Peres slams IDF officer for attack on activist

President says IDF decision to investigate officer filmed striking a pro-Palestinian activist is justified; PM condemns attack.

IDF officer hitting activist with M-16Photo: YouTube Screenshot

President Shimon Peres expressed shock and outrage on Monday after an IDF officer was filmed striking a pro-Palestinian activist.

According to a video, posted on YouTube by the International Solidarity Movement, Lt.-Col. Shalom Eisner, deputy commander of the Jordan Valley Brigade is seen taking his M-16 and slamming it in the face of a blond-haired activist. The demonstrator, a Danish national, falls to the ground and is carried away by fellow activists.


The protester, named as Andreas Ias, was treated in aPalestinian hospital for light injuries and told Israeli media on Monday that he was well.

“We were just walking slowly towards the soldiers, we were chanting Palestinian songs calling for the liberation of Palestine. I don’t believe that is a provocation,” he told Israel’s Channel 10 television.

Peres also concurred with the IDF’s decision to conduct an investigation and said that behavior such as that displayed by Eisner could not be tolerated in the IDF, and must be rooted out wherever it exists. “This attack undeniably demands an investigation and I am sure that there will be one,” he said.

The IDF on Monday condemned the attack, but also stated that the incident should not be taken out of context to misrepresent the values of the Israeli army.

Speaking to Israel Radio, IDF Spokesman Brig.- Gen. Yoav Mordechai said that “these are harsh pictures, but I still can’t divorce the filmed episodes from the incident that lasted over an hour and which included violence by the anarchists and Palestinians.” At one point there were over 200 demonstrators, he said, indicating that the video was being taken out of context.

Nevertheless, Mordechai called the event “grave” and said it could not be taken as a representation of the values of the IDF.

The IDF’s OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Nitzan Alon ordered the opening of an investigation into the incident. Upon receiving the preliminary results of the investigation Sunday night, Alon suspended Eisner until the completion of the probe.

In addition, the Military Advocate-General’s office decided to open a criminal investigation into the incident, which IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz said Sunday evening was not representative of the IDF’s ethics and morals and would be fully investigated and treated with the utmost gravity.

Speaking at the Netanya Academic College on Monday, Jewish Agency Chair Natan Sharansky said that “although the IDF officer lost his self-control, it is important to remember that Israel treats people who break the law in accordance with international law, which is in contrast to others such as Hamas.”

Yesha Council chairman Danny Dayan on Monday condemned what he termed an “overwhelming hysteria” in Israel over the incident. Speaking to Israel Radio, Dayan said that the officer who struck the activist should not have been judged by a 7-second video from an incident that lasted two hours. Moreover, the fact that the IDF had already condemned the officer just hours after the incident displays a loss of control on the part of the IDF and an irresponsible course of action taken by Israeli political leaders.

Dayan called the pro-Palestinian activist an enemy of Israel and implied that the Jewish state is more concerned with its image abroad than protecting its soldiers.

Dayan also condemned the Israeli political and military establishment for its “hysteria” over the incident, saying there was no reason for the prime minister, the defense minister, and other high-ranking political authorities to be involved.

NGO Monitor on Monday noted that the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), which filmed and distributed the video of the attack, has a history of endorsing violence against Israelis.

In a press release, NGO monitor quoted ISM leaders as having called for “both non-violent and violent” resistance and having said that deaths are “no less noble than carrying out a suicide operation. And we are certain that if these men were killed during such an action, they would be considered shaheed Allah.”

Such violence by a senior officer is rare in the West Bank and soldiers serving in the West Bank are generally trained to show restraint during demonstrations or civil disturbances.

According to the Palestinians, the incident took place on Saturday during a cycling tour around the Jordan Valley by European, Israeli and Palestinian activists.

The Wafa news agency said that the IDF stopped the 250 participants along Road 90 near the West Bank village of al Ouja and refused to allow them to continue. When the cyclists refused, scuffles broke out. A number of the participants in the demonstration were injured and taken to hospital in Jericho. The IDF arrested a number of the activists.

( / 16.04.2012)

Europe’s airlines enforce Israeli travel ban on activists hoping to repair Palestinian schools

Israeli activists were arrested for holding “Welcome to Palestine” signs at Ben Gurion airport on Sunday.

JERUSALEM (IPS) – As 60 percent of the international activists set to land at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport on Sunday had their plane tickets cancelled, organizers of the Welcome to Palestine “fly-in” campaign condemned what they say is European complicity in Israel’s illegal restrictions on their right to travel freely.

“It’s a sign of capitulation and obedience to illegal orders from the Israeli government since European regulations state that people have the right to travel,” Nicolas Shahshahani, an organizer with a French delegation of approximately 500 persons originally planning to arrive in Tel Aviv on Sunday, 15 April, said.

German airline Lufthansa cancelled all flights from French airports into Tel Aviv scheduled for Sunday. Activists also reported that British airline, Air France and EasyJet had cancelled activists’ tickets, after Israel circulated a no-fly list and threatened legal action should the airlines transport the activists to Tel Aviv.

Up to 2,000 international Palestine solidarity activists had booked flights to Tel Aviv in order to spend a week volunteering and visiting different areas of the occupied West Bank, including BethlehemHebronRamallah and the Jordan Valley. They planned to openly announce their intention to visit areas under Israeli occupation upon arrival at the airport.

The activities — which include renovating a kindergarten, planting trees and repairing water wells — were coordinated with 25 local Palestinian organizations.

Right to be visited

“Our goal is to be visited as Palestinians,” Mazin Qumsiyeh, media coordinator of the Welcome to Palestine initiative, said. “Under occupation this need to be visited is even more important. Even prisoners in prisons are entitled to visitors, so we are insisting on our right to be visited and the right for people to visit us freely.”

As of 10am Sunday morning, the Israeli authorities had stopped a handful of international activists at Ben Gurion airport, where the Israeli government had deployed 650 police and security officers.

“The Israeli government said that [the activists] are coming to cause trouble. This is a lie. We are continuing with our program regardless of what happens and regardless of the number of people who get in,” Qumsiyeh added.

Last year, more than 400 people were denied access to their flights to Tel Aviv from airports across Europe. Approximately 125 activists managed to make it to Ben Gurion airport, but most were interrogated, detained and deported after announcing their intention to visit Palestine.

Israel controls all entry points into the West Bank and has erected nearly 100 checkpoints within that severely limit Palestinian freedom of movement. Israel also maintains a strictblockade and permit-pass system on Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip, and restricts nearly all outside access to the besieged area.

All foreigners wishing to visit, work or volunteer in the West Bank or Gaza must pass through Israeli security checks in order to access the areas, forcing most to lie or conceal their true intentions for being there.

“These policies serve to isolate the Palestinians from the rest of the world, and from international visitors. It affects the economy. It affects higher education. It affects, I think, all aspects of Palestinian life,” Sarah Anabtawi, coordinator of the Right to Enter campaign, which defends the rights of access, movement and residency in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, said.

Reaction of a thief

On Saturday, the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office released a sarcastic letter, supposedly meant to be distributed to the activists upon their arrival in Tel Aviv, which suggested other places the activists could focus their human rights work, such as Syria or Iran.

“You could have chosen to protest the Iranian regime’s brutal crackdown on dissent,” the letter reads, “but instead you chose to protest against Israel, the Middle East’s sole democracy, where women are equal, the press criticizes the government, and human rights organizations can operate freely.”

According to Mazin Qumsiyeh, Israel’s reaction to the fly-in highlights the Israeli government’s desire to limit public awareness of the situation in Palestine, and shield itself from international criticism and pressure.

“This is a hysterical reaction of a thief who doesn’t want to be exposed as a thief. They don’t want the world to know what’s happening here. They want to isolate us even more and prevent internationals from coming to Palestine to find out what’s going on,” Qumsiyeh said.

“It’s a confirmation that Israel isolates us and prevents us from having a normal life. It’s anapartheid state that doesn’t want the world to find out that it’s an apartheid state.”

( / 16.04.2012)

‎’Israel keeps Palestine under siege while West sits idly’‎

An interview with Derek Graham, Irish pro-Palestinian activist in Gaza
Gaza has been under siege since 2008, and they’re showing now that the West Bank is ‎also under siege. They tried to go by land last month and they were stopped. They tried to ‎fly and they were stopped. And the sea is closed. Therefore, the whole of Palestine is ‎completely closed down; so, the whole of Palestine is under siege by Israel.”‎
A Gaza-based political activist slams the Israeli regime for placing the Palestinian population under siege – disrupting utilities, blocking transport and terrorizing people – while censuring Western states for effectively backing such aggression.
On April 7, Hamas Health Minister Basem Naeem called on the international community to “stop sitting idle and to intervene to help end the suffering of the people of Gaza.”

The Israeli regime persistently denies over 1.5 million people in the besieged enclave their basic rights, including the freedom of movement and the right to decent living, work, health and education.

Press TV has conducted an interview with Derek Graham, an Irish pro-Palestinian activist in Gaza, to further discuss the issue. The following is a transcription of the interview.

Press TV: Mr. Graham, your take on [our previous guest] Ms. [Maxine] Dovere’s comments that says, basically, Israel is not a criminal element and the problem are with those people, those activists who wanted to go to Bethlehem.

Graham: First off, I would like to say I live in Gaza and believe me they are war criminals. I was on a fishing boat four days ago, we were inside the three-mile limit and we were shot at. We were actually within three miles of the shoreline and we were shot at. There were no weapons, there was nothing on board that boat and we were shot at. That is a war crime. I’m sorry but for that woman to come up with that statement is ludicrous.

In relation to the Flytilla, I would say that it’s actually showing Israel’s escalation. Gaza has been under siege since 2008, and they’re showing now that the West Bank is also under siege. They tried to go by land last month and they were stopped. They tried to fly and they were stopped. And the sea is closed. Therefore, the whole of Palestine is completely closed down; so, the whole of Palestine is under siege by Israel.

I think that, yes, the European governments have a lot to answer for. There was a Euro-made agreement signed for Israel to do trade with the European countries. As you know, Israel does 95 percent trade with Europe.

In this agreement there were certain things put in place, but Israel has violated nearly every one of them. And yet the European governments stand by and let it happen. For me, I think Israel needs to be stopped and it needs to be stopped now because if they keep continuing the way they’re going, you’re going to end up with genocide.

Press TV: You are sitting in Gaza right now. Tell us a little bit about the status quo right now in Gaza.

Graham: First off, I would just like to go back to this woman. She has asked why people don’t go to Syria, and this is coming from the letter that Netanyahu sent out asking why activists don’t go to Syria, and about Hamas and Gaza. I will answer this very simply.

Israel started in 1948 that problems in Syria started only a couple of years ago. I think you will find that if the problems in Israel are solved, then a lot of these problems would dissolve away.

Israel is the only country this is occupying three countries at the moment. You’re occupying part of Lebanon. You’re part occupying the Golan Heights in Syria, and you’re occupying Palestine. This is three countries you’re occupying yet nobody mentions this.

If you look at the situation in Gaza, it is being created by Israel. If we had our land back to 40 years, you would find that we wouldn’t have these problems.

Press TV: You are sitting in Gaza. As I’ve asked you before, tell me the status quo of life in the Gaza Strip.

Graham: The status quo is very bad here at the moment. There’s a problem with the water; there’s a problem with the sanitation and sewerage. Electricity is sporadic, to say the best. The situation here is just getting worse everyday, and as long as Israel tries to squeeze Palestine, it’s going to continue.

The world is just standing by letting this happen. This is the shame.

I would ask this woman in New York, they have an administrative detention in the West Bank. If your child was arrested in America and put in prison for indefinitely, you’re not allowed to see any fines, you’re not allowed to be told why she was arrested, you’re not allowed to be told anything, would you go out and protest?

(Guest speaker Ms. Devore responds)

(In response to Ms. Devore) That’s not the question I asked you. That is not the question I asked you. The question I asked you was about administrative detention. Would you go out and protest if your children were arrested and were not told why they were arrested, and can be held indefinitely? This is administrative detention. Your own lawyer doesn’t find out what the charges are against you!

( / 16.04.2012)

PVV (Den Haag): Allochtonen moeten assimilatiecontract tekenen

Als het aan de Haagse PVV’er Machiel de Graaff ligt dan moeten allochtonen in Den Haag een assimilatiecontract ondertekenen. De PVV wil in dit contract gedragsregels opnemen waar allochtonen zich aan moeten houden zolang ze inwoner van de Hofstad zijn. Dat meldt Omroep West.

Omroep West schrijft

De Haagse PVV wil dat allochtonen onderschrijven dat man en vouw gelijkwaardig zijn en dat zij homoseksuelen respecteren. Wie zich niet aan het contract houdt, moet de stad worden uitgezet. Ze moeten worden uitgeschreven uit de gemeentelijke basisadministratie. Hierdoor kunnen ze dan bijvoorbeeld geen huurwoning meer krijgen, stelt Machiel de Graaff van de  PVV in een debat bij Omroep West met Joris Wijsmuller van de Haagse Stadspartij.

De PVV lijkt heel principieel, maar zolang andere bewoners van de stad niet aan de zelfde principes worden onderworpen, lijkt de PVV toch weer vooral een stok te zoeken om de allochtoon de buurt mee uit te slaan.

Omroep West: ‘Haagse allochtonen moeten assimilatiecontract tekenen’

( / 16.04.2012)

Major Bay Area arts org worked closely with Israeli consul general to counter protests

Akiva Tor
Akiva Tor

Here is a fascinating look inside the front lines of the Israel lobby.

According to leaked emails, a major Bay Area arts organization worked behind the scenes with the Israeli consulate and the Jewish Federation to counter protests of Israeli films over the last two years.

The emails involve Frameline, a 35-year-old LGBT film festival that has become an institution in the Bay Area. Frameline has often shown Israeli films, and accepted sponsorship from the Israeli Consulate–and as a result it has faced boycott callsand protests in recent years.

The emails show that at a time when Frameline’s executive director K.C. Price was telling the press he was “nonpartisan,” he was urging Israeli consul general Akiva Tor as well as officials at the Jewish Federation to take action against the protests.

Price was also trying to get the Municipal Transportation Agency to censor ads critical of the festival. And he was sharing his thoughts about which Israeli movies he was planning to screen, with an Israel lobbyist– months before those film decisions were announced.

“These people are totally colluding while pretending they’re neutral,” explains the anonymous person who sent me the emails.

The odd twist in this story is that the Jewish Federation itself helped to publish the emails, in order to brag on them! Lisa Finkelstein, an LGBT advocate who formerly worked at the Federations and now works for the New Israel Fund, prepared an internal report on how to counter boycott threats, using the Frameline case as a successful case in point.

The report was shared earlier this year with other Israel lobbyists, and before long was shared with Palestinian solidarity activists, which is how I got it.

The report is at the bottom of this post. It is titled “Community Action: Responding Collectively to Ongoing Threats of Community Identity” — as if criticism of Israel is a threat to American Jewish identity.

Here are the highlights of emails, from pages 12-17.

June 2010.

During the 34th annual festival, Lisa Finkelstein, director of the LGBT alliance of the Jewish Federations, writes to another pro-Israel activist, Al Baum:

I spoke with many of the Frameline organizers last night – including KC [Price]. They were very stressed about the folks making a scene outside the theatre. They felt very supported by each of us reaching out to them.

Price was particularly angered by a bus shelter ad saying the festival was guilty of pinkwashing– using Israel’s good record on gay rights to immunize itself from human rights violations against Palestinians.

Price sent an email to Donny Inbar, an official at the “Israel Center” of the Jewish Community Federation:

Hi Donny, As promised, here is the photo I took of the one in front of the Diesel store. It’s so outrageous. Also, right after we talked, I spoke toJohn Haley from SF MTA (Bevan Dufty had him call me) and he’s trying to get them taken down right now. Let’s talk tomorrow…Best, K.C.

Frameline bus shelter
Frameline bus shelter

Inbar promptly sent the photo on to several colleagues, including Consul General Akiva Tor:

 Dear friends, Please have a look at the truly disturbing new QUIT[Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism] poster & let’s talk over the phone 1st thing in the morning about the way we prepare for/react to the planned QUIT protest at the Frameline opening on Thursday. Best, Donny

February 2011

In February 2011, the Bay Area Reporter stunned members of the pro-Israel community with a letter from QUIT titled “Questioning Frameline on Israeli Support” sharply criticizing the cooperation of Frameline and the Israeli government months before the 35th annual festival.

Israeli Consul General Akiva Tor writes to Arthur Slepian, director of a group that builds connections between Israel and the LGBT community, on the importance of writing letters. Tor says he has been in touch with Frameline. And you will see that Tor actually writes a letter for others to sign (its text was not included):

Arthur – I think your letter is excellent. I prepared an additional text which takes on the boycotters a bit more stridently. It might be good if it arrived at BAR [Bay Area Reporter] as an additional letter from someone else – perhaps JCRC or Israel Center. In any case – we should definitely respond in full force. I spoke to Frameline yesterday – they are annoyed by the attack on them and expect a very strong Jewish community response…

March 2011.

From K.C. Price, director of the festival, to Donny Inbar of the Jewish Federations. Notice he is consulting Inbar about film choices long before the selections will be made public:

[A pro-Israeli films] editorial [appearing in the Bay Area Reporter] was amazing. As far as potential Israeli films that we are looking into for the festival, here is a summary of what we’re working on: We’ve viewed THAT’S GILA and saw LIPSTIKA in Berlin, and we are not going to invite those two films. We did extend an invitation to EytanFo x’s television show MARY LU to participate in the Festival. However, we just found out on Friday that Frameline won’tbe able to show it because they are going with a big screening at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival and they don’t want to do another screening with Frameline. Oh well. Have you seen the musical? It’s really entertaining. We do haveone more invitation for an Israeli film that is out right now, and I’m waiting on an answer — it’s for Tomer Heymann’s new documentary. I hope to here back on that in the next few days and will let you know.

Inbar responded with his own advice, including an offer to speak to Heymann, “an old friend.” Heymann’s film was chosen for the festival, as was another Israeli film.

K.C. Price did not respond to a request for comment. Another person named in the emails told me that the cooperation of various organizations is what “intelligent, responsible people do” when threats like this occur.

Here’s the report:

Israeli Government and Frame Line

As a community event with an annual attendance of 60,000, Frameline film festival is the most prominent andwell-attended LGBT cultural arts program in the San Francisco Bay Area. An ongoing threat to boycott theFestival due to the inclusion and support of Israeli culture provides a community organizing model to learnfrom. This document provides a summary of how one organized Jewish community continuously responds andprepares for ongoing threats of identity in a peaceful and collective manner. Included in the following pages aresome of the published and unpublished statements and reactions. Additionally included are a few behind thepress interactions between community lay leaders and professional staff to comprehensively ensure thatgeneral support for this local festival continues along with the ongoing inclusion of Israeli programs.

P.S. Last fall Sarah Schulman nailed Pinkwashing on the Op-Ed page of the New York Times: “a deliberate strategy to conceal the continuing violations of Palestinians’ human rights behind an image of modernity signified by Israeli gay life.”

She spoke of an international campaign to launder Israel’s image by citing gay freedoms there. This internal report supplies dramatic proof of Schulman’s thesis.

( / 16.04.2012)

Norway Killer Admits Massacre, Claims Self-Defense

A right-wing fanatic admitted Monday to unleashing a bomb-and-shooting massacre that killed 77 people in Norway but pleaded not guilty to criminal charges, saying he was acting in self-defense.

On the first day of his long-awaited trial, Anders Behring Breivik defiantly rejected the authority of the court as it sought to assign responsibility for the July 22 attacks that shocked Norway and jolted the image of terrorism in Europe.

Dressed in a dark suit and sporting a thin beard, Breivik smiled as a guard removed his handcuffs in the crowded court room. The 33-year-old then flashed a closed-fist salute, before shaking hands with prosecutors and court officials.

“I don’t recognize Norwegian courts because you get your mandate from the Norwegian political parties who support multiculturalism,” Breivik said in his first comments to the court.

Eight people were killed in Breivik’s bombing of Oslo’s government district and 69 others were slain in his shooting massacre at the left-leaning Labor Party’s youth camp on Utoya island outside the capital.

“I admit to the acts, but not criminal guilt,” he told the court, insisting he had acted in self-defense.

He remained stone-faced and motionless as prosecutors read the indictment on terror and murder charges, with descriptions of how each victim died, and when they explained how he prepared for the attacks.

But he suddenly became emotional when prosecutors showed an anti-Muslim video that he had posted on YouTube before the killing spree, wiping away tears with trembling hands.

Breivik also said he doesn’t recognize the authority of Judge Wenche Elisabeth Arntzen, because he said she is friends with the sister of former Norwegian Prime Minister and Labor Party leader Gro Harlem Brundtland.

The anti-Muslim militant described himself as a writer, currently working from prison, when asked by the judge for his employment status.

Breivik has said the attacks were necessary to protect Norway from being taken over by Muslims. He claims he targeted the government headquarters in Oslo and the youth camp to strike against the left-leaning political forces he blames for allowing immigration in Norway.

While Norway has a principle of preventive self-defense in its law, that doesn’t apply to Breivik’s case, said Jarl Borgvin Doerre, a legal expert who has written a book on the concept.

“It is obvious that it has nothing to do with preventive self-defense,” Doerre told The Associated Press.

The key issue to be resolved during the 10-week trial is the state of Breivik’s mental health, which will decide whether he is sent to prison or into psychiatric care.

If deemed mentally competent, he would face a maximum prison sentence of 21 years or an alternate custody arrangement under which the sentence is prolonged for as long as an inmate is deemed a danger to society.

Police sealed off the streets around the Oslo court building, where journalists, survivors and relatives of victims watched the proceedings in a 200-seat courtroom built specifically for the trial.

Thick glass partitions were put up to separate the defendant from victims and their families, many of whom are worried that Breivik will use the trial to promote his extremist political ideology. In a manifesto he published online before the attacks, Breivik wrote that “patriotic resistance fighters” should use trials “as a platform to further our cause.”

Norway’s NRK television will broadcast parts of the trial, but it is not allowed to show Breivik’s testimony.

He had told investigators he is a resistance fighter in a far-right militant group modeled after the Knights Templar — a Western Christian order that fought during the crusades — but police have found no trace of any organization and say he acted alone.

“In our opinion, such a network does not exist,” Prosecutor Svein Holden told the court.

Anxious to prove he is not insane, he has called right-wing extremists and radical Islamists to testify during the trial, to show that there are others who share his view of clashing civilizations.

Breivik surrendered to police 1 hour and 20 minutes after he arrived on Utoya. The police response was slowed by a series of mishaps, including the lack of an operating police helicopter and the breakdown of an overloaded boat carrying a commando team to the island.

( / 16.04.2012)

Syria fighting casts shadow over UN mission

UN chief demands safety guarantees for ceasefire monitors amid reports of continued shelling of opposition strongholds.
Security forces are locked in fierce battles with opposition fighters in one Syria city and have been shelling another, activists say.

Monday’s reports came as a handful of UN monitors entrusted with overseeing a ceasefire were due to begin work.

President Bashar al-Assad’s forces killed two civilians in the central city of Hama, and were fighting rebels in Idlib in the northwest, while also shelling the flashpoint city of Homs, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), an opposition network, said.


At least 41 people, mostly civilians, have been reported killed by activists in violence since the UN-backed ceasefire came into effect on Thursday morning, prompting Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, to urge Syria to ensure the ceasefire does not collapse.

An advance team of five international observers arrived in Damascus late on Sunday, the UN said.

The head of the team, Colonel Ahmad Himmiche from Morocco, said he was optimistic the mission would succeed.

“We will start our mission as soon as possible and we hope it will be a success,” he told the Associated Press news agency as he left a Damascus hotel along with the observers on Monday morning.

Ground rules discussed

Annan’s spokesperson said the monitors’ team met Syrian foreign ministry officials on Monday to discuss ground rules, including what freedom of movement they would have.

The delegation, the first of 30 monitors the UN Security Council approved on Saturday, will set up a headquarters and prepare routines so the mission can verify a cessation of hostilities is holding.

Ban has urged the Syrian government to grant the UN observers full freedom of movement to monitor the ceasefire.

Syrian authorities have said they cannot guarantee the safety of the observers and that they would have to be informed of all movements of UN teams to assure their safety.

Activists say the army appears to be on a push to take control of last opposition-held districts in Homs 

Kieran Dwyer, a UN peacekeeping department spokesperson, said further monitors would arrive in Syria in “coming days”.

The next 25 would come from missions around the Middle East and Africa “so we can move people quickly and they are experienced in the region,” he told the AFP news agency.

Kofi Annan, the international peace envoy who negotiated the ceasefire, wants more than 200 observers to be deployed in Syria.

But the Security Council has said there would only be a full mission if the violence came to a halt.

Syria’s SANA state news agency said Syria “welcomed” the observer mission, and hoped the monitors would see for themselves the “crimes” committed by “armed terrorist groups”.

The Security Council has demanded full freedom of movement for the UN team, but critics of Syria say the government could obstruct its work.

The emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, speaking in Rome on Monday, criticised the peace plan and the UN mission to Syria, saying both had slim chances of succeeding.

He said arming the opposition was a better option.

The failure of an Arab League observer mission earlier this year was blamed in part on government restrictions imposed on the observers, including having to travel with government minders.

‘Non-stop shelling’

On the ground in Syria, there appeared to be no let-up in the violence. Tarek Badrakhan, an activist from the battered and almost deserted Homs district of al-Khalidiya, said the government had resumed its intense bombardment of the neighbourhood early on Monday for the third consecutive day.

“The shelling hasn’t stopped for one minute since this morning. There are buildings on fire right now,” he said via Skype.

Badrakhan and other activists said the army appeared to be on a push to take control of the last opposition-held districts in Homs, and was pounding al-Khaldiya from three sides.

He said half of the nearby district of al-Bayada fell under the army’s control on Sunday night. Troops were trying to storm al-Qarabis and Jurat al-Shayah but the rebel Free Syria Army (FSA) was repelling them, he said, referring to the group of armed opposition fighters and defectors from the Syrian army.

“We hope that the observers would come to Homs as soon as possible because if things go on like this, there won’t be anything left called Homs,” Badrakhan said.

Both the Local Co-ordination Committees, an activists’ network, and the SOHR confirmed the intense shelling of Homs and the two deaths in the city of Hama on Monday.

Continuing assaults apparently perpetrated by Syrian government forces have raised doubts over Assad’s commitment to the Annan peace plan.

“I have never seen a government that sends armoured vehicles to deal with armed gangs,” Louay Safi, a member of the Syrian National Council, told Al Jazeera.

“I think the only thing at this point that will end [this violence] is to inject some sort of threat, or to change the balance of power on the ground.”

While Syrian forces have mostly halted shelling of rebel-held neighbourhoods, with the exception of Homs they have ignored calls to pull troops out of urban centres.

The UN estimates that more than 9,000 people have been killed in violence related to the uprising against Assad’s government since protests began in March 2011.

( / 16.04.2012)

Rosenthal vindt handel belangrijker dan mensenrechten

Minister steunt Shell in poging rechtszaak over executie activist te ontlopen

Minister Uri Rosenthal (Buitenlandse Zaken) vindt mensenrechten overal ter wereld erg belangrijk, maar de nationale handelsbelangen wegen voor hem nog vele malen zwaarder. De Nederlandse oliereus Shell wordt in Amerika vervolgd voor ernstige schending van mensenrechten in Nigeria. Vandaag mag de minister in een overleg met de Tweede Kamer uitleggen waarom hij een brief naar de Amerikaanse rechter heeft gestuurd om deze zaak te voorkomen.

Rosenthal vindt dat Shell niet voor de Amerikaanse rechter zou moeten worden gedaagd voor daden die elders in de wereld zijn gepleegd. Ik ben echter van mening dat elke multinational de zekerheid moet hebben dat ze overal ter wereld vervolg kunnen worden bij misdaden tegen de mensheid.

De zaak die op dit moment voorligt bij het Hooggerechtshof in Amerika gaat om één van de Nigeriaanse mannen, Barinem Kiobel, die in 1995 samen met mensenrechten- en milieuactivist Ken Saro-Wiwa werd geëxecuteerd. Zij verzetten zich tegen de grootschalige vervuiling die Shell veroorzaakt in Nigeria en werden vervolgens door het militaire regime ter dood veroordeeld in verband met een moord op vier stamhoofden. Er is nooit bewijs gevonden dat de activisten daar iets mee te maken hadden.

De Nederlandse oliemaatschappij werkte toentertijd nauw samen met de Nigeriaanse junta en sprak zich niet uit tegen deze grove schending van mensenrechten. De zoon van Saro-Wiwa schikte met Shell, maar de weduwe van Kiobel zette een rechtszaak tegen de Nederlandse oliemaatschappij principieel voort.

Het zou in de humane lijn der logica liggen dat Rosenthal deze zaak toejuicht. Tot mijn grote verbazing heeft de Nederlandse regering echter een brief aan het Amerikaanse Hooggerechtshof geschreven om niet de weduwe, maar Shell te steunen. Volgens het kabinet is de mogelijkheid buiten de landsgrenzen aangesproken te worden op ernstige mensenrechtenschendingen ‘… nadelig voor Nederlandse onderdanen, zoals Nederlandse bedrijven die gebaat zijn bij rechtszekerheid…’.

Deze houding staat haaks op de principes van de Verenigde Naties, die Nederland notabene promoot. De VN gaan er namelijk van uit dat bedrijven ook verplichtingen hebben onder internationaal recht, namelijk het ‘respecteren van mensenrechten’. Het rechtstreekse gevolg van het dragen van een plicht, is aansprakelijkheid als die wordt geschonden.

Ik had dan ook de verwachting dat het kabinet, net als president Obama, haar steun zou uitspreken voor rechtszaken bij Amerikaanse rechtbanken tegen Shell. Laten we hopen dat de Tweede Kamer wijzer is dan Rosenthal, door zijn handelspraatjes heen prikt en hem sommeert zich nu eens op te stellen als een minister van Buitenlandse Zaken en niet als vertegenwoordiger van de handelsbelangen van een olieboer.

(Geert Ritsema / / 16.04.2012)

Talliq vraagt aandacht voor Palestijnse kinderen

Talliq vraagt aandacht voor Palestijnse kinderen

Kinderen, die opgroeien onder gewelddadige omstandigheden. Van iedere Palestijnse familie is wel iemand gewond geraakt of gedood. Elk kind heeft een broer, vader of oom die jarenlang in de gevangenis in Israel zit of heeft gezeten.

Als jongere mag je niet vrij reizen. Er zijn honderden checkpoints waar Israëlische soldaten je kunnen tegenhouden. Je wordt stelselmatig vernederd, uitgescholden of met een geweer bedreigd. Vaak kan je niet naar school.

Als je uit frustratie met stenen gooit naar een pantserwagen of naar de betonnen Muur, word je voor maanden opgesloten in een gevangenis in Israël. Je familie krijgt meestal geen toestemming om je te bezoeken. Je wordt vernederd, bedreigd en zelfs gemarteld. Onderwijs krijg je niet of nauwelijks. Het eten is te weinig en slecht. Moet je naar de WC? Dat mag maar 1x per dag.

Talliq is Arabisch en betekent: vrijgelaten. Talliq zet zich in voor de vrijlating van Palestijnse kinderen die onterecht gevangen zitten onder mensonwaardige omstandigheden.

Talliq vraagt van de Nederlandse regering en het Europees Parlement zich meer in te zetten om de rechtvaardigheid voor kinderen in Palestina te herstellen.

( / 16.04.2012)