Palestinians need high calibre leaders – urgently

By Stuart Littlewood

2 February 2012

Stuart Littlewood singles out Palestinian “President” Mahmoud Abbas’s recent visit to Britain as another example of his administration’s public relations incompetence and argues: “If Palestinians are to retain worldwide sympathy and support, build additional strength and galvanize the whole movement into action against the corrupt political class, they will have to find leaders of a much higher calibre – and fast.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was in London recently.

Did anyone know? Did Western media care?

No. Not until reports appeared that Jewish community leaders cancelled a meeting with him after intervention by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s Office and Israel’s embassy in London, and Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi condemned the move as “seeking to suppress and manipulate Jewish public opinion”.

It was also typical of Netanyahu’s “persistent efforts” to prevent dialogue, she said, according to the Palestinian Ma’an news agency.

Even then, Western media were not much interested.

The Palestinian London embassy’s “smart new website carries … nothing journalists can get their teeth into. It doesn’t introduce us to Palestinian chiefs and their ‘team’. It offers no strategic briefing material on current events. And, crucially, there is no attempt to set the news agenda.”

I put it to the Palestinian ambassador in London, Professor Manuel Hassassian, that such a blunder by Israel was a gift to any alert Public Relations/Public Affairs team. Why didn’t the Palestinian Authority seize it?

Hassassian denied the Palestinians asked to meet with the Jewish community.

It seems odd that Ashrawi, a shrewd, well respected politician and close colleague of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, could have got it wrong. Or indeed the normally reliable Israeli newspaperHaaretz, which reported that Hassassian himself, together with British diplomats, had pushed for Jewish leaders to meet with Abbas.

Confused? Me too. Whatever the truth, the Palestinian administration is in the habit of missing open goals. It has dumbed right down. The London embassy’s smart new website carries a selection of items from news agencies but nothing journalists can get their teeth into. It doesn’t introduce us to Palestinian chiefs and their “team”. It offers no strategic briefing material on current events. And, crucially, there is no attempt to set the news agenda.

Information the embassy sends direct to people like me is mostly notification of social events and similar “froth”.

After all these years, and with momentous opportunities and threats looming, Ramallah still fails to give a good account of itself. Is that by accident or design?

If it was never Abbas’s intention to meet Jewish community leaders, what exactly did he come to the UK for?

What passes for “success”

The embassy says his “successful visit” included meetings with Prime Minister David Cameron, Foreign Secretary William Hague and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. President Abbas also met opposition leader Ed Miliband and other parliamentarians. In addition, he met the archbishop of Canterbury and other church leaders to brief them on the ongoing violations of places of worship and the Judaization taking place in East Jerusalem.

Cameron told him:

Obviously, as a friend of Israel and a friend of the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people, we want to see a strong, democratic, peaceful Israel alongside a strong, democratic and peaceful Palestine. We believe that is achievable, but we can’t achieve it without the two parties coming together and talking and discussing. In the end, this two-state solution can only come about from the two parties talking to each other. We cannot want it more than you want it.

So, we wish you well … and we say that as a friend of Israel but also a very strong friend of the Palestinian people…

To which I understand Abbas replied:

Of course, nothing can be achieved without negotiations … we hope that there will be something tangible as a result of these negotiations.

“Of course, time is of the essence; there must be speed, we must be fast in achieving those things because the settlements and the whole thing will go on – seeing the settlements going on, is going to help everything; it’s what stands in the face of everything at the same time. So, settlements have to stop. Settlements have to stop in order for us to be able to continue our negotiations; to come to some sort of solution and a solution which will encompass the vision of the Palestinian state to come in the future.

I personally know very well that you have a very balanced relationship, be that towards Israel or the Palestinian Authority. This at the same time is of great importance because you could play a political role, so to speak, so that we can find the balance that we all want to seek. We always need your help, sir.

Good grief, is that the best Ramallah’s speech-writers can do? And what was that about Britain’s Israel-firster government having “a very balanced relationship”…?

“Where was Abbas’s concern for Gaza, or isn’t Gaza part of Palestine any more? Doesn’t the blockade of Gaza have to end before Palestinians even think about getting once again embroiled in futile negotiations?”

Where was Abbas’s concern for Gaza, or isn’t Gaza part of Palestine any more? Doesn’t the blockade of Gaza have to end before Palestinians even think about getting once again embroiled in futile negotiations?

The idea, voiced by Zionist Cameron and repeated by Abbas, that nothing can be achieved without negotiation is of course utterly false. There’s no mention – on either side – of international law enforcement and the essential role it must play before any negotiations can be considered fair or honourable.

Hague said after his meeting with Abbas: “I stressed the importance Britain attaches to a secure and universally recognized Israel living alongside a sovereign and viable Palestinian state, based on the borders of 1967, with Jerusalem the future capital of both states, and a fair settlement for refugees.”

Only weeks earlier Hague, a fanatical Israel flag-waver, was preparing to betray the Palestinians by abstaining if their quest for statehood was pushed to a vote at the UN.

More pretty words devoid of meaning were paraded in the archbishop of Canterbury’s press release:

We continue to share the hopes of the Palestinian leadership for a lasting and just peace in the Holy Land, and we pray for the courage on all sides to break the current deadlock. Young people in Israel and in the Palestinian territories long for justice and stability and they must not be let down. We were deeply grateful to President Abbas for taking time to share with us his concerns and aspirations.

The only genuine boost he received was a remark by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, referring to Israel’s illegal settlements:

Once you place physical facts on the ground which make it impossible to deliver what everyone has for years agreed is the ultimate destination, then you do immense damage.

It’s an act of deliberate vandalism to the basic premise upon which negotiations have taken place for years and that is why we have expressed our concerns as a government in increasingly forceful terms.

He prefaced his comments by saying there was “no stronger supporter of Israel than myself as a beacon of democracy in the region”. It’s a sad reflection on the Westminster scene when Clegg, a Liberal Democrat and supposedly possessed of certain principles, feels obliged to say such a silly thing when it’s tantamount to defending the indefensible.

“This dreary ‘grey suit’ of a man might have done better to just meet ordinary people – people like the 40,000 or so displaced Palestinians living in the UK and longing to return, and the numerous activist organizations that devote much time and energy putting across the Palestinian case…”

Didn’t Abbas remind him about Israel’s abduction and imprisonment without trial of the 26 elected members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, including its head, Dr Aziz Dweik? Dweik is reported to have been arrested by Israel three times since 2002 and twice held without formal charges. This wholesale kidnapping of democratically elected officials underlines yet again Israel’s disregard for international law and the absurdity of its claim to be the only beacon of democracy in the Middle East.

So, does Abbas seriously believe his visit was “successful”? This dreary “grey suit” of a man might have done better to just meet ordinary people – people like the 40,000 or so displaced Palestinians living in the UK and longing to return, and the numerous activist organizations that devote much time and energy putting across the Palestinian case, slapping down Israel’s propaganda lies and generally doing the job that Abbas and his lacklustre Fatah outfit have failed to do.

That’s if he wanted their ongoing support. Maybe he’s not bothered.

Under orders not to rock the Israeli boat?

Some time ago Hamas complained that the Palestinian Authority was not getting its message across thanks to “poorly qualified or unqualified spokespersons with inadequate political and linguistic abilities”. Diplomacy had failed and Palestinians needed “professional spokespersons with excellent knowledge of the world and mastery of foreign languages, especially English, to tell the world in a straightforward manner that Israel is a murderer, liar and land thief…”

Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor, who ran rings round the Palestinians while ambassador in London, recently addressed the Security Council on the situation in the Middle East. He said:

And how many times have members of this Council – and many others – repeated: “settlements are the primary obstacle to peace”?… The primary obstacle to peace is not settlements. The primary obstacle to peace is the so-called “claim of return”. Let me repeat that: the major hurdle to peace is the Palestinians’ insistence on the so-called “claim of return” [he means the “right of return”].

Any press team worth its salt could make mincemeat of Prosor. A competent Palestinian administration would have had a news release in every activist’s inbox and on every mainstream editor’s desk within hours and made spokespersons (speaking perfect English) available to follow through with additional briefings and further comment. It would have gone worldwide via all embassies and missions. But Prosor broadcasts his toxic nonsense non-stop, knowing there will be no effective rebuke from the Palestinians.

It is six years since the Palestinian Authority/Palestine Liberation Organization was urged to have all their key people professionally trained in media skills. They haven’t done so. Consequently, for the last six critical years the Palestinian people have continued to lose ground.

“Will the Palestinians ever seize the opportunity and gear up properly for the communications struggle to win justice? If it’s left to the likes of Abbas the answer is no and the outcome will be disastrous.”

The Palestinian high command behaves as if under strict orders not to rock the boat and not to make waves or even the slightest ripple. They continue to squander their chances and make little impact, even though truth and justice are on their side. So Israel has been the undeserving winner in the propaganda war.

Will the Palestinians ever seize the opportunity and gear up properly for the communications struggle to win justice? If it’s left to the likes of Abbas the answer is no and the outcome will be disastrous.

As campaigner Robert Stiver commented a few days ago, we need “ideas and commitments on how we can finally get serious, via a mass uprising, to ‘out’ Zionism beyond the choir and bring an end to the Palestinians’ unbearable torment”.

But hopes of mobilizing the necessary numbers are thwarted by the continuing presence of Mahmoud Abbas. His presidential term ran out long ago and he’s clinging to power unlawfully. He needs to step down or be removed. Someone with unquestionable legitimacy and true leadership qualities must fill the void and deploy skilled resources.

On Abbas’s watch disunity has triumphed. He rides roughshod over the Basic Law and has a crime sheet as long as your arm. He’ll be remembered mostly for doing the Israeli occupation forces’ dirty work.

Another problem is chief negotiator Saeb Erekat who has occupied that vitally important position for nearly 20 years and achieved – well, what? He must be the most unsuccessful negotiator on the planet. Why is he still there?

If Palestinians are to retain worldwide sympathy and support, build additional strength and galvanize the whole movement into action against the corrupt political class, they will have to find leaders of a much higher calibre – and fast.

(www.redress.cc / 01.02.2012)

Zeker 74 doden bij voetbalrellen Egypte

PORT SAID – Zeker 74 personen zijn woensdag in de Egyptische havenstad Port Said om het leven gekomen tijdens ongeregeldheden na een voetbalwedstrijd.
AFP

Doden bij voetbalwedstrijd Egypte
Ruim duizend anderen raakten gewond en er werd brand gesticht in het stadion. Dat meldde de Egyptische staatstelevisie.

Supporters van het thuisteam, Al-Masry, bestormden het veld na een zeldzame 3-1 zege op Al-Ahly, het topteam van Egypte uit Caïro. Ze vielen spelers en fans van Al Ahly aan. Daarbij werden onder meer stenen, flessen en vuurwerk gegooid. De vijandelijkheden zetten zich ook buiten het stadion voort.

Op televisie was te zien hoe de fans van Al-Masri jacht maakten op hun rivalen uit de hoofdstad Caïro

Langstaande vete

Fans van Al Masry en Al Ahly hebben een langstaande vete. De laatste jaren braken bij ontmoetingen tussen de twee clubs vaker ongeregeldheden uit.

Direct na het geweld is een wedstrijd in Cairo tussen Al-Ismailiya en Zamalek geannuleerd. Boze fans van Zamalek, de aartsvijand van Al-Ahly, staken uit woede over de annulering delen van het stadion in Cairo in brand.

Het is onduidelijk of de brand in het stadion in Caïro iets met de zware rellen in Port Said te maken heeft.

De autoriteiten in Egypte hebben het leger ingezet om spelers en supporters van voetbalclub Al-Ahly weg te halen uit het stadion in Port Said. Dat meldden militaire bronnen. Er zijn onder meer twee helikopters naar het stadion gestuurd om mensen in veiligheid te brengen

Spoedzitting

Het parlement van Egypte komt donderdag in spoedzitting bijeen om zich te buigen over het dodelijke voetbalgeweld. Dit heeft de staatstelevisie van het Arabische land woensdagavond gemeld.

De Egyptische voetbalbond heeft de belangrijkste competitie van het land, de Premier League, tot nader order stilgelegd in verband met het dodelijke geweld van woensdagavond.

Weinig beveiliging

Het geweld van woensdagavond in Egypte houdt verband met een jarenlange rivaliteit tussen de fans van beide clubs. In de afgelopen periode deden zich meer geweldsincidenten voor in het Egyptische profvoetbal, zo meldde de Arabische nieuwszender al-Jazeera.

Die incidenten konden plaatsvinden door een afnemende aanwezigheid van de politie bij profwedstrijden. De beveiligingsmaatregelen rond voetbalwedstrijden hebben minder prioriteit gekregen sinds het begin van de revolutie in Egypte. Die begon ruim een jaar geleden en leidde onder meer tot de val van dictator Hosni Mubarak.

In de afgelopen jaren deden zich vaker geweldsincidenten voor tussen fans van Al-Masri en topclub Al-Ahly. De supporters van de laatste club hebben als bijnaam de Rode Duivels, of Ultras. Al-Masri beschikt ook over een uiterst fanatieke aanhang.

Nederland

Al-Ahly heeft een link met Nederland. In het seizoen 2002/2003 was de Nederlander Jo Bonfrère er trainer. De oud-voetballer van MVV werd ontslagen, nadat hij op de laatste speeldag van de competitie alsnog naast het landskampioenschap had gegrepen. Al-Ahly werd al 36 keer kampioen, waaronder in het afgelopen seizoen.

Oud-Feyenoorder Sherif Ekramy verdedigt het doel van Al-Ahly. Het is onduidelijk of hij dat ook deed tijdens de verloren wedstrijd woensdag tegen Al-Masri. Hossam Ghaly, een middenvelder die in het verleden eveneens onder contract stond bij Feyenoord, draagt nummer 14 en is aanvoerder van Al-Ahly.

(www.nu.nl / 01.02.2012)

500,000 Yemeni kids face death: UNICEF


The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has warned that about half a million of Yemeni children are at risk of dying by the turn of 2012 over severe famine and malnutrition.
“500,000 of these children are at the risk of dying or at the risk of being physically and mentally, cognitive impaired,” UNICEF’s regional director Maria Calivis said in a press conference held in the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, to discuss the looming humanitarian crisis.
Calivis’s remarks come after visiting Yemen to see first-hand the impact of malnutrition on children’s health in the crisis-hit country.
She also warned of a looming humanitarian crisis in Yemen, saying a year of political turmoil has doubled the number of malnourished children in the country.
“Conflict, poverty and drought, compounded by the unrest of the previous year, the high food and fuel prices, and the breakdown of social services, are putting children’s health at great risks and threatening their very survival,” she noted.
With 58 percent of children stunted, Yemen has the second highest rate of chronic malnutrition among children in the world after Afghanistan.
Shortage of clean water, sanitation and foodstuffs has doubled the number of children affected with malnutrition in the country.
UNICEF has asked for USD 50 million to be able to meet children’s urgent humanitarian needs in 2012.

(www.europeanphoenix.com / 01.02.2012)

Israeli Government Moves to Subsidize Settlers, Legalize Outposts

Support for ongoing settlement activity is impeding peace talks

In an effort to appeal to right-wing sentiments ahead of an election, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has reinstated subsidies for Jewish settlers in the West Bank and appointed a panel in an attempt to legalize illegal settlements.

Years ago, Israel halted generous financial incentives encouraging Israelis to settle in occupied Palestinian territory. But this week, the government released a list of settlements – many of which are deep inside the West Bank – that will again qualify for housing subsidies.

The incentives, according to a statement from the prime minister’s office, are “meant to encourage positive migration to these communities,” despite being recognized as illegal by the international community.

Additionally, the Israeli government on Monday appointed a committee to review a 2005 government report that found several dozen settlements were built not without state approval on privately held Palestinian land. The panel was set up with accusations that the report’s author was not objective.

There are suspicions that the committee will attempt to legalize at least some of the more than 100 outposts built without government authorization and on privately held Palestinian land.

These latest moves are helping to break down recent low-level peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian officials. ”They are adding obstacles at a time when everyone is intensifying efforts to try to resume peace talks,” said Palestinian government spokesman Ghassan Khatib. “I think with every additional settlement activity, the feasibility of having two states is diminished.”

(news.antiwar.com / 01.02.2012)

Christelijke Kamerleden laten zich bijpraten door Palestijnen-hater Itamar Marcus

Directeur Itamar Marcus van Palestinian Media Watch met de hysterica Pamela Geller (blog: Atlas shrugs)  tijdens een conferentie van gerenommeerde islamofoben en Palestijnenhaters (onder wie ook Geert Wilders) in 2008 in Israel 

Het wordt steeds duidelijker dat we in de Tweede Kamer in Den Haag een afgezant hebben zitten, of misschien wel meer dan één, van Christenen voor Israel, de groep christen-zionisten in Nederland, die bloembollen als teken van vriendschap afleveren aan de ergste misdadigers onder de Israelische kolonisten. Die vóór het Israelische nederzettingenprogram zijn en die elke vorm van Palestijns verzet – ook geweldloos verzet, ook boycots van goederen uit de nederzettingen en zelfs het aan de kaak  stellen van Israelisch onrecht jegens Palestijnse burgers – zien als Palestijnse ophitsing, zoniet Palestijns ‘antisemitisme’.

Hoe wordt dat duidelijk? Door onder meer de volgende uitnodiging die op 24 januari door Kamerlid Voordewind (ChristenUnie) aan een aantal leden van de vaste Commissie voor Buitenlandse Zaken werd toegezonden:

Namens Joël Voordewind nodig ik u van harte uit voor een bespreking over de Palestijnse Autoriteit (PA) en het verheerlijken van terrorisme. De aanleiding hiervoor is tweeledig. Enerzijds willen we graag overleg over de aangenomen motie Van der Staaij/Voordewind over de Palestijnse Autoriteit en het verheerlijken van het terrorisme. Een goed voorbeeld daarvan zijn de aanhoudende betalingen van de PA aan veroordeelde terroristen in Israëlische gevangenissen. Tijdens de begrotingsbehandeling probeerden we tevergeefs Minister Rosenthal te bewegen om de PA te bewegen met deze betalingen te stoppen. Anderzijds is Itamar Marcus van de Palestinian Media Watch speciaal voor deze bijeenkomst naar Nederland gekomen om zijn boek ‘Deception’ te presenteren. De bijeenkomst zal plaatsvinden op woensdag 1 februari van 15:00 tot 16:30.

Voor wie niet weet weet wie Itamar Marcus is: hij is in de eerste plaats een kolonist. Hij woont in de nederzetting Efrat die is gebouwd op grond die is afgepakt van het (overwegend christelijke) Palestijnse dorp Al-Khadr bij Bethlehem. Hij is een oud-medewerker van de Israelische veiligheidsdienst Shin Bet, en oud-medewerker van Netanyahu, maar toch vooral de directeur van Palestinian Media Watch (PMW- PalWatch) dat hij in 1996 oprichtte. PMW is sindsdien verantwoordelijk voor een stroom van video’s en publicaties die het onbetrouwbare, leugenachtige, moorddadige en vooral antisemitische karakter moet aantonen van de Palestijnen. En niet te vergeten hun verheerlijking van het terrorisme, een veelgebruikte uitdrukking van PMW, die hier klakkeloos door de Christenen voor Israel onder onze Kamerleden wordt overgenomen.
Ik schreef niet zo lang geleden onder de titel ‘Een leven in dienst van het belasteren van de Palestijnen’ een lang stuk over Itamar Marcus. Daarin gaf ik aan dat Marcus niet alleen uiterst tendentieus is, maar ook volstrekt onbetrouwbaar. Hij blijft bijvoorbeeld tamboereren op de schoolboeken in de Palestijnse gebieden waar van alles mis mee zou zijn. In werkelijkheid werd een aantal jaren geleden een heel nieuw curriculum opgesteld, onder meer met hulp van de Nederlandse overheid, waar volstrekt niets op valt aan te merken. Hij geeft talloze voorbeelden van hulp die de Palestijnse Autoriteit aan ‘terroristen’ in Israelische gevangenschap geeft, waarbij hij niet alleen onbetrouwbare getallen noemt (zie de beantwoording van recente Kamervragendoor minister Rosenthal) maar ook volstrekt voorbijgaat aan het feit dat al die ‘terroristen’ zijn veroordeeld door  militaire Israelische rechters en op grond van wetten die totaal niets met een aanvaardbaar juridisch systeem uitstaande hebben, zodat hun straffen in veel gevallen ook geen enkele toets der kritiek kunnen doorstaan.
Het heeft weinig zin mijn hierboven genoemde stuk te herhalen. Het komt hierop neer: Er zijn zeker soms aanmerkingen te maken op Palestijnse uitingen (zoals dat ook vrijwel dagelijks het geval is met Israelische uitingen jegens Palestijnen).Maar Itamar Marcus, met zijn vooropgestelde bedoeling de Palestijnen zo zwart mogelijk te maken en zijn onverholen islamofobe instelling, is een totaal onbetrouwbare en zelfs moreel onaanvaardbare bron.

Maar er zijn nog wel twee aanvullingen te geven op wat ik eerder schreef. Die betreffen belangrijke sponsors van PMW. Een ervan is de Michael Cherney Foundation, genoemd naar zijn voorzitter, de in Uzbekistan geboren Israeli Michael Cherney.Cherney wordt door Interpol gezocht wegens betrokkenheid bij grootscheepse witwasoperaties in Spanje. Wikipedia geefteen hele waslijst aan aanwijzingen dat Cherney (ook wel Chernoy) betrokken was, en vermoedelijk is, bij zaakjes van de Russische maffia. Daarnaast wordt zijn naam genoemd in de zaak die de Israelische justitie voorbereidt tegen minister van buitenlandse zaken Avigdor Lieberman. Hij zou Lieberman die een vriend van hem is, hebben omgekocht. (Misschien kan de ChristenUnie over deze zaken even navraag doen bij Marcus? Of anders Kamervragen stellen?)

De andere sponsor is het Central Fund for Israel, dat onder meer projecten (onder andere beveiligingsprojecten, waarbij we moeten denken aan gewapende bewakers, geëlektrificeerde hekken en wellicht zelfs speciaal afgerichte bijtgrage honden) in de Israelische nederzettingen financiert en, volgens een artikel in deNew York Times, ook door kolonisten in Israel wordt gebruikt om belastingvrij geld weg te sluizen dat dan weer via een omweg naar hen wordt teruggestort.

En door deze man laten Kamerleden (en ook minister Rosenthal, zie mijn vorige stuk over PMW) zich leiden.
Marcus geeft trouwens morgen ook een lezing voor Christenen voor Israel in Nijkerk.

(Lezing was woensdag 010212 /abu-pessoptimist.blogspot.com /01.02.2012)

Syria launches new operations against armed groups

The ministry of information organized a field visit for Arab and international news reporters to the city of Saydnaya in Damascus countryside. Reporters visited the Convent of Our Lady of Saydnaya which was targeted recently by armed groups with an Rocket Propelled Grenades. No one was in the room at the time it was targeted.

Gunshots were heard from the surrounding mountains as clashes continue in the area between the Syrian Arab army and armed groups.

This is one of the areas in Damascus countryside where armed groups carried out sabotage acts against public and private institutions. It seems now that the government took the decision to strike and put an end to such armed groups.

Syrian forces have tracked armed groups in various places in Damascus countryside.

Special operations were carried out by specialized Syrian authorities, during the past three days, in the areas of Duma, Harasta, Saqba, Hammurieh and Kafar Batna in order to eliminate armed groups.

Clashes in the areas led to the killing and arrest of large numbers of the armed men who were using American and Israeli made weapons.

Authorities also found basements and tunnels the armed groups used to make explosive charges and keep the abducted. A Large amount of weapons was also confiscated. The ministry of interior said these operations came in response to the demands of owners of shops, industrial workshops and factories in Damascus countryside.

(presstv.com / 01.02.2012)

Abbas meets UN chief, urges end to settlements

President Mahmoud Abbas shakes hands with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during their meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah February 1, 2012.
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — President Abbas met with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday and called on Israel to stop settlement building and lift the blockade on Gaza, Palestine TV reported.

The UN chief had earlier visited Israeli prime minister Netanyahu, urging the Israelis “to act in a constructive spirit and offer goodwill gestures which will create a positive dynamic.”

Abbas said that the Palestinian leadership will discuss the recent exploratory talks in Amman at a follow up Arab League committee meeting on Feb. 4.

He stressed that Israel must lift the ongoing blockade of the Gaza Strip and steps must be taken to support the budget for UNRWA’s work.

The UN chief praised Palestinian state-building and discussed the issue of settler violence.

Five sessions of exploratory talks ended in Jordan on Jan. 25 and Palestinian officials said Abbas planned to consult an Arab League follow-up committee next week on what to do next.

PLO official Nabil Shaath told the Russian deputy foreign minster on Wednesday that Israel had presented a “colonial vision” to the Palestinians as part of their proposal on security and borders.

Ban said he still hoped that Israel would present “its own concrete proposals on territory and security” as called for by an international Quartet of mediators – the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations.

Palestine’s Observer to the UN Riyad Mansour told a UN Security Council briefing last week that Palestinians continued to hope for freedom and justice “despite all odds.”

“The two-State solution is withering with every inch of Palestinian land seized by the occupying Power, every settlement unit constructed, every Israeli settler transferred, every wall erected, every home demolished and every Palestinian family displaced,” he said.

Netanyahu on Sunday accused the Palestinians of refusing to discuss “Israel’s security needs” at the Amman talks and described peace prospects as poor.

(www.maannews.net / 01.02.2012)

New York Times interview with Lizzie Phelan on Syria and Libya

Lizzie Phelan wrote : “Earlier today I was video interviewed over Skype by New York Times journalist Robert Mackey about my coverage of events in Libya and Syria and my criticisms of the mainstream western and GCC media in relation to events in those countries.

This was my first interview by a mainstream western media organisation and I have been told that the video will be published in full tomorrow.

Prior to the interview I was sent three questions outlining the general topics that would be covered in the interview. In some ways the interview veered away from these topics and so here I will publish the questions that were outlined prior to the interview and publish my full answers to them, just because I feel like it is important that full responses are given to these questions in particular, and while I made most of these points in the interview, there are some points that I omitted.”

The  interview:

ROBERT MACKEY:    Since your impressions of what is happening in Syria seem to be strikingly different from those of many foreign reporters who have worked there recently, I wanted to ask you about how you found your sources and what you think accounts for the different picture painted of the conflict by other journalists.           

 LIZZIE PHELAN: First of all I hope that you will give me the opportunity to answer all of your questions in full, so that the context which is always lacking can be provided. I also hope that you will ask all the questions that you proposed when I agreed to do this interview. If not I will myself publish the full questions and my full answers. 

This question is flawed, because what you really mean is that my impressions of what is happening in Syria seem to be strikingly different from those reporters from the NATO and GCC countries which have a vested interest in destabilising Syria. Of course my impressions are actually shared by the majority people of this world, from those countries outside of NATO and the GCC and particularly those which are victims of these powers. But because they do not own a powerful media their voices are drowned out by the impressions of the minority reflected in the mainstream media of the NATO and GCC countries.

So in relation to my sources, I find my sources through a number of different means, but my main means is I talk to ordinary people everywhere I go and in Syria this is not difficult because people are really keen to speak about the crisis in their country, especially to foreigners who they feel strongly have a false impression about their country and current events. This was overwhelmingly, but of course not exclusively, the point of view that I encountered. And this is reflected in my reporting.

In fact, like in Libya, I was so overwhelmed by the volume of people that wanted to talk about their anger at the fabrications in the media of the NATO and GCC countries that my colleague Mostafa Afzalzadeh and I decided to make a documentary so that we could reflect what ordinary Syrian people are really saying. This documentary will actually expose how if it was not for such media the crisis in Syria would have been over before it started and the people of Syria would be living in peace now.

The difference with journalists from mainstream media in NATO and GCC countries is that they come with an agenda, and that agenda is to cover what they call is a “revolution” happening inside Syria and to give substance to the false claims that the Syrian government is a threat to the Syrian people. So if for example they walk down the street and they have 10 people telling them there is no revolution happening in Syria and actually the people want the army to protect them from the terrorists that are flooding the country, and then they have one person who tells them that there is no democracy in Syria, they will discard the 10 as government spies and run with the one person who said something different, I witnessed this myself.

If they were to do the reverse and reflect the majority view on the street, then this would undermine the coverage of their media organisations over the previous 10 months that have painted a picture of a government hated by its people, and in turn it would undermine their own credibility as journalists working for those organisations.

But in time they will not be able to supress the truth. However, like in Libya the danger is that the truth only comes out when it is too late, when a country has been successfully destroyed by the NATO and GCC countries, with the vital help of their media. Then the western media can afford to be more honest, although never entirely, because the aims, for example of regime change, of their paymasters have been achieved. 

I on the other hand am not concerned about towing a line in order to “make it” as a journalist working for one of the world’s most respected media organisations, I became a journalist in order to reflect the truth at whatever cost that may come. The only thing I am loyal to is my conscience.

RM:     Since you have appeared on Press TV and Russia Today, as well as Syria state television, do you have any concern that you might seem to be endorsing the governments that finance those channels, or do you see your role more as that of an activist, opposing the policies of the US and UK, than  as a neutral reporter?

LP: This question in itself is a very deceitful and loaded question, and it is taken out of all context. It implies that BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera etc and the journalists who work for those organisations are independent from their financiers. If I worked for BBC does that mean that I am endorsing the British government which funds it and that government’s centuries long and present abuses across the world?

Why is the NYT concerned about my work for Russia Today and Press TV? I challenge you to find me specific examples of journalists that work for these organisations that have engaged in bad journalistic practise. Why are you not concerned about journalists who work for Al Jazeera that is funded by and reflects the foreign policy of the Qatari emir and royal family. Al Jazeera has been proven many times over in the past few months to have published false reports about events in the region, not least Libya. 

How can their journalists be neutral when their employer hosts the largest US military base in the region, and has been responsible for sending thousands of fighters, weapons and a lot of money to kill and destroy in Libya and is now doing the same in Syria in addition to having called for Arab troops to invade the country. Likewise, I have yet to hear the NYT question the “neutrality” of journalists who work with the British state funded BBC, or journalists who work for the Murdoch Press which is well documented to have strong connections with all the major western powers which are responsible for the greatest violations of international law.

So the question should start from the premise that no news organisations are neutral, and each represent a certain ideology. So if you ask me if I feel more at peace working for news channels which reflect the ideology of states that are defending themselves from constant attack by the west, that is an ideology that opposes foreign interference in their affairs and promotes their own independence, or would I feel more comfortable working for media organisations that reflect the arrogant ideology that western civilisation is superior and should be imposed across the world by any means necessary, then I think any person with the slightest understanding of global politics and at least recent history would say the former.

An additional deception in this question is that there is such a thing as neutrality and that journalists are able to separate their own beliefs in what they choose to cover and how they cover it, or indeed the pretence that journalists do not hold an opinion.

As I said, I am not concerned about others perceptions of these things, because anyone who perceives that because I have worked for Russia Today or Press TV it means that I am in someone’s pocket, whereas if I was working for a western organisation I would be “neutral,” is deceiving themselves and choosing to look at a tiny portion of a whole picture.

Incidentally, when I was stuck in the Rixos Hotel in Tripoli with those 35 other journalists, one of the days, two American journalists rushed into the hotel and swiftly exited when they realised that the hotel was being defended by Gaddafi supporters. Actually one of the two in particular was worried about the Gaddafi supporters harming him, but they requested that they just leave. Why was he so worried? Because he said he was related to somebody senior in the NTC no less. I have never seen his neutrality being called into question by the mainstream media.

 Finally, what is an activist? If it means that the role you play has the effect of agitating events, then I would say that we are all in some shape or form activists. For anyone to think that their actions are benign and have no repercussions, is at best naïve. This is particularly true for all journalists, whose actions as reporters have greater repercussions than other ordinary citizens of this world. And this is of course because their voice is afforded a special platform, and when you study journalism you are taught that a reporter should act as the eyes and ears of the general public, and thus you have greater influence than the ordinary citizen.

So you either use that platform to promote justice and the principles of international law which are fundamental for everyone’s wellbeing, or you bury your head in the sand about the responsibility that comes with that platform and you use it to promote your own personal career or interests.

RM:     I also wanted to find out more about your reporting from Libya, and ask how you respond to allegations that you supported the government of Col. Qaddafi?  All in all, I’m trying to get a better understanding of what drives you to speak out against Western governments but apparently lend your support to governments, like those in Iran, Russia and Syria now, that have been accused of serious human rights abuses.

LP: Again this is another deceitful question and epitomises the manipulative approach of the world’s powerful media, such as newspapers like the NYT.

Here you are asking me this question because the west’s major powers and media criminalised Muammar Gaddafi, Iran etc by accusing them of abusing human rights.

So you are trying to put me into this trap by saying that if I support Muammar Gaddafi, and Iran I also support abuses against human rights.

But first of all this question of human rights is an absolute fallacy and is at present the number one stick used to bash leaders of independent developing countries in order to provide a moral justification for the imposition of the western system upon those countries.

My colleague Dan Glazebrook did an interview on Russia Today last week following the decision by Doctors Without Borders to stop their work in Libya in despair at the appalling torture against tens of thousands of pro-Gaddafi Libyans by those rebels who have been cheered on for the past year by the western media. He reminded the public that according to HRW reports from the past 5 years, there were three possible cases of deaths in custody in Libya over 5 years, which is really exemplary, but in Britain there were 4 cases last month alone. So I would be far more concerned about being associated with the British government and thus its appalling human rights record. And that is just Britain – the rest of the NATO countries, particularly the US and also Israel and the GCC countries fare no better. 

Factually speaking Libya was a paradise for human rights and Muammar Gaddafi was due to receive a human rights award prior to the NATO onslaught. And of course Libya had the highest standard of living in Africa and much of the region, including a much higher standard of living than Saudi Arabia which hardly ever is in the spotlight in the mainstream western press.

Nonetheless, you wouldn’t dream of implying that a journalist who works for the Sun or the Guardian in Britain, both of which take a position of supporting one way or another the Conservative party or the Labour Party, of supporting abuses on human rights because they work for papers which support parties that have committed some of the greatest injustices known to man throughout history all across the world and up until this present day. Injustices which far outstrip any injustices that have occurred at the hands of any leader of a developing country.

So why the two-faces? This is all part of the prejudice in western media that western civilisation is superior to anything else and therefore those responsible for the injustices committed by the west need not be held accountable, and anyone who speaks out against that should have their name dragged through the mud. 

Malcolm X famously said “if you are not careful, the media will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the oppressor”, and that quote rings true more than ever today most recently in the way that the western and GCC media has covered events in Libya and Syria.

But to respond to your question directly, as I have stated, what I support is respect for international law, and the most important principle in international law, and one of the main stated aims for the body that was set up to uphold international law, the now redundant UN, is respect for the sovereignty of nations and non-interference in the internal affairs of states. Recent history shows that the root of the greatest injustices known to man is the violation of these principles and so anyone who violates these principles is a criminal and should be treated as such, and anyone who is a victim of such violations should be defended.

Now not only these principles, but all relevant international laws and norms were violated in the case of Libya and the west’s treatment of Muammar Gaddafi, and this has been well documented. The same violations are playing out against the Syrian government.

How is it that one can moralise about human rights, but not give a second’s thought to the fact that a senior member of the US government, Hilary Clinton called for the death of another head of state, Muammar Gaddafi, just two days before he was assassinated. I hope I don’t need to tell you that that was entirely illegal and abhorrent.

I am wholly against such violations, just as anybody who believes in international law and justice would be, and therefore I will support the right of anyone to defend themselves against this violation by any means necessary.

I have been accused by some of being a mouthpiece for the Libyan government but now the truth is coming out, we know that the essence of the former Libyan government’s analysis has been proved correct, whilst almost everything reported by the mainstream Western media has been proved wrong:

- The rebellion WAS indeed armed from the very first day of the uprising (this was confirmed in Amnesty’s in-depth report from late last year) – not a peaceful movement

- The rebels WERE working hand in glove with Western intelligence agencies to facilitate a NATO blitzkrieg

- The NTC ARE disunited and incapable of governing the country.

- The rebels DO have a racist, even genocidal, policy towards sub-Saharan African migrants and the third of the Libyan population that is dark skinned

- Gaddafi’s government WERE NOT conducting aerial attacks against protesters or mass rape (or indeed ANY rape, according to Amnesty)

- There HAD NOT been 10,000 people killed in Benghazi by Gaddafi’s government during the uprising (as the NTC claimed), but 110 (Amnesty figures again) killed on both sides prior to NATO’s attack

On every major issue, the Gaddafi government’s analysis and figures have been proven far far closer to the truth than the NTC’s and the western media’s initial and unequivocal position. So ANY journalist telling the truth about these issues would have “sounded like a mouthpiece of the regime”, because the government’s analysis was essentially correct, and has now been proven correct.

(saebpress.com /01.02.2012)