How the Islamic State is winning the media war

Representations of the Twitter and YouTube logos are seen in front of an Islamic State flag, Feb. 3, 2016

Faced with what has been often described as the world’s most resourceful and sophisticated terror organization, Iraq’s news media outlets have stumbled in how to cover the Islamic State (IS). The country’s news media appear to have unwillingly assisted IS in disseminating some of its gruesome propaganda releases, thus enabling it to achieve broader reach and possibly even impact.

IS brutality and its dramatic expansion in Iraq over the last couple of years has posed a major challenge for Iraqi media outlets. Is covering the group’s activities a legitimate public service or an extension of its own jihadi propaganda?

While media editors and managers at major Iraqi news outlets are aware of the ethical debate surrounding the use of propaganda materials by terrorist groups, and especially graphic content, a combination of political agendas and lack of rigorous editorial oversight appear to hamper the translation of that knowledge into practice.

“IS media products are a new and grave challenge for the Iraqi media,” Ali al-Sarayi, the editor-in-chief of Iraqi Media House, an organization that monitors Iraqi media outlets’ performance, told Al-Monitor. “Iraqi media has to craft a new language and a new strategy to confront IS propaganda and its big media machine.”

He lamented the use of IS propaganda as a widespread phenomenon in Iraq’s news media and said disseminating such materials is insensitive or plain traumatizing at times.

A quick search on websites and YouTube channels of some of the mainstream Iraqi news outlets shows they have failed, to varying degrees, to exercise the due level of editorial diligence when dealing with graphic IS propaganda content.

Alsumaria, an Arabic-language media network that runs a popular TV channel and online operation, appears to have been largely lax in terms of its approach to IS propaganda. On May 30, 2015, Alsumaria ran a video on its YouTube channel showing in full detail IS’ execution of a minor somewhere in Syria.

In its coverage of IS’ massacre in June 2014 of allegedly around 1,700 Shiite military personnel near the city of Tikrit, Alsumaria has repeatedly shown distressing images of IS herding the captured military cadets in highly humiliating conditions.

Hameed Qassim, who served as Alsumaria network’s news supervisor until the end of 2015, plays down the outlet’s use of IS propaganda. Qassim told Al-Monitor, “Maybe in the beginning such things happened … But we tried to resolve this issue. Of course we are a big institution and it is not easy to control everything. Our criteria were complying with human values … and journalistic and professional codes of ethics.”

Qassim and other Alsumaria editors say they are aware of IS’ “terrorist agenda” and how it seeks to plant fear and create major psychological impact on the public. But despite statements by Qassim and other senior editors, the outlet still appears to be inconsistent in its application of ethical and professional guidelines with regard to IS propaganda.

Efforts by terrorist organizations to exploit media to seek attention, recognition and legitimacy in the eyes of the public are nothing new and have been the subject of much research.

Attempting not to fall behind in covering what might attract the public’s attention, traditional and digital media outlets sometimes end up unwillingly acting as a force multiplier allowing IS to reach millions more.

Similar to Arabic-language news outlets, many Kurdish outlets have, albeit unintentionally, ended up serving IS propaganda goals. In the autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Rudaw, a major news network that launched in 2013 and is funded by Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, for months aired and published scenes from IS’ graphic propaganda materials.

When the jihadi organization released a gruesome video in February 2015 showing how it burned alive Muath al-Kaseasbeh, a downed Jordanian pilot, Rudaw ran highly graphic portions of it on TV and its popular websites. (It later deleted a video with graphic content from its website.)

Hemin Lihony, the head of Rudaw’s digital service, justified their decision to show Kaseasbeh’s burning by saying at the beginning of the report that they wanted Kurdish audiences to know the true face of IS.

In October 2015, Rudaw revised its editorial policy on IS, deciding to no longer run graphic content that might be deemed by audiences as disturbing and offensive propaganda. Lihony said they initially ran graphic IS-produced content to show the barbaric nature of the group to Kurdish audiences.

“If Kaseasbeh’s video was released today, we would not run those images or would blur them because people now know what a brutal group IS is,” Lihony told Al-Monitor.

There is indeed evidence that suggests Rudaw has stuck to its editorial policy with regard to graphic materials produced by IS. For instance, while the network ran disturbing images of a member of the Kurdish peshmerga forces moments before he was beheaded by a masked IS militant in January 2015, it has in more recent cases refrained from showing images of peshmerga prisoners being executed by IS or opted for not showing their faces.

Sarayi said the country’s news outlets have largely had the wrong approach to IS propaganda. “When it comes to IS propaganda, the Iraqi media’s approach is mostly emotional rather than strategic and farsighted,” he said. “They think by running such propaganda they will gain more sympathy for IS victims and demonstrate IS’ atrocities and violence to the audiences. But the outcome is perhaps the opposite because at the end they are propagating IS’ power and viciousness.”

This, Sarayi said, “was apparent in the widespread sense of fear among many sections of Iraqi society when IS expanded into the country in mid-2014. Many civilians fled and members of the security forces did not put up much resistance as IS’ reputation for brutality had preceded it.”

Even outlets with direct links to the government have been fluctuating in their strategy in dealing with IS propaganda material. The Iraqi Media Network (IMN) was designed as Iraq’s public broadcaster with the intent that it would one day become Iraq’s BBC. However, the outlet has become more of a state broadcaster reflecting the government or ruling coalition’s views and interests.

IMN-affiliated outlets have run graphic and insensitive scenes taken from IS showing mass executions of Shiite military personnel in Salahuddin province or snapshots showing beheadings. Reflecting a common thinking among Iraqi media managers, the network’s editors say the aim has been to “show the true nature of IS to the world.”

IMN’s managers say they do not have an all-encompassing rule for IS propaganda and deal with each case according to its traits and how it serves the network’s mission.

“In the case of the Jordanian pilot’s execution by IS, we showed it so that the Arab public opinion would learn the truth of what IS is and what it stands for,” Jafar Wanan, IMN’s former chief news editor who served until late last year, told Al-Monitor. “We did this to provoke Arabs against IS and to show the group targets everybody.”

Among major news media institutions in the country, the Kurdish-language NRT TV and digital service stand out for having approached IS propaganda with a clear-cut policy from the beginning that prohibited the use of graphic IS-produced materials.

Twana Osman, the chairman of the Nalia Media Group that owns NRT, said shortly after IS occupied large parts of Iraq in mid-2014 that new guidelines were set for the newsroom. “We generally have a policy not to run scenes from graphic videos produced by IS because these are obviously meant for psychological warfare,” Osman told Al-Monitor. “We are in a state of war with IS. If we run those materials, we will assist IS to achieve its political and psychological objectives.”

Osman said the policy is about videos, but even if a graphic photo initially makes it to the website, it will be likely removed after the staff notice it.

Multiple searches on NRT’s website for major IS atrocities did not render any results that contained graphic images. For instance, when reporting IS’ execution of a number of Kurdish peshmerga forces in late September, NRT only ran an image containing the channel’s logo. It also did not show any scenes from IS’ burning of the Jordanian pilot.

“Before IS’ expansion in Iraq, the group had already won the media [war] by making us all so scared of them. We had contributed to that victory unknowingly by spreading their propaganda,” Osman concluded.

(Source / 06.06.2016)

Human Rights Watch Calls on ICC to Launch Investigation into Israeli War Crimes

  Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on theInternational Criminal Court (ICC) to open a formal investigation into serious crimes committed against Palestinians, by the state of Israel, over the past decades.

HRW said in a statement, Sunday, that ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda should carry out a formal probe consistent with the ICC’s Rome Statute.

According to Press TV/Al Ray, the ICC has “shed light on the grave nature of many of the crimes and the pervasive climate of impunity for such offenses,” the organization said, making the appeal on the anniversary of an Israeli war on Gaza in 2014.

“After nearly a half century of impunity, it’s time that those responsible for some of the gravest crimes pay the price,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa Division.

“The ICC prosecutor should move forward and investigate the crimes so that the victims can obtain a measure of justice that has long eluded them.”

Human Rights Watch, the UN and local and international human rights organizations have already said Israel’s latest war on the besieged Gaza Strip amounts to apparent war crimes.

Israel launched its 50-day onslaught on Gaza in early July 2014. The military aggression, which ended on August 26, killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians, including over 570 children.

(Source / 06.06.2016)

Israeli Bulldozers Continue to Raid Eastern Gaza

Israeli occupation bulldozers reportedly penetrated into the Gaza Strip, east of the border fence, today.

Eyewitness stated that five Israeli bulldozers, of the D9 style, penetrated some 50 meters into Palestinian lands, passing through the Attaqa gate, east of Attufah, Eastern Gaza.

Al Ray Palestinian Media Agency notes that Israeli vehicles frequently raid and raze farming lands east of  the Gaza Strip.

Israeli bulldozers repeatedly sweep  the  lands which is considered a violation of the Cairo agreements of 2014 which came as a result of the summer long Israeli offensive on the region.

(Source / 06.06.2016)

Israel destroys 7 Palestinian facilities in Jerusalem

The demolition made 25 Palestinians, including children homeless Twelve children were deprived of kindergarten education

Israeli occupation forces demolished on Sunday six Palestinian homes and kindergarten on the highway between Jerusalem and Jericho.

About the kindergarten, which was demolished, he said that it provided the education for 12 children from the Bedouin neighbourhood

Days of Palestine, Jerusalem -Israeli occupation forces demolished on Sunday six Palestinian homes and kindergarten on the highway between Jerusalem and Jericho.

The houses belonged to Palestinian Bedouin families and the Israeli authorities demolished them under the pretext that they were constructed without licenses.

Head of the Committee for Protecting Bedouin Communities Jameel Hamadin said that members of the Israeli Civil Administration, accompanied by Israeli forces, encircled the neighbourhood of Satah Al-Bahar, where the structures were located, and announced that it was a closed military zone.

He added: “While they prevented any of the residents from leaving the neighbourhood or entering it, they dismantled the all the structures.”

In addition, he said that at least 25 inhabitants, including a number of children were displaced by the demolitions.

About the kindergarten, which was demolished, he said that it provided the education for 12 children from the Bedouin neighbourhood.

Meanwhile, Hamadin said that the construction of all the demolished facilities were funded by the European Union.

(Source / 06.06.2016)

Israeli forces take over 11 houses in Nablus-area village as temporary bases

West Bank

Nablus (Ma’an) — Israeli forces took over 11 Palestinian homes in Huwwara village in the northern West Bank district of Nablus on Monday to use as temporary military sites.Fatah spokesman in Huwwara Awwad Najim told Ma’an that Israeli forces put barbed wires around the houses on Sunday night and Monday morning, installed cameras and set out military outposts in the area.The army’s move came after an empty settler bus was reportedly attacked with “steel balls” near Huwwara south of Nablus city on Sunday evening.An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an that “following an attack yesterday with steel bullets,” Israeli forces set up “temporary viewpoints in the area to overlook the road for security measures.”She confirmed to Ma’an that the structures seized were Palestinian homes, although she said she did not have information regarding whether Palestinians were residing in the homes when they were taken over.Najim said that Israeli forces threatened to impose more punishment on Huwwara residents, including closing shops, if similar attacks occurred again.

(Source / 06.06.2016)

Saudi using Takfiris in ‘broad way’ for political aims: Iran

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari attends a weekly press conference, Tehran, June 6, 2016. (IRNA Photo).

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari attends a weekly press conference, Tehran, June 6, 2016

Iran has hit out at Saudi Arabia, saying the kingdom is broadly using Takfiri groups to advance its political agenda in the region.

“Riyadh has been using terrorism for years as an instrument to implement its political objectives,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari said on Monday.

The kingdom is now using Takfiri terrorism in “a broad way” to push forward its plans, the spokesman told reporters in Tehran during his weekly news briefing.

Jaberi Ansari’s remarks came amid reports that Saudi Arabia has stepped up support for Takfiri militants in the face of the Iraqi army’s imminent liberation of Fallujah and the Syrian army’s advances in Aleppo and elsewhere.

The spokesman warned that support for terrorists and an instrumental use of Takfiris by Saudi Arabia and other countries would backfire.

“This tactical use of terrorism by regional and global players is a strategic game which will have long-term and strategic repercussions and sooner or later, these players will be targeted by terrorists.”

Takfiri groups such as Daesh and al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front are widely believed to have received weapons and funds from Saudi Arabia and its allies in the region.

Saudi Arabia and Turkey have recently announced their readiness to launch a joint ground operation with the US inside Syria, purportedly against Daesh.

However, many observers believe none of the three countries is serious in fighting Takfiri groups as much as they are in seeing the back of the Syrian government.

Jaberi Ansari also dismissed reports that Iran and Saudi Arabia were engaged in talks to restore their diplomatic ties.

Riyadh severed relations after Tehran’s strong condemnation of the Saudi execution of prominent Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr, which triggered angry protests in Iran and around the world.

Those protests spiraled out of control in Tehran and Mashhad where some protesters attacked Saudi missions in the two cities, giving a pretext to Riyadh to cut ties with Iran.

In his Monday remarks, Jaberi Ansari also took aim at a recent US Statement Department report which branded Iran as a “state sponsor of terrorism,” dismissing it as “invalid.”

(Source / 06.06.2016)

Holding Israel accountable is the only way forward

Palestinians will not subscribe to the insanity of negotiations any longer and will not attempt to view Israel’s assault against them as involving two equal parties

It has been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result. Judging by the latest foreign ministers’ conference in Paris on the Israeli-Palestinian “peace process” it is safe to conclude that this continued approach meets the definition of insanity.

The summit, a one-day meeting, concluded with a statement demanding that Israelis and Palestinians demonstrate “with policies and actions, a genuine commitment to the two-state solution in order to rebuild trust”. This statement, like those that have preceded it, are deceptively even-handed and formulaic, placing blame on “both sides” and calling upon “both sides” to undertake measures to “achieve peace”. It sounds convenient and simple and is based on the belief that conflicts involve at least two parties and if both parties undertake measures then peace can be achieved.

But herein lies the problem. By focusing on “both sides” the world, as represented by these foreign ministers, fails to understand the nature of Israel’s domination over Palestine. This is not a “conflict” in which two sides do not agree or a war with two armies confronting one another but rather a colonist-colonial process in which Israel is trying to eliminate Palestine and Palestinians — as it has sought to do for nearly seven decades. As the world has stood idly by, we Palestinians have had to watch our families, neighbours and friends evicted from our homeland, and turned into refugees, our homes taken over, our land and livelihoods expropriated, our culture appropriated and our cities, towns and villages besieged and turned into ghettos. We have witnessed our homes demolished to make way for relentless Jewish colonies. We have seen generations of our children grow up under a brutal military regime, living behind concrete walls and electrified fences or in Israeli prisons. Even our children’s schools are not immune; Israel’s bulldozers and bombs have destroyed Palestinian schools. All the while, Israel purports to be a “democracy”. In short, this is not the equivalent of a playground dispute in which an outside parent or teacher can chastise “both sides”. Rather, Israel has taken aim at our very existence and, as such, there are not two aggressors, but rather one, namely Israel, and the people it has brutally victimised for decades, the Palestinians.

And despite Israel trying to get rid of us, despite the world community standing by and despite the incredible pain Palestinians have experienced at the hands of our Israeli oppressors, we are told that we are not to resist Israel’s assault. We are to allow the bulldozers to demolish our schools, the takeover of our homes, the theft of our land, property and resources, the imprisonment of our children, the construction of walls and the theft of our culture. We are to accept that our families, friends and neighbours cannot come home. Instead, we are told that we should sit down in the same room as the very party that seeks our demise and to negotiate, all the while with a gun to our heads. Oddly, Palestinians have done this for more than 20 years and during this process, as the world watched, we saw the number of Israeli colonists — armed squatters protected by Israeli forces — take over our land at an unprecedented pace.

No, Israel did not reduce the number of colonists and it did not stop colony construction. Instead, it used the “peace process” to continue to do what it does best; steal Palestinian land in order to make way for Jewish-Israeli colonies. It’s economy flourished while ours floundered. It was welcomed into the world with open arms without any guarantees that its oppression of Palestinians would end. For Palestinians, we were now not only forced to accept Israel’s onslaught against us, but we are to protect our oppressors. As someone who took part in these negotiations, I can attest to the futility of two unequal parties attempting to negotiate, particularly when the more powerful party, Israel, is backed by the world’s most powerful country, the United States.

“Palestinians will not subscribe to the insanity of negotiations any longer.””

-Diana Buttu

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No. Palestinians will not subscribe to the insanity of negotiations any longer. We will not attempt to view Israel’s assault against us as involving two equal parties. We will not maintain the facade that we are equal in power to Israel simply because we have leaders bearing useless titles like “president” and “prime minister”. Rather, we are already forging a new path; one in which Israel must be held accountable for its crimes, and not absolved of them. Boycotts, divestments and sanctions are one such mechanism for making Israel pay for the harm it has caused and stop it from creating more in future. It is only a matter of time before these foreign ministers stop hiding behind calls for “both sides” to take action and instead recognise that they have the ability to stop Israel — should they so choose.

(Source / 06.06.2016)

Zo eindig je de vastende dag!

De sunnah is om het vasten direct te verbreken zodra de zon is ondergegaan en de tijd van het magreb-gebed is binnengetreden. De profeet vrede zij met hem zei:

“Het gaat goed met de mensen zolang zij haast maken bij het verbreken van het vasten.” [Bukhari]

Die goedheid is er omdat zij de sunnah van hun profeet vrede zij met hem volgen door het vasten direct te verbreken. 

Dadels
Een andere sunnah is om het vasten te verbreken met dadels en als die niet aanwezig zijn, dan met water:

Anas, metgezel van de profeet, overlevert dat de profeet vrede zij met hem zijn vasten verbrak vóór dat hij magreb bad met rotab (dadels die nog wat rauw zijn). Als die er niet waren dan met gewone dadels, en als die er niet waren, nam hij wat slokjes water. [Abu Dawoed]

Het is ook veel beter voor de maag om met dadels te beginnen, te rusten en dan later verder te gaan met ander eten.

Vreugde
In een authentieke overlevering zegt de profeet vrede zij met hem:

“Voor de vastende zijn er twee vreugdes; een vreugde wanneer hij zijn vasten verbreekt en een vreugde wanneer hij zijn Heer ontmoet.” [Bukhari]

De eerste vreugde is omdat de vastende blij is dat hij de vastende dag heeft afgerond en weer mag eten. De tweede vreugde is wanneer hij zijn Heer ontmoet en ziet wat zijn beloning is. Moge Allah ons die tweede vreugde schenken net zoals Hij ons de eerste vreugde schenkt.

Een ander gegeven wat de gelovige verheuging brengt, is dat Allah met elke iftaar gelovigen van het Vuur bevrijdt (iftaar is de maaltijd waarmee het vasten wordt verbroken). De profeet vrede zij met hem zei:

“Allah bevrijdt ten tijde van elke iftaar (gelovigen van het Vuur). [ibn Maajah]

Degene die Allah van het Vuur bevrijdt, zal dit nooit betreden. Moge Allah ons tot één van hen doen behoren.

Anderen voorzien van iftaar
Ook is het sterk aanbevolen om de vastende te voorzien van eten waarmee hij zijn vasten verbreekt. De profeet vrede zij met hem zei:

Wie een vastende te eten geeft, hem komt dezelfde beloning toe als deze vastende (die te eten is gegeven) … [Tirmidhi]

Ontneem jezelf deze grote beloning niet door jouw huisdeur gesloten te houden voor familie, vrienden en met name: onze bekeerde broeders en zusters. Dit is de maand van vrijgevigheid en samenhorigheid!

Beste broeders en zusters

Gedenk wanneer je het vasten verbreekt en jij het water door je aderen voelt stromen, Allah’s gunst op jou. Een glas water dat totaal geen waarde heeft in onze ogen, maar in werkelijkheid heel veel waard is.

De bekende kalief Haaroen ar-Rachied stond aan het hoofd van het islamitische kalifaat eeuwen geleden. Zijn heerschappij reikte van het westen tot het oosten.

Op een dag was deze machtige en rijke kalief omringd door geleerden, en hij hield ervan om geadviseerd te worden.

De kalief had een glas water in zijn hand en net toen hij wilde drinken, zei een van de geleerden tegen hem:

“Momentje O leider der gelovigen, stel dat u hevige dorst heeft en dit glas water u wordt ontnomen, met hoeveel van uw bezittingen zou u het glas water kopen?”

Na even nadenken antwoordde de kalief: “Met de helft van al mijn bezittingen.”

Hierop zei de geleerde: “Gaat u gang”, waarop de kalief het glas leegdronk.

Vervolgens vroeg de geleerde: “Stel dat dit glas water wat u heeft gedronken uw lichaam niet wil verlaten, hoeveel van uw heerschappij en bezittingen zou u afstaan om dit water er weer uit te krijgen?”

Na even nadenken antwoordde hij: “Met al mijn bezittingen.”

Hierop zei de geleerde: “O leider der gelovigen, uw gehele rijkdom is niet meer waard dan een glas water!”

Hierop moest de kalief huilen.

Ten tijde van de iftaar nemen we plaats aan een tafel bedekt met al datgene wat ons hart begeert. Dat glas water zien we niet eens staan. Zo gaan we om met de meeste gunsten van Allah. We genieten ervan zonder stil te staan bij Degene die ons ervan voorziet, laat staan dat we Hem dankbaar zijn.

Al gelijk na het nuttigen van een uitgebreide iftaar zijn velen van onze broeders en zusters Allah ondankbaar en ongehoorzaam door het magreb-gebed te verzuimen.

Weet dat er een dag zal komen waarop we zullen worden gevraagd over de genietingen en of wij Allah daar dankbaar voor waren. Allah zegt:

“Jullie zullen die dag (Dag des Oordeels) ondervraagd worden over de genietingen.” [102:8]

Stuur het door; “Wie aanspoort tot het goede, heeft dezelfde beloning als degene die ernaar handelt.” [Sahih Muslim]

Abulfadl / Student aan de Universiteit van Medina, Saudi Arabië.

1 Ramadan 1437 / – 6 juni 2016 –

It is absurd that the PA arrests, beats and detains in response to social media posts

Palestinian Authority Security forces

Palestinian Authority Security forces. [File photo]

On Wednesday 11 May, while seeking to apply for a job in one of Ramallah’s many cafes, 26 year-old Kefah Quzmar was assaulted violently and arrested by members of the Palestinian Authority’s General Intelligence, a branch of the burgeoning PA security forces. Quzmar was taken away and imprisoned for nearly two weeks, during which he was denied access to a lawyer and visits by his family. Moreover, for eight days he was kept in solitary confinement and prevented from studying for his upcoming university final exams.

What was his crime? What terrible transgression did he commit to deserve such treatment? Amazingly, he had simply updated his Facebook status.

Objecting to a similar arbitrary arrest of a friend, on 21 April Quzmar wrote that the Palestinian Security Forces were “rotten”. His full post said: “Do you know why the mukhabarat [intelligence service] is a rotten agency? Because the entire PA is rotten. Seif al-Idrissi is under arrest! #FreedomforSeif”

Though the authoritarian and anti-democratic nature of the PA has been increasingly clear over the past decade since the end of the Second Intifada, this kind of episode highlights the astonishing depth of perniciousness and absurdity to which it is prepared to descend.

“Hit me, but don’t break my sunglasses”

According to Kefah Quzmar, members of the security forces had harassed him during the week prior to his arrest at Birzeit University, where he studies. However, when they actually came for him they did so after he entered the coffee shop, while a Jeep – not an official police vehicle – waited outside. In his own words:

“They put their hands on my shoulders and they were very strong. I resisted by going limp so they had to drag me out. They handcuffed me and took me to the mukhabarat offices… on the way they hit me and tried to scare me; they hit my hands and back and one of them leaned over me and hit my head.”

Quzmar said that he was also bleeding from where the handcuffs cut his arms, but wasn’t prepared to give up, nor show that he was intimidated: “OK, hit me, but don’t break my sunglasses. They took off the sunglasses and hit me more. But it was not as bad. I was not really suffering.”

“Why are you calling us rotten?”

Once they arrived at the security base in Balou, an area in Northern Ramallah, the agents started their “investigation”. According to Quzmar, it focused entirely on his Facebook post. Again, he refused to back down:

“Why you calling us rotten?” they asked.

“Because you are rotten,” I answered.

“Why are you calling me rotten?” asked one.

“I don’t know you,” I replied. “I am talking about the mukhabarat. They are rotten when they work for the Israelis and when they arrest people who try to resist the occupation. That’s when it is rotten.”

After that exchange Quzmar was put in a cell. He was never sure how long they would keep him because there were always many threats to detain him longer and longer. Moreover, he knows of other political opponents of the PA who have been kept in detention indefinitely.

Yet worse was to come. He was kept behind bars for 15 days while the “investigation” was carried out; for 8 of those days, he was in solitary confinement. He described the conditions in which he was kept:

“In the cell it was really horrible. There was a small mattress on the floor, maybe two metres long and one metre wide. It was very worn and dirty. There was fungus growing on it and I was worried that it would infect my hands and feet.

“Of course there were many bugs and spiders, but the worst thing was that the light was on 24 hours a day and there was constant noise. Maybe from a machine to prevent me from sleeping. It didn’t work; I can sleep anywhere.

“I had no access to the yard. Only one bath during all this period.

“I know that a lot of people have been through worse and people expect you to be tortured in the prison; I wasn’t tortured. It was just disgusting.”

In the final two days Kefah Quzmar decided to go on hunger strike. This was because he was so frustrated that the guards would not let him have access to his university books so that he could study for his final exams. Fortunately, on the day after his 27th birthday, the court ruled that he could be released.

“I don’t know why they let me out specifically. I know there was a lot of pressure from people who were writing to MPs [internationally] and in the media and also many people who were getting angry and campaigning on Facebook.”

Police state

As I’ve written for MEMO previously, since the schism with Hamas in 2007, the PA in Ramallah has grown increasingly authoritarian. It has cracked down on political opponents, prorogued democracy and even turned on its own former leadership. Let’s be clear though, as a non-sovereign body born out of the flawed peace process with Israel and rife with corruption, the PA was never really a strong bastion of liberty, but at least in the past there were efforts to preserve the idea that it represented some kind vision of how life could be different from that under prolonged occupation.

Over the 23 years since it was formed, however, any hope placed in the PA has been dashed. Not only has the “peace process” been revealed as a “bill of goods”, but the PA leadership – with the support and backing of various western intelligence agencies – has grown progressively more dependent on the use of force in order to keep itself in power.

As a 2011 article by Aisling Byrne argued, such an outcome represents no real path to liberation or real sovereignty. Rather, it demonstrates the entrenchment of systematic corruption. “A police state is not a state,” wrote Byrne. “It is a form of larceny: of people’s rights, aspirations and sacrifices, for the personal benefit of an élite.”

Moreover, as Kefah Quzmar knows, even though his experience was an example of blatant and absurd abuse of power by PA security forces, it hardly represents the worst of such abuse. “I’m not the first. I’m sure I’m not the last. I am sure they will take more people. For example, Hamas people go through this all the time. I don’t like Hamas, but I can see this is a ridiculous situation between them and Fatah.”

Quzmar was eventually released without charge but there is a very real chance that this could happen again. When I asked him if he was concerned about this he said that it’s possible but he is not worried. “The investigator warned me when I was released not to write more stuff or they might send Fatah guys to beat me up. I was able to be strong inside because I counted on my friends and family and they supported me, but I don’t want this to be personal; this should be about anyone who gets arrested or goes through this bullshit.”

It is worth repeating that all of this, in all its pernicious absurdity, happened because theWestern-backed, CIA– and MI6-linked PA Security Forces – which have been trained for years during the “War on Terror” – were profoundly intimidated by nothing more than a Facebook status update. You really couldn’t make it up.

(Source / 06.06.2016)

HNC Denies Agreeing to Form Joint Delegation with Cairo-Moscow Opposition Group

Spokesman for the opposition’s High Negotiations Committee Riad Nassan Agha said that the committee seeks to enhance Syria’s intra-national dialogue, denying reports about agreeing to form a unified negotiating delegation with the Moscow and Cairo opposition group.

Nassan Agha pointed out that the HNC has set up a special committee to hold consultations across the whole Syrian opposition spectrum with the aim of boosting intra-national dialogue but not to expand the HNC or to form a unified negotiation delegation with the Moscow and Cairo group.

Nassan Agha added that the HNC will participate in the upcoming meetings in Geneva, stressing that there will be only technical and legal consultations but no negotiations. He explained that the HNC’s committees that will take part in the upcoming meetings in Geneva are advisory committees, not negotiating committees, and, therefore, they will not be able to negotiate with the Assad regime.

(Source: Alsharq Alawsat / 06.06.2016)