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, 27 Feb 2015 21:04:29 +0000 MEMO en-gb SOAS votes for academic boycott of Israel https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/17238-soas-votes-for-academic-boycott-of-israel https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/17238-soas-votes-for-academic-boycott-of-israel SOAS students who attended the Rally in Solidarity for the Academic Boycott; 25th Feb 2015 (image from Facebook: SOAS Referendum on Academic Boycott)SOAS students and staff have endorsed an academic boycott of Israel, after the results of a week-long referendum were released Friday evening.

The vote, open to students, academics, and all other staff and management, finished with 73% for the 'Yes' campaign and 27% for the 'No' campaign.

The referendum asked members whether they think SOAS should fully join the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) campaign, and implement academic boycott following the guidelines of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI).

Earlier this week, PACBI and Palestinian student and academic unions expressed their support for the 'Yes' campaign, and applauded efforts of pro-boycott campaigners.

The SOAS Students' Union has supported the BDS campaign since 2005. In October 2014, the Students' Union passed a motion that called on the Union "to take the BDS campaign to the University", through a school-wide referendum.

Along with Palestinians at SOAS, the boycott campaign received support from "the Justice for Cleaners campaign, the LGBTQIA+ Society, the Kashmir Solidarity Movement, Tamil Society, and the SOAS Student Union itself."

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Fri, 27 Feb 2015 19:15:42 +0000
Israel and the PA in an enduring unbalanced relationship https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/17237-israel-and-the-pa-in-an-enduring-unbalanced-relationship https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/17237-israel-and-the-pa-in-an-enduring-unbalanced-relationship Benjamin Netanyahu with Mahmoud Abbas

The relationship between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) has never been an easy one, but has been in a particularly bad state since last April, when Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah party signed a reconciliation agreement with Hamas, the militant party that controls Gaza. Israeli anger at the decision led to the breakdown of US-brokered peace talks, which were already floundering.

Subsequently, things have gone from bad to worse between Israel and the PA. Faced with the failure of yet another round of talks, Abbas and his colleagues have pursued their push for international diplomatic recognition outside the dictates of Israel and America. This began in 2012, when Palestine sought and was granted "non-member observer status" at the UN. This opened the door for Palestine to apply to join various UN agencies, including the International Criminal Court. In the face of strong opposition from Israel and the US, Abbas decided to push ahead, seeking to join 20 international agencies and treaties, including the Rome Statute at the ICC. The PA hopes that, if Palestine signs up to this statute, prosecutors will investigate alleged crimes against humanity by Israel.

In response to the move, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promptly decided to withhold Palestinian tax revenues. That was in early January, when $127 million in taxes and custom revenues collected by Israel on behalf of the PA was withheld. The move was criticised by the US and even by Israel's own president, Reuven Rivlin, who said that it was not in the interests of either Israel or the Palestinians. "We conveyed to the Israelis that freezing the tax revenues is an action that raises tensions," US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters at the time. "We oppose any actions that raise tensions and we call on both sides to avoid it." Yet, at the same time, Psaki reiterated strong US opposition to Palestine joining the ICC, warning that it was within the power of Congress to cut the $440 million in aid is gives the PA annually.

In the past, Israel has frozen these tax revenues and quietly reinstated them – but not this time. The revenue, of more than $100 million a month, is still being held back, with most analysts agreeing that Netanyahu is unlikely to unfreeze payments until after the Israeli elections on 17 March.

The tax and customs revenue provides around 60 per cent of the PA's monthly budget, and is primarily used to pay the salaries of tens of thousands of public employees in the West Bank and Gaza Strop, including teachers, police officers, and nurses. The economy in the Palestinian territories is weak at the best of times; these are not people who can easily afford to go without payment for months on end. The withholding of these funds has been condemned by Palestinian leaders as another example of Israeli collective punishment against Palestinians. A further 25 per cent of the PA's annual income comes from international aid – so if the US makes good on its threat to reduce assistance, it could have a serious impact, unless Arab countries step in to fill the shortfall.

For now, the PA is in dire straits, unable to pay employees, and concerned about its future viability. Speaking to reporters this week, US Secretary of State John Kerry strengthened his criticism of Israel. He warned that if the PA didn't receive funds soon, it could "even decide to disband as a result of their economic predicament, and that could happen in the near future if they don't receive additional revenues." The EU has been stronger in its condemnation, with a spokesman stating that: "The EU believes that it is not Israel's right to withhold the Palestinian cash and use it politically to put pressure on the Palestinians under any justifications."

But this criticism has fallen on deaf ears, with no sign that the freeze will end before the elections. Netanyahu's entire electoral strategy hinges upon portraying himself as tough on security and on protecting Israel's interests, so he will be reluctant to do anything that could be perceived as a concession to the Palestinians. Of course, American calls to restore the funding should be taken with a pinch of salt: they are criticising Israeli actions on the one hand while simultaneously threatening to take very similar actions themselves on the other.

"This is not Israel's money," Said Haida, the chairman of the department of economics at Bir Zeit University told Israeli media. "This is Palestinian money, and it should not be affected by our legitimate struggle to end the occupation. It has nothing to do with the ICC."

Palestinian leaders have a right to seek international recognition; withholding the tax revenue they are entitled to only highlights, once again, the asymmetrical nature of this conflict.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Samira Shackle) frontpage Fri, 27 Feb 2015 16:43:49 +0000
UAE signs military deals for $5 billion during IDEX 2015 https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17236-uae-signs-military-deals-for-5-billion-during-idex-2015 https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17236-uae-signs-military-deals-for-5-billion-during-idex-2015 UAE Armed Forces signed military deals with International Defence Exhibition (IDEX) held in the capital Abu Dhabi.      [File photo]

The UAE Armed Forces signed military deals worth 18.328 billion dirhams ($5 billion) during the five-day International Defence Exhibition (IDEX) held in the capital Abu Dhabi this week, said the exhibition's spokesperson.

In a press conference held on Thursday to mark the closing of IDEX 2015, Major General Obaid Al Ketbi said that these deals included the purchase of defence equipment, aircraft, naval vessels and maintenance equipment.

The IDEX spokesman explained that this figure exceeds that achieved during the last exhibition in 2013, which stood at 14.1 billion dirhams.

The International Defence Exhibition is held once every two years and is considered the largest of its kind in the world.

Ketbi also noted that the total deals finalised on the sidelines of IDEX's last day reached 2.359 billion dirhams ($642 million).

IDEX 2015 was attended by a record number of international companies operating in the field of defence and military industries. Around 1,200 companies from 55 countries were present, representing the strength of international business competition in the growing market of the Middle East.

The IHS Jane Institute has predicted that military spending in the Middle East and North Africa this year will reach $150 billion, compared to $148 billion last year and $136 billion in 2013.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Fakir) frontpage Fri, 27 Feb 2015 16:41:40 +0000
OIC: Washington is an unreliable mediator in the Middle East settlement process https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17235-oic-washington-is-an-unreliable-mediator-in-the-middle-east-settlement-process https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17235-oic-washington-is-an-unreliable-mediator-in-the-middle-east-settlement-process Sec Gen Iyad Madani

The Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Iyad Madani, has said that the United States has so far failed to be an effective mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian settlement process.

During a joint press conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov held in Moscow on Thursday, Madani said that Russia is capable of playing an effective and balanced role in achieving stability in the world.

Madani noted that the US is not a serious mediator in the Middle East.

The head of the OIC criticised Washington for not considering Palestinians and Israelis as equals in the negotiations process, adding that this makes the United States an ineffective mediator in the peace process.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Fri, 27 Feb 2015 16:17:06 +0000
Egyptian panorama https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/africa/17234-egyptian-panorama https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/africa/17234-egyptian-panorama Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, President of Egypt

Al-Sisi's government is living in a chaotic state closer to insanity after the recent leaks which revealed his hatred and exploitation of the Gulf states and its strike on the city of Darnah in Libya in response to the killing of 21 Copts in the city of Sirte.

The strike resulted in the killing of seven civilians, including a mother and three children, but the pro-coup media saw this in a different light, as they celebrated the airstrike that avenged the Egyptian Copts. The media, banging the drums of war, welcomed the battle and played the songs sung before the 1967 war. It honestly made you feel as if you were in the 1960s and that you were on the verge of fighting a real war.

The media also took the opportunity to boost the coup leaders, as if the massacre against the Copts was an opportunity to polish him after the rust that befell him over the past seven months since he was inaugurated. A large number of Egyptians realised that they were deceived by him and that he has not provided them with the minimum standards of a dignified life. Instead, since his presidency, everything has taken a turn for the worse, as the price of electricity have risen even though it is still winter and the queues for bread and gas canisters are longer. There has also been an absence of freedom, while Al-Sisi's government is founded on oppression and tyranny.

I say that all of these need to be covered since we are embarking on a war, and therefore, all Egyptians must rally behind their heroic leader who will engage in a war on terrorism and will rid the world of it. Egypt had submitted an official request to the UN Security Council to enter Libya militarily, but its request was denied, as the Security Council said that the solution in Libya must be political, without even referring to Egypt's request. The Egyptian coup leader failed to market himself internationally as the region's police, and when he found that the Gulf states would not support him, even though he is their paid servant, the Egyptian foreign minister attacked Qatar and accused it of supporting terrorism. This drove the GCC to issue a statement condemning the foreign minister's statement and praising the role played by Qatar in fighting terrorism, thus causing the coup-led government to plead and beg with the GCC to withdraw their statement and replace it with another.

Then suddenly, we see the coup leader on television in a dramatic manner implicitly apologising to the leaders of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Kuwait for the leaks, calling it fourth-generation "4G" warfare. However, he did not deny or refute what was said in the leaks, instead saying "the question we need to ask is why now?" The president looked broken and shaken, as if he was saying to them do not leave me alone in this position. Later, in a surprise move, the appointment of a new Egyptian ambassador to Yemen was announced, and the new ambassador to Yemen announced Egypt's cooperation with the Houthis and that the next phase will involve strategic cooperation between the two countries. This of course was a clear message to the new rulers of Saudi Arabia saying that if they do not continue to support him financially with their billions of dollars (like rice), then he will turn to Iran.

This is an obvious exploitation of the Gulf that harms the image of Egypt, but the gang ruling Egypt does not care about the country. Instead, they work in service of their own interests. However, they were dealt a harsh blow a few days later when the Yemeni President Hadi Mansour managed to leave Sanaa and go to Aden, making it the area of his governance. This forced Al-Sisi to recall the Egyptian ambassador to Yemen, while the Saudi and Qatari ambassadors returned to work from Aden. In addition to this, the UN declared President Hadi Mansour the legitimate president of Yemen. So, to the coup leader I say: what will you do since you support any coup leader like yourself in Yemen and Libya; you are truly the commander of the counter-revolutions in the Arab Spring countries.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Dr Amira Abo el-Fetouh) frontpage Fri, 27 Feb 2015 16:11:34 +0000
PA rejects draft resolution to extend its control of the Gaza Strip https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17233-pa-rejects-draft-resolution-to-extend-its-control-of-the-gaza-strip https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17233-pa-rejects-draft-resolution-to-extend-its-control-of-the-gaza-strip Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas

Western diplomatic sources revealed that last September the Palestinian Authority (PA) rejected a US-European draft resolution at the UN Security Council that would have extended its authority to the Gaza Strip and stipulated the immediate start of reconstruction.

Israeli website Walla said that it has reviewed the draft resolution, adding that it was aimed at giving the PA control of the Gaza Strip and ensuring a permanent ceasefire with Israel.

The draft resolution also stipulated that the PA would pledge to ensure its control of all the armed forces and weapons in the Strip in addition to the border crossings.

It also holds Hamas under the aegis of the Palestinian Authority at the civil and military levels.

According to the site, the draft resolution was prepared by the United States, France and Britain in cooperation with Jordan, the non-permanent member at the UN Security Council.

Diplomats asserted to Walla that in the same month Jordan proposed a draft resolution to the Palestinian Authority, seeking its approval of it.

According to Walla, Israel and the Palestinian Authority did not participate in preparing the draft resolution but they reviewed it; and Egypt, which sponsored the ceasefire agreement in the Gaza Strip, reviewed its details.

Walla noted that the draft resolution was presented to Israel and the Palestinians as a package that was not subject to amendments. The Palestinians' rejection, Walla added, spared Israel from having to consider it.

The website quoted a diplomat as saying that the PA rejected the draft resolution because it limited it between two choices: a confrontation with Hamas or exposure to Israeli criticism if a rocket was fired from the Gaza Strip.

Another diplomat assumed that the Palestinians objected to the draft resolution because they were hoping to resume reconciliation efforts after the aggression.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Fakir) frontpage Fri, 27 Feb 2015 16:09:17 +0000
Over 25,000 Egyptians returned from Libya this week https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/17232-over-25000-egyptians-returned-from-libya-this-week https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/17232-over-25000-egyptians-returned-from-libya-this-week Egyptian returneesOver 25,000 Egyptians returned from neighbouring Libya over the past week, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

The ministry said in a statement that 4,122 Egyptian nationals flew in from Libya over the past week.

It also said that 21,407 others crossed into Egypt through the northwestern Salloum border crossing during the same period.

Numerous Egyptian expatriates had fled crisis-hit Libya this month after Egypt launched a series of airstrikes against suspected Daesh sites in Libya's eastern city of Darnah.

Daesh is the Arabic acronym for the "Islamic State of Iraq and Levant" militant group, which last year overran vast swathes of territory in both Iraq and Syria and won the allegiance of several militant groups across the Middle East.

Egypt's airstrikes came one day after a video appeared online purportedly showing the execution of 21 Egyptian nationals by masked Daesh militants in Libya.

Last month, the Egyptian government – citing the country's precarious security situation – advised its citizens against travelling to Libya.

Fractious Libya has remained a source of concern for neighboring Egypt since it descended into violence and chaos following the ouster and death of strongman Muammar Gaddafi in late 2011.

Head of Egypt's official statistics agency Abu Bakr Abdel-Karim had told reporters earlier that there were no specific figures on the number of Egyptians living in Libya.

Unofficial estimates place the number of Egyptian expats in Libya between 100,000 and 1.5 million.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Fri, 27 Feb 2015 14:45:49 +0000
Ghannouchi: Only when Palestine is liberated will Muslims be free https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/17231-ghannouchi-only-when-palestine-is-liberated-will-muslims-be-free https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/17231-ghannouchi-only-when-palestine-is-liberated-will-muslims-be-free Rashid Al-Ghannouchi

Tunisia's Islamic scholar and head of the Ennahda movement Rashid Al-Ghannouchi applauded the steadfastness of the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip.

Speaking at the First International Scientific Conference of the Faculty of Rabat University in Gaza yesterday, Al-Ghannouchi said the Islamic nation will not be well unless Palestine is liberated.

"Only when Palestine is liberated, the nation will be okay. Despite all the pain, we must adhere to our strong beliefs," he said.

"We must liberate our nation from the causes of vulnerability and adhere to our faith and be united, only then we can be free."

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Fakir) frontpage Fri, 27 Feb 2015 14:48:09 +0000
South African student body wants plight of Palestinians taught in schools https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/17230-south-african-student-body-wants-plight-of-palestinians-taught-in-schools https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/17230-south-african-student-body-wants-plight-of-palestinians-taught-in-schools Sandra Baloyi, President of COSAS

A body representing South African students yesterday called on the Ministry of Basic Education to include the Palestinian struggle against the Israeli occupation in the school curriculum as an example of the "anti-colonial struggle", the Anadolu Agency reported.

President of the Congress of South African Students (COSAS), Sandra Baloyi told reporters at the headquarters of the ruling African National Congress Party that "COSAS has received a positive response from the Department of Basic Education and will be officially meeting with the Ministry of Basic Education next week."

Baloyi pointed out that during their meeting with the minister they will discuss a number of issue which include the compulsory inclusion of the Palestinian struggle against Israel into the school curriculum as an anti-colonial struggle.

"In particular, the comparison between South African apartheid and Israeli apartheid to be explained within the curriculum," Baloyi stressed.

COSAS also plans to demand the Ministry of Basic Education to send a student delegation to Palestinian schools to meet with their Palestinian counterparts to learn about their suffering.

COSAS Gauteng provincial secretary, Khulekani Skosana said: "We feel we cannot be South African students who are not feeling the pain of other students in the world."

"We refuse to accept tainted money from Israeli organisations, the Israeli government and other entities sympathetic to the Israeli government," he said.

COSAS urged the Department of Basic Education to ban such funding.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Fakir) frontpage Fri, 27 Feb 2015 14:24:11 +0000
Assad regime executes four Palestinian refugees in Homs https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17229-assad-regime-executes-four-palestinian-refugees-in-homs https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17229-assad-regime-executes-four-palestinian-refugees-in-homs Palestinian refugees in Syria's Yarmuk refugee camp

The Syrian regime is reported to have executed four Palestinian refugees on Wednesday from the Al-Aideen refugee camp in Homs.

The four victims are named as Wesam Al-Sayyed, Rami Subheya, Ahmed Al-Shuaibi and Abdul Razzaq Amayre.

Amayre is a Palestinian refugee from the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus.

Palestinian sources in Al-Aideen said Syrian regime forces kidnapped three of the four men's wives to force them to surrender.

The men were found shot dead only a few hours after they surrendered.

According to the sources, the men's wives are still being detained.

The Action Group for Palestinians of Syria reports that more than 2,670 Palestinian refugees were killed in Syria from the beginning of the crisis until 25 February.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Fakir) frontpage Fri, 27 Feb 2015 14:20:22 +0000
Sinan Antoon: The haunting poetry of death https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/17228-sinan-antoon-the-haunting-poetry-of-death https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/17228-sinan-antoon-the-haunting-poetry-of-death Sinan Antoon"What does it mean when a society disintegrates? What do people do? How do they make sense of a world in which the human dimension is missing completely?"

Iraqi author, poet and academic Sinan Antoon is speaking at a literary event in London to celebrate his achievement in being awarded the 2014 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation. The only prize of its kind to recognise the value of literary translation from Arabic to English, Antoon beat 16 other entries for the translation of his own novel The Corpse Washer (whose Arabic title literally translates as "The Lone Pomegranate Tree"). Antoon has previously received recognition for his novel l'jaam: An Iraqi Rhapsody and his collection of poems The Baghdad Blues, as well as his 2003 documentary About Baghdad.

A softly-spoken and intellectual man (he currently holds the post of associate professor at New York University), Antoon is nevertheless an imposing presence, and the upper floor of Waterstone's in Piccadilly is filled with a silently-expectant hush as he takes his seat across from Paul Blezard, a broadcaster and writer and one of the judges of this year's Banipal Prize. It is rare that a literary event celebrates the achievements and pitfalls of translation as an art form, and even rarer to have the dual personas of author and translator inhabiting the same body.

"Works are never finished, they are only abandoned," says Antoon, in response to a question regarding his decision to translate his own work. "For me these characters are real, their lives are real, and I wanted to have the chance to re-inhabit their world, if only for a short while."

Antoon's novel is set in contemporary Baghdad and chronicles the story of Jawad, an aspiring artist who is forced by circumstance into following into his family's traditional trade of mghassilchi (literally "washer"), washing and preparing the bodies of the dead for religious burial. It is in the humid, sanitised space of the wash house (mghaysil) that both Jawad and the reader are confronted with the spectre of death, whose macabre incarnation takes on ever-increasing grotesque forms as the novel progresses through the 2003 US-led invasion and the ensuing carnage that followed.

"I read a story in a newspaper about a corpse washer in Baghdad," says Antoon, "and how he was able to make a lot of money during the civil war because of the increase in demand. When I read the story, I knew I wanted to write a novel about this corpse washer... I have always been haunted by the image of working men and women who have to live and work every day and don't have the option to give up."

It is this focus on the private, mundane setting of working life - the day to day running of the wash house and the parade of bodies that pass through its walls – that allows the novel to be both intimate and far-reaching in its scope. The wash house becomes a microcosm of Baghdad, and of Iraq, during the bloody years of sectarian conflict; a lens through which the brutality and violence of current events are distilled and regain their human dimension. In this sense, it is Jawad, as the corpse washer, who "experiences the full act of violence", even after death has taken hold of the bodies it has claimed.

This haunting, deathly presence that pervades the novel is emphasised by the lyrical prose and almost poetic phraseology. Indeed, Antoon confesses to being heavily influenced by classical Arabic poetry, and expresses some frustration that the cadence of the original language cannot be faithfully rendered in English. This is not merely because English lacks the same poetic repertoire of Arabic, but also because English audiences are simply less sympathetic to metaphor and imagery. The Arabic title of the novel, for example, was rejected by Yale University Press as being too obscure, and replaced with a more literal reference to the novel's subject-matter.

Another aspect of the novel lost in translation is the fact that Antoon deliberately rendered all of the dialogue in colloquial Iraqi Arabic – a hat-tip to the working class roots of the characters and the grim reality of their lives eked out through the quotidian dealing with death and decay.

But this is not merely a story about the lingering effects of death, it is also a lament to a lost Iraq; the Iraq of the author's childhood, "a place that has been effaced".

Born into a Christian family in Baghdad, Antoon left the country in 1991 at the age of 23 to pursue studies abroad. Like many Iraqis of his generation, he feels cut-off and alienated from the Iraq of today, and strives to reconnect with the country and the culture once so familiar to him. In part, he admits, writing The Corpse Washer and his other works is a way of keeping in touch with this past.

"Being away from Iraq I tried to compensate by obsessively following the news," he says. Writing the novel was therefore "a way of trying to process the news coming out of Iraq... The last three decades are the most violent in the country's history. They have changed everything."

The research process for The Corpse Washer, he says, was part of his personal journey to familiarise himself with modern Iraq, and especially to try to understand the intimate lives and rituals of the Shia community, around which this novel is based. Part of this research process, he says, involved making use of the live feed web-cam at the Al Kadhum shrine in Kadhimiya (a predominately Shia district of Baghdad, and where the novel is set) – thus pointing to the convergence of modernity and tradition in evolving religious and social practices.

"It is easy to think that these people have all these strange traditions and rituals, and that they do things differently, but when you get close your realise they are just human like the rest of us," he comments.

And indeed, despite the weighty and often macabre subject of the book, there is hope – and humanity, too. Antoon affirms that despite the seeming never-ending spiral of death and destruction in his homeland, he remains optimistic about the country's future prospects, especially when it comes to the younger generation. It is the youth, he says, who have been born into a new era free from the tyranny of dictatorship and determined to make good even amidst the chaos that surrounds them.

"A major problem with how Iraqis and non-Iraqis look at Iraq is that they conflate Saddam Hussein and the Ba'athi state with something called 'Iraqi society' and 'Iraqi culture'... We are erasing our own history... But they youth don't make that same mistake – Iraq to them is not the Iraq of Saddam."

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Emmanuela Eposti) frontpage Fri, 27 Feb 2015 13:23:45 +0000
South Africa must expel all Israeli spies https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/africa/17227-south-africa-must-expel-all-israeli-spies https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/africa/17227-south-africa-must-expel-all-israeli-spies Asa Winstanley

The full implications of the latest scoop from Al Jazeera's investigative unit are still being digested, and the story is not over quite yet. But the leaked documents published so far, culled from the recent archives of the State Security Agency (SSA), are a damning indictment of both Israeli criminality in the African continent, and of the complacency of the South African intelligence services when it comes to Israeli spies.

In 2012, a group of hackers, claiming to be former Israeli spies, threatened Pravin Gordhan, then the finance minister, with a massive cyber attack on South Africa's banking and financial sectors. They demanded "discontinuation of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign and the removal and prosecution of some unidentified individuals linked to BDS," according to the leaked reports. The hackers claimed to have worked on the Stuxnet and Flame cyber-warfare software (which were jointly developed by the US and Israel).

BDS South Africa said in a statement Thursday said the leaked "details of Israeli cyber terrorism show the desperation of the Israeli government and its supporters," condemned the Israeli plot (as well as the leak itself) and called for an increase in boycott campaigns against Israel.

A more comprehensive 55-page report into the Mossad and its history and modus operandi includes a section detailing the day-to-day operations of an Israeli spy in South Africa, as noted by counter-intelligence agents. They followed him, and noted that he kept close contacts with the Jewish Board of Deputies, a major pro-Israel lobbying organisation in the country. He also maintained a network of informants in the South African police – who had not disclosed such ties to the intelligence services.

As such, the documents show that the South Africans deeply distrusted the Israelis, and former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils (an ANC and Communist party anti-apartheid struggle veteran, and a well-known Jewish supporter of the Palestinian cause) ordered an audit of all information exchanged between the two sides. Speaking to Al Jazeera, however, Kasrils said that although he had wanted nothing to do with Mossad during his time in office, he would not comment on operational details.

In one leaked file, a Mossad operative is described as "extremely arrogant" and "prone to be manipulated" due to the large amount of information he freely boasted about. His agency is dubbed a "difficult and insistent service," which often broke protocol by pulling cheap tricks (which were presumably supposed to impress or scare the South Africans) like calling the head of the SSA unannounced and demanding meetings out of the blue.

One liaison officer meeting with a Mossad agent wrote that the Israeli was "extremely arrogant" and had "no respect for the SSA's way of doing things ... a liaison relationship on this basis is doomed before it even started."

In some cases, South African counterparts gave Mossad spies a dressing down, but they were apparently allowed to carry on with their operations unhindered. This is most concerning when you read about the dangerous and violent things Mossad gets up to in Africa.

There are indications in the documents that Israel may have been involved in, or was plotting to create, false flag events against Israeli targets in the country in order to create fear which would increase political pressure for more South African protection of the Israeli embassy and Israeli businesses.

A South African agent investigated one such incident. A man made several bomb threats to the embassy, ultimately walking into the embassy and repeating the threat. The investigating agent wondered: "did he actually walk-in at the Israeli Embassy or was this staged to ensure more protection ... was the bombing incident also staged to attract more attention to safety at the Israeli Embassy and other Israeli Companies?" The latter point refers to a petrol bomb attack on an Israeli firm in June 2001.

In 2009, Israel's foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman made a nine-day trip to Ethiopia, Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda, and Kenya. But secret assessments by South African intelligence called the trip "an exercise in cynicism" which aimed to foster arms deals.

The report states: "Israel's military, security, economic and political tentacles have reached every part of Africa behind a philanthropic façade." The Israelis are "instrumental in arming some African regimes and allegedly aggravating crises among others, including Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea and South Africa."

They are even guilty of "fuelling insurrection," "appropriating diamonds" and sabotaging Egypt's water supplies -- despite the fact the two countries are supposed to be at peace.

"A few Israeli military pensioners are on the lookout for job opportunities as trainers of African militias," the report says, "while other members of the delegation were facilitating contracts for Israelis to train various militias."

South Africa is being used as a staging post for Israeli subversion and destabilization throughout the continent of Africa, as well as against legitimate and peaceful groups like BDS South Africa within the country itself.

The evidence in the documents is overwhelming: South Africa should expel all Israeli spies from the country immediately, and urgently review all diplomatic relations with the apartheid state of Israel.

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

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Asa Winstanley) frontpage Fri, 27 Feb 2015 12:31:42 +0000
Settlements are growing constant in Israeli politics https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/17226-settlements-are-growing-constant-in-israeli-politics https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/17226-settlements-are-growing-constant-in-israeli-politics Nizar Al-Sahli

The issue of settlements and the confiscation of land in the occupied Palestinian territories is at the heart of the debate and controversy over the decades-long negotiations.

This position is intensifying with the Israeli government's revelation that it has extended the 2009 decision about land expropriation, by deciding to confiscate an additional 101,532 acres extending from the Maale Adumim settlement in East Jerusalem towards Hebron, which forms the eastern buffer zone that extends to the Dead Sea. In 2009, the Netanyahu government decided to expropriate land which changed the facts on the ground. The area of the entire buffer zone is 386,473 acres, 177 acres of which were allotted as closed military zones, while other areas were classified as nature reserves. The buffer zone makes up 27 per cent of the West Bank.

What has distinguished Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's time in office since March 2009 is that it has been dedicated to its settlement policy and he has disregarded calls for it to end. Pressure has come from those sponsoring the negotiations as well as the Palestinian Authority, which wants a freeze on settlements as a pre-condition for returning to the negotiation table. This condition is a controversial issue between the US administration and the Israeli government, but the settlements remain the cornerstone of the "Jewish state". One hundred days after being elected as prime minister, Netanyahu made a speech at Bar-Ilan University in which he adopted the two-state solution in theory; in practice, however, he agreed to any step that would establish "Israel's authority" in the occupied Palestinian areas by expanding settlement construction. Americans and Europeans have found it difficult to dissuade him from continuing his settlement policy.

This poses a major challenge for the Palestinians and Israelis, especially after it became clear that the expropriation decision has taken in about 75 per cent of the West Bank. The efforts to stop settlement activities failed because of Israel's persistence. Moreover, the support received by settlers from Netanyahu's government made settlement expansion the core of Israeli policies. There are now more than 500,000 settlers in 144 "official" (but still illegal, in international law) settlements and 100 "unofficial" settlements scattered across the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Netanyahu's government is seeking feverishly to establish settlement units and intensive construction in yet more Palestinian territory in order to tighten the siege on the Palestinians. Not only is this a flagrant violation of the Palestinians' human rights and international laws and conventions, but it is also an obstacle preventing any significant progress towards the achievement of an independent Palestinian state.

It is also evidence of the bad choice made by the PA and a classic example of its inability to stand up to Israeli diktats during negotiations. Israel's insistence on sticking to its constants leads to an acceptance of the presence of settlements on Palestinian land as an inevitability. It is ironic that from the Israeli perspective, settlements, along with the other "final status" issues, such as Jerusalem, the right of return of refugees, borders, water, security and so on, have all become Israeli constants and a red line in the policy adopted by Israel when negotiating with the Palestinians, and not the opposite.

The danger and seriousness of settlements and their relentless expansion is evident through a number of factors: Israel's uprooting of olive trees; the demolition of Palestinian homes; the displacement of Bedouins and confiscation of their land in the Negev; measures to ensure the protection of illegal settlers; the prohibition of Palestinians using their land for construction and agriculture; and the prevention of them from using their groundwater. This is all a means to establish the necessary infrastructure for settlements and Judaisation, as well as connecting these Jewish colonies to the territories occupied in 1948. This is compatible with the Israeli vision of "negotiations" which has been proposed since the Madrid Conference. The magnitude of settlement and project planning carried out by Israel most certainly does not indicate that a Palestinian state is on the horizon, let alone on the horizon of negotiations, nor does it indicate that the Israelis will abandon settlements any time soon, as the two-state solution supporters believe.

Translated from Al-Araby Al-Jadid, 26 February, 2015.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Nizar Al-Sahli) frontpage Fri, 27 Feb 2015 12:13:05 +0000
The myth of a political solution in Syria https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/17225-the-myth-of-a-political-solution-in-syria https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/17225-the-myth-of-a-political-solution-in-syria Burhan Ghalioun

No sane person believes that it is possible to reach a political solution with Bashar Al-Assad and his supporters, who include Iran's Ali Khamenei; it was just as true to say that no sane person in Europe could believe that it was possible to reach a political solution with Adolf Hitler.

This has been proven by the events of the past four years. Assad's methods are not political, they are warfare and he has never dealt with the people in any way other than violence and submission by means of force and oppression. The regime's power is built upon a monopoly of control through neo-fascist means; the only thing it appears to understand is "kill or be killed"; there is no obvious middle ground.

As for Tehran, which now holds the fate of this violent leadership in its hands, it is living through a state of what can best be described as national doctrinal insanity that is driving it to chase after the mirage of rebuilding the Persian Empire on religious foundations in the Arab world. This is its way of challenging the West and history, and it views Syria as the cornerstone in its imperial project. Iran knows that if it abandons control of Syria or agrees to share power there with other regional forces, even the Syrian people, then its aspirations would be undermined. The only option open to it is to escalate the conflict until the government in Tehran achieves its goals.

However, the religious authorities in Iran seem intent on going the same way as the Zionists by committing political genocide before the physical genocide of an entire nation. They want to prolong their occupation to change the demographic in strategic areas; thus will Syria and Lebanon be occupied, as Iraq has been. They are hoping to achieve this by coming to an understanding with Washington over Iran's nuclear ambitions while covering the occupation project with nominal support for the resistance against Israel. However, this actually means that it will split control of the region after reaching an official understanding with Tel Aviv which allows Iran to establish its presence in Syria; that is what happened when Assad's regime was established in Lebanon in exchange for guaranteeing Israel's security.

This is why all of the initiatives for a political solution have failed, including those proposed by the Assad regime's friends during the first months of the revolution, such as the Qataris, Turks, Saudis, Europeans and others. The Arab League initiative, as well as the Geneva II Middle East peace conference, and UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi's mission which ended with the failure of Geneva II, all failed. The only political discussions witnessed in Geneva were accusations of treason and inappropriate name-calling directed at the opposition by Assad's delegation. The two main envoys were forced to admit their failure and Assad's responsibility for it, and then submitted their resignations.

As for the multiple initiatives being discussed at the moment after the failure of Geneva II, they cannot be considered initiatives, or even promising ideas. Most of them only aim to trick the political and military opposition in order to force them to make concessions that are "likely" to help overcome the Russian obstacle. It is worth noting that despite its major military role, Russia is unable to impose any solution, neither on Assad nor Tehran. The same can be said about the United Nations envoy, Staffan de Mistura, and his initiative, which already recognises defeat as there is no hope for a political or military solution. It only aims to facilitate local ceasefires in order to alleviate the suffering of the people.

Politics is not an alternative to war

The UN and global superpowers' commitment to a political solution does not mean that anyone actually believes that there is a solution. Instead, it is a way to evade the rational conclusion of there not being potential for the solution and the responsibilities and obligations that come with this conclusion, imposed on the UN and these countries by their charter of not standing idly by while a genocidal war is being waged by the regime, which has become a tool in the hands of foreign countries after having hijacked the state and its institutions. In other words, the game of searching for a "political solution" is used to fill the diplomatic vacuum and feed the illusion of international action and the delusion that the Syrian people are not left alone to be killed before the eyes and ears of the world, but this is the truth.

In addition, initiatives and diplomatic manoeuvres are also being used to cover up the miserable failure of the UN in general, and Ban Ki-moon personally, to take decisive measures to stop the war or alleviate the suffering of the Syrians. The most important and dangerous task of such initiatives and solutions is to distract Syrian, Arab and international public opinion from the West's political and moral resignation, especially the US, with regards to the Syrian crisis. Over the past four years, these initiatives were used to fool the opposition and justify Washington's refusal to take any real action to save the Syrian people.

There will be no end to the war with the current political choices made by the West, especially the US. There will also be no political solution; there will only be a surrender to Assad and Khamenei, unless the joint war machine, made up of the remnants of the Syrian army and sectarian militias recruited from various counties, is destroyed. Any delay in doing so will only mean allowing greater escalation of violence and brutality, and aggravating the crisis and the human suffering, as well as increasing the risk of it spilling over into neighbouring countries.

There's no escape from an Arab intervention

If the Western countries do not feel the imminent danger that will result from the continued killing and destruction in Syria and are not suffering from the lack of a political solution and decisive military action, this does not apply to the Arab countries or to Turkey; the latter is living in the eye of the storm. This is either because the national security of these countries is suffering from serious threats resulting from the collapse of the Syrian state and the control of Tehran and the Revolutionary Guard forces (which are using Syria as a platform for aggression and pressure against its neighbours), or because of the political and humanitarian projections of the Syrian crisis on them. The Arab countries should not stand idly by and wait for the cancer of violence and fascism to spread; that is not in their best interest. They must make a move and force the UN and the rest of the world to stand behind them in order to defend their national interests and the interests of their people.

Syria is not only part of the Arab world; it is also the balancing point for the entire east. Control over Syria will determine the fate and control of the region. Continuing to ignore what is going on there simply means serving up Syria on a silver platter to Tehran and abandoning it to the control of extremist doctrinal militias from every religion; in other words, the complete surrender to Iranian sectarian expansion and admission of defeat without a war. This also highlights the paralysis of the Arabs and their divisions, which encourages their enemies to harass and abuse them, including the militias, mercenaries and terrorist organisations; ultimately, all of the efforts made by the countries in the region to maintain stability, regional peace and security are lost.

The Arab states should consider the issue of the Syrian war as their number one priority and support the political initiative adopted by the UN. With practical mechanisms in place, it becomes a military initiative that forces all the Syrian parties to comply with the principles and conditions set out therein and put an end to the bloodshed and fragmentation in the country. It is a way to beat the terrorist groups and sectarian militias and prevent them from taking control of the area and establishing their own domains.

Syria's security is an essential part of the security of the Levant; this is a fact, not an exaggeration, which will be confirmed in due course. It is enough to note the strategic flaw that led to the enablement of Tehran and its allies to surround the Arabian Peninsula, and marginalise Egypt and North Africa, separating it from the rest of the region. They have also been able to unleash the demons of sectarian and religious war that threaten everyone and fragment the fabric of Syrian society, displacing millions of people. This is a humanitarian crisis for the Syrians and the Middle East. Moreover, Syrian territory has become a magnet for religious and non-religious extremists.

The truth is that the Arab countries have underestimated the Syrian conflict and dumped the responsibility for resolving it on the UN, even though they know that the Security Council is disabled and there will be no international intervention. They have used soft politics over the past four years without any reaction, remaining content with merely providing little gestures of physical, military and political support for civilian forces, which were armed hastily. The Arabs have also underestimated the will of Iran to dominate, leaving Tehran to achieve its goals without any firm response. The Iranians declared their control of Bab Al-Manda and imposed their regional project on Yemen, declaring explicitly the intention and will to develop this project in the Gulf in the future. Thus, the Arab countries have opened their doors to all possible risks and threats.

The things that the Arab world should have done still need to be done, and further delay will not resolve the crisis. Instead, it will increase the cost of facing the crisis, as well as its humanitarian, political and military risks in a manner that may be unbearable. It may also push for its escalation and the growth of its spread and threats. What Europe had to do to confront Hitler's Nazism is exactly what the Arab states and Turkey need to do to confront the situation in Syria, with or without the support of the UN and the international coalition. Now is time to do this, not after Washington and Tehran sign a memorandum of understanding and resolve Iran's nuclear issue.

Translated from Al-Araby Al-Jadid, 23 February, 2015

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Burhan Ghalioun) frontpage Fri, 27 Feb 2015 11:55:22 +0000
Is what Israel does really apartheid? https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/17224-is-what-israel-does-really-apartheid https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/17224-is-what-israel-does-really-apartheid Jessica Purkiss

Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) is drawing to an end. This is an international series of events that seeks to raise awareness about Israel's apartheid policies towards the Palestinians and to build support for the growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.

Defining Israel as a state which practices apartheid often hinges upon a tedious weighing-up of the similarities and differences between the Israel-Palestine scenario and that of apartheid as the ruling ideology in South Africa from 1948 to 1994. You often hear people say that Israel cannot be an apartheid state because it does not have a white population discriminating against a black population; that it is a question of religion not race; and that, unlike South Africa, the discrimination happens in a territory separate from the State of Israel itself.

Aside from the latter two statements not being quite accurate, in international law a regime commits apartheid when it institutionalises discrimination to create and maintain the domination of one "racial" group over another. In 1973, the UN General Assembly adopted the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. By doing so it had to describe in detail what apartheid looks like. Below are the "inhumane acts" considered to be crimes of apartheid as listed in the convention followed by a small fraction of the Israeli policies and practices that correlate with these crimes.

According to the convention, Crimes of Apartheid can be:

(a) Denial to a member or members of a racial group or groups of the right to life and liberty of person:

  1. By murder of members of a racial group or groups;
  2. By the infliction upon the members of a racial group or groups of serious bodily or mental harm, by the infringement of their freedom or dignity, or by subjecting them to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;
  3. By arbitrary arrest and illegal imprisonment of the members of a racial group or groups.

Does Israel commit the above acts?

According to the Palestinian-Israeli human rights organisation Adalah, Palestinian citizens of Israel must contend with approximately 50 discriminatory state laws and bills. Jewish settlers living in the West Bank are protected by Israeli civil law while their Palestinian neighbours face over 3,000 harsh military laws. This means, for example, that if a West Bank Palestinian child is arrested, he or she can be detained for up to four days before seeing a military judge. An Israeli settler child living in the same territory would just have to wait up to 24 hours before seeing a civilian judge. The Palestinian child can also be held for 88 days longer before seeing a lawyer, has 67 per cent less chance of receiving bail, and can be sentenced to prison two years younger than a Jewish child, according to infographics produced by Visualizing Occupation.

Rights group Addameer says that Israel has detained approximately 800,000 Palestinians - that's 20 per cent of the population - since 1967. Once arrested, Palestinians are tortured routinely by methods including solitary confinement and beatings. They are tried in Israeli military courts which have a conviction rate that is close to 100 per cent. Many are held under the Israeli administrative detention system which means that they can be held for an indefinitely renewable number of periods of up to six months each on the basis of "secret evidence". They are neither charged nor brought to trial.

(b) Deliberate imposition on a racial group or groups of living conditions calculated to cause its or their physical destruction in whole or in part.

Does Israel commit the above acts?

The situation in Gaza is a prime example. Gaza has faced a blockade for the past 7 years. Unemployment stands at 43 per cent, leaving 80 per cent of the population dependent on humanitarian aid. Around 57 per cent of Palestinians in Gaza are food insecure; the Israelis admitted putting them on a "diet" by controlling the food imports allowed into the besieged territory. The borders are sealed so people cannot escape the situation; this is deadly when Israeli launches military offensives. During the latest attack in 2014 over 2,000 Palestinians in Gaza lost their lives. Restrictions on imports needed to repair the damaged infrastructure means that many more are still dying; some have even frozen to death in the harsh winter conditions.

(c) Any legislative measures and other measures calculated to prevent a racial group or groups from participation in the political, social, economic and cultural life of the country and the deliberate creation of conditions preventing the full development of such a group or groups, in particular by denying to members of a racial group or groups basic human rights and freedoms, including the right to work, the right to form recognised trade unions, the right to education, the right to leave and to return to their country, the right to a nationality, the right to freedom of movement and residence, the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

Does Israel commit the above acts?

Let's take the equal right to education as an example. The education systems for Jews and Palestinians in Israel (not to mention the occupied Palestinian territories) are kept largely separate and unequal. Palestinian schools in East Jerusalem are allocated a quarter of the budget of those in Jewish West Jerusalem, for example. Underfunded and poorly-resourced, these schools also have a 50 per cent drop-out rate past 9th grade, a much higher percentage than in the Jewish Israeli schools.

The Israeli military frequently launches aggressive raids on university campuses in the West Bank, arresting and injuring students and faculty members. In Area C specifically, a 60 per cent chunk of the West Bank which falls under complete Israeli administrative and military control, over 3,000 demolition orders are outstanding, including 18 against schools. Checkpoints, roadblocks, the wall and other obstacles prevent Palestinian students and teachers in the West Bank from accessing educational institutions freely. Meanwhile, the air strikes in Gaza over last summer destroyed and damaged numerous higher education centres. Movement restrictions and the blockade also hinder access to education for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

We can use the situation of Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem as an example of Israel's infringement of the right to leave and return to their country, or the right to freedom of movement and residence. Most are permanent residents of East Jerusalem, instead of Israeli citizens. They have no passports and cannot travel freely across Israel's still non-defined borders. For them, staying in their city is hinged on what is called the "Centre of Life Policy". This means that to retain residency you must prove continuously that the centre of your life is in Jerusalem.

Obtaining citizenship or permanent residency in another country, despite not being considered a citizen of any state, results in the revocation of Palestinian Jerusalem resident status. In 1995, after a change to legislation, all East Jerusalem Palestinians who had not lived there for seven years or more lost their right to return. Since 1967, more than 14, 000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem have had their status as permanent residents revoked by the State of Israel, even though East Jerusalem is recognised in international law as occupied territory and not part of Israel; it has no jurisdiction there. Those who have had their status revoked face a life in hiding if they wish to live in their own city; they are unable to register for university studies, apply for a job, sign-up for an HMO or open a bank account.

In contrast, seventy per cent of Jewish Israelis may hold two passports and can travel freely and relocate without fear that their citizenship will ever be revoked. The so-called Law of Return passed in 1950 gave Jews the right of "return" and the right to live in Israel and to gain citizenship. In 1970, the right of entry and settlement was extended to people of Jewish ancestry and their spouses. Just six months after the 1950 Law of Return, the Absentee Property Law was passed. It paved the way for the Israeli authorities to declare ownership over the property of Palestinians displaced forcibly in 1948. A comparison between the two laws passed in the same year show that while Jews from all over the world are welcomed and granted Israeli citizenship automatically, the Palestinians who already reside in the area are being forced to leave and prevented from returning, discrimination which is ongoing.

(d) Any measures including legislative measures, designed to divide the population along racial lines by the creation of separate reserves and ghettos for the members of a racial group or groups, the prohibition of mixed marriages among members of various racial groups, the expropriation of landed property belonging to a racial group or groups or to members thereof...

Does Israel commit the above acts?

Housing planning policies govern where Palestinians can live both inside Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. In the West Bank, Jew-only settlement-colonies are built on expropriated Palestinian land. The 125 settlements have carved up the ever-diminishing West Bank, encircling the major cities. The remaining land of the West Bank is subject to further fracturing by a network of settler-only roads which connect the flourishing settlement-colonies, an 8 metre high Separation Wall cuts through Palestinian villages, and military checkpoints dotted across the West Bank. In Israel, admission committees ensure that entire communities stay Palestinian-free based upon "social suitability" criteria. In some places, military service is a prerequisite for certain housing or jobs; military service is compulsory for the majority of Israeli citizens although Palestinians are exempt.

In Israel it is not legally possible for a Jewish citizen to marry a non-Jewish citizen. Palestinian citizens of Israel face a law which prohibits their spouses from Gaza or the West Bank, or an "enemy state" like Lebanon, for example, from residing in Israel.

(e) Exploitation of the labour of the members of a racial group or groups, in particular by submitting them to forced labour.

Does Israel commit the above acts?

Take the example of the Jordan Valley in the West Bank. Only 6 per cent of the land in the Jordan Valley is currently available for Palestinian use and development. Today, 37 settlements in the valley are home to 9,500 Israelis. Settlement industry in this area largely revolves around agriculture. While settlement-colonies are supported by substantial Israeli government subsidies and incentives (eg for housing, education, water and transport), Palestinian farmers face systematic and discriminatory policies that restrict their freedom of movement, access to land, water and markets, and ability to build infrastructure to support their livelihoods. As a result of this discrimination, many Palestinians are left with few alternative ways to earn a living and so have to work on settlement farms where they are denied their labour rights.

(f) Persecution of organisations and persons, by depriving them of fundamental rights and freedoms, because they oppose apartheid

Does Israel commit the above acts?

Palestinians regularly protest against Israel's military occupation. Across Israel and the occupied territories these protests are met routinely with arrests, tear gas and bullets from Israeli soldiers. Amnesty International says that, "The frequency and persistence of arbitrary and abusive force against peaceful protesters in the West Bank by Israeli soldiers and police officers - and the impunity enjoyed by perpetrators – suggests that it is carried out as a matter of policy."

Amnesty's report entitled "Trigger Happy" documented the killings of 22 Palestinian civilians in the West Bank last year, at least 14 of whom were killed while taking part in protests. Most were young adults under the age of 25; at least four were children.

The human rights group highlights the case of Samir Awad, a 16-year-old boy from a village near Ramallah in the West Bank. He was shot dead near his school in January 2013 while attempting to stage a protest with friends against Israel's 700km-long fence and wall, which cuts through their village. Three bullets struck him in the back of the head, the leg and shoulder as he fled from Israeli soldiers who ambushed his group. Witnesses said that the boy was targeted directly as he ran away.

Peaceful protesters, civilian bystanders, human rights activists and journalists are among those who have been killed or injured.

While there may not be a clearly marked segregation of spaces as in the case of South Africa (the banning of the black population from eating in certain restaurants or going to certain public conveniences, for example), the lives of Palestinians are controlled by a whole system of policies and practices based upon institutionalised discrimination. It is this that makes Israel an apartheid state.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Jessica Purkiss) frontpage Fri, 27 Feb 2015 11:53:04 +0000
Jewish immigration policy highlights strength of Israel-India relations https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/17223-jewish-immigration-policy-highlights-strength-of-israel-india-relations https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/17223-jewish-immigration-policy-highlights-strength-of-israel-india-relations Indian Home Minister Shri Rajnath Singh with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the former's trip to Israel in November 2014

Even after the recent Copenhagen and Charlie Hebdo attacks, Benjamin Netanyahu's calls for European Jews to migrate en masse to Israel failed to garner much enthusiasm. Yet over the past decade, Shavei Israel, an organisation led by former Netanyahu aide Michael Freund, has facilitated the successful immigration of 1,700 Indian Jews who trace their roots to the Bnei Menashe, one of the lost tribes of Israel.

Jewish migration has always been a priority for the Likud-led government in order to boost the ethnic demographic in Israel. Indeed, Freund, quoted in Tablet Mag, stated that he believed "groups like the Bnei Menashe constitute a large, untapped demographic and spiritual reservoir for Israel and the Jewish people." Under Israel's Law of Return, Jewish migrants become Israeli citizens automatically; the Bnei Menashe, though, are not considered to be Jews according to Israeli law and so arrived on tourist visas. The immigration of these individuals from India was instead facilitated by an unprecedented vote by the government allowing them to enter Israel and undergo "conversion" upon arrival.

Haaretz has highlighted how the project involved questionable government decisions to boost the country's Jewish population. The project itself, according to the newspaper, was spearheaded by an individual who views Israel's Arab minority as a demographic threat. Indeed, many of the Indian migrants were resettled in the occupied West Bank or towns with a large Palestinian population.

The move also highlights the increasing economic, military and political cooperation between India and Israel over the past decade. Deputy spokesperson for the foreign ministry, Ilana Stein, issued a statement expressing delight "that the Bnei Menashe have come to Israel", suggesting that "bilateral relations between Israel and India are strong and healthy, and we are sure that they will not be negatively affected."

It marks a shift in India's policy with Israel, given the country's longstanding support for the Palestinian cause. India's pro-Palestinian stance began with M K Gandhi, who had little appetite for the idea of a Jewish national home in Palestine. "It is wrong and inhuman to impose the Jews on the Arabs," he wrote. Affected by the partition of India, Gandhi opposed the creation of a state for the Jewish people. Out of principle, he was opposed to the creation of any state based on religion. Nehru, guided by solidarity with anti-colonial causes, remained ambivalent to the state of Israel. India's tradition of supporting Palestinian self-determination would continue late into the 20th century and it would vote against Israel frequently at the UN.

The situation has changed gradually, however, and India established diplomatic relations with Israel in 1992. Since then there has been increasing cooperation in military and intelligence ventures between the two countries. Bilateral trade in that year alone amounted to $100 million and today tops over $5 billion.

India's shift in cooperation with Israel can be traced to the fall of the Soviet Union and the post 9/11 era, which changed the nature and importance of the policy of non-alignment. From India's perspective, it gained little from its support for Palestinian self-determination. It received little Arab support in the resolution of problems it faced in the region, such as in Kashmir, and against terrorist attacks by militant groups.

It was a shared concern for Pakistan's nuclear programme, like Iran's today, at the 1985 UN General Assembly that facilitated ties between the two states. Both Israel's and India's regional policies therefore paved the way for a strategic alliance. Bhairav Acharya, a legal analyst with the Centre for Internet and Society, believes that "India and Israel both imagine themselves as democracies under siege." Certainly, both see themselves as fighting off the threat of terrorism as the only strong democracies within the Middle East and South Asia.

Most recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, known for his Hindu nationalism and anti-Muslim positions, has expressed his support for Israel repeatedly. Israeli embassy spokesman Ohad Horsandi reciprocated the commitment to a change in policy, in a statement to the Indian media: "Israel, India and other like-minded countries are facing terror threats from organisations with similar radical ideology." India's relationship with Israel is therefore tied to its own regional identity.

Last September Modi and Netanyahu met in New York to discuss bilateral ties during the UN General Assembly. Along with public appearances, India is increasingly willing to provide support for Israel at the UN. Indeed, Modi has also expressed support for Netanyahu's concern about a nuclear-armed Iran and has stopped buying Iranian crude oil.

Indian-Israeli cooperation has gone beyond a shared foreign policy into concrete agreements and joint ventures. India is Israel's largest customer for military equipment, having spent $9 billion on it since 1999.

In July 2012 the two countries signed an Extradition Treaty and a pact on the Transfer of Sentenced Prisoners. Two years later, in July 2014, the Indian government requested a number of Sword Fish ground radar trackers, precision-guided artillery, and other unspecified missiles. In October, both countries signed a $144 million deal for Barak I missiles and a $225 million deal to buy guided spike missiles used during Israel's Operation Protective Edge against the Gaza Strip last summer. Netanyahu also spoke of an Israeli cyber-defence project during his meeting with Modi and proposed bilateral cooperation in this area as well.

Indian-Israeli cooperation has certainly increased since the 2014 election of Prime Minister Modi. Netanyahu proposed that Israel and India coordinate in areas of technology, and in recent years India has been buying Israeli technology in areas of agriculture, water treatment, waste management and recycling. Israeli companies have expanded in India in these areas.

Strategic cooperation between India and Israel is representative of both countries' common interests in respect to regional positions. In their meeting in New York, Netanyahu spoke with Modi of the perceived global threat posed by Islamic terrorism. It is likely that this is just one of the justifications for the increase in defence cooperation between their countries. The resettlement of Indian Jews of the Bnei Menashe reflects another aspect of the policy of reciprocity as Israel-India relations get stronger.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Ahmad Nafi) frontpage Fri, 27 Feb 2015 11:30:23 +0000
PA holds Israel responsible for torching of mosque and church https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17222-pa-holds-israel-responsible-for-torching-of-mosque-and-church https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17222-pa-holds-israel-responsible-for-torching-of-mosque-and-church Palestinians perform prayer in front of the Al Huda Mosque, 'allegedly' set fire by Jewish settlers, in Bethlehem's Al-Jabaa Village.The Palestinian presidency held the Israeli government responsible for settler attacks against Islamic and Christian places of worship in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

Palestinian state-run news agency Wafa reported a statement issued by the Palestinian presidency as saying: "The Palestinian presidency condemns in the strongest terms the burning of the Al-Huda Mosque in the Jab'a village, southwest of Bethlehem, and Dormition Abbey in Jerusalem."

Jewish extremists wrote racist slogans against Muslims and Christians after burning the mosque and the church.

Member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council and Secretary-General of the National Christian Assembly in the Holy Land, Dimitri Diliani said the attack is the latest in an ongoing cycle of violations targeting Islamic and Christian holy sites in occupied Palestine.

"Netanyahu and his government are liable for every attack carried out against Islamic and Christian holy sites," Diliani said, adding "those terrorist attacks are carried out by fanatics who receive political, financial and security support from the colonialist, extremist, Israeli government."

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Shatha) frontpage Fri, 27 Feb 2015 10:51:44 +0000
Egyptian scholar calls for dialogue with the Muslim Brotherhood https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/17221-egyptian-scholar-calls-for-dialogue-with-the-muslim-brotherhood https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/17221-egyptian-scholar-calls-for-dialogue-with-the-muslim-brotherhood Saad Eddin IbrahimChairman of Trustees at the Ibn Khaldun Centre for Development Studies Saad Eddin Ibrahim called for dialogue to be opened with the Muslim Brotherhood.

"They are members of this nation and we all have a friend or relative who is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and thus there has to be a dialogue with them," he said.

Ibrahim warned that the other alternative would be killing. "It does not make sense to kill 700,000 people who swore allegiance to the Supreme Guide, and each of these people has a family of at least five members, meaning a total of 3.5 million people."

During an interview published by the newspaper Daily News Egypt yesterday, Ibrahim said: "The Egyptian government has done little to curb human rights violations from which Egypt has suffered for years." He expressed surprise at those who claim that there are no violations of human rights in Egypt, describing them as "blind".

"We have suffered from human rights abuses in Egypt for years now, and the government hasn't taken any action to curb them. I am amazed at those who do not think human rights abuses are taking place in Egypt, and I say to them, you are blind. Abuses in prisons, places of detention and police stations are ongoing, as well as the confiscation of freedom of expression," he said.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Shatha) frontpage Fri, 27 Feb 2015 09:49:00 +0000
AU panel urges Egypt to halt execution: Activist https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/17220-au-panel-urges-egypt-to-halt-execution-activist https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/17220-au-panel-urges-egypt-to-halt-execution-activist African UnionAn African Union committee has called on Egypt to halt the execution of a supporter of ousted president Mohamed Morsi who had been sentenced to death on murder charges, a rights activist said Friday.

Ahmed Mafrah, director of the Geneva-based Al-Karama human rights center's office in Cairo, told The Anadolu Agency that his organization filed a complaint on 16 February against the verdict before the Gambia-based African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights.

"Mahmod Ramadan has been put on death row based on false claims," said Mafrah, whose organization is handling the case.

Mafrah added that the commission had responded with a letter urging President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi to hold the execution until the committee reviews the case.

On 5 February, an Egyptian court upheld a death sentence handed down against Ramadan, who was convicted of killing a teenager after throwing a number of Morsi opponents from the roof of a building during clashes in the coastal city of Alexandria in the summer of 2013.

The court also upheld life sentences handed down against 16 other defendants, 15-year jail terms for eight defendants, and ten-year jail terms for 35 others in connection with the same case.

A minor was also jailed for seven years in the same case.

Defense lawyer Ahmed al-Hamrawi had said that the death penalty against Ramadan was the first to be upheld by an Egyptian court against a supporter of Morsi.

The commission's letter, of which AA has obtained a copy, called on Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi to intervene to suspend the execution until the panel finalizes its report on the case.

Egypt, a member of the pan-African body, has ratified 1981's African Charter of Human and People's Rights.

No date has been announced thus far for Ramadan's execution.

Egyptian authorities have yet to respond to the African committee's request. However, the Egyptian government has routinely declines comment on judicial rulings.

The incident for which Ramadan and the other defendants were tried took place two days after the army unseated Morsi – Egypt's first freely elected president – following massive protests against his one-year rule.

Egypt's authorities have since launched a wide-ranging crackdown on supporters of Morsi and his embattled Muslim Brotherhood group, detaining thousands and killing hundreds.

Egyptian authorities have also branded the Brotherhood a "terrorist" group on claims that it condones violence, an allegation dismissed by the movement, which says it is committed to peaceful activism.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Fri, 27 Feb 2015 09:45:05 +0000
UNHCR: Syrian war unleashed worst humanitarian crisis of our time https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17219-unhcr-syrian-war-unleashed-worst-humanitarian-crisis-of-our-time https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17219-unhcr-syrian-war-unleashed-worst-humanitarian-crisis-of-our-time Syrian refugees receiving aidThe war in Syria has unleashed the "worst humanitarian crisis of our time", posed a terrible threat to regional and global peace and security, and risks an explosion that could engulf the entire Middle East, a senior UN official warned yesterday.

In his testimony before the UN Security Council, Antonio Guterres said: "In 2013, I said the Syrian war had unleashed the worst humanitarian crisis of our times and posed a terrible threat to regional and global peace and security – risking an explosion that could engulf the entire Middle East. Today, we must face the fact that this is exactly what happened."

100,000 Syrian children have been born in refugee camps

"As the level of despair rises, and the available protection space shrinks, we are approaching a dangerous turning point," he warned

According to the senior UN official, nearly two million Syrian refugees are under the age of 18 and have become a "lost generation" while as many as 100,000 children were born in refugee camps outside their country which means, according to Syrian law, that they will be unable to obtain Syrian citizenship.

Guterres warned of the risk of the deteriorating conditions faced by Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries, pointing out that more than half of Syrian refugees who fled to Lebanon are living in an unsafe environment, while 40,000 Syrian families in Jordan live below the poverty line.

The UN official said that 2014 was the worst year for refugees warning of the consequences of a conflict spillover to neighbouring countries.

He welcomed a decision by the Turkish authorities issued last year which grants Syrian refugees protection and access to the labour market and free health and education services, while warning that host communities were severely overstretched and faced growing security risks due to the regional spread of the conflict.

Guterres warned that as many as 20,000 foreign fighters from over 50 countries had travelled to Syria and Iraq since 2011, with their number nearly doubling during the course of last year.

Jordan's permanent representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Dina Kawar said that her country has reached the stage of exhaustion as a result of the massive flow of Syrian refugees fleeing the ongoing conflict in Syria.

In her statement, Kawar said that Jordan currently hosts more than 1.5 million Syrians. She called on the international community to assume its responsibilities in supporting and assisting Jordan and host countries to enable them to continue to play their humanitarian role.

The Jordanian ambassador confirmed that "there is no military solution to the crisis in Syria, but a political solution which saves lives and achieves the political transition in line with the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people."

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Shatha) frontpage Fri, 27 Feb 2015 09:30:28 +0000
Islamists and strategic planning: facts and plans in need of change https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/17218-islamists-and-strategic-planning-facts-and-plans-in-need-of-change https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/17218-islamists-and-strategic-planning-facts-and-plans-in-need-of-change Qassem Qaseer

We have learnt a major lesson from professional training sessions and that is the importance of concisely defining the target that we ultimately want to reach, how to set the path for achieving this goal and finally what mechanisms to employ in order to achieve this goal in a timely manner and with the resources that are available.

What we have also learnt from such training sessions is that one must consider several variables when designing and implementing a plan for change because variables may change and one must be able to adjust to said changes accordingly. This type of flexibility gives us the ability to create plans in accordance to the factual data available to us and therefore, reach our goal on time.

Strategic plans of this nature are often categorised by their flexibility, especially when it comes to major long term goals that are related to political projects or changing the status quo of a political reality or a confrontation with the occupier.

Forces such as Islamist movements or political and partisan forces as a whole need to get involved in taking advantage of this initial and basic principle of strategic planning when engaged in political or transformative battles of struggle. Thus, it is important for us to remember that changing the initial strategy for achieving a goal does not mean that one has to abandon the end goal in sight, which often embodies the political purpose of Islamic movements as well as their top priorities as political organisations.

The observations I have mentioned above are ultimately realities that could be applied to all the political forces and movements that are currently at play in the Arab world. This not only includes Islamic forces but political groups that aim to mobilise for a better reality and a struggle against injustices and tyranny.

There are numerous examples of Islamic movements and political parties whose ways of strategic planning involves applying the rules mentioned above in a proper manner. This includes the Ennahda party in Tunisia, Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Justice and Development Party in Morocco and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey, where we have seen how these movements deliberately and intentionally change their working methods to meet their political objectives according to the changing circumstances and the possibilities present in their socio-political realities. We also see this type of strategic planning at play in major countries such as the United States, Russia, Europe, Israel and some East Asian countries as well.

And yet, by contrast, we find that many Islamic parties are currently drowning in internal political conflicts and by consequence, refuse to change their overall strategy in implementing a strategic development plan. Therefore, they find themselves in the face of a political impasse that prevents any progress or changes in the political reality. Islamic political parties are often unwilling to change their strategies and therefore end up acquiring more losses that have a negative impact on the national level.

I will not blatantly point to any one political party by name but any one of us can objectively apply the points mentioned in this article to see whether individual political parties, whether Islamic or not, are effective in achieving their goals for political change. We can then ask ourselves if these strategies lead to positive results or the desired objectives or not. We can also ask the question: Do our strategies help the nation or not?

We are all aware of the importance of self-criticism and the need to do so in order to foster and implement the changes that are necessary to improve our socio-political realities. I urge all Islamic parties to self-evaluate their progress accordingly and to assess what the sources of their internal conflicts are. True change requires adapting methods according to the data available at hand and recognising the fact that working with potential possibilities is not a sign of weakness; it is the best method in order to shorten the road to get to the right objectives, and this is what many Islamists are in need of at this stage.

Translated from Arabi21

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Qassem Qaseer) frontpage Thu, 26 Feb 2015 16:30:53 +0000
Israel issues demolition order for school near Hebron https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17217-israel-issues-demolish-order-to-school-near-hebron https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17217-israel-issues-demolish-order-to-school-near-hebron Israeli school demolition order

Israeli occupation forces this morning distributed demolition orders to a school, some buildings, and tents in the city of Yatta, south of Hebron, the coordinator of the Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlement in Hebron said.

In a statement to the Palestinian Information Centre, Rateb Al-Jabour said that the occupation forces were accompanied by teams from what is known as the Hebron City Administration and they raided the village of Al-Majaz, handing out demolition orders to the village's main school, attended by dozens of students from neighbouring villages. They also gave out warnings to remove tents belonging to two brothers from the Abu Aram family.

He added that these warnings are part of a plan to seize Yatta territories, amounting to 50,000 dunams (50 square kilometres).

According to Al-Jabour, the school is made up of a number of caravans, which were donated by a European institution in early this year and is attended by 22 students. The Israeli authorities did not set a date for the demolitions.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Fakir) frontpage Thu, 26 Feb 2015 15:55:07 +0000
Greek Orthodox Church decries attacks by Jewish settlers https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17216-greek-orthodox-church-decries-attacks-by-jewish-settlers https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17216-greek-orthodox-church-decries-attacks-by-jewish-settlers Greek Orthodox Church decries attacks by Jewish settlersIMAGES

The Patriarch of the Holy City of Jerusalem and all Palestine, Theophilos III, denounced on Thursday what he called "repeated" attacks on Christian and Muslim places of worship in the Palestinian territories by extremist Jewish settlers.

"The targeting of churches and mosques is caused by pervasive racism and hatred," he said in a statement.

Earlier Thursday, Jewish Settlers set fire to part of a religious school affiliated with Jerusalem's Greek Orthodox Church, Which they sprayed with anti-Christian graffiti. On Wednesday, settlers torched and sprayed graffiti on a West Bank mosque.

Theophilos III said Christians represented an "integral part" of the Holy Land, its history and its future, going on to assert that the Greek Orthodox Church was one of the world's most important churches.

"Criminals will not intimidate this church or its flock," he declared.

He called on government agencies to address repeated settler attacks on places of worship.

Earlier Thursday, The Palestinian Foreign Ministry called on both the Vatican and the international community to protect Islamic and Christian places of worship from what it described as "Jewish extremism."

"We strongly condemn these acts," the ministry said in a statement. "Yesterday a mosque near Bethlehem was torched and today a church in Jerusalem [was attacked]."

Extremist Jews, the ministry asserted, continued to attack Muslim and Christian places of worship while the Israeli government did nothing to stop them.

The ministry went on to blame the Israeli government for the trend, calling on the Vatican, the international community and the UN to help protect local religious sites.

On Wednesday, Jewish Settlers set fire to a mosque near the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem, Which Also they covered with anti-Arab and anti-Muslim graffiti.

Several instances of settler attacks on Muslim places of worship have been reported recently, both in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and in the self-proclaimed Jewish state itself.

Images by Anadolu Agency.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 26 Feb 2015 15:20:06 +0000
Syria's youth rebuild life in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/17215-syrias-youth-rebuild-life-in-lebanons-bekaa-valley https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/17215-syrias-youth-rebuild-life-in-lebanons-bekaa-valley Xanthe AckermanIMAGES

In Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, home to a third of the country's 1.5 million Syrian refugees, Al-Qaeda linked attacks on the Lebanese Armed Forces have provoked violent sectarian retaliation. Amid the insecurity and economic devastation, however, Syrian youth are going tent to tent to help refugees rebuild their lives.

Like many Syrians did before the war, Fadi Hallisso came to Lebanon without a visa. It was 2010 and he was a first-year undergraduate studying philosophy at Saint Joseph University in Beirut. The summer after his second year, he went on a Jesuit mission to Africa. When he returned in September 2012, over 100,000 Syrians had poured into Lebanon. Driving around the towns along the Bekaa Valley, piles of waste announce the existence of roadside squatting. No one was prepared for the amount of aid needed to cope with the situation.

Fadi started the process of registering Besmah-Zeitooneh ("Smile Olive"), as a formal charitable organisation in Lebanon after he watched a Syrian girl die on the steps of a Lebanese hospital. He had been working with two friends, a Syrian Jesuit activist and a Muslim woman from Aleppo, to fill in where the Lebanese system was falling short. That day, in the winter of 2013, he received calls about a 14-year old girl who needed an emergency operation. The hospital wouldn't treat her without proof of the means for payment. Fadi called his network of volunteers, but by the time he scraped together the funds, the girl was dead.

Fadi thought it would be impossible, but after 8 months, in January 2014, Smile Olive was accredited as a charitable organisation able to channel funds from Lebanese and Syrian philanthropists to projects for refugees.

On the map, it looks as though Syria is going to devour Lebanon, a tiny paw print of a country, and in the first years of the war Syrians passed freely to Beirut from Damascus and Homs. Now a quarter of the population in Lebanon is Syrian, and most of the latest refugees are blocked at the border.

Lebanon's government recently announced a plan to respond to the effects of the Syrian crisis. It requires over $2 billion in aid from donor governments, but it is uncertain that so much will be paid. In 2014, the UN appealed to the international community for $1.5 billion in aid to Lebanon; just $700 million was received.

Smile Olive tries to meet those needs which other NGOs don't or can't provide for; it is also supporting self-starters. A year ago one of Fadi's Syrian outreach workers climbed five flights of stairs to his office to ask for a loan. Her husband was out of work and she wanted to buy a fridge so that they could start selling sandwiches to support their five children. She sat across from his small desk, holding her hijab across her mouth, and they thrashed out the details of a small loan, which she repaid within two months. Now the centre buys sandwiches from her for their theatre events.

After several other women asked for loans, Fadi had the idea of a grants programme specifically for woman. Smile Olive now awards women up to $1,000 in business start-up grants. To create a positive incentive, they offer larger amounts to Syrian women who work with Lebanese or Palestinian women in the neighbourhood.

Smile Olive's main centre in Beirut is in the Palestinian Shatila Refugee Camp, established in 1948. In the middle of the camp, a huge rusted bronze key on a water tower symbolises the refugees' right to return to their homes in Palestine. The rent in Shatila is cheap, and many Syrians have made it their home. In the camp, the Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah maintain a presence and Smile Olive runs programmes for international organisations which don't operate there.

Fadi has a love-hate relationship with international NGOs; although they have the knowledge and funding that he needs, getting their attention has been difficult. He speaks bitterly about the large NGOs that have flocked to Lebanon in the past two years: "They don't support the local charities. They hire Syrian staff and give them huge salaries that local organisations can't compete with... When they leave, because of lack of funding or another crisis in the world, they won't have prepared local stakeholders to take over." As a result, Smile Olive's staff, many of whom are refugees themselves, make do with what they have.

Arriving at Smile Olive's centre in the Bekaa Valley after an hour's drive from Beirut, the small fifth floor suite of three rooms offers a panoramic view of the informal settlements and the all-pervasive piles of domestic rubbish. The manager, who fled from Damascus last year, lives next to the office; he invited me into his sparse living room for cardamom coffee. He and his wife met while working at Besmah-Zeitoonah and were married just a week ago. She lent me her only coat to guard against the cold.

From the centre, I drove with Azzam Moustafa, a Syrian from Aleppo and a programme manager at Smile Olive. He does theatre in his spare time from the American University in Beirut but he looks more like a rock star than an actor, sporting a wild crop of curly hair, skinny jeans and army surplus boots.

I spent most of the day with Azzam at an orderly camp midway between Beirut and Damascus. In the absence of any government or NGO presence, an Islamic group has stepped in to run the camp. There is no school but they hold prayers five times a day in a small mosque.

As Azzam talked to camp residents, I watched a bunch of scruffy kids try to turn over an abandoned playground bench swing. They lost their momentum each time a man with salt and pepper hair veered over to admonish them.

A family had just arrived from Ghouta, an opposition-held area in Syria now under siege by government forces. After assessing their condition, Azzam and I returned to the centre to fetch blankets for them.

While he unloaded items into the family's container shelter, I saw that the kids had succeeded in righting the swing and were swaying back and forth triumphantly, a throng of them, overcoming for a moment the desperate situation around them. In their own small and unintended way, these children were a sign that, despite everything, life can and will go on, driven by the Syrian youth who won't sit back and do nothing. There's a lesson in this for all of us.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Xanthe Ackerman) frontpage Thu, 26 Feb 2015 15:16:37 +0000
Oxfam: Rebuilding Gaza will take more than a century https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/17214-oxfam-rebuilding-gaza-will-take-more-than-a-century https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/17214-oxfam-rebuilding-gaza-will-take-more-than-a-century Oxfam Shop

Reconstructing the Gaza Strip will take more than a century if the Israeli siege on the Strip is not lifted, the London-based charity Oxfam warned today.

"At current rates it could take more than 100 years to complete essential building of homes, schools and health facilities in Gaza unless the Israeli blockade is lifted," Oxfam said in a statement.

It said that new figures show the amount of vital construction materials entering Gaza dropped last month. "Less than 0.25 per cent of the truckloads of essential construction materials needed have entered Gaza in the past three months," the statement noted.

"Six months since the end of the conflict, the situation in Gaza is becoming increasingly desperate," Oxfam said, calling for an urgent end to the blockade which has now been in place for nearly eight years.

The leading international charity said Gaza needs more than 800,000 truckloads of construction materials to build homes, schools, health facilities and other infrastructure required after repeated conflicts and years of blockade.

"Yet, in January only 579 such trucks entered Gaza," it said, "this is even less than the 795 trucks that entered the previous month."

Oxfam pointed out: "Around 100,000 people - more than half of them children - are still living in shelters, temporary accommodation or with extended family after their homes were destroyed. Tens of thousands more families are living in badly damaged homes."

"Only an end to the blockade of Gaza will ensure that people can rebuild their lives. Families have been living in homes without roofs, walls or windows for the past six months," Oxfam's Regional Director Catherine Essoyan said.

She added: "Many have just six hours of electricity a day and are without running water. Every day that people are unable to build is putting more lives at risk. It is utterly deplorable that the international community is once again failing the people of Gaza when they need it most."

'No progress' in talks

The statement said that there has been no progress on substantive talks on a long-term solution to the crisis in Gaza, which were supposed to happen after the ceasefire.

"Oxfam calls on both sides to proactively seek a peaceful resolution, including an end to the Israeli blockade which remains firmly in place and continues to have a devastating impact on people in Gaza."

"Under the blockade, exports of agricultural produce from Gaza have fallen in the last year to just 2.7 per cent of the level before the blockade was imposed. Fishermen are still restricted to an enforced fishing limit of six nautical miles – far short of where most fish are – farmers are restricted from accessing much of the most fertile farmland."

"Gaza continues to be separated from the West Bank, and most people are still prevented from leaving. The border with Egypt has also been shut for most of the past two months, preventing thousands of people from travelling."

The charity also blamed the Palestinian unity government for further damaging the people of Gaza's situation. "Growing tensions within the Palestinian unity government are also exacerbating the situation," the statement said.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 26 Feb 2015 15:00:18 +0000
Heir to Libyan throne denies calling for return of monarchy https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/17213-heir-to-libyan-throne-denies-calling-for-return-of-monarchy https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/17213-heir-to-libyan-throne-denies-calling-for-return-of-monarchy HRH Crown Prince Mohammed El Senussi of Libya

A spokesman for the heir to the Senussi throne in Libya has denied calling for the monarchy's return. Media reports have claimed that Prince Mohammad Al-Hassan Al-Rida Al-Mahdi Al-Senussi has been working on a return to Libya as king.

"These rumours are fabricated," explained Alaa Al-Senussi in a brief statement. "Prince Mohammad insists that the Libyan people are the only ones entitled to decide the fate and future of their country."

Local media reported on Wednesday that the prince has been demanding on Facebook that Libyans should pledge allegiance to him as the rightful heir to the Senussi throne in order to solve the crisis in the country.

With the death of Crown Prince Hassan Reza, the nephew of the late King Idris Al-Senussi who was overthrown by Muammar Gaddafi's coup in 1969, his only son Mohammad Hassan became the rightful heir to the Senussi throne in 1992.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Fakir) frontpage Thu, 26 Feb 2015 14:43:04 +0000
Netanyahu accuses world powers of forsaking commitment to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear programme https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17212-netanyahu-accuses-world-powers-of-forsaking-commitment-to-prevent-iran-from-acquiring-nuclear-programme https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17212-netanyahu-accuses-world-powers-of-forsaking-commitment-to-prevent-iran-from-acquiring-nuclear-programme Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday accused the six world powers (the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany) of giving up on their commitment to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Speaking during a Likud gathering at Ma'aleh Adumim settlement, Netanyahu was quoted as saying that: "The world powers committed themselves to preventing Iran from getting a nuclear bomb, but from the emerging accord it appears that they have given up on that commitment and have come to accept the idea of Iran, gradually over the yearsm developing the ability to make the fissile material needed for many nuclear bombs. Perhaps they surrendered, but I'm not ready to surrender."

Netanyahu responded to criticism by US National Security Adviser Susan Rice the day before, who described Netanyahu's speech before the Congress next month as "destructive" to relations between Israel and the United States.

"I respect the White House and the President of the United States, but but on a matter so fateful that it could determine whether we exist or not, my obligation is do everything to prevent such a great danger to the State of Israel," said Netanyahu.

US Secretary of State John Kerry previously criticised Netanyahu during his testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee, saying that although he understood Netanyahu's doubts, "he had the same position prior to the draft agreement signed between P5+1 and Iran in November 2013... Netanyahu objected at the time and he was wrong."

"He supported very blatantly the invasion of Iraq and we know how that ended up. Israel is more secure today than it was before the draft agreement," Kerry added.

A top US official commented that "the period needed in order to obtain fissile material is two or three months and we delayed that for a year."

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Fakir) frontpage Thu, 26 Feb 2015 14:36:52 +0000
Amnesty International slams Egypt in annual report https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/17211-amnesty-international-slams-egypt-in-annual-report https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/17211-amnesty-international-slams-egypt-in-annual-report Amnesty International

Amnesty International has criticised the situation in Egypt, especially the Egyptian authorities' targeting of civilians in neighbouring countries.

In its annual report 2014-2015, the international watchdog said that several civilians died during recent Egyptian army raids on the Libyan city of Derna, denying the allegations of the Egyptian Foreign Ministry that the army strikes only targeted militants affiliated with the Islamic State in Libya.

The secretary general of Amnesty International, Salil Shetty, confirmed that seven civilians were killed in the recent Egyptian bombing in Libya, and called for an immediate investigation to determine the circumstances of the bombing and whether the action amounts to a war crime.

Shetty condemned the insistence of Egyptian officials on rejecting Amnesty International's reports, which he said were documented with testimonies by multiple witnesses as well as local sources.

The report said the situation in Egypt does not call for optimism and that it has not improved since last year.

The report noted that, "In Egypt, NGOs saw a severe crackdown, with use of the Mubarak-era Law on Associations to send a strong message that the government will not tolerate any dissent."

The director of Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa Programme, Philip Luther, said that the Egyptian authorities arrested thousands and put many of them in secret detention.

Luther pointed out that Amnesty International has documented cases of torture and violations of detainees' rights, as well as dozens of human rights activists and journalists from across the political and civil spectrum.

He added that the coup government often used the pretext of war against terrorism to legitimise and justify repressing opponents.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Fakir) frontpage Thu, 26 Feb 2015 14:34:42 +0000
Turkey 'won't wait 50 years for EU membership': minister https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/17210-turkey-wont-wait-50-years-for-eu-membership-minister https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/17210-turkey-wont-wait-50-years-for-eu-membership-minister EU flagTurkey's aim is to reach European standards in its membership process, the country's EU minister has claimed.

Speaking at a meeting of the Paasikivi Society think tank in Finland, Volkan Bozkir said, "Turkey has no intention of waiting for EU membership for over 50 years."

Turkey applied for EU membership in 1987 and accession talks began in 2005.

"Our first aim in the beginning was to achieve economic development, but we have already reached that target. Our current goal is to achieve EU standards," Bozkir said during his address on Wednesday.

Bozkir also thanked Finland for its support for Turkey's membership process.

To gain membership, Turkey must successfully conclude negotiations with the EU in 35 policy chapters, which involve reforms and the adoption of European standards.

So far, 14 chapters have been opened, while 17 remain blocked and another four have yet to be discussed.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 26 Feb 2015 13:50:00 +0000
Exclusive interview with former US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/resources/interviews/17209-exclusive-interview-with-former-us-ambassador-to-syria-robert-ford https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/resources/interviews/17209-exclusive-interview-with-former-us-ambassador-to-syria-robert-ford Robert FordFormer US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford 'Syria needs a national government that has popular support and can mobilise the population to reject and fight extremism'

The United States and Turkey reached an agreement last week, after months of negotiations and planning, to train and equip moderate Syrian opposition fighters who are fighting the Assad regime and the Islamic State (ISIS). The Turkish Foreign Minister said the training programme will start in early March.

The location of the programme has not yet been determined; however, US military bases in Jordan, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are possible options. Ankara will provide instructors to supervise the programme.

US foreign policy has played a key role in the conflict in Syria and the country is considered to be the power behind the international fight against ISIS. Many would argue, however, that the US has failed in providing continuous support to the moderate rebels in Syria, considered to be the best option for the future of the country. As a result, moderate rebels in Syria have been forced into a defensive position, engaged in fighting with various armed groups.

US President Barack Obama said his country and the international allies are going to empower "local communities" in the war against terrorism. Moreover, he has requested Congress to authorise US ground forces to be used against ISIS.

In an article published inMcClatchy, the former US Ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, was cited as saying that he "no longer backs arming Syrian rebels", a statement that was unexpected based on the ambassador's previous and well-known support of the Syrian opposition.

In an exclusive interview with MEMO, Ambassador Ford said that the McClatchy article "is not accurate".

Exclusive interview with Robert Ford

Ford, now a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington D.C., resigned from his service in the US Department of State in 2014 declaring that he could no longer defend the Obama policy in Syria. The former ambassador told MEMO that training opposition fighters to fight only ISIS without fighting the Assad regime would not fix the problem. He explained that there is no unity within the rebel groups, providing little hope that the opposition can bring down the regime on its own.

He suggested that the solution to the conflict in Syria is a national government that has "popular support and can mobilise the population to reject and fight extremism."

"American forces cannot do that," he added.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

MEMO: While with the US Department of State you were considered an advocate for the Syrian rebels, and you left criticising the Obama administration for their lack of support for the rebels. What changed your mind, and why have you become more skeptical of the rebels in Syria?

Ford: It is not the lack of the system; it is the inadequate level of the system that has been one problem but not the only problem. There is another problem, which is that different countries give aid to different groups and so if one group does not like the plan called for by other groups to coordinate and cooperate on the ground, they can just walk away and we have seen that in big battles. Sometimes a group like Ahrar Al-Sham or Harakat Hazm [a US-backed rebel group] say we need help over here we have a big battle against the regime and other groups won't help them, because they say that is not our fight.

There is no unity within the armed opposition because they each have different foreign countries [that support them], and until you have a single unified command under a Syrian, of course, you cannot have a coordinated Free Syrian Army. This has been a constant problem. If you look at the south, where they have a so-called First Army, the military operations centre in Jordan has a better job in getting everybody to coordinate, but in the north, the Turkish military centre up there with different countries in it has done a really bad job. So you have this constant argument of who controlled the border crossing, different groups shoot each other.

There is another problem, because the assistance is not enough in either the north or the south, the moderate groups have had to form tactical alliances sometimes with the Nusra Front, and they do not do it because they love Nusra, I understand that, they do it because of the tactical necessity. But what they have done with this cooperation, they have made it impossible to get to a negotiated political deal, because the people in the regime, who do not like Assad, and there are lots who don't like Assad, look at the opposition and say we cannot negotiate with an opposition that supports Nusra. So the Nusra Front, even with the Free Syrian Army, is not enough to bring down the regime, but the Nusra Front's presence in cooperation is enough to block progress towards political negotiation. So you get the worst of all possible worlds.

The Americans and other countries really have not said much about this. Nobody likes Nusra, but nobody saying anything. The Americans put Nusra on the terrorism list in 2012 and ever since then, in private sometimes, I would say to people you should not work with Nusra, it is a problem. Finally, the Americans cut off aid for some groups in the north because their fighters are working with Nusra, but the opposition still thinks that it has to work with Nusra, and I am telling the opposition, it is a bad strategy.

It is not that I am against helping the moderates and the Free Syrian Army, but I want a strong Free Syrian Army and one that promotes movement for a real negotiation, for a new government, and that means that it cannot work with extremists. Foreign countries have to provide help to a unified Syrian command, not different groups, do not go to Ahrar Al-Sham over here and Harakat Hazm over there, Liwa al-Tawhid or Liwa Al-Yarmouk and give them a little bit of weapons. Put it under a central unified Syrian armed command and let that armed command do the battle plan and implement the battle plan. And if it is unsuccessful, change the command.

MEMO: Turkey and the US signed an agreement to train opposition forces with sessions to start next month. What do you know about this training programme? Why has it been delayed? And, in your opinion, what are the possible outcomes?

Ford: I left government. I cannot give you details. But I will tell you what I think, the number of troops that it talks about training is not very big and won't have a strong military impact. If they train 3,000 men, then send them into northern Syria, what are the odds that 3,000 men can fight 10,000 or 15,000 Islamic State fighters and make a lot of progress? Probably not a very big chance, and certainly not without American air power. The Americans have to decide what they want to do, if they want a force that actually makes progress, they have to give it more help.

Did you notice that the Turks, when they announced the agreement, said that the force being trained will fight both the Assad regime and the Islamic State, but have you noticed that the Americans said no, it is only going to fight the Islamic State.

Foreign countries have to agree who is the enemy. Is it both Assad and the Islamic State, or only the Islamic State? If the foreign countries cannot agree on this, then whatever the Americans think of doing won't be successful.

MEMO: In your opinion, who is the enemy of the international community now?

Ford: I have been very clear, the reason the Islamic State exists is because of the Assad regime; the Assad regime's brutality and the sense among Syrian Sunnis and Iraqi Sunnis too, in many cases, that they are being oppressed and that no one is helping them. In my opinion, if you train this force to only fight the Islamic State, it does not really fix the problem.

The Americans need to understand: Do we want to be successful, or do we not want to be successful?

MEMO: The UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, suggested that Bashar Al-Assad is 'part of the solution', however, the US Department of State asserted that Assad has lost all legitimacy and must go. What do you think of de Mistura's remarks? Has the US resigned itself fully from working with the Assad regime?

Ford: First, I am not in the administration, I don't know everything. But I did notice that the president yesterday, after meeting the Qatari Emir, said that Assad lost legitimacy and should step down. I don't think the president has changed his mind on that.

So what de Mistura said, and what we think about it, this is my understating: de Mistura was saying that there has to eventually be a negotiation, and it is not reasonable to require Assad to step down as a pre-condition to beginning negotiations. That does not mean that the Syrian opposition has to accept that Assad stays after the negotiations finish, or what the negotiations should be about.

The other part is, which de Mistura was saying, that Assad is in control of this portion along with Iran, and if there is going to be, for example, an end to the Syrian air force bombings, Assad has to order that. It is not going to come from someone else in the Syrian government. And I think that is what de Mistura was saying.

My own honest opinion, I cannot imagine that successful negotiations [would be possible in a manner] as if the last four years of fighting never happened and Assad stays in power as if nothing ever happened since 2011. That doesn't seem reasonable. But what the terms are for setting up a new government and a new transition, I think this has to be negotiated.

Ambassador Ford with US Secretary of State John Kerry in a meeting with Syrian opposition forces in January 2014. Photo courtesy of US Department of State

MEMO: Is there a possibility for a political solution? If there is one, how do you think it would pan out?

Ford: First let me talk about the Russia initiative, it is interesting that the Russians are trying this because they did not try in Geneva one year ago to get the Assad regime to negotiate seriously. The Syrian opposition agreed to negotiate a political transition without Assad's departure as a pre-condition, I think this is a very wise decision they made, and they also agreed to do a parallel discussion on security and terrorism. So there would have been two tracks in Geneva: a political track and a security track. The Assad regime refused that and said no to political discussions, only security, and the opposition rejected that. The Russians did not put any pressure on the Assad regime a year ago to accept the political track and that is why the negotiations went down so quickly.

Now, one year later, the Russians are bringing people to Moscow to talk about a political deal. I think that this is interesting; I do not know why they are doing it now in 2015 while they did not do it in 2014. But there is a problem with the Russian initiative, which is that it does not involve any of the groups in the opposition that are fighting on the ground. The people who came to Moscow to talk to the regime do not speak for the people fighting. The people fighting do not view those people in Moscow as their representatives, and so until you get the real fighters within the process, I do not think the process is very clear.

MEMO: Will the US be able to send troops to Syria to counter ISIS on the ground? Also, is fighting the Assad regime one of Obama's priorities?

Ford: No, I do not want American forces on the ground in Syria. I spent five years in Iraq trying to help build an Iraqi government that could take on the job so the American boots on the ground can leave Iraq. And I don't want to see American soldiers going back to fight in Iraq or Syria.

The solution in Syria, as in Iraq, is for a national government that has popular support and can mobilise the population to reject and fight extremism. The answer for Syria is a new government in Damascus that is able to earn confidence and the support of the big majority of the population, and can mobilise people to fight Nusra, to fight the Islamic State, and to re-establish security for all Syrians inside Syria. American forces cannot do that, American forces do not even speak Arabic; how are they going to understand complications of Syrian society. Also, I do not think many Syrians want American soldiers in Syria, they do not want foreign forces, they want help, they'd like American air power.

Abdulrahman Al-Masri is a freelance journalist based in Canada. His work covers politics and news in the Middle East and Syria in particular. He analyses international politics and the crises in the region, bringing attention to the way that foreign interests influence conflicts. Follow him on twitter at @AbdulrhmanMasri.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Abdulrahman al-Masri) frontpage Thu, 26 Feb 2015 13:47:43 +0000
PLO, PA to appeal against US court that sued Palestinians https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/americas/17208-plo-pa-to-appeal-against-us-court-that-sued-palestinians https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/americas/17208-plo-pa-to-appeal-against-us-court-that-sued-palestinians Nabil ShaathA senior member of Fatah's Central Committee, Nabil Shaath, said on Wednesday that the PLO and the Palestinian Authority (PA) are going to appeal against the US jury that ordered them to pay $218.5m for Israeli-Americans hurt or killed in Palestinian attacks in Israel between 2002 and 2004.

In an interview with the London based Arabic-language channel Al-Ghad Al-Araby, Shaath said that the PLO and the PA had decided to go to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to discuss this issue and to sue Israel in turn for its crimes against the Palestinians.

Meanwhile, Shaath expressed his surprise over the American ruling because the US judiciary does not recognise the PLO or the PA. He also was surprised that the Americans did not go directly to the ICC, which officially has jurisdiction over such issues.

Shaath concluded his interview saying: "The occupation went to a court that does not know its jurisdiction or its mission."

On Monday, jurors in Manhattan Federal Court awarded $218.5 million in damages to the ten American families who brought the case. This sum should be automatically tripled to $655.5 million under 1992 US anti-terrorism law, lawyers for the families said.

According to Reuters, the verdict was the second in less than a year in which a US jury found defendants liable under the Anti-Terrorism Act, which lets US citizens injured by acts of international terrorism pursue damages in federal court.

Last September, a federal jury in Brooklyn found the Arab Bank liable for providing material support to Hamas. A separate trial to determine damages is scheduled for this year.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 26 Feb 2015 13:34:51 +0000
Qatar initiates water projects in more than 30 African countries https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17207-qatar-initiates-water-projects-in-more-than-30-african-countries https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17207-qatar-initiates-water-projects-in-more-than-30-african-countries African childrenA leading Qatari charity carried out 632 water projects in more than 30 African countries in th year 2014, Al-Sharq Portal reported on Wednesday.

The Qatari charity spent around QAR 9 million ($2.5m) on the projects, which serve more than 1.3 million people in several African countries.

Sheikh Hamad Abdul-Qader, the general manager of the Qatari general office, said that the 41 Qatari missions spread across various African countries carried out numerous projects to help locals and meet their urgent needs.

Abdul-Qader noted that the most pressing need for many Africans is water, and it is the most challenging issue for many African nations. The reason, he said, is the severe drought seasons that Africa has experienced in recent years.

"The charity sought to help these people, and a number of Qatari men and women helped fulfilling these needs," he said.

Experts say that more than 250 million Africans will suffer water shortages by 2020, a situation which could provoke further conflicts and wars over water resources across the continent.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 26 Feb 2015 13:17:31 +0000
Identity of British ISIS militant 'Jihadi John' revealed https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/17206-identity-of-british-isis-militant-jihadi-john-revealed https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/17206-identity-of-british-isis-militant-jihadi-john-revealed Mohammed Emwazi aka Jihadi JohnThe British ISIS militant known as "Jihadi John," who has been pictured in videos showing the beheading of Western hostages, has been named as Mohammed Emwazi, according to the BBC.

Emwazi, a Kuwaiti-born British man in his mid-20s from west London, was known to British security services for some time but they chose not to reveal his name for operational reasons

In each of the videos, the militant appeared dressed in a black robe with a black balaclava covering all but his eyes and top of his nose.

Speaking with a British accent, he taunted Western powers before holding his knife to the hostages' necks, appearing to start cutting before the film stopped. The victims' decapitated bodies were then shown.

He first appeared in the video of the beheading of US journalist James Foley last August.

Emwazi was later featured in the beheading videos of US journalist Steven Sotloff, British aid worker David Haines, British taxi driver Alan Henning, and American aid worker Abdul-Rahman Kassig.

ISIS claims to have beheaded three US hostages - James Foley, Peter "Abdul-Rahman" Kassig and Steven Sotloff - since August 2014, as well as British citizens David Haines and Alan Henning.

A US-led International coalition has been striking ISIS targets since mid-September 2014, aiming to help the Iraqi government and Kurdish fighters in Syria fighting the extremist organisation.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 26 Feb 2015 13:09:28 +0000
British street artist Banksy visits Gaza https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/17205-british-street-artist-banksy-visits-gaza https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/17205-british-street-artist-banksy-visits-gaza Banksy Gaza Feburary 2015VIDEO

British graffiti artist Banksy released a short video on his website yesterday showing his recent trip to the Gaza Strip.

In the video, Banksy outlines the hardships faced by Palestinians living under occupation in the Strip especially following last summer's Israeli war which killed more than 2,200 people, mainly civilians.

It ends with a poignant reminder: "If we wash our hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless we side with the powerful - we don't remain neutral."

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 26 Feb 2015 13:03:15 +0000
French MPs defend unauthorised meeting with Syria's Assad https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/17204-french-mps-defend-unauthorized-meeting-with-syrias-assad https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/17204-french-mps-defend-unauthorized-meeting-with-syrias-assad French parliamentFrench members of parliament who held an unauthorised meeting with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad tried to justify their actions to the press today.

Socialist Party MP Gerard Bapt, who led the delegation, said on France-Inter today that the visit was made in the hope of promoting a cease-fire.

"One does not have the sense, in Syria, of seeing a government that is about to fall," Bapt said. "If there is to be peace, we have to find a way to talk to each other."

Shortly after Bapt spoke, French Prime Minister Manual Valls, "condemned the unauthorised visit with the greatest vigor."

Separately, Socialist Party Secretary Jean-Christophe Cambadelis said in a television interview, "We entirely condemn this visit. Bashar is not a dictator, he is a butcher."  Cambadelis said that Bapt would face proceedings before the High Authority of the Socialist Party, which would consider sanctions.

The MPs insisted that this was a purely "personal visit."  But the Syrian Arab News Agency said that talks during the meeting touched upon Syrian-French relations and the developments and challenges facing the Arab and European regions, especially with regard to terrorism.

The French delegation not only met President Bashar Al-Assad, but also the Speaker of the People's Assembly Mohamad Jihad Laham and talked about strengthening relations and joint interests.

A meeting with Deputy Prime Minister, Foreign and Expatriates Minister Walid Al-Moallem also took place in which the Syrian minister discussed the need for united efforts to counter terrorism which constitute a threat in Syria and internationally, the news agency reported.

The French delegation visited the Charles de Gaulle School in the Al-Mazzeh area of Damascus where they met its administrative staff, and also visited the headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross mission in Damascus, meeting with the head of the mission Marianne Gasser, the news agency said.

Syria has been gripped by violence since the regime launched a violent crackdown in response to anti-government protests in March 2011, triggering a conflict that left at least 210,000 people dead and displaced almost half of the country's population, according to the UN.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 26 Feb 2015 12:33:37 +0000
UNSC backs Hadi as Yemeni president https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/americas/17203-unsc-backs-hadi-as-yemeni-president https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/americas/17203-unsc-backs-hadi-as-yemeni-president UN flag

The UN Security Council has given unanimous backing to Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi as "the legitimate president of Yemen" and reaffirmed its strong commitment to the country's unity, AP reported yesterday.

In a statement, the council called for the Houthis to engage in dialogue with the other parties in Yemen.

Yemen has plunged into a deep crisis that threatens to split the nation as Hadi fled from the presidential palace in Sanaa to Aden, after being held under house arrest by the Houthis.

Last month Hadi handed in his resignation to parliament after Houthis took control of key government institutions; however he has since retracted it.

Before the UNSC voiced out its support of Hadi, a number of representatives Gulf states visited Hadi in Aden and announced their countries' support for him.

The UNSC's statement called for all parties, especially the Houthis, to resolve differences through dialogue, reject violence, and refrain from provocations and actions that undermine Yemen's transition to democracy.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Fakir) frontpage Thu, 26 Feb 2015 12:34:08 +0000
Gazan butcher found selling horse meat https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17202-gazan-butcher-found-selling-horse-meat https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17202-gazan-butcher-found-selling-horse-meat horse slaughter

A Palestinian butcher in Gaza has been found to be selling horse meat without informing his customers, local police revealed yesterday.

The butcher has a small shop in a popular market in the Sheikh Ridwan neighbourhood in central Gaza city.

Police sources said that they received complaints that the butcher was selling donkey meat; samples were tested and found to be that of horses.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Fakir) frontpage Thu, 26 Feb 2015 12:24:05 +0000
Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris plans to buy a majority of Euronews shares https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/17201-egyptian-billionaire-naguib-sawiris-plans-to-buy-a-majority-of-euronews-shares https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/17201-egyptian-billionaire-naguib-sawiris-plans-to-buy-a-majority-of-euronews-shares Naguib Sawiris

French Euronews television channel has confirmed media reports claiming that Egyptian businessman Naguib Sawiris plans to buy a majority of the channel's shares.

French Le Figaro newspaper reported earlier that Sawiris is currently negotiating to buy 53 per cent of Euronews shares as part of the channel's plan to increase its capital by 35 million euros.

A Euronews statement said that: "the channel's executive board endorsed the decision on Tuesday with a majority of votes."

23 European public media channels have existing shares in the channel, mainly France TV channel and RAI channel; a model which is expected to change drastically now.

The CEO of Euronews, Michael Peters, said on Wednesday that, "we have been preparing for this step for a few months now... We have to invest in our channel's contents and in our programmes and in the Euronews brand. But in the light of the financial position of public channels in Europe, having foreign investments in the channel is more likely."

Euronews channel is a multilingual news channel which employs about 400 journalists from 25 countries. It has an annual budget of 72 million euros.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Fakir) frontpage Thu, 26 Feb 2015 12:09:01 +0000
Kerry, Abbas discuss Israeli withholding of Palestinian tax revenues https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/americas/17200-kerry-abbas-discuss-israeli-withholding-of-palestinian-tax-revenues https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/americas/17200-kerry-abbas-discuss-israeli-withholding-of-palestinian-tax-revenues John Kerry,  US Secretary of State meeting Mahmoud Abbas

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas discussed on Wednesday in a telephone conversation Israel's withholding of Palestinian tax revenues, a senior Palestinian official said.

The Palestinian official news agency, Wafa, quoted a spokesman for the Palestinian presidency, Nabil Abu Rdeineh, as saying that the two officials discussed several issues concerning the recent developments in the region.

"A major issue [that] was discussed on the phone is the Israeli withholding of the Palestinian tax revenue dues, as well as the issues which will be discussed on 4 March by the Palestinian Central Council," said Abu Rdeineh.

The agency did not give further details.

Earlier, the head of the Palestinian National Council, Salim Zaanoun said the forthcoming Palestinian Central Council meeting will discuss "the future of Palestinian relations with Israel in light of the current political, security and economic developments."

Several Palestinian leaders previously confirmed that the PLO will discuss security coordination with Israel in light of Israel's continued withholding of Palestinian tax revenues; an action that has made it impossible for the Palestinian government to pay its own employees.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Fakir) frontpage Thu, 26 Feb 2015 12:06:24 +0000
Assad regime confiscates opposition properties https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17199-assad-regime-confiscates-opposition-properties https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17199-assad-regime-confiscates-opposition-properties Syrian President Bashar Al-AssadThe Syrian security services have confiscated properties in Latakia and neighbouring suburbs belonging to citizens linked to the opposition, PLS48.net has reported.

Activists in the area claim that a large group of armed soldiers stormed a building owned by a family known to support the opposition. The soldiers found Syrians living there who had been displaced from Homs and Aleppo. They obliged them to sign contracts to pay a monthly rent to the regime, or what they call the "martyrs' fund". More than 30 buildings have been confiscated in this manner, said the activists, although up to 100 are vulnerable.

According to the news website, this is not the first time that the regime has taken such steps. On a previous occasion, property belonging to opposition official Khalid Kamal and others was taken over by the regime. This, say the local activists, demonstrates that the Assad regime in Damascus is in dire need of funds. The Syrian currency has fallen in value leading to serious price increases of basic necessities.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Fakir) frontpage Thu, 26 Feb 2015 11:47:05 +0000
Egyptian regime offered to pay blood money for victims of security forces https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/17198-egyptian-regime-offered-to-pay-blood-money-for-victims-of-security-forces https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/17198-egyptian-regime-offered-to-pay-blood-money-for-victims-of-security-forces Sa'd Al-Katatni,  Ex-Speaker of the Egyptian Parliament

The ex-Speaker of the Egyptian Parliament, Sa'd Al-Katatni, has claimed that the Al-Sisi government offered to pay blood money for the protesters who were killed in Rabaa Al-Adawiyya Square in 2013, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed reported on Wednesday.

He made the claim when he attended Cairo Criminal Court where he, along with 130 other defendants, is accused of storming prisons during the 25 January Revolution in 2011.

"Lawyer Ayman Badawi came to me in Tura Prison and asked me to conduct discussions to reach a solution for the ongoing political deadlock in the country," he said. The government was ready to pay blood money, he was told. It was stressed to him that the victims' families would never get compensation through the courts.

He rejected the offer. "I am not entitled to accept the restitution," he responded. Al-Katatni also told Badawi that if anything is to happen, it must be official and written down in order to be used as evidence of the discussions.

At the same time, Al-Katatni reaffirmed that he does not recognise the coup against the legitimate president and its consequences. "This is the reason behind the government's dissolution of the Freedom and Justice Party," he insisted. "It was not dissolved because it was founded on a religious basis."

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Fakir) frontpage Thu, 26 Feb 2015 11:22:21 +0000
UNICEF recommendations enforce Israel’s colonial policies https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/17197-unicef-recommendations-enforce-israels-colonial-policies https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/17197-unicef-recommendations-enforce-israels-colonial-policies Palestinian children confrontation with Israeli soldiers

UNICEF's latest bulletin has confirmed the systematic violation of children's rights while they are in Israeli detention. The findings of "Children in Israeli Military Detention" support evidence collected in 2014 by Defence for Children International Palestine (DCIP).

Accountability Programme Director Ayed Abu Eqtaish said that, "Despite an ongoing dialogue with UNICEF over nearly two years, the Israeli authorities have failed persistently to implement practical changes to stop violence and ill-treatment against Palestinian child detainees."

Israel's attitude towards the intentional violations was summed up succinctly by attorney and international advocacy officer at DCIP, Brad Parker: "The core question is whether the Israeli military court system is even capable of or interested in administering justice. Regardless of changes to Israeli military law or modifications to operating procedures, Palestinian civilians, particularly children, should not be prosecuted in military courts."

UNICEF's report fluctuates between development, progress and an admission, through an evaluation of progress regarding the recommendations discussed, that Israel is blatantly enforcing colonial policies.

According to data obtained by UNICEF from Israel's military prosecutor, in 2013 there were 654 Palestinian children from the West Bank aged between 5 and 17 years arrested by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF); all were referred to the Military Advocate General. This prompted the UN body to embark upon a series of discussions and consultations with Israeli security forces in an attempt to shed light upon the spectrum of violations inflicted upon Palestinian children, as well as urging the government, through its institutions, to protect children's rights.

The result was UNICEF's 38 recommendations to the military which have, so far, more or less been subject to intentional bureaucratic delays and negligence in order to synchronise with the violence inherent in the colonial process. "Of the 38 recommendations under review," said UNICEF, "four are in progress, 15 are partially addressed, 14 are under discussion, four are closed, and one has been rejected."

The contradictions in the bulletin's conclusion are evident. Dialogue with Israeli institutions has been deemed "productive" and an engagement which UNICEF intends to continue. One of the forthcoming steps is "to bring to the attention of the IDF, with the consent of children and their parents, specific cases of reports of ill-treatment of arrested children for remedial action by the Government of Israel." As the IDF is the perpetrator of such violations, the step adds nothing new to UNICEF's efforts to safeguard Palestinian children from further abuse. Indeed, it could actually threaten them even more.

However, the greatest discrepancy within the report lies in the fact that, as with other international organisations dealing with Israel, UNICEF disregards the foundations of Israel's colonial existence and the necessity of it having to perpetrate further premeditated violence in order to ensure its continued existence and territorial expansion. The reality of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention has been isolated from the wider framework. While the scope of the bulletin is not to delve into the historical framework of colonial violence, its absolute obliteration of this aspect only serves to distance Israel's intentional violation of Palestinian children's rights from its ulterior motive, which remains to crush, by all means possible, the continuity of Palestinian resistance.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Ramona Wadi) frontpage Thu, 26 Feb 2015 11:10:40 +0000
GCC supports Hadi as Yemen’s legitimate president https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17196-gcc-supports-hadi-as-yemens-legitimate-president https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17196-gcc-supports-hadi-as-yemens-legitimate-president Abdul Latif Al-Zayani,  Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)

The Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), said on Wednesday that its member states support the legitimacy of Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi as Yemen's President, it has been reported by Al-Araby Al-Jadeed. The news was confirmed by Abdul Latif Al-Zayani following his meeting with Hadi in Aden.

"The GCC member states support the political process led by Hadi in Yemen," stressed Al-Zayani. "The Gulf council considers Yemen's security to be an integral part of Gulf security."

He pointed out that the GCC welcomes the president's arrival in Aden, where he surfaced after escaping from house arrest last weekend. "We call on all Yemeni parties to return to the political process based on the Gulf initiative, UN Security Council resolutions and the national dialogue outputs." He repeated the GCC's rejection of the Shia Houthi rebels' coup in the capital Sana'a.

According to official sources in Aden, Hadi applauded the GCC position. "The visit of Al-Zayani and the GCC ambassadors is a confirmation of their continuing support," he is reported to have said.

In the meantime, several cities, including Sana'a, have witnessed protests against the Houthi. Witnesses who spoke to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed confirmed that Houthi gunmen fired live bullets in the air and used batons to disperse demonstrators.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Fakir) frontpage Thu, 26 Feb 2015 11:08:08 +0000
Britain trained 1,000 Peshmerga forces https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17195-britain-trained-1000-peshmerga-forces https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17195-britain-trained-1000-peshmerga-forces Peshmerga forces IraqBritish military experts have trained 1,000 Christian and Yazidi members of the Peshmerga forces on the tactics of war and the use of arms, a senior Peshmerga official said.

Jamal Eminki, chief of staff of the Peshmerga forces, said: "The military experts, who were sent by the British government to the region, trained a thousand elements of Christian and Yazidis Peshmerga forces on the tactics of the war and the use of arms of destructive power, such as Dochka machine guns, Katyusha missiles, missile launchers and anti-tank weapons."

Eminki told an Anadolu correspondent that the war will continue in the form of "street fighting", adding: "Therefore there is a need for special military tactics, as this war is very different from fighting on a flat land, and that's why the military training provided by military experts of the coalition countries and the British government to Peshmerga forces in the Kurdistan region is very helpful."

The countries that fall under the umbrella of the coalition forces - who have provided weapons and ammunition to the Peshmerga after an attack by the Islamic State (ISIS) on northern Iraq in August 2014 - also provide military training to those forces.

In this context, more than 100 military advisers who were sent by the coalition forces, including the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, and other countries, provide military training to the Peshmerga forces in the region.

ISIS took control of Iraq's northern capital Mosul in June last year, since then clashes between ISIS forces and local groups have continued. Currently, Peshmerga forces are fighting alongside Iraqi forces as well as militias and tribes loyal to them against ISIS, supported by an international coalition led by the US. The coalition is targeting ISIS strongholds by air.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Shatha) frontpage Thu, 26 Feb 2015 10:11:48 +0000
‘UNSC is prolonging the conflict in Yemen’ https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17194-unsc-is-prolonging-the-conflict-in-yemen https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17194-unsc-is-prolonging-the-conflict-in-yemen Former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah SalehThe UN Security Council's decision to extend sanctions against former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh as well as two leaders of the Houthis who are allied with him "will prolong the period of the conflict and the crisis in the country", Saleh's party said.

The General People's Congress party, which is headed by Saleh, said in statements published on the party's website yesterday: "The final decision will complicate the matter further before a political solution," adding that "the decision will lead to the prolongation of the conflict and the crisis in the country."

"Saleh had handed over power in 2012 as he was keen to prevent Yemen from sliding towards war and chaos," the statement said. "What is happening in the country is a struggle between those who have the powers and the entities which took to the streets in 2011, and the former president has nothing to do with this at all."

The source expressed his hope "that the Security Council adopts resolutions that contribute to ending the crisis as soon as possible, and protecting Yemen from engaging in conflicts that threaten its unity, security and stability, and ease the suffering of the people of Yemen as a result of difficult economic conditions due to worsening political crisis."

On Tuesday, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Britain's decision to extend sanctions against Saleh and two of the Houthi leaders allied with him for another year.

The decision stated that sanctions against those who obstruct the political process in Yemen will be extended for another year, "including the former Yemeni president and two top Houthi leaders who are allied with him," according to an Anadolu correspondent.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Shatha) frontpage Thu, 26 Feb 2015 09:31:38 +0000
Israeli court allows distribution of Charlie Hebdo https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17193-israeli-court-allows-distribution-of-charlie-hebdo https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17193-israeli-court-allows-distribution-of-charlie-hebdo Foreign Minister Avigdor LibermanThe Israeli Supreme Court yesterday allowed Yisrael Beiteinu, headed by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, to distribute the special issue of the French magazine Charlie Hebdo which contains a cartoon portraying Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

In a post on its account Facebook, Israel Beiteinu said: "The decision was taken after the opposition of the Arab parties."

Lieberman considered "the Supreme Court's decision to allow the distribution of the magazine Charlie Hebdo as an important message emphasising that Israel is a Jewish and democratic state which does not bow to threats and violence exercised by Arab Knesset members who are trying to change Israel to an ISIS State [Islamic State], we welcome the right decision taken by the Supreme Court."

Israeli public radio highlighted that "the decision was taken by a majority of members of the judiciary board; the Supreme Court President Judge Miriam Naor opposed the decision."

The radio said: "The court's decision stated that the distribution of the French magazine is considered legitimate election campaigning, rather than a prohibited present, according to the law."

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Shatha) frontpage Thu, 26 Feb 2015 09:14:52 +0000
Spy Cables show America's hypocrisy on Hamas https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/inquiry/17192-spy-cables-show-americas-hypocrisy-on-hamas https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/inquiry/17192-spy-cables-show-americas-hypocrisy-on-hamas Asa Winstanley

The publication by Al Jazeera and The Guardian this week of a cache of cables leaked from the files of the South African intelligence services has been enlightening.

Some of the stories that have come out so far only confirm things that were already known. However, these are still valuable for the extra detail they provide and the way they verify certain stories with independent sourcing.

For example, it was already well-known that the Palestinian Authority led an extensive diplomatic campaign against the promotion and adoption of the Goldstone report in international forums like the UN Human Rights Council.

Although the PA publicly claimed to support it, the Palestine Papers in 2011 revealed that behind the scenes they buckled to American and Israeli pressure to ensure the report's recommendations were never implemented.

The report ultimately accused Israel and Hamas of war crimes during Israel's devastating and bloody assault on the Gaza Strip in 2008-09. Hamas, for its part, fully cooperated with the South African judge's report, although it disagreed with the part of the conclusions that accused its armed wing of war crimes.

The new revelations in the Spy Cables confirm the story that Palestine Papers tell. One cable shows how Mossad chief Meir Dagan personally called the head of South Africa's State Security Agency on his mobile phone. The number had not been given out: the agents expressed concern, and launched an internal investigation into how the number was obtained by Israeli spies.

Once Dagan's identity had been confirmed, the South Africans promised to pass his message onto the political echelon, warning they would have little influence there. Dagan sent the message that the Goldstone report should be effectively scrapped, and claimed that PA leader Mahmoud Abbas agreed with him.

Dagan could have been lying or exaggerating about that, but the anti-Goldstone record of the PA is clear enough to suggest he was probably telling the truth in this case.

Another one of the leaked cables recounts a meeting between South African and CIA officers in east Jerusalem in 2012. The South African says that the CIA was "desperate" to make contact with Hamas in Gaza. For what purposes we do not know for sure, as the cables is not clear.

While Hamas spokesperson Ghazi Hamad denied to Al Jazeera yesterday that any such official contact had been made between the US and Hamas, it's not impossible that the US has sought to establish some sort of back-channel negotiations with the Islamic resistance movement.

After all, even Israel had to create such a line of communication in order to negotiate (via third parties) for the release of prisoner of war Gilad Shalit in 2011, in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners (may of whom it has since outrageously re-captured).

If the South African spy's account is accurate, it only goes to show the hypocritical nature of American policy on Hamas. Although in public the US states its refusal to negotiate with Hamas, the reality on the ground may force them to do so in secret. Hamas is a part of Palestinian society, runs many charitable and social programmes and was voted into power in landslide PA elections in 2006.

America sought to establish communication with Hamas on one hand, while persecuting via massive court cases entirely peaceful activists and charity workers in the United States who were accused of supporting charitable organizations that had never been listed by the US as banned groups.

The "Holy Land Five" case is one of the most outrageous miscarriages of justice in US history, even by the hysterical standards of the post-9/11 Wester world. Ghassan Elashi is serving a 65-year prison sentence related to his charitable work in Palestine, despite the fact that US governmental agencies also provided funding to the same organisations in Palestine without investigation.

But the case brought by the US Attorney's office relied on Israeli claims that the charitable organisations were somehow tied to Hamas.

What these cables show, once again, is that is is one rule for American spies and another for American citizens.

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

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Asa Winstanley) frontpage Wed, 25 Feb 2015 16:49:39 +0000
Jewish settlers torch mosque in West Bank https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17191-jewish-settlers-torch-mosque-in-west-bank https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17191-jewish-settlers-torch-mosque-in-west-bank Jewish settler torch Palestinian mosque in BethelemIMAGES

A group of Jewish settlers on Wednesday morning torched a mosque near the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem, Anadolu news agency reported.

The news agency also reported that the Jewish settlers sprayed anti-Arab slogans on the walls of the mosque.

"The settlers stormed Al-Jabaa village at 4am and torched Al-Huda Mosque," the head of the village's council, Noman Hamdan, told Anadolu.

"The fire caused considerable damage to the mosque before it was put out by the local residents," he said.

"The settlers also sprayed racist phrases against Arabs and Muslims, including 'death to Arabs!' on the mosque's walls," Hamdan added.

Several attacks, called "price-tagging", of Jewish settlers targeting Muslim mosques and cemeteries and even private property such as cars, have recently been reported in areas across Israel and the occupied West Bank.

"Price-tagging" refers to a strategy adopted by extremist Jewish settlers who attack Palestinians and their property in retaliation for being driven out from the Gaza Strip in 2005. Such attacks have recently increased in in Israel and the West Bank.

A spokeswoman for the Israeli army said that the Israeli police received a note about the blaze and that police staff arrived at the scene later on in order to write a report and start an investigation into the incident.

Images from Anadolu Agency.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Wed, 25 Feb 2015 16:36:38 +0000
Has the 'fall' of Arab counter-revolutions begun? https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/17190-has-the-fall-of-arab-counter-revolutions-begun https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/17190-has-the-fall-of-arab-counter-revolutions-begun GCC flags

For every revolution there is a fall, including counter-revolutions. The last few weeks have revealed signs that that indicate that the counter-revolutions that recently sprung into existence are currently in a state of crisis and may be going into the "autumn" stage.

The events that have taken place in the Arab world over the course of the last two years show us that the road to change will be long and arduous but that it will continue despite efforts to abort revolutionary change.

On the one hand, the changes that took place in the region did not work in favour of those who actually attempted and still attempt to bring an end to the Arab Spring. We have often referred to these changes by pointing out the alliances and tactical changes that have occurred in the region as of late; however, the counter-revolution has not been able to achieve any of its goals for the region, which include stopping the call for change and excluding Islamist parties from the political scene.

Despite the decline in the demand for change in the region, due to the oppression and tyranny that has become rampant in the region as well as the lack of hope among the people, there is still the sentiment that there is no way out of the revolutionary project that started four years ago and that the efforts that were made cannot go to waste.

The Islamists have withstood the attempts to eradicate them from the region's political scene and we now find ourselves living in a region where there is no stability in the countries that were hit by the Arab Spring. There is no end to the chaos in sight. One thing that we must note from this is the response of the international community. It appears as though the western world now feels as though the counter-revolutionary regimes have become a burden on them and this sentiment is clearly evident when looking at how the west refused to obey Egypt's demands with regards to the situation in Libya.

The events that have taken place over the course of the past few weeks have reshuffled the cards in the region, and pushed the parties of the counter-revolution to re-evaluate their positions and their relationships with each other. For example, it seems that at present the relations between the Egyptian regime and some of its supporters in the Gulf are no longer as they were a few months ago, especially after the recent leaks that revealed the level of contempt that General Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi had for the GCC and its tremendous wealth.

In fact, Al-Sisi tried to apologise for his comments in a speech he made two days ago and emphasised that there are still many shared interests between the two sides. Al-Sisi's contempt and frustration, which were evident in his recent remarks, reveal that there is a sizable internal crisis in Egypt that may lead to some sort of an explosion soon. For the first time since the July 2013 coup, we have begun to hear several leaders in the Gulf criticise Al-Sisi and call for a halt in economic aid and political support for his regime. There are explicit and clear demands coming from intellectual circles in the Gulf that are calling for the need for the GCC to re-consider its relationship with Al-Sisi and to resist yielding to internal or external pressure.

Yet, the struggle between revolutionary and counter-revolutionary forces seems to be more pronounced when it comes to the case of Yemen. After months of alliance between the Houthis and the remnants of the former regime, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who sought to pre-empt the Yemeni revolution and seize power, the situation soon changed after the departure of President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi to Aden after he declared his refusal of the Houthi coup. There seems to be rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and anti-Houthi parties in Yemen, which are being led by a bloc coalition that is affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. A delegation from this coalition visited the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia a few days ago.

Perhaps what is making the region more unstable is the overlapping of the situations in these countries with one another, that is that the situations in Syria, Yemen, Egypt and Libya are no longer confined or isolated incidents but have begun to overlap with other countries and with one another. Therefore, we must use all of our wisdom and good conscious to form the proper alliances that would ensure the benefit of all. After all, Al-Sisi conceived that it would be possible to clone the Egyptian model in Libya, which was rejected, not only the major countries not only in the region but throughout the world, but also other important regional countries, such as Tunisia and Algeria.

The regions inability to confront and eradicate extremist forces such as ISIS not only reveals the extent of our limited military options but also shows that we have limited security and knowledge on how to deal with such savage organisations. The reality on the ground also confirms that we need intelligent and moderate forces to balance out impact of these organisations.

In other words, whoever thinks that the battle or conflict between revolutions for freedom and counter-revolutions may resolve themselves with one in favour of the other is gravely mistaken. On the contrary, the conflict has entered a new stage of shuffling papers and accounts. They will not win a battle which will work in favour of the aspirations of the people and their hopes and their desire to live in societies based on freedom, justice and human dignity.

Translated from Al-Araby Al-Jadid, 24 February, 2015

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Khalil Al-Anani) frontpage Wed, 25 Feb 2015 16:00:22 +0000
Kerry warns of premature judgement on Iran deal https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/americas/17189-kerry-warns-of-premature-judgement-on-iran-deal https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/americas/17189-kerry-warns-of-premature-judgement-on-iran-deal John Kerry,  US Secretary of State

US Secretary of State John Kerry has warned of jumping to conclusions regarding a recent agreement with Iran over its nuclear programme, the Anadolu agency reported.

"There is no deal yet," Kerry told the US Senate Appropriations Committee, "and I caution people to wait and see what these negotiations produce."

Kerry said the P5+1 group "had made inroads" since reaching an interim agreement with Iran in November 2013 on the nuclear issue.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned earlier that the P5 +1 is about to strike a "bad deal" with Iran, which might allow Iran to produce "nuclear weapons in the future."

However, Kerry stressed in his testimony the invalidity of the rumours reported by the media, saying: "I cannot emphasise more than I did. Our policy is that Iran will not obtain nuclear weapons."

"Anybody running around right now, jumping in to say well we don't like the deal, or this or that, doesn't know what the deal is," Kerry said in apparent reference to Netanyahu's claims.

Remarking on the progress in talks with Iran, Kerry said: "we have stopped the progress of Tehran's nuclear programme. We've gain unprecedented insight into it, and we expect to know soon whether or not Iran is willing to put together an acceptable, verifiable plan."

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Fakir) frontpage Wed, 25 Feb 2015 15:47:32 +0000