Qalandia demonstration brutally crushed

“Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.”

-Universal Decleration of Human Rights. Article (20)

Except the Palestinians, according to Israel.


Embedded image, on Imgur

Palestinian peaceful demonstrations take place in many different places EVERY FRIDAY protesting many issues among them are the occupation, settlements, and the Apartheid Wall. Almost always the demonstrators get teargased and attacked by Israeli soldiers without having committed any violence against the soldiers. Peaceful protests always maintain their peaceful nature, until there is a serious provocation from the Israeli army where the demonstration loses its organized structure. I am first-hand witness to many of those demonstrations, just as the one at Qalandia today where Israeli soldiers where the first to provoke acts of aggression.

The organizers of Today’s event “Knocking on Jerusalem’s doors”, did their best to maintain a peaceful non-violent nature of the protest, and they succeeded. There were over 200 Palestinians, Israelis, and internationals peacefully carrying placards and chanting directly in the face of the Israeli soldiers who wouldn’t let them into Jerusalem.

B’Tselem, The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, published a good background guide on East Jerusalem, I will quote this excerpt:

“Since East Jerusalem was annexed in 1967, the government of Israel’s primary goal in Jerusalem has been to create a demographic and geographic situation that will thwart any future attempt to challenge Israeli sovereignty over the city. To achieve this goal, the government has been taking actions to increase the number of Jews, and reduce the number of Palestinians, living in the city.Israel has used various methods to achieve its goal, one of the many methods is    : Physically isolating East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank, in part by building the separation barrier;”

Today, hundreds of Muslims were able to enter to pray in al-Aqsa through Qalandia checkpoint, but hundreds others were denied and had to return. I talked to two of those people who were denied. The first guy told me: “I tried, I tried over and over again, with no result, I am going back now”, I asked if he was ready to protest Israel’s illegal actions on checkpoints, he said: “I don’t want the trouble anymore”. The other person I talked to said: “I tried, I was revoked, but I will keep trying until tomorrow morning if that is what it takes”. Those two guys resemble two words I had on my mind today, frustration and determination respectfully. The two words describe the situation in the Palestinian community today, many Palestinians are frustrated as they have been let down by everyone including their leadership, they believe their effort is worthless therefore they better not bother anymore. While a minority of the senior Palestinian community, a majority of the youth are still hopeful and determined that they can bring the change that will bring peace, justice, and equality on this land.


Embedded image, on Imgur


Embedded image, on Imgur

Today, Muslims who were stuck at Qalandia did their prayer there in front of the soldiers, there was a fatwa from the sheikh there that if they pray at the closest point they can get to Jerusalem, it will count as if they prayed in al-Aqsa. This fatwa was to motivate Palestinians to not give up and keep fighting for their right to enter Jerusalem.


Embedded image, on Imgur


Embedded image, on Imgur

After the prayers, everyone stood up, one hand, and chanted against Israeli occupation and symbolically knocked on Jerusalem’s doors as they knocked on the fence between them and the soldiers (Jerusalem is only few meters away). Some guys removed the fence from in front of the soldiers and threw it behind, as we see in the picture below.


Embedded image, on Imgur


Embedded image, on Imgur

About 20 minutes after the Friday prayers were held, I saw the soldier on the fortified cement tower above me spitting on youth below, unprovoked. The guy who was spat at got really angry and pissed, he grabbed a rock, but he calmed down as other protestors told him that soldier isn’t worth the trouble. I was disgusted, a soldier on that tower spat on youth below him as if they were nothing but animals. The youth maintained the peaceful nature of the protest.

The kids below the tower kept screaming in anger at the soldier in the tower, a friend of the guy who was spat at couldn’t hold his anger, and he threw a rock at the tower. I don’t believe throwing rocks at a fortified, cement, military, and illegally placed tower -of which its windows are also fortified against rocks- is an act of violence. But 10 minutes later, out of the blue, there were sound bombs on top of the people’s heads, gas canisters below everyone’s feet and bullets were heard too from top of the tower. Everyone ran in panic to get cover, people were choking and fell on the ground as they ran, a friend reported that an ambulance had crashed with a car after it’s driver has fainted, another friend reported that he saw tear gas canisters filling the inside of buses with tear gas clouds. People lost each other in this chaos as the soldiers used brutal and extreme measures to disperse a small peaceful crowd who has the right to access Jerusalem.

Al-Jazeera Arabic were reporting live from Qalandia when this attack happened, in this video, you can see their correspondent Sherine AbuAkleh in a bad situation after she inhaled a lot of tear gas, but she was quickly aided by medics, and was able to return to the camera to report the situation. Al-Jazeera’s camera man suffered a direct hit with a tear gas canister, as Sherine reported.

The situation after that was extremely chaotic, large units of soldiers followed the protestors and kept shooting tear gas into Qalandia refugee camp. Three people were reportedly arrested, two before the attack, and one after. The two arrested before the attack are Basel Mansour and Ashraf Abu Rahmeh. Basel Mansour was reportedly released, but Ashraf Abu Rahmeh remains. (I will update as soon as I hear more news).

Israel is fearful of peaceful protests of this kind. Israel has been brutally crushing those protests on a daily and weekly basis all over Palestine. I believe that if those protests succeed in peacefully achieving their goal, it might be a call for the sleeping masses to wake up and participate in this popular movement to achieve rights and liberty.


Embedded image, on Imgur
 Pictures in this article are by Jalal Abukhater
( / 26.08.2011)

Deense premier wil af van ultrarechtse gedoogsteun

Het ziet er naar uit dat het grote voorbeeld voor Geert Wilders, de al tien jaar durende gedoogsteun van de extreemrechtse Dansk Folkeparti (DF) voor het liberaal-conservatieve minderheidskabinet van premier Lars Løkke Rasmussen, na de verkiezingen van 15 september verleden tijd is.

Rasmussen sluit een herhaalde samenwerking met de Volkspartij na de verkiezingen uit. Zijn partij wil bij het uitvoeren van het economische regeringsbeleid in de intussen dramatisch gewijzigde omstandigheden niet langer door de populistische partij voor de voeten worden gelopen en hoopt daarvoor een duidelijke boodschap naar de kiezers af te geven.

De Folkeparti, die geen kabinetsleden leverde, wist in de afgelopen jaren wel een permanente grenscontrole en een verscherpte wetgeving voor immigranten door te drukken.

Volgens opiniepeilingen staan de sociaal-democraten overigens op winst.

( / 26.08.2011)

Capsules of Faith: Work for Allah, Take the Initiative

Qurann prettyYou can work for Allah in different ways: through your career, your voluntary  work, your activism in defence of justice and humanity.

The follower, Oqba Ibn Nafea worked for Allah for 43 years. He established  the city of Qirawan and was one of the pioneers who introduced Islam to North  Africa.

Oqba Ibn Nafea’s father was a staunch enemy of Islam and Muslims. He shot an  arrow at Sayeda Zainab PBUH (the prophet’s PBUH daughter). She was hit and  consequently died. The Prophet forgave him.

وَلَا تَسْتَوِي الْحَسَنَةُ وَلَا السَّيِّئَةُ ادْفَعْ بِالَّتِي هِيَ  أَحْسَنُ فَإِذَا الَّذِي بَيْنَكَ وَبَيْنَهُ عَدَاوَةٌ كَأَنَّهُ وَلِيٌّ  حَمِيمٌ
Quran 41:34: ‘And not equal are the good deed and the bad. Repel  [evil] by that [deed] which is better; and thereupon the one whom between you  and him is enmity [will become] as though he was a devoted friend.’

The Prophet’s act of forgiveness touched the man’s heart so deeply, that he  dedicated his son Oqba to Allah. He sent his son to be raised by an important  companion of the Prophet PBUH.

Oqba Ibn Nafea worked for the cause of Allah throughout his life, he  discovered his talents and utilized them in service of his cause. He became an  expert on North Africa. His father put him on the right path. We should find  ways of putting children and youngsters in our circle of influence on the right  path, through excellent education and by being good role models.

If a sin is committed, don’t despair. Instead, do an act of kindness that  outweighs your sin and ask for forgiveness.

The Messenger of Allah PBUH said: “Fear Allah wherever you may be, trail a bad deed with a good deed and it will  wipe it out, and treat the people with good character.” [at-Tirmidhi stated as  Hadith Hasan]

Are you going to inspire your children and those in your circle of influence  to dedicate their life and work for justice, humanity and Islam? Are you doing  all you can do to change the world by being the best influence possible on those  around you? Are you inspiring and motivating others? Are you praising and  appreciating those who are trying to leave a positive impact, no matter how  small? Women have a special place in Islam. Are you acknowledging, praising and  motivating the wonderful women in your life and making them feel appreciated?

It may be that the early trials are not always very fruitful, but without the  early trials we wouldn’t have great achievements. Pioneers are always  appreciated because they lay down the foundations of what will later become  great successes.

Are you a pioneer? Do you always take initiative? Or are you passive and just  follow the crowd?

Taking risks if necessary is something commendable, but taking unnecessary  risks and making impulsive decisions are attributes that will not help you reach  success.

Pioneers are not afraid of failure. They understand that failure is part of  the process. They understand that learning from failure is an essential part of  building success.

Thomas Alva Edison said:
“I haven’t failed, I’ve found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”

“Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”

Don’t be afraid to try and don’t give up easily.

If you came to the realization that you are leading your life on the wrong  path, you can stop and change your path. It might mean making sacrifices, but  you have to be strong enough to lead your life, not let your life lead you.

Are you truly ready to join the path of Allah? Some people think that  praying, fasting, paying zakat, wearing the hijab etc are enough. Rituals of  worship are not everything in Islam. Islam is much deeper. What have you done  for humanity? What have you done for science and knowledge? What kind of  activism have you participated in? What injustice have you opposed or prevented?  What have you done to raise awareness about the plight of innocents around the  world? What voluntary work have you done? What have you done for your community  or for your neighbourhood?

Your role in Islam extends far beyond your duty towards your family and  friends. You have a responsibility towards the progress and advancement of  humanity. You have a duty to stand up for justice against Muslim and non Muslim  oppressors. You have a duty to spread goodness and solidarity to all people of  conscience, whether Muslim or non Muslim. You have a duty to enjoin good and  oppose evil in every field of life.

You may really want to work for Allah, supporting justice and humanity, but  don’t know how to. You have to take the initiative and discover your talents and  find the appropriate channels that will help you work in the most effective way  for the cause. Just don’t sit and wait and be a bystander. Get involved.

مَن جَاء بِالْحَسَنَةِ فَلَهُ عَشْرُ أَمْثَالِهَا وَمَن جَاء بِالسَّيِّئَةِ  فَلاَ يُجْزَى إِلاَّ مِثْلَهَا وَهُمْ لاَ يُظْلَمُونَ
Quran 6:160: ‘He that  doeth good shall have ten times as much to his credit: He that doeth evil shall  only be recompensed according to his evil: no wrong shall be done unto (any of)  them.’

وَالَّذِينَ صَبَرُواْ ابْتِغَاء وَجْهِ رَبِّهِمْ وَأَقَامُواْ الصَّلاَةَ  وَأَنفَقُواْ مِمَّا رَزَقْنَاهُمْ سِرًّا وَعَلاَنِيَةً وَيَدْرَؤُونَ  بِالْحَسَنَةِ السَّيِّئَةَ أُوْلَئِكَ لَهُمْ عُقْبَى الدَّارِ
Quran 13:22:  ‘Those who patiently persevere, seeking the countenance of their Lord; Establish  regular prayers; spend, out of (the gifts) We have bestowed for their  sustenance, secretly and openly; and turn off Evil with good: for such there is  the final attainment of the (eternal) home’

( / 26.08.2011)

Palestine: Arduous Odyssey of Statehood

Some pundits see the recognition of Palestine as a political tsunami.

By Dr. Ismail Salami and Kourosh Ziabari

The plight of the Palestinian people is no closed book to anyone in the world; a subjugated nation which has been unjustifiably subjected to discrimination and violence for the past 6 decades.

Even the close allies of Israel and those who support the continued occupation of Palestine admit in their privacy that the actions and policies of the Israeli regime are beyond the pale and run counter to the very principles of humanity and morality.

Almost everyday, the mass media run reports of several Palestinians being killed or injured by the Israeli forces. Hundreds of Palestinian children and women are incarcerated in Israeli jails and their dignity is flagrantly violated. The homes of the Palestinian citizens are demolished by huge bulldozers every day and Zionist settlements are constructed in their place.

In its nature as a colonizing regime, Israel has never spared any efforts to suppress the Palestinian nation. The 2008-2009 Operation Cast Lead which claimed the lives of 1,417 Palestinians and destroyed a great deal of the infrastructure of Gaza coastal enclave including schools, mosques, hospitals and even the UN headquarters was only a simple example of Israel’s unrelenting atrocities against the people of Palestine.

Since its establishment in 1948, Israel has committed every type of war crimes and crimes against humanity. It constantly violated the international laws and regulations such as The Hague Regulations of 1907, Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 and the customary laws of belligerent occupation; however, the United States and its European allies endowed Israel with immunity to the law and protected it from accountability before the international community. Since 1982 up to now, the United States vetoed 27 United Nations Security Council resolutions critical of Israel and hindered the investigation of Israel’s criminal actions including building illegal settlements on the Palestinian lands, deporting the Palestinian citizens from their hometown, incarcerating children and women without charges or holding tribunals for them and more importantly, building and accumulating nuclear weapons.

However, the Palestinians have realized that it is now time for their sufferings to come to an end and start a new era in the life of their browbeaten country. Actually, they are getting prepared for putting forward a proposal to the United Nations General Assembly to officially become the 194th member of the United Nations.

On November 15, 1988, the Palestine Liberation Organization’s National Council unilaterally adopted the Palestinian Declaration of Independence and claimed territories which still remained under the Israeli occupation. Since 1974 when the Arab League summit recognized PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people “and reaffirmed their right to establish an independent state of urgency”, Palestine has been accepted as an observer member of the United Nations without a right to participate in the General Assembly’s voting. After the declaration of independence, the UN General Assembly officially acknowledged the proclamation and voted to use the designation “Palestine” instead of “Palestine Liberation Organization” when referring to the Palestinian permanent observer.

Now after spending two decades as an observer state, Palestine is seeking full membership in the United Nations. When the General Assembly convenes on September 13, it will also decide on whether to accept Palestine as an official and sovereign state or not. However, the Palestinians have a long way to go to realize statehood and it’s almost a far-fetched and complicated journey for them.

According to an article recently published on New York Times and quoted by Stephen Lendman, “last March, Israel told UN Security Council members and other prominent EU countries it will act unilaterally if the General Assembly grants Palestine de jure membership in September inside 1967 borders, 22% of historic Palestine.”

As said by American author and political writer Stephen Lendman, if Palestine is granted full membership, Israel will likely deny recognition, continuing its illegal occupation, this time against a sovereign country; however, even if Israel keeps up with its hostility, the “automatic majority” of the UN General Assembly will take the side of Palestine.

The U.S. President who was recently snubbed by the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he said that Israel should recognize the state of Palestine within the pre-1967 borders has rhetorically accepted with Palestine’s plans for submitting a bid for membership in the UN; however, he has implied that its terms, size, locations and timetable should be checked with and verified by Israel. In other words, “he supports Israeli veto power of Palestinian rights, including sovereignty, an unacceptable or illegal condition under international law,” wrote Lendman.

From a legal viewpoint, it’s said that Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories should end if Palestine succeeds in gaining a vote of statehood from two-third of the General Assembly members.

Lendman says that Washington has already provisionally recognized Palestine as an independent state and according to the UN Charter Article 80 (1), it cannot reverse its position by vetoing a Security Council resolution calling for Palestine’s UN admission.

Albeit, it should be kept in mind that even though Mahmoud Abbas, the acting chief of Palestinian Authority has made numerous concessions to Israel and tried to please the U.S. and its European allies, he has several enemies in the public sphere, especially among the U.S. congressmen, media personalities and pundits.

An article published by the American conservative FrontPage Magazine says that Palestine cannot meet the requirements of proposing full membership in the UN. “The first problem is that the PA cannot yet demonstrate all of the four characteristics required for statehood by international law.  A sovereign state is a political entity with a defined territory, a permanent population, a functioning government with the ability to exercise sovereignty over that territory (i.e., to command habitual obedience from that population by means of that state’s monopoly on the use of force), and the capacity to enter into relations with other sovereign states,” the article says.

A recent poll conducted on 10,787 people by Press TV shows that 47 percent of the respondents believe the PA’s bid will gain the majority of the votes at the UN but will be vetoed by the US and a total of 24 percent say the US and Israel would prevent the bid from being presented at the UN General Assembly in September. Roughly 13 percent said the bid would fail to garner enough votes on account of the pressure exerted by Washington and Tel Aviv.

Indeed there are repercussions for the Zionist regime if Palestine succeeds in gaining recognition. A source in the Israeli government cites three repercussions in this regard:  1. International perception of Israel as an occupying state will shift to a colonizing one. 2.  The countries voting in favor of recognizing Palestine might impose economic sanctions on Israel and sever all their trade ties. 3. Israel might be forced to depart from international trade organizations. 4. The world may force Israel to approve the construction of the first Palestinian international airport in the West Bank.

These are all the possibilities that may take place but as to the first one that Israel will shift from an occupying state to a colonizing one, one should say that Israel has already been a colonizing state for decades.

Interestingly, the same source predicts that from 192 member states in the UN’s General Assembly, around 180 would vote for the recognition of Palestine, six would abstain and six others would oppose.

This sounds a very optimistic viewpoint and is surely what the Palestinians and the rest of the Muslim world aspires. However, truth is sour and anyone with some degree of political savvy is aware of the amount of influence the Zionists exercise on the US.

Some pundits rightly see the recognition of Palestine as a political tsunami for the Zionist regime.

If the recognition of Palestine is not a nightmare for Israel and its cronies, what is?

( / 26.08.2011)

US envoy ’threatens aid’ over UN statehood bid

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — US consul-general to Jerusalem Daniel Rubinstein on Friday warned that the US would take “punitive measures” if the Palestinians sought membership in the UN, an official said.

PLO official Saeb Erekat quoted Rubinstein as saying the US will veto any resolution in the Security Council and lawmakers will cut off  financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority.

“If the Palestinian Authority insists on going to the Security Council, the US will use the veto,” a statement from Erekat’s office quoted Rubinstein as saying in a meeting in Jericho.

And if the PA “seeks to upgrade its position at the UN through the General Assembly, the US Congress will take punitive measures against it, including cutting US aid,” Rubinstein added.

Erekat says he urged the US to reconsider its position.

The US Consulate in Jerusalem did not immediately reply to an email seeking comment.

( / 26.08.2011)

Olive Revolution: We’ll keep on going!

Palestinian youth have marched today to knock on the doors of Jerusalem. They marched to knock down the apartheid on their land. And under the title of “Olive Revolution” it was. Palestinians denied entry to Jerusalem held their Friday prayers in front of the military checkpoints.

In the morning, the presence of the PA security forces was exceptional. They were not present to protect the Palestinians from an Israeli attack. They were present to collaborate with the Israeli soldiers who were denying Palestinians the right to pray in Jerusalem on the last Friday of Ramadan. The image of a two Palestinians wearing their formal kaki uniform standing inches in
front of the Israeli army, checking Palestinians IDs was very hurting.
The Palestinians denied from entering to Jerusalem held their prayers in front of the fully armed soldiers. After finishing their prayers, they stood up high chanting and screaming out loud. That loud voice that the Israeli brutality has failed to shut down.
Despite the few numbers of youth and activists present, it was a very hopeful scene. The demonstration gathered Palestinians from the West Bank, Jerusalem and the Palestinian lands occupied in 1948. It gathered them all standing and screaming out loud, we’re ONE PEOPLE. We fight for ONE CAUSE. Nothing will split us anymore.
The numbers of protesters were much lower than their numbers in the June 5th and May 15th marches, but the numbers actually standing face to face with the soldiers were higher. About 100 to 150 protesters were standing in the front line compared to the dozens in June 5th and May 15th.

The Palestinian tweeps were all present. They were all very courageous. They were not satisfied with their cyber presence. They went down to the street at the time others preferred to remain locked up in their rooms re-tweeting them. There are two kind of people, one that make history, other that follow it.
The youth who were standing there were the regulars in the popular resistance. The youth that keep coming week after week. Is it an addiction to the toxic gas? Maybe. But for sure they have an addiction to the act of freedom.
These young ladies whom I heard chanting in March 15, they’re the same courageous ladies chanting weekly in Nabi Saleh, and again they’re still the same ones who screamed the hell out of their vocal cords today. And week after week they bring more hope to me. These are the core of the revolution.

The revolution does not start with the masses. It starts with the few courageous. And it eventually triumph with the masses. But the revolution in Palestine have already started months ago. People will just start noticing it as it grows larger. It’s like the Anemone in Palestine. It starts growing in winter but people start appreciating it in spring.

A courageous young lady screamed at the soldiers before we head home: “We don’t fear you, and we will keep on coming.” We certainly will. And the Olive Revolution will keep on going. Despite the enemies we’ll come. Despite the attempts to frustrate us, we’ll keep on coming. The revolution is not a must, it’s a choice. We already made our choice. Alone or with the masses, we’ll keep on marching towards our rights. If we don’t succeed we at least have the honor of the attempt.

Long Live Palestine.
( / 26.08.2011)

Official: US will stop aid to Palestinians if UN bid proceeds

Ramallah – The United States will stop all financial aid to the Palestinian  Authority if the latter proceeds with plans to ask the United Nations for recognition of an independent state in September, a US official warned Friday.

US Consul General in Jerusalem, Daniel Rubinstein, told chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, that the US would veto a UN Security Council resolution calling for recognition of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip within the June 4, 1967 borders and for UN membership.

‘If the Palestinian Authority insists on going to the Security Council, the US will use the veto,’ he told Erekat during a meeting in the West Bank city of Jericho, according to a statement issued by Erekat’s office.

‘And in case the Palestinian Authority seeks to upgrade its position at the UN through the General Assembly, the US Congress will take punitive measures against it, including a cut in US aid,’ he said.

Rubinstein said his country sees the Palestinians’ UN bid as ‘useless,’ and that it would be better to conclude a peace agreement with Israel through direct negotiations, according to Erekat.

Erekat said US support for the Palestinian UN bid would actually enhance the two-state solution and peace in the Middle East.

He called on the US to reconsider its position on the issue because ’the right decision is to support Palestine’s membership of the UN.’

Erekat, who had also met with the European Union’s representative to the Palestinian Authority, Christian Burger, also urged Europe to support Palestinian efforts to get full membership of the UN.

The European Union, he said, ‘should take the correct position, not the easy position.’

The EU has not yet decided which way it will go when the issue comes up for  discussion at the Security Council in September. Some member states, such as Spain, have said they would support the Palestinian step.

If the US vetoes the Security Council resolution, the Palestinians plan to ask the UN General Assembly to vote on the resolution, which needs a two-thirds majority to pass.

( / 26.08.2011)

Egypt, Israel and Palestine: an awkward three-way dance

Relations between Israel and post-revolution Egypt are proving tetchy – but ordinary people hold the keys to peace.

Israeli strike on Gaza Strip

Palestinians survey the damage after an Israeli air strike in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. Photograph: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/REUTERS

It has been a tense week in Egyptian-Israeli relations. It all started when unknown assailants crossed from Sinai to carry out a series of co-ordinated terrorist attacks in southern Israel, which left eight Israelis dead.

Terror was met with more terror and counter-terror, as Israel bombed embattled Gaza, leading to the deaths of at least 14 people, despite the absence of evidence that Gazans were behind the attack (some of the alleged perpetrators appear to be Egyptians), and Islamist militants in Gaza fired their Grad rockets into southern Israel.

In a reckless act that could have escalated the situation dangerously, Israeli troops – in a gunship that crossed the border, according to Egyptian security sources – also killed three Egyptian army and police personnel, apparently by accident.

Fortunately, Egypt refrained from taking a leaf out of Israel’s book and did not give chase across the border to apprehend the killers. Instead, it sensibly decided to follow the diplomatic track and demand an apology and a joint investigation into the incident. A statement announcing the withdrawal of Egypt’s ambassador to Israel was later retracted.

Though military tensions seem to have subsided, an escalating war of words is brewing between Egypt and Israel. In Israel, in addition to anger, grief and a desire for vengeance, allegations are flying that Egypt has “lost control” of Sinai. For its part, Egypt counters that the Israeli security apparatus was pretty much caught with its pants down in its failure to protect its borders. There is also a widespread foreboding that this is just a taste of things to come in post-revolution Egypt.

Egypt has also been gripped by anger, grief and calls for vengeance. Outraged protesters have spent days besieging the Israeli embassy – with one even climbing 21 storeys to replace the Israeli flag with an Egyptian one – to demand the expulsion of Israel’s ambassador and the severing of ties.

So, what does the future hold for Egyptian-Israeli relations in light of this latest spat, the Egyptian revolution, the current hardline Israeli government and Palestinian plans to go to the UN next month to seek international recognition? Will the cold peace endure, escalate into a new cold war or warm into a big thaw?

At this juncture, it is very hard to tell which way the wind will blow. My reading of the situation – which I elaborated on at a recent conference – is that in spite of this recent flare-up the Egyptian-Israeli status quo will remain essentially unchanged, though relations between the two governments are likely to grow frostier.

A democratic Egypt more in tune with its public’s mood is likely to collaborate less with Israel on security issues, such as the Mubarak’s regime’s unpopular involvement in the Gaza blockade, and might, I have argued, act as a deterrent against excessive Israeli militarism. In fact, some analysts and diplomats have concluded that the attack on Gaza was cut short out of fear of straining relations with Cairo further.

In my view, Israeli fears that a more radical regime, probably led by the Muslim Brotherhood, would “tear up” the Camp David peace accords are unfounded. Not only is the popularity of the Muslim Brotherhood a lot less than doomsayers have been warning – a recent poll showed its approval rating to be just 17% – now that the possibility of entering government has become realistic, the group has demonstrated its political pragmatism.

Despite the Muslim Brotherhood’s official opposition to peace with Israel, a spokesman has said that the future of the peace treaty would be decided by “the Egyptian people and not the Brotherhood”.

Moreover, the anger on the streets and the strong anti-Israeli stance taken by opposition politicians and ordinary Egyptians notwithstanding, there is little appetite in Egypt to return to the bad old days of confrontation. A number of recent polls, including this one, show that the vast majority of Egyptians are in favour of maintaining the peace treaty with Israel.

Even radical critics of Israel, such as the popular novelist Alaa al-Aswany, who famously refused to have one of his best-selling novels translated into Hebrew, has not called for the reneging of the accord.

Instead, he has demanded that Egypt renegotiate the articles relating to the presence of Egyptian troops in the Sinai. Perhaps al-Aswany will be disappointed to learn that senior figures in the Israel Defence Forces are, following last week’s attack, in full agreement with this suggestion.

It may take two to tango but in the case of Egyptian-Israeli relations, the dance is a three-way one, with the Palestinians making up the hate triangle. Despite the generally pessimistic tone of the Israeli discourse on the Egyptian revolution, Israel is not a passive bystander and can do much to improve future ties with Egypt, namely by working towards or reaching a just resolution with the Palestinians, the thorn in the side of Egyptian-Israeli ties.

Next month’s Palestinian bid to go to the UN should not be read as an act of hostility but as a desperate plea for freedom and justice, albeit a misguided one – something that an increasing number of Israelis are growing to realise. Sadly, such enlightenment is not shared by the ideologues currently leading the Israeli government, and the Palestinian leadership; both the PA and Hamas benefit in their own warped ways from the status quo.

With such inertia, what can be done to change the dynamics of the situation for the better? I believe that it is time to follow a new track in which ordinary people lead the process and not just sit back and wait for their ineffective leaders to do something or wait for the arrival some unknown saviour.

Palestinians and Israelis need to awaken to their own power and unlock their dormant potential to steer their own destiny towards peace and reconciliation, through mass, peaceful joint activism. Likewise, ordinary Egyptians need to cast aside their ideological opposition to dealing with Israelis and help facilitate and mediate such a “people’s peace”.

( / 26.08.2011)

Syrian gunmen break artist’s hands as ‘warning’

BEIRUT (AP) — A renowned political cartoonist whose drawings expressed Syrians’ frustrated hopes for change was grabbed after he left his studio early Thursday and beaten by masked gunmen who broke his hands and dumped him on a road outside Damascus.

One of Syria’s most famous artists, Ali Ferzat, 60, earned international recognition and the respect of many Arabs with stinging caricatures that infuriated dictators including Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi and, particularly in recent months, Syria’s autocratic Assad family.

He lay badly bruised in a hospital bed Thursday evening with his hands swathed in bandages, a stark reminder that no Syrian remains immune to a brutal crackdown on a five-month anti-government uprising.

Ferzat remembers the gunmen telling him that “this is just a warning,” as they beat him, a relative told The Associated Press.

“We will break your hands so that you’ll stop drawing,” the masked men said, according to the relative, who spoke anonymously for fear of retaliation.

Before inheriting Syria’s presidency from his father in 2000, Bashar Assad, a British-trained eye doctor, used to visit Ferzat’s exhibitions and offer encouraging words, the artist has said.

When the new president opened Syria to reforms, Ferzat was allowed to publish the country’s first private newspaper in decades, a satirical weekly called The Lamplighter.

The paper was an instant hit, with copies of each issue selling out a few hours after hitting the stands. It was soon shut down, however, as Assad began cracking down on dissent and jailing critics after the brief, heady period known as the Damascus Spring quickly lost steam.

Ferzat became a vehement critic of the regime, particularly after the military launched a brutal crackdown on the country’s protest movement.

Human rights groups said Assad’s forces have killed more than 2,000 people since the uprising against his autocratic rule erupted in mid-March, touched off by the wave of revolutions sweeping the Arab world.

An endearing figure with a bushy gray beard, Ferzat drew cartoons about the uprising and posted the illustrations on his private website, providing comic relief to many Syrians who were unable to follow his work in local newspapers because of a ban on his drawings.

His illustrations grew bolder in recent months, with some of his cartoons directly criticizing Assad, even through caricatures of the president are forbidden in Syria.

This week, he published a cartoon showing Assad with a packed suitcase, frantically hitching a ride with a fleeing Gadhafi. Another drawing showed dictators walking a long red carpet that leads them, in the end, to a dustbin.

The response was swift.

Ferzat, who usually works late into the night, left his studio at 4 a.m. Thursday, but a jeep with tinted windows quickly cut him off, according to the relative. Four masked gunmen then dragged him out of his car, bundled him into the jeep and drove him to the airport road just outside Damascus, beating him and making threats all the while.

The men then singed the artist’s beard, put a bag over his head and dumped him on the side of the road.

The Facebook page of the U.S. Embassy in Damascus described it as a “government-sponsored, targeted, brutal attack.”

The Obama administration, which has called for Assad to step down, said the cartoonist’s beating was deplorable.

“They broke his hands in the most disgusting and deplorable way to send a message,” said U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. “It’s not only Ali Ferzat that we’re worried about. The regime has also locked up a number of other prominent dissidents to send a message.”

The United States and European nations are seeking U.N. sanctions against Assad and his regime. The Security Council scheduled closed consultations Thursday on their draft resolution that would impose an arms embargo on Syria, an asset freeze on Assad and key members and companies associated with his regime, and a travel ban on 21 individuals.

Diplomats said Russia and China, both with close ties to Damascus, boycotted the meeting. Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin hinted Wednesday that he would veto the resolution, saying the council should use dialogue to persuade Syria to end its violent crackdown on protesters. Calls to Russian and Chinese U.N. Missions seeking comment were not immediately returned.

Assad’s crackdown has not spared other Syrian intellectuals and artists who dared to voice criticism. A group of intellectuals and artists, including Syrian actress May Skaff, were rounded up and jailed for a week last month after holding a protest in Damascus.

Damascus-based activist and film producer Shadi Abu Fakher went missing on July 23 and has not been heard of since.

Ferzat, however, is the most famous victim of the repression to date. He had been encouraging other Syrian artists to side with the protesters, even publishing on his website a “List of Shame” that included names of those who were on the side of the regime.

“We were a group of reformers in the country, and suddenly, the doors of hell opened on us. It was a huge disappointment,” Ferzat told the AP earlier this month in a phone interview.

The timing of the attack strongly suggests Ferzat’s attackers knew his unusual working hours and had been tracking him. Ferzat said his day starts at 5 p.m.

In the telephone interview, he said he was full of hope that the Syrian revolution would bring about the change fervently desired by so many Syrians.

“There are two things in this life that cannot be crushed — the will of God and the will of the people,” he said.

Asked if he fears arrest because of his drawings, he said: “I have killed the policeman in my head.”

After news of Ferzat’s attack broke Thursday, online social networking sites exploded with angry postings.

“Assad’s Syria is the burial ground of talent,” read a posting on Twitter.

“Ali Ferzat, your innovation will stand in the face of their cowardice and hate,” wrote Suheir Atassi, a prominent Syrian pro-democracy activist.

Soon after the attack, his website where he published his cartoons and satirical commentary was taken down. “This account has been suspended,” reads a message on the website,

( / 26.08.2011)

Israel snipers use laser device to kill

Israeli soldiers
The Israeli military has developed an operational doctrine for snipers using laser designators in anticipation of violent demonstrations following the Palestinian’s declaration of statehood.

The doctrine includes the use of the Amit targeting system, which came into operation after Israel’s war on the impoverished Gaza Strip at the turn of 2009.

Israel’s Paratroop Brigade came up with the idea as it experienced difficulty targeting their victim’s during mass protests.

“The snipers could not see well and we used the Amit, which can see in all weathers, to put a laser designator on the legs of the protester and then the sniper shot at the laser,” The Jerusalem Post quoted an Israeli ground forces commander as saying on Friday.

Israeli officials further explained that the doctrine is aimed at ensuring accurate hits.

Moreover, Israel has repeatedly claimed that violent clashes could erupt in the occupied territories over the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) planned bid for statehood recognition at the United Nations in September.

It has also announced that it needs to stand ready for the potential violence.

The PA has declared September 20 as the date when it would apply for the recognition.

The plan, however, has been opposed by the United States, Israel and some of their Western allies. Washington has promised to veto any vote for the recognition.

More than 100 countries have so far officially recognized Palestine as a sovereign state based on the 1967 borders, the boundaries that existed before Israel captured and annexed East al-Quds (Jerusalem), the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

( / 26.08.2011)