Egypt seeks to end gas exports to Israel

A popular campaign by a group of Egyptian activists against gas exports to Israel has won a court case on the terms of the country’s gas deal with Tel Aviv.

The court ruled on the ministry of petroleum “not to export one single unit of gas before satisfying the local needs,” head of the Campaign against Gas Export to Israel Ibrahim Yousri told Press TV on Wednesday.

For Egyptians, the issue of supplying the Israeli regime with gas has always been a contentious one. Egyptians view Israel as an enemy and oppose engaging in any kind of business with the regime.

Egypt’s gas supply to Israel has been one of the main economic conditions of the US-sponsored 1979 peace treaty between the two sides.

Under a $2.5-billion export deal with Tel Aviv, signed in 2005, the Israeli regime gets around 40 percent of its gas supply from Egypt at a considerably low price.

However, after Egyptians faced electricity blackouts last summer due to gas shortages, most experts are demanding an extensive revision of the deal.

Muslim Brotherhood Spokesman Walid Shalaby also told Press TV, “This deal was made in the dark, away from the sight of supervisory and legislative bodies. It has to be proposed to the new parliament which will decide on who to export to and to determine the price of the exported gas.”

The development comes despite a reported Israeli plan to opt for gas instead of nuclear energy following the recent crises in Japan over radiation leaking from a crippled nuclear power plant.

On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Tel Aviv is going to reconsider its nuclear energy plans for the coming years and choose natural gas as the main alternative.

Egypt has resumed exporting natural gas to Israel after a one-month hiatus due to an explosion that damaged the pipeline delivering gas to Israel, Jordan and Syria.

On Wednesday, Israeli firms confirmed that supplies had resumed but that initial quantities were below normal level. The resumption of gas deliveries was delayed repeatedly due to leaks.

( / 19.03.2011)

President Tunesië zoekt toevlucht in België

BRUSSEL – De verdreven Tunesische president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali zou toevlucht willen zoeken in België. De Belgische politie en inlichtingendiensten houden rekening met zijn komst, meldde de Vlaamse krant De Morgen zaterdag.

In de Vlaams-Brabantse plaats Relegem bij Brussel woont aangetrouwde familie van Ben Ali. De politie is er naar eigen zeggen attent op zijn eventuele bezoek. Naar verluidt zou de ex-president een reünie plannen met zijn familie, die uit elkaar werd gescheurd door de volksopstand in Tunesië.

Ben Ali werd in januari verdreven en vertrok naar Saudi-Arabië. Sinds enkele weken beschikt de Belgische politie over informatie die ”niet uitsluit” dat hij naar België probeert te komen.

( / 19.03.2011)

German Left Party leader votes in favour of military intervention in Libya

On Thursday, the UN Security Council approved a resolution paving the way for the US and other major imperialist powers to conduct a direct military intervention in Libya, under the pretense of a “humanitarian” mission. The resolution, which goes far beyond earlier proposals for a no-fly zone, was sponsored by the US, France, Britain and Lebanon. Germany and Russia were among those abstaining in the vote.

The European Parliament has been aggressively pushing for military intervention in Libya. On March 10, it passed a resolution by 584 in favour and 18 against, with 18 abstentions, calling for official recognition of the National Transitional Council in Benghazi and supporting a military intervention by the European Union.

Article 10 of the resolution stresses that “none of the measures provided for in the options of the UN Charter can be ruled out,” and called upon the EU External Representative Catherine Ashton, to make “arrangements for a possible decision in the UN Security Council for further action, such as the establishment of a no-fly zone “.

The resolution was supported by all factions of the European Parliament from the conservative right to the Socialists and Greens, and even won the support of leading members of the so-called Party of the European Left (EL).

The adoption of the resolution by the European Parliament was a direct preparation for more aggressive action against Libya. EU foreign ministers subsequently intensified sanctions against the Libyan regime and NATO defence ministers strengthened military surveillance of the Libyan coast.

On March 11, the heads of state and government of the 27 EU countries demanded the immediate resignation of Col. Muammar Gaddafi and stepped up the military threats. All of these measures are aimed at installing a government in Tripoli sympathetic to the interests of the international oil companies and the European powers.

The resolution was supported by leading members of the European Left Party, Lothar Bisky (Left Party, Germany), Marie-Christine Vergiat (Front de Gauche, France) and Miguel Portas (Bloco de Esquerda, Portugal). Bisky is the chairman of the Joint Group of the European Left Party and the European United Left–Nordic Green Left in the European Parliament (GUE/NGL). Up until May of last year Bisky was also joint chairman of the German Left Party alongside Oskar Lafontaine, and until December, chairman of the Party of European Left. Marie-Christine Vergiat is treasurer of the GUE / NGL and the head of French delegation.

In supporting the all-party resolution, Bisky, Vergiat and Portas opposed a previously prepared resolution put forward by their own group. This resolution explicitly opposed “any foreign military intervention to resolve the crisis in Libya”. Bisky and company then undertook a delicate balancing act by first voting against article ten of the resolution, only to vote shortly afterwards for the entire resolution, including article ten.

The newspaper Junge Welt reported that originally the three members of parliament intended to sign the resolution on behalf of the entire Group. That plan was then dropped after protests from other EL members. In addition to Bisky, Vergiat and Portas, eight other members of the GUE/NGL group voted in favour of the parliamentary resolution—including the chairman of the French Left Party, Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Another nine abstained, while just 15 of the 35-strong group voted against a military intervention in Libya.

After the vote Bisky issued a press statement, with five other EU members of the Left Party, which cynically declared: “We also oppose any military intervention. We believe that the compromise contained in the resolution of the European Parliament calling for a no-fly zone to be false, even if it takes up demands from sections of the Libyan opposition and states belonging to the Arab League and the African Union. A no-fly zone always poses the risk that it must be enforced militarily. This would involve EU member states into a military confrontation. This will certainly not strengthen democracy movements from Morocco to Yemen.”

The glaring contradiction between Bisky’s support for the all-party EU resolution and the official line of his party reveals the hollow character of the Left Party’s left rhetoric. Up to this point, representatives of the party still had the luxury of voting no when their vote made no difference anyway. But now the leadership of the Left Party has concluded that it is necessary to send a clear signal of support to the ruling elite. Bisky continues to play an important role in the party, and one can assume that he is in close contact with party leaders in Berlin concerning his work in the European Parliament.

So far, the leadership of the Left Party has been remarkably reticent in responding to Bisky’s initiative. If the party took its official stance of anti-militarism seriously it would have immediately called for Bisky’s expulsion from the party or at least his resignation from his leading posts. However, no one in the entire party has uttered a word of criticism and the party executive has refrained from any official comment. Instead party members have sought rationalisations for Bisky’s action.

Thomas Handel, one of two speakers of the German delegation in the GUE/NGL group, told the newspaper Neues Deutschland on Saturday he saw no conflict in the delegation, there was only “need for discussion”.

Handel justified Bisky’s support for the parliamentary resolution by saying that “it did not restrict itself to the issue of no-fly zones”. It also raised demands for the isolation of the Gaddafi regime. “These are key elements that you can and must support. And they are points that we now have to work out in more depth in our continued work in the European parliament.”

Handel’s justification reveals more than he intended. Both he and the Left Party faction in the EU parliament are in fundamental accord with all other parties regarding punitive measures against Libya designed to safeguard European interests in the oil-rich country and to stifle revolution throughout the Arab world.

The leadership of Libya’s National Transitional Council consists of former ministers of Gaddafi, who turned their back on him at the last minute and immediately guaranteed the country’s contracts with international oil companies. They have as little to offer the impoverished masses of Libya as Gaddafi in Tripoli.

Handel objects to the only logical conclusion of the entire political line of the EU resolution, i.e. military intervention, but Bisky has already gone a step farther.

Bisky’s vote to support military intervention in Libya is an important lesson for all those seeking to oppose militarism and social attacks in North Africa and Europe. When the interests of the ruling class are seriously threatened, it can rely on Bisky and the Left Party. These pseudo-left forces will play the same role in the near future in Europe as social resistance develops.

( / 19.03.2011)


Government Turns to Force Against Protests in Bahrain and Yemen

Government Turns to Force Against Protests in Bahrain and Yemen [VIDEO]

The governments of Bahrain and Yemen cracked down even further on pro-democracy protesters on Thursday. In Bahrain, the pearl monument at the center of Pearl Square that had come to serve as a symbol of the protestswas torn down by bulldozers. And in Yemen, the police fired live ammunition into protesters just after daily prayers at the mosque, killing 45, says the Guardian.

The official line about the destruction of the Pearl Square monument was, according to Bahrain’s foreign minister, Sheik Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa, to give the square a ‘facelift.’ According to the New York Times, Said al-Khalifa:

“We did it to remove a bad memory….The whole thing caused our society to be polarized. We don’t want a monument to a bad memory.”

But the monument’s demolition can be seen as capping a string of actions taken by the government to put down the protests. On Tuesday, the government declared a state of martial law. Rallies have been outlawed, tanks surround the central hospital and troops from Saudi Arabia are stationed in Bahrain, also at the government’s request.

Authorities had also prevented the body of 30-year-old Ahmed Farhan to be returned to his family. Farhan was shot by security forces on Tuesday in Sitra, an activist Shiite village south of the capital, but permission for his body to be returned to his family had been met with denials for most of the week. Farhan’s body had shotgun pellet wounds on his back and a gaping hole in his skull. Some 5000 people attended his funeral:

Basel Hamad, a 35-year-old information technology manager, lives in Sitra as did his parents and grandparents, and he took part in the funeral march on Friday. He has three daughters and is wondering whether to move to Europe given what has happened in recent days.

“When this started, I thought the king would accept the changes,” he said. “Now the people are very angry.”

Ali Hbel, a taxi driver injured in the police action at Pearl Square on Wednesday, was also at the funeral. He showed his splintered arm and pointed at the coffin of Mr. Farhan and said, “This is not going to go for free.”

The crackdown of protesters has turned even more violent in Yemen. On Friday, government supporters turned live ammunition on a peaceful crowd of some 100,000 demonstrators in Sana’a on Friday, with at least 45 killed and some 200 wounded. This video shows protesters in the street walking towards a burning car until the sound of a sniper’s gun is heard from a second-story window:

The Guardian describes the scene:

As the prayers came to an end, however, the sight of billowing black smoke from a burning car caught the attention of protesters who began surging en masse towards it. Witnesses say security forces fired six shots into the air before turning their weapons on those charging towards them. As violence flared, plainclothes men appeared on the roofs of nearby houses and began firing down on the demonstrators with Kalashnikovs.

Sana’a University, the scene of the bloodshed, is next door to the mosque where many of the dead and dying were taken, the deafening sound of the muezzin’s call to prayer intermixed with the noise of gunfire echoing off the walls. Medics scrambled to reach the wounded as the wheels of decrepit ambulances, trying to escort them to a proper hospital, spun hopelessly in the mud.

Inside the mosque a throng of veiled women wailed with grief and tried to force their way past a line of students who had linked arms to ensure only medics and those in need of their help made it over the threshold. Meanwhile injured men, most in their early 20s, writhed in agony on shabby mattresses on the ground.

The New York Times says that ‘the violence on Friday dwarfed that seen in earlier clashes’ and suggests that the Yemeni government has ‘taken up the same playbook that Libya and Bahrain followed this week, using overwhelming force against protesters.’

At a protest in the south Syrian city of Deraa, two people were killed by security forces, the BBC reports. President Bashar al-Assad ‘tolerates no dissent’; his ruling Baath party has been the dominant force in the country’s politics for nearly 50 years. Some 7000 protesters had gathered to chant ‘””God, Syria, Freedom” and anti-corruption slogans, and to accuse the president’s family of corruption.

The hoped-for Arab spring has only spread in some places, like Egypt, and something colder, and much more violent and authoritarian, is still in place.

( / 19.03.2011)