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, 24 May 2015 04:58:37 +0000 MEMO en-gb 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****

Download and read the full report by clicking here

]]> (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.

Download and read the full report by clicking here.

]]> (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
The Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre: Giving peace a chance? The Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre: Giving peace a chance?

Download ReportRenewed 'peace talks' between Israeli and the Palestinian Authority officials have quietly been going on behind closed doors and a U.S.-imposed media blackout for three months now. Like all previous such exercises they will almost certainly break down without delivering justice or bringing peace.

Even though the Palestine Papers made it clear that the leaders of the PA, a creation of the Oslo process, have offered huge concessions in past rounds of talks, pro-Israel commentators are nonetheless pre-emptively rehearsing their arguments to blame the Palestinian side and obfuscate the fundamental longstanding issue: Israeli intransigence. A key - though little known - organisation engaged in this activity in British political circles is BICOM, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre.

'BICOM: Giving peace a chance?', a new report published by Spinwatch, subjects this organisation to detailed scrutiny for the first time. It concludes that BICOM, like Israel itself, seeks to maintain the façade of progress towards peace, but in practice exhibits deep disdain for international law.

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]]> (Middle East Monitor) Reports and Publications Wed, 06 Nov 2013 17:57:51 +0000
Report Review: The Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre: Giving peace a chance? Amelia SmithREPORT REVIEW

Authors: Tom Mills, David Miller, Tom Griffin and Hilary Aked
Publishers: Spinwatch and Middle East Monitor
Paperback: 94 pages
ISBN: 978-0-9570274-2-8

In a recent debate in parliament, it was reported that former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw had said that the greatest obstacle to peace between Israel, Palestine, and its Arab neighbours are the unlimited funds available to the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC and other Jewish organisations in the UK.

In response, former Labor Party MK, Einat Wilf, told the newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth: "It was appalling to listen to Britain's former Foreign Secretary. His remarks reflect prejudice of the worst kind."

Yet a statement from Jack Straw, sent to the Middle East Monitor (MEMO), clarified his position: "I spoke of the problems which faced President Obama from AIPAC and the "Israeli lobby" more generally. I pointed out that Prime Minister Netanyahu was a player in domestic US politics, on the Republican side, and that under US political funding rules (or their absence) huge sums were spent by AIPAC in support of some elected politicians (or candidates), and against others."

This attempt to label those who criticise the Israeli state and its supporters as prejudice or anti-Semitic, in an attempt to isolate them, is an approach also used by The Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM), a pro-Israel, public relations group. Discrediting those who criticise Israel is all part of the strategy; deflecting rather than addressing the criticisms.

This and BICOM's other activities are detailed at length in a new report Giving peace a chance, a collaboration between research centre Spinwatch and MEMO, set to be released on 7 December.

According to Giving peace a chance, BICOM is "an opaque organisation that carries out much of its work beyond scrutiny and accountability." Though BICOM is not necessarily known widely, it is "probably the most important pro-Israel grouping in the UK."

Much of this is because BICOM targets the political and media elite, rather than the public. Its attention is largely focused on the media, and attempts to shape its articles so that they are more sympathetic towards Israel.

"They tend to mould into the background while their messages get out into the media and into public debate so to some extent it's an intentional thing," David Miller, a Professor of Sociology at Bath University and a researcher on the project, told MEMO.

As an organisation, BICOM portrays the idea of being in favour of a two state solution, yet the report argues they in fact refuse to give peace a chance. The reason for this, suggests Miller, is that BICOM do not want to argue against the Israeli government and put their investments at risk, whilst at the same time presenting the image that something positive can happen to protect them from boycotters.

A closer look at BICOM reveals that in fact their positions on essential elements of conflict oppose parts of international law, and as the reports says "are not compatible with the two state solution as envisaged by the international community."

At the same time as professing support for a Palestinian state, BICOM refers to illegal settlements as communities, neighbourhoods and (like the Israeli government) rejects the "international consensus on settlements."

On the issue of refugees, BICOM also does not take international law into account, holding that it is not Israel's responsibility to resettle refugees, but the responsibility of the Arab states on the grounds that if Palestinians did return this would mean the end of Israel as a democratic, Jewish state and the end of the Jewish majority. Instead BICOM suggests that refugees be settled in the new Palestinian state.

A chapter of the report is dedicated to the relationship between former Defence Secretary Liam Fox and BICOM funded Adam Werrity, who acted as "his unofficial advisor." Whilst Werrity met with Iranian opposition supporters, and was later debriefed by MI6 about them, he also met senior figures from Israel's Mossad intelligence, who were also intent on stopping Iran's nuclear programme. Thus, BICOM's "backers, directors and staff have other interests that shape the conception of the Israeli national interest."

"They're walking a tightrope," says Miller on why he thinks they have adopted and maintained this misleading, double edged approach. "On the one hand they probably want there to be more meaningful, peaceful negotiations, but on the other hand they have to defend the Israeli government to some extent. They've got material interests in Israel and more widely than that and they have to defend those. That requires them to walk this line between saying they want peace, but not really being in favour of peace."

BICOM's main financial source is their chairman, Poju Zabludowicz, whose cash comes from his father, an arms dealer. Researching who funds them for the report was difficult, explains Miller, largely because there is no central registry or regulation which requires them to reveal this information. "We've had to play a kind of cat and mouse game with the archives and the databases to try and trace which foundation in America or which individual or businessman has funded them."

Yet though it hasn't been easy, the report does provide some detail on their main funders.

Giving peace a chance calls for the greater transparency of BICOM on the basis that the public have a right to know what kind of organisation it is. With greater transparency it would be easier to see who was funding them, by how much and exactly what activities they were engaged in.

This transparency would then help civil society groups hold them to account; it is difficult for them to maintain a deceptive approach if it is clearer who they are.

"One thing I would say about BICOM is that they really ought to be clearer about what kinds of solutions they support. We argue that they are structurally deceptive in what they say about the peace process in Israel. They pretend to be more in favour of peace than they actually are. What I would say is that if they were more honest about what their interests are that would allow us to have better debates rather than this kind of notion that they're all trying their best to promote peace."

Though the report would have been enhanced by comments or a participation in the discussion by members of staff working for BICOM, those approached for an interview either turned the offer down, or failed to reply.

What Miller hopes will come out of Giving peace a chance is that "organisations like BICOM become more effective about their position and more willing to acknowledge the politics they're defending. Hopefully that means we can have some kind of progress towards peace and justice in the Middle East, rather than just an attempt to muddy the waters and defend rejectionism by the Israeli state."

Amelia Smith is a staff writer at Middle East Monitor

This review was first published in Arabic by

]]> (Amelia Smith) Reports and Publications Wed, 06 Nov 2013 16:08:16 +0000
Summary of Spinwatch Report: The Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre: Giving peace a chance? BICOMPreface - The national interest, pro-Israel advocacy and anti-Semitism
  • BICOM and its staff/donors are part of the British establishment, notably the right of the Labour Party. The interests of the individuals and groups involved are more relevant than Israel's "national interest".
  • No group is all powerful, but lobbying involves ties between powerful people.
  • Zionism and the Israeli state should not be conflated with Jews or Judaism.
  • BICOM focuses on the British media, targeting opinion-forming elites and repackaging standard pro-Israel arguments.

Chapter One - Shlomo Zabludowicz and the business of war

  • Finnish financier Poju Zabludowicz is BICOM's chairman and principal donor. His wealth comes from his arms-dealer father, Shlomo Zabludowicz.
  • Shlomo, a Polish Holocaust survivor, made his money decades before BICOM was formed. He had a close relationship with Shimon Peres and other politicians in Israel and played a key role in the formation of the domestic arms industry from the 1950s.
  • He sold arms to repressive regimes including Shah of Iran.
  • From 1980, business declined, and he sought deals and employed lobbyists in Washington. A US contract was won in 1985.
  • The Zabludowiczs diversified into high-tech joint ventures and property. When Shlomo died in 1994, his wealth was divided between Poju and his sister Rivka.

Chapter Two - Poju Zabludowicz and the business of peace

  • In the 1990s, Israel's economy moved away from arms and towards high-tech.
  • Business interests hoped to benefit from the 1990s peace process, especially through the lifting of the Arab League boycott and secondary boycott (whereby companies/countries that dealt with Israel were also boycotted).
  • Businessmen/politicians believed stability would bring foreign investment.
  • In 1993, a superficial peace agreement that did not deal with the most significant issues (Jerusalem, right of return, settlements) was signed. It was criticised by Israelis and Palestinians - but satisfied international investors.
  • UK's Conservative government saw opportunity of investment in Israel. Politicians said that Arab boycott was incompatible with peace process.
  • Based in London, Poju Zabludowicz began lobbying for business interests.
  • His assets - dozens of companies - are collectively called the Tamares Group. Thoroughly transnational, but with close ties to Israel. Made billions through lucrative privatisation deals in Israel.
  • Zabludowicz, over the years, has funded right-wing Likud Party (1980s), and left-wing Peres (big donor over the years). Friend of Netanyahu's. Arguably shows that he is a businessmen and opportunist, interested in retaining links with power-brokers and maintaining Israel's international reputation, rather than in ideology.

Chapter Three - The Second Intifada and the establishment of BICOM

  • 1990s peace talks reduced the business stigma around Israel.
  • John Major ended arms embargo against Israel and worked to end the Arab boycott. Imports and exports between UK and Israel doubled in the decade.
  • In 1999, the hard line precursor to BICOM, BIPAC (British-Israel Public Affairs Committee) was closed
  • The business sector was concerned about the PR void this left.
  • Ultimately, the peace process failed, and in 2000, riots in Palestine turned into the Second Intifada. Israel responded with a harsh crackdown. High intensity violence from both sides continued until 2005. It was widely acknowledged to be a PR disaster for Israel.
  • Soon after the Intifada broke out, Israel's ambassador to the UK reportedly called together 50 leading Jews to ask them to mobilise support for Israel.
  • This became the Emergency Co-ordinating Group, which organised trips for journalists to Israel and "countered slanted media coverage".
  • BICOM grew out of this temporary group, and was officially formed in April 2001, with Zabludowicz as chairman.

Chapter Four - BICOM and British Zionism

  • BICOM works with partner organisations, mainly the United Jewish Israel Appeal (UJIA), the Board of Deputies of British Jews, and the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC).
  • UJIA: Funds educational and charitable projects in Israel, and programmes to foster young British Jews' connection to Israel. It pre-existed the state of Israel, and financially supported BIPAC. Its work is mainly cultural/educational, but it has mobilised behind Israel during controversial armed conflicts such as the 2006 Lebanon war.
  • Board of Deputies: The official representative body of UK Jewry. Oversaw the Emergency Co-ordinating Group, along with the UJIA. Dates back to 18th Century; seen by some as too uncritical of Israel. Also works on countering anti-Semitism, interfaith issues, preserving Jewish cemeteries, etc.
  • JLC: BICOM's most important partner organisation. Headed by former UJIA chairman Mick Davis. Established in 2003, after several years of efforts by Henry Grunwald (head of Board of Deputies) to capitalise on political connections of wealthy/influential community members. Umbrella group for political/non-political Jewish organisations.
  • There is considerable crossover at the level of leadership between BICOM, JLC, and UJIA. BICOM focuses on media, JLC and Board of Deputies on political lobbying, while UJIA is not directly political.
  • Parliamentary lobbying groups: BICOM has strong links with these groups, especially Labour Friends of Israel. Several directors of BICOM have been members of LFI, which became more prominent under Blair and Brown. Lorna Fitzsimons (BICOM director 2006-12) is a former Labour MP.
  • Conservative Friends of Israel includes around 80% of Tory MPs. High level of cooperation with BICOM.
  • There is tension between BICOM/JLC and older UK Zionist groups. The Israel lobby (such as it exists) is not monolithic. Some of these older groups (ie. Zionist Federation) see JLC as insufficiently supportive of Israel.
  • BICOM/JLC are liberal-styled and associated with a wealthy elite.
  • BICOM has closer links to Israeli universities and think-tanks than to some of these more traditional UK Zionist groups.

Chapter Five - BICOM strategy, elite networks and the media

  • BICOM is the most sophisticated pro-Israel advocacy group, employing PR professionals and lobbyists, and using pollsters like Populus.
  • Fitzsimons (former director) has said that "foreign policy is an elite issue" not influenced by public opinion. Other BICOM leaders have noted the public is less supportive of Israel than politicians. This is reflected in its strategy - targeting journalists, politicians, opinion-formers.
  • Aim is not to change public opinion, but to create favourable policy-making environment. Tactics: building/sustaining support in politics/media, isolating those who campaign against Israel, and mobilising supporters of Israel.
  • BICOM focuses on relationship-building. It has paid for politicians to go to Israel (as well as journalists).
  • Zabludowicz and his corporate vehicle Tamares Real Estate Investments have donated £314,000 to the Conservative Party since 2005.
  • Michael Lewis, former vice-chair of BICOM, is also a major Tory donor. In 2001, his family investment company Oceana donated £30,000. Oceana has also donated to Michael Portillo (£2500, 2001), Harlow local party (£3000, 2004), and Liam Fox (£5000, 2005). More recently, Lewis has given money to Adam Werritty (Fox's unofficial adviser).
  • David Menton, an associate of Zabludowicz and BICOM donor, is a Labour donor. Donated £2477 to Michael Dugher's constituency in 2011, and paid for him to attend a Herzliya conference in Israel.
  • In 2011, BICOM paid for 3 Labour MPs to visit Israel. (Michael Dugher, Jim Murphy, Stephen Twigg).
  • Media strategy is to focus on credibility; avoiding hectoring/overreaction, and putting arguments in tone/language that resonates with opinion-formers.
  • Mirrors conventional PR strategy: providing content and access, rather than complaining about critical coverage. Jonathan Cummings, BICOM's Israel director: "harassing the media is a counter-productive tactic".
  • A least 60 journalists - from BBC, Sky, the Times, Independent, Sun - have been on BICOM trips. A delegation of bloggers was taken on a trip in 2012.
  • After 2006 Israel-Lebanon war, BICOM developed a crisis strategy: providing context to explain Israel's extreme violence. This was very successful during Operation Cast Lead in 2008.
  • Various studies have shown a pro-Israel media bias, not the other way around.
  • Rupert Murdoch has business interests in Israel and supports conservative Israeli politicians. This is reflected in his newspapers.
  • BICOM and other lobby groups work to discredit activists/writers (Jewish and non-Jewish) critical of Israel. The term "delegitimisation" is used to suggest that critics are motivated by antipathy towards Israel itself - presented as a new form of anti-Semitism.
  • Attempts to legally challenge boycott motions have been supported by the JLC, Zionist Federation, and reportedly the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
  • BICOM aims to win back support from liberals/leftist British Jews. Mobilising support from the Jewish community is important as it helps identify Jews en masse with Israel, problematising non-Jewish criticism.

Chapter Six - Funding and finances

  • BICOM's accounts for the year's ending April 2002 and 2003 reported respective incomes of £373,674 and £460,921. Since then, its accounts have provided no information about income or expenses, disclosing only assets and liabilities.
  • In 2006, its budget was reportedly £1.2m: double its 2003 budget.
  • Zabludowicz remains the main backer. In 2007, he underwrote a £300,000 "fighting fund" in response to the UCU's boycott motion. His total donations to BICOM then increased nearly threefold (£341,694 in 2006; £937,995 in 2007; £837,616 in 2008).
  • In 2009 BICOM's budget increased by 12.5%, in 2010 by 25%, bringing expenditure to around £2m. Zabludowicz's donations since 2010 have not been disclosed but monthly accounts show the group depends on him.
  • A board member said there were 120 donors. Few details are known.
  • Donations by company directors are detailed in BICOM accounts.
  • Michael Lewis (director 2006-7) donated £25,000. Others have donated smaller sums.
  • South African born Lewis manages his family's wealth in various trusts and offshore accounts (including Oceana Investment Corporation). His Jersey Fund has committed £5.9m to Synova Capital, a private equity fund in which Zabludowicz is the main investor.
  • His family has donated to the UJIA, and to the University of Oxford (£3m to fund the appointment of a Professor of Israel Studies). He has invested in pro-Israel German media company Axel Springer.
  • Isaac Kaye: reportedly a "key backer" of BICOM, and a board member. South African born multi-millionaire and donor to Labour Party and UJIA. He has business interests in Israel, where he founded venture capital firm Israel HealthCare Ventures.
  • David Green: another "key backer", Green is a British businessman and treasurer of BICOM.
  • David Menton: director and donor of BICOM and business associate of Zabludowicz, working for the latter's Tamares Capital. With Zabludowicz's funds, launched Synova Capital with his brother-in-law Philip Shapiro in 2007. Political donor in US (Hillary Clinton) and UK (Labour).
  • Edward Misrahi: vice-chair of BICOM since 2011 and a former banker, Misrahi has invested in Synova Capita since 2009. Has donated to various Zionist non-profit organisations.
  • In June 2005, BICOM arranged a trip to Israel for 20 British businessmen/financiers, reportedly raising £1m. The group met with PM Ariel Sharon, deputy PM Peres, and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.
  • A fundraising dinner in January 2008 for 100 guests raised £80,000.
  • BICOM depends on its donors, who have considerable influence through the board of directors (chaired by Zabludowicz).
  • Donors are most likely committed to defending Israel, but also gain status and prestige through the connection to BICOM.

Chapter Seven - BICOM's views and arguments

  • BIPAC lost donor support because of its hard line.
  • Business figures (like Zabludowicz) have a financial interest in preserving the impression of progress towards stability because the peace process had increased economic ties with Israel.
  • Zabludowicz stated in 2011 that "convincing people [in UK] that Israel seeks a lasting peace with its neighbours" was the key to increasing support, "even if peace continues to be elusive".
  • Over the years, BICOM has refined its message. In 2005, its website said it wanted to "bring about a significant shift in opinion in favour of Israel". Now, it says it wants a "more complete understanding" and makes reference to "Palestinian statehood" as well as "peace and security" for Israel.
  • Despite this non-specific support for Palestinian statehood, BICOM was outspokenly critical of the Palestinian bid for non-member state status at the UN in 2010.
  • While BICOM has ties to the right of the Labour Party in the UK, it has supported hawkish right-wing governments in Israel.
  • BICOM supports Israeli rejectionism on: withdrawal to pre-1967 borders, the status of Jerusalem, West Bank settlements, and the right of return for refugees.
  • It refers to Jerusalem as "the capital of Israel" although no country officially recognises it as such (even the US embassy is in Tel-Aviv).
  • West Bank settlements are internationally accepted to be illegal. BICOM supports the Israeli government's line unilaterally rejecting this and refers to settlements as "communities" and "neighbourhoods".
  • BICOM selectively cites international law regarding Palestinian violations, but ignores or argues against it on Israeli violations.
  • It also ignores a range of systemic human rights abuses in Israel, saying only "as in other societies, minority groups still suffer from inequalities".
  • Although presented in a careful and reasonable tone, BICOM's views are far from moderate.

Chapter Eight - The Fox-Werritty scandal and the decline of democracy

  • In 2011, Defence Secretary Liam Fox was forced to resign after a scandal involving his friend and adviser Adam Werritty.
  • For nearly 10 years, Werritty's consultancy interests mirrored Fox's political career. He eventually became director of Fox's charity Atlantic Bridge.
  • The scandal had three elements; Werritty's contact with the Sri Lankan government; Werritty's extensive involvement in the stand off over Iran's nuclear programme; and lobbying (venture capitalist Henry Boulter used contact with Fox to pressure US conglomerate 3M in a business dispute).
  • Individuals linked to BICOM were involved in all three strands. Former BICOM communications director Lee Petar facilitated Boulter's meetings.
  • Werritty's Sri Lankan and Middle Eastern engagements were funded by Pargav, a not-for-profit organisation which shares backers with BICOM.
  • Sir Gus O'Donnell's report into the allegations against Fox identified Pargav's donors. They included Tamares (Zabludowicz's company) and Oceana Investments (Michael Lewis's). A third donor was Mick Davis, chief executive of Xstrata, linked to BICOM through the JLC, which he chairs.
  • The donors linked to BICOM were only one group, but deserve scrutiny because Werritty was involved in western policy in the Middle East.
  • Tamares was one of several companies whose donations to Werritty were linked to Sri Lanka. According to the Independent, Tamares stressed that it had paid him to promote peace and reconciliation between adversaries. Werritty and Fox's actions actually emboldened a hard line government.
  • Werritty and Fox's activities in the Middle East were significant to the regional struggle between Iran and Israel.
  • In 2009, Werritty went to the Herzliya Conference in Israel as BICOM's paid-for guest. He also organised a panel discussion on Iran in London with Fitzsimons as a speaker.
  • In February 2011, Werritty and Fox attended a Herzliya Conference in Israel. They met with senior Israeli officials and intelligence officers, and discussed sanctions against Iran. They also met the head of Mossad (either Dagan or his successor Tamir Pardo).
  • Meeting were also held with the UK ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gould, on the Iranian nuclear issue. The British government has been reluctant to acknowledge these meetings, and stressed that Gould always acted in line with government policy. This raises questions about Werritty's influence.
  • Lee Petar, a former communications director of BICOM, was later a lobbyist at Tetra Strategy, a firm whose clients included Tamares.
  • In March 2011, Petar introduced Werritty to Boulter, whose private equity firm the Porton Group was engaged in a legal dispute with 3M. This led to a meeting between Fox and Boulter in June 2011. Boulter used this meeting to suggest that a proposed knighthood for the 3M head might not go through.
  • Boutler's threat led to the exposure of Werritty and Fox's relationship, and Fox's resignation. Pargav's donors distanced themselves from Werritty and his excessive spending.
  • Fox and Werritty's activities entangled public and private interests. The involvement of some BICOM personnel shows that such an agency and its major players must be examined.

Chapter Nine - Conclusions

  • BICOM aims to defend Israel by encouraging a skewed perception among journalists, politicians, and policy-formers.
  • It uses moderate language to appeal to the centre ground, but actually expounds more hard line views than suggested.
  • The interests of chairman Poju Zabludowicz are transnational, but closely tied to the Israeli corporate-state nexus.
  • For businessmen, a close relationship to the Israeli state presents significant business opportunities, but also carries a reputational risk which could impact on dealings elsewhere.
  • BICOM presents even illegal actions by Israel in a positive light, strengthening backers' relationships with state officials while minimising any harm to the country's international reputation.
  • The organisation should not be understood simply in terms of Israeli national interest, but of transnational elite networks of big business, finance, politics, PR and the media (NOT Israeli/Jewish power).
  • BICOM is highly secretive about its activities and is therefore unaccountable.
  • Journalists should be obliged to disclose gifts in kind or trips funded by groups which have a direct interest in managing media coverage.
]]> (Samira Shackle) Reports and Publications Wed, 06 Nov 2013 16:02:06 +0000
An analysis of the public opinion trends in Libya Libyan Center For Research and Development

A reading of the National Democratic Institute survey results - October 2013

The National Democratic Institute (NDI) conducted a survey in Libya during May 10th to 30th 2013, funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Denmark. One of the surveys addressed Libyan attitudes towards democratic transition, people's trust in political leaders, as well as the ability to form new institutions and deal with challenges faced by the country. Diwan Market Research, a public opinion firm based in Tripoli, was the first to carry out such surveys. The NDI followed this to set out a series of recommendations to support and develop democracy, as well as represent the parties in Libya. The study's sample relied on population data from 2006 in order to reflect a balanced representation of the various areas. The study also tried to provide details of Libyan opinions on a range of topics including current affairs, institutions, participation in elections and the performance of elected institutions.

General trends

The general trends of the survey indicated that 81 per cent of Libyans are optimistic about the current situation; this includes 19 per cent who are very optimistic. 15 per cent of those surveyed were pessimistic, whilst 73 per cent believe that many problems are due to a lack of security. They also expressed their concerns over the delay in political stability, militia disarmament and personal safety.

75 per cent believed that political stability was a challenge facing the country, whilst 37 per cent said it was public order, 25 per cent said militia disarmament and 13 per cent said security. Other issues included 5 per cent who were concerned about reducing poverty, 3 per cent who said completing the drafting of the constitution and 3 per cent who raised national dialogue as a concern.

There was a difference in opinion between the urban and suburban areas on national issues, as both believed that political stability and public order were top priority, 37 per cent and 34 per cent respectively, but the suburban areas were more concerned by violent crime (23 per cent), whereas the urban areas were concerned by militia disarmament (27 per cent). 15 per cent of the suburban sample was concerned with reducing poverty and social inequality. The survey revealed a similarity in the attitudes of males and females towards these issues.

The survey divided Libya into three areas, the West (Tripoli), the East (Cyrenaica), and the South (Fezzan). The results indicated a similarity of opinion on priorities for political stability, 37 per cent, 34 per cent and 35 per cent respectively, whilst the priority for disarmament was 37 per cent in Fezzan, 27 per cent in Tripoli and 14 per cent in the Cyrenaica. Despite the differences between the three areas, attitudes were similar on issues around fighting crime as a national priority, revealing the weak correlation between the spread of weapons and crimes being committed. This raises questions about the positions of the three areas on issues of widespread arms and the formation of the army and police. Although the number of assassinations in the eastern area increased, the number of those supporting disarmament of armed militias had decreased, whilst the number of those calling for improved security performance increased. It is not clear how the survey dealt with this issue, but in any case, it revealed the importance of analysing data on public opinion in order to help improve the state's general policy.

Political exile

The majority of Libyans supported some form of political exile for those linked to the Gaddafi regime, but they differed on how to implement it. Whilst 23 per cent completely rejected political exile, 37 per cent supported it in one of two ways; 49 per cent supported prosecuting all the senior leaders and exiling them, whilst 18 per cent supported prosecuting and exiling all those who held a position in the former regime. This difference of opinion on how to apply political exile and on attitudes towards dealing with serious crimes is reflected in the 44 per cent who support prosecuting and exiling those committing serious crimes, whilst 45 per cent are content with only prosecuting them.

The survey sought to determine the attitudes of the national alliance forces and its supporters on political exile. The survey revealed an increase in support for the exile of senior officials; 68 per cent from the national alliance, 61 per cent of their electors, 55 per cent of Mahmoud Jibreel's supporters and 53 per cent of other candidates' supporters. The number of those who believed that exile should include all those who held a position in the former regime decreased to 15, 17, 19, and 21 per cents respectively. The results indicate the dominance of support for exile within the national alliance, both at a popular and political level, whilst only 22 per cent completely rejected exile.

The survey indicated that political exile has become a political and social option, and these results support other results from different Libyan research institutes. The survey by the NDI analysed the attitudes of the national alliance supporters and indicated the increase in supporting exile of senior officials was only amongst the alliance and their voters. The data also showed that confidence in holding the Justice and Construction Party responsible for political exile had doubled.

Country's identity

The survey revealed that an overwhelming majority support the constitution's reference to Sharia, either as a main source or the sole source and only 2 per cent were opposed to it. 37 per cent considered it to be the main source of legislation whilst 35 per cent considered it to be the sole source and 21 per cent considered it to be one source amongst others.

These results reflected attitudes towards women issues, as generally, Libyans adopt more conservative views on women. The majority of women and men believe that the woman should wear the veil (hijab) and 92 per cent believe that the state should play a role in encouraging women to wear the veil. The older generation believe that men should be given first opportunities for employment. 58 per cent of men rejected the idea of employing women and 44 per cent of women rejected the idea of employing Libyan women in place of foreigners. This suggests that there is a difference of opinion on the employment of women, but generally there is a stronger lean towards upholding conservative values.

Democracy, Institutions, and Participation

83 per cent of those surveyed supported democracy, despite its problems, considering it to be the best form of governance; 67 per cent agreed and 16 per cent strongly agreed. This is a similar figure to the number of those calling for the application of Islamic Sharia law. 35 per cent said that democracy rights and freedom, whilst 34 per cent saw it as a means to change the government though elections and17 per cent believed it was the right to criticise the government and those in power. The survey did not explain the intellectual framework of democracy, whether liberal or neo-liberal, because there could be disputes over the constitution's sources of legislation, especially on issues of rights and freedoms.

The NDI survey also attempted to determine the attitudes of the Libyans towards their confidence in political institutions. The four highest ranking institutions that elicit absolute confidence are the ministry of interior (25 per cent), ministry of defence (24 per cent), ministry of justice (21 per cent), and the National Conference for the Libyan opposition (9 per cent). Confidence in the police reached 23 per cent with 21 per cent for the judiciary, 20 per cent for the National Conference and 15 per cent for the Libyan Youth Movement. Results indicated that 38 per cent had moderate confidence in the National Conference, 28 per cent for local government staff and political parties, 26 per cent for the Libyan Youth movement and 25 per cent for the judiciary.

Confidence in trade unions has dropped to 39 per cent, 33 per cent in the local government, 30 per cent in the media, 28 per cent in the political parties and 27 per cent for local leaders. There was a sharp decline in confidence in the armed groups (82 per cent), local media and leaders (32 per cent and 31 per cent respectively), political parties and unions (30 per cent), and local government staff (29 per cent).

Confidence in political institutions has increased whilst confidence in civilian community institutions and unofficial entities has greatly decreased. This raises concerns about the balanced formation of the state and whether all components have a fair chance to all of its components. It is worth noting that the survey's method of monitoring public opinion attitudes towards the various institutions is unequal in terms of their roles and function and reflects biased results, as the evaluation of executive, legislative, and community institutions requires addressing these entities in a manner that takes their general characteristics, as well as their political and social roles into consideration.

Government spending

The NDI survey revealed difference of opinion on government payments, with 48 per cent regarding them as beneficial at different levels, whilst 52 per cent viewed them as unbeneficial. 48 per cent believed that obtaining a government job was necessary. 17 per cent believed that government payments after the revolution were very important, 41 per cent believed they made no difference, and 42 per cent considered them to be less important.

Confidence in the National Conference

The survey indicated that 72 per cent participated in the 2012 National Conference elections and that the number of young educated participants was quite high. The voting trends were linked to the party's trends and family and relatives voting preferences. The results of the survey reflected the presence of 4 reasons behind voting for particular political parties; the ability to ensure Libya's role at an international level, the party's political program, the party's attitude towards the former regime, and the qualifications/effectiveness of the party. The number of male voters increased to 84 per cent as well as that of females to 69 per cent and there was a similarity in votes amongst those of the same age group and residential area (suburban or urban areas).Participation in election campaigns was low at just 18 per cent. The survey revealed that 51 per cent believed the elections were free and fair whilst 33 per cent believed they were fair to some degree, indicating the stability of the National Conference's legitimacy.

67 per cent believe that the Conference's performance is good. 67 per cent trusts its ability to improve the future of Libya. However, the survey revealed criticisms of the Conference's performance on transitional matters, 46 per cent thought it had not taken the necessary measures in the Constituent Assembly to form a Constitution, while 65 per cent said it had not taken the right steps towards national dialogue, 74 per cent felt that it had not fought corruption and 71 per cent said it had not improved the security situation. The National Conference on one hand, gained confidence as a political institution able to take the country to the next stage, but at a political level, it witnessed a decline in support of its dealing with the main issues during the transitional phase. The confidence and electoral legitimacy it has gained gives the Conference a chance to control the transitional phase until a new constitution is announced.

Political parties

86 per cent believe that political parties are needed at different levels and only 43 per cent expressed their confidence in them. 82 per cent said that political parties play an important role in expressing citizen's opinions and 64 per cent said they created opportunities for local citizens to meet with their members of the National Conference. 79 per cent of those in the Fezzan region believed they play an important role in meeting the needs of the people, but this figure decreased in the Tripoli region to 61 per cent and to 59 per cent in the Cyrenaica region.

The survey indicated that 74 per cent believe the National Forces Alliance have the solutions to Libya's problems, whilst 56 per cent felt that the Justice and Construction Party had the answers and 36 per cent plumped for National Front Party. The results indicated uncertainty on the other parties' platforms. The survey reveals that 70 per cent knew the name of the NFA's leaders, 44 per cent for the Justice and Construction party leaders, and 24 per cent for the National Front leader, whilst many were not familiar with the names of the other party leaders. This suggests that the other parties have had limited exposure at a national level resulting in the public's lack of knowledge about them. These results may change as Libya becomes a dual party regime.


The significance of the survey lies in the fact that it contributes to the information about the general situation in Libya and the results revealed aspects of dispute about the transitional phase. At the same time, it also includes indications on the public opinion's demands and their visions for the country's future.

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of the survey's results is the fact that it contributes to the results of other surveys that yielded similar results and can therefore, develop a number of solutions to support the country's general policy development and establishment of institutions in line with the community's aspirations and expressions.

An overview of the Libyan Centre for Research and Development

The Libyan Centre for Research and Development is an independent research institute focused on Libyan affairs and related Arab and international issues.

The Centre is an educational institute that focuses on studies and comprehensive development in Libya. The Centre is based on the idea that there is an gap between the decision making process and the actual taking of decisions. It aims to contribute to the repair of this imbalance by instilling a culture which relies on correct information and the results of scientific assessments, research and surveys when creating policies and making decisions.

The centre is also concerned with diagnosing and analysing situations in Libya, as well as analysing the social, education and cultural policies. It works on political and economic analysis and discusses the challenges facing the country at a national, identity, individual, unity, sovereign, dependency, technological and scientific level. It also examines the growth and development of the community, as well as the development of state institutions and the civilian community during the democratic transition.

Furthermore, the centre studies Libya's relationship within its regional and international surroundings. It also examines the policies of other countries in relation to Libya, as well as assessing their positions towards the country.

The centre's focus is limited to aspects of applied social sciences, such as sociology, economics, in addition to cultural and political science studies of the past and present. The centre does not focus on theoretical matters and issues, social theories, or political thought, except in relation to applied issues and linking it to analysing the prevalent order and culture in the pursuit of proposing scientifically correct alternatives.

]]> (Libyan Centre For Research & Development) Reports and Publications Mon, 28 Oct 2013 11:45:43 +0000
The many challenges Palestinian students face Palestinian students in Israeli Universities

Palestinian students who study at Israeli universities are confronted by racist assaults from the day they step foot on university campuses in an attempt to discourage them or even drive them away.

The myriad forms of suffering experienced by the few Arab students accepted into Israeli universities range from economic to social, cultural, and religious oppression.

Haitham Mahamid, a student at Al-Quds University, confirmed that he suffers from continuous discrimination at his university. His problems began from the very start when he had to pay the full tuition without any financial assistance, since "as an Arab student, I do not qualify for scholarships or grants from the Council for Higher Education to help pay the fees."

Since entering university, Mahamid, a third-year student majoring in psychology and management, has experienced "poor treatment and discrimination by the university administration and some lecturers compared to my Israeli colleagues."

He also added that, "There are courses given at the psychology clinic that I, as an Arab student, am not allowed to take, whereas there are no restrictions for Jewish students, and naturally, this affects my study. In addition to this, we are not treated well by the university administration and are subject to many conditions, placement tests, etc."

Moreover, Mahamid stressed that a number of lecturers treat Arab students poorly, and that their racism is obvious in they way that they deal with these students. He noted that, "This is reflected in the lecturer's evaluation of us as Arab students in terms of our marks and assessments."

Arab students are not covered

Arab students are universally subjected to discrimination regarding university policies concerning tuition and scholarships.

Mahamid explained that the scholarships and grants offered by the Council for Higher Education do not cover Arab students because they have set conditions that only apply to Jewish students. Therefore, Arab students are forced to pay their full tuitions without any help.

He himself pays over NIS 28,000 every semester in fees. This amount is divided into NIS 11,000 for tuition and NIS 17,000 for housing, stressing that housing is one of his biggest problems due to high rents.

Ayman Asali, a medical student at Tel Aviv University says that, "the first problem I faced was during the interviews for the Arab students, and ever since I started studying here, I have had psychological problems because being an Arab here makes me feel like I am a stranger."

He adds, "Everywhere I go on campus, I face racism. We face this on a daily basis, even outside the university, but the students from the Tel Aviv area better able to deal and adapt with this than the students from Jerusalem or Beer El-Sabea."

According to Asali, Arab students also face the challenges of civil service and volunteering for the occupation army, which the university sets as a condition to receive scholarships or instalment payments. However, none of the Arab students meet these requirements.

"Therefore, we as Arab students are not covered by any scholarships, so I pay about NIS 14,000 annually in tuition alone, in addition to NIS 15,500 for housing. This doesn't even include personal expenses," he added.

Recruitment and poor treatment

Fayyad Zaki, Head of the Iqra Institute for Higher Education in the occupied territories, confirmed that the problems for Arab students start even before they begin their studies, as there are unequal acceptance requirements for Arab and Israeli students.

He explains that Israeli universities set the acceptance requirements in order to suit Jewish students. For example, universities require students to be over 21 years of age, which is the age Israeli students reach when they complete their military service in the army.

Zaki also adds, "Arab students feel that they have no rights in comparison to Jewish students, and the right to scholarships is the main right violated. This is due to the fact that the scholarship funds require students to have served in the military and require them to live in certain areas, thus excluding Arab students."

This is on top of problems communicating with racist lecturers and the university's failure to accommodate Arab students in terms of religious holidays. Zaki noted that the university refuses to give Arab students time off for their official holidays such as Eid Al-Fitr, Eid Al-Adha, etc.


There are several faculties within Israeli universities that are considered prestigious, and they often limit the presence of Arabs in them, such as the various schools for engineering. Moreover, Arab students are prohibited from completing their Master's degree in such areas.

Zaki also notes that the acceptance rate for Arab students in Israeli universities as of 2005 was only 9.8 per cent, and only 5 per cent of the total applicants for master's degrees. Israeli Arabs comprise around 20 per cent of the Israeli population. Including Palestinians in the occupied territories, Arabs comprise almost half of the total population.

The discrimination against Arab students also affects campus life, as the Arab bloc is not recognised as an independent group, and therefore is prohibited from holding any national, religious, etc. events or activities on campus.

He explained that while Israeli students are accommodated, even in terms of missing exams, if an Arab student is ever absent from an exam, no excuses are accepted, and they automatically fail the exam. However, a Jewish student has the option of resitting the exam.

Professors often treat the Arab students with arrogance, making direct communication very difficult. This also impacts the students' ambitions, marks, as well as how far they develop and progress in their studies.

Furthermore, Arab students face a fierce campaign against them in regards to finding suitable housing. Zaki explained that there is a movements against renting out accommodations to Arab students inside Tel Aviv, especially recently.

Still, the Director of Educational Guidance at the Iqra Institute for Higher Education, Basel Agbaria, says that there are Arab students in many Israeli universities, most notably Tel Aviv University, with around 1,000 Arab students, and Al-Quds University, with over 1,000 students.

He adds that there are about 600 Arab students at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, 500 in Bar-Ilan University, 1200 at the Israeli Institute of Technology in Haifa, and 5,000-6,000 students at the Open University.

However he stresses that many Arab students are forced to leave university before completing their studies, around 20 per cent. Moreover, 32 per cent change their majors due to difficult requirements.

Low percentages

In a report by the Hirak Centre for Advancement of Higher Education in Arab Society, the centre lists 14 obstacles faced by Arab students in Israeli universities that hinder their educational path.

The report notes that the most prominent obstacle is that most Israeli universities are lowering the chances of accepting Palestinian students in Palestine, while others place insurmountable obstacles in their path after they are accepted.

The centre also says that the curriculum in most Arab schools encourages neither critical thinking nor analytical skills, and therefore only 23 per cent of those graduating from Arab schools meet the acceptance standards set by Israeli universities. This is compared to 47 per cent of Jewish school graduates.

Furthermore, the centre notes that only 12 per cent of Palestinian students complete their studies within the standard timeframe. In addition to this, half of Palestinian families and a third of Palestinian children live under the poverty line, and thus many Arab children leave school due to difficult economic situations.

]]> (Rasha Baraka) Reports and Publications Fri, 11 Oct 2013 14:40:50 +0000
Hundreds of West Bank job losses were due to "security" reasons Palestinian Workers

By Elias Sa'adah

In 2008, a few days after giving birth, Mrs. TM, a teacher since 2006 and living in the occupied West Bank, received a letter terminating her employment. It was signed by the Minister of Education in Salam Fayyad's Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, Lamis Al-Alami; this was certainly no letter of congratulations on the birth of her child; "due to orders from the concerned parties, you have been terminated."

TM says that the reason for her sacking was down to a security check carried out by the PA's public intelligence and preventative security agencies in the West Bank. This claimed that she has links to Hamas, something which she denies resolutely. She described the accusation which turned her maternity leave into an open-ended holiday as "malicious".

I have a copy of the minister's letter to TM, which confirms that the order was made based on a security check, called "security safety", as noted by the now ex-teacher, even though the law does not give the two security agencies mentioned any authority to intervene in governmental appointments. My own research uncovered the fact that one of TM's relatives was a member of Hamas and died during the second Intifada about 5 years before the Hamas-Fatah division. That is her only link to anyone linked to the Islamic Resistance Movement.

According to TM, she was living outside the Palestinian territories and first came to the West Bank after her marriage. "My relative had died before I came and I have never even met him," she said. "When I appealed to the security agencies to ask why I was fired, I was told it was mainly due to his ties to Hamas."

TM is, documentary evidence and information provided by human rights organisations confirms, one of around 1,500 government employees fired or excluded from certain jobs in the West Bank's Ministry of Education alone. The figure does not take into account what must be many more who've lost their jobs in other ministries and government institutions.

The majority of these employees were appointed after Hamas's victory in the legislative elections in 2006, but as a result of the political and administrative division between the West Bank, under Fatah, and the Gaza Strip, governed by Hamas, the Ministry of Education in Ramallah terminated the contracts of hundreds of employees based on politically-motivated security decisions. The most prominent political supporters of this cull were the members of the Council of Ministers, led by Dr. Salam Fayyad.

According to official data, the Ministry of Education is one of the largest civil institutions in the Palestinian Authority, employing over 66,000 teachers and administrators. It has an annual budget of around $600 million. Should the PA reinstate those who have been sacked, the compensation payable will be more than $63m (see below). This must come from the PA budget which currently shows a deficit of over $1 billion on a budget of $3.7 billion.

My investigation reveals that there has been substantial direct and indirect intervention by politicians and security agencies in the appointment of employees in the Ministry of Education and the termination of their contracts through a series of secret resolutions which are not legally supported. Moreover, the agencies went a step further by intervening on a judicial level, ensuring delays on a ruling about the grievances submitted by the sacked teachers for 4 years in order to apply the security clearance resolution to their cases.

Articles number 18 and 24 of the civil services law number 4 of 1998 and its amendments limit the conditions of appointment to the following: the employee must be Palestinian or Arab, over the age 18, free of any diseases or physical or mental deformities that prevent them from carrying out their duties in accordance with the resolution from a specialised medical reference, have their full civil rights, and must not have been charged by any Palestinian court with any crimes or immoral acts. The law does not require a security check on applicants for a public sector job.

Despite this, such a condition was applied in the time of Yasser Arafat and continued under the current president, Mahmoud Abbas. Resolutions were put in place by the PA to control appointments in its institutions and agencies based on security conditions.

After Hamas's election victory and its formation of the government, Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh issued resolution number 8/5/10 on 2nd May 2006 which cancelled the employment condition of security safety. The resolution sets out the right to apply to government jobs based on the civil service law and articles 18 and 24, and cancels all that conflicts with them. The resolution was cancelled on the same day, but the Fatah government, headed by Salam Fayyad, reinstated it in 2007, after the political division.

Contradictions in the reaction of security agencies

Requests to talk to the security agencies about the security clearance and reasons for TM's job termination were fruitless as a result of a resolution that prevents employees from speaking to the media about this matter. However, we did find a statement issued on the Ma'a security agency page in October 2010, by a spokesman for the security agencies, Adnan Al-Damiri: "The Palestinian Authority and its security agencies do not deal with any citizen based on their political affiliations; the law does not punish citizens based on political affiliations."

However, a statement by another security official contradicts what Al-Damiri said. An interview on Watan Television between Suhaib Daghlas and a Palestinian intelligence official was broadcast in April 2011. When he was asked about the matter of accountability based on political affiliations and security clearance s, the official said, "There are occupational security clearances, and it is necessary for jobs at this time due to the uprising." He was referring to Hamas's military victory in Gaza against Fatah in 2007.

An existing but missing resolution

In fact, my research shows that the decisions to terminate these employees' contracts were based on a letter issued in the 18th session of the Council of Ministers in Ramallah, held under the leadership of Salam Fayyad on 3rd September 2007 and signed by Fayyad's Chief of Staff, Sa'adi Al-Kerniz. It is number 1/AAMW/2115, dated 9th September 2007, and it provides for "considering security clearances a part of the hiring process, and that the General Employees' bureau is responsible for appointments, and therefore must contact the security agencies for this matter."

However, after searching through the resolutions issued by the Council of Ministers in Ramallah during that session, I could not find any trace of the official resolution signed by Salam Fayyad provided for the aforementioned letter. This indicates that this resolution does not exist in the Council's archive.

Expert on administrative law Gandhi Al-Rabe'i, the most prominent Palestinian lawyer who handled the defence in the case of the sacked teachers, sees the matter as "a clear infringement of the principles of Basic Law and the Council of Ministers Law, which stipulates the illegality of issuing undeclared or secret resolutions, if the decision was a secret. It is also considered an infringement by the security services on its law restricting their work to judiciary policing. This indicates a serious lack of compliance with the law on both parts by firing employees based on letters that have not gone through the complete legal process, issued by the Council of Ministers and implemented by the security services and the Employees' Bureau, neither of which are experienced in all cases where there has been this kind of termination."

What makes the "security safety condition" letter from the Council of Ministers even more mysterious is that the report by the Independent Commission for Human Rights indicated that "the High Court, represented by its chief at the time, who is also the former Head of the Palestinian Supreme Judicial Committee, Judge Issa Abu Sharar, requested, in a letter directed to the Ministers' Council, to provide it with a copy of this letter. However, the Secretary General of the Ministers' Council at the time, Saadi Al-Karnaz, responded with an official letter to the Court saying, ‘We apologize for our inability to provide the High Court with a copy of the mentioned session's proceedings, due to the confidentiality of the proceedings of the Ministers' Council sessions, in accordance with the Council's internal regulations.'"

The Human Rights report mentioned earlier was published in 2010. It has the following to say about the Council of Ministers' response: "This response indicates the executive authorities' unwillingness to cooperate with the court to realise justice, especially since the Court's goal was to consider the context of the Ministers' Council resolution relating to making security safety a condition for employment, which led to the termination of [the contracts of] hundreds of employees. Moreover, it is in violation of the Basic Law amended in 2003, which, in article 30/2, prohibits laws stipulating the immunity of any resolution or administrative work from monitoring by the judiciary. Furthermore, the failure of the Ministers' Council to issue the resolution regarding security safety is considered a violation of the citizens' right to obtain information."

The Secretary General of the Ministers' Council in Ramallah, Salah Aliyan, responded to the matter of the Council's failure to provide the court with the session proceedings thus: "Extraction of the sessions' proceedings and supplying any party with it, including ministers, members of parliament, and judges, must be approved personally by the Prime Minister." He added that he is sure that Fayyad did not refuse to hand over the proceedings and did not violate the law, and that there is no explanation as to why the proceedings were not handed over by the Council at the time, considering the long period of time connected to this incident.

Minister subject to the security agencies

Later, during my review of documents and correspondence from the Ministry of Education in regards to the reasons for firing these employees, letters signed by Minister of Education Lamis Al-Alami indicated that the reason for contract termination is linked to the security agencies', in particular the preventative and intelligence agencies', lack of involvement in the hiring process, which was clearly stated in the two letters dated 22nd July 2011.

Law number 11 for 2007 and number 17 for 2005 relating to the two agencies (intelligence and preventative) limit their duties, in accordance with articles 6, 7, 8, 9 and 12, to work protecting Palestinian national security, carrying out judicial policing duties and adhering to all rights and liberties provided for in the law, whilst refraining from violating them. I could not find anything in the law governing the activities of the two security agencies which indicates that their authority to intervene in hiring or firing the employees of various ministries.

Al-Alami's response to the question of why she signed the termination letters in violation of the law was as follows: "The Ministry received letters from the General Employees' Bureau that indicated the ability to employ and terminate the contracts of employees based on security recommendations. This resulted in the Ministry making their employment decisions based on these letters in adherence to the resolution of the Ministers' Council regarding security safety issued in 2007." However, the Minister admitted that she "later discovered, due to the fact that the High Court ruled in favour of a group of sacked teachers, that the General Employees' Bureau did not have the authority to intervene in employment and termination, and that the authority and responsibility lies only in the hand of the Minister." Despite this, her late realisation did not translate into her immediate retraction of the termination letters that she herself had signed.

Ministers oblivious to their authority

In his comments on the Minister of Education's response, Judge Abu Sharar noted clearly that "the Ministers' unawareness of their authority, as in the case of the teachers fired by the Ministry of Education, is a tragedy greater than the tragedy of the ministries applying the resolutions of the Employees' Bureau, which are based on the recommendations of the security agencies." He noted that the Employees' Bureau exercised hiring and firing powers outside its legal scope of the time, thus violating the powers provided for in the Basic Law of the ministries and the ministers.

JW was one of the teachers who was included in the security clearance process which led to his being fired from work due to what he said was "the injustice of the security clearance and charges of political affiliation". He explained that he, as well as others, was subjected to pressure by the security agencies, most of which stressed the condition of cooperating with these agencies and working with them in exchange for getting their jobs back. He said that the teachers who had been fired refused to do so, due to the impossibility of combining teaching and security work.

However, during the difficult four years that JW has had to live with being unemployed in his profession, he and other teachers were forced to work as street vendors, construction workers or in other jobs not related to their qualifications. This was why they felt the need to appeal to the courts against the termination decisions.

Their experience with the judicial system categorised the teachers into three groups. The first group of about 600 to 800 individuals were those who filed a complaint through human rights institutions and centres. The second group, which had over 200 members, filed their complaints through private lawyers. As for the rest, none filed a complaint because they thought it was useless due to the political nature of the situation and their inability to pay the legal fees, which amounted to about $200 for each case.

According to a poll of the individuals who did file complaints, the courts have only addressed 14 out of hundreds of cases submitted over the 4 year period between 2008 and 2012. In addition to this, the poll indicated that the cases in which the court ruled in favour of the teacher returning to their job, the teacher was only able to do so after a lengthy period of stalling by the authorities. Pressure had to be applied to the Council of Minister through protests and hunger strikes in front of their gates demanding that the court's ruling be enforced.

The actually began after they were told that their reinstatement was being delayed due to a resolution issued by President Mahmoud Abbas on 24th August 2012, which ordered the "stopping of all promotions and appointments until further notice". According to Salah Aliyan and Lamis Al-Alami, the President's resolution was the main reason for the delay in re-appointing the teachers.

"The re-appointment of the employees will take about 2-3 years due to the Palestinian Authority's financial crisis and the President's resolution," insisted Al-Alami. "Moreover, the Ministry still hasn't received the High Court's ruling in regards to the reinstatement of these teachers for it to take any measures in their regards." However, legal experts who met with me confirmed that, according to the ruling of the court, the terminated teachers were no longer terminated and should return to their jobs immediately, as if they hadn't been terminated.

The Minister of Education changed her tune when the sacked teachers were joined by civil society organisations in putting pressure on the ministry: "The Ministry will reinstate everyone who [had their contract] terminated in accordance with the rulings of the High Court as soon as possible." A number of these teachers returned to their jobs as a result of this pressure, although hundreds are still awaiting reinstatement.

Legal expert Ibrahim al-Barghouthi, the Executive Director of the Palestinian Centre for Judicial Independence (Musawa), commented on the 4 year delay in this matter: "The delay in resolving the issue has no legal justification whatsoever. This postponement of litigation for over 4 years is considered negligence of justice, and is a violation of one of the main principles of law, which provides for enabling the citizen to resort to the law in order to reach justice in the quickest way possible, therefore noting that delayed justice undoubtedly equals the negligence of justice."

Furthermore, in regards to executing the rulings of courts, article 106 of the amended Basic Law stipulates that "judicial rulings must be executed, and any failure or delay in doing so is a crime punishable by arrest and removal from office if the offender is a public servant or charged with public service. The accuser has the right to press charges directly to the specialised court, and the national authority guarantees them full compensation."

Security puts pressure on the court

A senior source in the judiciary system, who insisted on anonymity, confirmed that the reasons for the delay of these cases for the past 4 years are the pressures put on the judges from all sides, including political and security sources. Moreover, some of these pressures have come from within the judicial system, a point confirmed by Judge Abu Sharar, who spoke about attempts he fought off to pressure him personally and pressure other judges during his term, which ended in 2009. He also noted that there were "personal relations between a number of judges, politicians and security officials, which he could not put an end to or refuse". He described these relations as "mostly personal".

Another senior official in the Palestinian Authority, who also asked to remain anonymous, said: "The reason for the delay was due to the pressures of the [Hamas-Fatah] division." When asked about what the "pressures of the division" means and the source of these pressures and who was able to exercise power over the law, his answer was to remain silent on such matters, which according to him, were "of a sensitive nature".

As for the polls on judicial integrity, carried out by the Supreme Judicial Council and supervised by USAID in 2009, they revealed that 49 per cent of the judges included in the poll admitted being subjected to pressure from their seniors in the Council, whereas 36 per cent admitted being pressured by politicians. Sixty-two per cent of lawyers believe that judges are subjected to pressures from politicians and security officials.

However, according to Musawa Centre, one of the groups concerned with the independence of judicial agencies, a survey it published in 2012 showed that 54 per cent of the judges who took part confirmed the intervention of executive and security agencies in their work; 86 per cent of the judges respond to such pressures.

Our survey of a sample of 150 citizens from the northern, central, and southern districts of the West Bank, asked for opinions about judicial independence. Sixty-three per cent expressed their belief that the judicial system "is a pawn of the executive agencies and their members, including politicians and security officials through the pressures they put on the judges and their Council." Also, 77 per cent of the surveyed individuals confirmed that pressure from politicians and security officials is altering the course of justice and twisting facts in favour of influential figures on both sides.

Security agencies stalling court rulings

Based on simple calculations and according to statements made by the employees who lost their jobs who each have on average 4 members in their families, we find that about 8,000 individuals have been denied their rights guaranteed by law during their time working in Palestinian Authority facilities, as well as various governmental benefits such as insurance and health care.

Considering the average salary of a teacher is $600 pm, when a ruling is made in favour of the teachers, and in accordance with article 32 of the amended Basic Law, the Palestinian Authority will have to pay compensation for arbitrary termination based on the Palestinian Civil Service Law totalling more than $63 million, which will be borne by the PA treasury. $38 million of this will be for dues for the illegal termination period, and $25 million will be compensation for losses due to the termination of the teachers' contracts. This averages to about $42,000 for each employee, in addition to $250,000 in legal fees.

Role of the Palestinian Authority President

A large number of those included in the teachers' issue are still in limbo, despite the high profile nature of the case.

According to Ibrahim al-Barghouthi, "Following up this case is the responsibility of the Palestinian President, because it has been established that from a legal aspect, the resolutions terminating the employees are illegal and categorised as a huge professional mistake."

Gandhi Al-Rabe'i added that the PA President is called on to "examine the responsibility the law requires, in accordance with the amended Basic Law articles 74, 75, and 76, in terms of accountability and intervention in any resolution that may cause harm from the executive branch and its members. Moreover, its members bear the responsibility of neglecting this, both collectively and individually, both personally and morally. In addition to this, the PA must commit to carrying out the ruling as soon as possible and reinstating the terminated teachers, as well as paying all compensation due as a result of their job terminations, in accordance with the court ruling in their favour."

]]> (Middle East Monitor) Reports and Publications Tue, 12 Mar 2013 13:00:00 +0000
Full report on the condition of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails Full report on the condition of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jailsPalestinian prisoners in Israeli jails

The number of Palestinian prisoners and detainees in Israeli prisons and detention centres has reached 4,750 people from every sector of Palestinian society. The majority (82.5 per cent) are residents of the West Bank, 9.6 per cent are from the Gaza Strip, and the rest are from Jerusalem and those living in the areas of Palestine occupied in 1948 now known as Israel. They are spread around 17 prisons and detention centres, the most well-known of which are Al-Naqab, Ofer, Nafha, Gilbo'a, Shata, Ramon, Askalan, Hadarim, Eshel, Ohalei Kedar, HaSharon, Ramla and Megiddo.

Of the total, 186 are in "administrative detention" without charge and 13 are women, the oldest of which is Lina Al-Jarbouni from the 1948 occupied territories, who has been in jail for 11 years. Moreover, there are 198 children under the age 18, 25 of whom are under the age of 16, as well as 12 elected members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), 3 former ministers and a large number of Palestinian officials.

Violations against prisoners

Palestinian prisoners are often denied visitors, put in solitary confinement and kept under so-called administrative detention, which means that they are being held without charge or trial. Furthermore, they are subjected to numerous strip searches, denied education opportunities, prohibited from having books, given small servings of low quality food and facing frequent day and night searches. In addition, the prisons lack basic necessities and have adopted a policy of official medical negligence, especially in the case of those with chronic illnesses and those who need operations while imprisoned. This includes prisoners with cancer, heart problems, kidney disease, arthritis, high blood pressure, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, haemorrhoids, obesity and ulcers; they receive very little in the way of care.

Sick prisoners

The number of prisoners suffering ill-health has reached 1,400 with a variety of conditions resulting from the difficult conditions behind bars, including abuse and malnutrition. These prisoners do not receive essential health care. What is worse is that dozens of prisoners also suffer from mobility, mental and sensory disabilities, in addition to those suffering from dangerous and chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, kidney failure and paralysis.

Furthermore, there are 18 prisoners permanently held in what is called "Ramla Hospital", some of whom cannot move due to the continued neglect of the prison administration and the failure to provide the necessary healthcare and treatment.

Elderly prisoners

There are 106 elderly prisoners who have been imprisoned since before the Oslo Accords and the establishment of the Palestinian National Authority on May 4, 1994. This list includes prisoners from all the Palestinian municipalities, the majority of whom, 57, are from the West Bank; 26 are from the Gaza Strip, 14 are from the 1948 occupied territories and 9 are from occupied Jerusalem.

The list includes 71 prisoners who have served over 20 years; they are called the "deans" of the prisoners. Those who have served over 25 years are called "generals of patience", of which there are 24. Unfortunately, these figures are rising as the years go by. Two of these prisoners, Kareem and hunger striker Maher Younis, from the village of 'Ar'ara, occupied in 1948, have served over 30 years.

Torture and martyrs of the national prisoner movement

Every prisoner entering an Israeli prison will already have experienced various forms of mental and physical torture. The abuse begins at the moment of arrest, accompanied by the fear and horror experienced by their families, as the Israelis purposely highlight their brutality and abuse of the detainee in front of the family and children. Moreover, the Israeli occupation forces deliberately insult and hit detainees before taking them from their homes. This is then followed by death threats, exile, house demolitions, violations, the arresting of prisoners' wives, having heads covered with filthy bags, sleep deprivation, lack of medical treatment, using cuts during interrogation, placing the detainee in a refrigerator, keeping detainees standing for long periods, using spies posing as prisoners, psychological distress, the use of plastic restraints, pouring cold or hot water over the prisoner's head, using very loud music, forbidding prisoners from performing religious rituals and stripping prisoners.

In their cells, prisoners are forbidden from using normal toilets, being given buckets instead which cause unpleasant smells and are a health risk. They are abused severely and their hands are tied behind small chairs or to moving tile in order to weaken their spines; they are often forced into such uncomfortable positions for hours, even days. In addition to this, prisoners have their heads shaken vigorously, which may lead to paralysis, permanent disability or even death. The most dangerous of all such torture is the use of blunt instruments to hit prisoners during interrogation which has led to numerous deaths.

What happened to Arafat Jaradat after suffering brutal torture during his interrogation in Al-Julma Prison, known to Palestinians as "Al-Julma slaughterhouse", is clear evidence of the Israelis' disregard for the lives of Palestinian prisoners. More than two hundred Palestinians have died as a result of such treatment; 71 died due to abuse, 51 due to medical negligence, 74 were murder ed immediately after their arrest and 7 were shot inside detention centres.

Martyrs of the "cemeteries of numbers"

Israel is the only state in the world which keeps the remains of dead prisoners; it refuses to hand over the remains of martyrs who have been in the "cemeteries of numbers" since 1978, such as Dalal Al-Maghrabi. Furthermore, dozens of prisoners' bodies are held by the Israelis in conditions which do not observe human dignity for the deceased. This is entirely in breach of international humanitarian law, which requires occupying powers such as Israel to hand over the remains of dead prisoners to their families and to respect religious requirements for burial.

Administrative detainees

There are about 186 prisoners held in administrative detention with neither charge nor trial. Such prisoners are held on the basis of secret evidence that neither the prisoner nor their lawyer is shown. The detention order can be renewed indefinitely by a military court.

Hunger strikers

There are 11 prisoners currently on hunger strike; 2 of them, Samer Al-Issawi and Ayman Sharawneh, have been on strike for over 6 months in protest at their re-arrest after being released in the prisoner exchange for the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Ja'afar Ezzedine and Tarik Qa'adan have been on strike for 92 days in protest at their administrative detention based on secret evidence, in addition to the fact that they have not been charged. Mona Qa'adan has been on hunger strike for 6 days in solidarity with her brother Tarik, and the doyen of all Palestinian and Arab prisoners, Maher Younis, has been on political strike. Prisoners Ayman Saqar, Omar Dar Ayoub, Sufyan Rabe'e, Hazem Al-Taweel and Younis Al-Horoub have all been on hunger strike in protest at the administrative detention process.

Ex-prisoners re-arrested after the prisoner exchange agreement

Mona Qa'adan from Jenin, Ayman Al-Sharawneh from Hebron, Samer Al-Issawi from Jerusalem, Eyad Fanoun from Bethlehem, Ali Juma'a from Hebron, Ibrahim Abu-Hajleh from Ramallah, Yousef Shitewi from Qalqiliya, Ayman Abu-Daud from Hebron and Abdulrahman Dahbour from Qalqilya have all been re-arrested after being released in the prisoner exchange agreement.

Female prisoners

There are 13 female Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons; the oldest is Lina Jarbouni from the 1948 occupied territories, who was detained 11 years ago. Her fellow female prisoners are Mona Qa'adan, Nawal Al-Sa'adi, Asma Al-Batran, Manal Zawahreh, Ena'am Al-Hasanat, Intisar Al-Sayed, Ala'a Abu-Zaytoun, Ala'a Al-Jua'aba, Hadeel Abu-Turki, Salwa Hassan, Ayat Mahfouth and Eman Bani Odeh.

Violations against female prisoners

The Israeli authorities commit dozens of violations against female prisoners in their prisons, the most prominent of which are the brutal manner of their arrest in front of their families and young children; physical and mental interrogation methods; the prevention of them from seeing their children; medical negligence towards pregnant prisoners; physical restraints during childbirth; punishments during imprisonment, such as isolation and force; detaining them in inappropriate places; provocative searches by prison officers; insults, assaults and the use of tear gas. Furthermore, they are treated badly when taken out for court appearances or family visits or even during transfer from one prison section to another. They are occasionally denied visits. During isolation periods political prisoners are often mixed with criminals, and the needs of the prisoners' children are not met.


The number of child prisoners held by Israel has reached 198. They are subject to outrageous violations that breach all international laws and conventions for the protection of minors and to secure their physical, psychological and educational rights. Such conventions insist on contact with family members and counsellors who guide them and ensure that they are dealt with by the authorities as children and not terrorists. The latter is all too often the case.

Furthermore, young prisoners suffer from a lack of healthcare, as well as cultural and psychological care and an absence of counsellors in Israeli jails. They are also held near criminals in most cases, and are terrorised and harassed during the arrest process.

Solitary confinement

Isolation is considered to be one of the harshest forms of punishment used by the Israeli prison administration. Prisoners are held in isolated, dark and very small spaces for lengthy periods and are not allowed to have contact with other prisoners.

Prisoners in solitary confinement suffer under unbearably miserable conditions. They are denied of the most basic human rights, being beaten and humiliated daily. The cells they are held in have been described as graves; some prisoners have spent long years in such confinement, leading to serious mental and physical illnesses. Prisoners held by Israel in solitary confinement for many years include Darar Abu-Seesi, Samer Abu-Kwaik, Tamer Al-Remawi, Awad Al-Saeedi and Emad Sarhan.

]]> (Raafat Hamdouneh & Abdul Nasser Farawneh) Reports and Publications Thu, 28 Feb 2013 17:30:00 +0000
Palestinians are losing the economic battle in the occupied Jordan Valley Occupied Jordan valleyThe Jordan Valley is part of the occupied West Bank and lies along the border between Palestine and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. It is at the centre of a silent Palestinian-Israel battle over fertile land, wells and underground water cisterns. The latter are crucial for Israel's fruit and vegetable production and export. 

It is obvious to anyone visiting the area that Israel is occupying almost every inch of the land, which accounts for about 25 per cent of the West Bank. However, the "Battle of the Jordan Valley" is not limited to land, but also to the economic conflict, which the Palestinians are still losing by all accounts. The reasons are simple: Israel's Judaisation policies, neglect by official Palestinian institutions and the fear that Palestinian agricultural companies and investors will risk their profits if they sink their full investment potential into the area.

Illegal Israeli settlers are provided with many incentives by the Israeli government, including agricultural facilities, tax exemptions up to 50 per cent of the total cost of farms, crop insurance protection and export opportunities. Their goods are also promoted through local and international agricultural fairs backed by the Israeli Ministry of Agriculture.

In stark contrast, Palestinian farmers, especially those with limited investment potential, live in constant fear of assaults by Israeli settlers and the army. They receive no compensation for loss of crops due to adverse weather conditions or vandalism since the Palestinian Authority does not provide any insurance cover.

Indeed, the PA continues to avoid the issues of tax exemptions and material incentives for farmers, who have started to move away from farming towards other businesses as a result of the lack of support. Statistics provided by the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture confirm that the agricultural proportion of the Palestinian GDP fell from 23 per cent in 1994 to only 4 per cent by the end of 2012.

To make matters worse, Palestinian residents of the Jordan Valley, as well as their homes, tents, cattle and crops, face daily risks from 10,000 illegal settlers who live in various agricultural settlement-colonies established and expanding on Palestinian land. Even Palestinian water sources are not safe. According to Khaldoun Al-Dari, a resident of the village of Al-Fasail, Israel sees the Jordan Valley as one big ground and underground water supply with which to irrigate the fields. Expropriation of the water sources underpins Israel's export of thousands of tons worth of fruit and vegetables.

Al-Dari points out that Israel's ethnic cleansing of the Valley area includes the destruction of homes by the settlers; his home has been destroyed three times by settlers who also killed 15 of his sheep and confiscated his land planted with vegetables for household consumption. He also said that he is followed constantly, “wherever I go".

A few metres away from Al-Dari's house, young Hassan Ramadan has re-pitched his tent, for the fourth time, on what is left of his land after the Israeli occupation authorities confiscated most of it for one of the farms seized by a settler in 2008. “This settler seized dozens of acres belonging to Palestinians," said Ramadan. “They took over my land and filled my well with dirt; I used to irrigate my crops and provide my family with drinking water from it." Ramadan described how he lives with the sound of water flowing underneath his land in pipes he cannot access; he has to buy water and transfer it in a tank.

A few hundred metres from the Palestinian tents and tin huts lie vast settlement farms guarded by Israeli military checkpoints and soldiers who criss-cross the land constantly. These agricultural settlements have turned into an important economic base for the Israeli occupation; they are no longer confined to producing fruit and vegetables, but are large farms for animal breeding, poultry, dairy and cheese products and the packaging necessary for agricultural goods to be exported.

According to Israel's Ministry of Agriculture, there are now around 250 agricultural and livestock production factories in the Jordan Valley settlements. Together, their turnover is worth half a billion US dollars.

In some areas of the Jordan Valley, some agricultural companies maintain, albeit on a limited basis, a Palestinian presence. They produce goods such as greenhouses and packaging for export purposes.

According to the Chairman and Director General of Sinokrot Global Group, Mazen Sinokrot, whose investment in the Jordan Valley is valued at around $25 million, despite the existence of generally humble Palestinian agricultural units in the area there are serious attempts to exploit the land for national, political and economic purposes.

Sinokrot, though, is critical of the Palestinian Authority's economic policies, which he described as unclear. “In practice, the PA does not have a strong presence in the Jordan Valley; international donors, including the Americans and the European Union, have more power in the Jordan Valley than the PA."

He stressed that investment in the Jordan Valley is profitable. “Despite the obstacles imposed by the Israeli occupation in terms of the availability of land and water, and logistic hindrances relating to exports," he added, “our agricultural investment in the Jordan Valley alone has brought in about $8 million."

]]> (Mohammad Abdullah) Reports and Publications Thu, 28 Feb 2013 12:45:00 +0000
Beit Hanoun Crossing... a trap to detain Gazans Beit Hanoun Crossing... a trap to detain GazansThe Beit Hanoun Crossing, called "Erez" by the Israeli Occupation Forces, has become a trap to catch Palestinians requiring treatment in Israeli or Palestinian Hospitals in the West Bank and Jerusalem, as the crossing, which is only open for humanitarian cases, has become a means of catching and arresting Gazans.

The crossing is located in the far north of the Gaza Strip, connecting the Strip to the Palestinian territories occupied in 1948. It is a mandatory passageway for anyone wanting to travel from Gaza to Israel or the West Bank and only those with humanitarian cases that have received permission in advance are allowed to pass through.

Officials and human rights activists say that the crossing has become a means used by the Israeli authorities to detain Palestinians after granting them permits to pass through. It has also become a place to force Gazans to deal with Israeli intelligence.

Rami Riyad Al-Tayeb (32 years old) who is from Jabaliya, a town in north Gaza, applied for a permit to visit his mother living in the West Bank. Nearly 2 months after submitting his application, he received Israeli approval.

Detention and Interrogation

Al-Tayeb said that he arrived to the Beit Hanoun crossing last Tuesday afternoon with his brother Mohammad (23 years old). After three hours of waiting, he and his brother were detained and separated. Rami was released on Wednesday night, whereas his brother Mohammad is still detained.

Rami told Al-Jazeera Net that an investigator from the Israeli intelligence questioned him at the crossing, and was then taken to the Askalan Detention Centre, where he was roughed up, cursed at, continuously insulted, and was without food.

He also said that the Israeli intelligence officer tried to appear as if he knew everything about Rami, his family, and Gaza, and wanted to verify what he had heard about Gaza. However, according to his testimony to Al-Jazeera, Rami said that he treated him "with arrogance and refused anything the investigator said."

The Israeli investigators charged Rami with "suspicion of working against Israeli security", but were unable to prove the charges despite the extensive questioning carried out by several investigators, as well as the strip search through x-ray machines at the crossing and detention centre.

As for his father, Riyad, he told Al-Jazeera that his son Mohammad, who is still detained, suffers from a mental illness and has seizures and increased electrical activity in his brain. He is calling for his immediate release due to his health condition as well as the fact that he has no ties with any organization.

Moreover, Riyad Al-Tayeb, who has been detained by the occupation forces, pointed out that Israel granted his sons permission to pass to the West Bank to see their mother, then detained them and kept one in jail, stating that it would have been better for Israel to prohibit them from travelling instead of detaining them.

On his part, the Head of the Fieldwork Unit at Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, Sameer Zaqout, said that the Beit Hanoun Crossing is a trap for Palestinians. After the Occupation Forces issue a permit for Palestinians to pass through, they detain and interrogate them.

Detention and Extortion

Zaqout added that the Al-Mezan Centre has followed and documented a number of arrests as well as the extortion of travellers, especially those who are ill, along with their companions.

He also noted that permit applicants are called in for security interviews at the crossing, and are usually detained and blackmailed into cooperating with the occupation or told to go back and die in Gaza. He considers the crossing a weapon to blackmail travellers.

Moreover, the Palestinian human rights activist pointed out that the Israeli occupation Forces have gone too far in violating the human rights of Palestinians, which is evident in its exemption from legal obligations imposed by the international humanitarian law, especially the Fourth Geneva Convention.

He also stressed that the occupation policy at the crossing casts a psychological, social, and physical damper on travellers, the majority of who are patients that Gaza hospitals do not have the means to treat. He emphasized that Israel, as an occupying force, is required to ensure the respect of Palestinian rights of health care, as well as the freedom of movement and travel. 

Source: Al Jazeera net

]]> (Al Jazeera net) Reports and Publications Mon, 11 Feb 2013 18:45:00 +0000
PLO report gives details of 266 Palestinians killed by Israel in 2012 PLO report gives details of 266 Palestinians killed by Israel in 2012The Palestine Liberation Organisation's Department of International Relations has issued a brief report giving details of the 266 Palestinians killed by Israel in 2012. Israeli violations against the Palestinian people and their property last year include 2,300 who were wounded and 3,000 who were detained. Notable issues covered in the report are the following:

i. Israel's violation of the right to life

In 2012, the so-called Israel Defence Forces (IDF) killed 266 Palestinians, including 60 children and a number of women. Of those, 170 people, including 49 children, were killed during Israel's military offensive ("Operation Pillar of Clouds") against civilians in Gaza last November. The attack took the lives of entire families, the most notable of which was the Al-Dalou family which lost 14 members in one bombing. Around 2,300 Palestinians were wounded in the past year, again mostly due to Israel's recent attack on the Gaza Strip. Those wounded in the occupied West Bank received their injuries through the Israelis' suppression of popular Palestinian resistance marches against the Apartheid Wall, land confiscation and settlement activities.

ii. Israeli attacks on journalists

The PLO report gives details of the many Israeli violations against journalists as they tried to cover the occupation and its effects. Three Palestinian journalists were among those killed by the Israelis in 2012: Mahmoud El-Komy, Hossam Salama and Mohamed Abu Aisha all lost their lives in Israel's Gaza offensive in November. Journalists have also been injured as they covered Israel's military actions in Gaza and suppression of popular protests in the occupied West Bank. In addition, media organisations have had premises and equipment destroyed and confiscated, and their staff members arrested.

iii. Palestinian prisoners

Israel detained more than 3,000 Palestinians in 2012, a year in which prisoners in Israeli jails went on hunger strike a number of times, individually and in mass protests against administrative detention and conditions in prisons. The year also witnessed an escalation in the oppressive measures taken by the Israeli authorities against Palestinian detainees.

iv. Israel's destruction of trees

Israeli soldiers and illegal settlers uprooted, destroyed, damaged and burnt more than 7,700 fruit-bearing trees, mostly olive trees, in 2012. Settlers not only uprooted trees but also stole them, replanting them in their illegal settlements. Most of the destruction and theft of olive trees took place around Hebron in the occupied West Bank.

v. Israel's demolition of Palestinian homes and infrastructure

In 2012, the Israeli occupation authorities demolished 2,100 Palestinian homes and other structures, including residential buildings and tents. Farm buildings, wells and industrial units were also targeted.

More than 1,800 homes and structures were raided and demolished during the war on the Gaza Strip in November; these included residential blocks, mosques, graves, governmental and security premises, educational institutions, media bureaus, charity buildings, power grids, bridges, hotels, banks, hospitals, health centres, sport clubs, factories and craft workshops. The Israelis also persecuted Palestinian citizens in rural areas, especially in the Jordan Valley, the Bedouin areas around it and in south Hebron district; it deported citizens from those areas and demolished their homes. The number of house demolitions rose in the suburbs of occupied East Jerusalem.

vi. Israel's illegal settlements

The report revealed that the Israelis issued 26,000 construction orders for new settlement units, in flagrant defiance of international law under which such settlements are illegal and thus condemned. The PLO has provided information on Israel's confiscation of around 3,000 acres of Palestinian-owned land to be used for settlement expansion and work related to the Apartheid Wall.

vii. Judaising Jerusalem:

Israel continues to implement its Judaisation policies in occupied Jerusalem, aimed at the people and Palestinian landmarks and buildings of religious significance. Around 18,000 new settlement units have been approved in Jerusalem. Checkpoints restrict Palestinian movement into, out of and within the city. The sanctity of Islamic and Christian sites has been violated by Israelis throughout the year, including racist slogans written on places of worship by Jewish settlers; even graves have been desecrated.

Israeli courts have issued demolition and eviction orders against Palestinians and their homes across Jerusalem. The occupation authority's ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the city has seen many lose their homes and resident permits, as well as being fined and imprisoned.

]]> (Middle East Monitor) Reports and Publications Tue, 22 Jan 2013 20:30:56 +0000
Meshaal confirms, "Netanyahu requested ceasefire" Download Report

Meshaal confirms, "Netanyahu requested ceasefire"The head of Hamas's Political Bureau has claimed that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu requested a ceasefire through the Americans, Europeans and Egyptians. Khaled Meshaal was quoted as saying that Netanyahu asked several parties to mediate with Hamas to reach an end to Israel's military operation. Predictably, a senior Israeli official denied Meshaal's claim.

"Israel is ready for a ground operation in Gaza," said the anonymous official, "and it wants to overthrow Hamas." He accused Hamas of trying to save face and appear victorious before its people and the Arab world. A reader of Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth wrote in to suggest that the Israeli government is "tormented by how to emerge from the Gaza operation with a sense of victory". If true - and it probably is, given past experience   then the official's claim about Hamas reflects Israel's own need to "save face" after much hard-line rhetoric over the past week.

Meshaal acknowledged that the Israelis are ready and able to carry out a ground operation in Gaza, but he insisted that the occupation forces "know that it would not be a picnic". The possibility of young Israeli conscripts going home in body bags is not something that any Israeli commander or politician will relish.

Speaking at a press conference in Cairo, Meshaal said that the people of Palestine may not like the idea of a ground operation but they do not fear it. "Our fighters do not have much in the way of weapons," he added, "but they have a strong will." He noted that the Palestinian resistance in Gaza has an Operations Room, of which he is very proud. "Nevertheless, the side which started the war should stop it on our conditions."

Commenting on the reaction of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and the lands occupied in 1948 (Israel), Meshaal said: "I am proud of what our people have done. They will be doing the same as the people of Gaza soon."

On Fatah and national reconciliation

The Hamas leader described the national split between Hamas and Fatah as "the work of Satan" and called the two groups "brothers". He expressed his hope that reconciliation will be possible through the efforts of the new Egyptian government. "We hope to unite on the grounds of resistance and principles, not around concessions."

Meshaal said the latest aggression presents an historic opportunity to achieve unity; that Fatah and Hamas are brothers; and that they should unite with one point of reference and adhere to the national constants and resistance. There should be a new Palestinian programme in the light of the Arab Spring.

He called for a strategic reassessment by Palestinians and Arabs that is consistent with the new realities in the region and that they should raise the level of their political demands and aspirations to match the spirit of the Arab Spring.

A new beginning

Mr. Meshaal appreciated the apparent sympathy of the Egyptian regime, noting that Prime Minister Hisham Kandil's visit to Gaza last week was a sign of the change in Cairo, just as the visit of the Tunisian delegation reflected positive changes in Tunis. He called for the Arabs to review all the previous reconciliation initiatives and said that he had spoken to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. "The situation today under the new Egyptian and other Arab regimes is different," he said. "The Arabs now own their decisions."

Calling on free people around the world to stand with the Palestinians in Gaza, Meshaal condemned the support given to Israel by Western leaders. "How can they back Israel as it kills women and children in the name of 'self-defence'?" he asked.

Addressing those in the West he said, "Your future interest in the region will be guaranteed by the people of the region; by the legitimacy of the region."

His comments were made before the announcement that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is breaking off from Barack Obama's Asian tour to visit "Jerusalem, Ramallah and Cairo" in an effort to broker a ceasefire. America, of course, is no neutral honest broker in this asymmetric conflict, and it has already been noted that Mrs Clinton is going to Ramallah and not Gaza, the target of the latest aggression. The democratically-elected Hamas ministers are, it seems, still personae non gratae, even though their agreement is, by definition, essential for a ceasefire to work.

Sinai and the Rafah Crossing

When questioned about the Rafah border crossing, Khaled Meshaal pointed out that discussions about its status and opening times were ongoing before the latest Israeli aggression. He hopes that it will operate like any normal crossing between two countries so that the Palestinians can stop using tunnels to smuggle basic necessities like food.

With regards to the suggestion that Palestinians could move from Gaza to Sinai, Meshaal said that Sinai is Egyptian territory and is not a viable alternative for Gaza. The war against the Palestinians will not, he insisted, succeed in driving them from Gaza, their own land of which they are proud.

Download Report

]]> (Middle East Monitor) Reports and Publications Tue, 20 Nov 2012 11:00:00 +0000
An upgrade of the EU-Israel Trade Agreement demands conditions An upgrade of the EU-Israel Trade Agreement demands conditionsThe EU move to upgrade formally its Association Agreement [EUIAA] with Israel, giving the latter even greater preferential access to European markets, has come under criticism since its announcement in late July. The "special status" this confers would not only cement stronger trade and business ties, but would also bolster scientific, political and cultural links. It would likewise provide Israel with greater scope for collaborative and cooperative activities within the EU, input into key regional policies and greater access to European funding.

As such, there has been an increased recent focus and concern over Israel's human rights record within its borders and the Arab territories it occupies, as well as "its basic inconsistence with the legal requirements of Article Two of the EUIAA". The EU-Israel agreement stipulates that Israel's internal and international policies must be guided by international law, human rights and democracy. Any upgrade demands that strict conditions in this respect be met.

Following UN contentions that it had committed war crimes and possible crimes against humanity during its assault on the Gaza Strip in 2008/9, Israel came in breach of the EUIAA agreement and the European Neighbourhood Policy and a previous agreement upgrade was suspended. This is in addition to Israel's perpetual violation of basic human rights and international law as a result of its on-going military occupation. Abuses include severe curtailment of the indigenous people's freedom of movement, racially segregated by-pass roads, arbitrary home demolitions and aggressive expansionism and settlement. Within the state itself, Israel's Arab citizens endure inequality in rights and services under a growing plethora of discriminatory laws.

With the 2010 Turkish ‘Freedom Flotilla' tragedy and the fiasco which the leaked Palestine Papers exposed "peace negotiations" to be, Israel's pronounced disregard for international law and opinion is now more palpable among Europeans than ever before. Furthermore, the results of a pioneering recent study into changing European public perceptions of the Israel-Palestine Conflict suggest that a shift in European policy-making away from an imbalanced support for Israeli interests over those of Palestinians is necessary in order to bring it more in line with European public opinion.

So how does the EU justify its decision to upgrade the agreement with Israel?

It is self-evident and historically demonstrable that upgrading the EUIAA cannot and will not influence Israeli policy on human rights and democracy. Increased cooperation and benefits can only serve to legitimise discriminatory policies and reinforce the belief that Israel can continue its illegal occupation with impunity. Moreover, it will create a clear dichotomy between EU policy and action, and the potential for adverse consequences with political, economic and security dimensions.

It is the EU's responsibility to apply conditionality in its relationship with Israel in accordance with the EUIAA and the evolving views and wishes of a growing segment of the population served by Members of the European Parliament. By leveraging further cooperation and benefit and making it contingent upon formal compliance and commitment to international laws, norms and expectations, it is within Europe's power to further a peaceful and more expeditious resolution to the Palestine-Israel conflict.

This was first published in TheHouse Magazine on October 2012. Volume 36

]]> (Zulaikha Abdullah) Reports and Publications Thu, 25 Oct 2012 17:30:00 +0000