Reports and Publications 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. Sun, 07 Feb 2016 16:59:08 +0000 MEMO en-gb Islamic Movement institutions banned by Israel Sheikh Raed SalahIn November 2015, the Israeli government outlawed the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in the country, using British Mandate-era “Emergency Regulations” to do so. Following this decision, a number of organisations deemed to be affiliated with the group were closed and their premises were raided by the Israeli authorities.

This report looks at 10 such institutions proscribed recently by Israel. They have been providing a diverse range of services for Palestinian citizens of Israel, including: higher education support, religious studies, medical assistance, poverty alleviation and support for small businesses. Their closure is likely to have a profoundly negative effect on Israel’s non-Jewish citizens.

  1. Iqraa - supporting education in the Arab community
  2. Hiraa Foundation for Qur’an Memorisation
  3. Humanitarian Relief Foundation
  4. Eamar Association for Economic Development
  5. The Negev Foundation for Land and Man
  6. Jaffa Charity Foundation
  7. Al-Takaful (Social Solidarity) Foundation
  8. Al-Masra Fund
  9. Alresalah (The Message) Foundation for Publishing and Media
  10. Al-Aqsa Foundation for Religious Endowments and Heritage

Download the report here.

]]> (Meezaan Organisation for Human Rights) Reports and Publications Tue, 19 Jan 2016 15:31:48 +0000
The graveyard: An inside look into Alaqrab Prison Picture: Satellite Picture for Alaqrab Prison via Google Maps


On Thursday December 10th 2015, one of my friends responsible for human rights situation inside Egypt sent me an alarming message describing the violations occurred in the Egyptian infamous Aqrab (Scorpion) prison. These violations, which were taking place specifically in the H4 section Wing 4 at Tuesday and Wednesday 8th and 9th of December, involved torture ceremonies lasted for two days, resulted in many injuries between the political prisoners, and accounted for bones fractures as well as sexual abuse.

I contacted my private sources to verify what happened, for my surprise these sources confirmed the occurrence of violations in the same day as reported, and provided me a list containing violations linked with names of detainees subjected to this acts, and the names of some officers who supervised such violations.

The beginnings of Alaqrab Prison

Prison's official name is "Tora Prison 992 Maximum-security". Originally, the idea of the prison derived from a group of Egyptian security service officers who returned from US training course at late 80's.

Alaqrab Prison is part of Tora prison complex located in Tora area southwest of Helwan, south of Cairo. It is the latest prison that was built in Tora complex, which was created in 1928 during the era of Monarchy in Egypt under the supervision of Wafdist Interior Minister Mustafa El-Nahhas. The creators back then were keen that large swathes of the prison overlook the course of the Nile, and in time more prisons were created inside Tora, forming a complex of prisons and the last one was Alaqrab prison. The initial construction of Alaqrab prison started in 1991, during the reign of Interior Minister Hassan al-Alfi under the rule of Hosni Mubarak, and was completed on 30 May 1993. Officially, the prison opened its doors on 26th June 1993 during the reign of Interior Minister Habib al-Adli.

Alaqrab prison description

I tried to draw a picture of prison's interior based on satellite maps and testimonies of some former detainees and their families, whom I met personally, and was imprisoned during the period of Hosni Mubarak, or the reign of Adli Mansour and Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, and this is how it looks like:

Picture: A blueprint for Alaqrap Prison.

Picture: Another blueprint sent by Noonpost followers.

  1. Tora prison is located 2 kilometers away from the main gate of Tora complex, and has extra additional surrounding fences.
  2. The prison is composed of 4 main detention buildings forming the shape of an (H) letter, in addition to two-storey administrative building, and a follow-up extension containing small medical clinic and two buildings include officer's rest lounge, library, laundry and central kitchen.
  3. H1 and H2 sections are located on the right of main entrance, surrounded by an internal wall and have two entrance doors made of iron grids and iron sheets to block the inside vision from the outside courtyard. In addition there is a playground in front of the main entrance gate. H3 and H4 sections are located on the left of the main entrance, also surrounded by an internal wall and have two entrance doors made of iron grids and iron sheets to block the vision.
  4. Each H section consists of ground storey which holds detention cells and underground cellar which homes water and drainage pipes. The H1 and H2 section are linked via horizontal corridor, so are the H3 and H4 sections.
  5. Each H section consists of four Wings, and each Wing contains 20 detention cells, 3 cells with vertical iron bars doors called "Grille Cell", one cell with cast iron door used as a warehouse for the storage of cleaning and other tools, and a shower room contains from four to six shower places.
  6. The size of each cell is nearly 3×3.5 m2, and contains a small bathroom fixed by poured cement concrete, small basin without covering beside the bathroom, and deck concrete for sleeping. The cell door has horizontal slot called "Naddara" or "Glasses", through which the food is put to the detainee. In addition, each cell has an upper ventilation slot with metal bars and grids, overlooks the rear corridor which separates the cell from the outside yard.
  7. Cells' ventilation slots overlook the rear corridor, which has its own ventilation slots made in opposite direction of the cells' ventilation openings, making it difficult to see the sky through these slots.
  8. Internal corridors between the cells in each wing are nearly two meters wide, and the roof in each wing has three openings, through which the sun's rays cover only the internal corridor.
  9. The whole building, including internal walls, external walls, roofs, cells' floor, and basement, are constructed of poured cement and reinforced concrete.
  10. Each H section has exercise yards dedicated to take the detainees out for sun exposer, between each 2 leg of the letter H there is 4 exercise yards separated by vertical wall without doors, while the horizontal wall has doors to distribute the detainees around the 4 yards.
  11. There is a rear corridor, which can be accessed through few up-stairs, passes behind the cells in each wing, in order to spy on detainees without them noticing.
  12. There is a solid door leads to the outside in the rear corridor in every wing.
  13. There are two rooms inside Alaqrab prison allocated to visit the detainees; the first room is located in the corridor linking H1 and H2 sections, and the second one in the corridor linking the H3 and H4 sections. The visit rooms have their own separate external corridors, which is used to get the visitors in and out, and equipped with two solid glass barricades and phones to communicate with the detainees.
  14. 14. The prison has an external wall, of an approximately 7 meters high, made of reinforced concrete and guarded by guard towers, beyond this wall there's another wall of iron and barbed wire. In addition, recent works of a new surrounding ditch is taking place outside the prison; and no one knows if it is aimed to be a wall or a new security procedure, not to mention the nearly two or three meters area paved with construction aggregate, which makes noises in case of any movements.
  15. Prison gates are armored from inside and outside, and all officers' and prison officials' offices are located behind closed metal bars and barriers.

Picture: here is also an illustrative drawing for the visit room.

Picture: A picture from inside the visit room, showing the two solid glass barricades and the phone.

A video showing reporter Ibrahim El-Abrashi walking around Alaqrab prison after January 25th Egyptian revolution.

What is happening inside Alaqrab Prison: Testimonies of former detainees

Initially, we can start with testimonies - personally met – of former detainees. They fall into two categories:

  1. Some of those were arrested under the rule of former President Hosni Mubarak.
  2. The rest were arrested under the rule of Adly Mansour and Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.

First, I met two former detainees both jailed in Alaqrab prison. "M.A" and "M.S" were arrested since early 90's until the January 2011 revolution, one of them spent 11 years in Alaqrab prison, during which he visited every H's: H1, H2, H3 and H4 sections.

He told me how he was transferred to Alaqrab prison; how he, and the other detainees, were stripped of all their clothes except for the "Boxers", right after they got off the deportation's car at the prison gate, and how they were severely beaten with batons and ordered to running in front of their torturers.

"They treated us like animals when dragged to barns, we were discovering our way through by avoiding the lashes, and so, we were running almost semi-naked while haunted by soldier's batons, we ran left and right until we entered the cells, and after a period of our entry, we used to tell what happened to us - through cell's slots - to the former detainees, and they said: "they treated you better than us; back then, they stripped us completely from our clothes and forced us to crawl naked on the asphalt and then to the inside while beating us".

He told me: "one of the worst officials we had was prison warden, Major General Nabil Arafa, dubbed (Devil), we asked God in our prayers to punish him. He used to confiscate our belongings and food, which our families brought during the visits, just to eat them in front of our eyes to humiliate us, and he was always a part of torture ceremonies, where he hit us with his bare hands", he pauses for a moment, then goes on with clear grief saying: "this treatment was meant to cause us psychological humiliation".

"Then Major General Arafa was replaced, the days passed, and one day one detainee named Muhammad al-Aswani suffered from a stroke, and he was transferred to Qasr al-Aini hospital, there, he met Arfa on a bed who was totally paralyzed", said the former detainee.

"Another Major General from State Security was appointed as prison warden, Major General Mohammed El-Faham, he alleviated the torture a bit, and he once told us: "I am surprised how you could survive until now! This prison is designed to get the detainees either dead or crazy!"

The other former detainee told me how the officials of the prison banned the prisoners from eating food salt and from going out to the exercise yard, which led to some teeth falling cases, and resulted in spreading diseases including tuberculosis and scabies.

Major-General Ibrahim Abdul Ghaffar, former prison warden at Alaqrab prison, assured that these testimonies are not exaggerated, during an interview with private-owned Egyptian TV channel, "Alhayat", he affirmed:

  • Sun and air do not enter Alaqrab prison, the ventilation system is so much bad so there is barely enough air to inhale, and sometimes in hot summer days, the atmosphere becomes rotten. This prison is designed so that nobody gets out alive.
  • First prisoner I met was Hisham Abdul Zaher, a freshly graduated engineer, and when I first opened his cell door, it was the first time he saw the light since 8 years.
  • Everything in Alaqrap prison is done under the supervision and guidance of the State Security, Minister of Interior, and Hosni Mubarak.
  • State Security used to take prisoners from Alaqrab prison; this is entirely against the law. They take them without any warrant from the Minister of Interior, holding them for a period of fifteen days, and returning them half dead, lying on the ground for a week or ten days, because they were not be able to stand on their feet, due to the torture they suffered in the State Security.
  • Inspection campaigns visit the prison under the supervision of the state security, accompanied by officers from the latter. They humiliate prisoners, beat them, lay them on their feet, and let the dogs bite them.

Major-General Ibrahim Abdul Ghaffar interview on Alhayat TV channel.

Second, I met a young man who was arrested after the third of July 2013 and asked him about his story. He, initials "Sh.A", is an engineering student at one public university, and was arrested in December 2013 by a police ambush, "The police patrol stopped me, searched me and opened the camera application on my cell phone, they found some pictures of demonstrations; I got arrested and deported to the police Department, then they moved me to the State Security headquarters in Blazawgli along with other young men. There, they blindfolded us, tortured us during the interrogation, and one officer put out his cigarette into the head of a young man, it was a kind of humiliation, not only torture", said "Sh.a".

He added "The worst day of torture was when they contacted my faculty, and the college official told them I was one of the young men organizing demonstrations during the rule of the military council after the revolution; that day the officer came to me and beat so harsh that even some of my teeth fillings had fallen. A day later, we were deported to the Supreme State Security Prosecution, and I appeared before prosecutor Ahmed Abdul Aziz without a lawyer, who interrogate me, then decided to put me in detention for further investigations. Then I was deported along with other young people to Alaqrab maximum security prison".

"The main concern in Alaqrab prison is to break your spirit, you are already physically devastated, so the most important thing for the political prisoner is to destroy his morals, because they cannot change your opinions, or the way you think, they can't get rid of your objection on wrong things, no matter what was you leanings, way of thinking, or the plans you hold in mind", said "Sh.a".

"During my time at Alaqrab prison i met doctors, engineers, respectful businessmen, and students, these are the types of detainees in that prison, and those people are considered a threat to the national security of Egypt, students, doctors, engineers, faculty members, and counselors".

"Of course, as soon as you arrive to the prison, you will be greeted with a torture ceremony, and the cruelty of torture depends on what reason you entered the prison for. These ceremonies, dubbed "El-Tashrifah" or "greeting ceremony", are likely attended by the detective chief and the detectives", he said, and continues saying sarcastically, "At the beginning, we noticed the beautiful playground, but later we realized that it's there to fool visitors from National Council for Human Rights or any foreign delegation".

The former detainee turns then to talk about the prison cafeteria and the policy of banning the visits "Goods are sold in prison cafeteria with an increase of 25% from original price; they take advantage of the conditions of the detainees and their needs. Sometimes they forbid visits to force detainees to buy items from the cafeteria, this is how they do business, and the earnings is divided between all staff, officers, and even the wardens".

"In front of the cafeteria there is a roofed building, which is supposed to be a hospital, but this word is not suitable to describe it, in fact it is a clinic, consisting of 3 small beds, dental chair, and modest place for medical inspection. Doctors in there don't act like regular doctors, instead they are more like officers, they treat the prisoner like an enemy, and it's up to you to imagine the rest".

"Besides that hospital there is a large hall, we used to get in there before 25th of January 2014. It consists of a table for up to eight people, but usually there is only 5 people sitting on it, and 12 contiguous tables. Inside there is a library, the sign outside says it is "Exam hall for students", so it shall be dedicated for students to submit their exams, but this did not happen long time ago. There is also a closed library containing books, its only open when there's a visit of Human rights organizations, next to the library is a clinic, and administrative building is next to them, this building looks like a box in the center, it is two-storey building; the first floor serves as safe deposit box, storing the belongings which the detainees hand over when they first enter the prison, the ground floor on the other hand, contains prison warden, deputy prison warden, and chief of the detective offices, it also has an unnamed office, which is used by state security agents during investigations".

"Besides the administrative building there is a small building involved in presumed cases of torture, people get dragged there, not knowing where they are going, and because it is a closed area with no openings, nobody knows what is taking place in the inside, furthermore, nobody can enter this building unless authorized from the prison administration. It is true, that area is located within Alaqrab prison, but what is going inside has nothing to do with the prison, I know a lot about Alaqrab prison, but what is happening inside this place remains unknown, some people presume severe torture taking place there, or instances of final investigation to extract information from the detainee prior to his appearance before the court. Once, I entered the building for some reason, and noticed some people sitting there looking in deep fear, as if they were waiting in horror the entry of their torturer, and of course, the detective responsible for taking us in was subjected to sharp rebuke".

The Meals

Breakfast: Piece of cheese, few small bean beads, and 3 loaves of bread, except on Friday and Sunday when beans is replaced with 2 boiled eggs.

Lunch: Meat is served only on two days, chicken also is served on two days only, some young people cannot eat it, so they throw it for cats roaming in the corridors, and they refuse to eat it neither.

There are three meals called "black meal", which consists of an eggplant soup, spinach soup, zucchini soup, or lentils with some rice and a little unclean salad.

Books and students

One former detainee describes what is like to be a student in Alaqrab prison:

"There is a lot of students in jail, medicine and engineering students, however, they are not allowed to read books in the library, because it is only there for presumed human rights, representatives of human rights council come to prison to make sure the playground and library are safe and sound, then they go away, the library remains closed and books, no matter what they are about, are not allowed to enter the prison. One time, they opened the library, and got some books in there, alas, they was pornographic, or inappropriate novels; in another words, they allow books, but of a particular type, it's kind of ideological persecution, they know readers tendencies, and they realize that they oppose these books' ideas. Moreover, the opening of the library did not last more than one week, after that the books were removed and the library reclosed".

"When a lot of students asked to apply for their exams, the officer answered: what exams? Are you students in the first place? You're not! You are terrorists, you cannot apply for exams here, Stop this nonsense, your future is lost, your world is stopped, and you will stay in prison for the rest of your pity life, or you will be executed".

"Students began writing petitions and complaining once they appear before judges in courts, therefor allowed to apply for exams, and here where problems arose, for example, if the applying student study medicine, they only allow him to read 4 or 5 books. English books or references on the other hand, undergo intense security review; in general, getting books inside the prison is extra difficult and a complicated progress".

"Prison officials gave one pen for each student, the latter is asked to keep it safe, and if he entered the hall without his pen, they would ask him about it, even if it has no ink left, student must keep the pen. They shiver out of fear once they notice a paper and pen, carrying a pen and paper in their eyes is similar to holding arms against them, one time the officer got crazy when he entered our cell and found a pen and a piece of paper, he started wondering about how they got here, a big problem happend back then".

Suffering Families

Testimonies of one detainee's mother and one detainee's wife.

Mrs. "A.H" describes the families' suffering saying:

"We must reach the gates of Tora prison complex early in the morning; the gates open from 6:30 am until 11:00 am, and people get stacked in front of the gates, because they only allow 5 people to cross at a time".

"In order to enter Alaqrab prison, we have to wait for the internal transportation mean, called "El-Taftaf", to take us to the gates of Alaqrab prison, fare is 1 Egyptian Pound per person, we usually reach the gates at around six in the morning, and we wait there until of 10:00 am and 1:00 pm, then an officer comes out to take our visit permits issued by the Prosecutor's Office, and goes in again afterwards".

"Some of us are allowed to enter, but sometimes nobody is allowed, if they allow us to enter, we enter the gates, hand over the food we brought to be searched, pass through metal detector doors, and then women enter a side room for security self-inspection, and men enter a different one on the other side, during which violations occur by guards every now and then. After that we are left in a waiting room for an hour or two, just to take us after that to the visit room which consists of cabins equipped with two solid glass barricades- prison officials reduced the number of visit cabins inside the visit room from 8 to 4 cabins -; a bit later they bring the detainee to the other side of the glass, which is not equipped with a chair, so he must stand there the whole time on his feet, as for the visitors side, they provide only one sitting chair, so the rest of the family have to stand on their feet too".

"In the past, visit periods were between 10 and 15 minutes, but now they shorten it to 3 minutes, if they allowed us to visit in the first place".

"Some families were banned from visiting their loved ones, and they didn't allow them to visit even when they opened the exceptional visit to H2 section after the last visit of the National Council for Human Rights; Dr. Abdullah Shehata, Mohamed El-Zawahiri and counselor Hassan El-Najjar families were subjected to this restriction".

"Other families are banned permanently from visiting their loved ones, because the former counselor Hisham Barakat restricted the authority for issuing visit permits in the hands of Supreme State Security Prosecution, which refuses to give allow visits to some families, such as Dr. Abdel Moneim Amin's family, who have not visited him since 10 months, and know nothing about him since then".

Another important testimony is Mrs. Thana' Shaheen's about her son, Amr Rabea, a student detained at Alaqrab prison, after he was tortured at Alazouli military jail and the headquarters of the State Security in Blazawgli. She told me the story of her suffering during the visits, saying:

"Mothers won't despair no matter how long they detain our beloved sons and husbands, but tears froze in our eyes, and our hearts wept in blood, especially when we were allowed to see our sons for only two or three minutes after banning the visits for several months. We struggle to get one visit permit after another, and they simply take it from our hands after standing at the main gate in long queues for five or six hours, I don't have enough words in my vocabulary to describe this Image of suffering mothers; some of them needed to get out of home at 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning, so they can enter the prison early, because at eight the queue reaches the street, not to mention the quarrels and fights between criminal prisoners' families, the situation goes out of control sometimes to the extent that once one woman tried to stab another with a knife, because she wanted to enter the prison before her, but people got in, and managed miraculously to break them off".

"Visit permissions must be handed over to prison officials before 10:00 am, but in fact, they sometimes close the door without sending anyone to collect the permissions until time passes 10 o'clock, and then get out to say time is up, after all this misery time is simply up! Some visitors come from distant locations, and once I witnessed a mother who came from Luxor and after waiting for hours, some guard told her: "you can't visit your son today", she answered: "you told me that when I came yesterday, which is why I came today", and despite her crying he did not let her in, that was when the visits were open".

Interview with Mrs.Thana' Shaheen by the Egyptian newspaper "Elmasry Elyoum", Mrs.Shaheen talks about her son's suffering at Alaqrab prison.


One former detainee talks about torture in Alaqrab prison, he says:

"When the detainees complain of mistreatment, prison administration uses strike force to strip us our clothes, and confiscate our blankets, leaving us half naked in cold weather, and if any resistance or objection occurred, the use special armed forces equipped with Shotguns to threaten us while we are constrained, then they fire us sonic bullets on us, its fragments scatter to reach your eyes, and it leaves a small scratch on the face, in few cases, scratches persisted on the face of some detainees for a month or more, another person almost lost his eye, he is barely able to see through it now. Detainees always claim their rights, though they are aware that they will not obtain any, nevertheless, they try as hard as they can, hoping to obtain the least of them".

"Detainees are determined to resist injustice and tyranny inside the prison, for so many times strike force enters the cell, and drag more than one detainee before the eyes of his inmates, they beat them in the small corridor, which is located in front of the cells, without taking into account how old the tortured is, or if he suffers from diabetes or high blood pressure; there is no difference in their eyes between a doctor or any normal person".

"After such events, the officials lock the doors of the cells for a week or two, banning us from going out to exercise yard, and give us barely enough food to eat".

"Prisoners in criminal cases help us a lot, for example, when a political prisoner gets ill, they take out the medicine from their own secret hideouts, and smuggle it within the food. They hate the officers and curse them, even though they don't fight for noble cause, but they fully respect the political detainees, and try their best to help them".

"All the incidents taking place inside Alaqrab prison, happen in the presence of Deputy Interior Minister, Mohammed Rateb, Director of Prison Investigations, Mohammed El-Khulusi, Sheriff Hisham, and Chief Detective Tamer Gad, there are also other officials which were transferred, but in general these people treated us in a very brutal manner. They appointed someone to supervise the state security agents, Mohammed Abdel-Hafiz, who oversees every detainee, orders state security agents how to treat each one of them, and also guides them on how to deal with high or low ranked officials".

"Sometimes strike forces enter the cells accompanied with dogs to frighten the detainees, they also take the detainees outside, put them in a in a particular distant place, and shoot them, the bullets remain in the detainee's body for two or three days, making it difficult for him to sleep or to rest, these incidents happen every now and then, but there are other cases, very important cases, happening in military prisons; I met 30 cases, each case is different from the other, but all of them agree on the incidents that are taking place inside military prisons, these people came from S8 section inside Alazouli prison, and Battalion 101 north Sinai".

"Most of the time, People who came to Alaqrab prison from military prisons suffered from multiple fractures, and there were some cases with compound fracture injury, they didn't get any kind of special treatment, there is no mercy, all kinds and methods of torture are allowed".

"Looking at the marks tortures left on the detainees, motivated me to join the field of documenting torture, I may have not witnessed the torture process, but I lived with the tortured for almost six months in Alaqrab prison, I felt their suffering, saw sadness in their eyes, and touched their strain and fatigue. I couldn't find the appropriate word to tell them, but when our eyes meet, I can see the oppression and injustice through their eyes, despite all, they smile, and are satisfied with their destiny, and swarming with joy and pride, because they were able to stand against the tyranny and oppression, their life means less to them compared to their dignity, country, home, and freedom".

"Whatever I say can't be enough to describe those people, they are pillars of the revolution, who was forgotten in the media and ignored internationally; no one speaks about them, and human rights organizations do not mention their sacrifices, they don't aspire wide international recognition, nor they seek to acquire it. What happened is something very personal for them; they do not care about fame, which they deem as flashy play, what motivated me the most to document torture, is that I wanted to bring the truth to all people".

"I may have spent a day or two in State Security prison, but this is nothing compared to those who stayed for months in military prisons; whenever they cross my mind I can feel the chill going through my body, and whenever I remember the oppression they suffered I feel the same oppression eating me from the inside".

"Out of all the prisons, military prisons are the worst. No matter how hard I try, I can't describe what is happening in there, reality is something else. My whole testimony was about some cases I saw, and some stories I heard".

Alazouli Prison

"Detainees who came from Alazouli prison usually suffer from fractures and signs of horrible torture, some of them even come with paralysis, bruises, and serious injuries that take months of treatment to heal. The goal of all that torture is forcing detainees to make certain statements or to extract confessions from them. One detainee, who came along with a group of detainees transferred from Alazouli to Alaqrab, told me about one prisoner arrested with his 3 sons in Alazouli prison; the officer asked him to talk, and when he refused, they shot his first son dead in front of him, the very next day same argument went on, and the prisoner refused to talk again, just to see his second son killed before his eyes, and the third son was killed the day after in the same way; after that the father got fully paralyzed, and his inmates had to help him going to the toilet or shower".

"Personal hygiene in Alazouli prison is out of question, they only grant you with 5 minutes to use the bathroom or to shower throughout the whole day, despite this, some prisoners sacrifice their 5 minutes in order to carry the paralyzed man to the bathroom to clean him, taking lashes from the guards all the way in and out".

"The officer came repeatedly to the paralyzed man, pressuring him frequently by saying: if don't talk I will leave you like this forever, even if you asked to die I won't let it happen, this is how you will live until you talk, and when you do that, I'll give you mercy".

"He was willing to die, but he didn't allow anyone to kill him, and he didn't commit suicide, he wanted to get killed by their hands. This is real incidents happening in Alazouli, the prison which holds doctors, engineers, faculty members, including very well-known doctors on a global scale".

"Sometimes children, ranging between 8 to 11 years old, are brought to Alazouli prison; they are locked in solitary confinement to blackmail their parents to surrender".

"The size of each cell in Alazouli is nearly 8×9 m2, and up to 50 prisoners live within. When the officer enters the cell to call the names of prisoners, they don't know what is waiting them outside; it could be investigation, torture, death, or deportation? Some prisoners who have been deported to Alaqrab prison told me that they were granted a new life here, in spite of all the above-mentioned problems, prisoners of Alazouli see Alaqrab as a reborn".

"Some detainees told me about what is happening inside the Battalion 101, they mentioned a mass grave inside three wells in the Battalion, bodies of the detainees are thrown into those wells after torturing them".

This is a brief summary of one of the worst known prison in Egypt, and it is up to you to imagine what is happening in secret prisons.

I started this investigation after incident of torture happened inside H4 section wing 4 on 8 and 9 December, it resulted in severe injuries, fractures and wounds for many of the detainees. After 4 days, detainees' families organized a protest in front of Journalists Syndicate on Sunday, 13th December 2015. One expert lens captured the image below; a daughter of one detainee at Alaqrab prison, crying for her father whom destiny is still obscure.

Daughter of one detainee at Alaqrab prison, crying for her father whom destiny is still obscure - Click to enlarge

Here are some posts on Facebook, written by families of the detainees and documents their suffering.


Finally, we should not forget about those who died while detained in Alaqrab prison as a result of medical negligence, those names include:

  1. Farid Ismail
  2. Nabil El-Maghriby
  3. Morgan Salem
  4. Essam Derbala.
  5. Imad Hassan, who died at Alaqrab prison, on the second day of Eid al-Adha 2015, of stomach cancer, as a result of medical negligence.

All images from, videos from their own respected owners. This report was first published on on the 16th December 2015.

]]> (Haitham Ghoneim) Reports and Publications Sun, 20 Dec 2015 16:06:45 +0000
Reflecting on Palestine's grief, humour and steadfastness Reflecting on Palestine's grief, humour and steadfastnessDownload the full transcript of the keynote address by Karen Koning AbuZayd at MEMO's Palestine Book Awards 2015.

This address was delivered on November 19th 2015, in London.

Karen AbuZayd was the Commissioner-General for UNRWA from June 2005 to January 2010.

Before joining UNRWA, AbuZayd worked for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for 19 years. She began her humanitarian career in the Sudan in 1981, then Nambia in 1989, then to Sierra Leone during the Liberian civil war. She was the UNHCR's chief of mission in Sarajevo during the Bosnian war.

Click here to download the document.

Exclusive interview with Karen AbuZayd: ‘No one wants to be a refugee’

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Palestinians and Jordanian citizenship Palestinians and Jordanian citizenshipThe ethnic origins of those living in Jordan are many and contrasting. The current ruling royal family are “Hashemite” descendants of the Sharifs of Makkah and the Hijaz, while the vast majority of those living in Jordan are Arabs from various other backgrounds, some of which come from the Levant (Bilad Ash-Sham) and the Arabian Peninsula.

In addition, there are the Circassians who are descendants of the Muslim refugees after the Russian invasion of the Caucasus in the 19th century, and a much smaller group of Chechens. The majority of Jordanians are Muslims although there are a minority of Christian and Druze Arabs. The Jordanian people are made up of Bedouin tribes, as well as local communities that settled in urban and rural areas. Many of the tribes have branches in Jordan and Palestine.

Click here to download the full report

]]> (Sawsan Ramahi) Reports and Publications Wed, 09 Dec 2015 17:04:11 +0000
Policy Paper: Building Solidarity for Palestine in Latin America Panel of speakers at MEMO's conference on Palestine and Latin America in the 21st century

For more than 100 years, Palestinians and Latin Americans have been linked by a common aspiration for independence. That relationship is set to continue well into the 21st century as Latin America’s transformative projects evolve and begin to impact on global affairs. There are four major channels through which solidarity for the Palestinian cause will be advanced: the Palestinian Diaspora in Latin America; the Native American peoples; Latin American governments; and the social movements spearheaded by the BDS movement.

Click here to download the full policy paper on Building solidarity in Palestine in Latin America

Also read Amelia Smith's event review: MEMO conference unites anti-imperialist movements

]]> (Dr Daud Abdullah) Reports and Publications Thu, 19 Nov 2015 11:39:28 +0000
Defining a paradigm for cooperation between the peoples of both regions Defining a paradigm for cooperation between the peoples of both regionsDownload the full transcript of the address by Wadah Khanfar at the MEMO international conference: Palestine & Latin America in the 21st century.

This address was delivered on August 22nd 2015, in London.

As Director General of Al Jazeera Media Network, Wadah transformed the organisation from a single channel into a global media network. During his tenure, he had front row seat for all of the Region’s historic events including wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and culminating in the Arab Awakening.

He was ranked first in Foreign Policy magazine’s top 100 global thinkers, and was one of Fast Company’s most creative people in business in 2011. Currently Wadah is CEO, Integral Media Strategies.

Click here to download the document.

]]> (Wadah Khanfar) Reports and Publications Sat, 05 Sep 2015 12:10:32 +0000
Apartheid & Cultural Boycott: Then and now Apartheid & Cultural Boycott: Then and nowThe following essay, ‘Apartheid & Cultural Boycott: Then and now’, is based on a lecture of the same name given by Ben White at the Southbank Centre in London on July 18, 2015.

The address was part of a programme of events to mark ‘Mandela Weekend’.

Ben White is a journalist, writer, and researcher, specialising in Palestine/Israel. He is a regular contributor to Middle East Monitor, and his articles also appear in Middle East Eye, Al Jazeera English, and The National, among others. He is the author of two books: ‘Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide’ and ‘Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination, and Democracy’.

This essay can also be viewed and downloaded as a PDF here.

In May 2002, an article appeared in Israeli newspaper Haaretz by their correspondent Amira Hass, following the Israeli military’s withdrawal from the Ministry of Culture in Ramallah. The context was a large-scale assault and invasion by the Israeli army of the main West Bank urban centres, some 18 months or so into the Second Intifada – an uprising Israel brutally crushed.

The Palestinian Ministry of Culture was one of many private and public buildings occupied by Israeli soldiers and turned into temporary military bases, interrogation centres, and look-outs. Once the army had redeployed elsewhere, local Palestinians and journalists had the opportunity to assess the damage. Amira Hass wrote the following.

In the department for the encouragement of children's art, the soldiers had dirtied all the walls with gouache paints they found there and destroyed the children's paintings that hung there. In every room of the various departments - literature, film, culture for children and youth books, discs, pamphlets and documents were piled up, soiled with urine and excrement.

This violence was part of a colonial past and present that seeks the erasure of the Palestinians’ presence in their homeland – and does not spare culture. During the Nakba of 1948, the ‘catastrophe’ that saw the State of Israel established through the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and the destruction of more than 400 villages, some 70,000 books from private Palestinian libraries were looted. At least 6,000 of them remain in Israel’s National Library.

And so it continues. In 2009, the Arab League and UNESCO designated Jerusalem as the year’s Capital of Arab Culture. Israel, who has illegally annexed Occupied East Jerusalem and claims the entire, expanded city as its ‘eternal capital’, banned all displays of culture connected with the celebrations. Police broke up cultural gatherings in venues across Occupied East Jerusalem, and arrested twenty festival organisers and participants.

The Palestinian cultural boycott call

In July 2004, two years after the Ministry of Culture was trashed, a number of Palestinian groups operating under the umbrella name of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) issued a call for boycott. PACBI urged cultural workers and academics worldwide to “comprehensively and consistently boycott all Israeli academic and cultural institutions as a contribution to the struggle to end Israel’s occupation, colonization and system of apartheid.”

The call was based on four key points: the direct contribution to, defence of, or silent complicity in, the oppression of Palestinians by Israeli academic institutions; the failure of various “forms of international intervention” to force Israel to end such oppression; the historical precedent of “people of conscience” globally fighting injustice, such as with Apartheid South Africa; and “the need for a Palestinian frame of reference outlining guiding principles” for a growing boycott movement.

Based on the above, “Palestinian academics and intellectuals” urged “colleagues in the international community to comprehensively and consistently boycott all Israeli academic and cultural institutions as a contribution to the struggle to end Israel's occupation, colonization and system of apartheid, by applying the following”:

  1. Refrain from participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions;
  2. Advocate a comprehensive boycott of Israeli institutions at the national and international levels, including suspension of all forms of funding and subsidies to these institutions;
  3. Promote divestment and disinvestment from Israel by international academic institutions;
  4. Work toward the condemnation of Israeli policies by pressing for resolutions to be adopted by academic, professional and cultural associations and organizations;
  5. Support Palestinian academic and cultural institutions directly without requiring them to partner with Israeli counterparts as an explicit or implicit condition for such support.

In order to “enable a consistent and effective implementation of the institutional cultural boycott of Israel”, PACBI has developed, and fine-tuned, a set of guidelines “for a coordinated, principled and focused approach to ending complicity in Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights.”

Significantly, the guidelines note that “mere affiliation of Israeli cultural workers to an Israeli cultural institution is...not grounds for applying the boycott.” However, if “an individual is representing the state of Israel or a complicit Israeli institution, or is commissioned/recruited to participate in Israel’s efforts to ‘rebrand’ itself, then her/his activities are subject to the institutional boycott the BDS movement is calling for.” The guidelines continue:

The cultural boycott campaign against apartheid South Africa has been a major source of inspiration in formulating the Palestinian boycott calls and their criteria, despite some crucial differences. In particular, the Palestinian boycott, unlike the South African cultural boycott, is institutional and does not target individuals as such.

Thus there is a distinction between “common sense” boycotts – where any individual artist may attract protests because of her/his political activities and opinions (e.g. racism, support for war crimes, etc.) – and “the BDS institutional boycott guidelines.” This point regarding the nature of the BDS call and guidelines is important, particularly with regards to one of the main issues raised in the context of the cultural boycott, that of ‘artistic freedom’.

Personally, I do not believe in the fetishization of ‘artistic freedom’ or ‘freedom of expression’, or the prioritisation of such a ‘freedom’ above, for example, the freedom to attend university classes without being stopped by a soldier, the freedom to eat with your family without being blown to pieces by a drone-delivered missile, or the freedom to live in dignity and freedom in your own country. As an item on PACBI’s website put it:

Palestinian artists face tremendous challenges with stifling travel restrictions, arbitrary detention, political repression and various roadblocks that get in the way of them holding rehearsals, exhibiting their work or even performing the simplest tasks, which becomes quite impossible under occupation.

Indeed, what are often defended as ‘freedoms’ are perhaps better understood as ‘privileges’ – privileges enjoyed in the context of a settler colonial regime in which cultural institutions are complicit. In 1984, the director of the United Nations Centre Against Apartheid responded to criticism that the cultural boycott of South Africa infringed freedom of expression bysaying:

It is rather strange, to say the least, that the South African regime which denies all freedoms - including freedom of residence, movement and employment - to the African majority, which deprives them even of their citizenship rights, and which restricts and jails people without due process or rule of law, should become a defender of the freedom of artists and sportsmen of the world.

A year after the PACBI call, the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign was launched by dozens of Palestinian trade unions, NGOs, and other civil society groups. The BDS call urges the isolation of Israel until it “meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law” by the following:

  1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;
  2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality;
  3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

Since 2004-2005, hundreds of artists and cultural figures from around the world have heeded the call: Alice Walker, Henning Mankell, Roger Waters, Naomi Klein, Ken Loach, Judith Butler, Elvis Costello, and Mira Nair are just a few, more well-known examples. In February 2015, almost a thousand UK artists signed a pledge in support of the cultural boycott (including this author).

In May 2014, New York-based, Israeli writer Reuven Namdar wrote of how “the international slowly solidifying around Israel’s cultural life”. Earlier this year, curators held a meeting in Tel Aviv on “The Cultural Boycott of Israel and What It Means for Israeli Contemporary Art.” According to a report on the gathering, the boycott “is practiced overtly as well as covertly, officially and unofficially, and by a variety of groups within the art world.”

South Africa: precedent and inspiration

The Palestinians’ call for boycott, and the support it is finding around the world, draws considerable inspiration from the South African precedent. Although the boycott of Apartheid South Africa, including a cultural boycott, is most often associated in the public imagination with its climax in the 1980s and early 1990s, international efforts to boycott the racist regime go back to as early as the 1940s. It was in the 1960s, however, that the boycott campaign really took off.

In 1961, the British Musicians Union adopted a policy decision that its members should not perform in South Africa as long as apartheid exists. Two years later, forty-five prominent British playwrights signed a Declaration announcing they had instructed their agents to insert a clause in all future contracts automatically refusing performing rights in any theatre “where discrimination is made among audiences on grounds of colour.” In 1964, 28 Irish playwrights declared that they would not permit their work to be performed before segregated audiences in South Africa.

In 1965, the British Screenwriters Guild called for a ban on the distribution of British films in South Africa, while the British Actors’ Union, Equity, invited individual members to sign a declaration pledging not to work in South Africa. The same year, the American Committee on Africa sponsored a declaration signed by more than 60 cultural personalities. It read:

We say no to apartheid. We take this pledge: in solemn resolve to refuse any encouragement of, or indeed, any professional association with the present Republic of South Africa, this until the day when all its people shall equally enjoy the educational and cultural advantages of that rich and beautiful land.

By the 1970s, South African theatre groups were met by protesters in Western cities, and in 1981, the board of the Associated Actors and Artists of America – and umbrella organisation of all major actors’ unions with a total membership of over 240,000 actors – took a unanimous decision that its members should not perform in South Africa. In 1980, the United Nation General Assembly passed a resolution urging a cultural and academic boycott of South Africa; those who violated the boycott, were named and shamed by the UN Special Committee Against Apartheid.

The logic of the boycott was clear. Anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Kathrada, who was tried alongside Nelson Mandela and spent 26 years in prison, wrote an article in 1956 on the importance of the cultural boycott, explaining: “the believers of the international boycott base their premise on the point of view that at this stage of development international pressure against South Africa's racial policies coupled with the local struggle, will greatly further the cause of freedom.” He went on:

They base their stand primarily on the view that the perpetrators of racialism in this country derive strength and courage from the closeness that they (the racialists) feel to the outer world; indeed from the almost tacit consent and recognition that they receive from particularly the Western countries in the form of cultural and sports contact, economic and military association.

Thus, Kathrada concluded, “racialist South Africans must be made to feel more and more that they stand alone in the whole world in their belief of racial superiority. They must be made to feel the pinch of isolation from the civilised world in the spheres of culture, sports, etc.” (Note that Kathrada has more recently stated his belief that “Israel is indeed an apartheid state.”)

In a position paper published by the African National Congress in 1989, “the cultural and academic boycott” were described as “important aspects of the ANC’s strategy for the total isolation of the racist minority regime.” Referring to the campaign’s successes, the ANC said the “multi-pronged offensive” had “resulted in the transfer of the initiative from the oppressor regime to the people.”

A 1988 article by the ‘People’s Poet’ Mzwakhe Mbuli reported that the Australian cricket team were told by the chief of the South African Defence Force that “the arms boycott and the sport boycott have been the most damaging of our enemies’ weapons.” That is why, he added, “the army is so concerned that teams from overseas keep coming here.” In 1991, the Los Angeles Times described the cultural boycott as “one of the most effective sanctions ever imposed on South Africans.”

South African Artists Against Apartheid, a contemporary Palestine solidarity group, has affirmed the important role cultural boycott played in the historic anti-apartheid movement. Speaking as “a people whose parents and grandparents suffered under (and resisted) Apartheid in South Africa”, the group say their history “is testament to the value and legitimacy that the international boycott had in bringing to an end the Apartheid regime” in their own country.

When artists and sportspeople began refusing to perform in South Africa, the world’s eyes turned to the injustices that were happening here to people of colour. This then created a wave of pressure on politicians and world leaders representing their constituencies, to insist on a regime-change—this contributed to a free, democratic and non-racial South Africa.

This is one example of many South Africans who, having fought long and hard against their own apartheid regime, now back the call of Palestinians today. In 2010, Desmond Tutu explained it like this: “Just as we said during apartheid that it was inappropriate for international artists to perform in South Africa in a society founded on discriminatory laws and racial exclusivity, so it would be wrong for Cape Town Opera to perform in Israel.”

Questions about the boycott

I am going to address three common objections, or questions, about the cultural boycott, but before doing so, it is important to look at the question of the BDS campaign more generally. A boycott is about applying pressure in an effort to effect change, a nonviolent way of expressing opposition to a particular policy. As part of a wider campaign, it is a way to challenge and/or end complicity in a practice viewed as objectionable.

Boycotts and divestments of this type are typically strategies of the weak against the powerful, and, in some contexts - such as Palestine - they are also responses of solidarity with a group that has asked for outside support in a struggle for justice.

The case for a boycott of Israel is multidimensional, but can be effectively summarised by the following, three-part argument: the reality of Israel’s crimes and violations, the impunity it enjoys while committing those actions, and the utility of boycott as a tactic – all of which is underpinned, strengthened, and informed by, the Palestinian call.

First, the reality of Israel’s ongoing policies of colonisation and apartheid. Israel’s settlements in the Occupied West Bank are built in defiance of international law, a position clarified in various UN resolutions, by the EU, UK government, and others. Every single Israeli government since 1967, whether Labour or Likud, has maintained and expanded these settlements. The Apartheid Wall has also been condemned, most notably by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague in 2004.

Israeli occupation forces routinely carries out gross violations of rights: demolishing homes outside the context of military necessity; holding Palestinians without trial; controlling people’s freedom of movement based on what kind of ID they hold, and carrying out the wilful killings of unarmed civilian demonstrators. In Occupied East Jerusalem, meanwhile, Palestinian residents suffer from harsh discriminatory practices, including the rescinding of their very ‘right’ to live in the city.

In the Gaza Strip, 1.8 million Palestinians are fenced-in, and subjected to periodic brutalisation by one of the most advanced militaries in the world. In 2014, Israel’s assault on Gaza killed 2,200 Palestinians – a death toll that included 550 Palestinian children. The blockade, which has deliberately targeted Gaza’s economic and social fabric, continues.

Palestinian citizens of Israel, meanwhile, are subjected to institutionalised discrimination – a fact acknowledged even by the U.S. State Department. Racist laws and policies affect where they can live, who they can marry, the quality of their education, and much more besides.

Finally, and critically, millions of Palestinians remain refugees, the legacy of the ethnic cleansing that took place with Israel’s establishment in 1948, when the majority of Palestinians inside the newly-established borders were excluded, forbidden from returning, and their property confiscated.

Despite all of the above, despite the fact that Israel’s conduct has been exhaustively documented and slammed in dozens of UN resolutions and by numerous human rights bodies, there have been no serious attempts by Western governments to enforce basic international norms. This therefore leads us to the second reason for BDS: Israel’s impunity.

Boycott is about accountability for Israeli crimes, and it is also about ending our own complicity – of our governments and institutions – in them. Not only does Israel perpetrate serious crimes without sanction – it actually receives preferential trade agreements, diplomatic protection, and military aid.

The BDS call was intentionally issued on July 9, 2005, the first anniversary of the ICJ’s advisory opinion on the Wall, to underline and highlight the disparity between Israel’s violations of international law, and the lack of political will to ensure that such violations have consequences.

So there is the reality, the ongoing impunity, and now the third part of the argument: the utility of boycott as a tactic. Boycott resonates as a way of taking action because people are familiar with it from many different contexts; from consumer campaigns challenging sweatshop labour to more famous historical examples such as the U.S. Civil Rights movement. People ‘get’ boycotts.

Israel is vulnerable to the isolation of a boycott, and change from within is not going to work – at least not without external pressure. As Yonatan Shapira, a former captain in the Israeli Air Force turned anti-apartheid activist, put it: “It is no longer enough to try and change Israel from within. Israel has to be pressured in the same way apartheid South Africa was forced to change.”

BDS educates, stimulates debate and discussion, and provides an invaluable opportunity to increase awareness about the facts on the ground. It empowers people to take action and make a difference. The Palestinian call for action offers an alternative to apathy or complicity.

Three questions about boycotts

I will now turn to three common objections, or questions, about the cultural boycott (though they can also apply to the BDS campaign more broadly). The first, oft-repeated question is simple: why ‘single out’ Israel?

The magazine Ethical Consumer lists more than 60 current boycotts over a host of issues (including companies and countries). The EU has “restrictive measures (sanctions)” in force with numerous countries e.g. Burma, Moldova, Zimbabwe etc. The UK government, meanwhile, lists arms embargos for 14 countries. Thus in reality, it is Israel who is singled out by our governments for impunity, for diplomatic protection and preferential trade deals; and a civil society-driven boycott is the response.

Some, meanwhile, like to invoke other human rights crises as a means of undermining the legitimacy of protesting the abuses for which Israel is responsible (the ‘but what about’ game). Note that this is rarely a question posed to Tibetan solidarity activists, or climate change campaigners. Only the Palestinians, it seems, are required to justify their right to resistance and solidarity.

In 1958, Nelson Mandela explained that “the boycott is in no way a matter of principle but a tactical weapon whose application should, like all other political weapons of the struggle, be related to the concrete conditions prevailing at the given time.” Ian McEwan, defending his decision to accept the Jerusalem Prize for literature in 2011,said: “If I only went to countries that I approve of, I probably would never get out of bed.” This is a perfect example of how the inability – or refusal – to engage with the BDS call as a specific tactic, leads to passivity – and complicity.

A second commonly-asked question goes as follows: Surely a boycott isolates the moderates and emboldens the Right? Unfortunately, the hard truth is that there is no genuine ‘peace camp’ in Israel – if, by peace camp, one means a sizeable body of Jewish Israelis who support equality for Palestinians and organise against their government’s denial of Palestinian basic rights. In fact, Palestinians need less of a so-called 'peace camp', and more of an 'anti-apartheid camp'.

Take a look at Israel’s so-called opposition, the Zionist Union, a political group dominated by the Isaac Herzog-led Labour Party. In July 2015, Herzog declared that: “With regard to security, I am more extreme than Netanyahu.” The group’s election manifesto was a blueprint for a Bantustan solution, the borders of a Palestinian ‘state’ shaped by Israel’s colonial interests and assets in the West Bank. Or take the Zionist Union’s election campaign – one advert featured Israeli army veterans praising Herzog as someone who “understands the Arab mentality” and “has seen Arabs in all kinds of situations,” including “in the crosshairs.”

Or take Amos Oz, the kind of liberal Zionist adored in some Western circles as a voice of moderation, can sound very much like an apartheid South African apologist of old. Earlier this year, railing against the idea of one democratic state for Jews and Palestinians, Oz wrote: “Let’s start with a matter of life and death. If there are not two states, there will be one. If there is one, it will be Arab. If Arab it is, there is no telling the fate of our children and theirs.”

Why? What is so terrible about this prospect? As I wrote in March, what is telling is that Oz never really explains, directly, why ‘an Arab state’ would be such a terrible prospect for his children and grandchildren – it’s just assumed. In other words, there is something intrinsic to ‘Arabs’ that would make a state in which they form a majority unbearable.

Oz’s talk of “delusional” cohabitation, the “fantasy” of “equality” and a future “internal bloodbath”, is reminiscent of the paranoia of white South Africans who similarly feared that a transition to majority rule would mean “violence, total collapse, expulsion and flight.”

Finally, question number three: isn’t art above politics? Before unpacking this further, it is vital to understand that Israel has already ‘politicised’ art, or more specifically, mobilised art and culture in the services of rebranding its apartheid regime. In 2005, for example, an official from Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA)admitted: “We see culture as a propaganda tool of the first rank, and I do not differentiate between propaganda and culture.”

In 2008, the head of the MFA’s brand management unitsaid: “It is more important for Israel to be attractive than to be right.” The same year, Israel’s MFA has hired a British firm to “craft” a “new image” for the country based on “Israel's scientific and cultural achievements”. In 2009, shortly after the Gaza massacre, the MFA’s deputy director general for cultural affairsstated: “We will send well-known novelists and writers overseas, theatre companies, exhibits. This way, you show Israel’s prettier face, so we are not thought of purely in the context of war.”

The Israeli government’s “efforts to broaden public perceptions of Israel”, in the words of the Jewish Telegraph Agency, are intended to “tell the Western world, ‘Hey, we’re just like you’.” In 2011, leading Israeli chef Michael Katz described how “the government decided, through culture, to start improving Israel’s image. They started sending artists, singers, painters, filmmakers and then the idea came of sending chefs.”

The disparity between this propagandized cultural diplomacy and the horror of settler colonialism is best exemplified by Idan Raichel, an Israeli musician hailed internationally for his “embrace of diversity and coexistence”. Contrast this image, however, with his publicly-stated belief that the “role” of artists “is to be recruited into Israeli hasbara [propaganda]” – or his defence in 2013 of ‘Captain George’, a former Israeli army interrogator accused of torture.

To say that art is ‘above politics’ is to claim an exceptional status for art that it does not and cannot possess.  It is, at best, an abdication of the responsibility that each one of us has to critically examine how our own actions and relationships affect others – in other words, how they are ‘political’. At worst, it is a disingenuous and deliberate attempt to drown out the voices of the imprisoned and tortured with the sound of the orchestra.

Even when a particular piece of art, a painting, a piece of music, a play, has no explicit ‘political’ content or ‘message’, there are other questions to be asked: Why was it created, and by whom? Who is able to attend the concert, and who cannot? Who invited the artist to perform, and why? What are the implications or significance of an exhibition in a particular location? And so on.

Consider the words of Elvis Costello in 2010, when refusing to perform in Israel. Hesaid: “There are occasions when merely having your name added to a concert schedule may be interpreted as a political act that resonates more than anything that might be sung and it may be assumed that one has no mind for the suffering of the innocent.”

Norwegian artist Moddi explained his decision in 2014 to cancel a Tel Aviv show in the following terms: “I have always had an unwavering belief in art as a unique arena for public debate. Faced with the political situation in Israel I have for the first time been forced to ask myself if silence can sometimes be the strongest message.”

When I choose to cancel the Tel Aviv show, it is because dialogue has failed. In fact, it has been abused for decades. A discourse of peace has served as a thick veil, concealing...the siege of Gaza, the fragmentation of the West Bank and the discrimination of Arab-Israeli citizens...Silence is the loudest song that I can sing.

Part of the problem here is that some see artists and academics as existing in an exceptional ‘apolitical’ category; that their work exists in a bubble, separate from the political questions and responsibilities that affect everyone else. I do not accept that. To insist on the presence of the political, to reassert its centrality, is not ‘reductionist’; of course, the political dimension is only one of many. But to remove it entirely, to actively seek its erasure or marginalisation, is impossible, and, I would add, such a move is itself highly political.

Indeed, it is possible to argue precisely the opposite; that it is more incumbent on cultural workers and artists to take a stand. A recently-published booklet, ‘The Case for a Cultural Boycott of Israel’, puts it like this: “Because of art’s power to move and to influence people, those  who work in the cultural field have a particular responsibility to speak out when art and platforms for cultural exchange are used  to mask injustice.”

Ahmed Kathrada, in the previously mentioned 1956 piece, addressed the question of whether it was better for artists to appear in South Africa, if they were to use such a trip for criticism. “All right,” he wrote, “one in a hundred of these artists goes back and makes statements or appears on public platforms to condemn racial discrimination. This gives rise to a furore in the White press and accusations are levelled about abuse of hospitality, about incompetence to judge a country by a few weeks' visit, etc. etc.”

But all this is momentary. While they have a good effect, in a few days it is forgotten; life returns to normal and the plight of South Africa once again fades away from people's minds and press columns. All is quiet until there is a repetition and again the same process. All this is becoming too monotonous. The time has come when we must move forward. The chain of criticism, the pinch to racialist South Africa must become continuous, unending, until they are made to think; until they are made to realise that each unit in society has its responsibilities to the greater whole; until they are made to appreciate the indispensability of inter-dependence.

In conclusion

Between 1972 and 1991, South African poet James Matthews published four volumes of poetry, all of which were banned by the government, the same Apartheid regime who for years denied him a passport, and detained him for three months in 1976. The words of his 1972 poem ‘Dialogue’ ring true today as a powerful indictment of those who seek to frustrate or oppose boycotts on the grounds that such acts of solidarity create ‘divisions’.


the bribe offered by the oppressor

glitters like fool's gold

dazzling the eyes of the oppressed

as they sit at the council table

listening to empty discourse promising

empty promises

beguiled by meaningless talk

they do not realize ointment-smeared words

will not heal open wounds

the oppressor sits seared with his spoils

with no desire to share equality

leaving the oppressed seeking warmth

at the cold fire of


BDS is not mysterious or new: a boycott is a well-trodden path as a means of effecting change and challenging the powerful. It is a grassroots strategy steeped in a rich, historical tradition of opposition to all sorts of injustice. It is a sign of hope, not despair.

It is not the only means of showing solidarity with Palestinians, and BDS must be part of a bigger picture, one element in a broader programme for Palestinian liberation. But it is our part to play. It is our response to the call from Palestinians, and, in taking action, we can make our own, vital contribution to the end of apartheid.

]]> (Ben White) Reports and Publications Fri, 04 Sep 2015 16:22:44 +0000
Latin America, neo-imperialism and Palestine Latin America, neo-imperialism and PalestineDownload the full transcript of the address by Dr Guillaume Long at the MEMO international conference: Palestine & Latin America in the 21st century.

This address was delivered on August 22nd 2015, in London.

Dr Long is the current Ecuadorian Minister of Culture and Heritage, and president of the International Relations Commision of Alianza PAIS (ruling party). He was minister of Knowledge and Human Talent.

He started his political career as the president of the Board of Evaluation, Accreditation and Quality Assurance in Higher Education (CEAACES). He holds a PhD in International Politics from the Institute for the Study of the Americas, University of London.

Click here to download the document.

]]> (Dr Guillaume Long) Reports and Publications Tue, 01 Sep 2015 17:07:51 +0000
Crimes against humanity cannot be forgotten Crimes against humanity cannot be forgottenDownload the full transcript of the address by HE Roberto Calzadilla Sarmiento at the MEMO international conference: Palestine & Latin America in the 21st century.

This address was delivered on August 22nd 2015, in London.

Roberto Sarmiento is the current Bolivian Ambassador to the United Kingdom. He has previously served as Bolivia’s Ambassador to the Netherlands and Portugal, and was nominated to guide the work of the Department of Europe, Asia, America, Africa and Oceania and the Department of Summits at the Bolivian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Between 2000 and 2004, he served as a Permanent Representative to the United Nations International Maritime Organisation (IMO).

Click here to download the document.

]]> (HE Roberto Calzadilla Sarmiento) Reports and Publications Fri, 28 Aug 2015 14:10:01 +0000
Cuba and Palestine: two countries one struggle Cuba and Palestine: two countries one struggleDownload the full transcript of the address by Jorge Luis Garcia at the MEMO international conference: Palestine & Latin America in the 21st century.

This address was delivered on August 22nd 2015, in London.

Luis Garcia is a Cuban diplomat and a graduate of the Cuban Superior Institute of International Relations, Raúl Roa García. He has been appointed to several positions at various Cuban Embassies, including those in Poland, Venezuela and the United Kingdom. His roles have included consul, press officer, administrative officer and political counsellor.

Click here to download the document.

]]> (Jorge Luis Garcia) Reports and Publications Wed, 26 Aug 2015 17:21:57 +0000
Keynote Address Senator Peter David: Palestine and Latin America in the 21st Century Keynote Address Senator Peter David: Palestine and Latin America in the 21st CenturyIsrael and Egypt had complete authority over the strip’s borders, and a security perimeter within Gaza was erected by the Israeli army that blocked entry to some of the best farming areas in the entire strip to ordinary Gazans.

In other words, the occupation NEVER ended!!

Latin America and the Caribbean must continue to try to bridge divides, and to speak objectively on the human rights of the Palestinian people. History will judge us, fate will curse us if we play politics with the issue.

Click here to read the full address by Senator Peter David, from MEMO's Palestine and Latin America in the 21st Century Conference 2015.

]]> (Senator Peter David) Reports and Publications Tue, 25 Aug 2015 16:04:38 +0000
Che Guevara in Gaza: Palestine becomes a Global Cause Che Guevara in Gaza: Palestine becomes a Global Cause

Che Guevara's visit to Gaza in 1959 was the first sign of transforming the Zionist colonization of Palestine from a regional conflict to a global struggle against colonialism. The trigger was the Bandung conference in 1955 and the resulting Non-Aligned Movement, whose members has just recently shaken the yoke of foreign domination. The stature of Nasser, as a world leader in the struggle against Imperialism and colonialism, brought world leaders to see for themselves the devastating results of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, clearly demonstrated in Gaza refugee camps.

Gaza Strip became the symbol of Palestine. This tiny sliver of land (1.3% of Palestine) remained the only place raising the flag of Palestine. It carried a major part of al Nakba burden when it became the temporary shelter for the inhabitant of 247 villages, expelled from their homes in southern Palestine.

Download the report by clicking here

]]> (Dr Salman Abu Sitta) Reports and Publications Mon, 20 Jul 2015 16:46:13 +0000
The suffering of Palestinians seeking family reunification In an unjust prison system, hunger strikes are a last resort

Since the establishment of the state, Israel's policies have been based on racism in all of its aspects. They crystallise in many issues and are aimed against the indigenous Arab population. The most recent example is the idea of the "Jewish state", which implies the further expulsion of the Palestinians from their homeland under the pretext of maintaining the racial purity of the nation. This is what Israel has sought to do since its creation in Palestine; it has also thwarted all efforts made for Palestinian refugees to exercise their right to return to their land and reunite with their families.

When the Zionist Jews occupied a large part of Palestine in 1948, they displaced and expelled over 750,000 Palestinians. In 1967, the tragedy was completed, as Israel occupied the rest of Palestine and displaced about 400,000 more Palestinians. Since then, Palestinian families have been trying to reunite inside and outside the borders of historic Palestine. The first attempt at family reunification was by those who had been displaced to return to live with their families who stayed within the Palestinian territories occupied in 1948.

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]]> (Sawsan Ramahi) Reports and Publications Fri, 06 Feb 2015 00:00:00 +0000
In an unjust prison system, hunger strikes are a last resort In an unjust prison system, hunger strikes are a last resortMohamed Soltan describes his room in the prison hospital as a glorified cell. By glorified he means that the room has an actual bed for him to sleep on, rather than just the floor. There is machinery in the room to monitor his vitals but whether it is hooked up to him, or whether it is a facade, is unclear. His sister Hanaa says he is bedridden and completely debilitated.

Mohamed has been in Cairo's Tora Prison since August 2013 when he was swept up as part of mass arrests during protests in support of Mohamed Morsi, not long after the Egyptian president's ousting. Mohamed has been accused of colluding with terrorists but as yet no evidence has been brought against him. Out of desperation to challenge the trumped up charges against him, in January of this year he began a hunger strike, which he has sustained to this day.

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]]> (Amelia Smith) Reports and Publications Thu, 11 Dec 2014 17:39:48 +0000
The European asylum system has collapsed Thousands of Syrian refugees are risking their lives to enter Europe as asylum seekers, but what awaits them are a range of informal and inadequate procedures, some of which only have a veneer of humanitarianism. In some cases, refugees are literally"pushed back" over international borders and territorial waters,before the European countries concerned fluff their pillows, rollover and close their eyes to their humanitarian responsibilities. This is especially so with regards to the now three million displaced Syrians still awaiting registration.

Amnesty and several European human rights organisations flagged this issue months ago, but policies remain unchanged, despite increasing regional unrest and the recent closing of borders in the region, for Palestinians, the so-called "double refugees", in particular.

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]]> (Henriette Johansen) Reports and Publications Wed, 10 Sep 2014 16:27:48 +0000
Hamas and the Palestine Liberation Organisation Hamas and the Palestine Liberation OrganisationEver since it was founded in 1964, the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) has played a leading role in the Palestinian cause. It has also experienced sharp turns over the past 50 years, which have affected the nature of its work as developments in the international arena, especially with regards to a final peace agreement, have affected its role and status.

This report will highlight the most important points in the history of the PLO, its relationship with Hamas and what is hindering its reform

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]]> (Sawsan Ramahi) Reports and Publications Sat, 06 Sep 2014 18:50:49 +0000
Wahhabism, the Brotherhood of those who obeyed Allah and ISIS: Has history repeated itself? Wahhabism, the Brotherhood and ISIS: Has history repeated itself?As a result of sluggishness and weakness it was subjected to in the wake of the downfall of the second Saudi Emirate and Al-Rashid's domination over the Najd region, the historical allies of the Ottoman state, the Wahhabi movement lost the political authority that supported it and helped it and that enabled it to maintain influence and hegemony and to impose its school of thought on the general public.

However, the hopes of the movement's preachers was revived when, one of the grandsons of Prince Faisal Bin Turki, King Abdulaziz bin Abdul Rahman embarked on the project of rebuilding the ruling family's authority at the turn of the 20th Century.

Note: The organisation Al-Ikhwan (Brotherhood) referred to in this report is an ideological army of settled Bedouins that became known as Al-Ikhwan (Brotherhood). They contributed to the unification of the Arabian Peninsula under King Abdulaziz Al Saud. It has no relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood founded by Hassan Al Banna in Egypt in 1928. This report was first published in Arabic by

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]]> (Abdullah Al-Malki) Reports and Publications Wed, 03 Sep 2014 13:36:49 +0000
Lecture: The New Despotisms of the 21st Century prof John KeaneDelivered in May 2014 in London, this was the inaugural lecture of our Abdelwahab Elmessiri Memorial Lecture series.

We are living in times marked by a quantum jump in anti-democratic ways of exercising power. In the first Abdelwahab Elmessiri Memorial Lecture, Prof John Keane will examine the growth of a new 21st-century type politics he calls the new despotism. He sketches a future world in which governments, backed by democratic rhetoric and election victories, massively expand their executive powers by means of economic nepotism, media controls, strangled judiciaries, dragnet surveillance and armed crackdowns on their opponents. Best developed in China but found in contexts otherwise as different as Egypt, Vietnam and Russia, the trend is having global effects and represents a serious long-term alternative to power-sharing democracy as we have known it in recent decades.

John Keane is Professor of Politics at the University of Sydney and at the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin (WZB). He is the Director of the newly-founded Sydney Democracy Network (SDN). Well before the European revolutions of 1989, John Keane first came to public prominence as a defender of 'civil society' and the democratic opposition in central and eastern Europe. His political and scholarly writing during that period was often published under the pen name Erica Blair. In 1989 he founded the world's first Centre for the Study of Democracy in London. Renowned globally for his creative thinking about democracy, including his fundamental rethinking of secularism, John Keane's best-known books are The Media and Democracy (translated into more than 25 languages); the best-selling biography Tom Paine: A Political Life (2009); a new interpretation of the gains and losses of globalisation Global Civil Society? (2003); Violence and Democracy (2004); and the recently published Democracy and Media Decadence (2013).

Prof Keane writes a column for the London/Melbourne-based web platform The Conversation. Forthcoming in Arabic, his Life and Death of Democracy was short-listed for the 2010 Non-Fiction Prime Minister's Literary Award and ranked by Asahi Shimbun (Tokyo) as one of the top 3 non-fiction books published in Japan during 2013. It is the first full-scale history of democracy for over a century.

Download the text of Prof John Keane's lecture: "The New Despotisms of the 21st Century: Imagining the end of democracy".

]]> (Professor John Keane) Reports and Publications Wed, 03 Sep 2014 12:32:09 +0000
Forced evictions in Israel-Palestine Forced evictions in Israel-PalestineThis report examines the ongoing role of Israel's systematic and criminal programme of forced evictions in mandate Palestine. Our fieldwork took us from East Jerusalem and Ramallah, to the northern reaches of the Jordan Valley, Yafa [Jaffa] and unrecognized villages near Tel Aviv, to Hebron in the southern West Bank, Bethlehem and into the heart of the Negev where 70,000 desert Palestinian Bedouins are under threat of mass forced displacement.

We focus on the key political, 'legal', strategic, ideological and violent mechanisms Israel has deployed in its programme of expansion. Through the use of a number of case-studies we hope to provide clarity and understanding to a planned and intentionally complex set of criminal state practices employed by the state of Israel to remove Palestinians from their historic lands. Those practices are best defined as ethnic cleansing within a system of apartheid and include: village destruction, house demolitions, the destruction of farmland and olive groves, land confiscation, access restrictions to natural resources, denial of residency rights, denial of refugee return, all underpinned by a process now defined as Judaisation.

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]]> (Amelia Smith & Penny Green) Reports and Publications Wed, 09 Jul 2014 11:46:49 +0000
The girl refugee: Bride business and Palestinian-Syrian mothers on love, education and stateless struggles MEMO Report: The Refugee GirlLast week, Facebook banned "Syrian refugees for marriage", a page that had had numerous complaints about its abusive message. Promoting the capitalisation of vulnerable Syrian refugee girls and their desperate families, such online gateways for contracted, candid sexual exploitation and trafficking of very young girls have led to tragic consequences. As the situation of Syrian refugees worsens, and with little optimism for the future, families are in some cases forced to accept "offers" in the hope that they will secure futures for their daughters. "She agreed to it so she could help her family," said one mother in Beirut's Shatila refugee camp, "but ever since she went to Jordan, she calls her mother every day, crying, that she hates it there."

One story of many, the prospect of these liaisons prompts many discussions amongst the mothers in the camp. "The girls are not respected as 'wives'," they say. Instead numerous reports and interviews have detailed their new lives as servants and, in most cases, sex slaves. The corrupt deal is kicked off through a Facebook page providing photos of young Syrian women under the pretext of "helping" those who are described as "financially well-off Arab men" to marry Syrian refugee women. Drastically volatile, managed by anonymous administrators, this page offers different kinds of legal and secret marriages, and then publish lists of the names of the refugees and their places of residence.

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]]> (Henriette Johansen) Reports and Publications Thu, 29 May 2014 17:45:00 +0000
The forced expulsion of Palestinians The forced expulsion of palestinians "A land without a people for a people without a land" is a Zionist myth upon which Jewish settlers have occupied Palestine. The same concept has been behind the ethnic cleansing of the land who were indeed living therein, through murder, threats and forced expulsion.

The policy of collective and individual expulsion and displacementhas been exercised by the Zionists against Palestinians since 1948. Zionist terror groups such as the Haganah, Irgun, Stern Gang and Palmach expelled and displaced Palestinians by committing a series of massacres, as well as destroying Palestinians villages; in 1948, around 750,000 Palestinians were driven from their cities, towns and villages into refugee camps. By doing so, the nascent Israeli state violated all international norms and conventions, as well as human rights laws, and it has continued to expel and displace Palestinians from their land ever since.

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]]> (Sawsan Ramahi) Reports and Publications Wed, 21 May 2014 14:52:45 +0000
North Lebanon on the verge of war MEMO Report: North Lebanon on the verge of warSectarian strife, catalysed by chronic national marginalisation, severe economic and infrastructural decline and state negligence are all combining to push the once-prosperous commercial hub of Tripoli in north Lebanon to the brink of war. This lethal concoction, arguably reflective of the general state of affairs in Lebanon, was the focus of a recent conference held by HRW (Human Rights Watch) and the Carnegie think-tank in Beirut.

With round after round of brutal violence, the Sunni neighbourhoods of Bab Al-Tabbaneh and their Alawite neighbours in Jabal Mohsen are locked in deep-rooted hatred. Ignited by socioeconomic hardship and endless attacks on residential and commercial districts, the conflict threatens the fragile peace in an area rocked by regional unrest.

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]]> (Henriette Johansen) Reports and Publications Wed, 14 May 2014 15:40:00 +0000
Video clip posted to youtube of an Al-Jazeera report entitled: 'Controversy inside Egypt over Sisi's use of religion in fighting his opponents' General SisiVIDEO

A headline in one of the newspapers reads: "Sisi has met God twice." This is a headline that would have shaken Egypt had it been used at a different time about a different man. This is a discourse that bestows upon him [Al-Sisi] a special form of support.

[A man wearing a turban speaks in what appears to be a religious gathering]: "I and the household of the Prophet, peace be upon him, nominate Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. In doing so, we are only obeying Al-Hussein [the grandson of the Prophet himself]."

[This is] a discourse of a new type in Egypt. It is causing concern for it surpasses the fine, dividing and dangerous lines that separate the glorification of a person as a politician from elevating him to other forbidden [sacred] levels.

[Clip of the preacher Saad El-Din Al-Hilali speaking before a large crowd at what appears to be an Interior Ministry function]: "As God sent two prophets on a mission before; Moses and Aaron, here came Al-Sisi and Muhammad Ibrahim [the interior minister]."

Talking about himself, Al-Sisi says that he possesses a special view of Islam. [Clip of Al-Sisi speaking in a recent Egyptian TV interview]: "We have presented God in a way that is not befitting for His Almighty status. This in absolute clarity is [what we have done]. This requires from us and requires, by the way, from all rulers, to revise their positions."

However, his logic of rejecting the Islamists unveils a stark contradiction having joined hands with some of the most intolerant and narrow-minded among them [the video shows the leader of Salafi Nour Party] at a previous moment necessitated by his personal political interest which he usually packages in religious expression and in weeping.

[A clip of Al-Sisi addressing a group of Sufi leaders in Egypt and appearing to be tearful]: "It is hard for me to see people in agony, fearful. Fearful that life in Egypt might be wrecked. I would stay quiet, but this would not be doing good. I pray to God that this work will please our Lord. I pray to God that this work will please our Lord."

Al-Sisi goes to extremes in exhibiting a mystic Sufi style of religious behaviour which in essence is in contrast to the jurisprudential background of some of his allies who disagree religiously and politically over whether Islam is a religion of governance or one of mere rituals.

When the matter is to do with turning the public against one's foes, the second would be the option. This is what prompted Al-Sisi, as he himself says, to topple an Islamic current from power, which is the same power he has been seeking utilising a religious discourse that no one before him ever resorted to, or exploited, the way he does.

He has described himself as someone who belongs to God's camp. This is a discourse which critics say surpasses the mere exploitation of religion for material ends to using it to justify murder. As for the lack of vision, this is camouflaged by the talk what has been given. In this way, people's poverty is seen as their fate, neither more nor less. In this manner it is very likely afterwards that the accumulation of wealth may too be explained as divinely allocated.

]]> (Fatma Al-Traiki) Reports and Publications Sun, 11 May 2014 14:14:36 +0000
UN Roundtable: Palestine should trust the International Community UN Roundtable: Palestine should Trust the International CommunityEarlier this year, Amnesty International reported about the 'Trigger-happy' Israel's excessive use of force on Palestinians in the West Bank. Deputy Director of the organisation in the MENA region, Said Bou Madouha sent a letter to the Palestinian Authority, saying that amongst other things, the "Illegal use of excessive and lethal force by Israel raises dangerous concerns." Deputy PA Information Minister Mahmoud Khalifa was urging all Palestinian institutions to keep track and proofs of Israeli injustices against Palestinians.

"Settlement construction in 2013 more than doubled compared to 2012. These actions are a clear violation of Articles 49 and 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention," Mr. Abdou Salam Diallo, chairman of The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People said Sunday in an opening remark for a United Nations Roundtable on Legal Aspects of the Question of Palestine. During the introducing speeches, the long-awaited roundtable raised several international concerns for the future of Palestinian rights. On March 29, Israel failed to meet its commitment to release the fourth group of 26 Palestinian prisoners, which was a crucial part of the agreement with the US and Palestinians that led to the resumption of talks. Mr. Diallo said that Israel's attitude "complicated the continuation of the political dialogue."

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]]> (Henriette Johansen) Reports and Publications Mon, 28 Apr 2014 17:19:00 +0000
Reconsidering Terror and Terrorism: The Case for Hamas Nicholas RobertsHamas can no longer be regarded by the United States simply as a terrorist organisation. Any attempts at solving the Arab-Israeli conflict, or broader conflicts in the region, will continue to fail as long as Hamas is excluded from peace-making processes. The following analyses should not be taken as deriving from sympathy for the Gazan people.

Mr. Roberts studies Islamic intellectual history and Islamic movements with Dr. John Voll at Georgetown University in the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding. He recently completed writing Political Islam and the Invention of Tradition, soon to be published, which explores the emergence of Political Islam and the concept of an Islamic state founded upon an indigenously Islamic concept of social contract. He has lived and studied in Tunisia and Yemen. Prior to his appointment at Georgetown, he was Special Assistant to the former Chief of Staff of the U.S. Department of State and worked in the private sector.

Nicholas RobertsHamas can no longer be regarded by the United States simply as a terrorist organisation. Any attempts at solving the Arab-Israeli conflict, or broader conflicts in the region, will continue to fail as long as Hamas is excluded from peace-making processes. The following analyses should not be taken as deriving from sympathy for the Gazan people. Rather, these analyses demonstrate that the United States has directly contributed to an environment in Palestine and perceptions in the Middle East that will continue to plague its interests there for generations. The general framework of the argument in this work intersects directly with US interests in the Middle East as a democratic and stable region. Achieving these interests will continue to falter so long as the United States is hypocritical regarding its own stated principles; the United States must accept democratically elected governments as legitimate representatives of the people who choose them, regardless of whether the elected government is not whom the US wished for.

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]]> (Nicholas P. Roberts) Reports and Publications Mon, 21 Apr 2014 14:13:46 +0000
Saudi Arabia and the UAE accept the status quo and Qatar provides a face saving concession Qatar & Saudi flagsForeign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) concluded on Thursday a meeting in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, in which they conducted a thorough revision of the measures exercised with regard to endorsing the foreign and security policies of the GCC countries amid reports that the ambassadors crisis with Qatar has come to an end.

According to an official GCC communique, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain reached an agreement on Thursday evening that made it possible for the crisis with Qatar to come to an end.

It was also agreed to adopt the necessary mechanisms that would guarantee working within a collective framework so that the policies of individual GCC states would avoid having a negative impact on the interests, security and stability of the other member states or undermine the sovereignty of any of these states, according to the communique.

Within this context, high ranking UAE sources have denied in a statement made to Al-Jomhoor website that Qatar had pledged during the meeting that it would tone down the content of Aljazeera Channel's coverage of events inside Egypt. They also denied that Qatar was inclined toward deporting a number of Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leaders who currently reside in its territories.

The sources noted: "There is a problem pertaining to hosting within one GCC state of elements of the opposition to any of the other GCC states." This remark refers to Qatar's hosting of a number of Saudi and UAE citizens who are affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood.

They added: "A request was made to the effect of stripping Muhammad Al-Ahmari of his Qatari nationality but Qatar has turned this request down." Al-Ahmari is a Saudi opposition writer and thinker and is one of the most prominent advocates of reform in the Arab world. He obtained Qatari nationality several years ago.

The sources confirmed that Qatar had made one concession to Saudi Arabia and the UAE as a face saving measure, namely: refraining from providing a safe haven to opposition members from the GCC countries. Yet, Qatar has never really provided a safe haven to GCC opposition elements who prefer to go to Britain, Europe and Turkey. Shi'ite opposition elements usually prefer to go to Lebanon and Iran.

The sources stressed that "the meeting did not address the stance of Aljazeera Channel vis-a-vis Egypt and that the Egyptian file remained entirely outside the scope of discussion and was set aside.

UAE sources informed Aljomhoor website earlier that Saudi Arabia informed the government of Abu Dhabi officially that efforts were being exerted in order to turn a new page (in the relations) between the Kingdom and Qatar. This news dismayed the rulers of the United Arab Emirates and especially Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Zayed who is considered the de facto ruler of the country and the bitter enemy of Doha because of its support for the uprisings of the Arab Spring.

The sources added that direct talks took place, and are taking place, among senior Saudi and Qatari officials to discuss the remaining disagreements in order to repair the rupture in relations between the two sides.

The sources quoted Saudi sources as saying that they fear Qatar's opening up to Turkey and Iran in case it is subjected to GCC sanctions.

It has been learned that the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince expressed his displeasure at the way in which Saudi - Qatari talks were proceeding. He is said to believe that the outcome is only likely to embolden Doha's insistence and adherence to its political stances.

On the other side, the Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Muhammad bin Rashid Al Maktoom, who is also the UAE Prime Minister, seemed happy that the crisis with Qatar was nearing an end.

In fact, Muhammad bin Rashid Al-Maktoom went further when he tweeted on Wednesday that his relationship with Qatar was still in tact and that it was never severed after the ambassadors were withdrawn. This was in reference to the decision by the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain to withdraw their ambassadors from Doha last February under the pretext that Qatar "was pursuing options that undermined the security of the GCC countries", an accusations which Doha had categorically rejected.

On Wednesday, Muhammad bin Rashid Al Maktoom published in the Qatari newspaper Al-Rayah a poem constructed in Gulf beduin dialect a day after attending a lunch banquet held in Dubai by a Qatari citizen.

It would seem that Al Maktoom tried, through the poem and accepting the lunch invitation, to affirm his rejection of the severing of ties with Qatar.

His poem, entitled ‘The Pledges' highlighted a number of concepts in this regard foremost among them is "the unity of the Gulf (peoples) irrespective of how divergent their visions or how different their ideas may be, for they are ‘the abode of glory, love, pride and unity throughout history'.

The poem explained that "the advancement of the Ummah can only be achieved once trivial matters are surpassed in other to accomplish what is greater and more important".

It said in part: "Whisperers and backbiters pollute the clean air; dividing the ranks can only benefit the enemies".

The website of the newspaper "The New Arab" noted on Thursday that Al-Rayah Newspaper received the poem from an official Qatari source publishing it on its last page and announcing on its first page that it had exclusive rights to publish the poem within Qatar.

UAE officials had earlier stressed to Al-Jomhoor website that the covert disagreement between Abu Dhabi and Dubai over the current crisis in Egypt and over other crises in the region resembles a very profound crisis between the two emirates that is likely to escalate to unprecedented levels in the coming days.

These officials affirmed that a secret meeting took place recently in Abu Dhabi bringing together the leaders of the Gulf emirates. The meeting was attended by the ruler of Dubai Muhammad bin Rashid Al Maktoom who voiced unprecedented sharp criticisms against the de facto ruler of the UAE Muhammad bin Zayed, who was also present in the meeting.

The sources quoted Al Maktoom as telling Muhammad bin Zayed: "I am afraid that we may regret our stances and foreign policy toward the crises in Egypt, in Tunisia and in every Arab country in which we are active." He added: "We are active in Egypt and we are pumping billions (into it) with no tangible result. Our policies in Egypt, in Tunisia and in Libya are flawed and stupid." He went on to say: "I am afraid that we may regret it when it is already too late and when regret is of no use. I fear that we may harvest the repercussions of our evil deeds."

Source: Al-Jomhoor, 18 April 2014

]]> (Al-Jomhoor) Reports and Publications Sun, 20 Apr 2014 09:53:41 +0000
Finally, international steps to bring Syrian war criminals to justice Finally, international steps to bring Syrian war criminals to justiceOn April 15, 2014, France plans to arrange an informal confidential gathering of Security Council members (a so-called "Arria-formula" meeting) in order to consider a report on the mass use of torture in Syrian detention centres that went viral earlier this year.

MEMO spoke to the former chief prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) Prof David Crane at Syracuse University who co-authored the report. He explained that the international community believes that now is the political moment to take action. The time is now for the international community, with France at the forefront, to force Russia, which is gaining a reputation as an aggressor in political affairs around the world, to say yes or no.

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]]> (Henriette Johansen) Reports and Publications Tue, 15 Apr 2014 15:04:57 +0000
International communities' response to the world's largest refugee crisis International communities' response to the world's largest refugee crisisLast month top UN officials warned that Syrians are expected to surpass Afghans as the world's largest refugee population. Going into the fourth year of the bloody revolution-turned-war, an influx of almost one million Syrians have sought refuge in neighbouring Lebanon. The situation was recently deemed a "serious threat" by both Lebanon's Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil and Ninette Kelly, UNHCR's regional representative for Lebanon, who also described the country's precarious circumstances in a piece he wrote for MEMO earlier this year.

Last Thursday, a UN official expressed concerns that donor nations may not grasp the potential impact of this further destabilisation in Lebanon and called for an international "shouldering" of the situation.

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]]> (Henriette Johansen) Reports and Publications Tue, 08 Apr 2014 17:50:57 +0000
Media coverage of the Arab Spring and the new Middle East Media coverage of the Arab Spring and the new Middle EastEver since the symbolism of 26 year-old Tunisian Mohammed Bouazizi's self-immolation in December 2010, and the subsequent eruption of a people's revolution in Tunisia, the Middle East has been in unprecedented turmoil. After decades of suffering under oppressive dictatorships, with basic human rights denied, suddenly the barrier of fear was broken and the people rose to topple their dictatorial governments.

Whilst countries were ablaze with revolutions, state-owned media denied any such activity on the ground. State TV channels in countries like Egypt showed empty streets and squares and denied the existence of any sort of uprising. Social media networks played a big role leading up to and during the revolutions, particularly in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria. Shutting down the internet supply in the country in an attempt to quell and contain the unrest did little to serve the dictators' interests. In fact, in Egypt, the Day of Anger, a key event of the revolution, was held after the internet supply was cut and phone networks provided limited service.

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]]> (Dr Walaa Ramadan) Reports and Publications Wed, 02 Apr 2014 17:50:57 +0000
Extreme donor and media 'fatigue' demands new ways to respond to and represent the growing refugee crisis Extreme donor and media 'fatigue' demands new ways to respond to and represent the growing refugee crisisAs media institutions and NGOs are faced with a growing de-sensitisation regarding the Syrian revolution, which has turned into a vicious war, new methods are put into practice. Do they reveal some underlying imperialist paradigm of racism and irresponsibility which is saying, "Just because it is not happening here doesn't mean it isn't happening"? This approach assumes that viewers' only comprehension of the atrocities is if refugees both look like "us" and have surroundings similar to "ours". Does this make us face up to the hypocrisy of our anti-discrimination? Is it a case of desperate means to an end in order to save lives?

Over the past year, the widespread desensitisation of Europeans and Americans has been detected in attitudes towards the Syrian uprising. In 2013 the main coordinator of over 100 NGOs working in Syria, the UNHCR, received just 68 per cent of the $1.5 billion pledged by donor countries to meet the needs of the growing number of those displaced. Tragically, this year, only 14 per cent of the current UNHCR appeal has been raised. News of the shelling, bombings and rising death toll has led to "donor fatigue" making life very difficult for the UN body, which is trying to bridge a funding gap of 86 per cent.

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]]> (Henriette Johansen) Reports and Publications Mon, 31 Mar 2014 15:35:57 +0000
Narrow scope for Palestinian rights in Lebanon Narrow scope for Palestinian rights in LebanonIt seems to be the official message from Lebanon that Palestinians have long overstayed their not so pleasant stay. Testing times ahead for Lebanon, then, with the difficult accommodation of an extra 960,009 refugees, internal delicate sectarian make-up and Hezbollah’s involvement in the neighbouring crisis; the Palestinians, it seems, will be faced with more discrimination than ever.

Having hosted Palestinians over the past 60 years, Lebanon maintains a seclusionist discourse about them with regards to their right to own property as well as their access to official labour markets and social security and other benefits. They are "disqualified" due to a highly strategic set of principles aimed to block any endeavour to improve their situation and build a future for themselves in Lebanon. MEMO met up with a range of NGOs and human rights experts to decipher the fault lines behind Palestinian seclusionism, and its manifestations on the ground in access to, and condition of, employment for refugees.

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]]> (Henriette Johansen) Reports and Publications Sat, 15 Mar 2014 17:00:57 +0000
The Yarmouk Camp for Palestinian Refugees in Syria: Where Do We Go From Here? Yarmouk Refugee CampPalestinian refugees in Syria are facing difficult and tragic conditions, as a result of the uprising there and the conflict between the regime and the opposition. Of the 160 thousand Palestinians who lived in the Yarmouk Refugee Camp (RC), 130 thousand have had to flee. Those who remained were subjected to a brutal blockade and a famine that killed dozens.

Although most Palestinian factions agreed on maintaining the camp's neutrality and refraining from intervention in internal Syrian affairs, various developments and attempts by many of the warring parties to take advantage of the camp's strategic location, or to draw the Palestinians into the conflict, eventually turned Yarmouk RC into one of the arenas of the Syrian war.

There are several possible scenarios: implement a truce and render the camp neutral; the battle for the camp could continue; or one of the warring parties could prevail and end up controlling the camp. However, it will still be important to spare no effort to lift the siege on Yarmouk RC and all other camps, allow the displaced to return, and keep the camps neutral from all forms of armed conflict. In addition, all forms of support should be extended to Palestinian refugees in Syria.


Needless to say, the Palestinian community in Syria came to exist in the aftermath of the Nakbah (catastrophe) of 1948. According to statistics by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), the number of Palestinian refugees registered with the agency until 31/3/2013 was 537 thousand. As there were other categories of Palestinians present, for example those who came to Syria from Jordan, Lebanon, and the Gaza Strip in different periods and for different reasons after 1948, who are not registered with UNRWA in Syria, the real number of Palestinians is estimated to be 600 thousand. This puts the Palestinian population at 2.8% of the total population of Syria.

Almost a quarter of these Palestinians live in 13 camps (including three that the UNRWA does not designate as official refugee camps, such as Yarmouk RC). The largest bloc of Palestinians (around 80%) is concentrated in the Damascus area, known as the Damascus Countryside. Yarmouk RC is considered the largest Palestinian concentration in the Damascus area. According to data from UNRWA, more than 160 thousand people lived in Yarmouk RC until December 2012.

Before the uprising (which turned into a revolution later) in early 2011, the Palestinian community in Syria was one of the most stable and integrated Palestinian refugee communities in their host countries. The Palestinian refugees in Syria had a special legal status (based on Law No. 260 dated 1956) giving them a wide range of economic, social, cultural, and civil rights, close to full citizenship rights, while retaining their Palestinian nationality. In general, the Syrian state maintained this status for the Palestinians throughout the past decades, guaranteeing their participation in the economic, social and cultural life on par with the Syrian citizens.

The Post-Crisis Period:

After the current crisis erupted in Syria, the Palestinians, like the Syrians, were exposed to its devastating repercussions on the fabric of their community, especially in the camps, and their social wellbeing and various facets of their daily lives. This has forced them either to become displaced within Syria, in search of relative safety, or to flee outside Syria, for the same reason.

Thus, the second and third generations after the Nakbah were exposed to internal and external displacement from the country where they were born and raised, and than which they knew no other country. Those of them who were forced to flee outside Syria were subjected to various forms of suffering and discrimination in the neighboring countries where they sought temporary asylum. Some of them risked their lives and their children's lives in death boats and along international crossings in search for safety. Some of them made it, but many died trying.

Since the start of the crisis until late 2012, before the situation deteriorated in Yarmouk RC, the Palestinians in Syria maintained a kind of neutrality. They had in mind the lesson of the first Gulf war, when the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) sided with Iraq, causing the mass deportation of Palestinians from Kuwait.

Under this state of relative neutrality, Palestinian camps in the north, south, and around the capital Damascus (particularly Yarmouk RC and Khan Eshieh RC) turned into safe havens for Syrian refugees fleeing the fighting. This truly embodied Syrian-Palestinian brotherhood at the popular level.

The Palestinian refugees shared their food with their Syrian brethren. The population of some refugee camps such as Khan Eshieh soon doubled because of the influx of Syrian refuges. The refugee camps also turned into supply lines for both of the warring parties, the regime and the opposition. In the beginning, this situation was agreeable to all Palestinian factions and the two warring parties, despite the fact that the regime forces would sometimes raid the camps and besiege them when opposition fighters took shelter there - whether in search of safety, to treat their wounded, or for other logistical requirements. This happened many times, especially in the Daraa RC. Before it was completely thrown into the conflict, Yarmouk RC was a model of that state of "positive neutrality."

However, the complexity and militarization of the Syrian crisis, as a result of direct intervention by regional, Arab, and international parties in the conflict, and the overlapping and conflicting interests of those parties, led to a state of polarization in the Palestinian positions, which was interpreted as bias for one side or another in the conflict. The Palestinian division, in addition to increased pressure by the regime and the opposition on the Palestinians through threats and enticements, with the goal of pushing them to abandon their neutrality, aggravated that polarization and made it less likely for the Palestinian factions to maintain neutrality.

In reality, the situation in Yarmouk RC since the beginning of the crisis until now summarizes how Palestinian RCs turned from being demilitarized, neutral areas hosting Syrian refugees, into hot spots that each side in the conflict wants to dominate and implicate in the fighting.

The Scene From the Yarmouk RC:

The Yarmouk RC, which has sprawled to become one of the capital's boroughs, is considered the largest Palestinian concentration in Syria. The majority of its population is Palestinians, and the camp is seen as a mirror of Palestinian attitudes towards the Syrian crisis.

With the Syrian opposition's attempts to tighten its siege around the capital, in order to storm it and defeat the regime, the military importance of Yarmouk RC was further underscored for both sides. This importance stems from its proximity to the hot spots of the fighting (al-Hajar al-Aswad, Yalda, Babila, Tadamon, al-Qadam), and from being the southern entrance to the capital for the opposition forces in the context of the so-called "Battle of Damascus." This is what happened at the end of 2012, when opposition forces advanced from the southern flank in the direction of Yarmouk RC, on the grounds that there were pro-regime militants inside the camp, meaning the fighters of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine- General Command (PFLP-GC).

The battle for the camp resulted in the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Islamist opposition factions (al-Nusra Front and others) taking control of the camp, while regime forces, in coordination with the PFLP-GC, took control of the northern entrance of the camp, which leads to al-Zahirah neighborhood, an area known as Madkhal al-Batikha.

As a result of this military situation, the refugee camp came under heavy bombardment in mid-December 2012, in which the regime used the air force for the first time, targeting the Palestine Mosque and Al-Bassel Hospital. This was followed by a wave of displacement from the camp as a result of which about 130-120 thousand residents left. Those who stayed (20-30 thousand) were subjected to a tight siege that killed more than 120 people, because of starvation and the lack of medical care.

Since that time, many Palestinian factions and the PLO made efforts in coordination with UNRWA to end the siege on the camp, and bring in humanitarian aid to its residents, calling on militants to withdraw from the camp and restore its neutrality. As a result, a solution was found but it was difficult to implement at the time. Currently, a revised version of this solution is being implemented, and its most important provisions include: That the non-Palestinian militants' withdraw from the camp; that Palestinian militants deploy along its perimeter; that supplies are brought in to the refugee camp and those in critical conditions are evacuated; and that the displaced residents return to the camp. But in light of the security conditions hanging over the Yarmouk RC, it is not easy to predict whether this agreement will hold.

The Possible Scenarios:

It is difficult to predict the outcome of the revolution in Syria, and whether the talks in Geneva—if they resume—would succeed in reaching a political solution to the crisis. Both parties to the crisis and the international powers backing them differ over interpreting the proposals and the priorities over their implementation. In the foreseeable future, it does not appear that there will be a solution to the crisis on the basis of sharing power between the warring parties. The possible scenarios for what will happen in Yarmouk RC can be summed up as follows:

First Scenario: De-escalation and Neutralizing the Yarmouk RC

It seems that there is an apparent accord over this scenario among the various parties. There is a desire to keep the Palestinians and their camps away from the ongoing conflict, and for them not to be used as weapons in the hands of any party. This scenario would allow the displaced to return to the camp, aid to flow in, reconstruction efforts to begin, and normal life to resume. However, the crisis of confidence between the conflicting parties, and the urgent need to use all their means to control and put pressure on opponents, and the failure to decide the conflict in favor of any party, all make the scenario for de-escalation a fragile possibility that can be breached and that can collapse at any moment.

Second Scenario: The Battle for the Camp Continues

This scenario assumes that geopolitical or military-based interests are prioritized by the conflicting parties over humanitarian considerations and the special Palestinian circumstances of the camp. This means that the camp would be dealt with as part of the political geography of the conflict, and as one of the means of pressure in the latter. Thus, the camp could be subjected to further siege, destruction, and suffering.

This scenario also assumes that the regime may not be in a hurry to resolve the battle in its favor, even if it has the means to do so, especially if the cost in lives would be too high, so that it may not be accused of targeting Palestinians and their camps. The scenario also assumes that the Syrian opposition is still far from achieving any substantial gains in Damascus. Furthermore, the Western-international desire seems to be in favor of prolonging the conflict, attrition, and destruction of Syrian infrastructure, as well as destroying the social fabric in Syria.

Third Scenario: The Battle is Settled in Favor of One of the Two Parties

This scenario assumes that one of the two parties would take full control of the camp, its entrances, and its exits, meaning the end of the siege and the return of some of the displaced, with normal life returning in one degree or another to the camp. However, conditions will not return fully to normal until a full solution is found in Syria. This means that even if the battle is settled in favor of one of the parties in the camp, the camp will not be safe from aerial or artillery bombardment, or military-security operations, as long as the environment around it and beyond remains unstable.

No matter which scenario is the most likely on the ground, efforts should focus on protecting what is left of the Palestinian presence in Syria, and on keeping it neutral in the conflict. Efforts should also focus on trying to find accords with the two parties, in order to protect the camps' residents, and supply it with all necessities of life, in preparation for the return of those who were displaced and stranded inside and outside Syria.

In this context, the Palestinian leaderships and factions must keep in mind the importance of safeguarding the social fabric of the Palestinian refugee camps, to preserve the Palestinian identity and to use the camps as bases for the struggle to return to Palestine for they have produced Palestinian freedom fighters generation after generation. On the other hand, the Palestinian national factions must think hard and seriously to maintain the gains and privileges of the Palestinians in Syria throughout the past decades, embodied in the special legal status the Palestinians have enjoyed.

Suggestions and Recommendations:

  1. Lifting the siege on Yarmouk RC and all camps immediately, allowing the freedom of movement, the return of the displaced, and the return of normal life.
  2. Developing a unified Palestinian position stressing the neutrality of the Palestinian RCs in the armed conflict in Syria, reinforcing this position on the ground in a tangible and practical manner, and convincing the various sides to the conflict of this.
  3. Appealing to donor countries to fulfill their commitments in support of UNRWA, and offer the agency exceptional support to shore up its role in offering relief to Palestinian refugees inside Syria, as well as those who were driven out to neighboring countries. In the same context, appealing to international NGOs to provide more support to secure the basic needs of these refugees.
  4. Getting the Syrian government's General Authority for Palestinian Arab Refugees to exercise its humanitarian role and duty, in coordination with UNRWA in providing relief services.

Al-Zaytouna Centre thanks Mr. Jaber Suleiman for authoring the original draft on which this strategic assessment was based.
This report is a reprint of the original published on

]]> (Al-Zaytouna Centre) Reports and Publications Thu, 13 Mar 2014 18:13:01 +0000
Ethiopia's Renaissance Dam is making waves in Egypt Ethiopia's Renaissance Dam is making waves in EgyptWhen the Merowe Dam in Sudan was built Ali Askouri, his family and their community were flooded out of their homes 80 kilometres from where it was being constructed to make way for the project; part of his family were pressured to move to resettlement housing and part of them stayed in the area. That was in 2008. To this day, the government have not compensated these families.

"They lost everything, their crops, their farming land, their houses, schools, clinics," says Askouri, "all that went under the water. The government offered them nothing and they had to rebuild everything from scratch."

Download and read the full report by clicking here

]]> (Amelia Smith) Reports and Publications Thu, 13 Mar 2014 16:30:57 +0000
Scandal of billion dollar deals between Saudi Arabia and Veolia Veolia EnvironmentalVeolia is a French company specialising in environmental work in the fields of water, recycling, energy and transportation. The company has recently had a lot of media coverage given its contribution to supporting Israeli settlements.

The company has been registered by international activists concerned with the Palestinian cause on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) list since 2005, "due to their immoral work serving the occupation in various areas in Palestine".

Currently is it involved in a railway project in Jerusalem that links the illegal West Bank settlements and Jerusalem which is considered one of the occupation's main means and an important step in the context of the Judaisation of Jerusalem project and the expansion of settlements in the city. It not only transports Israelis passing through, but also facilitates access between the new Israeli settlements and the settlers as a means of easing settlements and outlining a mechanism and infrastructure for its expansion. This is considered a violation of the Geneva Accords which prohibit the occupation from transporting its citizens to occupied territories, so this is not only a clear violation of Palestinian rights, but also a violation of international agreements made in this regard.

Veolia's activity ranges between environment workshops, water and transportation, as it works through one of its subsidiaries (T.M. M.) and Tovlan Landfill, near Jericho, as a report by Corporate Watch Research Group, specialising in monitoring the work of international companies, stated the violations made by Veolia with regards to the management of the landfill. Veolia buries the waste of 21 settlements in the landfill near the Jordanian border, this has many health and environmental "side effects" on neighbouring Arab villages such as Fasayil and Abu Al `Ajaj, leading to the displacement of the residents of the latter, the population dropping to 200 residents from thousands in 1999, the year the landfill was established.

There are also those who leave their homes during the summer only to return in winter when the smell from the landfill is not as strong. The livestock, which is the main source of income for locals, also suffered big losses.

The residents of these villages are also deprived of electricity, while the residents in settlements have electricity and water at discounted rates in order to motivate them in live in settlements. The recycling of the waste in the landfill contributes to the provision of electric energy by means of renewable energy.

Who works in the landfill? Palestinians work in the landfill and they are deprived of any labour rights, as their wages are half the minimum wages set for Israeli workers and they are deprived of work and health insurance.

The company also has shares in the bus routes, such as route 109 and 110, which provide transportation for settlers on Highway 433 in the West Bank running through the settlements. The occupation enforces apartheid/segregation rules on highway 433, as Palestinians are not allowed to use the highway.

Veolia is also involved in facilitating Israeli exclusion operations, as well as facilitating the transfer of settlement waste, transporting it to Palestinian areas and causing many long-term health and geographic problems. This has encouraged the indirect expulsion of Palestinians, all of which has contributed to the process of racial segregation in transportation in those areas.

Similarly, it has recently provided water and sanitation services to many of the Israeli occupation's settlements in the occupied West Bank, including the Modi'in Ilit settlement located between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in the occupied Palestinian territories.

This means that three out of Veolia's four subsidiaries - water, waste and transportation - actively work to support settlements.

Veolia's activities are considered a flagrant violation of international law, specifically Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention which states that "Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive".

International law also prohibits Israel from using occupied land for its own benefit and, therefore, burying waste from the settlements in the occupied territories is a violation of United Nations Resolution 63/201 dated January 28, 2009, which:

"Calls upon Israel, the occupying Power, not to exploit, damage, cause loss or depletion of, or endanger the natural resources in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan.

Calls upon Israel, the occupying Power, to comply strictly with its obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law, with respect to the alteration of the character and status of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.

Also calls upon Israel, the occupying Power, to cease the dumping of all kinds of waste materials in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan."

In addition to violating international law, Veolia's acts violate the resolution of the Arab summit in Khartoum, in March 2006, which provides for the following:

The condemnation of the project aiming to link West Jerusalem to the occupied West Bank through occupied East Jerusalem and the stressing of the illegality of this project. It also calls on the two French companies [Alstom and Veolia] to immediately withdraw from the project and demands punitive measures be taken against them if they don't comply. The Arab Summit also urged the French government to take the necessary measures in this respect to honour its obligations under international law.

To top this all off, Veolia's activity in the occupied territories contradicts the company's declared goals and strategies which aim to "reduce the negative environmental impacts of waste" and "help raise the citizens' standard of living".

It is clear that Veolia selectively applies these goals, as it only aims to raise the standard of living of the settlers, at the expense of the Palestinians and in violation of international treaties and the most basic human rights.

This company's long history of racism and the oppression of the Palestinians' rights was enough to convince the public opinion in different parts of the world to boycott it.

The campaign to reduce the company's activity and completely boycott it was successful in impacting its work, which has suffered due to losses estimated at more than $12 billion over the past six years in order to prevent the renewal or signing of new contracts in many countries worldwide. These include Australia, Sweden, Norway, Netherlands, Ireland, Scotland and finally England. In addition to this, a coalition of boroughs in south-west London refused to bid on the tender offered by Veolia for a £1 billion waste removal deal last April. In January 2009, Veolia lost a contract worth €3.5 billion Euros to run the metro in Stockholm.

In addition to the efforts made globally to boycott this company and reduce its activity, French company Alstom, a company working in partnership with Veolia on the Jerusalem railway project, linking Jerusalem and the settlements, lost the second phase of the Saudi Haramain Railway project, which connects Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia. This is in spite of the fact that the company had previously won the contract for the first phase. The value of the second phase contract is about $10 billion.

Since the end of 2008, the BDS National Committee, along with its partners, have made popular, official and media efforts in order to convince the Saudi authorities to exclude Alstom from the Haramain Railway deal due to its involvement in the Israeli occupation's projects aiming to Judaise Jerusalem. Many letters and documents to this effect were sent to official parties in Saudi Arabia from the BDS Committee, as well as several official, popular, Palestinian, Islamic and international parties in the context of a coordinated campaign targeting this company.

Veolia in Saudi Arabia

Despite all of the information mentioned above, all the background information, business links, relations with the Israeli occupation and settlement operations, as well as its direct involvement in facilitating the expansion of settlements and the Judaisation of Jerusalem, and in spite of the boycott exercised by British and other organisations and governorates against Veolia, it has continued to operate and make outrageous profits in Saudi Arabia for years.

The company's work in Saudi Arabia is narrowed down to the fields of water, sanitation and water desalination. It exists in Saudi Arabia through the Veolia Water Solutions & Technologies, Saudi Industries Ltd, with branches in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam. Veolia also operates in Saudi Arabia under the Sidem Saudi Ltd, one of Veolia Water Solutions & Technologies, Saudi Industries Ltd's subsidiaries, which has branches in Jeddah, Khobar and Jubail. Sidem specialises in designing and building large desalination plants.

Veolia Water Solutions & Technologies, Saudi Industries Ltd has landed many large contracts with the Saudi government in recent years. The two contracts worth noting are the desalination plant contract with the Power and Water Utility Company for Jubail and Yanbu, signed in 2007, and the management, operation and maintenance of the water and sanitation sector deal in the Saudi capital Riyadh, signed in 2008.

In 2007, Veolia signed a contract with the Power and Water Utility Company for Jubail and Yanbu to establish one of the largest water desalination plants in the world worth $945 million. One year before signing the deal, Saudi Arabia signed the Arab Summit resolution in Khartoum.

Furthermore, Veolia has landed 62 water desalination contracts in Saudi Arabia since 2007. In 2008, Veolia signed a large contract with the National Water Company to manage, operate and maintain the water and sanitation in the Saudi capital Riyadh. Veolia expects this deal to achieve a $60 million profit.

In December 2011, Veolia signed a contract with the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals to establish research centres in the Dhahran Techno Valley.

While Alstom - Veolia's partner in the Judaisation of Jerusalem project and the Jerusalem railway project, connecting Jerusalem to the settlements - lost the second phase of the Haramain Railway project worth about $10 billion, Veolia (in full partnership with Alstom) is signing contracts worth billions of dollars in Saudi Arabia, despite its blatant violation of international law and the rights of the Palestinians.

Veolia has been working in Israel before it entered the Saudi market, and its involvement in settlements began very early on, before it made any deals with the Saudi government.

It is both embarrassing and astonishing that Veolia's involvement in the settlements was not taken into account when it was awarded these huge business deals in Saudi Arabia and that the vast global BDS campaign against Alstom and Veolia in 2011 did not impact Veolia's operations in Saudi Arabia, as the company signed an agreement with the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in December of the same year.

It is also shameful that at a time when international companies and parties are taking a stance against this company for violating the most basic human rights in Palestine and its participation in the brutal Israeli occupation and settlement, the Saudi government is signing contracts with the same company in various business areas. This in a country which is supposedly a leader in the belief in Palestinian rights, as well as protecting such liberties and condemning all human rights violations during this serious Palestinian tragedy.

A company with such a shameful history of working to enhance Israeli settlements should not find a work environment that opens the doors to trading in a country like Saudi Arabia, which has a long history of supporting the Palestinian cause.

While Veolia is losing billions of dollars in contracts in Stockholm and London, it is signing a billion dollar deal in Jubail and making profits of up to $60 million dollars in Riyadh!

The least that is expected of Saudi Arabia is not to sign contracts with Veolia, to pressure the company and make it choose between carrying out its responsibilities in accordance with international law, stop supporting the settlements and violating the rights of the Palestinians or to get out of Saudi Arabia and cease all forms of business with it.

Source: Ard Kanaan News Agency

]]> (Ard Kanaan News Agency) Reports and Publications Wed, 12 Mar 2014 17:34:06 +0000
Pipeline from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea Pipeline from the Red Sea to the Dead SeaThe agreement signed by Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority to build a pipeline from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea came as a shock to many politicians and analysts. There is some disparity in Arab and international reactions to the project, while the Israelis view it as a historic agreement.

This disparity dates back to 2002 and the World Summit in Johannesburg when it was promoted by Jordan and Israel in the context of preserving the environment and saving the Dead Sea from drying out. However, the evidence now suggests that the environmental objective was merely a re-packaging of the project in order to reduce criticism that may arise.

Download and read the full report by clicking here

]]> (Sawsan Ramahi) Reports and Publications Sat, 01 Mar 2014 15:30:57 +0000
Palestinian cries fall on deaf ears Palestinian cries fall on deaf earsThousands of people are besieged in the two square kilometre Yarmouk camp. Filippo Grandi, the Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), visited the war-torn district this week. He reported a lack of aid, access and most of all international leadership to achieve a political solution specifically in relation to the Palestinian community.

With a strategic location, and therefore devastatingly vulnerable to armed groups in their endeavour to gain leverage in Damascus, this triangular district pointing towards the heart of Syria's capital city is the only witness to the empty, hopeless gazes of people who have been exhausted to the point of submission. Their questions and cries for help have fallen on deaf ears internationally; they have nobody and nowhere to turn to. Hope has disappeared, as international lethargy and lack of leadership on the breaking the siege on Yarmouk has resulted in a deadlock in negotiations over access for humanitarian assistance. An already vulnerable community has been marginalised further.

Download and read the full report by clicking here

]]> (Henriette Johansen) Reports and Publications Sat, 01 Mar 2014 14:15:57 +0000
Syria's art in exile is roaring Syria's art in exile is roaringA Scream, a child in his eternal sleep, chains, passports with countless stamps, car wrecks, bombed-out buildings and numerous small models of corpses glued on to an empty canvas. Many Syrian artists are affected profoundly by the evils of their war-stricken homeland.

MEMO met up with a range of them to study their ways of trying to humanise a war that is so inhuman that new-born babies are perceived as culpable. We discussed their feelings and thoughts about their situation, and the artists' quest to project a human face onto the empty but vast numbers of displaced people, to which Syrians feel they have been reduced. Their works manifest themselves as a fight for humanity strung out between an identity and personal experience and belief in the Syrian people to provide some hope in the hardest of times.

Download and read the full report by clicking here

]]> (Henriette Johansen) Reports and Publications Fri, 21 Feb 2014 12:13:57 +0000
Syria: New deadly cluster bomb attacks Soviet-era cluster bombs of the Syrian militarySyrian government forces are using a powerful type of cluster munition rocket not seen before in the conflict, Human Rights Watch said today. The new use of cluster munitions is causing civilian casualties and adding to the country's already devastating legacy of unexploded artillery.

Evidence indicates that government forces used the rockets containing explosive submunitions in attacks on Keferzita, a town north of Hama in northern Syria, on February 12 and 13, 2014. The rocket is the largest type of cluster munition rocket to be used in Syria and contains submunitions that are more powerful and deadly than others.

"It is appalling that Syrian government forces are still using banned cluster munitions on their people," said Steve Goose, arms division director at Human Rights Watch. "Cluster bombs are killing Syrian civilians now and threatening Syrians for generations to come."

Syrian government rocket attacks on Keferzita on February 12 and 13 killed at least two civilians and wounded at least 10 others, according to a local activist from Hama who is not affiliated with rebel groups and a doctor who spoke to Human Rights Watch.

Photographs of rocket remnants provided to Human Rights Watch by local activists who said they took them after the attack show sections of a 9M55K 300mm surface-to-surface rocket - including parts of the rocket motor, its cargo section, nose cone and the associated connectors.

Also pictured was an unexploded cylindrical 9N235 antipersonnel fragmentation submunition, the type delivered by the 9M55K rocket, with markings indicating the submunition was manufactured in 1991.

The 9M55K rocket is launched from the BM-30 Smerch (tornado in Russian), a multiple launch rocket system designed and initially manufactured by the Soviet Union in the late 1980s and then manufactured and exported by the Russian Federal State Unitary Enterprise "SPLAV State Research And Production Association" from 1991 onward.

The BM-30 Smerch weapon system was not previously known to be in the possession of the Syrian government and Human Rights Watch had not previously documented the use of the 9M55K rocket and 9N235 submunition in the conflict.

The local activist from Hama, who was present when four rockets hit the town on February 12 and 13, gave Human Rights Watch an account of the attacks. He said that on the late afternoon of February 12:

"A rocket fell on the eastern part of Keferzita on a neighborhood called Al-Makassem Al-Hatef. There is a small square and the rocket fell there. The rocket released small bomblets when it exploded in the air. I did not see a helicopter or warplane at the time of the attack or before. One of the rockets did not explode and military specialists dismantled it and found dozens of bomblets. They removed the fuse from every bomblet.

The second rocket exploded in mid-air and released bomblets that injured people including women and children and killed one internally displaced person from the nearby village of Mourik. The only infrastructure damage caused was from the shrapnel. I remember seeing at least 10 injured but I was told that it was much more. I only saw injuries from shrapnel but I didn't see any amputations."

The local activist told Human Rights Watch that he believed the rockets were launched from Hama airport just under 30 kilometres south of Keferzita, which is controlled by the Syrian government: "On February 12, in the afternoon around four, I received a phone call from a [opposition] military source that two rockets were launched from Hama military airport. We all tried to alert the residents but not everyone was able to hide in time."

According to its manufacturer, the BM-30 Smerch can launch 9M55K rockets from a minimum range of 20 kilometres to a maximum range of 70 kilometres.

The local activist said that the next day:

"Two rockets fell on the northern area [of the village] next to Al-Ma'sara Road, injuring several people. There were no deaths. I saw a 65-year-old man injured by fragments in his shoulder and his son's wife injured in the leg. Both rockets exploded but caused limited damage to infrastructure. The rockets were also launched from Hama airport. There were no airplanes flying before or after the attack. The injured were taken to the field hospital."

The local activist said at least 20 unexploded submunitions were collected after the rocket attacks on February 12 and 13.

Al-Assad's Artillery

Human Rights Watch has documented the Syrian government's use of cluster munitions since 2012. With the discovery of the 9M55K rocket, a total of seven types of cluster munitions have been recorded as used in Syria during the conflict to date:

  • 122mm SAKR rockets, each containing either 72 or 98 dual-purpose antipersonnel/anti-materiel submunitions;
  • 9M55K rocket launched from the BM-30 Smerch, each containing 72 9N235 fragmentation submunitions;
  • RBK-250 cluster bomb, each containing 30 PTAB-2.5M high explosive anti-tank submunitions;
  • RBK-250-275 cluster bomb, each containing 150 AO-1SCh fragmentation submunitions;
  • RBK-500 cluster bomb, each containing 565 ShOAB-0.5 fragmentation submunitions;
  • PTAB-2.5KO high explosive anti-tank submunitions; and
  • AO-2.5RT fragmentation submunitions.

A doctor in Hama told Human Rights Watch that he had also witnessed the rocket attacks on Keferzita. He said the attacks killed two civilians; a child named Abdulrahman Rami Al-Mahmood, three or four-years-old, and a man named Mahmood Talal Al-Daly, approximately 25-years-old , and wounded 10 more civilians.

Since armed opposition groups took control of Keferzita in December 2012 the town has been the target of Syrian government air strikes, including with barrel bombs and artillery shelling. Fierce clashes between certain rebel groups and the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) ended after ISIS withdrew its forces from the town on January 5.

The local activist told Human Rights Watch that there were no Free Syria Army (FSA) targets in the Keferzita neighbourhoods hit by the rocket attacks on February 12 and 13.

Several videos, which witnesses confirm were filmed in Keferzita, show evidence of the cluster munition rocket attacks on the town:

  • A video uploaded to YouTube on February 12 shows the attack and the remnants.
  • A video uploaded to YouTube on February 12 shows multiple small explosions on the town after a rocket attack.
  • A video uploaded to YouTube on February 13 shows several explosions on the town after a rocket attack.

It is highly unlikely that rebel forces could acquire the eight-wheeled, 43,700 kilogramme launch vehicle or operate its sophisticated fire control system without significant training or time to conduct practice drills.

There is no video evidence or written claims that any rebel group controls any BM-30 launchers, its similarly sized re-supply vehicle, or any 300mm surface-to-surface rockets like the 9M55K rocket.

Eliot Higgins of the Brown Moses blog, which tracks weapons used in the Syria conflict, has identified the BM-30 Smerch weapon system including 9M55K rocket and 9N235 submunition used at Keferzita and concluded that "it seems unlikely that the rocket could have come from any other source" than the Syrian military.

N. R. Jenzen-Jones and Yuri Lyamin of Armament Research Services also identified the weapons system and said: "It is not clear how Syria obtained these munitions, nor the systems required to fire them" but note that Russia is "the most likely origin of the systems in Syria."

According to standard reference materials, the BM-30 Smerch system has been transferred to Algeria, India, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, while Azerbaijan, Belarus, Turkmenistan and Ukraine either inherited or acquired the system after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

All of the cluster munitions used in Syria appear to have been manufactured in the Soviet Union except for the Egyptian-made 122mm SAKR surface-launched rocket containing dual-purpose anti-personnel/anti-materiel submunitions. There is no information available on how or when Syria acquired these cluster munitions.

The 9M55K rocket is three times as large as the other type of cluster munition rocket used in Syria, while the weight of the fragments contained in the 9N235 submunitions make them more powerful and deadly than other types of submunitions.

While designed to detonate on impact, each submunition has a back-up pyrotechnic self-destruct feature designed to destroy it two minutes after being ejected from the rocket, but in this attack the self-destruct feature appears to have failed in some cases.

A total of 113 countries have signed or agreed to the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, which prohibits the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions. The treaty also requires the clearance of cluster munition remnants within 10 years as well as assistance for victims of the weapons.

Of these countries, 84 are states parties legally bound to carry out all of the convention's provisions, while the other 29 have signed but not yet ratified the convention. Syria has not signed the convention.

Syria's cluster munition use has attracted widespread media coverage and public outcry. The Convention on Cluster Munitions requires each state that has signed the agreement to "make its best efforts to discourage States not party to this Convention from using cluster munitions."

More than 100 countries have condemned Syria's use of cluster munitions, including more than three-dozen non-signatories. Most condemned the use through a UN General Assembly resolution, while several foreign ministers have repeatedly expressed concern about the use of cluster munitions in Syria.

Cluster munitions have been banned because of their widespread indiscriminate effect at the time of use and the long-lasting danger they pose to civilians. Cluster munitions can be fired by artillery and rocket systems or dropped by aircraft and typically explode in the air and send dozens, even hundreds, of small submunitions, or bomblets, over an area the size of a football field. Submunitions often fail to explode on initial impact, leaving duds that act like landmines.

Since the Convention on Cluster Munitions became binding international law in 2010, three governments are confirmed to have used the weapons, all non-signatories to the convention: Syria, Libya and Thailand.

Human Rights Watch is a founding member of the international Cluster Munition Coalition, the civil society campaign behind the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

For more on Human Rights Watch's reporting on cluster munitions, please visit:

For more on Human Rights Watch's reports on Syria, please visit:

For additional information on cluster munitions, please visit:

For more information, please contact:
In Washington, DC, Steve Goose (English): +1-540-630-3011 (mobile); or
In Beirut, Nadim Houry (Arabic, French, English): +961-3-639-244 (mobile); or
In Beirut, Lama Fakih (English, Arabic): +961-390-0105 (mobile); or
In Cairo, Tamara Alrifai (English, Arabic, French, Spanish): +20-122-751-2450 (mobile); or

]]> (Human Rights Watch) Reports and Publications Wed, 19 Feb 2014 13:46:31 +0000
The body as the battlefield: victims of Syria's brutal war strategy The body as the battlefield: victims of Syria's brutal war strategyThe United Nations has released a new report documenting the evidence that children in Syria have been subject to grave sexual abuses in government detention, recruited to fight with the opposition, tortured and used as human shields.

Abuse of children in Syria is a central theme of the war ravaging the country. Indeed, what provoked the conflict was the alleged torture of children accused of painting anti-Government graffiti on public buildings. This was followed by expressions of popular discontent over political and socioeconomic rights which manifested themselves as intense civilian protests in Dar'a. Following the violent clampdown by Government forces, the demonstrations spread to other cities.

Download and read the full report by clicking here

]]> (Henriette Johansen) Reports and Publications Thu, 06 Feb 2014 15:15:57 +0000
Mediterranean gas fields: potential spark for regional conflicts Deep Sea Oil PlatformNatural gas resources in the Mediterranean Sea will become a principal reason for conflicts in the region between Israel and its allies on the one hand and the neighbouring Arab countries on the other, experts forecast.

This would be similar to the conflict over water resources in the region, and would reshape regional and international alliances on a primarily economic basis.

Natural gas fields located in the Mediterranean Sea are of growing importance to the region, in particular Israel, for the gas' use as a low cost source of electricity, economists agreed.

Reserves recently discovered in the eastern Mediterranean region represent a golden opportunity and valuable wealth for the entire region including Egypt, Israel, Turkey, Cyprus, Lebanon, Syria and Palestine. This may lead to conflicts and fierce competition as each country tries to acquire the largest portion of this natural wealth, particularly in light of the absence of a clear agreement on the maritime borders of their respective economic zones.

Israel recently intensified its military and strategic cooperation with Greece and Cyprus. Analysts interpreted this as a sign of prospective tripartite strategic partnership among the three nations aiming at monopolising the massive gas resources in the eastern Mediterranean and forcibly appropriating them at the expense of Arab countries and Turkey.

Sources revealed Israeli Minister of Defense Moshe Ya'alon signed a warships deal with Germany to protect gas fields and installations in the Mediterranean.

Economic expert Maher Al-Tabaa asserted that Israel seeks to extend its control over Palestinian resources, including gas fields, due to their strategic importance. Al-Tabaa cited tireless efforts by Israel to freeze the agreement held between the Palestinian Authority and the British Gas Group to explore gas in the field adjacent to Gaza shores.

Al-Tabaa highlighted genuine Israeli fears of potential attacks on its gas fields and mines in the sea, which prompted it to protect them with modern military arsenal. He added it is highly likely that gas would ignite new conflicts, particularly the wells located on joint borders in Gaza, Lebanon, or Egypt.

He interpreted the gas agreement between Egypt and Israel as an attempt by the latter to drain Egyptian gas fields, to guarantee its superiority in the region.

Al-Tabaa said that the current status of the natural gas field located off the Gaza shores remains "ambiguous", eight years after the agreement with the British company was frozen. He pointed out that the agreement in its current status partially guarantees the Palestinian Authority's rights in the gas well.

The strategic natural gas inventory in the Israeli-controlled fields is estimated at 950 billion cubic meters (bcm), which would guarantee a return of $60 billion (£36.8 billion) for the Israeli budget over the next two decades.

A number of Israeli security officials are concerned about the possibility of militant attacks from Sinai or Gaza targeting the newly discovered gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean. Perhaps these concerns explain the Israeli government's decision to assign Unit 13 in its naval forces the responsibility of protecting natural gas fields and exploration operations in the Mediterranean.

Global conflict

Economic expert Omar Shaaban points out that natural gas started to emerge as a major element in the ongoing conflicts in a number of regions. He says natural gas might be one of the reasons of the war in Syria and one of the international community's motives behind intervention in this matter.

Shaaban asserted that the economic element has overtaken the security and political elements as a factor of reshaping global and regional alliances. He cited the gas imports agreement signed by the Energy Authority in Ramallah to supply natural gas over a period of twenty years for the energy power plant which is yet to be established as proof of this.

Moreover, he stressed the keenness of Israel to secure its stockpiles of natural gas and protect its fields and wells from any potential attacks, pointing to the existence of a real dispute over a number of gas wells in the Mediterranean between Israel, Lebanon and Cyprus.

Shaaban predicted that the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea would interfere to settle the ownership of disputed gas fields, ruling out that Israel would allow any company to work on these fields based on an agreement with the Lebanese government and its intention to explore gas in those fields.

Shaaban highlighted the ongoing negotiations between Israel and Palestine to purchase natural gas discovered off the Gaza shores, amidst the media cover-up imposed by Palestinian leadership.

Natural gas fields are considered one of the most important marine resources discovered by Israel 10 years ago. Israeli economists estimated the value of those resources at tens of billions of US dollars, which will revive the Israeli economy as a result of the expected revenues.

Throughout the past five years, a number of gas fields have been discovered in the Mediterranean. They include Aphrodite, Tamar, and Leviathan fields. The Tamar field was discovered in 2009. It is located 50km (31m) to the west of Haifa, and contains 250 bcm of natural gas. Experts say that the Tamar field would be sufficient for Israel's needs for 20-30 years.

Source: AlEstqlal

]]> (Mohamed Mahdi) Reports and Publications Tue, 04 Feb 2014 17:01:42 +0000
Syria's war cultivates a state policy to torture women and children MEMO Report on SyriaThe systematic use of torture in Syria is practiced in the dark. The world is aware of its existence only through anecdotes, reporting that represents the tip of the iceberg.

Detention facilities and prisons across the country are responsible for grave human rights violations including forced disappearances and a range of torture practices. As clashes on the ground and negotiations around the polished tables in Switzerland intensify, so do the opposing forces' cruel practices against detainees in their prisons.

****Please note that the report contains images that will not be suitable for some****

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]]> (Henriette Johansen) Reports and Publications Thu, 30 Jan 2014 19:20:57 +0000
Syrian refugee children: A Lost Generation MEMO Report - Syrian refugee children: A Lost GenerationAs the Syrian crisis now approaches its fourth year, there is an entire generation of children being shaped by violence, displacement and a constant absence of prospects for their future. Five million children are already affected by the war; school systems in refugee-host countries like Lebanon and Jordan report extreme overcrowding.

This week UNHCR, UNICEF and other partners launch a new campaign called "No Lost Generation" to address the issue of education and childhood in war-torn and war affected areas in the Levant region. Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director, said that these children are the next generation of leaders in Syria and that education and reconciliation will bring much-needed hope for the future. The "No Lost Generation" umbrella is, with its $1 billion strategy, designed to protect the wealth of future Syria through practical ways of forming the next generation of leaders, teachers, engineers, doctors and peacemakers. The campaign is focused on expanding access to learning and psychosocial support, strengthening social cohesion and peace-building efforts, and restoring hope for the future to millions of children.

Download and read the full report by clicking here.

]]> (Henriette Johansen) Reports and Publications Wed, 15 Jan 2014 19:12:31 +0000
Britain's hypocrisy over Gulf links MEMO Report - Britain’s hypocrisy over Gulf links"Our foreign policy should always have consistent support for human its irreducible core," claimed Foreign Secretary William Hague when he took office in 2010. Despite the rhetoric, which echoed that of his Labour Party predecessor, Britain enjoys cosy relationships with several dictators, suppressive regimes and states where human rights are largely ignored.

Nowhere is Britain's hypocrisy more apparent than in its relationship with the Gulf States of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates; both regimes are rotten bedfellows for the UK.

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]]> (Alastair Sloan) Reports and Publications Wed, 15 Jan 2014 15:00:31 +0000
The Palestinian community: divided and ruled MEMO Report - The Palestinian community: divided and ruledSix of the nine Palestinian refugee camps in Syria have become battlegrounds between armed opposition groups and government forces. As a consequence of this, thousands of civilians are trapped, experiencing grave rights violations, deprivation of food and lack of medicine; their misery is used as a tool in a dreadful war strategy. Several blockades around the camps, inhibiting essential health supplies, food and other necessities from entering the camps, have been reported, along with stories of simultaneous infighting. The battlegrounds in Syria have indeed moved onto a whole new level of inhumanity.

"Recent reports of death by starvation are highly alarming," UNRWA's spokesman Christopher Gunness told MEMO. Since September, UNRWA has basically been unable to deliver assistance to the refugees in Yarmouk. Gunness revealed that even before September, since December 2012, in fact, when armed opposition elements entered the camp and relief operations inside became impossible due to extreme violence, the UN agency had to establish a distribution point just outside the camp in Zahera. The residents came out to collect aid and went back in. "Now," he said, "no one is allowed out or in."

Download and read the full report by clicking here.

]]> (Henriette Johansen) Reports and Publications Mon, 13 Jan 2014 14:12:31 +0000
A humanitarian tragedy for Syrian refugees A humanitarian tragedy for Syrian refugeesOver the last year, the number of Syrian refugees has doubled five times over. Two weeks ago, the UN launched its largest appeal for a single humanitarian emergency ever, faced by the urgency of at least 2.3 million Syrian refugees in need of humanitarian assistance, in addition to the millions of internally displaced Syrians. The UN cited the vast numbers of displacement and called for the international community to take responsibility for the crisis, appealing for $6.5 billion in funds.

To keep pace with 2013's alarming exodus, more than 196,000 tents and 809,000 plastic tarpaulins were distributed to refugees residing in camps and informal sites. As Syria approaches the end of its third year of conflict, dozens of refugee settlements are now clearly visible, even from outer space.

Download and read the full report by clicking here.

]]> (Henriette Johansen) Reports and Publications Fri, 03 Jan 2014 13:40:35 +0000
Gaza defies the blockade and generates solar energy Gaza defies blockadeIn response to the suffocating and continuous electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip, Palestinians in Gaza have begun searching for alternative means of generating electricity, including: generators, batteries, and now solar panels that convert the sun's energy into electricity.

The Gaza Strip started suffering from a more severe shortage of electricity and fuel after the Egyptian army staged a coup against elected President Mohamed Morsi on 3 July. The Egyptian army immediately launched a fierce campaign against the tunnels located under the Egypt-Gaza border, demolishing most of them, even though the Palestinians in Gaza have been relying on them for their basic and humanitarian needs ever since the intensification of Israel's blockade in 2007.

Now, some hospitals, factories, shops, universities, and schools have started relying on solar energy as an alternative to electric generators. The government in Gaza also uses these solar panels to light the Gaza Marina. However, the high costs of such panels prevent the average citizen from purchasing them. Moreover, Israel prohibits these panels from entering the Strip and now that the tunnels have been closed, getting the panels into Gaza will be even more difficult.

Nevertheless, as a result of the lack of Egyptian fuel and the increased price of Israeli fuel, Palestinians in Gaza are beginning to abandon the fuel-operated generators, the misuse of which has caused dozens of deaths and injuries, and instead are resorting to batteries or solar energy panels, which have become a strategic, but costly solution.

Solar panel electricity

Mr Mahmoud Abu Nusra, aged 58, is one example of a person who found the combination of solar panels and batteries, which light up his house both day and night, to be a lifesaver. Before installing them, he only had light for a few hours each day.

Mr Abu Nusra's house is now lit around the clock, and he does not have to worry about losing power when the electricity is on or off.

The solar panels were not Mr Abu Nusra's first choice, as he had tried the Uninterruptible Battery System (UBS) first, which needs to be charged with electricity. However, the fact that the electricity was not on long enough to charge the batteries was an issue.

This is where the solar panels helped. Abu Nusra explained that: "A few months ago, I began using solar power to light up my house, as it saves me the money I pay for the electricity bill – for the electricity that is never on. The solar power battery is able to provide electricity to all the lights in my house, powering everything but the washing machine and the refrigerator, which only operate on regular electricity because the batteries cannot supply the voltage required for the two appliances."

Abu Nusra further pointed out that the battery is now charged by the solar panels that he installed on the roof of his house. The panels absorb and store sunlight, which is then converted into electric energy used to light the house.

He also noted that the solar panels and batteries are very easy to use and cost effective, and he advises all capable citizens to install them because they save money and provide electricity around the clock.

As for the use of the panels when there isn't much sunlight, such as during the winter, he said, "The solar panels are charged by the light, thus do not require for the sky to be clear as they do not rely on the heat, but rather the light of the sun."

Reduced prices

In terms of the cost, Mr Abu Nusra said that the necessary solar panels and batteries costs $1500 to operate the lights alone, however he noted that as a result of these panels, his electric bill has reduced from NIS 600 to only NIS 100 a month.

He admitted that: "The costs of purchasing the panels and batteries are very high, which discourages citizens from buying them, especially because retailers ask for higher prices. However", he added, "because I work in the commercial field, I bought my batteries out of my own pocket from outside of Gaza, so they cost me $250, and I bought the panels locally."

Abu Nusra added, "I intend on totally doing without the electric cables and cancelling my electricity coverage, and buying more batteries in order to operate all of my electrical appliances. I am also thinking about buying solar panels for my six children's homes."

Abu Nusra also urged retailers to keep in mind the citizens' economic situation and to reduce the prices in order for solar batteries to become more widely used by the people in the Strip.

Psychological and financial comfort

Mr Abu Ramzi Sha'aban, who lives in Jabaliya, had the same experiences as Mr Abu Nusra. He was also attracted to the idea of using solar panels after seeing the Great Omari Mosque successfully using them a year ago.

Sha'aban said that the solar panels are connected to the battery, which converts solar energy into an electric current. They can be charged both electrically and by sunlight.

Mr Sha'aban no longer has to suffer from the noise or smell of the electric generator that he had to use instead of electricity during the times when it was cut off. He says that after using the solar energy battery, he feels "financially and psychologically rested".

"I do not feel the power cuts; my house is never dark thanks to the solar panel technology."

Wasted energy

Dr Mahmoud Shaheen, a researcher specialising in solar power, explained that solar energy is being wasted in Gaza, especially considering that other natural resources are lacking. Thus solar energy is a magic solution to the electricity crisis that the Palestinians in Gaza have been suffering from ever since the beginning of the Israeli blockade.

He also said that the system of installing solar panels on rooftops and then connecting them to special batteries that convert solar energy (sunlight) into electric energy is an efficient way to light homes.

Dr Shaheen was one of the first to embrace solar power and abandon electricity. He has been using solar energy for his house for about 20 years.

He also pointed out that solar panels have been around for almost 50 years, and, depending on their quality, the batteries do not cost much to fix.

Regarding the high prices of installing the panels and batteries, Dr Shaheen said, "For minimum lighting by means of solar panels, it costs about $300, while installing enough to operate all electric household appliances costs about $7000. However, when this is compared to the amount of money people will save on their electricity bills, it only works out to about NIS .5 a day."

Dr Shaheen also pointed out that only a small group of citizens have resorted to solar power due to the harsh economic circumstances they are currently suffering from: the increased poverty, the unemployment, and the lack of cash.

In order to spread the idea, Dr Shaheen called on the government to educate the people and inform them about solar energy in schools and mosques. This way, the people will learn more about the importance of investing in solar energy.

He also noted that establishing solar power fields would benefit the people of Gaza, as the sun shines on Gaza about 300 days a year. However, the lack of funding required to establish such fields prevents Palestinians in Gaza from fully utilising this clean energy.

Source: Pls48

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]]> (Raed Mousa - Pls48) Reports and Publications Mon, 30 Dec 2013 17:52:50 +0000
Influx of Syrian refugees highlights ongoing Palestinian struggles in Lebanon Influx of Syrian refugees highlights ongoing Palestinian struggle in LebanonHarsh winter storms hit the Levant this week, affecting millions of refugees. Emergency relief supplies and services, such as shelters, sanitation, health care and food, are now completely inaccessible to the hundreds of thousands of people living in areas besieged by the Syrian government. Basic needs are also curtailed by severe budget shortfalls at the UN, NGOs and INGOs. Whilst the presence of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon remains a government vexation, the arrival of at least 57,000 Palestinian-Syrian refugees (PSRs), forces the issue and highlights the lack of civil rights for Palestinians in the country.

As temperatures plummet, existing refugee camps in Lebanon are totally inadequate for hosting the many who are fleeing from the violence in Syria. Health care, food supplies and infrastructure in Lebanon's 12 official UN-run camps are already stretched to breaking point, even though a clear majority of refugees who have crossed into Lebanon settle in "unofficial" shelters in the overcrowded "adjacent areas" (settlements of refugees in the immediate vicinity of the official camps) or in the uninhabitable and unofficial "gatherings".

Download and read the full report by clicking here.

]]> (Henriette Johansen) Reports and Publications Wed, 18 Dec 2013 13:02:35 +0000
Corruption in the Palestinian Authority Corruption in the Palestinian AuthorityCorruption is endemic in the Palestinian Authority, the private sector and NGOs. It is spreading across all sections of Palestinian society.

A report prepared by the European Union stated that financial corruption in the PA led to the "loss" of aid amounting to around €2 billion, which was transferred to the West Bank and Gaza Strip during the period 2008 to 2012. London's Sunday Times reported that there is great imbalance in the spending and management of European money in the Palestinian territories.

Download and read the full report by clicking here.

]]> (Sawsan Ramahi) Reports and Publications Sat, 14 Dec 2013 13:50:21 +0000
Lebanon launches new campaign to combat violence against refugee women and children MEMO Report: Lebanon launches new campaign to combat violence against refugee women and children

The number of refugees in Lebanon has now reached 25 per cent of the total population. 78 per cent of the ever-increasing number or Syrian refugees, who currently number around 824,000, are women and children. 79,000 refugees coming from Syria are still awaiting registration at the borders. According to a recent report from Human Rights Watch (HRW), the most vulnerable are "disproportionately affected by Sexual and Gender-based Violence (SGBV)". A growing attitude amongst female refugees to return to the war-torn country they only just fled has been detected, as rape and sexual harassment has made life in Lebanon unbearable. (Beirut, 4rd Dec, 2013)

Download and read the full report by clicking here.

]]> (Henriette Johansen) Reports and Publications Thu, 05 Dec 2013 18:13:21 +0000
Revealed: Egypt negotiates purchasing Israeli gas through Cyprus Revealed: Egypt negotiates purchasing Israeli gas through Cyprus

Download Report"Cyprus must do everything possible to secure use of Israeli gas at a planned LNG terminal on the island, or else risk jeopardising the whole project," Charles Ellinas, national gas company head in Cyprus told Cyprus Gas News on Saturday. Ellinas argued that the estimated 5 trillion cubic feet in Cyprus' exclusive economic zone (EEZ) was simply not enough to justify the construction of a costly liquefaction plant at Vassilikos.

This project is a plan by the eastern Mediterranean country to tap into the Asian market, known to be more lucrative than Europe's, by collaborating with Israel on their already existing reserves. In return, Israel will have easier access to the European market and will not have to invest in LNG facilities, which Cyprus is in the process of constructing.

If Israel and Cyprus want to become exporters of gas, they will have to work together. A special proposed arrangement between the two countries, first reported last year, was confirmed by Cypriot energy minister Giorgos Lakkotrypis in October. Under the proposal, he said that Israeli gas – from the Leviathan prospect – would be diverted to Cyprus for exports. The minister said Nicosia and Tel Aviv are engaged in a dialogue on two fronts: using a mooted Cyprus-based LNG plant pooling the two countries' gas resources for exports and importing gas from Israeli offshore fields to generate electricity for Cyprus' needs. Converting natural gas to liquefied form makes it possible to export by ship, rather than requiring the construction of new pipelines, which ultimately means it will go further and reach more potential customers.

Cyprus hopes to begin work on the LNG terminal in 2016. It announced earlier in November an agreement with Total, the French oil giant, to develop an LNG plant. It will not start exporting its own natural gas before 2020 in contrast to Israel which has already started and ready to export gas.

It was clear that there would be diplomatic and political consequences when a discovery of a huge reserve of natural gas offshore of Israel and Cyprus was made last year. The Leviathan gas field is the world's most strategically located and politically sensitive. The fields – deep below the seabed in waters 2000 metres deep and more than 100 kilometres from the coast of either country – give both Israel and Cyprus the potential to become energy exporters.

Not only does this shift have the power to transform the economies of each country, it could have serious implications for alliances and power balances in the region.

The alliance has threatened Israel's relationship with Turkey, which is already tense since the 2010 Gaza flotilla incident. The Turkish government has said that the Israeli-Cypriot agreement may hinder development of a proposed natural gas pipeline between Israel and Turkey. There is also ongoing tension with Lebanon, which claims that the maritime borders agreed by Israel and Cyprus infringe on its territory.

Given the complexity of maritime law and existing regional tensions, these disagreements should come as no surprise. But could the exporting agreement between Israel and Cyprus also open the door to unexpected deals and new alliances?

Numerous reports have suggested that Egypt may purchase gas from Israel. In October, Israel's minister for energy and water, Silvan Shalom, told IDF radio: "Egypt, which is currently experiencing a shortage of gas, is showing interest in buying gas from Israel. If it turns out that they do want gas and that these things are real, I see no reason not to sell it."

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported this week that Noble Energy, the US company leading the development of the giant Leviathan offshore gas field, had confirmed that it planned to target nearby markets like Egypt and Jordan rather than shipping the gas further afield.

If these rumours prove to be true, it would be an almost exact role reversal. Until early 2012, Israel imported much of its natural gas from Egypt. Around 45% of Israel's gas consumption came from Egypt. The deal, made under President Hosni Mubarak, went through a pipeline between El Arish and Ashkelon. It was unpopular with many Egyptians, due to the population's broadly anti-Israel views, and the deal was terminated after Mubarak was overthrown in 2011. The new Egyptian government cited a "business dispute."

Since the 2011 revolution, the pipeline has been attacked more than a dozen times, demonstrating the extent of anti-Israel feeling in Egypt, as well as increasing lawlessness in the Sinai Peninsula, where many of the attacks took place. In April 2012, Egypt terminated the agreement by which gas was exported to Israel. (Although the then head of EGAS insisted that the "decision we took was economic and not politically motivated".)

Many things have changed since that deal was first signed; not only has Israel made this discovery of huge natural gas reserves, but Egypt's gas output has massively declined. The country is now facing gas shortfalls and many of its plants are being under-utilised. Wracked by political instability – the Muslim Brotherhood government that replaced Mubarak was recently ousted in a military coup – Egypt's economy is floundering. The worsening energy shortage could have serious political consequences for the country's new leaders.

Israel's new supply of gas is nearby, and would therefore be among the cheaper import options for Egypt. The pipeline already exists; all it would take would be to reverse the direction.

Yet despite Shalom's statement and Noble's plan to target Egypt, the country's leaders have denied that they will import gas from Israel. "For importing the LNG, we are working with companies, not with countries," said Taher Abdel Rahim, chairman of state-run Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company (EGAS), in October. "Companies like BP, Shell, BG – those are the companies working on importing LNG." Specifically responding to Shalom's claim that Egypt was showing interest in Israel's gas, Rahim said: "There is no negotiation, no communication, nothing at all between us and them."

Importing LNG would cost significantly more (around $12 per million British thermal units) than pipeline deliveries from Israel, and would also require an outlay of cash to erect terminals to receive the gas. All of these are costs which Egypt, mulling an IMF bail-out, can ill afford. The reluctance to be seen to publically countenance such a deal is clearly political. A recent poll by the Brookings Institute found Egypt's public are nearly exactly split between those who would like to see Egypt maintain its peace treaty with Israel (46%) and those who would like to see it cancelled (44%).

Moreover, the shift in power balance – from exporter to importer, and importing from a country with whom relations are characterised by mutual suspicion, at best – may be too much of a risk for the government to take, given the already unstable political context of Egypt. General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, the head of the military who engineered the military coup which took place on 3 July, wants to be seen in the nationalist tradition of the former president Gamal Abdel Nasser. Striking up a deal to import gas from Israel – although financially expedient – would undermine this image.

A recent report by the Washington Institute looked at the possible export options for Israel and Cyprus. It noted that:

"Since the overthrow of the Mubarak regime, Egypt's domestic demand for natural gas has risen dramatically. Egypt has contractual commitments for export volumes that are difficult to meet. In August 2013, Qatar made LNG cargoes available to be delivered to Egypt's export customers. A demand for imported gas remains, though Egypt has no regasification vessel available at present. Israel therefore remains a potential supplier of gas, although such a scheme would face likely Egyptian domestic political objections. This problem might be overcome if Israel establishes itself as a gas supplier to Jordan, the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, and to the Gaza Strip."

The report suggests that the problem might be overcome if Israel strikes up export arrangements with Jordan, the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. The reasoning is that if these allies of Egypt also import gas from Israel, the decision to do so might become less politically toxic.

Despite the current Egyptian regime's insistence that they would not import Israeli gas, there are clear signs of greater cooperation. The Muslim Brotherhood government which replaced Mubarak, headed by Mohammed Morsi and ousted in July, was resistant to working with Israel at all. There was even doubt he would allow Israel to ship its Gas through the Suez Canal to sell in the Far East. The Washington Institute report states:

"Until the overthrow of the Mohamed Morsi government in Egypt in summer 2013, it seemed unlikely that a Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government in Cairo would countenance Israeli LNG cargoes transiting the Suez Canal. (Although treaty obligations guarantee free passage, politically motivated inspections of Israeli cargoes on spurious safety grounds could render the route unviable.) The military- supported regime that replaced the Morsi administration may be more open to Israeli LNG traffic through the waterway. "

One of the many export options currently being explored by Israel is the use of spare Egyptian LNG capacity. This was originally raised during Morsi's tenure, and seemed impossible due to opposition from him and his party. Under this proposal, Israel would make use of LNG plants on Egypt's Mediterranean Coast. The Washington Institute's report notes that:

"When initially mooted, the opposition of the Muslim Brotherhood-led government appeared to be a total block on such a project. Since the mid-2013 replacement of this regime by the Egyptian military, this option may be given further consideration. In August 2013, the leading Israeli gas company, Delek, informed the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange that it was in talks to pipe gas to Egypt and had proposed reversing the Ashkelon-el-Arish line, which, until 2012, brought Egyptian gas to Israel, in order to reach the LNG facilities."

All of this shows that there are clear reasons to question the EGAS head, Rahim's assertion that there has been absolutely no discussion or negotiation between Israel and Egypt on the matter of gas exports. Of course, domestic political opposition is not the only reason that Egypt may be reticent about using the existing pipeline. Egypt's lack of control over the Sinai Peninsula – which is home to militant violence and increasing lawlessness – has allowed many attacks on the pipeline to take place.

The gas supply to Jordan stopped in March 2012 after 13 separate attacks on the feeder pipeline to El-Arish, since the beginning of the 2011 Egyptian revolution. Some of these attacks were carried out by Islamists, some by Bedouin complaining of economic neglect and discrimination by the Cairo government. Persistent natural gas shortages in Egypt led to the supply to Israel being halted; supply to Jordan resumed but at a rate substantially below the contracted amount. The pipeline is therefore currently in use – but it remains under threat, bringing into question how usefully it can be used.

Another option, however, would be for Egypt to import Israeli gas via Cyprus. Egypt and Cyprus have friendly relations; back in 2012, the two nations announced a new working partnership over natural gas, aimed at sharing expertise and experience.

At the same time as suggestions of a deal with Israel over gas imports were batted away, Egyptian officials confirmed that they would negotiate with Cyprus over the purchase of natural gas. The Egyptian Minister of Petroleum, Sharif Ismail, revealed a few days ago (22 November 2013) that Egypt is in serious negotiations with Cyprus over the purchase of natural gas. He hinted this would be a better option than continuing to deal with Qatar which is "inflating the price of supply to Egypt." More revealing was when he said the gas import from Cyprus will be in exchange for Cyprus using the Egyptian LNG facilities at Edco.

But Cyprus will not be ready to export its own natural gas until 2020 as a recent New York Times report explains that its own offshore natural gas reserves have yet to be developed or even fully explored. In fact, Cyprus is currently negotiating importing gas from Israeli offshore fields to generate electricity for Cyprus' needs. So any agreement for gas going from Cyprus to Egypt (or anyone else) would, in fact, come from Israel, at least in the short-term. Crucially, such agreement between Egypt and Cyprus will allow the liquefaction of Israeli gas in the Egyptian LNG facilities opening more immediate markets for Israel, particularly in Far East Asia where the demand is high with much more favourable prices in the region, or in Europe.

By this Israel will not need to wait to build its own LNG off shore facility or to wait until the facility in Cyprus starts in 2016. Timing is important to get the best prices for the Israeli gas as at present the Far Eastern markets are the most attractive in terms of price. But Australia, Mozambique, America, Canada and Russia are all planning to export gas to the Far East from 2018-2020. If there is a delay, Israel and Cyprus may lose these markets or have to sell the gas at cheaper prices, reducing profit. They will be left with the European market, whose prices are much lower. A deal with Egypt to use its LNG facility is the fastest track to sell the Israeli gas at the best deal, something that would be unthinkable if Morsi was still in power.

However, for Egypt to get Israeli gas through Egypt is substantially more expensive than gas transferred by pipelines. But it may be more politically palatable for Egypt's new regime if it is to retain a good reputation among its people. It would also avoid the problems with using the pipeline amid increasing lawlessness in Sinai.

Israel's new oil reserves will allow it to become energy independent for the first time ever. The country is also confident that its offshore gas-fields will generate windfall profits of as much as $60 billion over the next 20 years although as demonstrated by a lengthy legal battle over what proportion of gas to export, there is significant internal disagreement about the best way of managing this.

Now that it has been agreed that 40% of the gas will be exported, the profitability will depend not just on Egypt but on partnerships with other neighbours too. Israel's gas is likely to be sold to the Palestinian Territories, Jordan, and Turkey, among others. Speaking to an investor convention in Miami this weekend, Charles Davidson, CEO of Noble Energy said that although LNG would be included in the Leviathan business, the major export markets would be nearby – namely, Egypt and Jordan – and that these nations would get the gas through the pipelines. This would allow the Leviathan partners – which include Noble and Israeli company Delek – to begin exports sooner, and to do it more cheaply.

Clearly, importing Israeli gas to Egypt via Cyprus would not be the most convenient in terms of money and time, but it would attract less criticism from Egyptians unhappy with the domestic situation, who would not appreciate further collaboration with the Israeli State next door.

More direct exports from Israel's Leviathan stock to Egypt also remains a possibility. The EGAS head Rahim may have batted off the claim that there were any dealings between the two countries, but his assertion that Egypt will deal "with companies, not countries" does leave space to strike up a deal with Noble, which is, after all, an American company. The irony is that the Egyptian minister talked about negotiation with Cyprus the country and not with companies. These contradictory statements by the two Egyptian officials appear to seek to hide the true negotiations happening taking place with Israel.

Either way, contrary to their public protestations, it is clear is that post-coup Egypt is certainly interested in Israel's supply of gas.

Download the report as a pdf

]]> (MEMO SPECIAL REPORT) Reports and Publications Wed, 27 Nov 2013 10:38:06 +0000