Palestinian statehood recognized by more than 100 countries

PARIS — At least 112 countries around the world have formally recognized Palestine as a state, stretching from Africa to Asia, Europe to Latin America.

In Latin America, Uruguay and Peru joined the growing ranks of countries which recognized Palestine this year, with 12 out of the region’s 13 countries formally recognizing it as a state.

Only Colombia, a key ally of the United States in the region, has not followed that path.

In Central America, the Palestinian state has been recognized by Cuba, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador.

Arab countries have also recognized Palestine, including Syria in July of this year.

In Europe, Iceland has become the latest country to recognize Palestine, joining the Czech Republic, Hungary, Malta and Poland.

Around 150 countries maintain diplomatic relations with the Palestinians in one form or another.

Palestine currently has “observer” status at the United Nations, but in September, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas formally asked the United Nations for full state membership.

In October, Palestine was granted full membership at the UN cultural organization, UNESCO, in a diplomatic victory won despite stiff resistance from the United States and Israel.

Earlier this week, Abbas urged the European Union to support their UN membership bid after the Palestinian flag was raised over the UNESCO’s headquarters for the first time.

Figures published by the Palestine Liberation Organisation indicate that 130 countries have recognized Palestine.

Icelandic foreign minister Oessur Skarphedinsson, at a ceremony in Reykjavik with Palestinian counterpart Riad Malki, addressed Malki directly: “This is the day I formally submit to you the declaration of Palestine independence in accordance with the will of the Icelandic parliament.”

Malki hailed the decision.

“It’s significant because [Iceland] belongs to Europe and it’s very important that this might create a very positive atmosphere for others to follow suit,” he told AFP.

The two also announced the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Nordic island nation and the Palestinians.

“There will be an ambassador from Iceland that will present his credentials to the Palestinians, a non-resident, and … we are contemplating the possibility of appointing an honorary consul, an Icelander, here for the time being,” Malki said.

Thursday’s ceremony at the Reykjavik Culture House follows two years of preparations and a vote in the Icelandic parliament, or Allthingi, on November 29 in favour of recognizing the Palestinian state on the borders that existed before the 1967 Middle East war.

It also comes two days after the Palestinian flag was raised for the first time above a United Nations agency, flying over the UNESCO headquarters in Paris as Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas attended a ceremony marking his people’s historic admission to the education, science and culture body.

Admission to UNESCO has however had no impact on the Palestinians’ bid for full UN membership. They would need nine votes out of 15 in the Security Council, but the United States has made clear that it would veto the bid if needed.

“It was quite important for them at this point in time,” Skarphedinsson told AFP.

“They have had setbacks in the Security Council and that is why we thought it would be right not to wait, but to go ahead now and I hope it will put some wind in their sails,” he added, pointing out that “it is very symbolic for them that a Western European nation, which is also in NATO, should at this moment step forward and recognise the sovereignty of Palestine.”

“The timing was perfect,” Malki agreed, pointing out that “it comes after a dry season” in terms of new recognitions of the Palestinian state.

More than 100 countries around the world have recognised the Palestinian state.

Within the European Union, of which Iceland is not yet a member, the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Malta have officially recognised Palestine.

Asked whether the latest recognition could help move the Middle East peace process forward, Malki said: “I hope so.”

While stressing that “for the time being there is no peace process,” the Palestinian foreign minister said he hoped the recognition would help put pressure on Israel to “rethink again how to approach the peace process in a very positive manner this time.”

Skarphedinsson meanwhile said he was sure Iceland’s decision carried weight.

“I noted that Iceland’s vote and Iceland’s determination on Palestine’s admittance to UNESCO mattered in a few places, so I’d like to hope that this will help,” he told AFP.

(news.nationalpost.com / 15.12.2011)

Where Hearts and Souls Meet

Written by Ghada Khafagy

kabahI was once asked by a tourist at Al-Fateh Mosque in Bahrain: “Why do you Muslims pray towards the east? God is not in the east!” I smiled and said, “Here in Bahrain we pray towards the west.”

So why do Muslims pray in a certain direction? And what is the cubic-shaped black structure in Makkah? And why is Makkah sacred to Muslims?

Muslims all over the globe pray towards a mosque in Makkah. The Qur’an talks about Bakkah (the name of a valley in Makkah) being the location of the first house of worship appointed for humanity (Qur’an 3:96-97). By praying to God towards Makkah, Muslims join other fellow Muslims praying elsewhere in the world in human circles all worshiping God towards the same spiritual center. If you look at the Valley of Bakkah from the air, you will see the physical circles of Muslims praying around a cubic-shaped black structure, known as the Ka’bah. The Ka’bah is the mosque believed by Muslims to be the first house of worship. In every prayer Muslims say to God: You Alone we worship and You Alone we ask for help (Qur’an 1:5). The word we indicates that a Muslim is not praying alone even if he/she is praying individually because Muslims are spiritually connected to others praying with them towards the same spiritual center.kabah

Geographically and because they pray towards Makkah, Muslims all over the world worship God in every direction of the globe: to the North, to the South, to the East, to the West, to the North West, to the North East, to the South East and to the South West. Muslims who do not know the direction towards Makkah can pray in any direction. “To God belong the east and the west,” states the Qur’an (2:115 & 142). In the same chapter of the Qur’an we read:

Righteousness is not that you turn your faces toward the east or the west, but (true) righteousness is one who believes in God, the Last Day, the angels, the Scripture and the prophets and gives wealth – in spite of love for it – to relatives, orphans, the needy, the wayfarer, those who ask (for help), and for freeing the slaves; (and who) establishes prayer and gives zakah; (those who) fulfill their promise when they promise; and (those who) are patient in tribulation and adversity and times of stress. Those are the ones who are sincere, and it is those who are the righteous. (2:177)

The Ka’bah is not a black building; it is covered with black cloth. It has a door but no windows. No one is buried in the Ka’bah; it is a prayer room not a tomb. A Muslim praying inside the Ka’bah can pray in any direction.

The Ka’bah was rebuilt several times. Muslims believe that the most important person who rebuilt the Ka’bah was Prophet Abraham together with his son Ishmael (Qur’an 2:125-129). An original part of the outer walls of the Ka’bah is the Black Stone, believed by Muslims to have come to the Earth with Adam or before he descended. Muslims do not believe that the Black Stone is divine or has any healing or other special powers.
Jews praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem do not worship the wall or the bricks. Similarly, for Muslims the Ka’bah does not symbolize God; it is just a sacred building that unifies Muslims around it. Muslims believe that God chose certain places on the Earth to be sacred places; one of them is Makkah and another is Jerusalem. According to the Bible, Daniel prayed to God towards Jerusalem. Both Makkah and Jerusalem are linked to God’s prophets and have had very old houses of worship.

kabahThe annual pilgrimage to Makkah is an obligation once in a lifetime for those who are physically and financially able to perform it. Millions of Muslims with different backgrounds, languages, colors, races, nationalities and cultures, male and female, meet in Makkah in the world’s largest international gathering known as the Hajj. The purpose of this meeting is to worship God, the Almighty, together. Pilgrims are dressed in very simple clothing that removes the differences between the rich and the poor. For many, the Hajj is a life-changing experience. Malcolm X, the famous African American Muslim activist who lived at a time when America was torn by racism, came back from Makkah with totally different convictions. The Hajj had a profound effect on his perspective on race and racism and he wrote in one of his letters: “There were tens of thousands of pilgrims, from all over the world. They were of all colors, from blue-eyed blondes to black-skinned Africans. But we were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe never could exist between the white and non-white.”

Muslim pilgrims raise their voice as they chant together the following words over and over: 

Here I come (for your service) O God. Here I come.
Here I come. There is no partner with You. Here I come.
Verily Yours is the Praise, the Blessing and Sovereignty.
There is no partner beside You.

Interestingly, we read in the Bible (Psalms 84:4-6) words referring to pilgrims who praise God in the Valley of Baca:

Blessed are those who dwell in your house.
They are ever praising you.
Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
Who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the valley of Baca,
They make it a spring.
The early rain also covers it with blessings.

The following verses also appear in Isaiah 42:11-12:

Let the wilderness and its cities lift up their voices,
The settlements where Kedar inhabits.
Let the inhabitants of the rock sing.
Let them shout from the tops of the mountains.
Let them give glory to the Lord and declare His praise in the coastlands.

The rituals of the Hajj – that started centuries before the birth of Prophet Muhammad – remind the pilgrims of the events that took place in the Valley of Bakkah which are mainly related to Abraham, Ishmael and his mother Hagar. According to the Bible, Abraham was ordered by God to take his first son Ishmael and his mother Hagar – Abraham’s second wife – away from where he lived with his first wife Sarah (Genesis 16 & 21). According to the Qur’an, the place where he left them is the Valley of Bakkah (Qur’an 14:37 & 3:96-97). Hagar asked Abraham why he was leaving her in this deserted valley. When he gave her no answer she asked, “Has God ordered you to do so?” Abraham said yes and Hagar in complete faith and trust in God responded, “Then He will not abandon us.” Later, Hagar ran out of water and was worried about the life of her son Ishmael (Genesis 21). According to the Islamic version of the story, she could not endure looking at her thirsty son so she left him and headed towards a hill. She stood on the hill and looked searching for any passing traveler. When she could not see anybody, she descended, crossed the valley and reached another hill but could not see anyone. She kept on running between the hills until she saw an angel who struck the earth and to Hagar’s surprise, the water gushed out. This water later came to be known as the Well of Zamzam. This agrees to a large extent with the Biblical version:

God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.” Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink. (Genesis 21:17-19)

As the pilgrims hasten between the two hills of as-Safa and al-Marwah, they remember Hagar’s search for water and they are also reminded of the high position of women in Islam. As the pilgrims drink the water of Zamzam, they are reminded of another lesson: what to do in times of difficulty. Hagar trusted God, but she also took action and did her best searching for water. The solution to her problem (the water) did not come because of her work; rather it came from God but only when she took action. Therefore, Muslims learn to do their best and at the same time trust God. Faith and deeds are always combined in Islam.

The blessed water of Zamzam brought Bedouins who settled around the well and a few years later Abraham returned to Makkah and started rebuilding the first house of worship appointed for humanity with the help of his first son Ishmael. According to the Qur’an (2:125-129), as they were building, they prayed to God and their supplication was answered many years later when God sent His last messenger, Prophet Muhammad, a descendant of Ishmael through his son Kedar whose name appears in the above verses of  the Bible (Isaiah 42:11). Ishmael is considered to be the father of the Arabs as Isaac is the father of the Jews.

In Genesis 21:17-19 God promised Hagar to make her son Ishmael a great nation. God also promised Abraham to make his first son Ishmael into a great nation in Genesis 17:20:

And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation.

Prophet Muhammad appeared in Makkah in the 7th century CE and called people to the worship of the Creator, the One true God of all humanity. He united the rich with the poor, the light skinned and the dark skinned, and the Arabs with the non-Arabs. In a few years the Islamic nation became a superpower in all aspects. Great Muslim scientists and thinkers carried the torch of civilization when Europe was going through the Dark Ages. Muslims excelled at art, architecture, mathematics, medicine, astronomy, geography, chemistry and other sciences. Muslim scholars shared their knowledge with medieval Europe and this led to the Renaissance.

The repeated promise of God to Abraham and Hagar in the Bible to increase the numbers of Ishmael can be seen today with the number of Muslims reaching 1.5 billion and continuously increasing. As to God’s promise of making Ishmael a great nation, this must also imply greatness of faith and spirituality. Muslim pilgrims are therefore reminded of God’s mercy in sending His last prophet to guide them to the Truth.

(www.ascertainthetruth.com / 15.12.2011)

Washington’s Alliance with ‘Moderate Islam’

By James Petras

The dynamic of democratic, nationalist and class struggles throughout the Muslim world has set in motion a new constellation of alliances between the imperial West (US and European Union) and Islamist parties, leaders and regimes, dubbed “moderate” by US officials, propagandists and academics.

This essay analyzes the changing contemporary context of imperial domination, especially the demise of longstanding client regimes. It then examines the previous significant ties between western imperial powers and Islamist movements and regimes and the basis of ‘historical collaboration’.

The third part of the paper will outline the political circumstances in which the imperial powers embrace “moderate” Islamists in government and utilize “armed fundamentalists” in opposition to secular regimes. We will critically analyze how “moderate” Islam is defined by the Western imperialist powers. Is this a tactical or strategic alliance? What are the political “trade-offs”? What do imperialism’s neo-liberal clients and their new ‘moderate’ Muslim allies have in common and how do they differ?

In conclusion we will evaluate the viability of this alliance and its capacity to contain and deflect the popular democratic movements and repress the burgeoning class and national struggles, especially in regard to the ‘obstacles’ posed by the Israel-US-Zionist ties and the continued IMF policies which promise to worsen the crises in the Muslim countries.

Neo-Liberal Client Rulers to Power-Sharing with Moderate Islamists

The key motivation in Washington’s and the European imperial troika’s (England, France and Germany) embrace of what their press and officialdom hail as “moderate” Islamist parties has been the collapse or weakening of their long-term client rulers. Faced with the ouster of Mubarak, in Egypt, Ali in Tunisia and Saleh in Yemen, mass protests in Morocco and Algeria, the US-EU turned to conservative Muslim leaders who were willing to work within the existing state institutional framework (including the army and state police), uphold the capitalist order and align with the empire against anti-imperial movements and states. In Egypt, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) (the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood), in Tunisia the Renaissance Party, in Morocco the Justice and Development Party have all indicated their willingness to serve as reliable partners in blocking the pro-democracy movements that challenge the socio-economic status quo and the long-standing military-imperial linkages.

The Islamist collaborators are called “moderate and respectable” because they agree to participate in elections within the boundaries of the established political and economic order; they have dropped any criticism of imperial and colonial treaties and trade agreements signed by the previous client regions – including ones which collaborate with Israel’s colonization of Palestine.

Equally important “moderate” means supporting imperial wars against nationalist and secular Arab republics, such as Syria and Libya, and isolating and/or repressing class based trade unions and secular-left parties.

“Moderate” Islamists have become the Empire’s ‘contraceptive of choice’ against any chance the massive Arab peoples’ revolt might give birth to substantive egalitarian social changes and bring those brutal pro- western officials, responsible for so many crimes against humanity, to justice .

The West and their client officials in the military and police have agreed to a kind of “power-sharing’ with the moderate/respectable (read ‘reactionary’) Islamist parties. The Islamists would be responsible for imposing orthodox economic policies and re-establishing ‘order’ (i.e. bolstering the existing one) in partnership with pro-multinational bank economists and pro US-EU generals and security officials. In exchange the Islamists could take certain ministries, appoint their members, finance electoral clientele among the poor and push their ‘moderate’ religious, social and cultural agenda. Basically, the elected Islamists would replace the old corrupt dictatorial regimes in running the state and signing off on more free trade agreements with the EU. Their role would keep the leftists, nationalists and populists out of power and from gaining mass support. Their job would substitute spiritual solace and “inner worth” via Islam in place of redistributing land, income and power from the elite, including the foreign multi-nationals to the peasants, workers, unemployed and exploited low-paid employees.

Why the Empire Arms Fundamentalist Anti-Secular Muslims

While the US and EU have backed respectable “moderate Islam” in heading off a popular upheaval of the young and unemployed, in other contexts they have enlisted violent, fundamentalist Islamic terrorists to overthrow secular independent anti-imperialists regimes – like Libya, Syria – just as they had done earlier in Afghanistan and Yugoslavia. The US, Qatar and the European troika financed and armed Libyan fundamentalist militias and then engaged in a murderous eight months air and sea assault to ensure their client’s ‘victory’ over the secular Gaddafi regime. Fresh from NATO’s success, the US, the European ‘Troika’ and Turkey, with the backing of the League of Arab collaborator princes and emirs, have financed a violent Muslim Brotherhood insurrection in Syria, intent on destroying the nationalist economy and modern secular state.

The US and EU have openly unleashed their fundamentalists allies in order to destroy independent adversaries in the name of “democracy” and ‘humanitarian intervention’, a laughable claim in light of decade long colonial wars of occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan. All target regimes have one crime in common: Using their national resources to develop modern secular states – independent of imperial dictates.

NATO implements its campaigns through conservative ‘moderate’ or armed fundamentalist Islamist movements depending on the specific needs, circumstances and range of options in any given target nation. With the fall of pro-Empire ‘secular dictatorships’ in Egypt and Tunisia , pliable conservative Islamist leaders are the fall back “lesser evil”. When the opportunity to overthrow an independent secular or nationalist regime arises, armed and violent fundamentalist mercenaries become the political vehicle of choice.

As with European empires in the past, the modern Western imperial countries have relied on retrograde religious parties and leaders to collaborate and serve their economic and military interests and to provide mercenaries for imperial armies to savage any anti-imperialist social revolutionaries. In that sense US and European rulers are neither ‘pro nor anti’ Islam, it all depends on their national and class position. Islamists who collaborate with Empire are “moderate” allies and if they attack an anti-imperialist regime, they become ‘freedom fighters’. On the other hand, they become “terrorists” or “fundamentalists” when they oppose imperial occupation, pillage or colonial settlements.

Contemporary History of Islamist-Imperial Collaboration

The historical record of western imperial expansion reveals many instances of collaboration and cooptation as well as conflict with Islamist regimes, movements and parties. In the early 1960’s the CIA backed a brutal military coup against the secular Indonesian nationalist regime of Sukarno, and encouraged their puppet dictator General Suharto to unleash Muslim militia in a veritable “holy war” exterminating nearly one million leftist trade unionists, school teachers, students, farmers, communists or suspected sympathizers and their family members. The horrific ‘Jakarta Option’ became a model for CIA operations elsewhere. In Yugoslavia the US and Europe promoted and financed fundamentalists Muslims in Bosnia, importing mujahedeen who would later form part of Al Qaeda, and then backed the Kosovo Liberation Army, a known terrorist organization, in order to completely break-up and ethnically ‘cleanse’ a modern secular multi-national state – going so far as to have Americans and NATO bomb Belgrade for the first time since the Nazis in the Second World War.

During President Carter’s administration, the CIA joined with Saudi Arabia’s ruling royalty, providing billions of dollars in arms and military supplies to Afghan Muslim fundamentalists in their brutal but successful Jihad overthrowing a modern, secular nationalist regime backed by the USSR. The murderous fate of school teachers and educated women in the aftermath was quickly covered up.

Needless to say, wherever US imperialism faces leftists or secular, modernizing anti-imperialist regimes, Washington turns to retrograde Islamic leaders willing and able to destroy the progressive regime in return for imperialist support. Such coalitions are built mainly around fundamentalist and moderate Islamist opposition to secular, class- based politics allied with the Empire’s hostility to any anti-imperialist challenge to its domination..

The same ‘coalition’ of Islamists and the Empire has been glaringly obvious during the NATO assault on Libya and continues against Syria : The Muslims provide the shock troops on the ground; NATO provides the aerial bombing, funds, arms, sanctions, embargoes and propaganda.

These Islamist-Imperialist coalitions are usually temporary, based on a common secular or nationalist enemy and not on any common strategic interest. After the defeat of a secular anti-imperialist regime, militant Muslims may find themselves attacked by the colonial neo-liberal regime most favored by the imperial west. This happened in Afghanistan and elsewhere after the overseas Islamist fighters (Afghan Arabs) returned to their own neo-colonized, collaborating home countries, like Saudi Arabia , Algeria and Egypt and elsewhere.

Contemporary History of Islamist-Imperial Conflict

The relation between Islamist regimes and imperialism is complex, changing and full of examples of bloody conflict.

The US backed the “modernizing” free market dictatorship of the Shah in Iran , overthrowing the nationalist Mosaddegh regime. They provided arms and intelligence for the Savak, the Shah’s monstrous secret police as it hunted down and murdered tens of thousands of nationalist-Islamists and leftist resistance fighters and critics in Iran and abroad. The rise to power of the fundamentalist-anti-imperialist Khomeini regime fueled US armed attacks and provoked retaliatory moves: Iran backed and financed anti-colonial Islamist groups in Lebanon (Hezbollah), Palestine (Hamas) and Iraq (the Shia parties).

Subsequent to 9/11 the US invaded and overthrew the Islamist Taliban regime, re-colonized the country, establishing a puppet regime under US-European auspices. The Taliban and allied Islamist and nationalist resistance fighters organized and established a mass guerrilla army which has engaged in a decade long war with armed support from Pakistani Islamist forces responding to US military incursions.

In Palestine, Washington, under the overweening control of Israel’s Zionist fifth column, has armed and financed Israel ’s war against the popularly elected Palestinian Islamist Hamas government in Gaza . Washington’s total commitment to the Jewish state and its colonial expansion and usurpation of Palestinian (Muslim and Christian) lands and property in Jerusalem and elsewhere reflects the profound and pervasive influence of the Zionist power configuration throughout the US political system .They secure 90% votes in Congress, pledges of allegiance from the White House, and senior appointments in Treasury, State Department and the Pentagon.

What determines whether the US Empire will have a collaborative or conflict-ridden relation with Islam depends on the specific political context. The US allies with Islamists when faced with nationalist, leftist and secular democratic regimes and movements, especially where their optimal choice, a military-neo-liberal alternative is relatively weak. However, faced with a nationalist, anti-colonial Islamist regime (as is the case of the Islamic Republic of Iran), Washington will side with pro-western liberals, dissident Muslim clerics, pliable tribal chiefs, separatist ethnic minorities and pro-Western generals.

The key to US-Islamist relations from the White House perspective is based on the Islamists’ attitude toward empire, class politics, NATO and the “free market” (private foreign investment).

Today’s ‘moderate’ Islamist parties in Tunisia, Egypt, Turkey, Morocco (and elsewhere), which have offered their support to NATO and its wars against Libya and Syria, uphold ‘private property’ (i.e. foreign and imperialist client control of key industries) and repress independent working class and anti-imperialist parties: They are the Empire’s “new partners” in the pillage of the resource-rich Middle East and North Africa.

The US-brokered counter-revolutionary alliance among moderate Islamists, the previous military rulers and Washington is fraught with tensions. The military demands total impunity and a continuation of its economic privileges; this includes a veto on any legislation addressing the previous regime’s brutal crimes against its own people. On the other hand, the Islamist parties uphold their electoral victories and demand majority rule. Washington insists the alliance adhere to its policy toward Israel and abandon their support for the Palestinian national struggle. As these tensions and conflicts deepen, the alliance could collapse ushering in a new phase of conflict and instability.

Emblematic of “moderate Islamist” collaboration with US-EU imperialism is the role of Qatar , home to the ‘respectable’ Arabic media giant, Al-Jazeera, and the demagogic Qatari “spiritual guide” Sheik Youssef al-Qaradawi. Sheik Youssef quotes the Koran and Islamic moral principles in defense of NATO’s 8-month aerial bombing of Libya, which killed over 50,000 pro-regime Libyans (themselves Muslims). He calls for armed imperial intervention in Syria to overthrow the secular Assad regime, a position he shares comfortably with the state of Israel. He urges the “moderate Islamists” in Egypt and Tunisia to cease any criticism of the existing economic order, (see “Spiritual guide steers Arabs to moderation”, Financial Times, December 9, 2011 – p5). In a word, this respectable Muslim cleric is NATO’s perfect Koran-quoting “moderate Islamist” partner – a dream come true.

The Strategic Utility of “Moderate” Islamist Parties

Islamist parties are approached by the Empire’s policy elites only when they have a mass following and can therefore weaken any popular, nationalist insurgency. Mass-based Islamist parties serve the empire by providing “legitimacy”, by winning elections and by giving a veneer of respectability to the pro-imperial military and police apparatus retained in place from the overthrown client state dictatorships.

The Islamist parties compete at the “grass roots” with the leftists. They build up a clientele of supporters among the poor in the countryside and urban slums through organized charity and basic social services administered at the mosques and humanitarian religious foundations. Because they reject class struggle and are intensely hostile to the left (with its secular, pro-feminist and working-class agenda), they have been ‘half-tolerated’ by the dictatorship, while the leftist activists are routinely murdered. Subsequently, with the overthrow of the dictatorship, the Islamists emerge intact with the strongest national organizational network as the country’s ‘natural leaders’ from the religious-bazaar merchant political elite. Their leaders offer to serve the empire and its traditional native military collaborators in exchange for a ‘slice of power’, especially over morality, culture, religion and households (women), in other words, the “micro-society”.

For their part, they offer to marginalize and undermine the left, anti-imperialist secular democrats in the streets. In the face of mass popular rebellion calling into question the imperial order, a ‘moderate’ Islamist-imperial partnership is a ‘heavenly deal’ praised in Washington, Paris or London (as well as Riyadh and Tel Aviv).

Conclusion: How Viable is the Imperial-Islamic Coalition?

Those who thought that the spontaneous pro-democracy movements spelled the end of the imperial order left out the role of organized “moderate” Islamist electoral parties as able collaborators of Empire. The brutally repressed mass mobilization of unemployed youth was no match for the well-funded grass roots community organization of the moderate Islamists. This is especially true when politics shifted from the street to the ballot box, a process that the Islamist parties facilitated. In the absence of a mass revolutionary party, seeking state power, the existing military-police state was able to work around the mass protesters and put together a power sharing agreement at least in the short-run.

In the November 2011 elections, the radical Egyptian Islamist party, Nour, gathered one-quarter of the vote in Cairo and Alexandria. Their showing was even higher among the urban poor districts, which promises even greater support among poor rural constituencies in the coming elections. Essentially a Salafist Islamist party, Nour, unlike the Muslim Brotherhood, combined denunciations of class abuses and elite corruption with mass appeals to a return to a mythic harmonious life. They used effective grass roots organizing around basic services in order to gain a greater proportion of the working class vote than all the leftist parties combined. Nour’s message of “class retribution against the …abuses of Egypt’s elite fueled Nour’s new found popularity”, (Financial Times December 10, 2011 p6).

Despite the successes of the Islamist-Imperial partnership, the world economic crises and especially the growing unemployment and misery in the Arab countries will make it difficult for the ‘respectable moderate’ Islamists to stabilize their societies. They are inextricably constrained by their alliances to function within the confines of the ‘orthodox neo-liberal framework’ imposed by the Empire. For that reason, the “moderate” Islamists will try to co-opt some secular liberals, social democrats and even a few leftists as ‘minority partners’, so that they won’t be held solely responsible for dashing the expectations of the poor in their countries.

The fact of the matter is that the pro-imperial Islamist parties have absolutely no answer to the current crises: Charities delivered from the mosque during the dictatorship won them mass support; now more austerity programs imposed from their ministerial posts will certainly alienate and infuriate their mass base. What will follow depends on who is best organized: Liberals are limited to media campaigns and tied to economic orthodoxy; the leftists have to advance from protest movements in the downtown squares to organized political units operating in popular neighborhoods, workplaces, markets, villages and slums. Otherwise radical fundamentalist, like the Salafists, will exploit the people’s outrage with moderate Islamist betrayals and promote their own version of a closed clerical society, opposing the West while repressing the Left.

The US and EU may have ‘temporarily’ avoided revolution by accommodating electoral reforms and adapting to alliances with “moderate” Islamists, but their ongoing military interventions and their own growing economic crisis will simply postpone a more decisive conflict in the near future.

(www.palestinechronicle.com / 15.12.2011)

Can the Palestinians revolt?

Submitted by Mohammed Suliman on Thu, 12/15/2011 – 20:02

Mustafa, a stone-thrower

Mustafa Tamimi died for throwing stones at Israeli soldiers, or as Jonathan Pollak put it, because “he dared to speak a truth, with his hands, in a place where the truth is forbidden.”

Sorrowfully, Palestinians have mourned the painful loss of a courageous man. Not that he is the first Palestinian to be killed by Israeli soldiers, nor is he the first unarmed, peaceful protester— unless one regards stones as one kind of heavy armament— to be shot dead at point blank range, and, certainly, he will not be the last to be heartlessly murdered in this brutal way. Mustafa isn’t also the first one whose death was followed by scores of people live on Twitter as his fellow activists provided minute-by-minute coverage of what was going on on the sad Friday in Nabi Saleh.

Although he is the first protester from the small village of Nabi Saleh to be murdered by the Israeli killing machine, this is not the reason why, I believe, Mustafa’s death is a significant chapter in the Palestinian resistance which, could have constituted the climax of such an immensely rich history of nonviolent resistance, which is often misrepresented or, at best, overlooked in Western media discourse.

Why a new Intifada?

It might be wishful thinking rather than logical reason to say that Mustafa’s death could have been the spark that ignited a new Intifada. But why I say so is because, given the facts on the ground, it was, and still is, about time that the Palestinians started a new Intifada.

First, the scope of the Israeli occupation’s outrageous crimes and violations of basic human rights is awfully unprecedented. In the Gaza Strip, these crimes usually take the form of sporadic F16 and unmanned drones’ bombings of the densely populated enclave resulting in the inevitable death of innocent civilians and children coupled with the hermetic siege that has been imposed for the past five years while, in the West Bank, they primarily manifest themselves in ceaseless ethnic cleansing which embraces a variety of criminal activity, namely land expropriations, house demolitions, property confiscations, expulsions, midnight house raids, illegal detentions and the list goes on.

Moreover, in face of all this generous amount of human rights violations and flagrant breaches of international law, the international community has proved to be absolutely futile, for it has shamelessly failed to hold Israel accountable for its crimes, prevent it from carrying on its violations in the Palestinian territories and inside Israel with impunity, or take any positive measures to protect the Palestinians’ lives or guarantee the fulfilment of their rights enshrined in international law and UN resolutions.

To top it all, the naked failure of the so called Palestinian leadership, both in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, to advance the Palestinian struggle in any possibly helpful way has proved them to be worthless at best. In fact, the way their inability to overcome their disagreements over the past five years has influenced the course of action considerably in favour of the Israeli occupation and has made many Palestinians aware of the fact that their disagreements are fundamentally irreconcilable, therefore, increasing their discontent with both powerless leaderships.

Most importantly, after nearly two decades of the so called peace process starting with the Madrid Peace Conference in 1991, there is now growing awareness amongst Palestinians, although with varying degrees of willingness to accept the fact, that the Palestinian Authority, chiefly due to its utter dependency on the international community and Western donors, is most impotent to bring about—not to say the fulfilment of the Palestinian rights— any positive change with regard to the Palestinians’ conditions in the Palestinian territories and inside Israel. Contrary to that, since the end of the first Palestinian Intifada and the advent of the peace process and with its unprecedented concessions, the PA has started the Palestinians down the slippery slope toward an uncertain future leaving them under the thumb of the Israeli occupation who entirely dominated every single aspect of their lives.

Shifting the discourse, shifting the course of action

Therefore, it is clear that what the Palestinians need at this stage of the Palestinian struggle is, above anything else, a prime shift in the discourse from one that is characterized by the equivalency of the conflicting parties; i.e. two equivalent parties seated at the negotiating table in the case of the PA and Israel, or two equivalent parties “exchanging rocket fire” in the case of Hamas and Israel, to one of a whole civilian population forced to live under military occupation, subjected to all forms of racism, oppression and injustice and fighting for freedom, justice, equality and full rights.

In other words, the discourse should be veered away from that of the limited elite leadership represented in both political parties, Hamas and Fatah, regardless the fact that they still maintain relatively huge support amongst Palestinians, to one that is more representative of all the sectors of the Palestinian people. This requires the formation, which needs not be systematic, organised or physical, of one contentious movement that can help direct the massive amount of energy, faith and frustration of particularly the young people in the right direction toward the creation of a massive grassroots collective movement against the continuous crimes and unjust policies of the Israeli occupation.

Incentives, mobilisation, and opportunity

In theory, people’s recourse to collective action can be explained by incentives, means of mobilisation and/or political opportunities. However, most of the time, grievances form the backbone of contentious movements and— as Ted Gurr explains in his book Why Men Rebel— collective action (e.g. protests, rebellions, civil wars…etc.) has its roots in relative deprivation which results in people’s frustration galvanizing them to employ violence collectively or, one might add, to embark on any kind of collective action.

In the context of the Palestinian people, the grievances of the Palestinians not only form an incentive but rather they are the root of the problem for they have been present since, and as a consequence to, the creation of the state of Israel and the forced expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians from their lands.

Nonetheless, that fact that collective violence, let alone other forms of nonviolent collective action, has recently been seen as a rational phenomenon helps explain why the Palestinians don’t seem to be inclined to take part in any form of popular mass movement.  According to the theory, people don’t feel inclined to get involved in collective action unless they have a good reason to do so; i.e. unless they’re convinced they will stand to benefit from their involvement. This benefit usually takes the form of short term materialistic gains.

Considering the massive amount of money Western donors supply the PA with, whichaccording to the Congressional Report, made “the Palestinians…the largest per capita recipients of foreign aid worldwide, and with a shattered economy, mostly dependent on external support to meet basic needs”, the costs for any engagement in collective action in the Palestinian territories seem to be higher. The PA uses this money to pay its employees’ their salaries, to pay for water, gas, and electricity supplies, to build the institutions and infrastructure necessary for the establishment of the Palestinian state on bits and pieces of land. In short, this money is used to keep the Palestinians in check.

Besides that, the PA constitutes the hugest physical obstacle that prevents the Palestinians from being in direct contact with the Israeli occupation. The Israeli occupation has become an unapproachable entity thanks to PA’s “security cooperation” activities according to which the task of managing the “undisciplined barbarians” becomes its direct responsibility, and in case it fails to fulfil it, it has to be punished by cutting off the aid money. The PA’s Dayton-trained security apparatus has continually made sure that it held the Palestinians back from being in touch with the Israeli occupation through various policies and particularly during demonstrations where it steered them away from any point of contact with the Israeli soldiers. This explains the absence of a potentially powerful opportunity to help the Palestinians engage thoroughly in any kind of mass movement.

With regard to mobilisation, although they didn’t have the sufficient economic endowments which are necessary to mobilise other people, the Palestinians have had every social means at their disposal: a shared identity, a shared culture, a shared language, shared past experiences, and, for the most part, a shared religion. Based on the above shared commonalities, I would argue, it should be enough for the Palestinians to be able to start off a mass grassroots struggle.

A missed opportunity?

The precedents to Mustafa Tamimi’s death, one likes to believe, seem to have provided a perfect context for the Palestinians to start a new Intifada, at least in Nabi Saleh and neighbouring villages, away from Ramallah, the headquarters of the PA.

Mustafa’s death could have been the opportunity that had finally opened up before the Palestinians to rise up and start off a mass civil disobedience against the Israeli occupation. Similar to what happened in late September 2000, following Ariel Sharon’s visit to Al-Aqsa mosque just two months after the failure of the Camp David peace summit, the Palestinians could have mobilised themselves, taken to the streets and engaged in open-ended mass civil disobedience propelled by the brutal murder of Mustafa as well as being greatly charged by the failure of the Palestinian statehood bid at the UN Security Council just recently. As I explained above, it’s no wonder this didn’t happen, however.

Until every Palestinian picks up their stone, there is no reason to think there is going to be an Intifada any time soon. Until the PA stops being an occupation in disguise doing Israel’s business of keeping the Palestinians in check; until the Palestinians realise they are not going anywhere near liberation with PA and Hamas officials continuing to monopolise Palestinian decision-making; until every Palestinian feels ready to speak the truth with their hands, and until every Palestinian becomes a stone-thrower, may Mustafa’s memory be a blessing.

(electronicintifada.net / 15.12.2011)

Report: Israel to mull bill legalizing outposts

Israeli lawmakers will discuss on Sunday a law to legalize settlement outposts built on land owned by Palestinians.
TEL AVIV, Israel (Ma’an) — Israeli lawmakers will discuss on Sunday a law to legalize settlement outposts built on land owned by Palestinians, Israeli media reported on Thursday.

Israeli daily Haaretz said the bill will halt removal of outposts if Palestinian landowners failed to lodge an appeal within four years of its construction.

After clashes between settlers and Israeli forces, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has sought to reassure settlers that he supports their building in the West Bank — illegal under international law but divided under Israeli law between sanctioned settlements and unauthorized outposts.

“Our main effort should be put into strengthening settlement, not in conflict with the law, and certainly not through conflict with one another,” he said in November.

Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni condemned the bill on Thursday, saying that it “sends a strong message to those who throw rocks at IDF troops that force is effective,” Israeli news site Ynet reported.

Hardline settler groups have lashed out after a Supreme Court ruling that outposts built on private Palestinian land be dismantled, attacking an army base on Monday and torching three Palestinian mosques in the past seven days.

(www.maannews.net / 15.12.2011)

Gretta Duisenberg bezoek aan Gaza en Beirut (nov 2011)

5-12-2012
Hierbij het verslag van Mevrouw Duisenberg. 


Vorige week teruggekeerd van een zeer interessante reis naar Gaza, op uitnodiging van de CEPR (Council for European Palestinian Relations). De delegatie bestond uit ongeveer 100 parlementariërs en enkele activisten van NGO’s uit veertig landen.

Het programma was zeer intens en de onderwerpen vaak veelal schokkend en hartbrekend. Zeker de moeite waard om onze ministers aan te bevelen daar zelf eens echt met de bevolking en leiders te spreken, i.p.v. per helicopter over Gaza heen te vliegen, meneer Verhagen!

Ontmoetingen met Hamas en Fatah stonden ook op het programma en waren buitengewoon verhelderend over de huidige situatie en de toekomstplannen.
Als afgevaardigde van de Nederlandse delegatie heb ik een speech gehouden op de bijeenkomst met Haniyeh.

Een selectie uit het overvolle programma:

– ontmoeting met de vissers in Gaza en zeehaven
– bezoek aan een Gaza Electrical Tool  company
– bezoek aan Alnusairat Alburij Camps en waterzuiveringsbedrijf
– bezoek aan ziekenhuis en tentoonstelling van ministerie van Gezondheid
– ontmoeting met vrouwen uit Gaza
– ontmoeting met Fatah vertegenwoordigers
– bezoek aan waterbedrijf
– ontmoeting met families van Palestijnse gevangenen
– bezoek aan Islamitische universiteit
– rondleiding in Gaza stad
– ontmoeting met NGO’s in Gaza
– briefing door Sebastien Trives van de UNWRA
– ontmoeting met de regering van Gaza

 

Daarnaast deelgenomen aan een persconferentie over de terechte woede en teleurstelling van de Gazanen m.b.t. het Israëlische besluit, de militairen die verantwoordelijk waren voor het puur afslachten van een hele familie en vele anderen, niet te vervolgen! (De naam van de familie is Al Samouni. Op 4 januari 2009, de eerste dag van de Israëlische invasie  (Operatie Cast Lead) in de omgeving van Zeitoun, ten oosten van Gaza stad, werd de familie door de soldaten gedwongen uit hun huis gehaald en naar een ander huis gedirigeerd. Dit (het Samouni huis) werd daarna geheel verwoest.
Vervolgens werd de familie opnieuw gedwongen naar een ander huis te gaan, waar zich ongeveer 100 mensen bevonden.
Op 5 januari begonnen de soldaten met het neerhalen van de muren van dit huis. Toen een van de gevangen genomen burgers de Israëlische soldaten waarschuwde dat er zich mensen in dit huis bevonden, begonnen de Israëlische soldaten op het huis te schieten. Na korte tijd werd het huis totaal omsingeld en gebombardeerd. Het gebouw werd ernstig beschadigd en de burgers die zich in het gebouw bevonden werden verwond en/of gedood.
Van de Samouni familie, die onderdeel uitmaakten van de burgers die daar bij ekaar gedreven waren, werden er 29 gedood.
Enkelen van hen, die daar bijeen waren, hebben deze slachting gelukkig overleefd zodat de details verteld konden worden.
De Israëlische soldaten hebben op de restanten van het huis van de Samouni familie anti-Arabische leuzen geklad.
Dat was de reden waarom ik, met nog slechts twee overgebleven nichtjes (respectievelijk 14 en 8 jaar) van de Samouni familie, een persconferentie gaf op de 3de herdenkingsdag van de Cast Lead oorlog en mijn verontwaardiging, kwaadheid, maar bovenal onbegrip voor het genomen besluit, tot uiting bracht. Deze slachting kan een normaal mens niet meer bevatten.
Zij zijn zeer getraumatiseerd, maar bovenal ongelooflijk dapper en volhoudend.
Met grote bewondering, maar veel verdriet, heb ik nog enige tijd met hen gesproken.

Zoals gezegd, de ontmoetingen met de Palestijnse bevolking in Gaza, was zoals altijd, zeer indrukwekkend.

Mijn volgende bezoek betrof Beirut.
Daar was ik uitgenodigd door “The International Arab Conference against Israeli Apartheid”.

Ook deze conferentie heb ik ervaren als buitengewoon zinvol (tijdens de eerste ochtend sessie heb ik een lezing gehouden).
Daar zal zeker, binnen korte tijd, een vervolg op komen.

Het was goed weer in mijn tweede thuis te zijn.
Ik houd u op de hoogte van het vervolg van deze conferentie.

Gretta Duisenberg

(meer foto’s op www.stopdebezetting.nl / 15.12.2011)

Analysis: Behind the mask

Masked Palestinian fighters affiliated with Al-Quds Brigades, the militant wing of Islamic Jihad, take part in a training session in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip on December 23, 2008.
 
Essam al-Batsh and his nephew, Sobhi al-Batsh, are the latest in a long line of reported Palestinian “militants” killed by Israel.

The civilians were both targeted while driving in a car in downtown Gaza on Dec. 8. According to an Israeli army statement, they “were affiliated with a terrorist squad that intended to attack Israeli civilians and soldiers via the western border.”

Another “militant” had been killed two days earlier. The Israeli military said its aircraft “had targeted two militant squads that were preparing to fire rockets into southern Israel.”

AP quoted an Israeli official saying the army would “continue to take action against those (who) use terror against the state of Israel.”

It really doesn’t take much to kill a “militant” in Gaza. Israeli military intelligence officers simply select a weapon and zoom in on their chosen person on any given day.

This is not a difficult task really since the entire population of the Strip are besieged in Gaza’s open air prison. The same statement issued regarding the assassinated “militant” can then be easily rewritten, using the same predictable justifications.

Israel’s excuses actually tell nothing of the history behind the phenomena of so-called militancy.

To know why some young men in Gaza decide to mask their faces and carry arms, they need to abandon the media’s reductionist characterization of Gaza’s armed struggle. This goes back much earlier than Hamas and Fatah, the 2006 selections, the 2007 siege or the 2008-09 war.

The phenomenon began shortly after the Nakba — the Palestinian “catastrophe” in 1948, which saw the destruction of Palestine and the erection of today’s Israel.

During this time nearly a quarter a million were evicted or forced to flee to Gaza. A displaced population then yearned to go home, and many wished to recover the life savings they had buried under patches of earth in their Palestinian villages. Some wanted to harvest their crops, and others sought family members that had gone missing during the forced march out of Palestine.

Once they crossed into newly established Israel, many refugees never returned. But the boldness of the “fedayeen” — freedom fighters — now began to grow rapidly.

The refugees eventually began organizing themselves, with or without help from the Egyptian army, which was still stationed at the outskirts of Gaza and the southern borders of the Sinai desert.

Groups quickly assumed names and became factions, and their members acquired military fatigues. The fighters used kuffiyehs — traditional headscarves — to cover their faces to escape the watchful eyes of Israeli collaborators, who were also growing in number.

Overtime, Palestinian guerrilla commandos began carrying out daring strikes deep inside Israel. The fedayeen were mostly young Palestinian refugees, and some Egyptian fighters. Their operations grew bolder by the day, as they snuck into Israel, like ghosts in the night, with primitive weapons and homemade bombs.

They would target Israeli soldiers, steal their weapons and return with the new weapons the second night. Some would sneak back into their villages in Palestine; they would “steal” blankets and whatever money they had saved but failed to retrieve in the rush of war.

Those who never returned received the funerals of “martyrs”. Following every fedayeen operation, the Israeli army would strike Gaza’s refugees, inspiring yet more support and recruits for the young, but growing commando movement.

The phenomenon quickly registered among Palestinian youth in Gaza — not due to any inexplicable desire for violence, but because they saw in the fedayeen a heroic escape from their own humiliating lives.

Indeed, the fedayeen movement was the antithesis of the perceived submissiveness experienced by refugees. It was a manifestation of all the anger and frustration they felt. They simply wanted to go home, and freedom-fighting seemed the only practical way of fulfilling this wish.

As refugees stayed put in their tents, and as more Palestinians were killed by Israeli military incursions and snipers, the numbers of fedayeen multiplied.

In a historic visit to Gaza in 1955, then Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser promised to fight on until all of Palestine was liberated. Soon after, amid angry demands for action, Egypt decided to establish ten battalions of the National Guard, which were made up mostly of Palestinian fedayeen and led by Egyptian officers.

It signaled an Egyptian attempt to take charge of the situation and control the scattered Palestinian leaderships and its armed factions. Cross-border skirmishes culminated, at times, into full-blown border battles. Israeli mortar attacks reached many areas in Gaza. There was no safe place to hide.

The factions changed names. The fedayeen wore different colored kuffiyehs. But in essence, little changed. Poverty persisted. Human rights continued to be routinely violated. Not a single refugee returned home. And three, if not four generations of fedayeen, carried on with the fight.

In some way, the media perception of these masked men also remained largely unchanged. The “militant” has always been reported as an inexplicable irritant. At best, he served as a reminder, not of a poignant history that must be unearthed and understood, but of why Israel is, and will always remain, threatened by masked Palestinians.

When a so-called militant is brutally killed, little justification is offered. If any respond to the killing, such retorts could possibly serve as a casus belli for an already planned Israeli military escalation.

It is important that we understand that “militancy” in Gaza is not linked to any Palestinian faction per se, nor is it incited by a specific ideology or individual.

The phenomenon had indeed preceded all the factions and individuals that dot Gaza’s political landscape. It was caused by the single event of the Nakba, and all the tragedies that manifested as a result of it.

Chances are, the “militants” — or fedayeen, or even “terrorists” by the standards of Israel and its supporters — will continue to exist as long as the conflict remains unsolved per the necessary standards of justice and fairness.

As for the media, it behooves reporters to dig a bit deeper than an image of the charred remains of an uncle and his nephew – and to see beyond the predictably false accusations that underlie official Israeli statements.

(www.maannews.net / 15.12.2011)

Egypt ends second round of parliamentary vote

Noticeably smaller turnout than on Wednesday in a third of the country’s 27 provinces.
Voters were required to cast three ballots, two for individual candidates and one for a party or coalition

Egyptians cast final ballots on Thursday for the second day in the second round of the country’s parliamentary elections – the first since a popular uprising that toppled president Hosni Mubarak in February.

Small queues had formed outside polling stations which opened at 8:00 am (0600 GMT) in a third of the country’s 27 provinces, a noticeably smaller turnout than on Wednesday.

The second round of the three-stage polls took place in Giza; Beni Sueif, south of the capital; the Nile Delta provinces of Menufiya, Sharqiya and Beheira; the canal cities of Ismailiya and Suez; and the southern cities Sohag and Aswan.

Voters were required to cast three ballots, two for individual candidates and one for a party or coalition, and for the 498 elected seats in the lower house of parliament.

The ruling military council which took power when Mubarak was ousted in February will nominate a further 10 MPs.

The powerful Muslim Brotherhood, which clinched the most seats in the opening phase through its Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), was eager to sustain the momentum by urging Egyptians to turn out to vote.

Campaigning violations

However, liberal parties have accused Islamist movements of using their influence and money to continue campaigning on polling days in violation of electoral rules.

Amr Hamzawy, who won a seat in the first round with the liberal coalition, the Egyptian bloc, slammed the “continued use of religious slogans”.

In an article in the independent Al-Shorouq daily, he urged the electoral commission to “look into striking party lists and candidates who continue” to violate the rules.

Parties affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and the ultra-conservative Salafi movements won 65 per cent of the vote in the first phase, trouncing liberal parties which managed 29.3 per cent.

“We tried the liberals and the secularists and they did nothing for us,” said one voter, Mohammed Rashad, on Wednesday, referring to Mubarak’s party. “The Islamists have God’s law.”

Liberal secularists who have felt elbowed out of the political process are now trying to carve out a role for themselves after the elections.

“We must anticipate in advance, we must no longer be taken by surprise by events,” said renowned painter Mohammed Abla, 58.

“The intellectuals must absolutely play a role in the drafting of the country’s constitution,” he told a meeting of artists in Cairo.

The Muslim Brotherhood have stressed its commitment to multi-party democracy, inclusiveness and civil liberties, while also advocating the application of Islamic sharia law.

Much remains unclear about how the new parliament will function and whether it will be able to resolve a standoff with the armed forces over how much power they will retain under a new constitution to be written next year.

After the voting for the lower house of parliament, which will end in January, Egyptians will then elect an upper house in a further three rounds of polls.

(www.aljazeera.com / 15.12.2011)

Rechtbank: uitgeprocedeerde Somaliërs mogen niet vast zitten

Wooncaravans in Ter Apel

19 Somalische vreemdelingen die in Ter Apel vastzitten in afwachting van hun uitzetting moeten van de rechter direct vrijkomen. Ook komen ze in aanmerking voor een schadevergoeding. Dat heeft de vreemdelingenkamer van de rechtbank in Den Haag bepaald. Die hield vandaag zitting in Groningen.

De groep werd enkele weken geleden het asielzoekerscentrum in Ter Apel uitgezet omdat ze zijn uitgeprocedeerd en terugmoesten naar hun land van herkomst. Daarna zijn ze opgepakt door de politie en vastgezet in afwachting van hun uitzetting. Nu heeft de vreemdelingenkamer bepaald dat minister Gerd Leers (Immigratie) dat besluit onvoldoende heeft onderbouwd.

Vreemdelingen mogen wettelijk alleen vast worden gezet als er concreet zicht is op uitzetting uit Nederland. Dit is volgens de rechtbank niet het geval. Daarom hadden de 19 mensen nooit vastgezet mogen worden. Zij zaten sinds 29 november in vreemdelingenbewaring.

(www.parool.nl / 15.12.2011)

Palestinians: West Bank mosque torched, defaced by Hebrew graffiti

Burning of mosque near Ramallah comes hours after IDF demolishes two unauthorized structures in Jewish illegal outpost.

Palestinians and the Israeli military say another mosque has been torched in the West Bank and defaced by Hebrew graffiti.

The governor of Ramallah, Laila Ghanam, says the mosque in the nearby village of Burqa was doused with gasoline and set afire on Thursday. The Israeli military says carpets and chairs were burned.

Burqa - Iad Hadad, B'Tselem - December 15, 2011 The burnt mosque in the West Bank village of Burqa, December 15, 2011.

Suspicion fell on Jewish extremists suspected in multiple acts of violence against Palestinians and the military.

Earlier on Thursday, the IDF and Border Police dismantled two illegal buildings in the West Bank outpost of Mitzpeh Yitzhar.

The area around the outpost was declared a closed military zone, in order to prevent anyone from obstructing the demolition.

Army Radio reported security forces did not meet with any violent opposition, and that no major clashes resulted from the demolition of the buildings, one of which was a residential structure.

Torched mosque in the village of Burqa, West Bank

Torched mosque in the village of Burqa, West BankIyad Hadad, B’Tselem
Some 50 settlers and right-wing activists entered a key West Bank military base early Tuesday morning and threw rocks, burned tires, and vandalized military vehicles.

The settlers were acting in response to a rumor that the IDF would act to evict a West Bank settlement in accordance with an August Supreme Court ruling.

(www.haaretz.com / 15.12.2011)