Legal experts back Palestinian BDS as ‘free expression’

Lawyers say Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement against Israel is ‘lawful exercise of freedom of expression’.

A number of Western states are considering outlawing BDS

Around 200 leading legal experts have signed a statement defending the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement (BDS) as a lawful exercise of freedom of expression.

The legal experts from 15 countries agreed the BDS movement should be treated the same way as the Anti-Apartheid Movement in South Africa.

Lawyers backing Friday’s statement include South African jurist John Dugard, who served at the International Court of Justice, and Guy Goodwin-Gill, former legal adviser for the Office of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

“No government ever attempted to outlaw or criminalise the Anti-Apartheid Movement for advocating boycott, disinvestment or sanctions to compel South Africa to abandon its racist policies,” Dugard said. “BDS should be seen as a similar movement and treated accordingly.”

Robert Kolb, a legal expert who served with the Swiss Foreign Ministry, said BDS activism should be legally protected.

“The right of citizens to advocate for BDS is part and parcel of the fundamental freedoms protected by the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights,” said Kolb, who was part of the group that signed the statement.

BDS groups welcomed the lawyers’ statement, terming it a “defining moment” before saying the backing would help quell attempts by pro-Israel groups to proscribe the movement.

“This is a defining moment in the struggle against Israel’s patently repressive legal war on the BDS movement for Palestinian rights,” said Ingrid Jaradat of the Palestinian BDS National Committee, a coalition of civil society groups at the forefront of the movement.

“Leading European jurists have now confirmed that advocating and campaigning for Palestinian rights under international law is a legally guaranteed right for Europeans and indeed all citizens of the world.

“Israel’s desperate attempts to outlaw the BDS movement and to legally bully its supporters into silence threatens democratic space.”

Crackdowns on BDS

A number of measures targeting the BDS movement have been introduced in Israel and Western countries with varying degrees of success.

Earlier this year, US President Barack Obama approved legislation that required official non-cooperation with groups that comply with boycotts of Israel. Around 20 US states have passed anti-BDS bills or are in the process of doing so.

In France, Prime Minister Manuel Valls has tried to equate the BDS movement to the “loathing of Jews”, a charge activists reject.

Attempts at censoring BDS activism have not been successful, however.

A French court in Tolouse overturned a ban on a BDS event in May, describing attempts by the town’s mayor to stop the gathering as illegal.

In England, a court struck down a legal challenge attempting to force councillors in the city of Leicester to reverse a motion to boycott Israeli goods.

Student activism

Supporters of the BDS movement argue attempts to stifle it are proof that it is an effective means of protesting Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land.

The movement is particularly visible among students and activists on campuses across the world who are attempting to pass motions backing Israel’s boycotts despite strong opposition from pro-Israel groups.

On Thursday, students at the University of Manchester in northwest UK passed a motion forcing their union to support the BDS movement.

Etisha Choudhury president of the pro-Palestinian student group Action Palestine said attempts to stop BDS were part of broader efforts to prevent criticism of Israeli policies.

“BDS is a call from 171 Palestinian civil authorities from within the occupation so essentially they [opponents] are just trying to block the Palestinians,” Choudhury told Al Jazeera.

Huda Ammori, who put forward the motion, said BDS was one of the few remaining ways Palestinians could effectively challenge Israeli occupation.

“I think BDS is the last hope for Palestinians,” said Ammori, describing efforts by the international community to help Palestinians to date as lacking. “The movement is a call to wake up and bring attention to the cause.”

The BDS movement is particularly visible among students and activists on campuses across the world

(Source / 10.12.2016)

Haneen Zoabi: Israel is Built on Land Theft and Dispossession

Arab MK Haneen Zoabi. (Photo: File)

Haneen Zoabi, an Arab member of the Israeli Knesset, representing the United Arab Bloc said, “Theft and dispossession in the new Israeli law which aims at legalizing settlements in the West Bank is not new, as Israel was build on these two principles.”

Zoabi added in remarks made in a press statement, “Israel has always been a tool in the hands of the Zionist project, but what is new is the Zionist’s project is now in total control of the country’s institutions. The law passed in contrast with a legal opinion by the supreme court and the government’s legal adviser.”

EU strongly opposes Israeli law to legalise 4,000 settler homes in West Bank:  | Lucky EU is not evicting Tel Aviv…

Photo published for European Union ‘strongly opposes’ settlement bill

European Union ‘strongly opposes’ settlement bill

The bill, which still needs two more readings in order to become law, retroactively legalizes 4,000 settlers homes on Palestinian property while offering the Palestinian landowners compensation.

According to Zoabi, “what we have today is not precisely the expansion of Israel’s sovereignty over the occupied West Bank, but rather the expansion of the sovereignty of the settlement’s project over Israel and the entire occupied territory.”

Zoabi added that the struggle cannot be won in the Knesset, and the real battle field is on the ground; and the battle for land, freedom and life cannot be won by passing laws, and cannot be won by an oppressive government and its parliament, but rather it is won on the ground.”

Sweden concerned by draft Israeli law which would legalize illegal settlement outposts on Palestinian land. 

The Arab MK concluded her remarks in Arabic saying, “We are facing a major moral and national duty, which is bringing Netanyahu and his gang to the Hague, and to struggle against the Israeli occupation and whoever provides it with aid, and (to ultimately) be victorious over them.”

(Source / 10.12.2016)

Iran’s attempted genocide of the Sunni Arabs

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei poses before delivering a speech marking Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, in this handout photo released by the Iranian Supreme Leader website on March 20, 2016. REUTERS/ via Reuters

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei poses before delivering a speech marking Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, in this handout photo released by the Iranian Supreme Leader website on March 20, 2016

The military assaults against Mosul in Iraq and Aleppo in Syria are not as disparate and separate as people imagine. Yes, the cities are located in different countries. Yes, the Iraqi Security Forces are fighting Daesh militants while what is left of the Syrian Arab Army is fighting a collection of Syrian opposition factions which have united under the banner of the “Army of Aleppo”. Yes, Russia is involved in the destruction of Syria whilst the United States is involved in the destruction of Iraq. But be under no illusion, Iran is the one constant in both battles, as well as being the primary beneficiary; it is attempting to destroy the Sunni Arabs.

It is by now no secret that Iran and its mullahs have benefited the most from the chaos unleashed by ex-President George W Bush’s insane plan to export a US-approved, Frankenstein monster of a democracy to Iraq in 2003. Shia Iran, having incubated and developed terrorist organisations since the late 1970s, successfully managed to add a touch of window dressing to its terrorist flunkies such as the Iraqi Dawa Party (responsible for terrorist attacks throughout Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon and other places) and insert them into the highest offices of the Iraqi state. Current Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi and his predecessor Nouri Al-Maliki hail from the same Tehran-sponsored party.

Before 2003, few people knew the difference between Sunnis and Shia, even amongst those who live in the Arab world. However, after rampant Iran-backed sectarianism took root in Iraq, and people were killed by the thousands for having Sunni names or for living in areas deemed “holy” to Shia Iran, the world suddenly started to associate all of the violence with events that occurred more than a millennium ago. However, the problems in Iraq have more to do with power politics and Iranian ambitions than religious issues.

Not content with its new-found power and influence in its former foe, neighbouring Iraq, the government in Tehran continued its long dalliance with the Syrian regime run by the Assad family. Iran stepped up its support for the Lebanese Hezbollah – a Shia organisation – which makes an occasional song and dance about being in the “Axis of Resistance”, supposedly “resisting” Israeli Zionist expansionism. In reality, Israel was the excuse for Iran’s own expansionism via its terrorist proxies like Hezbollah.

These relationships and strategic partnerships became important when the Syrian Revolution erupted in 2011 and rapidly turned violent after the Assad regime started killing innocent civilians. These included children such as 13-year-old Hamza Al-Khateeb, who was returned to his family mutilated in 2011, with his penis cut off by the brutal Syrian mukhabarat – secret police – as they tortured him to death.

Iran immediately threw its weight and proxies behind Bashar Al-Assad’s savagery, and saw within the revolution a golden opportunity to eliminate the Sunni Arabs yet further, as well as to pull the Syrian dictator even deeper into its orbit by making him indebted to the mullahs. Without Tehran – and, in the past year, Russia – there is little doubt that Assad would have crumbled long ago.

Iran is now determined to quash the one enemy that can curtail its plans and annihilate any hope that Ayatollah Khomeini’s 1979 “Islamic” revolution can be exported and implanted into neighbouring countries. That enemy is, of course, the Sunni Arabs who represent the largest demographic across the region.

By Sunni Arabs, I do not mean Sunni Arab states such as Saudi Arabia or Qatar. These are political entities that represent only a small fragment of the behemoth that is the Sunni Arab entity. Instead, I refer to the Sunni Arabs as a people and as an identity. If Sunni Arabs were in charge of their own destinies rather than having to deal with despots who serve foreign masters in the West as opposed to the interests of their own people, it is highly doubtful that Iran would be as powerful as it is today.

Iran knows this, and that is why it is not only destroying bastions of Sunni Arab civilisation such as Mosul and Aleppo, but also the very idea and identity of what it means to be a Sunni Arab. The vast majority of the millions of refugees flooding Europe and other countries around the world from the Middle East are both Sunnis and Arabs; it is one of the largest mass depopulation campaigns in human history. Smaller, but no less terrifying, examples of this across the region, include Iran-sanctioned sectarian and ethnic cleansing which can be seen clearly in places such as Samarra in Iraq, where Sunnis are being driven out in order to create homogeneously Shia zones and “safe” corridors that stretch from Iran and pass through Iraq and on into Syria.

Iran is committing all of these crimes against the Sunni Arabs directly through the so-called Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) or indirectly through its many proxies, and using Daesh extremists as the perfect cover. By claiming to fight terrorism, the mullahs nestle themselves within a common narrative now used by imperialist powers throughout the world who claim to be restoring peace and order to a region, when they are in fact robbing them of their freedom and livelihoods. Just ask people about the US who “fought the war on terror” in Iraq and Afghanistan and completely destroyed the two countries; or ask about Russia, which claims to be doing the same today in Syria while slaughtering thousands of Syrians who have nothing to do with either terrorism or politics.

Indeed, the presumptive US Defence Secretary, General James Mattis, identified Iran as the country which has benefited the most from the existence of Daesh, despite the former being extremist Shia and the latter being extremist Sunni. “I consider [Daesh] just an excuse for Iran to continue its mischief [in the region],” Mattis said earlier this year. “The one country in the Middle East who has not been attacked by [Daesh] is Iran.”

While it is doubtful that the United States under soon-to-be President Donald Trump will do anything substantial to curtail Iran’s millenarian foreign policy, it is equally doubtful that the mullahs will be able to maintain their imperialism. Sunni Arabs represent the overwhelming majority of the population in the Middle East, and even the destruction of major Sunni Arab cities such as Aleppo and Mosul will not be enough to erase the Sunnis from existence, much as the fanatical Iranian regime would like that.

Inevitably, the Sunni Arabs – as a people and not necessarily as states – will band together in order to push back against the existential and genocidal threat they face from Iranian sectarianism. When that time comes – and come it will – the Iranian regime will rue the day that it decided to move too far west of the Zagros mountains into the lands of the Sunni Arabs.

(Source / 10.12.2016)

PFLP: We will not allow the PNC to convene in the West Bank


The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) has expressed its rejection of any attempt by the Palestinian Authority leadership to convene a meeting for the Palestinian National Council (PNC) in Ramallah under Israel’s hegemony.

This came in a speech delivered by senior PFLP official Jamil Mazhar during a ceremony organized on Saturday in the Gaza Strip to mark the party’s inception anniversary.

Zayed said the PFLP “rejects the use of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as a tool or farm to serve the desires of a particular party or person,” affirming it would not allow a PNC meeting in the West Bank.

He called for holding a PNC session abroad.

In another context, Mazhar welcomed the Egyptian invitation for the Palestinian factions to hold comprehensive national talks in Cairo to heal the rift in the Palestinian arena.

The PFLP official also affirmed his party’s rejection of the French peace initiative, calling it an attempt to liquidate the Palestinian people’s national cause and rights, calling on the Palestinian Authority to repudiate it.

The Palestinian National Council (PNC) is the legislative body and the highest authority of the PLO, and it is responsible for formulating its policies and programs.

It serves as the parliament for all Palestinians inside and outside the occupied Palestinian territories and represents all sectors of the Palestinian community worldwide, including political parties, popular organizations, and resistance movements.

(Source / 10.12.2016)

Amnesty International calls on Israel to drop ‘baseless’ charges against activists


BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Human rights organization Amnesty International released a statement Friday demanding Israel to drop the “baseless” charges against two Palestinian “human rights defenders” Farid al-Atrash and Issa Amro, who both currently face charges in an Israeli military court relating to their activism.

Both locals of the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron, the two are facing prison time if found guilty. The hearing to decide their fates was adjourned until Dec. 21, after their lawyer asked for a number of the charges to be dropped during a Nov. 23 hearing.
In attendance at the Nov. 23 hearing were representatives from the the embassies and consulates of the United States, United Kingdom, Belgium, Finland, Germany, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland, as well as representatives from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, and other international organizations.
Both activists were arrested by Israeli authorities in Hebron in February within three days of each other, for their participation in a peaceful protest.
Al-Atrash, a lawyer, was arrested during a peaceful march on Feb. 26 commemorating the 22 years since extremist American-born Israeli settler Baruch Goldstein opened fire on Muslim Palestinian worshipers killing 29 and injuring more than 120 in Hebron’s Ibrahimi mosque in 1994.
The demonstration also called for the re-opening of al-Shuhada street, which was shut down soon after the massacre, and called for the removal of discriminatory restrictions on movement placed on Palestinians in the city.
During the protest, Israeli forces threw sound bombs and fired tear gas at the protesters.
Israeli officials later presented al-Atrash to the Ofer military court with charges amounting to “participating in an illegal demonstration” and “attacking soldiers,” according to Amnesty International.
Al-Atrash vehemently denied the charges, with video footage of the arrest corroborating his account, showing that he was standing and holding a poster peacefully in front of Israeli soldiers when he was pushed, dragged, and then violently arrested by a number of soldiers, according to Amnesty International.
Days later on Feb. 29, Issa Amro, coordinator of the Youth Against Settlements group, was arrested from the group’s center in the Tel Rumeida neighborhood of Hebron’s Old City for his participation in the Feb. 26 protest where al-Atrash was arrested.
On June 7, Israeli authorities handed Amro 18 charges, ranging from “insulting a soldier” to “assault,” with some of the charges dating back to 2010.
According to Amnesty International, Amro has denied all the charges, and alleges that he was beaten by the Israeli police while in custody on two occasions. He has also claimed that he has faced threats and harassment from the Israeli army, police, and settlers.
The statement added that Amro and al-Atrash’s lawyer asked for a number of the charges to be dropped against Amro because of the how old some of the charges are, and because some of them were from closed police files.
“Amnesty International believes that the charges against both men are baseless, and are solely related to their work as human rights defenders,” the statement said.
The statement concluded by asking people to call on the Israeli authorities to “immediately drop all the charges against Issa Amro and Farid al-Atrash, to put an immediate end to harassment of Issa Amro and other human rights defenders in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, to immediately investigate Issa Amro’s claims of beatings by the Israeli police, and prosecute those responsible if sufficient evidence is discovered.”
Throughout tens of years of his activism, Amro has been highly regarded by Palestinian and international activists for his unrelenting commitment to nonviolent peaceful protest.
Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International, has previously condemned what she said was a “sustained campaign of harassment and assault at the hands of the Israeli military and settlers because of (Issa Amro’s) activism.”
In a November statement, Mughrabi said “imprisoning Issa Amro would be a travesty of justice and would silence yet another important critical voice in the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” and that if convicted, Amro would be considered a “prisoner of conscience” by Amnesty International.
In 2011, an annual military courts report documented that Israeli military courts in the occupied West Bank have a 99.74 percent conviction rate for Palestinians brought before them.
(Source / 10.12.2016)

Indonesian Great Friday and the Matter of Blasphemy Law

Muhammad Imaduddin Nasution

Indonesian Contributor of KhamakarPress

At December 2th, millions of Indonesian Muslims gathered at the Park of the National Monument in Jakarta. President Jokowi attends the gathering to make a speech. It was a greatest Friday worship ever in Indonesian history when more than three (or more) million people pray together at the National Monument in Jakarta. Ahok as the Incumbent Governor Candidate of Jakarta is the reason of this Great Friday.

Blasphemy, as done by  Governor Ahok, start in 2008, when he wrote a book titled Merubah Indonesia (To change Indonesia). At page 53, he told the readers that he has a dream on Christian President of the Republic of Indonesia. He also said that the Imams are deceiving people with the Coran. It is Part al-Ma’idah (Food Serving) verse 51 told us that Muslims cannot vote for a non-Muslim leader in political and governmental service. Ahok said that the verse is about chose the protector or somebody to trust in the situation of conflict or war. It is not about governance in today’s situation.

Religions are protected in Indonesian regimes year by year since the independence. The post-reform regime of Indonesia as a most liberal government in Indonesian history also protects the minor religions like Baha’i, Sikh and Taoism. Even Chinese New Year is a holiday in the Indonesian calendar. Ahok is not the first and only Christian head of region (province governor/regent/mayor) in a Muslim region. There are Teras Narang in Central Borneo and Cornelis in West Borneo. There was P.R. Telaumbanua, a Niasese Christian Mayor of Medan and then Governor of North Sumatra.

The heads of regions which came from minority groups in their regions, are never wound the majority groups at the place. But Ahok said that the Imams are lying for political reason. The Imams hate Ahok and the Coran is not about faith. It is political. That’s all about Ahok in the public spaces in Jakarta. Beside of that, Ahok has evicted some of Jakarta’s citizens. Eviction is the only choice he has to develop the Capital Territory. Of course it was a bad choice after Jokowi administration in Jakarta.

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor islam in indonesia

Minority Agenda in the Name of Pluralism
Indonesia is the largest Muslim Country in the World, so blasphemy against Islam is never acceptable, also non-Muslim domination in this country. Unfortunately the Chinese non-Muslims which came from non-native ethnics in Indonesia, are more popular in their wealth than the Muslim people. So it is a big deal here for the economic empowerment of the native people.

As we know, the colonial legacy in Indonesia has never really gone completely. Some of the Dutch colonial laws, cultures and traditions are still applied in the Indonesian governance and civil societies. But of course it is not all of the colonial laws and traditions. Some of the colonial laws are like civil law, crime and land’s law. Some of the traditions are like race segregation in neighborhoods, markets and employments. It is a colonial tradition to build some elite neighborhoods in the large and mega cities for a few of ethnic groups. It is colonial tradition when the Chinese always being a boss and the native always being labours. It is unfair for the people of Indonesia right now.

So what is the big deal? There is a non-native and non-Muslim domination in Indonesian economy right now, so political domination of the non-native will be not accepted forever. But the native Indonesians are never rejecting non-native minority as well as Muslim majority never rejecting non-Muslim minority. The post-reform regime of Indonesia accepts all of minor religions in Indonesia legally and formally. I do not know if there are some discriminated policies in the sub-regional level.

Long time ago, before the western countries talk about pluralism, multiculturalism and interculturalism, Indonesia has made a national tagline for the plural and intercultural society. Bhineka Tunggal Ika or unity in diversity, is legally and formally applied in Indonesia since it independence. It was in 1945, a couple years before multicultural Europe existed. Indonesian unity is the best in the World when the World assumed that Indonesia will be collapsed and divided after 1998 crisis (Habibie, 2006). But of course the Habibie administration has proved that the international experts’ assumptions on the end of Indonesia are incorrect. Indonesia still exists until today.

The concepts of pluralism, multiculturalism and interculturalism are equal to the concept of Indonesian unity in diversity. Religious toleration in Indonesia developed by the civil society a couple hundred years before Dutch colonialism in this country. The Kingdom of Majapahit and the Kingdom of Srivijaya are two pluralistic and multicultural kingdoms which were existed in Indonesian history. The Sultanate of Samudra Pasai and the Sultanate of Demak are also multicultural and defending minority groups in the kingdoms. So Indonesia has older concept on toleration and social inclusion than Europe.

The concepts of toleration and social inclusion in Indonesia, as well as pluralism and multiculturalism, came to the country in the era of the dawn of Islam in the Middle East. So, Indonesian concept on unity in diversity is the second oldest after Islamic concepts on religious toleration and multiculturalism.  Indonesia is not learning toleration from Europe but Europe learns toleration from the Eastern countries.

But the independent Indonesia has many problems on religious diversity. Mujiburrahman (2006), named the phenomena as feeling threatened. The Muslim’s community feels threatened by the Christian community after 1965 conflict between Indonesian Communist Party and the religious communities. In the Soeharto era, the growth of Christian community is growing up. The Christian community can build many churches and chapels based on their denomination. But the Muslim’s community faced the issues of apostasy in this largest Muslim community.

Actually the growth of Muslim population is not reduced as well as Christian population. The religions are growing up and becoming dominate Indonesia. So the clash of missions between two religions is cannot be avoided. As examples, in the 1990’s there were conflicts between Muslims and Christians in the matter of church constructions in some cities. The Indonesian Muslims are fighting against church constructing in Indonesian cities where Islam is a dominant religion there.

It is natural in politics when some people feel threatened by growing minority groups. But Indonesians confirmed act on religious freedom and anti-blasphemy law. The acts regulate that a non-Muslim cannot asked a Muslim to leave his/her religion and vice versa. It is illegal for a Muslim to ask a non-Muslim to accept Islam. There is no forcing in religion (The Coran, Part al-Baqarah (Cow): 256). It concept is applied in the Indonesian religious law. But in history, the Christian leaders are not accepting the law.

The liberal Indonesians try to repeal the law on the name of pluralism and toleration. But is the fight against the law accepted by the majority? We have to prove that the majority of Indonesians can accept the concept of liberal pluralism which is promoted by the liberal groups in this country. The liberal concepts on religious freedom recognize the religious asking by a Muslim to make a non-Muslim, leave his/her religion and vice versa.

In Indonesia, we cannot ask our friends and families to leave their religions. But it is okay, legal and acceptable in the European community. In Ahok’s case, Ahok force Jakarta’s citizens to accept his own interpretation of the Holy Coran. Actually he asked his friends and some of Islamic scholars in the matter of verse 51 of al-Maidah. But he is a Christian and the interpretation of the Coran is private in Indonesia. There is no forcing in the matter of the Coran’s interpretation. Asking a man to believe our interpretation is a crime in Indonesia. Of course the Ahok’s case made us angry and cannot understand him.

Beside of the interpretation forcing, Ahok makes a controversial (or racist) statement in his book Merubah Indonesia (Purnama, 2008: 53), that he wants to be a Christian President of Indonesia. He also proves his ambition in the case of Christian president by making Christianization okay in Jakarta Capital Territory. Christianization and Islamization (by enforcement in religions) are not okay and unacceptable in the Indonesian law. Public do not want religious enforcement by use Christmas attribute in Christmas month, also hijab in Ramadan. But some of corporations and governmental institutions violate the law in many times. Of course the enforcement is a big problem after.

Gerelateerde afbeelding

The 212 Great Friday and the Confusion of Jakarta
The 212 (2 December) Great Friday, is the greatest Friday worship ever in history. But the worship describe the confusion of Jakarta today. Jakarta looks confused after Ahok’s statement on the Coran’s interpretation. If he makes a blasphemy statement in his speech in Thousand Islands Regency, in Jakarta on September, he still cannot be jailed. By the law, the general elections (nationally or locally) are sacred in Indonesia. So Ahok cannot be jailed or punished in this case. But if Ahok cannot be jailed, in the name of election law, people with blasphemy records like Arswendo Atmowiloto and Permadi, do not agree with the decision. They are on the side of the Muslim community to protest Ahok.

The issues of Christianization legalized by Ahok, and the issues of blasphemy and racism done by Ahok are hot issues today. They are make Jakarta confused between the religious blasphemy and the local election. Which one is the urgent thing and which one is not urgent? If Ahok freed the supremacy of law in Indonesia is on danger. The people will ask the government about the supremacy of law. And the crimes will be “legalized” in the name of equality. But if Ahok be jailed, the sacredness of general elections will be questioned. How can a candidate be jailed, if the elections are sacred?

But now we can see that Ahok is on trial. He is go to the North Jakarta City Court to attends the trial on his case. But unfortunately, Ahok is not in jail right now. He is still free and can attend his rallies on the election. So the sacredness of the elections is still okay, when the supremacy of the anti-blasphemy law is not questioned. We can see that Ahok is cooperative in this case and I think he can be not guilty.

The Indonesian law agrees with the not guilty prejudice in every criminal case. So Ahok cannot be treated like an enemy of the people. The police cannot abuse Ahok’s rights in the matter of his case. Also the Commission for Corruption Eradication of the Republic of Indonesia cannot violate the value of not guilty prejudice.

So is Ahok guilty in the case of religious blasphemy? I cannot say yes or no, but I think we can see the sacredness of the elections in Indonesia. We know that elections are sacred in every democratic nation in the World. Even in the United States the candidates cannot be on trial at the time of their rallies and at the election days. It is about how urgent the elections are. The candidates can be on trial after their inauguration as official, or after the announcements of the election results.

Great Friday and the Issue of Rebellion
At least ten public leaders arrested in Jakarta at December 2. Police officials state that they are arrested in the case of coup against the constitution. Greg Fealy in his article said that there is agenda on Islamization of the constitution in the 212 rally. Professor Yusril Ihza Mahendra, a political leader and expert in constitutional law said that the arrested activists want Indonesia back to the 1945 Constitution and withdraw the amendments of the 1945 Constitution. Ideas on withdrawal the amendments are not new in the post-reform history of Indonesia. Former Vice President Try Sutrisno has talked about that a couple years ago. So it is legal and it is not about the coup.

We know that Islamic Defender Front and Hizb ul-Tahrir are the Islamist-Conservative movements which are fighting for Shariatization of Indonesia. But the people at the rally are plural and cannot be generalized. The common interpretation on Sharia in Indonesia is based on the fatwas of Indonesian Ulamas Council, and it came from the oldest and largest Islamic organizations such as Muhammadiyah, Nahdhatul Ulama (NU) and Islamic Union (Persis). Hizb ul-Tahrir has no history in Indonesia. The ideas of Caliphate Restoration and Sharia Laws are not common for now.

We cannot judge the rally as a rebellion as the Indonesian Police General Tito Karnavian told us before it. Karnavian has records and investigated by the National Committee for Human Rights. So it is not really serious to make a public opinion on coup against the Constitution. Even Indonesia could not withdraw the amendments of the 1945 Constitution. Professor Mahendra still defends the suspects and will be an advocate for them.

Karnavian’s allegation on the issue of coup is a serious allegation. So he has to prove his theory as soon as possible. We in Indonesia have memory of criminalization of social and political activists in the New Order era. Soeharto’s regime and Soekarno’s regime are the most tyrannical regimes in the Indonesian history. So Karnavian’s theory on the 212 coup d’état is a big problem for Indonesian democracy.

We have to admit that President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is developing Indonesia better than Yudhoyono administration. Papua is growing better and becoming a developed region. Also Moluccas and Sulawesi, are developed better than the latest President of Indonesia. The Trans-Sumatra Toll Road (TSTR) has constructed in Jokowi era. It was nothing in Yudhoyono era. So we have to admit all of them.

But in the matter of freedom, Jokowi and Yudhoyono have the same problems. The issues of religious freedom and freedom of speech and expressions are very urgent in democracy. So democracy was threatened when the religious conflicts still exist in Indonesia. The existence of Hizb ul Tahrir and Islamic Defender Front harm Pancasila and Indonesian democracy. Also the freedom of speech and expression is in danger when the criticisms are banned in Indonesian media and in the public space.

The 212 rally is just a rally for religious freedom and humanity. Ahok’s statement at the Thousand Islands is not a good comment on other religion than Christianity. It will be a clash between Islam and Christianity when the religious leaders use the holy verses to attack each other. So we have to learn from the verse al-Ma’idah: 51, when it told us about leadership of non-Muslim in the Muslim community. It is right that the verse is not about administration, but it is incorrect if the other interpretations banned by a governor who is non-Muslim. Indonesia has no official or state interpretation of the Coran, as same as the Bible. We cannot force religious people to belief in our own interpretation.

Israeli Soldiers Open Fire At Homes, Farmlands, In Khan Younis

10 DEC
6:22 PM

Israeli soldiers opened fire, on Saturday morning, at several homes, and into farmlands, east of Khan Younis, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip.

Eyewitnesses said the soldiers, stationed on military towers across the border fence, fired dozens of live rounds at homes, and lands, in Khuza’a neighborhood, east of Khan Younis.

They added that the attack caused property damage, but did not lead to casualties.

The attack is part of daily Israeli violations against the Palestinians, their homes and lands, in different parts of the besieged Gaza Strip, especially in areas close to the border fence, in addition to frequent attacks targeting fishermen and their boats, in Palestinian waters.

(Source / 10.12.2016)

Iran’s Cabinet votes to change national currency

A money changer holds Iranian rial banknotes as he waits for customers in the business district of Tehran, Iran, Jan. 7, 2012

President Hassan Rouhani’s Cabinet voted on Dec. 7 to approve a bill that proposes to change Iran’s currency from the rial to the toman, and to remove one zero, the official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported. The measure was proposed by the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) and needs parliament and Guardian Council approval to take effect.

The move came less than a month after Abolfazl Akrami, director general for economic affairs at the CBI, told the semi-official Iranian Student News Agency that the CBI had no plans to slash zeros from Iran’s national currency. On Nov. 14, he stressed, “If inflation rate remains below 10%, if we manage to unify multi-tier exchange rate and if economic growth remains stable, then we can remove [a] zero from the national currency.” Iran currently has two exchange rates; the CBI fixes the official one, and the other is the informal open market rate.

Meanwhile, the deputy governor of the CBI, Akbar Komijani, on Dec. 8 told the IRNA that the move should not be considered as the implementation of “monetary correction” in the country, but to “respect the public and accept the currency that they use on a daily basis.”

The rial has been Iran’s official currency since March 23, 1932. Nevertheless, apart from officials and due to the sharp fall of the rial’s value in recent years, Iranians in their daily lives use the toman, which is equal to 10 rial. Neither “rial” nor “toman” are Persian words, but have Turko-Mongol and Spanish-Portuguese origins, respectively, with “rial” deriving from “real” (royal).

It is not the first time Iranian authorities proposed a program to eliminate zeros from the national currency. In 1993, the CBI worked on a plan to remove three zeros from Iran’s currency, but officials never reached an agreement on the proposal. Then on Jan. 20, 2010, the proposal was in the spotlight again when former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that his administration would remove three zeros from the national currency — that plan was never implemented either.

Analysts believe that the unknown outcomes of such plans are the main reasons administrations avoid removing several zeros from Iran’s currency. The Reformist Shahrvand newspaper in a Dec. 8 article published the viewpoints of various economists on the recent decision to change the official currency.

The daily quoted Hadi Hagh-Shenas, an economist and former member of parliament, as saying that “nothing will change” in Iran’s economy by slashing one zero from the national currency. “It has been a long time since the public used the toman to trade. The official market has also been working with the toman. Today, the rial has no meaning in our country.”

The daily Etemad also said that removing one zero from the currency will not resolve Iran’s economic issues. “Facilitating daily trade, simplifying accounting operations, and reducing the expenses of issuing banknotes were the main reasons to remove zeros from the currencies in other countries,” wrote the daily. “If we remove only one zero from our currency, none of those goals can be met.”

Meanwhile, the government-run newspaper Iran warmly endorsed the move and led its coverage of the bill with “Toman: The New Currency of Iran.” The daily quoted Mohsen Bahrami Arze Aghdas, a member of the Tehran Chamber of Commerce, as saying, “This will be a good move in favor of our national economy.”

(Source / 10.12.2016)

Donald Trump and the Palestinian State

US President elect Donald Trump

US President elect Donald Trump

Donald Trump’s election victory was a real shock, not only for decision-makers in every single capital in the world, but also for experts and observers who saw nothing but a win for the Democrats and Hillary Clinton. Shortly after his victory, Trump announced his readiness to meet with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Many Israeli officials weren’t shy about saying that the Trump White House will signal a golden age for Israel-US relations, and that the chances of establishing a Palestinian state had now all but disappeared.

In Israel, many politicians said that they expect Trump to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Education Minister Naftali Bennett believes that there is a chance for Israel to “retract the notion of a Palestinian state.” In fact, with Trump’s victory, the negative repercussions of the so-called Arab Spring and the ongoing chaos in the Middle East combined to increase the doubt hanging over Palestine, leading many Palestinian observers to bleak conclusions about the prospects for the peace process and their cause in general.

They had good reason to be pessimistic. During the election campaign, Trump not only committed to moving the US embassy, but also praised the Republican platform that forgets past support for a two-state solution and calls the Holy City Israel’s “undivided” capital. Trump and his aides added that Israel’s illegal settlements are not an obstacle to peace.

The main characters of the president-elect’s campaign team were staunch advocates and flagrant supporters of Israel and its prime minister’s policies; people such as John Bolton and Rudy Giuliani, candidates for state department roles, not to mention Newt Gingrich and Michael Pence. Needless to say, Trump has been elected as a representative of a party that enjoys a majority in Congress; his administration’s policies will receive support from both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Despite this, I think it is too early to judge what the Trump presidency will look like, and whether his election will be a disaster for the Palestinian cause.

For a start, Israel’s official statements tend to exaggerate, especially regarding the possibility of establishing a Palestinian state. Such statements are part of the mind games intended to put pressure on Trump to fulfil his campaign promises. They are also aimed at the Palestinian president in order to weaken his moderate stance, which has embarrassed Israel internationally. That being said, I would not have expected vastly different Israeli statements if Clinton had been elected.

Furthermore, the establishment of a Palestinian state does not depend solely and exclusively on the name of the US president; there are other factors, such as the Palestinian dimension itself. Internal conditions such as unity and steadfastness in the face of Israel’s systematic efforts to end the Palestinian presence on their own land altogether are also factors. And it depends on the Palestinians’ resilience and ability to cope with the international U-turns and regional polarisation. It likewise hinges on the international will and desire to end this conflict, and I don’t see that this moment has come yet. Israel’s readiness to compromise and exchange peace now with unforeseen future threats in such a turbulent region also has to be taken into account.

It is true that the United States has the most influential role in the peace process, yet old habits die hard. In effect, US foreign policy neither counts on the name of the president nor is subject to drastic changes. US presidents usually have but a small margin for manoeuvre which might allow them to shift from the well-known foreign policy lines that are well entrenched. How much will differ slightly depending on whether the president is a Republican or a Democrat.

Although Trump will enjoy a Republican majority in Congress, he has neither been within the party elite nor its political structure. Until recently, his statements prompted dissatisfaction and dismay amongst many traditional party activists. Moreover, the role of the deep-state which establishes the aforementioned policy lines cannot be ignored. His most critical challenge – should he decide to take a different route – will be to distance himself from his predecessors’ support for America’s long-time allies, especially in the Middle East, not least Israel. If he succeeds in doing so, it would be unprecedented.

Any change in America’s “traditional” foreign policy will be evident not only in Palestine-Israel but also across the whole region. If this happens, it will usher in a period of uncertainty in international affairs, with knock-on effects around the world and an impact on all US relations with foreign states; we may be about to witness a revolution in international relations.

Can Trump match his campaign rhetoric with deeds? Many US presidents have said during their election campaigns that they would, for example, move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, but when they take office they understand that such a move crosses those broad foreign policy lines. If Trump breaks the mould, this would prove to be a significant turning point and an unprecedented deviation from traditional US policy.

The early signs are that realpolitik will dictate what happens, and Trump will not stray far from the path. His recent statement that he will work to reach a peace agreement between the Palestinians and the Israelis confirms that he has already started to read the White House manual for new presidents.

In short, pragmatism asserts its rights. While it may be too early to make proper judgments, it is crucial to accept that a Palestinian state is part and parcel of the internationally-recognised two-state solution: the state of Israel existing alongside the state of Palestine. Any US president who is eager to see a more stable Middle East must work on making this solution a reality. Disregarding the realistic demands of either party, though, would lead to this being degraded even more; eventually, it would drive the final nail in the coffin of the already-waning Middle East peace process.

(Source / 10.12.2016)

Israel is keen to evict Palestinians of Acre

Palestinian residents of the old city of Acre are fighting to keep their identity and property in spite of rapid gentrification

Palestinians of the Old City of Acre in northern Israel face continuous, intensifying struggle against Israeli displacement plans.

“I believe the future of Acre will look like the future of Jaffa,” says Abu-Raya. “This means most of the Arab population will be displaced”

Palestinians of the Old City of Acre in northern Israel face continuous, intensifying struggle against Israeli displacement plans.

As the Palestinian identity and heritage of the Old City are gradually obscured, local residents are forced to leave in order to make way for wealthy investors and tourism projects.

Located on the Mediterranean coast in northern Israel, the port city of Acre is one of the oldest in the region, with evidence of continuous settlement dating back as far as 4,000 years.

Due to its rich history, combining Arab, Crusader and Ottoman heritage, it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2001.

During the Israeli invasion of Acre in 1948, around three-quarters of the majority Palestinian population in the city were displaced.

Today, most of the residents inside the historic walls of the old city are so-called “internally displaced” Palestinians. Forced to leave their towns and villages in 1948, they nevertheless remained within the borders of Israel and now form part of the 1.5 million Palestinian population that hold Israeli citizenship.

Forced displacement

As the population fled, the majority of homes in the Old City of Acre were confiscated by Israel in 1948 and placed under the control of Amidar National Housing Company.

Until today, most of these buildings are administered by Amidar, which rents them to local residents. “Amidar plays a major role when it comes to displacing the Palestinian population from the old city,” says lawyer Jihad abu-Raya.

For instance, Amidar often refuses to issue permits for residents to make renovations or fix safety hazards. And when they do issue renovation permits, these are conditioned on residents contracting specific companies that charge extortionate prices.

Eventually the homes are declared “unsafe” to live in and residents are evicted. The buildings are later put on the private market at prices the local population can only dream of affording, he explains.

Amidar has also been known to fail in collecting rent from its tenants for several years, accumulating large debts that the impoverished residents are unable to pay.

Although exact numbers are not available, Abu-Raya estimates that the total population in the old city has already decreased from 8,000 to around 3,000 in the last 20 years, and there are currently more than 200 eviction orders on homes in the area.

Even those who own their properties face strong pressure to sell and move out. While the wave of gentrification sweeping over the Old City has seen housing prices skyrocket, the local population also struggles with socio-economic difficulties and substandard services.

Many are therefore tempted to sell their properties. “People are made to feel this place is not worth much, and they do not see that they are selling a real treasure,” says Hazar Hijazi who grew up in the old city.

Jordan conceded to Israel

The Old City of Acre also holds a number of important historic and religious sites, which were placed under the protection of the Islamic Waqf in 1948.

However, the Waqf subsequently handed over control of a large part of these sites to the Acre Development Company, which operates under the authority of the Israeli Ministry of Tourism and drives a strong agenda for setting the Old City of Acre up as an exclusive tourist destination.

Plans include developing high-end shops and restaurants, and turning historic sites such as the Khan al-Umdan into large luxury hotels.

The World Heritage Site status granted by UNESCO also furthers these plans as it brings funds and investment for large-scale development projects, mostly carried out by Israeli or international companies.

Although the stated objectives of the Acre Development Company includes “[enabling] high quality residential and living conditions for the population of Old Acre,” the reality on the ground looks different.

The Palestinian residents rarely feel the benefits of the development projects carried out in the city. Instead, they find their heritage and way of life purposely obscured by an Israeli-controlled tourism industry, and their businesses are starved of customers as they struggle to compete with those targeting wealthy tourists.

“Israeli tour guides make deals with restaurant owners who are willing to pay them to bring in groups of tourists for a meal,” one local owner of a small restaurant laments. “So the guides eat a free meal and make money all at once, while we lose our business.”

As Palestinians continue to hold on to their culture and what they have left, the Old City of Acre is changing rapidly. “I believe the future of Acre will look like the future of Jaffa,” says Abu-Raya. “This means most of the Arab population will be displaced.”

(Source / 10.12.2016)