News from Syria 01.01.2012 III

Night demo’s in: Ibtea’ / Kelly / Damascus – Suburb Maart Yabroad / Sarmada / Daraa / Anadan /

Daraa: Harra: Intense gunfire from all the directions of the city and reports on clashes between the regime’s forces and defected soldiers

An amazing scene from Homs. Protesters approaching a military checkpoint and raising the flag this Saturday

The only proper use of a portrait of Assad is for wiping your feet. The picture was found in a shabiha building

Baba Amro children demonstrating and celebrating the new year at the same time. May 2012 be a good year for them.

Another image of the liberated checkpoint. Heavy reinforcement by sandbags. Baba Amro is now completely free

The massive devastation caused by Assad gangs in Baba Amro. Shops were looted and burnt, windows were smashed.

The Free Syrian Army liberated the checkpoint on Friday. It was the most deadly checkpoint in Homs. Great job

The Independence flag was raised on top of the most dangerous checkpoint in all of Homs in Baba Amr

Daraa: night demo in Naema

The number of documented deaths today is 13 including a child; 4 martyrs in each of Homs and Idlib, 3 martyrs in Hama and 2 in Daraya (Damascus suburbs)

Idlib: Saraqeb: Martyrdom of Sabir Ahmad Nassar by security forces’ gunfire

Homs: Rastan: Intense gunfire shootings are being heard at the checkpoints due to the defection of approximately 50 fully-equipped soldiers and a total blackout in most areas of the city




The Ballot or the Bullet speech by Malcolm X

Mr. Moderator, Brother Lomax, brothers and sisters, friends and enemies: I just can’t believe everyone in here is a friend, and I don’t want to leave anybody out. The question tonight, as I understand it, is “The Negro Revolt, and Where Do We Go From Here?” or What Next?” In my little humble way of understanding it, it points toward either the ballot or the bullet.

Before we try and explain what is meant by the ballot or the bullet, I would like to clarify something concerning myself. I’m still a Muslim; my religion is still Islam. That’s my personal belief. Just as Adam Clayton Powell is a Christian minister who heads the Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York, but at the same time takes part in the political struggles to try and bring about rights to the black people in this country; and Dr. Martin Luther King is a Christian minister down in Atlanta, Georgia, who heads another organization fighting for the civil rights of black people in this country; and Reverend Galamison, I guess you’ve heard of him, is another Christian minister in New York who has been deeply involved in the school boycotts to eliminate segregated education; well, I myself am a minister, not a Christian minister, but a Muslim minister; and I believe in action on all fronts by whatever means necessary.

Although I’m still a Muslim, I’m not here tonight to discuss my religion. I’m not here to try and change your religion. I’m not here to argue or discuss anything that we differ about, because it’s time for us to submerge our differences and realize that it is best for us to first see that we have the same problem, a common problem, a problem that will make you catch hell whether you’re a Baptist, or a Methodist, or a Muslim, or a nationalist. Whether you’re educated or illiterate, whether you live on the boulevard or in the alley, you’re going to catch hell just like I am. We’re all in the same boat and we all are going to catch the same hell from the same man. He just happens to be a white man. All of us have suffered here, in this country, political oppression at the hands of the white man, economic exploitation at the hands of the white man, and social degradation at the hands of the white man.

Now in speaking like this, it doesn’t mean that we’re anti-white, but it does mean we’re anti-exploitation, we’re anti-degradation, we’re anti-oppression. And if the white man doesn’t want us to be anti-him, let him stop oppressing and exploiting and degrading us. Whether we are Christians or Muslims or nationalists or agnostics or atheists, we must first learn to forget our differences. If we have differences, let us differ in the closet; when we come out in front, let us not have anything to argue about until we get finished arguing with the man. If the late President Kennedy could get together with Khrushchev and exchange some wheat, we certainly have more in common with each other than Kennedy and Khrushchev had with each other.

If we don’t do something real soon, I think you’ll have to agree that we’re going to be forced either to use the ballot or the bullet. It’s one or the other in 1964. It isn’t that time is running out – time has run out!

1964 threatens to be the most explosive year America has ever witnessed. The most explosive year. Why? It’s also a political year. It’s the year when all of the white politicians will be back in the so-called Negro community jiving you and me for some votes. The year when all of the white political crooks will be right back in your and my community with their false promises, building up our hopes for a letdown, with their trickery and their treachery, with their false promises which they don’t intend to keep. As they nourish these dissatisfactions, it can only lead to one thing, an explosion; and now we have the type of black man on the scene in America today – I’m sorry, Brother Lomax – who just doesn’t intend to turn the other cheek any longer.

Don’t let anybody tell you anything about the odds are against you. If they draft you, they send you to Korea and make you face 800 million Chinese. If you can be brave over there, you can be brave right here. These odds aren’t as great as those odds. And if you fight here, you will at least know what you’re fighting for.

I’m not a politician, not even a student of politics; in fact, I’m not a student of much of anything. I’m not a Democrat. I’m not a Republican, and I don’t even consider myself an American. If you and I were Americans, there’d be no problem. Those Honkies that just got off the boat, they’re already Americans; Polacks are already Americans; the Italian refugees are already Americans. Everything that came out of Europe, every blue-eyed thing, is already an American. And as long as you and I have been over here, we aren’t Americans yet.

Well, I am one who doesn’t believe in deluding myself. I’m not going to sit at your table and watch you eat, with nothing on my plate, and call myself a diner. Sitting at the table doesn’t make you a diner, unless you eat some of what’s on that plate. Being here in America doesn’t make you an American. Being born here in America doesn’t make you an American. Why, if birth made you American, you wouldn’t need any legislation; you wouldn’t need any amendments to the Constitution; you wouldn’t be faced with civil-rights filibustering in Washington, D.C., right now. They don’t have to pass civil-rights legislation to make a Polack an American.

No, I’m not an American. I’m one of the 22 million black people who are the victims of Americanism. One of the 22 million black people who are the victims of democracy, nothing but disguised hypocrisy. So, I’m not standing here speaking to you as an American, or a patriot, or a flag-saluter, or a flag-waver – no, not I. I’m speaking as a victim of this American system. And I see America through the eyes of the victim. I don’t see any American dream; I see an American nightmare.

These 22 million victims are waking up. Their eyes are coming open. They’re beginning to see what they used to only look at. They’re becoming politically mature. They are realizing that there are new political trends from coast to coast. As they see these new political trends, it’s possible for them to see that every time there’s an election the races are so close that they have to have a recount. They had to recount in Massachusetts to see who was going to be governor, it was so close. It was the same way in Rhode Island, in Minnesota, and in many other parts of the country. And the same with Kennedy and Nixon when they ran for president. It was so close they had to count all over again. Well, what does this mean? It means that when white people are evenly divided, and black people have a bloc of votes of their own, it is left up to them to determine who’s going to sit in the White House and who’s going to be in the dog house.

lt. was the black man’s vote that put the present administration in Washington, D.C. Your vote, your dumb vote, your ignorant vote, your wasted vote put in an administration in Washington, D.C., that has seen fit to pass every kind of legislation imaginable, saving you until last, then filibustering on top of that. And your and my leaders have the audacity to run around clapping their hands and talk about how much progress we’re making. And what a good president we have. If he wasn’t good in Texas, he sure can’t be good in Washington, D.C. Because Texas is a lynch state. It is in the same breath as Mississippi, no different; only they lynch you in Texas with a Texas accent and lynch you in Mississippi with a Mississippi accent. And these Negro leaders have the audacity to go and have some coffee in the White House with a Texan, a Southern cracker – that’s all he is – and then come out and tell you and me that he’s going to be better for us because, since he’s from the South, he knows how to deal with the Southerners. What kind of logic is that? Let Eastland be president, he’s from the South too. He should be better able to deal with them than Johnson.

In this present administration they have in the House of Representatives 257 Democrats to only 177 Republicans. They control two-thirds of the House vote. Why can’t they pass something that will help you and me? In the Senate, there are 67 senators who are of the Democratic Party. Only 33 of them are Republicans. Why, the Democrats have got the government sewed up, and you’re the one who sewed it up for them. And what have they given you for it? Four years in office, and just now getting around to some civil-rights legislation. Just now, after everything else is gone, out of the way, they’re going to sit down now and play with you all summer long – the same old giant con game that they call filibuster. All those are in cahoots together. Don’t you ever think they’re not in cahoots together, for the man that is heading the civil-rights filibuster is a man from Georgia named Richard Russell. When Johnson became president, the first man he asked for when he got back to Washington, D.C., was “Dicky” – that’s how tight they are. That’s his boy, that’s his pal, that’s his buddy. But they’re playing that old con game. One of them makes believe he’s for you, and he’s got it fixed where the other one is so tight against you, he never has to keep his promise.

So it’s time in 1964 to wake up. And when you see them coming up with that kind of conspiracy, let them know your eyes are open. And let them know you – something else that’s wide open too. It’s got to be the ballot or the bullet. The ballot or the bullet. If you’re afraid to use an expression like that, you should get on out of the country; you should get back in the cotton patch; you should get back in the alley. They get all the Negro vote, and after they get it, the Negro gets nothing in return. All they did when they got to Washington was give a few big Negroes big jobs. Those big Negroes didn’t need big jobs, they already had jobs. That’s camouflage, that’s trickery, that’s treachery, window-dressing. I’m not trying to knock out the Democrats for the Republicans. We’ll get to them in a minute. But it is true; you put the Democrats first and the Democrats put you last.

Look at it the way it is. What alibis do they use, since they control Congress and the Senate? What alibi do they use when you and I ask, “Well, when are you going to keep your promise?” They blame the Dixiecrats. What is a Dixiecrat? A Democrat. A Dixiecrat is nothing but a Democrat in disguise. The titular head of the Democrats is also the head of the Dixiecrats, because the Dixiecrats are a part of the Democratic Party. The Democrats have never kicked the Dixiecrats out of the party. The Dixiecrats bolted themselves once, but the Democrats didn’t put them out. Imagine, these low-down Southern segregationists put the Northern Democrats down. But the Northern Democrats have never put the Dixiecrats down. No, look at that thing the way it is. They have got a con game going on, a political con game, and you and I are in the middle. It’s time for you and me to wake up and start looking at it like it is, and trying to understand it like it is; and then we can deal with it like it is.

The Dixiecrats in Washington, D.C., control the key committees that run the government. The only reason the Dixiecrats control these committees is because they have seniority. The only reason they have seniority is because they come from states where Negroes can’t vote. This is not even a government that’s based on democracy. lt. is not a government that is made up of representatives of the people. Half of the people in the South can’t even vote. Eastland is not even supposed to be in Washington. Half of the senators and congressmen who occupy these key positions in Washington, D.C., are there illegally, are there unconstitutionally.

I was in Washington, D.C., a week ago Thursday, when they were debating whether or not they should let the bill come onto the floor. And in the back of the room where the Senate meets, there’s a huge map of the United States, and on that map it shows the location of Negroes throughout the country. And it shows that the Southern section of the country, the states that are most heavily concentrated with Negroes, are the ones that have senators and congressmen standing up filibustering and doing all other kinds of trickery to keep the Negro from being able to vote. This is pitiful. But it’s not pitiful for us any longer; it’s actually pitiful for the white man, because soon now, as the Negro awakens a little more and sees the vice that he’s in, sees the bag that he’s in, sees the real game that he’s in, then the Negro’s going to develop a new tactic.

These senators and congressmen actually violate the constitutional amendments that guarantee the people of that particular state or county the right to vote. And the Constitution itself has within it the machinery to expel any representative from a state where the voting rights of the people are violated. You don’t even need new legislation. Any person in Congress right now, who is there from a state or a district where the voting rights of the people are violated, that particular person should be expelled from Congress. And when you expel him, you’ve removed one of the obstacles in the path of any real meaningful legislation in this country. In fact, when you expel them, you don’t need new legislation, because they will be replaced by black representatives from counties and districts where the black man is in the majority, not in the minority.

If the black man in these Southern states had his full voting rights, the key Dixiecrats in Washington, D. C., which means the key Democrats in Washington, D.C., would lose their seats. The Democratic Party itself would lose its power. It would cease to be powerful as a party. When you see the amount of power that would be lost by the Democratic Party if it were to lose the Dixiecrat wing, or branch, or element, you can see where it’s against the interests of the Democrats to give voting rights to Negroes in states where the Democrats have been in complete power and authority ever since the Civil War. You just can’t belong to that Party without analysing it.

I say again, I’m not anti-Democrat, I’m not anti-Republican, I’m not anti-anything. I’m just questioning their sincerity, and some of the strategy that they’ve been using on our people by promising them promises that they don’t intend to keep. When you keep the Democrats in power, you’re keeping the Dixiecrats in power. I doubt that my good Brother Lomax will deny that. A vote for a Democrat is a vote for a Dixiecrat. That’s why, in 1964, it’s time now for you and me to become more politically mature and realize what the ballot is for; what we’re supposed to get when we cast a ballot; and that if we don’t cast a ballot, it’s going to end up in a situation where we’re going to have to cast a bullet. It’s either a ballot or a bullet.

(April 3rd 1964 / / 01.01.2012)

Palestine: Those Who Inspired Us in 2011

Funeral of Mustafa Tamimi, Nabi Salih, West Bank.
By Ramzy Baroud

Mustafa Tamimi was a 28-year-old resident of the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh. His meticulously trimmed beard served as the centerpiece of his handsome face.

In December 2011, when an Israeli soldier shot him from a short distance with a tear gas canister, half of Mustafa’s face went missing. More soldiers laughed as his horrified family tried to accompany him to a nearby hospital, according to activists present at the scene. Only the mother was finally able to obtain a special permit from the Israeli military, which allowed her to be with her son.

Mustafa’s crime? He, along with Palestinian, Israeli and international peace activists, protested the besiegement of Nabi Saleh by the illegal Jewish settlement of Halamish. Halamish has existed since 1977 and drastically grown in size and population ever since, taking over privately-owned Palestinian land. As of late, Nabi Saleh has been struggling for mere survival as its fresh water spring has also been seized by settlers under the watchful eye of the Israeli army.

Mustafa died so that the village of Nabi Saleh could live. The struggle will continue for years.

A young man may now be gone, but he also left behind a legacy which has become the cornerstone of the augmenting international solidarity with Palestinians around the globe.

The struggle for justice in Palestine is ultimately between a Palestinian – protesting, with a rock or rifle in hand – and an Israeli, often equipped with the latest killing technology the arms industry has to offer. The former fights for basic rights – land, water, freedom, equality and such – while the latter is determined to intimidate, silence, imprison, and, when compelled, commit murder or even large scale massacres to prolong Israeli occupation and military dominance over Palestinians.

Things are not always so clear-cut, of course. Some Palestinians have learned with time the benefits of co-existing with the occupation. Some Israelis have jointly struggled with Palestinians against the inhumanity of the occupation, the brutality of the military and the illegality of the land seizure.

One such Israeli is Tamar Fleishman, of Machsomwatch. She is simply indefatigable. Her mission is to document the daily violations committed by the Israeli army at a series of checkpoints extending between Ramallah (in the West Bank) and Jerusalem. Showing a complete disregard for international law, and even the official foreign policy of the United States, Israel has insisted that the entirety of Jerusalem is Israel’s eternal capital. But illegally occupied East Jerusalem – or al-Quds – has been the beating heart of Palestinian national, religious and even intellectual identity for many generations. To split the heart from the body, Israel has been choking occupied East Jerusalem since 1967, encircling it with illegal Jewish settlements, Jewish-only bypass roads, and a dizzying checkpoint structure intended to create a permanent divorce between the West Bank and a city that Palestinians see as their future capital.

Armed with a camera and her own willpower, Tamar is relentless. She knows by name all the tired-looking children who sell tea in plastic cups, newspapers and gum at all the checkpoints. She narrates their stories of humiliation, pain and struggle. She tells of the people crammed between glass walls, barbed wire and blocks of cement. As long as these women and men keep the checkpoints populated, Jerusalem will maintain its historic attachment with the rest of Palestine.

And Tamar, the habitual visitor of these very spots, will resume her daily toil to convey the stories that capture the essence of this enduring conflict.

But without the numerous media outlets that challenge the inherent pro-Israeli bias, censorship and apathy of mainstream media, Mustafa’s story and Tamar’s photos would have remained confined to Nabi Saleh, or some checkpoint manned by cruel soldiers.

In fact, the story of Palestine is getting more than a good share of coverage in old and new alternative media outlets. More, 2011 has concluded on a positive note as far as media coverage of this conflict is concerned. In an article entitled, ‘The media consensus on Israel is collapsing’, Jordan Michael Smith reveals that “slowly but unmistakably, space is opening up among the commentariat for new, critical ideas about Israel and its relationship to the United States” (, December 21). While Smith rightly credits the academics Tony Judt, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer for “expanding the permissible,” the pressure on mainstream media has been obstinately championed by numerous individuals from all walks of life. It is they, who, for many years, refused to subscribe to the convenient narrative that venerates and vindicates Israel – not only at the expense of Palestinians, but also at the expense of the United States’ foreign policy.

The popular solidarity movement continues to score new victories with each passing day. Israel’s attempt at countering its gains seems to achieve little more than inviting controversy, which actually recruits more support for Palestinian rights.

One platform that has become very successful in recent years, and particularity so in 2011, was the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

“The BDS movement is growing relentless,” wrote Eric Walberg, author and editor at al-Ahram Weekly. His ‘BDS Updates’ regularly highlight the overwhelming success of the worldwide initiative that is partly modeled on the triumphant anti-Apartheid movement of South Africa. His year-ender updates for 2011 included the cancelation of an Israel tour by the famous musician Natacha Atlas (though sadly, not all artists were so principled). Walberg also reported that “in a wonderfully shocking divestment move, Israeli powers-that-be are furious at BNP Paribas for shutting down its operations in Israel. (They) believe the bank’s board of directors caved to pressure groups, in the first case in years of a foreign bank leaving Israel…” Such reports are now stable items crowding social media channels on a regular basis.

True, 2011 had its share of tragedy. Human lives were lost in Palestine. But hope was also sustained by the sacrifices of numerous ‘ordinary’ people who collectively managed to achieve many hard-earned feats. It is these numerous small victories that will make it difficult for Israel to continue with its futile campaign to occupy and dominate a people so determinately entrenched in their land – from the small village of Nabi Saleh to the proud Palestinian city of al-Quds.

( / 01.01.2012)

News of Syria 01.01.2012 II

Idlib: Saraqeb sit it in the morning today

Aleppo: Arrival of reinforcements of security forces, the maintenance of order, ambulance, and fire to the headquarter of Criminal security branch, after failed attempts by Anas Al-Shamy a member of parliament, who promised to release the girls an hour after the end of the sit-in

Dier Ezzor: night demo in Qoria

Idlib: Jabal Zawiya: night demo in Ibleen

Hama: Night demo in Qossor

Aleppo: in an attempt to negotiate an end to the sit-in, Member of Parliament Anas Al-Shamy has arrived to initiate a dialogue with the protesters holding the sit-in in front of the Criminal Security branch in Al-Ashrafia

Idlib: a demonstration started in Thawra Street in the city. The protesters called for the overthrow of the regime

Aleppo: night demo in Anadan

Latakia: Security forces went on arbitrary arrests in Alraml Aljanoubi distirict

Damascus: Demo in Barze

Damascus Suburb: night demo in Saqba

Latakia: A huge explosion was heard in Alraml Aljanoubi district and heavy security was deplyed there

Daraa : Al-Hara : a demonstration started in the easter neighbourhood chanting for freedom and bringing the regime to justice, also demanding the Arab League observers to be objective and serious in performing their tasks

Daraa: Security forces are shooting heavily in Sabeel neighborhood, running over demonstrators, arresting the wounded, and launching campaign of raids and destruction of houses, all of this is 300 meter away from the White Rose Hotel, Which is where the observers committee members live

Damascus Suburb: night demo in Kafar Batna

Damascus : Asali : a demonstration started from the Huthaifa mosque after the night prayers in solidarity with Daraya, chanting for the downfall of the regime

Daraa: Harra: Security forces shooting at protesters

Idlib: Jabal AlZawiyah: extensive gunfire shooting at the city especially from the checkpoint at Prophet Ayoob’s incline area also shootings at Ebleen town

In Gaza and the West Bank, seeds of sustainable development

What is sustainable development really? The textbook definition is simply the fulfilment of human needs so these needs can be met in the present and future without undue damage to the natural environment. In reality, sustainability means giving people the tools to help to translate a dream into a reality.

And sometimes, it takes more than dreams. Sometimes, it takes a little help too.

That’s where non-government organisations play a key role. Often, it doesn’t take a lot of money to provide the basic ingredients for sustainable services.

Recently in Gaza, two youngsters, aged 5 and 3, drowned in an open sewage pool. It could have been prevented. Digging and repairing sewage treatment networks can eliminate unhealthy floods in the streets and allow children to walk to school or play outside unharmed.

Connecting families in remote Palestinian villages to clean drinking water can enable children to lead healthy, productive lives.

Sustainable development can be as simple as providing a dozen chickens, a bag of feed and a small cage to give a family a steady supply of nutritious eggs for their meals and eventually to sell for extra income. In a place like Gaza, where nearly half the labour force is out of work, that can mean a lot. And, it is something that can be sustained and expanded.

My organisation, the NGO American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA), has supplied 1,200 chickens to a West Bank orphanage of 70 children for eggs to feed the children and provide income too.

In the overcrowded refugee camp of Ein El Helweh, in southern Lebanon, ANERA teamed up with the agriculture department at the American University of Beirut to spearhead a “greening” project that has provided a group of women with seeds, containers and training to cultivate kitchen vegetable gardens in their homes.

This programme has helped turn empty rooftops, balconies and even stairwells into vegetable gardens that can nourish families and provide a source of income. In addition to providing an important coping mechanism for families with limited income, this project also provides a bit of green to an otherwise grey concrete jungle of narrow alleyways.

The project not only provides a sustainable source of food security but also helps to build self-reliance among the camp’s women, who more often than not are responsible for their family’s health and well-being.

Development programmes also benefit from a capacity-building aspect so that the men, women and youth who are helped by the project can pass on the skills and knowledge to sustain the project. Sustainable development provides the tools for economic empowerment and self-dignity.

Until now, about 4,000 residents of a remote Palestinian Bedouin community in the West Bank had relied on health services at a small three-room clinic that hadn’t been upgraded in 30 years. With less than $200,000 (Dh735,000), ANERA expanded the clinic, pharmacy and lab and upgraded the water and sanitation facilities.

In the Bedouin village of Anab Al Kabir, seven new classrooms and a computer lab added to the primary school now opens a door for 160 students to pursue a high school education and a more promising future. These are relatively small projects in the world of global development, but they prove that it really doesn’t take much to help to ensure better and longer-lasting medical services for people in need.

A vital key to such projects is getting local groups and communities involved and invested in the programmes and enabling them to carry on the projects on their own. But that means listening to the community and the potential beneficiaries to find out what they really need and responding to those needs appropriately. That’s sustainability at its best.

At a time when governments are debating cuts in foreign aid, international humanitarian and development organisations are facing ever-increasing challenges. Sustainable projects aren’t just a means of empowering communities. They have and always will be a necessary approach to ensuring that development organisations are not reduced to just relief and charity. Otherwise, we are in a cycle of dependency, and no one wants that.

( / 01.01.2012)

Funeral of Bahrain youth turns into street protest

Bahrainis hold up a shoe as thousands of anti-government protesters gather at Bahrain’s Pearl roundabout in the capital Manama.

DUBAI (Reuters) — Bahraini police fired tear gas and sound grenades after hundreds of Shiite youths demonstrated on Sunday against the death of a 15-year-old protester a day earlier in the Sunni-ruled Gulf island kingdom, residents and activists said.

Confrontations between security forces and protesters take place almost daily in areas populated by members of the Shiite Muslim majority, which led anti-government protests Bahrain crushed last year.

“After the funeral, many of the mourners started protesting and the police began using tear gas and sound bombs. It is still going on hours later,” a resident told Reuters from the mostly Shiite Muslim village of Sitra, south of the capital Manama.

At least one demonstrator was injured after being hit in the head by a tear gas canister, activists said in Twitter messages.

The opposition said earlier that Sayed Hashim Saeed, who died on Saturday, had been hit by a tear gas canister at close range.

But officials said the youth’s body had extensive burns which could not have been caused by a tear gas canister.

“Preliminary investigations show that the deceased was among those who took part in attacks on security forces by throwing petrol bombs,” the state news agency BNA quoted a police official as saying.

A coroner’s report said the youth had a neck wound which may have been fatal and that the cause of death would be investigated.

Shiite youths chanting slogans against Bahrain’s royal family clashed with riot police across the Gulf state on Friday and Saturday. Security forces fired tear gas at them in an attempt to keep them from blocking roads.

Inspired by Arab Spring uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, thousands of mainly Shiite Bahrainis took to the streets in February and March demanding curbs on the power of the Sunni Muslim Al-Khalifa family and an end to perceived discrimination.

The broader pro-democracy movement was suppressed with military backing from Bahrain’s Sunni-led Gulf neighbors Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

At least 35 people including five members of the security forces were killed in the unrest, according to an inquiry Bahrain commissioned into the protests and their aftermath. The inquiry said it found evidence of systematic abuse and torture.

Bahrain has promised to implement the inquiry’s recommendations, which the US Congress has linked to its approval of a $53 million arms sale to Manama. Opposition groups doubt the kingdom’s commitment to reform.

On Saturday, the independent daily Al Wasat said on its website that the head of the body implementing the recommendations, Ali al-Salih, had handed in his resignation. There was no official confirmation of the report.

Bahrain is important to Western interests in the Middle East because it hosts the US Fifth Fleet and faces Iran on the other side of the Gulf. Shiite Iran has denied Bahraini government accusations that it has incited the protests.

( / 01.01.2012)

News from Syria 01.01.12

#Syria‘s independence flag was present in #Egyt‘s New Year’s ever celebrations in #Tahrir square #Cairo

Daraa: Yadoudeh: There is an electricity blackout in the whole region, including the surrounding villages

Daraa: Harra: A massive demonstration is taking place in the north and west of the city, and is headed towards the center. Protesters are chanting for freedom and for the regime’s ouster this year

Hama: Security forces arrest anyone who tries to reach the Al-Jab Roundabout area, where four Arab League observers are stationing. Whoever does succeed in reaching the observers is arrested immediately after their meeting with the observers

(01-01-12) Bab Sba’a | #Homs | This is a Revolution of Freedom and Honor, We Will Continu

(12-30-11) #Hama | Public Parks Have Become Graveyards for Martyrs

Teir Ma’ala | #Homs | (GRAPHIC) Unknown Man Murdered and Thrown in Al-Assi Rive

Damascus Suburbs: Mouadamiyeh: An Arab League observer validates that there are no armed protesters in the area

Damascus Suburbs: Daraya: Heavy gunfire near the police station, the Shariyeh High School, and the Khowlani Mosque. Protesters respond by throwing rocks amid widespread security and shabhia near the police station

Damascus Suburbs: Daraya: A demonstration started on Al-Thawra Street after news was leaked that the Arab League observers had arrived in Daraya, but was dispersed by security forces’ gunfire and sound bombs

Hama: Khattab: Siraj Al-Din Al-Qasem, 7, was martyred due to security forces’ bullets when they opened fire on his parents’ car

Analysis: Three years after the war on Gaza

Smoke rises over Gaza City after an airstrike during the 2008-9 war on Gaza.

Three years ago the Israeli army initiated a major military offensive against the people of the Gaza Strip with the aim of stopping the shelling from Gaza and the release of one of their soldiers that was held in the strip.

Over 1,400 Palestinians, many of them women and children, were killed, thousands were injured, and public, private and internationally owned properties were damaged as a result of the attack that came from land, sea and air.

Both publicly stated goals failed in this criminal war against a defenseless population and lightly armed militants.

Shelling from Gaza has continued intermittently since the war. It slowed down considerably as a result of a unilateral decision by Hamas, and could end immediately if Israel were to deal with the Islamic movement. As to the captured Israeli soldier, the Israelis were forced to do what Hamas offered them from day one, to trade him for imprisoned Palestinians.

Israel and to a lesser extent, Hamas, were accused by renowned UN appointed international jurists of having committed war crimes.

Following extreme pressure on him and his family the head of the UN commission South African judge Richard Goldstone, later wrote an opinion article changing some of the conclusions of the committee he headed. He never made any official change in the report that was submitted as an official document to the United Nations.

The Israeli-imposed siege on Gaza has continued and has been publicly justified by major world countries even though this siege was and remains totally illegal. No international body has approved the restriction of movement of people and goods into or out of the Gaza strip.

An international effort to break the siege has resulted in a de facto loosening of this siege. Unfortunately this effort has cost nine Turkish peace activists. Israel’s relations with an important NATO member has since collapsed due to Israel’s refusal to apologize for killing Turks in international waters.

While the slight easing of the siege (especially in regards to badly needed building materials) has resulted in the beginnings of a rebuilding campaign, much more is needed. The hundreds of millions of dollars pledged at the Sharm al Sheikh conference for the rebuilding of Gaza have slowly trickled into the populated strip but have gone mostly to or through international organizations such as the United Nations Refugee Works Agency.

Whether it has been the result of the Arab Spring (especially in as far as Hamas’s Damascus headquarters) or for other reasons, Hamas has slowly experienced discernible change since the breakout of the war. Ruling and governing can do a lot to soften any movement’s ideologies. The fear of losing in future elections can do amazing things for softening the sharp edges of any movement.

In this respect, the Palestinian reconciliation efforts have produced some unprecedented changes in the political discourse as well as in the daily actions of the Hamas movement and government. Hamas chief Khalid Mashaal is now proclaiming his movements’ change of resistance strategy.

The militant movement is now committed to prioritizing nonviolent resistance in all its activities. This position is translated on the ground in Gaza by the movement refraining from launching missiles towards Israel and in arresting or otherwise preventing any individual or group from doing so. This is explained as necessary for the higher interest of Palestinians in Gaza.

Politically the Hamas movement is slowly removing all the issues that caused it international isolation.

By agreeing to join the PLO Hamas is indirectly recognizing Israel, which the Palestinian Liberation Organisation officially did on the eve of the 1993 Oslo Accords.

Internationally, the world community will not be able to justify continued isolation of Hamas even if Israel insists on such an isolation. After all, US and other western leaders have publicly stated their willingness to work with the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists who have won elections or power in Tunis, Libya and Egypt.

Gaza at the end of 2011 is not the same as it was at the end of 2008, both negatively and positively.

The Arab Spring requires that the current siege and all its effects are once and for all removed so that Palestinians in Gaza can live normally with the ability to move in and out of the strip. Also, Palestinian goods and people from the West Bank should equally have the right to move unfettered to the strip without the illegal and immoral siege restricting them.

Daoud Kuttab is a Palestinian journalist and former professor of journalism at Princeton University.

( /01.01.2012)

Israeli Army Arrests 2 Minors near Qalqilia

QALQILIA, January 1, 2012 (WAFA) – Israeli army units Sunday arrested two Palestinian minors in Azzoun, a town east of Qalqilia, according to local sources.

They said that Mahmoud Radwan, 14, and Abdullah Hawari, 16, were arrested after more than 20 Israeli military vehicles raided the town at dawn and searched several houses.

( / 01.01.2012)