Iranian security forces in day of deadly clashes with Kurdish and Sunni militants

Five people alleged to be Kurdish militants were killed in the north, while clashes in the south killed a police officer and five Sunni militants

Clashes near Iran’s border with Iraq reportedly saw the Revolutionary Guards kill five Kurdish militants

Deadly clashes rocked Iran on Monday with security services locking horns with Kurdish rebels in the north and al-Qaeda-inspired groups in the south, government officials said.

According to media reports, five militants from the PJAK – the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan – were killed by the Revolutionary Guards near the Iraq border.

The Revolutionary Guards said on their website that the group was responsible for the death of three members of Iran’s Basij militia more than a month ago. No further details were provided about the operation.

The last reported clashes between Kurdish rebels and the Revolutionary Guards were in September, when two rebels and two Iranian soldiers were killed. Kurdish rebels periodically attack Iranian armed forces near the border with Iraq’s Kurdish region.

In a separate incident in Iran’s south, one police officer and five Sunni militants were killed in the fighting, which pitted Iranian forces against the Sunni militant group Jaish-ul Adl that Tehran accuses of having links to al-Qaeda.

Officials recovered “large amounts of explosives” after the clashes, the state television website said.

(Source / 13.06.2016)

OCHA: 90,000 Palestinians are still displaced in Gaza

NEW YORK, (PIC)– The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said, in its annual report titled Fragmented Lives: Humanitarian Overview 2015, that an estimated 90,000 Palestinians are still displaced in Gaza largely due to Israel’s 2014 aggression. The report said that the suffering of Gaza population resulting from the 2014 hostilities – with close to 90,000 Palestinians still displaced during the second half of 2015 – was compounded by the Israeli blockade, the almost continuous closure of the Rafah passenger crossing by Egypt, and by internal Palestinian divisions. Although no major displacement occurred in Gaza in 2015, internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the Gaza Strip continue to suffer from the devastating consequences of the 2014 hostilities between Israel and Palestinian armed groups with an estimated 90,000 people still displaced during the second half of 2015. Meanwhile, the report noted that the number of Palestinian structures demolished, or dismantled and confiscated by the Israeli authorities across the West Bank sharply increased in the first four months of 2016, surpassing the figures for all of 2015 (598 vs. 548). Overall, 858 Palestinians, around half of them children (416), were displaced, compared to 787 people in the whole 2015.  In the Gaza Strip, the reconstruction and repair of homes destroyed and damaged during the 2014 hostilities continued during the first quarter of 2016.  However, “Obstacles on the entry into Gaza of the enormous amounts of construction materials needed for the repair and reconstruction of homes has been a major challenge.” Israeli settlements, which have been established and expanded in the occupied West Bank, including occupied Jerusalem, in contravention of international law, underlie many of the concerns highlighted in this report and generate the need for assistance and protection measures by humanitarian actors. The report stated that Palestinian civilians continued to be subjected to threats to their lives, physical safety and liberty from conflict-related violence, and from policies and practices related to the Israeli occupation, including settler violence. While most of 2015 witnessed a relative calm compared to 2014, tension rose in September in occupied Jerusalem, with protests, clashes and violence spreading to the remaining oPt, including to the Access Restricted Areas (ARA) in Gaza in October. Due to the upsurge in violence in the last quarter, 2015 recorded the highest number of casualties among West Bank Palestinians since 2005. In Gaza, the August 2014 ceasefire has largely held, as reflected in the relatively low number of fatalities, although casualties also rose in the final quarter of the year, along with the escalation in the West Bank. As of the end of 2015 there were over 6,000 Palestinians held by the Israeli Prison Service on ‘security’ grounds, the highest such figure since 2010. The number of children among them, 422, was also the highest since August 2008, when this indicator began to be tracked, including six held in administrative detention, without charge. Some 80 per cent of the Palestinian children imprisoned were in pre-trial detention, the majority facing stone-throwing charges. These conditions continued to cause a protracted protection crisis with humanitarian consequences, where Palestinians face a range of threats that undermine their ability to live self-sustaining lives and prevent the enjoyment of their rights, including the right to self-determination.

(Source / 13.06.2016)

Israel Is Blocking Access to Its Archives: “Israel Concealing Vital Records to Prevent Darkest Periods in its History from Coming to Light”

By Jonathan Cook

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Israel is concealing vital records to prevent darkest periods in its history from coming to light, academics say 

Israel is locking away millions of official documents to prevent the darkest episodes in its history from coming to light, civil rights activists and academics have warned as the country’s state archives move online.

They claim government officials are concealing vital records needed for historical research, often in violation of Israeli law, in an effort to avoid damaging Israel’s image.

The Israeli army has long claimed to be the “most moral” in the world.

Accusations of increased secrecy come as Israel marks this week the 49th anniversary of the 1967 war, when it seized and occupied Sinai Peninsula, Gaza Strip, West Bank, and Golan Heights.

Many of the records to which access is being denied refer to that war and the first years of Israel’s military rule over Palestinians in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.

Menachem Klein, a politics professor at Bar Ilan University, near Tel Aviv, said researchers needed such documents to gain a clearer picture of events half a century ago, the goals of policymakers, and human rights abuses. “We have gradually been able to expose some of what happened in 1948 [the war that established Israel], but there is still very little available to help us understand the 1967 war,” he told Al-Jazeera.

As part of its commemorations this week, the state archives published testimony by military commanders from 1967. However, local media noted that whole pages had been censored on “security grounds”.

Nonetheless, some of the declassified material was revealing. Uzi Narkiss, who headed the army’s central command at the time, suggested that he and other commanders hoped to ethnically cleanse most of the territories under cover of fighting. He told fellow officers: “Within 72 hours we’ll drive out all the Arabs from the West Bank.”

The campaign to open up Israel’s archives is being led by the Akevot Institute, a group of Israeli human rights activists, lawyers and researchers trying to document the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In a new report, Point of Access, they note that only 1 percent of 400 million pages of documents have been made public.

Most of the files should have been accessible after 15 years, with the most top-secret documents locked away for up to 70 years. In many cases, Akevot says, the classified status of documents has expired, but they have still not been made public. Reasons for denial of access are rarely given.

In other instances, documents that were already declassified – some of them decades ago – have been re-sealed and are now unavailable.

Despite the mounting secrecy, historic war crimes are still coming to light.

In March the largest known massacre of Palestinians by the Israeli army during the 1948 war that founded Israel – what Palestinians call al-Nakba – was exposed, in spite of official efforts to keep the atrocity under wraps for nearly seven decades.

The gag was effectively ended with the publication of a soldier’s letter in the Haaretz newspaper, detailing the execution of hundreds of Palestinian men, women and children at the village of Dawaymeh, near Hebron.

“The entire history of Israeli society and its conflict with the Palestinians is to be found in those archives,” Lior Yavne, co-author of the report, told Al-Jazeera. “It is impossible to understand and write about that history without access.” He added: “In practice, most of Israel’s archives are permanently closed.”

According to Akevot, Israel has exploited a new programme to digitally copy existing paper files to increase secrecy.

Archivists are currently scanning and uploading documents to create a comprehensive database – a project that is likely to take more than 25 years. The archive’s website went live in April.

However, the public nature of the database means hundreds of thousands of national security files have been submitted for the first time to an official body known as the military censor. Until now its powers had been largely restricted to oversight of the Israeli media, said Yavne.

The censor is reported to be refusing to release many of the documents, redacting others and reclassifying as secret many records that were previously available to researchers.

A growing backlog of tens of thousands of files that need to be reviewed has also blocked access to researchers, according to Akevot.

Requests to see documents can be denied if they damage national security or foreign relations, or violated privacy.

Yavne said access to records after the time restriction had expired was regularly refused without legal authority. Files appeared to be withheld if officials feared they might “highlight human rights violations or shed light on sordid affairs”.

The report notes that the records of government decision-making belong to the public but are treated as “a secret to be kept from it”.

The current emphasis on concealment contrasts with the late 1980s, when parts of the archives from the 1948 war were opened.

A handful of Israeli historians, most notably Benny Morris, Ilan Pappe and Avi Shlaim, revealed that much of Israel’s official history of the state’s founding was based on misinformation.

These “new historians” unearthed evidence of wide-scale massacres of Palestinians, rapes and forced expulsions. They also showed that common assumptions about the war – such as that Palestinians had been ordered to flee by their leaders – were later inventions by Israel to minimise international criticism.

One Israeli academic, Shay Hazkani, has estimated that up to a third of records relating to the 1948 war that were declassified have been put under lock again. Given the large number of documents, many had yet to be examined by researchers.

Nur Masalha, a UK-based Palestinian historian who exposed evidence in Israel’s archives of expulsion, or “transfer”, policies against Palestinians between 1948 and 1967, told Al Jazeera the clampdown on access to documents was part of wider internal repression in Israel.

It reflected, he said, Israel’s mounting concern at the connections being made between Israel’s past and present atrocities. “Israel has faced growing international condemnation for its war crimes in Gaza, and at the same time Palestinians, including those inside Israel, have become more determined to focus attention on the Nakba.”

Some of the most highly classified records – which have been under lock for 70 years – are due to be made public in less than two years’ time. That would turn the spotlight on the most contentious events from Israel’s founding.

However, according to Akevot, no preparations have been made by Israel’s most secretive security agencies, the Shin Bet intelligence service and the Mossad spy agency, to release their archives.

The report says access “is expected to be denied” for the foreseeable future. Yavne said the Shin Bet had already ignored a commitment to make available sections of its archives after 50 years.

Those documents would shed light on Shin Bet policies in the state’s early years, when a fifth of Israel’s population belonging to the Palestinian minority were placed under a military government.

Details of this period would be embarrassing both because of the harsh treatment of Palestinians during military rule and because the template of the military government was later exported into the occupied territories, said Klein.

Archive documents might expose the Shin Bet’s detention and torture practices, its use of blackmail and entrapment to recruit informants, and its harassment of Palestinian leaders. “The Shin Bet has always operated beyond the law,” he said.

The Israeli prime minister’s office, which oversees both the archives and the Shin Bet, declined to comment.

Yavne said Akevot, which was established 18 months ago, was assisting academics and researchers, most of whom were afraid to speak out against the mounting restrictions. “They are worried that if they are seen to be criticising the archive policy, they may face even more restricted access,” he said.

He added that Akevot was creating an alternative database of documents to help researchers to understand the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Among the top-secret documents recently unearthed by the group is one revealing a government order immediately after the 1967 war to remove the Green Line, marking Israel’s internationally recognised borders, from all maps used in Israeli schools.

Klein said the aim was to “root into Israelis’ minds the idea that the occupied Palestinian territories are part of Israel” to make returning them more difficult.

Other classified documents from the period show that Israel’s chief adviser on international law, Theodor Meron, warned that the Geneva Conventions applied to Israel’s behaviour in the occupied territories. Israel has publicly always denied that it is bound by the conventions.

There has been a similar spate of revelations about the 1948 war.

In January Haaretz reported that the archives were still refusing access to a transcript of a cabinet meeting in 1949 in which ministers discussed the widespread desecration of churches the previous year.

The discussion, however, could be reconstructed from other sources.

The Foreign Minister of the time, Moshe Sharett, is recorded as saying the Israeli soldiers had behaved in ways “fit for savages”- a reference to their defecating in churches and looting icons. Sharett suggested paying the Vatican large compensation to “buy their silence”.

Israeli military correspondent Amir Oren recently wrote that archival evidence showed that the current spate of Israeli soldiers executing Palestinians was not a new phenomenon.

The 1948 war, Oren wrote, had “launched the catalogue of murder, rape, looting, contempt for human life” by the Israeli army.

(Source / 13.06.2016)

Israeli newspaper: Israel may accept Hamas’ demand for a new prisoner swap

Palestinians being detained by Israeli forces [File photo]

Israeli newspaper Maariv said it expected the Israeli government to accept Hamas’ demands in a new prisoner swap deal after it changed the status of the Israeli soldiers lost in during the offensive on Gaza in 2014 from “killed in action” to “captured”, Al Jazeera reported yesterday.

The newspaper said that Israel might start negotiations with Hamas over the return of the “bodies” of soldiers very soon.

The foreign ministry’s decision to change the status of the two lost soldiers, the newspaper said, came in response to pressure by the families of the soldiers.

It added that the families were angry because they found out about the change of status through the media.

Meanwhile, Zionist Camp MK Erel Margalit criticised Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu following the change, accusing him of “sacrificing the values of the Israeli people in order not to harm his personal position.”

He said that he is going to call for an emergency meeting of the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee to investigate Netanyahu’s measures regarding the lost soldiers. He described the decision to change their status as an “indication of the failure” of the offensive on Gaza.

“It is unbelievable that Netanyahu hides the fate of the sons of the nation of Israel after hiding the threat of the tunnels,” Margalit said.

Security expert Yossi Milman wondered whether Tel Aviv is going to surrender to Hamas’ demands after the change of the status of the lost soldiers.

Speaking to the same newspaper, he said that this decision is an indication that the Israeli army is facing much pressure from the families of the lost soldiers, noting that the army had decided to minimise family interference in such cases over the last few years.

(Source / 13.06.2016)

Vrijwillige gebeden, beter kan je jouw tijd niet besteden!

Alle lof zij aan Allah. Hij Die naast de verplichtingen, vrijwillige aanbiddingen heeft voorgeschreven. Dit om Hem hiermee te gedenken, onze hasanaat te vermeerderen en om onze tekortkomingen te compenseren. 

De oprechte gelovige die streeft naar het bereiken van het welbehagen van zijn Heer, laat het niet bij de verplichtingen. Hij gaat verder met het verrichten van vrijwillige goede daden om zijn schaal zwaar te doen wegen op de Dag des Oordeels. Allah zegt:

“Op die dag zal de weegschaal de waarheid aangeven. Wiens schaal (met goede daden) dan zwaar is: zij zijn degenen die welslagen. En wiens schaal licht is: zij zijn degenen die zichzelf verlies hebben toegebracht …” [7:8-9]

Wiens schaal licht is op de Dag des Oordeels heeft zichzelf verlies toegebracht door nalatig te zijn met het verrichten van goede daden. Een onherstelbaar verlies!

Compensatie verplichte gebeden
Met het verrichten van vrijwillige gebeden worden onze tekortkomingen in het verplichte gebed gecompenseerd. De profeet vrede zij met hem zei:

“Het eerste waarover de dienaar op de Dag des Oordeels verantwoording af zal leggen van zijn daden is zijn gebed. Als het correct is, dan behoort hij tot de succesvollen en als het incorrect is behoort hij tot de verliezers. Als hij tekortkomingen heeft in zijn verplichte gebeden zegt Allah: “Kijk of mijn dienaar vrijwillige gebeden heeft”, dan wordt daarmee de tekortkoming gecompenseerd.” [Tirmidhi]

In dit bericht gaan we in op wat vrijwillige gebeden en haar regelgevingen:

De Sunan rawaatib
De sunan rawaatib vallen onder de vrijwillige gebeden die vóór en na de verplichte gebeden worden verricht. Onze nobele profeet vrede zij met hem liet deze nooit na, alleen wanneer hij op reis was. Hij zei over de verdienste van de sunan rawaatib:

“De moslim die iedere dag vrijwillig twaalf rak’ah (eenheid van gebed) bidt, voor hem bouwt Allah een huis in het paradijs.” [Sahih Moslim]

Deze twaalf rak’ah zijn als volgt:

– Twee vóór het fajrgebed:

Deze twee bid je ook wanneer je op reis bent. De profeet zei: “De twee rak’ah (vóór) fajr zijn beter dan het wereldse leven en wat zich daarin bevindt.” [Bukhari]

– Vier vóór het dohrgebed: twee rak’ah en daarna weer twee rak’ah.

Met vóór het gebed wordt vóór het verrichten van het verplichte gebed bedoeld, maar nadat de tijd van het gebed is binnengetreden. Als dohr bijvoorbeeld om 13.45 is, bid je de sunnah na deze tijd. Dit geldt ook voor de sunnah van fajr.

– Twee na het dohrgebed.

– Twee na het magrebgebed.

– Twee na het ishagebed.

Deze twee dienen na het ishagebed te worden gebeden en vallen niet onder de Taraweeh. De Taraweeh start na deze twee rak’ah. Mocht de imam, wat jammer genoeg het geval is in vele moskeeën, de moskeegangers niet de gelegenheid geven om de sunnah van ‘isha te bidden, dan zijn er meerdere oplossingen:

Eén daarvan is dat de eerste twee rak’ah van de Taraweeh worden gebeden met de intentie van de sunnah van ‘isha. Echter kan dit niet met een gezamenlijke intentie, namelijk de sunnah van isha én de Taraweeh, omdat deze twee verschillende soorten nawaafil (vrijwillige daden) zijn.

Het Dhoeha-gebed
Het Dhoeha-gebed is een ander vrijwillig gebed dat de moslim dagelijks kan verrichten. Abu Huraira – moge Allah tevreden met hem zijn – overlevert dat de profeet hem aanspoorde tot het verrichten van het Dhoeha-gebed. [Bukhari]

De tijd waarop dit gebed kan worden verricht is vanaf een kwartier na zonsopkomst (shoroeq) en eindigt met ongeveer een kwartier vóór dohr. Het meest aanbevolen tijdstip voor dit gebed is wanneer de zon op haar sterkst is, ongeveer twee uur vóór dohr.

Dit gebed wordt in sets van twee rak’ah gebeden en het minimum aantal rak’ah is twee en het maximum aantal is bij sommige geleerden acht. Anderen, waaronder shaych al-‘Uthaimeen en shaych bin Baz, zijn van mening dat er geen maximum aan verbonden is. Wellicht dat die de sterkste mening is.

Gedenk wel dat de regelmatige daden het meest geliefd zijn bij Allah, ook al is het weinig. Maak het daarom niet te zwaar voor jezelf, maar bid datgene wat je dagelijks kan volhouden, zoals twee rak’ah bijvoorbeeld.

Nadat de moslim zijn verplichtingen naar Allah de meest Verhevene nakomt, besteedt hij tijd aan het verrichten van vrijwillige goede daden. De profeet vrede zij met hem overlevert van zijn Heer:

“Het meest geliefde waarmee Mijn dienaar dichter tot Mij komt, is hetgeen Ik verplicht heb gesteld. En mijn dienaar is net zolang bezig met het verrichten van vrijwillige daden om dichter tot Mij te komen, totdat Ik van hem hou.” [Bukhari]

Heeft de moslim een andere wens dan dat zijn Schepper, Allah de meest Verhevene, van hem houdt? Wanneer Allah de meest Verhevene van Zijn dienaar houdt, schenkt Hij hem succes in al zijn zaken en verhoort Hij zijn smeekbeden.

Beste broeders en zusters
Deze gezegende maand is een ideale gelegenheid om dichter tot Allah te komen met het nakomen van onze verplichtingen en vervolgens met het verrichten van de vrijwillige gebeden.

Begunstigd zijn onze broeders en zusters die in deze maand de vijf verplichte gebeden op haar voorgeschreven tijden verrichten en vervolgens ook de sunan rawaatib, Dhoeha en Taraweeh bidden.

Moge Allah onze goede daden in deze gezegende maand accepteren en ons vergeven voor onze tekortkomingen.

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.

8 Ramadan 1437 / – 13 juni 2016 –

Syrian and Russian airstrikes kill at least 30 civilians in Idlib

Russian military fighter jet

File photo of Russian military fighter jet

At least 30 Syrian civilians have been killed and more than 50 others wounded in airstrikes carried out by Syrian and Russian fighter jets against the Syrian city of Idlib, Anadolu reported on Sunday.

Commander of the Civil Defence Laith al-Fares told Anadolu that a Syrian fighter jet carried out an airstrike on a popular market in the city, which is controlled by the Syrian opposition.

This strike, Al-Fares said, resulted in 18 deaths and 50 wounded, in addition to resulting in large amounts of damage to houses and shops.

He added: “Russian fighter jets targeted a residential area in Maarat al-Nu’man in the outskirts of Idlib, killing three people and causing a number of injuries.”

Al-Fares said that firefighters were still looking for survivors in the rubble of the destroyed houses, fearing there would be more victims.

(Source / 13.06.2016)

The ten obstacles hindering Palestinian Reconciliation

Although the reconciliation agreement stipulated reforming the PLO to include all Palestinian factions, the conduct of the PLO leadership has usually obstructed the implementation of commitments related to reforming and rebuilding the organisation’s institutions

Hamas' Khaled Meshaal with the Palestinian Authority/PLO's Mahmoud Abbas

Hamas’ Khaled Meshaal with the Palestinian Authority/PLO’s Mahmoud Abbas [file photo]

In May 2016, five years passed since the Palestinian reconciliation agreement was signed between the Fatah and Hamas movements, and other Palestinian factions. The agreement took three years of negotiations to conclude. But why does the project for reconciliation take such a long time without being implemented?! despite the dire need for it and the impasse this has caused the Palestinian national project to fall into?!

In practical terms, we have two rival partners that were “forced” to engage in reconciliation despite their sharp differences. There is a number of reasons and obstacles that have disrupted the reconciliation, with varying degrees of influence and importance, summarised as follows:

1. The ideological reference frame: There is no joint intellectual and ideological reference point that determines what should be one of the fundamentals and a red line that cannot be compromised, or be the subject of bargaining and what can be set according to political considerations, objective and subjective circumstances, and the balance of power. For example, Islamic groups reject for religious reasons the recognition of Israel or ceding any part of Palestine, while other factions have considerations related to realpolitik, interests, tactics, and interim action.

At first, it may appear that coexistence is possible for this setting. However, practical experience in the Palestinian case has demonstrated the existence of major obstacles. Some of the thorniest issues have been the recognition of Israel and giving it the right to exist on 77% of historical Palestine, something that Hamas rejects on Islamic premises, but the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Fatah, and the Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership has no scruples with, as an outcome of the Oslo Accords. Those accords established the PA and were the foundation of the dream to turn it into a Palestinian state. For its part, Hamas wants to exercise its right to serve its people and govern, without recognizing Israel, abandoning resistance, or accepting the agreements signed by the PLO. In other words, Hamas wants to impose new terms for the game, which is anathema to the Israelis and the Americans.

In terms of practice, Mahmud ‘Abbas and the leaders of the PLO and Fatah have called for forming a government that could lift the siege. However, Israel and the US are opposed to ending the siege before the Quartet conditions, developed after Hamas won the general election in 2006, are respected, led by the recognition of Israel,… again something Hamas can never accept.

2. Priorities and paths: The previous point has influenced the national program of each party and how it determines priorities and where it can make compromises, as well as each party’s strategic and tactical vision for their respective projects for peace and resistance, and which should be pursued first. Questions emerged over whether priority should be given to forming a national unity government and holding elections; reforming and reactivating the PLO; reforming the security forces; economic programs; lifting the siege and reconstruction; seeking recognition of the Palestinian state at the UN; the refugee issue; or to confronting Judaization attempts especially in Jerusalem. How each issue could be assigned a weight and on which basis it should be delayed or brought forward as well as questions over the number of issues that could be tackled simultaneously.

3. The lack of an institutional reference frame: that both sides could consult, that would determine the priorities of the national project, that would set decision-making mechanisms, that would represent the Palestinian people in the interior and in the Diaspora, and that would set the mechanisms for the peaceful transfer of power. Although the PLO is usually the entity that should play this role, Hamas, Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine (PLO), and broad Palestinian segments… remain unrepresented in the organization, leadership of which has been monopolized by the Fatah movement since 47 years (February 1969). Therefore, the PLO no longer represents the true will of the Palestinian people. Currently, there is no single Palestinian entity that brings together all Palestinians, in which they can deliberate their situations, develop programs, and determine their priorities and plans.

The PLO institutions have been disrupted leaving it ineffective with the “encroachment” of the PA on its prerogatives. The Palestinian National Council (PNC) has not convened a real session since 1991, save for one in 1996 (despite flaws) during which most clauses of the national charter were abolished or suspended in line with the commitments of the Oslo Accords. In other words, this council has not functioned for 25 years, except to be “summoned” to endorse the wishes of the leadership, including by altering the original identity of the PLO and its raison d’etre.

Although the reconciliation agreement stipulated reforming the PLO to include all Palestinian factions, the conduct of the PLO leadership has usually obstructed the implementation of commitments related to reforming and rebuilding the organization’s institutions. The political conduct of Hamas, PIJ, and other factions, meanwhile, does not only seek partnership in leading the PLO, but also rebuild the priorities of the Palestinian national project on bases that reject conceding land and that protect the resistance option, which would mean reviewing the agreements signed by the PLO and abolishing or amending them. This would be anathema to Fatah’s leadership, which would seek to prevent such changes.

4. Arab influence: The influence of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia on Palestinian decision-makers is no secret. Egypt usually plays a key role in giving cover to the Palestinian leadership, and in the Palestinian internal arrangements. Egypt was previously behind the creation of the PLO and the appointment of Ahmad Shuqairi as its leader. It also had given cover to his removal and to Fatah’s ascendancy to the leadership of the organization, which it continues to dominate, in addition to the cover Egypt gave to the peace process taken by the PLO leadership. Furthermore, Egypt prior to the 25/1/2011 revolution (and after the 3/7/2013 coup d’etat) was largely responsible for the way Hamas was dealt with, and the attempts to isolate it, weaken it, and undermine it. On the other hand, Syria, prior to its current conflict (Started since March 2011), was an incubator for Hamas and resistance forces, which had a profound influence on the confrontation with the “Moderate Front.” The Arab countries, especially the ring countries surrounding Palestine, have borne a historic responsibility for deepening the crisis of the Palestinian national project, because of their restrictions on resistance activities, and the political and popular action of the Palestinian people. The Palestinians have been unable to organize themselves freely in these countries, while their elections were often disallowed or restricted.

5. Israeli influence: On the Israeli side, the entry of the PLO (and then the PA) into the “Era of Oslo” and the resulting arrangements on the ground since 1993, made Israel the “ever-present absent” party in the calculus of PLO and PA decision-makers. To be sure, the Oslo Accords meant that “resistance” leaders moved to live under Israeli occupation in the West Bank (WB) and Gaza Strip (GS), and forced the PLO to abandon armed resistance in return for an authority whose crossings, imports, exports, finances, and movement of its leaders and cadres are controlled by Israel. At will, Israel can destroy infrastructure, occupy PA areas, arrest whomever it wants, strangle the economy, continue its policy of Judaization, impose sanctions, and blackmail Palestinians at all levels, economic, political, and security. Israel can disrupt legislative elections, arrest resistance supporters including Hamas MPs and ministers, and disrupt PA’s work mechanisms. This has given the Israelis a wide opportunity to place immense pressure on the Palestinian leadership and people, making Israel’s reactions and conduct a key determinant of Palestinian reconciliation and internal negotiations.

6. International influence: The Western position and the US position in particular has a significant influence on the Palestinian track. The absolute US support for Israel has been a blatant intervention and an attempt to steer the choices and attitudes of the Palestinian people. For it supported Israel’s occupation, violations, and practices against the Palestinian people, and it intervened to impose the conditions of the Quartet on Hamas and Palestinian resistance forces which include recognizing Israel and ending armed resistance, and accepting the accords signed by the PLO including the Oslo Accords, The US and its allies also sought to topple and isolate Hamas, designating it as a “terrorist” organization, and to delegitimize it, in addition to punishing the Palestinian people for freely electing Hamas.

On the other hand, the US biased position helped undermine the peace process, leading to an impasse in the efforts to achieve Palestinian rights or some of them through the Security Council or the UN. This helped create a real crisis for the peace process advocated by the PA.

An essential part of reconciliation talks focused on how to condition the forming of the Palestinian government to be in line with the conditions of the Quartet and US-Israeli possible “vetoes.” This also applied to holding elections and reforming security forces, etc.

7. The crisis of confidence: between Fatah and Hamas, or the peace camp and the resistance camp. The crisis deepened in the past years, further complicating matters. Through factional relations, especially between Fatah and Hamas, and over a quarter of a century, a huge crisis of trust has been cemented: There was the language of harsh accusations between them of failure and collaboration, and campaigns of security crackdown, arrests, and exclusions led by the Fatah-dominated PA in 1994–2000. There were the resistance operations carried out by Hamas and resistance factions, which Fatah saw as obstruction and foiling of the peace process leading to Palestinian statehood, and attempts at undermining, toppling, and obstruction led by Fatah and the PA against the Legislative Council, a majority of whose seats was won by Hamas, and the Hamas-formed government. There was also the state of division following Hamas’s takeover of GS and Fatah’s control of WB, followed by mutual security measures to guarantee each party’s control of its respective territory, while security coordination between Ramallah and the US-Israel reached maximal levels against resistance activities and Islamic factions in WB. Also, the state of lawlessness and mutual bloodshed deepened this crisis of confidence.

8. The cultural dimension: This is linked to the “diseases” of Palestinian society, especially those related to managing differences and the peaceful transfer of power, coexistence, and finding common ground away from factionalism and partisanship, and tendencies for monopoly, mistrust, and spitefulness at the expense of confidence-building programs and joint action.

9. The crisis of Palestinian leadership: as a leadership has not lived up to the aspirations of its people, falling in varying degrees into pitfalls of individual dictatorial rule, personal calculations, weak executive institutional work, lack of respect for legislative authorities, political clientelism, partisanship, opportunism, corruption, failure to take advantage of huge potentials of the Palestinian people, and failure to manage political differences, etc.

10. The geographical dispersion and fragmentation of the Palestinian people: This issue has made it difficult for Palestinians to meet, reach accords, and make decisions. Palestinians do not live in the same space, and are not governed by one polity. They have different circumstances with 2.9 million under occupation and Fatah’s leadership in WB; 1.85 million in GS under Israeli siege and Hamas’s leadership; and 6.15 million around the world. Despite the Palestinians’ aspirations to liberation, return, and independence, the different circumstances of their lives have impacted their culture, approach, and understanding of issues.

***

Thus, it is necessary to take stock of these impediments to realize the reason for delay and disruption in the implementation of reconciliation. However, when there is a real and serious will a breakthrough will be possible, provided that this is not limited to mechanisms, but also tackles priorities and paths.

(Source / 13.06.2016)

Beirut protest calls on Central Bank of Lebanon to #DropG4S

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The Campaign to Boycott Supporters of Israel in Lebanon followed up on its two protests of G4S at UNICEFand the Crowne Plaze Hotel with a protest on Saturday, 11 June, outside the Central Bank of Lebanon in Hamra, Beirut.

The Campaign is demanding Lebanese and international entities cut their contracts with G4S, the British-Danish security corporation that provides equipment, control rooms, and security systems to Israeli checkpoints, prisons, and detention centers. There is a global call for boycott of G4S, backed by Palestinian political prisoners and civil society organizations. G4S has also come under fire internationally for its involvement in the imprisonment of youth and migrants in the US, UK and elsewhere, and for its work as a US military contractor.

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The protest was organized with the boycott campaign in the Palestinian refugee camps; the Lebanese Democratic Youth Union; the Youth Movement for Change; the International Campaign to Free Georges Ibrahim Abdallah; the Palestinian Cultural Club at the American University of Beirut; and Al-Ghad dabkeh troupe. It was widely covered in Lebanese and Arab media, including Al-Hayat, Al-Diyar, Al-Thabat, Tahawolat magazine, New TV, Future TV, Palestine Today, Al-Manar, Al-Kawthar, Reuters, LBCI, El-Nashra, and Ruptly.

beirut4The protest included the reading of the letter by the Campaign to Boycott Supporters of Israel and Lebanon presented to a representative of the governor of the Central Bank, calling for the bank to end its G4S security contracts, as well as dabkeh dance performances by Palestinian children from the refugee camps in Lebanon and the distribution of leaflets urging a boycott of G4S.

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(Source / 13.06.2016)

Israeli offensives, siege push Gaza kids to work

Tens of children, whom Israel killed their fathers, are obliged to become street vendors to help their families survive

Days of Palestine, Gaza Strip -Hundreds of Gaza kids have joined workforce to help families after their fathers were killed or became unemployed due to Israeli offensives or siege.

Around half of the 2m inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, which has been under strict Israeli siege for ten years, live under poverty line, with 80 per cent surviving on humanitarian aid, according to the latest official statistics.

Unemployment has risen dramatically to 45 per cent, one of the highest rates in the world, forcing many children to become family bread-winners.

Four major Israeli offensives on the Gaza Strip during the last ten years harvested the souls of hundreds of fathers, resulting in thousands new orphans – or minor bread-winners.

Left school

Both of the 9-year-old Khamis Wahdan and 13-year-old Omar Walid were once good students, but they were obliged to leave their school after their fathers lost their jobs.

Palestinian statistics show an increase in child labour over the past five years, with an estimated 9,700 children aged between 10 and 17 now working across the coastal enclave.

“My father is unemployed,” said Wahdan said. “He used to work in house building. I was obliged to go to streets to collect scrap and sell it in order to afford little money to get food for me and the other family members.”

Wahdan works around 12 hours a day, wandering the streets, for at most 20 shekels ($5) in order to help his family.

Street vendor

Mahmoud Rabee, 13, whose father and two of his family members were killed during one of the Israeli military offensives on the Gaza Strip, said that he earns 15 shekels, less than $3, by selling hairdressing accessories.

“I buy the accessories from the wholesalers, put them on my small cart and go to the parks and the beach to sell them,” he explained. “Sometimes, people do not buy things, but give me something to help because they know that I am an orphan.”

Although Palestinian law bans children under 15 from working, it is rarely applied due to the very difficult economic and social situation in the disaster-stricken Strip.

After the Israeli offensive on Gaza in 2014, the UN estimated that all of Gaza’s 900,000 children had been traumatised by the violence and are in need of psycho-social support. However, they almost received none of such support.

(Source / 13.06.2016)

Syrian Coalition: Russia’s Continued Aggression on Syria Disrupted Negotiations

A delegation from the Syrian Coalition met with the National Coordination Commission in the Belgian capital Brussels on Monday. The meeting, which was attended by the EU Secretary-General for External Action Service, Alain Le Roy, stressed the need for stepping up efforts to reach a political solution in Syria that achieves the aspirations of the Syrian people.

President of the Syrian Coalition Anas Alabdah said that the continued targeting of civilians by the Assad regime and Russia had caused the Geneva negotiations to reach an impasse, adding that no one is able to force the Assad regime to respect the cessation of hostilities agreement.

Alabdah lamented the fact that Russia is a sponsor of the political process and at the same time a partner in the crimes of the Assad regime against civilians, adding that there is no serious international response to violations of the cessation of hostilities agreement by the Assad regime and its allies.

Alabdah urged the European Union to salvage the political process in order to reach a just political solution that meets the aspirations of the Syrian people. He noted that the monopoly of the Syrian file by the United States and Russia will not lead to positive results, citing the lack of progress in negotiations during the past six months.

Alabdah called for adopting effective mechanisms to reach a just political solution in Syria to restore stability and security to the region.

For his part, General Coordinator of the National Coordination Commission Hassan Abdel Azim stressed the need for ending divisions among the Syrian opposition in order to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people. He said that that the meeting with the Syrian Coalition is part of efforts aimed to unify the opposition and come out with a unified vision for the future of Syria.

“Syria has been plagued by bloodshed and destruction of cities and towns by terrorist forces in control of some areas and by other sides that seek to impose a federal system in Syria,” Abdel Azim said. He stressed the need for the unification of the opposition and for greater representation of the Kurds in the Syrian opposition.

Abdel Azim pointed out that last week saw an initiative by the opposition’s High Negotiations Committee to hold dialogue with opposition bodies that did not attend the Riyadh conference. He described the Riyadh opposition conference as an important step towards the unification of the Syrian opposition.

The EU Secretary-General for External Action Service Alain Le Roy said that the deadline for the formation of a transitional governing body in August is very difficult to meet unless great efforts were made to reach the desired solution. He stressed the need for coordination among the Syrian opposition and for laying out a common vision for a political solution.

“We are ready to do what we can to end the tragedy afflicting the Syrian people,” Le Roy said. He reaffirmed the EU support for the political process to reach a comprehensive solution.

Le Roy referred to plans by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy to expand the EU role in the political process in Syria, adding that the EU plays a larger role in the humanitarian track to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people.

(Source: Syrian Coalition / 13.06.2016)