Saudis show solidarity with Bahrainis

Protesters in Qatif demand the release of political prisoners

Saudi protesters have poured into the streets in the eastern city of Qatif, condemning Manama’s brutal crackdown on anti-regime demonstrators.

Expressing solidarity with Bahraini protesters, Saudi demonstrators on Friday urged the government to stop helping Manama in suppressing the uprising in the neighboring country and immediately withdraw its troops.

Since the deployment of Saudi troops in mid-March, Bahrain has launched a harsh crackdown on anti-government protesters, rounding up senior opposition figures and activists in dawn raids and arresting doctors, nurses, lawyers and journalists who voiced support for the protest movement.

Last week, Bahraini authorities announced that Saudi troops would remain in the Persian Gulf kingdom even after the state of emergency is lifted in June.

Despite, international condemnation of Saudi occupation of Bahrain, a Saudi official said, “This is the initial phase and Bahrain will get whatever assistance it needs. It’s open-ended.”

Saudi demonstrators also called for human rights reform, freedom of expression and the release of political prisoners some held without trial for more than 16 years.

Saudi Arabia’s east has been the scene of anti-government protests over the past months and authorities have arrested scores of people, including bloggers and writers, for taking part in protest rallies.

According to Human Rights Watch, more than 160 dissidents have been arrested since February as part of the Saudi government’s crackdown on anti-government protesters.

(alethonews.wordpress.com / 21.05.2011)

Refugee ‘return rallies’ planned for June 5

JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — Masses of Palestinian refugees will march to Israel’s borders and ceasefire lines again on June 5, organizers of the May 15 “return rally” said.

On Sunday, 14 protesters were killed when Israeli forces opened fire on thousands of refugees trying to return to their land in Israel.

The May 15 rallies were held to mark Nakba Day, the anniversary of Palestinians’ expulsion from their homes and villages as the state of Israel was established in 1948.

Israeli soldiers shot dead 10 Palestinian refugees trying to cross Lebanon’s border into Israel. Troops shot dead four refugees trying to enter the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Hundreds were injured when Israeli forces fired tear-gas grenades and rubber-coated steel bullets at Palestinians rallying at Qalandiya checkpoint, which separates the occupied West Bank from Jerusalem.

Israeli forces killed a Palestinian teenager at a simultaneous protest at the Erez crossing in the northern Gaza Strip.

The committee organizing the “return rallies” said Saturday that the May 15 protests were “just the beginning.”

In a statement, the group called on all Palestinian refugees living in exile to march peacefully to the borders of historic Palestine on June 5.

The date marks the anniversary of the 1967 war, when Israel occupied southern Lebanon, the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank.

Thousands of refugees will march to the ceasefire lines in the West Bank and Gaza as well as borders with Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, the committee said.

“The Israeli occupation should remain on alert because rallies will not stop until Palestinian refugees return to Haifa, Haffa, Al-Majdal, Bi’r As-Sab and all occupied Palestinian towns,” the statement added.

The group urged Palestinian lawyers to file legal proceedings against Israeli officials for the killing of non-violent demonstrators on Nakba Day.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International called for investigations into the killings.

“In a too-familiar pattern, Israeli troops responded to stone-throwing youths with live bullets, with predictably deadly consequences,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

She added: “The evidence shows a disturbing disregard for protesters’ lives.”

Amnesty International said Israel used “excessive force, killing and maiming individuals who were not posing a threat to the lives of the soldiers or others” at the protests.

(www.maannews.net / 21.05.2011)

Turkey threatens Israel with retaliation

Turkey pledges to take ‘necessary’ action against Israel if Tel Aviv repeats its 2010 bloodshed of Gaza-bound activists against an aid convoy, which is to head to the impoverished enclave.

On Saturday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said, “It should be known that Turkey will give the necessary response to any repeated act of provocation by Israel on the high seas,” Reuters reported.

International activists plan to deliver large quantities of humanitarian assistance to the Israel-blockaded Gaza Strip in the third week of June.

The Freedom Flotilla II, organized by a coalition of pro-Palestinian groups, most of them based in Europe, is to consist of around 15 vessels and over 1,500 activists.

The mission is named after the first Freedom Flotilla, which Israel attacked on May 31, 2010, killing nine Turkish activists and injuring around 50 others.

“Those, who believe Turkey should take certain steps to stop [the new flotilla], must first warn Israel not to repeat the human tragedy it caused last year,” Davutoglu said.

“We have shared our views about the safety of our citizens with all related parties. That was the case last year and it is not any different this time.”

Israeli military officials have, however, confirmed that preparations are underway to stop any new flotilla.

The Turkish statesman further called Tel Aviv’s four-year-old siege of Gaza, which has been depriving the 1.5-million Palestinians there of food, medicine, fuel and other necessities, ‘unlawful.’

(www.presstv.ir / 21.05.2011)

Rutte tikt Wilders op de vingers om term ‘islamitisch stemvee’

Premier Rutte heeft zich vandaag tijdens het verantwoordingsdebat gedistantieerd van een opmerking van PVV-leider Geert Wilders. Die had eerder over ‘islamitisch stemvee’ gesproken, waarop SP-fractievoorzitter Emile Roemer boos de zaal verliet.

Wilders zei dat de PvdA Nederland de afgelopen decennia zou hebben laten volstromen met  ‘islamitisch stemvee’. Roemer vond dat zo beledigend voor moslims dat hij tegen Wilders zei dat hij weigerde nog verder te luisteren. Daarop verliet hij de plenaire zaal van de Tweede Kamer.

Later in het debat vroeg Roemer aan Rutte of hij zich van de uitspraak wilde distantiëren. De premier deed dat, en sprak van een ‘zeer ongepaste term’.

(www.volkskrant.nl / 21.05.2011)

Palestijnen naar VN voor erkenning staat

De Palestijnen gaan de Algemene Vergadering van de Verenigde Naties in september vragen een Palestijnse staat te erkennen. Dat heeft Nabil Shaath, een hoge Palestijnse functionaris, zaterdag gezegd.

De Amerikaanse president Barack Obama had donderdag in een toespraak gezegd dat het voor de Palestijnen geen zin heeft bij de VN te streven naar erkenning van een Palestijnse staat. Hij repte van ”symbolische acties met als doel Israël in de VN te isoleren”.

Obama liet de afgelopen week weten dat hij veel belang hecht aan het hervatten van het vredesproces. De Palestijnen dienen het bestaansrecht van Israël te erkennen en geweld tegen dat land af te zweren.

Van Israël vraagt Obama ”dappere maatregelen” om het vredesproces vlot te trekken. Obama stelde dat de grenzen van voor de Zesdaagse Oorlog in 1967 de basis moeten zijn voor een akkoord tussen de partijen.

(www.parool.nl / 21.05.2011)

Oppositie Jemen tekent akkoord alvast

SANAA – De oppositie in Jemen heeft zaterdag alvast de handtekening gezet onder een overeenkomst met president Ali Abdullah Saleh, om zijn aftreden te regelen. Saleh beloofde eerder deze week de afspraken zondag te ondertekenen.

Ali Abdullah Saleh. EPA
Ali Abdullah Saleh.

De 69-jarige Saleh zegde al twee keer eerder toe om de overeenkomst te tekenen, maar liet tot woede van de oppositie steeds verstek gaan. Het gaat om een voorstel van de regionale Samenwerkingsraad voor de Golf (GCC). Daarin staat onder meer dat Saleh binnen dertig dagen aftreedt in ruil voor immuniteit.

In Jemen wordt al meer dan drie maanden betoogd tegen het regime van Saleh, die al 33 jaar aan de macht is in het straatarme land. Door zijn harde optreden, dat aan zeker 145 mensen het leven heeft gekost, verloor de president de laatste tijd steeds meer aanhang.

(www.parool.nl / 21.05.2011)

Syrische ordetroepen beschieten rouwende menigte: vijf doden

  • De begrafenis van een agent die vrijdag bij anti-regeringsprotesten werd gedood

De begrafenis van een agent die vrijdag bij anti-regeringsprotesten werd gedood

Syrische ordetroepen hebben zaterdag het vuur geopend op een menigte rouwende mensen. Daarbij zijn zeker vijf mensen gedood, tientallen anderen raakten gewond. Dat zegt een woordvoerder van een Syrische mensenrechtengroep gezegd.

De schietpartij vond plaats in de westelijke stad Homs, waar een dag eerder ook al veel doden vielen. De menigte was dan ook samengekomen om die doden te begraven.

Dodelijkste dag

Vrijdag vielen in het hele land zeker 44 doden door het gewelddadige optreden van de eenheden van president Bashar Assad. Het was een van de dodelijkste dagen sinds de opstand twee maanden geleden begon.

Duizenden betogers gingen vrijdag de straat op om te demonstreren tegen het autoritaire regime. De autoriteiten reageerden met geweervuur, met een groot aantal slachtoffers tot gevolg. De meeste doden vielen in de noordelijke provincie Idlib en in de centrale regio Homs, aldus de organisatie.

Vluchten

Bij de grens met Libanon zouden inmiddels duizenden Syrische militairen zijn gestationeerd om te voorkomen dat Syriërs naar het buurland vluchten. Sinds vorige week zouden al tienduizend Syriërs de grens hebben overgestoken.

(www.nieuwsblad.be / 21.05.2011)

Islam is a religion of peace not terrorism : Zardari

Islam is a religion of peace not terrorism : Zardari President Asif Ali Zardari has said that Islam is a religion of peace and tranquillity and totally opposed to friction and terrorism. President Zardari, in his message to the International Imam Council, organisers of Syeda Fatima (S.A.) Interfaith Conference at the House of Lords here last evening, noted that such conferences highlight the real image of Islam being a peaceful religion and clear the confusion that Islam, in any way, favours terrorism. The President said: ”It gives me immense pleasure that Imam Hussain Council arranged an Interfaith Conference in recognition of Hazrat Fatima Tu-Zahra ( S.A.) , the daughter of our Holy Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) is a distinguished personality of the Muslim world. “She is a shining moral example for all the women across the globe. Her life, her teachings, her mannerisms and even her authority over her father, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) is a precedent for us to follow even today.”

(nation.com.pk / 21.05.2011)

Open letter to all Editors and News Producers

Mustaqbil Pakistan – A new Pakistani political party dedicated to bringing competence, decency, sincerity and honesty to Pakistan’s politics. 

Below is the text of an open letter sent by the Chairman of Mustaqbil Pakistan to all of the country’s newspaper editors and producers of TV news and current affairs programs.  The letter has been sent out both in Urdu and in English. 

An open letter from the Chairman of Mustaqbil Pakistan to all editors of newspapers and producers of TV news programs in Pakistan

Subject: Rise to your responsibilities

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am writing to all of you at a time when our nation is in danger.  And make no mistake.  We are living through what is possibly one of the most dangerous periods in our history.  Our very existence as a sovereign state is threatened

At a time like this it is imperative that all of us who have something positive to offer come together as one in defense of our homeland.  And you, as leaders and molders of public opinion, have a vital role to play.  

When we look at what is going wrong in Pakistan today we see multiple manifestations of failure – symptoms, if you will, of a failing or failed state: Insurgency and military conflict in two of our provinces,  killings and abductions of civilians in many cities,  unemployment, hopelessness, desperation, suicides, and a shocking absence of the writ of Government.  The list is longer still.  But the point is made.

Yet, despite the multitude of distressing symptoms, the disease is relatively simple to diagnose.  This is the problem:  In all successful democratic states the best, most competent, most sincere of their citizens compete in politics.  And it is these people – in some sense the cream of their citizenry – who then are elected and become their parliamentarians and shapers of their destiny.

In Pakistan the exact opposite is true.  The worst, most incompetent, most corrupt, most morally bankrupt, and most insincere of our people compete in our political arena.  These people – in some sense the scum of our society – are elected to our parliament and shape our destiny.  Why then should anyone of us be surprised that Pakistan is slowly crumbling?  And, let’s be clear, if  this ‘scum’ continues to come back in power time and again – as it has done during the democratic phases of our history – then Pakistan will not survive

Mustaqbil Pakistan was registered with the Election Commission of Pakistan as a political party in early 2010 by a group of experienced professionals.  Our manifesto is long and comprehensive.  But the reason for our  existence can be stated in a few words:  We vow to bring decent, competent, sincere and honest Pakistanis into politics.  This segment of our population has hitherto been unwilling or unable to participate in politics.  Their absence has created a political vacuum which has been happily filled by the ‘scum’.  And this has inevitably – as night follows day –  brought us to our present perilous situation.

Let me assure you that what Mustaqbil Pakistan is planning is possible and doable.  We have done our homework.  Time has not stood still.  The structure of politics in Pakistan has changed.  With this in mind we have devised a strategy and a plan that we are confident can succeed.  What we need now is to convince Pakistanis that they have it in their power to change their destiny.

I am writing to you – eminent editors and producers in the print and broad cast media – to tell you that you have a crucial role to play.  And  to tell you that what you are doing today is not enough.

The media broadcasts hours and hours of output featuring  the ‘usual culprits’: our corrupt and incompetent politicians.  Your smug anchors find gratification in having these already challenged people utter inanities and spew venom on their equally inane rivals.  

And what service do you render the people of Pakistan in broadcasting these programs hour after hour, evening after evening, day after day?  Have you enlightened them?  Have you informed them?  Have you given them hope?

Similarly newspapers repeatedly headline mindless statements from these same politicians.  For example a serous crime occurs and the next day a headline will read: “Minister says he has ordered police to capture culprits!”  Is this news?  Are not the police supposed to do this in any case?  Had the honourable minister not so ordered would the culprits have gone scot free?  And now that he has so ordered will they be promptly caught and brought to justice?

Ladies and gentlemen you have to rise above all of this.  Time is running out for Pakistan.  Too much is at stake.  You cannot continue to behave like this.  There are people, here, today, now, working to change things.  You need to identify them and then present them to your readers and viewers.  You need to show Pakistanis that there is hope.  And that there are still people who, sometimes at the risk of their safety, are working day and night to make Pakistan’s future brighter than its past.

Mustaqbil Pakistan has  many excellent people in most cities.  Call them to your shows.  Interview them.  Ask them about our plans and strategy.  Be skeptical be ruthless.  You will be amazed, as will be your audiences and readers, by the quality and cogency of their responses.  These are the people who should be in Pakistan’s Assembly’s.  And one day, inshallah, they will be.

As Chairman of Mustaqbil Pakistan I am naturally keen that my party be exposed to the public.  But by no means am I suggesting that you limit your search and coverage to our people.  There are many, many, good, decent, sincere and competent Pakistanis working to bring change.  They also deserve a chance to be heard.  And you should, indeed, you must, promote their ideas and agenda.

“Rome” is burning.  You can continue to fiddle.  Or you can pick up a bucket and join those of us who want to do more.

Sincerely,

(Signed)
Nadeem Mumtaz Qureshi
Chairman
Mustaqbil Pakistan.

Netanyahu says the 1967 borders are “indefensible”

When Netanyahu says the 1967 borders are “indefensible”, this does not mean Israel must seek to avoid conceding too much West Bank land. It means Israel cannot make any concessions.

Last week, in response to Obama’s speech, Netanyahu argued that for Israel, the borders that existed before the 1967 occupation are “indefensible”. He repeated the same point after their meeting yesterday. But what does it mean?

At its core, the “indefensible” borders argument relates to Israel’s small size, and the concentration of its population in a narrow strip along the Mediterranean coast, in great proximity to Palestinian areas of the West Bank. This geographic situation makes Israeli population and infrastructure particularly vulnerable to both “asymmetrical” attacks (e.g. terrorism, rockets, and guerrilla activities) and a conventional invasion by regular armies.

The argument has been used to justify continued Israeli control of the Palestinian territories, and in this form, this is a consistent, albeit cruel and unconscionable, position. Basically, it seeks to use the Palestinian lands as a buffer zone, surrounding and protecting Israeli population centers. Such an arrangement, however, would only make sense if Israel maintains full control over the vast majority of the West Bank’s Palestinian population.

To see why, one need only look at a typical map that aims to show the security threat posed by the 1967 borders.

1967 Borders (Image: JewishVirtualLibray.com)

This map clearly designates the Israeli major cities, but conveniently omits the Palestinian ones. Thus, the arrow showing the distance between the northern West Bank and the Israeli city of Haifa, actually emanates from the area of Jenin, a city and a refugee camp with a combined population of 50,000. The arrow towards Netanya, begins in Tul Karm, with 60,000 people. The Tel Aviv arrow emerges from the area of Qalqilya, with 40,000; and the Ashdod arrow come from the Beyt Jala-Bethlehem area, with 40,000 as well.

But these figures actually underplay the problem. All of these areas include other towns and refugee camps nearby, substantially increasing the relevant population numbers. And if Ashdod is threatened by a distance of 36 Kms, then surely Netanya should be concerned about Nablus, which is even nearer, and is home to 130,000 Palestinians. And we could go on to address Gaza, with over a million Palestinians, and even closer to Israeli cities than much of the West Bank; or A-Ram, Abu Dis, and Ramallah and all the other places with hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, which sit right on top of Jerusalem, one of Israel’s largest population centers.

It is really quite simple. Israel is really small. But the West Bank is even smaller; and its Palestinian population lives just as near the 1967 borders as Israel’s. So if ceding territory near its population centers makes Israel truly “indefensible”, that means Israel must retain control of almost all Palestinians. In other words, when Netanyahu says the 1967 borders are “indefensible”, this does not mean Israel must seek to avoid conceding too much West Bank land. It means Israel cannot make any concessions.

That position, however, is completely incongruent with Netanyahu’s statements expressing willingness to negotiate and compromise, up to and including a demilitarized Palestinian state in the West Bank. Therefore, when Netanyahu employs the 1967 borders argument, he is cynically using the security issue to disguise his true concern, which is to keep as much land as possible under Israeli control, while ridding it of the responsibility for the Palestinians who live near (sometimes, on) those lands. It has nothing to do with Israel’s defense.

(972mag.com / 21.05.2011)