Rosengarten in Gaza: I was far more afraid of Israel than of Hamas

Lillian Rosengarten is a New York activist and poet, who was on the Jewish boat to Gaza that was stopped by the Israeli navy in Jan. 2010. Last week she returned from a successful trip to Gaza, entering and leaving at the Egyptian border. Rosengarten was born in Germany; her family left after the Nazis came to power. A Q-and-A.

How did you go to Gaza?

I had an invitation from a German group. I went with eight others. Three of them had been passengers  on the Mavi Marmara. And of course I had been on the Jewish boat to Gaza.  I was the only Jew in our delegation.

How long were you in Gaza?

Four and half days.

Were you surprised by what you saw?

No. I know the situation in Gaza. I didn’t go there with any illusions. But what I was surprised about was the beauty of the people and how happy they were to see our delegation, because they see so few people from the international community. It’s difficult to get in. And as miserable as the situation is– the emphasis on construction, on rebuilding, on hope, the feeling that this land belongs to them, and they are staying there, is incredible. The tradition of Islam  is fascinating to me. I was ignorant about so much, but I learned from the people I spoke with directly. Over here we get such myths and lies. It seems through fear, the religion and culture are distorted in terrible ways to demonize Islam.

Did they know you were Jewish?

I always identified myself as Jewish. I never pretended to be someone I am not. The people are just like us.  They want to live in freedom and dignity and they have suffered enormously.

I was always greeted with such love. Such open hearts. Young people congregated around me as we gave peace signs, saying Viva Palestina. No one seemed to care that I was Jewish. They cared that I was among them and wanted their freedom.

The women in Gaza are just phenomenally strong. Many are college graduates but there is a lack of jobs and opportunities. There is also a class system, and many families became prosperous in the nineties when import and export was possible.  The families are close knit and there is  strong male bonding with the male children. Fathers are very much in the picture. Following Islamic values gives the family hope and structure. It is striking the similarities I observed between Islamic families and the religious Jewish tradition.

Where was your hotel?

On the beach. It looked out on to the Mediterranean and every evening at dusk one can see on the horizon rows of fishing boat lights not daring to go beyond the three miles allocated by the Israeli navy who are on the alert constantly. Fishermen run the risk of being shot at, sprayed with water hoses or having their boats taken if they venture out of the 3 mile zone. The water is heavily polluted with sewage as the treatment plants have been bombed. Wealthier families have their own filter system to supply them with usable water.

Once the fishing boats are taken by force to Ashdod, these poor fishermen must buy them back (with help from Palestinian NGO’s). Upon return, I saw the boats were  wrecked, smashed and without engines. It’s horrible.

Some people will read this and say, You were being used by extremists.

I don’t know what that means. This is completely false, completely distorted. The only terrorists I was afraid of were the Israelis. They have their eyes on everyone, and you don’t know when the bombs or missiles are coming, morning, noon and night. You go to the tunnels and you realize, you could be bombed standing there. And everything in Gaza comes from the tunnels. There are hundreds of tunnels, miles and miles. Recently Israelis flooded some them. The danger of death is near and yet the  people are resilient as hell and thank god for the tunnels. Because otherwise there would be starvation.

We went to the border in the north, what is  called the buffer zone. A weathered farmer had his house bombed five times. He has no more citrus plants, they’ve been destroyed. A grandfather and his grandson had been recently blown up by a missile for walking too close to the border.

No!  I an  not being used by anyone. There is so much misinformation. Hamas is protecting and helping its people, it has never been recognized by Israel, and the split between Hamas and Fatah is a way to prevent a much-needed Palestinian unity.  People are misinformed. They are fed lies. The ardent supporters of Israel do not know what is  going on. They want to believe in the good of Israel. They are told Muslims want to take over and destroy Israel. Jews are taught to hate Muslims.

I believe fear and  denial propel  Jews to incorporate the Israeli lies. Tragically, for many people who identify  themselves as Jewish, to witness  the crimes of  the Israeli government would be too unbearable,  too painful to believe. And I have to believe if they really knew, they would rise up.

Do you come away from this trip with a fresh commitment?

It has  morally clarified my position, where I stand as a human being and a Jew.  I am clear that I, as a human being  who comes out of a German Jewish refugee experience, as a person who admires the history of the Jewish people and traditions, must  at the same time stand up and say NO!  Not in my name can the brutal government of Israel do what it’s doing. It is my feeling that  Jews in America who are supportive the Israeli governments’s actions are frightened. Here in the US  and in Israel, Muslims are demonized. Therefore,  people are afraid. They rest their argument on this whole idea that Muslims  want to throw Israel into the sea.

Listen, if someone were taking your land and moving into your house and growing stuff on your land while making you a refugee, you might have negative feelings. But they know that’s not the way to resolve anything. I believe  Israel operates out of fear. The security system operates out of that fear.

Do you have a clearer understanding of the situation?

Yes. Because I have spoken to Hamas, to the NGOs, to Palestinians, I’ve spoken to Fatah, to a Fatah minister who happened to be in Gaza. I’ve spoken to many many people. They are  not demons. The people I feared in Gaza  were the Israelis. They scare me because they are so violent, using collective destruction and with this racist overtones. It’s some kind of genocide. Netanyahu’s government  do not want to acknowledge that Palestinians exist.

Are there good parts of Israeli society?

Of course. When I originally saw the moshavs and the kibbutzes, early on before I really knew anything, I was amazed, I loved what I saw. I loved it and was so proud and happy to say, here’s a place where  Jews will not be discriminated against. Then I learned from my uncle that the kibbutzes were built on Palestinian land. I didn’t know early on. Americans go to Israel and they don’t see anything.

Are you going to speak to Jews about what you saw?

Yes but I do not  want to push what I see and know  down anyone’s throat. I’m not going to give information unless there’s interest and I am asked. I do not want to have to deal with someone screaming anti-Semite. It’s not helpful. But with my writing and poetry, I can convey everything  from my heart, from the core of my being.

I used to think, after the Jewish boat, that I could speak at synagogues and so forth.  People do not want to hear. I don’t think it’s useful to antagonize people who are not open. I want to speak to people in an open way where I’m not pushing any agenda. Wherever there’s a window of opportunity, I’ll take it. I’ve had to learn this.

How does this compare to work you did during the Vietnam war or the feminist movement?

I was part of a university then, it was  collective marches to Washington, teach-ins and and so forth. My intention was there but a did not have a strong voice. I was not a leader. Now I have found my voice for I have no choice.

It feels more lonely?

Yes. I feel I’m taking a very unpopular position in a country where Jews and many other people do not want to hear  and also call me a traitor. I evolved in the Vietnam war and the feminism movement where I admired the strong protest voices of others. But here I can feel the crimes against humanity  and the importance of Palestinian self determination. I am driven in combination  from my own background as well as the struggle to put a voice, yes also a Jewish voice to the suffering of Palestinians through the actions of the  Israeli government.

By your background, you mean that your family escaped the Holocaust in Germany?

Yes. I see this, the Israel Palestinian question as the final chapter of the Holocaust. Either this will be resolved, or there will be a catastrophe. It will hurt Jews, it will hurt Palestinians– both.

What about the peace process?

There can not be a peace process. History has shown  it has failed. From my view,  the Netanyahu government does not want it. They are not willing to give land to the Palestinians. Settlers have become an integral part  of the police force, brutal and vicious. Perhaps one day through the UN– but I don’t see any possibility of brokering again with the US supporting Israel so completely.

Did you believe in the peace process?

I think perhaps I was naïve with Clinton, and with Camp David and after Oslo.  I believed in peace and desperately wanted it. I think the settlement building is meant to disrupt any peace process. There is no give and take. There is no looking at the other side. There is no empathy towards a common humanity. And when the government of Israel announces refugees can not come back, I say this is crazy. What do you mean, no return?

There is so much  fear– the  existential fear of extinction by the Palestinians, by Islam. This fear is something the Israelis  have to examine.  The Palestinians want freedom, they want the right to live in dignity and in peace.

Did you feel any threat to your safety from Palestinians?

Never, never, never. My daughter said, Aren’t you  afraid, I’m afraid when you are there with Hamas, you can be hurt. I told her I am more afraid of the Israelis with their missiles and their bombs. The Palestinians were so welcoming.

Compare this  to the way the Israelis treated our Jewish boat. A navy came to stop us. Nine Israeli warships stopped a little catamaran with harmonicas.

What about your rights as a refugee from Germany?

We lost family property. Everything. We didn’t get our property back. There was some restitution. But I can relate to the Palestinian refugees.

You didn’t get a right of return, though–

That’s completely not understanding the situation. When a foreign agent comes and takes your land and takes your trees and your life, and forces you into a foreign land without anything, and takes away your identity, this is a very traumatic experience. It’s not comparable from my point of view. Here are people living on their land, here are foreign people saying this is my land, get the hell out. Many became homeless, many ended up in refugee camps. There are many in Gaza, 60 years later, and they have no right to return. What’s fair about that? Why should  they resettle? Whose land is this?

I’ve heard American Jews call the right of return Israel’s nightmare.

What is the nightmare? How? Is it one of those fear things about being annihilated? I don’t know what the problem is. I think Palestinians  must  come back and they will then  live in peace, both of them together in separate areas. They have to find some way to live side by side. They used to be friends, collaborators in work.

The dehumanization of the other must stop. I’m really afraid of what will happen if there isn’t a peace initiative. A just peace initiative. I’m scared for both sides.

( / 23.10.2011)

‘Onbegrip over slachtverbod is groot’

Rituele slachting van een schaap»Rituele slachting van een schaap

Het verbod op ritueel slachten zal ertoe leiden dat moslims hun vlees uit België en Duitsland gaan halen en dat het illegaal slachten zal toenemen. Dat horen gemeenteraadsleden met een islamitische achterban van hun kiezers.

De NOS benaderde ruim 200 van deze raadsleden voor een onderzoek naar de opvattingen over het ritueel slachten. Van hen reageerde de helft.

Uit het onderzoek blijkt dat er groot onbegrip is in de achterban over de maatregel. Ze zijn bang dat hun partij bij de volgende verkiezingen afgerekend zal worden op het slachtverbod, omdat islamitische kiezers voor een andere partij zullen kiezen.

Er zijn ook raadsleden die verwachten dat de kwestie de weg vrijmaakt voor een nieuwe islamitische partij. Negen raadsleden laten weten te overwegen hun partij te verlaten als ook in de Eerste Kamer voor het verbod wordt gestemd.


Een ruime meerderheid  van de ondervraagde raadsleden is tegen het verbod op ritueel slachten. Daarmee verschillen ze van mening met hun partijgenoten in de Tweede Kamer.

D66-raadslid Fatima Kalai-El Mousaoui uit Waddinxveen vindt dat het besluit eigenlijk gebaseerd is op emotie. “In de politiek moet men veel stukken lezen en informatie vergaren om tot een goed besluit te komen. Voor het besluit over een verbod op ritueel slachten, krijgt men een eenzijdig verhaal en dat is het verhaal van de dierenpartij.”

Lastige situatie

PvdA-raadslid Mounir Amhaouech uit Roosendaal zegt dat raadsleden door de landelijke politiek in een lastige situatie worden gebracht. “Ik weet dat veel (islamitische) leden hun lidmaatschap bij de politieke partijen die voor hebben gestemd, willen opzeggen.”

“Ik twijfel nog, omdat ik het belang van moslims nog wil behartigen en dat kan alleen als je doorgaat en deelneemt aan het politiek debat. De vraag blijft hoever je moet gaan voordat je jezelf terugtrekt uit een politieke partij, want er komen nog enkele wetsvoorstellen die moslims weer gaan raken. Denk daarbij aan het verbod op het besnijden.”

Een raadslid uit Venlo, Aissa Meziani, heeft vanwege het onderwerp zijn partij inmiddels verlaten. Hij laat weten dat hij juist vanwege het slachtverbod is overgestapt van GroenLinks naar het CDA. De Tweede Kamerfractie van het CDA stemde tegen het verbod op ritueel slachten.

Handhaving verbod

Ook over de handhaving van het verbod op onverdoofd slachten zijn twijfels. Talip Aydemir, raadslid van de PvdA in Arnhem, zegt dat op allerlei manieren geprobeerd zal worden om toch halal te slachten. “Ik zie de inspectiedienst niet tijdens alle slachtingen toekijken. Het zal vergelijkbaar zijn met het verbod op roken in de horeca. Vrijheid van godsdienst belemmeren of een onderdeel ervan verbieden, blijft gevaarlijk voor de samenleving en de toekomst.”

( / 23.10.2011)

Broad trade co-operation with Palestine discussed

MUSCAT — Khalil bin Abdullah al Khonji, Chairman of Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI), yesterday received Dr Ahmed Mejdalani, Labour Minister and acting Agriculture Minister of Palestine, and his accompanying delegation currently visiting the Sultanate. They discussed developing trade exchange and enhancing relations of investment partnership between the Omani private sector and its Palestinian counterpart.

The two sides praised co-operation in organising the Palestinian products exhibition recently. They also stressed the importance of developing the experience and expanding such exhibitions in future, besides stressing the importance of activating visits exchange between businessmen and women and organising mutual visits for trade delegations.

OCCI intend to organise a visit for an Omani trade delegation to Palestine next year on invitation from the Palestinian side. The Palestinian minister commended the march of development in the Sultanate and stressed the keenness of the Palestinian side to develop all aspects of joint co-operation and enhancing interests with the Sultanate. The meeting also affirmed three key points. First, acceleration of signing the agreement of establishing an Omani-Palestinian Business Council to shoulder the assignments of founding and fostering trade and investment relations between the private sector, businessmen and women, their counterparts in Palestine.
Second, introduce appropriate mechanisms to develop joint trade and investment exchange, which can be achieve through the proposed Business Council. Third point deals with co-operation in the manpower field in the private sector, particularly the Palestinian skilled manpower in fields, such as information technology (IT), services of tourism, banks, exhibitions, management, health and engineering services, in addition to benefiting from high expertise from university professors, besides co-operation in food and agriculture products area.
The meeting was attended by Dr Is’haq bin Ahmed al Ruqaishi, Agriculture and Fisheries Ministry’s Under-Secretary for Agriculture, Dr Lu’ay Issa, Palestinian Ambassador to the Sultanate and OCCI Board members.

( / 23.10.2011)

Hoofd Overgangsraad: sharia wordt de norm in Libië

Mustafa Abdel Jalil, de interimleider van Libië, heeft vandaag in Benghazi benadrukt dat het islamitische recht (sharia) de basis zal vormen voor de wederopbouw van het land. Zo komt er een eind aan het verbod op polygamie, dat werd geïntroduceerd door het dictatoriale bewind van wijlen Moammar Kadhafi. Islamitisch bankieren, zonder rente, wordt de norm in Libië.

Abdel Jalil kondigde dat aan in zijn toespraak ter gelegenheid van de officiële bevrijding van Libië.

‘Dankzij God, dankzij God’, zei Abdel Jalil bij het begin van zijn toespraak. Vervolgens zakte hij door zijn knieën en raakte hij met zijn voorhoofd de grond aan en deed hij een gebed.

Later stelde Abdel Jalil dat het lossen van vreugdeschoten, een populair gebruik bij zeges in de Libische burgeroorlog, niet is toegestaan volgens de sharia.

( / 23.10.2011)

OCHA Weekly Report: Setters’ Attacks Remains High in West Bank in Mid-October

RAMALLAH, October 23, 2011 (WAFA) – Settler violence against Palestinians and their property remains high, with 11 settler-related incidents documented during the week between October 12 and 18, resulting in six Palestinian injuries and damage to around 900 olive trees, according to a report published on Sunday.

The weekly report of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OCHA) said that in three separate incidents in East Jerusalem, Israeli settlers physically assaulted and injured three Palestinians, including two children, ages 10 and 15 years, in the neighborhood of Al Thouri (Abu Tour), in Silwan and near the Old City.

Also in Silwan, a Palestinian man was physically assaulted and injured by settler guards from the City of David settlement, it said.

The report said that elsewhere in the West Bank settlers physically assaulted and injured a Palestinian farmer while he was harvesting olives near the settlement of Qarne Shomoron, in Qalqiliya.

Settlers also injured an 11-year-old Palestinian girl while they were stoning at Palestinian-plated vehicles driving near the settlement of Bet El, in Ramallah.

It said in three separate incidents this week, Israeli settlers set fire to around 800 olive trees in the villages of Bruqin, in Salfit and Ras Karkar, in Ramallah. Also, settlers sprayed chemicals on around 80 olive trees in the village of Turmus ‘Ayya, in Ramallah, damaging them.

Moreover, settlers attacked Palestinian farmers in six separate incidents in Qalqiliya, Nablus and Salfit governorates, preventing them from picking olives.

The report said all of these incidents occurred on Palestinian-owned land located in the vicinity of Israeli settlements, during times which had been coordinated in advance by the Israeli authorities to allow farmers to access their land and harvest their olives. In
some of these incidents, Israeli forces intervened and removed the settlers.

In two separate locations this week, Israeli settlers began establishing or expanding settlement outposts; Settlers erected tents in a location near Bet El settlement, in Ramallah, and, in Salfit governorate, settlers leveled over 30 dunums of Palestinian-owned land
near the village of Iskaka and installed new caravans to expand a nearby settlement outpost, it said.

The report said on October 18; the Israeli authorities released 477 Palestinian prisoners, including 27 women, in exchange for the IDF soldier, Gilad Shalit, who had been held by Hamas since June 2006. Over 300 of the released prisoners were serving life sentences. The exchange took place in the context of prisoner swap agreement between Israel and Hamas, mediated by Egypt.

In the context of the release, UNICEF appealed to the Israeli authorities to free all Palestinian children held in Israeli military detention. According to UNICEF, as of 1 October, there were 164 children, under 18, being detained by the Israeli authorities, most of them on charges of throwing stones in the West Bank.

It said this week, there were no demolitions of Palestinian-owned structures by the Israeli authorities, compared to 39 structures demolished over the past two weeks, all of them in Area C. Overall, there has been a significant rise in demolitions and, in particular, displacement this year, compared to last year.

According to the Border and Crossing authorities in Gaza, over 2,600 Palestinian pilgrims registered to leave for pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia crossed the Rafah Crossing into Egypt. Overall during the reporting period, around 4,170 people left Gaza through the Rafah Crossing controlled by Egypt, and 3,310 others entered Gaza.

The report said the number of people who crossed this week, however, remains slightly below the average number of people who crossed per week in the first five months of 2006, before the partial closure of the crossing, when an average of 650 people crossed daily each way.

( / 23.10.2011)

Hamas leader: Israel threatens to kill freed prisoners to boost public

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Israeli government threats to assassinate prisoners freed under an exchange deal with Hamas are an attempt to satisfy their public, Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahhar told reporters on Sunday.

The senior Hamas figure downplayed Israel’s intention to extend its tactic of targeted killings to the prisoners released in exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Israel is “making these threats in an attempt to lighten the heavy price they paid” for agreeing to free over 1,000 Palestinians detained in Israeli jails for Shalit.

The deal, which in its first stage saw Shalit return to Israel and 477 Palestinians freed on Tuesday, was broadly supported by the Israeli public but provoked fierce debate over the release of those jailed for attacks on Israelis.

On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that if any of the freed prisoners return to terrorism, they “do so at their own risk,” Israeli daily The Jerusalem Post reported.

Zahhar said such statements show “how desperate (Israel) felt in the face of the Palestinian resistance’s accomplishment in forcing (the government) to yield to the conditions” set out by the Hamas negotiators for the exchange.

He warned Israel that resistance fighters are able to respond “promptly and appropriately” to any attempt to harm the freed prisoners.

On Saturday, deputy commander Hamas’s armed wing Ahmed Jabari said his al-Qassam brigades would continue plans to capture Israeli soldiers “until all Palestinian prisoners were freed from Israeli occupation jails,” Hamas-affiliated news site Palestine Information Center reported.

According to latest estimates, around 5,000 Palestinian prisoners will remain in Israeli jails after the second phase of the deal frees 550 more prisoners within two months.

( / 23.10.2011)

Saif al-Islam Kaddafi wil de strijd voortzetten

Saif al-Islam Kadhafi wil de strijd in Libië voortzetten. Hij zei dat in een circa één minuut durende rechtstreeks uitgezonden audioboodschap op een Syrische tv-zender. Het was zijn eerste verklaring na de dood van zijn vader donderdag in Sirte, aldus de Arabische nieuwszender al-Arabiya vandaag.

‘Ik zeg: loop naar de hel, jullie en de NAVO die achter jullie staat. Dit is ons land, waar wij leven, waar we sterven en waar we de strijd voortzetten’, zei de 39-jarige zoon van de wijlen dictator. Hij ontkende dat hij gevangen was genomen of gewond was geraakt bij de slag om Sirte. Waar hij verblijft, is niet bekend.

( / 23.10.2011)

Libië officieel bevrijd verklaard, na 42 jaar

Libië is vanmiddag officieel bevrijd verklaard, na bijna 42 jaar dictatuur onder leiding van de donderdag gedode leider Muammar Kaddafi. Vele duizenden mensen waren er in de oostelijke stad Benghazi getuige van hoe de nieuwe machthebbers Libië bevrijd verklaarden, bij het begin van een feestelijke ceremonie.

De nieuwe machthebbers houden de historische en feestelijke gebeurtenis in Benghazi omdat de opstand tegen Kaddafi maandenlang werd geleid vanuit deze stad.

‘Wij laten de hele wereld weten dat we ons geliefde land hebben bevrijd, alle steden, dorpen, heuveltoppen, bergen, woestijnen en luchten’, zo zei de functionaris van de Nationale Overgangsraad die de bijeenkomst opende op het belangrijkste plein van Benghazi. Duizenden mensen zwaaiden met vlaggen en het volkslied werd gezongen. Deze symbolen dateren uit de periode van voor de heerschappij van Kaddafi, en zijn in ere hersteld.

De nieuwe machthebbers houden de historische gebeurtenis in Benghazi omdat de opstand tegen Kaddafi hier in februari begon. In andere steden, zoals de hoofdstad Tripoli en in Misurata, hebben duizenden mensen zich eveneens verzameld op pleinen om de bevrijding te vieren.

( / 23.10.2011)

Syria’s Assad names new governors as protests grow

DAMASCUS (AFP) — Syria’s under-fire president Sunday appointed two new governors in flashpoint provinces that have seen staunch protests against his regime, as security forces reportedly killed three more civilians.

On the political front the European Union was set to call anew on President Bashar Assad to step down and to condemn the deadly repression against dissent, according to a draft statement seen by AFP.

“President Assad must step aside to allow a political transition to take place in Syria,” said the statement which EU leaders were expected to adopt at the close of talks later Sunday.

State television said President Bashar Assad named new governors for the northwestern province of Idlib and for the Damascus district, both of which have seen massive anti-regime demonstrations over the past seven months.

Assad has sacked several governors since the wave of protests erupted in mid-March, including the Hama governor who was dismissed in July after a record 500,000 protesters rallied there against the regime.

Yasser Salman el-Shufi was named as Idlib’s new governor while Makhluf Makhluf was appointed governor for the Damascus province.

Activists meanwhile called for fresh protests on Sunday under the slogan: “It’s your turn” — a reference to Assad — hoping to force him out of power in the way Libyans ended the rule of Moammar Gadhafi.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a funeral for two civilians shot dead at dawn quickly turned into an anti-regime rally in the flashpoint province of Hama.

Angry mourners in the Hama village of al-Madiq “demanded the fall of the regime,” the Britain-based group said in a statement received by AFP in Nicosia.

Hama’s history is steeped in blood. An estimated 20,000 people were killed there in 1982 when the army put down an Islamist revolt against the rule of Assad’s late father, Hafez Assad.

A third civilian was killed when security forces manning a checkpoint in Mayadeen near the eastern city of Deir Ezzor opened fire, and two others were seriously wounded, the Observatory said.

Also on Sunday, troops backed by security forces raided the villages of Dael and Ibtaa in the southern province of Daraa, cradle of the pro-democracy protests, to end a strike by residents.

“The military forces removed barricades set up by the residents in Dael and Ibraa,” the Observatory said, adding that the strike had been launched four days earlier.

The pro-democracy activists who called for more anti-regime demonstrations on Sunday compared Assad him to Libya’s Gadhafi, who was killed Thursday.

“It’s your turn. We do the same with criminals,” said a message posted on the Facebook page of the Syrian Revolution 2011 under pictures of Assad and Gadhafi.

The EU has repeatedly ramped up pressure against Damascus, extending sanctions against allies of Assad to banks and the oil sector, over the deadly crackdown which has killed more than 3,000 people since mid-March.

In Sunday’s draft statement it also voiced support for Syria’s largest opposition group, the Syrian National Council, and urged UN Security Council members to “assume their responsibilities” concerning Syria.

The statement due to be adopted on Sunday comes three days before an Arab League delegation was due to visit Damascus in a new attempt to defuse the tension and prod talks between Assad’s regime and the opposition.

( / 23.10.2011)

Al-Malki: Gabon to vote in favor of UN bid

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — The Gabonese Republic is set to endorse the Palestinian bid for statehood in the UN Security Council, a Palestinian Authority official said Sunday.

The foreign minister in the West Bank government Riyad al-Malki told Ma’an that Gabon has “historically been supporting the Palestinian cause.”

“We have recently held several meetings with Gabonese officials including the country’s president Ali Bongo Ondimba who asserted that his country would continue to support the Palestinian right to statehood,” al-Malki said.

Abbas presented the statehood application to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last month on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting in New York, a move condemned by Israel and its main ally, the United States. The application now faces a Security Council vote.

Six current Security Council members — Brazil, China, India, Lebanon, Russia and South Africa — have publicly indicated their backing for the Palestinian bid.

In early October, Fatah central committee member Nabil Shaath said that nine countries in the Security Council were committed to supporting Palestine’s bid for membership in the UN.

Shaath told Ma’an that “the nine states that have confirmed voting to us, and we do not question their stance, are the following: Gabon, Bosnia, Brazil, India, Lebanon, Nigeria, South Africa, China and Russia.”

Four new temporary members — Pakistan, Morocco, Togo and Guatemala — were elected on Friday to the UN Security Council for 2012 and 2013, with the fifth seat tied between Azerbaijan and Slovenia and thus adjourned until Monday.

Israeli daily Haaretz said the new members were likely to be more supportive of the US and less inclined to support a Palestinian vote, citing diplomats in New York.

However, Lebanon, Nigeria, Gabon, Bosnia and Brazil do not come off the council until January 2012.

Last week, diplomats said that the quest for UN membership was likely to come to a head around November 11, when Security Council ambassadors plan a final meeting to decide their response.

“The 11th (of November) will probably be the end of the Security Council consideration process, one way or the other,” a senior council diplomat said following a meeting of envoys.

Diplomats currently expect eight council members to back the Palestinians and six to vote against or abstain. There is uncertainty over Bosnia, the three members of whose collective presidency — Muslim, Serb and Croat — disagree over which way to vote, diplomats say.

If the application fails in the council, the Palestinians could ask the General Assembly to upgrade their status to “nonmember state” observer, which would not require council endorsement.

That would imply UN recognition of statehood and could help the PLO join international bodies.

( / 23.10.2011)