From 40 countries Convoy “spring of freedom” in Gaza

Arrived this evening, a convoy of Arab spring into the Gaza Strip via the Rafah crossing with the President of the Association of Sunni scholars, Dr. Safwat Hijazi and Dr. Salah Sultan, scientists, thinkers and Mmthleean revolutions Arab from Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and the European Parliament came from forty countries in the world. The delegation held a press conference the convoy at the Rafah crossing which it welcomed the First Deputy Chairman of the Legislative Council, Dr. Ahmed Bahar, the convoy, stressing that the Gaza Strip steadfastness in the siege became a mecca for free to the world. He called the Sea of the world to stand by his people oppressed by the Zionist occupation and to come to Gaza to see the scale of the suffering experienced by the sector. During his speech, Dr. Safwat Hijazi was happy to come to Gaza, saying: “This is a historic moment for so long prevented us from under the regime of former Egyptian Today we achieve our wish to come to the Gaza Strip.” He stressed that Gaza and its steadfastness in the siege and the war was inspiring the Arab world in the rebellions against the rulers of darkness, explaining that the Arab peoples aspiring to freedom after she saw in Gaza during the showpiece of steadfastness in the face of the most powerful military arsenal in the Middle East. He said: “We came in solidarity with Gaza, tomorrow Jerusalem will come to open and put a platform in the Salah al-Din Al-Aqsa, God willing.” He added: “I say to the United Nations and the world, if you have decided that the blockade on Gaza illegal, we on behalf of our people and we have 40 different countries that say you have fallen Chereitkm” The organizers of the convoy in the word Arab spring The President of the European campaign to lift the siege of Gaza, Mr. Arafat’s past they have made and will make every effort to do what is required of them towards the just Palestinian cause. He added that they represent Palestine and Anasrunha the whereabouts and will not spare no effort to do so, pointing out that the convoy bore the name of Arab spring to draw world attention to the besieged Gaza Strip and the suffering and say to the international community, which stood by the Arab peoples in revolutions should look at Gaza and Tsanduha . Shouted several of the speakers during the conference, Freedom for Palestine denouncing the Zionist occupation continues its criminality against the Palestinian people.

(Facebook / 22.11.2011)

Detention of female journalist extended

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)– The Israeli court in Jerusalem on Monday extended the detention of Palestinian journalist Isra’a Salhab till next Friday for further interrogation.

The Mada media center has denounced the Israeli detention of the Jerusalemite journalist, who works with the Quds TV, describing it as part of the harassment against journalists.

The Israeli police had summoned Salhab on 16 November and questioned her for two hours after which she was taken out of the interrogation room handcuffed and taken to custody.

The Israeli occupation forces had detained Salhab’s husband Shadi Zahde almost a month earlier and he is still held in custody.

( / 22.11.2011)

How’s business? Tear gas economy flourishes in Tahrir Square

Clashes between riot police and protesters, Tahrir Square, Cairo, November 19,2011. Violent clashes erupted when riot forces despersed Tahrir sit-in violently, which left one death, and hundreds of injuries.

I went on a shopping spree today, but not my normal kind, for food or clothes. On Tuesday I bought tear gas protective gear: a hard hat, goggles, a plastic filter mask, and a surgical mask.

They were purchased from vendors in Tahrir Square, where clashes between police and protestors continue for a fourth day in the surrounding streets. About 30 people have died so far, according to official tallies.

Karim positioned his stall strategically at the start of Mohamed Mahmoud Street, where much of the fiercest fighting is taking place. He sold goggles for LE5 and a plastic filter mask for LE15, both made in China.

He was too busy selling gear to answer my questions, but said that prior to this he sold T-shirts on Talaat Harb Street. He thinks on his feet.

Hamdi Alam was standing nearby. He sold surgical masks that he bought from a pharmacy. “Anything to protect the people,” he told me. At LE1, these are the cheapest protective gear you can get, but they are much less effective than their plastic counterparts. Still, they are popular – Alam sold about 200 masks on Monday, he said.

Before Saturday, the first day of clashes and when Alam began working in the square, he sold flags on side streets. He is one of many vendors who have become part of Tahrir’s scene, which also includes makeshift field hospitals, as well as tea and food stands.

Not everyone is happy about the vendors, though. Some see them as opportunistic, rather than serving a greater good: the protection of protestors against tear gas fired by security services.

“They are just taking advantage of the revolution, and not helping anyone,” Mohamed Ahmed Mohamed, a security worker, said.

But as tear gas continued to fill the air in Tahrir and its side streets for a fourth straight day, reaching as far as Qasr al-Ainy near the cabinet building, the sight of hard hats, goggles and filter masks became more familiar.

“You still get affected by the tear gas, even with all the plastic gear, but it is bearable and much better than the surgical masks,” said Ibrahim Abed, a member of the April 6 Youth Movement who was wearing a hard hat, goggles, a plastic filter mask, and gloves.

Abed bought his gear from the Gomhouriya area where many shops and stalls sell industrial security goods. Traders in Gomhouriya said they had witnessed a large number of people coming to buy protective gear last night with the explicit aim of using it in Tahrir Square.

“Shops in Gomhouriya must have sold around 10,000 items yesterday from the demand coming from the square,” Walid Ali Abbas, a trader, told Al-Masry Al-Youm.

Ahmed Magdy, another trader, said he must have had about 50 customers last night, with the fastest-selling items being filters for LE15. His usual customers are companies, who buy the gear to protect their workers.

But Abbas is not happy about this phenomenon, nor were many other traders. They say that the Tahrir vendors are opportunistic middlemen who buy goods from Gomhouriya or elsewhere and then sell them for a profit in the square.

“The revolution’s thieves,” Abbas said of the vendors.

The price of protective gear did not appear to differ much, though, between Gomhouriya and the square. But it does vary depending on where it is made.

Abbas sells Egyptian-made hard-hats for LE6.5, Chinese hats for LE10, Spanish for LE15, British for LE23 and US-made 3M hats for LE125.

The hats are being used by protestors to protect themselves from rubber bullets and birdshot cartridges.

The most prominent weapon, however, is tear gas, which affects not just protestors and police but ordinary citizens going about their daily lives.

The sight of blood-shot eyes, red faces, and people covering their nose and mouth has become common over the last few days, as have white-stained faces – protestors have a milk-based solution poured on them to counter the effect of tear gas.

“We have seen a lot of suffocating, skin irritation, conjunctivitis, and from Monday evening, hypotension, due to the tear gas,” Mohamed al-Zouiry, a doctor at the Tahrir field hospital, told Al-Masry Al-Youm. To date, no one is known to have died from the tear gas.

The hospital had to move its location from behind the restaurant Hardees near Mohamed Mahmoud, after it was hit on Sunday morning at about 4 am with tear gas bombs hitting near both its two entrances, Zouiry said. It is now based in an outdoor space at the intersection of Talaat Harb Street and Bab al-Louq.

By midday, Karim also had to move his stall to Talaat Harb Street as crowds grew at Mohamed Mahmoud.

As I left the square, doctors at the many field hospitals continued treating injured protestors and passersby. And vendors continued selling.

“Protect yourself for one Egyptian pound only,” was the last thing I heard.

( / 22.11.2011)

Israeli tanks fire on Rafah city houses while airstrikes target military training centre

GAZA, Nov 22 (KUNA) — Israeli artillery and bulldozers surrounded the eastern part of the city of Rafah, south of Gaza Strip, on Tuesday.
Five Merkava Israeli tanks were scene accompanied by military bulldozers entering 300 meters inside Al-Nahda area east of Rafah, Palestinian sources told KUNA.
The sources added that Israeli forces were heavily firing on Palestinian houses amid during the incursion along with recon warplanes hovering over.
On a different front, an Israeli recon plane fired at a training center which belonged to Salah Eddin Brigades, the military wing of Palestinian Popular Committees

( / 22.11.2011)

News of Egypte 22.11.2011

Tahrir is secure and jovial and needs a little cleaning up so come on down.
Can anyone get an empty canister of the Gas shot in #Tahrir we need to find what it is #Jan25ReBorn
Nawwar Negem is speaking on Al-Jazeera, her voice is veryy weird…I wonder what Gas are they using #Tahrir #Jan25ReBorn
ManaraRamDeeDee @palyouthvoice photos from the demo in #Ramallah in solidarity wth #tahrir #Egypt
Retweet! Flood CEO of CombinedSystems, makers of tear gas in #Tahrir,w/calls at +1-724-932-2177 ext 0 #Jan25 @monaeltahawy
10 arrested in Libel Bill protests in Tel Aviv
Medical source in the Zeinhom morgue near Cairo’s #Tahrir Square claims that 71 Egyptians have been killed since clashes erupted Saturday.
#Tahrir now! Tantawi, why do you need to go through the whole process Mubarak went through! #Jan25ReBorn
Thousands remain in Cairo’s Tahrir Square despite military vow of rapid handover (DPA) // “…by July 2012” is not rapid.
Egypt’s military council vows to transfer power by July 2012. That’s too late. #Tahrir
#Alexandria makeshift hospital sources say more than 100 protesters injured by rubber bullets, hundreds more by tear gas
The Question of the day: will Tantawi commit to the 3 speeches rule? or will he adopt the Syrian and Libyan models? #Tahrir #Jan25ReBorn
Doctors & morgue officials tell Human Rights Watch of receiving numerous protesters shot with live ammunition

Egypt army ‘agrees national salvation cabinet’

CAIRO (AFP) —  Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has agreed to form a national salvation government and hand power to a civilian authority by July 2012, politician Selim al-Awwa told the state MENA agency.
The ruling military council, which is facing its worst crisis since it took power when veteran president Hosni Mubarak was ousted in February, is working to contain mass protests and clashes that have left at least 28 people dead in four days.
“It was agreed at the meeting headed by the deputy of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces Sami Enan … to form a government of national salvation which would implement the goals of the revolution,” said Awwa, a presidential hopeful who attended the meeting.
He said it was also agreed that “power would be handed over to an elected civilian president no later than the end of June 2012.”

( /22.11.2011)

The Nasty Party – Istiqlal Manifesto

The remaining political heavyweight Istiqlal party produced their own manifesto a week ago, and by far, it seems as though they have put a lot of thoughts in it.So much indeed, that they might well be the only party with no false promises, and actual commitments for austerity program policies. Paradoxically, the new constitution allows Istiqlal to display more brazenly its conservative credentials, to be, in short, that nasty party so many Moroccans hate and identify as patrician-style, “Fassi-Party”.

First, they are the only political party making sense in terms of broad macroeconomic targets: a 5% GDP growth for 2% inflation target are exactly what the doctor has ordered, although that means Istiqlal is not counting on boosting the economy, merely staying the course and making the best of it in terms of whatever reforms they have included in their agenda; so far, Nizar Baraka -who seems to be inspiring their economic proposals- have displayed a lot more realism and competence than his (former) colleague Finance Minister Mezouar.

Istiqlal claims to close the gap in social inequalities by 25%. I cannot make any sense out of this one: do they mean they will reduce the income ration between the top and bottom 10%? But that is not too important an issue; After all, they have pledge to fund professional schools in order to achieve this goal:

وضع تدابير قانونية جديدة لتيسير الولوج إلى التكوين المهني بالنسبة للشباب الذين انقطعوا عن الدراسة في سن مبكر ( فئة أقل من 14 سنة)، أو لم تسعفهم ظروفهم الأسرية والاجتماعية (أطفال الشوارع مثلا) من التعلم أو من الحصول على أي تأهيل مهني. على أن يراعي هذا التكوين المهن والحرف التي يحتاج إليها سوق الشغل، وذلك حتى لا يعودون من جديد إلى البطالة والتهميش الاجتماعي […]

جعل المعرفة محركا للارتقاء الاجتماعي

تطوير التعليم العالي والتكوين المهني لملاءمته مع حاجيات الاستراتيجيات القطاعية وتنمية الجهات

تشجيع التكوين المستمر مدى الحياة المهنية

تطوير مسالك دراسية موازية للتعليم النظامي (الفرصة الثانية، المدارس الرياضية،…)

The policy might be sound on paper, but given Istiqlal’s disastrous record on education, I fear they might think of professional schools as the only viable alternative for school system, a potentially very discriminant policy that could lead to the vast majority of Moroccan pupils at 14 be given a choice of either giving up on good college education (and I insist on the word “good”) or settling for a lesser school system.

Istiqlal nonetheless, vows to support and strengthen the ailing Middle Class; they pledge to root out poverty and its trans-generational effects (supposedly by empowering those population by means of self-employment) and strangely enough, this Middle Class pledge finds its way to carry Istiqlal’s big idea of reforming the Compensation Fund; though they do not believe a pure accountancy-based approach would not do, they try to instil the idea that somehow, cash relief could perform equally well. My question is why would they propose the following:

توسيع الركيزة المتعلقة بالتعليم: “تيسير”، وهي تهم تمدرس أطفال الأسر الفقيرة إلى حدود 15 سنة (الابتدائي والثانوي الإعدادي) ومحاربة الهدر المدرسي وخاصة في أوساط الفتيات القرويات؛

الركيزة المتعلقة بالانخراط في الأنشطة المدرة للدخل من خلال تقديم دعم نقدي مباشر للأسر الفقيرة مقابل انخراط معيل الأسرة في البرامج التي تحدث هذه الأنشطة (المبادرة الوطنية للتنمية البشرية) وفي الأنشطة التي يتم حصرها في اطار مخططات تنمية الاقتصاد الاجتماعي والتضامني.

ويصل متوسط الدعم النقدي المباشر إلى 400 درهم في الشهر لكل أسرة فقيرة في المناطق المستهدفة، حيث تم تحديد مبالغ التحويلات المالية الموجهة للأسر الفقيرة على الشكل التالي:

– بالنسبة للجانب المتعلق بصحة الأمهات والأطفال “رعاية”: 600 درهم للأم الحامل، 150 درهم لكل أسرة (في حدود ثلاثة أطفال أقل من 6 سنوات لكل أسرة)،

– بالنسبة للجانب المتعلق بالتمدرس “تيسير”: 200 درهم لكل أسرة.

Istiqlal clearly has a reform of the Compensation Fund in its sights, but one that would lift the subsidies, and replace them with too low contributions to these households they pretend to care about. Now, all of this is circumstantial, and I am prone to find evidence in ill-defined policies, but if that were to be true, then the 400 cash relief is not going to be enough to make up for it. True, the wealthiest households will not enjoy subsidies for their own consumption, but their welfare loss is much lower than what poorer families will have to deal with.

Some Moroccans are more equal than others.

Following Istiqlal’s proposal, their Compensation Fund reform should save the budget around 35 to 35Bn, while the cost of 400dhs cash relief to the entire bottom 10% should be at most 2.6Bn (that’s more or less what the outgoing government provided for its aborted “Solidarity Fund” by the way) in pure budget terms, Mr Baraka has solved the Compensation conundrum with one stroke of a pen: cash relief to the poor at a minimum cost, while the compensation fund is set for partial -if not total- phasing out. They do not consider tax relief to the middle class or the 10% bottom Income Tax, they do not consider that a 400dhs cash relief to be too low to even acquire some actual improvement in terms of standards of living; I mentioned in an earlier post that only a combination of 700dhs cash relief and tax breaks can allow the 50% households below median to improve their standards of living; In short, what Istiqlal proposes in terms of Compensation fund phasing out and policies to substitute its effect are going to be disastrous to the purchasing power of a whole lot of Moroccan households. They are doing it wrong, and they can get away with it.

But that brand of local conservatism is obvious in other items listed on their manifesto; they are still clinging to their Pan-Arabism creed, especially when they advocate to:

السعي إلى تبوئ التعاليم والقيم الاسلامية مكانتها الطبيعية في المجتمع، وتوجيه الوسائط التربوية والإعلامية اتجاه تبسيط المفاهيم الاسلامية ونشر قواعدها وفق ما جاء في الكتاب والسنة.

– تشجيع الاجتهاد وحتى يكون تأويل النصوص القرآنية والسنية مسايرا للعقل وروح الشريعة وأصولها متجاوبا مع قضايا العصر.[…]

– الاسراع بتفعيل أكاديمية اللغة العربية واحداث المجلس الوطني للغات والثقافة المغربية لتقوية اللغة العربية وتعميمها في التعليم والإعلام و الحياة العامة، وكل روافدها اللغوية ومنها الحسانية. […]

– ضرورة الكتابة باللغة الرسمية على تلفيف المنتوجات التجارية المعروضة في الأسواق.

As if Islam and the Arabic language alone will not only protect National Identity (what identity?) but strengthen the Moroccan community. Istiqlal, like many other political parties -including progressive ones- still believes Morocco to be too heterogeneous not to consider diversity a threat.

Still and all, Istiqlal remains the one political party with a clear agenda, faithful to its lifelong conservative creed, and before we know it, they could actually lead us into the Austerity program we are rapidly in the process of submitting to.

( / 22.11.2011)