Iran, Russia to continue supporting Syria: Iran deputy FM

Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian says Tehran and Moscow will continue supporting the Syrian government, 

“I have seen that there has not been any change in the Russian strategy towards Syria,” Amir-Abdollahian said on the sidelines of a meeting with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov in Moscow.

“Tehran and Moscow will continue supporting Syria,” he noted, adding that Iran’s six-point peace plan allows for a political solution to the unrest in Syria “and Russia and Iran share this position.”

On December 16, Iran unveiled the details of a six-point plan to resolve the ongoing crisis in Syria, which calls for an immediate end to all violent and armed acts.

The plan calls for sending humanitarian aid to Syrians following the end of all conflicts, lifting all economic sanctions imposed against the country, and facilitating the return of displaced Syrians to their homes.

It also urges talks between the Syrian government and the representatives of all Syrian groups regardless of their political and social tendencies in order to form a national reconciliation committee.

“We believe that a majority of Syrian people will support our plan,” Amir-Abdollahian said. “The plan considers all Syrian people into account and will lead to a solution to the unrest. The Syrian government now has to approve this plan.”

Iran also hosted a two-day meeting between the representatives of the Syrian government and opposition groups in November with participants unanimously opposing foreign interference and calling for a peaceful resolution to the conflict in the Arab country.

High-ranking officials from different countries including Russia, China, Iraq, Egypt, Turkey and Jordan participated in the meeting with the main theme of “No to Violence, Yes to Democracy.”

Syria has been experiencing unrest since mid-March 2011. Many people, including large numbers of security personnel, have been killed in the violence.

( / 19.12.2012)

Israel “will never undermine our steadfastness”: hunger strikers speak out from prison

Woman holds a cake, surrounded by posters of prisoner

Shireen Issawi, seen during a Jerusalem protest marking her hunger striking brother Samer’s birthday on 16 December, was arrested by Israeli forces yesterday.

Three Palestinian political prisoners who have been on hunger strike for 22 days issued a statement expressing the goals of their protest through a lawyer with the rights group Addameer who visited them yesterday. The three men are being held by Israel without charge or trial — a practice known as administrative detention. All three were arrested on 22 November, the night after a Gaza ceasefire took effect, during which Israeli forces conducted sweeping arrest raids in the occupied West Bank.

The prisoners — Jafar Azzadine, Tarek Qa’adan and Yousef Yassin — stated:

Our open hunger strike is to protest the Intelligence and their policies, our goal is not just to gain our individual freedom but to end the practice of administrative detention, the pointed sword on the neck of the Palestinians.This is a battle in the fight for freedom and dignity despite all the continuing pain and torments that impair us, and despite all the pressure that we endure and is practiced against us by the Israeli Prison Service and Shabak to break our will from our steadfastness. However, the cowardly enemy will never undermine our steadfastness and our determination to achieve justice and freedom for all our imprisoned and hunger striking brothers, and the oppressed and those who were tortured by the fiery tormentors for decades. We call on the sons of our people to stand by us and to show responsibility for our fellow prisoners, especially Samer Issawi and Ayman Sharawna who are nearing death. We also call on all local and international institutions and those that are specifically for human rights to intensify their efforts and to raise our voices high in international forums to expose the barbaric occupation and its practices.

In a press release today, Addameer gives additional information about Azzadine, Qa’adan and Yassin, and their deteriorating health:

Jafar Azzidine, 41 years old from Jenin, has been detained by the Occupation seven times, his most recent arrest being 21 March 2012. He participated in a hunger strike on 14 May 2012, and was released on 19 June 2012, after spending 4 months in administrative detention. As a result of his most recent hunger strike, he suffers from low blood pressure, continuous dizziness and headaches, protein deficiencies and pain in his joints, knees, hands and spinal cord.

Tarek Qa’adan, 40 years old from Jenin, has been detained by the Occupation 13 times since 1989. In his prior arrest, he was sentenced to 15 months for speaking at a commemoration event at the American University of Jenin. He has participated in several hunger strikes, including the solidarity hunger strikes with Khader Adnan and Hana Shalabi. He is currently suffering from atrophy in his muscles as a result of his current 22 days hunger strike.

Yousef Yassin, 29 years old from Jenin, has been detained by the Occupation three times before, the most recent in Febraury 2012, in which he was sentenced to eight months.

Striker in “grave danger”

Meanwhile, the health of Ayman Sharawna, who has refused food for more than 170 days, is in “grave danger,” Addameer warned yesterday:

[H]e is suffering from severe pain in the kidneys, liver and legs, and has lost his vision. Ayman is refusing to be transferred to another hospital due to his Israel Prison Service’s intention to shackle him during transportation and treatment. The doctor at Ramleh Prison Hospital told Ayman that there is serious danger on his life if he discontinues to drink water. He is currently taking vitamins and sugar.Ayman is protesting his arbitrary re-arrest after his release in the [prisoner swap] exchange of 11 October 2011. The prosecution is attempting to renew his previous sentence despite their lack of charges.

Israel arrests sister of hunger striker

Another long-term hunger striker, Samer Issawi, is also in danger of losing his life after 140 days of hunger strike, his sister Shireen Issawi told The Electronic Intifada this week.

A video uploaded to YouTube yesterday shows the chaotic scene at Samer Issawi’s court date yesterday. Israeli authorities are shown shoving and yelling at Issawi’s family and supporters. At 1:25 in, Samer’s mother and sister are seen telling the Israeli security officers that they refuse to move until they see Samer. At 1:45, Samer is shown being pulled from his wheelchair by Israeli officers who drag him away while Samer says in a weak voice that his hunger strike is ongoing.

Ma’an News Agency reported yesterday, citing Addameer, that Shireen Issawi was arrested from her family’s East Jerusalem home after the court hearing:

Shireen Issawi was detained by Israeli forces in Issawiya after she tried to access her brother’s court hearing earlier in the day, the group said.

The family were blocked by Israeli forces at the court when they tried to greet Samer, and later denied access to the court, prisoners groups said. Samer has been on hunger strike for 140 days in Israeli jail.

An Israeli police spokesman did not return calls seeking comment on the arrest.

The Electronic Intifada published an in-depth report on Samer Issawi’s arrest and detention in August. Samer’s brother Fadi was killed by Israeli forces in 1994. His brother Medhat, who has spent a total of 21 years in Israeli prison, was arrested in May of this year for his participation in prisoner solidarity activities.

( / 19.12.2012)

Election committee bans Palestinian MK Zoabi from participating in elections

An automatic appeal before the Supreme Court will be heard next week. Zoabi’s party, Balad, has already announced it will withdraw from the elections if the decision is not reversed.

Israel’s Central Election Committee (CEC) voted today (Wednesday) to disqualify Palestinian Knesset Member Haneen Zoabi from participating in the coming elections. MK Zoabi is the number two candidate on Balad’s Knesset list. The decision is automatically transferred to the Supreme Court, which will hear the appeal next week. Earlier today, Balad announced that if the Supreme Court doesn’t allow Zoabi to run, the entire party will withdraw from the elections.

The decision did not come as a surprise: The CEC is a political body whose members are determined in proportion to the representation of their parties in the Knesset. The current committee therefore has a clear right-wing majority. The decision to ban Zoabi from taking part in the elections was also supported by members of Kadima, widely considered a centrist party. Labor, Meretz, Hadash, Livni’s Hatnua party and the Palestinian parties voted against, and the result was 19-9 in favor of the disqualification.

Interestingly enough, the CEC rejected requests to disqualify Palestinian parties Balad and Ra’am Ta’al from taking part in the elections. In previous elections, both parties were disqualified but the decision was reversed by the Supreme Court.

Still, Balad held a press conference today, in which party leader Dr. Jamal Zahalka made it clear that Balad will not run without Zoabi:

This [move] hurt the entire Arab public. Its purpose is to weaken the political power of the Arab citizens in the Knesset and to strengthen the Israeli right. We fully support MK Zoabi and all her actions, and we emphasize again that if the Supreme Court does not reverse the decision, Balad will not take part in the coming elections.

MK Zoabi, the only Palestinian woman in the Israeli parliament, was singled out by the Israeli right in 2010 due to her participation in the first Gaza flotilla. But despite all the video evidence that the IDF confiscated from passengers on the Mavi Marmara, it failed to prove that MK Zoabi knew or took place in any action against IDF soldiers who stormed the ship (leaving eight Turkish citizens and one American dead). After failing to press criminal charges against Zoabi, coalition members tried to withdraw some of her rights as an MK, and even to physically attack her. At one point, the Knesset speaker had to assign bodyguards to the Arab Knesset member.

Here is a video (with English subtitles) showing Knesset Members preventing MK Zoabi from speaking:

Chances are that the Supreme Court will indeed let Zoabi run (I am pretty sure that some of the MKs who voted against her had this in mind). Israeli law actually makes it harder to prevent a specific candidate, rather than an entire party, from running, and the evidence against him or her needs to be very strong. This is not the case with Zoabi. Earlier this week, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein issued an opinion claiming there is not enough evidence to disqualify Zoabi. It is thus very unlikely that even the current Supreme Court, which is more conservative then previous ones, will take a different position.

In the unlikely event that Zoabi is disqualified, a boycott – at least partial – of the elections by Palestinian citizens of Israel will probably take place. Such a scenario won’t only change the outcome of the vote, but would also be a watershed moment between Arab and Jewish citizens in Israel, the significance of which will be felt long after these elections.

( / 19.12.2012)

Mohammed Salaymah’s fists vs. the Border Police’s guns

The IDF video makes it appear extremely unlikely that border policewoman “N.” was justified in shooting the Hebron teenager.

From the dark, fairly crude IDF video, there are so many things we don’t know about the killing of 17-year-old Mohammed Salaymah by border policewoman “N.” in Hebron a week ago. For one thing, we don’t even know if N. was the only shooter; from the video it looks to me like two police officers might have fired at the boy.

We don’t know if Salaymah pulled a realistic-looking cigarette-lighter gun during the fight, which was N.’s stated justification for shooting him; you can’t see such an object in the video, although again, the video is dark and not very distinct, as if done in “night vision.”

We don’t know what happened just before Salaymah went up to a border policeman and attacked him with his fists – there’s a cut in the 54-second video at 0:24. We don’t know, either, why the IDF waited four days before making the video available to the public.

We don’t know whether the eyewitness quoted by B’Tselem was correct in saying that the border policemen saw Salaymeh approaching the checkpoint with a gun that looked real, and either confiscated it or tried to, and that Salaymeh was shouting, “It’s mine, it’s mine” during the fight, and was either trying to grab the gun back from the border policeman or stop him from taking it. If this is true – and we don’t know if it is or not – it would cast extreme doubt on N.’s story that she thought the gun was real. If the Border Police had confiscated the cigarette lighter, they would have known immediately it wasn’t a gun, and if they wanted to confiscate it because they thought it was real, they wouldn’t be standing at ease and allowing Salaymeh to saunter from one of them to another before he started swinging, as the video shows. But B’Tselem spokeswoman Sarit Michaeli told me the eyewitness, whom B’Tselem considers generally reliable, doesn’t want to tell his story to the Border Police, so we’ll probably never know whether it was true or not.

So what do we know from the video? We know that N. didn’t simply execute Salaymah; the boy clearly attacked another border policeman at the checkpoint, like N. said.

But on the other hand, the shooting didn’t go down like N. described it: “I saw the Palestinian had knocked the soldier down and was pointing a gun at him,” she told Yedioth Aharonoth, and said she had no choice but to fire in that instant. In the video, the shooting occurs a moment after the soldier breaks loose from Salaymah –  and the Palestinian is surrounded by three of them.

It never made any sense to me whatsoever that a Palestinian would attack a border policeman in Hebron with a toy gun; there are less foolish ways to commit suicide. I think N., either by herself or with one of her partners, it’s hard to tell from the video, killed a teenage boy who went off on one of them, when they could have easily subdued him – they were three armed soldiers against one unarmed young man – without shooting.

Still, whatever was or was not edited out of the video, Salaymah clearly started the fatal fight with the border policeman: He went up to him, he started swinging away, he was carrying the fight to the soldier.

Why did he do such a thing? It seems he just lost it. Whether this was because they took his cigarette-lighter gun away, or they said something or did something he didn’t like (the Border Police are notorious for being the most brutal to Palestinians of all Israeli security forces), or because he was sick of living under Israel’s thumb, or because he hated Jews, or because he had a fight with his girlfriend, we don’t know.

But one thing we do know: Mohammed Salaymah had no weapon besides his fists, so he was not a threat to anyone’s life, which means he was not a terrorist like Israel says, not even by the loosest definition of the word.

And in all probability, N. was no heroine as she’s been made out to be, but rather another Israeli border police officer who, facing a Palestinian, was too quick on the trigger. If that is indeed the story, and I think it is, it’s a very old one.

Geen beloning voor illegaal beleid van Israël dat vrede blokkeert

Minister Timmermans moet nu politieke moed en visie tonen en handelen naar zijn eigen conclusie

“Een verademing in vergelijking met zijn voorganger”, zei GroenLinks fractievoorzitter Bram van Ojik gisteravond over een brief die minister van Buitenlandse Zaken Timmermans (PvdA) onlangs naar de Tweede Kamer zond. Van Ojik doelde op de Kamerbrief waarin Timmermans het nieuwe kabinetsbeleid aangaande Israël en de Palestijnen presenteerde.

Een verademing is die brief zeker. Timmermans’ voorganger Uri Rosenthal (VVD) identificeerde zich volledig met Israël. Met toenmalig collega-minister en vicepremier Maxime Verhagen (CDA) steunde Rosenthal de Israëlische regering van premier Netanyahu onvoorwaardelijk.

Rosenthal liep in Europees verband voorop bij het blokkeren van gezamenlijke EU-posities die kritiek op Israël bevatten. Minister Timmermans streeft juist naar Europese consensus en schuwt daarbij harde kritiek niet. Zo zegt Timmermans in zijn Kamerbrief over het nederzettingenbeleid: “De voortdurende uitbreiding van Israëlische nederzettingen in bezet Palestijns Gebied is een ernstige bedreiging voor het vredesproces.” Eerder zei hij in antwoord op Kamervragen: “Uitbreiding van de nederzettingen is de grootste bedreiging voor een twee-statenoplossing.”

Een verademing. Toch valt er op Timmermans’ Kamerbrief het een en ander aan te merken. Het kabinet blijft zich bijvoorbeeld vastklampen aan de hoop dat de Verenigde Staten in het vredesproces een serieuze en leidende bemiddelaarsrol gaan vervullen. De bittere realiteit is echter dat president Obama de regering-Netanyahu de afgelopen jaren op cruciale momenten steeds onvoorwaardelijk heeft gesteund.

Amerikaanse veto’s hebben de VN-Veiligheidsraad systematisch geneutraliseerd, ook bij gematigde resoluties tegen het illegale nederzettingenbeleid. Er is geen reden om aan te nemen dat dit in Obama’s tweede termijn zou veranderen. Het beste scenario is dat de VS pressie gedogen, die de EU op Israël uitoefent. Juist de EU zal nu het voortouw moeten nemen, wil een oplossing van het Israëlisch-Palestijnse conflict dichterbij komen. (In een recent opinieartikel met voormalig minister van Buitenlandse Zaken Van den Broek heb ik dit nader besproken.)

Een andere tekortkoming van de Kamerbrief is de kabinetsvisie op het thema ‘veiligheid’. Aan bedreigingen van Israëls veiligheid besteedt de brief veel aandacht. De rakettenaanvallen vanuit Gaza worden genoemd, alsook de dreigingen die uitgaan van Hezbollah, Iran en de instabiliteit in Syrië.

Als het om de veiligheid van Palestijnen gaat, wijst de brief daarentegen enkel op het geweld van Israëlische kolonisten tegen Palestijnen en hun bezittingen. De massieve onveiligheid die Israëls militaire bezetting dagelijks onder miljoenen Palestijnse burgers veroorzaakt en waarvoor de Israëlische staat verantwoordelijk is, krijgt geen aandacht. De term “bezetting”, van vitaal belang voor een goed begrip van de verhoudingen in het conflict en de rechtspositie van Israël en de Palestijnen, komt zelfs niet één keer in de brief voor.

De Israëlische bezetting van de Westelijke Jordaanoever, Oost-Jeruzalem en de Gazastrook duurt inmiddels 45 jaar. Twee generaties Palestijnen zijn onder bezetting geboren en met de ernstige en grootschalige mensenrechtenschendingen opgegroeid die door de bezetting worden veroorzaakt.

Dat leidt tot een volgende constatering, even teleurstellend als onbegrijpelijk: ook de term “mensenrechten” komt in Timmermans’ Kamerbrief niet één keer voor. Nederland pretendeert de internationale Hoofdstad van het Recht te zijn. Volgens de Grondwet dient de regering de internationale rechtsorde te bevorderen. En zowel VVD als PvdA hechten veel waarde aan het internationaal recht.

De voornaamste oorzaak voor het ontstaan en voortduren van het Israëlisch-Palestijnse conflict is de rechteloosheid waar de Palestijnen al decennia aan blootstaan. Het kabinet zou juist moeten onderkennen dat het beëindigen van die rechteloosheid een noodzakelijke en urgente voorwaarde is voor de oplossing van dat conflict.

Het belangrijkste bezwaar tegen het kabinetsbeleid aangaande Israël en de Palestijnen hangt echter samen met de Nederlands-Israëlische betrekkingen. Het vorige kabinet nam het initiatief om die betrekkingen te intensiveren. Minister Timmermans’ Kamerbrief suggereert dat Rutte-II de intensivering wil voortzetten, met alle (materiële en immateriële) voordelen voor Israël van dien die daarmee gepaard zouden gaan.

Indien dit bewaarheid wordt, wordt de regering-Netanyahu in feite beloond voor illegaal beleid dat de twee-statenoplossing onmogelijk maakt. Juist deze week werd bekend dat de Israëlische regering duizenden nieuwe woningen in nederzettingen gaat bouwen, die huisvesting zullen bieden aan tienduizenden kolonisten, bovenop de meer dan 500.000 kolonisten die al in bezet Palestijns gebied wonen.

Volgens de Israëlische expert Daniel Seidemann heeft er sinds 1967 niet zo’n “razernij aan nederzettingenactiviteit” plaatsgevonden. Zijn organisatie Terrestrial Jerusalem waarschuwt dat er in totaal meer dan 14.000 nieuwe woningen in nederzettingen op stapel staan. “De mogelijkheid van een politieke overeenkomst tussen Israël en de Palestijnen is nooit eerder zozeer in gevaar geweest”, aldus Terrestrial Jerusalem. Conclusie: Israël is bezig de twee-statenoplossing te vernietigen. Einde vredesproces.

Onder deze omstandigheden mogen de Nederlands-Israëlische betrekkingen niet geïntensiveerd worden. Zo’n intensivering zou de regering-Netanyahu geruststellen dat het illegale en desastreuze nederzettingenbeleid straffeloos kan doorgaan.

Minister Timmermans moet nu politieke moed en visie tonen en handelen naar zijn eigen conclusie – dat de “uitbreiding van de nederzettingen de grootste bedreiging voor een twee-statenoplossing is”. Een intensivering van de Nederlands-Israëlische betrekkingen valt niet met die constatering te rijmen en moet dus van de baan.

In de huidige omstandigheden doorgaan met de intensivering zou Timmermans’ geloofwaardigheid beschadigen, de Europese weerstand tegen het nederzettingenbeleid verzwakken en de reputatie van Nederland als internationale Hoofdstad van het Recht nog meer in twijfel trekken.

Vanmiddag licht minister Timmermans zijn Midden-Oosten beleid tijdens de behandeling van de begroting van het ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken nader toe. Hij heeft dan de kans de (politieke) daad bij het (kritische) woord te voegen. Geen beloning voor illegaal beleid dat vrede blokkeert.

(Martin Siepermann / / 19.12.2012)

UN calls on Israel to cancel settlement plan

File photo shows a general view of Ramat Shlomo settlement in East al-Quds (Jerusalem)

File photo shows a general view of Ramat Shlomo settlement in East al-Quds

The United Nations has called on Israel to cancel its new settlement plan as Tel Aviv issues tenders for new settler units in East al-Quds (Jerusalem) and the occupied West Bank.

The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned in a press conference on Wednesday that building more settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories could be “an almost fatal blow” to future talks between Israelis and the Palestinian Authority.

Israel has issued tenders for 1,048 new settler units in Har Homa in East al-Quds (Jerusalem) as well as in Beitar, Givat Zeev, and Efrat in the occupied West Bank.

Palestinians have threatened to take Israel to the International Criminal Court (ICC) over its latest decision to build more settler units in the occupied Palestinian territories.

UN undersecretary general for political affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, also told the Security Council that Israel’s settlement construction is a violation of international laws adding, “We strongly urge the Israeli government to heed the international calls to rescind these plans.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Tel Aviv authorities gave the green light for the construction of over 2,600 new settler units which are planned to be built in Givat HaMatos, a village located south of al-Quds (Jerusalem).

Israel increased its settlement activities after an upgrade in the Palestinian status at the United Nations General Assembly on November 29. The 193-member UN General Assembly voted 138-9 with 41 abstentions to upgrade Palestine status to non-member observer state.

On November 30, Israel approved a plan to build 3,000 more units in East al-Quds (Jerusalem) and the occupied West Bank. On December 3, Israel announced that it plans to construct 1,600 new illegal settlements in East al-Quds (Jerusalem).

The settlements are considered illegal by the UN and much of the international community. However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has remained defiant, saying settlement construction is part of Tel Aviv’s policy and will not stop.

( / 19.12.2012)

Report: 4600 Prisoners in Israeli Jails including 182 Children, 184 Administrative Detainees



On Wednesday 19th December, a report prepared by Palestinian researcher in the field of prisoners’ affairs, Abdul Nasser Farawna, revealed that Israeli authorities detain 4600 in its detention centers and jails, from all social classes and segments of Palestinian society.

He revealed that around 83% of prisoners are from the West Bank, 10% from the Gaza Strip and the rest are from Jerusalem, distributed to about 17 prisons and detention centers.

He also revealed that among the prisoners, there are 182 children less than18 years, 11 female prisoners, 184 administrative detainees who were arrested without charge or trial, 13 elected deputies, and 3 former ministers, and several academic and political leaders.

Farawna noted that among prisoners, there are 1200 suffer from different diseases due to medical negligence; 20 out of them are in Ramleh Medical Centre, 18 have serious and dangerous diseases like heart diseases, kidney problems and cancer, while 85 prisoners have physical or mental disabilities.

531 prisoners had been issued life imprisonments for once or for many times.

Farawna said that among prisoners, there are a long-term hunger strikers protesting against their administrative detention without a trial or charge such as Ayman Sharawneh, who is on hunger strike for 172 days, Samer al-Issawi, who is on strike for 142 days, and four others are on strike for almost a month.

Farawna called on the human rights institutions to immediately intervene to save the lives of the striking prisoners and stand in solidarity with prisoners against the criminal escalation practiced by the Israel’s Prisons Service (IPS) against them.

( / 19.12.2012)

Who funds Pamela Geller? In 2010, it was a former Israel Project board member

Geller at 9/11 Conference

Pamela Geller speaks at a September 11, 2012 conference

The nation’s leading anti-Muslim blogger and activist is back at it again in the New York City subway system. On December 17, Pamela Geller, who runs the blog Atlas Shrugs and is the head of Stop Islamization of America and the American Freedom Defense Initiative, had inflammatory ads put up in 50 subway stations at a cost of over $10,000. The ads picture the World Trade Center burning on September 11 and quote a Qu’ran verse–tying the religion of Islam to the terrorist attacks.

And in September, she put up another round of anti-Muslim advertisements at a cost of thousands of dollars. Many of them were altered and defaced by activists.

All of this begs the question: who is paying for Geller’s antics?

The latest advertisements that went up in the subway December 17.

It remains unclear who exactly is funding the ad buys. In an e-mail to Mondoweiss, Geller said “all the money for the ads comes from supporters’ donations.” On theAmerican Freedom Defense Initiative’s website, a donation button urges readers to “fund the fight.” But the word “supporters” is not exactly revealing. (It’s also worth noting that Geller won a $4 million divorce settlement and $5 million in life insurance.)

Tax records, though, show who partly funded Geller two years ago, when she first made a big name for herself leading the fight against the Park 51 Islamic center in lower Manhattan. These details have not been reported by other media outlets.

A foundation called the Alan and Hope Winters Foundation gave $5,000 to the American Freedom Defense Initiative in 2010, the Geller-led outfit behind the anti-Muslim advertisements. The foundation also gave money to a host of other anti-Muslim outfits that year, including the neoconservative Hudson Institute ($25,000) and David Yerushalmi’s Society of Americans for National Existence ($115,000).

Geller said that the Winters’ money went to her activism around Park 51. But the fact that a big-pocketed foundation gave cash to Geller’s group raises the question as to whether other foundations are likewise funding Geller’s ad buying spree.

Regardless of the answer to that question, the Winters donation is interesting in its own light. Hope Winters was on the board of The Israel Project in 2006 and 2007, according to 990 tax forms reviewed. It is the clearest example yet of how members of the Israel lobby are tied to Geller, a woman who told The New York Times that “a very good guide” to how she sees the world is the “prism of Israel.” Indeed, her last ads read: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man.” And next to those words were the following: “Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.”

The Israel Project (TIP) is a thoroughly-mainstream and well-connected shop that seeks to put “a more positive public face of Israel” out for everyone to see. TIP works with journalists to inform–or spin– the American public about the region. The group’s influence can be seen in the fact that a number of Senators and Representatives from both parties sit on its “board of advisors.”

Currently, TIP is headed by Josh Block, a former spokesperson for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. TIP did not respond to requests for comment on this story.

So what’s a former board member with TIP doing funding Geller’s hateful crusade against an Islamic center? Winters did not respond to inquiries relayed to her through an associate who helps handle her foundation’s finances. But it’s not too hard to guess.

TIP’s and Geller’s goals converge when it comes to Israel. They both support hawkish right-wing Israeli governments bent on colonizing the West Bank. They both want aggressive U.S. or Israeli action against Iran. Geller’s whole shtick is to cast Israel as a Western outpost in a sea of Arab and Islamic barbarism–the first line of defense in the “war on terror.” More subtly, TIP sees the Middle East in that way as well.

And TIP has other links to well-known Islamophobes. As the Institute for Policy Studies’ Right Web project notes, the Center for Security Policy’s Frank Gaffney spoke at a 2007 TIP-organized press conference about the “Iranian threat.” When Gaffney is not pushing for aggressive action against Iran, he’s pontificating about the threat of Muslim Brotherhood infiltration in the U.S. government and how sharia law is slowly taking over. Crazy stuff, but TIP has no problem with it.

The explicit links between Geller and TIP are a sharp contrast to how other mainstream Jewish groups have reacted to her anti-Muslim ad buys. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the Jewish Community Relations Council condemnedGeller’s September ads, which conflated Muslims and Palestinians with “savages.” But these groups have themselves dabbled in explicit Islamophobia. A Dallas branch of the ADL, for instance, once held a screening for the film “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West.”

Geller told me in an e-mail that “many clear-thinking and freedom-loving Jewish groups approve of my work.”

While Geller remains a step too far for some groups, like the ADL, she operateswithin the larger context of Islamophobia that has been aided by Israel lobby groups. Think of her as the tip of the big spear pushed by more mainstream pro-Israel groups. And her links with The Israel Project bring the Geller tip that much closer to the mainstream establishment.

( / 19.12.2012)

Spokeswoman: PA will try to pay partial salaries next week

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — The Palestinian Authority will try and pay half November salaries to government employees next week, a PA spokeswoman said Wednesday.

The Ministry of Finance is working with the Palestine Monetary Authority to borrow money from Palestinian banks in order to pay public sector workers between 1,500 and 4,000 shekels ($400-$1,070) early next week, Nour Odeh told Ma’an.

Around 153,000 government employees are waiting to receive November salaries because of Israeli economic sanctions.

Israel is withholding some $100 million in monthly customs revenues it collects on the Palestinians’ behalf as punishment for their successful bid at the UN General Assembly last month to gain de-facto statehood recognition.

Around 50,000 workers went on strike Wednesday. West Bank security forces, a pillar of security and cooperation with Israel, and staff in the Gaza Strip did not participate.

“This strike is against Israel’s piracy,” said Bassam Zakarneh, chief of the government employees’ union said.

“The situation is very grave, and the services to the people are much reduced by the strike,” he said. “(People) can’t even afford transportation to their workplaces.”

PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said Israel’s sanctions put around a million Palestinians “in the cycle of poverty.”

“We’re talking about doubling the rate of poverty in Palestine during a maximum period of two months from today if the situation continues as it is,” Fayyad told Reuters on Monday.

( / 19.12.2012)

Syrian interior minister in Beirut for treatment

Some Syrian rebels had said that Minister Mohammad al-Shaar was seriously wounded after a car bomb and two other explosives went off outside the Interior Ministry last Wednesday. (Al Arabiya archives)

Some Syrian rebels had said that Minister Mohammad al-Shaar was seriously wounded after a car bomb and two other explosives went off outside the Interior Ministry last Wednesday.

Syria’s Interior Minister, Mohammad Ibrahim al-Shaar, arrived in Lebanon on Wednesday for medical treatment. A week after bombers attacked his ministry in central Damascus, security sources told Reuters.

Al-Shaar was admitted to the American University Hospital in Beirut, according to Lebanese media reports.

The sources gave no details of his condition, but said it was not critical. Some Syrian rebels had said on Tuesday that al-Shaar was seriously wounded last Wednesday when a car bomb and two other explosives went off at the main gate of the Interior Ministry, killing a member of parliament.

The Syrian jihadist opposition group, al-Nusra Front, claimed responsibility in a statement via their official Twitter account.

“Thank God, we targeted the interior ministry building in Kfar Sousa district in Damascus at 5:30 pm on Wednesday, Dec. 12,” the extremist group Tweeted.

Fighting then erupted inside the ministry complex, reported AFP news agency.

According to the al-Nusra front the attack started when two suicide bombers detonated their explosive belts inside the building, triggering clashes. Two car bombs exploded shortly afterwards.

One car was positioned in front of the office of the minister, Mohammed Ibrahim al-Shaar, who sustained a light shoulder wound when his office ceiling collapsed, a security source told AFP.

“He was taken to hospital but his condition gives no cause for concern and he should be discharged rapidly” he explained.

The source went on to add that the attack was made possible by a “betrayal” in the security services of the ministry.

“It is impossible for a car to approach the entrance to the Ministry if it is not an official vehicle,” he said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said nine people were killed in the attack, including a parliamentarian and eight members of the security forces, while 20 others were wounded.

The state news agency SANA reported five fatalities and 23 wounded.

Al-Shaar narrowly escaped death in a spectacular July 18 bombing that claimed the lives of four other top security officials, including the defense minister and the brother-in-law of President Bashar al-Assad

( / 19.12.2012)