FIFA urges support for Mahmoud al-Sarsak

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — FIFA on Tuesday urgently called on the Israeli Football Association to raise the plight of detained hunger-striking soccer player Mahmoud al-Sarsak with Israeli authorities.

Al-Sarsak has been on hunger strike for 86 days to demand his release. He has been imprisoned by Israel without charge or trial since July 2009.

FIFA urged IFA to draw attention to al-Sarsak’s situation “with the aim of ensuring the physical integrity of the concerned players as well as their right for due process,” a report on its website said.

Al-Sarsak’s lawyer Mohammad Jabarein told Ma’an that al-Sarsak started drinking milk on Sunday after doctors warned he was at imminent risk of losing consciousness and paralysis.

Al-Sarsak agreed to drink milk to prolong his life until a judicial review, scheduled for Thursday, but will refuse all supplements if he is not released, Jabarein said.

Al-Sarsak had joined the local soccer team in his Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip at 14, becoming the youngest footballer to play in the Palestine Liga A at the time. The midfielder attracted the attention of a German coach while playing for the Palestine national team in Norway.

“He always dreamed of playing outside the country, to represent Palestine through playing for an Arab or an international team, and he was talented enough,” his brother Emad told Reuters.

The first step was to play for a team in the West Bank. But Israeli security arrested him on July 22, 2009, at the Erez crossing from the blockaded Gaza Strip, the only route to Palestinian territory in the occupied West Bank

(maannews.net / 13.06.2012)

Muslims Do Not Wish Harm Upon Anyone, Even Unbelievers


Answered at OnIslam

Question:

As-salamu alaykum. My father is very happy when tornadoes strike the US, and even asks Allah to cause more to come onto them. He says this is sanctioned in Islam. Is there truth in this? Is it because they are enemies of Islam, then it is okay to hope for calamities to befall civilians?

Answer:

Dear sister, we really appreciate your important question and your concern to have good relations with non-Muslims.

It should be known that Islam necessitates from a Muslim to have a soft peace-loving heart. So, wishing good to all humanity, not only Muslims, is a part of the Islamic creed. Moreover, wishing harm of any kind to anyone, whatever his race or religion, is contradicting Islam.

It was never reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, any Companion, or any scholar wished harm to anyone, even the severest enemy. Rather, the Prophet, when contradicted and severely opposed by the pagans of Mecca, wished from Allah Almighty to guide them to the Right Path.

A good pioneering model of this is what happened when he was returning from At-Ta’if; thrown with stones and extremely exhausted by the long tiring journey, Allah has sent him Gabriel accompanying the Angel of mountains who greeted him and said, “O Muhammad, Allah Almighty has heard what your people has said to you and sent me to order me to do whatever you want; if you want me to turn the two mountains (surrounding Mecca) upside down on them, I will do it.” The Prophet, peace be upon him, said:

بَلْ أَرْجُو أَنْ يُخْرِجَ اللَّهُ مِنْ أَصْلاَبِهِمْ مَنْ يَعْبُدُ اللَّهَ وَحْدَهُ لاَ يُشْرِكُ بِهِ شَيْئًا ‏‏‏

No, I hope that Allah will bring from their descendants people who will worship Allah alone without associating partners with Him.

[Sahih Bukhari, Book 54, Number 454]

Therefore, it is not Islamic to wish any harm to anyone, even non-Muslims. Rather, we are to treat them kindly showing them the clear image of Islam and wishing them to be guided to the Right Path. This is the best way in offering Islam.

Responding to your question, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and an Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states:

A Muslim cannot rejoice at the suffering of others. He should be reminded of one of the eminent Companions of the Prophet who cried to see those who were defeated by Muslims; when asked why is he crying, he said, “This fate has befallen them because of their disobedience; it could befall us too, if we do the same!”

Allah Almighty knows best.

(www.faithinallah.org / 13.06.2012)

Baha Hilo vertelt

Zondag 3 juni was er weer een lezing uit de reeks van lezingen georganiseerd door de Stichting Stop de Bezetting in Amsterdam, nl. Baha Hilo uit Palestina kwam voor een groep van ca. 30 belangstellenden zijn mooi en goed verhaal vertellen over de Olijfbomencampagne. Hiervoor passeerde  de geschiedenis van Palestina de revue.

Vanaf 1879 was er al sprake dat er een Joods thuisland in Palestina gerealiseerd moest worden, echter dit werd bevestigd in 1917 toen Palestina onder Brits mandaat kwam te vallen. In deze tijd werd met de Balfour declaratie bekend dat de Britten een Joods thuisland in Palestina  mogelijk wilde maken. In feite werd het hierdoor makkelijker om land aan immigranten te geven, zodat er meer Joden in Palestina gehuisvest zouden kunnen worden. De tijd van 1917 tot 1948 werd gekenmerkt door een soort van ‘vervanging’;  in eerste instantie was 7% van Palestijns grondgebied in handen van de Joden, maar door de beslissing van de UN was dit al opgelopen tot 52% in 1947. Na 1947 verloor Palestina 87% van haar land door wetswijzigingen, a. verlies van eigenaarschap, b. eigendom verlies door vluchtelingen, c. bepaalde Palestijnse plaatsen stonden niet eens op de lijst van de staat Israël. Dit alles had te maken met het uitroepen van de staat Israel.
De West Bank leeft sinds 1967 onder een militaire bezetting , waardoor er een totale controle is over Palestina,  hierdoor kan Israël echter land annexeren, wat in elke internationale wet beschreven staat als illegaal. Ook hierdoor werd het grondgebied van de staat Israël weer groter. Vanaf 1985 kwam daar nog bij dat de staat Israël  een nieuwe truc had ontdekt: de staat was niet geïnteresseerd in belastinggelden, maar verklaarde wel dat als de Palestijnen niet op hun land werkte, ze belasting moesten betalen. Echter de Palestijnen konden niet bij hun land komen, dus de staat confisqueerde het Palestijnse grondgebied, nadat er  5 a 7 jaren niet op gewerkt was. Hierbij werd het voor de Palestijnen alleen maar moeilijker. Ook door de muur, die Palestijnen van hun land scheidde, maar tevens op Palestijns grondgebied gebouwd is.

De olijfboom is het oudste staande ding in Palestina, de boom werd al genoemd in het Oude Testament en wordt daarom ook als symbool van de vrede gehanteerd. 78% van de West Bank is begroeid met de olijfboom en vormt een belangrijk onderdeel  van  de economie en voedselindustrie (olie en hout).
Vanaf 2001 is men gaan weer olijfbomen gaan terugplanten elke keer  dat de staat Israël in de West Bank en Gaza deze vernietigde.
Israël geeft steeds aan dat ze maar 3% van de West Bank in handen of onder controle heeft, maar het gaat hierbij wel om verspreide bezette gebieden. Voor de nederzettingen zijn 800 km wegen (zgn. bypassways) nodig, grond voor de ‘settlers’, waarbij de Palestijnen niet gemachtigd zijn op de meeste van deze wegen te komen. Daarnaast is er na 2002 730 km muur gebouwd, meestal op  Palestijns grondgebied en op een manier dat de Palestijnen gescheiden werden van hun grond. Rond de wegen ligt een bufferzone van 15 meter en rond de muur een 100 meter  bufferzone. Palestijnen die zich in de bufferzone bevinden worden zonder pardon doodgeschoten.

In de West Bank zijn ca. 600 nederzettingen gekomen, wat gebeurt door een beleid dat wanneer er gedemonstreerd wordt tegen de staat Israël er gewoon weer iets op of van Palestijns grondgebied wordt vernietigd. Indien er ergens op de wereld door mensen bij hun Israëlische Ambassade wordt gevraagd waarom de olijfbomen worden vernietigd, komt er steevast het antwoord, dat dit gebeurt uit veiligheidsoverwegingen. Als echter dezelfde vraag aan de Israëlische regering wordt gesteld, komt er het antwoord: “Zoals een klein kind naïef en lief is, geldt dat ook voor een jonge olijfboom, maar wanneer deze groter wordt, kan het een bom worden.”

De olijfbomencampagne is opgezet om de balans weer in het voortbestaan van de olijfbomen te krijgen: voor elke boom die vernietigd wordt, wordt weer een nieuwe boom geplant. Een  ieder die een boom sponsort, krijgt een certificaat en regelmatige informatie over de boom en de familie die de boom onderhoudt. De start van de campagne was in 2001 en sindsdien zijn 78.000 bomen geplant. De medewerkers van de campagne vragen supporters om naar Palestina te komen, enerzijds om mee te helpen met de plant (februari) en  de oogst (oktober) en anderzijds om met eigen ogen te zien,  hoe Palestijns grondgebied wordt gestolen.

Lawyer: Al-Sarsak is still on hunger strike

Palestinians paint a mural depicting Mahmoud al-Sarsak in southern Gaza on June 10.
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Mahmoud al-Sarsak is on his 86th day of hunger strike but is drinking milk to prolong his life until his court hearing Thursday, his lawyer said Tuesday.

Mohammad Jabarein told Ma’an that Israeli prison officials called him to visit al-Sarsak urgently Sunday because he was in danger of dying. Al-Sarsak was briefly hospitalized that afternoon.

Jabarein met with 15 doctors at the hospital, who said al-Sarsak was at immediate danger of paralysis and losing consciousness.

“I decided that al-Sarsak must drink milk,” Jabarein said.

Al-Sarsak was reluctant, but the lawyer said he persuaded him to accept some nutrients so he would survive until his judicial review, which is scheduled for Thursday.

Al-Sarsak agreed to drink milk but would only be fed by his lawyer.

The 25-year-old prisoner has decided that if the Supreme Court does not agree to release him he will refuse all supplements until his death, Jabarein said.

The judicial review Thursday is the “last chance” to save al-Sarsak’s life, Jabarein said.

Israeli Prison Service spokeswoman Sivan Weizman told Ma’an that al-Sarsak had started eating Monday, and said she did not know why.

But his lawyer and the Palestinian Prisoners Society said he was only drinking milk. The prisoner rights group Addameer notes that consuming milk does not break a hunger strike.

A representative of Physicians for Human Rights – Israel told Ma’an that milk is less nutritious than other supplements consumed during a hunger strike, which include vitamins, minerals, salts and glucose.

Drinking milk will not reduce the danger to al-Sarsak’s life, PHRI added.

PHRI submitted an appeal to the Petah Tikva district court on Monday requesting al-Sarsak’s transfer to a civilian hospital. He is being held in Ramle prison clinic, which does not have the facilities to treat long-term hunger strikers.

Even if al-Sarsak ends his strike, he will still require urgent hospitalization, the medical organization added.

Al-Sarsak, a professional soccer player on Palestine’s national team, has been detained without charge or trial since July 2009.

(www.maannews.net / 13.06.2012)

PA ministry opens first accredited food testing lab

HEBRON (Ma’an) — The Palestinian Authority Ministry of Agriculture opened its first laboratory for testing meat and dairy products to meet international standards, officials said Wednesday.

The project, support by US development agency USAID, converted a storage facility in Al-Arrub technical college near Hebron into a laboratory, a USAID statement said.

Through international accreditation with the International Organization for Standardization, the facility will help exporters obtain necessary health and safety certificates to expand into international and Israeli markets.

(www.maannews.net / 13.06.2012)

Vlaanderen tegen nieuwslezeres met hoofddoek

Freya van den Bossche.

Bij de Vlaamse omroep VRT mag geen nieuwslezeres op tv komen met een hoofddoek. ‘Een nieuwslezeres met een hoofddoek kan niet en komt er niet’, zei de minister Freya Van den Bossche vandaag stellig in het parlement namens de Vlaamse regering.

Aanleiding was een opmerking van collega-minister Ingrid Lieten (Media). Die had in een interview gezegd dat zijzelf geen bezwaar zou hebben tegen een VRT-journaallezeres met een hoofddoek. De openbare omroep zei direct dat zoiets strijdig is met de neutraliteit en objectiviteit van de omroep.

In het parlementsdebat schaarde alleen de partij Groen zich achter de woorden van Lieten.

(www.parool.nl / 13.06.2012)

BBC not reporting on Israeli violence against Palestinians

The Western media blackout on the situation of Palestinian Mahmoud Sarsak is obvious and there are no reports on him entering his 80th day on hunger strike in an Israeli prison.

Press TV in its program Remember Palestine has interviewed Carol Turner with the Stop the War Coalition to hear her view on this issue particularly as it relates to protests on behalf of Palestinians on hunger strike in London. The following is a rough transcription of the interview.

Press TV: First of all your reaction to Mahmud’s story there?

Turner: Well, I think it’s absolutely tragic. As I understand it from the reports I’ve read he’s close to death, he is losing consciousness, as you said in your introduction it’s over 80 days, which is a hell of a long time. And all of this, that talent, to be lost simply because the Israeli authorities are using detention in order to terrorize the Palestinian community is disgusting and a disgrace.

Press TV: We don’t seem to get a full handle on that, the idea that you can simply pick someone up, not charge them with anything and then essentially just renew the six month permission to do with them as you please. I mean, under international law this is a violation surely?

Turner: Absolutely. As I understand it Mahmud’s renewal has happened eight times I think, if I’m right.

Press TV: Due again in August.

Turner: Yes, yes. Under international law under the Geneva conventions special detention is allowed, but it’s meant in very exceptional circumstances and it’s legally constrained, when you can use it and what you can do with it.

In fact, what the Israeli government is doing is using it as a form of terror, keeping people on their toes as it were. In fact, the interviews I’ve seen and read with Israeli spokespeople suggest that these people who are on hunger strike are being called terrorist and they’re likening a hunger strike to a terrorist bombing or something like that. It’s absolutely disgraceful. There is no doubt whatsoever that the way in which it is being used by Israel is against international law and indeed against all sense of decency or justice.

b>Press TV: If this is such an outrage Carol, why don’t we hear about just this situation as a whole even if you’re not particularly interested in Mahmud’s individual case, the idea that this exists?

Turner: Well, it took the BBC more than three weeks to even report on the fact that hunger strike was taking place and as I understand it this hunger strike that has been happening since February was in fact the largest, the biggest mass hunger strike in recent times.

For the BBC not to report this is absolutely shocking. It is reporting it now… very carefully; very little comments from the Palestinian perspective or from the Palestinian Authority or other spokespeople and an awful lot of comments from Israelis, I think the BBC is absolutely disgusting.

Stop the War is the organization I represent and Palestine Solidarity Campaign and so on. We’ve held protests outside the BBC, delivered letters on this topic and hopefully what we’ve done and the pressure that’s building is having a little bit of impact on the British media here.

Press TV: How does this play into trying to get those high profile voices – people with clout politically or culturally to have Palestine on the agenda, to say hey guys, we know there is a lot of things vying for your attention right now and there is the Arab Spring, there are critical situations across the globe, but we want you to consider this as being as important as the other issues here, if not central to the very essence of what’s going on in the Middle East.

Turner: Well, I think in my opinion, in most people’s opinions who are active around these issues: Palestine is central. There will be no justice or certainly no peace until the issue of Palestine is justly settled and they have their own territory recognized as a state and so on. I think there are an increasing number of media personalities, celebrities and so on who are prepared to speak out.

I think the problem in Britain is actually getting media coverage, which means not individual, but the managerial structure of the news channels. I think that despite the fact that the lack of coverage is chronic, there is a sea change that’s taking place in the last couple of years first of all with the Israeli attack on Gaza and then that was followed by murders in the Mavi Marmara.

I think they’ve really alerted the world to what’s going on, although it’s slow and it’s unsatisfactory, particularly for activists in the West Bank, in Gaza. It is changing and I’m hopeful that will continue. I think that the world is becoming aware that the parallel with Israel and Palestine is the way in which the white South African government treated the black majority.

And the word Apartheid is being used more and more and that’s a good thing because it really alerts public opinion everywhere to how serious the situation is.

Press TV: But there is still that fear, I mean, you only have to look at the case, for example off the top of my head baroness Jennie Tonge, you speak out in political situations and it’s such a hot potato that your own leader is saying look, shut up about this or I’m going to have to remove you from your position.

That is censorship of the highest order, if a politician can’t speak privately about something that’s in the public domain. There is an example being set here – be quiet about these things we want you to be quiet about or your career, your livelihood might at stake.

Turner: Absolutely, you’re completely right. A much smaller example, but the last time I appeared on TV making comment on Palestine, Stop the War was inundated with antagonistic comments, sort of very, very aggressive and I’m sure that’s much worse for people who are better known.

I think that you are getting… you are beginning to see a change in the British parliament and elsewhere I think there’s some changes coming in America, but it’s very, very slow – that is the problem. But my Jewish friends tell me as well as public opinion changing in a general sense across the West, it’s actually… that’s also affecting the Jewish Diaspora – that there’s a new generation of Jewish people who are just appalled that this is being done.

Press TV: That this is being done in our name, that this is not what we stand for, that this is not who we are.

Turner: Quite so and that’s what a number of my Jewish friends tell me when they read the Jewish Press and they watch what’s going on.

So, what’s the next stage here if this is supposed to be a blitz on the public consciousness and you’re trying to raise both awareness and non-violent action, you’re trying to get people inspired – How do you try and do that?

Turner: Well, I don’t think there’s a get-rich-quick formula unfortunately – someone would have noticed it. I think one just has to keep doing the sort of things like the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Stop the War and the other organizations that are involved. Keep protesting.

We had a fortnight of protests outside of Downing Street outside the prime minister’s office about the hunger strikes just recently; as I said just now we went to the BBC to protest. It’s simply a matter of wearing away drip by drip. What I’m saying is not that that is satisfactory, but that’s the absolute bare minimum one can do to see justice for Palestinians and I think that the snowball has started to roll.

I notice for instance that the boycott and divestment is also taking off and if you look towards at South Africa as a sort of a parallel, proportions guarded, that was a very important event in the case of South Africa. And hopefully it will become increasingly important for Palestine as well.

(www.presstv.ir / 13.06.2012)

In Syria’s Sectarian Battle, Who Are The Alawites?

Renee Montagne talks with Professor Joshua Landis about the Alawite sect in Syria. The minority group is the power base for President Bashar Assad’s government. Landis is director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

It’s MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I’m David Greene.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I’m Renee Montagne.

Syria is in a state of civil war. That was the assessment of the U.N.’s head of peacekeeping yesterday, noting the Syrian government has lost control of large chunks of the cities there. We’re going to take a look now at the Alawite community at the core of that government. The Alawites are the religious sect of President Bashar al-Assad. To understand this minority group and how it rose to power, we turned to Joshua Landis. He’s Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma.

Welcome to the program.

JOSHUA LANDIS: It’s a pleasure being here.

MONTAGNE: Would you please sketch out for us exactly who the Alawites are and what is their history? How do they fit into Islam?

LANDIS: Well, the Alawites are an offshoot of Shia Islam. They believe, for example, in the transmigration of souls. They don’t observe the five pillars of Islam. Their women don’t wear head scarves and are quite brash by Sunni standards. And they’re not considered Muslims traditionally. For that reason, they have been ostracized for most of Islamic history.

Until the French arrived in Syria in 1920, the Alawites were locked in the coastal mountains of Syria. And the Alawites used to be the lowest of the low. They were the poorest Syrians, uneducated. The Sunnis thought of them as bandits. They weren’t allowed to give testimony in a court of law, for example, because they weren’t considered people of the book – unlike Jews and Christians, which could. So Alawites have had to overcome this history of really severe discrimination. And they found their way up through the military.

MONTAGNE: And let’s talk about that. When you say found their way up, when did they rise to power and how did they do it?

LANDIS: Well, the reason that Alawites have come to power in Syria is quite simply because of the French occupation between the First and Second World War. The French faced an Islamic insurgency, a nationalist insurgency in Syria. The Sunni urban notables led an uprising. And in order to put them down, the French built a local army and they recruited minorities, largely. And the Alawites were heavily recruited into this army.

And within 10 years – by 1955 it’s estimated that Alawites made up almost 60 percent of the noncommissioned officers. By the mid-60s, Alawites took over the military and with the military they took over the country. So by 1970, Hafez Assad takes over, consolidates Alawite power in his own family, and we’ve had a very stable Syria since then.

MONTAGNE: So the Assad family has managed to keep itself in power by keeping the support of not just the Alawites but other minorities. But in this last year and a half, during this terrible conflict there, has it gotten down to just the Alawites that are behind the Assad family and are they united? Are the Alawites united in supporting this government?

LANDIS: Well, increasingly it is getting down to the Alawites. The Assads figured out the key to ruling Syria, which was to rely on traditional loyalties. They patched together all these other alliances, particularly the rural poor Sunnis and the minorities. That is fraying now. And we are seeing it falling apart very rapidly. Others are hiving off and beginning to defect from the regime.

MONTAGNE: And is that the reason that we’re seeing in recent weeks what feels like the thugs being brought in?

LANDIS: The Shabiha?

MONTAGNE: The Shabiha, this militia, which is also from the coast and also functionally Alawite.

LANDIS: Absolutely. What’s happened since the beginning of this uprising, Sunnis, and particularly the enlisted soldiers, have been defecting. So the army is not reliable. In order to make up for that, the regime has been cycling in the Shabiha, who are smugglers and related to the president’s family, but strongmen who aren’t in the system, the military system. So increasingly, over the year this has evolved into a much more sectarian division of labor here.

MONTAGNE: If Assad doesn’t prevail and stay in power, where will the Alawites go?

LANDIS: Very good question. That’s, you know, in the last few days I can’t tell you how many people have emailed and said are the Alawites preparing to make a state of their own on the coast of Syria? Is that why they’re ethnically cleansing these Sunni villages in order to create this sort of pure Alawite state? I don’t think that’s what’s going on. But there will be very likely revenge killings, particularly down in where these villages – have been so much fighting amongst the villages.

It’s very hard to know what the future is for the Alawites. And that’s why they’re fighting. They’ve got their backs to the walls and they’re sticking together. And they’re unlikely to splinter into a bunch of groups.

MONTAGNE: Joshua Landis is Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma.

Thank you for joining us.

LANDIS: Thank you for having me.

(www.npr.org / 13.06.2012)

France seeks tough action on Syria

French FM Laurent Fabius says he will call on UN Security Council to make mediator Kofi Annan’s peace plan mandatory.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius says he will call on the UN Security Council to make United Nations envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan for Syria mandatory.

France would propose that Annan’s six-point plan be enforced under the UN’s Chapter Seven provision, he said on Wednesday, describing the conflict in Syria as a “civil war”.

Fabius said he hoped Russia would agree to using Chapter Seven, a measures which can authorise the use of force, and he said that a no-fly zone was another option under discussion.

 

“We propose making the implementation of the Annan plan compulsory,” he told a news conference. “We need to pass to the next speed at the Security Council and place the Annan plan under Chapter Seven – that is to say make it compulsory under pain of very heavy sanctions.”

France would propose toughening sanctions on Syria at the next meeting of EU foreign ministers, Fabius said.

He said the international community would prepare a list of second-ranking military officials who would be pursued by
international justice, alongside President Bashar al-Assad and his immediate entourage.

“They must understand that the only future is in resisting oppression. The time for taking a decision has arrived. They
have to jump ship,” Fabius said.

Earlier on Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a news conference during a brief visit to Iran that Moscow was supplying “anti-air defence systems” to Damascus in a deal that “in no way violates international laws”.

On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton renewed her call on Russia to end arms deliveries to Syria, saying that the violence-torn nation was “spiralling toward civil war”.

Clinton said she supported co-operation with Russia but stood firm on her call for an end to arms deliveries, a day after she charged that Moscow was sending “attack helicopters” to Syria that could “escalate the conflict”.

‘Proxy war’

Asked in Tehran about the helicopter allegation, Lavrov said only that Moscow was giving Damascus “conventional weapons” related to air defence and asserted that the deal complied with international law.

Gennady Gatilov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, told reporters last month that Moscow believed “it would be wrong to leave the Syrian government without the means for self-defence”.

Ali Akbar Salehi, the Iranian foreign minister, said at the same news conference with Lavrov that Tehran and Moscow were “very close” on the Syria issue.


Western and Arab nations, he said, “are sending weapons to Syria and forces to Syria, and are not allowing the reforms promised by the Syrian president to be applied”.

Reports in Iran allege that Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the US are arming Syria’s rebels – termed “terrorists” by Damascus – while US officials claim Iran is giving arms and military advisors to Syria’s government.

Some observers fear the conflict, which Herve Ladsous, the UN’s chief peacekeeper, says now resembles a civil war, could turn into a struggle between forces helped by outside nations.

On Wednesday, Syria’s foreign ministry responded to the remarks made by Ladsous, saying that they represented an unrealistic description of the conflict.

“Talk of civil war in Syria is not consistent with reality … What is happening in Syria is a war against armed groups that choose terrorism,” state news agency SANA quoted a ministry statement as saying.

But one Western diplomat told the AFP news agency, on condition of anonymity, that “there is a real risk of [the situation in Syria] sliding into a proxy war as certain states support the regime or ‘the opposition”.

“The conflict in Syria certainly appears to be getting more brutal – and not just on one side,” the diplomat warned.

‘Angry crowds’

UN monitors say at least 14,100 people have been killed in the 15-month uprising against the rule of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Russia came under fierce criticism from Western and Arab countries for vetoing two UN Security Council resolutions that would have sanctioned Assad for his use of force.

Since then, it has sought to distance itself from Assad while continuing to support his government.

Moscow is now trying to organise an international conference on Syria that would include several nations with influence over the conflict, including Iran. The US, Britain and France, however, object to Iran taking part.

Meanwhile, there are continued reports of violence in Syria.

According to activists, government forces continue to shell rebel strongholds in the city of Homs and live amateur footage appeared to show rocket attacks destroying a number of buildings in the city’s al-Khaldiyeh neighbourhood.

The UN has about 300 observers on the ground charged with monitoring both sides’ compliance with a peace plan mediated by Kofi Annan, the former secretary-general turned UN envoy.

But the observers have been unable to reach certain parts of the country, including al-Haffa, a besieged coastal town where a crackdown has been feared.

The mission said it was barred from entering al-Haffa by “angry crowds” who threw stones and metal rods at their vehicles.

Most accounts of violence cannot be independently verified, as Syria restricts access for journalists.

(www.aljazeera.com / 13.06.2012)

“Initiative in Upper Nazareth: $10,000 to every Arab family that leaves”

Ben White

The chair of Yisrael Beiteinu, the party headed by Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, in Upper Nazareth has called for a campaign to pay Palestinian citizens to leave the city.

As reported by HaKol HaYehudi (‘The Jewish Voice’) – and translated here – Alex Gedalkin has suggested that $10,000 be paid to every family that would sell its house “and leave town forever”.

Justifying his proposal, the Yisrael Beiteinu activist explained that such a move would “benefit everyone” by “avoid[ing] needless friction in the city and maintain[ing] the Jewish character of Upper Nazareth”.

The report also notes that the Mayor of Upper Nazareth “praised the initiative but stressed that the municipality cannot provide assistance for legal reasons.” Mayor Gapso has previously explained that he is “all for a democratic Upper Nazareth, but first of all a Jewish one.” In 2010, a message from the mayor on the city’s website stated: “Just as [David] Ben-Gurion and [Shimon] Peres said in the 1950s that the Galilee must be Jewish, we say the same about Nazareth Illit [Upper Nazereth]…The primary goal is to put the brakes on the demographic deterioration.”

Built to Judaize Nazareth

By way of providing further context, the following is an extract from my book ‘Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination and Democracy’:

Having confiscated land ‘in the public interest’ in the mid 1950s, the Israeli government created Upper Nazareth, overlooking Nazareth, the largest Palestinian city inside Israel’s pre-1967 borders. In 1953, a government official acknowledged that ‘making Nazareth a partially Jewish city’ would be ‘a colonizing act with difficulties’, but its importance was also clear. The director of the IDF Planning Department said that the role of Upper Nazareth would be to ‘emphasize and safeguard the Jewish character of the Galilee as a whole’, while according to the Northern Military Governor, the final aim of the settlement was to ‘swallow up’ the Arab city through ‘growth of the Jewish population around a hard-core group’.

In a 1957 letter reproduced in a publication marking the Jewish town’s thirtieth anniversary, the then Prime Minister, Ben Gurion, wrote that ‘the new settlement must be a Jewish town that will assert a Jewish presence in the area’. In the mid 1960s, an Israeli newspaper article described the creation of Upper Nazareth as a governmental decision ‘to impose on Arab Nazareth a Jewish town … whose purpose – whose basic, primary, and even sole purpose is ‘to break’ Arab autonomy in the region and in this city, and later, to create a Jewish majority’.

Today, while Upper Nazareth’s 50,000 inhabitants occupy 42,000 dunams, down the hill in Nazareth, 70,000 Palestinians are forced into just 14,000 dunams: four times as crowded. Yet ironically, it is precisely this lack of room for expansion that has forced those Palestinians who can afford it to move to Upper Nazareth. This is the context for more recent efforts intended to consolidate the city’s ‘Jewishness’, like the announcement in June 2009 of a new ultra-Orthodox neighbourhood ‘to counter Arabs moving in’. A month later, Rabbi Dov Lior, chair of the Yesha Rabbis Council, called for ‘the public to act to “Judaize”’ Upper Nazareth.

(electronicintifada.net /13.06.2012)