Israeli airstrike wounds 2 Palestinians in Gaza

An Israeli airstrike wounded two Palestinians in the Gaza Strip near the Egyptian border on Saturday, officials said.

Israel’s military said its air force targeted Palestinians in the town of Rafah attempting to launch a rocket from Gaza into Israel.

Gaza health official Adham Abu Salmia said two people were wounded in the strike.

The leader of the Islamic militant group Hamas, which controls Gaza, vowed on Friday to abduct more Israeli soldiers to pressure the Jewish state to release Palestinian prisoners.

Speaking at a conference in the capital of Qatar, Khaled Mashaal said that such kidnappings are the only way to secure the release of Palestinians held in Israeli jails. Mashaal has made similar statements before.

Last year, Hamas struck a deal with Israel to swap an Israeli soldier held by Hamas for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, including many jailed for helping carry out bombings.

( / 07.04.2012)

Israel has murdered more political opponents than apartheid South Africa ever judicially executed

This week the United Nations held an international meeting in Geneva on the question of Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli prisons and detention facilities. Professor John Dugard presented on the status of Palestinians who engage in resistance against Israeli oppression. Former Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Professor Dugard draws a parallel with the treatment of militant political opponents by South Africa’s apartheid regime and highlights the similarities between the two regimes. The below is a summary of Professor Dugard’s analysis.

Delegitimizing political prisoners

Israel does not recognize Palestinians who engage in resistance activities against the repression as combatants, protesters or “political” prisoners. To avoid giving legitimacy to their cause, it treats them as “terrorists,” ordinary criminals or security prisoners. The South African apartheid regime treated Nelson Mandela and his fellow political prisoners in a similar manner.

Moreover, Israel denies its political prisoners who qualify as combatants the status of prisoners of war (POW). It refuses to recognize that there is a conflict between the State of Israel and the Palestinian people who are exercising their right to self-determination and statehood. POWs cannot be prosecuted and punished as ordinary criminals. Instead they may be detained until the conclusion of hostilities, when they are to be released and repatriated.

POW status is applicable to members of an organized group fighting “against colonial domination and alien occupation and against racist regimes in the exercise of their right of self-determination”, according to Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions of 1949. The Palestinian people have a right to self-determination and are subject to alien occupation and possibly colonial domination. The struggle between the PLO, as a national liberation movement, and Israel should therefore be recognized as an international armed conflict to which the Geneva Conventions apply.

The Palestine Liberation Organization undertook to apply the Geneva Conventions and Protocol I in a declaration, just like the African National Congress in South Africa. Many combatants meet the requirements laid down in Protocol I. They are members of an organized force, under a responsible command structure that complies with the rules of international humanitarian law.

Palestinian freedom fighters are not criminals

Israel resembles apartheid South Africa in refusing to sign Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions. The Protocol’s extension of the benefits of the Geneva Conventions to the PLO as a national liberation movement is therefore not binding on Israel. However, Dugard argues that Protocol I has become part of customary international law because some 170 states are party to it. Israel is therefore bound by the Protocol despite the fact that it is not a party.

Hence contrary to their obligations under international customary law, the Israeli courts have rejected the argument that Palestinian resistance fighters are engaged in a war of self-determination and are therefore entitled to POW status. In addition, the Israeli courts have used the excuse in recent years that Palestinian resistance fighters fail to comply with the laws of armed conflict and therefore are not entitled to POW status.

But if Palestinian combatants were held as prisoners of war, they would be held until the end of the occupation, which could be for many years. They would be released at the same time as those convicted by Israeli military courts and imprisoned by Israel as criminals. So the practical implications of prisoner of war status are not significant.

However, the symbolic or political implications of the POW status are important. Prisoners of war are not treated as criminals but as worthy opponents in a military conflict, as freedom fighters engaged in a war of self-determination whose rights are recognized and determined by international law.

Military courts

In apartheid South Africa combatants were tried under criminal law. Such a trial gave the militants the opportunity to confront their opponent and advocate their cause in a political trial. In apartheid South Africa and Namibia militants used the political trial to good effect. Ably defended by competent and sympathetic lawyers in non-military courts open to the public and attended by the press and foreign observers, they exploited the rules of procedure and evidence to the advantage of their political cause. The history of apartheid is replete with political trials that advanced the stature of the defendants and highlighted repression and discrimination.

Most Palestinian combatants are tried by military courts despite international humanitarian law’s preference for impartial civilian courts. Military courts are intended to be the exception and not the rule, according to the Fourth Geneva Convention. Such courts are staffed by military judges lacking independence and sit in inaccessible places, sometimes behind closed doors, applying an inaccessible military law with little regard for the rules of due process.

In general, Palestinian militants are not given the opportunity to confront the occupying power in open court before impartial judges applying due process of law.

The Israeli regime murders political opponents

Those who refuse to accept the comparison of Israel’s repressive regime in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip to that of apartheid proudly proclaim that at least Palestinian political prisoners are not executed and that Israeli is a state that has de facto abolished the death penalty. It is true that apartheid South Africa executed political prisoners after trial before civilian, non-military courts applying proper legal procedures.

But more Palestinians have been killed in targeted assassinations of combatants than were judicially executed in South Africa. Israel is not an abolitionist state. It is a state that practices capital punishment in an arbitrary and capricious manner without a trial. However cruel and inhuman the conditions of Palestinian prisoners, however unfair the trials that sent them to prison, and however demeaning their characterization as “criminals” or “terrorists”, we should not forget that Palestinian prisoners are the fortunate ones. For they were not murdered by a regime that murders political opponents under the euphemism of “targeted assassinations”.

( / 07.04.2012)

Mashaal: Hamas backs demands for freedom

DOHA, Qatar (Ma’an) — Hamas chief Khalid Mashaal said Saturday that his faction stood behind those demanding freedom and dignity in the Middle East.

Addressing a conference on Jerusalem in the Qatari capital, Mashaal said Hamas’ leaders and institutions are united and said it operates democratically, just not publicly.

“I would like to reiterate that Hamas makes mistakes, but it has also had successes,” he said.

Hamas remains committed to armed resistance and rejects other options which have weakened the nation, he told the conference.

The Palestinian cause “lacks power, not legality,” he said.

( / 07.04.2012)


De Israëlische ambassade regelt voor en op verzoek van een oorlogsmisdadiger een ‘gesprek’ met de vaste commissie voor Buitenlandse Zaken. In het gebouw van de Tweede Kamer. Israël bepaalt daar blijkbaar de agenda. En niet een betrokken volksvertegenwoordiger heeft daar een probleem mee.

Maj. Gen. Eitan Dangot, Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories

Een lezer emailde mij het volgende:

Na afloop van de hoorzitting Mensenrechtenbeleid afgelopen maandag 19 maart werd de Kamer een uur lang achter gesloten deuren gebriefd door generaal Eitan Dangot, coordinator Government Activities in the Territories. Zie

De baas van de bezette gebieden dus. Een uur lang. Ná de hoorzitting over mensenrechten. Op verzoek van de ambassade van Israël[1]. Een deel van de hoorzitting ging over de relatie Israël – Nederland (vanaf 14:00, veel vuurwerk), o.a. met de volstrekt niet serieus te nemen Le Bois (Christenen voor Israël), zie artikel:

[1] (bron, pdf)

Agendapunt: Verzoek Ambassade van Israël om gesprek met generaal Eitan Dangot, coordinator Government Activities in the Territories, op 19 maart 2012
Zaak: Brief derden – Ambassade van Israël (NL) te Den Haag – 9 maart 2012
Verzoek Ambassade van Israël, namens de coordinator of Government Activities
in the Territories, om gesprek met vaste commissie voor Buitenlandse Zaken d.d.
19 maart 2012 – 2012Z04810
Besluit: Gesprek plannen op maandag 19 maart van 18.00 tot 19.00 uur.


M825A1 155mm projectiles, painted light green to designate a munition containing white phosphorus, stand fuzed and ready with an IDF artillery unit firing into Gaza.

Majoor-Generaal Eitan Dangot, die “de poortwachter” als bijnaam heeft, coördineert het Israëlische leger en “burgerzaken” op de bezette Westelijke Jordaanoever en in de Gazastrook, onder de titel “Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories” (COGAT). Dat wil dus zeggen dat hij aan het hoofd staat van een militair bezettingsregime dat de internationale gemeenschap, dus ook Europa en Nederland, meermalen heeft veroordeeld en illegaal acht.

In 2010 meldde Dangot dat het Israëlische ‘beleid’ t.a.v. de Gazastrook gezien moet worden in het licht van “economische oorlogsvoering“. Een schokkende mededeling, omdat het Israël’s mantra van ‘zelfverdediging’ doorbrak, en het, ingezet tegen een opgesloten bevolkingsgroep, een oorlogsmisdaad betreft. Desalniettemin werd deze bekentenis door de Nederlandse nieuwsmedia unaniem verzwegen. Dat Eitan Dangot in formele zin een oorlogsmisdadiger is, blijkt echter zelfs geen probleem te zijn voor de volksvertegenwoordigers die de Mensenrechten in hun portefeuille hebben.

Gaza, 8 januari 2009.

Wanneer het “de Joodse staat” betreft is ons hele democratische instituut corrupt, omdat iedereen in Den Haag Israël’s misdaden steunt, vergoeilijkt, verzwijgt of negeert. CDA, VVD, PVV, CU en SGP zijn 100% pro-Israël, pro-bezetting, anti Internationaal Recht en VN, en tegen een duurzame vrede voor de Palestijnen – dat staat buiten kijf. De PvdA mompelt wel eens wat, maar blijft volgzaam aan de consensus. De SP vaart sinds Roemer een steeds sterker pro-Israëlen pro-bezetting koers, en heeft in de praktijk, net als de PvdA, nooit echt een vuist gemaakt. Sinds kort weten we dat Boris van der Ham ten overstaan van de Nederlandse Israël-lobby een “vriend van Israël” is, dus D66 valt ook af. Aan Arjen El Fassed – zoon van een Palestijnse vader met de portefeuilles Buitenlandse Zaken, Midden-Oosten en Ontwikkelingssamenwerking – heb heb ik op Twitter tot twee keer toe de vraag gesteld hoe het zit met dat treffen met Dangot. Hij heeft beide tweets genegeerd, waaruit ik concludeer dat (ook) hij het liever onder de pet houdt. Dat roept vragen op. De Partij van de Dieren heeft mij jaren geleden al te kennen gegeven dat het niet aan Buitenlandse Zaken doet.

Den Haag 9 januari 2009. Harry van Bommel sluit zich aan bij een pro-Israël demonstratie in Den Haag, terwijl er op hetzelfde moment in Gaza bommen en witte fosfor werd gegooid op mensen die nergens naartoe konden vluchten.

RD over de hoorzitting Mensenrechtenbeleid → Gesteggel in Tweede Kamer om “Israëlbasher”
→ SP en de Palestijnen
→ SP: illegale nederzettingen mogen blijven
→ Israël en onze bloedeloze oppositie

( / 07.04.2012)

“We only receive back the bodies”


Murder and mayhem in an ugly but little-known Pakistani conflict



ZULFIKAR LANGAU was 17 when he ran away “to the mountains”, a euphemism for joining independence-seeking insurgents in Balochistan, a vast, thinly populated province of deserts and mountains in the west of Pakistan. The death of a tribal chief, Nawab Akbar Bugti, in a cave during a clash with the Pakistani army in 2006, transformed Zulfikar’s mind, says his family. That event ignited the latest bloody phase of Balochistan’s on-off revolt against Pakistan, which has seen hundreds of mutilated bodies dumped on roadsides, thousands of people go missing and revenge killings by security forces and by competing tribal and religious factions.

Zulfikar joined the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA). He would implore others to join whenever he visited his family in Killi Khurasan, in the Mangocher area, a village of mud houses set in arid farmland, two hours’ bumpy ride from the provincial capital, Quetta. Last September he died in a shoot-out with security forces, after his vehicle raced through a checkpoint. “He knew he wouldn’t live to see his 25th birthday,” says a proud family member.

Home to the Langau tribe, the area around Killi Khurasan harboured fighters of the BLA until about a year ago, when Pakistani forces moved in. The insurgents have fled, but sympathy for them lingers. No school in the area dares fly the Pakistan flag or sing the national anthem. Such attitudes are common in the province.

Balochistan, with 9m out of Pakistan’s 180m people, covers 44% the country’s territory and contains its most valuable deposits of gas, copper, iron ore and oil. It has a new deepwater port, Gwadar, and provides a route for trade and pipelines to Central Asia. Yet Balochistan is the country’s most impoverished province. The Baloch are convinced that they are being exploited to death by the country’s dominant ethnic group, the Punjabis. Balochistan was semi-independent under the British Raj, and some Baloch believe it was forcibly annexed in 1948, sparking the first of five revolts led by tribal chieftains.

The current crisis is taking on wider ramifications. In February an American congressman, Dana Rohrabacher, submitted a resolution to Congress calling for “self-determination” for Balochistan. The proposal—not voted on—caused uproar in Pakistan, where the government has long charged that India supports Baloch separatists, via its consulates in Afghanistan. A sense of “great game” intrigue hangs over the province. Quetta is known as the hideout of the Afghan Taliban’s leadership council, the Quetta Shura. Iran and Afghanistan also have Baloch populations who would surely be affected if the situation in Balochistan worsened further. There is even talk about a new round of Pakistani disintegration, comparable to the break-up in 1971, when subjugated East Pakistan split away to become Bangladesh. This, though, seems overblown. Fighters number only thousands, and the fighting remains patchy.

Still, the killing of the 79-year-old Nawab Akbar Bugti—and recent actions by Pakistan’s security forces—have increased tensions. Since July 2010 over 300 battered corpses have been flung on roadsides and in remote areas across the province. Baloch activists and human-rights organisations believe these men, insurgents and activists, were victims of a “kill and dump” policy run by the Frontier Corps (FC), a paramilitary force that works with the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency. With burn marks, broken limbs, nails pulled out, and sometimes with holes drilled in their heads, the bodies are discarded, becoming food for dogs. The security forces deny any connection to the corpses. No one has been held responsible.

Even more people simply go missing. Dr Deen Mohammad, who worked at a government hospital in the central Khuzdar district, was abducted from the hospital grounds one night in June 2009. He was a senior member of the Baloch National Movement, a political organisation—and a peaceful one, says his 19-year-old daughter, Sheeri. “We’ve had no news,” she says. “With all the Baloch brothers who’ve been taken, we only receive back the bodies.”

According to the Voice for Missing Baloch, a campaign group, 8,000 people have disappeared over the past nine years. Last year the provincial government acknowledged that about 1,000 people were missing. Now, curiously, the government puts the figure at 48. Baloch activists believe that students, doctors, lawyers and others among the province’s educated class are being targeted.

The violence took a new turn in January when Nawab Bugti’s granddaughter and great-granddaughter were intercepted driving home from a wedding in Karachi. The gunmen first shot the 13-year-old great-granddaughter, then dragged her mother out and shot her in the face. They left her expensive jewellery. The family believes this was a hit ordered by Pakistani intelligence. Nawab Bugti’s grandson, Brahamdagh, lives in exile in Switzerland and is presumed the leader of another insurgent group, the Baloch Republican Army (BRA).

The violence is cascading. Baloch separatists have been on a killing spree of their own, aimed at Punjabi “settlers”, whose families may in fact have lived in the province for generations. The BLA gunned down a respected professor, Nazma Talib, by the gates of Balochistan University in Quetta, where she taught mass communication. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, an independent organisation, believes 800 settlers have been murdered since 2006, seemingly by separatists.


Unhappy land


The rebels have also killed hundreds of fellow Baloch whom they accuse of siding with Pakistan. Six young, apparently unarmed men were tried and executed by the BRA in March in the rebel stronghold of Dera Bugti. Many passing civilians have been killed by insurgents’ landmines.

Unconnected violence affects the province’s Shia minority. Over 600 Shias have been killed over the past decade by Sunni jihadist groups. Late last year, buses were twice ambushed, and the Shia passengers were singled out and shot.

The police patrol just 5% of Balochistan. The rest is manned by tribal “levies” and the FC, which has 50,000 troops. Security sources estimate the strength of the armed separatists at 1,500-4,000 men. They are supported—with money, influence or sympathy—by some members of the powerful Bugti tribe and by parts of the Baloch middle class. This makes today’s insurgency stronger than previous ones, but the separatists will nevertheless struggle to prevail over Pakistan’s huge army. “Overall, the situation is under control,” the provincial home secretary, Naseebullah Bazai, insists.

In theory, provincial politicians should be able to settle the conflict before it gets worse. In practice, the corruption of local politics makes this unlikely. In March Lashkari Raisani, the brother of the province’s chief minister, resigned from the Senate, Pakistan’s upper house of parliament, complaining that politicians in Quetta and Islamabad were “not serious” about Balochistan. “We are going toward the point of no return,” he warns.

( / 07.04.2012)

What would a ‘safe passage’ between W. Bank, Gaza look like?

In June 2010, the AIX Group published a series of noteworthy position papers on the two-state solution. At a time when restrictions on access between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank are becoming ever more entrenched, AIX researchers made an attempt to look into the future to see how access might be realized. The result: a long position paper (PDF) which details a number of possibilities for a safe passage between Gaza and the West Bank that thoroughly addresses security, environmental and statutory considerations.

Dr. Ron Pundak, one of the architects of the Oslo Accords and a member of the AIX Steering Committee, told Gisha: “In the Oslo Accords, Israel recognized that the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are a single territorial unit, and therefore there must be a link between them.” Dr. Pundak said that “the minute Palestinians have to travel through Israel to get from Gaza to the West Bank, you have a system that makes things difficult for all parties. There are security problems, and trade becomes more restricted and less competitive. This is why we preferred to plan a closed route that would be designated exclusively for Palestinian use and would be under Palestinian responsibility.”

The absence of a “safe passage” is by no means the only reason for the restrictions on travel between Gaza and the West Bank – Israel forbids passage even when Palestinians seek to access the West Bank from Gaza via Jordan, without entering Israel at all. A “safe passage” could facilitate travel.

AIX brings together senior researchers, individuals who have participated in negotiations and people experienced in Israel and the Palestinian Authority’s economic institutions with the aim of analyzing the economic aspects of a permanent agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. The cost of the territorial link between Gaza and the West Bank has also been considered. AIX estimates that the project would cost about $700 million, in addition to $180 million for security arrangements.

Of a number of alternatives examined, AIX recommended Route 33 – to create a new overland road and railway between the Karni crossing and the Al-Majid crossing: “The construction of a tunnel or a bridge is not feasible, and the use of a monorail or a train alone will not satisfy the core interests of the Palestinians,” the position paper states.

What happens when this route intersects with Israeli roads?

“There is an appropriate engineering solution for every location. We can build a bypass, tunnel or any other solution allowing for travel. We tried to find a route for the link that minimizes friction as much as possible.”

Restrictions on movement between Gaza and the West Bank, which have intensified over the past two decades, exact a heavy price: Palestinians living in Gaza are unable to see family members in the West Bank; commercial ties between Gaza and the West Bank have been severed, with especially detrimental consequences for those living in Gaza; and students from Gaza are prevented from accessing universities in the West Bank. However, even today, each month, there are 4,000 exits of Palestinians from Gaza via the Erez Crossing into Israel, meaning that even in the current security and political situation, travel between Gaza and the West Bank is possible, with or without a separate designated route.

A map of the routes that AIX considered. The route chosen was route number 3.

‘Not Immune to Risk’

Dr. Pundak admits that the route is not “immune to risk,” but adds, “We believe that in every solution Israel has created for itself over the years, it left a certain margin of security risk. The question is how to create appropriate monitoring in order to reduce the risks as much as possible. The route we are talking about was planned such that it would be far away from existing Israeli communities, and it would be built in a manner that does not allow traveling off the road and onto the Israeli road system. However, monitoring and safety controls are essential if this solution is to work.”

According to Dr. Pundak, “This project has three angles: the architectural-environmental angle, the angle related to planning the chosen route and the political-diplomatic angle. We preferred a route that takes account of the existing topography.” Route 33 does weigh factors such as the length of the route in the occupied Palestinian territory and in Israel, compatibility with engineering and planning criteria, security considerations, engineering feasibility, compatibility with existing building plans and environmental concerns. In fact, says Pundak, “construction on this route could start tomorrow, instead of waiting twenty years for an agreement.”

Have you suggested this route to the government?

“The previous government, the Olmert government, had begun considering these issues. I am not aware of the subject arising in the Netanyahu government. The reason we want to push this is that we believe that planning should be done today, yesterday, last week – before any other Israeli activity takes place in the area – like building additional communities and roads which would increase the cost of the project and make its implementation more difficult. On the other hand, as stated, this is one of the advantages of this solution – it can be implemented immediately.”

This post was originally published on Gaza Gateway, a site created by Gisha. Gisha is an Israeli non-profit organization founded in 2005 whose goal is to protect the freedom of movement of Palestinians, especially Gaza residents. Gisha promotes rights guaranteed by international and Israeli law.

( / 07.04.2012)

Israeli forces attempt to arrest 2-year-old Palestinian child

Mo’men Shtayeh probably owns a John Cena shirt, the WWE wrestler who the Palestinian kids hero worship, their shrill voices echoing in neighborhood streets of Cena’s catchphrase, “You can’t see me!” accompanied with waving a hand in front of their faces.

Mo’men Shtayeh has seen and knows too much. There is a chance — nay, a probability — that due to witnessing the Israeli army’s brutality and severe oppression in his village of Kufr Qaddoum, Mo’men might have grown up to be a warmongering Islamist (or perversely, a Tea Partier).

Mo’men Shtayeh represents a threat to the security of the Israeli racist occupying state. Apparently, it is well known that due to his savvy nature, Mo’men has been involved in drawing up specialized blueprints to attack enemy bases.

So it all makes perfect sense that the most moral army in the world, the Israeli Defense Forces, the fourth strongest army, the upholders of the beacon of democracy and godly light, tried to arrest Mo’men on Monday, April 2nd.

The thing is, Mo’men is two-and-a-half years old.

Murad Shtayeh, the coordinator of the popular resistance committeee in Kufr Qaddoum and the father of little Mo’men, told The Electronic Intifada that heavily armed Israeli soldiers raided his house on Monday at 5:30pm. Two soldiers remained outside, two others went in the house, shouting they were going to arrest Mo’men.

“Mo’men was going inside the house,” Murad said, “when the soldiers suddenly took off from where they had been standing. They came running to the house like they were in a marathon, very fast and urgent, like a bunch of crazies.”

The soldiers claimed that Mo’men had not a nuclear warhead, or a submachine gun, but the most dangerous item in the world — a slingshot.

“Of course Mo’men didn’t have a slingshot in his hands!” scoffed Murad. “And even if he did, so what? He’s a kid.” For crying out loud.

The soldiers were adamant that Mo’men hand over his slingshot (which he doesn’t own) because he was using it to aim at the soldiers. What’s more, they wanted Mo’men to hand himself over to them too.

Bashar Shtayeh, Murad’s cousin, was also present at the scene. “The soldiers in the house drew their weapons and pointed them at the family,” he said, “threatening them that they would not leave unless Mo’men was handed over to them.”

An loud angry arugment persisted for half an hour between Murad, other villagers who had come to see what the commotion was all about, and the soldiers. The soldiers then left, having cemented yet another moral meltdown in the occupation’s history. Not that they had morals in the first place.

But what of the toddler? Needless to say, Mo’men was terrified by what was going on around him.

“What can I say, of course he’s affected by this,” Murad said. “He was very scared. He’s doing slightly better now.”

Kufr Qaddoum began its weekly popular resistance protests in June 2011, against the encroaching illegal settlement of Qedumim that is built on the village’s land and to open the main village road that leads directly to Nablus.

The Israeli oppression against Kufr Qaddoum doesn’t just happen on Fridays. It occures on a daily basis.

“Obviously, they thought this stunt — whether carried through or not — would serve as a punishment for us, but the truth is that it will not deter us from our protests,” Murad declared.

“Every day and night we have five to seven soldiers in the village harrassing us. Sometimes they come in with their dogs and fetch cars and houses. Yesterday [Tuesday] at 9:30pm the soldiers set up a checkpoint on one of the inner streets of the village.”

Mo’men Shtayeh, your little two-and-a-half-year-old self highlighted the absurdity, the idiocy, the shameful nature of the Israeli occupying army. May the force of John Cena be with you.

( / 07.04.2012)

Qatar and Saudi Arabia at odds over Shater’s nomination

The Muslim Brotherhood’s surprise announcement nominating Khairat al-Shater for the presidency has ruffled feathers not only in Egypt but also here in the Gulf. The two Gulf States that perhaps are most at odds with each other over this nomination are Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

The small state of Qatar has not enjoyed good relations with the ousted Mubarak regime, in fact in a strange twist of irony Hosni Mubarak’s first officialvisit to Doha came only towards the end of 2010, only weeks before his downfall was championed by the Qatar state broadcaster Al Jazeera. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, enjoyed very warm relations with “al-Reyyes,” as Mubarak was referred to in the Gulf. During the 18-day Egyptian uprising, the Saudi King himself offered to make up for any funding that the US may withhold from its close ally.

The stakes between Egypt and these nations are high. Qatar and Saudi have promised the largest amounts of pledges to the Egyptian government; the first promised a staggering amount of US$10 billion in projects and financial aid while the latter promised up to $4 billion. Both states have transferred $500 million to Egypt’s coffers so far. At 130,000, the number of Egyptians living in Qatar pales in comparison with the 1.2 million Egyptians in the Kingdom, although Egyptian expatriates have assumed more prominent roles in Qatari society as advisors to the Emir and heads of institutions. Saudi investments in Egypt stood at $10 billion in 2011, with two-way trade exceeding $3.5 billion annually, whereas Qatari investment in Egypt stood at $430 million, with Qatari-Egyptian two-way trade having almost doubled in one year to $500 million in 2011.

Unlike other Gulf States, Qatar early on identified the changing dynamics within the Egyptian media landscape, launching Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr  Egypt Live), a TV channel targeted specifically to the Egyptian market only ten days after Mubarak was ousted. Qatar’s Emir was also the only Gulf leader to visit Egypt and meet with Field Marshal Tantawi in his new capacity back in May 2011.

Until Shater’s nomination, the Gulf States of Saudi and Qatar were in agreement on maintaining ties with Egypt; today, however, divergent views may come into the forefront. At the outset, the prospect of Shater’s presidency will add more worries to Saudi Arabia, who in mid-February 2011, just a few days after the ouster of its ally Mubarak, issued a resolution to withdraw sections from public schools textbooks that it claimed “incite violence” and specifically named those segments dealing with the leaders of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood including Sheikh Hassan al-Banna, the group’s founder, and Sayyed Qotb, according to the London based Al-Hayat.

Although Saudi Arabia has not issued any official statement following the rise of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, columnists close to the Saudi regime have repeatedly spelled out the suspicion of Saudi decision makers regarding the group. Crown Prince Nayef, who has served as Saudi Interior Minister since 1975, is especially known for his distrust of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Back in 2002, Prince Nayef made the audacious statement saying, “Without any hesitation I say it, that our problems, all of them, came from the direction of the Muslim Brotherhood.” Then, following Mubarak’s downfall, Prince Nayef denounced a journalist as a “terrorist sympathizer” when he asked him whether his country would improve relations with the Muslim Brotherhood. According to the New York Times, Prince Nayef said his country felt “betrayed” by the Muslim Brotherhood after the Kingdom offered refuge to its members who were persecuted under Gamal Abdel Nasser “only to have them establish a competing political ideology.” Ironically, reports indicated that out of the 120,000 votes cast last winter by Egyptians living in Saudi Arabia in the previous parliamentary elections, a majority went to the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party.

Furthermore, Omar Suleiman, Egypt’s former head of intelligence, who is known for his distrust of the Muslim Brotherhood, paid a visit to Saudi Arabia following Mubarak’s downfall and was shown publically on Saudi TV meeting with his long time Saudi intelligence colleague, the now powerful Crown Prince Nayef.

Qatar’s relations with the Muslim Brotherhood are poles apart from that of its giant neighbor. In early March, Shater paid an official visit to Qatar, a Gulf state that has been welcoming Muslim Brotherhood members for over half a century including the influential Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the late Abdul Muiz Abdel Sattar and Dr. Ahmad al-Assal. On his visit which lasted several days Shater “discussed coordination between the Brotherhood, the Freedom and Justice Party and Qatar in the upcoming period.”

The candidacy of Abdel Moneim Abouel Fotouh, who was expelled from the Brotherhood and is experiencing a surge in popularity, may complicate matters within the decision-making circles of Doha. Prior to Shater’s nomination, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who enjoys strong relations with the Emir of Qatar, singled out Abouel Fotouh as his candidate of choice. Qaradawi had referred to Abouel Fotouh as “a cheerful man of good morals who deals with everyone in comments last February; adding that he sees him “as the best candidate in terms of age and experience on Arab and Egyptian affairs.”

Qatar has recently been enjoying a rapprochement with Saudi Arabia that may witness a setback if the former was seen to promote Shater’s candidacy too enthusiastically. So far, Shater has appeared numerous times on Qatari-owned Al Jazeera Arabic in October and February, as well as the English version of the channel and both Al Jazeera Mubasher and Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr channels.

There is no denying the keen interest that these two wealthy and influential Gulf States will be paying to the Egyptian presidential elections. To Saudi Arabia, the notion of an influential Arabic Islamic leaning republic offering competing ideologies to its own Wahhabi teachings could pose a threat to its dominant role in the Sunni Muslim world. To Qatar, a relationship that it has carefully cultivated over decades may finally be bearing fruit, turning a once cold relationship with Egypt into a strategic and valuable partnership.

After a period of relatively close coordination following the Arab uprisings, the Gulf States of Qatar and Saudi Arabia will likely witness their first major foreign policy divergence should the prospect of a Muslim Brotherhood president in Egypt turn into a reality.

( / 07.04.2012)

Islamic group offers Syria violence victims $70 million aid

A Syrian girl holds the Syrian opposition flag during a protest against Syria’s President Bashar Assad to express solidarity with Syria’s anti-government protesters, in Tripoli, northern Lebanon, March 30, 2012.
JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) — The world’s largest Islamic body said on Saturday it was preparing humanitarian aid worth up to $70 million to help some 1 million people affected by violence during the year-long Syrian uprising against President Bashar Assad.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation, whose 57 members include conflict-stricken Syria, said last month it had received permission from Damascus to send such aid to Syria and would send a team to assess the population’s needs.

A mission including members of the OIC and the United Nations, along with a Syrian government team, visited several provinces including Homs, Idlib, Deir al-Zor and Deraa, parts of which have seen some of the fiercest fighting, and issued a report based on their findings.

“The report showed that there is an urgent humanitarian situation with around one million people affected and that the urgent humanitarian program (will) cost, according to the OIC report, $70 million. Currently preparations are being made with regard to the program,” OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu told a news conference in Jeddah.

The aid will include food, medical supplies and financial support. Another assessment mission will look at the needs of countries hosting refugees, he added.

The United Nations estimates more than 9,000 civilians have been killed in Assad’s crackdown on protests against him.

Last month the government requested more time to assess a demand by UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos for “unhindered access” for aid, Amos said after a visit to Syria.

The OIC aims to safeguard the interests of the Muslim world and has collected aid in the past to help its member states. Last year, the group’s member states pledged $350 million in aid to fight famine in Somalia.

( / 07.04.2012)

Palestinian man Fadi Zaitoun killed in a chase by extremist settlers

انّا للہ و انّا الیه راجعون
الله يرحم كل الشهداء

NABLUS, (PIC) Fadi Zaitoun, from the village of Beita, south of Nablus, died late Thursday evening of injuries he sustained when his tractor crashed on its side as he was being chased by Jewish settlers from Yitzhar.

Eyewitnesses said that Zaitoun was on his tractor ploughing village land when settlers from the nearby settlement of Yitzhar started chasing him. As he tried to flee on his tractor, the tractor crashed on its side and he was critically injured. He was taken to Rafidya hospital in Nablus, where he succumbed to his injuries.

Yitzhar is notorious for its extremist settlers. It was a rabbi from Yitzhar who co-authored the “Handbook for the killing of Gentiles” in which he said that it was permissible to kill Palestinian children, so that they do not grow to be “terrorists like their parents.”

Meanwhile, Israeli occupation authorities declared a closure on the West Bank starting midnight Thursday till mid-night Saturday because of the Jewish Passover holiday.

( / 07.04.2012)