Twitter Ordered to Disclose Account Info of WikiLeaks Associates

A Virginia district court judge has ruled the U.S. government can collect the private information of three WikiLeaks volunteers from the social networking site, Twitter. The government has subpoenaed all the account information of Icelandic lawmaker Birgitta Jonsdottir, Dutch activist Rop Gongrjip and programmer Jacob Appelbaum. Thursday’s ruling upholds a lower court judgment in March that found the subpoena does not violate constitutional protections against unreasonable searches.

( / 11.11.2011)

Is Egypt’s Revolution at risk?

Following the rather successful  conclusion of parliamentary elections in Tunisia, attention has now turned to  elections in Egypt. Coming almost a year after the toppling of the Mubarak  regime, elections will serve as a useful political barometer for the strength  of various political groups in the country. For some, though, elections will  also be an opportunity to consolidate or erode gains made during the last few  months. In particular, after the consistently strong polling results of Muslim  Brotherhood-associated groups, most of the questions being raised are about the  role that the Muslim Brotherhood is likely to play in a post-Mubarak Egypt.

In an article for the daily Al Ahram, Abdel-Moneim Said wonders  whether Egypt will follow Tunisia’s model: “[t]he Tunisian example is quite  refreshing, suggesting that the Islamists are capable of change and are trying  to keep the spirit of the Arab Spring alive. Will other Islamist-leaning  parties follow the Tunisian lead, or will they hold back the transition towards  democracy? Will the Islamists open up to the world and engage the international  scene, or will they be distant and xenophobic? The answer is to be found in  Cairo. With 80 million people, Egypt is without question the biggest fish in  the Arab pond. If it floats, the whole region will benefit. If it sinks, the  consequences will be felt outside its borders. So far, the scene in Cairo is  mixed. The Muslim Brotherhood is neither open-minded nor modern in its  tendencies….We don’t know if the Muslim Brotherhood wants the country to move  forward, or turn around.”

The signs coming from the main  political actors don’t necessarily point to a non-controversial election. Last  week, according to a report by Hussein Mahmoud on Ikhwan Web. “[a]fter five full hours, Tuesday’s conference for  the declaration of the basic principles of the Constitution of the modern  Egyptian state came to an end. Dr. Ali Selmi, Deputy Prime Minister for  Political Affairs, held the meeting with some political and party stakeholders  at the Opera House, from 11 am to 4 pm….The FJP did call upon political  parties and national stakeholders to take part Wednesday in a press conference…to  discuss the negative effects of Dr. Selmi’s initiative on the revolution and  the community at large. Meanwhile, the Wafd, the Tajammu’a and the Egyptian  Social Democratic parties have accepted the Principles document, amid strong  rejection by the FJP and Al-Nour, while six human-rights organizations  boycotted Selmi’s conference because of the issues of military trials and  ‘torture.’”

The growing divide among the  various Egyptian political actors in light of the newly proposed Bill of Rights  is also the subject of an article by Amr Emam In The Egyptian Gazette,“The gap between the nation’s Islamists on one hand  and the interim government and the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces  on the other hand seems to be widening, in the wake of the Islamists expressing  strong reservations about a package of supra-constitutional principles that the  Government wants the nation’s political powers to endorse, just weeks before  the nation goes to the polls on November 28….El-Selmi came under intense fire  from the Islamists last week when he gathered political powers to discuss a  Government-authored bill of rights, a document that contains the principles  that should govern Egypt’s next Constitution. Some political powers, including the  Islamists, objected in particular to articles in the bill giving the armed  forces the right to agree on arms deals without parliamentary supervision.”

As a report by Al Masry Al Youm makes clear,  relations between the military-backed government and the Islamist parties are  likely to become even more strained: “Islamists are planning for massive  demonstrations on Friday, 18 November, to protest the document of  supra-constitutional principles [that] Deputy Prime Minister Ali al-Selmy is  advocating for. Selmy met with political leaders on Wednesday to discuss the  22-clause document, which will put in place certain guidelines on the character  of the state to be followed whenever the new constitution is written….Yousry  Hammad, the spokesperson for the Nour Party, stressed that the more Selmy steps  up his efforts to pass the document, the more his party will escalate its  efforts to prevent it. He claimed that 99 percent of Egyptians reject the document,  aside from the Tagammu and Wafd parties, remnants of the former Mubarak regime  and anti-Islamist groups.”

However, as Asharq Alwasat’s Abdul Sattar Hatita  notes, not everyone accepts the Muslim Brotherhood’s claims of moral  leadership. According to Hatita, “Sheikh Yusuf al-Badri, a well-known Islamic  preacher and former member of the Egyptian People’s Assembly, launched a  scathing verbal attack on the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic Group and the  Salafi movement, saying that these groups have the blood of many Egyptians on  their hands….Al-Badri fears that fighting between the Muslim Brotherhood and  Salafi groups is around the corner, and this he believes is because of  lingering disputes between the movements, which Al-Badri expects to intensify  at the upcoming elections or soon after. Al-Badri stated that currently there  is a committee for coordinating between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafi  powers in order to avoid such clashes. The indications of that emerged at the  “Islamic sharia Friday” demonstration at al-Tahrir Square in July  2011.”

Challenges to the  military-backed government are not coming from religious organizations only. Sarah  El Sirgany of Daily News Egypt writes  about an imprisoned activist’s mother, who has gone on a hunger strike  demanding her son’s release: “Abdel-Fattah, an activist and outspoken critic of  the ruling military council, was remanded in custody earlier this month pending  investigations into accusations of inciting violence, stealing army weapons and  vandalizing military property on Oct. 9, during the Maspero events. On Oct. 30,  he refused to be questioned by the military prosecution since the army is party  to the crime it is probing, and that as a civilian he should not be  interrogated by the military prosecution….At a press conference last Thursday  members of the No to Military Trials Campaign, coordinated by Abdel-Fattah’s  sister Mona, urged civilians to follow in Abdel-Fattah’s footsteps and refuse  any interrogation by the military prosecution whether they are summoned as  suspects or witnesses. As Seif El-Islam explained, ‘the right to remain silent  is a basic legal right.’”

Others see the betrayal of the  ideals of the Egyptian uprising foremost in the area of women’s rights. Al Masry Al Youm’s Aliaa  Dawood is concerned that “Egyptian men are busy planning and implementing  another revolution, but this time women will not play any role in it  whatsoever. This is because it is a revolution against women’s rights. Those  behind it are organizations with names like the “Coalition to Protect the  Family,” “Save the Family Association” and “Egyptian Men’s Revolution.” Their  efforts, as well as those of many others, constitute a backlash against women’s  rights….Not surprisingly, many men — especially members of the Egyptian Men’s  Revolution and similar organizations — perceive the ousting of the Mubarak  regime as a wonderful opportunity to “regain their rights,” and this seems to  be happening. Their success is not because women are not entitled to the rights  in question, but because of who was behind introducing these changes and how  they were introduced.”

( / 11.11.2011)

Palestinian-UN Bid Rejected

UN Admission Committee, specialized for recognizing new states’ applications, submitted its report to the UN Security Council on Friday, reading that the Palestinian-UN full membership has been rejected after discussions regarding the Palestinian bid.

PA President, Abbas submitting bid to UN

The committee’s secretary, the Portuguese ambassador to the UN Gabriel Jose Blaba said that “The UNSC member states would continue their discussions regarding the upcoming Palestinian steps of the Palestinian application at the UN.”

Eight members voted in favor of the Palestinian-UN bid, which are Russia, China, India, Brazil, South Africa, Niger, Gabon and Lebanon while 7 other members voted against the bid including the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Columbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Portugal has abstained.

It is worth mentioning that the committee’s stand has been leaked out few days ago which cause the Palestinian Minister Foreign Affairs, Riyad Al-Maliki, confirming the Palestinian bid for full membership at the UN. He further stated that the Palestinians would continue their attempts in order for Palestine to be a full member at the international body.

( / 11.11.2011)

Wansmakelijke soap rond Palestina

De theatrale woede van de VS en Israël over de Palestijnse demarches om eerst het lidmaatschap aan te vragen van de Verenigde Naties en vervolgens van de Unesco, de VN-organisatie voor Onderwijs, Wetenschap en Cultuur, heeft ongekende en absurde proporties aangenomen.


De zilveren ster in de Geboortkerk in Betlehem markeert de plaats waar Jezus geboren zou zijn. De Palestijnse Authoriteit wil twintig culturele erfgoedsites laten beschermen.
© No Lands Too Foreign

Het VN-lidmaatschap is hoe dan ook ijdele hoop, want de VS plaatst in de Veiligheidsraad zeker zijn veto. Maar binnen de Unesco bestaat er geen vetorecht en haalden de Palestijnen moeiteloos de vereiste tweederdemeerderheid (107 voor, 14 tegen en 52 onthoudingen). De VS, die Israël nog nooit sanctioneerde voor zijn bezettings- en annexatiepolitiek door bijvoorbeeld de miljarden aan militaire en economische hulp aan het land op te schorten, kondigde onmiddellijk aan dat het zijn Unesco-bijdrage van 60 miljoen dollar voorzien voor november, niet zou storten.

Volgens de woordvoerder van het Witte Huis was de Unesco-stemming “prematuur en ondermijnt ze het gedeelde doel van de internationale gemeenschap voor een alomvattend, rechtvaardige en duurzame vrede in het Midden-Oosten”. Je moet maar durven. Was het niet net die internationale gemeenschap die voor het Palestijns lidmaatschap van Unesco heeft gestemd? Na decennia van bezetting en twintig jaar van vruchteloos onderhandelen, kan men bovendien nog moeilijk spreken over ‘prematuur’. Hoe het Palestijns lidmaatschap van een organisatie wiens werk er uit bestaat om waardevolle sites te beschermen bedreigend zou kunnen zijn voor de duurzame vrede in de regio, gaat zelfs Orwell’s petje te boven.

Obama plat op de buik

In februari sprak de VS al als enige zijn veto uit tegen een resolutie van de VN-Veiligheidsraad die Israël vroeg om onmiddellijk een einde te maken aan alle activiteiten in de nederzettingen op de Palestijnse gebieden. De VS-vertegenwoordigster gebruikte het klassieke argument dat de resolutie vredesonderhandelingen zou verhinderen. ‘Les excuses sont faits pour s’en servir’. Na de Unesco-stemming kondigde het Israëlische kernkabinet aan dat het bij wijze van strafmaatregel 2000 nieuwe wooneenheden, grotendeels in Oost-Jeruzalem zal bijbouwen. Op een internationale democratische stemming reageert Israël dus met de illegale diefstal van Palestijns grondgebied.

Hierop kwam geen enkele verklaring of signaal vanuit Washington dat dit het vredesproces in gevaar zou brengen. Vorig jaar had president Obama Israël in de Algemene Vergadering van de VN nochtans persoonlijk maar vruchteloos gevraagd om de uitbreiding van de nederzettingen voor enkele maanden langer te bevriezen. Netanyahu, die zich kan verzekeren van de steun van het overgrote deel van de politieke elite in Washington, liet de Amerikaanse president Obama toen plat op zijn buik gaan. “Neen”, zo klonk het afgemeten. De voorbarige Nobelprijswinnaar moest buigen en slikken.


Het hele Unesco-gedoe maakt deel uit van een wansmakelijke soap. De VS en Israël hangen nu in de gordijnen omwille van de officiële toetreding van Palestina tot de Unesco, maar maakten nooit een probleem over het geld dat de Unesco jaren geleden al op tafel legde om het Palestijns erfgoed te inventariseren (dat nu met het lidmaatschap ook beschermd kan worden). De inventarisering gebeurt via het al jaren functionerende Unesco-kantoor in Ramallah op de Westelijke Jordaanoever.

En er valt wat te beschermen in dit gebied waar je bij wijze van spreken bij elke spadesteek op archeologische schatten stoot. De Palestijnse Autoriteit wil graag een twintigtal sites beschermen waaronder de Geboortekerk (van Jezus) in Bethlehem. Zou de conservatief-christelijke zionistische lobby in de VS wel beseffen dat de VS-aanval op Unesco niet erg in lijn ligt met het christelijke belang dat ze wellicht zelf hechten aan dit populaire pelgrimsoord? Hoe kortzichtig kan je zijn?

Steun aan Israël is strategische last

Uiteraard kan het Palestijnse streven om lid te worden van de Unesco niet los worden gezien van de context van de bezetting. Het neerslaan van de intifada (Palestijnse volksopstand) en de Israëlische kolonisatie van Palestijns gebied, gingen gepaard met heel wat destructie van het Palestijns erfgoed. In Nablus en Hebron werden waardevolle historische gebouwen beschadigd of vernietigd. Ook de Geboortekerk heeft geleden onder de maandenlange belegering tijdens de intifada. Eens erkend zal het Israëlisch leger hopelijk tweemaal nadenken vooraleer het zijn tanks over Palestijns werelderfgoed laat rollen.

In hun boek ‘De Israël-Lobby’ stellen de gerenommeerde academici Mearsheimer en Walt dat de onvoorwaardelijke Amerikaanse economische, militaire en diplomatieke steun aan Israël tot een strategische last is geworden. Ze bemoeilijkt de Amerikaanse verhoudingen met een aantal andere landen in de wereld, wat de VS op kosten jaagt. De VS-regering dreigt alle capaciteit te verliezen om een buitenlandse politiek te voeren die haar belangen verdedigt in een cruciale geostrategische en olierijke regio.

Moesten de Arabische regimes de werkelijke emanatie zijn van de collectieve volkswil, dan zou de VS het wel kunnen vergeten. De VS drijft zich in het isolement en met zich de landen die hun beleid bijna onvoorwaardelijk steunen. Bij de Unesco-stemming was Europa sterk verdeeld, maar koos België er wijselijk voor om de VS niet te volgen en dus voor Palestijns lidmaatschap te stemmen. Onze regering heeft er alle belang bij om deze lijn ook in de toekomst aan te houden.

Dit artikel verschijnt als edito in het november-december nummer van het Tijdschrift Vrede

Ludo De Brabander is woordvoerder van Vrede vzw

( / 11.11.2011)

Palestine building wins statewide award

PALESTINE — After being named a finalist in the category in August, the Duncan Depot Antiques/Lucas Hardware Building in Palestine was recently named a winner in the Best Restoration category of the 2011 Texas Downtown Association (TDA) Presidents Awards Program.

Winners were announced at the Texas Downtown Development and Revitalization Conference held at the Hotel Fredonia in Nacogdoches on Nov. 3. Since 1998, the Awards Program has recognized more than 150 projects, events and people that make a difference in Texas downtowns.

Duncan Depot Antiques, located at 105 W. Spring St. in the Main Street Palestine District, has been under restoration for the past two years by Duncan Depot Antiques owner Lily Duncan.

“The credit goes to our preservation contractor, Paul Priestner. He not only made our building look historically correct, he made sure the materials were from the correct period. Only our glass is new,” Duncan said in August. “The cast iron store front, ceiling tin, bead board, brick, and door materials and hardware are all from structures over a hundred years old. That makes our building a green restoration and I am proud of that.”

The Best Restoration award recognizes excellence in restoration of the interior or exterior of an existing building.  Judges were impressed at the restoration of the building and attention to historic detail. The Byrne-Reed House/Humanities Texas in Austin was also named a winner in this category.

Judging for the awards took place on Aug. 5, in Austin. The distinguished jury panel included the following representatives: Jim Adams, McCann Adams Studio; Terri Davis, AJR Media Group; Pete Gasper, Laurie Smith Design Associates; and Lori Martin, Paramount Theatre.

The Texas Downtown Association, established in 1985, is a statewide nonprofit organization comprised of more than 400 members involved in downtown revitalization projects.

By fostering development and revitalization, TDA strives to enhance the economic vitality of Texas downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts by providing resources, networking opportunities, education and advocacy.  For more information, visit

( / 11.11.2011)

Israeli forces ‘stop funeral’ near Hebron, make arrests

Palestinians attend a funeral in Saeer village near the West Bank city of Hebron  (MaanImages/Mamoun Wazwaz, )
HEBRON (Ma’an) — Israeli forces intervened in the funeral of a Palestinian woman in Beit Ummar, north of Hebron, on Friday, Palestinian activists in the West Bank village said.

Muhammad Ayyad Awad of the local popular committee said soldiers stopped the funeral from reaching a cemetery on the main road. The people had to go through a bypass road to reach the cemetery.

He added that as soon as Palestinians arrived at the cemetery, Israeli forces shot tear gas grenades to disperse them.

Awad said that the forces also raided the house of Mahmoud Abu Ayyash and took over the roof of his house. Israeli bulldozers closed the northern entrance of the village with cement blocks and closed the main gate on the northern entrance.

Witnesses told Ma’an that forces shot tear gas canisters toward residents and detained more than 15 Palestinians from the village. The witnesses said one of the detainees was injured.

( / 11.11.2011)

Voorlopig geen zitje voor Palestina in Verenigde Naties

De toelatingscommissie van de VN-Veiligheidsraad bereikte geen akkoord bereikt over het verzoek tot erkenning van Palestina als volwaardig lid van de Verenigde Naties.

Zo eindigt voorlopig het Palestijnse offensief voor erkenning, maar de Palestijnen tonen zich vastberaden om hun slag alsnog thuis te halen.

De Palestijnse VN-gezant Riyad Mansour zei na afloop van de beraadslagingen van de toelatingscommissie dat de Palestijnse aanvraag is getorpedeerd door “een machtig land”. “Jammer genoeg is dit vandaag de realiteit, maar we laten ons niet afschrikken en zullen onze inspanningen voortzetten”, zo verklaarde hij. De Verenigde Staten dreigden ermee een veto te gebruiken tegen de Palestijnse aanvraag indien het verzoek bij de 15-koppige Veiligheidsraad zou belanden. Dat zal echter niet gebeuren omdat de Palestijnen er niet in slaagden de noodzakelijke negen stemmen binnen te halen.

Alternatieve piste

Volgens diplomaten kunnen de Palestijnen het nog steeds proberen via de algemene vergadering, waar ze een tweederdemeerderheid van de lidstaten voor hun verzoek zouden moeten winnen. Tegen beslissingen van de algemene vergadering kan geen veto worden uitgesproken.

In de algemene vergadering staan volgens Mansour 130 van de 193 lidstaten achter de erkenning van de Palestijnse staat als volwaardig lid van de Verenigde Naties. Volgens de ambassadeur zal de regering in Ramallah zich nu beraden over de volgende stappen.

( / 11.11.2011)

Abbas meets Tunisian president, Islamist leader

Rachid Ghannouchi, the leader of the Islamist Ennahda party, shakes hand with
President Mahmoud Abbas in Tunis Nov. 11, 2011.
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — President Mahmoud Abbas met Thursday with Tunisia’s interim president as well as the leader of the Islamist party Ennahda in Tunis, reporters said.

Rachid Ghannouchi, leader of the Ennahda party, met with Abbas in the Tunisian capital.

Abbas’ three-day trip to Tunisia is his second since the country’s uprising in December but first since the Ennahda party won a plurality of votes in Tunisia’s first democratic election.

Also Friday, Abbas participated in a ceremony after exchanging greetings with the interim president, Fouad Mebazza, while their national anthems played, reporters said Friday.

Tunisia’s Foreign Minister Mouldi Kefi greeted President Mahmoud Abbas as he arrived at the airport in Tunis a day earlier as part of the official visit, reporters said.

( / 11.11.2011)

Bahrainis rally upon opposition’s call

Bahrainis have been calling for an end to the rule of Al Khalifa dynasty since mid-February
Thousands of Bahrainis have attended an anti-government protest rally in the capital, Manama, organized by the al-Wefaq opposition group.

Chanting slogans against the ruling Al Khalifa family, demonstrators called for the release of hundreds of Bahrainis detained for supporting anti-regime protests.

The mass rally came one day after Saudi-back Bahraini forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets at the house of Sheikh Ali Salman, the top leader of the al-Wefaq party.

Since mid-February, thousands of anti-government protesters have been holding regular demonstrations in Bahrain, calling for the US-backed Al Khalifa royal family to relinquish power.

On March 14, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates invaded Bahrain to assist the ruling regime in its brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters in the Persian Gulf Island, home to a huge military base of US Navy’s fifth fleet.

According to local sources, scores of people have been killed and hundreds have been arrested  by the regime.

( / 11.11.2011)

Jordanians rally for real reforms

Protesters from the Islamic Action Front Party and other opposition parties hold a giant Jordanian flag during a demonstration after Friday prayers in Amman October 21, 2011. The rally was held to urge Prime Minister-designate Awn Khasawneh to implement
Hundreds of Jordanians have taken to the streets in the southern city of Tafila to press the new government to give political reforms top priority.

They also called for an end to corruption and the prosecution of dishonest officials.

Jordanians have been holding street protests demanding reforms, including the election of the prime minister by popular vote, and an end to government corruption since January. There were no calls for the removal of the king.

Since the beginning of protest rallies, Jordan’s King Abdullah II has sacked two prime ministers in a bid to avoid more protests. Awn al-Khasawneh, a judge at International Court of Justice, is Jordan’s third premier this year.

Al-Khasawneh replaced Maarouf al-Bakhit, whose government was accused of corruption and failure to deliver on promised reforms, in mid-October.

The king has also promised to involve parliament in forming future cabinets and choosing premiers until prime ministers can be elected by the people. Currently, Jordan’s king has the constitutional power to appoint new governments.

The change is expected to occur next year. Jordanians have vowed to continue their street protests until their demands are met.

( / 11.11.2011)