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?

Knesset passes law to revoke the citizenship of its Palestinian citizens

srael’s Parliament, the Knesset, has passed a law that will make it easier to revoke the citizenship of its Palestinian citizens, primarily on the grounds of them committing serious security violations.

The law that was initiated by MKs David Rotem and Robert Ilatov from the neo-Fascist Yisrael Beitenu party enables the court system to revoke the citizenship of anyone convicted of spying, treason or helping the enemy during times of war.

The bill was passed by a vote of 37 to 11 at a late-night session on Monday. After the law was passed, Israeli Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, who heads the Yisrael Beitenu party said, “Another promise by Yisrael Beitenu to its voters has been completely fulfilled.”

The law, he said, “would help deal with the phenomenon by which people use democracy to undermine it, and so-called citizens cooperate with the enemy. Unfortunately, we have witnessed cases like this even among members of the Israeli Knesset.”

During the Knesset session, Arab MK Hanin Zouabi said, “There is a clear fascist trend [in Israel]. What is happening today shouldn’t surprise any of us. Someone has already constructed the political, mental and ideological infrastructure for revoking citizenship. Someone thinks that you can jump from democracy to fascism in one go.”

She said that “racist laws are not initiated only by the right wing, but also by the centre left,” with the Small Rural Communities Law being a case in point, which she described as an apartheid law.

Arab MK Jamal Zahalka said that the law specifically targets Arab citizens and noted that when he asked the Judicial Counsellor whether the new law applies to Yigal Amir, who assassinated former PM Yitzhak Rabin, the response was “no.”

He added that the Shabak had opposed the bill because it was not about security; rather it was a political, ideological, racist, and fascist game aimed at issuing another racist law against Arabs.

Zahalka also said; “Who do you consider a loyal citizen? A loyal citizen is someone who gives up their rights. As soon as I demand my rights, I’m no longer a loyal citizen… international law states that a man cannot be left without citizenship. Even when a person is executed in the US – his citizenship is not revoked. Now a party comes along that re-invents the racist wheel and puts revoking citizenships in the law book.”

( / 01.04.2011)

Libië verwerpt voorwaarden wapenstilstand

De Libische regering verwerpt de voorwaarden die de opstandelingen hadden gesteld aan een eventuele wapenstilstand. De troepen die trouw zijn aan leider Muammar Kaddafi zullen niet worden teruggetrokken uit verscheidene steden, zoals de rebellen hadden geëist. Dat heeft een woordvoerder van het regime in Tripoli vrijdag gezegd.

De zegsman zei ook dat de luchtaanvallen op Libië door westerse landen die al twee weken aan de gang zijn, een misdaad tegen de menselijkheid zijn omdat burgers worden getroffen. Hij sprak van ”een kruistocht” die tegen Libië wordt gevoerd door ”sommige gestoorde en misdadige premiers en presidenten uit Europa”.

( / 01.04.2011)

Imam educates about Islam

People of different faiths gathered Thursday night in Port Huron, and there were handshakes, smiles and respect.

“When we reduce people to a single identity, that is the greatest violence we can do to people,” said Imam Achmat Salie of Rochester Hills.

Salie was invited to speak in Port Huron by a group of Blue Water Area pastors who’ve worked to restore a weekly series of luncheons and discussions on spiritual themes. The talk drew an audience of about 150 at St. John’s United Church of Christ.

Salie was upfront about his intent to confront people’s fear of Islam and to promote constructive dialogue and partnerships between Christians and Muslims.

“We must make sure that we don’t allow these extremists to define us,” he told the group.

The imam’s talk reflected the “reconciliation” theme for weekly Lenten events developed jointly by the Rev. Bill Terry, pastor of the church, and the Rev. Jim Edwards, pastor of First Congregational Church in Port Huron.

“So many things in society are separating people from people,” Terry said. “That was how we came up with the idea of reconciliation and finding connections between Christians and Muslims.

“A large part of our population really doesn’t know Muslim people,” Terry said. “The wide perception is that it’s the religion that promotes violence and terrorism, and nothing could be further from the truth, any more than Christians who act violently represent Christianity.”

“When we show people our own story, that we are able to define ourselves, it can lead to that holy understanding — and a deeper understanding of each other,” Salie said during an interview earlier Thursday.

“I like to make the analogy of white light,” he added. “When it’s refracted through a glass prism, you get all the colors of the rainbow — but it’s still the same white light. We see things with different-colored spectacles, and those colors could be our ideologies, our cultures.

“It all starts with education,” Salie said. “I believe there are not bigots out there, only ignoramuses.”

Salie told the audience, “We have a clash of symbols. We don’t have a clash of cultures,” and pointed out ways in which the Quran and Muslim tradition honor Christian traditions and Jesus himself.

Salie, a native of Cape Town, South Africa, serves mosques in Sterling Heights and with other mosques in the region through outreach programs.

Salie first came to the United States in 1998 and moved to this country permanently the next year. He is married and has four children. He teaches Islamic studies at Oakland University, a program he founded and coordinates.

For the luncheon series, people have been invited to come to the UCC church at 710 Pine St. at noon each Thursday through April 14. Those who attend future gatherings will be served a free lunch and hear an hourlong message delivered by spiritual leaders.

( / 01.04.2011)

Germany’s Role in a Business Deal with Iran

With Berlin’s approval, the German central bank provided assistance to India in an oil deal with Iran. The US has vociferously criticized any such dealings with Tehran, but according to information received by SPIEGEL ONLINE, the deal was connected with the release of two German reporters detained by the Ahmadinejad regime.

The controversial involvement of the Bundesbank in an oil deal between India and Iran is possibly more politically sensitive than previously thought. According to government sources in Berlin, the deal was made in connection to the release of two reporters from the weekly paper Bild am Sonntag from Iranian detention last February. The sources say the German government approved the Bundesbank’s help in the Iranian-Indian transaction in exchange for the release of the two prisoners.

The government’s official response to questions from SPIEGEL ONLINE has been reserved. A connection was neither confirmed nor denied. When asked what role the Indian-Iranian deal played in the release of the two prisoners, a spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry said: “The federal government became active at the very beginning of the detention of the two German journalists in October 2010, so that they could be brought back to Germany as soon as possible.”

The spokesperson referred to the statements made by Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, of the business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP), after the return of the journalists. At that time, Westerwelle thanked “all those who worked together to find a solution for this very complicated case.”

A Stress Test for Trans-Atlantic Relations

That Germany would help Iran, despite sanctions against the regime in Tehran, to make the oil deal is not universally smiled upon — and could create trans-Atlantic problems. The US has viewed Westerwelle’s diplomatic course critically, even before the government abstained from the United Nations Security Council vote on Libya in March. In particular, Berlin’s stance on the debate over Iran’s presumed nuclear program is seen as too soft by many. The oil deal would be considered further proof that Germany is distancing itself from its most important allies. A representative of the US Treasury Department was quoted in the New York Times on Thursday as being “concerned” about the German government’s compliance with the deal.

Westerwelle personally picked up the two German journalists on Feb. 20 in Tehran with a government airplane. They had been in captivity for more than 130 days. The Iranian authorities previously downgraded their 20-month sentences to fines of about €36,500 ($51,800) each. The regime in Tehran also demanded an apology from the publishing company, Springer-Verlag.

Until now, it has been thought that the largest German concession was the personal meeting between Westerwelle and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a man notorious for his repeated demands for the annihilation of Israel. “It was not a visit which included significant negotiations,” Westerwelle said afterwards.

Money Flowing Through Germany

Government sources, however, say that additional background discussions took place in connection with the visit. Those talks concerned the intermediary role the Bundesbank would play in payments for Iranian oil exported to India. The money flowed from the Indian Central Bank to Frankfurt, and from there on to the controversial European-Iranian Trading Bank (EIHB) in Hamburg, which then transferred it to Tehran.

Officials say that the business deal was one of several options discussed during the tough negotiations for the release of the two journalists. In the end, the German side considered the transaction acceptable.

According to information received by SPIEGEL ONLINE, the clearance was given a few days after the release of the reporters. How much money was exactly involved is unclear. The government has declined to say when and why it gave the political green light for the deal. “The federal government cannot comment on individual transactions,” a government spokesperson said. The government confirmed the existence of a transaction on Monday, following a report in the financial newspaper Handelsblatt.

The two Bild am Sonntag reporters were arrested in Iran in October 2010 because they interviewed the son of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the Iranian woman who received international attention after being convicted for adultery and sentenced to death by stoning. The reporters had traveled to Iran on tourist visas.

Looking for a Channel

At that time, India was looking for alternative channels to finance its dealings with Iran, after it broke off direct business transactions with the country under pressure from the United States.

Their search bore fruit in Germany, with the EIHB and the Bundesbank. In January and February, media outlets in India reported on what were described as difficult negotiations. By early March, a solution was allegedly found. The deal involves significant sums of money: Every year, India imports some $12 billion worth of oil from Iran. The EIHB declined to comment on the deal. Earlier this week, the Bundesbank said it is required to carry out payments of account holders who do not run afoul of EU regulations.

Berlin has rejected criticism of the role played by the Bundesbank: the package of EU sanctions against Iran foresees the far-reaching monitoring of payments related to Iran, said a government spokesperson. Transactions greater than €40,000 ($56,800) must be authorized. Permission can be denied “should there be sufficient evidence that the transaction is connected with deals relevant to proliferation or to exports prohibited by EU law,” the spokesman said. Oil deals are not part of the EU sanction package, he added.

The EIHB Under Fire

The EIHB has also so far avoided being blacklisted by the EU, a fact which is viewed with some displeasure by the US. Washington suspects that Iran uses the EIHB to circumvent international sanctions and to process billion-dollar transactions with weapons dealers and with companies suspected of financing Iran’s missile development program and its presumed nuclear weapons program. Since September 2010, all US banks have been forbidden from dealing with the EIHB.

The administration of US President Barack Obama has pressured both Germany and the EU to introduce a similar ban. A representative of the US Treasury Department was quoted recently in the New York Times as saying that the US is working together with its allies to isolate the EIHB. In early February, prior to Westerwelle’s visit to Iran, 11 US Senators wrote a letter to the German foreign minister, urging him to take action against the EIHB. Soon after arriving back in Germany with the two reporters in tow, Westerwelle penned an answer to the Senators. He assured them that the EIHB was “under strict controls” from the appropriate authorities. The letter is dated March 1.

On the same day, India’s Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas reported to the lower house of the Indian parliament that outstanding payments in the value of about $1.5 billion had been sent on their way to Iran.

( / 01.04.2011)

Timeline: Palestine-Israel conflict

A chronology of key events in the Middle East conflict from 1999 onwards, the time span of The Palestine Papers.

May: Ehud Barak of the Labour Party is elected prime minister under the One Israel banner.

July: The Camp David summit between Barak, and Yasser Arafat, the president of the Palestinian Authority, aimed at reaching a “final status” agreement, fails after Arafat refuses to accept a proposal drafted by the US and Israeli negotiators.

September: Second initifada begins after Ariel Sharon, the Israeli opposition leader, visits the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

February 6: Sharon is elected the leader of the Likud party and refuses to continue negotiations with Arafat.

June 1: A Hamas suicide bomber attacks a nightclub, killing 21 Israelis, mainly teenagers, and injuring more than 100.

December: Sharon sends troops into Ramallah, shelling and surrounding the Palestinian Authority’s West Bank headquarters; Arafat is unable to leave.

March: Israeli army launches Operation Defensive Shield, the country’s biggest military operation in the West Bank since the Six Day war in 1967. In the same year, Israel begins construction of separation barrier and annexes large areas of Palestinian land.

March 22: Sheikh Yassin, the founder and leader of the Hamas movement, is assassinated by an Israeli helicopter gunship.

April 17: Abd al-Aziz al-Rantissi, the co-founder of Hamas and successor to Yassin, is killed by the Israeli army.

July 9: International Court of Justice rules that the Israeli separation barrier violates international law and must be removed.

November 11: Arafat dies.

January 9: Mahmoud Abbas is elected president of the Palestinian Authority.

January 10: Sharon creates government of unity with Labour and United Torah Judaism parties.

August: Israel disengages from Gaza and four West Bank settlements.

November: Sharon leaves Likud to form the Kadima party.

January: Sharon suffers a major stroke that leaves him in a coma.

January 25: Hamas wins a majority of seats in the Palestinian legislative elections. The US, Israel and several European countries cut off aid to the Palestinians as the Islamist movement rejects Israel’s right to exist.

March 2006: Kadima, now led by Ehud Olmert, wins the parliamentary elections and installs Olmert as Sharon’s successor.

June 25: Armed Palestinians carry out a cross-border raid from the Gaza Strip and capture Corporal Gilad Shalit, besides killing two Israeli soldiers and wounding four others.

September: Violence erupts between rival Palestinian groups, Fatah and Hamas, in the Gaza Strip. Abbas attempts to prevent civil war. Abbas’s Fatah movement supports a Palestinian state alongside Israel, while Hamas rejects Israel’s right to exist.

October: A number of mediation conferences are held. Egypt and Qatar send their foreign ministers to meet with both sides. Other Palestinian groups like the Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine mediate between the two sides to stop the clashes.

November 13: Following talks between Hamas and Fatah, both sides agree to form a unity government.

December 16: Abbas calls for new elections as a solution to the ongoing crisis.

January 30: Fatah and Hamas reach a ceasefire agreement mediated by Egypt after a series of clashes that led to the death of 32 Palestinians. Both sides welcome a Saudi initiative to meet in Mecca.

February 8: Hamas and Fatah agree on a deal in Mecca to end factional warfare and to form a coalition, hoping this would lead Western powers to lift crippling sanctions imposed on the Hamas-led government.

February 9: The Quartet welcomes the role of Saudi Arabia in reaching the agreement to form a Palestinian National Unity government but later reaffirms that it must obey international demands to recognise Israel, renounce violence and abide by previous peace agreements.

February 15: Ismail Haniya and his cabinet resign. Haniya is re-appointed by Abbas and begins the process of forming a new Palestinian unity government.

March 15: Palestinians reach agreement on the formation of the government.

March 17: The new Palestinian unity government holds its first cabinet meeting in Gaza City, with ministers in the West Bank participating from Ramallah via video link.

March: Israel refuses to talk to the coalition, saying it fails to meet international demands – renouncing violence, recognising Israel and honouring past peace deals.

April: Israel plans Gaza invasion, a day after Olmert calls for a regional peace conference with Arab states. The US gives Abbas $60m to boost his presidential guard and for other security expenses.

May: Israel presses ahead with air raids on Gaza. The strikes came after Olmert said that Israel would continue its crackdown on Hamas following the firing of rockets from the enclave.

June: Battle of Gaza begins, resulting in Hamas taking control of the Gaza Strip from Fatah. Abbas issues new government, and announces Salam Fayyad, an economist, as the emergency government head. Abbas swears in new emergency government, bypassing Hamas.

November: George Bush, the US president, hosts peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis at Annapolis, Maryland, while Hamas still holds control over Gaza.

January: Israel steps up military actions on Gaza and Hamas, killing seven Palestinians. Olmert vows to respond to continuing rocket attacks from Gaza. Israel continues incursions into Gaza, leaving Palestinians in a humanitarian crisis without fuel, power, food and water.

January 23: Palestinians blow up part of the border at Rafah, going into Egypt and thousands of Gazans cross the border to buy food and other supplies.

February: Israel launches military campaign, codenamed Operation Hot Winter, in the Gaza Strip, resulting in the deaths of 112 Palestinians and three Israelis.

May: Tony Blair, former British prime minister, announces new peace initiative based on the ideas of the Peace Valley plan.

December: Israel launches Operation Cast Lead, a full scale invasion of the Gaza Strip in response to rocket attacks by Palestinian armed groups. Some 1400 Palestinians are killed, many of them civilians. After 22 days of fighting, Israel and Hamas each declare separate unilateral ceasefires.

March: Binyamin Netanyahu assumes office as Israeli prime minister following parliamentary elections.

April 3: United Nations establishes a fact-finding mission on the Gaza war, headed by Richard Goldstone, an international jurist from South Africa.

June 4: Barack Obama, the US president, calls for a “new beginning between the United States and Muslims” in a historic speech in Cairo.

September 15: Goldstone releases his report, accusing both Israel and Hamas of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity during the Gaza war.

November 3: The US House of Representatives overwhelmingly passes a resolution denouncing the Goldstone report as “irredeemably biased and unworthy of further consideration or legitimacy.”

November: Netanyahu announces a 10-month so-called freeze on construction in illegal West Bank settlements. The freeze does not apply to East Jerusalem.

January: Israel resumes air strikes against smuggling-tunnels on the Gaza-Egypt border.

May 31: Israel violently intercepts a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, killing nine activists on board the Mavi Marmara, the lead vessel .

September 22: United Nations Human Rights Council terms the Israeli raid on the Gaza flotilla “disproportionate” and condemns its “unacceptable level of brutality.”

September: Another round of direct negotiations between the Israeli and Palestinian leadership begins. The talks collapse in the same month after Israel refuses to extend the freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank.

January 23: Al Jazeera releases The Palestine Papers, revealing a trove of documents, e-mails and minutes of meetings, shedding light on 10 years of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

( / 01.04.2011)

The Year of 1947 Al Nakba

January: London Round Table Conference reopens.
February: British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin proposes variant of Morrison-Grady federal plan at London Conference and to Jewish Agency.  Arab delegates and Jewish Agency reject proposal.
Bevin announces British submission of Palestine problem to United Nations.
March: Arab League blames Britain and US for deteriorating situation in Palestine.
April: UN General Assembly special session on Palestine problem leads to appointment of eleven-member Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP).
June: Stern Gang claims responsibility for letter bombs addressed to leading British government officials in London.
August: Haganah terrorist attack on Palestinian orange grower’s house near Tel Aviv kills twelve occupants including mother and six children.
September 8: Publication of UNSCOP report.  Majority of members recommend partition and minority recommend federal solution.
September 16 – 19: Arab League denounces UNSCOP partition recommendation and appoints Technical Military Committee to supervise Palestinian defense needs.
September 26: British Colonial Secretary Arthur Creech Jones announces Britain’s decision to end Palestine Mandate.
September 29: Arab Higher Committee for Palestine rejects partition.
October 2: Jewish Agency announces acceptance of partition.
October 11: US endorses partition
October 29: Britain says it will leave Palestine in six months if no settlement is reached.
November 27: Technical Military Committee chairman warns of virtual impossibility  of overcoming Zionist forces with irregulars; urges prompt Arab action in organizing military forces; advocates training Palestinians to defend themselves.
November 29: UN General Assembly recommends slight variant of UNSCOP partition plan by 33 to 13 votes with 10 abstentions.  Arab representatives walk out of assembly.
November 30: Haganah calls up all Jews in Palestine aged 17-25 to register for military service.
December: Haganah launches Plan Gimmel, designed to destabilize Palestinian population and occupy strategic positions in country.
Arab League organizes Arab Liberation Army (ALA), a voluntary force of Arab irregulars under guerrilla leader Fawzi al-Qawuqji to help Palestinians resist partition.
December 2: Palestinians start three-day strike protesting UN partition resolution.  Intercommunal clashes result in death of eight Jews and six Palestinians.
December 5: US State Department announces US embargo on arms shipments to Palestine and Arab states.
December 8: Britain recommends to UN that Palestine Mandate be terminated on 15 May 1948 and independent Jewish and Palestinian states be established two weeks later.
December 8 – 17: Arab League declares partition of Palestine illegal; it resolves to provide 10,000 rifles, 3,000 volunteers (including 500 Palestinians) and additional 1,000,000 pounds.
December 15: British turns policing of Tel Aviv and Petah Tikva over to Jews and that of Jaffa to Palestinians.
December 17: Jewish Agency Executive reports that American Jews will be asked for $250 million to help Jewish community in Palestine.
December 19: Haganah attacks village of Khisas (Safed district) killing ten Palestinians.
December 20: Haganah attacks village of Qazaza (Ramleh district).
December 1947 – January 1948: Arab Higher Committee organizes 275 local committees for defense of Palestinian towns and villages.

( / 01.04.2011)

Geen steun aan uitzichtloze oorlog Libië

SP-Kamerlid Harry van Bommel heeft zich vandaag uitgesproken tegen de Nederlandse militaire bijdrage aan de handhaving van de ‘no fly zone’ boven Libië: ‘Wij zijn voor een ‘no fly zone’, maar die is er al. De eerste doelstelling van de VN-resolutie die dit alles ingeleid heeft, was een staakt-het-vuren, maar meer en meer verschuift dit naar deelname aan een oorlog, met een militaire overwinning als enig doel. Onze intentie is terug te keren naar het hoofddoel van de resolutie: een staakt-het-vuren.’

Vorige week besloot het kabinet al om een militaire bijdrage te leveren, toen ter handhaving van het door de VN uitgeroepen wapenembargo boven Libië. Van Bommel sprak toen al over een dubbelbesluit en een eerste stap op weg naar gewapend ingrijpen in Libië. ‘Mijn vermoedens worden bevestigd’, aldus Van Bommel, ‘binnen een week wordt de missie al uitgebreid en er wordt al publiekelijk gediscussieerd over de mogelijkheid om de opstandelingen van wapens te gaan voorzien. Zo handhaven we niet een ‘no fly zone’, zo beschermen we de Libische burgers niet, maar zo worden we partij in een burgeroorlog. Steeds meer worden de Westerse troepen de luchtmacht van de opstandelingen.’

De SP’er uitte verder zijn zorgen over het steeds verder uit zicht komen van de oorspronkelijke doelstelling van VN-resolutie 1973, een onmiddellijk staakt-het-vuren. ‘Door zo duidelijk een kant te kiezen, wordt de kans op dialoog tussen de partijen steeds kleiner. Ook de grootschalige luchtaanvallen dragen hier niet aan bij. De opstandelingen verwachten dat zij binnenkort door de coalitie worden bewapend en verschillende landen, waaronder de VS, hebben gemeld daartoe bereid te zijn. Het internationale optreden moedigt de opstandelingen dus aan en stuurt ze in feite een uitzichtloze oorlog in.’

In zijn betoog pleitte Van Bommel voor een terugkeer naar de oorspronkelijke doelstelling van een staakt-het-vuren. ‘De ‘no-fly-zone’ is gehandhaafd en wanneer Khadaffi weer optrekt naar Benghazi of een andere stad, voor een aanval zijn de middelen voor handen om de burgerbevolking te beschermen tegen deze gevaarlijke dictator. Daarom pleit de SP nu voor terughoudendheid. ‘Het lijkt misschien ver weg, maar de enige uitweg uit een langdurige perspectiefloze oorlog, is het aan tafel krijgen van de partijen. Daarom is het bevorderen van een staakt-het-vuren de enige heilzame weg’, aldus Van Bommel.

( / 01.04.2011)