Israeli forces invade al-Aqsa Mosque

Israeli forces stormed the al-Aqsa Mosque complex in Jerusalem on Sunday morning, detaining three Palestinians and leaving several injured.

Israeli police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said forces entered the site after stones were thrown at a group of Christian tourists.

“Stones were thrown at tourists and police officers, police have made three arrests,” Rosenfeld told AFP. “The situation is calm at present,” he said.

Several Palestinians and one Israeli police officer were injured in the attack.

Official Palestinian Authority news agency Wafa said police sealed the entrances to the Haram al-Sharif, and dozens of worshipers remained inside the mosque to defend it against a feared attack.

Rosenfeld said the site was not closed to worshipers, adding that forces had “prevented disturbances” and now left the compound.

Tensions at the sacred complex have been heightened after far-right Israeli politician Moshe Feiglin tried to make a publicized visit to the site a week ago, with leaflets distributed around the city calling to remove “Israel’s enemies” from the site.

Hundreds of Palestinians entered the complex to protest against the planned visit, with fears of clashes between the two sides.

Police eventually blocked Feiglin from entering and briefly closed the holy compound, saying they feared unrest.

The compound, containing the al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock, is the third holiest site in Islam and abuts the site where Jews believe the ancient Second Temple stood, attracting the far-right to threaten to rebuild the Jewish site on the sanctuary.

( / 190.02.2012)

Report: Settler outposts expand into Area B

TEL AVIV, Israel (Ma’an) — Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank have seized several hundred dunams of Palestinian land that lies inside zones of Palestinian government control under international agreements, Israeli media reported on Sunday.

Most Israeli settlements — all of which are illegal under international law — lie in Area C, the 62 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli control since the 1993 Oslo Accords.

But settlers are taking over land designated Area B, which is under Palestinian Authority civil jurisdiction, and Israeli security control, the report on Israeli daily Haaretz said.

Anti-settlement activist Dror Etkes said aerial photographs show Israeli outpost Amona has seized hundreds of dunams of Area B territory, building roads, planting vineyards and taking over a spring on Palestinian land.

Settlers have taken 93 dunams of land from Palestinian village Yanun, near Nablus, the Itamar settlement prevents Palestinian access to other large swathes of Area B territory in its proximity, according to Etkes.

Near Salfit, settler outposts Esh Kodesh and Mitzpeh Ahiya have planted vineyards and crops on Area B lands, including 100 dunams of agricultural land belonging to the Haj Mahmoud family, according to a petition to Israeli court.

Haaretz reported that Israel’s Civil Administration — the military department in charge of civilian affairs in the occupied West Bank — says it does not have enough resources to track these violations of an international agreement.

But the same department authorized the demolition of hundreds of Palestinian homes in Area C in 2011, displacing almost 1,100 people, over half of them children, according to the UN.

Palestinians can only build on one percent of Area C, most of which is already built up, while settlements continue to expand in the same zone, the UN says.

( / 19.02.2012)

Palestinian’s Trial Shines Light on Military Justice

Islam Dar Ayyoub was taken from his home, then pressed to inform on his relatives, neighbors and friends. His brother Omar, in the picture above, is in prison.
NABI SALEH, West Bank — A year ago, Islam Dar Ayyoub was a sociable ninth grader and a good student, according to his father, Saleh, a Palestinian laborer in this small village near Ramallah.

Then, one night in January 2011, about 20 Israeli soldiers surrounded the dilapidated Dar Ayyoub home and pounded vigorously on the door. Islam, who was 14 at the time, said he thought they had come for his older brother. Instead, they had come for him. He was blindfolded, handcuffed and whisked away in a jeep.

From that moment, Islam’s childhood was over. Catapulted into the Israeli military justice system, an arm of Israel’s 44-year-old occupation of the West Bank, Islam became embroiled in a legal process as challenging and perplexing as the world in which he has grown up. The young man was interrogated and pressed to inform on his relatives, neighbors and friends.

The military justice system that overwhelmed Islam has come under increasing scrutiny for its often harsh, unforgiving methods. One Palestinian prisoner has been hospitalized because of a hunger strike in protest against being detained for months without trial. Human rights organizations have recently focused their criticism on the treatment of Palestinian minors, like Islam.

Now, as a grass-roots leader from Nabi Saleh stands trial, having been incriminated by Islam, troubling questions are being raised about these methods of the occupation.

It is the intimate nature of Islam’s predicament that makes this trial especially wrenching for the young man, his family and his community. Most of Nabi Saleh’s 500 residents belong to the same extended family. The leader on trial, Bassem Tamimi, 44, was Islam’s next-door neighbor. Islam was close friends with Mr. Tamimi’s son, Waed, a classmate. And Mr. Tamimi’s wife is a cousin of Islam’s mother.

“This case is legally flawed and morally tainted,” said Gaby Lasky, Islam’s Israeli lawyer. Islam is traumatized, she said, “not only because of what happened to him, but also what happened to others.”

After he was pulled from his home at night, Islam was taken to a nearby army base where, his lawyer said, he was left out in the cold for hours. In the morning, he was taken to the Israeli police for interrogation. Accused of throwing stones at Israeli soldiers inside the village, he was encouraged to identify other youths and the adult organizers of weekly protests here.

In a police videotape of Islam’s five-hour interrogation, the teenager is at times visibly exhausted. Alone and denied access to a lawyer for most of the period, he was partially cautioned three times about his rights but was never told directly that he had the right to remain silent.

Instead, the chief interrogator instructed him, “We want only the truth. You must tell everything that happened.”

The young man, who seemed eager to please his interrogators, described how village youths were organized into nine “brigades,” each assigned tasks like throwing stones, blocking roads and hurling unexploded tear-gas canisters back at the soldiers.

Soon, the arrests followed.

Mr. Tamimi was taken last March and is being held at the Ofer military prison. The charges against him include organizing unauthorized processions, solicitation to stone throwing and incitement to violence. Mr. Tamimi has proudly acknowledged that he organized what he called peaceful protests but denied ever having told anyone to throw stones.

Mr. Tamimi’s wife, Nariman, attended a recent court hearing with Waed.

Asked about Islam, her voice softened. “He is our neighbor,” she said. “The interrogation was very difficult. He was afraid. He is just a child.”

Another organizer that Islam identified for the authorities, Naji Tamimi, 49, spent a year in jail and is about to be released.

Islam also informed on Mu’tasim Khalil Tamimi, who was then 15, identifying him as a youth ringleader. Mu’tasim subsequently spent six months in jail; he, too, identified organizers of the protests.

Bassem Tamimi’s lawyer, Labib Habib, said that the testimony of the two minors formed “the essence of the case” against his client. The defense lawyers contend that the terms of the minors’ arrests and interrogations violated their rights, and that their testimony should be dismissed.

But an official in the office of Israel’s Military Advocate General, who was authorized to speak on the condition of anonymity, said the Nabi Saleh case was “a classic one of orchestrated riots that exploit children.”

The official denied that the case against Mr. Tamimi rested largely on Islam’s testimony, saying there were other witnesses.

Under the Israeli youth law, Islam’s treatment would be deemed illegal. Minors are generally allowed to have a parent or other relative present during interrogation, and there are strict rules about nighttime interrogations and other protections.

Most of these protections do not exist in the military system, though military appellate court judges have stated that the spirit of the youth law should apply whenever possible to Palestinians.

After Israel conquered the West Bank from Jordan in the 1967 war, it established military courts independent of the army command. They draw on Jordanian law, on the laws from the period of British rule and on a plethora of military orders issued over the past four decades.

The Israeli official said that the military was striving to close gaps between the two systems, but that the Israeli youth law could not be put into full effect in the West Bank because of the difficult conditions. Israel recently raised the age of majority for Palestinians to 18 from 16, and it established the juvenile military court in 2009. But nighttime military operations were the only way to arrest Palestinian suspects, the official said, because summonses were routinely ignored and daytime arrests could set off confrontations.

Islam’s arrest came as part of a crackdown in Nabi Saleh. A few nights earlier, soldiers had raided the Dar Ayyoub home and other houses, photographing and taking details of all the men and boys. Days after Islam was taken, his younger brother, Karim, then 11, was seized by soldiers and held for hours at a police station on suspicion of throwing stones. Last month, during pretrial proceedings in the case against Islam, a juvenile military court judge acknowledged serious flaws in the interrogation but ruled his testimony admissible.

Sarit Michaeli of B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization, said that the youth judge could have taken a stand but had “failed this particular minor, and all the others.”

Islam spent two and a half months in prison before he was released to house arrest. Since September, he has been allowed out to go to school, which he now loathes. His father says he stays awake all night watching television, fearing that the soldiers will return.

In an interview at his home this month, Islam said he knew his rights, having once attended a workshop on interrogations in the village. But he said that he was told by an officer beforehand that rights would not help him. “I thought that if I spoke, they would release me,” he said.

Most of the villagers have shown understanding. Sometimes friends stop by for an hour or two. Waed is not among them.

( / 19.02.2012)

Egyptians Urged for Action as Khader Adnan Nears Death

“MY DIGNITY is more precious than food.” This is what gives Palestinian detainee Khader Adnan patience in his hunger strike struggle that entered the 64th day, the longest in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In a new form of resistance, Adnan was protesting the Israeli “humiliation and policy of administrative detention” as well as the policy of detaining prisoners without charges or trial for periods of up to six months.

Shackled to hospital bed by both legs and one arm, the 33-year-old has lost at least 30 kilograms and doctors from Physicians for Human Rights who are monitoring his health each day say his condition has deteriorated so significantly that he may die at any time.

The wife of Palestinian Prisoner Khader Adnan called upon Arab masses in general and the Egyptian people, in particular, for urgent action in support for her husband who was nearing death after his health condition deteriorated. “We call upon the rebellious Arab peoples who removed the tyrants, especially our brothers in Egypt, to rise up in support of Sheikh Khader and join him in the battle of dignity, just as they did when they tore down the wall surrounding the embassy of the Israeli enemy in Cairo and broke into it last September,” Randa Adnan said.

Khader Adnan was arrested by Israeli occupation soldiers on December 17 midnight, while at his home in the Palestinian village of Arrabeh on the outskirts of the West Bank city of Jenin. After eighteen days of interrogation – during which he was tortured and humiliated by agents of Israel’s domestic security forces – he was imprisoned without charge or trial in what is called “administrative detention”. It’s worth mentioning that there are currently more than 300 Palestinians being held in “administrative detention” by the Zionist entity, without charge or trial, for renewable periods of six months, without any way of defending themselves.
Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief, on Saturday called on Israel to “preserve” the health of Adnan. Ashton’s office said she was “following with great concern reports about the deteriorating health condition of Khader Adnan.” “Detainees have the right to be informed about the charges underlying any detention and be subject to a fair trial,” her office said.

Adnan’s family and legal team were hoping that he would be released this week after his case went to the Ofer military court in the West Bank. However, the court rejected his appeal and ordered that Adnan must remain under administrative detention for four months which will end on May 8. The military court said “that Adnan was solely responsible for the damage to his health,” but the Israeli Supreme Court has now agreed to hear his petition, though no date has been set for a hearing.

The Israeli military has said little about why Adnan was arrested, saying his case was being handled “strictly according to the law” with “special attention being given to his humanitarian situation” which is worsening day after day.


Ma’an news agency obtained a copy of a letter by Adnan which was handed earlier to his attorney. In the letter Adnan writes: “The Israeli occupation has gone to extremes against our people, especially prisoners. I have been humiliated, beaten, and harassed by interrogators for no reason, and thus I swore to God I would fight the policy of administrative detention to which I and hundreds of my fellow prisoners fell prey.“The only thing I can do is offer my soul to God, as I believe righteousness and justice will eventually triumph over tyranny and oppression.”

Addressing the Palestinian people, Adnan said: “I starve myself for you to remain. I die for you to live. Stay with the revolution.”

( / 19.02.2012)

Reactie ISA op commotie rondom Shaykh dr. Haitham al-Haddad in Opinie NRC en Het Parool

Beste leden en geïnteresseerden,

Gezien alle commotie rondom de komst van Shaykh dr. Haitham al-Haddad besloot ISA een opiniestuk te schrijven en een interview te geven. Het opiniestuk is gepubliceerd in het NRC Handelsblad (zie hieronder) en het interview in Het Parool (wordt a.s. maandag geplaatst); beide op vrijdag 17 februari 2012.

Universiteit schond de academische vrijheid

Illustratie Emad Hajjaj

In tegenstelling tot wat diverse media melden, is het symposium met de Britse sjeik dr. Haitham Al-Haddad niet afgelast. Wel heeft de Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU) haar eerdere toezegging ingetrokken om een zaal beschikbaar te stellen.

Een van de doelstellingen van de Islamitische Studentenvereniging  Amsterdam (ISA) is de bevordering van de participatie van  moslimstudenten aan het academisch onderwijs. Dat onderwijs aan de Vrije Universiteit van Amsterdam is gebaseerd op academische waarden, maar de VU heeft verzuimd zich onafhankelijk, academisch op te stellen en is gezwicht voor politieke druk. Het is voor ons geen nieuws dat sommige media de bronnen niet verifiëren, maar het doet afbreuk aan de academische status van een universiteit als zij dezelfde houding aanneemt.

De VU heeft verzuimd om na te gaan of de ontstane ophef enige grond  heeft.  Er is geen enkele poging gedaan om de beweringen over Haitham al-Haddad te verifiëren. De sjeik  distantieerde zich gisteren in een interview aan de NOS van de beschuldigingen aan zijn adres.

Wij hebben ervoor gekozen sjeik  dr. Haitham al-Haddad uit te nodigen omdat wij onze studenten de gelegenheid willen bieden om van gedachten te wisselen over de positie van de islamitische academicus in het Westen. Hierover leven vragen onder onze studenten.

Haitham al-Haddad is een frequent spreker op universiteiten in het Verenigd Koninkrijk. Hij heeft onder meer een PhD in islamitisch recht aan de Universiteit van  Londen en hij heeft kennis van de westerse samenleving.  Wij achten hem daarom een geschikte spreker voor dit symposium.

Wij zijn van het begin af aan duidelijk geweest tegenover de VU en hebben de universiteit tijdens de voorbereidingen in kennis gesteld van de vorm en inhoud van het symposium. Ook zijn wij tegemoetgekomen aan suggesties van de leiding van de VU aan ons,  bijvoorbeeld door een tweede spreker uit te nodigen. Dit zou ten goede komen aan het academische gehalte.

Toen de ophef over de komst van Haitham  al-Haddad ontstond, hebben wij contact gezocht met de collegevoorzitter van de VU om er met hem te spreken. Op deze uitnodiging is hij niet ingegaan.

Op dezelfde dag hebben wij ’s ochtends nog om de tafel gezeten met de afdeling communicatie en beveiliging van de VU, om in samenspraak te regelen dat de bijeenkomst ordelijk zou verlopen. Het college van bestuur van de VU was op dat moment nog van mening dat het debat doorgang moest vinden, omdat er aan de  voorwaarden was voldaan en de mogelijkheid tot dialoog aanwezig was.

Tot onze grote verbazing moesten wij enkele uren later, via de pers, vernemen dat er binnen een paar uur geen gesprek meer mogelijk was. Helaas is met ons niet overlegd en zijn wij vooraf niet in kennis gesteld van de beslissing tot afgelasting.

De VU is kennelijk van mening dat een academisch debat onmogelijk moet worden gemaakt in geval van maatschappelijke of politieke ophef. Ophef lijkt ons juist een graadmeter voor maatschappelijke relevantie. Dit zou reden temeer  moeten zijn voor de VU om zich in te zetten om dit debat mogelijk te maken.

Wij verwachten dat een academische instelling steun geeft aan het bieden van een podium voor een open debat over maatschappelijk relevante kwesties in een academische setting. Wij zijn geschokt dat academische en rechtstatelijke waarden door politieke druk in het geding zijn gekomen in dit verrechtste klimaat. Tevens vinden wij het  teleurstellend dat onze transparantie, welwillendheid en inzet voor de academische ontwikkeling wordt beantwoord  met deze gebrekkige houding van de VU.

Wij hebben ons ook verbaasd over de politieke ophef.  Een  Kamermeerderheid schaart zich achter de zeer ingrijpende maatregel van  het vooraf censureren van een spreker, op basis van beweringen die worden gedaan  in de media zonder dat ze worden gestaafd. Het initiatiefnemende  Kamerlid Joël Voordewind (CU) heeft eergisteren bij het actualiteitenprogramma Pauw &  Witteman  te kennen gegeven dat hij tot deze ingrijpende  conclusie is gekomen op basis van „gegoogle”. Geen enkel Kamerlid van  deze Kamermeerderheid heeft zelf navraag gedaan.

Van zorgvuldigheid is  geen sprake. Dit is een kwalijke zaak, omdat de vrijheid van meningsuiting in het geding is en omdat het gaat om volksvertegenwoordigers. Zij zouden  de hoeders moeten zijn van de kernwaarden van de  democratische rechtsstaat Nederland. Hoe intelligent zijn  politieke partijen die denken de uitwisseling van standpunten te kunnen tegenhouden bij de grens, terwijl digitale media in een geglobaliseerde samenleving  alles en iedereen aan elkaar verbinden?

Deze partijen tonen met hun bereidheid tot censuur dat zij weinig vertrouwen hebben in het Nederlandse onderwijssysteem. Dit is een systeem dat erop is gestoeld  kritische, onafhankelijke geesten voort te  brengen die op basis van een eigen waarneming en eigen afweging komen tot een standpunt dat in alle vrijheid mag worden beleefd  binnen de grenzen van de democratische rechtsstaat. De partijen tonen ook gebrek aan  vertrouwen in de werking van de kernwaarden die de grondslag vormen van de Nederlandse rechtsstaat. Dit heeft effect op Nederlandse burgers in het algemeen en op Nederlandse moslims in het  bijzonder.

Wij, als islamitische toekomstige academici, zullen te allen tijde oproepen tot een kritische houding met  een autonoom denkproces zonder aanzien des persoons, of het nu de  politiek, de pers of de VU betreft. Wij zullen niet zwichten voor de  politieke druk en wij werken niet mee aan censuur. Wij zoeken de samenwerking met degenen in de samenleving die net als wij niet zwichten voor politieke druk in dit politieke klimaat. Wij zullen de academische waarden wél praktiseren, door sjeik dr. Haitham al-Haddad alsnog bij De Balie uit te nodigen op ons symposium en met hem in gesprek te treden in onze stad, Amsterdam.

Hamza Akkar en Latifa Tawfik schreven dit stuk namens het bestuur van de Islamitische Studentenvereniging Amsterdam, waarvan  zij woordvoerders  zijn.

( / 19.02.2012)

Israel claims Palestinian Authority refuses offer to supply Gaza with fuel

GAZA, Feb 19 (KUNA) — The Palestinian Authority rejected an Israeli offer to supply Gaza with fuel to operate the Strip’s sole power station, Israel claimed on Sunday.
“The Palestinian Authority will be responsible for any humanitarian crises resulted from its refusal of the Israeli offer,” the Israeli radio quoted sources at the premiership as saying.
The sources expressed “concern that fuel used to operate power generators will run out soon namely in hospitals.” Energy authorities in Gaza were forced to use solar smuggled through tunnels with Egypt during the past months.
The power station in Gaza stopped operation last Tuesday because of lack of fuel.

( / 19.02.2012)

This Week in History: The second Hebron massacre

The massacre at the Tomb of the Patriarchs continues to play a role in the narrative of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

view of Hebron

On February 25, 1994, Baruch Goldstein walked into the Ibrahim Mosque at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron in his IDF reserve uniform with his army-issued Galil assault rifle slung over his shoulder, carrying at least three full magazines of ammunition. The mosque packed for early-morning Ramadan prayers. As he entered, Goldstein opened fire at the kneeling worshipers, killing 29 and wounding at least 125 unarmed Palestinians. After finally running out of ammunition, he was hit over the head with a fire extinguisher and beaten to death by survivors of the massacre.

Riots broke out across the West Bank after the massacre and continue for two days. More than 20 more Palestinians and nearly 10 Jews were killed in the unrest in the two days following the initial murders. In the months after, Hamas carried out two terror attacks, which it said were a response to the massacre in Hebron.

Israeli authorities, however, maintained that there had been no warning of the massacre, describing Goldstein as a lone madman. A subsequent commission of inquiry confirmed that narrative.

Following the events of that day, Israel was forced into reflection. While a large majority of Israelis condemned the killings, hundreds would arrive at Goldstein’s grave in the adjoining settlement of Kiryat Arba to celebrate him and his final deed, a terrorist act. The grave has become the destination of a small pilgrimage since, although policesubsequently limited access to the site. The Knesset even passed a law prohibiting memorials to terrorists in response to a shrine erected for Goldstein.

Taking place in the middle of the peace process of the Rabin years, the massacre had a long-lasting effect on the city of Hebron. Following the killings and subsequent rioting, the IDF placed heavy restrictions on Palestinian movement in the immediately surrounding area.

In order to prevent further clashes between settlers and Palestinian residents, the IDF later closed Shuhada Street to Palestinian automobile traffic and years later, completely sealed it to foot traffic as well. As a result, Palestinian homes and shops in the area have been completely shuttered, something that left-wing groups say is a disproportionate and misdirected response. The site has since seen yearly protests on the anniversary of the massacre demanding that Shuhada Street be reopened to Palestinians.

The massacre also had an effect on the peace process, which was in its most intense times in 1994 during the Yitzhak Rabin premiership. It quickly became the topic of international condemnation, including a United Nations Security Council resolution passed some weeks later, condemning the killings and calling on Israel to guarantee the safety of Palestinians in the territories.

Israel’s government and leaders took great efforts to mitigate the emotional and physical scars created by the massacre. Then-president Ezer Weizman called the killings “the worst thing that has happened to us in the history of Zionism.” Israel, he added, will “have to toil hard in order to repair the terrible damage and heal the deep rifts caused between ourselves and the Arabs, and among our own people.”

But the effects of the massacre are still felt on the ground by residents of Hebron, and support is still expressed for Goldstein and his final act among extremist Jewish elements. The massacre at the Tomb of the Patriarchs continues to play a role in the narrative of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and leads to occasional clashes on the ground 18 years later.

( / 1902.2012)

Pro-Palestinian remark cut from Baird’s UN address, documents show

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird's UN speech expressed strong support for Israel.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird’s UN speech expressed strong support for Israel.

OTTAWA – A Canadian expression of goodwill toward the Palestinian people was left on the cutting-room floor when Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird addressed the United Nations General Assembly last fall.

Baird rejected early departmental drafts of his maiden address to the UN that said Canada is a “leading supporter” of the Palestinian people and outlined major spending that backed that assertion, The Canadian Press has learned.

Baird ended up delivering a much tougher address than envisioned by his speech writers, one that unequivocally emphasized Canada’s support for Israel — a position for which he makes no apologies and which has generated much criticism of the Harper Conservatives.

Copies of the draft texts of the speech, obtained under the Access to Information Act, show Baird used a radically reworked text when he represented Canada for the first time at the General Assembly on Sept. 26, 2011.

In his address, Baird drew a parallel with pre-Second World War appeasers of Nazi Germany, saying: “Canada will not accept or stay silent while the Jewish state is attacked for defending its territory and its citizens. The Second World War taught us all the tragic price of ‘going along’ just to ‘get along.’

The only direct reference to the Palestinian people in Baird’s address was to emphasize Canada’s opposition to the Palestinian Authority’s stated plan to seek recognition of statehood at the assembly.

The Palestinian statehood issue dominated last fall’s session of the assembly, and Canada’s opposition — mirroring that of many countries, including the United States — was well known at the time.

Indeed, the first draft of Baird’s speech noted that “Canada has been very clear that it does not support the recognition of Palestinian state.” The early drafts as well as the final version also urged the Palestinians to get back to the negotiating table with Israel.

But a lengthy paragraph that expressed positive Canadian sentiments toward the Palestinians was eventually trimmed over the course of a handful of early revisions and was eventually cut altogether.

“Canada is a leading supporter of the Palestinian people, having committed $300 million over five years to assist the Palestinian Authority to build capacity in the key areas of justice sector reform, security, and sustainable economic growth, as well as providing humanitarian assistance to Palestinians in West Bank and Gaza, including refugees,” the first draft stated.

It went on to say that Canada provided $64.61 million in development and humanitarian assistance in 2009-10.

“Our support for the West Bank and Gaza demonstrates Canada’s ongoing commitment to assist Palestinians in building the foundations of a viable, independent, democratic and peaceful Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel,” the excised paragraph concluded.

Three days before Baird’s address, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas formally announced his intent to pursue the Palestinian statehood bid in his own general assembly speech.

Two days before Abbas’s speech, Prime Minister Stephen Harper held a face-to-face meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the UN. The two leaders expressed their mutual admiration and friendship.

Last month, Baird travelled to Israel, accompanied by an orthodox Jewish rabbi from his Ottawa riding, and repeatedly told his hosts that Israel has no greater friend than Canada. Baird told Netanyahu he was proud to watch his UN speech last September.

On a trip to the West Bank, Baird told Abbas in a separate meeting that the Palestinians should get back to the bargaining table with the Israelis — without preconditions — to search for a peaceful solution to the Middle East conflict.

Baird’s office declined to comment on the UN speech writing process.

“The speech he delivered is Canada’s foreign policy,” said spokesman Joseph Lavoie.

Baird’s speech clearly bore his own personal stamp, and reflected his characteristic penchant for fiery oration.

He injected the speech with previous quotes from Harper, Conservative icon Margaret Thatcher, and former Conservative Canadian prime minister John Diefenbaker as well as Winston Churchill.

Baird also changed the fact that the speech writers did not directly mention the government’s plan to set up an Office of Religious Freedom in the department, a promise the Conservatives made in last spring’s federal election campaign. Baird emphasized that point in his actual address.

As an example of religious persecution, both drafts cited violence against Coptic Christians in Egypt. But in the final version, Baird added some pointed criticism of China, adding the example of, “Roman Catholic priests and other Christian clergy, and their laity, driven to worship underground in China.”

Baird also added criticism of Burma for discriminating against Buddhists and Muslims.

And he singled out the East African country of Uganda, a country he has since come to repeatedly criticize for criminalizing the activities of gays and lesbians.

( / 19.02.2012)

Israeli Attacks Palestinians in Gaza, Clashes in Jerusalem

19 de febrero de 2012, 10:50Gaza, Feb 19 (PL) At least four Palestinians were injured by several Israeli bombings against Gaza, while an unknown number were injured Sunday by clashes with Zionist soldiers in an important religious site in East Jerusalem.

Medical sources reported that three Palestinian civilians were victims this Sunday military aircraft missiles from Israel against Al-Tuffah neighborhood of this city of Gaza, the second attack in less than a week.

A military release from Tel Aviv Army, spread here on the Palestinian TV confirmed the attacks and used the usual pretext that it was an arms manufacturing place and refuge of groups that he consider are carrying out terrorist actions.

The military operation, added the note, was also in response to the firing of rockets into Israel by Palestinian militants settled in this enclave, which controls the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) since June 2007.

Hamas denounced on Saturday that the Israeli attacks are seeking to spoil the thriving progress in the reconciliation agreement signed in Egypt and recently ratified in Qatar between the Islamists and the Al-Fatah group, led by President Mahmoud Abbas.

The complex containing the Al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock (for Christians) is considered by Jews as the headquarters of the ancient Second Temple, hence the extreme pressure to rebuild there a sanctuary of Judaism.

( / 19.02.2012)

Cabinet keeps immigration figures artificially high, claims MP

The cabinet is exaggerating the number of migrants coming to the Netherlands by including children born here in the figures, GroenLinks MP Tofik Dibi said on Monday.

Dibi says ministers are inflating the figures to legitimise their relationship with the anti-Islam PVV, which wants sharp cuts in immigration levels in return for its support on the economy.

‘It is bizarre. You would think ministers were pleased the figures are not as high as they make them out to be,’ Dibi told news agency ANP.

Immigration minister Gerd Leers said the cabinet does not plan to alter the way it calculates immigration totals because babies born to foreigners need residency permits as well.

( / 19.02.2012)