Doden door legeracties Syrië

Bij een aanval door het Syrische leger op de westelijke stad Qusayr zijn vandaag ten minste 11 doden gevallen. Dat meldden mensenrechtenactivisten.

Volgens getuigen schoten de veiligheidsdiensten op mensen die Qusayr probeerden te ontvluchten. Het leger voerde vandaag aanvallen uit in Qusayr in de westelijke provincie Homs, en in Saraqeb nabij de grens met Turkije.

In de oostelijke stad Deir-al Zor en in de noordwestelijke stad Idlib zijn donderdag volgens activisten drie mensen omgekomen.

Gisteren leek het erop dat het leger zich had teruggetrokken uit Hama, een van de belangrijkste bolwerken van het verzet. Maar vandaag werden er weer tanks waargenomen in de stad, waar troepen van president Bashar al-Assad in de afgelopen periode vele mensen vermoordden.

Sinds het begin van de betogingen in maart zijn er volgens oppositieorganisaties al meer dan 2000 mensen om het leven gebracht in Syrië.

( / 11.08.2011)

Breivik ‘knew al-Qaeda members’

A Norwegian newspaper has revealed that the suspect for the Oslo bombing and Utøya shootings, Anders Behring Breivik, wrote a string of unchallenged posts on the web forum of the Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, FrP) youth-wing’s website in 2002 and 2003 in which he put forward conspiracy theories and claimed to know “two people that have a connection to al-Qaeda.” Meanwhile, over 40 hours of questioning have revealed further details of Breivik’s plans, with police now nearly certain that he acted alone.

Breivik was a member of FrP for 10 years before 2007, holding the position of Oslo West deputy leader in the party’s youth-wing, Fremskrittspartiet Ungdom (FpU). Between 2002 and 2003, Breivik wrote around 100 posts on FpU’s online forums.

Predicted ‘civil war’
According to newspaper VG, who gained access to the old discussions, Breivik claimed to have had contacted with “two people that have a connection to Al Qaeda that have their base in Norway,” something that he claimed the police and government had “hushed up.” “If I know of two cases, there are at least 10!,” he continued. In other claims, Breivik suggested that the government had asked the police intelligence services to deliberately withhold information on Muslim extremism in order to continue their immigration policies. He predicted a “civil war” or the establishment of a Muslim-only “district/country” in Europe because Muslims would become the “majority,” stating that although there were “many good sides to Islam,” the religion “provides especially fertile ground for terrorism.”

He also published an “ABC guide to weaken the left,” in which he declared that “the fight has already begun” against various trade unions and gave timed predictions for their demise. He also attacked the “socialist press”, and the “brainwashing institutions” that Norwegian schools and universities had become. A philosophy professor at the University of Bergen, Lars Fredrik Svendsen, described the guide to VG as a “politically paranoid” attempt to “appear like a serious political strategist.” As well as the “guide,” Breivik also published advice to aspiring Frp politicians and posted job adverts on behalf of the organization.

FpU: ‘we should have reacted’
Among those who engaged Breivik in discussion were Oslo city council member Jøran Kallmyr and the current leader of FpU, Ove Vanebo.

Vanebo told VG that if members were actually reading the material posted by Breivik at the time, they “should have reacted,” even if “it is easy to be wise after the event.” He claimed that he himself “gives a clear message if someone expresses themselves in a very strange or extreme way,” stressing that he would have “made contact with” Breivik about what he had written had he been the leader at the time. He evidenced a recent event where a local FpU leader had said that he wanted to see a newspaper commentator die, at which point Vanebo states that he “rang him and told him that such statements are completely unacceptable.” Describing Breivik as “an out of touch with reality lunatic,” Vanebo added, “his opinions were and are unacceptable in FpU.”

The leader of FpU at the time, Trond Birkedal – who is facing charges for sexual assault after a sex scandal earlier this year – would not comment to VG about why he did nothing at the time.

Oslo city council member Kallmyr suggested that the reason he had not reacted himself was that Breivik “was definitely not a central person and had no influence in FpU,” claiming that he could not remember Breivik. FpU has now published any material they can find that was posted by Breivik, with Vanebo telling VG that the organization “has nothing to hide.”

‘Polite’ suspect ‘dreaded’ attacks
The questioning of Breivik continues and has now reached more than 40 hours in total. His lawyer, Geir Lippestad, had claimed to Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that his client was “unsure” whether he would continue to be so forthcoming in his exchanges with the police, but the police themselves rejected this, describing Breivik as still cooperative and “polite.” One of the officers interrogating Breivik, Asbjørn Rachlew, revealed that the police had not tried to “break” the suspect or be more confrontational as many in the media had reported, stressing that keeping Breivik’s cooperation with the questioning was important. He also revealed that Breivik had said that he “dreaded” carrying out the attacks, and realized that his demands to the police were “unreasonable.”

It has been revealed by VG that the suspect had considered the office building containing newspaper Aftenposten as a target because he felt that the Norwegian media had conspired to suppress negative information about immigration, but felt that too many civilians would have died from bombing it. Police have nonetheless told Aftenposten that Breivik has said that he had wished to bomb the government quarter earlier on on 22 July when more people were at work, but that he was delayed.

Acted alone
Despite previously insisting that he be examined by Japanese psychiatrists, Breivik has, according to his lawyer Lippestad who spoke to VG, informed his two Norwegian psychiatrists that “he wishes to cooperate with them further, and they have arranged four or five new meetings.” Lippestad also informed broadcaster TV2 that Breivik had expected to negotiate “directly” with members of the government about political power in the country after his attack.

Police spokesperson Christian Hatlo also confirmed to NRK that the police were almost certain now that Breivik acted alone. In addition, Aftenposten reported that Breivik had rejected the idea that he filmed his shootings on Utøya, despite evidence from witnesses and his manifesto suggesting otherwise. The police are nonetheless continuing to follow leads on both potential further suspects connected to the attacks and the use of a camera.

( / 11.08.2011)

Palestinian Christians call on Honduras to recognize the State of Palestine

Palestinian Christian leaders from the Bethlehem District called on Honduras to recognize the State of Palestine and support its admission to the United Nations. The message was delivered in a letter to the Honduran Foreign Minister Mario Canahuati, signed by the mayors of Bethlehem (Dr. Victor Batarseh), Beit Jala (Raji Zeidan),  and Beit Sahour (Hani Hayek) as well as members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Fayez Saqqa and Fouad Kokali and the head of the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce, Dr. Samir Hazboun.

In their letter, the Bethlehem representatives urged the Minister to support Palestine’s bid for international recognition and admission at the United Nations. “What we seek is the establishment of a free and sovereign Palestinian state as well as the consolidation of our natural and historic rights. This does not violate the rights of anyone. On the contrary, it is a great step towards peace”, they said.

The representatives also stressed that the colonization of an occupied territory “is not only illegal but also a war crime”.

The leaders briefed Mr. Canahuati on the current situation of the district of Bethlehem: “We have control over less than 14% of our district. The rest has been occupied for the expansion of illegal settlements and Israeli military bases. Hundreds of homes have been demolished and thousands of hectares have been expropriated, which directly undermines the possibility of a sovereign Palestinian state.”

“Israel has built roads on our occupied country for the exclusive use of Israelis. It has designed a system of movement restrictions that has devastated our city through several checkpoints and the illegal Israeli Wall. These restrictions have resulted in one of the saddest consequences of the occupation of our land: that for first time in 2000 years of Christianity, Bethlehem and Jerusalem are divided with an 8-meters high wall, built on confiscated land that belongs to Palestinians from Bethlehem”, the letter went on.

The Christian Palestinian leaders also reminded the Honduran Foreign Minister of the important support the Palestinian bid for recognition and UN admission now enjoys worldwide, particularly in Latin America where countries such as Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Cuba, Venezuela and Costa Rica recognize the State of Palestine.

“The occupation and systematic discrimination that Israel has imposed over our people is going to fall just as the South African Apartheid did. This is an irreversible process supported by the great majority of the peoples around the world. Currently, 122 countries recognize Palestine, including nine out of the ten most populated; their combined populations account for 75% of the world’s population,” they said, adding, “It is time for the rest of the countries to take the decision to be on the right side of history. We do not expect from Honduras anything less than your recognition of the Palestinian State and the ratification of the historical Honduran vote in support of Palestine in the United Nations.”

The letter concluded by inviting the Honduran Foreign Minister along with his family to spend Christmas in Bethlehem, “the first Christmas in the State of Palestine.”

( / 11.08.2011)

AIPAC’s European cousin evades scrutiny

I don’t envy the 81 members of the US Congress who are on an expenses-paid trip to Israel this week. Having to listen to Zionist claptrap throughout the junket’s packed schedule is not my idea of a fun vacation.

But I was struck by how the jaunt, organized by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), has received some attention from the mainstream press on both sides of the Atlantic. London’s right-wing Daily Mail reported that AIPAC’s critics believe it operates on behalf of the Israeli government and has “secured too much influence on Congress”.

While it’s positive that AIPAC’s activities are coming under greater scrutiny, it is noteworthy that little attention has been paid to how a similar lobbying outfit is being developed in Europe. In February, around 400 members of parliaments from across this continent were brought to Israel in a trip hosted by the European Friends of Israel (EFI). They included 120 members of the European Parliament (MEPs) — one-sixth of that assembly’s total membership.

When I checked The Daily Mail’s online archive, I could find no reference to the February trip. That was despite how British MEPs are among some of the EFI’s most zealous supporters. The Conservative Party’s Charles Tannock was one of the group’s founders in 2006, declaring at the time that the EFI was required to counter the “black propaganda” of Palestine solidarity activists.

Mimicking AIPAC

Although the EFI has claimed to be independent of AIPAC, it is mimicking that committee’s modus operandi. AIPAC has not made details of the itinerary for this week’s visit by Congress members public. It’s a safe bet, though, that the itinerary is broadly similar to that followed by the EFI earlier this year. As well as being given a chance to marvel at the production sites for Israeli weapons, participants in that jaunt were greeted by Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, and other leading political figures.

One crucial difference between the US and Europe is that there is some degree of transparency about how AIPAC behaves in Washington. By searching “lobbying disclosure” sites, I learnt that AIPAC spent $2.75 million on schmoozing Congress in 2010. I could also peruse lists of laws the group has sought to tweak in its favor.

By contrast, the EFI has not signed up to a register of “interest representatives” set up by the European Commission, so we don’t know how much it spends in Brussels and other European capitals. Unlike the US, the European Union does not have a mandatory financial disclosure system for lobbyists who prowl the corridors of its institutions.

On a few occasions over the past three years, I have asked the EFI’s office and parliamentarians belonging to it for details of how its work is funded. All of my requests have either been refused or have elicited no reply.

Donors a mystery

The only “information” that the EFI has given me is that its donors are from Europe. Yet The Jerusalem Post has reported that one of the group’s key contributors is Alexander Machkevitch. When I did some research on Machkevitch, I realized he is a mining magnate with dual Kazakh and Israeli nationality. Given that neither Kazakhstan nor Israel belong to the European continent, it would appear that EFI’s staff either flunked geography at school or have deliberately tried to mislead me.

While I consider AIPAC to be dangerous and racist, American citizens are at least able to track what it is up to. There is far greater secrecy about the Israel lobby in Europe and no appetite by most journalists to expose how it is a growing force. Surely, this culture of silence should be challenged.

(Jeff Haynes / / 11.08.2011)

Palestinian Refugee Camps in Syria – An Overview

For the Palestinian Return Centre JPRS Magazine Syria has served as a host country to Palestinians fleeing Apartheid Israel’s policies of expulsion, extermination, murder and occupation of Palestinian land since1948. In fact, 85 percent of Syria’s Palestinians fled their homes in 1948. Another influx came in 1967, when more than 100,000 fled the Golan Heights. Then, in 1982, the Lebanese conflict led more to seek refuge. The last significant migration occurred during the 1991 Gulf War. A majority of what Syria’s Palestinians call home is now recognized by the International community as the northern part of Apartheid Israel. There are approximately 460,000 Palestinian refugees living in Syria, representing three percent of the country’s total population.

Despite the large number of refugees living in Syria, relatively little scholarship on the subject exists. The most comprehensive work was survey research conducted and implemented by FAFO and the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics and Natural Resources, which was published in FAFO-Report 514. The definitive report provides statistical and survey data on the conditions of the Palestinian refugees living in Syria. The lack of additional scholarship is problematic for two reasons. First, the Syrian model is ideal in comparison to what has been implemented by other host countries. Second, more studies and scholarship are needed for Palestinian and international activists working toward the creation of an International Movement for the Palestinian Right of Return; a movement that is desperately needed given that the right of return has not played an important role in international political dialogue. This article seeks to provide readers with a brief overview of conditions and situation of Syria’s Palestinian refugees, the role played by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and the Syrian government, and makes an argument for the need of an International Movement for the Right of Return.

Syria and the International Community

Refugees in the international community are often disadvantaged when it comes to the protection of their rights, and Palestinians are no different. The presence of millions of Palestinians living as refugees is a constant reminder of Zionist imperialism and neo-imperialist occupations and policies that continue to plague the world and hinder the progress of humanity. The plight of the Palestinian Diaspora has beset the international community and the Middle East since the recognition of the Apartheid State of Israel in 1948. Despite this, the issue of Palestinian refugees and their right of return continues to be unsolved and pushed aside by the United States, Apartheid Israel and the international community-at-large.

Interest among the international community in the Palestinian refugee problem waned in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and as Palestinians were never part of the talks they were powerless to stop this. The US abandoned any serious discussion in 1949. From 1949 to the collapse of the former Soviet Union, US policy was occupied with its war of communist containment. US policy toward the Palestinians and countries such as Syria who defended the Palestinian cause, interests, and right of return were seen through this ideological lens. Many of the Arabs and Apartheid Israel were insincere and used the Palestinian refugee issue as a bargaining tool for their own domestic, regional and international interests.

Syria has always remained steadfast in support for Palestine and advocated the right of return. It has consistently argued that there will be no security in the region until the Palestinian refugee issue has been resolved. Syria sees itself as part of any solution, especially given the role that Palestine has played in its policy and interests since 1948. The historical connection between both Syrians and Palestinians has also played a role. Under Hafez Al-Assad, there was an ideological commitment by Syria to the Palestinian cause and the right of return, which was understood in terms of Arab nationalism and the need for greater Arab unity. When Bashar Al-Assad replaced his father, he openly linked Syria’s policy to Palestine. The difference between father and son, however, has been the latter’s pragmatic approach and the government’s avoidance of any ideologically-bound strategy.

Given the central roles of Palestine and the right of return in Syrian policy, it should come as no surprise to the reader that Palestinians living in Syria are treated as equal to their Syrian counterparts. They are granted the right to education, employment, healthcare, freedom of movement, and ownership of one piece of non-arable property. A 1956 Syrian law provided that Palestinians are considered Syrian by origin in all matters pertaining to laws and regulations, with the exception of the right to naturalisation and voting. While seen as equal in terms of laws and regulations, Syria views the Palestinians as a distinct nationality. Palestinians in Syria also see themselves as separate and distinct from Syrians. Separate identities, equal in the eyes of the law and living harmoniously, Syrians and Palestinians are united in their quest and struggle for Palestine. Syria’s treatment of Palestinian refugees could provide a basis for an international framework for the treatment of all Palestinian refugees.

Conditions of Syria’s Palestinian Refugees

There are a total of 13 refugee camps inside Syria, only 10 of which are officially recognized by UNRWA. There are seven camps in Damascus, two in Aleppo, and one in each of the Homs, Hama, Dar’a and Latakia governorates. Despite only ten being recognised, the agency provides a lower level of services to the “unofficial” camps. For example, in the largest “unofficial” Yarmouk camp, UNRWA runs a large number of schools and health centers. The overwhelming majority of the camps are urban in character. There is variance, however, in the conditions of Palestinians living in the urban and rural areas. Data on the conditions of Syria’s Palestinian refugees comes from FAFO-Report 514.

Housing Conditions. The image in an outsider’s mind of refugee housing conditions is that of tents and barracks. Tents in Syria were replaced by concrete, block, and brick housing structures between 1955 and 1965. The majority of Syria’s Palestinians live in their own home, while a smaller percentage (8%) rent from either the Syrian government or UNRWA. It should be noted that the majority rent from the former rather than the latter. Very few Palestinians remain living in the barrack-style houses. The majority of the barrack-style houses are found in the camps bordering Iraq, which are inhabited by those fleeing the 1991 Gulf War and the US occupation of Iraq. Palestinian refugees in Iraq faced growing hostility, threats from sections of the Iraqi population, and were targets of violence by some Iraqi militias. Syria, following Jordan’s refusal, agreed to take them in after they were stranded in no-man’s land for several months.

Palestinians are not confined to living in camps; they can live and move freely throughout Syria. Given this, the crowding plaguing camps in Jordan and Lebanon is not a serious problem. There are of course regional variations. For example, crowding is cited by 36 percent of the refugees living in the Aleppo and the Dar’a governorates; and, 15 percent in the Homs and Hama governorates. There are also camp specific variations. Overall, complaints of crowding are 2.5 times higher from refugees living in the rural rather than the urban areas of Syria, with the majority living in urban centers. To deal with some of the crowding issues, UNRWA has implemented some rehabilitation projects, in conjunction with the General Authority Palestinian Arab Refugees (GAPAR). GAPAR and UNRWA jointly administer Syria’s Palestinian refugee camps. For example, the Neirab Rehabilitation Project located in the Aleppo governorate was launched in 2002.

Conditions in the camps differ along the urban-rural variation. The rural areas have poor access to piped drinking and regular water, inadequate (if any) garbage and waste disposal, and poor infrastructure. UNRWA is responsible for sewage and solid waste disposal and control of infestations in the camps, while the Syrian government is responsible for providing basic utilities. The problems cited by Palestinian refugees are not specific to them, however. They are shared by all Syrians living in the rural areas of the country. The urban-rural divide is a common theme when looking at not only housing and housing conditions, but also education, employment, health and poverty.

Education Conditions. Palestinians with permanent residence in Syria and Palestinian refugees registered with GAPAR have full and free access to education facilities. While the Syrian government provides secondary education, UNRWA operates 61 elementary schools and 50 preparatory schools, which operate on double shifts. Most Palestinians attend UNRWA schools (95 percent), while the remainder attends government (4 percent) and private institutions (1 percent). Only ten percent of the Syrian government schools operate on double shifts. Despite running on double shifts, there is a widespread perception that UNRWA schools are better than those run by the Syrian government. This perception may change over time with the continued reduction of teacher’s salaries due to UNWRA’s continuing budget issues. The curricula in UNRWA schools are similar to those used by the Syrian government. In addition to elementary and preparatory schools, UNRWA also offers vocation and education training. The Syrian National Information Center administers nurseries, computer training and information centres. Overall, education accomplishments vary according to the urban-rural divide. Lower attainment in the rural areas is due mainly to Palestinians’ lack of access to secondary schools and health-related issues. Again, these problems are not limited to Palestinians. They plague all rural inhabitants.

Health Conditions. Like the education benefits granted by the Syrian government, Palestinian refugees also have access to primary and secondary health care. Primary care is provided free of charge and hospital care is subsidised for all Palestinians and Syrians alike. The economic situation in Syria, however, has led to a reduction in hospital care. UNRWA has also cut its provision of hospital care due to its own budgetary problems. UNRWA provides 23 health clinics, which provide primary healthcare to refugees registered with them and living in the camps. The Syrian branch of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society also provides medical and health services in some of the camps. While the majority of Palestinian refugees surveyed rank their own health as satisfactory, satisfaction with the UNRWA healthcare services ranked lower than that provided for by the Syrian government. The availability, access and quality of healthcare also suffer from the urban-rural variation.

Employment Conditions. Unlike Palestinians living in other host countries, the employment rate of Palestinian refugees in Syria is high and unemployment low. The character of the Palestinian employment workforce is comparable to Syrians, with thirty percent of Palestinians working in the public sector. Specifically, 80 percent are waged employees, 14 percent are self-employed, and five percent are employers. Highly-educated Palestinians are found to be employed mostly in the public sector—government, education, health and the social service sectors. Palestinians do not have the right to vote or run for public office, but some hold positions in the Syrian government. In all of sectors, the most underrepresented by the Palestinian workforce is in the agricultural sector, which is largely due to the fact that Palestinians are prohibited by Syrian law from owning a piece of arable land. Lack of participation by Palestinians in the overall workforce is explained by refugees as being due to their health conditions. Underemployment of Palestinian refugees is only reported at five percent of the total workforce. Given the high rate of employment, the overwhelming majority of the Palestinian poor are not materially deprived and do not suffer from a lack of basic necessities. 26 percent of Palestinian refugees are reported to be living below, and 22 percent at, the poverty level according to international standards. The high levels of poverty are associated with high dependency rates, support burden, age, and health conditions. There is also a geographical correlation in the concentration of poverty, with the rural areas having higher levels.

Conditions of Palestinian refugees are good overall. The most notable distinction and variance in the conditions fall along the urban-rural divide, which corresponds to a larger development problem faced by Syria and many developing countries. Geographically uneven development is a common problem faced by many developing countries that are forced to or voluntarily adopt the neoliberal development paradigm. This is even the case for those that adopt the neoliberal variation of the sustainable development model. It is likely that development will continue to be a problem for UNRWA and Syria in the future due to the models employed.

Conclusion: An International Movement?

Palestinians living in Syria are integrated into society at all levels and rarely suffer from discrimination in employment, ownership or political activity. Many of the problems faced by Palestinian refugees are similar to those faced by all Syrians, especially those living in rural areas. As the above discussion on the conditions of Palestinian refugees indicated, there is an urban-rural divide that hinders further advancement and development. This divide continues to persist despite UNRWA’s shift in the 1990s to a more sustainable development approach that many neoliberal economic development institutions and agencies began to adopt.

Although this article’s focus is not on development, it is necessary to diverge somewhat to provide a better understanding of development policy debates because of their impact on development in the Syrian Palestinian refugee camps. Older models of development based on the neoliberal paradigm were top-down and relied on coercive incentives to implement development policies in developing countries. If funds were allocated, then the reforms implemented were dictated by the neoliberal world economic institutions. The problem was they failed to taken into consideration local variations in development and were not grassroots oriented.

With the increasing failure and further decline of developing countries, some neoliberal institutions began to implement aspects of the sustainable development model that have kept development circles buzzing. It is the new neoliberal development model that incorporates aspects of the sustainable development model that UNRWA has begun to implement. What makes the approach new is that rather than being top-down as before, grassroots or community centres are created (after being trained and indoctrinated in the neoliberal approach) to foster development from the bottom-up. The problem is that a failed model, regardless of whether it is imposed top-down or bottom-up will not create sustainable development in the refugee camps or in Syria more generally. The sustainable development model, and not the one hijacked by neo-liberalism advocates, is needed for the Palestinian refugee camps in Syria and the camps in other host countries.

Development is not the only problem facing Syria’s Palestinian refugees. They also suffer from a protection gap, where politics, identity and the concept of international human rights have colluded to prevent adequate protection of their rights and resolution of the issue. Aid agencies and those designed specifically for Palestinian refugees such as UNRWA and GAPAR in Syria were created to focus only on humanitarian needs rather than also focusing on civil and political rights. It is the limited scope and a lack of coordination among humanitarian aid, civil and political institutions that cause the protection gap.
There is coordination between UNRWA and GAPAR, as well as their cooperation with other aid agencies inside Syria that look to the humanitarian needs of Palestinians. There is not, however, systematic, widespread and transnational coordination of those agencies with other civil and political organisations. This is a similar problem faced in the other host countries. In the absence of more effective coordination and better policies of mobilisation, there will continue to be a lack of development and political success in the area of Palestinian refugees.

What is needed is a transnational coalition of aid agencies that work in tandem with an international movement for Palestinian refugees. A movement that encompasses organisations, political movements and activists that are working on not just aid, but also the civil and political rights of Palestinian refugees; the creation of an international movement for Palestinian refugees is needed. Transnational, regional and local coordination will strengthen the social, civil and political rights of Palestinian refugees living inside and outside of Palestine, especially the right of return. As a whole, there is an absence of grassroots organisation and mobilisation; and, a lack of organisation and institutions dealing specifically with the right of return. Those that do exist specifically for promoting awareness of the right of return fail to coordinate, cooperate and expand their target areas. Given the lack of success and willingness of states in the International Community to deal with and tackle the right of return, which is at the heart of any peace in the Middle East, it is time for concerned humanitarians and activists to take the reins to build a transnational movement for the right of return.

( / 11.08.2011)

Republican presidential candidate wants to destroy UN if it recognizes Palestine

In an op-ed published on the pro-Netanyahu tabloid Yisrael Hayom, Republican Newt Gingrich calls upon the United States to stop supporting the United Nation if it votes for Palestinian independence. “We don’t need to fund a corrupt institution to beat up on our allies,” says Gingrich.

Washington should make immediately clear that it has no tolerance for dangerous stunts that threaten Israel’s survival.

When the U.N. is set to unilaterally declare a Palestinian state and Israel is the only country in the world not even permitted to determine its own capital city, something is very wrong.

The time to stop this disaster is before it happens. Congress and Obama must detail the potential cost of a U.N. betrayal of Israel before the General Assembly meets.

I wonder what would Michele Bachmann’s response be like. Surly, she can’t be left behind in the “who’s more pro Netanyahu” race. My guess is the nothing short of deploying the Marines in Paris would do.

( / 11.08.2011)

Israel OKs erecting 1,600 illegal units

Israel continues to expand illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian territories.
The Israeli regime has approved the construction of 1,600 new illegal settlement homes in East al-Quds (Jerusalem).

The settlement units will be built in the neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo in occupied Palestinian territories, AFP reported on Thursday.

Tel Aviv also plans to authorize the building of another 2,700 illegal housing units in the occupied land within “a couple of days,” according to Israeli officials.

The regime claims the construction has been endorsed because of the “economic crisis” in Israel.

Israelis have been protesting against rising housing prices and social inequalities since mid-July. The protesters demand a new taxation system (lower indirect taxes, higher direct taxes), free education and childcare, an end to the privatization of state-owned companies and more investment in social housing and public transport.

Israel occupied East al-Quds alongside the West Bank in 1967 and later annexed both territories. The international community has refused to recognize either of the moves.

In September 2010, the Israeli regime resumed the expansion of settlements in occupied Palestinian territories after a 10-month partial freeze, prompting the Palestinian Authority (PA) leaders to break off the US-sponsored talks with Tel Aviv that had resumed after a lengthy stalemate.

( / 11.08.2011)

Hope not hate

We will be handing in the petition to the police in Tower Hamlets in early August.

“We, the undersigned, call on the authorities to ban the proposed march by the English Defence League (EDL) in Tower Hamlets on Saturday 3 September. The EDL is a violent racist organisation that seeks to vilify Muslim communities and damage community relations. Its planned march is designed to whip up fear and incite violence.

We reject entirely the EDL and its anti-Muslim racism and we don’t see why the people of Tower Hamlets should pay for its march of hate.

We are proud of Tower Hamlets, a vibrant multiracial area, which has a long and proud history of immigration and resistance to racism. From Cable Street in the 1930s, to Brick Lane in the 1970s and to Millwall in the 1990s, the people of Tower Hamlets have come together to see off racism and fascism before. We will now stand united against the racist and anti-Muslim EDL.

We believe that everyone has the right to live in peace and without the fear of abuse or violence. We stand against all prejudice, whether it’s racism, Islamophobia, antisemitism, sexism or homophobia.

We oppose all extremism – from whatever quarter – and we recognise that extremism breeds extremism. We condemn the extremist EDL just as we condemn Islamist extremism. We say a plague on both their houses.

We believe that the people of Tower Hamlets should be allowed to live without the threat of violence and fear. This is why we are standing together with the Muslim community against the hatred of the EDL and Islamophobia more generally. We believe in HOPE not hate. That is why we are calling on the authorities to ban the EDL march of hate.”

( / 11.08.2011)

Niet alleen Wilders bezigt oorlogsretoriek

De Pers stuurt oorlogverslaggever Arnold Karskens op reis door Nederland om sensationele verhalen te schrijven

Sinds de verschrikkelijke moordpartijen in Noorwegen is de discussie breed op gang gekomen in hoeverre Geert Wilders een verantwoordelijkheid draagt voor dit drama. Iedereen begrijpt dat hij in juridische zin geen verantwoordelijke kán zijn. Maar wél is hij verantwoordelijk voor het creëren van een klimaat van haat en angst, een voedingsbodem waaruit een individu al snel tot verkeerde ideeën en handelingen kan komen. De oorlogsretoriek die Wilders al enkele jaren dag in dag uit bezigt in de Tweede Kamer, op de televisie, in de krant en op twitter kan niet los worden gezien van de oorlogshandelingen die door een ander begaan worden.

De suggestie dat Wilders echter in zijn eentje verantwoordelijk is voor het ontstane klimaat is absurd. Het is een samenspel tussen sommige politici, sommige opiniemakers, sommige ‘wetenschappers’ en zeker ook sommige media. Bij het gratis dagblad De Pers nemen ze de taak om oorlogsretoriek te bezigen wel héél letterlijk. Zij sturen oorlogverslaggever Arnold Karskens op reis door Nederland om sensationele verhalen te schrijven. Je kan een journalist wel uit de oorlog halen, maar hoe haal je de oorlog uit een journalist?

Zo schrijft Karskens deze week in De Pers over de wijk Binnenstad Oost in Helmond. In deze wijk zijn inderdaad de nodige spanningen en een aantal problemen schreeuwen om oplossingen. Volgens Karskens doet de wijk hem denken “aan bezoeken in Syrië of Birma”. Hij wil zijn bronnen anoniem houden, “net als in een echte oorlog”. En dat allemaal door de overlast van Marokkanen. Karskens beschrijft dat er een Moskee is, Turkse en Marokkaanse winkels en dat de situatie is doorgeslagen naar ware terreur. De buurtbewoners overwegen volgens hem het formeren van een knokploeg. Als hij door de straat moet lopen, kijkt Karskens eerst of “de kust veilig is”.

Na zo’n artikel denk je als lezer inderdaad dat er sprake is van een kleine oorlog in Helmond. Niemand is meer veilig. De politie doet niets. De gemeente doet niets. Er is een Moskee, Turkse en Marokkaanse winkels, Marokkaanse jongeren en nu gaan we allemaal dood. Hoewel ik het volledig afkeur, kan ik begrijpen dat sommige lezers na zo’n bericht op z’n minst overwegen het recht in eigen hand te nemen. Het zou mij in ieder geval niet verbazen.

En gelijk komt Geert Wilders weer ten tonele. Hij heeft inmiddels via twitter aangekondigd dat hij Helmond wil bezoeken “om bewoners te steunen” na het lezen van het verslag over “Marokkaanse straatterreur”.

Wat Karskens echter niet vertelt is dat de geïnterviewden niet de heersende mening van de buurtbewoners verkondigen; hij belicht enkel de excessen. Hij verzuimt hoor-en-wederhoor toe te passen en spreekt niemand uit de Marokkaanse gemeenschap. Hij vertelt niet dat er vanuit juist Islamitische jongeren een project is gestart – met steun vanuit de Moskee – waarbij zij in groepen dagelijks de straat op gaan om hun leeftijdsgenoten aan te spreken op hun gedrag. Hij vertelt niet dat de imam  tijdens het vrijdagmiddaggebed het onderwerp van overlastgevende jongeren bespreekt. Hij vertelt niet dat er o.a. door de SWH-werkgroep ‘Salaam’ een bijeenkomst met alle betrokken partijen is georganiseerd met als thema ‘van overlast naar respect’. Dat er in plaats van een knokploeg juist een buurtinitiatief wordt gestart. Dat de Marokkaanse en Islamitische bewoners werken aan een beter Helmond. Dat past allemaal niet in het beeld van een oorlog waarin wij van Karskens moeten geloven.

Moet je kunnen schrijven over de problemen in de wijk? Natuurlijk! Sterker nog: het moet! Maar de keuze om een oorlogsverslaggever dergelijke artikelen te laten schrijven is verkeerd. De keuze van Karskens om zo expliciete verwijzingen naar oorlogen te maken is verkeerd. De volledig eenzijdige berichtgeving is verkeerd. Het totaal niet benoemen van initiatieven vanuit de Moskee, vanuit de Turkse en Marokkaanse middenstand, vanuit de Marokkaanse jongeren én vanuit de positief ingestelde buurtbewoners is verkeerd. Zo vergroot je de problemen. Zo voedt je de angst en vooroordelen. Zo bewandel je de weg naar escalatie.

Natuurlijk zijn Arnold Karskens en De Pers niet verantwoordelijk als iemand het heft in eigen hand neemt. Maar zij zouden wél de verantwoordelijkheid moeten voelen om zuivere journalistiek te bedrijven. Om er niet bewust voor te kiezen de voedingsbodem te willen zijn voor die ene individu die wél letterlijk neemt wat er wordt geschreven en daar naar handelt.

( / 10.08.2011)

Leak of a 70 page Criminal NATO Plan to Occupy Libya

A 70-page plan detailing Western designs for the occupation of post-Gadhafi Libya, and apparently signed off on by the political leadership of the rebel Transitional Council in East Libya has been leaked, and paints a grim picture of the new regime NATO is planning on installing after the war.

The plan includes keeping large portions of the Gadhafian security apparatus intact, with a number of the leaders of the brutal regime’s crackdown left in position on condition of loyalty to the new, pro-West regime.

Even more controversial will be the “Tripoli task force,” a 15,000-man force operated by the United Arab Emirates which will, after Gadhafi is out of power, occupy the capital city of Tripoli and conduct mass arrests of Gadhafi’s top supporters.

The arrests won’t stop there, as of course they never do for a regime looking to stifle dissent. Indeed the plan also includes discussion of a new state radio network that will broadcast orders to the public to support the new government, and warning anti-Gadhafi factions that haven’t endorsed the new regime to stand down. The assumption in the report is that these factions, termed a “fifth column,” would also be arrested. The new state media will of course be necessitated all the more by the NATO attacks on the existing media.

The Transitional Council confirmed the authenticity of the report, and while the rebel ambassador to the UAE expressed “regret” that the truth had come out he said it was “important that the general public knows there is an advance plan.” It is a plan that likely won’t sit well with the protesters who were demanding democratic reform, nor those NATO members who acquiesced to the war on the assumption that it was doing something other than swapping brutal regimes in Libya.

( / 10.08.2011)