Bill in Congress seeks to investigate US Boat to Gaza for “terrorist” ties

A bill introduced in the United States Congress last month would require the State Department to investigate “The sources of any logistical, technical, or financial support for the Gaza flotilla ships, including the Audacity of Hope, that were set to set sail from Greece on July 1, 2011.”

The Audacity of Hope is the name of the ship, operated by US Boat to Gaza, on which Alice Walker, Hedy Epstein and dozens of others attempted to break the illegal Israeli blockade of Gaza before being stopped by Greece last summer.

The bill, which contains numerous inflammatory and unsubstantiated claims from an Israeli “anti-terrorism” organization, would further criminalize American citizens’ solidarity with Palestinians.

House Resolution 3131 is sponsored by Representative Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and is co-sponsored by 12 other members of Congress from both parties including notorious anti-Palestinian campaigners, Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Eliot Engel (D-NY).

Defamation and falsehoods

The bill asserts, turning reality on its head, that “Recent past history has suggested that the sole intent of the flotillas is to provoke an Israeli military response in the international waters of the eastern Mediterranean Sea.”

It also claims, amid a laundry list of other dubious recitations, that “Since the beginning of 2010, Israel has provided over 100,000 tons of aid to the people living in Gaza.”

In fact, Israel does not provide any “aid” to Palestinians. Rather, Israel allows limited quantities of aid supplied by the United Nations and other countries into Gaza according to arbitrary restrictions as part of its siege.

Israel has deliberately restricted food supplies to the 1.6 million Palestinians in Gaza using “mathematical formulas” designed to keep the population on the edge of hunger without attracting too much international attention, as the Israeli human rights organization Gisha discovered from an examination of Israeli defense ministry documents.

Claims of “terrorist ties” based on Israeli propaganda outfit

Reproducing unsubstianted Israeli propaganda and allegations, the bill accuses the Turkish humanitarian organization IHH, which was involved in earlier flotillas, of ties to terrorism:

The Central Intelligence Agency and the Department of the Treasury have determined that flotilla organizers Free Gaza and the Insan Hak ve Hurriyetleri ve Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH), an Islamic nongovernmental organization (known in English as the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief), have known terrorist ties.

In 2010, IHH organized a flotilla that included the ship Mavi Marmara carrying 40 IHH members, including Fatima Mahmadi, Ken O’Keefe, Hassan Iynasi, Hussein Urosh, Ahmad Umimon, and others with known links to Al Qaeda, Hamas, and other terrorist organizations who were armed with 100 metal rods, 200 knives, 150 military self-defense vests, 50 wooden clubs, gas masks, and a telescopic sight for a gun.

But the bill provides no evidence to back up these sensational and propagandistic claims. IHH is in fact not designated as a “terrorist” organization by any US government agencies. The claims in the bill are not based on US government or intelligence reports, but appear to come directly from unsubstantiated claims published by an Israeli propaganda and advocacy outfit calling itself the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center. This group is closely connected with Israel’s military and intelligence establishments, the main sources for sometimes laughable anti-flotilla incitement and propaganda.

Laying grounds to prosecute Americans

The bill appears to be a transparent attempt to criminalize solidarity with Palestinians and opposition to US policy supporting Israel’s siege of Gaza. It would effectively further erode First Amendment rights in order to intimidate and suppress criticism of Israel. It demands,

Not later than six months after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of State shall submit to the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate a report on whether any support organization that participated in the planning or execution of the recent Gaza flotilla attempt should be designated as a foreign terrorist organization pursuant to section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1189).

No concern for Americans

HR 3131 reads like a manifesto of the most extremist pro-Israel organizations. Fair enough, if that’s how members of Congress think they should be spending their time. But in addition to the bill’s utter disregard for facts and its dehumanizing contempt for Palestinians is the notable lack of any concern for US citizens and their lives, especially Furkan Dogan an American teenager who was murdered execution-style by Israeli soldiers aboard the Mavi Marmara in May 2010.

The bill is currently in committee.

(electronicintifada.net / 12.11.2011)

TUNISAIR : Tripoli sera desservie à partir du 16 novembre

La compagnie aérienne nationale ‘’Tunisair’’ a décidé de reprendre ses vols réguliers en direction de Tripoli (aéroport de M3itiga), et ce à compter du mercredi 16 novembre 2011. Ainsi, la capitale libyenne sera désormais desservie par 2 vols quotidiens, soit 14 vols par semaine, a précisé un communiqué publié ce vendredi 11 novembre.

Les départs se feront systématiquement au départ de l’Aéroport Tunis Carthage sur les vols TU 417 à 13H45 et TU 413 à 17H50.

Rappelons que Tunisair opère déjà sur la ville de Benghazi à raison de 3 vols par semaine, lundi, Jeudi et Dimanche sur le vol 416.

Notons aussi, par la même occasion, que la SNTRI a repris aussi avec une ligne TUNIS – TRIPOLI / TRIPOLI – TUNIS par bus, ce qui redonne confiance aux voyageurs qui n’ont pas les moyens de prendre l’avion et veulent éviter de faire le voyage en louage.

(www.tunivisions.net / 12.11.2011)

Syria: Crimes Against Humanity in Homs

November 11, 2011

  • A Syrian military tank takes position in a residential street in city of Homs on August 30, 2011. The Syrian government has deployed tanks and military vehicles across the central province of Homs in an attempt to quell widespread anti-government protests.
Homs is a microcosm of the Syrian government’s brutality. The Arab League needs to tell President Assad that violating their agreement has consequences, and that it now supports Security Council action to end the carnage.
                    Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch

(New York) – The systematic nature of abuses against civilians in Homs by Syrian government forces, including torture and unlawful killings, indicate that crimes against humanity have been committed, Human Rights Watch said in a new report released today. Human Rights Watch urged the Arab League, meeting in Cairo on November 12, 2011, to suspend Syria’s membership in the League and to ask the United Nations Security Council to impose an arms embargo and sanctions against individuals responsible for the violations, and refer Syria to the International Criminal Court.

The 63-page report, “‘We Live as in War’: Crackdown on Protesters in the Governorate of Homs,” is based on more than 110 interviews with victims and witnesses from Homs, both the city and the surrounding governorate of the same name. The area has emerged as a center of opposition to the government of President Bashar al-Assad. The report focuses on violations by Syrian security forces from mid-April to the end of August, during which time security forces killed at least 587 civilians, the highest number of casualties for any single governorate.

Security forces have killed at least another 104 people in Homs since November 2, when the Syrian government agreed to the Arab League initiative for a political solution. Arab foreign ministers will meet in an emergency session on November 12 to discuss Syria’s failure to comply with the Arab League initiative.

“Homs is a microcosm of the Syrian government’s brutality,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The Arab League needs to tell President Assad that violating their agreement has consequences, and that it now supports Security Council action to end the carnage.”

Homs has emerged as the most restive governorate in Syria since anti-government protests erupted in mid-March. Human Rights Watch documented dozens of incidents in which security forces and government-supported militias violently attacked and dispersed overwhelmingly peaceful protests. A woman who participated with her 3-year-old son in a protest in the Homs neighborhood of Bab Dreib on August 15 described how they came under attack:

We went out in a peaceful protest with the whole family about 10:30 or 11 p.m. It was calm, so everything seemed ok. Then two cars showed up suddenly and opened fire, targeting people even as they were ducking and lying on the ground. They were white Kia Cerato cars with tinted windows, like those used by Air Force intelligence. The guns were machine guns. My husband leaned over our son to protect him, but the bullet entered our boy’s stomach. The doctors were able to remove the bullet, but it left a lot of damage.

Security forces have also conducted large-scale military operations in several towns in the governorate, including Tal Kalakh and Talbiseh as well as the city of Homs, resulting in many deaths and injuries. Typically, security forces used heavy machine guns, including anti-aircraft guns mounted on armored vehicles, to fire into neighborhoods to frighten people before entering with armored personnel carriers and other military vehicles. They cut off communications and established checkpoints restricting movement in and out of neighborhoods and the delivery of food and medicine. One resident of Bab Sba`, a part of the city particularly affected by the violence, described how security forces encircled the neighborhood:

Security forces blocked off Bab Sba` completely on July 21. Cars trying to get through were shot at from heavy military vehicles and pedestrians and bicycles were shot at by snipers. When we tried to bring food and medicine into the area on the morning of July 21, security forces opened fire. They killed one person, wounded a second, and arrested the third.

As in much of the rest of Syria, security forces in Homs governorate subjected thousands of people to arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, and systematic torture in detention. While most were released after several weeks in detention, several hundred remain missing. Most detainees were young men in their 20s or 30s, but security forces also detained children, women, and elderly people. Several witnesses reported that their parents or even grandparents – people in their 60s and 70s – had been detained.

Torture of detainees is rampant. Twenty-five former detainees from Homs were among those interviewed by Human Rights Watch. They all reported being subjected to various forms of torture. Human Rights Watch has independently documented 17 deaths in custody in Homs, at least 12 of which were clearly from torture. Data collected by local activists suggest even higher figures. They say that at least 40 people detained in Homs governorate died in custody between April and August.

Former detainees reported security forces’ use of heated metal rods to burn various parts of their bodies, the use of electric shocks, the use of stress positions for hours or even days at a time, and the use of improvised devices, such as car tires (locally known as dulab), to force detainees into positions that make it easier to beat them on sensitive parts of the body, like the soles of the feet and head. One witness described the torture he experienced at the Military Intelligence base in Homs:

They brought me into what felt like a big room with lots of people inside. I was blindfolded but could hear people around me screaming and begging for water. I could hear the sound of electric stun guns and interrogators ordering to hang people by their hands. Once they got to me, they started mocking me, saying, “We welcome you, leader of the revolution,” and asked me what was going on in Tal Kalakh. I said I didn’t know, and then the torture began.

They beat with cables and then hanged me by my hands from a pipe under the ceiling so that my feet weren’t touching the floor. I was hanging there for about six hours, although it was hard to tell the time. They were beating me, and pouring water on me, and then using electric stun guns. For the night, they put me into a cell, about 3-by-3 meters, along with some 25 other detainees. We were all squeezed together. Next morning, they brought me in for another interrogation. This time, they “folded” me, pushed my legs and head into a tire, flipped me on my back, and started flogging the soles of my feet.

One of the most worrisome features of the intensifying crackdown has been the growing number of deaths in custody. In almost all of the 17 deaths in custody that Human Rights Watch was able to confirm independently, witnesses said they had no information concerning their relatives’ fate or whereabouts after security forces detained them at a protest or checkpoint until the day they received a call, usually from a local public hospital, asking them to pick up the body. In at least 12 cases in which Human Rights Watch reviewed photos or video footage of the bodies, they bore unmistakable marks consistent with torture, including bruises, cuts, and burns.

Syrian authorities have repeatedly claimed that the violence in Homs has been carried out by armed terrorist gangs, incited and sponsored from abroad. Protesters appear to have been unarmed in most incidents, Human Rights Watch found, but armed defectors from security forces did intervene on some occasions after protesters came under fire from security forces.

Local residents told Human Rights Watch that since June, army defections had increased and that many neighborhoods had about 15 to 20 defectors who would sometimes intervene to protect protesters when they heard gunfire. In addition, the security forces’ violent crackdown and increasing sectarian mistrust have led residents of some neighborhoods in the city of Homs, notably Bab Sba` and Bab `Amro, to organize in local defense committees that are often armed, mostly with firearms but in some cases with rocket propelled grenades (RPGs).

Violence by protesters or defectors deserves further investigation. However, these incidents by no means justify the disproportionate and systematic use of lethal force against demonstrators, which clearly exceeded any justifiable response to any threat presented by overwhelmingly unarmed crowds. Nor would the existence of armed elements in the opposition justify the use of torture and arbitrary, incommunicado detention.

The decision of some protesters and defectors to arm themselves and fight back shows that the strategy adopted by Syria’s authorities has provoked a dangerous escalation in the level of violence, and highlights the need for the international community to ensure an immediate cessation of lethal force lest the country slip into bloodier conflict, Human Rights Watch said.

SANA, the Syrian official news agency, reported on November 6 that on the occasion of Eid al-Adha, the authorities had released 553 detainees “who were involved in the current events with no blood on their hands.” But authorities published no names and three lawyers representing human rights and political activists told Human Rights Watch separately that none of their clients had been released.

 

Selected Accounts from “‘We Live as in War’: Crackdown on Protesters in the Governorate of Homs”:
Mohammed (not his real name), whose 21-year-old cousin was among 16 killed when security forces and pro-government militias attacked people who had gathered for a funeral near the Khaled Bin al-Waleed mosque in Homs on July 19, told Human Rights Watch:

As we were burying the dead, I suddenly heard gunshots. Four pick-up vehicles with people in uniforms, helmets, and body armor drove up, shooting at the people with their automatic guns and guns mounted on the vehicles. We started running away. The mother and brother of one of the dead were killed next to his coffin. My cousin tried to drag the mother’s body away. He suddenly fell, but I didn’t know at that time that he had been hit. As I was running away I saw an armored personnel carrier also shooting. I don’t know whether they were shooting in the air or at the crowd.

In a similar incident, security forces attacked protesters without warning in the Khalidiyya neighborhood in Homs on August 5. Maher (not his real name), a protester, recounted the incident to Human Rights Watch:

We walked through the street after Friday prayers, passing the checkpoint run by Air Force intelligence and military forces. They made note of us. After we passed, they started shooting along the street. Some old people had stayed in the mosque, but when they tried to leave the forces fired even on them, on everyone passing in the street. They shot one man in his leg. Another man, an old man, tried to help him, but they shot him in the hand.

Mahmud (not his real name), said that he fled from his house in Homs when the security forces came to his neighborhood on May 15, but they took away his 51-year-old father. He said:

I was hiding in a house across the street and saw that they broke into our house and dragged my father out. They pushed him on the ground and started beating him, demanding that he praise Bashar al-Assad. He had to do it. They were about 10 to 15 men, some in military uniforms, with special forces badges, and some in black uniforms and white sneakers; I believe these were from mukhabarat. They blindfolded him and took him away in a taxi. For 24 days we had no information about his whereabouts, and then my uncle found him in the central jail in Homs, and managed to get him released on bail. When he was released his front teeth were broken and his face and eyes were swollen.

One witness, Abu Adam, who was detained in early July along with 11 other protesters from the Khalidiyya neighborhood in Homs, described to Human Rights Watch the conditions in a State Security detention facility in Homs:

The conditions were horrible. The cell measured 1.7 by two meters. There were eight of us there. There was a tiny window high up on the wall, but it provided no light or air. We had to take turns sleeping on each other’s shoulders. There was no place to lie down. I was dripping with sweat from head to toe. They gave us two loafs to share twice a day and a bottle of water. Twice a day they gave us 10 seconds to use the toilet.

Basel (not his real name), gave an account of the torture he experienced at the Military Intelligence detention facility in Homs:

When I did not answer all their questions during interrogation, they took me to a torture room. My eyes were blindfolded, but I recall going five steps down. They used handcuffs to tie one of my arms to a pipe under the ceiling and left me hanging there, with my feet barely touching the ground. They left me there for two or three hours. They did this over eight days. There were usually five or six detainees tortured that way at any given moment. I could not see them but I could hear their screams. Sometimes, they would also beat me while hanging. My wrist, arm, and shoulder would hurt so much, that I tried at one point to break my arm so that they would have to take me down.

Fadi (not his real name), from the town of al-Qusair outside of Homs, told Human Rights Watch about the death of a family friend, 35-year-old Ahmad al-Masri. He said that al-Masri was mentally disabled and that in late May or early June security forces had arrested him as he walked around the streets, randomly repeating anti-government slogans he heard at the protests. Fadi said:

A week after he was detained, his body was returned to his parents. I saw the body when it was brought in. It was covered in bruises and oval red and blue marks that seemed to be from electric shocks, mostly on his back. His ribs were broken –some of the ribs were sticking out of his body. His father said that he had been called into the central facility of the Military Intelligence in Homs and made to sign a statement saying that Ahmad had been killed by “extremists.” He said the security forces threatened to otherwise not only keep the body but also “go after his daughters.” So he had no choice but to sign it.

(www.hrw.org / 12.11.2011)

Twitter Ordered to Disclose Account Info of WikiLeaks Associates

A Virginia district court judge has ruled the U.S. government can collect the private information of three WikiLeaks volunteers from the social networking site, Twitter. The government has subpoenaed all the account information of Icelandic lawmaker Birgitta Jonsdottir, Dutch activist Rop Gongrjip and programmer Jacob Appelbaum. Thursday’s ruling upholds a lower court judgment in March that found the subpoena does not violate constitutional protections against unreasonable searches.

( www.commondreams.org / 11.11.2011)

Is Egypt’s Revolution at risk?

Following the rather successful  conclusion of parliamentary elections in Tunisia, attention has now turned to  elections in Egypt. Coming almost a year after the toppling of the Mubarak  regime, elections will serve as a useful political barometer for the strength  of various political groups in the country. For some, though, elections will  also be an opportunity to consolidate or erode gains made during the last few  months. In particular, after the consistently strong polling results of Muslim  Brotherhood-associated groups, most of the questions being raised are about the  role that the Muslim Brotherhood is likely to play in a post-Mubarak Egypt.

In an article for the daily Al Ahram, Abdel-Moneim Said wonders  whether Egypt will follow Tunisia’s model: “[t]he Tunisian example is quite  refreshing, suggesting that the Islamists are capable of change and are trying  to keep the spirit of the Arab Spring alive. Will other Islamist-leaning  parties follow the Tunisian lead, or will they hold back the transition towards  democracy? Will the Islamists open up to the world and engage the international  scene, or will they be distant and xenophobic? The answer is to be found in  Cairo. With 80 million people, Egypt is without question the biggest fish in  the Arab pond. If it floats, the whole region will benefit. If it sinks, the  consequences will be felt outside its borders. So far, the scene in Cairo is  mixed. The Muslim Brotherhood is neither open-minded nor modern in its  tendencies….We don’t know if the Muslim Brotherhood wants the country to move  forward, or turn around.”

The signs coming from the main  political actors don’t necessarily point to a non-controversial election. Last  week, according to a report by Hussein Mahmoud on Ikhwan Web. “[a]fter five full hours, Tuesday’s conference for  the declaration of the basic principles of the Constitution of the modern  Egyptian state came to an end. Dr. Ali Selmi, Deputy Prime Minister for  Political Affairs, held the meeting with some political and party stakeholders  at the Opera House, from 11 am to 4 pm….The FJP did call upon political  parties and national stakeholders to take part Wednesday in a press conference…to  discuss the negative effects of Dr. Selmi’s initiative on the revolution and  the community at large. Meanwhile, the Wafd, the Tajammu’a and the Egyptian  Social Democratic parties have accepted the Principles document, amid strong  rejection by the FJP and Al-Nour, while six human-rights organizations  boycotted Selmi’s conference because of the issues of military trials and  ‘torture.’”

The growing divide among the  various Egyptian political actors in light of the newly proposed Bill of Rights  is also the subject of an article by Amr Emam In The Egyptian Gazette,“The gap between the nation’s Islamists on one hand  and the interim government and the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces  on the other hand seems to be widening, in the wake of the Islamists expressing  strong reservations about a package of supra-constitutional principles that the  Government wants the nation’s political powers to endorse, just weeks before  the nation goes to the polls on November 28….El-Selmi came under intense fire  from the Islamists last week when he gathered political powers to discuss a  Government-authored bill of rights, a document that contains the principles  that should govern Egypt’s next Constitution. Some political powers, including the  Islamists, objected in particular to articles in the bill giving the armed  forces the right to agree on arms deals without parliamentary supervision.”

As a report by Al Masry Al Youm makes clear,  relations between the military-backed government and the Islamist parties are  likely to become even more strained: “Islamists are planning for massive  demonstrations on Friday, 18 November, to protest the document of  supra-constitutional principles [that] Deputy Prime Minister Ali al-Selmy is  advocating for. Selmy met with political leaders on Wednesday to discuss the  22-clause document, which will put in place certain guidelines on the character  of the state to be followed whenever the new constitution is written….Yousry  Hammad, the spokesperson for the Nour Party, stressed that the more Selmy steps  up his efforts to pass the document, the more his party will escalate its  efforts to prevent it. He claimed that 99 percent of Egyptians reject the document,  aside from the Tagammu and Wafd parties, remnants of the former Mubarak regime  and anti-Islamist groups.”

However, as Asharq Alwasat’s Abdul Sattar Hatita  notes, not everyone accepts the Muslim Brotherhood’s claims of moral  leadership. According to Hatita, “Sheikh Yusuf al-Badri, a well-known Islamic  preacher and former member of the Egyptian People’s Assembly, launched a  scathing verbal attack on the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic Group and the  Salafi movement, saying that these groups have the blood of many Egyptians on  their hands….Al-Badri fears that fighting between the Muslim Brotherhood and  Salafi groups is around the corner, and this he believes is because of  lingering disputes between the movements, which Al-Badri expects to intensify  at the upcoming elections or soon after. Al-Badri stated that currently there  is a committee for coordinating between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafi  powers in order to avoid such clashes. The indications of that emerged at the  “Islamic sharia Friday” demonstration at al-Tahrir Square in July  2011.”

Challenges to the  military-backed government are not coming from religious organizations only. Sarah  El Sirgany of Daily News Egypt writes  about an imprisoned activist’s mother, who has gone on a hunger strike  demanding her son’s release: “Abdel-Fattah, an activist and outspoken critic of  the ruling military council, was remanded in custody earlier this month pending  investigations into accusations of inciting violence, stealing army weapons and  vandalizing military property on Oct. 9, during the Maspero events. On Oct. 30,  he refused to be questioned by the military prosecution since the army is party  to the crime it is probing, and that as a civilian he should not be  interrogated by the military prosecution….At a press conference last Thursday  members of the No to Military Trials Campaign, coordinated by Abdel-Fattah’s  sister Mona, urged civilians to follow in Abdel-Fattah’s footsteps and refuse  any interrogation by the military prosecution whether they are summoned as  suspects or witnesses. As Seif El-Islam explained, ‘the right to remain silent  is a basic legal right.’”

Others see the betrayal of the  ideals of the Egyptian uprising foremost in the area of women’s rights. Al Masry Al Youm’s Aliaa  Dawood is concerned that “Egyptian men are busy planning and implementing  another revolution, but this time women will not play any role in it  whatsoever. This is because it is a revolution against women’s rights. Those  behind it are organizations with names like the “Coalition to Protect the  Family,” “Save the Family Association” and “Egyptian Men’s Revolution.” Their  efforts, as well as those of many others, constitute a backlash against women’s  rights….Not surprisingly, many men — especially members of the Egyptian Men’s  Revolution and similar organizations — perceive the ousting of the Mubarak  regime as a wonderful opportunity to “regain their rights,” and this seems to  be happening. Their success is not because women are not entitled to the rights  in question, but because of who was behind introducing these changes and how  they were introduced.”

(mepc.org / 11.11.2011)

Palestinian-UN Bid Rejected

UN Admission Committee, specialized for recognizing new states’ applications, submitted its report to the UN Security Council on Friday, reading that the Palestinian-UN full membership has been rejected after discussions regarding the Palestinian bid.


PA President, Abbas submitting bid to UN www.maannews.net

The committee’s secretary, the Portuguese ambassador to the UN Gabriel Jose Blaba said that “The UNSC member states would continue their discussions regarding the upcoming Palestinian steps of the Palestinian application at the UN.”

Eight members voted in favor of the Palestinian-UN bid, which are Russia, China, India, Brazil, South Africa, Niger, Gabon and Lebanon while 7 other members voted against the bid including the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Columbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Portugal has abstained.

It is worth mentioning that the committee’s stand has been leaked out few days ago which cause the Palestinian Minister Foreign Affairs, Riyad Al-Maliki, confirming the Palestinian bid for full membership at the UN. He further stated that the Palestinians would continue their attempts in order for Palestine to be a full member at the international body.

(www.imemc.org / 11.11.2011)

Wansmakelijke soap rond Palestina

De theatrale woede van de VS en Israël over de Palestijnse demarches om eerst het lidmaatschap aan te vragen van de Verenigde Naties en vervolgens van de Unesco, de VN-organisatie voor Onderwijs, Wetenschap en Cultuur, heeft ongekende en absurde proporties aangenomen.

Mediaviewer

De zilveren ster in de Geboortkerk in Betlehem markeert de plaats waar Jezus geboren zou zijn. De Palestijnse Authoriteit wil twintig culturele erfgoedsites laten beschermen.
© No Lands Too Foreign

Het VN-lidmaatschap is hoe dan ook ijdele hoop, want de VS plaatst in de Veiligheidsraad zeker zijn veto. Maar binnen de Unesco bestaat er geen vetorecht en haalden de Palestijnen moeiteloos de vereiste tweederdemeerderheid (107 voor, 14 tegen en 52 onthoudingen). De VS, die Israël nog nooit sanctioneerde voor zijn bezettings- en annexatiepolitiek door bijvoorbeeld de miljarden aan militaire en economische hulp aan het land op te schorten, kondigde onmiddellijk aan dat het zijn Unesco-bijdrage van 60 miljoen dollar voorzien voor november, niet zou storten.

Volgens de woordvoerder van het Witte Huis was de Unesco-stemming “prematuur en ondermijnt ze het gedeelde doel van de internationale gemeenschap voor een alomvattend, rechtvaardige en duurzame vrede in het Midden-Oosten”. Je moet maar durven. Was het niet net die internationale gemeenschap die voor het Palestijns lidmaatschap van Unesco heeft gestemd? Na decennia van bezetting en twintig jaar van vruchteloos onderhandelen, kan men bovendien nog moeilijk spreken over ‘prematuur’. Hoe het Palestijns lidmaatschap van een organisatie wiens werk er uit bestaat om waardevolle sites te beschermen bedreigend zou kunnen zijn voor de duurzame vrede in de regio, gaat zelfs Orwell’s petje te boven.

Obama plat op de buik

In februari sprak de VS al als enige zijn veto uit tegen een resolutie van de VN-Veiligheidsraad die Israël vroeg om onmiddellijk een einde te maken aan alle activiteiten in de nederzettingen op de Palestijnse gebieden. De VS-vertegenwoordigster gebruikte het klassieke argument dat de resolutie vredesonderhandelingen zou verhinderen. ‘Les excuses sont faits pour s’en servir’. Na de Unesco-stemming kondigde het Israëlische kernkabinet aan dat het bij wijze van strafmaatregel 2000 nieuwe wooneenheden, grotendeels in Oost-Jeruzalem zal bijbouwen. Op een internationale democratische stemming reageert Israël dus met de illegale diefstal van Palestijns grondgebied.

Hierop kwam geen enkele verklaring of signaal vanuit Washington dat dit het vredesproces in gevaar zou brengen. Vorig jaar had president Obama Israël in de Algemene Vergadering van de VN nochtans persoonlijk maar vruchteloos gevraagd om de uitbreiding van de nederzettingen voor enkele maanden langer te bevriezen. Netanyahu, die zich kan verzekeren van de steun van het overgrote deel van de politieke elite in Washington, liet de Amerikaanse president Obama toen plat op zijn buik gaan. “Neen”, zo klonk het afgemeten. De voorbarige Nobelprijswinnaar moest buigen en slikken.

Erfgoed

Het hele Unesco-gedoe maakt deel uit van een wansmakelijke soap. De VS en Israël hangen nu in de gordijnen omwille van de officiële toetreding van Palestina tot de Unesco, maar maakten nooit een probleem over het geld dat de Unesco jaren geleden al op tafel legde om het Palestijns erfgoed te inventariseren (dat nu met het lidmaatschap ook beschermd kan worden). De inventarisering gebeurt via het al jaren functionerende Unesco-kantoor in Ramallah op de Westelijke Jordaanoever.

En er valt wat te beschermen in dit gebied waar je bij wijze van spreken bij elke spadesteek op archeologische schatten stoot. De Palestijnse Autoriteit wil graag een twintigtal sites beschermen waaronder de Geboortekerk (van Jezus) in Bethlehem. Zou de conservatief-christelijke zionistische lobby in de VS wel beseffen dat de VS-aanval op Unesco niet erg in lijn ligt met het christelijke belang dat ze wellicht zelf hechten aan dit populaire pelgrimsoord? Hoe kortzichtig kan je zijn?

Steun aan Israël is strategische last

Uiteraard kan het Palestijnse streven om lid te worden van de Unesco niet los worden gezien van de context van de bezetting. Het neerslaan van de intifada (Palestijnse volksopstand) en de Israëlische kolonisatie van Palestijns gebied, gingen gepaard met heel wat destructie van het Palestijns erfgoed. In Nablus en Hebron werden waardevolle historische gebouwen beschadigd of vernietigd. Ook de Geboortekerk heeft geleden onder de maandenlange belegering tijdens de intifada. Eens erkend zal het Israëlisch leger hopelijk tweemaal nadenken vooraleer het zijn tanks over Palestijns werelderfgoed laat rollen.

In hun boek ‘De Israël-Lobby’ stellen de gerenommeerde academici Mearsheimer en Walt dat de onvoorwaardelijke Amerikaanse economische, militaire en diplomatieke steun aan Israël tot een strategische last is geworden. Ze bemoeilijkt de Amerikaanse verhoudingen met een aantal andere landen in de wereld, wat de VS op kosten jaagt. De VS-regering dreigt alle capaciteit te verliezen om een buitenlandse politiek te voeren die haar belangen verdedigt in een cruciale geostrategische en olierijke regio.

Moesten de Arabische regimes de werkelijke emanatie zijn van de collectieve volkswil, dan zou de VS het wel kunnen vergeten. De VS drijft zich in het isolement en met zich de landen die hun beleid bijna onvoorwaardelijk steunen. Bij de Unesco-stemming was Europa sterk verdeeld, maar koos België er wijselijk voor om de VS niet te volgen en dus voor Palestijns lidmaatschap te stemmen. Onze regering heeft er alle belang bij om deze lijn ook in de toekomst aan te houden.

Dit artikel verschijnt als edito in het november-december nummer van het Tijdschrift Vrede

Ludo De Brabander is woordvoerder van Vrede vzw

(www.mo.be / 11.11.2011)

Palestine building wins statewide award

PALESTINE — After being named a finalist in the category in August, the Duncan Depot Antiques/Lucas Hardware Building in Palestine was recently named a winner in the Best Restoration category of the 2011 Texas Downtown Association (TDA) Presidents Awards Program.

Winners were announced at the Texas Downtown Development and Revitalization Conference held at the Hotel Fredonia in Nacogdoches on Nov. 3. Since 1998, the Awards Program has recognized more than 150 projects, events and people that make a difference in Texas downtowns.

Duncan Depot Antiques, located at 105 W. Spring St. in the Main Street Palestine District, has been under restoration for the past two years by Duncan Depot Antiques owner Lily Duncan.

“The credit goes to our preservation contractor, Paul Priestner. He not only made our building look historically correct, he made sure the materials were from the correct period. Only our glass is new,” Duncan said in August. “The cast iron store front, ceiling tin, bead board, brick, and door materials and hardware are all from structures over a hundred years old. That makes our building a green restoration and I am proud of that.”

The Best Restoration award recognizes excellence in restoration of the interior or exterior of an existing building.  Judges were impressed at the restoration of the building and attention to historic detail. The Byrne-Reed House/Humanities Texas in Austin was also named a winner in this category.

Judging for the awards took place on Aug. 5, in Austin. The distinguished jury panel included the following representatives: Jim Adams, McCann Adams Studio; Terri Davis, AJR Media Group; Pete Gasper, Laurie Smith Design Associates; and Lori Martin, Paramount Theatre.

The Texas Downtown Association, established in 1985, is a statewide nonprofit organization comprised of more than 400 members involved in downtown revitalization projects.

By fostering development and revitalization, TDA strives to enhance the economic vitality of Texas downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts by providing resources, networking opportunities, education and advocacy.  For more information, visit www.texasdowntown.org.

(palestineherald.com / 11.11.2011)

Israeli forces ‘stop funeral’ near Hebron, make arrests

Palestinians attend a funeral in Saeer village near the West Bank city of Hebron  (MaanImages/Mamoun Wazwaz, )
HEBRON (Ma’an) — Israeli forces intervened in the funeral of a Palestinian woman in Beit Ummar, north of Hebron, on Friday, Palestinian activists in the West Bank village said.

Muhammad Ayyad Awad of the local popular committee said soldiers stopped the funeral from reaching a cemetery on the main road. The people had to go through a bypass road to reach the cemetery.

He added that as soon as Palestinians arrived at the cemetery, Israeli forces shot tear gas grenades to disperse them.

Awad said that the forces also raided the house of Mahmoud Abu Ayyash and took over the roof of his house. Israeli bulldozers closed the northern entrance of the village with cement blocks and closed the main gate on the northern entrance.

Witnesses told Ma’an that forces shot tear gas canisters toward residents and detained more than 15 Palestinians from the village. The witnesses said one of the detainees was injured.

(www.maannews.net / 11.11.2011)

Voorlopig geen zitje voor Palestina in Verenigde Naties

De toelatingscommissie van de VN-Veiligheidsraad bereikte geen akkoord bereikt over het verzoek tot erkenning van Palestina als volwaardig lid van de Verenigde Naties.

Zo eindigt voorlopig het Palestijnse offensief voor erkenning, maar de Palestijnen tonen zich vastberaden om hun slag alsnog thuis te halen.

De Palestijnse VN-gezant Riyad Mansour zei na afloop van de beraadslagingen van de toelatingscommissie dat de Palestijnse aanvraag is getorpedeerd door “een machtig land”. “Jammer genoeg is dit vandaag de realiteit, maar we laten ons niet afschrikken en zullen onze inspanningen voortzetten”, zo verklaarde hij. De Verenigde Staten dreigden ermee een veto te gebruiken tegen de Palestijnse aanvraag indien het verzoek bij de 15-koppige Veiligheidsraad zou belanden. Dat zal echter niet gebeuren omdat de Palestijnen er niet in slaagden de noodzakelijke negen stemmen binnen te halen.

Alternatieve piste

Volgens diplomaten kunnen de Palestijnen het nog steeds proberen via de algemene vergadering, waar ze een tweederdemeerderheid van de lidstaten voor hun verzoek zouden moeten winnen. Tegen beslissingen van de algemene vergadering kan geen veto worden uitgesproken.

In de algemene vergadering staan volgens Mansour 130 van de 193 lidstaten achter de erkenning van de Palestijnse staat als volwaardig lid van de Verenigde Naties. Volgens de ambassadeur zal de regering in Ramallah zich nu beraden over de volgende stappen.

(www.knack.be / 11.11.2011)