Report: Israel plans to build separation wall in Golan


GOLAN, Syria (Ma’an) — Israeli authorities plan to build a wall in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights, the official Syrian news agency SANA reported Friday.

The wall will separate the town of Majdal Shams in Israeli-occupied territory from the suburb of Al-Oude and Ain Al-Tinah in Syria, SANA reported.

SANA said the cement wall would be four kilometers long and eight meters high.

Earlier this year, Israeli forces killed at least 27 people in the area during demonstrations against the Israeli occupation.

On May 15, about 4,000 mainly Palestinian demonstrators gathered at the Golan heights to mark the Nakba, or catastrophe, in which two thirds of the Palestinian population were displaced during Israel’s creation in 1948.

Protesters tried to cross the ceasefire line into Israeli-occupied territory and broke through Israel’s security fence. Israeli forces fired tear gas, warning shots and then opened fire on the marchers, killing at least four.

On June 5, Palestinians again gathered at two places along the Golan Heights ceasefire line. Israeli forces again used tear gas and then live fire to deter the demonstrators. The UN said up to 23 people were reported killed and many more wounded.

Despite a 1949 armistice agreement, Israel and Syria remain technically in a state of war.

( / 30.07.2011)

Israel sues Bedouin villagers for cost of repeated evictions

Residents of a Bedouin village in Israel’s Negev desert are facing a lawsuit for the cost of Israeli government agencies repeatedly destroying their homes and other structures.

Israeli authorities filed a claim for 1.8 million NIS (more than US$500,000) with a court on 26 July for the expense of destroying the structures and evicting the residents of al-‘Araqib village as many as 28 times over the past year. The most recent eviction took place on 25 July.

Bedouin residents claim that the village of al-‘Araqib lies on their ancestral lands, but the authorities say they are squatting illegally in an “unrecognized” settlement.
“This lawsuit beggars belief – the Israeli authorities cannot reasonably expect the Bedouin villagers to fund the repeated destruction of their own homes and livelihoods,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director.

“Israel must end its policy of demolishing ‘unrecognized’ villages in the Negev and take steps to officially recognize al-‘Araqib and similar villages, at least until there is a resolution to the land claims and a solution which takes into account the needs and rights of the residents.”

Repeated demolitions

According to local NGOs, a community festival and children’s summer camp organized by al-‘Araqib residents and activists was interrupted on 25 July when Israeli authorities entered the village with at least 20 vehicles and a bulldozer to demolish makeshift structures.

Some 250-300 people lived in al-‘Araqib before the demolitions began last year. As an agricultural community, many of them rely on the land for their livelihoods. 

The Israeli authorities want to use the land in and around al-‘Araqib village for a forest. The Jewish National Fund – a semi-governmental organization – has landscaped the surrounding area and is continuing its forestation work.

Over the past year, Israel has repeatedly deployed scores of security forces to destroy village property. On the first occasion, Israel Lands Administration (ILA) officials and more than 1,000 police officers entered the village on 27 July 2010. They razed at least 46 homes and other structures, including animal pens and water tanks, as well as olive trees.

In another incident in February, bulldozers and around 40 riot police forced local families into the cemetery, the only area as yet unaffected. Bulldozers approached the cemetery gate and police repeatedly fired sponge-tipped bullets and tear gas into the area. Three women and two children were hospitalized after the incident.

Historical land claims

Al-‘Araqib’s Bedouin residents claim their ancestors have owned the land since Ottoman rule, before Israel was established.

In the early 1950s, the Israeli authorities ordered the village’s residents to leave temporarily, saying that the land was needed for military training and promising that they would be allowed to return within six months.

The residents complied with this military order but they were not allowed to return. Instead, various government agencies transferred ownership of the lands to the state.

Throughout this period of forced absence, the families maintained their connection to the land through grazing, agriculture, and the village cemetery, and sought to have the government recognize their land claims.

In the 1990s, the Bedouin families returned to their lands. At the same time, it became clear that Israeli authorities had plans to build a forest on the village. Residents filed fresh land ownership claims in Israeli courts, some of which are still pending.

“Israel needs to find long-term solutions to address the irregular situation of al-‘Araqib and the dozens of other villages like it,” said Philip Luther.

“Repeatedly demolishing these villages is not working – progress can only be made through formally recognizing the villages or genuine and meaningful consultations with the residents to find alternative adequate housing which guarantees their safety and enables them to continue their traditional Bedouin lifestyle.”

( / 30.07.2011)

NAVO bombardeert Libische staats-tv uit de lucht

NAVO-vliegtuigen hebben met precisiebombardementen drie satellietschotels van de Libische staatstelevisie uitgeschakeld, meldde het militaire bondgenootschap zaterdag. Volgens de staatstelevisie zijn bij de aanval drie journalisten omgekomen.

De NAVO zegt zo ’terroristische uitzendingen’ van leider Moammar Kadhafi het zwijgen op te willen leggen. Volgens de NAVO kan hij niet langer ‘het Libische volk intimideren en ophitsen tot geweld tegen het volk’.

‘In het licht van ons mandaat om de bevolking te beschermen, moesten we wel optreden’, aldus een verklaring van de NAVO, die spreekt over zorgvuldige voorbereiding om het aantal slachtoffers en langetermijnschade te beperken. Door alleen deze schotels te vernietigen, denkt de NAVO dat er na het conflict genoeg apparatuur is om opnieuw uit te zenden.

Terroristische daad
De omgekomen Libische journalisten werkten voor de Engelstalige dienst Al-Jamahiriya, meldde het hoofd van de dienst. Hij noemde de aanval een terroristische daad en in strijd met de resoluties van de VN-Veiligheidsraad.

De aanval ging gepaard met een tiental explosies in het centrum van hoofdstad Tripoli, zo hoorden journalisten ter plaatse. Een presentator van de Libische tv had eerder op de avond gemeld dat het hoofdkantoor was geraakt. Hij gaf geen details.

( / 30.07.2011)

Europe’s Right-Wing Populists Find Allies in Israel



The Likud Connection

Europe’s Right-Wing Populists Find Allies in Israel

By Charles Hawley

A woman in a headscarf walks past a campaign poster for the Freedom Party of Austria depicting party leader Heinz-Christian Strache.

A woman in a headscarf walks past a campaign poster for the Freedom Party of Austria depicting party leader Heinz-Christian Strache.

Islamophobic parties in Europe have established a tight network, stretching from Italy to Finland. But recently, they have extended their feelers to Israeli conservatives, enjoying a warm reception from members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition. Some in Israel believe that the populists are Europe’s future.

Anders Breivik’s 1,500-page manifesto is nothing if not thorough. Pages and pages of text outline in excruciating detail the ideological underpinnings of his worldview — one which led him to kill 76 people in two terrible attacks in Norway last week.

It is a document which has led many to question Breivik’s sanity. But it has also, due to its myriad citations and significant borrowing from several anti-immigration, Islamophobic blogs, highlighted the deeply entwined network of right-wing populist groups and parties across Europe — from the Front National in France to Vlaams Belang in Belgium to the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ)

But recently it has become clear that Europe’s populist parties aren’t merely content to establish a network on the Continent. They are also looking further east. And have begun establishing tight relations with several conservative politicians in Israel — first and foremost with Ayoob Kara, a parliamentarian with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party who is also deputy minister for development of the Negev and Galilee districts.

The reason for the growing focus on Israel is not difficult to divine. “On the one hand,” Strache told SPIEGEL ONLINE in a recent interview, “we are seeing great revolutions taking place in the Middle East. But one can’t be totally sure that other interests aren’t behind them and that, in the end, we might see Islamist theocracies surrounding Israel and in Europe’s backyard.”

In other words, in the battle against what right-wing populists see as the creeping Islamization of Europe, Israel is on the front line.

‘More Sensitive to the Dangers’

Many in Israel see it the same way. Eliezer Cohen, known in Israel by his nickname “Cheetah,” says that leftist parties in both Europe and Israel have lost their way. Cohen, a decorated Israeli air force colonel now in retirement, is a former member of the Knesset with Yisrael Beiteinu, the hardline nationalist party led by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman that currently governs together in a coalition with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party.

“Right-wing politicians in Europe are more sensitive to the dangers facing Israel,” Cohen, who gave a keynote address during Dutch right-wing leader Geert Wilders’ visit to Berlin last October, told SPIEGEL ONLINE. “They are talking the exact same language as Likud and others on the Israeli right. I’m too old for bullshitting — we hope the right wing wins out in Europe.”

Kara sounds no different. “I am looking for ways to lessen the Islamic influence in the world,” Kara told the Israeli daily Maariv in June. “I believe that is the true Nazism in this world. I am the partner of everyone who believes in the existence of this war.”

At first glance, the European populists’ relationship with Israel would hardly appear to be a marriage built on love. Many see the FPÖ as being just one tiny step away from classic neo-Nazi groups and the same holds true for their partners throughout Europe. While such parties insist that they are not anti-Semitic — Strache claims that he takes a close look at populist parties’ stances toward Israel and Jews before he enters into partnerships with them — it is not difficult to find indications of extreme, anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic vitriol from within the populist party membership rolls.

Andreas Mölzer, for example, a member of the European Parliament for the FPÖ who has recently changed his tune to defend Strache’s approaches to Israel, edits a weekly called Zur Zeit which is replete with attacks on Israel. Following its incursion into the Gaza Strip in late 2008, the paper accused Israel of acting in “the Talmudic spirit of annihilation” and that it was trying to “finally annihilate the open-air concentration camp of the Gaza Strip in the spirit of the Old Testament.”

‘Neo-Nazi Millionaire’

Indeed, when it comes to the FPÖ, observers of the party say the embrace of Israel, however far to the right it is taking place, is an insincere effort to establish foreign policy credibility. “The strategy is clearly that of normalizing itself, of becoming socially acceptable,” Heribert Schiedel, an expert on the FPÖ with the Documentation Center of Austrian Resistance, a foundation which monitors right-wing extremism, wrote in an e-mail. “We presume that anti-Semitism remains a fundamental part of the party’s ideology.”

Many in Israel would tend to agree. And Kara was blasted in the Israeli press for a recent meeting in Berlin he held with Patrick Brinkmann, a German right-wing populist. “Deputy Minister Meets Neo-Nazi Millionaire,” read a headline in the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth earlier this month, noting that Brinkmann, while now insistent that he is not anti-Semitic, once had close ties with the right-wing extremist National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD). Following a visit to Vienna in December to meet with Strache, Vienna Jewish community leader Ariel Muzicant published an open letter in which he demanded that Netanyahu fire Kara.

The primary focus of the FPÖ’s political message, however, is — like that of populist parties from the True Finns in Finland to the Lega Nord in Italy — one of extreme skepticism of Muslim immigration. The groups are opposed to the construction of minarets, convinced that Europe’s future is threatened by high Muslim birth rates and certain that the Christian West must defend itself from Islam

“For decades, politicians in Europe have ignored demographic developments and we are now in a situation where we have to warn that we are experiencing the Islamification of Europe,” Strache says. “We don’t want to become an Islamic society.”

Geert Wilders, who hit the headlines in 2008 with his virulently anti-Muslim film “Fitna” in 2008, pioneered the European populist-Israeli connection that same year. He has been back to visit Israel several times since.

( / 30.07.2011)

Palestine 30.07.2011

Maan News Agency: 5 killed in Egypt clashes between Islamists and army

Syndicate Warns Against Rise in Israeli Attacks on Journalists –

Israeli Soldiers Open Fire, Injure Farmer North of Gaza

Rights Group Accuses Israel of Using Violence against Peaceful Demonstrations

Israeli Forces Declare Iraq Burin Closed Military Zone

Israelis Attack Arab-Jewish Protest Tent

Miles of Smiles to enter #Gaza Sunday bringing urgently needed medicines & baby milk [alresaleh]

Israeli forces shoot farmer in northern Gaza

Clashes reported in Irraq Burin

Palestinian Christians are protesting the Anglican chief’s occupation blindspot, but have been given the cold shoulder

Palestinians prepare for massive uprising

29 July 2011 | Inter Press Service, Mel Frykberg

BEIT UMMAR, Occupied West Bank – Leading members of the Palestinian Popular Committees in the West Bank plan massive civil unrest and disobedience against the Israeli occupation authorities come September when the Palestinians take their case for statehood to the UN.

“We plan to take to the streets en masse,” Musa Abu Maria, a leading member of the Popular Committee in Beit Ummar, a town 11 km north of Hebron in the southern West Bank told IPS. “We will block entire highways leading to and from Israel’s illegal settlements. We will march on settlements. But these will be non-violent and the protestors will be peaceful.

“We have worked out creative strategies to bring the occupation increasingly to the attention of the international community and the world media. We will be coordinating with our international supporters in Europe and America to increase international recognition of the Palestinian predicament as the tide turns in our favour,” added Abu Maria.

The Israeli government, intelligence agencies and security forces have been preparing for an outbreak of Palestinian protests in September as they expect the UN General Assembly to overwhelmingly endorse the Palestinian bid for independence.

The country’s security forces have been holding military drills in preparation for massive clashes. Meanwhile, the political leadership has engaged on a lightning tour of Europe trying to win the support of “quality European countries”, as the Israeli government put it, to vote against Palestinian statehood.

The Israeli government is hoping that the economically and politically stronger members of the UN will side with Israel as approximately 140 UN members from “developing and Third World” countries, amongst others, are expected to vote in favour of Palestine.

So concerned is the Israeli government that on Monday it threatened to revoke the 1993 Oslo Accords in response to the September plan of the Palestinian Authority (PA). According to government sources this is merely one of the alternatives the Israeli government is considering as a counter political move.

The Palestinians are steaming ahead with their strategy.

Last week in a politically ground-breaking move independent of the official PA and Hamas leadership, more than a thousand leading political activists and leaders from across the entire Palestinian political spectrum converged on Beit Ummar for a three-day conference to plan the Palestinian strategy for ending the Israeli occupation.

The three-day conference was held in three different villages where the strongest Friday protests against the expropriation of Palestinian land for illegal Israeli settlements have taken place.

Representatives from Hamas, Fatah, The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) amongst others, agreed that they would call on their followers to begin massive civil disobedience campaigns across the West Bank in September.

“We told the various leaders that if they wanted to put their own party politics ahead of liberation, then they were not welcome at the event. However, if they were determined to work for liberation and the unification of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank politically and geographically then they would get our support,” Abu Maria told IPS.

According to Younis Arrar, a leading member of Fatah, the West Bank Popular Committee leadership and an employee of the PA, the support of the entire Palestinian leadership has been confirmed.

“They will get their supporters to take to the streets in their thousands on a massive scale. We are not talking about the current spot-fire protests in a number of West Bank villages but dozens of Palestinian cities, towns and villages across the Palestinian territories following the call,” Arrar told IPS.

“The Israelis fear non-violent mass civil unrest more than anything. They are hoping that we will turn violent because they can use their superior military force to crush us as they have always done. But we will stick to unarmed resistance,” added Arrar.

“I believe the Israelis will ensure at least some fatalities by shooting high-velocity teargas canisters directly at heads or aiming fire with live ammunition as they have done regularly in the past.”

Some of the planned protests in the West Bank will include bicycle rallies and other demonstrations with political themes. In the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh villagers have set up tents, Egyptian revolution style, to highlight the continued theft of their land for the adjacent Israeli settlement of Halamish.

Apart from mass marches and protests the Popular Committees are working with various grassroots organisations in Europe, including the Boycott, Disinvestments and Sanctions (BDS) campaigners, who are going to hold parallel protests and marches while calling for an economic boycott of Israeli goods and products.

Abu Maria believes that if the Palestinian leadership is not pro-active in guiding people in the near future, they will organise the revolution on their own. This happened during the first Palestinian Intifadah when the exiled Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) had to follow the lead of the Palestinian street when the uprising broke out in 1987.

“I have been politically involved since I was 15 and first imprisoned by the Israelis. I have my ear to the ground, I have many contacts and I know the way people think here. We will not stop until we have our freedom and independence. The writing is on the wall,” Abu Maria told IPS (END)

(Facebook / 30.07.2011)

Israeli forces shoot farmer in northern Gaza

Gaza Strip, (Pal Telegraph)-A  twenty year-old Palestinian farmer was shot Saturday  by Israeli gunfire in the north of Beit Lahya town, northern Gaza Strip.

Adham Abu Silmiya, medical emergency spokesman, said that Israeli forces stationed along the northern borders of Gaza Strip opened fire at Palestinian farmers who were working in their fields, leaving one injured.

The man was evacuated immediately to Kamal Udwan hospital to receive medication due to a bullet hit his head, he added.

Israeli forces on Gaza borders continue to target Palestinian farmers, hindering them access to their lands, creating tension among civilians, and inflicting damage to Palestinian properties.

( 30.07.2011)

Syria: Violence in the dark

Tales of imprisonment and torture by state security forces paint a picture of a regime in panic.
When widespread protests broke out in Syria in March, President Bashar al-Assad’s regime turned to its feared security services to smother the anti-government movement.

The bloody response has so far succeeded where other attempts to put down the “Arab awakening” have failed, and President Assad remains in power.

Verifying the toll of the crackdown is difficult, since the government has banned most journalists and observers, but activists and researchers say more than 10,000 people have been detained and at least 1,500 killed since March. A response of proportional size in the United States, by way of comparison, would have meant more than 136,000 people detained and 20,450 killed.

At least 66 people are believed to have died while in the custody of Syrian authorities, according to a list provided by activists to Human Rights Watch researcher Nadim Houry in June.

Outside audiences have encountered the regime’s brutal response primarily through grainy YouTube footage and second-hand accounts relayed by expatriate activists.

These brushstrokes paint a useful yet broad picture: a dozen people killed in this city, a thousand people protesting in that city.

But first-hand accounts from those who have been through the packed cells of Assad’s jails or those who have come under gunfire from his troops offer a more personal understanding of the uprising.

Recently, Al Jazeera spoke with six men, three of whom were in Syria, and three of whom had left the country. All had been arrested or seen relatives suffer at the hands of the security services.

Their stories, which are available below, portray a violent state system in a spasm of panic, unsure of what it is confronting, yet nevertheless determined to crush it.

Wrapped in a ‘legal fiction’

“There are two types of arrest going on. One is widescale arrests in areas that have seen large anti-government protests … and it’s a way to punish and create fear and intimidation,” Houry told Al Jazeera. “The other, it’s not targeted, the net is wide, but we see arrests of [people whose] names [are] produced via intelligence services and informants. Those include activists, but also those who participated in protests.”

The campaign of arrests, Houry said, is wrapped in a legal “fiction”. Though Assad lifted the country’s 48-year-old emergency laws in response to protests, making it illegal for security forces to detain someone for more than three days without referring them to a judge, the rules have not applied during the crackdown.

Some of those arrested are quickly released, some are sent to a judge, and others have simply “disappeared”, he said. Often, activists have been arrested to pressure their families and associates to stay out of protests – an attempt to “break the back” of the opposition movement, said Houry.

The charges used to detain protesters include making a public disturbance, inciting sectarian violence, or insulting the president. Most of those who go before a judge are released on bail, and Houry knows of no one who has gone through a trial.

In many cases, the administration has responded to restive towns by besieging them. The army, typically the 4th Division under the command of Assad’s brother Maher, stations tanks and armoured vehicles to block entrances and exits. Water, electricity and mobile phone services are often turned off. The army and other cooperating branches of the security forces enter the town and conduct wide sweeps, arresting hundreds of men, young and old. Resistance, even peaceful protest, is often confronted with lethal force. Dozens of videos posted online show these tactics at work.

Relatives of those who are killed on the street or tortured in custody have no opportunity to seek justice through the courts, Houry said.

Security officers often pressure families to sign documents saying their relative was killed by “armed gangs”, and they threaten to withhold the person’s body if the family does not agree. Some families have fought back by refusing to sign the papers and rallying local protests. In some cases, they have forced local officials to return bodies without conditions.

Long road to international court

Yaser Tabbara, a Chicago-based human rights lawyer and expatriate Syrian activist, is helping lead an effort among Syrian rights groups to focus international condemnation on the Assad regime and begin the process of international prosecution.

But bringing an international case against the Syrian regime will be difficult. Syria has never signed the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) founding treaty, so it is not subject to the court’s jurisdiction.

Tabbara hopes for another option. He wants the United Nations Security Council to makes its own referral, sending Syria to the ICC for investigation as it did with Libya, another country that never signed the treaty.

Tabbara studied under renowned international criminal law expert Cherif Bassiouni, often called the “father of the ICC”, and he has delivered a memo to the office of the court’s prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, in the Hague.

The memo, filed on behalf of the coalition of rights groups, lays out a legal argument for an investigation into the Assad regime, should the Security Council make a referral.

“There is a reasonable basis to believe that crimes against humanity were committed in the context of the Syrian popular uprising, in particular crimes against humanity of murder; imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty; enforced disappearance, persecution and torture,” it states. “There are so far no national proceedings implemented by the state to investigate and try those who bear the responsibility of these crimes.”

The chance of the Assad regime arranging its own fair investigation is “very slim”, the memo says.

‘A far-fetched idea’

The document is based on more than 400 meetings and 2,000 telephone interviews with witnesses conducted by members of various rights groups.

Tabbara related the story of one man he interviewed.

The man was driving in a suburb of Damascus when security forces stopped his car and searched it, looking for a memory card or any evidence that he had taken photographs of protesters. They detained the man and charged him with challenging the sovereignty of the state and denouncing the president.

During one interrogation, he was put into a stress position in a chair, his hands tied behind him to his feet, arching his back. They beat him and threatened to pull his nails out.

After a week, they gave him a court date and released him. A few days later, he was arrested again and put into solitary confinement for 20 days.

“This time it’s a different security branch. They don’t always talk to each other,” Tabbara said. “When someone is detained, two branches might not talk, one might not know where their target is, he might be sitting in another prison. That’s exactly what happened with this gentleman.”

The man’s court date came and went as he sat in jail. He was interrogated, but not tortured, and eventually released. He quickly went into hiding, as a third branch of the security forces came looking for him, and escaped the country.

Tabbara acknowledged that a Security Council referral “right now sounds like sort of a far-fetched idea”, but he said that expatriate Syrian opposition figures are lobbying the two key permanent members of the Council that have opposed harsh action: Russia and China.

Russia is upset with the way UN Resolution 1973 was used to begin an air campaign against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, and the Kremlin still sees strategic benefits in Assad, Tabbara said. Russia maintains a Soviet-era naval base in the city of Tartus, and reporting in recent years has suggested the country is interested in upgrading that facility, building another in Latakia and improving its naval presence in the eastern Mediterranean.

China, meanwhile, fears that international action to prevent Arab crackdowns during the season of uprisings will set a precedent that could make it harder for Beijing to use similar methods against its own internal dissent, Tabbara said.

For now, Syrian expats are visiting intellectuals, writers, government officials and media outlets in key council member states, lobbying and making the case that they need to “be on the right side of history”.

( / 30.07.2011)