Israel moves to shut down E1 protest, activists vow to remain

A flag hangs on a newly-erected tent as a Palestinian activist secures a rope, in an area known as E1, near Jerusalem January 11, 2013.

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israeli forces moved to shut down protest tents in the E1 area of East Jerusalem on Saturday as Palestinian activists vowed to remain on the land.

Israel’s military handed evacuation orders to activists in the Bab al-Shams, or ‘Gate of the Sun’, protest village on Saturday, stating that the military intends to move protestors by force, local activist Abdullah Abu Rahma said.

Israel’s military has also prevented activists from neighboring areas access to the protest village since Friday.

“We only have our determination, and it will not be easy to expel us from our homes. We will use our experience and skills to remain on the land,” Abu Rahma said.

Palestinian activists erected over 25 tents and a medical center in the E1 area of East Jerusalem on Friday to protest Israeli settlement plans and protect Palestinian land from annexation.

Senior Fatah official Saeb Erekat said during a meeting Saturday that the Bab al-Shams protest movement is attempting to save the two-state solution at a time when Israel is determined to build settlements and undermine the very principles of two states.

PLO leader Hanan Ashrawi also praised the activists for their “highly creative and legitimate non-violent tool” to protect Palestinian land, saying she fully supported and encouraged non-violent popular resistance against Israeli occupation.

“What is happening at Bab al-Shams is a reminder of the apartheid regime that Israel has imposed for the exclusive use of land for Jewish Israeli settlers all over Palestine,” Ashrawi added.

Abu Rahma told Ma’an on Saturday that it would take at least 800 Israeli soldiers to remove the 200 or so activists from the site, adding that activists would try to remain steadfast.

Fatah Central Committee member Mahmoud al-Aloul told Ma’an that the Bab al-Shams protest village was a “bold move” by activists, adding that the popular resistance seeks to install a permanent village on the land, which is part of the Palestinian state.

Leading activist Salah al-Khawaja said that the group is determined to stay on the land. “This is Palestinian land, it is our right to build our villages on our land whenever we like. We will not accept displacement and we will stay,” he said.

In December, Israel announced plans to build some 3,000 settler homes in the E1 corridor near Jerusalem, drawing widespread international condemnation.

Britain, France and several other European countries summoned Israeli envoys to protest the plan, while President Mahmoud Abbas called the E1 area “a red line that cannot be crossed.”

Construction in E1 would divide the West Bank and make the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state – as envisaged by the internationally backed two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict – almost impossible.

(www.maannews.net / 12.01.2013)

Shia-Sunni conflicts plotted by Islam enemies: Iran FM

Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi (R) and the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar Ahmed Al-Tayeb meet in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, on January 10, 2013.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi (R) and the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar Ahmed Al-Tayeb meet in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, on January 10, 2013.
“Enemies have made great efforts during recent years to cause a rift among Muslims and also to intensify it.”

Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi” 

Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi says the so-called issue of divide between Shia and Sunni Muslims is a plot hatched by the enemies of Islam.

In a meeting with the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar Ahmed Al-Tayeb in Cairo on Thursday, Salehi also called on Muslims to avoid conflicts and rely on commonalties instead.

“Enemies have made great efforts during recent years to cause a rift among Muslims and also to intensify it,” he added.

Salehi invited the Sheikh of Al-Azhar to visit Iran to hold talks with Iranian clerics and observe the peaceful coexistence of Shia and Sunni Muslims in the Islamic Republic.

Al-Tayeb, for his part, urged Muslims to foster unity and said enemies should not be allowed to achieve their objectives to create conflicts in the Muslim world.

Meanwhile, in a meeting with Patriarch of Egypt’s Coptic Christians Pope Tawadros II, the Iranian minister highlighted the significance of peaceful coexistence of Muslims and Christians.

Pope Tawadros, for his part, said Iran has a historical civilization and followers of different religions, including Zoroastrians, Jews, Christians and Muslims, have had a brotherly coexistence in the country.

Salehi wrapped up his day-long visit to Egypt and arrived in Tehran early on Friday.

During his Cairo trip, the Iranian minister held talks with senior Egyptian officials, including President Mohamed Morsi and Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr on Thursday.

Salehi also exchanged views with UN-Arab League special envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi and Arab League Secretary-General Nabil al-Arabi on the latest developments in the region and the Syrian unrest in particular.

The Iranian minister began his tour of African countries on Saturday and visited Benin, Ghana and Burkina Faso.

(www.presstv.ir / 12.01.2013)

Experts: Syria May Have Unenriched Uranium

Western and Israeli security experts suspect Syria may have tons of unenriched uranium in storage which could be transferred to Iran.
Bashar Al-Assad

Bashar Al-Assad

Western and Israeli security experts suspect Syria may have tons of unenriched uranium in storage and that any such stockpile could potentially be of interest to its ally Iran for use in Tehran’s nuclear program.

The experts told the Reuters news agency on Friday that natural uranium could have been acquired by Syria years ago to fuel a suspected nuclear reactor under construction that was allegedly bombed by Israel in 2007.

“Someplace there has got to be an inventory of fuel for the reactor. It doesn’t make sense to have a nuclear installation, a nuclear reactor, without any fuel,” proliferation expert Mark Hibbs of the Carnegie Endowment think tank told Reuters.

But, he added, “to my knowledge there hasn’t been any substantiated accounts identifying where that material may be located.”

Even if Syria did have such a stockpile, it would not be usable for nuclear weapons in its present form, he said.

The Financial Times newspaper reported this week that Syria may hold up to 50 metric tons of unenriched, or natural, uranium – material which can fuel atomic power plants and also provide the explosive core of nuclear bombs, but only if refined to a high degree.

A recently retired Israeli security official told Reuters he believed Syria was keeping uranium at a site near Damascus, one of the places the UN’s atomic watchdog wants to inspect, but he did not say what he based this on.

The former Israeli official said rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may get hold of the stockpile and make its existence public.

“Then it would put pay to the Syrians’ claims that they never had a reactor in the first place,” he said.

Another possibility was that Syria, “knowing the material is no longer secured, could ship it out to Iran, which is certainly in need of more uranium for its own nuclear plans,” the former Israeli official, who declined to be named, added.

A Western diplomat told the news agency there had been speculation about possible uranium – perhaps in the form of natural uranium metal to fuel a reactor – in Syria because of the destroyed Deir al-Zor site but that he knew of no specific details.

“It is plausible. But as far as I know no one has ever had any idea where the material is,” he said, adding it would not be easy to ship large quantities to Iran without detection.

Of greater concern to the West is Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons, which dates back to the 1970s and is the biggest in the Middle East.

While it is well-known that Syria has chemical weapons, the precise scope of its stockpile.

The country has hundreds of tons of various chemical agents, including sarin and VX nerve agents, as well as older blistering agents such as mustard gas, dispersed in dozens of manufacturing and storage sites, experts say.

U.S. officials recently said there was evidence that Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s troops had not only moved deadly sarin gas that might be used against rebels, but also that its binary components, usually stored separately, had been combined and placed into bombs for use.

Doctors have said that Assad’s forces are probably also using “Agent 15,” which causes paralysis.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Thursday that his country is increasingly focused on how to secure Syria’s chemical weapons if Assad falls from power.

President Barack Obama has issued stern warnings to Damascus against resorting to chemical weaponry in its war with rebel forces.

The United States and its allies, including Israel, have repeatedly expressed concernthat Syria’s stockpile, believed to be one of the biggest in the world, could be stolen and fall into extremist hands or be transferred to the Hizbullah terror group by a crumbling Syrian regime.

(www.israelnationalnews.com / 12.01.2013)

Parable of the Pro-Palestinian

In the slow accessibility,

Of masked reality.

In the consequential eye opening,

Of major events unfolding.

In the face of disdain and social sighs,

Of their hard, rash and insecure eyes.

Naïve and transparent,

Chants vocalized and apparent,

“Free Free Palestine.

Free Free Palestine.”

…..

And so we marched on.

 

And in the conclusive searching,

Of nation and culture continually amputating.

In judicious feelings arising and scattering,

Of lives and bodies bombed and shattering.

In the horrified collective acknowledgement,

All aligned in directional advancement.

Mature and cultivated,

They loudly lamented,

“Gaza Gaza don’t you cry,

We will never let you die.”

…..

And so we marched on.

 

And in the organic mobilizing,

Of masses of humanity,  beaming.

In the derive lessons of dignity and unity,

Of Palestinians striving an resisting.

In the continuous advocacy,

Of their oppressive and shocking stories.

Rising with a bolstering number

Lions awoken from their slumber,

We shout

“In our thousands, in our millions,

We are all Palestinians!”

And so we marched on

 

And in the conceptual maiming,

Of the enemies’ semantics and meanings.

In the convicting slow collapsing,

Of their abilities and dealings.

In our creativity and fluidity,

Of our coherent, merciless and strategic activity.

Complex and able,

Powerfully we dictate our parable.

“From the river to sea,

Palestine will be free.”

….

And so we march on… ….

(khayalnur.wordpress.com / 11.01.2013)

MEDIA RELEASE: Veolia Withdraws from California Water Contract Bidding

Veolia Withdraws from California Water Contract Bidding Following Outcry Against its Abuses of Palestinian Rights

Davis, California – The Davis Committee of Palestinian Rights (DCPR) is happy to report that Veolia Water North America has withdrawn as a prospective bidder on a $325 million dollar project that would provide treated water from the Sacramento River to residents of Woodland and Davis in Yolo County, California.  The announcement came at the December 20, 2012 meeting of the Woodland-Davis Clean Water Agency (Water Agency), a joint powers authority between the University of California – Davis and the cities of Woodland and Davis. Veolia’s withdrawal followed efforts by citizens of Yolo County to prevent Veolia’s bidding due to the company’s involvement in the violation of Palestinian human rights.

Members of DCPR first contested the participation of Veolia Water as a prospective bidder in June 2011.  Appearing before meetings of the Water Agency Board of Directors, DCPR provided substantial documentation of Veolia’s history of profiting from Israel’s illegal occupation and apartheid policies in Palestine, as well as the dissatisfaction of public agencies throughout the U.S. for Veolia’s mismanaged operations and poor performance, environmental permit violations and fines, and failure to make good on promised improvements.

On April 19th, 2012, DCPR testified before the Board charging that Veolia did not meet the Water Agency’s ethical criteria. Veolia’s involvement in the Jerusalem Light Rail Transit system, its operation of settler-only buses on segregated roads in the occupied West Bank for inhabitants of illegal Israeli settlements, and its operation of a landfill on land confiscated from Palestinians have been contested by Palestinians and international human rights activists throughout the last decade. Veolia has suffered the loss of more than $20 billion in contracts to date following this global outcry.

Within the U.S., the Friends Fiduciary Corporation, which handles investments for hundreds of U.S. Quaker institutions, recently divested from Veolia following requests by Quakers concerned about the violation of Palestinian rights.  In December 2012 the City of St. Louis voted to suspend approval of a contract with Veolia Water until it completed an investigation of Veolia’s controversial labor, environmental, and human rights practices.  There are ongoing campaigns protesting Veolia Transportation public contracts in Sonoma County and Los Angeles, CA; Baltimore, MD; Boston, MA; and beyond.  The state-wide California Israel Divestment Campaign calls on CalPERS public pension system to divest from Veolia Environnement, Caterpillar and Elbit Systems.

Bids were initially due in December 2012, but following outcry from citizenry regarding the large impact of the project’s capital cost upon resident’s water bills, the City Council decided to postpone the due date and appoint a citizens’ advisory committee to investigate rate alternatives, revisit the water supply need-assessment, and consider other water procurement options.  Veolia was the only company to withdraw from bidding.

(www.endtheoccupation.org / 11.01.2013)

Apartheid college inspires EU “terrorism” project

Cecilia Malmstrӧm, the EU’s home affairs commissioner, is trying to distance herself from the Clean IT project.

Haifa University underscored its support for Israeli apartheid during the eight-day offensive against Gaza in November. While Palestinians at the college were banned from expressing solidarity with those under attack, the academic authorities seemed to have no difficulty with Jewish Israeli students chanting “Death to the Arabs.”

So why is this racist institution considered a good source on “terrorism” by a European Union-financed project on Internet surveillance?

For the past few years, the Clean IT (information technology) forum has been organizing discussions between private companies and public bodies about how websites and chat rooms are allegedly used to recruit young people to “terrorist” groups. The project is coordinated by the Dutch ministry for justice and security and has received a grant of more than €300,000 ($400,000) from the EU.

To guide its work, the initiative has collected a number of studies. One of the latest additions — Al-Qaeda has sent you a friend request — was written by Gabriel Weimann, a professor of communications at Haifa. It kicks off with an anecdote about Hamas giving lessons in bomb-making techniques online before recycling reports that Palestinian resistance fighters have set up video-sharing sites modelled on YouTube. (Needless to say, Weimann doesn’t use the word “resistance.”)

Affront to civil liberties

Weimann’s analysis is, to be charitable, not exactly incisive. But what’s significant is that it is being taken seriously by a forum that is studying proposals which represent an affront to civil liberties. A leaked paper drawn up by the Clean IT project last year recommended that “knowingly providing hyperlinks on websites to terrorist content must be defined by law as illegal.”

I asked But Klassen, chief administrator with the project, why documents posted on the Clean IT website depicted Hamas as a “terrorist” organization, when there is ample evidence that it has perpetrated far less violence than the State of Israel. He replied that the documents (including the Haifa study) had been posted “because we received questions about terrorism, what it is and if it really exists.”

He added: “As these are documents from others, the Clean IT project does not have a responsibility for the content of these documents. We realize this might be confusing, so we will clarify this on our website.”

Klassen also said that his project “does not have a policy with regard to any (possible) terrorist organization.” Yet that assertion is somewhat misleading. As a Dutch civil servant, Klassen is bound by the policy of his government, which — like all EU countries — has blacklisted Hamas as “terrorist.” Moreover, the project has reported that there is “consensus” among its participants about accepting the EU’s definition of “terrorism,” which contains the caveat that the “t” word can never be applied to any act committed by a state. According to the Union, then, people who fight oppression by Israel can be labelled “terrorists” but the oppressor cannot be.

Clean IT should be viewed in the broader context of attempts by the EU to nurture the development of a “homeland security” industry. The European Commission has advocated that €3.8 billion from is science programme be spent on subsidizing “security research” between 2014 and 2020.

Racial profiling

Some of the companies taking part in Clean IT seem to be hoping that their innovations will foment xenophobia.

Euvison Technologies, one such firm, says it has the “exclusive right” to sublicense Impala, a video search engine pioneered by researchers in the Netherlands. The firm’s websitegives an “impressive list” of “concepts” that Impact can “detect” in digital media.

When I clicked on the section “faces,” I learned that the technology can distinguish people based on their skin pigmentation. Showing various photos and screen grabs, the section told me that Impala can be used for “ranking Caucasians.” The underlying message was unmistakable: Arabs and Africans could just as readily be “detected” or “ranked.”

A similarly implicit message was delivered by the section titled “people with beards.” Several brown-hued men, one clearly a Muslim, featured in the head-shots on display.

This means that a firm marketing “racial profiling” software is trying to benefit from an EU-supported scheme.

Distance

After I and a few other journalists wrote articles critical of Clean IT during the autumn, the European Commission sought to distance itself from the project. Responding to a number of queries, Cecilia Malmstrӧm, the EU’s internal affairs commissioner, said that the “conclusions of the project will only reflect the opinions of the authors and will not represent the views of the European Commission.”

The Commission is not as aloof from the project as she wants us to think. Clean IT reflects the mania for “public-private partnerships” in Brussels and throughout the EU. Under this rubric, services that ought to be under democratic control are handed over to corporations with just one aim: making profits by any means necessary.

(David Cronin / electronicintifada.net / 11.01.2013)

BBC’s cruel excuses for ignoring Palestinian hunger strikes

The BBC didn’t find newsworthy the mass protests in solidarity with hunger striking Palestinian prisoners.

For almost 170 days, Samer Issawi, held without trial, has been refusing food in an Israeli jail. Aged just 33, he is now skeletal and his family says his life is on the line.

His fellow prisoner, Ayman Sharawna, is also refusing food. Like Issawi, he is being held by Israel under administrative detention, a system which ignores all due process and interns civilians without charge, trial or sentencing for an indefinite period of time.

Both Issawi and Sharawna are protesting against their arbitrary imprisonment and the brutal conditions under which they, and other prisoners, are held.

Their protest, a peaceful weapon of resistance against Israel’s occupation of their land, has been ignored by the largest state-funded global broadcaster in the world, the BBC.

This is despite the fact that it is not an isolated act of resistance, but part of a mass nonviolent uprising in the form of hunger strikes by Palestinian prisoners that began inSeptember 2011 and was further fueled in December that year by Khader Adnan’s refusal to take food.

Inspired by Adnan, other prisoners, both male and female, began hunger strikes. Then, on a single day in 2012 — Palestinian Prisoners’ Day — 1,200 Palestinians held in Israel’s jails began an open-ended hunger strike, a figure which quickly grew to an estimated 2,000.

The men and women refusing food included Palestinian members of parliament, imprisoned by Israel as part of its attempts to crush Palestinian civil society. Mahmoud Sarsak, a member of the Palestinian national football team, jailed, like so many others, without having been charged or tried for any crime, also joined the hunger strikers.

True to form

The BBC, true to form, shunned this extraordinary mass revolt by the Palestinians against the Israeli regime which rules them without their consent.

During the weeks of television and radio silence with which the BBC greeted the simultaneous hunger strike of 2,000 Palestinian prisoners, the UK’s Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) wrote to the BBC’s Director of News, Helen Boaden.

In its letter, PSC pointed out: “In the same period, the BBC has given prominent coverage to the hunger strike of Ukrainian politician, Yulia Tymoshenko, but has ignored the Palestinian MPs [members of parliament] imprisoned by Israel who are on hunger strike. There has also been extensive coverage of Chinese dissident, Chen Guangcheng, but no coverage given to the 2,000 Palestinians who are expressing their opposition to an imposed regime by refusing food.”

More than 5,000 PSC members and activists sent email messages to BBC editors asking for the ordeal of the hunger strikers — some of whom, such as Thaer Halahleh and Bilal Diab, were bleeding from their eyes and gums and vomiting blood — to be covered. A protest demanding the BBC end its silence was held outside the corporation’s headquarters in central London.

Four weeks after the mass hunger strike began, BBC Middle East correspondent Kevin Connolly produced a short report which was aired on television’s News at Ten and News 24, and on a 6pm BBC Radio 4 news bulletin, all on the same day (“Palestinians rally for hunger strikers,” 11 May 2012).

This proved to be the full extent of the BBC’s mainstream broadcast coverage of hunger strikes by 2,000 political prisoners which, if they had taken place in, say, Iran, China orSyria, would hardly have been ignored in the same way.

Bias by omission

On 29 June, Boaden replied to PSC to say she was satisfied with the scale of the coverage and did not agree with PSC’s assertion that the BBC’s failure to give due weight to the mass hunger strike was bias by omission.

Boaden then proceeded to lay out the stringent criteria which the BBC feels Palestinian hunger strikers have to meet in order to be granted coverage on its taxpayer-funded airwaves.

She wrote: “[Hunger strikes] tend to be reported when the hunger strikers are on the point of death or in a grave state of medical crisis; when the hunger strike presents a critical political challenge to the imprisoning authority; and when the strikes inside prison provoke widespread hunger strikes on the outside. Furthermore, there are gradations of hunger strike which influence outcomes.”

According to Boaden’s sliding scale of hunger strikes, the Palestinians’ mass protest ranked as a “managed” hunger strike, because some of the prisoners had taken salts intravenously.

She added: “One of the most important factors in determining the level of coverage was the failure of the hunger strikes to capture the imagination of the Palestinian public. While the Palestinians did not consider the partial hunger strikes or managed hunger strikes important enough to take to the streets in any great numbers, BBC News did not give the campaign prominence.”

Boaden’s reply was extraordinary. She revealed that it is not enough for the BBC that a Palestinian, jailed without due process, denies themselves food for weeks or months, risking death, blindness or permanent organ damage, in order to protest against the denial of their human rights, but unless that hunger strike provokes others, it is not newsworthy.

And if that hunger strike does provoke others, as Khader Adnan’s did, triggering a mass hunger strike of more than 2,000 prisoners, then the BBC demands that Palestinians outside the prisons must also go on hunger strike.

The elderly parents and sister of hunger striker Hana al-Shalabi and the mothers of Thaer Halahleh and Hassan Safadi all started hunger strikes, with Safadi’s mother being hospitalized, as did 50 former prisoners and supporters in Gaza. But this is still not enough for the BBC. There must additionally be people protesting in the streets in “great numbers.”

When this happens, with daily demonstrations outside Ofer prison for a part of 2012 and demonstrations across towns and villages in the West Bank that were met with tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon by Israeli forces, when there is a constant flow of visitors to solidarity tents (including that of Samer Issawi’s family, which was recently torn down by Israeli soldiers), the BBC demands still more from the Palestinians before it can deem them worthy of space on its airwaves.

Inhumane criteria

The criteria set out by Boaden has been met many times over in the last 13 months, including the “point of death” she demands of the hunger strikers. Issawi’s health is failing and he suffered further injury after he was savagely beaten by seven Israeli soldiers at the end of December while he was shackled to his wheelchair. He has lost more than half his body weight, his family says, but still does not warrant a mention on the BBC.

Compare this to Yulia Tymoshenko or Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, the Bahraini dissident, both of whom received extensive coverage on the BBC when they went on hunger strike last year, despite not meeting the strict and almost inhumane criteria set out by Boaden for their Palestinian counterparts.

Boaden’s other self-imposed demands were also met, including her insistence that the hunger strikes should present a “critical political challenge to the imprisoning authority.”

During the course of the mass hunger strike, Tony Blair, Britain’s former prime minister, called on Israel to “take all necessary measures to prevent a tragic outcome that could have serious implications for stability and security conditions on the ground” (“Tony Blair urges Israel to keep hunger strikers alive,” The Independent, 14 May 2012).

In the aforementioned article in The IndependentMahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority leader, described the state of affairs as “very dangerous,” adding: “If anyone dies … it would be a disaster and no one could control the situation.”

Members of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, also recognized what was at stake. Jamal Zahalka, a Knesset member, said: “If one of the striking prisoners dies, a third intifada will break out” (“Israel warned of volatile situation as Palestinian hunger strikers near death,” Guardian, 13 May 2012).

The circumstances were serious enough for Abbas to appeal to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to intervene. But the prospect of a third intifada does not seem to be enough of a “critical political challenge” for the BBC to end its blackout of a momentous, coordinated uprising against an unwanted, authoritarian regime.

One can only assume that this is because that unwanted regime is the Israeli regime, and the BBC has so often shown that it is unwilling to portray Israel in a negative light.

False assertions

Even in Kevin Connolly’s short report of 11 May — the only coverage given by the BBC in 13 months of the prisoners’ protests — no Palestinians were interviewed to explain the reasons for the hunger strikes. However, Mark Regev, the Israeli government spokesperson, was brought on to give an Israeli perspective.

He used the opportunity to compare the hunger strikers to “suicide bombers” and falsely asserted that their protest was for an “Islamist cause.” None of this was challenged by a compliant Connolly who ended his report by dismissing the Palestinians’ overtly political cry for help as a “health crisis” in Israel’s jails.

And that is the sole coverage the BBC’s extensive news and radio network has given to the hunger strikers from Khader Adnan’s refusal to take food in December 2011 to the present day.

By consistently ignoring the Palestinian campaign of hunger strikes while giving prominent coverage to hunger strikers in other countries, by making up arbitrary criteria that only the Palestinians have to meet in order to be considered newsworthy by BBC journalists, and by then continuing to shun those hunger strikers even when the harsh criteria has been met, the BBC has shown, yet again, its bias against the Palestinians.

For a broadcaster which has conditions of impartiality written into its royal charter, that is nothing short of a disgrace.

(Amena Saleem / electronicintifada.net / 11.01.2013)

Maryland state officials to speak at conference featuring anti-Muslim blogger Pam Geller

Geller at 9/11 Conference

Pamela Geller speaks at a September 11, 2012 conference

Four Maryland state officials are coming under fire from a Muslim civil rights group for agreeing to speak at a conservative conference this weekend alongside leading anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller. The event, titled the “Maryland Conservative Action Network Conference,” will feature Geller speaking on “free speech” on Saturday.

Geller, an ardent right-wing Zionist, is the nation’s leading anti-Muslim activist and blogger. She is behind the new set of Islamophobic advertisements that recently went up in the New York City subway system.

The conference is being organized by the Maryland Conservative Action Network, which “was created to bring together conservative activists from around Maryland into a unified force to effect real change to one-party rule in the State of Maryland,” as their website puts it.

The Republican officials appearing at the conference alongside Geller are: Nic Kipke, a Maryland delegate; Neil Parrott, another Maryland state delegate; Richard Rothschild, the Carroll County Commissioner; and Blaine Young, Frederick County Commissioner. They are each giving talks on varied topics, like the “war on the suburbs” and the “war on jobs.”

But when the Maryland branch of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) caught wind that Maryland state officials would be appearing alongside Geller, they sprung into action. CAIR-MD is calling on the state officials to withdraw from the conference.

“Take action now by urging Maryland State Delegates Nic Kipke and Neil Parrott and County Commissioners Richard Rothschild and Blaine Young to withdraw from this conference,” a CAIR action alert reads. “Tell them that their appearance with a anti-Muslim hate group leader would be a disservice to their constituents and bring disrepute to their offices.” Listed in the action alert is some of Geller’s more distasteful actions, like her bragging online that she has used the Quran as a doorstep and drawings posted on her blog that depict the Prophet Muhammad with a pig on his head.

CAIR is organizing a protest outside the event on Saturday. But so far, it appears that the Maryland state officials targeted by the Muslim civil rights group are holding steady, and will attend the conference alongside Geller. I put in phone calls to all four of their offices and left messages with their staffers, but nobody called back for comment.

Kipke, a Republican delegate, told the Maryland Capital Gazette that he would not boycott the conference. “I don’t know Ms. Geller personally,” he told the publication. “What I do know about her is that she has pointed out gross atrocities that occur in some Muslim countries against women.” Kipke added: “I’m sure these folks have a beef with her because she doesn’t speak in politically correct terms. But when it comes to an issue as important as human rights you need someone who bangs the drum.”

A CAIR-MD representative quoted in the story, Former Montgomery County Del. Saqib Ali, fired back at his former colleague’s defense of Geller, calling it “despicable.”

“Everybody knows who Pam Geller is,” said Ali. “Kipke knows this, because I sent him an email. To pretend that this is some respected human rights advocate is beyond the pale.”

Geller celebrated the fact that Kipke rejected CAIR’s call with a blog post on her website. “You wouldn’t think you’d have to applaud an elected official for standing in defense of freedom but in the low state of the world it is a rare man who does. Del. Nicholaus Kipke is such a man,” she wrote.

The fact that Geller is being welcomed by elected officials raises questions about her ability to court Republican politicians. Despite the fact that the organization Geller leads was labeled a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, she continues to have ties to the Republican Party. Geller was close to Adam Hasner, a Florida Republican who recently lost an election for a House seat. Her name also popped up in the course of an ethics investigation of an Alaska Republican aide who allowed a Stop Islamization of America (SIOA) activist to use state resources. SIOA is headed up by Geller. The aide, Karen Sawyer, allowed anti-Muslim activist David Heckert to use her personal laptop and and Internet card, and the aide herself used state equipment to plan events for SIOA, according to Alaska’s House Subcommittee Of The Select Committee on Legislative Ethics.

The aide’s boss, Alaskan state Rep. Carl Gatto, pushed an anti-sharia bill in Alaska.

(mondoweiss.net / 11.01.2013)

Settlement expansion in the Mishor Adumim industrial zone

IMG_2127

Aerial view of Mishor Adumim

During the last four years Corporate Watch have made numerous visits to thesettlement industrial zone of Mishor Adumim with the aim of documenting the companies working there.  We have also been highlighting the impact the expansion of the illegal settlement of Ma’ale Adumim is having on the Palestinian communities living in the area and tried to contextualise the information to inform international BDS action. One of the biggest companies trading from Mishor Adumim is the Israeli carbonated drinks manufacturersSodaStream. The company has met with pressure from the international BDS movement for a number of years as a result of their occupation profiteering.

On January 12th 2013 we went back to see if there have been any new developments in the zone and this is what we found.

Despite the fact that more and more businesses are moving out of the settlement industrial zones there were signs of three areas of expansion around the Mishor Adumim industrial zone. This kind of expansion is common in the industrial zones even when it is not profitable, as it is an effective way of controlling land. Ma’ale Adumim is one of the most quickly expanding settlements in the West Bank  and integral for Israel’s plans to create a greater Jerusalem area, separating the West Bank from East Jersualem.

IMG_2102

Land being cleared to the South-West of Mishor Adumim

A large area in the south west part of the industrial zone is in the process of having land cleared and flattened, creating a new space for possible new factories to be built. The construction machinery being used to carry out this work that we noticed was made by Caterpillar and Liebherr.

IMG_2100

Caterpillar working in Mishor Adumim

Liebherr machinery in Mishor Adumim

Liebherr machinery in Mishor Adumim

On the southern side of the industrial zone are several buildings which have not been noted on our previous visits and which seemed new. They looked like they were still empty and had a sign in Hebrew which appeared to be inviting enquiries. There was a JCB digger working near this land.

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Empty buildings in Mishor Adumim

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JCB working in Mishor Adumim settlement industrial zone.

On the eastern side of the entrance there was a large new building which was currently under construction. There was no sign of any company name on any of the buildings yet, but the size suggests that this one might be one to watch.Manitou machinery was seen working on the new structure.

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Big new factory under construction in Mishor Adumim settlement industrial zone.

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The inside of the new building in Mishor Adumim.

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Manitou machinery working on a new settlement building in Mishor Adumim

Examples of previous Corporate Watch articles on the issue of Mishor Adumim and SodaStream can be found here:

Occupation Industries: The Israeli Industrial Zones

Dear Corporation -A Response to SodaStream

There is also a comprehensive section on the Mishor Adumim industrial zone in our book Targeting Israeli Apartheid: A Boycott Divestment and Sanctions handbook

(corporateoccupation.org / 11.01.2013)

Ashrawi praises popular resistance in E1 area

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — PLO leader Hanan Ashrawi praised Palestinian activists on Friday after hundreds of people set up protest tents in the controversial E1 corridor area near Jerusalem.

“This initiative is a highly creative and a legitimate non-violent tool to protect our land from Israeli colonial plans,” a statement said.

Earlier, Palestinian activists had erected over 25 tents, called Bab al-Shams, or ‘Gate of the Sun’, in protest against Israeli settlements, a local activist said.

“We will not be silent while settlements and the colonization of our land continues, and confirm that the village will endure until the rightful owners of the land are installed,” Said Abdullah Abu Rahma, the coordinator of the Popular Committee against the Wall and Settlements in Bilin, told Ma’an.

Ashrawi lauded the “collective effort initiated by civil society, including youth, social, and political organizations, who came together to support the right of the owners of the land to make use of it as they see fit.”

The PLO official said she fully supported and encouraged non-violent popular resistance against Israeli occupation.

The name of the village was inspired by Lebanese author Elias Khoury’s novel, which tells the story of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.

Although there was no immediate response from the Israeli authorities, police and soldiers in the past have moved quickly to shut down any such spontaneous Palestinian camps.

“What is happening at Bab al-Shams is a reminder of the apartheid regime that Israel has imposed for the exclusive use of land for Jewish Israeli settlers all over Palestine,” Ashrawi added.

In December, Israel announced plans to build some 3,000 settler homes in the E1 corridor near Jerusalem, drawing widespread international condemnation.

Britain, France and several other European countries summoned Israeli envoys to protest the plan, while President Mahmoud Abbas called the E1 area “a red line that cannot be crossed.”

Construction in E1 would divide the West Bank and make the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state – as envisaged by the internationally backed two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict – almost impossible.

(www.maannews.net / 11.01.2013)