Congressional c’tee backs increase in Arrow funding

Missile defense funds increased to $235.7 m. for 2012; up from $217.7 m. in 2011; aid to go to Arrow 2, Arrow 3, David’s Sling projects.

WASHINGTON – A key congressional committee wants to increase the funding for US-Israeli missile defense programs to a historic high in the coming year.

The US House defense appropriations subcommittee on Wednesday approved increasing missile defense funds to $235.7 million in 2012, up from $217.7 million in 2011.

The aid would go to the Arrow 2, Arrow 3 and David’s Sling projects.

The subcommittee decision is a preliminary one, as the entire bill has to be voted on by the entire committee and no timeline has been set for its consideration.

Appropriations bills are so contentious in the divided Congress that last year’s federal budget was never approved.

Still, given the US fiscal crisis and efforts to slash budgets, pro-Israel activists have been pleased to see robust efforts to aid Israel’s defense continued by both Democrats and Republicans.

“Given America’s significant budget challenges, every single dollar we are expending on behalf of the US taxpayer must be given the highest level of scrutiny, including funds appropriated toward the defense of the United States and its allies,” committee member Rep. Steve Rothman (D-New Jersey) said following the funding approval.

“It is a mark of the importance of these jointly developed missile defense programs – Arrow 2, Arrow 3 and David’s Sling – that they were all robustly funded by our subcommittee.”

( / 02.04.2011)

Spain: Islamic Board criticizes the persecution of Christians and Jews in the Muslim world

The Spanish Islamic Board (Junta Islámica de España) has come out against the persecution and inequality suffered by religious minorities in the Arab world and other Islamic countries, and called to respect minorities, especially when it comes to Christians and Jews.

The Islamic Board demands that all Muslim and Muslim governments act in accordance with the principles of Islam, which advocates social peace, respect and recognition of your fellow’s religious beliefs, even more when it comes to Christians and Jews, which the Koran sees as religions of the Book.

The Islamic Board says that Muslims in Europe, just like the Christians in the Islamic world, are a religious minority, and in that sense share some of the evils of that social status, such as discrimination, persecution, xenophobia, prejudice, defamation, exclusion, rejection, infringements of rights and demonization.

The Muslims in Europe, the Islamic Board says, know the discrimination and rejection of society, the media and politicians, towards those who practice a different religious belief, and therefore they understand and sympathize with Christian communities and groups and other minorities in the Islamic world based on denomination, creed or philosophy.

The Islamic Board advocates religious rights for Muslims and other faiths, in addition to promoting the rule of law, established on the basis of secularism and freedom of conscience. They promote interfaith dialog and coexistence between different cultures, and therefore they want to conduct their discourse and projects in the spirit of harmony, respect and inter-religious exchange.

The Islamic Board therefore rejects confrontation between religious and ethnic groups in the Arab world and denounces the persecution and inequality experienced by some religious minorities in the Arab and Muslim world. They pray to God to end the injustice and inequality in the world and call upon the leaders and citizens to go back to the values of humanism, which are fundamental to the meeting between peoples and civilizations.

( / 02.06.2011)

Armed Yemen tribesmen flock to Sana’a

Thousands of armed Yemeni tribesmen have headed to the capital of Sana’a amid fierce clashes between the tribesmen and forces loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Yemeni tribal chiefs said the tribesmen made the move on Thursday in support of Sheikh Sadeq al-Ahmar, leader of Yemen’s powerful Hashid tribe, AFP reported.

The tribesmen “want to enter Sana’a to back their leader,” said a tribal chief.

Meanwhile, clashes erupted between the tribesmen and Yemeni security forces at a military post located 15 kilometers (nine miles) north of the capital.

Flights to Sana’a airport were suspended and diverted to the southern city of Aden, according to an aviation official who requested anonymity. The decision was made as heavy clashes continue in the capital’s northeastern district of al-Hasaba, 10 kilometers (six miles) south of the airport.

Huge explosions rocked Sana’a early Thursday morning while intense fighting was underway near the residence of Sheikh al-Ahmar in al-Hasaba neighborhood.

Witnesses said at least 15 people, including a seven-year-old girl who was hit by a stray bullet, were killed during overnight fighting between the two sides.

A truce between Yemeni forces loyal to President Saleh and opposition tribesmen had come into effect on May 29. However, it seemingly failed when around seven tribesmen were killed in clashes with regime forces on Tuesday.

In addition to those killed on Tuesday, scores of tribesmen and regime forces have also lost their lives in clashes that took place since Saleh refused to sign a power transition deal brokered by the [Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council on May 23.

The Yemeni government has accused Sheikh al-Ahmar’s loyalists of breaking the truce. However, sources on the side of Sheikh al-Ahmar hold pro-Saleh forces responsible for breaking the truce by firing on the Sheikh’s compound.

Hundreds of thousands of people have turned out for near daily demonstrations in Yemen’s major cities since late January, calling for an end to corruption and unemployment and demanding the ouster of Saleh, who has been in office since 1978.

( / 02.06.2011)

Youths to protest Ki-moon flotilla statement in Ramallah

RAMALLAH, (PIC)– Youth groups in Palestine have launched Facebook pages calling for a sit-in Friday to protest statements by UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon urging to thwart the Freedom Flotilla II set to deliver aid to Gaza 20 June.

The groups said the sit-in would take place in front of the UN headquarters near Ramallah cultural palace.

“We will emerge tomorrow to demand that Ban Ki-moon retract these dangerous statements and promptly apologize to the Palestinian people and the families of those killed on the Freedom Flotilla. We also say no to providing a green light by official and legal international mechanisms to attack any ships or sea convoys that come to welcome the breaking of the siege on the Palestinians,” the group said.

Ki-moon had called on relevant governments to use their influence to see that such ships are not deployed.

Palestinians believe that such statements by the UN chief give cover for the Israeli occupation to attack the aid ships.

( / 02.06.2011)

Salaheddine Live! 12 juni Rotterdam

Salaam mensen

12 juni, op 1e pinksterdag is het dan zover. De laatste Salaheddine Live! van dit seizoen is in Rotterdam. Wil je een gezellig Marokkaans avondje uit op die saaie pinksterdag bestel de kaarten dan snel, want het gaat snel.

Bestel hier de kaarten:

Fragment Salaheddine Live!

First Tunisia, then Egypt, next Palestine?

Gaza Strip, (Pal Telegraph)- With Mideast peace talks at an impasse, Palestinians have been looking for another route to statehood: the United Nations.

“We are taking our destiny in our hands,” the Palestinian’s top UN diplomat told a small group of reporters in New York on Tuesday.

Ambassador Riyad Mansour predicted millions of Palestinians would take to the streets come September, when the UN General Assembly meets, to support the cause. He drew parallels to the peaceful Arab uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

“The battle for our independence is not only the battle of the Palestinian leadership. This is the battle of millions of Palestinians,” Mansour said.

“I believe the Palestinian people are capable and I believe also that they want to engage in this last chapter of the struggle of ending occupation.”

He said work is already underway behind the scenes at the United Nations, as he lobbies countries to recognize a Palestinian state.

Palestine is already recognized by 112 countries. But 130 would give them a 2/3 majority in the UN’s General Assembly – the number necessary to become an official member.

There’s just one problem; according to the UN Charter, a country cannot become a member state without first getting the support of nine members of the Security Council. The United States has indicated it will veto a statehood request, saying the only way is through direct negotiations with Israel.

Mansour said the Palestinians have “other options” but refused to elaborate.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki has said that the Palestinians will seek an emergency session of the General Assembly known as “Uniting for Peace” to override any veto.

General Assembly President Joseph Deiss and Security Council diplomats have all said that membership is not possible without a referral by the Security Council. The legal question currently open to debate is whether or not a vote of support in the General Assembly would be anything more than symbolic.

For now, the Palestinians’ emphasis is on building international support for their statehood – and by extension putting pressure on the United States.

“What would be the argument of President Barack Obama in trying really to disregard this wish,” Mansour said, pointing to the President’s stated admiration for democratic movements in Tunisia and Egypt. “Not only of the Palestinian leadership but the entire Palestinian population?”

( / 02.06.2011)

Welcome to Gaza: Revolution and Change at the Rafah Border

Gaza, (Pal Telegraph) – The Palestinian security officer at the Rafah border was overly polite. He wore a black uniform and walked around self-assuredly, as he instructed weary travelers on their next moves before being allowed back into Gaza. On the other side of the border, in Egypt, there was much anxiety, fear and anticipation.

“Things will get better,” said a Palestinian engineer from Gaza, who once studied and now works in a Swedish town south of Stockholm. What he meant was that things will get better at the border crossing, in terms of the relationship between Gaza and Egypt. Without a decisive Egyptian decision to reopen the crossing – completely – Gaza will continue to reel under the Israeli siege. Others agree, but Gazans have learned not to become too confident about political statements promising positive changes.

However, the Egypt of today belongs to an entirely different political category to the Egypt of Hosni Mubarak’s leadership. Palestinians, especially those trapped behind the shut borders in Gaza, are well aware of this. Still they are cautious. “Inshallah” – God willing, they say, “May Allah bring good things.”

For now, things remain difficult at the border. When Egyptian border officials collect passports for examination, and return a few hours later to read aloud the names of those allowed in, a large crowd gathers around them. Tensions soon escalate to yelling, and occasional tears.

“Go back or I will not give any his passport back,” shouted a large Egyptian officer with some disdain. The veins on the side of his face suddenly bulked up. The crowd disbanded, only to return seconds later. The officer looked exhausted and clearly fed up. The Gaza travelers had already moved beyond the point of humiliation. They simply wanted to get from here to there, and back.

A young woman with a contorted back trotted behind her mother. Her pain was apparent on her face. “Yallah yamma,” – hurry, daughter – urged the mother. “They might close the gate any minute.” The girl, in her twenties, paused, closed her eyes tight, as if summoning whatever strength remained in her frail body to carry on for a few seconds longer.

The gate of the Egyptian border point was very wide, but only a small gap of a few feet was open. When it opened, early Thursday, May 19, hundreds tried to rush in at once. Large bags were tossed over people’s heads, children cried in panic, officers yelled, and a few dared to yell back. “Just open the gate, the big one,” someone said. A white-haired little man, in an oversize, ancient suit, stood back and shock his head. “It’s a tragedy,” he said. Soon, he too was forced to lose his civility and push against the mass of desperate humanity. Later, I saw him inside the border point, circling around nervously and intently puffing on a cigarette.

Here at the border, everyone is nervous, even those who have no reason to be. The Egyptian officers are edgy, as if their fate too is being determined somehow. Both sides know that the Gaza-Egypt border is undergoing an important transition. Egypt’s new foreign minister, Nabil al-Arabi, had already promised a breakup with the past, thus an opening of the border between his country and Gaza. There is much trust among Palestinians that the new Egypt is genuine, but also a fear that a politically vulnerable Egypt might be forced to compromise on its early stances.

But the Egyptian people seem determined to keep their government in check. Palestine is a major theme now in large protests. Hundreds of Egyptian activists were arrested, and many were wounded as they rallied near the Israeli embassy in Cairo, which was closed for few days before re-opening again. An Egyptian call to march to Gaza, in commemoration of the Palestinian Nakba of 1948 – the Day of Catastrophe – was aborted after the Egyptian army sealed much of Sinai. Tanks still dot the highway leading from Cairo to Gaza via the Sinai desert. The soldiers are very polite, though. The Egyptian driver who took me to Rafah in a very late hour seemed happiest with the revolution in his country, simply because he is now treated with respect by men in uniform. “Officers used to treat us with so much disrespect,” he said with a retrospective sense of grief. “Now, we are like brothers.” The driver extended his hand for an unnecessary handshake with a noticeably short solider, wearing a pair of slippers.

The sense of joy, however, hasn’t made it to the Gaza border yet. The hope and anticipation that Gazans feel towards the changes underway in Egypt can only be understood after a degree of investigation. The distance between Cairo and Rafah is long and arduous. It will be no easy task to translate political will in the former into meaningful policy in the latter. Still, the Egyptian people are keeping up the pressure, and Palestinians in Gaza remain hopeful.

At the end, no one was turned back. Everyone made it into Gaza. The man with the very old suit was still smoking and cursing for no apparent reason. The girl with the hurt back was still in terrible pain, but also happy to be home. The Gaza-Swedish engineer had a crowd of young cousins waiting for him. In Rafah, I found myself invited to a lunch followed by Arabic coffee with many men I didn’t know, most of whom were called Mohammed. They all seemed happy.

“So, Egypt has changed, right?” asked one Mohammed with a knowing smile and a nod. Everyone seemed to agree, although they didn’t pinpoint exactly how that change has affected Gaza so far. Palestinians in Gaza survive largely because of the 500 or so tunnels that connect the impoverished, besieged Strip to Egypt. Now, they feed on hope and cheap cigarettes, much of it also coming from Egypt.

“Ramzy Baroud,” called out an older officer loudly. “Welcome home, son,” he said, as he handed me my passport and waved me in. No words could possibly have been sweeter at that moment.

After seventeen years of constant attempts to visit Gaza again, I am finally here.

I am in Gaza. I am home.

by Ramzy Baroud

( / 02.06.2011)

Rightists in Jerusalem: Muhammad is dead, butcher Arabs

Right-wing activists marching in Old City to celebrate Jerusalem Day Wednesday filmed chanting ‘Death to leftists,’ singing ‘Muhammad is dead’; police detain at least 15 people, both Jewish and Arab, during tense day in capital

Dozens of right-wing activists marching through Jerusalem Wednesday were filmed chanting inflammatory messages and singing provocative songs in the capital, including “Muhammad is dead,” “May your village burn,” “Death to leftists,” and “Butcher the Arabs.”

The disturbing utterances were made during the traditional “Flag Dance” on the occasion of Jerusalem Day, which drew tens of thousands of Israelis to the capital to celebrate its unification following the 1967 Six-Day War.

צילום: תנועת סולידריות

Rightists in Sheikh Jarrah

The offensive chants and songs can be clearly heard in the video, filmed by members of the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement. Elsewhere, Arab residents hurled stones at Jewish protestors during the tense day. The Jerusalem Police deployed in the city in force ahead of time in a bid to prevent friction between Jews and Arabs.

During Wednesday’s violent clashes, police detained at least 15 rioters, both Jewish and Arab. A focal point of tension was the Old City’s Damascus Gate, where Jewish marchers and Arab business owners hurled stones and fruit at each other. Some Jews entered the Muslim market in the area and chanted “Death to the Arabs” and “Muhammad is dead.”

More Jewish protestors were arrested nearby after yelling nationalistic chants and attempting to hurt Arabs.

Overall, two Jews and one Arab sustained light wounds as result of stone throwing during the day and received medical treatment.

( / 02.06.2011)