Fundamental reforms should be undertaken after elections

BEN AROUS (TAP) – Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) Secretary-General Maya Jribi said that “the post-elections is a period in which fundamental reforms in political, administrative and economic fields should be undertaken.”

“These reforms should be in line with the preservation of the Tunisian citizen’s dignity and guarantee of his rights, away from any ideologies and extremism,” she specified.

Addressing a meeting on Saturday in Rades, governorate of Ben Arous, PDP Secretary-General warned against the continuity of economic stagnation and against insecurity which are direct causes of foreign investments’ drop, rise in unemployment rate and regression of tourism.

As regards the postponement of the National Constituent Assembly’s elections to next October 16, she voiced once more PDP’s rejection of this postponement, recalling the party’s main objectives, notably “the achievement of justice, democracy and well-being for all Tunisians.”

( / 25.06.2011)

Arab ship to participate in flotilla to Gaza

Arab ship to participate in flotilla to GazaIn spite of the deadly end of the first trip and the Israeli warning of military intervention to stop it, the international movement for breaking Gaza siege’s plans to send a new freedom flotilla to Gaza is gaining momentum everyday.

The participation in the Freedom Flotilla II is widening and diversifying day after a day despite the pro-Israeli lobby efforts to scare international activists away from joining it.

The latest of these gains is the announcement of the Jordanian Lifeline Committee on Saturday that an Arab-owned ship would participate in the second flotilla.

In statements to reporters, Head of JLC Wael Sakka said that the Committee has signed an agreement to purchase a ship worth 560,000 euros to participate in the flotilla II expected to sail to Gaza Strip from several European ports late this month.

Sakka noted that the ship, which can accommodate about 200 passengers, was bought by Nour Company, founded by Arab shareholders who met in Amman two months ago to discuss the Arab participation in the flotilla to which about activists from 26 Arab and foreign countries will contribute.

The Arab ship will be one of eight ships participating in the fleet, which will also include a cargo ship.
Sakka said that so far 70 Arab activists from five Arab countries confirmed their participation in the risk trip.
“I will participate in the meeting of the International Committee for Breaking the Siege on Gaza Strip to be held in Turkey Sunday to discuss the preparations for the fleet launch and review the international community stance of the trip,” he said.

Hundreds of people on as many as nine vessels from countries including the United States, Canada, Australia, Belgium, Denmark and Germany are expected to form the flotilla II.

At least nine Turkish activists were killed and scores wounded when Israeli commandos stormed an aid flotilla bound for the Gaza Strip May 2010.

The shipment was an effort by the rights activists to break a stifling Israeli siege on the Palestinian territory, home to 1.6 million people.

The deadly attack has badly harmed relations between Israel and Turkey, which stipulates an Israeli apology for the assault.

Sakka revealed the pro-Israel Zionist lobby in Europe has tried to derail the ships purchase agreements.
“They have also tried to prevent peace activists from participating in the fleet through pressuring their governments which refused to restrict the movement of its citizens,” Sakka disclosed.

He stressed the importance of the fleet in drawing world attention to the issue of the inhumane blockade imposed on 1.6 million Palestinians who are imprisoned the Gaza.

Israel has clamped a siege on the Palestinian coastal enclave since its arch-foe Hamas was voted to power in the 2006 legislative elections.

It further tightened the blockade after Hamas assumed full control of the Strip in 2007, blocking humanitarian aid into the strip.

( / 25.06.2011)

Hillary Clinton gives green light for Israeli attack on Gaza flotilla

In comments yesterday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seemed to lay the ground – indeed almost provide a green light – for an Israeli military attack on the upcoming Gaza Freedom Flotilla, which will include the US Boat to Gaza.

Among the passengers aboard the American boat will be 87-year old Kindertransport survivor Hedy Epstein, and author and poet Alice Walker. In all it is expected that about 10 ships, carrying 1000 people from over 20 countries will take part.

Here’s what Clinton said in remarks at the State Department on 23 June:

Well, we do not believe that the flotilla is a necessary or useful effort to try to assist the people of Gaza. Just this week, the Israeli Government approved a significant commitment to housing in Gaza. There will be construction materials entering Gaza and we think that it’s not helpful for there to be flotillas that try to provoke actions by entering into Israeli waters and creating a situation in which the Israelis have the right to defend themselves.

Clinton must know that Gaza is not part of what any country recognizes as “sovereign” Israeli territory, and therefore neither are Gaza’s territorial waters. Any boats entering Gaza’s waters would not in fact be entering “Israeli waters” as Clinton claimed. Clinton also, presuming she is properly briefed rather than misled, must also know that last year Israel attacked the Gaza Freedom Flotilla when it was in international waters and GPS data showed that it was actually heading away from Israel.

By invoking Israel’s supposed “right to self-defense” against civilian boats trying to reach Gaza, we must understand that Clinton is telling Israel the United States will not stand in the way of another military attack.

And by citing Israel allowing construction materials into Gaza to make the case that the flotilla is “unnecessary” because “aid” can reach the Palestinian people in Gaza, Clinton is engaging in the ultimate obfuscation.

People in Gaza have been reduced to penury and rendered dependent on aid by decades of Israeli occupation, siege and military attacks. The issue is not the delivery of aid but freeing the people by lifting the siege. It is an abhorrent position to suggest – as Clinton seems to – that if people in Gaza receive enough calories or a few building supplies then we should not be concerned about Israel’s siege. The Palestinian people of Gaza are not caged animals for whom sufficient care consists of shoving rations through the bars of their prison.

Israel’s siege is intended as a form of collective punishment and has been declared illegal by the ICRC.

Israel, as The Electronic Intifada reported, is engaging in military drills to intercept this unarmed civilian flotilla. In light of Clinton’s statements, if any blood is spilled it will not only be on Israeli, but also American hands.

Prosecuting flotilla passengers under “material support” laws

Not content with tacitly encouraging Israeli violence, in another alarming development, the State Department has apparently threatened that Americans who board boats to Gaza could be jailed or fined for supporting terrorism. Haaretz reports:

The U.S. State Department said Friday that attempts to break the blockade are “irresponsible and provocative” and that Israel has well-established means of delivering assistance to the Palestinian residents of Gaza. It noted that the territory is run by the militant Hamas group, a U.S. designated foreign terrorist organization, and that Americans providing support to it are subject to fines and jail.

In effect, the US now seems to be defining any support for any Palestinians, including a besieged civilian population, as support for Hamas, and therefore support for “terrorism.”

This mirrors its use of such “material support” laws as a pretext to investigate and persecute Palestine solidarity, antiwar, and labor activists exercising their First Amendment rights at home.

( / 25.06.2011)

Israel lobby group outlines dirty tricks against campus Palestine activists

What is the best way to smear Palestinians and Palestine solidarity activists and get away with it?

That is the question David Bernstein, Executive Director of the pro-Israel propaganda group, The David Project, asks in a surprisingly frank article titled “How to ‘Name-And-Shame’ Without Looking Like a Jerk” posted on Israel Campus Beat, a website sponsored by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

Bernstein writes:

One of the more controversial tactics in a growing effort to counter the delegitimization of Israel is to “name-and-shame” – to go after those who actively delegitimize Israel and seek to delegitimize them.

There are even those, such as British journalist Melanie Phillips, who argue that our entire strategy should be to relentlessly attack the other side and to cease “defending” Israel.

While name-and-shame tactics can be put to positive effect, they can also easily backfire and do more harm than good. We need to learn the art of being disagreeable in the most agreeable possible fashion.

Hiding vilification behind a veneer of “civility”

Bernstein offers advice on how to be as insincere as possible in order to undermine Palestine solidarity work, especially on college campuses:

  • Start every critique with supportive words for peace or free discourse or both.
  • Don’t accuse anti-Israel forces of anti-Semitism unless they openly vilify Jews; accuse them of being anti-peace for opposing Israel’s right to exist.
  • On campuses and other places where anti-Israel groups act in a disruptive manner, write and promulgate civility petitions calling on all parties to engage in a respectful discussion. If the anti-Israel groups sign it, then they constrain their future actions; if they don’t, they can be accused of being uncivil.
  • In taking on an anti-Israel professor on campus, don’t focus on the substantive arguments they make. That will make you look like you’re trying to stifle discourse. Instead, accuse them, in the words of Professor Gil Troy, of “academic malpractice” for propagandizing the classroom.
  • When someone on campus justifies Hamas or Hezbollah, call them out by asking a question: Do you really support the Hamas charter’s call for killing Jews? Can that ever be justified?
  • Avoid indictments against all Muslims or Islam; preface any criticism of a Muslim radical group with an acknowledgement of peaceful Muslims.

No one should be fooled by the mask of civility – Bernstein makes clear that the goal is to “delegitimize” and marginalize, not to actually engage in “civil” debate.

The David Project’s dirty tricks

The David Project has a long history of dirty tricks. Indeed, the group was a key actor in the slander and fabrication campaign against Columbia University Professor Joseph Massad, part of the unsuccessful effort to deny him tenure (Massad explains the background in a statement on his website after his list of publications).

More broadly, the effort to “name and shame” Palestine solidarity activists is part of the major “anti-delegitimization” efforts underway by American Zionist organizations at the suggestion of The Reut Institute, an Israeli think-tank which in 2010 called for a campaign of “sabotage and attack” on activists and organizations.

In October 2010, the Jewish Federations of North America – an umbrella for 157 major pro-Israel organisations – and the Jewish Council on Public Affairs launched a $6 million initiative called the “Israel Action Network” to fight “delegitimization” – a strategy that will undoubtedly include “name and shame.”

As I wrote for last December in “Defending Palestinian solidarity”:

I got a foretaste of what the Israel Action Network’s tactics will likely be when Sam Sokolove, the head of the Jewish Federation of New Mexico, launched a failed effort to get academic departments at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque to withdraw their support for a lecture I gave in November. Sokolove’s campaign involved publicly vilifying me in the media, likening me to a member of the Ku Klux Klan. It is probably because of the publicity the Jewish Federation gave me that hundreds of people attended my talk.

We can thank Bernstein for his honesty in explaining to us what Israel lobby tactics amount to: personal vilification hiding behind a thin veneer of calls for “civility.” It’s a further sign of the bankruptcy of so much “pro-Israel activism.” It is not so much “pro-Israel” as anti-Palestinian. It has no positive message to offer whatsoever, certainly not one of peace.

Melanie Phillips named and shamed

One final note of irony. In his piece, Bernstein cites Melanie Phillips, a very prominent pro-Israel advocate in the UK who has routinely attacked and vilified many people who have spoken up for Palestinian rights.

Last week, Phillips left her position at The Spectator under a cloud: the publication was forced to make several high profile apologies for Phillips’ totally false attacks against several people and organizations for alleged anti-Semitism or criticism of Israel. Phillips has been particularly virulent in her Islamophobic attacks on British Muslims, as Mehdi Hasan of The New Statesman reports.

( / 25.06.2011)

Erdogan: Turkey Supports Palestinian Plan to Seek UN Recognition

ANKARA, June 25, 2011 (WAFA) – Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan Friday announced his country’s full support of the Palestinian plan to seek United Nations recognition and full membership of a Palestinian state.

Erdogan reiterated Turkey’s willingness to provide all support possible to achieve the national unity and prevent another Palestinian internal division, during a joint press conference with President Mahmoud Abbas following a closed talks session between them in Ankara.

Abbas discussed the Palestinian reconciliation with Erdogan, saying “we are going ahead with the reconciliation and we will do whatever possible to achieve a national unity, in order to form an independent caretaker government, as well as to hold the presidential, parliamentary and national council elections within a year according to the agreement.”

Abbas praised the Turkish support to the Palestinians and stressed the extent of cooperation between both sides in seeking UN recognition.

In a related matter, Abbas welcomed Obama’s speech on implementing the principle of the two-state solution based on the 1967 borders with minor land-exchange, calling on the Israeli government to accept the principle and to stop settlement activities, including Jerusalem, in order to resume negotiations.

Abbas praised the European efforts to achieve peace, stressing that the Palestinians have welcomed the French Foreign Minister’s peace initiative to resume negotiations weeks ago, but it was rejected by Israel.

( / 25.06.2011)

Ukraine Asserts Recognition of Palestinian State

RAMALLAH, June 25, 2011 (WAFA) –  Ukrainian officials Saturday asserted their country’s recognition of a Palestinian state and understanding of the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) efforts to seek UN recognition next September.

Fatah Central Committee Member, Nabil Sha’ath, during an official visit to Ukraine, said that he felt the officials political support and understanding of the Palestinian demands.

He said, “I briefed the Ukrainian officials on the Palestinian goals and the importance of UN recognition next September, especially during a sensitive period of time, in which the PA is having an international campaign to insure our rights and face the Israeli intransigence.”

Shaath affirmed the importance of coordinating with the Ukrainian government to reach a good stance, which reflects the Palestinian-Ukrainian relations.

He called on the Arab ambassadors to Ukraine to unite the Arab stance, continue explaining the Palestinian leadership’s stances and pressure the Ukrainian government to support the PA.

( / 25.06.2011)

NOAM CHOMSKY: The West Is Terrified of Arabic Democracies”

Noam Chomsky is one of the major intellectuals of our time. The eighty-two-year-old American linguist, philosopher and activist is a severe critic of US foreign and economic policy. Ceyda Nurtsch talked to him about the Arabic spring in its global context

Q: Mr. Chomsky, many people claim that the Arab world is incompatible with democracy. Would you say that the recent developments falsify this thesis?

Noam Chomsky: The thesis never had any basis whatsoever. The Arab-Islamic world has a long history of democracy. It’s regularly crushed by western force. In 1953 Iran had a parliamentary system, the US and Britain overthrew it. There was a revolution in Iraq in 1958, we don’t know where it would have gone, but it could have been democratic. The US basically organized a coup.

False friends: Iran’ democratically elected Prime Minister Mossadegh during a visit in the US in 1951, two years before the CIA’s coup d’état that ousted him

In internal discussions in 1958, which have since been declassified, President Eisenhower spoke about a campaign of hatred against us in the Arab world. Not from the governments, but from the people. The National Security Council’s top planning body produced a memorandum – you can pick it up on the web now – in which they explained it. They said that the perception in the Arab world is that the United States blocks democracy and development and supports harsh dictators and we do it to get control over their oil. The memorandum said, this perception is more or less accurate and that’s basically what we ought to be doing.

Q: That means that western democracies prevented the emergence of democracies in the Arab world?

Chomsky: I won’t run through the details, but yes, it continues that way to the present. There are constant democratic uprisings. They are crushed by the dictators we – mainly the US, Britain, and France – support. So sure, there is no democracy because you crush it all. You could have said the same about Latin America: a long series of dictators, brutal murderers. As long as the US controls the hemisphere, or Europe before it, there is no democracy, because it gets crushed.

Q: So you were not surprised at all by the Arab Spring?

Chomsky: Well, I didn’t really expect it. But there is a long background to it. Let’s take Egypt for instance. You’ll notice that the young people who organized the demonstrations on January 25th called themselves the April 6th movement. There is a reason for that. April 6th 2008 was supposed to be a major labour action in Egypt at the Mahalla textile complex, the big industrial centre: strikes, support demonstrations around the country and so on. It was all crushed by the dictatorship. Well, in the West we don’t pay any attention: as long as dictatorships control people, what do we care!

Egyptian riot police beat a protester with batons, during anti government protests in the city of Mahalla Egypt.

“Efforts to create democracy”: On 6 April 2008 Egyptian workers, primarily in the state-run textile industry, striked in response to low wages and rising food costs. Strikes were illegal in Egypt, and the protests were eventually crushed

But in Egypt they remember, and that’s only one in a long series of militant strike actions. Some of them succeeded. There are some good studies of this. There is one American scholar, Joel Beinen – he is at Stanford – he has done a lot of work on the Egyptian labour movement. And he has recent articles and earlier ones, in which he discusses labour struggles going on for a long time: those are efforts to create democracy.

Q: Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, claimed to cause a domino effect of freedom with his policy of the “New Middle East”. Is there a relation between the uprisings in the Arab world to the policy of George W. Bush?

Chomsky: The main theme of modern post-war history is the domino effect: Cuba, Brazil, Vietnam… Henry Kissinger compared it to a virus that might spread contagion. When he and Nixon were planning the overthrow of the democratically elected Allende in Chile – we have all the internal materials now – Kissinger in particular said, the Chilean virus might affect countries as far as Europe. Actually, he and Brezhnev agreed on that, they were both afraid of democracy and Kissinger said, we have to wipe out this virus. And they did, they crushed it.

Today it’s similar. Both Bush and Obama are terrified of the Arab spring. And there is a very sensible reason for that. They don’t want democracies in the Arab world. If Arab public opinion had any influence on policy, the US and Britain had been tossed out of the Middle East. That’s why they are terrified of democracies in the region.

Q: The well-known British Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk recently stated that Obama and his policy is irrelevant for the developments in the region…

Chomsky: I read the article, it’s very good. Robert Fisk is a terrific journalist and he really knows the region well. I think what he means is that the activists in the April 6th movement don’t care about the United States. They have totally given up on the US. They know the United States is their enemy. In fact in public opinion in Egypt about 90 per cent think that the US is the worst threat that they face. In that sense the USA is of course not irrelevant. It’s just too powerful.

Q: Some criticize the Arab intellectuals for being too silent, too passive. What should the role of the Arab intellectual be today?

Chomsky: Intellectuals have a special responsibility. We call them intellectuals because they are privileged and not because they are smarter than anyone else. But if you are privileged and you have some status and you can be articulate and so on we call you an intellectual. And it’s the same in the Arab world as anywhere else.

( / 25.06.2011)

EGYPT: Muslim Brotherhood youth break away to form new political party

The Muslim Brotherhood is struggling with more dissent in its ranks after a group of young members broke away from the Islamist organization’s political party to form a secular party that is more inclusive of other cultures and religions.

The new party, known as the Egyptian Current, is a direct challenge to the Brotherhood and follows the expulsion this week of Dr. Abdul Monem aboul Fotouh, a prominent member who defied the organization by running for president.  Fatouh has the support of thousands of young members, many of whom reportedly have had their memberships in the organization frozen.

“We are convinced that Egypt is currently in need of political parties that rise beyond specific ideologies. The Egyptian mainstream political current should have a real voice in the country’s politics,” Mohammed Abbas told the Los Angeles Times. Abbas said he suspects he and others will also be expelled from the Brotherhood.

Abbas said the Egyptian Current will be a secular party with Islamic and Arabic roots but will represent Egyptians belonging to different cultural and religious backgrounds: “We need a party which will look after the interests of all Egyptians,” he said. Founding members announced that the party will take the slogan of “freedom, building and pioneering.”

Young Brotherhood members have often voiced their dismay at the policies of the Brotherhood’s senior members, most notably after leaders of the organization’s Justice and Freedom political party were appointed by the group’s politburo rather than being elected by a committee of party members.

Abbas, who represented the Brotherhood at the Jan. 25 Youth Coalition during the revolution that overthrew President Hosni Mubarak, was also angered by the group’s decision to ban its members from taking part in “the second revolution” protests in Tahrir Square in May.

The announcement of the Egyptian Current comes days after the Brotherhood officially axed Fotouh. The group announced that Fotouh violated its regulations by launching a presidential bid despite the Brotherhood’s decision not to field a candidate. The dissension comes as the Brotherhood — free from the persecution of Mubarak’s police state — has emerged as the country’s top political player. It is poised to win as many as 25% of the seats in Parliament in September elections.

But it is increasingly unable to mend the differences between the aspirations of its youth and its conservative Islamic tenets. While members of the Egyptian Current expressed willingness to remain in the Brotherhood, many officials in the organization’s guidance bureau demanded their dismissal from the group Wednesday. No decisions were made but Abbas believes that they are likely to be expelled.

( / 25.06.2011)

First African convoy to Gaza gets ready for departure.

First African convoy to Gaza gets ready for departure.The final countdown to the departure of Africa’s first ever overlandaid convoy from Durban to Gaza has begun. It will culminate in a grand send off ceremony for the South African Relief Agency’s road convoy at the Durban City Hall at 09h00 on Sunday 26 June 2011.

Of special significance is the fact that Archbishop Desmond Tutu will be present along with the Premier of KZN, the Ambassador of Palestine and the Mayor of Durban to send us off with their prayers and best wishes for the success of this mission.

The convoy will be distributing aid to the needy in towns that they will be stopping over enroute through Africa. The main aid consignment consisting of baby milk powder, medicines, wheelchairs, crutches, medical equipment, school stationery, disposable diapers, portable electricity generators and ambulances are destined for Gaza. This huge undertaking would not have been possible without the support and the generosity of donors from the corporate sector, community organizations and concerned individuals.  (click to enlarge the article at bottom of the page to read about the fund raising efforts of the ‘Al-quds’ women)

Twenty one “heroes” headed by Sheikh Walid El Saadi, have volunteered to undertake this challenging 10,000 odd kilometre journey through Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt to deliver this vital aid to the beleaguered and besieged people of Gaza. A further twenty five members will join us via our air convoy as will an equal number from Sudan and Egypt to swell our ranks prior to our entry into Gaza. Regular updates posted on our website and both the SA Relief and Africa to Gaza Aid Convoy face book pages, will provide

“live” tracking of the convoy’s progress.
Be a part of this amazing team. Show your support, click on the LINK and “LIKE” the page

( / 25.06.2011)

Libische voetballers lopen over

Embleem van al-Ahly, de voetbalclub in Tripoli
Embleem van al-Ahly, de voetbalclub in Tripoli
In Libië zijn zeventien belangrijke figuren uit de voetbalwereld overgelopen naar de opstandelingen. Onder hen zijn vier spelers van het nationale elftal en de coach van de populairste club, al-Ahly in Tripoli.

Het nieuws wordt in het voetbalgekke Libië gezien als een belangrijke klap voor het aanzien van kolonel Kadhafi.

‘Met rust laten’

Een journalist van de BBC sprak met hen in een hotel in het Nafusa-gebergte. Dat is een van de gebieden in West-Libië die onder controle staan van de opstandelingen.

“Kolonel Kadhafi moet ons met rust laten, zodat we een vrij Libië kunnen creëren”, zei de nationale doelman Juma Gtat tegen de BBC-reporter. “Wat mij betreft mag hij helemaal uit het leven stappen.”


De coach van al-Ahly, Adel bin Issa, zei dat hij naar het Nafusa-gebergte was gekomen met de boodschap dat Libië verenigd en vrij moet zijn. “Ik hoop dat ik op een ochtend wakker word en dat Kadhafi weg is.”

Kadhafi’s derde zoon al-Saadi was in het verleden aanvoerder van het nationale elftal en speelde ooit bij al-Ahly.

( / 25.06.2011)