UN envoy Brahimi in Turkey for Syria talks

UN envoy Brahimi in Turkey for Syria talks

U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi arrived in Ankara Oct. 24 to hold talks with Turkish officials and the Syrian opposition over the planned Geneva peace talks, Hurriyet Daily Newsreported.

Brahimi confirmed he will meet with the Syrian opposition but gave no further details. Efforts to persuade the Syrian regime and the opposition to take part have intensified, with Brahimi making the rounds of the region. Brahimi visited Egypt on Oct. 20, where he met Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi, and Iraq on Oct. 21. He met with Jordanian officials on Oct. 23. He had said his tour will also take him to Iran, Qatar and Syria.

Syria’s opposition National Coalition is to meet on Nov. 9 to decide on the divisive issue of whether to take part in peace talks in Geneva, a Coalition member said Oct. 24.

“We have decided to put off the (Coalition’s) General Assembly and political committee meetings until Nov. 9 in Istanbul,” Samir Nashar told Agence France-Presse.

The Istanbul meetings were originally scheduled for Oct. 22, but were postponed because of a “Friends of Syria” meeting in London. “There is an international effort, notably American, to persuade the Coalition to take part in the Geneva peace conference,” Nashar said.

“Putting off a decision until Nov. 9 aims to allow more time for discussions and to assist efforts to change the minds of those opposed to taking part,” he said.

(Source / 24.10.2013)

Jordanian Jihadists Active in #Syria

Since the start of the rebellion against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in 2011, Jordanian foreign fighters have traveled to Syria to fight with the opposition. What began as a small trickle of Jordanian militants has swelled as the conflict evolved from a popular uprising into a civil war of regional proportions. At the start of the uprising, Jordanian jihadists viewed participation in the Syrian war as a religious duty to fight against an autocratic, Alawite regime. Their hope is that the fall of al-Assad will result in the establishment of a Sunni Islamic state. This conviction intensified as the war became increasingly sectarian. Galvanized by the involvement of Iran and Hizb Allah, and the subsequent calls for jihad against al-Assad by Sunni clerics, Jordanian jihadists considered it their obligation to defend Sunnis in Syria.[1]

This article provides background on Jordanian jihadists who have traveled to fight in Syria. It finds that many of these militants have joined the al-Qa`ida-linked rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra, a development that could threaten the security of the Jordanian state.[2]

Jihadist Activity in Jordan
General estimates place the number of Salafi-jihadis[3] in Jordan at a few thousand, some of whom are veterans of the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.[4] Al-Qa`ida in Iraq (AQI), for example, was led by the prominent Jordanian jihadist Abu Mus`ab al-Zarqawi. Al-Zarqawi, who was killed in June 2006, was responsible for the triple Amman hotel bombings, a terrorist attack that killed 60 people in Jordan in 2005.[5] Moreover, al-Zarqawi’s spiritual mentor, Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, a Jordanian citizen of Palestinian origin, is a prominent proponent of Salafi-jihadism in Jordan.[6]

The Jordanian government views Salafi-jihadis as extremists, and tensions between the banned movement and the government are longstanding.[7] In April 2011, for example, 400 Salafi-jihadi protesters demanded the release of prisoners and clashed with police—a demonstration that resulted in the stabbings of four policemen.[8] Various reports suggest that support for Salafi-jihadis is gaining ground in the Jordanian cities of Maan and Zarqa, the latter of which was al-Zarqawi’s hometown.[9] Tensions became more pronounced as the war in Syria escalated. In January 2013, Jordanian King Abdullah warned that “the new Taliban we are going to have to deal with are in Syria,” adding that it might take two years to clean up the “bad elements,” in reference to jihadists in Syria.[10]

In October 2012, authorities foiled a plot targeting Jordan. Jordanian authorities arrested 11 Jordanians who were accused of plotting to bomb shopping malls and Western diplomatic missions in Amman, using weapons and explosives smuggled into Jordan from Syria.[11] The militants reportedly planned to execute their attacks in stages.[12] They first planned to target shopping centers and foreigners in Jordanian hotels.[13] After those initial attacks, they wanted to execute more deadly attacks using powerful explosives on Western diplomatic missions and “vital national sites.”[14] Jordanian authorities identified some of the men as belonging to the banned Salafi-jihadi movement in Jordan.[15] Abed Shehadeh al-Tahawi, who leads Jordan’s Salafi-jihadi movement, told the Associated Press that he “recognized at least half of the people shown on television…They are members of my group, but they have nothing to do with what is said to be a ‘terror plot.’”[16] Although some have expressed skepticism about the plot, the conflict in Syria has clearly stirred up Jordan’s jihadist community.[17]

In September 2013, for example, Jordanian authorities acted again, jailing five Jordanian Salafi-jihadis for trying to join Jabhat al-Nusra.[18] In total, Jordanian authorities have arrested approximately 68 individuals in connection with the war in Syria, 47 of whom are facing trial in a state security court.[19]

Jordanian Jihadists in Syria
Security is tight on the Jordan-Syria border, but it is believed that authorities turned a blind eye in the early months of the revolution, which made it easier for jihadists to enter Syria.[20] In February 2013, for example, the Jordan Times reported the death of a 17-year-old Jordanian who was fighting with Jabhat al-Nusra in Deraa.[21] In August 2013, al-Ghad reported the death of a 29-year-old Jordanian jihadist in Deraa who was also fighting with Jabhat al-Nusra.[22]  Thus far, it is estimated that at least 100 Jordanian jihadists have been killed in Syria.[23]

It is not possible to identify the exact number of Jordanian fighters in Syria. Yet Mohammed al-Shalabi, a Salafi-jihadi leader in Jordan, said between 700-800 Jordanians have joined the jihad in Syria.[24] Al-Shalabi, also known as “Abu Sayyaf,” told reporters, “As the battle to defend the Muslim nation from the Godless regime of Assad continues, more are willing to join the fight.” Other reports place the number at 500.[25]

Among those killed include Mahmoud Abdul Al, the son-in-law of prominent Salafi-jihadi shaykh Abu Muhammad al-Tahawi. Abdul Al blew himself up in Deraa in October 2012.[26] In a video commemorating his son-in-law’s death produced by the jihadist website Ma’asada, al-Tahawi called for the reestablishment of the caliphate, and urged Salafi-jihadis to rise and defend themselves against the enemies of Islam.[27] He was also blunt in his support for Jabhat al-Nusra.[28] Al-Tahawi spoke about a fatwa he issued stipulating that it is the responsibility of any good Muslim to stop the bloodshed perpetrated by the Alawite regime in Syria.[29] In an interview, al-Tahawi said that “Muslims in Syria have been oppressed by Assad’s brutal and barbaric regime; therefore, according to Islam, it is obligatory for any able-bodied Muslim to support his brothers there.”[30]

Al-Tahawi’s call to action is not an isolated occurrence. In the wake of reports about Iran and Hizb Allah’s role in defending the al-Assad regime, other Sunni clerics called on Muslims to join the rebels in Syria.[31] The Salafi-jihadi leader al-Shalabi said, “This jihad is to defend Ahl al-Sunna [Sunni Islam]. It is obligatory. When the war turned sectarian, it became a motive not only for members of the movement but also for the public at large to join the mujahidin, especially after Hizb Allah and Iran interfered.”[32] Al-Qa`ida chief Ayman al-Zawahiri also called on Sunni Muslims to unite and join the war in Syria.[33]

In the early months of the war, Jordanian jihadists crossed the border in the southern Syrian provinces of Deraa and Reef Damascus.[34] They also had a presence in the eastern and western areas of Syria, including Deir al-Zour, Aleppo and Homs.[35] Hasan Abu Hanieh, an expert on Islamic groups, argued that the Jordanian government at first turned a blind eye to the flow of Jordanian jihadists in Syria, hoping that jihadists in Jordan would enter Syria and die there.[36] Yet as the civil war continued, the Jordanian government began to harden its 230-mile border with Syria, arresting dozens of jihadists trying to enter the war-torn country, and foiled attempts to smuggle arms from Syria into Jordan.[37] These border restrictions prompted Jordanian jihadists to travel to Turkey before entering Syria from the north.[38] The Turkish-Syria border has been used by hundreds of other jihadists who flocked from Libya, Tunisia, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey, Europe, Chechnya and elsewhere.[39]

The Militant Group of Choice: Jabhat al-Nusra
The vast majority of Jordanian jihadists in Syria appear to be fighting for Jabhat al-Nusra, according to al-Shalabi.[40] Reports of their participation were also revealed in an article by al-Monitor, translated from al-Hayat, stating that the Salafist community in Jordan serves as a lifeline for Jabhat al-Nusra in southern Syria.[41] The report said that jihadists in Syria “rely on gangs that smuggle weapons and people into hot fighting zones in exchange for amounts ranging from $600 to $900 per person, in addition to the fees imposed on weapons, which exceed $400 per gun.”[42]

The report also said that Jordanian jihadists—who have experience in conflicts such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Chechnya and Yemen—lead prominent military brigades in Jabhat al-Nusra. Two Jordanians of Palestinian origin who hail from the city of Zarqa, the hometown of Abu Mus`ab al-Zarqawi, helped establish the Nusra Shura council with Abu Muhammad al-Julani, the head of Jabhat al-Nusra.[43] These two militants—Iyad Toubasi and Mustafa Abdul Latif—were among the senior leadership of al-Qa`ida in Iraq.[44] They were active in Syria since the beginning of the war and immediately started operating without publicizing their presence.[45]

Iyad Toubasi, also known as Abu Gelebeb, is married to Abu Mus`ab al-Zarqawi’s sister.[46] He fought with al-Zarqawi in Afghanistan and Iraq.[47] Abu Gelebeb was the amir of Jabhat al-Nusra in Damascus and Derra, although he was thought to have died in December 2012.[48] Yet subsequent reports suggest he was only injured, and returned to the fighting after receiving medical treatment in Turkey.[49]

After Abu Gelebeb’s injury, Mustafa Abdul Latif, another Jordanian, reportedly took charge of the southern front in Jabhat al-Nusra.[50] Latif, also known as Abu Anas al-Sahaba, was close to al-Zarqawi and fought in the Islamic State of Iraq; he was in charge of a services office for jihadists arriving in Syria to fight in Iraq.[51] Al-Sahaba has been operating in Syria since the beginning of the revolution, and he has played a significant role in recruiting and attracting fighters to Jabhat al-Nusra.[52]

Conclusion
The war in Syria has drawn jihadists from all over the world, including from Jordan. The rise of Jabhat al-Nusra and its appeal among Jordanian jihadists will likely present a challenge for Jordanian authorities, especially if al-Qa`ida and its allies continue to expand their presence in Syria.

The Jordanian jihadist al-Shalabi assured that Jordan is not a target for militants. Jihadists, he said, will only target a regime if it attacks its own people.[53] Nevertheless, there is a heightened sense of anxiety in Jordan over jihadist groups, and the Jordanian authorities have arrested dozens of suspected militants, including key figures in the Salafist movement.[54]

Jordanian Salafi-jihadi sympathizers appear to be growing, or at least becoming more vocal, and the movement seems to be gaining ground in Maan and Zarqa.[55] Jihadist black flags have been spotted in Maan where citizens increasingly complain of being marginalized by the Jordanian government.[56] There are also frustrations with the lack of genuine political reforms, soaring poverty and unemployment.[57]

Contrary to some claims that al-Qa`ida’s influence has been weakened by the Arab Spring, Hanieh, the expert on Islamic groups in Jordan, argued that there is evidence that al-Qa`ida has benefited from the lack of successful transition toward democracy in some countries.[58] The military coup that overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood-led government in Egypt has only helped to bolster al-Qa`ida’s narrative. As a recent report from al-Monitor warned, “As the influence of the Brotherhood recedes, especially after recent events in Egypt, the role of Salafist jihadists will increase in the region. Jordan will soon find itself in the epicenter of this emerging phenomenon.”[59]

(Source / 24.10.2013)

Syrian, Cambodian, Afghan women win media awards

The director of an Afghanistan news organization, a Syrian photojournalist and a Cambodian investigative reporter each received Courage in Journalism awards from a women’s media group.

The International Women’s Media Foundation also honored the first black female editor of a newspaper in Zimbabwe, Edna Machirori, with its annual lifetime achievement award during a luncheon Wednesday in New York City.

Najiba Ayubi of Afghanistan, Nour Kelze of Syria and Bopha Phorn of Cambodia won the courage awards.

Ayubi runs the independent news organization The Killid Group and co-founded the Afghan Independent Media Consortium. She “has faced direct threats from many sources _ politicians have sent gunmen to her home, anonymous aggressors have vowed to harm her family, and she has been publicly defamed,” the IWMF said in describing her work.

Simply working openly as a woman remains a challenge in parts of Afghanistan, and Ayubi noted the lack of female journalists in several areas of the country.

Kelze, a photographer for the Reuters news agency, was a school teacher before the civil war in Syria began. She “has been targeted in pro-regime propaganda and has received threats via social media” and broke her ankle this year while retreating from sniper fire, the IWMF said.

Kelze was unable to attend the luncheon but spoke in a short video about her work, which also showed the death by sniper fire of a 19-year-old friend, a man she tearfully described as being like a brother. He was shot through the chest while pulling a wounded person out of the line of fire.

Phorn, who writes for The Cambodia Daily, “narrowly escaped with her life when the vehicle in which she was traveling came under heavy fire” while she and colleagues were investigating claims of illegal logging, the IWMF said. An activist traveling with her was killed.

Illegal logging is widespread in the lush Southeast Asian country and is believed to be supported by tycoons with good political connections.

Machirori, who has been a journalist for 50 years, told the audience Wednesday that she started her work when she was 19 and joked that everyone could do the math themselves.

“During her early years with the African Daily News, Machirori was the only woman on the staff at any level,” the IWMF said.

Zimbabwe has long been considered one of the most dangerous countries for journalists, and at least 60 have been arrested and charged with insulting President Robert Mugabe since 2010, according to Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights. “We still have all the apparatus of a police state,” the independent Zimbabwe National Editors’ Forum said earlier this year.

The IWMF lifetime achievement award “recognizes a pioneering spirit and determination that has opened doors for women everywhere,” the organization said.

Past winners of the Courage in Journalism awards include Helen Thomas, who covered 10 presidents as a White House reporter and died in July at age 92; Marie Colvin, Britain’s Sunday Times correspondent who was one of 28 journalists killed in Syria in 2012; and Anna Politkovskaya, a Novaya Gazeta reporter who was gunned down in the elevator of her Moscow apartment building in 2006.

(Source / 24.10.2013)

Statement: 51 Rights Groups stand against the indictment of Palestinian-American activist Rasmea Odeh

 

Rasmea0e385aThe persecution of Palestinian American community leader Rasmea Odeh is highly political. It is a revictimization and a clear effort of political repression against the Palestinian community. 

The below-signed organizations are deeply disturbed by and stand opposed to the indictment yesterday of Rasmea Yousef Odeh, a Palestinian-American community activist who has dedicated 10 years to the Chicago Arab-American community, working with women on issues ranging from promoting literacy and political education to addressing domestic violence and anti-Arab and Muslim sentiment.

Rasmea’s indictment for alleged immigration fraud comes at a time when advocates for Palestinian rights and immigration rights activists have been facing increasing pressure all over the country.  Exactly three years ago, 23 anti-war and Palestinian rights activists were subpoenaed to testify before a Grand Jury, and several of their homes were raided by the FBI.    There have been no indictments against the 23 activists subpoenaed in 2010, presumably because of a lack of evidence. It is no coincidence that federal prosecutors are now targeting Rasmea, who is a pillar in the same community.

The 2010 raids, the Grand Jury subpoenas that accompanied them, and this indictment against a 65 year old woman who suffered for a decade in Israeli prisons before coming to the U.S. in 1995, are a clear signal that federal authorities, along with Israel and its supporters in the U.S., are continuing to search for ways to intimidate and silence those who are effective advocates for Arab American communities, and who speak out for Palestinian rights.

In the last year alone, Palestine Solidarity Legal Support, in partnership with the Center for Constitutional Rights, and in collaboration with the National Lawyers Guild and other organizations, has documented over 75 cases of intimidation and legal bullying. These include perceived surveillance, FBI contacts, and discriminatory enforcement of laws against advocates for Palestinian rights.  Rasmea’s arrest and indictment must be viewed within this wider context of widespread attempts to intimidate people into silence on one of the most pressing human rights issues of our time.  Rasmea’s indictment is also an illustration of increasingly draconian enforcement of immigration laws, which have left immigrant communities devastated at the hands of Obama’s Department of Homeland Security.

Rasmea is an exemplary citizen who recently finished a Master’s degree in Criminal Justice, and has a law degree from Jordan.  She has overcome amazing odds after being convicted by the Israeli military court system in 1969 for her alleged association with a leftist Palestinian nationalist group that the U.S. designated a terrorist organization.  The military courts operate exclusively to subjugate occupied Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.  They routinely bypass all but a modicum of due process, and justify holding individuals without charge or trial for months and years, often in abusive conditions and subject to torture.  Rasmea’s activism against the Israeli occupation in the 1960s resulted in her imprisonment in Israeli prisons for 10 years, and it is surely her community activism in the U.S. that has made her, and by extension, the community that relies on her, the target of this indictment.

We call for solidarity with Rasmea as she undergoes a difficult legal battle.  Please support Rasmea at her November 1 appearance in federal court in Detroit, Michigan. We are also asking all supporters to call Barbara McQuade, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit, at 313.226.9501 or 313.226.9100, on Friday, October 25th, from 8 AM to 4 PM CST, to demand that she Drop the Charges Now.  For further action items, please see the Arab American Action Network alert. 

SIGNED:

Al-Awda New York, Palestine right to Return Coalition

American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee

American Muslims for Palestine

Arab Jewish Partnership for Peace and Justice in the Middle East 

AROC: Arab Resource & Organizing Center

Bay Area Committee to Stop Political Repression (BACSPR)

Boston Coalition for Palestinian Rights

Boycott Israeli Apartheid Campaign – Vancouver

Brooklyn College Students for Justice in Palestine

Canada Palestine Association

Center for Constitutional Rights

Chicago Movement for Palestinian Rights

College and University Workers United

Committee for a Just Peace in Israel and Palestine

Council on American-Islamic Relations – Chicago

CUNY Law Students for Justice in Palestine

Friends of Deir Ibzi’a

Grassroots Global Justice Alliance

Hampshire College Students for Justice in Palestine 

International League of People’s Struggles

INCITE! Women and Trans* People of Color Against Violence 

Independent Jewish Voices-Vancouver

Interdenominational Advocates for Peace (IDAP)

International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network

JEWS SAY NO!

Jewish Voice for Peace

Jewish Voice for Peace – Bay Area

Jewish Voice for Peace — Philadelphia

Jews for Palestinian Right of Return

Labor for Palestine

Legalease Collective, CKUT, Montreal

Minnesota Break the Bonds Campaign

Muslim Defense Project of the National Lawyers Guild – New York Chapter

National Lawyers Guild Free Palestine Subcommittee

National Students for Justice in Palestine

New York City Labor Against the War

NYC Queers Against Israeli Apartheid

PAWA: Palestinian American Women’s Association

Palestine Solidarity Group – Chicago

Palestine Solidarity Legal Support

Red Sparks Union – Vancouver 

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network

Socialist Action 

Solidarity: a socialist, feminist, anti-racist organization

Sunbula: Arab Feminists for Change

The Dream Defenders

US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel

US Palestinian Community Network

WBAI Justice and Unity Campaign

Women of Colour Collective at the McGill Faculty of Law

Voice of Palestine

(Source / 24.10.2013)

Israeli lawyers group Shurat HaDin unmasked as Mossad proxy

Shurat HaDin's director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner.

Nitsana Darshan-Leitner.

The director of a supposedly independent group of Israeli lawyers privately admitted to a US embassy official it acted as a proxy for the Israeli government, a leaked US embassy cable shows.

Nitsana Darshan-Leitner confided in 2007 that her Shurat HaDin group in the past “took direction … on which cases to pursue” and still “receives evidence” from the Mossad and from Israel’s National Security Council.

This is in direct contradiction to public claims, such as on its website which states it is a “fully independent” organization “unaffiliated with any political party or governmental body.”

The group has fought several high-profile “lawfare” cases against Palestine solidarity activists around the world in recent years.

Mossad lead

The leaked cable was unearthed by lobbying transparency outfit SpinWatch in an article earlier this month. It was one of the US embassy cables leaked by former US soldierChelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning in 2010 and published by WikiLeaks in 2011.

The cable’s author quotes Darshan-Leitner as explaining the government’s rationale for using a proxy rather than going to local courts directly: “The National Security Council (NSC) legal office saw the use of civil courts as a way to do things that they are not authorized to do.”

“Among her contacts, Leitner listed Udi Levy at the NSC and Uzi Beshaya at the Mossad, both key [US] Embassy contacts on anti-terrorist finance cooperation,” wrote the unnamed official who apparently authored the cable after meeting with Leitner in 2007.

The NSC is an Israeli military planning body led by generals and other senior military figures — including top Mossad figures.

At the time of the cable was written, the NSC’s head was Ilan Mizrahi, a former deputy chief of Mossad.

Nitsana Darshan-Leitner and Shurat HaDin did not reply to an email sent yesterday seeking comment on the issues raised in this article.

Who are Shurat HaDin?

Shurat HaDin, also known as The Israel Law Center, paints itself as a “civil rights” group. Italso claims to be a “world leader in combating the terrorist organizations and the regimes that support them through lawsuits litigated in courtrooms around the world.”

But more recently a primary focus has been lawsuits against Palestine solidarity activists.

A main section of its website is dedicated to regular “BDS Updates” on the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign — which it describes as “having a perilous impact on Israel’s security and diplomatic capabilities.”

Sensationally dubbed “The Ultimate Mission to Israel,” it also runs an annual tour of Israeli military bases, courts, prisons, settlements and “the controversial Security Fence.” This year’s “mission” happens to be taking place this week.

At a cost of about $3,000 per person, it promises the chance to meet Israeli soldiers and officers, undercover collaborators, cabinet ministers and to “observe a trial of Hamasterrorists in an IDF military court.”

Unsurprisingly this promised rogues gallery also includes “briefings by Mossad officials and commanders of the Shin Bet.”

In 2011, Max Blumenthal discovered that a major funder for Shurat HaDin was John Hagee, the anti-Semitic Christian Zionist mega-pastor.

Harassing activists

Palestine solidarity activists are not exactly flush with cash, so civil litigation against them can hardly be a profitable affair. Therefore, the revelation that Shurat HaDin is a proxy for Israeli government agencies fits perfectly with its mode of operation.

It has been involved in several high profile cases of legal harassment against activists around the world.

In Australia, Shurat HaDin is threatening to sue two academics at the University of Sydney’s Center for Peace and Conflict Studies who dared to support the academic boycott of Israel.

Shurat HaDin filed a complaint against Jake Lynch and Stuart Rees with the Human Rights Commission, but it was terminated in September. However, the Mossad-linked group is now threatening to take the case to federal court before a deadline on Monday.

Antony Loewenstein, Sydney-based independent journalist and author told me in an email:

There is growing realization amongst hardline Zionist groups that critics of Israel and its brutal occupation are winning over the public across the world … [so] groups such as Shurat HaDin dare to pursue legitimate advocates of Palestinian justice. In Australia, with barely any public support … the tiny organization is attempting to shut down the few outspoken backers of BDS through tribunals and the courts. Public opinion polls now show in Australia that a majority of the population supports Palestine so Shurat HaDin are fighting a losing battle.

“No basis for any action”

In the US, Shurat HaDin tried to pursue a very similar case against a California State University, Northridge mathematics professor.

As reported by The Electronic Intifada last year, a Shurat HaDin front group asked California’s Attorney General to investigate and prosecute David Klein for the supposed crime of hosting a pro-boycott web page on university servers.

The Attorney General’s office found there was “no basis for any action,” but a second anti-Palestinian group renewed this harassment of Klein last month.

In 2011, activists planning a siege-busting flotilla to Gaza were foiled by anonymous legal harassment filed against the boats while docked in Greece. It was discovered that Shuarat HaDin had been behind this complaint.

“Israel needs to invade the Hague”

Director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, a winner of the 2012 Moskowitz Prize for Zionism, likes to portray herself as a “civil rights” activist, but this is a pretty thin veneer.

In 2009, Darshan-Leitner wrote an op-ed in the Jerusalem Post entitled “Israel needs to invade The Hague” — a headline intended quite literally.

The article lamented that Israeli officers are increasingly fearful of being arrested in war crimes cases while travelling the world. She argued for aggressive military action to be taken against the International Criminal Court should it ever hold any suspected Israeli war criminal.

She demanded a law allowing Israel “to utilize all necessary force to resist any effort to arrest IDF [sic – Israeli military] officers accused of war crimes anywhere in the world.Foreign countries should be made to understand we mean business.”

This hawkish attitude is no surprise considering her group’s strong links to Israeli spooks.

In a Washington, DC, panel last year, she spoke about her group’s rationale in a very similar way as in the leaked cable. She explained Israel’s need for an arms-length approrach: “The Israeli government has some constraints, has some problems: they have to be politically correct. They have foreign relationships, they have international treaties they are signed of [sic] and they cannot do what private lawyers can do.”

In her 2012 speech, she also boasted that thanks to what she claimed as one of Shurat HaDin’s successes that “there is no banking system in Gaza” now. She also denigrated the entire Gaza Strip, of more than 1.6 million people, as a “terror zone.”

Interestingly, she also boasted about “How we stopped the flotilla to Gaza.”

Killers

The Mossad is Israel’s secret international terrorism wing, notorious for car bombings, assassinations and kidnappings — especially of Palestinian and Arab activists and fighters.

In a 2011 interview, Mizrahi (who was head of the NSC at the same time Darshan-Leitner admitted to working closely with the body) all-but admitted that Mossad had assassinated scientists in Iran: “the Mossad has a heritage of being ruthless, an ability to penetrate deep — yes. I think that the Mossad has it all over the Middle East and beyond.”

What kind of “civil rights” group takes its lead from a deadly state intelligence apparatus?

Shurat HaDin is quoted in the international press as if it were a civil rights group or just blandly as “an Israel law centre,” as one Guardian article put it in May, stating that Stephen Hawking was “accused of hypocrisy” (by Shurat HaDin).

These revelations should make journalists such Harriet Sherwood far more sceptical about taking Shurat HaDin’s claims to be “independent” at face value.

(Source / 24.10.2013)

Tunisia crisis talks delayed as policemen are mourned

Tunisian Prime Minister Ali Larayedh speaks during a press conference in Tunis on May 23, 2013
TUNIS (AFP) — Tunisians on Thursday mourned six policemen killed in a firefight with suspected jihadists, as long-awaited crisis talks faced fresh delay over opposition doubts about the ruling Islamists’ readiness to quit.

The slain police were to be buried later Thursday in home towns around Tunisia, including in the central Sidi Bouzid region where Wednesday’s clash broke out, amid rising anti-government sentiment.

In Kef, where one of the officers is to be buried, protesters torched the office of the ruling Islamist party Ennahda on Thursday morning, an AFP photographer reported.

President Moncef Marzouki has declared three days of national mourning for the officers, but the victims’ families have barred government representatives from attending the funerals, and no official ceremony is planned.

“We have rejected plans by the government, the politicians to pay homage… We reject their condolences, their presence and above all the presence of (Prime Minister) Ali Larayedh,” said Jamel Salhi, the brother of one of the victims, in Sidi Bouzid.

The powerful UGTT trade union confederation called a strike in the poor central region where the uprising that toppled strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011 first began, and in nearby Kasserine.

Wednesday’s violence came a week after two policemen and nine “terrorists” were killed in Beja, west of the capital, and as opposition protesters massed in central Tunis demanding the immediate resignation of the Islamist-led coalition.

Some demonstrators have vowed to continue their protest everyday outside the Kasbah, the site of the government’s headquarters, where dozens remained camped out overnight.

A national dialogue, which is the centerpiece of a plan to end the political paralysis gripping the country since the July assassination of opposition MP Mohamed Brahmi, has been put back to Friday.

The roadmap, drawn up mediators led by the UGTT, ran into trouble when the Islamist premier gave what the opposition described as an “ambiguous” commitment to step down in a speech late on Wednesday.

Three days of mourning

“We repeat today our commitment to the principle of relinquishing power in line with the different phases envisaged in the roadmap,” Larayedh said after an emergency cabinet meeting.

“We will not submit to anyone except the interests of the country,” he added, in a heavily delayed statement that was supposed to precede the launch of the national dialogue.

PM pressed for ‘clear commitment’ to quit

The UGTT chief said the premier needed to clarify his comments to get the dialogue back on track.

“We are going to hold more consultations with the prime minister in order to get more clarifications on his speech,” Houcine Abassi said.

“We’ve decided that the national dialogue will begin on Friday,” he added.

The opposition had been waiting for a “clear commitment” by Larayedh to resign within three weeks, as stipulated in the roadmap drawn up by mediators and agreed to by his Islamist party Ennahda, to allow the national dialogue to begin.

According to the roadmap, the talks must lead within three weeks to the formation of a caretaker cabinet of technocrats.

Negotiators will also have one month to adopt a new constitution, electoral laws and a timetable for fresh elections – key milestones in a transition that has effectively been blocked by wrangling between the Islamists, their coalition allies and the opposition.

Commenting on the latest violence, Larayedh insisted Tunisia was “in the process of defeating terrorism … despite the sacrifices,” and that the security forces were pursuing the remaining militants.

In addition to the six policemen and one militant killed in Sidi Bouzid, another policeman also died on Wednesday in the north of the country in circumstances that remain unclear.

The deadly clashes over the past week have highlighted opposition complaints of inadequate action by the Islamist-led government to rein in so-called jihadist groups, who have been blamed for the killings of both Brahmi and another opposition MP slain in February.

Dozens of police trade union activists drove Larayedh and Marzouki away from a memorial service last Friday for the policemen killed in Beja.

The presidency said Tunisia’s high security council would meet on Thursday to discuss the jihadist threat, but gave no further details.

The defense ministry has admitted it lacks the resources to combat militant groups and has struggled to contain them.

(Source / 24.10.2013)

Voorlopig geen label voor goederen uit Israëlische nederzettingen

Voorlopig geen label voor goederen uit Israëlische nederzettingen -  Rutte en Peres. beeld ANP

Rutte en Peres.

Voorlopig zullen Israëlische producten gemaakt in nederzettingen in de bezette Palestijnse gebieden nog gewoon het label Made in Israel mogen dragen. Dat zei premier Mark Rutte tijdens een gezamenlijke persconferentie met de Israëlische president Shimon Peres dinsdag.

„Het proces kan nog wel enige tijd duren” voor het zover is en de EU-maatregel die het verbiedt is ingevoerd, aldus Rutte. Volgens president Peres is dat een gevolg van een verzoek van de Amerikaanse minister John Kerry van Buitenlandse Zaken. Die heeft de Europese landen gevraagd de invoering uit te stellen om het vredesproces tussen Israël en de Palestijnen niet te verstoren.

De EU-landen gingen in mei vorig jaar akkoord met de maatregel. Rutte benadrukte dat het niet om een boycot van Israël gaat. De nederzettingen liggen niet in Israël en dus mag op producten die daarvandaan komen, niet staan dat ze uit Israël komen. Het gaat om consumentenbescherming, zei minister Frans Timmermans van Buitenlandse Zaken eerder. In de Tweede Kamer keerden SGP, ChristenUnie en PVV zich fel tegen de maatregel.

Volgens de premier bestaat er een „zeer sterke partnerschap” tussen ons Nederland en Israël. Dat komt onder meer tot uiting in de bilaterale fora die in december worden gelanceerd en waar de samenwerking wordt versterkt op terreinen als energie, water en hightech. Naar verwachting brengt Rutte later dit jaar nog een bezoek aan Israël.

(Source / 24.10.2013)

Israel to deliver 7 Palestinian bodies to West Bank families

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — Israeli authorities agreed Thursday to return the bodies of seven Palestinians killed by the Israeli army, a Palestinian official told Ma’an.

Salem Khelleh, an official in charge of a national campaign to return the remains to West Bank families, said Israel would deliver the bodies to Qalqiliya on Nov. 5.

Khelleh told Ma’an the names of the seven deceased Palestinians:

Ahmad Yasser Saleh from Asira al-Qibliya – Nablus
Ayat al-Akhras from Dheisheh refugee camp – Bethlehem
Sami Bsharat from Tammun – Jenin
Majdi Khanfar from Silat al-Dhahr – Jenin
Mohammad Mustafa Shahin from Doura – Hebron
Ahmad Ayed al-Faqih from Dura – Hebron
Mahmoud al-Qawasmi – Hebron

Before the bodies are delivered to their respective families, Khelleh said, they will be taken to the medical center at al-Quds University for DNA testing.

Israel’s decision to return the bodies comes in conjunction with the US-brokered peace talks with the Palestinians.

(Source / 24.10.2013)

#Syria, #FSA – Free Syrian Army Condemns Assad Regime Snipers TargetingPregnant Women in Northern Syria

As referenced by international medical personnel and reported by CNN, Assad regime snipers are deliberately targeting pregnant women, and even betting cigarettes on shooting competitions targeting civilians, in Aleppo and other areas in northern Syria.

The Supreme Military Council hereby calls upon the United Nations, Human Rights Watch, and global human rights bodies, to begin a formal investigation into the deliberate targeting and torture of civilians by the Assad regime and its clients.

Over the course of the revolution, the regime has been guilty of repeated massacres, chemical weapons attacks, torture, and systematic executions. The cruelty of these Assad snipers’ games is unprecedented. Assad’s militias are targeting children still in the womb, an effort that requires cold, deliberate, and
dehumanized hatred. The international community must act and hold the Assad regime leadership and its militias accountable for their multiple war crimes.

Recent investigations, including the Violence Documentation Center’s recent report on the Assad regime’s torture of children (http://www.vdcsy. info/index.php/en/reports/1381096592#.UlayPhZmQ23), have concluded that the regime’s crimes against humanity are part of an institutional and systemic effort
undertaken by Assad’s security services.

Video of regime snipers targeting civilians:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=7Jj0BnGks3s

CNN article on targeting of civilians:

http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/22/world/meast/syria-snipers-pregnantwomen/

index.html?sr=sharebar_facebook

The statement : http://www.syriansupportgroup.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/SMC-Release-on-Regime-Snipers.pdf

(Source / 24.10.2013)

Gaza researchers determined to record Nakba generation before time runs out

Recording the testimony of Nakba survivors is essential for educating future generations of Palestinians, say oral historians.

Tucked into a quiet basement suite in the main building of the immaculate Islamic University of Gaza campus, the Oral History Center could at first be mistaken for a bursar or registrar’s office.

But its stacks of metal filing cabinets may contain more memories per square meter than any other place in the occupied Gaza Strip.

Researcher Nermin Habid said that the center conducted interviews with those who had witnessed the Nakba (Arabic for catastrophe), the ethnic cleansing ahead of Israel’s foundation in 1948, as well as the Naksa (setback), Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, Golan Heights and Sinai in 1967.

“We have already conducted 1,500 oral interviews and archived audio files from them,” Habid added. “A meeting can last anywhere from half an hour, to two or three hours. We can also have follow-up meetings.

“We have also published 120 [interviews] in written form. In the future, we plan video interviews. We hope to use them to produce a documentary film about the history of Palestine.”

Launched as part of the university’s faculty of arts in 1998, the Oral History Center has a staff of experienced field researchers and recent graduates from the university’s departments of history, press and media, and social studies.

“Building from scratch”

Its work with first-generation Palestinian refugees begins with finding them.

“It is by experience, by relationships,” said Habid. “We built the archive from scratch. There is no systematic reference center for such information in Gaza.”

The Oral History Center researches a number of fields. Beyond displacement and refugee life, it has programs on Palestinian regions, folklore, politics and culture, as well as Israeli violations of Palestinian rights.

“We are trying our best to maintain our Palestinian identity and Palestinian heritage, customs and traditions, like food and dress, after the Nakba,” said Habid. “Oral history has links with all fields of knowledge, like folk medicine. It’s part of our work as historical researchers to convey this information.

“We seek to document the history of the Palestinian people and the main events that have shaped the Palestinian cause.”

The Gaza Strip has the highest proportion of refugees of any territory in the world. Few aspects of life, from the economy and politics, to the broad range of local foods and dialects from elsewhere in Palestine, are unaffected by the Nakba, during which approximately 750,000 Palestinians were displaced by Zionist forces and hundreds of villages and cities depopulated.

By the beginning of 2013, the UN agency for Palestine refugees, UNRWA, had registered more than 1.2 million refugees in Gaza, out of a total population of nearly 1.7 million.

The Israeli army expelled 400,000 to 450,000 more Palestinians during the Naksa in 1967, according to the Palestinian refugee advocacy group BADIL.

By the end of 2011, at least 7.4 million Palestinians had been displaced, 66 percent of a global Palestinian population of 11.2 million, making them the world’s largest and longest-standing group of refugees, according to a recent survey by BADIL.

Israel’s displacement of Palestinians continues through policies like forcible transfer of released political prisoners, house demolitions, revocations of East Jerusalemresidencies, and the Prawer Plan, a measure proposed in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, that would expel 40,000 Palestinian Bedouins from their homes in the Naqab (Negev) region.

A generation “leaving us”

But with the 1948 ethnic cleansing more than 65 years in the past, the ranks of those who witnessed it firsthand, in the Gaza Strip and elsewhere, are quickly declining.

“We started thinking about how the generation that survived the Nakba are leaving us,” said Haidar Eid of the Oral History Project, another effort to collect accounts of 1948.

The project team has recorded 64 hours of interviews, Eid said. Time to complete the rest is running out.

“Most of these people are dying. For the project, they are supposed to have been at least ten when the Nakba happened. So we are talking about people in their seventies and eighties.”

Eid, an assistant professor of English literature at Gaza’s al-Aqsa University, is aPalestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) steering committee member.

“No compromise”

“One of the major demands of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement is the implementation of United Nations Resolution 194, which clearly calls for the return of all Palestinian refugees to the lands, villages and towns from which they were ethnically cleansed in 1948 and their compensation,” Eid said. “With the Oral History Project, we are supporting this demand and making it real. We move from ethnic cleansing as an abstract term into the practicality, the life itself.

“An interesting question we sometimes ask is whether they would accept any solution that would compromise their right of return. There is a consensus among all the refugees we’ve interviewed that no compromise on the right of return would be accepted. For them, that is not a solution.”

Gaza’s Oral History Project works in cooperation with Palestine Remembered, an online archive of information on the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, and the Israeli organizationZochrot, which advocates the return of Palestinian refugees. Eid called this “a form of co-resistance” as opposed to projects which normalize Israel’s ethnic cleansing and occupation of Palestine.

“The onslaught of normalization projects has taken place at the expense of two-thirds of the Palestinian people who are refugees,” he added, drawing a distinction with other kinds of cooperation between Palestinians and Israelis. “1948 is the original sin, rather than 1967, on which these projects are all based.”

Young volunteers conduct most of the Oral History Project’s interviews. Many belong to the Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel, PACBI’s youth affiliate.

“Revisiting the trauma”

“It’s tiring, I must tell you,” Eid said. “I have been avoiding recording with people myself, because it’s extremely difficult. Revisiting the trauma is not easy. But they would be very happy to talk about everything before 1948.”

Oral History Project interviews consist of three sections: Palestine before 1948, its ethnic cleansing and refugee life.

“We ask about mundane things, the daily life of people in the village or city, weddings, funerals and coffee shops,” Eid said. “We ask if the people still have a thobe [a traditional garment] or anything from the village. They usually love it.

“When they come closer to the moment of truth, when the person was forced from their village, it’s heartbreaking. Many start crying. They can give you minute details about the strangest things.”

Accounts can be not only emotional, but brutal as well. “Those Palestinians who refused to leave Palestine were basically massacred,” Eid said.

“This is the embodiment of the Zionist dream of creating a state with a Jewish majority. To guarantee that, you need to have a process of either ethnic cleansing or genocide.”

A refugee himself, Eid cited his own background to illustrate the importance of oral history to the Palestinian narrative.

“I’m from a village called Zarnuga, which is on the outskirts of Ramle [in present-day Israel],” he said. “I found only three pictures of Zarnuga. Only three.”

“The history of the Tantura massacre relies heavily on oral history. Now people know that a massacre took place in the Tantura village, about 30 meters south of Haifa, based on recorded oral history,” Eid added.

Oral history also has an important role in the continuity of Palestinian culture. “This work has a lot of benefit for new Palestinian generations,” said Nermid Habid. “It allows them to know that what their grandparents were doing,”

Israel “trying to whitewash”

On 12 August, a number of Palestine solidarity groups issued an open letter protesting an international conference on oral history planned by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem for June 2014, calling for oral historians to boycott it.

PACBI endorsed the letter, and Eid and more than 350 others working in the field of oral history have signed it.

“Israel is trying to whitewash and beautify its image,” Eid said. “One of the questions that we want to raise here in Palestine, as academics and also as refugees, is whether the Nakba will be part of the conference, whether the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in 1948 will be addressed. I think this is a rhetorical question, the answer to which we know.”

Participation in the conference by oral historians from the Gaza Strip is out of the question. Most Palestinians are banned from entering present-day Israel. The 1954 Prevention of Infiltration Law even criminalizes the presence of Palestinian refugees in Israel.

But through these longstanding exclusions, Israel may inadvertently highlight the relevance of the work on refugees, as well as the darker elements of its history and society.

“The Zionist narrative has been the recognized narrative in the West,” Eid said. “Before 1948, there was nothing. There was a gap between 1948 and 2,000 years before that.

“We are helping to provide an alternative to it. It’s part of what we call the counter-narrative.”

“The stories of the old are more confident than the history books,” Habid said. “They witnessed the events themselves. There are written histories as well. It’s essential to add a new kind of reference.”

(Source / 24.10.2013)