Koran burning by Florida pastor initially went unnoticed

Wearing a judicial robe and doling out a punishment selected through an online poll, the pastor of a tiny Florida church on March 20 declared Islam’s holy book “guilty of crimes against humanity” and ordered it set ablaze in a portable fire pit.

In a video later posted on the Dove World Outreach Center’s Web site, the pastor can be heard saying that the Koran smoldered “very good” and that the flame would work well for burgers or marshmallows.

Compared with last September, when the world was riveted by the Rev. Terry Jones’s threat to burn the Koran, the bizarre mock “trial” last month of the Muslim scripture went largely unnoticed in the United States.

Two days later, however, Pakistan’s president called it a “serious setback” for the civilized world, and the U.S. ambassador agreed that it was “abhorrent.” On March 24, Afghan President Hamid Karzai called for Jones’s prosecution. But among U.S. faith and government leaders as well as the hordes of reporters who covered Jones last fall, there was largely silence.

“We tried to really downplay it. We didn’t want to escalate it. It didn’t seem to be getting traction in the media, and we certainly didn’t want to bring attention,” said Geoff Tunicliffe, head of the World Evangelical Alliance, one of the world’s largest faith organizations.

But after an angry mob killed seven people at a United Nations office in northern Afghanistan, faith leaders rushed Friday to condemn the killings and Jones’s actions, which could reverberate throughout the Muslim world.

Tunicliffe, whose group represents hundreds of millions of evangelicals, said he was having emergency meetings with Muslim and Christian leaders to organize a summit in Pakistan or Afghanistan about religious violence.

Representatives of several major Muslim American organizations held a joint conference in Washington to denounce the killings. Among them were the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

Jones has been on the receiving end of condemnations before. In September, he and his obscure church commanded media attention from around the world by threatening to burn the Koran on the anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks.

After being pressured by everyone from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to Gen. David H. Petraeus, he abandoned that plan. But in the months since, the church has repeatedly sought the limelight, with a Web site and press releases every few days announcing everything from Jones’s views on Egyptian politics to his plans to protest Islam in Britain (his visa was denied).

In January, Dove announced that it would “put the Koran on trial” in March and asked readers to vote whether to burn, shred or drown it.

(www.washingtonpost.com / 02.04.2011)


British Parliamentary Delegation to Lebanon February 2011

by: Stuart Littlewood

A delegation of parliamentarians has returned from a tour of the refugee camps in Lebanon and made its report http://www.prc.org.uk/newsite/images/stories/pdfs/PRC_lebanon_delegation.pdf .

It was led by former British government minister Sir Gerald Kaufman MP and included four members of the European Parliament and three of the British Parliament. The delegation’s purpose was to assess the humanitarian situation faced by Palestinians living in Lebanon’s refugee camps, and it was able to raise issues at the highest level with the Lebanese in a series of meetings.

The UN Refugee Agency describes the plight of Palestinian refugees as “by far the most protracted and largest of all refugee problems in the world today”.

Three-quarters of the 11 million Palestinians are refugees. Their plight is at the core of the 63-year struggle against Israel. All other issues, political and humanitarian, arose as a consequence of Israel’s denial of the right of refugees to return to their land.

The report reminds us that a whole host of international treaties and conventions recognise the right to return including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights. The Right of Return for refugees is guaranteed under Humanitarian and Human Rights Law and countless UN resolutions.

And the UN has affirmed the right of return through its Resolution 194 on no less than 122 occasions.

But to the international community none of this is worth the screeds of paper it is written on. Law and principle are utterly meaningless to the great, civilised powers, who just fidget and whisper sweet nothings in Israel’s ear.

Amount of abuse of Palestinians .. is at a level that you cannot even imagine.’

Meanwhile, over 400,000 Palestinians live in Lebanon’s 12 ‘official’ (UNRWA-run) refugee camps and its many ‘unofficial’ camps, amounting to approximately 10 percent  of the country’s population. They are politically marginalised, without basic social and economic rights, trapped in often squalid surroundings, and without hopes for the future.

Palestinian refugees, says the report, suffer more in Lebanon than in any other country that hosts them.

Europe should “balance out” America’s role

President Suleiman told the delegation: “Lebanon does not have the capacity to absorb 400,000 people; we simply cannot offer them a good life. The truth is that we will not see peace in the Middle East without the implementation of the refugees’ right of return.”

Foreign minister, Dr Ali Chami, said: “It is not acceptable that Palestinians have been living outside their own state since 1948. The half a million in Lebanon are in complete misery and a very dire situation. The clear solution is the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital”. He also spoke of the Israelis’ intransigence: “Since 1978, according to UN resolutions, Israel has violated Lebanese sovereignty every day, while the international community has failed to deter them.”

Referring to Israel’s invasions and occupation of Lebanon, Deputy Speaker Al Zain said: “Lebanon has endured a lot for the Palestinian cause… It is high time the West liberated itself from double standards and stopped supporting satellite regimes that do not respect Palestinian rights.”

A Hezbollah MP remarked: “More than two million people have been killed because of this cause. There are millions of Palestinian victims around the world and the international community has paid out billions of dollars, but there is still no solution”.

Another MP added: “There needs to be seriousness in dealing with Israel and an end to backing dictatorships. Palestine had free elections in 2006, but the West conspired to undermine the results. If this corruption isn’t corrected the West will face the biggest upheaval in the region since 1948-49.”

On Europe the Deputy Speaker said: “The world needs another power to balance out America’s role, Europe should fulfill this role.”

Palestinian Refugee Camps in Lebanon

Recalling the Sabra and Shatila camp massacre of at least 800 in 1982 while Beirut was under Israeli occupation, British MP Jeremy Corbyn reflected: “The pain of the Sabra and Shatila massacres… never goes away. It was a poignant moment for the delegates to be able to lay a wreath at the memorial. It was sad to see the continued poverty in those camps nearly 30 years on, but we were inspired by the people. The description by Mohammed Omar Deeb, an elderly survivor of the massacres and his determination that

one day he would see his village in Palestine and that all his family would see a free Palestine is typical of the enduring spirit of the Palestinian people.”

Two inquiries held Israel indirectly responsible and Ariel Sharon was especially implicated.

Refugees must remain at the centre of all peace talks

After their visit the delegation concluded…

  • The Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are victims many times over.
  • They are denied access to their homeland.
  • They are the victims of Lebanon’s civil wars and the numerous Israeli

invasions and occupation.

  • They are victims of the unwillingness of the international community to

secure justice and the unwillingness of the Lebanese authorities to grant

them their basic human rights.

Their recommendations are…

  • The international community, including Israel, is responsible for guaranteeing the rights of Palestinian refugees and providing them with protection.
  • While Lebanon and many members of the United Nations offer appropriate

rhetoric, this must be matched with concrete steps to tangibly improve the lives of the refugees in Lebanon and put an end to the catastrophic conditions in which they live.

  • An appropriate solution is needed that restores and protects the human rights of the refugees, including their right to return to their land.
  • In Lebanon, Palestinian refugees have a status that falls far short of even second class citizenship. This should be corrected without delay.
  • All parties should respect and enforce United Nations General Assembly

Resolution 194 which calls for the return of the refugees.

  • As Israel has shown no inclination to respect the rights of Palestinian refugees under international law, it is incumbent on the international community to enforce a resolution.
  • The European Union and its member states, including the United Kingdom, should significantly increase their funding to UNRWA to allow the agency to fulfill its remit.
  • Negotiators, politicians and activists should ensure that Palestinian refugees remain at the centre of all peace talks.
  • Lebanon’s position on the refugees is woefully inadequate. The 17th August 2010 law should be implemented immediately as a first step to normalising the lives of Palestinian refugees by improving human, civil and property rights and lifting restrictions on the professions available to Palestinians.

On housing, all restrictions that limit the right to adequate housing for Palestinians should be removed, including any legislation that discriminates against Palestinians who are not officially citizens of a recognised state. A degree of security of tenure should be guaranteed and restrictions on bringing building materials into refugee camps should be removed, including the fines or penalties imposed on Palestinians for attempting to make their homes habitable.

As regards the environment, minimum levels of sanitation and access to clean water for all Palestinian refugees should be ensured.

As regards employment, restrictions on Palestinian access to all professions should be

lifted and the process of obtaining work permits eased.

As regards education, Lebanon should ensure that all children under its jurisdiction have access to education equal to that enjoyed by Lebanese nationals.

As regards non-ID refugees, their status in Lebanon should be regularised and refugees provided with identification documents.

It’s altogether a shocking situation. Congratulations to the delegation for seeing it from the refugees’ angle and making their findings public.

“Conditions are unspeakable… the real culprit is Israel”

Sir Gerald Kaufman, who led the delegation, summed up. “When I went to Gaza in 2010 I thought I had seen the worst that could be seen of the appalling predicament of Palestinians living in conditions which no human being should be expected to endure. But what I saw in the camps in Lebanon is far worse and far more hopeless.

“The conditions are unspeakable, but for over 400,000 of our fellow human beings this is their life: today, tomorrow and for a future that cannot even be foreseen. At least in Gaza, frightful though the situation is, the people are free within the confines of their blockaded prison. In the camps of Lebanon they are not free and this is, to a very considerable degree, the responsibility of the Lebanese government which could allow

conditions to improve and could allow the victim freedom of movement, but specifically refuses to do it.

“Yet, culpable though the Lebanese government undoubtedly is, the real culprit is the Israeli government, which by refusing to come to a settlement with the Palestinians, is directly and horrendously responsible for the plight of those immured in the camps.

“It makes me more determined than ever to fight for the rights of the Palestinian people and to campaign against the deliberate decision of the Israeli government to perpetuate the hell in which so many Palestinians are living”.

There speaks one of the few honourable, decent men in the cesspit of Westminster politics… and a Jew.

At the time of Israel’s appalling blitzkrieg on Gaza’s civilians, Sir Gerald famously told the House of Commons: “My parents came to Britain as refugees from Poland. Most of their families were subsequently murdered by the Nazis in the Holocaust. My grandmother was ill in bed when the Nazis came to her home town of Staszow.  A German soldier shot her dead in her bed. My grandmother did not die to provide cover for Israeli soldiers

murdering Palestinian grandmothers in Gaza.

“It is time for our Government to make clear to the Israeli Government that their conduct and policies are unacceptable, and to impose a total arms ban on Israel. It is time for peace, but real peace, not the solution by conquest which is the Israelis’ real goal but which it is impossible for them to achieve. They are not simply war criminals; they are fools.”

Kaufman tells it the way it is, as do many brave Jewish peace groups – Jews for Justice and the like – and all credit to them for standing against the cruel Israeli regime.

So why cannot other Jews around the world, who reckon themselves to be well-informed and able to tell right from wrong, also speak up? What say all those making their fortunes here in the UK and living in luxury in Hendon, Golders Green and Manchester?

Are they not for justice?

Stuart Littlewood

1 April 2011

(www.intifada-palestine.com / 02.04.2011)

Non-violent marches attacked in at least 4 Palestinian towns

Weekly non-violent anti-Wall protests in a number of towns across the West Bank on Friday, including Bil’in, Nil’in, al Ma’sara and Nabi Saleh, were attacked by Israeli forces wielding tear gas and other ‘less-than-lethal’ weapons. Three protesters were injured when they were hit by high velocity tear gas canisters fired at close range by Israeli soldiers.

Protesters teargassed at past Bil'in protest (image by activestills)
Protesters teargassed at past Bil’in protest (image by activestills)

The protests on Friday commemorated Palestinian Land Day, the day in 1976 when Palestinians organized protests against Israeli confiscation of their land, and six protesters were gunned down by Israeli troops. Palestinians, along with supporters around the world, organize events each year on Land Day to protest the ongoing Israeli confiscation and annexation of Palestinian land.

According to a report from the Palestine News Network, in the village of Bil’in, where anti wall protests have been organized for the past six years, three men were injured when Israeli troops fired tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets at protesters. After the midday prayers in the local mosque finished, villagers were joined by international and Israeli peace activists and marched up the gate of the wall separating villagers from their lands.

Troops stationed there opened fire at protesters injuring three. The men sustained injuries when soldiers fired tear gas canisters directly at them. Many others were treated for the effects of tear gas inhalation.

The nearby village of Ni’lin held a similar protest on Friday. After conducting the Friday prayers on lands near the wall, villagers and their supporters marched up to the gate of the wall separating local farmers from their land. Israeli troops used tear gas and sound bombs to force people back. Many were treated for the effects of tear gas inhalation.

In the southern West Bank village of al-Ma’sara, near Bethlehem, Israeli troops used tear gas to suppress the weekly protest against the wall. Local politicians along with Israeli and international supporters joined the villagers after the midday prays and marched to the lands where Israel is building the wall.

Troops fired tear gas to force people back into the village; many were treated for the effects of tear gas inhalation.

(networkedblogs.com / 02.04.2011)

Allochtone Antwerpse agenten: “Moeten ons dubbel bewijzen”

Eind 2010 voerde de Antwerpse politie een onderzoek uit naar problemen die medewerkers van allochtone origine ervaren tijdens hun job. Uit de resultaten blijkt dat er geen racistisch klimaat heerst bij de politiediensten, maar dat heel wat werknemers van allochtone afkomst wel voelen dat ze zich dubbel moeten bewijzen en vaak het verwijt krijgen dat ze hun job kregen op basis van positieve discriminatie.

De politie bracht de resultaten donderdag zelf naar buiten, naar eigen zeggen om te voorkomen dat er indianenverhalen de kop zouden opsteken. Het onderzoek kwam er nadat er signalen waren opgevangen dat agenten van allochtone origine in hun eigen gemeenschap problemen ervaren omdat ze voor een politiecarrière kozen. Een eerste telefonische enquête bevestigde tot op zekere hoogte deze signalen, maar bracht vooral ook interne strubbelingen aan het licht.

Uit een vrijwillige mondelinge bevraging van vijfentwintig operationele politiemedewerkers van allochtone origine bleek dat 85 procent van hen aanvoelt zich dubbel te moeten bewijzen op de werkvloer, terwijl zelfs 90 procent al eens het verwijt kreeg dat hij of zij de job kreeg door positieve discriminatie. Ook zouden leidinggevenden te weinig optreden bij klachten rond racisme en discriminatie.


70 procent van hun ondervraagde autochtone medewerkers vindt dat dit laatste inderdaad het geval is, maar 75 procent beschouwt de aanwezigheid van allochtonen in het korps desondanks toch als een verrijking.

De politie gaat nu werken aan een meer transparante communicatie, een meldpunt diversiteit en het responsabiliseren van leidinggevenden.

(www.hbvl.be / 02.04.2011)

Sha’ath: Palestinian leaders mulling one-state solution

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Fatah Central Committee member Nabil Sha’ath said Thursday that a bi-national state was one of “many ideas” being formulated by the Palestinian leadership.

Palestinian leaders plan to declare an independent state in September, and to seek UN recognition of that state.

The Middle East Quartet — the UN, US, EU and Russia — and US President Barack Obama set September as the goal for establishing a Palestinian state. Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s two-year state-building plan is due to be completed in September.

However, if a Palestinian state is not established, several alternatives are being discussed by Palestinian leaders, Sha’ath said.

The senior Fatah official told Ma’an that one option to end the occupation was to form one state across all of historic Palestine, in which Palestinians would demand citizenship and equal civil rights.

He said leaders were also considering dissolving the Palestinian Authority and ending all Palestinian commitments to Tel Aviv, leaving Israel fully responsible for its occupation.

Placing Palestine under the mandate of the UN General Assembly was also being considered, Sha’ath said.

Israel has warned that Palestinians will face retaliatory measures if they seek recognition of a Palestinian state at the UN General Assembly.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told AFP that the ministry was working to ensure that there wouldn’t be a vote at the UN.

Meanwhile, a senior advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Moscow to dissuade Russia from supporting the EU’s intention to present a plan for the establishment of a Palestinian state, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported.

Israel insists that a Palestinian state can only be established through talks. The UN’s recognition of a state would be “the end of the path of dialogue and negotiation,” the foreign ministry spokesman said.

“If problems can no longer be solved through dialogue we shall also take unilateral measures … without at the moment threatening anything concrete,” Palmor added.

Palestinian reconciliation

Israel has also warned that national Palestinian unity would be the end of negotiations with Israel.

Netanyahu said the Palestinian Authority could not have peace with both Israel and Hamas. “It’s one or the other, but not both,” he told Jewish fundraisers in a speech distributed on Tuesday by the Israeli Government Press Office.

In the wake of mass youth protests across the West Bank and Gaza demanding an end to the division, Abbas accepted an invitation from Hamas premier Ismail Haniyeh to hold unity talks in the Gaza Strip.

On Saturday, Abbas met with a delegation of Hamas leaders in Ramallah, the first such meeting in over two years. Both sides described the talks as “positive.”

Hamas head of the Palestinian legislature Aziz Dweik led the delegation, and said he expected his party to accept Abbas’ initiative to end the division by forming a unity government to prepare for elections.

Sha’ath said that Abbas told the Hamas leaders that he was willing to give up US aid, worth $475 million annually, to make peace with Hamas.

Following Hamas’ victory in 2006 elections, the international community withdrew its funding from the Palestinian Authority, although it recognized that the elections were free and fair.

A unity government survived for a year without foreign aid, but collapsed when Hamas ousted Fatah from Gaza in bloody street battles in 2007.

The international community lifted its economic sanctions of the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority, which retained control in the West Bank. But Israel imposed a tight blockade of Gaza widely considered to be a form of collective punishment and illegal under international law.

(www.maannews.net / 02.04.2011)

Netanyahu to UN Chief: Upcoming Gaza flotilla must be stopped

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tells UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that the flotilla, scheduled to head toward the Gaza Strip in May, is a provocation and goods can easily be transported to the strip via land.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon Friday to stop the impending flotilla that is supposed to set sail to the Gaza Strip in May.

The Israeli prime minister told the UN Chief that the flotilla is being organized by extreme Islamists that are interested only in provocation. He added that the ship’s key goal is to fuel tensions, particularly in light of the fact that the Gaza Strip is open to all types of goods brought in via land.

“Hamas is a terrorist organization and Iranian proxy,” Netanyahu said, adding that “it was just recently revealed that part of Iran’s efforts is to arm [Hamas] and smuggle weapons into the strip.”

The prime minister then reminded the UN Chief of the recent incident of the Victoria ship earlier this month, upon which tens of tons of weapons from Iran were found and confiscated by Israel. Netanyahu told Ban that this is proof that Israel must act aggressively against the flotilla.

The Israel Navy intercepted an estimated 50 tons of weapons from Iran earlier this month aboard the Victoria, a cargo ship bound for the Gaza Strip, including sophisticated land-to-sea missiles that could have enabled Palestinian militants to hit ships at Ashdod Port or at sea, or other Israeli targets like a crude oil depot or a gas drilling rig.

The shipment also included instruction manuals in Farsi, and there were other clues that explicitly showed Iranian involvement.

Israel began a public campaign this month against the Turkish IHH organization as well as other left-wing European organizations who plan on sending a flotilla to May. Fifteen ships are expected to head towards the strip.

The exact departure date of the ships is still undecided, however the Foreign Ministry expects it to be sometime between May 15, Naqba Day, and May 31, the one-year anniversary of when Israeli naval forces boarded the Mavi Mara, destined for Gaza in an attempt to prevent it from breaching the blockaded on the strip. Nine Turkish citizens were killed.

The organizers of the upcoming flotilla have named it the “Freedom Fleet”.

(www.haaretz.com / 02.04.2011)

Egyptenaren willen Mubarak voor de rechter

Tienduizenden Egyptenaren hebben vandaag in Caïro en Alexandrië betoogd om te eisen dat ex-president Hosni Mubarak voor de rechter komt.

Mubarak is 11 februari opgestapt na massale stakingen en betogingen. De mensen achter de protesten vrezen nu dat Mubarak nog invloed heeft. Ze eisen ook dat de overheid bezittingen opeist die Mubarak van de staat zou hebben gestolen.

Een advocaat van Mubarak ontkende echter dat de oud-president erg rijk is geworden tijdens zijn bewind. Hij heeft recentelijk een overzicht ingeleverd bij de overheid.

(www.hln.be / 02.04.2011)

Palestinian ….. I was born by Omar Ghraieb


Palestinian I was born, a stone was found carved in my hand because we were born to resist even if it meant to face a tank with only a stone, or a whole army with courage, or occupation with existence. If you are Palestinian then you exist to resist.

If you are Palestinian you were born to cherish your land just like you cherish your honor. Every olive tree planted anywhere in Palestine represents a piece of your soul, when removed you ache even if you live miles away inside or outside of Palestine.

If you are Palestinian you were born with a goal, a goal to fight for justice. You were born to breathe freedom, breastfeed on resistance and grow with a great passion and devotion for Palestine.

If you are Palestinian you were born to be bound to an honorable history. You indulge in a world-wide support and thrive for a free Palestine.

If you are Palestinian you were born to be blessed with tolerance and acceptance, given an unbeatable soul and endless determination.

If you are Palestinian you were born with a deep connection to every freedom fighter around the world no matter where heshe is, you become instant siblings.

If you are Palestinian you were born to consider Palestine as your mother, your father, your family, your honor, your pride, your goal, your case, your soul, your dignity and pretty much everything else.

If you are Palestinian you were born with a great sense of endurance that will get through anything in life.

If you are Palestinian you were born to absorb and understand politics even when you are just a child.

If you are Palestinian you were born to suffer the loss of a loved one whether imprisoned, killed, bombed or abducted by Israel.

If you are Palestinian you were born with a seed of intifada inside of you that will be watered as you grow.

If you are Palestinian you were born to always have your head up high.

If you are Palestinian you were born to understand me, listen to me, support me, stand with me, watch my back and attack any outsider than threatens my safety.

If you are Palestinian you were born to shake the safety ground under Israel because your existence means trouble.

If you are Palestinian you were born to never give up on Palestine and never let go of your rights.

If you are Palestinian you were born to be special.

If you are Palestinian you were born to be a part of every Palestinian revolution.

If you are Palestinian you were born with inner courage that will defeat Israel even if it takes a long time.

If you are Palestinian you were born to wear the Kuffeyeh and the Palestinian flag proudly every chance you get.

If you are Palestinian you were born to value every grain of Palestinian sand.

If you are Palestinian you were born with a impeccable sense of belonging, you know Palestine belongs to you and you act like it.

If you are Palestinian you were born to see everything in Palestine in a different way, the sky is bluer, the grass is greener, the sand is yellower and freedom is more precious than everyone thinks.

If you are Palestinian, you were born to be inspired and inspire others.

If you are Palestinian you were born to love Falafel+msakhan+Knafeh+za3tar+olives+olive oil because it’s a part of your heritage, it’s a part of who you are.

If you are Palestinian you were born to endure the endless waiting process when you are stopped on an Israeli check-point.

If you are Palestinian you were born to endure Israeli torture and abduction.

If you are Palestinian you were born to endure terrorizing, warplanes, annoying drones, tanks and armed boats.

If you are Palestinian you were born to like the sound of bullets just like your love to fireworks.

If you are Palestinian you were born to admire not only the rose but its thrones too.

If you are Palestinian you were born to the fact that life goes on even if Israel bombs and innocent people die.

If you are Palestinian you were born to be unbeatable, unstoppable and fierce.

If you are Palestinian you were born with a heart that knows no fear.

If you are Palestinian you were born to fly with your soul over any siege, borders, barriers and checkpoints.

If you are Palestinian you were born with Jerusalem as one of your main priorities.

If you are Palestinian you were born to endure endless electricity cuts, and actually wait for them to light a candle and read a book by Ramzi Baroud, Mahmoud Darwish, Remi Kanazi, Paolo Quelho or any other author you like.

If you are Palestinian you were born to put Palestinians and Palestine first.

If you are Palestinian you were born to be a human more than any human.

If you are Palestinian you were born to accept and expect the death of your children.

If you are Palestinian you were born to celebrate the death of every Shaheed “Martyr” because you know that he brought you one step closer to FREEDOM.

If you are Palestinian you were born to know love, if you can love your land that much you will love your soul-mate too.

If you are Palestinian then I congratulate you and I congratulate myself for there is no greater honor than that.

Omar Ghraieb 1April2011
Posted by Omar Ghraieb


Getting Libya’s Rebels Wrong

The recent remarks by Adm. James Stavridis, NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe, alleging “flickers in the intelligence of potential al Qaeda, Hezbollah” among Libyan rebels are indicative of a disturbing trend in much of the discussion — and reporting — on Libya over the past several weeks. Ambiguous statements linking Libya and al Qaeda have repeatedly been made in the media without clarifying or providing appropriate context to such remarks. In many instances, these claims have been distorted or exaggerated; at times they have simply been false.

The admiral’s comments — and the subsequent headlines they’ve engendered — represent a new level of irresponsibility, constructing false connections, through use of highly obscure and equivocal language, between al Qaeda and Libyan pro-democracy forces backed by the Transitional National Council. The latter is itself led by a group of well-known and respected Libyan professionals and technocrats. Even more far-fetched is the admiral’s mention of a Hezbollah connection, or “flicker” as he put it.

Statements of this type are troubling because of their tendency to create alarmist ripple effects. Such perceptions, once created, are nearly impossible to reverse and may do serious damage to the pro-democracy cause in Libya. The fact that Stavridis qualified his comments by stating that the opposition’s leadership appeared to be “responsible men and women” will almost certainly be overshadowed by the mention of al Qaeda in the same breath. One must wonder, then, what precisely was the purpose of the admiral’s vague and perplexing remarks.

There is a pressing need for officials and commentators to clarify connections drawn between Libya and al Qaeda and to provide more accurate and responsible analysis. And it’s not just Stavridis’s reference to al Qaeda that is problematic; two similar claims making the media rounds also demand careful scrutiny. One involves an anti-Qaddafi organization called the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) that confronted and was crushed by the regime in the 1990s. The second involves disturbing reports of the recruitment of Libyan youth by al Qaeda in Iraq, some of whom left their homes to take part in suicide missions in that country. Neither is connected to the current uprising, but both are frequently mentioned when discussing it.

Let’s start with the LIFG, whose activities were recounted to me by a former member of the group’s leadership council now residing in London, Noman Benotman, in a lengthy interview I conducted with him in December 2009.

The exact date of the LIFG’s formation is unclear, but its roots can be traced back to the 1980s. In preparation for launching attacks against the Qaddafi regime, many members of the still nascent group traveled to Afghanistan to join the U.S.-backed mujahideen in their struggle against the Soviets and to undergo military training before returning to Libya.

In the early 1990s, LIFG members, among them Benotman, Saad Furjani, and others, developed extensive plans to expand the organization and prepare it for armed struggle; these were to be executed in several phases until the group was in a position to confront the regime directly. However, in 1995, the group’s activities were prematurely exposed when LIFG members led by Furjani and disguised as state security services stormed a Benghazi hospital and rescued Khaled Baksheesh, a fellow member who had been arrested and was in critical condition after being beaten by police who had discovered a concealed weapon in his possession. In response, state security services began a sweep of the region, and several LIFG cells were eventually discovered in cities throughout the country, including Benghazi, Tripoli, Darnah, Zawiyah, and Sabha. The group’s leadership council, most of whose members were in Sudan at the time, elected to declare its presence as an organization in October of that year, making public its intention to topple the regime. Over the next few years, Libyan security forces crushed the would-be rebellion, arresting or killing most of the LIFG’s membership.

Given that the Qaddafi regime was attempting to contain a homegrown opposition that threatened its continued survival, its decision to repair its damaged relations with the West beginning in the late 1990s was in essence a pragmatic one. This rapprochement necessitated, among other things, cooperation with Western anti-terrorism efforts: The LIFG was soon declared a terrorist organization by the U.S. government.

In 2005, Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, leader Muammar’s son, proposed a dialogue between the regime and the imprisoned LIFG membership, which numbered in the hundreds. He approached Benotman, who had been out of the country when the LIFG was discovered and had since settled in London; Benotman agreed to act as a liaison between the government and the prisoners beginning in January 2007.

The result of this dialogue was the release in September 2009 of a 400-page document titled Corrective Studies in Understanding Jihad, Accountability and the Judgment of People. The study — authored by imprisoned senior LIFG members and intellectuals Abd al-Hakim Balhaj, Abu al-Mundhir al-Saidi, Abd al-Wahab al-Qayed, Khalid al-Sharif, Miftah al-Duwdi, and Mustafa Qanaifid — analyzes various concepts related to jihad and Islamic law in an effort to delegitimize the use of armed struggle to overthrow the regimes of Muslim states. The LIFG recantation made headlines throughout the Arab world, and several prominent Muslim clerics, including Yusuf al-Qaradawi, praised the study. Even the Western media took notice. Others doubted the sincerity of the recantation, arguing that it was coerced or done simply to secure prisoner releases.

As the West’s darling in Libya — a country that over the last decade had actively sought to burnish its image on the international stage — Saif al-Islam was able to manipulate the story of the LIFG in order to make the claim that the Qaddafi regime had succeeded not only in thwarting al Qaeda in Libya, but in rehabilitating it to boot. In reality, this was little more than a PR stunt designed to bolster Qaddafi’s image as an effective hedge against terrorism, an ironic proposition given his past involvement in terrorist activities.

Although the LIFG had advocated the use of force against the regime, its former leaders have been quick to distinguish their group from radical organizations like al Qaeda, despite having trained in some of the same camps in Afghanistan and Sudan in the 1980s and 1990s. They point out that the LIFG never advocated the use of violence against Libyan or non-Libyan civilians, never participated in al Qaeda attacks, and had no interest in waging war on either Libyan society or the West — its target had been Qaddafi and Qaddafi alone. The LIFG never joined al Qaeda; in fact, LIFG leaders like Benotman have publicly denounced the organization’s use of indiscriminate violence and have in the past actively sought to distance themselves from the group, objecting vehemently to statements by al Qaeda’s No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, that the two groups had merged.

Despite the LIFG’s repudiation of al Qaeda, the latter did manage to infiltrate Libyan society in other, limited ways. In 2008, Newsweek reported the discovery of documents in northern Iraq suggesting that out of 606 al Qaeda militants listed, 112 had come from Libya. More striking was the fact that nearly half of these were from Darnah, a city of 50,000 known even among Libya’s neglected eastern regions for having suffered considerably under Qaddafi’s tenure. Even more troubling was the fact that many of these young men appeared to have volunteered for suicide missions.

It seems that though Qaddafi was successful in crushing his own internal opposition, he made little effort to stanch the trickle of would-be militants out of the country. Not only did the regime fail to prevent al Qaeda recruiters from preying on disillusioned young men, but it also arguably contributed to the problem by fueling the discontent and hopelessness endemic to Libyan society, where unemployment hovers around 30 percent and a deceptively high GDP belies the reality that most of the country’s oil wealth has not trickled down to the average citizen.

Why would young Libyans decide to abandon their homes and their families to kill and be killed in a foreign country? The reasons are complex, varied, and tragic, but there is little doubt that a deep sense of despair stemming from a lifetime of repression and lack of economic opportunity played a significant role. Although 112 individuals in a country of 6.5 million represents a negligible proportion of the population, the recruitment of young men by al Qaeda is nevertheless a source of grave concern among Libyans, just as it is for Europe, the United States, and other countries that have grappled with similar problems.

Although Libya is in some ways a traditional society, al Qaeda remains deeply unpopular among its people, many of whom have been keen to stress that this uprising is in no way connected to the terrorist organization. Indeed, they have repeatedly scoffed at Qaddafi’s absurd accusations to the contrary. The Libyan revolution is a decidedly nationalist, democratic movement, two characteristics that render it fatally incompatible with al Qaeda’s delusional goal of resurrecting a pan-Islamic caliphate; the Libyan people have no intention of allowing their movement to be hijacked by al Qaeda. That a handful of rebel fighters may have a history with the LIFG does not mean that the Transitional National Council or the pro-democracy fighters are connected to al Qaeda, yet this is precisely what the Qaddafi regime would have the international community believe. Indeed, the council just released a statement refuting allegations aimed at associating al Qaeda with the revolutionists in Libya, and affirming its commitment to combating terrorism and implementing Security Council resolutions on counterterrorism.

After his remark about “flickers” of al Qaeda, Stavridis admitted that he lacked “the detail sufficient to say that there’s a significant al Qaeda presence or any other terrorist presence in and among these folks.” But the absence of evidence cannot be passed off as the presence of information. Ambiguous and misleading statements like the admiral’s do a grave disservice to the Libyan people and their cause by effectively and unfairly lumping them together with al Qaeda in the public consciousness; they also do a disservice to those who seek a better understanding of Libya and its people. Libyans have already had to contend with the Qaddafi regime’s ridiculous allegations that their movement is nothing more than an al Qaeda plot fueled by widespread hallucinogenic drug use — let’s not join him in denigrating their cause.

News on Gaza Friday 01.04.2011 / 24.00

#GAZA Breaking News: Israeli Zionist plane hit a car by a missile on the east Khan Younis city, news talking about killed and injured
My mom just got back from the scene! horrible!!! 2 burned bodies , the house shook from the explosion A CAR
The target was convoy of two cars,all three riders on the 1st one dead.

This was found on Facebook, when will this war against Palestine stops?