‘Israel tightens inhumane siege of Gaza’

Israel denies about 1.7 million people in Gaza their basic rights, including the freedom of movement and the right to decent living, work, health and education.

Press TV has conducted an interview with Kevin Ovenden, organizer of the Viva Palestina Arabia convoy to Gaza, to further discuss the issue.

The following is a transcription of the interview.

Press TV: Tell us please what lies behind it; where it is now; where it left from. Tell us the story.

Ovenden: Well, what lies behind it is that 6 years on from an election taking place across Palestine as a whole, let’s not forget, which the Western powers and Israel did not like, a siege and embargo remains upon the people of Gaza, the 1.5 million people in Gaza.

This is despite the so-called relaxation of siege by Israel, which they allowed tomato, ketchup and mayonnaise through.

Despite something even more substantial, which is the overthrow of Mubarak in Egypt, there has been some change; but the essence of the embargo remains which is that there is no free movement of people and free movement of goods without which the economy of Gaza cannot recover from the devastation it has faced. So that is what lies behind it.

In addition, as you said, George, the name of the convoy is the Right of Return Convoy, and that is for three reasons. Firstly, Viva Palestina in the form of Viva Palestina Arabia is returning to Gaza for the sixth time, bringing much needed humanitarian aid.

Secondly, it is the call for activists and the people of good will around the world to return their minds to Palestine, to return their minds to Gaza. There are many changes happening in the Middle East, many good, some not so good, but there are those who in the course of those changes would like us to turn our minds away from the fundamental issue for everybody in the Middle East and indeed for hundreds and millions of people, Muslims and others, around the world, and that’s Palestine.

And the third reason is to emphasize the right of return of the displaced Palestinian refugees. More than half of the Palestinian people are refugees. 10 million Palestinians now driven out of their homes in the Nakba of 1948, and so we aim to be in Gaza on the 15th of May, which is Nakba Day, to commemorate that with the people there and highlight the fact of the right of return exercised by the Palestinian people. There will be no solution to the Palestinian question.

Press TV: There are two important questions that arise from that. The first is, because there is no point in discussing Israel’s relaxation of the siege, that was a sick joke, the extent of their relaxation, as you say, being that they allowed mayonnaise, tomato and ketchup to go through the siege barriers, though why they were ever banned in the first place is mind-boggling.

But two important things emerged from it. The first is that notwithstanding the overthrow of the Mubarak regime, the duo power which seems to exist in Egypt now with the military still on their horse and the parliament elected but no president yet, does not seem to have yielded the kind of access for the people of Gaza that one might have expected.

The second and perhaps more problematic, with oil hovering at around 120 to 150 dollars a barrel, some of these Arab oil producers having doubled their amount of income that they had budgeted for, surely Gaza should be like the south of France by now. It’s only 1.6 million people, why are these oil producers not pouring money in to relieve the suffering of the people of Gaza?

Ovenden: I entirely agree that those are two of the most salient points. Firstly, the situation with the Egyptian government or Egyptian regime is, as you say, a dual power situation with the remnants of the “Mubarakism”, one might say; the SCAF, the generals, trying to hold unto or delegate to themselves as much power as they can in defiance of the great democratic awakening which is taking place in Egypt.

Exactly how that plays out remains to be seen. It will play out in one form of another in the course of the presidential election. It does mean that there is a gap in Egyptian society between the feeling of the mass of people which remains very strongly for the Palestinian people as a whole and particularly their neighbors in Gaza – we remember it was the Egyptian people who stormed the Israeli embassy protesting at the very presence of that embassy in Cairo – a gap between that and the powers that be at least at the moment.

I think it’s an unstable situation and I think that our convoy will be well received by the people of Egypt. I think that the most patriotic and most far-sighted presidential candidates who’ll be campaigning while we’re aiming to get into Gaza will also receive it well.

In combination with that, as you say, the case is irrefutable. Most of the Persian Gulf kingdoms are budgeted for oil to be around 80 dollars a barrel; they’re a break-even budgets are around 90 dollars a barrel, which is leaving aside that’s in the sovereign well funds which invested in the US stock market and other gambling, and so on.

The amount needed to reconstruct Gaza was estimated two years ago to be in the region of 1.8 billion dollars which is not an awful lot of money.

Press TV: No, it’s pennies for them.

Ovenden: Absolutely. It’s small change for these princes and kings.

The coastline of Gaza, the 26 miles of it, should look like Cannes or Nice. It has natural attractions and so on, and there should be no barrier to construction and other aid getting in for that to take place. This is also something that we’ll be highlighting.

There’s lots of talk from the most surprising of places about democracy and progress inside the Middle East and North African region, and also, I must say now, quite a lot of hiding behind people in Gaza – they weren’t there to help them when the bombing was happening three years ago, and now they’re trying to hide behind some of the political leaders in Gaza to claim that they stand with the Palestinians.

Well, actions speak louder than words and we know that the emirs and so on are not very good at acting but they’ve got money and they could spend it.

Press TV: I don’t want to press you too hard on this; and if you want to diplomatically decline it’s up to you. Qatar, for example, is pouring money and weapons into various Arab-Arab conflicts but could solve in an instant the entire suffering of the Palestinian people in Gaza.

Ovenden: Qatar is an extremely good example as is Saudi Arabia and Bahrain which is under the partial occupation invited in by the Bahraini government of the Saudis.

One thing I’d like to make clear in reference to what you’ve just touched on, this fueling of Arab-Arab conflict so even Arab-Persian conflicts or Arab-Kurdish conflicts and so on, which is of course all in the interests of the Western powers; this is what Baker and Hamilton sat down and planned as a renewed Sykes-Pico in the dying days of the George W. Bush administration.

We are carrying the flag of Palestine from the north of England, from Baghdad through France, through Germany, through the Balkans, into Turkey, down through the Lavan, through Syria, into Jordan, across the Sinai and into Gaza, we hope.

One flag, the flag of Palestine, which we know and the peoples throughout all of those regions and countries will respect. We ask all of the appropriate authorities to respect that flag as well.

Press TV: Tell us, where is the convoy now and how can people support it?

Ovenden: The convoy’s currently in southern Germany. It’s moving between Stuttgart and Munich, two cities which have a great history of support for the Palestinian people so we’re very pleased about that.

It’s heading on route that I just mentioned earlier.

People can support it by going to the vivapalestina.org website and you’ll be guided there to the appropriate web pages for supporting the convoy.

The other thing you can do is sign up to the mail and Twitter so that should it be necessary to call upon the wider community of support for the Palestinian people to act in support of the convoy if it faces any difficulties then you’ll have the information and be able to act.

Press TV: So, you’re going through Syria because that’s the road to Palestine. It doesn’t imply any side in any Arab conflict. But you’re not going to avoid a country because some people think that you oughtn’t to be going through it. After all, when we took convoys to Palestine, we drove through many brute dictatorships across North Africa. The mere act of doing so did not imply that we were with any of those.

Ovenden: Indeed. We were driving through a country which is not a brute dictatorship – I’m talking of Turkey – but does have its own internal problems and political divisions and so on.

Press TV: Muslim-Muslim conflict in Turkey.

Ovenden: Muslim-Muslim conflict in Turkey, a Kurdish conflict within Turkey, none of which is the business of a convoy delivering aid to Palestine. Palestine is the business.

Palestine is the key, ought to be the bridge, ought to bring everybody together, and I hope that everyone watching this keeps that in mind.

(www.presstv.ir / 25.05.2012)

Holding Political Office in a Non-Muslim Country


Answered by Sheikh Salman Al-Oadah at IslamToday.net

Question:

Is it allowed in Islam for a Muslim to hold a political position in a non-Muslim government?

Answer:

If a Muslim wishes to hold political office in a non-Muslim country that governs by secular laws and demands compliance with them, then some things have to be considered. If he is doing so with the intention of helping and protecting his Muslim constituents and if he will have the power to do so and he is qualified for the job, then it is permissible for him to do so and he will be rewarded for it. Under some circumstances, such participation is his Islamic duty, especially if that person enjoys prominence in society. It does not matter whether the Muslims in that country are a minority or the majority.

The evidence for this opinion is that the Prophet Joseph, peace be upon him, held a political office in the Egypt of the Pharaohs, taking charge of its monetary affairs. He acted in the capacity that a finance minister would today. In the Qur’ân, Joseph is quoted as saying:

 قَالَ اجْعَلْنِي عَلَىٰ خَزَائِنِ الْأَرْضِ إِنِّي حَفِيظٌ عَلِيمٌ

Set me over the storehouses of the land. I am a good custodian and knowledgeable.

[Sûrah Yûsuf 12:55]

It is well known that being a member of Parliament or holding a ministerial post affords one with political power that protects people from injustice. This power resembles that which was once held by tribal affiliations in the past.

Allah tells us in the Qur’ân that the people of Shu’ayb, peace be upon him, wanted to stone him and drive him out of the land, but they refrained from doing so because they feared a reprisal from his clansmen. The Qur’ân quotes them as saying:

قَالُوا يَا شُعَيْبُ مَا نَفْقَهُ كَثِيرًا مِّمَّا تَقُولُ وَإِنَّا لَنَرَاكَ فِينَا ضَعِيفًا وَلَوْلَا رَهْطُكَ لَرَجَمْنَاكَ وَمَا أَنتَ عَلَيْنَا بِعَزِيزٍ

O Shu’ayb, Much of what you say we do not understand. In fact, among us we see you as weak. If it were not for your family, we would certainly have stoned you, for you have no great position among us.

[Sûrah Hûd 11:91]

In explaining this verse, Sheikh Abdu-Rahmân al-Sa’dî comments that if participation in a non-Muslim government is needed for the welfare of the Muslims, then such participation can be obligatory. If, on the other hand, it brings about more harm than good, then it is not permissible. The knowledgeable Muslims within a given country are best acquainted with their local situation and are therefore in the best position to make such a determination for themselves.

We might venture an opinion that in this day and time, participation in politics is generally better than staying out of it.

And Allah knows best.

(www.faithinallah.org / 25.05.2012)

Islamists Losing Sight of Palestinian Cause

Now that Islamists have made some gains in the Arab revolutions – having won the majority of votes in Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, Kuwait and possibly other Arab countries with upcoming elections – evaluating its track record is necessary to know where it stands, and where it can possibly be headed.

Political Islam has taken on a prominent role within the governments of Tunisia and Morocco, and it may do the same in the new Egyptian government. An Islamist candidate may win the Egyptian presidential election [which is currently taking place]. Debates continue to rage in Egypt, especially between the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces [SCAF], the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists.

This article sheds light on the way political Islam has been dealing with the Palestinian cause following its rise and access to power.

First, no one can deny that Islamists embrace the Palestinian cause. They opposed Israel’s creation and its subsequent occupation of the rest of Palestine. They are against the Egyptian and Jordanian peace treaties with Israel, as well as the Oslo Accords. They oppose normalization and negotiations as a means to resolve the conflict with the Zionist entity, and adopt armed resistance – and Jihad in particular – for the liberation of Palestine. The liberation of Palestine is deemed as an Islamic duty that every Muslim must fulfill.

We saw how the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists – especially the jihadists among them – demanded the abolition of the Camp David agreement and asked for support for the resistance in Palestine and Lebanon. They demanded an end to the seige of Gaza, and that the area be supported in the event of Israeli aggression, especially during the Israeli war against the Gaza Strip in late 2008 and early 2009. What’s more, the Muslim Brotherhood supported and allied itself with the resistance axis, which includes Iran, despite their differences.

The jihadist position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was one of the main reasons behind the Islamists’ oppression, repression and persecution. It also made the US, Israel and Europe prefer the reactionary and military-backed Arab dictatorships, over fears that political Islam would upset stability in the region.

It was clear that there were two alternatives in the Arab region: the military dictatorship of reactionary regimes or political Islam. This prompted the West to stop its calls for change and democracy – and their various other names or forms. The West prioritized its interests and influence in the region over the democratic and human values that it claims to embrace.

Before the revolutions, the West supported the military dictatorships in Egypt and Tunisia. These dictatorships were closely tied to Israel under the pretext of maintaining stability in a region – which they considered as very vital to preserve the interests and stability of the world. However, when the revolutions in those two countries started to gain an irreversible momentum, the West changed their strategy and chose to abandon their historic allies. Obama and members of his administration started asking former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to just “leave,” even though he offered the US and Israel services that they never dreamed of.

To explain this US-Western change in position, which was opposed by Israel for fear of the Islamist alternative, one must take into account the following points:

First, The revolutions came as a sweeping and storming surprise. They could not be stopped through direct military interference or through the support of local forces that are loyal to – but unable to confront – the West.

Second, The revolutions broke out amid a financial and economic crisis in the US and Europe. They took place in the aftermath of western defeats in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon, amid a decline in the United States’ role across the world.

Third, the revolutions were spontaneous and incomplete. They were not based on an ideology, nor were they led by a particular party or a single leader who could control its path and bring about comprehensive change. Moreover, these revolutions have focused on freedom, dignity,  justice, democracy and improving daily life. They failed to focus on the Palestinian cause or ridding their countries of foreign dependency and dominance. The Palestinian cause was present in the slogans and concerns of the revolutions, but it was never the central issue or one of the priorities.

Fourth, it should be noted that the failure to prioritize the Palestinian cause – and this is completely understandable given that the revolutionaries were focused on the survival of the revolutions and their local concerns  – led to the emergence of another phenomenon. Islamist figures, from the Muslim Brotherhood in particular, have started sending moderated messages that reflect a remarkable positional shift on the Palestinian issue. How did this happen?

Islamists in Egypt are not promoting the liberation of Palestine, the adoption of jihad, the abolition of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty or the support of the resistance axis. There is a gradually expanding group among them that are saying that amending the peace agreements or insisting on their full implementation can be sufficient, or that it is a matter that should be settled by the constitutional institutions or a popular referendum. There was talk about commitment to the agreements, about the fact that the Jihad issue is off the current agenda, that the Palestinian issue should be resolved by Palestinians, that they will not be more [autocratic] than the king and that they will be satisfied by whatever pleases Palestinians.

Prominent Islamists have talked about imminent threats facing the nation, namely from Israel and Iran. These threats are replacing those that were posed by the US administration. The US attempts in Egypt to perpetuate dominance, subordination and absolute support for Israel – to make Israel a dominate regional power – are disappearing. We have even started seeing the development of Muslim Brotherhood relations with Gulf States, with Saudi Arabia in particular. Sunni Islamist voices are feeding sedition by inflaming the dispute with Iran, the Shiites and Hezbollah, and turning it into a Sunni-Shiite conflict.

US and European officials started visiting Egypt, Tunisia and other Arab countries, and US officials held meetings with the Muslim Brotherhood. The meetings have involved all levels of US diplomats, except the President.

Statements were issued by US officials close to the decision-makers that welcomed the nomination of Shater as the Muslim Brotherhood candidate. They considered him as moderate and acceptable compared to another rising Islamist star, Hazem Abu Ismail, who is deemed by the US administration as a radical Islamist candidate.

US policy is currently based on the classification of Islamists between moderates and extremists. The US will support moderates against extremists, but they will also try to involve them in their struggle – along with their allies in the Persian Gulf and Israel – against Iran, especially if there is war.

The US administration is well aware that it cannot prevent the Islamists’ rise to power, especially in Egypt. Thus, it attempts to curry favor with them and even tame them. Islamists have demonstrated that they are able to switch sides easily. In Egypt, for instance, they struck a deal with the SCAF, turning their back on revolution and Tahrir square. However, they have recently reversed directions again, as they realized that failing to exploit the revolution would jeopardize their chances of victory in the parliamentary elections. After losing some credibility, they returned to Tahrir square. However, the Egyptian presidential elections will prove if they still have a firm grip on the Egyptian street.

It is only fair to say that the moderate Brotherhood has not yet taken full control. This is possible, but by no means inevitable.

The Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamists are far removed from the US and Israel, and this gap cannot be easily bridged. When the Brotherhood was first established, it was a Jihadist movement that participated in Palestine’s war. Then, during the Cold War, it became an ally of the colonial West and its reactionary allies. The Muslim movement took the west’s side against the national and leftist movements, unaware of those movements’ war for national independence, Arab unity and social justice. The Muslim Brotherhood was also unaware of what those movements achieved, because their great achievements were overshadowed by their failures. The national and leftist movements prioritized socialism and social justice over democracy, and they believed that their general struggle was more important than individual voices. This lack of faith in democracy contributed to their failures.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s positions are greatly related to the events that took place in Palestine and Algeria, where Islamists won the elections but were unable to rule. Similarly in Turkey, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), led by current prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, won the elections after it adopted a moderate program that preserved Turkey’s membership in NATO and its relations with Israel. This is not to mention their great political and economic achievements.

The Islamists seem confused between following the Taliban or Erdogan models. They fear repeating the Palestinian and Algerian scenario. Thus, the Islamist movement tends to be moderate, even at the expense of the Palestinian cause. This way, political Islam will have a greater chance to be accepted by the US and Europe as the leaders of Egypt and other Arab countries.

The Muslim Brotherhood has gone as far as to exert pressure on Hamas to espouse a more moderate ideology so that it will not hurt its attempts to win the favor of the US. This resulted in the Doha Agreement, where Khaled Meshaal, Chairman of the Hamas Political Bureau, declared President Mahdmoud Abbas the president of the national unity government. This government is to be formed during the transitional period. Hamas’ leaders, particularly in Gaza, consider this agreement as a free concession that threatens their unilateral control of Gaza. For this reason, they sought to disrupt it.

We saw how the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists – especially the jihadists among them – demanded the abolition of the Camp David agreement and asked for support for the resistance in Palestine and Lebanon. They lifted the siege on Gaza and supported it during any Israeli aggression, especially when the Israeli occupation army waged war against the Gaza Strip in late 2008 and the beginning of 2009. What’s more, the Muslim Brotherhood supported and allied themselves with the resistance axis, which includes Iran, despite their differences.

The jihadist position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was one of the main reasons behind the  Islamists’ oppression, repression and persecution. It also made the US, Israel and Europe prefer the reactionary and military-backed Arab dictatorships, over fears that political Islam would upset stability in the region.

It was clear that there were two alternatives in the Arab region: the military dictatorship of reactionary regimes or political Islam. This prompted the West to stop its calls for change and democracy – and their various other names or forms. The West prioritized its interests and influence in the region over the democratic and human values that it claims to embrace.

Before the revolutions, the West supported the military dictatorships in Egypt and Tunisia. These dictatorships were closely tied to Israel under the pretext of maintaining stability in a region – which they considered as very vital to preserve the interests and stability of the world. However when the revolutions in those two countries started to gain an irreversible momentum, a western changed their strategy and chose to abandon their historic allies. Obama and members of his administration started asking former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to just “leave,” even though he offered the US and Israel services that they never dreamed of.

To explain this US-Western change of position, which was opposed by Israel for fear of the Islamist alternative, one must take into account the following points:

First, The revolutions came as a sweeping and storming surprise. They could not be stopped through direct military interference or through the support of local forces that are loyal to – but unable to confront – the West.

Second, The revolutions broke out amid a financial and economic crisis in the US and Europe. They took place in the aftermath of the western defeats in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon, amid a decline in the United States’ role across the world.

Third, the revolutions were spontaneous and incomplete. They were not based on an ideology, nor were they led by a particular party or a single leader who could control its path and bring about comprehensive change. Moreover, these revolutions have focused on freedom, dignity,  justice, democracy and improving daily life. They failed to focus on the Palestinian cause or ridding their countries of foreign dependency and dominance. The Palestinian cause was present in the slogans and concerns of the revolutions, but it was never the central issue or one of the priorities.

Fourth, it should be noted that the failure to prioritize the Palestinian cause – and this is completely understandable given that the revolutionaries were focused on the survival of the revolutions and their local concerns  – led to the emergence of another phenomenon. Islamist figures, from the Muslim Brotherhood in particular, have started sending moderated messages that reflect a remarkable positional shift on the Palestinian issue. How did this happen?

Islamists in Egypt are not promoting the liberation of Palestine, the adoption of jihad, the abolition of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty or the support of the resistance axis. There is a gradually expanding group among them that are saying that amending the peace agreements or insisting on their full implementation can be sufficient, or that it is a matter that should be settled by the constitutional institutions or a popular referendum. There was talk about commitment to the agreements, about the fact that the Jihad issue is off the current agenda, that the Palestinian issue should be resolved by Palestinians, that Islamists will not be more royalists than the king and that they will be satisfied by whatever pleases Palestinians.

Prominent Islamists have talked about imminent threats facing the nation, namely from Israel and Iran. These threats are replacing those that were posed by the US administration. The US attempts in Egypt to perpetuate dominance, subordination and absolute support for Israel – to make Israel a dominate regional power – are disappearing. We have even started seeing the development of Muslim Brotherhood relations with Gulf States, with Saudi Arabia in particular. Sunni Islamist voices are feeding sedition by inflaming the dispute with Iran, the Shiites and Hezbollah, and turning it into a Sunni-Shiite conflict.

When American and European officials visit Egypt, Tunisia and other Arab countries that may or may not have witnessed revolutions, and meetings between the Muslim Brotherhood and their officials are held, at all levels under the President.

Statements were issued by US officials close to the decision-makers that welcomed the nomination of Shater as the Muslim Brotherhood candidate. They considered him as moderate and acceptable compared to another rising Islamist star, Hazem Abu Ismail, deemed by the US administration as a radical Islamist candidate.

US policy is currently based on the classification of Islamists between moderates and extremists. The US will support moderates against extremists, but they will will also try to involve them in their struggle – along with their allies in the Persian Gulf and Israel – against Iran, especially if there is war.

The US administration is well aware that it cannot prevent the Islamists’ rise to power, especially in Egypt. Thus, it attempts to curry favor with them and even tame them. Islamists have demonstrated that they are able to switch sides easily. In Egypt, for instance, they struck a deal with the SCAF, turning their back on revolution and Tahrir square. However, they have recently reversed directions again, as they realized that failing to exploit the revolution would jeopardize their chances of victory in the parliamentary elections. After losing some credibility, they returned to Tahrir square. However, the Egyptian presidential elections will prove if they still have a firm grip on the Egyptian street.

It is only fair to say that the moderate Brotherhood has not yet taken full control. This is possible, but by no means inevitable.

The Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamists are far removed from the US and Israel, and this gap cannot be easily bridged. When the Brotherhood was first established, it was a Jihadist movement that participated in Palestine’s war. Then, during the cold war, it became an ally of the colonial West and its reactionary allies. The Muslim movement took the west’s side against the national and leftist movements, unaware of those movements’ war for national independence, Arab unity and social justice. Even though there were great failures during this time due to a lack of faith in democracy, the Muslim Brotherhood was also unaware of what the national and leftist movements’ achieved. Their great achievements were buried by those who argued that “no voice is louder than battle,” and that socialism and social justice have priority over the freedom of democracy

The Muslim Brotherhood’s positions are greatly related to the events that took place in Palestine and Algeria, where Islamists won the elections but were unable to rule. Similarly in Turkey, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), led by current prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, won the elections after it adopted a moderate program that preserved Turkey’s membership in NATO and its relations with Israel. This is not to mention their great political and economic achievements.

The Islamists seem confused between the Taliban and Erdogan models. They fear repeating the Palestinian and Algerian scenario. Thus, the Islamist movement tends to be moderate, even at the expense of the Palestinian cause. This way, political Islam will have a greater chance to be accepted by the US and Europe as the leaders of Egypt and other Arab countries.

The Muslim Brotherhood has gone as far as to exert pressure on Hamas to espouse a more moderate ideology so that it will not hurt its attempts to win the favor of the US. This resulted in the Doha Agreement, where Khaled Meshaal, Chairman of the Hamas Political Bureau, declared President Mahdmoud Abbas the president of the national unity government. This government is to be formed during the transitional period. Hamas’ leaders, particularly in Gaza, consider this agreement as a free concession that threatens their unilateral control of Gaza. For this reason, they sought to disrupt it.

(www.al-monitor.com / 25.05.2012)

World must open its eyes and see Israel for what it is

Strong opposition: anti-Israeli demonstrations on the West Bank
Strong opposition: anti-Israeli demonstrations on the West Bank

Why pick on Israel when there’s so much injustice in the rest of the world? The answer is to be found in the specific circumstances which gave rise to the launch of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign in July 2005.A year after the International Court of Justice had declared the wall being built by Israel on occupied Palestinian land illegal, not only had Israel refused to demolish the structure, it had conveyed contempt for the court’s decision by accelerating the pace of construction.

The wall provided security for armed bands of Jewish settlers establishing colonial outposts, while corralling and controlling Palestinians minded to oppose their dispossession.

The BDS campaign aimed not at the destruction of the Israeli state, or the expulsion of its people, but at an end to the occupation of Arab lands, full equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel and formal recognition of the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to the homes and properties from which they had been expelled.

Its declaration was endorsed by Palestinian political parties, trades unions, cultural and community groups, women’s and youth organisations, religious denominations, professional associations and others representing Palestinian citizens of Israel, Palestinians living under Israeli occupation and refugees in camps scattered across the Middle East. The strategy reflects the wishes of the people in whose name it is carried out.

The call for support from Israelis has not gone unanswered. During the assault on Gaza in 2010, thousands of US Jews signed a document renouncing their ‘right of return’, declaring that, ‘It is not right that we may return to a state that is not ours, while Palestinians are excluded and continuously dispossessed … Today there is a growing transnational movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, called for by Palestinian civil society and supported by activists, artists, and academics around the world, including an increasing number of conscientious Israelis … As an act of political and ideological divestment, we repudiate the claims the state of Israel makes on us as potential citizens’.

Jewish support for BDS echoes the contribution of white South Africans to the anti-apartheid struggle. In December 1956, South African political, trades union, community and professional organisations came together to endorse the ‘Freedom Charter’.

In response, the apartheid government charged 156 people with ‘high treason and a countrywide conspiracy to use violence to overthrow the present government.’ The regime alleged a plan to spark a ‘race war’ with a view to establishing ‘a communist state’. ANC president Chief Albert Luthuli and Nelson Mandela were among the defendants.

Of 23 white South Africans in the dock, 14 were Jews – although Jews comprised less than 5% of white South Africans. These included Joe Slovo, later chief of staff of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the military wing of the ANC, and MK founder Ronnie Kasrils, later an ANC government minister.

In 2006, Kasrils commented on the Israeli bombing of Qana and other villages in south Lebanon: “We must call baby killers ‘baby killers’ and declare that those using methods reminiscent of the Nazis be told that they are behaving like Nazis.” Other Jewish anti-apartheid leaders have included Helen Suzman, for many years a lone voice for justice in the South African parliament, and the brilliant novelist Natalie Gordimer.

By no means all Jewish campaigners against apartheid were to take a stand against the oppression of Palestine.

But the number who did has been remarkable.

Bishop Desmond Tutu will have had this in mind when he responded this month to a letter signed by 1,200 American rabbis urging the United Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church (USA) not to back moves for the churches to support BDS. “My voice will always be raised in support of Christian-Jewish ties and against the anti-semitism that all sensible people fear and detest. But this cannot be an excuse for standing aside as successive Israeli governments colonise the West Bank and advance what are racist laws.

“Many black South Africans have travelled to the occupied West Bank and have been appalled by Israeli roads built for Jewish settlers that West Bank Palestinians are denied access to and by Jewish-only colonies built on Palestinian land in violation of international law.

“The 1,200 rabbis may not like what I have to say, but it is long past time for them to remove the blinders from their eyes and grapple with the reality that Israel is becoming an apartheid state, or like South Africa in its denial of equal rights is not a future danger … but a present-day reality.”

Long past time for us all to open our eyes.

(www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk / 25.05.2012)

Senate fight today over Palestinian ‘refugees’

Thirty U.S. senators will vote today over whether there really are 5 million Palestinian “refugees” or just around 30,000 — a hot-button issue that has already become the subject of a vigorous international debate involving Israel and its Arab neighbors.

When the Senate Appropriations Committee takes up the fiscal 2013 State Department and foreign operations appropriations bill today, senators will vote on an amendment crafted by Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) that would require the State Department to report on how many of the millions of people currently supported by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) are actually people who were physically displaced from their homes in Israel or the occupied territories, and how many are descendants of original refugees.

The amendment is just a reporting requirement and doesn’t change the way the United States classifies refugees or how it gives more than $250 million annually to UNRWA, about a quarter of the agency’s budget. But a battle is already raging behind the scenes over what it might mean if the State Department started separating original Palestinian refugees from their descendants, and opponents of the Kirk amendment fear the end goal is to cut off U.N. aid to millions of Palestinians.

Here’s the actual text of the Kirk amendment that will be introduced today, obtained in advance byThe Cable:

United Nations Relief and Works Agency.- Not later than one year after the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of State shall submit a report to the Committees on Appropriations detailing the number of people currently receiving United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) services 1) whose place of residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948 and who were personally displaced as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict (“such persons”); 2) who are children of such persons; 3) who are grandchildren of such persons; 4) who are descendants of such persons and not otherwise counted by criteria (2) and (3); 5) who are residents of the West Bank or Gaza; 6) who do not reside in the West Bank or Gaza and are citizens of other countries; and 7) whose place of residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948, who were personally displaced as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict, who currently do not reside in the West Bank or Gaza and who are not currently citizens of any other state.

Asked for comment by The Cable, Kirk’s spokesperson Kate Dickens said that nothing in the Kirk amendment would change U.S. policy toward refugees nor directly threaten any funding for UNRWA.

“The amendment simply demands basic transparency with regard to who receives U.S. taxpayer assistance,” she said. “A vote against this amendment is a vote to deny taxpayers basic information about an agency they are funding.”

Critics of the amendment say they fear the amendment is just the first step in a longer effort to cut off funding for UNRWA and deny millions of Palestinians the “right of return” to lands their parents or grandparents lost in 1948 or 1967.

May 21 article by Jonathan Schanzer, vice president at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, tied the two issues together directly.

“The aim of this proposed legislation, Kirk’s office explains, is not to deprive Palestinians who live in poverty of essential services, but to tackle one of the thorniest issues of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict: the ‘right of return,’” he wrote. “The dominant Palestinian narrative is that all of the refugees of the Israeli-Palestinian wars have a right to go back, and that this right is not negotiable. But here’s the rub: By UNRWA’s own count, the number of Palestinians who describe themselves as refugees has skyrocketed from 750,000 in 1950 to 5 million today. As a result, the refugee issue has been an immovable obstacle in round after round of negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians.”

It’s true that Kirk’s original language, submitted as a request to Senate Appropriations State and Foreign Ops Subcommittee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), called for a change in U.S. policy in how to define Palestinian refugees.

“It shall be the policy of the United States with regard to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) that a Palestinian refugee is defined as a person whose place of residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948, who was personally displaced as a result of the 1948 or 1967 Arab-Israeli conflicts, who currently does not reside in the West Bank or Gaza and who is not a citizen of any other state,” the original language stated, according to a copy of the text obtained by The Cable.

But after Leahy declined to include that language in his section of the overall bill on May 22, Kirk’s office worked with other Senate offices and outside groups like AIPAC to craft compromise language that would be less aggressive.

After the final language was crafted, requiring only a report and not changing U.S. policy, Leahy still demurred. The fear was that Israel’s neighbors, such as Jordan with an estimated 2 million Palestinian refugees, might object to any effort that could somehow lead to less support for those refugees from the international community.

An intensive background set of discussions took place between Leahy, the State Department, Kirk’s office, and the Jordanian Embassy, two congressional aides told The Cable. Initially the Jordanians were inclined to oppose the amendment and agreed with Leahy, but after being given the final text, decided not to weigh in on what is essentially an internal U.S. government reporting requirement.

“The government of Jordan has informed congressional staff they do not oppose the Kirk amendment,” one senior GOP Senate aide said. “That is definitely the correct decision for a foreign government, as this is simply a request for info on behalf of the U.S. taxpayer to the U.S. state department.”

Ahead of today’s vote, AIPAC has been contacting various Senate offices to urge them to support the Kirk amendment, multiple Hill sources said. Democrats slightly outnumber Republicans on the committee, but Democrats have been known to break party ranks on Israel- related issues before.

At the heart of the issue is how to define refugees. UNRWA has been using a definition that includes descendants of refugees while other U.N. bodies do not include descendants in their definition.

The Cable asked State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland at Wednesday’s press briefing which definition the administration agreed with. She didn’t know and the State Department wasn’t able to provide an answer after the briefing.

For the people involved in the issue on the ground, the distinction is not as important as the U.N. mission to feed and support these 5 million Palestinians. They see the Kirk amendment as part of a pattern of legislative moves against UNRWA in the U.S. Congress, including a drive to cut off U.S. funding by House Foreign Affairs Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL).

They also note that the drive to redefine how UNRWA classifies refugees is supported by Israeli President Bibi Netanyahu and a similar drive is led in the Israeli parliament by lawmaker Einat Wilf.

“There are some individuals that believe if they unilaterally in America make changes, that will solve peace processes, and that’s really naïve,” one U.N. official said. “It has to be done by the parties involved, not the U.S. Congress.”

The amendment will likely be submitted by Senate Appropriations State and Foreign Ops subcommittee ranking Republican Lindsey Graham (R-SC), because Kirk is still recovering from a stroke.

UPDATE: At the committee mark-up, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) introduced the Kirk amendment and Leahy strenuously objected. Leahy read aloud a letter from Deputy Secretary of State Tom Nides urging senators to oppose the Kirk amednment. Leahy also noted that the Jordanian government has now officially come out against it. Graham spoke out in favor of the amendment.

Leahy offered new language to substitute the Kirk amendment, which was adopted and added to the appropriations bill. The new language is as follows:

The Committee directs the Secretary of State to submit a report to the Committee not later than one year after enactment of this act, indicating -

(a)the approximate number of people who, in the past year, have received UNRWA services -

(1)whose place of residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948 and who were displaced as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict; and

(2)who are descendants of persons described in subparagraph (1);

(b)the extent to which the provision of such services to such persons furthers the security interests of the United States and of other United States allies in the Middle East; and

(c)the methodology and challenges in preparing each report.

(thecable.foreignpolicy.com / 25.05.2012)

Analysis: Revolutionaries see reversal in Egypt vote

People argue about elections at Tahrir Square in Cairo May 25, 2012.
CAIRO (Reuters) — Egypt’s revolutionaries did not take to the streets to replace Hosni Mubarak with another military strongman or to put an Islamist ideologue in charge, but that is the choice they woke up to after a first-round vote for the presidency.

The youths who put national pride before religion when they protested against Mubarak’s autocratic rule last year have increasingly despaired, saying the revolution they initiated has been hijacked by generals and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Their worst fears were confirmed on Friday, when initial results from Egypt’s first free presidential election sent the Brotherhood’s Mohamed Mursi and ex-air force chief Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak’s last prime minister, into a June 16 and 17 run-off.

“I am in shock. How could this happen? The people don’t want Mursi or Shafiq. This is a catastrophe for all of us,” said Tareq Farouq, 34, a Cairo driver. “They are driving people back to Tahrir Square.”

With moderate candidates now out of the 12-man race, the run-off pits the two most polarizing figures against each other, reviving the decades-old power struggle between Egypt’s secular-led military elite and its powerful Islamist opposition.

The protesters of Tahrir Square are shocked that the run-off has boiled down to a member of the “feloul”, the derisory Arabic term for “remnants” of Mubarak’s old guard, and an “Ikhwani”, or a Brother, from the conservative Islamist group that has battled the authorities for most of its 84-year-old history.

“Ahmed Shafiq will mean the old regime – the revolution is liquidated – and with the Muslim Brotherhood it means we are too near to some kind of religious state,” said Hassan Nafaa, a political scientist who sided with the street against Mubarak.

For revolutionaries, Shafiq is a carbon copy of Mubarak. Both were air force commanders and a Shafiq win would simply extend the 60-year tradition of having military men at the helm.

But the Brotherhood, which has the biggest parliamentary bloc, is just as unattractive for many of them, with its pledge to apply Islamic sharia law that they fear will curb social freedoms, stifle liberal debate and squeeze out other voices.

“What happened to our revolution? A Shafiq victory means a reproduction of the old regime and a Mursi victory will be a disaster. The Brotherhood will be in control of the presidency and parliament and will have a monopoly over everything,” said Mohamed Hanafi, 30, a factory worker.

“We don’t know where it will all end,” he said.

It is not just the fate of Egypt’s 82 million people. What happens in the Arab world’s most populous nation will reverberate across a region convulsed by revolts and conflicts.

An Islamist takeover could frighten liberal forces which have played a big part in the Arab uprisings that toppled leaders in Tunisia, Libya and Yemen, as well as Egypt.

The return of a military strongman could embolden Syria’s leadership which has used tanks to try to crush a rebellion.

Yet, 15 months after hundreds of thousands of people packed Tahrir Square to celebrate the end of Mubarak’s three-decade rule, exhilaration has given way to disillusion and anger.

The transition, overseen by generals in charge since Mubarak fell and who have promised to hand over power by July 1, has been marred by violence, political gridlock and economic woes.

The second round vote may bring more turbulence. Activists and other Egyptians have already said they will go back to the streets if Shafiq is victorious, though this may be more difficult to sustain if the second round proceeds smoothly.

Whoever wins, the army is likely to remain the main power broker, giving it the upper hand in defining the prerogatives of the president. These have yet to be determined because of tussles over who should write the post-Mubarak constitution.

The generals insist they will return quietly to barracks, but most Egyptians do not expect them to give up the privileges and influence they have enjoyed for decades. They say a Shafiq win will make rolling back the military harder still.

Whatever the president’s powers, the army will keep a tight grip on foreign policy and will protect a peace treaty with Israel that brings in $1.3 billion of US military aid a year.

This may restrict a Mursi presidency’s room to maneuver abroad, but put a bigger focus on work at home. Liberals and some other Egyptians fear the Islamists will want to stamp their mark by seeking to impose more religious values on society.

“This is not what we wanted or what we fought for. As a woman I am deeply upset,” said Dalia Hamdi, an human resources manager, speaking in the upscale Cairo district of Zamalek.

“Definitely we won’t be able to wear what we are wearing now,” she said pointing to a friend in a sleeveless t-shirt and jeans without a headscarf, which most Egyptian women wear.

Mursi has not defined what his call for implementing sharia law would mean in practice. But liberals fear it could mean more restrictive marriage and divorce laws for women. A stricter society might also deter tourists, a main revenue source.

Near the Giza pyramids, on a street famed for its night life, some bar workers said they dreaded a Brotherhood president, recalling how an Islamist mob vandalized nearby casinos and bars last year, smashing liquor bottles seen as symbols of vice.

“I am sure the Brotherhood will close us down if they get elected. They will ban alcohol,” said bar-tender Huda Husseini, 19. “According to them, dancing, drinking, music is all forbidden. Everything is forbidden.”

(www.maannews.net / 25.05.2012)

Activists: Clashes erupt in Syria’s Homs province

BEIRUT (Reuters) — Heavy clashes broke out on Friday between Syrian troops and rebel fighters in the town of Houla in Homs province, activists said.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 10 people were killed in shooting and shelling by Syrian troops on Houla, a cluster of four villages and towns north of Homs.

Activist Ahmad Kassem said the fighting erupted after Syrian forces opened fire on a demonstration against the rule of President Bashar Assad and killed one protester.

“There are casualties among the soldiers and five tanks have been destroyed,” he said.

(www.maannews.net / 25.05.2012)

Egyptian-American writer analyzes failure of Arab revolutions, defends Israel

Nonie Darwish explained that the “failure” of Arab Spring revolutions is similar to that of the July 1952 revolution in Egypt which overthrew the monarchy. (Al Arabiya)

Nonie Darwish explained that the “failure” of Arab Spring revolutions is similar to that of the July 1952 revolution in Egypt which overthrew the monarchy.
Revolutions in the Arab world have always been a failure and Arabs should first contemplate why they are ruled by dictators before staging a revolution, Egyptian-American pro-Israeli writer Nonie Darwish said.

“My new book, entitled ‘The Devil We Don’t Know: The Dark Side of Revolutions in the Middle East,’ tackles this issue,” she told Al Arabiya’s weekly show of Noqtat Nezam (Point of Order) on Friday.

Darwish, born Nahed Mustafa Hafez Darwish, explained that by the “dark side” she meant the reasons that led to the failure of all revolutions in the Arab world since the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1923.

“To answer this question, I pose other questions like why the Arab world is ruled by dictators in the first place and whether it is the dictators’ problem or that of the system of governance itself. Do we dare to ask ourselves these questions?”

Darwish explained that the “failure” of Arab Spring revolutions is similar to that of the July 1952 revolution in Egypt which overthrew the monarchy and established the Arab Republic of Egypt.

“The officers who staged the 1952 revolutions were from the Muslim Brotherhood, but members of the Brotherhood turned against them when they did not apply Islamic laws so they tried to kill Gamal Abdel Nasser and then killed Anwar Sadat.”

For Darwish, the same scenario is possible now since Egyptians might try to overthrow any elected president who does not apply Islamic laws.

“Egyptians have to respect the result of the elections no matter what kind of president it will bring, but will this happen?”

Darwish said that she was disappointed not to see banners in Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the Egyptian revolution, calling for the separation of state and religion.

“Nobody called for the removal of Article Two of the Constitution which states that Islamic laws are the main source of legislation.”

For Darwish, the Egyptian people have the right to vote in a referendum about this article, but they have to be careful that if they choose to it keep they should no longer complain of dictatorship and lack of freedom of expression.

“If religion is identified with the state, you will never be able to criticize the state and no laws will be above religious laws.”

Darwish argued that Islamists are held accountable for the wave of Islamophobia sweeping Europe and the United States.

“Several Islamist groups in the West call for applying Islamic laws in the countries they live in and this makes people fear Islam.”

Darwish pointed out that the United States is home to a variety of ethnic and religious groups and none of them call for applying their own laws or religious teachings.

“Why should Muslims in particular be an exception and demand that their laws be applied?”

Darwish noted that even though she is against acts that aim at deriding Islam like calls by Florida pastor John Terry to burn the Quran, she still finds them a reaction to actions seen as “provocative” by Islamists.

“The Quran burning initiative came after several Muslims stepped on the American flag in New York and called for implementing Islamic laws.”

Nonie Darwish is known for her pro-Israeli stances even though her father, Colonel Mustafa Hafez, was killed in 1956 by the Israeli Defense Forces in Gaza where he launched military attacks against the Jewish state.

In her book “Now They Call Me Infidel: Why I Renounced Jihad for America, Israel, and the War on Terror” (2006), Darwish writes that she is the daughter of a Muslim martyr killed by Israeli forces, yet she forgives Israel and calls for coexistence and tolerance.

Darwish is also the founder of Arabs for Israel, a group of Arabs and Muslims who support Israel’s right to exist, condemn armed struggle, and call for a peaceful resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

The group also calls upon Arabs and Muslim to engage in objective self-criticism to be able to see how they played a major role in making Westerners hate them and fear their impact.

(english.alarabiya.net / 25.05.2012)

Nakba Day marked in Paris

64 years ago, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forced out of their homes in the face of Jewish and later Israeli troop advances. They were displaced from Palestine and lost their land and property. It is still a painful memory for some who recall that day which is known as the catastrophe.

Hadeel Abokhaled’s grandmother was one of them.

She told they had forgotten their sister in the home where they were fleeing out of the home and they couldn’t come back and there are a lot of stories like the families who took the pillow instead of their babies so we hear a lot of stories like this.

She says, almost every Palestinian family living in refugee camps, has a similar story to tell.

Their towns and villages were razed to the ground to make way for Israeli colonies.

In the French capital, this demonstration is a show of strength, a show of support for hundreds of thousand of Palestinians who lost their land, homes and families in 1948.

Six decades on, Palestinian refugees are scattered in camps in the West bank and Gaza Strip, or in neighboring countries like Jordan, Syria, Lebanon or elsewhere.

Palestinians were forced out of their native land, but their love for their land has transcended boundaries and lived on 64 years after occupation passing down from generation to generation.

They are still holding fast to their Palestinian identity and right of return and not a single one of them has forgotten the key to the ancestral home.

Whatever the solution to the plight of the Palestinians, one thing is clear… the scars caused by pain, separation and humiliation will not disappear any time soon.

(www.presstv.ir / 25.05.2012)

Ontruiming vluchtelingenkamp Ter Apel was een smerig politiek spel

De ontruiming van het vluchtelingenkamp was niet nodig vanwege brandgevaar. Het was de uitkomst van een smerig politiek spel. Het kamp vestigde dagelijks de aandacht op het falende terugkeerbeleid van Vernederland en de vluchtelingen konden rekenen op een groeiende stroom aan hulp.  Daarom moest en zou het kamp weg. Dat besluit was al genomen toen Leers nog beweerde dat er niet ontruimd zou worden omdat het in niemands belang zou zijn. Lees onderstaand relaas van dokter Elke Bonsen.

De rechter bevestigt haar lezing door in zijn vonnis te stellen dat minder vergaande maatregelen de veiligheid hadden kunnen garanderen. Ontruiming noemt hij disproportioneel.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=mnA5eeZX79o

Op de dag dat er een fopdebat werd gehouden (de ontruiming was immers al voorgenomen en Leers verzweeg dat) kwam de GGD poolshoogte nemen in het vluchtelingenkamp.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PgJ6qbJeBw&feature=player_embedded

Hoewel de arrestatie van dokter Co van Melle ondertussen breed gedeeld is op twitter en feestboek wil de publieke omroep het maar niet oppakken. <Micha Kat-modus>DIT IS EEN DOOFPOT MENSEN</Micha Kat-modus>

(meedogenloos.nl / 25.05.2012)