Protests in Tunisian town show anger at Islamist government

SILIANA, Tunisia (Reuters) — In a remote town in Tunisia’s interior, protesters angry over joblessness and harsh police tactics call for the downfall of new Islamist rulers, echoing the revolt that ignited the Arab Spring two years ago.

Siliana, 140 km from the coastal capital, has been convulsed as thousands of largely unemployed youth battle riot police firing tear gas and bird-shot.

“I lost my eye because of the police, this is what Ennahda has done,” says Anis Omrani, 24, referring to the Islamist party that won the North African country’s first free elections last year after the overthrow of dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.

“We don’t have jobs and we’re marginalized, but they attack us savagely … The police of Ennahda just add another problem,” Omrani says, with a patch over one eye.

Of at least 252 wounded, medical sources say 17 have been blinded through police use of bird-shot, and UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay condemned the government on Friday for what she called excessive violence.

“You may have taken away our eyes but you can’t take away our voice!” reads a slogan daubed in red paint on a wall.

“The people want another revolution” and “Ennahda, go away! Game over!” say others.

The revolutionary graffiti recall Sidi Bouzid, the deprived town to the south where a street peddler burned himself to death two years ago in despair at the confiscation of his fruit cart.

His suicide provided the spark for an uprising in Tunisia that spread to Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria and Bahrain.

Aware of comparisons between Siliana and Sidi Bouzid, the government temporarily removed the local governor on Saturday and promised jobs to victims of the 2010 uprising. Police stopped using bird-shot.

“Siliana will be the second Sidi Bouzid, we’re going to get rid of these Islamists who know nothing of Islam,” Omrani said.

Ennahda was late to respond to the protests, after first accusing leftists who lost last year’s elections of fomenting the unrest by provoking Tunisians in impoverished areas into confrontations that would drive away foreign investors.

The protests began on Tuesday after a call by the leftist labor union UGTT to take to the streets to demand jobs, investment and the removal of Ennahda’s Islamist governor.

Government wrong-footed

The shift to slogans against the Islamists has seemed to wrong-foot the government, which has been absorbed with violent disputes between conservative Salafi Islamists and liberals over the future direction of a once staunchly secular state.

The protests are the fiercest since Salafis attacked the US embassy in Tunis in September over an anti-Islam film made in California, in violence that left four people dead.

They also mirror conflict in Egypt, where secularists have mobilized in recent weeks against post-Arab Spring Islamist rulers whom they accuse of doing little to reform security policies and treating non-Islamists with disdain.

Leftist opponents of Ennahda have been a clear presence on the ground in Siliana, though most protesters seemed to be apolitical youth angry over their economic prospects.

“The government is reproducing the behavior of Ben Ali’s regime,” said Iyad Dahmani from the center-left Republican Party.

“It’s an arrogant government that thinks its election victory means it can use tear gas and bird-shot on people instead of giving them jobs and investment.”

The Western-backed government secured international funding last week for an economy suffering from the financial crisis in the European Union, Tunisia’s main trading partner.

Clashes broke out again on Saturday between around 3,000 people throwing stones and security forces firing tear gas and live rounds into the air from inside armored vehicles.

Young men gathered outside the local branch of the UGTT, chanting the revolutionary songs of Sheikh Imam, a famed leftist cleric in 1970s Egypt.

One protester, a teacher who did not wish to be named, said she had voted for Ennahda last year but felt the Islamists had let people down.

“This is the paradise of Ennahda that we elected,” she said, grasping an empty tear gas canister. “This is what Ennahda has to offer us. We won’t make this mistake again.”

( / 02.12.2012)

Haniyeh says Hamas not a terrorist organization

Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil (L) and Hamas premier Ismail Haniyeh wave in Gaza City Nov. 16, 2012.

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Hamas and other Palestinian factions should be removed from international lists of designated terrorist groups, Gaza prime minister Ismail Haniyeh said Sunday.

“It is time to remove Palestinian resistance movements, that resist under international law, from the list of international terrorist groups,” Haniyeh said during a meeting with a European delegation of politicians, academics and lawmakers.

“Hamas and other Palestinian factions are national liberation movements operating inside Palestine. We do not antagonize Jews anywhere in the world for their religious affiliation, but we have a problem with those who occupy our land.”

The Gaza PM accused Israel of committing acts of terrorism and war crimes in Gaza, saying that Israeli leaders must be prosecuted for their ongoing crimes against the Palestinian people and most recently for Israel’s eight day assault on Gaza.

Haniyeh briefed the European delegation on the damages and loss of life caused by the recent military assault, saying that Israeli forces deliberately targeted hospitals, sports facilities, medical centers and Palestinian journalists.

“The occupation’s army did not want the world to see the destruction and truth about what was going on in Gaza,” he said.

The Hamas premier welcomed the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire agreement, but said that the core of instability in the region is the Israeli occupation.

“The important message is that we want the demise of the occupation of Palestinian land, and we want a fully sovereign state with its capital in Jerusalem, and we want to return our homeless people to their land,” Haniyeh said.

Hamas is designated as a terrorist group by Israel, the US and the European Union, although many countries distinguish between Hamas’ military wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, and its political branch, which undertakes widespread social programs such as building hospitals, schools and religious institutions.

The United States also classifies the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Palestinian Liberation Front, the PFLP-GC, Islamic Jihad, and the Abu Nidal Organization as terrorist groups.

( / 02.12.2012)

Premier League footballers condemn attack on Gaza, boosting pressure on UEFA to pull 2013 U21 from Israel

Frédéric Kanouté, then playing for Seville, in 2009.

A call by 62 top football players, many from English Premier League and first division teams in Europe, condemning Israel’s recent attack on Gaza and the decision by UEFA, the European football federation, to hold its 2013 Under 21 tournament in Israel, has received wide and favorable coverage.

This takes the Palestinian campaign for the boycott of Israel, especially the sporting boycott, to new levels of international mainstream prominence and legitimacy.

“Unacceptable that children are killed while they play football”

The statement, posted on the website of former Seville striker who now plays for Chinese Super League side Beijing Guoan, Frédéric Kanouté says:

We, as European football players, express our solidarity with the people of Gaza who are living under siege and denied basic human dignity and freedom. The latest Israeli bombardment of Gaza, resulting in the death of over a hundred civilians, was yet another stain on the world’s conscience.

We are informed that on 10 November 2012 the Israeli army bombed a sports stadium in Gaza, resulting in the death of four young people playing football, Mohamed Harara and Ahmed Harara, 16 and 17 years old; Matar Rahman and Ahmed Al Dirdissawi, 18 years old.

We are also informed that since February 2012 two footballers with the club Al Amari, Omar Rowis, 23, and Mohammed Nemer, 22, have been detained in Israel without charge or trial.

It is unacceptable that children are killed while they play football. Israel hosting the UEFA Under-21 European Championship, in these circumstances, will be seen as a reward for actions that are contrary to sporting values.

Despite the recent ceasefire, Palestinians are still forced to endure a desperate existence under occupation, they must be protected by the international community. All people have the right to a life of dignity, freedom and security. We hope that a just settlement will finally emerge.

Among the signatories are Demba Ba and four other players from Newcastle United, Eden Hazard of Chelsea as well as players from Arsenal, Queens Park Rangers and West Ham United, all Premier League clubs.

There are also 10 players from French Ligue 1 team Olympique de Marseille, Moussa Sow of Turkey’s frequent champions Fenerbahçe SK, and Djamal Mahamat and Florent Hanin of Portugal’s Sporting Braga.

Signatory Didier Drogba, one of the top goal scorers in the history of Chelsea, where he played until moving to China earlier this year, is also a UN Goodwill Ambassador.

Wide coverage

The call by the footballers has received wide coverage, including in The Guardian and The Times of London and on France’s national TV network TF1 as well as on RTL.

It has also received coverage in the sporting press in several countries, including in France’s L’Équipe, and on ESPN among many others.

Palestinians call on UEFA to pull tournament from Israel

The footballers’ statement and the wide exposure it received is a significant boost to Palestinian calls on UEFA to pull forthcoming tournaments from Israel.

In a June letter to Michel Platini, president of the European soccer governing body UEFA, dozens of Palestinian football clubs, managers, players and other Palestinian sporting figures based in Gaza urged UEFA not to “reward Israel for its violent repression of Palestinian rights.”

In October, Palestinian footballer and ex-prisoner Mahmoud Sarsak urged UEFA to withdraw from Israel the men’s under-21 European Championship and the women’s under-19 European Championship that are due to take place there in 2013 and 2015 respectively.

So far, Platini has rejected such calls, but there is no doubt that pressure is mounting, and even if the tournaments in Israel go ahead, they will take place under the spotlight of a growing campaign to hold Israel accountable for its crimes.

( / 02.12.2012)

Letter From Syria

Darkush, Syria

THE scene is almost biblical. You step down through tall reeds, cross the Orontes River from Turkey in a small rowboat and are received by a local contingent of the Free Syrian Army, outside the Syrian town of Darkush. One of them shows you the picture on his cellphone of a Syrian girl who was just taken across the river to Turkey with what turned out to be fatal wounds from a Syrian Army helicopter attack on her village. The helicopters, the rebel soldiers say, dropped barrels with nails and explosives on her house. Meanwhile, over here in the mud are three fresh graves with bodies that just floated down the river. Some days it’s just an arm or leg that washes up. Although this is “liberated” territory, in the background you can hear the low drumbeat of shells slamming into some town over the hills. I ask the rebel local commander, Muatasim Bila Abul Fida, how he thinks all of this will play out. His answer strikes me as very honest. “Without the help of Iran and Hezbollah, he would be gone by now,” he says of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. But even after he goes, there will be a great sorting out. “It will take five or six years,” he adds, because the Islamist parties “want Shariah, and we want democracy.”

In my visit along the Turkey-Syria border, I am struck at how so many different people want so many different things for Syria. It is unnerving. A Christian businessman from Aleppo tells me that if a real election were held in Syria today, the besieged President Assad would still win “with 75 percent of the vote,” because most Syrians crave the order that he provided and are exhausted by war. But a few hours earlier at an impressively run Syrian refugee camp set up by Turkey outside the Turkish border town of Antakya, I interviewed young Syrian Sunni Muslim men who had fled from the Assad family’s largely Alawite stronghold of Latakiya, just down the coast. They spoke about the deep unfairness of the Syrian system and how Alawites were getting an unfair share of the pie. “When we first protested to demand reforms, the regime did not do anything,” said Yahya Afacesa, “and then we started to shout and demand freedom, and the regime attacked us. So there was no way to fight the regime peacefully.”

He and his colleagues insisted, though, that the problem in Syria was the Assad family, not the Alawite sect, a Shiite offshoot from which the Assads hail and which dominates the regime. These are secular young men, and they still took pride in Syria’s multisectarian identity and harmony, which, it should be remembered, has deep historical roots in this region. Indeed, before visiting them, I met with the Chamber of Commerce of Antakya. The chamber’s president proudly displays outside his office a poster of more than 20 different churches, mosques and even a synagogue still operating in his town, which is just a few miles from the Syrian border. I repeat: There are cultural roots for pluralism in this region that a new Syrian government could still fall back on — but there’s also the opposite.

A case in point: In Antakya I met two Turkish logistics experts. They spoke about the “Arab foreign legion” of Islamist fighters from as far away as Chechnya and Libya who have come through their town and crossed the Orontes to join the battle in Syria. They scoffed at the idea that Syria will emerge as a democracy from a war in which its main arms suppliers are the Islamic-oriented monarchies of Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The main Saudi and Qatari desire is that Syria shift from being an Iranian-Shiite-dominated country to a Sunni-dominated one. Democracy per se is not their priority.

One of the two Turkish experts has another business in Qatar. To get permission to work and operate in Qatar, he explained, he needs a local Qatari to sponsor his work permit. “If you have a work permit and you want to leave the country, you need your sponsor to give you written permission,” he noted. “If your sponsor dies, his son inherits that right.” His Qatari sponsor’s son is very young. Yet, “if he says I cannot leave, I cannot leave. I do business [in Qatar] but I have no rights at all. … We joke that we are ‘modern slaves’ there. And this country is trying to bring democracy to Syria?”

These stories illuminate for me the enormous number of crosscurrents and mixed motives driving this revolution. Without a strong, galvanizing Syrian leader with a compelling unifying vision, backed by the international community, getting rid of Assad will not bring order to Syria. And disorder in Syria will not have the same consequences as disorder in other countries in the region.

Syria is the keystone of the Middle East. If and how it cracks apart could recast this entire region. The borders of Syria have been fixed ever since the British and French colonial powers carved up the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire after World War I. If Assad is toppled and you have state collapse here, Syria’s civil war could go regional and challenge all the old borders — as the Shiites of Lebanon seek to link up more with the Alawite/Shiites of Syria, the Kurds in Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey try to link up with each other and create an independent Kurdistan, and the Sunnis of Iraq, Jordan and Syria draw closer to oppose the Shiites of Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

We could be entering a new age of Middle East border-drawing — the do-it-yourself version — where the borders of the Middle East get redrawn, not by colonial outsiders from the top down but by the Middle Easterners themselves, from the bottom up.

(Thomas L. Friedman / / 02.12.2012)

Gaza conflict brings Fatah and Hamas closer

The rival Palestinian factions may be edging towards a rapprochement since the Israeli assault on Gaza.

Reconciliation efforts between Fatah and Hamas have gained momentum since the recent Gaza conflict
Ramallah, occupied Palestinian territories – In the aftermath of the most recent Israeli onslaught on the Gaza Strip, some voices, both in the coastal enclave and the West Bank, have increased calls for a unified Palestinian front.

Today, a feud mars relations between the West Bank’s Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.

Disagreements between the Palestine Liberation Organisation – which includes Fatah and represents Palestinians in international fora – and Hamas are nothing new. Each has long held onto its own vision of what a future Palestinian state might look like and how to address the Israeli occupation.

The recent conflict in Gaza came to an end after efforts by Egypt to mediate a ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians. And while many debated who were the winners and losers, the political leaders of Hamas and Fatah took several steps to reconcile their differences.

‘Spirit of unity’

“The spirit of unity is being shown by the political strata from top to bottom,” said PA spokeswoman Nour Odeh. “There is a political commitment to enshrine this sense of unity in more than slogans following the UN bid. The public will no longer tolerate any obstruction or delay in achieving a reconciliation.”

In a televised address last week, PA President Mahmoud Abbas stressed that talks with Hamas would immediately follow the Palestinians’ bid to upgrade their status at the UN General Assembly – an effort that succeeded on Thursday.

“Today [we head to] the UN, and tomorrow we have another task: national reconciliation, which we must achieve,” Abbas said before the vote. “I hope that all pending issues will be resolved so that Gaza enjoys safety, security and stability.”

No Palestinian group can survive on its own without being part of the larger political system. All factions must find a way to make it work.

– Nour Odeh, PA spokeswoman

Talks were scheduled to take place between Fatah and Hamas in Cairo immediately after the UN pitch. Following Egypt’s success in securing a ceasefire in Gaza, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi indicated his eagerness to host talks between the rival factions.

Abbas did not travel to the Gaza Strip during the Israeli onslaught, despite calls to do so by leading Fatah members such as Marwan Barghouti – currently held in an Israeli prison serving a life-sentence for murder. He instead dispatched senior Fatah official Nabil Sha’ath, who, during his visit, said “unity” was more urgent than ever.

As fighting raged earlier this month, Hamas supporters in the West Bank marched with their Fatah compatriots while chanting for unity – a highly unusual spectacle in the PA’s stronghold, Ramallah.

“The celebrations following the ceasefire were a testament to the public sentiment and the political parties are reflecting the will of their constituents,” Odeh said. “There is a huge sense of responsibility because the danger is grave. No Palestinian group can survive on its own without being part of the larger political system. All factions must find a way to make it work.”

The rally symbolised Abbas’ efforts to secure a rapprochement. Since the collapse of a short-lived unity government in 2007, many Hamas members stopped venturing into the streets after the PA staged a far-reaching clampdown on the group’s activities in the West Bank. In Gaza, Hamas also suppressed Fatah affiliates, jailing them and subjecting them to inhumane conditions, according to Fatah.

‘Practical steps’

In 2011, the two groups signed a reconciliation agreement outlining steps to release political prisoners as a prerequisite to implementing the plan. This was never carried out, with both sides denying they were imprisoning affiliates in their respective jails. A year later, Hamas’ Politburo Chief Khalid Meshal and Abbas signed another agreement to end the division, but that too was delayed.

But since the end of the Israeli assault, both groups have expressed willingness to tackle the issue of prisoners as a gesture of goodwill. Last week, Hamas spokesman Taher al-Nunu said the group would grant amnesty to some 30 Fatah-affiliated political prisoners held after the group took over the Gaza Strip in 2007. And Fatah’s Sha’ath, also speaking in Gaza, said preparations were underway to release dozens of Hamas prisoners being held in the West Bank.

The Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) has expressed optimism that the amnesty announcement would pave the way for more fruitful reconciliation talks.

Speaking after a meeting with Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh on Wednesday, ICHR Commissioner-General Ahmad Harb said the only path forward from the Gaza onslaught was to end the division, starting with a prisoner release. Haniyeh said a number of political prisoners not involved in murder cases have already been released, according to Harb.

On Thursday, rallies took place in the Gaza Strip in support of the UN bid, with all factions, including Fatah, participating. In Ramallah, events marking the UN vote included key speeches by senior leaders from several factions, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

High-level meetings between leaders on both sides have been taking place in the past week. On Tuesday, Haniyeh met with a visiting Fatah delegation, including Amin Maqboul, the secretary general of the party’s Revolutionary Council, who participated in a joint event commemorating the victims of the latest Israeli onslaught.


Meanwhile, in Ramallah, Abbas held talks with senior Hamas leaders in his presidential headquarters. “There was discussion of serious and practical steps to take because the realisation after Gaza is that it is no longer acceptable to get caught in the details,” Odeh said.

Heading to the UN is final proof that [Abbas] has given up on the 1948 territories.

– Mahmoud al-Zahhar, a Hamas co-founder

Sha’ath said Hamas representatives in the West Bank would begin to take part in leadership meetings, including the Executive Committee of the PLO. “Once the meetings in Cairo are over, the natural thing is for Hamas to be integrated into the political system. The most important thing is that Hamas has supported the UN bid,” Odeh said.

Differences between the two seem to be waning for now, following a statement by Meshal reiterating the group’s willingness to accept a Palestinian state based on the 1967 armistice line. In an interview held in Cairo with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, he also said the group was ready to put down its weapons if certain national demands were met – namely, “the elimination of occupation and the [creation of a] Palestinian state and ending the occupation and the wall”. His statements seemed to be more in line with the demands of the Fatah-dominated PA.

With the exception of Mahmoud al-Zahhar, a co-founder of Hamas, the group is backing the PA’s UN pitch. Nasser al-Shaer, a Hamas deputy, met with Abbas this week and reiterated his group’s stance, while spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said Hamas expressed its support for the move as long as it “did not caus[e] any harm to the national Palestinian rights”.

Al-Zahhar, however, expressed scepticism and hostility at the move. “Heading to the UN is final proof that [Abbas] has given up on the 1948 territories,” he said.

There are fears that reconciliation efforts would be thwarted by Israel, which has repeatedly refused to accept or deal with any unity government that includes Hamas. “The main factor here is the Israeli occupation,” said Ghassan al-Khatib, a professor at Birzeit University in Ramallah. “Israel is in control of the West Bank and it won’t allow a national unity government that includes Hamas to function.”

Despite the steps taken to turn vows of reconciliation into action, al-Khatib said he was pessimistic that recent regional changes could only mean more of the same. “I think the Arab Spring, which ended up strengthening Islamists in some Arab countries – especially Egypt – is discouraging Hamas from reconciliation because they feel time is on their side,” al-Khatib said. “They feel they are part of the future of the region and that Fatah is part of its past.”

( / 02.12.2012)

When Israel Isn’t Bombing And Tyrannizing, It’s Stealing!

I mean, this child looks like a serious threat to the Jewish State, doesn’t he?


These women are threatened with a beating from a brave member of the IDF.


It takes really ‘BIG’ men to frighten children, doesn’t it?


They even arrest Israeli peace activists!


Yeah, verily I say unto you, by their works ye shall know them!


Friends,  as you would be aware, the day after the Palestinians got their Observer Status, Crazy Benny announced the expansion of 3,000 settler homes in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

As you may know, Israel offers subsidies to Jewish settlers to go live in these settlements as well as IDF protection. As you may also know, Palestinians and Arabs over many years are being thrown out of their homes which are then demolished so that these new illegal settlements can proceed.

Of course, Blind Freddie can see what the Israelis are doing and have been doing for decades. They are trying to get Jews to live in as much of the Palestinian land as possible so they can claim the land belongs to them, possession being a difficult thing to argue with and, it is said, equal to 90% of the law.


And the U.S., which has urged the settlement building to stop (wink, wink, nudge, nudge), has, as the ‘honest broker’, ensured that no two-state solution has ever eventuated  and has vetoed any meaningful resolution condemning Israel that the U.N. has come up with.

Of course, Israel has modeled itself on the imperial U.S. which uses invasion and brutal occupation to achieve its own imperial ambitions.

The Israelis talk about a two-state solution while they do everything in their power to prevent it happening. As Shakespeare showed in his ‘Merchant Of Venice’, the Jews are crafty and cunning and totally without compassion. Since Israel was created, we have also discovered they rather like killing and genocide as well as torture and continuous cruel humiliation of another race of people.

As well as the settlement announcement, Israel has also killed two Gazan men and wounded 9 others and arrested a number of West Bank Palestinians during the period of the truce just to show to the world that they have total control of Palestine and that their genocide and brutal occupation will continue.

The Israelis are thumbing their noses at the rest of the world and the U.S., the nation that sanctimoniously claims to stand for freedom and human rights, is enabling them to do it!

What can the world do about it? Nothing I guess. Perhaps when more nations see that the U.S. is the enemy of freedom and human rights, then there might be a uniting of the world’s people against the formation of the evil Imperial American Empire.

Perhaps da14, an asteroid, might land on Washington, the Pentagon and the Congress Building and get rid of a bevy of imperialists who will stop at nothing to see the Stars and Stripes flying over every nation in the world.

What a terrible thought! Gitmos everywhere, people in cages, torture and rendition galore, Big Brother watching our every move, thought police, assassination squads, FEMA camps in every town, police acting like the Gestapo, etc, etc.

Every human on earth must fight against Israeli and U.S. imperialism unless being a slave of the corporations and Oligarchs and religious ratbags appeals to you!

( / 02.12.2012)

Hamas grants amnesty to collaborators, official says

Gunmen ride motorcycles as they drag the body of a man, who was suspected of working for Israel, in Gaza City November 20, 2012.

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Gaza’s ministry of interior will pardon collaborators who turn themselves into authorities, a Hamas official said Sunday.

Interior minister Fathi Hammad, speaking at a graduation ceremony for Hamas security officers, said that anyone who confesses to collaborating with Israel will be pardoned and the details of their crimes kept secret from family and friends.

They will then be trained as resistance fighters, Hammad added.

Once the amnesty period is over, anyone found guilty of collaborating with Israel will be tried and sentenced, the minister said, adding that Hamas is trying to secure the home-front and prevent Israel from obtaining intelligence about Gaza.

Seven Palestinians accused of spying for Israel were publicly executed during the latest assault on Gaza.

Masked gunmen shot the alleged collaborators in two public attacks, killing one person on Nov. 16 and another six people on Nov. 20.

At the time, Hamas security officials said one man had confessed to aiding Israel while the six others “were caught red-handed” and “possessed hi-tech equipment and filming equipment to take footage of positions.”

A Ma’an review of publicly available records as well as interviews with experts in Gaza showed that all of the men had been in the custody of the Hamas government for months and in one case years before Israel launched its “Pillar of Cloud” operation.

Taher al-Nunu, a spokesman for the Hamas government, promised a full investigation into the killings, which he described as unlawful, while senior Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahhar dismissed criticism from Palestinian human rights groups.

Deputy chief of Hamas Mousa Abu Marzouq said the killings were “not acceptable at all,” and demanded that those responsible be held accountable.

( / 02.12.2012)

Iraq’s ‘al-Qaeda chief’ arrested


Officials say counter-terrorism forces have arrested Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, head of the Islamic State of Iraq.

An Iraqi counter-terrorism official tells Al Jazeera that security forces have arrested the top al-Qaeda leader in Iraq and seized a list of names and locations of other operatives.

“We’ve spoken to an official in the counter-terrorism unit that actually arrested this man, and they maintain that he is the top al-Qaeda leader in Iraq, but they’re not releasing his name because they say they’re still interrogating him” said Al Jazeera’s Jane Arraf, reporting from Baghdad.

“But what they do say is that he was arrested in Baghdad after a two-month long investigation tracking him, and that in addition to arresting him, they also seized the names and locations of other al-Qaeda operatives,” said our correspondent.

Samir al-Shuili, spokesman for a counter-terrorism unit confirmed that members of the unit infiltrated the Islamic State of Iraq, an al-Qaeda umbrella group, and that operatives on the list were from other Arab countries and Iraq was seeking the help of those countries in arresting them.

Iraqi media has been reporting that the man in custody is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was named head of the Islamic State of Iraq, an umbrella organisation of armed groups, two years ago after the killing of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi in a US air strike in 2010.

“It’s not known whether Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the man who is said to have taken over the al-Qaeda organisation here is actually Iraqi, or, in fact, even exists or is a composite of several people,” said Arraf.

“He has kept a very low profile, except for the regular bombings that have taken place [for which] the Islamic State of Iraq has claimed responsibility.”

“He has not come out with a lot of statements or videos. He has been, even by al-Qaeda standards, quite a shadowy figure,” our correspondent said, adding that the reports of al-Baghdadi’s arrest are yet to be confirmed.

Samir al-Shuili, spokesman for a counter-terrorism unit


( / 02.12.2012)

Israël straft Palestijnen door geld niet uit te keren


Israël straft Palestijnen door geld niet uit te keren
Israël houdt geld van Palestina als straf bij zich.
De Israëlische regering houdt een kleine tachtig miljoen euro aan belastingen achter die zij namens de Palestijnse Autoriteit heft. Israël zegt de Palestijnen zo te straffen voor hun geslaagde gooi naar erkenning van hun staat door de Verenigde Naties. Het belastinggeld wordt nu gebruikt om de Palestijnse schuld aan onder meer het Israëlische elektriciteitsbedrijf af te lossen, liet minister van financiën Yuval Steinitz zondag weten.

De Israëlische ministerraad besloot zondag bovendien dat zij niet aan de onderhandelingstafel aanschuift als de VN-resolutie van donderdag, die sprak van een Palestijnse staat op de Westelijke Jordaanoever, in de Gazastrook en Oost-Jeruzalem, als uitgangspunt van de besprekingen dient. Vrijdag kondigde de Israëlische regering ook al een vergeldingsmaatregel aan.

Zij gaf toen groen licht voor de bouw van duizenden nieuwe woningen op de Westoever. Donderdag liet de Algemene Vergadering van de VN ‘Palestina’ toe als waarnemerstaat. Dat is tegen het zere been van de Israëlische regering, die stelt dat vrede alleen kan worden bereikt door rechtstreekse onderhandelingen, niet door eenzijdige stappen.

( / 02.12.2012)

Israel’s Settlements and the Europeans

Those looking for an explanation for why almost all of Europe backed the Palestinians in the recent vote to upgrade their status at the United Nations are blaming it on Israel’s decision to continue building homes in Jerusalem and its suburbs. As reporter Laura Rozen put it in a tweet, “Does Israel really not get how fed up Europe is w/ its settlement policies?” The upshot of this sort of thinking is that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s fanatical devotion to “Greater Israel” is isolating Israel and forcing even its friends to abandon its cause in international forums.

The problem with this thesis is that it is pure bunk. As Jonathan Schanzer and Benjamin Weinthal point out in their article in Foreign Policy (about which Rozen was commenting), there are a lot of reasons why the Europeans stabbed the Israelis in the back at the UN, among which their objections to “settlements” is by no means inconsiderable. But as I pointed out earlier, if the Europeans believe that the 1967 lines with land swaps is the formula for peace, it’s hard to understand why they are upset with Israel building in places that everyone knows they would keep under such a plan. After all, does anyone who is actually interested in peace–as opposed to those who think every Jewish home anywhere in the country is an illegal settlement–actually think Israel will abandon 40-year-old Jerusalem neighborhoods or the suburbs that are close to the green line? Far from the Israelis pushing the limits in their quest for settlements, it is the Europeans who are redefining the terms of peace.

For Israel’s European critics, “Greater Israel” is no longer all of the West Bank, which even Netanyahu has conceded may be ceded for a real peace deal, nor even retention of an undivided Jerusalem. They are now acting as if any Israeli government that acts as if it is going to hold onto all of the Jewish areas of Jerusalem is a foe of peace. In doing so, they are not only distorting Israel’s position — which is still perfectly compatible with a two-state solution based on the ’67 lines with swaps — but also covering up or ignoring the fact that the Palestinians have refused Israeli offers of a state and now no longer even wish to negotiate.

The idea that the Europeans — save for the principled stand of the Czech Republic — have turned on the Israelis solely because of “settlements” is a misnomer. The tilt toward the Palestinians and against Israel is not a recent phenomenon, nor is it the product of Netanyahu’s tenure as prime minister. Virtually any act of Israeli self-defense is treated as impermissible. Nor can one understand the unwillingness of these governments to stand with Israel outside of a context in which anti-Zionism has become the orthodoxy of European intellectuals and the rising tide of anti-Semitism on the continent.

Moreover, as Schanzer and Weinthal point out, the decision to back Mahmoud Abbas at the UN has just as much if not more to do with the hope that giving him a shot in the arm will undermine Hamas. This is a monumental misjudgment, since Abbas cannot hope to compete in the long run with the more violent Islamists who run what is already an independent Palestinian state in all but name.

Europeans who think isolating Israel in this manner will teach Netanyahu or the Israeli people a lesson are ignoring the realities of the conflict. Though they would divest themselves of almost all of the territories in exchange for an end to the conflict, the overwhelming majority of Israelis have no intention of allowing the West Bank to become another, more dangerous version of Gaza from which Islamist terrorists will launch missiles or terror attacks. A European demand for an Israeli withdrawal to the 1949 armistice lines including a divided Jerusalem and the eviction of nearly half a million Jews from their homes to empower a Palestinian entity that won’t negotiate is antithetical to the idea of genuine peace.

(Jonathan S. Tobin / / 02.12.2012)