Marokko verbiedt Frans magazine met beeltenis profeet


Marokko heeft een speciale uitgave van het Franse weekblad L’Express verboden. In het magazine wordt ingegaan op de Arabische beschaving. Daarbij is ook een afbeelding van de profeet Mohammed geplaatst, wat door veel moslims wordt gezien als godslastering.

Het weekblad heeft de afbeelding van de profeet weliswaar voorzien van een sluier, maar volgens de Marokkaanse regering is ‘elke grafische weergave van de profeet Mohammed verboden’.

De hoofdredacteur van L’Express, Christophe Barbier, zei het verbod ‘onbegrijpelijk’ te vinden, omdat het tijdschrift juist het gelaat van de profeet Mohammed heeft bedekt met een sluier. L’Express verklaarde op de website ‘krachtig protest aan te tekenen tegen deze censuur’.
Opvallend genoeg staan elders in het magazine afbeelding waarop het gezicht van de profeet onbedekt is.

( / 23.12.2011)

Palestinian ‘unity’ angers Israel

TEL AVIV: Moves by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to seal reconciliation with Hamas drew an angry response in Israel on Friday, with one government minister even calling for the annexation of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

After talks with Abbas in Cairo on Thurday that Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said were held in an “excellent atmosphere,” the two men agreed on a process that would pave the way for the Islamist group to join a reformed Palestine Liberation Organisation  (PLO) and for long delayed Palestinian elections.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokesman, Mark Regev, said the deal with the rulers of Gaza was proof that the Palestinian president was not interested in peace.

“Hamas is not a political movement that resorts to terrorism but a group whose whole vocation is terrorism,” Regev declared.

“The closer President Abbas moves to Hamas, the further he moves away from peace.”

Transport Minister Israel Katz, a hard-liner from Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party, said Israel should respond by unilaterally annexing Jewish settlements in the West Bank as it did Arab East Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan Heights.

“Israel must impose its sovereignty on all Jewish districts of Judaea and Samaria (the Israeli-given name to the West Bank),” Katz told public radio.

“Israel must also make preparations to ensure the safety of its citizens in the face of this terrorist organisation backed by Iran,” he added.”Finally, we need to take the necessary steps to ensure that the Jewish population (of the West Bank) has ready access to all corners of the state of Israel.”

“This alarming rapprochement between Abu Mazen (Abbas) and Hamas is aimed at forming a government that one can only say is aimed at bringing about a genocide,” he charged.

“Since the dark days of Nazism, no other movement has set as its aim the killing of Jews.”

Israel has expressed mounting alarm as Abbas’s secular Fatah faction has intensified efforts to reconcile with Hamas in recent weeks.

“This is a new departure on the path to joining the PLO of all Palestinian movements,” Meshaal said following the talks in the Egyptian capital.

The Cairo meeting also included Egyptian intelligence chief Murad Muwafi and Palestinian independents. Independent member of parliament Mustafa Barghouti said the participation of unaffiliated

delegates such as himself and businessman Munib Al Masri alongside representatives of Hamas and Islamic Jihad was “a historic event.”

“It is the first time there is a unified leadership for all political and intellectual streams,” he said.

Abbas and Meshaal have met three times in the past month to thrash out implementation of a surprise deal they signed in May.

The two factions had previously been at loggerheads ever since Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007, leaving the Palestinian territories with rival administrations.

In a statement, Hamas said the groups had decided to create an electora commission, including members of every Palestinian faction, tasked with managing elections within the PLO.

The commission will be led the speaker of the Palestinian National Council (PNC), Selim Zaanoun, and will meet in Jordan’s capital next month.

“A law concerning elections to the PLO was given to the participants for them to study and each movement is to give its response for January 15 so that it can be discusssed at the first meeting of the commission”, the statement added.

( / 23.12.2011)

Tunisian assembly approves new cabinet

TUNIS Dec 23 (Reuters) – Tunisia’s assembly on Friday approved a cabinet proposed by prime minister-designate Hamadi Jbeli which will have the task of trying to restore order and reinvigorate a post-revolutionary economy.

A total of 154 members of the 217-seat constituent assembly approved the new government, 38 members voted against and the rest abstained.

Tunisia electrified the Arab world when it overthrew its autocratic leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in January. Since then the country has been buffeted by social unrest, political turmoil and rows over the role of Islam.

The moderate Islamist Ennahda party won the biggest number of seats in an October election to an assembly to choose a caretaker government, rewrite the constitution and schedule fresh elections.

Ennahda was forced to form a coalition with the smaller secularist parties Ettakatol and the Congress for the Republic.

( / 23.12.2011)

Hamas will focus on popular protests in struggle with Israel, group chief says

Speaking with AP, Khaled Meshal says unarmed protests have ‘the power of a tsunami,’ although indicates Hamas will not renounce violence against Israel; Israel: Hamas seeks Israel’s destruction.

Hamas will focus on popular protests to unify Palestinians while not renouncing the use of violence against Israel, the Islamic group’s leader, Khaled Meshal said in an interview late Thursday, adding that group would be willing to accept a Palestinian state within the 1967 lines.

Meshal was in Cairo for reconciliation talks with Hamas’ rival, President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah. The sides agreed that Hamas would join the Palestine Liberation Organization, led by Abbas, and allow elections to go ahead in Gaza and the West Bank in 2012.

Popular protests have “the power of a tsunami,” Meshal told the Asscoiated Press, pointing to the recent waves of demonstrations across the Arab world.

“Now we have a common ground that we can work on … the popular resistance, which presents the power of people,” he said. The idea for the protests originated with the Palestinians themselves and the uprising they launched against Israel in 1987, he said, typified by crowds of rock-throwing Palestinian youths confronting heavily armed Israeli soldiers.

Meshal also gave rare Hamas public support to the idea of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem. Hamas ideology does not accept the presence of a Jewish state in an Islamic Middle East.

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev dismissed Meshal’s statements, noting Friday that Hamas has repeatedly said it seeks Israel’s destruction.

“Hamas is very open and public about its position … it believes the Jewish state should be obliterated, it fundamentally opposes peace and reconciliation, and it sees every Israeli civilian as a legitimate target,” he said. “One cannot build policy upon wishful thinking.”

During the AP interview in Cairo after his meeting with Abbas, Meshal said Hamas would not renounce its own armed fight against Israel. The group has killed hundreds of Israelis, most of them civilians, in suicide bombings, shootings and rocket attacks since the Islamist group was formed in 1987.

“As long as there is an occupation on our land, we have the right to defend our land by all means, including military resistance,” he said.

Israel holds Hamas responsible for Gaza militants firing hundreds of rockets at Israel in recent months, as Hamas rules Gaza. Hamas blames splinter groups for the rocket attacks and has mostly kept a cease-fire that followed a three-week war three years ago, an Israeli attempt to stop the rocket barrages.

Hamas considers all of Israel to be occupied land. Abbas and his Palestinian Authority, in contrast, say they would accept a Palestinian state alongside Israel in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, inside what are known as the “1967 borders.”

Meshal told the AP his group, too, would be prepared to accept those borders.

“We have political differences, but the common ground is the state on the ’67 borders. Why don’t we work in this common area,” he said.

Hamas has said in the past that it would accept such a state as a temporary measure as a stage toward destroying Israel, which remains the group’s stated goal. Meshal did not repeat that in the interview.

The split between Hamas and Fatah, he said, “is not a normal thing, and it should be ended and will be ended.”

“The nation is bigger than the party,” he said.

The two Palestinian factions have been at odds since Hamas won Palestinian elections in 2006, defeating Fatah. The differences spiraled into violence that claimed hundreds of lives and resulted in Hamas’ violent takeover of Gaza in 2007.

That left Abbas in charge only in the West Bank, where he governs Palestinian cities under Israel’s overall security control.

Hamas is considered by the U.S. and EU to be a terror organization. Abbas’ Palestinian Authority is funded largely by Western countries, including the U.S., and has close security ties with Israel.

Meshal’s comments came after, speaking with the Egypt Independent newspaper on Thursday, a top Hamas official indicated that the group could shift to non-violent struggle in order to garner international backing for its fight with Israel.

Ahmed Youssef, a political adviser to Hamas’ Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said that the group had to “create popular resistance that draws the world to our struggle, and that doesn’t give the Israelis the justification to hit us hard.”

“The non-violent approach is part of a strategy for our present situation to draw world sympathy to our cause,” the top aide said adding that the possible change in strategy was also a result of Hamas’ “vulnerable situation against the Israelis, who have a huge propaganda machine.”

( / 23.12.2011)

US earmarks $235 million for Israel’s defense systems

Washington to allocate unprecedented sum for development of anti-missile safeguards, including David’s Sling, Arrow systems

WASHINGTON – The Unites States has announced it will allocate $235 million for the development of safeguards against rockets and missiles that could be launched towards Hezbollahand David’s Sling system, designed to intercept medium- to long-range rockets and cruise missiles, and the Arrow 2 and 3 systems against long-range ballistic missiles.

This unprecedented sum comes at an unexpected time, while the American government is dealing with large budget cuts, including at the Pentagon.
כיפת ברזל. השמים יהפכו לבטוחים יותר (צילום: שאול גולן, ידיעות אחרונות)

Iron Dome

However, Pentagon officials were the ones who requested that Congress approve a $106 million aid budget for Israel’s Iron Dome budget.

Congress chose to nearly double that amount, approving a budget of $235 million for 2012, amounting to $25 million more than in 2011.

This budget, however, is not considered to be part of the American aid to Israel, but rather, goes towards military cooperation between both countries, with each one allocating a similar amount in developing anti-missile systems.

The US’ defense assistance to Israel is estimated at over $3 billion for 10 years, beginning in 2007, two-thirds of which end up in the hands of America’s military industries.

( / 23.12.2011)

Egyptians rally against army over beatings of protesters

CAIRO (Reuters) — Thousands of Egyptians rallied in Cairo and other cities on Friday to demand the military give up power and vent their anger after 17 people were killed in protests where troops beat and clubbed women and men even as they lay on the ground.

One image in particular from the five days of clashes that ended this week has stoked their fury: that of soldiers dragging a woman lying on the street so that her bra and torso were exposed, while clubbing and stamping on her.

“Anyone who saw her and saw her pain would come to Tahrir,”

Omar Adel, 27, said in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. “Those who did this should be tried. We can’t bear this humiliation and abuse.”

Some protesters have been demanding the army bring forward a presidential vote to as early as Jan. 25, the first anniversary of the start of the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak, or at least much earlier than the mid-2012 handover now scheduled.

But other Egyptians fret that 10 months after Mubarak’s downfall Egypt remains in disarray. They want protests to stop so order can be restored and the economy revitalised, voicing such views in a smaller protest in another part of Cairo.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s party, leading in a staggered parliamentary election that runs to January and is Egypt’s first free vote in six decades, said it would not join Friday’s rally.

It also supports the army’s schedule and says the process must be decided by balloting, not street pressure.

Demonstrators in Tahrir chanted, “Down with military rule.” Nearby, new concrete walls bar access from Tahrir to the cabinet, parliament and Interior Ministry, areas where clashes flared in November and December. The November death toll was 42.

There were several thousand demonstrators in Tahrir by mid-afternoon but that number paled next to some huge rallies seen in the square during and after Mubarak’s ouster, and fell well short of the one million organisers had called for on Friday.

But there were protests elsewhere. In the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, several thousand people marched to an army base chanting: “Women of Egypt raise your heads, you are more noble than those who stamp on you.”

Smaller rallies to decry the handling of protests and treatment of women were held in the eastern cities of Suez, Ismailiya and Port Said, witnesses said.


The army has said it regretted the violence in Tahrir and offered an apology over the woman who was beaten, saying the case was isolated and under investigation. But the military was drawing fierce criticism from many political parties and groups.

“The current predicament we have reached is a result of the army council’s reluctance to play its role, its intentional foot-dragging, breaking its obligations and failing over the economy and security, putting the whole country on the edge of a huge crisis,” two dozen parties and groups said in a statement.

It said members of the military council, which is led by Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, should be held to account out of respect for those killed and women who were mistreated.

“Tantawi undressed our daughters, he should be executed,” said Samah Ibrahim, 40, a woman protesting in Tahrir.

While the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party said it would steer clear of Friday’s rally, the ultraconservative Salafist al-Nour Party, a surprise runner-up in the election so far, said on its Facebook page that it would take part.

Many activists accuse the Brotherhood and other Islamists of betraying the grassroots protest movement in order to secure their own positions in the emerging new power structure.

The FJP said on its Facebook page it would not participate although it said it was “the right of the Egyptian people to protest and demonstrate peacefully”.

“The party emphasises the need for the handover of power to civilians according to the will of the Egyptian people through free and fair elections … in a stable environment,” said Mohamed al-Katatni, a senior member of the FJP.

His remarks indicated the group was sticking to the army’s timetable to hold a presidential vote in June. The Brotherhood has said bringing the vote forward could “create chaos”.

Military dominance

Those views were echoed a short distance from Tahrir where hundreds of Egyptians backed the army, chanting: “We support the military council staying until the presidential election.” A few hundred supporting the military also gathered in Alexandria.

The Brotherhood’s stance reflected a wish to shape the new constitution before a presidential vote, seeking more influence for parliament where it is doing well thanks to a well-organised grassroots network, and reining in powers of the president.

An earlier presidential vote would not necessarily eliminate the military’s dominance in a new civilian-governed state.

The military has survived Egypt’s political upheaval intact and has vast economic and other interests, so any new president would likely need its support to maintain order.

The United States, which provides the military with $1.3 billion a year in aid, a deal in place since Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, has rebuked the ruling generals for their rough handling of protests and women.

Washington, which like other Western powers long looked to Mubarak to keep a lid on Islamists, has been cultivating contact with newly elected Islamist politicians.

The Brotherhood’s FJP said it had won 40 of the 60 individual seats up for grabs in the second round of Egypt’s election after this week’s run-offs, in line with the previous round. Official results have yet to be announced.

The electoral system gives two thirds of the 498 elected seats to lists, and the rest to individuals.

Parliament’s primary role will be in picking a 100-strong assembly that will write the new constitution.

Unrest in Tahrir that has gone on since Nov. 18 was stirred by resentment over proposals by the army-backed cabinet for articles in the new constitution that would have permanently shielded the military from civilian oversight.

( / 23.12.2011)

Saudis begin nationwide mosque sit-in

Saudi troops stand outside al-Rajhi mosque in the capital to deter a planned day of protests, March 11, 2011.
Saudi police have surrounded several mosques across the country, including in the capital Riyadh, as activists begin a nationwide mosque sit-in.

Activists say the sit-ins were staged to demand the immediate release of thousands of political prisoners held by the regime without trial or legitimate charges.

Footage released by activists show heavy police presence in the capital and the city of Jeddah.

Saudis have named the sit-in the “Friday of Al-Ahmed” after a prominent cleric who was arrested several months ago.

They say the sit-in will continue until the Ministry of the Interior meets their demand and releases their loved ones and relatives.

Saudi activists say there are more than 30,000 political prisoners, mostly prisoners of conscience, in jails across the Kingdom.

According to the activists, most of the detained political thinkers are being held by the government without trial or legitimate charges and they were arrested for merely looking suspicious.

( / 23.12.2011)

Protester injured by live fire in Nabi Saleh

According to the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee (PSCC), an Israeli military sniper used live fire against protesters during the weekly demonstration in Nabi Saleh today, injuring one. The protester, who was shot in the thigh, was evacuated to a nearby hospital. The army reportedly used a 0.22″ ammunition, which is forbidden from being used as crowd control. 

Injured protester in Nabi Saleh

The use of the Ruger rifle, which shoots the 0.22″ munition, was banned in 2001. The prohibition on using the Ruger for crowd control came after numerous Palestinian protesters , including children, were killed by the weapon. The Ruger is used as a sniper

Today’s shooting comes two weeks after an Israeli soldier shot Palestinian protester Mustafa Tamimi in the face with a tear gas canister at close range, an action which violated military protocol on the firing of tear gas. Tamimi died the following morning from the injury.

In another violation of Israeli military regulations, soldiers fired tear gas directly at a Palestinian journalist, striking the man in the leg.

As they have every Friday for the past two years, protesters at Nabi Saleh were attempting to reach the village’s spring, which has been appropriated by the nearby Jewish settlement of Halamish.

( / 23.12.2011)

Dozens Killed In Syria: Regime Blames Terrorists, Opposition Blames Regime

“Twin suicide car bomb blasts ripped through an upscale Damascus district Friday, targeting security and intelligence buildings and killing at least 40 people” according to authorities,The Associated Press writes.

A crater left by an explosion at the site of a suicide attack today in Damascus.

A crater left by an explosion at the site of a suicide attack today in Damascus.

NPR’s Deborah Amos says it’s the “first such attack since the beginning of a 10-month revolt” against President Bashar Assad’s regime.

Now there’s the question of who is responsible.

President Bashar Assad’s regime was quick to declare it was the work of terrorists — a claim that supports its contention that it’s not at fault for the deaths of several thousand people this year because it is battling armed gangs and terrorists, even though the U.N. has said the regime is to blame for as many as 5,000 deaths.

Those who have been protesting against Assad’s authoritarian regime are saying, according to the BBC, that “the government … staged the attacks to influence an Arab League observer team” that arrived in Syria on Thursday to monitor the situation.

NPR’s Amos, who is following the news in Syria from Beirut, says government officials “escorted the [Arab League] monitors through the smoking wreckage even before the dead were removed.”

( /23.12.2011)

The Muslim Brotherhood’s New Power in Egypt’s Parliament

The question of what Islamists want has acquired new urgency, thanks to Egypt’s ongoing elections — which appear poised to hand the Muslim Brotherhood’s political party, Freedom and Justice (FJP), more than 40 percent of the seats in parliament. But despite the perception of the Brotherhood as rigid and hard-line, the fact is that even Islamists themselves are not entirely sure what they want.

Western observers have placed undue focus on the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology. Yet for most Egyptian political parties, FJP included, beliefs rarely accurately predict behavior. As I argued in the May/June 2011 issue of Foreign Affairs (“The Rise of the Islamists”), the Brotherhood — far from being ideologically inflexible — is a thoroughly political actor, routinely compromising on ideals to pursue organizational interests. That makes it far more fluid and prepared to change than many now assume.

In fact, the Brotherhood’s Islamism is difficult to detect from its declared policies, most of which actually have little to do with Islamic law. The days of the 1980s, when the group made sharia its call to arms, are long gone. Islamism is best understood as the motivator of the Brotherhood’s actions rather than their product. Because the Brotherhood is a religious movement with a comprehensive educational curriculum and a complex, multitiered membership structure, every Brother, by definition, is religiously conservative. Brotherhood members feel little need to prove their religious bona fides.

Of course, there is a more intransigent faction gaining ground in Cairo. Evident from the voting, the Brotherhood no longer holds a monopoly on the votes of conservative Egyptians – hard-line Salafis, who advocate a literalist reading of Islamic law, will make up the second-largest bloc in parliament, with around 20 percent of seats. Having long eschewed politics for both theological and practical reasons, they are political novices. Therein lies their popular appeal; for the moment, they seem oblivious to the compromises inherent in political life.

When you believe history is on your side, all you need to do is wait for the right moment. And now that moment has presumably come for the Brotherhood. The question is what to do with it.

Whereas Salafis seem overeager, however, the Brotherhood is playing the long game. Its members tend to give off an unhurried air, something that, during the years of repression under former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, was often mistaken for acquiescence or resignation. When you believe history is on your side, all you need to do is wait for the right moment. And now that moment has presumably come for the Brotherhood. The question is what to do with it.

In years past, the Brotherhood distanced itself from the Turkish Islamists under Prime Minister Tayyip Recep Erdogan, whom they saw as unfaithful to the Islamist program, morphing into little more than European-style conservative democrats. But having emerged from Mubarak’s repression with a real chance of ruling, the Brotherhood is increasingly looking toward the Turkish model. What the Brotherhood has absorbed from Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party is that strong economic growth makes everything else easier. If you raise people’s living standards, they are more likely to listen to you on noneconomic matters. Perhaps more important, the Brotherhood believes Egyptians will associate any such economic success with the “Islamic project” — a sort of Arab Calvinist dream.

For that to happen, the Brotherhood must first be in a position to preside over Egypt’s economic affairs. So it is no accident that the group’s top priority is revising the country’s decaying political structures. Under existing legal and constitutional frameworks, Egypt remains a top-heavy presidential system with a weak legislative branch. As the largest represented bloc, the Brotherhood hopes to push for a pure parliamentary system with a largely ceremonial president. Some of this, to be sure, is blatant self-interest. Parliamentary democracy — a system that rewards party discipline, back-door negotiating, and flexible coalition-building — is almost tailor-made for such groups as the Brotherhood, which seems to take pleasure in bare-knuckled political maneuvering. A stronger parliament would give the Brotherhood a powerful platform for challenging the ruling military council, which appears increasingly unwilling to let go of power. Some of it, however, goes beyond short-term objectives. Due to decades of repression under three successive presidents, the Brotherhood is wary that a strongman might emerge once again.

Indeed, as a highly institutionalized, hierarchical organization, the Brotherhood has always prioritized structures over individuals. It is telling that, in recent decades, the Brotherhood has failed to produce any charismatic leaders on the national level. So when it comes to Egyptian politics, the Brothers are also institutionalists.

But the presence of the Salafis threatens to complicate matters. If the Brotherhood feels that it must move to the center — to reassure liberal skeptics and the international community — then it will. If it feels it needs to move to the right — to compete with Salafis — then it will do that instead. But it could also do both, conceding some things to liberals while reasserting religious credentials to rally its conservative base. Already, this is the approach — whether by design or default — for which the Brotherhood appears to be opting. In the country’s conservative rural villages, where it faces off against Salafis, the group reminds voters of its history of persecution and reverts to fiery religious rhetoric. In Cairo, in the media, and in meetings with visiting delegations of policymakers and investors, the Brotherhood presents its most sensible face. Some of the Brotherhood’s critics call this a “dual discourse.” Others, however, call it politics.

( / 23.12.2011)