Bahraini dies of tear gas inhalation

At least one anti-government protester has been killed in Bahrain after Saudi-backed Bahraini troops fired tear gas to disperse demonstrators demanding an end to the Al Khalifa rule.

The victim, identified as 27-year-old Seyyed Jawad Ahmad Hashem, died on Wednesday after suffering tear gas inhalation two days earlier in the eastern island city of Sitra.

Reports say scores of Bahrainis have gathered outside Ahmad Hashem’s house to protest against the killing.

Thousands of anti-government protesters have been staging demonstrations in Bahrain since mid-February, demanding political reforms and a constitutional monarchy — a demand that later changed to an outright call for the ouster of the ruling Al Khalifa family following its brutal crackdown on popular protests.

Scores of people have also been killed and many others have been injured in the Saudi-backed crackdown on peaceful protesters in Bahrain.

( / 14.09.2011)

Israel’s truths, and omissions, on vote for Palestine state

Now that most Latin American and Caribbean countries have announced that they  will join Islamic nations in voting for the creation of a Palestine state along  the 1967 borders at the United Nations General Assembly later this month, the  proposed motion is almost certain to pass by a comfortable majority of at least  120 votes.

With the exception of Mexico, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica and Guatemala,  whose votes have not yet been announced, Latin American countries — led by  Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela — have come out strongly in support of the  Palestinian motion.

So what’s wrong with the U.N. voting for creation of a Palestinian state, I  asked Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon in a recent interview.

Ayalon responded that creation of a Palestinian state should be the  result of negotiations between Israel and  Palestinians, and not imposed by the  outside world. That’s the way South Sudan was created recently, and the way  former Soviet states were created in the 1990’s: first reaching agreements with  their neighbors,  then going to the United Nations for recognition, he said.

“The only solution can come through negotiations between the two parties,” Ayalon said. “You cannot turn things on its head.”

Palestinian leaders say they have no alternative because Israel is not  willing to negotiate, I noted. Furthermore, they argue that getting a U.N.  resolution does preclude them negotiating later, I added.

“It’s an oxmymoron,” Ayalon responded. “It’s a resolution that they will  dictate because they have an automatic majority at the U.N. It will set the  terms (of the issues in dispute) according to their own capricious wills. It  will lock the Palestinians into an intransigent position, and they will not  negotiate.”

But what other option do they have, if Israel doesn’t make concessions? I  asked.

“We have been doing a lot, and we are willing to do more,” he said, citing  the fact that since negotiations started in 1992, Israel helped create the  Palestinian Authority, supported it economically, and returned 42 percent of the  West Bank, and 100 percent of the Gaza strip.“Everybody is asking what Israel is  willing to do, but nobody is asking what the Palestinians are willing to  do.”

What should they do? I asked.

“They should give up what they call ‘the right of return’ of Palestinian  refugees to Israel. Refugees should go back to their own state. Why are we  creating for the first time in history a Palestinian state? So they have a state  for the Palestinians,” he responded.

Second, Palestinians should reach an agreement with Israel on borders so that  Israel is not attacked anymore, he said. Third, the two sides should reach an  agreement on Jerusalem, he said.

“Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years,” Ayalon  said. “Jerusalem is mentioned in our Judeo-Christian Bible 700 times, and not  one single time in the Quran.”

I suggested to Ayalon that a U.N. General Assembly resolution would be  largely symbolic, because only U.N. Security Council resolutions are binding,  and the Obama administration has already said it would veto it at the Council.  So what’s the big deal? I asked.

“The big deal is that by bridging agreements — the Oslo agreements — that we  will not go to the United Nations, but solve our problems through bilateral  negotiations, they are choosing conflict and friction over cooperation and  negotiation,” Ayalon said.

My Opinion: Ayalon conveniently plays down the fact that Israel’s hard-line  government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is making negotiations harder by  continuing to expand settlements in Arab territories.

But Ayalon is right in saying that a U.N. proposal to create a Palestinian  state along the Palestinian terms — which would allow 4.5 million Palestinians,  most of them descendants of 1940’s refugees, to move back to Israel’s territory — would be an indirect way of destroying Israel as a Jewish state.

If the U.N. General Assembly votes for a resolution supporting the general  concept of creating a Palestinian state, so that Palestinians can have their  much-deserved homeland, it should be supported by everybody. But if it doesn’t  recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, and includes the  Palestinian demands for “the right of return” of refugees, it will amount to  supporting the slow-motion destruction of the state of Israel, and should not be  supported by any country.

( /14.09.2011)

Former President Carter backs Palestinian UN bid

(AP)  ATLANTA, Ga. — Former President Jimmy Carter said Tuesday he supports the Palestinians’ effort to secure statehood recognition at the United Nations this month, despite White House concerns for the region.

The Georgia Democrat said he wouldn’t be in favor of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ bid to win U.N. recognition if President Barack Obama’s administration had “put forward any sort of comprehensive peace proposal.” But he told Palestinians have few other options but to seek statehood since no deal is in the works.

“As an alternative to a deadlock and a stalemate now, we reluctantly support the Palestinian move for recognition,” he said at a town hall event at the Carter Center in Atlanta.

In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday she was sending top aides to Israel and the Palestinian
territories to try to sway the Palestinians to drop their U.N. effort and bring the parties back to long-stalled talks.

Although the path to full membership seems blocked because the U.S. promises to veto the bid in the Security Council, Palestinians hope for benefits that have eluded them for decades.

Carter said Tuesday it would be a “real step forward” even if a nonmember Palestinian state were recognized.

The Palestinian bid for recognition comes at a sensitive time. Once-strong ties between Israel and Turkey have frayed over Israel’s refusal to apologize for its deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla last year that killed nine Turks. And, the Jewish state’s ties with Egypt have been tested by the weekend attack on the Israeli Embassy in Cairo.

The U.S., which regards all three as crucial allies, has moved to try to ease tensions but both Turkey and Egypt are expected to
support Palestinian moves at the U.N.

Carter said he doesn’t believe the peace accord between Israel and Egypt is in any danger, voicing optimism for the future.

“The Arab spring has brought hope for democracy and freedom to many of the people in the region … and I hope that eventually it will potentially bring about a change in the prospects of a peace agreement to be negotiated between Israel and its neighbors,” he said. “But it would require Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories and that’s something that so far the Israeli government has been unable to do.”

( / 14.09.2011)

Israel’s cluster bombs continue to kill and maim in Lebanon

KFAR JOZ, south Lebanon (IPS) – Even in the summer heat, the hills of south Lebanon are an impressive sight — a patchwork of green, brown and red fields interrupted only by sleepy villages, rock formations and dirt tracks.

Most residents here have traditionally depended on agriculture to provide for their families. But instead of sowing crops or herding their flocks through the grassy terrain, for the last five years locals have viewed the surrounding hills with caution. Lurking in these fields are hundreds of thousands of cluster munitions, silently waiting to claim their next victim.

“Every day we find cluster bombs in between the houses and in the fields,” said Ali Shuaib, community liaison manager at the Mines Advisory Group, a British organization clearing landmines and other remnants of war in Lebanon. “There are tens of villages like this all over the south.”

Although Lebanon has been plagued by landmines since its 1975-1990 civil war and subsequent Israeli occupation, it faced unprecedented contamination levels from cluster munitions after Israel launched a 34-day war in July 2006. According to Human Rights Watch, Israel’s use of the weapons was the most extensive anywhere in the world since the 1991 Gulf War.

Indiscriminate weapons

In the last 72 hours of fighting, at a time when the United Nations Security Council had adopted Resolution 1701 calling for an immediate halt to hostilities, Israel dropped more than four million cluster bombs over south Lebanon. Of those, at least 40 percent failed to explode upon impact, according to the UN, becoming de facto landmines across Lebanon’s agricultural heartland.

These are the most indiscriminate weapons of modern warfare; 95 percent of all victims of cluster munitions are civilians, according to the organization Handicap International. Since the cessation of hostilities five years ago, 408 Lebanese civilians have been killed or injured by cluster munitions, 115 of them under 18 years old. Unless properly disposed of, the weapons keep killing and maiming for decades.

Cluster munitions continue to wreak havoc on the Lebanese economy, too. With an estimated 36 percent of contaminated land being used for agricultural purposes, the already deprived south Lebanon has lost hundreds of millions of dollars in income, said Pierre Bou Maroun, chief of the Lebanese Armed Forces’ Regional Mine Action Center in Nabatieh, which oversees all demining operations in the country. In 2007 alone, Lebanon lost an estimated $126.8 million in agricultural revenue because of cluster munitions.

Israel’s use of the weapon in Lebanon helped galvanize efforts towards an international ban in May 2007, when 107 countries voted for the UN Convention on Cluster Munitions. The convention prohibits the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of all forms of cluster munitions. It also requires countries to clear contaminated areas within 10 years, destroy supplies within eight years and provide assistance to victims.

Lebanon was among the first countries to sign the convention in December 2008 and although it only entered into force in May this year, officials have been keen to take an international leadership role on its implementation. This week Beirut hosts the second international meeting of states parties to the convention. Delegates from more than 110 governments, UN and other international organizations will attend the week-long conference along with survivors of cluster munitions to discuss how to further advance the convention’s obligations.

The meeting “is a golden opportunity for Lebanon,” said Haboubba Aoun, one of Lebanon’s representative members of the Cluster Munition Coalition and International Campaign to Ban Landmines, and a member of Lebanon’s National Committees on Risk Education and Victim Assistance. “We hope the people of the world will take a closer look at the cluster bomb problem in Lebanon and decide to continue supporting clearance activities and victim assistance activities.”

Clearance teams have made formidable progress in Lebanon despite almost continuous funding concerns. “We have 2,259 well-known minefields,” in addition to thousands of other contaminated areas, said Bou Maroun. Some 1,578 minefields have been now been cleared and returned to residents, but 22 million square meters of contaminated land remains. This figure does not include heavily contaminated areas along the so-called Blue Line border area between Lebanon and Israel, whose clearance has been left to the UN peacekeeping force UNIFIL.

Israeli maps “papers for the trash”

“Our vision is a Lebanon free from cluster bombs, land mines and explosive remnants of war,” Bou Maroun said. With sufficient funding and support, he said Lebanon could be cleared of cluster munitions by 2016.

Following international pressure, Israel provided the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) with maps showing the areas it targeted with cluster munitions. But, Bou Maroun said, as these maps do not show the coordinates of those targets, they are merely “papers for the trash.”

Mine clearance is painstakingly slow and dangerous work. Deminers sent to the field must abide by strict regulations and are flanked by ambulances and medics. “It’s a calculated risk,” said Daniel Redelinghuys, MAG’s Technical Operations Manager. Two MAG deminers have lost their lives and 18 have been injured in the five years since hostilities ceased, he added. The LAF and other clearance organizations have also experienced considerable losses.

Yet the possibility of an accident doesn’t deter Hussein Tabaja, a mine clearance site supervisor with MAG. “You’re working for your country,” he said with a shrug. “When you see the faces of people after you have cleared their land, you see how many people you have helped, who can go back and use their fields again, it makes you happy. Sometimes during the holidays I actually miss coming to work.”

While there is growing international support for a universal ban, there remains staunch opposition from the world’s biggest producers, traders or users of cluster munitions, such as Israel, China and the US, who have not signed the convention. As recently as late August, Handicap International censured Israel for laying fresh landmines along the border of the occupied Syrian Golan Heights.

And for many, any international ban will come too late. “I wish I could change my leg and get a new one,” said 12-year-old Mohammad Abd al-Aal, who has been left with a prosthetic leg after stepping on a cluster bomblet while herding his family’s goats.

( /14.09.2011)

Israel evacuates embassy in Jordan ahead of protests

Israel tells diplomats in Amman to come home as Facebook page calls for protest under the banner:”No Zionist embassy on Jordanian territory”; decision comes days after protesters storm mission in Cairo.

Israel evacuated its embassy in Jordan Wednesday evening, hours before a  Facebook organized march under the banner (in Arabic) of “No Zionist embassy on  Jordanian territory.

Unlike in Egypt, where diplomats lived  with their families, in Amman the Israeli delegation serves without  their families, and comes home for weekends.

The decision came just days after the 13-hour rampageat the Israeli embassy in Cairo, during which six  security guards locked themselves behind a steel door while mobs  ransacked the embassy.

Egyptian commandos rescued those six  security guards from the Cairo embassy, as protesters broke into  archives and threw documents from the building’s windows into the street below where demonstrators were celebrating.

The government has  said that Israel would respect the peace treaty with Egypt, and was  determined to return its envoy as soon as possible.

( / 14.09.2011)

Gaza shop owners prepare for UN bid

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Shop owners in the Gaza Strip are preparing for the UN bid in September by making souvenirs imprinted with the ‘Palestine 194’ logo, a Ma’an correspondent reported.

The owner of a trade center, Ahmad Abu Dayya, told Ma’an that they have made mugs and t-shirts with the UN bid logo and “UN for Palestine” written on them.

Abu Dayya said that it will most likely be foreigners who buy the items, adding that Palestinians are expected to buy large quantities of the Palestinian flag on the day of the UN bid.

( / 14.09.2011)

Rosenthal druk met Palestijnse kwestie

DEN HAAG – Nederland probeert er achter de schermen alles aan te doen om de Israëliërs en de Palestijnen dichter bij elkaar te brengen, voorafgaand aan de Algemene Vergadering van de Verenigde Naties volgende week.

“Er gaan voortdurend boodschappen heen en weer naar Jeruzalem en Ramallah”, zei minister Uri Rosenthal (Buitenlandse Zaken) dinsdag na afloop van een overleg in de Tweede Kamer.

Volgens hem worden er zware inspanningen geleverd om het vastgelopen vredesproces weer in beweging te krijgen. Rosenthal stelde wel dat dat moeilijk zal worden.

Eigen staat
De Palestijnen streven bij de VN naar de erkenning van een eigen staat. Nederland steunt zo’n eenzijdige stap niet en hoopt dat de partijen terugkeren naar de onderhandelingstafel.

Wel zal Nederland alle stappen omarmen die met instemming van alle betrokken partijen, en dus ook Israël, zullen worden gezet. De minister noemde deze optie “een muizengaatje”, omdat het niet waarschijnlijk is dat Israël akkoord zal gaan met het verhogen van de status van de Palestijnen.

Eensluidend EU-standpunt
De oppositiepartijen GroenLinks, PvdA, SP en D66 riepen Rosenthal op niet op voorhand opties, zoals een verhoogde status van de Palestijnse Autoriteit bij de VN, af te wijzen. “Ik wil geen voorschot nemen, in welke richting dan ook”, aldus de minister.

Ook stelden D66 en PvdA dat het belangrijk is dat de Europese Unie met een eensluidend standpunt komt. “Het eerste doel is niet eenheid binnen de EU, maar vrede in het Midden-Oosten dichterbij brengen”, stelde de minister, die eraan toevoegde dat er natuurlijk wel alles aan wordt gedaan om de eenheid in de EU te bewaren.

( / 14.09.2011)

EU verdeeld over erkenning Palestijnse staat

SOPOT – De Europese Unie blijkt uiterst verdeeld over de erkenning van een Palestijnse staat. De ministers van Buitenlandse Zaken van de EU slaagden er vrijdag tijdens beraad in het Poolse Sopot niet in een gemeenschappelijk standpunt in te nemen over de mogelijke opname van Palestina als volwaardig lid van de Verenigde Naties.

“Het ligt heel gevoelig”, benadrukte minister Uri Rosenthal ’s avonds na urenlang beraad over de Palestijnse kwestie. Nederland drong er bij de overige landen op aan Palestina niet te erkennen.

“Wij staan daarin niet alleen”, aldus Rosental. De bewindsman wil het liefst dat Israël en de Palestijnen weer terugkeren aan de onderhandelingstafel. Het eenzijdig uitroepen van een Palestijnse staat zou de kans op nieuw overleg verkleinen.

Het beraad in Sopot kwam 3 weken voordat de Palestijnen de Verenigde Naties willen laten stemmen over de opname van een Palestijnse staat als volwaardig lid. De Verenigde Staten kondigden al aan een erkenning van Palestina te blokkeren.

EU-buitenlandchef Catherine Ashton, die onlangs in het Midden-Oosten was, benadrukte in de Poolse badplaats dat het nog niet duidelijk is hoe de Palestijnen hun verzoek zullen formuleren. Als compromis is het denkbaar dat de Palestijnse staat bij de VN slechts de status van waarnemer krijgt, net zoals het Vaticaan heeft en Zwitserland tot 2002 had.

( / 14.09.2011)

Rusland steunt VN-erkenning Palestina

MOSKOU – Rusland steunt het streven van de Palestijnen naar erkenning van hun staat door de Verenigde Naties. Dat heeft de Russische VN-amabassadeur maandag gezegd.

De regering in Moskou zal elke Palestijnse poging om VN-erkenning te verkrijgen steunen, zei Vitali Tsjoerkin tegen nieuwszender Rossiya-24.

Nu het vredesproces is verzand maken de Palestijnen zich op de Verenigde Naties te vragen hun staat te erkennen. Hun formele verzoek daartoe wordt later deze maand verwacht.

( / 14.09.2011)