Activists take part in Global march to al-Quds in Australia

 A protest took place in Sydney as part of the global day of action in support of international activists attempting to enter Jerusalem/Al Quds which remains a closed city. The Global March to al-Quds is an international peaceful movement that also condemns the Israeli occupation of the holy Palestinian city.
A protest took place in Sydney on Friday in solidarity with international activists that are taking part in the Global March to Jerusalem al-Quds, or GMJ.
The GMJ was organized to coincide with Palestinian Land Day on March 30. The GMJ is an international event, bringing activists from around the globe who will attempt to peacefully March to Jerusalem al-Quds and demand that the city becomes an open city and that the Israeli occupying forces put an end to what they call the apartheid, ethnic cleansing and Judaisation policies affecting the people and land of Jerusalem al-Quds. Same protest were taking place in cities all around the world in support of the GMJ.

The protesters marched to one of the Israeli owned franchise cafes, Max Brenner which has been the target of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, or BDS protests across the country. Max Brenner is 100% owned by an Israeli company, the Strauss Group, one of Israel’s largest food and beverage companies. The Strauss Group boasts of the support it gives to the Israeli army saying it wants to “sweeten their special moment”, particularly the Golani and Givati brigades of the Israeli Occupation Forces. While this content has been removed from the Strauss Group’s English website, it can be found on the Hebrew version of the site.

Both the Sydney and Melbourne branches of Students for Justice in Palestine say they have been the targets of a very heavy-handed approach by the police who arrested 19 people in Melbourne and 2 in Sydney. According to organisers, the Victorian police, violently attacked a Max Brenner protest on July 1, 2011, and arrested 19 people, known as the Boycott Israel 19, in what was one of the largest political arrests in a decade.

Protesters say they were also the targets of slander in the mainstream press. A media inquiry by the Australian Press Council in November last year, found that articles published in the Australian newspaper relating to boycott Israel protests, were in breach of the council’s standards of practice. A number of articles published for the paper portrayed the BDS campaign as anti-Semitic which angered BDS activists who say it was as an inaccurate portrayal of their campaign which they say is aimed at pressuring Israel to comply with international law and end its human rights abuses. Politicians and other high profile people in Australia have also publicly condemned the protests and likened the protesters to Nazis, some of them even organised ‘sit-ins’ at the cafe together, to show their opposition to the protests. Organisers say they will not be intimidated by the neither the police brutality nor the slander from the press and politicians and say they will not be silenced in their opposition to Israel’s crimes.

Protesters expressed the need to maintain the BDS campaign in Australia saying that like the boycott of South Africa, the campaign is an important tool to pressure Israel to comply with international law and end its war crimes against the Palestinian people. They say boycotts become necessary when governments like Australia do nothing to stop Israel’s crimes adding that BDS is about ordinary people exercising the power that is theirs.

( / 30.03.2012)

Wat zijn de belangrijkste vormen van liefdadigheid in de islam?

In de islam kent men liefdadigheid (sadaqah) de hoogst mogelijke waarde toe – daarbij kan men denken aan het doen van goede dingen voor de medemens, vriendelijk zijn tegen dieren, het vermijden van slechte daden en met de woorden van profeet Mohammed (vzmh), kan zelfs een glimlach een vorm van liefdadigheid zijn. De koran voegt daar nog aan toe: “Als u openlijk aan liefdadigheid doet is dat goed, als u het echter verborgen houdt en aan de armen geeft, is dat beter voor u.” (2:271).
Naast bovengenoemde vrijwillige vormen van liefdadigheid, verplicht de islam moslims tot het betalen van de verplichte zakaat of zuiverende aalmoezen. Hier zijn vijf voorwaarden aan verbonden. Als iemand daar aan voldoet, behoort hij tot degenen voor wie het betalen van de zakaat verplicht is. Allereerst dient de donateur het volledige eigendom te hebben over het bezit waar zakaat over betaald moet worden. Ten tweede dient het bezit in waarde toe te nemen (of in ieder geval het vermogen daartoe te hebben). Ten derde dient het bezit de op dat specifieke bezit van toepassing zijnde minimum grenswaarde overschreden te hebben. Ten vierde dient het bezit buiten de menselijke basis benodigdheden van het bestaan te vallen en als laatste dient het bezit minimaal een jaar in eigendom van de persoon in kwestie te zijn. De zakaat wordt dus alleen uit ‘overtollig’ bezit betaald. Wanneer het om geld gaat, bedraagt de zakaat 2,5 %. Nadat de zakat door de autoriteiten van liefdadigheids- organisaties geïnd is, mag de zakaat alleen nog maar aan bepaalde groepen mensen, zoals de armen, behoeftigen, mensen met schulden of reizigers in nood (koran 9:60), gegeven worden. Mensen kunnen er ook voor kiezen om de zakaat zelf aan rechtmatige goede doelen te geven.
Fitr is ook een vorm van verplichte liefdadigheid en wordt aan het einde van de Ramadan en voor het Eid-al Fitr gebed betaald. Dit waarborgt dat alle leden van de gemeenschap van de feestdagen kunnen genieten, zonder zich zorgen te hoeven maken over al dan niet genoeg te eten te hebben.
Door een stevige brug te slaan tussen het rijke en het arme deel van het sociale spectrum, is liefdadigheid in de islam, heilzaam voor zowel de ontvangers, de donateurs als de gehele gemeenschap. De armen en behoeftigen worden goed verzorgd, de rijken voelen de bevrediging dat zij iets goeds voor hun medemens hebben gedaan en de gemeenschap behoudt een beter evenwicht wat de verdeling van welvaart betreft. De gevers worden door de koran nog grotere beloningen in het vooruitzicht gesteld: “Maar degenen onder hen die over gedegen kennis beschikken en de gelovigen geloven in wat aan u geopenbaard is en wat voor u geopenbaard is. En vooral degenen die regelmatig bidden en regelmatig liefdadigheid (zakaat) betrachten en in God en de Laatste Dag geloven; hen zullen Wij spoedig rijkelijk belonen” (4:162), wat zeer waarschijnlijk naar de beloning van het paradijs verwijst.
( / 30.03.2012)

The Other Face of Kairouan

Sidi Saheb Mosque, Kairouan

Kairouan is the fifth-biggest city in Tunisia with more than 150,000 inhabitants. It’s 155 km south of Tunis and 65 km west of the Sahel – Tunisia’s eastern coast.

The Arabs founded the city in the 7thcentury and made it into a military base during their conquest of the Maghreb and Spain. Later it became the capital ofIfriqiya, the Arabic name for Tunisia in the Middle Ages, and was the largest metropolis in the western basin of the Mediterranean Sea for more than three centuries.

Nowadays, Kairouan is the most visited city in central Tunisia, thanks to its rich Islamic heritage. One of the Prophet Mohamed’s companions, Abou Zumaa Balaoui, is buried there. During Mouled – the festival that celebrates the birthday of the Prohpet Mohamed – thousands of visitors from Tunisia and abroad descend upon the city.

Kairouan is blessed with an important architectural and cultural heritage. With its massive, ancient walls, Kairouan’s medina remains one of the most authentic in Tunisia. Its grand mosque even served as a model for other mosques constructed in the Maghreb as well. Designed in the form of a citadel, it bears witness to the city’s military origins.

The Backroads of Kairouan

Despite the large number of visitors who come to Kairouan each year, relatively few take the time to explore the hills and mountains behind the city. Those who do explore these backroads are rewarded with wonderful views and the opportunity to experience some of Tunisia’s impressive pre-Islamic heritage. This dates back to pre-historic times and includes the Byzantine era in the 5th and 6th centuries AD. Much of this history is ignored not only by many Tunisians but by specialists in the field as well.

Ksar Limsa

Ksar Limsa

Ksar Limsa is often described as one of the most beautiful and most complete Byzantine monuments in Tunisia.
 With walls gilded by sunshine and crenellated towers, this fortress overlooks the valley of Oued Mahrouf some 30 km north-west of Kairouan near the village of Al Ouesllatia. 
The fortress is rectangular in shape, flanked by 13-meter high towers in each corner. The walls are around eight meters high and a crenellated parapet protects the wall walk.
 The inner courtyard measures 31 meters in width and 28 in length. The walls were built by stone collected from the ancient Roman town of Limisa. Constructed in the 6th century, it is a typical “castellum” built by the Byzantines to protect the town from attack.

Rock Art in Djebel Ouesllat 

This large and impressive mountain covers more than 130,000 hectares. Although it’s hard to reach and lacks water, this mountain has known human occupation for over 5,000 years.

Rock Art in Djebel Ouesslat

Ouesllat mountain contains an impressive quantity of wall paintings that demonstrate the existence of disappeared species. The paintings show that the white rhinoceros, the great ancient buffalo, as well as antelope, giraffe, hyena,
 and ostrich, once lived in the region.

Precious details about daily life are also revealed, such as hunting and family life. Domestic animals, such as cows, goats, sheep, and dogs, are well-illustrated in bucolic pasture scenes.

This mountain’s more recent history is likewise remarkable. The tribes of this mountain were very hostile towards any central authority and historically supported all kinds of rebellion against it.

In the beginning of the 18th Century, the hill tribes supported Hussein Ben Ali, the founder of the Husseinite monarchy that ruled Tunisia until 1957. During a bitter civil war between Ben Ali and his nephew, Ali Pacha, local villagers were punished by the Pacha for their support of Ali, who was murdered by Pacha and whose death was avenged by his sons – the ultimate victors of the war. All of the olive trees were cut down and the inhabitants were exiled during the Pacha’s reprisals.


These days the region is largely deserted, despite its fertile soil, and the abandoned villages have been left untouched for two hundred years. They stand witness to this important and bloody period of the Tunisian history.

The villages of Ouesllatia and Ksar Limsa can still be visited by car if one takes the regional roads – 99 and 46 – from Kairouan. Guided tours can be also organized from Kairouan.

( / 30.03.2012)

Anti-Zionism in the 21st Century

The struggle of the Palestinians is a struggle against Zionism.
By Tariq Shadid

The essence of the Palestinian struggle is the battle against Zionism. It is a battle against its racism, against its murderous war crimes, against its insatiable territorial hunger, against its disdain for non-Jewish human rights, and against its devoted attempts to destroy Palestinian national identity. As voices of normalization are on the rise, and social media is invaded by paid pro-Zionist bloggers, there is an increased need for anti-Zionists to draw attention to the crimes committed by ‘Israel’, and to speak up against the ongoing media silence and the apologist activities of those misleadingly portraying themselves as ‘peace doves’. Let us first look briefly at the history of the anti-Zionist struggle, and then see where we stand today.

The Ideology of Zionism

Years before the creation of the state of ‘Israel’, there was already a full-blown battle going on against Zionism. On one side, the Palestinians were resisting against the usurpation of their land, having grown aware of the far-stretching implications of the Balfour declaration of 1917, which laid the foundation for the mass-immigration of European Jews into Palestine. In those same decades, there was also an ongoing struggle within the Jewish communities in Europe, where many were opposed to the tenets of Zionism either on a religious basis, or on the realization that colonizing an inhabited land would inevitably cause an injustice that would continue to reverberate for many years to come. A famous example of this in that period of time was the famous genius Albert Einstein, who in 1938 already expressed his opposition to the creation of a ‘Jewish state’, and in a letter to the New York Times that he wrote together with a number of prominent Jews in 1948, strongly denounced the horrendous Deir Yassin massacre.

The ongoing struggle of the Palestinians against Zionism and the continuing expropriation of their land is well-known, but not everyone is aware that within Jewish ranks, true ideological opposition against Zionism still exists. The most well-known group among these is Neturei Karta (‘Guardians of the City’), an organization of international Jews united against Zionism. On another note, within the current framework of the Zionist state, a coalition of groups that call themselves ‘Campus Watchdogs’ recently went as far as labeling 10 % of Israeli academics as ‘anti-Zionist’. It is likely that this number is highly overrated, since this McCarthyism-like approach can be expected to have lumped together a wide variety of people who expressed criticism at their government’s actions. In a similar way that outside criticism of ‘Israel’ quickly gets labeled as ‘anti-Semitism’, many of the one thousand mentioned academics, publicists and journalists are likely to have received the label of ‘anti-Zionist’ despite adhering to many of Zionism’s principles.

Tribal, Religious, or Ideological?

For some, the ongoing misery is a war between two peoples, basically a ‘tribal war’. Others prefer seeing it as a war between religions, with Judaism on one side and Muslims on the other side. Those who adopt this view are ignoring the pluralistic ethnic and religious composition of the Palestinian people, and are for instance ignoring the fact that many Palestinians are Christians, who have not been spared the gruesome fate of their Muslim compatriots. Thirdly, there are those who view the struggle as a battle between ideologies: Zionism on one side, and anti-Zionism on the other.

As the original PLO manifesto (28 May 1964) stated, the organization declared that “Palestine with its boundaries that existed at the time of the British mandate is an integral regional unit”  and that it sought to “prohibit the existence and activity of Zionism”. It also contained statements calling for a right of return and self-determination for the Palestinians. When reading the manifesto, it becomes clear that the PLO, the first more officially organized Palestinian movement against the land theft and expulsion committed by the Zionist terrorist organizations that later declared the Zionist state, was an explicitly anti-Zionist movement. The PLO incorporated the various existing political movements in one body, and was declared to be the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. This was widely accepted by an overwhelming majority of Palestinians.

The Oslo Disaster

As illustrated above, the foundations of the Palestinian struggle were based on the territorial integrity of Palestine (i.e. the one state solution) and the right of return of all expelled Palestinians. These original foundations became embedded in an entire generation of Palestinians worldwide. In 1993, the leadership under Yaser Arafat adopted the two-state solution instead, which largely happened in a top-down manner and led to the Oslo accords, However, it soon became clear to all that the Oslo accords were only accepted by ‘Israel’ as a deceptive method to hypnotize the Palestinians as well as the masses of the world into an illusion of Israeli willingness for territorial concessions, while in truth confiscating huge swathes of land, building a separation wall and almost tripling the settler population (from 250,000 to 700,000). It should be no surprise that even early on, as the scam became blatantly clear to all except seemingly to the leadership of the newly created Palestinian Authority, the original tenets of the struggle were yet again embraced by many Palestinians inside of Palestine as well as in the diaspora.

Return to the Struggle

As the state of confusion created by the Oslo accords lingered on, some defeatist voices however also turned to normalization, instead of returning to the basics of the struggle. It is not to be wondered at that disillusion and opportunism play their role in such a complex situation, wherein many lose hope when faced with the overwhelming military, economical and strategic dominance of the Zionist state. Nevertheless, youth movements that are currently active in keeping the struggle for Palestinian rights alive, predominantly see anti-normalization as one of their main strategic goals. They adhere to the above-mentioned basic tenets of the struggle, and reject the failed formula of negotiations that is still pursued by the Palestinian Authority, despite its lack of popular mandate for it. For most Palestinians it is blatantly clear, that the so-called ‘Peace Process’ has only caused damage to their cause and has not brought even the slightest prospects of a better future, let alone of self-determination or independence.

Internationally, pro-Palestinian activists also largely adhere to the basic tenets of the Palestinian struggle, namely the one-state solution and the right of return of the Palestinian refugees.  There are other issues as well that are deemed non-negotiable to the majority of Palestinians, such as strong opposition against the Judaization of Jerusalem (Al Quds) which is projected as the future capital of liberated Palestine, and the release of all thousands of Palestinian political prisoners.

There is definitely also a group of ‘two-staters’, but their numbers are dwindling fast, and they rarely engage in activism since their views are largely represented by the Palestinian Authority. The strongest cure for the fallacy of the two-state solution was seeing the Palestinian side of that solution being gobbled up by the Zionist state over the years, faster than one could issue statements of protest against them.

New Shape of the Struggle: Back to Anti-Zionism

It is clear nowadays that the Palestinian Authority is not a useful apparatus for waging any form of struggle, but an administrative body that functions mainly as an extension of the Israeli security apparatus, in a framework inherited directly from the Oslo agreements. This does not mean that the people have stopped struggling. The modern Palestinian struggle has moved towards preferring popular resistance over armed struggle, and employing BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) as a main strategy of generating pressure against the Zionist state. What has also changed, is that this struggle has gained large numbers of international supporters all over the world, who support the Palestinians in their pursuit of freedom from Zionist oppression.

These changes have also brought anti-Zionism back to the forefront, and this has far-reaching implications. Whereas a two-state solution almost automatically implies the undertaking of steps towards normalization, since it implies an acceptance of Zionism and relinquishing the claim of 78 % of Palestinian territory to it, a one-state solution which aims to create a state for all of its inhabitants that does not discriminate on the basis of race of religion, requires a strong and uncompromising return to anti-Zionism as a unifying strategy.

Anti-Zionism versus Normalization

In a struggle that aims to achieve this, normalization is an extremely damaging concession that can never be combined with the dismantling of Zionism, which is the ultimate goal of its strategy. After all, a struggle against racism cannot be successful if the inherently racist tenets of Zionism are accepted. The ‘Oslo-period’ has however sown its sorrowful seeds in more places than may directly become apparent. The vast majority of the Arab masses have not accepted Zionism in their midst, but there are stubborn strands of normalization that seem to be enjoying an increasing momentum within ‘progressive’ ranks of various Arab communities.

Two Egyptian examples can be mentioned in this context. One is Mona Eltahawy, who seems to consider ‘Israel’ to be a civilized state and refused to condemn the genocidal massacre in Gaza that claimed the lives of 1,400 Palestinians (including at least 300 children) by massive attacks from drones, tanks, Apaches and F-16’s – on a population that possesses no bombing shelters or anti-aircraft artillery. Another even more mind-blowing example is Maikel Nabil, an Egyptian blogger who enjoyed wide campaigns for his release when he was arrested for criticizing the SCAF military junta of post-Mubarak Egypt. He expressed his love for Israel on his blog and in Israeli media with an enthusiasm rarely ever seen before in the Arab world. There are other examples too, such as Arab-American comedian Ray Hanania of Palestinian origin, who proclaimed himself a candidate for Palestinian presidency in a video that he posted on Youtube, wherein he called for an acceptance of Israeli settlements, and an end to the Right of Return.

The Only Ziocracy in the Middle East

It is true that these examples do not represent the sentiments of the majority of Palestinians and other Arabs, whether in the Arab world or outside of it, but these voices cannot be ignored either. The main reason for this is that voices of normalization like the ones mentioned above often receive disproportionate attention in Western-dominated mass-media, and thereby have a number of insidious destructive effects upon the struggle.

First of all, they make those who are true to the anti-racist struggle against Zionism seem extremist, by offering alternatives that at first sight strike the general public as being more inspired by peaceful motives. This is a distortion of reality: support for ‘Israel’, the most belligerent state in the Middle East, the only state in the region in possession of (over 300) nuclear arms, and the only ‘Ziocracy’ where ones ethnic background automatically categorizes one as having less rights than others, can never be truthfully designated as ‘peace-loving’.

Secondly, the apparently human inclination of the masses to flock around the famous without delving deeply into their philosophies, brings multitudes of people close to positive truth-distorting evaluations of the Zionist state. For example, progressive Arabs who embrace Mona Eltahawy’s feminist activities, are inclined to also automatically defend their idol’s views on ‘Israel’, simply because they are already in a state of adoration of her person. Another example involves Maikel Nabil: when progressive activists rallied for him due to his unjust incarceration by SCAF, his shocking pro-Israel views seemed to be lumped together with his anti-SCAF views under the label of ‘freedom of speech’, effectively paving the way for the perceived ‘right’ of Egyptians to view ‘Israel’ in an undeservingly positive and gruesomely distorted loving manner.

The Struggle Goes on

The true and original struggle of the Palestinians is a struggle against Zionism, and this is entirely incompatible with the views mentioned above. Normalization must therefore be opposed, vocally, directly, loudly and clearly. There is definitely a need for increased activity on this front, since anti-normalization and BDS do not enjoy the support of mass media, unlike the voices of normalization.

If this means that these voices need to be confronted even on a personal level, then so be it. It may not be a pleasant thing to do, and some might argue that it distracts from calling attention to the continuing atrocities that the Zionist state is inflicting on a daily basis upon the defenseless Palestinians living under Israeli occupation. However, as has been argued in the article “Anti-normalization: an necessary part of BDS campaigning”, calling attention to these injustices will remain highly ineffective if the public is simultaneously exposed by mass media to Arab voices that aim to paint a misleading image of ‘Israel’ as if it were a beacon of civilization, and a saviour for mankind.

In other words: if you value BDS and wish it to be effective, and if you believe in opposing the racist ideology of Zionism, one of your tasks is also to confront those who suck up to power for their own personal gain. And since their number is increasing, it looks like you have work to do.

– Tariq Shadid is a Palestinian surgeon living in the Middle East, and has written numerous essays about the Palestinian issue over the years. He contributed this article to

( / 30.03.2012)

Land Day live report

Protesters shout during a protest marking Land Day in northern Gaza.
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — 2000: Amnesty International is urging Israel to tone down its use of force against demonstrators. In a statement, Amnesty’s Ann Harrison says:”News that Israeli forces are firing live ammunition on Land Day demonstrators near the Erez Crossing in Gaza, and that scores have been injured … is extremely worrying, particularly in the light of frequent and persistent use of excessive force against Palestinian protesters.”

“We are also concerned at reports that Palestinian Authority security forces have tried to prevent protests in areas under their control, while Hamas security forces have beaten protesters,” she said. Both sides should respect freedom of assembly and international policing standards, she said.

1935: Calls returned – the Israeli army says a man approached Erez before soldiers opened fire. It says forces acted within the rules of engagement, firing warning shots before directly targeting him.

1825: A young Palestinian man has been killed in a clash with Israeli forces in the northern Gaza Strip, says medical official Adham Abu Salmiya.

The victim has been identified as Mahmoud Zakot, 20. He was shot near the Erez crossing, witnesses said.

An Israeli military spokesman did not immediately return calls.

1740: Hezbollah’s Sheikh Nabil Kauk reflects on Land Day: “The nation’s right to the whole of Palestine is not dead. Palestine is not waiting for the Arab summit or international decisions.

“The Palestinian nation relies on the guns of fighters in Gaza, in Ramallah and in Bint Jbeil,” Kauk said, according to an Israeli news website.

1737: A witness in Qalandiya, Jalal Abukhater, says Barghouti was indeed the victim of an attack on partisan grounds. But he dismissed Leibovich’s version of events as nonsensical.

1731: Demonstrations have continued all day in the Gaza Strip, where activists are reporting casualties after Israeli forces opened fire near the border.

Gaza medical official Adham Abu Salmiya reports over two dozen people injured — three of them seriously — after separate clashes near Beit Hanoun and Khan Younis.

Protester Ebaa Rezeq says she witnessed at least six of the injuries which came after Israeli forces fired on a crowd that had bypassed Hamas police checkpoints to arrive at the border area.

Rezeq says Israeli forces used live fire after they managed to remove a part of a metal fence near the wall. Israel says it fired warning shots at protesters near the border, but Rezeq disagrees.

“People are falling here like flies,” she says. “Blood everywhere”.

1624: Palestinian members of the Israeli Knesset have joined thousands protesting in northern Israel’s Deir Hanna vilalge, Israeli media reporting.

1600: More than 15,000 people in Jordan, including opposition Islamists and trade unionists, have held a peaceful sit-in near the border with Israel, AFP reports.

According to the report, protesters waved signs that said, “Freedom for Jerusalem and freedom for Palestine,” and “Jerusalem, here we come,” as they gathered in Kafrein, some 10 kilometers from the border crossing and barely a kilometer and a half from the frontier.

1530: A Palestinian protester in Bethlehem has been seriously injured by a tear-gas canister, says a Ma’an correspondent at the scene.

The correspondent photographed the aftermath of the incident during clashes between Palestinian youths and Israeli forces.

1519: An Israeli police officer has been lightly injured in Jerusalem; 14 protesters have been arrested for throwing stones, police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld tells Ma’an.

1441: In south Lebanon, hundreds of Palestinian refugees are gathering near Beaufort Castle as large numbers of Lebanese troops look on, with barbed wire erected to ensure no one approached the flashpoint frontier, an Agence France-Presse correspondent says.

1437: An Israeli military official is disputing Barghouti’s explanation of how he was injured.

The info I have regarding Mousteffa Bargoutti injured,is that he was hurt by a Pales,as he was trying to convince youth in to riot

1432: Hamas security forces are preventing protesters from reaching the border.1426: Israel’s military uploaded video showing the small fire on a watchtower in Bethlehem. Palestinians can also be seen hurling rocks at the structure connected to a checkpoint.

1403: Protester scales wall at Bethlehem checkpoint and places a Palestinian flag to huge cheers from the crowd. How’d he get that rope through the hole?

1335: Israeli forces heavily deployed in Jerusalem. Troops have blocked the entrances to Palestinian neighborhoods al-Isawiya, al-Tur and Wadi Joz, our correspondent says.

1331: Representatives of the Palestinian telecommunications network Jawwal are handing bottled water to protesters near Qalandia checkpoint.

1315: Lawmaker Mustafa Barghouti has been injured by a tear-gas canister, activists say.

1321: Hundreds of protesters are streaming from Ramallah to Qalandia checkpoint, where demonstrators are burning tires, chanting and waving flags.

Israeli forces are firing tear gas, rubber bullets, spraying foul-smelling chemical water and using a ‘scream’ acoustic device against the protesters.

An Israeli military spokesman says soldiers are using “riot dispersal means” to deal with protesters throwing rocks. No immediate reports of injury.

1320: Photo: A small fire erupted at the Israeli military watchtower at Bethlehem checkpoint but died out quickly. Probably a Molotov cocktail.

1315: Photo: Youths throwing stones at Israeli army watchtower at Bethlehem checkpoint; older protesters are calling them back.

1312: Hundreds of protesters break through Palestinian security forces and race toward Bethlehem checkpoint shouting “To Jerusalem.” Palestinian forces have bolted, our reporter says.

No response from Israeli forces — yet.

1300: In Nablus, hundreds of protesters head toward Bracha settlement near Iraq Burin, PA official says. Israeli forces firing tear gas and stun grenades at demonstrators, two villagers suffer gas inhalation.

1254: Israeli forces on high alert at frontier crossings with Lebanon and Syria.

1250: A group of protesters surged toward the checkpoint in Bethlehem, which is being guarded by a human wall of Palestinian security forces. Israeli forces are present and watching closely.

1236: Israeli forces have detained four people at a protest in Nabi Saleh, near Ramallah, an Israeli military spokesman says.

1231: Photo: In Bethlehem, Palestinian security forces have formed a human wall to block the protesters from reaching the checkpoint. All peaceful so far.

1226: A few hundred protesters are marching in Bethlehem toward the checkpoint to Jerusalem.

1131: Israeli media reporting that more troops were deployed to the northern border.

“The forces are equipped with crowd dispersal and anti-riot measures … orders were given to the forces to maintain restraint and prevent protestors from reaching the border (fence),” reports Ynet news.

1115: Palestinians in the Old City of Jerusalem say Israeli forces have deployed by the hundreds. Along with a large media presence, the area surrounding the al-Aqsa Mosque is packed.

1100: A BBC reporter in Bethlehem says he’s seeing plenty of Palestinian Authority security forces milling about. No surprises there.

Lots of Palestinian security forces on duty for march in Bethlehem this morning.

1036: Osama Shomer, a student at Al-Azhar University in Gaza who is preparing to join demonstrations there, says Israeli warplanes are flying low overhead.

Israeli F16s flying at low altitude now 

1031: Israeli authorities just made their first arrest of the day, according to a group which coordinates protests in the West Bank. Got a busy signal at Israeli army HQ.

1016: Around 4,000 Lebanese, Palestinian and foreign demonstrators are expected to march to the Beaufort Castle in Nabatiyeh, the Beirut-based Naharnet news is reporting.

1002: The US Consulate in Jerusalem is warning Americans to avoid the Old City today.

“The U.S. Consulate General takes this opportunity to remind U.S. citizens that demonstrations, even peaceful ones, can turn violent with little or no warning. U.S. citizens should be aware of their surroundings at all times, and avoid large crowds,” according to the consulate’s website.

0947: Israel is also patrolling the skies above Jerusalem, an activist reports.

Too many helicopters in the sky

0940: Israel’s military tells us the occupied West Bank will be sealed off from Israel except under exceptional circumstances in line with “security assessments.”

“In accordance with the directives of the Minister of Defense and as part of the situation assessments in the IDF, a general closure will be implemented in the Judea and Samaria region,” army says.

0925: A reporter for The Jerusalem Post says security forces are already gathering up north.

Large police and army presence in Moshav Avivim     

0920: A program of events for the day can be found here. Most of the protests will kick off at 12:30, the program says. “It is expected that tens of thousands will participate”.0917: Palestinians are gathering in Israel and the occupied territories to mark Land Day, in commemoration of the 1976 suppression of protests that killed six people and created a movement.

Follow this live report for a minute-by-minute account of events as they unfold.

( / 30.03.2012)

‘Arab League works in favor of Saudi regime’

Arab League (AL) leaders have voiced support for the Palestinians against continuous Israeli assaults and the regime’s lingering siege on the Gaza Strip.

Arab foreign ministers and leaders convened the annual meeting in Baghdad on Wednesday with the issue of Palestine and the continuous violence in Syria on the top of the agenda.

In his address to the participants, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani called on Arab states to unanimously support the Palestinian cause.

The Arab League also expressed support for the special UN-AL envoy Kofi Annan’s plan for restoring peace in Syria, and urged Damascus to fully implement the initiative proposed by the former United Nations secretary general.

The participants said they favored a political solution to the unrest in Syria through national dialogue, and supported talks between the Syrian government and opposition based on the UN-Arab League peace plan.

The meeting also rejected any foreign intervention in Syria.

Press TV has conducted an interview with Isam Noaman, a former Lebanese minister, to share his opinion on this issue.

The following is a transcript of the interview:

Press TV: First of all, how relevant is the Arab League against the challenges that the Arab world is facing including Palestine? For instance the Arab league is not even a member of the Quartet on the Middle East.

Noaman: Well as you know the Arab League was not able to meet in a summit meeting last year because of the events in Libya. Iraq on the other hand was not able to welcome the Arab league in its territories since 2003 because of the American occupation.
On the other hand there were so many issues due, that the Arab leaders should do something about them.

For all of these reasons the Arab leaders wanted to have a meeting but they wanted to be sure they could have it in a peaceful Iraq, in a peaceful Baghdad.

The Iraqi government wanted to prove to the Arab world, to the Western world and to the world at large that the situation in Iraq is alright now, Iraq is in peace and order and it can of course have the Arab Summit in Baghdad.

That was accomplished but in general the Arab leaders are not agreed among themselves on so many things except maybe the majority of them, specially the conservative Arab leaders want to give the world at large and the UN envoy, Kofi Annan that the majority of the Arabs or of the Arab states think that Syria, the Syrian regime is to be blamed for what is taking place in Syria and not the opposition specially that Russia and China have an opposite view that the opposition share the responsibility of the present Syrian crisis.

Well I think that what they are trying to accomplish now is to tip the balance a little bit in favor of the Syrian opposition. So that the meeting of the so-called “Friends of Syria” in Istanbul next week will be encouraged in order to support the Syrian opposition.

Press TV: Well Mr. Noaman you are telling us that– if I could just jump in here– you are telling us that there is a lot of disagreements on many issues between the Arab league leaders but maybe one point that they did agree on it today was the fact they wouldn’t mention anything about the situation in Bahrain as an ongoing Arab crisis. Why do you think?

Noaman: Well because most of the Arab states want to appease Saudi Arabia at the different [Persian] Gulf emirates that they are not against Saudi Arabia, they are not with Iran or Syria because as you know Iran and Syria do support the Bahrain uprising and the majority of the Arab states specially the conservative regimes, they do not want to support Iran and Syria and they want to behave seriously and friendly to Saudi Arabia.

( / 30.03.2012)

Militairen Israël doden betoger in Gazastrook

Duizenden Palestijnen gingen vandaag de straat op.

Israëlische militairen hebben vandaag in het noorden van de Gazastrook een Palestijnse betoger gedood. Dat heeft een medewerker van de gezondheidsdienst in het Palestijnse gebied laten weten.

In de Gazastrook gingen vandaag duizenden mensen de straat op om de slachtoffers te herdenken van de betogingen van 30 maart 1976. De Palestijnen demonstreerden toen tegen het voornemen van de Israëlische regering om duizenden Palestijnen hun grond te ontnemen.

De 20-jarige Palestijn werd in Beit Hanun gedood in een gebied vlak bij de grens met Israël. In heel de Gazastrook raakten 37 Palestijnen gewond, de meesten in de buurt van Beit Hanun. Op de Westelijke Jordaanoever en in Oost-Jeruzalem raakten volgens medici nog eens 281 Palestijnen gewond. 14 van hen waren getroffen door rubberen kogels.

( / 30.03.2012)

Israeli forces in Land Day protest clashes

Israeli police officers scuffle with Palestinians outside the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem

Israeli security forces in riot gear have confronted Palestinian demonstrators along Israel’s frontiers on an annual protest day.
Minor skirmishes broke out between thousands of protesters and security forces in the Jerusalem area. Palestinians threw rocks and Israeli troops responded with tear gas, stun grenades and rubber pellets. No serious injuries were reported.

In Gaza, Palestinians said Israeli forces shot and wounded two men who approached the border during a demonstration by about 15,000 people, organised by Gaza’s Hamas rulers. The Israeli military said soldiers shot and wounded one protester.

Elsewhere, things were calm.

The Land Day rallies are an annual event marked by Israeli Arabs and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza who protest what they say are discriminatory Israeli land policies.

Supporters in neighbouring Arab countries also planned marches near the Israeli frontier, but organisers said they would keep protesters away from the borders.

Last year, demonstrators from Lebanon and Syria tried twice to break across the borders into Israel, setting off clashes with Israeli troops in which at least 38 people were killed.

In southern Lebanon today, more than 3,000 Lebanese and Palestinians gathered outside the Crusader-built Beaufort castle 15km from Israel. Lebanese security forces kept them from moving any closer to the border.

Sobhiyeh Mizari, 70, said she always taught her 12 children “never to forget Palestine.”

“We will liberate our land against the will of Israel and its backers,” said Mizari, who said her husband was killed in Israeli shelling of Lebanon in 1978.

Security forces were preparing for demonstrations in northern Israel, where a large portion of Israel’s Arab minority lives.

Several dozen Palestinians who live in east Jerusalem waved their national flag outside Jerusalem’s walled Old City. “One, one homeland!” they chanted.

Palestinians were banned from entering from the West Bank except for medical emergencies, and police barred Palestinian men under 40 from praying at a volatile Jerusalem holy site, citing security concerns.

The demonstrators performed their communal Muslim Friday prayers where they stood, praying on their flags instead of traditional mats.

They were surrounded by what appeared to be an equal number of Israeli security forces.

“Israel has no trouble with peaceful protest and respects the rights of people to demonstrate peacefully,” said government spokesman Mark Regev.

Many Palestinians, energised by Arab Spring uprisings that have overturned decades-old authoritarian regimes, see massive, coordinated marches as one of the most effective strategies to draw attention to their cause.

“After the Arab revolutions, there’s awareness of the importance of popular participation,” said Arab activist Jafar Farah. “This has rattled the Arab regimes, and now it’s frightening the Israeli government.”

( / 30.03.2012)

Subul as-Salam Centre for Arabic Language in Fez

The Subul as-Salam Centre for Arabic Language is a gem of a language school and cultural centre located in the Rcif neighborhood of the Fes Medina. It is run and operated by two amazing ladies, Meriem El-Haitami, 26, and Fatima Zohra Ibn El Cadi, 28, who first conceived of starting and running a such an institute during their last year of university. The school has been in operation since 2007 and is currently looking forward to expanding its range of classes, cultural programs and offerings this summer. Sam Gordon reports for The View from Fez


Calligraphy class

Spend five minutes with Fatima Zohra and Meriem and you’ll be hard-pressed not be inspired by their hard work, ambition, and enthusiasm – it’s contagious. Those qualities led the dynamic duo to open up a specialized language school that goes beyond the typical language institute offerings. While classes are the crux of the institute’s offerings, they are the conduit as Fatima Zohra puts it to “promote cross-cultural dialogue through education.” This mindset sparked creating Subul as-Salam. In the transition from their final year of university Fatima Zohra and Meriem dreamed of starting a school, one that would put an emphasis on intercultural activities and avoid the common pitfalls being “an average Arabic instruction school.” What they have established in the Rcif neighborhood of the Fes Medina is a space where intercultural activities and paramount language instruction seamlessly blend to create a unique learning experience.

Secretary Assia (L) and Co-Founder & Instructor Fatima Zohra (R)

One of the cornerstones that Meriem and Fatima Zohra set out in creating their school stems from their infectious curiosity and enjoyment of meeting foreigners and newcomers in the cultural crossroads of Morocco. Meriem notes that “people would come to Morocco and sometimes have a bad experience or an overwhelming experience and not have anyone to talk to,” – it was important to create a sanctuary where “people could come and learn about all aspects of Morocco.” The result was a place where they could “serve as a resource for anyone who wanted to talk about his or her experiences,” with Meriem, Fatima Zohra, and the teaching staff serving as cultural guides.

The result several years after the school has opened is an institute where the normal classroom divide of teacher and student does not exist, and instead there is a communal exchange, where the teachers are close friends and support for their students here in Morocco. It is evident in the many joint research projects where the teachers have aided and collaborated on projects looking at different Sufi brotherhoods, documentary films, and various development work and microfinance initiatives. Since Subul opened their doors, they have worked and helped over five generations of Fulbright scholars, FLAS fellows, and individual students from universities such as the University of Chicago, Princeton, Stanford, and Oxford.

Looking forward to the future Meriem and Fatima Zohra hope to continue to cultivate their dedicated staff of teachers and cultural instructors, and to expand the range and depth of programs offered in line with their goal of intercultural exchange. Most importan is maintaining the constant exchange and steady instruction as well as giving back to the local community. Since the beginning of the school portion of each student’s tuition has gone towards local charities and organizations throughout Fes.

A school excursion

Cultural Events: The school has brought in a wide range of different instructors, university professors, to give lectures on different aspects of Moroccan culture and religion. The school also hosts many excursions and trips within Morocco, in addition a staggering variety of extracurricular activities like music, lute lessons, bellydancing, calligraphy, cooking, henna workshops and even instruction of traditional artisanal trades like wood painting, woodcarving, plaster carving, and jewelry making. The institute also organizes concerts and music performances. Subul also provides many volunteering opportunities for students where they can work with orphanages, women’s organizations and different organizations in Fes.

Class Offerings: This summer Subul will offer both MSA (Modern Standard Arabic) and CMA (Colloquial Moroccan Arabic) classes. They will also be offering a Maghrebi Intensive Program, a new ten day all-inclusive enriching program, designed for travelers in mind. The program will explore Moroccan culture through language classes and lectures as well as provide overnight/day trips and excursions to areas such as the Sahara, or the Rif Mountains, and Atlas villages, and provide a mix of extracurricular activities such as cooking, calligraphy, and music lessons – all in a convenient inclusive package. The Maghrebi Intensive Program will be starting July 9, 2012. There is an option of arranging a traditional Moroccan homestay to supplement the cultural and learning experience.

Map of school location

More information about the school can be found at their website:
You can contact Meriem and Fatima Zohra by email at: Phone: +212 (0)6 63 54 91 72. The Subul as-Salam Language Centre is located at 19 Gzem Benameur Rcif, Fes, Morocco

( / 30.03.2012)

‘CDA betaalt 1 miljard losgeld aan PVV’

Ontwikkelingsorganisatiesnemen het vooral het CDA kwalijk dat het instemt met deze bezuiniging.

De ontwikkelingsorganisaties in Nederland reageren geschokt op mediaberichten dat er mogelijk 1 miljard euro wordt bezuinigd op ontwikkelingshulp. Vooral het CDA wordt deze stap kwalijk genomen, zo blijkt vandaag uit een reactie van directeur Alexander Kohnstamm van Partos, brancheorganisatie voor internationale samenwerking.

Ontwikkelingsorganisaties, verenigd in de campagne #jekrijgtwatjegeeft, zijn boos op het CDA omdat de partij instemt met deze bezuiniging. ‘De partij betaalt dan op rekening van de armsten in de wereld een losgeld van 1 miljard aan de PVV om verder te kunnen regeren’, aldus Kohnstamm.

‘Wij horen dagelijks reacties als die van Bill Gates deze week: men begrijpt dit in het buitenland totaal niet. Engeland en andere Europese landen investeren ondanks de crisis juist meer in ontwikkelingssamenwerking, terwijl Nederland vrijwillig zijn invloed en aanzien opgeeft’, aldus Kohnstamm.

Volgens de organisaties laat de regering met deze bezuiniging zien ‘dat internationale afspraken haar niets meer kunnen schelen’.

Voorafgaand aan de tussenformatie in het Catshuis had PVV-leider Wilders ‘miljarden’ aan bezuinigingen op ontwikkelingshulp geëist. Het CDA is daar fel op tegen.

( / 30.03.2012)