Why do Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip not warrant a response from the British government?


Ben WhiteOn 26 February, Palestinians fired a rocket into southern Israel from the Gaza Strip, the first such projectile attack since the ceasefire that brought an end to Israel’s eight-day assault on the blockaded territory (‘Operation Pillar of Defense’).

For over three months, there were precisely zero rockets. Yet during the same period, four Palestinians were killed and almost 100 wounded by Israeli forces, with over 60 shooting attacks, a dozen incursions into the Gaza Strip, and some 30 attacks on Palestinian fishermen working in Gaza’s waters.

By and large, these incidents have gone unreported in the Western media and it was thus sadly unsurprising that the solitary Palestinian-fired rocket in late February was reported as ‘breaking’ or ‘rattling’ the ceasefire.

Some publications responded to criticism – like The New York Times and the BBC (who made a small, though important, correction following my email). But overall, the misrepresentative and selective reporting of violations of the ceasefire reflects familiar patterns in the media’s coverage of Palestine/Israel.

It is more disturbing to see such problems reflected in government, but that is the only conclusion one can draw from the UK Foreign Office’s shameful record the past few months.

The day after the rocket was fired in late February, the Foreign Office’s Minister for the Middle East Alistair Burt issued a statement expressing how he is “very concerned” about “the first such incident” since the ceasefire agreement. Burt called on “both parties to respect in full the November ceasefire”, and added: “The calm since November has been welcome: it should be built upon, not reversed.”

I emailed the Foreign Office to ask them what other statements they have issued regarding the ceasefire and whether there had been any official comment on Israeli attacks on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip during the last three months. I was directed to remarks made in parliament, the FCO said, “on many occasions since the November conflict in answer to oral and written questions”.

In other words, there has been not a single public FCO statement about the dozens of – sometimes deadly – Israeli attacks on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. When I pressed the FCO about why Alistair Burt – or anyone – had failed to issue a statement on Israeli attacks like the one about the rocket, the answer was:

The principal reason for issuing the statement was our concern that the rocket attack, if repeated, may lead to an unravelling of the ceasefire: besides condemning the attack, the statement re-stated our call for all sides to respect the ceasefire and to take advantage of the Egyptian-brokered talks. As for our concerns over Israeli actions in Gaza, we regularly raise them privately in our contacts with the Israeli authorities.  We cannot do the same with our concerns over actions by Hamas and other militant groups as we do not have contacts with them.

This prompts two further questions. First, why did the rocket attack represent a threat to the “unravelling of the ceasefire”, but dozens of Israeli attacks did not produce similar concerns? Second, there are plenty of examples of when the UK government does issue a public expression of concern over an Israeli government action (e.g. settlement expansion). So, why do Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip not warrant such a response?

The FCO’s only answer was that they “look for the most effective way of delivering our messages, based on the circumstances at the time”, and in a subsequent email, adding that:

The UK delivers its bilateral and multilateral messages in a number of different ways.  As I highlighted in my last email, how this is done depends on the circumstances at the time and what we think might be most effective.

I looked at the references to Gaza and the ceasefire in parliament, as the FCO spokesperson advised. On 4 December – by which time, Israeli forces had already shot numerous Palestinians in Gaza – Foreign Secretary William Hague told MPs that the government was “urg[ing] all parties concerned…to observe the ceasefire”.

Later that month, responding to a question about the detention of Palestinian fishermen by the Israeli navy, Baroness Warsi said that “while the UK regularly makes representations at both ministerial and official level to the Government of Israel on the urgent need to ease restrictions on Gaza, we have not raised this specific incident with the Israeli authorities”.

Then most recently, in early March, Alistair Burt told parliament that the UK government had “made clear to Israel our longstanding concerns about the manner in which the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) polices the buffer zone between Israel and Gaza” and had “reiterated our concerns over the IDF’s use of live ammunition” in the context of “recent cases of Palestinian civilians killed by the IDF in both Gaza and the West Bank”.

The message is clear. Israel’s repeated attacks on Palestinian farmers and fishermen merit, at best, an expression of concern in parliament – while we are left to guess at what the UK government may, or may not, say to Israel “privately”.

An insight into how the Foreign Office approaches the question of Israel’s systematic and routine violations of international law and human rights can be found in an answer given by Baroness Warsi on 6 December, whenanswering a question on boycotts. Warsi claimed that it is the UK government’s “close and productive relationship with Israel” which allows “the frank discussions that are often necessary between friends”, and that “boycotts would lessen that influence”.

But where is the evidence that the UK exercises any “influence” through “robust engagement”? Instead, we have a record of double standards, platitudes, and complicity with human rights violations. Meanwhile, the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip – and elsewhere – wonder when their lives will be considered of equal value by Western diplomats.

(Source / 13.03.2013)

New Tunisian government sworn in amid protest


New coalition sworn in with 30 more votes than required in the shadow of a 27-year-old cigarette vendor’s death.
Moncef Marzouki, the Tunisian president, has sworn in a new government after lawmakers approved the new team in a vote.

Ali Larayedh, prime minister, and his cabinet took the oath on Wednesday, the same day that a cigarette vendor who set himself ablaze in a busy street of the capital Tunis on Tuesday died under hospital care.

“I speak to all those desperate young people, who are at the end of their patience and who see no glimmer of hope on the horizon,” Marzouki said, evoking  the memory of 27-year-old Adel Khazri who died from his injuries in the morning.

“We do not forget the loss of one of our children in the same way and,  perhaps for the same reasons, as the martyr of our revolution,” the president said in reference to Mohamed Bouazizi, who set himself on fire in December 2010.

Marzouki urged patience, saying the new government does “not have a magic wand to resolve the problems of
poverty and unemployment that have accumulated over three decades, but it has the unbending will to confront this tsunami of problems.”

The unemployment rate is about 17 percent, and is especially high among young graduates.

Prior to immolating, Khazri referenced the youth unemployment, shouting: “This is a young man who sells cigarettes because of unemployment,” on Habib Bourguiba avenue.

‘Sad incident’

Larayedh’s coalition of his own Ennahda party, two secular parties and independents received 139 votes, or 30 more than needed, in Wednesday’s parliamentary session.

Just before the vote, Larayedh also commented on Khazri’s death, calling it a “sad incident” and saying: “I hope we understood the message.”

Officials said Khazri, from a very poor family in the northwestern Jendouba area, had arrived in the capital a few months ago to look for work.

Around 30 angry street vendors organised a demonstration Wednesday near the municipal theatre on Habib Bourguiba Avenue – epicentre of the uprising – where Khazri had set himself alight.

They shouted “shame on the government, the youth are burning.” Khazri’s brother Issam said he is to be buried on Thursday in the northwestern town of Souk Jemaa.

Street vendors took to the streets after Khadri’s death to express their dissatisfaction with the government.

In December 2010, street vendor Bouazizi died of his injuries after setting himself alight on December 17, 2010, in the town of Sidi Bouzid after a policewoman confiscated his fruit cart.

(Source / 13.03.2013)

High-level inquiry blames Egyptian police for revolt deaths

Egypt’s police force is still hated by most Egyptians and is currently in upheaval, with segments of them on strike.

The highest-level inquiry into the deaths of nearly 900 protesters in Egypt’s uprising has concluded that police were behind nearly all the killings and used snipers on rooftops overlooking Cairo’s Tahrir Square to shoot into the huge crowds.

The report, parts of which were obtained by The Associated Press, is the most authoritative and sweeping account of the killings and determines that the deadly force used could only have been authorized by Hosni Mubarak’s security chief, with the ousted president’s full knowledge.

The report of the fact-finding commission, created by Islamist President Mohammed Mursi, could weigh heavily in the upcoming retrial of Mubarak, as well as his security chief, former Interior Minister Habib el-Adly, and six top police commanders. It is likely also to fuel calls for reforming the powerful security forces and lead to prosecutions of members of the police force.

The findings were leaked at a sensitive time for the country’s police. Still hated by most Egyptians, the force is in upheaval, with segments of police on strike and its chief, Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim, pleading not to drag it into politics. The force is also facing a challenge from Islamist groups threatening to set up “popular committees” to fill what they call a security vacuum created by the police strike.

Part of the force also is protesting what some officers see as an attempt by Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood to control the force. The Brotherhood denies the charge.

The Interior Ministry, which controls the police, has repeatedly rejected charges that it bore responsibility for the killings in Cairo and other cities during the 18-day uprising that began on Jan. 25, 2011, and ended with Mubarak stepping down. In contrast, the pro-democracy activists behind the uprising have long maintained that police were to blame.

Mubarak and el-Adly, the second most powerful figure after the ousted leader, were convicted and sentenced to life in jail in June 2012 for failing to stop the killings, but the two have successfully appealed their convictions. The six top police commanders put on trial with Mubarak and el-Adly – including the head of security in Cairo and the commander of the riot police – were acquitted of charges related to the killings. The prosecution appealed that verdict and a new trial of the eight will start next month.

The report was submitted to Mursi and the nation’s top prosecutor late last year. Mursi, Egypt’s first freely elected president, has repeatedly vowed to seek retribution for the victims of the revolution and has ordered pensions and monetary compensation for families of the dead and wounded.

He has also decreed the creation of a special prosecution office to investigate and refer to trials criminal cases related to the uprising.

One of the report’s authors, lawyer and rights activist Mohsen Bahnasy, said he planned to submit relevant parts of the report to the prosecution in the Mubarak case as well as to other courts trying policemen charged with killing protesters. In the past two years, trials of policemen over protester killings have almost all ended with acquittals.

It is up to the top prosecutor to officially request that the report be included in the new Mubarak trial, according to human rights lawyer Gamal Eid.

Police brutality during Mubarak’s 29 years in office was a key cause of the uprising, but the army generals who took over for him, and Mursi, who followed them, have so far failed to reform the force.

The 16-member fact-finding panel included rights activists, lawyers, judges and a representative from the military prosecutor’s office. It conducted about 400 interviews with police and witnesses.

The report went into extensive detail, citing police logs of the issuing of assault rifles and rounds of ammunition, and listing the officers who received them. It also cited logs on the rounds returned to storerooms, showing that a large amount was used, according to one member of the commission. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to reveal that part of the report.

“The use of firearms can only be authorized by the interior minister who must in turn inform the political leadership (Mubarak),” said the report. “And if the police continue to use firearms for more than one day, then the political leadership must be informed.”

The report cites witnesses as saying police snipers were positioned on the roofs of a hotel and the American University in Cairo, overlooking Tahrir, and the Interior Ministry nearby, firing down on crowds of protesters.

Police officials told the commission that snipers’ equipment of the kind used during the uprising could only be found with members of an elite counterterrorism unit that worked under Mubarak’s pervasive state security agency and took orders directly from the interior minister.

Most the victims were shot in the head or chest, suggesting the use of snipers, and bystanders were also killed or wounded as they watched the clashes from their homes, the report said.

From interviews with witnesses and doctors, the report gave a detailed look on the extent of the turmoil, particularly on Jan. 28, 2011, the deadliest day of the uprising, when protesters battled police in and around Tahrir. By the end of the day, the police forces melted away from the streets, plunging the country into chaos and lawlessness.

One young Cairo protester just avoided being run over by a speeding police vehicle and then was shot 14 times. Another’s head was cracked open by gunfire as he carried a banner reading “peaceful” outside a mosque in Tahrir, the report reads.

Qasr el-Eini Hospital, the largest of several facilities near Tahrir, received 32 bodies on Jan. 28, a senior surgeon told the commission. Another doctor at the hospital said more than 100 wounded, most shot in the face and chest, were brought in immediately after he started his shift at 8 p.m. In the next 10 hours, the hospital dealt with a total of 200 cases.

The report also established that two of the six police generals who were Mubarak’s co-defendants – Cairo security chief Ismail el-Shaer and director of general security Adly Fayed – were positioned in or near Tahrir Square on that day. Investigators determined this by looking at police records of tracking devices carried by the generals for their own security.

The commission documented a total of 846 deaths during the 18 days – including 71 in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, 13 in the province of Beni Suef south of Cairo and 19 in northern Sinai. In addition, the Interior Ministry told the commission that 26 policemen were killed in the uprising.

The 84-year-old Mubarak, according to the report, received at his palace a dedicated live TV feed from Tahrir arranged by Anas el-Fiqi, his information minister. He also authorized el-Adly during a meeting held four days before the start of the uprising to suspend the cellphone network and the Internet if needed. Mubarak later denied in court that he knew the extent of the protests and crackdown against them.

But el-Adly, who served Mubarak for more than a decade, told investigators in his prison cell that the former president was kept “fully abreast” of what was going on, starting with the uprising’s first fatal shootings by police in the coastal city of Suez on Jan. 25, 2011.

The court said it ruled to acquit the six police generals because it was not “comfortable” with the statements made by prosecution witnesses against them, that the policemen who did the actual shooting have not been identified and arrested, and that the prosecution did not present material evidence against them, such as voice or video recordings and the Interior Ministry’s weapons and ammunition logs.

(Source / 13.03.2013)

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, now at a university near you

IsraelApartheid-KhadijaPatelgvdw MAIN.jpg

Universities across the country are commemorating “Israeli Apartheid Week” this week. Organisers say it is an opportunity to draw attention to the human rights violations endemic to the conflict in the Middle East. In Durban, however, observance of Israeli Apartheid Week has turned sour as activists accuse the Democratic Alliance of obstructing free speech.

“There will be no attempt to get the mural removed, and the DA supports freedom of expression. [The] councillor supports this freedom,” Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille said on Monday, after activists in Durban had responded with fury to the DA councillor’s stated opposition to graffiti artwork linked to the observation of Israeli Apartheid Week in Durban.

The councillor, Avrille Coen, told the Durban-based Daily News the graffiti at the Durban skate park was offensive.

“What proof do they have that Israel is an Apartheid state?

“This painting is telling half of the story of what is happening in the Middle East.”

She said that last year, the same illustration created similar controversy and had to be removed by the municipality.

“We can’t have a painting in a public space like a beach that is so offensive to people of Jewish background.

“This is hate speech, calling a democratic country like Israel, which has people of Palestinian descent in parliament, an Apartheid state.

“The painting must be removed,” she said.

Khadeeja Manjra, an activist from the University of Kwazulu-Natal, said Coen was called to the skate park after a passer-by complained to Metro police officers. Coen made her remarks at the park, in the presence of journalists.

The DA in Kwazulu-Natal sought to distance the party from the councillor’s remarks.

“As the Democratic Alliance, we will not get involved with this dispute and will not take any action, which will favour either side and regret the controversy that this matter has captured,” Hanif Hoosen, the DA’s chairman in Kwazulu-Natal, said in a letter to the South African Muslim Network (Samnet).

And yet on Tuesday afternoon, the wall hosting the mural had been repainted. The mural had disappeared under a coat of black paint.

Photo: A mural painted by Ewok for IAW 2013 at the Durban North Beach Skate park, repainted.

Coen told Daily Maverick she knew “not a thing” about the repainting of the wall.

“It was definitely not from me or the municipality,” she said.

While it is unclear who exactly is responsible for blacking out the mural, the controversy over the mural does expose the highly charged atmosphere around the observance of Israeli Apartheid Week in South Africa.

The South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS) has been particularly vociferous in its criticism of the observance of Israeli Apartheid Week in South African academic institutions.

“A one-sided and extreme viewpoint has been communicated to students on campus about the Israeli-Arab conflict, the prototype being Israel Apartheid Week,” the national political/liaison officer for SAUJS, Harry Hoshovsky, said in a statement last week.

“By framing the Israeli-Arab narrative in controversial and extreme terms, the end result is that an incredibly complex political conflict has been reduced to a simplistic paradigm where Israelis have been labelled solely as aggressors and Palestinians exclusively as victims.”

Israeli Apartheid Week, held in South Africa this year from 11-17 March, is an annual series of lectures, rallies and documentary screenings dealing with the conflict held in academic instructions across the world. Activists say the aim of Israeli Apartheid Week is to educate people about the nature of Israel as an Apartheid system and then build support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.

Israeli Apartheid Week was first held in Toronto in 2005 and has since been held in academic institutions across the world.

SAUJS claims activists involved with Israeli Apartheid Week deny Jewish history by sabotaging their campaign, Israel Awareness Week, which ran from 25 February t0 March 1 at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

“We wanted to inform students about a forgotten and largely ignored chapter of Jewish history – namely the forced expulsion of 850,000 Jewish refugees from nine Arab countries after Israeli independence in 1948,” Hoshovsky says.

Irene Calis, a Palestinian activist and a visiting lecturer in the Department of Political and International Studies at Rhodes University, believes invocations of Jewish history in campaigns countering Israeli Apartheid Week miss the point.

“This is not about Jewish history,” she said. “This is about structural issues surrounding the conflict.”

Lubna Nadvi, an activist and lecturer at the University of Kwazulu-Natal argues that Palestinian solidarity activists are “actually very mindful of the historical suffering of Jewish people”. She insists that activism for the Palestinian cause does not undermine from the historical suffering of Jewish people.

“No one in the movement would deny the persecution of Jewish people in history but this does not detract from the current suffering of Palestinians,” she said.

“One has to draw a distinction between anti-Semitism and criticism of human rights violations by a state,” she says.

Calis believes that the observance of Israeli Apartheid Week around the world is not a mere commemoration but a “political awareness campaign”.

“It’s about making connections between the political processes and the social conditions,” she says.

“The aim here is to draw attention to the structural, systematic policies of the state [of Israel] and not the Jewish people.”

Calis believes it is crucial to reframe an understanding of what is happening between Israelis and Palestinians as a “human issue”. She calls for a sense of humanity to be brought back into conversations about the conflict in the Middle East.

The effects of activism in South African academic institutions on either side of the conflict will, however, not be restricted to this week.

On Tuesday, Dr Salim Vally, director of the Centre for Education Rights and Transformation at the University of Johannesburg, and a prominent Palestinian solidarity activist, was denied entry to the West Bank by Israeli security forces.

Vally was invited by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, a German foundation, to deliver a series of lectures in the West Bank focusing on the right to education and curriculum development. He left Amman, Jordan, this morning on his way to Palestine but was stopped at the border and detained for five hours by Israeli border security where he is reported to have been “interrogated, body-searched and humiliated before being ejected back to Jordan”.

“The most painful thing about the whole episode,” Vally said in a statement released by the Palestinian Solidarity Committee on Tuesday night, “was to witness the manner in which Palestinians returning to their homes – many older than my parents – were mistreated, harassed and humiliated by teenagers young enough to be their grandchildren. Even if I had wanted to, I could not prevent memories of the Apartheid days overwhelming me with a vengeance.”

(Source / 13.03.2013)

Verzet VVD tegen labeling product uit nederzetting


Verzet VVD tegen labeling product uit nederzetting -  Ten Broeke. Foto ANP

Ten Broeke.

DEN HAAG – Evenals SGP en ChristenUnie heeft ook de VVD grote bezwaren tegen het kabinetsvoornemen om producten uit Israëlische nederzettingen apart te labelen.

VVD-Kamerlid Ten Broeke ziet de noodzaak en de urgentie van de voorgenomen maatregel niet in, meldde de Volkskrant dinsdagmorgen.

De liberaal vreest schade aan de economie in de nederzettingen op de Golanhoogte, de Westelijke Jordaanoever en in Oost-Jeruzalem. „Wij zijn tegen nederzettingen, maar voor economische bedrijvigheid. Wij horen nu al geluiden dat producenten eraan denken de productie uit de nederzettingen te verplaatsen. Dit kan negatieve gevolgen hebben voor de lokale werkgelegenheid, van zowel de Israëliërs als de Palestijnen.”

Ten Broeke vraagt zich ook af of de consument iets opschiet met de speciale etiketten of dat er „vooral een aantal activisten blij wordt gemaakt.”

De VVD’er eist verder van het kabinet een consequent beleid. Het kabinet zou dan, behalve Israël, ook Marokko moeten aanpakken. Dat land bezet het grootste deel van de Westelijke Sahara en exporteert van daaruit ook producten.

(Source / 13.03.2013)

Is Any Hope Left for Mideast Peace?

WHAT should Barack Obama, who is to visit Israel next Wednesday for the first time in his presidency, do about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

First, he must abandon the stale conventional wisdom offered by the New York-Washington foreign-policy establishment, which clings to the crumbling remnants of a so-called peace process that, in the 34 years since the Camp David accords, has actually helped make peace less attainable than ever.

When the most recent iteration of this process began with high hopes at the Madrid peace conference in 1991, which led to the Oslo accords two years later, there were 200,000 Israelis illegally settled in the occupied Palestinian territories: today, there are more than twice as many.

During this time, under four successive presidents, the United States, purportedly acting as an honest broker, did nothing to prevent Israel from gradually gobbling up the very land the two-state solution was to be based on.

Until 1991 most Palestinians, although under Israeli military occupation, could nonetheless travel freely. Today, an entire generation of Palestinians has never been allowed to visit Jerusalem, enter Israel or cross between the West Bank and Gaza. This ghettoization of the Palestinians, along with the unrest of the second intifada of 2000-5 and the construction of seemingly permanent settlements and of an apartheid-style wall, are the tragic fruits of the so-called peace process the United States has led.

The “peace process” has consisted of indulging Israeli intransigence over Palestine in exchange for foreign-policy goals unrelated to the advancement of peace and Palestinian freedom. In the late 1970s this involved the strategic cold war prize of moving Egypt from the Soviet column to the American column.

The Camp David accord between Prime Minister Menachem Begin and President Anwar el-Sadat essentially set aside the “Palestinian question.” These constraints shaped the Oslo process, in which Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization recognized each other, while all fundamental issues like borders, refugees, water, Israeli settlements and the status of Jerusalem were deferred.

Toward the end of his first term, Mr. Obama essentially abandoned his already modest peacemaking agenda in exchange for a lull in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s campaign for war with Iran. Palestine was again sacrificed, this time to bribe a belligerent Israel for temporary good behavior.

The American-led “process” has ultimately strengthened the Israeli far right and made Palestinian self-determination more unattainable than ever. Continuing with the Orwellian grotesquerie that is the “peace process” is contrary to any enlightened definition of American self-interest. It has burnished the image of the United States as Israel’s uncritical defender and enabler. Furthermore, it insults the intelligence of the Palestinian people. Despite the complicity of some of their leaders in a process that has left them stateless while the unending colonization of the West Bank and East Jerusalem continues, they deserve to be more than prisoners in their own land.

If Mr. Obama decided to devote energy toward resolving the conflict — a big if — it would not be easy. The Palestinians are deeply divided between supporters of Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction, which governs the West Bank, and Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza. An even bigger obstacle is Mr. Netanyahu’s right-wing government, hellbent on territorial expansion.

In short, if the objectives of the entire peace process are not ending the occupation, removing the settlements and providing for real Palestinian self-determination, then what is the purpose of pretending to restart it?

There are two facts Mr. Obama would do well to keep in mind.

The overwhelming dominance of Israel over the Palestinians means that the conflict is not one that demands reciprocal concessions from two equal parties. In addition, peace has to be made between Palestinians and Israelis, not between Mr. Obama and his critics in the Republican Party, the Israel lobby and Israel’s right-wing parties.

If Mr. Obama cannot face those realities, it would be far better for him to just be honest: the United States supports this intolerable reality and is willing to bear the resulting international opprobrium. People the world over realize that America for many decades has helped produce a situation where, pious invocations of support for a Palestinian state notwithstanding, there is, and for the foreseeable future will be, only one true sovereign authority between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River: the state of Israel.

Only Israeli Jews are full citizens of that land, while 5 million Palestinians live in a state of subjugation or exile and 1.2 million Palestinian Arabs live in Israel as second-class citizens. A “one-state solution” based on enduring discrimination and oppression is ultimately unsustainable. Its only remaining external support comes from the United States and Europe, whose citizens are increasingly aware that such a structure is deeply at odds with their own values, as apartheid South Africa was.

For Mr. Obama, a decision is in order. He can reconcile the United States to continuing to uphold and bankroll an unjust status quo that it helped produce. Or he can begin to chart a new course based on recognition that the United States must forthrightly oppose the occupation and the settlements and support an inalienable Palestinian right to freedom, equality and statehood. There is no middle way.

(Source / 13.03.013)

UEFA should cancel football tournament in Israel, says former French sports minister



Former French sports minister Marie-George Buffet has asked European football’s governing body to cancel its plan to hold this year’s under-21 championship in Israel.

In a 7 March letter to UEFA president Michel Platini, the member of parliament argued that Israeli restrictions on freedom of movement for Palestinian athletes, and the groundless incarceration of football players on the Palestinian national team “are incompatible with the sport values that should be respected when organizing a major international competition.”

Israeli football racism

Also incompatible with sports values of fair play and respect is the amount of racism in Israeli football. In January, Ali Abunimah addressed racism in Israeli football on his blog. He quoted Haaretz:

Only in Israeli soccer can a club block Arabs from joining its ranks, and harsh violence is treated solely as a disciplinary infraction, to be handled by the Israel Football Association’s internal court. The anarchy and lack of police enforcement have turned Israeli soccer into a source of violence, racism and hatred, and has even started to attract dubious characters, who at times manage the teams.

The video above exposes the racism of the fans of Israeli Premier League team Beitar Jerusalem against a play on their own side.

Hundreds of Beitar fans leave the stadium after Zaur Sadayev — a Muslim player from Chechnya — scored a goal to protest the presence of a Muslim player on their team, asreported by the online magazine Jweekly.com.

The letter continues:

This plan has aroused strong emotions among many athletes – you are certainly aware of the protests by many football players – but also among the people and associations that are campaigning for justice and peace in Israel and Palestine. You are also familiar with my involvement in the promotion of sport for all in every corner of the globe, without demanding from athletes the endorsement of any political agenda.

It is this moral code that has prompted me to approach you with the request that the European Cup should not be held in Israel. I fully agreed with you in 2010 when you stated that “Israeli measures applicable to Palestinian sport constitute a breach of the international regulations and laws in force” to be a member of UEFA.

This situation, far from improving, persists today. It is a deplorable fact that Palestinian athletes are not only being denied travel permits within and outside the Palestinian territories so that they are unable to take part in competitions, but that many athletes are also frequently arrested and imprisoned. Mention may be made, in particular, of the groundless incarceration of the goalkeeper of the Palestinian Olympic team, Mr. Omar Abu Roïs, and of the Ramallah footballer, Mr. Mohammed Nmir, as well as that of Mr. Mahmoud Sarsak of the Palestinian national team, who was imprisoned on traveling from Gaza to the West Bank for a match.

You will agree with me, Mr. President and Dear Friend, that such adverse practices against athletes and a country’s right to engage in sport are incompatible with the sport values that should be respected when organizing a major international competition.

I am therefore convinced that you will be sensitive, in the name of sport and the right of all to engage in sport, to the current protests against the holding of the competition in question in Israel. I know that I can rely on your concern to ensure respect for that principle as a motive to reconsider the venue for the 2013 European Football Championship.

Warm regards,

Marie-George Buffet

(Source / 13.03.2013)

Abu Marzouq Slams Egyptian Reports Regarding Claimed Arrest Of Seven Palestinians

Mousa Abu Marzouq, member of the Political Bureau of the Hamas movement, slammed some Egyptian media outlets for what he called “attempting to involve the Palestinians in internal Egyptian conflicts”. His statements came after Egyptian reports claimed Egypt arrested seven Palestinians coming from Syria.

Mousa Abu Mazrouq
Mousa Abu Mazrouq

On His Facebook page, Abu Mousa said that some Egyptian media outlets recently claimed that Egypt arrested seven Palestinians who flew from Syria to Egypt “carrying maps of sensitive Egyptian sites”, and later on, the outlets claimed that the seven illegally entered Egypt through a tunnel between Gaza and Egypt.

The Hamas official added that the Hamas-led government in Gaza contacted Egyptian security sources, and that Egypt confirmed that the seven Palestinians entered Egypt legally, and headed to Syria.

He stated that, taking into consideration the fact that Syria does not recognize Palestinian-issued passports, as it does not recognize the Oslo peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), the Syrian border authorities do not stamp the Palestinian passports, but instead, stamp a separate document.

Abu Marzouq said that Egypt knows this fact, and that once the Palestinians landed in Cairo, the Egyptian side asked them about where they are coming from, and when they said that they came from Syria, they were moved to the Egyptian Security Services that released them after confirming the legality of all of their documents.

The seven were then allowed to enter Egypt, and continued their way to the Gaza Strip.

Abu Marzouq further stated that, the moment the seven Palestinians were questioned by the Egyptian Intelligence, “some Egyptian media outlets published fabricated reports claiming that the Palestinians carried maps of sensitive Egyptian locations, and that they illegally entered Egypt through the tunnels.”

He urged all media outlets to verify the sources of their information, and “to stop publishing news items that are meant to create tension and cause strife between the Egyptian and Palestinian people.”

(Source / 13.03.2013)

Take Action: 10 Years Later, Remember Rachel Corrie


Honor Rachel by Continuing Struggle for Peace and Justice 

On Saturday, March 16, our member group the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice will mark the 10th anniversary of Rachel’s stand in Gaza.

In 2003, 23-year-old American activist Rachel Corrie was killed by the Israeli military with a weaponized Caterpillar bulldozer as she tried to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian family’s home in Rafah, Gaza. Ten years later there continues to be a lack of a proper investigation and accountability for her death on the part of both the Israeli and U.S. governments. 

The organization and the Corrie family are calling on individuals, groups, and communities to take action this week to remember Rachel and continue the struggle for peace and justice in Palestine/Israel. As Rachel wrote: “The international media and our government are not going to tell us that we are effective, important, justified in our work, courageous, intelligent, valuable. We have to do that for each other, and one way we can do that is by continuing our work, visibly.”

Let’s mark this anniversary by renewing our commitment toending U.S. institutional support for Israeli occupation and apartheid and to working for Palestinian human rights, equality, and freedom.

What you can do!

Tell Caterpillar to own up to its business with Israel and to end its complicity in violations of human rights and international law. At the recent AIPAC policy conference, Caterpillar was featured on a panel entitled “Foreign Aid: The Vital Role of U.S. Assistance.” Call Caterpillar out for continuing to profit from crimes against Palestinians.

Tell President Obama to use his upcoming trip to Israel and the West Bank to demand Israeli compliance with U.S. laws and policies. Remind him that there has been no accountability for Rachel, Furkan Dogan-a U.S. citizen killed by Israel on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, and other U.S. citizens harmed by Israel, or for the countless Palestinian civilians injured and killed by U.S. weapons in Israeli military attacks. Choose from these talking points and send your own message.
Plan an event, show a film, and/or write a letter to the editor. Use this week to make some noise and be visible in our support for Palestinian human rights! Check out these ideas for actions and visuals or come up with your own. Email your plans and then photos to info@rachelcorriefoundation.org.

Honor Rachel and her commitment to justice by taking action this week and beyond to support dignity, equality, and freedom.

(Source / 13.03.2013)

Syrian child tells Al Arabiya why he joined armed rebels

Homsi said he was trained for two months before he was able to fight with the armed rebels and did not feel like he was too young to do so.

An international rights organization released a report Wednesday that said Syrian children were being recruited by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime as well as the armed opposition to fight on the front lines.

The UK-based Save the Children organization said the children – under the age of 18 – were not only used in combat but also as human shields and informants.

Ibrahim Homsi, 17, told Al Arabiya he joined the rebel Free Syrian Army in 2012 after Assad forces killed his brother.

“I took up arms because we were [forced] to evacuate our houses,” he said. “Shabbiha [Assad thugs] entered our houses, killed my brother, killed my neighbors and arrested our women.”

“I’ve been away from my family for one whole year. I’m now in the Homs suburbs.”

Homsi said he was trained for two months before he was able to fight with the armed rebels and did not feel like he was too young to do so.

“I am doing this for God,” he told Al Arabiya. “What pushed me to join the Free Syrian Army is because they’re fighting for their people and their religion.”

Ibrahim, whose school was allegedly struck by Assad’s forces in Homs’ Baba Amro district, also said that he wants to get back to his education.

“I want Bashar al-Assad to leave and be able to avenge the blood of the martyrs and then go back to school. After the fall of the regime, I will go back.”

At least 2 million children in the war-torn country face malnutrition, severe trauma, early marriage and various diseases, the Save the Children report said.

(Source / 13.03.2013)