclear power programs in the member states and found that "two big mistakes in the page allocated to the UAE," as quoted by FARS news agency.

The map on the UAE's page "considered the three Iranian islands of Abu Musa, the Greater Tunb and the Lesser Tunb in the Persian Gulf, viewed as inseparable parts of the Iranian territory, have mistakenly been named as the UAE islands. The UAE has used a fake name for the Persian Gulf in its map."

The Iranian news agency did not mention the name that was used by the UAE in its map, only mentioning it as "a false name for the Persian Gulf". The IAEA's website shows that the name used by the UAE is the "Arab Gulf".

FARS news agency also noted that Iran's permanent mission to the UN and other international organisations in Vienna sent its protest letter to the IAEA on September 12th and asked the UN nuclear watchdog to register the protest letter as a document in the Agency's secretariat and correct the mistakes.

]]>
noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Wed, 29 Oct 2014 15:54:53 +0000
Spain: Israeli settlements in Jerusalem are illegal https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/14950-spain-israeli-settlements-in-jerusalem-are-illegal https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/14950-spain-israeli-settlements-in-jerusalem-are-illegal The Spanish Foreign Ministry expressed regret on Wednesday over the Israeli authorities' approval announced on Monday of building 1,000 new housing units in two settlements in East Jerusalem, stressing the illegality of these settlements.

According to a statement published on the ministry's official website, "These decisions are incompatible with the objective adopted by the government of Israel in formal negotiations with the Palestinians to find a peaceful, comprehensive, and a just solution to their conflict based on two-states".

Spain "reiterates its well-known position shared by the international community on the illegality of all settlements," according to the statement.

UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon made a statement yesterday saying that the construction of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories "are against international law" and "do not serve the peace process."

The UN Security Council is holding an emergency meeting on Wednesday regarding the increased Israeli settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territories, according to diplomatic source from the Argentinian delegation, who is currently President of the United Nations Security Council.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu retorted yesterday "We will continue to build in Jerusalem, our eternal capital. We have built in Jerusalem, we are building there now and we will continue to build there."

Netanyahu approved plans on Monday for building 1060 new settlement units in Jerusalem.

This approval has come at a time when the Palestinian neighbourhoods in Jerusalem are witnessing clashes between the Palestinian youth and Israeli forces in response to repeated Jewish raids of Al-Aqsa Mosque.

]]>
noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Wed, 29 Oct 2014 15:52:59 +0000
Charities urged to mobilise for Palestine https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/14949-charities-urged-to-mobilise-for-palestine https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/14949-charities-urged-to-mobilise-for-palestine Representatives of more than 60 charities from 27 countries have gathered in Doha to raise funds for the redevelopment of the Gaza Strip and other aid for Palestinians. Delegates at the "First Humanitarian Forum to Support Palestinians" organised by the Qatar Charity are spending two days discussing the catastrophe facing Palestinians, not only in the besieged Gaza Strip but also the refugee camps in neighbouring countries.

The forum is being held under the auspices of the Prime Minister of Qatar, HE Shaikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al-Thani, who attended the opening session on Wednesday. The need to disseminate information about the humanitarian crisis facing Palestinians, particularly but not exclusively in Gaza, is paramount following Israel's latest invasion and ongoing military crackdown across the occupied Palestinian territories.

Pleas to lift the crippling siege on the Gaza Strip have fallen largely on deaf ears, one speaker told the audience, and with Egypt destroying the tunnels described by Western journalists as "Gaza's lifeline", the people of the coastal territory face enormous difficulties, with even basic necessities in chronic short supply. "This," he added, "is no less than collective punishment, but who is holding Israel to account? While support for Israel from the US and EU is to be expected, why are China and Russia silent about what is happening to the Palestinians?"

While most attention has been focused on Gaza, for obvious reasons, the charities were reminded that the situation in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem is also dire. Israel's Judaisation policies in the Holy City have driven away almost two-thirds of the Christian population, said another speaker. Addressing the conference via a pre-recorded video message, the Imam of Al-Aqsa Mosque pointed out that the Israelis are undermining the Islamic identity of Jerusalem by their policies. Shaikh Dr Ikrama Sabri told delegates that this is not a Palestinian issue alone; it should be a major concern for all of the world's 1 billion Muslims.

Appreciation was expressed at the support given by the government of Qatar not only in Palestine but also other areas of the world facing humanitarian disasters. Information about the relief efforts of the Qatar Charity was given to the forum participants, who are being urged to mobilise and donate as much as possible for Palestinians in desperate need.

]]>
noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Wed, 29 Oct 2014 15:34:26 +0000
Court sentences an Israeli claiming to be "saviour" with 21 wives to 30-year prison sentence https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/14948-court-sentences-an-israeli-claiming-to-be-qsaviourq-with-21-wives-to-30-year-prison-sentence https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/14948-court-sentences-an-israeli-claiming-to-be-qsaviourq-with-21-wives-to-30-year-prison-sentence On Tuesday, an Israeli court sentenced a Jewish cult leader to a 30-year prison sentence for having 21 wives and claiming to be the "saviour".

Israel Army Radio reported that: "The Israeli court in Tel Aviv sentenced the leader of a Jewish cult (which consisted of solely women minus the one male convicted), Goel Ratzon, to 30 years in prison for having 21 wives. He has also been charged with enslavement and robbing the women of free will."

With regards to the case, Israel Army Radio also noted that Ratzon, who is 65 years old, violated young girls for 30 years, and then took them as "wives", keeping them in appalling conditions.

Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported that Ratzon kept his wives in four homes and imposed a special lifestyle on them based on his own rules, which included preventing them from eating meat, smoking and drinking.

Israel Army Radio also quoted one of Ratzon's wives saying that her husband described himself as "the saviour of the world".

Ratzon denied the charges, stating that the women lived with him voluntarily.

Ratzon's story has become one of the most talked about stories in Israeli media, especially since religious marriage in Israel is monogamous.

]]>
noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Wed, 29 Oct 2014 15:25:58 +0000
Gaza Writes Back: Short Stories from young writers in Palestine https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/media-review/book-review/14947-gaza-writes-back-short-stories-from-young-writers-in-palestine https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/media-review/book-review/14947-gaza-writes-back-short-stories-from-young-writers-in-palestine Gaza Writes Back: Short Stories from young writers in PalestineEditor: Refaat Alareer
Publisher: Just World Books
Published Date : 15 January 2014
ISBN: 978-1935982357

Review by: Noor Ahmad

Gaza Writes Back, a collection of short stories from young writers in Gaza, provides us with a vibrant heartrending and poignant narration of the lives of the Palestinian people, far from the T.V screen, capturing a glimpse of the actual consequences of Israeli attacks on the Strip , away from simply reporting causalities and fatalities.

To read the full review, visit the Palestine Book Awards site.




]]>
noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Noor Ahmad) frontpage Wed, 29 Oct 2014 13:40:31 +0000
My voice sought the wind https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/media-review/book-review/14946-my-voice-sought-the-wind https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/media-review/book-review/14946-my-voice-sought-the-wind My voice sought the windAuthor: Susan Abulhawa
Publisher: Just World Books
Published Date : 19 November 2013
ISBN: 978-1935982326

Review by: Maha Salah

When reading Susan Abulhawa’s collection of poetry titled My Voice Sought the Wind, I made the mistake of going in with traditional Arabic poetry in mind, as some have compared her to Mahmoud Darwish. This made everything that much more harsh and hard-hitting. Her poetry has a mix of the good, the bad and the ugly, and I believe that perfectly sums up Palestine for many; beautiful but tainted with ugliness, and sometimes, you need to shed light on that.

To read the full review, visit the Palestine Book Awards site.




]]>
noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Maha Salah) frontpage Tue, 28 Oct 2014 17:58:32 +0000
Egypt, terrorism and Mahmoud Abbas https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/14945-egypt-terrorism-and-mahmoud-abbas https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/14945-egypt-terrorism-and-mahmoud-abbas I would first like to begin by expressing my deepest condolences to the families of the Egyptian soldiers that were killed in the Sinai Peninsula. I would also like to offer my condolences to the officers of the Egyptian Armed Forces over the death of their fellow officers following this aggression.

What happened is truly unfortunate and we, in Qatar and the rest of the Arab world condemn and denounce it. We strongly urge everyone to come together and eradicate the causes behind such acts of violence and encouragement of terrorism, whether inside or outside Egypt.

The bombings in Sinai on October 24, 2014 were not the first of their kind and will not be the last. Bombings in this region date back to early 2000, and there have been over 27 bombings that targeted economic, tourist, and military sites including Israeli. In 2004 and 2005, bombings occurred in the Taba area of Sharm el-Sheikh, during the reign of the ousted president Hosni Mubarak, as well as after his reign, during the rule of the military junta led by General Tantawi. There were also bombings during the shortest rule in Egyptian history; that of the elected civilian president Mohamed Morsi, as well as now, during the rule of the field marshal, President Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi.

The question is why are all these bombings occurring in the Sinai Peninsula and not in any other parts of Egypt? The answer, according to credible information, is that the residents of Sinai are treated by the state as second-class citizens, at best, or sometimes even as third-class citizens. This area, which covers over 6 per cent of Egypt's total area and has a population of over 500,000 people, has not seen any reconstruction or development. The people of Sinai say that the tourist and economic investment in Egypt have gone to the beaches and coastline and that these resorts only serve a small group of people, and do not reach the Egyptians in Sinai. The state attends only to the central parts of Sinai while depriving the rest from any kind of development. This is an underlying problem of the unrest in the Sinai that needs addressing.

President Al-Sisi is accused foreign parties of being behind the events in Sinai, by which he is referring to the people of besieged Gaza in order to deflect legitimate accusations of neglecting the people of Sinai over many decades. When facing trials and tribulations, corrupt dictatorships normally put the blame on a specific foreign force in order to take punitive measures against such forces. For example, Israel was the mastermind behind the assassination of the Israeli ambassador in London on June 3, 1982. The assassination of the Israeli ambassador was used as a pretext for the invasion of Lebanon in 1982. On June 12, 2006, it waged another war on Lebanon under the pretext of the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier by the Lebanese resistance forces in South Lebanon. On June 12, 2014, three settlers were kidnapped in the southern West Bank, and Israel accused Hamas for the kidnapping and used it as a pretext to wage a war on the Gaza Strip that lasted over 55 days.

Field Marshal Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi in insisting that it was Palestinians in Gaza who carried out this assault against the Egyptian Army is threatening the strip with destruction. Al-Sisi's presence amongst the leaders of the Egyptian armed forces, his combative words combined with the indefinite closure of the Rafah crossing raises the dangerous possibility that they Egyptian regime is preparing Egyptian public opinion for a raid on the Gaza Strip, just like the Israelis.

I say to Field Marshal Al-Sisi, the leader of the coup in Egypt and president of Egypt, the Egyptian army and its soldiers at the crossing that the people of Gaza harbour no hatred and animosity towards them. They also shouldn't believe unverified reports accusing Palestinians for the events in Sinai. These are Israeli reports meant to inflame Egypt and its people. These reports are also specifically designed to bring more pressure on the beleaguered Palestinians in Gaza. The Egyptian army should not be in any doubt that the weapons of the resistance in Gaza and their men have their eyes and guns aimed at Jerusalem, and nowhere else. The people of Gaza are not the ones committing atrocities against the Egyptian army and the security of Egypt; the people of Gaza have supported you and your armed forces in your confrontation against those targeting Egypt's safety and security throughout history.

As for Mahmoud Abbas, he hasn't tired of abandoning the rights of the Palestinian people in general, and especially the people of Gaza. Since the cursed Oslo Accords was signed in 1993, which he was a part of, and until today, Abbas, who was first in the chain of command and then at the top of the PA hierarchy, has not achieved any success for the Palestinian people. His most recent unforgiveable act was to send telegram to the Egyptian president, Field Marshal Al-Sisi, following the recent events in Sinai confirming his support for all the measures taken by Al-Sisi's government in Egypt, including the intensification of the blockade on the Gaza Strip. According to Mahmoud Abbas, he believes that such measures serve the Palestinian cause and Arab national security.

I will end by saying to the people of Palestine, if you want to restore your rights, preserve your unity, and reinforce your strength, look for a leader who puts the interests of the Palestinian people before his own. Abbas is no longer fit to lead you and this is clearly proven by his actions over many years.

Translated from Al-Sharq newspaper, 28 October, 2014

]]>
noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Dr Mohamed Mesfer) frontpage Wed, 29 Oct 2014 13:01:58 +0000
Bahrain calls for international intervention to stop Israeli settlements https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/14944-bahrain-calls-for-international-intervention-to-stop-israeli-settlements https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/14944-bahrain-calls-for-international-intervention-to-stop-israeli-settlements Bahrain condemned the Israeli government's approval of hundreds of new settlement units in occupied Jerusalem, demanding an "immediate and decisive international intervention to stop the expansion of Israeli settlements", Anadolu agency reported on Tuesday.

The remarks reportedly came in a statement by the Bahraini foreign minister, Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, to the Bahrain News Agency on Tuesday

According to Anadolu, Al-Khalifa called on the international community to "take responsibility and stand firmly against Israel's violations of various laws and international conventions, as well as its on-going attacks in the occupied Palestinian territories."

He demanded for an "immediate and crucial international intervention to stop all forms of settlements, as they affect the rights of the Palestinian people".

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ratified on Monday plans to build 1,060 new illegal settlement units in occupied Jerusalem.

According to Israeli public radio, the plans include the establishment of 660 units in the settlement of Ramat Shlomo, which is built on the occupied territory of the town of Shu'fat in northern East Jerusalem, and 400 units in the settlement of Har Homah, which is built on the occupied territory of Har Homa in southern East Jerusalem.

The Bahraini Foreign Minister said that this step "represents a continuation of a series of Israeli violations of international law, international resolutions and the Geneva Conventions," adding that it is a clear and provocative act against the Palestinians.

Al-Khalifa also pointed out that Israel's continued settlement activity is a "blatant challenge to all efforts for the resumption of the Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations", as well as a "serious attack against international legitimacy, a deliberate and unjust war on the Palestinian people and their legitimate rights, and a serious policy that reflects Israel's clear intentions to seize all the land of Palestine and change its parameters."

In this regard, the Bahraini minister noted his country's "strong and firm support for all the rights of the Palestinian people to establish an independent state based on the lines of 4 June 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital, according to the Arab peace initiative, the two-state solution and the basis of international legitimacy and the relevant UN's resolutions."

]]>
noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Wed, 29 Oct 2014 12:55:03 +0000
BBC upholds complaint over 'Operation Brother's Keeper' report https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/14941--bbc-upholds-complaint-over-operation-brothers-keeper-report https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/14941--bbc-upholds-complaint-over-operation-brothers-keeper-report The BBC has upheld a complaint on the grounds of accuracy concerning a July report on 'Operation Brother's Keeper' that misrepresented the killings of Palestinians by Israeli occupation forces in the West Bank.

On 1 July, BBC News online published an article titled 'Israel: Hamas 'will pay price' after teenagers found dead', following the discovery of the bodies of three missing Israeli youth near Hebron. In an attempt to provide context for events in the West Bank, the BBC report noted the following:

The disappearance of the teenagers on 12 June sparked a huge search operation in Palestinian towns and cities across the West Bank. More than 400 Palestinians were arrested, while five were killed in fighting with Israeli troops.

To describe those Palestinians shot dead by Israeli forces as having been "killed in fighting with Israeli troops" was inaccurate, misleading, and offensive. One of them, for example, was unarmed and mentally disabled. Another was an unarmed 15-year-old boy shot dead with live ammunition.

For the BBC to write that "five were killed in fighting with Israeli troops" clearly gave the impression that those killed were engaged in armed combat with Israeli soldiers, when in fact they were unarmed civilians shot dead in circumstances that could well constitute war crimes.

That same day, I made a complaint, along the lines of the above. The BBC's initial reply, which came a week later, was disturbing. Seemingly a generic, copy and paste job, the response ignored the specifics of my complaint, and instead offered reassurances that the reporting on Palestine/Israel had been "fair and impartial."

The reply noted: "BBC News has reported extensively on the wider aspects of the conflict; on the occupation, building of settlements, the impasse in negotiations and the decreasing likelihood of a two state solution", adding: "Please be assured we raised your concerns with senior editorial staff at BBC News."

I subsequently complained again (17 July), stressing how "unsatisfactory" the process had been to date. I highlighted the BBC's commitment to accuracy, and the fact that my complaint had highlighted an important failing in that regard.

Then, earlier this month – a breakthrough. On 7 October, I received an email from the BBC offering their "apologies" for both "our previous response and for the long delay in our second response." After reviewing the article in question, the BBC told me that they had reworded the relevant sentence so that it now reads "...five were killed by Israeli troops."

The original problematic wording still remained on some items, however (see here and here). After I pointed this out, the BBC replied once more to confirm that "the same changes have now been made to the other two stories", thus "upholding your complaint on the grounds of accuracy." A small result, but one that goes to show how misleading reporting – and dismissive responses – can be successfully challenged.


]]>
noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Ben White) frontpage Wed, 29 Oct 2014 12:40:36 +0000
Temporary truce reached in Yemen between Houthis and tribes https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/14943-temporary-truce-reached-in-yemen-between-houthis-and-tribes https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/14943-temporary-truce-reached-in-yemen-between-houthis-and-tribes A tribal mediation committee in Yemen has negotiated a 15-hour truce between the tribal fighters and the Houthi fighters in the governorate of Ibb in the middle of Yemen, sources told Anadolu news agency on Tuesday.

According to the sources, the truce started on Tuesday at 9 pm and will last until Wednesday at noon. It includes a halt in the fighting between the two sides.

The committee, which was led by Sheikh Ahmed Al-Miqbali, met with Sheikh Abdul-Wahed Al-Da'am, a leader of the tribal fighters and Abu-Mukhtar Al-Yami, a representative of the Houthi fighters.

The sources added that the committee also had contact with the military leader of the Houthis, Abu-Ali Al-Hakem, and told him that it was necessary to meet on Wednesday afternoon to discuss a permanent ceasefire.

"There will be a meeting and the discussion will be about handing the bases that both sides have seized over to the Yemeni army," one source told Anadolu, "as well as other issues to be discussed".

"Tribal fighters," the source said, "regained control over the Ansab Citadel in Al-Radmah City", which had been taken over earlier on Tuesday by the Houthis.

Anadolu was not able to secure any comment from Yemeni army regarding the plans that were discussed to hand over the bases that have been seized by fighters from both sides.

Fierce clashes between the tribal fighters and the Houthis, during which heavy and light weapons were being used, were raging all day on Tuesday before the truce. Sounds of gunfire and explosions could be heard from distances as far away as 3 km.

]]>
noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Wed, 29 Oct 2014 12:51:51 +0000
UN: Israeli settlement "not in line with international law" https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/14942-un-israeli-settlement-qnot-in-line-with-international-lawq https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/14942-un-israeli-settlement-qnot-in-line-with-international-lawq Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said on Tuesday that Israeli settlement activity is against international law.

Replying to a question during a press conference in New York, Dujarric said that Mr. Ban received a letter from the Palestinian Authority asking the Security Council to hold a meeting on the Israeli settlements. He said that "they are waiting to hear from the Presidency of the Council."

The Secretary General's position on settlements, he said, are that they "are against international law" and "do not serve the peace process."

"The Secretary-General has been very clear in his public statements, in his discussions with the Israeli leadership... [and] with senior Israeli officials here on his position on the settlements... [They are] not helpful to the peace process and was not in line with international law."

According to Anadolu news agency, the Security Council is to hold a meeting on Wednesday to discuss the issue of Israeli settlement building in the Occupied Palestinians Territories.

On Monday, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a directive to start building 1,060 settlement units in two illegal Israeli settlements in occupied East Jerusalem.

The previous night, Israeli TV Channel Two revealed an agreement between Netanyahu and the Israeli Economic Minister Naftali Bennett that included the approval of a new settlement project in the West Bank.

Replying to criticism, Netanyahu said: "I heard a claim that our construction in the Jewish settlements of Jerusalem is pushing peace away, it is criticism that is pushing peace away."

He continued: "We will continue building in Jerusalem, our eternal capital. We have built in Jerusalem, we are building in Jerusalem and will continue building in Jerusalem."

]]>
noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Wed, 29 Oct 2014 12:46:41 +0000
Hamas: PM is personally to blame for the closure of Gaza's crossings https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/14940-hamas-pm-is-personally-to-blame-for-the-closure-of-gazas-crossings https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/14940-hamas-pm-is-personally-to-blame-for-the-closure-of-gazas-crossings Responding to remarks made earlier in the day, Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas said on Tuesday that Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah "is personally to blame for the closure of Gaza's crossings", Anadolu news agency reported.

Hamdallah had stated earlier that the Gaza crossings still needed to be handed over to the national unity government, but that Hamas has refused to do so.

The news agency quoted Hamas's Spokesperson Sami abu-Zuhri as saying: "Hamdallah's remarks about handing the crossings over to the reconciliation government are deplorable and unjustified."

Abu-Zuhri accused the Palestinian government of violating the reconciliation agreement, saying that: "There was an agreement reached between Deputy Prime Minister Ziad abu-Amer and the security services about the management of the crossings."

Payment for Gaza employees

Meanwhile, Hamdallah said on Tuesday that about 24,000 civil servants in the Gaza Strip would soon receive a payment of $1,200 as part of their unpaid salaries.

Speaking at a press conference in Ramallah, he said: "A financial payment to the employees in Gaza has arrived through the government post."

At the same press conference, Minister of Social Welfare Shawqi Al-Ayasa said that the employees would start receiving their payments from the post office's bank on Wednesday.

The PM stated that Qatar had paid $30 million to cover the Gaza employees and this payment was secured in cooperation with a number of Arab and foreign countries, as well as the UN.

However, regarding the pledged reconstruction aid for rebuilding the Gaza Strip, Hamdallah said that, so far, no money has reached the Palestinians.

He added that his government has asked for an urgent meeting with representatives from Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the UAE in order to discuss arranging an urgent payment plan for the pledges made at the donor conference earlier this month in Cairo.

]]>
noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Wed, 29 Oct 2014 12:38:08 +0000
Purchase terms of second group of American fighter jets for Israel finalized with US https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/14939-purchase-terms-of-second-group-of-american-fighter-jets-for-israel-finalized-with-us https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/14939-purchase-terms-of-second-group-of-american-fighter-jets-for-israel-finalized-with-us Diplomatic tensions aside, Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Ya'alon and United States Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel have finalized the terms of an Israeli purchase of a second group of F-35 American fighter jets, the Israeli newspaper Jerusalem Post reported on Tuesday.

According to the Israeli radio, the purchase deal was finalized during a visit by Ya'alon to Washington earlier this month.

Jerusalem Post said that Israel signed a $2.75 billion deal to purchase a squadron of 19 F-35s from Lockheed Martin in 2012, and is expected to order another 75 jets.

The trip to Washington was otherwise fraught with tensions. After requesting meetings with Joe Biden, the US vice-president, John Kerry, the secretary of state, and Susan Rice, the national security adviser, all three cited "scheduling difficulties" in declining to see Mr Ya'alon.

]]>
noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Wed, 29 Oct 2014 12:35:42 +0000