Timmermans, luister naar advies AIV over Israël

 

Timmermans, luister naar advies AIV over Israël -  Minister Frans Timmermans van Buitenlandse Zaken.  Foto ANP

Minister Frans Timmermans van Buitenlandse Zaken.

Minister Timmermans van Buitenlandse Zaken zou er verstandig aan doen om de aanbevelingen van het recente rapport van de Adviesraad voor Internationale Vraagstukken (AIV) over Israël en de Palestijnen op te volgen, vindt Jaap Hamburger.

De AIV publiceerde vorige maand zijn opvattingen over het Neder­landse beleid ten opzichte van Israël en de Palestijnen. Het advies, geschreven op verzoek van de Eerste en de Tweede Kamer, ziet een duidelijke rol weggelegd voor Nederland om te handelen in zijn contacten met de strijdende partijen.

Het advies benadrukt de algemeen geaccepteerde voorwaarden om –in het kader van een twee­statenoplossing– te komen tot een duurzame vrede in het Midden-Oosten. Tegelijkertijd is het adviesorgaan realistisch over het vredesproces van de afgelopen jaren: „Goedbedoelde internationale oproepen [hebben] in het verleden weinig effect (…) gesorteerd.” De praktisch gerichte aanbevelingen van de AIV proberen dan ook inhoud te geven aan een actief Nederlands beleid om Israël en de Palestijnen in de richting van een oplossing te bewegen. Deze aanbevelingen zijn het tegendeel van wat VVD-woordvoerder 
Ten Broeke karakteriseerde als „opinies uit de studeerkamer.”

Concreet zou de Nederlandse regering een brede Midden-Oosten­vredesconferentie op Europese bodem kunnen faciliteren. De AIV haakt hierbij in op het Arabische vredesinitiatief, oorspronkelijk uit 2002, dat voorziet in een volledige normalisering van alle betrekkingen door de hele Arabische wereld met Israël als dat land zich terugtrekt tot de grenzen van juni 1967. Een initiatief waarop opeenvolgende Israëlische regeringen overigens nooit een officieel antwoord hebben gegeven.

De AIV ziet echter ook andere mogelijkheden, zowel in EU-verband als in de directe betrekkingen tussen Nederland en Israël. Een van de aanbevelingen is dat Nederland erop toeziet dat Israël geen profijt heeft van zijn nederzettingen in het kader van de nauwe handelsbetrekkingen tussen Israël en de Europese Unie. De AIV gaat nog een stap verder en stelt dat „restrictieve maat­regelen” genomen kunnen worden om de export van nederzetting­producten naar de Europese markt aan banden te leggen.

Deze aanbeveling sluit aan op recente berichtgeving dat dertien EU-lidstaten, waaronder Nederland, werk gaan maken van het correct labelen van Israëlische nederzettingproducten. Tot nu toe worden veel van deze producten (bewust misleidend) geëtiketteerd als komend uit Israël, waardoor zij ten onrechte vallen onder de voor Israël geldende gunstige Europese importtarieven.

De AIV durft in zijn advies zelfs te stellen dat bij onveranderd Israëlisch beleid of het verder ver­diepen van de bezetting in de Palestijnse gebieden, de betrekkingen, „vooral op economisch en militair niveau”, bevroren of zelfs beperkt kunnen worden. Deze bewoordingen leiden mogelijk tot gefronste wenkbrauwen op het ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken, maar maken de aanbeveling van de AIV gedurfder. Het vredes­proces verkeert in een impasse. Van enige serieuze poging om tot een oplossing van het conflict en een beëindiging van de bezetting te komen, is de afgelopen jaren weinig tot niets gebleken. Ondertussen verankert de bezetting zich steeds verder en wordt de kans op een onafhanke­lijke, levens­vatbare Palestijnse staat met de dag kleiner.

Dit zou de internationale gemeenschap moeten nopen 
om meer te doen dan zich blind 
te staren op het starten van weer een ronde van tot nu toe vrijblijvend gebleken vredesonderhandelingen. Die hebben niet kunnen verhinderen dat Israëls nederzettingen zijn gegroeid en de bezetting zich heeft verscherpt, met alle funeste gevolgen voor de Palestijnen, hun mensenrechten en hun recht op zelfbeschikking, maar ook voor het democratisch gehalte en de toekomst van Israël zelf.

In navolging van de Nederlandse regering en de inter­nationale gemeenschap ziet de AIV de twee­statenoplossing als meest aanvaardbare oplossing van het conflict. Maar de steun daarvoor neemt af, mede als gevolg van de bijna onomkeerbare situatie die door Israëls nederzettingen­politiek lijkt gecreëerd.

Als sterkste partij in het conflict en als bezettende macht is het logischerwijze in de eerste plaats aan Israël om de noodzakelijke stappen te zetten om een einde te maken aan de bezetting, en daarmee ruimte te scheppen voor het oprichten van een onafhankelijke Palestijnse staat. De internationale en Nederlandse benadering van de afgelopen jaren heeft gefaald, is de conclusie die te trekken valt uit het AIV-advies. Inzetten op concrete druk op de sterkste partij in het conflict –Israël– is daarom het enige werkbare alternatief om zowel Palestijnen als Israëliërs te ontdoen van de loden last van de bezetting.

De auteur is voorzitter van Een Ander Joods Geluid.

(Source / 11.05.2013)

Qaeda threat worse under Ben Ali: Tunisia’s Ghannouchi

Ennahda leader Rached Ghannouchi reassures Tunisians that security threat from Al-Qaeda has reduced since the ousting of Ben Ali
Tunisia

Rached Ghannouchi, leader of the Islamist Ennahda movement, Tunisia’s main Islamist political party, speaks during a news conference in Tunis May 9, 2013

The threat Islamist militants posed to Tunisia under ousted dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was worse than the current threat, the ruling Islamist party Ennahda’s leader Rached Ghannouchi said on Thursday.”What happened in Soliman and Rouhia was worse than what is currently happening in Mont Chaambi, even if it is a massive crime,” he told a news conference.

Soliman is a town near Tunis where clashes in 2007 between the army and Islamists killed a soldier, two policeman and more than 10 Islamists.

 

Rouhia was the site of a gunfight with Al-Qaeda-linked militants in May 2011, after the revolution that toppled Ben Ali, in which two policemen and two Islamists were killed.

Since last week, the army has been hunting two groups of militant jihadists hiding out in the remote regions of Kef and Mont Chaambi along the border with Algeria.

The authorities say they are veterans of the Islamist rebellion in northern Mali with links to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

“There is no justification for violence in Tunisia, there is no place for jihad, except the jihad that promotes development and spreads goodwill,” said the veteran leader of Ennahda, which heads Tunisia’s coalition government.

“In Tunisia, terrorism cannot succeed because it is a moderate Muslim country. Fanaticism is an exception,” he added.

Ghannouchi sharply criticised the press coverage of the search operation that began last week, in which homemade bombs planted by the Islamists have wounded 16 members of the security forces, some of them seriously.

“The newspapers and certain people are saying that Tunisia is heading towards civil war. Terrorism in Tunisia cannot transform itself into civil war. That (claim) is an exaggeration and not objective.”

“We are fighting a phenomenon and we must all unite,” he said, while calling on the government to speed up its development projects and roll back the poverty in Tunisia that risks fuelling extremism.

Since the revolution in January 2011 that forced Ben Ali to flee, Tunisia has seen a proliferation of radical Islamist groups that were suppressed under the former dictator.

Those groups have been blamed for a wave of violence, notably an attack on the US embassy last September and the assassination of a leftist opposition leader in February, cases which Ennahda has sought to portray as isolated incidents.

(Source / 11.05.2013)

De zegeningen van Bismillah

By Marianna Laarif

Bismillah Ar-Rahmân Ar-Rahiem (In de naam van Allah, de Barmhartige, de Genadevolle)

Een Sheikh vertelde over de wonderen en zegeningen van ‘Bismillaah’. Tijdens één van zijn vertellingen was er ook een Joods meisje in het publiek aanwezig. Horende over deze wonderen en zegeningen van ‘Bismillaah’ werd haar hart geraakt en nam zij de Islam aan. Vanaf dat moment was ‘Bismillaah’ constant op haar lippen, op elk moment van de dag en bij elke handeling gebruikte zij het woord ‘Bismillaah’ b.v. tijdens zitten, staan, slapen, wakker worden, lopen, wandelen, eten bereiden etc etc.

Vanwege het uitspreken van ‘Bismillaah’ waren haar ouders woedend op haar en ze begonnen haar op allerlei manieren tegen te werken en druk op haar uit te oefenen om het af te leren. De ouders beraamden een plan, om het meisje van iets te kunnen beschuldigen zodat zij ter dood veroordeeld kon worden. De vader van het meisje was de adviseur van de Koning. Op een dag gaf de vader, de ring van het Koning, die met diamanten was ingelegd in bewaring aan zijn dochter.
Het meisje zei ‘Bismillaah’ en deed de ring in haar zak.’ S nachts toen het meisje sliep, sloop de vader naar de kamer van de het meisje en stal de ring en gooide de ring diezelfde nacht in de rivier. Een vis slikte de ring in.

‘S Ochtends heel vroeg gooide de een visser zijn net uit en als door “een wonder” kwam dezelfde vis in zijn net terecht. Op zijn beurt verkocht de visser de vis aan de adviseur en deze gaf de vis aan zijn dochter om het te bereiden en klaar te maken voor een feestmaal. Het meisje zei ‘Bismillaah’ en nam de vis aan en ‘Bismillaah’ zeggende sneed ze de vis open en plotseling zag zij de ring in de buik van de vis, ‘Bismillaah’ zeggende haalde ze de ring uit de buik van de vis en ‘Bismillaah’ zeggende deed ze de ring weer in haar zak.

Daarna maakte ze de vis klaar en diende het eten op. Na het eten vroeg de vader onschuldig in het openbaar, zijn dochter naar de diamanten ring van de Koning. Het meisje haalde de ring ‘Bismillaah’ zeggende uit haar zak, de vader schrok zich te pletter. Vanwege dit wonder mislukte het plan van haar vader. Allah is de beste plannenmaker. Allah , ‘Al-Aziez’ (de Machtige) en ‘Al-Moehaymin’ (de Beschermer), had door de zegeningen van ‘Bismillaah’ (in de Naam van Allah) het meisje gered van de doodstraf.

Death toll rises to 40 as explosions hit Turkish town on border with Syria

Several explosions have hit the southern province of Hatay’s Reyhanlı district on the Turkish-Syrian border. DHA photo

Several explosions have hit the southern province of Hatay’s Reyhanlı district on the Turkish-Syrian border.

The death toll from suspected twin car bombs that hit the southern province of Hatay’s Reyhanlı district on the Turkish-Syrian border has risen to 40, Turkish Interior Minister said today. At least 100 people were injured, 29 of whom are in critical condition, he added.

The town center of Reyhanlı, which is hosting many Syrians fleeing the conflict in the Arab republic, was the target of deadly explosions at around 1:45 p.m. local time. Bombs were set off near the municipality, causing major damage to buildings in the town center. A wooden building close to the municipality collapsed following the explosions, while power has reportedly been cut in the town.

The explosions were likely caused by two cars filled with explosives, Güler told reporters in his first remarks after the attacks, but other reports indicated that there were three or more explosions. Güler also said they had preliminary information about the source of the attacks. Police took heavy security measures after the explosions.

The explosions caused massive panic in Reyhanlı, leading many locals to try and leave town, according to reports. Scuffles were also reported between locals and Syrians, as tensions had been mounting ahead of the attacks.

Assad regime ‘Usual suspect’: Deputy PM

Meanwhile, Turkish politicians warned against provocations and suggested that the attack might have been aimed at Turkey’s ongoing peace process.

“We have started a resolution process in our country, and there are those who don’t accept this new era,” Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said after the attacks.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said Syria could be behind the attacks. “Bashar al-Assad with his Mukhabarat [Syrian intelligence agency] is the usual suspect in planning and carrying out such an attack,” Arınç said.

“If it is proven that al-Assad is responsible [for the attack], we will do what is necessary,” he said.

Turkish President Abdullah Gül also called for people to “be vigilant to provocations,” while Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin, a Hatay deputy, said the attacks “were intentional.”

Speaking during a visit to Germany, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said the timing of the attack was not a coincidence. “The diplomatic traffic [on Syria] is intensifying,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Turkish opposition called on the government to review its Syria policy while condemning the attacks. “The government should review its internal and foreign policy,” main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said in a statement.

For his part, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli said Turkey’s border security was under threat, while blaming the peace process and the government’s position regarding Syria.

Reyhanlı was hit by another deadly attack in February at the Cilvegözü border gate that killed 14. No one claimed responsibility for the attack, but a Syrian opposition faction accused the Syrian government of the bombing, saying it narrowly missed leaders of the group. Turkish authorities that led the investigation into the bombing had said the Syrian suspects taken into custody worked with Syria’s intelligence service

(Source / 11.05.2013)

Haneyya: The wounded in Gaza will continue to hold the resistance banner

images_News_2013_05_11_Yasin-0_300_0[1]GAZA, (PIC)– Palestinian premier Ismail Haneyya said that the wounded in Gaza insist on carrying the banner of resistance and steadfastness despite the limbs or eyesight they have lost.

Haneyya made his remarks during a ceremony held to inaugurate a forum for the wounded as part of the victims of war lounge in the Gaza Strip.

Haneyya said that the wounded in Gaza are still wearing the battlefield attire and ready to sacrifice more, although they have lost some of their parts, stressing that the real death does not happen to the body but to the heart.

“This place tells the story of a generation fighting and a people willing to get liberated from the occupation and have a state on the entire Palestinian soil with Jerusalem as its capital,” the premier stated.

“We take pride before the nations in our martyrs, our wounded and our prisoners, who are in the lead, and we are keen on having every foreign delegation or any official or unofficial figure meet with the families of the martyrs, the prisoners and the wounded,” he added.

He pointed out that Sheikh Ahmed Yasin, the founder of Hamas, was confined to a wheelchair, but he was successfully able to lead a generation and renew the spirit of this nation.

(Source / 11.05.2013)

Israeli occupation forces arrest three Palestinians, including two minors aged 14 and 15

images_News_2013_05_11_kids_300_0[1]JENIN, (PIC)– The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) arrested three Palestinians including two minors in occupied Jerusalem and the West Bank.

IOF soldiers detained late on Friday a Palestinian student at Al-Najah National University at a military checkpoint near the entrance to Araba town.

The student Badr Issam Abu Hija, 21, was detained and interrogated by IOF while on his way home when Israeli soldiers stopped him at the checkpoint and took him to a detention center.

Meanwhile, IOF soldiers raided a house owned by Nafez Jaffal, in the town of Abu Dis in occupied Jerusalem, and detained his two sons aged 14 and 15 years after searching the house.

The father, a liberated prisoner who spent 5 years in Israeli jails, charged that the Israeli soldiers brutally attacked the family members before taking his two sons to an unknown destination.

Two other students at Jerusalem University, Firas Jaffal and Faisal al-Noafle, were recently arrested in Abu Dis.

(Source / 11.05.2013)

Despite threats, students to commemorate Nakba at Tel Aviv University

Israeli right-wing protesters burn a Palestinian flag in front of Tel Aviv University during the Nakba day commemoration event last year.

Palestinian and Jewish activists will join together to commemorate the ethnic cleansing that led to Israel’s establishment at an event in Tel Aviv University early next week.

This will be the second year that students will mark the Nakba — Arabic for “catastrophe,” the name given to the violence by Zionist forces in 1948 — in this way.

Students will read poetry, including works by the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, and a refugee from Tantura, a Palestinian village destroyed by a Zionist militia in May 1948, will recount his story to the audience.

“Nakba continues today”

Palestinian students who tell their families’ stories “will stress the meaning of the Nakba that continues today,” said Noa Levy, graduate student and organizer. “Whether it’s the relatives in refugee camps who cannot meet them, the economic situation in the towns and villages mostly populated by refugees, or the joint struggle for rights and restitution in Israel.”

“Our event is unique [because] it is very public [in] the main square on campus,” said student organizer Dan Walfish.

Readings will be delivered in both Hebrew and Arabic, Walfish said, “in order to show that the Nakba is not only a Palestinian issue, but a subject that should be known and commemorated by Jewish Israelis as well.”

“It is not a demonstration,” stressed Walfish, noting that the event is “non-partisan and open to everyone.”

Although public discussion of the Nakba within present-day Israel has been repressed, Walfish said the organizers “do not know what kind of pressure political elements will try to force on the university [this year].”

Uproar

“Without understanding the Palestinian narrative of 1948, you cannot understand the problems that Palestinians in Israel face today, and can’t understand the issues that stand between the state and the Arab citizens,” said Salah Mohsen of Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel.

The 2012 Nakba commemoration on campus, involving approximately 500 Palestinian and Jewish Israeli students at Tel Aviv University, as well as a handful of professors, sparked uproar in the Israeli political establishment and media.

For fear of breaching the Nakba Law — discriminatory legislation that threatens to defund any organization that marks the anniversary of Israel’s establishment as a “day of mourning” — the university made the organizers pay for the event’s security and banned the use of loudspeakers.

Similar commemorations were canceled elsewhere in Israel, including one planned at Haifa University.

“Direct blow” to Israel

A week before the 2012 commemoration, Gideon Saar, then Israel’s education minister, pressured Tel Aviv University to prevent the event. Alex Miller, a member of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, said, “It is shameful that such an event is meant to happen in public, it’s a direct blow against the symbols of the state and its sovereignty” (“Minister tells Israeli university to rethink ceremony marking Palestinian Nakba,” Haaretz, 13 May 2012).

The commemoration attracted a number of counter-protesters, including Knesset members and activists from Im Titzu, a far-right political group.

Students from Im Tirzu reportedly confronted Palestinian students at the university protesting Israel’s attacks on Gaza last November, shouting racist slogans including “Death to the Arabs.”

Although conceding that Tel Aviv University officials have been “relatively supportive of the right to hold the event,” Noa Levy noted that university security has demanded that the students change the name of the event from “ceremony” to “protest” or “assembly” — “as if the Zionists have a monopoly on what can be considered a commemoration ceremony. We’re still trying to fight this.”

Threats

Organizers expect pressure to cancel or tone down the commemoration.

“We are continuing to organize the ceremony despite threats from right-wing parties and the attempts of the university security office to lay obstacles in front of us, whether by specifically telling us to change the name of the event or by placing arbitrary bureaucratic barriers to delay its final approval,” said Ruba Salem, a member of the student wing of Hadash, a left-wing political party in Israel.

Salem said that in 2012, organizers and affiliated activists were harassed on Facebook and other social media outlets ahead of the commemoration. Several received “threats and hate speech from people opposing the event,” she explained.

During the 2012 event, counter-protesters attacked the commemoration. “Several counter-protesters broke through the security barrier, without the policemen reacting, and tore our signs, and even used offensive language against us,” Salem added. A video of this incident — recorded by this reporter — can be viewed on YouTube.

Rula Khalaily, a student at Tel Aviv University, told The Electronic Intifada that Im Tirzu activists emailed her before the 2012 commemoration took place. The email said that she and other organizers would “pay the price.”

Weeks later, Khalaily and three other prominent activists were threatened in a letter mailed to the dean of Tel Aviv University, declaring a spell on the students and providing their identity card numbers. The letter alleged that the activists are “promoter[s] of Nakba terror” and the “spell” was proclaimed for “incitement against Zionists.”

Following the advice of the university’s dean, the students decided against going public with the letter last year. “It was a risk; any fundamentalist could have taken it as a message to kill us,” Khalaily added.

History

Implanting the tradition of Nakba commemoration at Israeli universities is part of a broader movement related to the right to narrate history. “The main message is to address the Nakba as a day of mourning for the Palestinian people,” Khalaily said, “and to tell the Israeli government that they can never prevent us from talking about our history.”

Organizers also stressed the importance of shared Jewish and Palestinian participation in the commemoration. “We want to share the pain of the Nakba, openly and together, and to start a public discourse on the Nakba, [which] is still going on by preventing the refugees from returning, by taking Palestinian lands, and preventing equal rights for Palestinians,” Walfish said.

“This discourse must start from a place of humanity, human rights, memory and pain,” Walfish said. “We think that fixing the crimes of 1948 is essential for a better joint future for Jews and Palestinians.”

(Source / 11.05.2013)

Egypt ‘foils Qaeda-linked plot against Western embassy’

A Muslim Brotherhood supporter and fellow demonstrators next to an Al-Qaeda affiliated flag, April 19, 2013, Cairo.

CAIRO (AFP) — Egypt’s interior minister said on Saturday police arrested members of an Al-Qaeda-linked cell that plotted to carry out a suicide bombing against a Western embassy and other targets in the country.

Police “have delivered a successful blow against a terror cell plotting suicide bomb attacks,” including a plot to attack a Western embassy which was in its final stages, Mohammed Ibrahim said at a news conference.

The minister did not identify the embassy.

Ibrahim named three people arrested by police and said they were captured with 10 kilos of chemicals that could be used to make explosives and a computer containing instructions on bomb-making.

The militants had been in touch with an Al-Qaeda leader outside the country, said Ibrahim, and had received training in Pakistan and Iran.

Egypt has in the past announced the arrests of Qaeda-linked militants, including a group now on trial in Cairo.

(Source  / 11.05.2013)

Pakistanis go to polls, 22 killed in attacks

Army soldiers patrol ahead of upcoming elections in Bara Sheikhan, Peshawar May 10, 2013.

Defying threats of violence, Pakistanis streamed to the polls Saturday for a historic vote pitting a former cricket star against a two-time prime minister and an unpopular incumbent. But militant attacks that killed 22 people underlined the risks many people took just casting their ballots.

The violence was a continuation of what has been a bloody election season, with more than 130 people killed in bombings and shootings. Some are calling this one of the deadliest votes in the country’s history.

Despite the violence, many see the election – the country’s first transition between an elected government fulfilling its term to another – as a key step to solidify civilian rule in a country that has experienced three military coups.

With the Pakistani Taliban threatening to target political parties in the vote, the government deployed an estimated 600,000 security personnel across the country to protect polling sites and voters.

Many Pakistanis seemed determined to cast their ballots despite the violence.

“Yes, there are fears. But what should we do?” said Ali Khan, who was waiting to vote in the northwestern city of Peshawar, where one of the blasts took place Saturday. “Either we sit in our house and let the terrorism go on, or we come out of our homes, cast our vote, and bring in a government that can solve this problem of terrorism.”

That exuberance seemed to be widespread. The secretary of the election commission, Ahmed Khan, told reporters in Islamabad that he expected the turnout to be “massive.”

The election is being watched closely by the United States, which relies on the nuclear-armed country for help fighting Islamic militants and negotiating an end to the war in neighboring Afghanistan.

This vote is notable for more than just the historic handoff of power from one civilian government to another.

The rise of former cricket star Imran Khan has reshaped the Pakistani political scene, challenging the stranglehold of the country’s two main parties and making the outcome of the vote very hard to call.

The 60-year-old Khan is facing off against the Pakistan Muslim League-N, headed by two-time former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the Pakistan People’s Party, led by President Asif Ali Zardari.

While Sharif has billed himself as the candidate of experience, Khan is trying to tap into the frustrations of millions of Pakistanis who want a change from the politicians who have dominated the nation’s politics for years.

“I never voted for anyone in the past, but today my sons asked me to go to the polling station, and I am here to vote,” said Mohammed Akbar in the northwestern city of Khar. “Imran Khan is promising to bring a good change, and we will support him.”

Khan survived a horrific fall off a forklift during a campaign event Tuesday in the eastern city of Lahore that sent him to the hospital with three broken vertebrae and a broken rib. He is not believed to have voted Saturday because he couldn’t travel to his polling place.

Nobody is sure how effective he will be in translating his widespread popularity into votes, especially considering he boycotted the 2008 election and only got one seat in 2002.

Turnout will be critical, especially among the youth. Almost half of Pakistan’s more than 80 million registered voters are under the age of 35, but young people have often stayed away from the polls in the past.

The election’s outcome is likely riding on the tally in the province of Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous, where Sharif and Khan have been dueling for the people’s support with a series of large rallies and campaign events.

Even on Election Day the excitement was evident. In Lahore, which has not been touched by the pre-election violence seen in other parts of Pakistan, Sharif supporters carried stuffed tigers – the party’s election symbol – and Khan followers carried cricket bats as they chanted slogans in favor of their candidates.

As Sharif cast his ballot at a Lahore voting station, supporters serenaded him with chants of “Lion! Lion!”

“We brought change before. We will bring change again,” he said.

On the campaign trail, Sharif played up his extensive political experience compared to Khan’s, and touted key projects he completed while in office, including a highway between the capital Islamabad and Lahore.

“It’s better to try a lesser evil instead of trying a novice,” said one Lahore voter, Haji Mohammad Younus. “The lesser evils at least have the experience of governing. They might be corrupt but they have lately realized that they have to deliver if they want to survive.”

The mood remained jubilant despite a series of attacks that marred the vote in some districts.

The deadliest violence struck Karachi, where twin blasts blew up outside an office of the Awami National Party, one of three secular liberal parties that have been targeted by Taliban militants during the campaign, said police officer Shabir Hussain. Ten people died in the attack and 30 were wounded.

A roadside bomb in Karachi also killed one person riding in a bus of ANP supporters. In the northwestern city of Peshawar a bomb outside a polling station killed one person while two more died when a bomb went off near a police van.

In the southwestern province of Baluchistan, gunmen killed two people outside a polling station in the town of Sorab and a shootout between supporters of two candidates in the town of Chaman killed 6 people, officials said.

There is concern that the violence could benefit Islamist parties and those who take a softer line toward the militants, including Khan and Sharif, because they were able to campaign more freely.

The outgoing Pakistan People’s Party is likely to fare poorly in this election. Voters are fed up with five years of power outages, rising inflation and militant attacks. The party, which rose to power in 2008 in part by widespread sympathy after the death of party leader Benazir Bhutto, has carried out what many called a lackluster campaign.

Their effort has been hampered by threats of Taliban violence and a lack of high-profile figures to rally the party. Benazir Bhutto’s son, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, is officially the party chairman and had been expected to play a high-profile role in the election.

But he’s appeared at few election events, and was out of the country Saturday.

The election was also marred by reports that some women in the North Waziristan tribal area were not allowed to vote. Clerics using loudspeakers at local mosques in the cities of Mir Ali and Miran Shah urged women to stay home, and none could be seen at the polls.

Women in Pakistan have had to fight extensive discrimination to assert their electoral rights. They represent only about 43 percent of the roughly 86 million registered voters. In many areas, particularly in the conservative northwest, the men decide ahead of the election that women cannot vote.

Polls were scheduled to close at 5 p.m. local time (1200 GMT and 8 a.m. EST) but the commission extended voting for an extra hour across the country and three hours in parts of Karachi.

The election commission said they were investigating reports of a lack of polling staff and materials, and threats to election commission staff in some areas of Karachi.

The election winner will inherit a country struggling on a number of fronts. Pakistanis suffer from rolling blackouts that can be as long as 18 hours a day as well as rising inflation. The country is also battling Islamic militants who want to overthrow the government, while on the western border there are fears that a U.S. military departure from Afghanistan will send violence spilling over into Pakistan.

Both Khan and Sharif have favored negotiations with militants in the country’s tribal areas, and Khan has even said he would pull out troops from the borderlands if elected.

That would likely put him at odds with the country’s powerful military. While Pakistan has been under civilian rule for the last five years, the military still is considered the country’s most powerful institution and usually makes the major decisions when it comes to militancy or foreign policy issues such as Afghanistan or India.

In what appeared to be a show of support for democracy in Pakistan, the country’s most powerful military officer, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani went himself to the voting booth – shown live on Pakistani television – instead of mailing in his ballot.

On the eve of the historic vote Pakistan expelled the New York Times correspondent, Declan Walsh.

The newspaper said in an article published on its website Friday that their longtime foreign correspondent was handed a two-sentence letter accusing him of unspecified “undesirable activities” and ordering him to leave.

(Source / 11.05.2013)

Announcing a Poetry Festival for the Mamilla Cemetery in Jerusalem

ARCH presents

Mamilla Poetry Festival

“A Dialogue with Memory”

7-9 September 2013

Mamilla Arabic CallMAMILLA CALL FINAL

In cooperation with
Mahmoud Darwish Foundation and Museum, Ramallah
And
Campaign to Preserve Mamilla Jerusalem Cemetery

Guidelines & Submission Form (PDF download)

In Jerusalem, and I mean within the ancient walls,
I walk from one epoch to another without a memory
to guide me.

– Mahmoud Darwish

Resting just west of the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, Mamilla Cemetery—necropolis of shrines, distinguished mausoleums, modest graves, and the ancient Mamilla Pool—is facing final desecration and destruction.

Mamilla’s venerable history is as rich as it is layered. Having been adopted first by the Byzantines, whose 4th century church and cemetery marked it as holy ground, Mamilla was then designated an Islamic burial site as early as the 7th century, when the remains of the very first Muslims—the Sahabah, companions of the Prophet Muhammad—were reputedly laid to rest in its sacred soil. Aside from a brief period as a Christian cemetery during the Crusades, Mamilla served without interruption as Muslim burial grounds over the course of a 1,400 year-period of Islamic rule over Jerusalem. Growing to become the largest Islamic cemetery in the city, it housed a diverse community of Muslims, from the respected soldiers of ruler Saladin to generations of Jerusalemites spanning a wide socio-economic spectrum. Tombs of emirs, muftis, Sufi shrines and Mamluk-era mausoleums—amongst other ancient monuments and gravestones—further attest to its hallowed history. Indeed, so holy was Mamilla that in the 14th century A’lam, interment there was likened to being buried in heaven.

Today, Mamilla stands not only as a symbol and vestige of Palestinian—and Muslim—religious and cultural heritage but also as a site of exceptional universal value.  In light of its sacred significance, the plan to build a so-called “Museum of Dignity and Tolerance” on its soil is an affront to memory and identity.

Encouraged by a renewed hope for the preservation of Mamilla, ARCH (Alliance to Restore Cultural Heritage in the Holy City of Jerusalem) joins hands with the Mahmoud Darwish Foundation and Museum and the Campaign to Preserve Mamilla Jerusalem Cemetery to organise an International Poetry Festival.

With the aim of protecting and preserving the cemetery as a place of living memory and of eternal sanctity, we welcome poetry that celebrates Mamilla as a resting place for generations of Palestinian families.  Likewise, we welcome submissions that meditate upon and imagine the lives of notables and ordinary people alike who have been buried in its holy grounds.

Inspired by Seamus Heaney’s claim that every poet has double citizenship—one of locality, one of conscience—we invite poets to reflect upon locality to explore universal themes that transcend geographical boundaries.

Poetry’s crucial role in the formation of cultural identity is undeniable, especially when it provides agency in the protection and preservation of memory.  As Mahmoud Darwish affirmed, “Poems can’t establish a state.  But they can establish a metaphorical homeland in the minds of the people.  I think my poems have built some houses in this landscape.”

This land absorbs the skins of martyrs
This land promises wheat and stars
Worship it!
We are its salt and its water
We are its wound, but a wound that fights.

– Mahmoud Darwish

A distinguished panel of six literary figures from around the world will review all content received to select twenty final submissions, which will then be performed live (or digitally broadcast) between the 7th and 9th of September at the Mamilla Poetry Festival, hosted by the Mahmoud Darwish Foundation and Museum in Ramallah. The festival will be recorded, and then streamed online; finally, an anthology will be published. Circumstances permitting, the festival will conclude with a candlelight reading of Mahmoud Darwish’s poetry in Mamilla Cemetery and/or at other vulnerable cultural sites in the Holy City of Jerusalem.

In addition to conducting widespread outreach to generate global awareness and solicit international involvement, we are committed to galvanizing nearby communities and engaging local youth. Not only will a special prize be offered for the best poem submitted by a secondary-school student, but local schools will also be invited to attend and students will be encouraged to participate.

We invite all interested parties to visit the cemetery—albeit virtually—by reviewing the biographical details of some of the earliest-recorded deceased; these can be accessed via an online petition to protect the cemetery from further encroachment that was signed by 60 descendants of those same deceased.

For further information:

Petition to preserve Mamilla

“The Mamilla Cemetery; A Buried History” by Asem Khalidi

Download the PDF file of “Mamluk Epitaphs from Mamilla Cemetery” by Tawfiq Da‘ādli

(Source / 11.05.2013)