Egyptians protest for army to return to power

Egyptians take part in demonstration to show their support for their country’s military on March 15, 2013 in Cairo.

Hundreds of Egyptians demonstrated in Cairo on Friday to press for the army to assume power in a country plagued by unrest and instability two years after a revolution which toppled president Hosni Mubarak.

The protest was held in eastern Cairo in response to a call by retired army officers and groups opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood, the party of President Mohamed Mursi.

“The army must return” to power and “Down with the power of the guide,” they chanted, referring to the Brotherhood’s spiritual guide Mohamed Badie, as they waved portraits of General Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, the armed forces chief.

Al-Ahram newspaper’s website reported that pro-army demonstrations were also held in Damietta in northern Egypt.

In late January, Sissi warned that Egypt’s political crisis could lead to the collapse of the state, something which the military which ruled the country between the fall of Mubarak and last June’s election of Mursi would not allow.

Opposition groups and disgruntled Egyptians accuse Mursi, the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists of monopolizing power, and say the revolution failed to reach its goals of social justice.

(Source / 15.03.2013)

No need for intifada, Palestine can achieve goals peacefully – Abbas to RT

Mahmoud Abbas speaking with RT

Mahmoud Abbas speaking with RT

Palestine has won UN recognition as being a sovereign state, and will now be referred to as the “State of Palestine” on all future UN documents. Palestine’s Mahmoud Abbas calls the move a “major achievement.”

It’s led many to question whether Palestine can now take Israeli crimes against Palestinians to international courts.

In an exclusive interview with RT, Abbas said that while Israel has considered Palestine disputed territories for many years, Tel Aviv will no longer be able to argue who the land belongs to.

And while Israel continues its illegal settlement activity on occupied territories, Abbas says he is focused on coming to a solution with Tel Aviv through peaceful means – because fighting will only lead to Palestine’s destruction.

He added that all Arabs and Muslims are ready to have peace with Israel, and said that Palestine must make sure that Israel and its supporters do not have reason to continue with the current situation.

Abbas spoke to RT Arabic correspondent Salam Musafir during an official visit to Moscow. While in Russia, the leader received a state friendship medal from President Vladimir Putin.

RT: Do you think this medal symbolizes Russia’s continued support of the Palestinian people?

MA: Definitely. This medal symbolizes Russia’s solidarity with Palestine, a long-standing warm friendship between the Russian and the Palestinian people, which started back in Soviet times. We share a similar stance on a number of issues, including those on the UN agenda. The medal is a big honor for all of us.

RT: Starting today, all official UN documents will use a new legal name for Palestine – it will now be the “State of Palestine” instead of the Palestinian National Authority. Many wonder if this could allow Palestine to take the cases of Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians to international courts for the first time ever. What can you say about this?

MA: One of our major achievements is the fact that now our territories are officially called an occupied state. For many years now Israel, supported by many Western countries, has considered Palestine disputed territories. And if the territories are disputed, they could argue about who this land belongs to and to what extent.

Now Israel cannot do this anymore. And we now have the right to become full, permanent members in any international organization. Of course, we are a little behind with this work, but hopefully the ongoing negotiations will result in establishing a sovereign Palestinian state and finding a political settlement. Over the past 4-5 years, Israel has been very stubborn, so we think this decision should be made at the UN. We are still waiting. We hope that these talks will be successful, but then we’ll be able to appeal to international organizations at any point. If these negotiations fail to yield any results, the Palestinian people will have the right to act as they see fit.

‘Israeli settlements key for peace negotiations’

RT: In defiance of international criticism, Israel continues with its illegal settlement activity on occupied territories. Many members of the new Israeli cabinet known for their radical views reside in such territories. How can there be any hope for successful talks in such conditions?

MA: They all think that it is their legal right to expropriate our land, no matter what their actual political platforms are. Even those members of the Israeli government who don’t live on expropriated territories think that it’s still their legitimate right. We are very much concerned about this kind of perception.

It doesn’t matter if the current government stays or goes – the problem of land annexation still remains. According to all international documents, all UN documents, twelve Security Council resolutions, land expropriation and settlement activity are illegal and must be stopped – it has been this way since the 1970s.

The UN Human Rights Council clearly stated that this policy is illegal and demanded a withdrawal of all settlers. If the current Israeli government continues with this rhetoric, there won’t be any negotiations.

RT: Does that mean that Palestinians have no other choice but to start another intifada?

MA: My opinion is that today there’s no need for Palestinians to go back to fighting. The balance of forces is not in our favor, so it will only lead to the country’s destruction. Just look at the Second Intifada and its repercussions. Our people can achieve their goals through peaceful means, like it happened at the UN. But it’s not easy.

The changing role of Hamas

RT: Today, the other part of the Palestinian resistance, Hamas, is increasingly leaning towards a political solution of the problem rather than a military one. Have you noticed the shift?

MA: Yes, we have. Moreover, that’s something we have agreed on. A number of Hamas members support this stance. That’s what we agreed on during our meeting in Cairo, and several months ago at the summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation we reaffirmed that the Palestinian people have the right to non-violent resistance. We are going back to the negotiating process. There is no disagreement on this between us and Hamas leaders, though some keep saying that they don’t consider a peaceful solution the only option and don’t rule out military struggle. But all this talk stopped at the Cairo meeting, which was sponsored by the US and Egypt. Now this is Hamas’s official stance. Pay no attention to the odd Hamas members that say different.

RT: Can these odd dissident voices affect the reconciliation process? 

MA: No. This is an entirely different topic. We agreed on all the political aspects of the reconciliation. The main thing – and we have agreed on this – will be to set up an interim government with me as its head. So here’s the compromise: after Fayyad’s government stands down, which is what Hamas wanted, I will become the head of the new government, which Hamas has no objections to. They were the ones that insisted I lead the independent interim technocratic government. The next step will be to hold a general election. These are the two main steps of the reconciliation process, and they are being carried out simultaneously. That’s what we agreed on, but I do not know what prevents us from launching the process. That’s all I have to say on this issue.

Expectations from Obama’s visit

RT: Speaking of the US pressure, President Obama is going to visit Israel soon, and on his way, perhaps he’ll pay a brief visit to Palestine as well?

MA: Actually, this will be an official visit to Palestine. He’ll go to Ramallah, where we’ll hold talks. The only thing we don’t know yet is the duration of his stay. We have already planned all the official ceremonies: we’ll greet him at the airport, hold talks, and see him off. That will be a full-fledged official visit – just like the one he will pay to Israel and Jordan.

RT: Who will Obama appeal to – Israelis, or Palestinians, or both?

MA: I hope he will appeal to those who break the law. In his statements, President Obama has repeatedly voiced his opposition to illegal land expropriation, and we think he’s right. Now all that remains is to translate words into action. I have always asked Americans and Europeans to tell me if there has been a single miscalculation on my part in domestic or foreign policies over eight years – while Israel makes mistakes every day. So why don’t you let them know?

RT: Do you think that Hamas is also under pressure from its ideological allies, the Muslim Brotherhood-backed government in Egypt, a key force in the region?

MA: Egypt has definitely helped to facilitate the Cairo reconciliation deal, and pledged it would take up responsibility in case it was breached. Until now, Hamas has breached none of the conditions. If someone else smuggles weapons inside the Gaza Strip and Israel targets them, Hamas has nothing to do with it. As I said, Egypt sponsored these agreements and Hamas has been following them. When these questions were discussed in Cairo, Khaled Meshaal signed up to everything. In fact, Egypt didn’t ask for selective compliance; instead, it wanted the parties to abide by the obligations in full. Now that Meshaal has signed up to these agreements, he should stick to them – and this has nothing to do with pressure.

RT: What do you think of Egypt’s role today as opposed to the past?

MA: Egypt is playing the same role as before. What I mean is that it has always stood for the Palestinian resistance. Given its geographic location, its history, its international influence, there is no way for Egypt to stop supporting Palestine – it has been on our side throughout its history. It has a strategic interest in resolving the Palestinian issue. It has always been a top priority for Egyptians – regardless of who is in power: Mubarak or Sadat or the incumbent leadership. It’s as crucial to our cause as Mount Horeb is to the Muslims.

RT: The EU is said to be considering a move to take Hamas off the list of terrorist organizations. Do you think that this may be an attempt to legitimize the Hamas-led government?

MA: I don’t think so. After the recent developments, the chances are quite high that the Hamas government may be recognized as legitimate. If Hamas is committed to the ceasefire and if it openly pledges to stick to the peaceful popular resistance, I don’t see much difference between their policy and ours. In this case, there is no need to label them as a terrorist organization.

RT: But you didn’t target Israel with rockets….

MA: Neither we nor Hamas did. Not any longer. After the Second Intifada, we decided to give up on armed resistance. And let me be totally frank with you: we don’t want to launch any armed resistance whatsoever. Hamas has said the same. Yes, there were clashes in the past, but they have stopped – and I’m grateful to Allah for that.

Palestine expects the Arab League will keep its promises

RT: What are your expectations of the upcoming Arab League summit in Doha?

MA: There’s only one expectation: I hope the Arab countries will fulfill the obligations they took at the Baghdad summit last year, where they pledged to send 100 million dollars to the Palestinian Authority for security purposes on a monthly basis. Ever since, we have met with foreign ministers, with chairmen of the Arab League committees, as well as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, next we will talk to the Arab League members at the Doha summit. We are going to tell them, we would greatly appreciate if you kept your promises.

RT: Do I get it right that you never received any assistance?

MA: Correct.

RT: What’s your explanation, then?

MA: I don’t know how to comment on this. I’m not going to talk much about this, but we never received a single dollar. The Arab League Secretary General put so much effort into this, but it was all in vain.

RT: Recently a delegation of four Foreign Ministers of Arab countries, led by the Secretary General of Arab League, visited Moscow. During the meeting the Arab Ministers told Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that Russia should dissociate from the Middle East quartet of international mediators. The Arabs consider it incompetent. Would you agree with that?

MA: No. We think that the quartet has to assume a more active stance, perhaps even include new members. If the quartet ceases to exist, though, what’s going to replace it? During Arab League summits, a lot of Arab countries proposed to exclude the Arab Peace Initiative from the existing legal framework for a peace settlement. We were against it, because we don’t see any alternative. Just think about it. There are three possibilities: war; no war, no peace; and peace. Do the Arabs want to go to war? No. If there is no war, but no peace, it will only bring more misery. The Arab Peace Initiative introduces opportunities to secure peace. So why not use it in the talks with Israel? I think such things about the Arab Peace Initiative are said on the spur of the moment. As I said, the only alternative to the Initiative is war. But I am convinced that no one wants that. The time for wars is over. If the war starts, God only knows what kind of ramifications it will have. That’s why we advocate peace, and only peace.

How can we secure peace? We now have a viable initiative, for the first time since 1948. Israel hasn’t responded to it yet, and the Arabs didn’t bother to promote it, hammer it home to the Israelis and the Americans. No Arab state took the trouble to tell the world, “Here’s the Arab Peace Initiative, please read it – it’s only one page long”. Then many people could have realized that yes, it is, in fact, a peace initiative. We tried to circulate it via the mass media in different countries, including Russia, the EU, the US, China, and Israel. But our resources are limited. We managed to publish the text of the Initiative only once. But if the Arabs had been serious, they would have made sure that mass media all over the world buzzed about the Arab Peace Initiative. The idea is simple: if Israel refused to adopt the Initiative, it would be crystal clear who is obstructing the peace process in the Middle East. The international community could have cornered Israel.

RT: Yes, maybe that’s why Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at that meeting with the Arab foreign ministers that Arab countries do not put enough pressure on their Western and American friends to advance existing initiatives?

MA: We don’t want any pressure. Nobody can put pressure on anyone at the moment – neither Arabs nor other stakeholders. Even the Americans could not put pressure on anyone. There’s much difference between pressure and noble intentions. You should try to convince others through friendly talks and constructive discussions. Pressure is very unlikely to yield positive results. I will give you a simple example. During the UN vote on the status of Palestine, we got the support of 138 states, including 20 European countries. We also consider those 41 states that abstained from the vote our supporters. Israel only had 9 countries on its side. So even though we don’t have weapons, don’t have oil or other resources, we can achieve something. We were able to convince the world that the truth is on our side. And that’s why countries voted for us. Why aren’t our Arab brothers doing anything to help us capitalize on this broad international support?

RT: The Arab brothers are saying that Israel is being stubborn, and they can’t do anything about it.

MA: That’s true, the Israelis are very stubborn. But you can challenge them over it. And there’s only one way to do it – to use the Arab peace initiative for that. The whole world is urging Israel to withdraw from the occupied Arab territories, right?

All Arabs and all Muslims are ready to have peace with Israel. Arabs are not going to attack Israel after it withdraws from the occupied territories. We have to make sure that Israel and its supporters do not have any reason to continue with the current situation. Right now Israel’s President and Prime Minister have opposing approaches. The president says, “Yes, we have Palestinian partners in the peace process, and it is possible to reach a two-state solution.”  But the Prime Minister is against this approach. So there are people who we could have a dialogue with, we could try to convince them. But there are also those who force us to exhibit a different kind of behavior.  We need to expose them. It is not enough to keep telling the Israelis that they are doing wrong by us, violating our rights. But so far our Arab brothers just declared that Israel is not interested in the peace process, therefore we, Arabs, are not going to do anything.

‘Palestinian refugees in Syria should stay away from conflict’

RT: What are the challenges facing Palestinian refugees in Syria’s Yarmouk Camp? What do you do to have their needs addressed?

MA: We share the same attitude with the leaders of all Palestinian organizations regarding the recent uprisings in Arab countries: Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, and Syria. We do not interfere in those nations’ domestic affairs. When unrest erupted in Tunisia, and then in Syria, all of us were strongly in favor of not getting involved. I met with all the leaders of Syria’s Palestinians, advising them to stay away from the Syrian infighting, because that is a strictly domestic issue. That first visit of ours produced positive results: for about 18 months, Syria’s Palestinian camps remained absolutely safe. In line with the well-known utterance of the Prophet, [“He who enters Abu Sufyan’s home will be safe,”] Palestinian camps acquired a similar reputation: “He who enters a Palestinian camp will be safe.”

But unfortunately, unrest and violence suddenly broke out in Yarmouk Camp. A split emerged among the Palestinians, and with it trouble. Some people resorted to arms, and others chose to move elsewhere. About a month ago, I ordered another delegation to go to Syria. I told our Palestinian brothers that we must stay out of it, that we should not become a party in this conflict. And we’ll pay more visits to Syria if we need to, because we don’t want Palestinians to get involved in all this carnage and destruction.

Palestinians who are fleeing Syria today will not find refuge in any other country. They came to Syria as refugees to start with, and now they are supposed to either stay in this country or go home. This is a dangerous situation, and we hope that the crisis will be resolved, or at least will wind down soon.

RT: But those refugees cannot go back to Palestine?

MA: That’s right, they can’t go home right now. Some did earlier, though. Between 1994 – the year the Palestinian Authority was established – and 2000, some 1.5 million Palestinians returned to Palestine.

RT: Is there anyone willing to go home at the moment?

MA: No. Now, that would be a difficult thing to do.

RT: Because of Israeli actions?

MA: Exactly, because of Israeli actions. The Israelis have sealed the border crossings, even though we had previously agreed that they should remain open. In doing that, Israel broke an earlier arrangement with us for no legitimate reason, like it has done so many times in the past. We have been unable to persuade them that they are making a mistake.

We have an agreement on prisoner exchange with the Israelis, but they won’t hand over Palestinian prisoners to us. They collect taxes for us and retain a certain share of the money, but they perpetually fail to transfer the rest of it to us on time.

RT: Have you looked into the Russian medics’ preliminary conclusion on the tests of Yasser Arafat’s recently exhumed remains?

MA: I haven’t yet. Besides the Russian experts, the tests are being administered by Swiss and French medics – that makes three groups of experts in total. The Swiss and the French delegations are still doing research and haven’t submitted their verdicts yet. Our own medical, legal and political work groups are waiting for those expert assessments. As soon as we have a conclusion, we’ll have it published.

RT: Thank you very much, Mr. President.

(Source / 15.03.2013)

Several injured in Jerusalem funeral clashes

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Clashes broke out north of Jerusalem on Friday following the funeral of a Palestinian man who died earlier in the day after being injured three weeks ago by Israeli forces.

Thousands of people took part in the funeral of Moayad Nazih Ghazawneh, 35, who died from severe heart problems after Israeli forces fired tear gas directly into his car during clashes in al-Ram.

He was transferred to intensive care after his heart stopped and passed away early Friday.

Ghazawneh’s body was carried from al-Ram’s mosque to the town’s cemetery, with mourners shouting slogans against Israel.

After the funeral, several local youths were injured after clashing in al-Ram with Israeli forces, who fired tear gas canisters at protesters.

Photo-journalist Ahmed Douglas was injured in the neck during the clashes, locals said.

An Israeli army spokesman did not return calls seeking comment.

Ghazawneh’s death is the latest in a series of recent killings in the occupied West Bank.

Mahmoud al-Teiti, a 25-year-old journalism student, died on Tuesday after he was shot in the head with an expanding “dum dum” bullet by Israeli forces in al-Fawwar refugee camp, medics said.

After the incident an Israeli military spokeswoman said soldiers opened fire in the camp while pursuing Palestinians who had attacked troops with fire-bombs nearby.

Last week, Mohammad Asfour, 22, died from wounds sustained in clashes with Israeli forces two weeks ago.

Asfour, a student in the sports department in Al-Quds University in Abu Dis, was shot during protests in support of a hunger strike by four Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

(Source / 15.03.2013)

UN: US drone strikes violate Pakistan’s sovereignty

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) — The United States has violated Pakistan’s sovereignty and shattered tribal structures with unmanned drone strikes in its counter-terrorism operations near the Afghan border, a UN human rights investigator said in a statement on Friday.

UN special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, Ben Emmerson, visited Pakistan for three days this week as part of his investigation into the civilian impact of the use of drones and other forms of targeted killings.

“As a matter of international law, the US drone campaign in Pakistan is … being conducted without the consent of the elected representatives of the people, or the legitimate Government of the State,” Emmerson said in a statement issued by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva.

“It involves the use of force on the territory of another state without its consent and is therefore a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty,” he said.

Emmerson said in January he would investigate 25 drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories. He is expected to present his final report to the UN General Assembly in October.

Washington had little to say about Emmerson’s statement.

“We’ve seen his press release. I’m obviously not going to speak about classified information here,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said. “We have a strong ongoing counter-terrorism dialogue with Pakistan and that will continue.”

Spokesman Josh Earnest said the White House would withhold judgment until it sees Emmerson’s full report.

“We have a solid working relationship with them (Pakistan) on a range of issues, including a close cooperative security relationship, and we’re in touch with them on a regular basis on those issues.”

‘End military interference’

Emmerson said the Pashtun tribes of northwestern Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or FATA, Pakistan’s largely lawless region bordering Afghanistan, have been decimated by the counter-terrorism operations.

“These proud and independent people have been self-governing for generations, and have a rich tribal history that has been too little understood in the West,” he said. “Their tribal structures have been broken down by the military campaign in FATA and by the use of drones in particular.”

The tribal areas have never been fully integrated into Pakistan’s administrative, economic or judicial system. They are dominated by ethnic Pashtun tribes, some of which have sheltered and supported militants over decades of conflict in neighboring Afghanistan.

Clearing out militant border sanctuaries is seen by Washington as crucial to bringing stability to Afghanistan, particularly as the US-led combat mission ends in 2014.

Most, but not all, attacks with unmanned aerial vehicles have been by the United States. Britain and Israel have also used them, and dozens of other countries are believed to possess the technology.

“It is time for the international community to heed the concerns of Pakistan, and give the next democratically elected government of Pakistan the space, support and assistance it needs to deliver a lasting peace on its own territory without forcible military interference by other states,” Emmerson said.

The UN Human Rights Council asked Emmerson to start an investigation of the drone attacks following requests by countries including Pakistan, Russia and China.

Criticism of drone strikes centers on the number of civilians killed and the fact that they are launched across sovereign states’ borders so frequently, far more than conventional attacks by piloted aircraft.

Retired US General Stanley McChrystal, who devised the US counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, warned in January against overusing drones, which have provoked angry demonstrations in Pakistan.

Civilian casualties from drone strikes have angered local populations and created tension between the United States and Pakistan and Afghanistan. Washington has sought to portray civilian casualties as minimal, but groups collecting data on these attacks say they have killed hundreds of civilians.

(Source / 15.03.2013)

Palestinians fleeing Syria face grim future in Lebanon

Palestinians in Gaza City demonstrate in solidarity with Palestinians in Yarmouk camp, December 2012.

The number of refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria has now reached one million, according to UN data. The neighboring states of Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey have absorbed thousands of refugees, many taking shelter in the makeshift camps set up by theUN refugee agency UNHCR.

Yet less has been said about the thousands of those refugees from Syria who are Palestinian. Their number is certainly not insignificant; the UN estimates that almost half of the 500,000 Palestinians in Syria have now become displaced, in many cases for the second time.

Being Palestinian can create additional problems for those already facing the hardship of displacement. As they are not citizens of Syria, Palestinian refugees fleeing the war can be categorized separately. The Jordanian government, for instance, has issued stringent rules denying entry to any more Palestinians from Syria. Jordan claims to have provided ample assistance to the 5,000 Palestinians it has already absorbed from Syria and argues that it cannot take any more.

Meanwhile, Palestinians who have fled Syria for Turkey or Iraq often face major bureaucratic challenges in receiving international aid, as the UN agency for Palestine refugees UNRWA does not operate in those countries. Their registration must therefore be transferred to the UNHCR and the process is not always fast or efficient.

Refuge

More than 30,000 Palestinians from Syria have instead taken refuge in Lebanon, where events have always been strongly influenced by developments in Damascus. As a tiny country with a national population of just 4 million, Lebanon has struggled to absorb the 330,000 refugees who have entered from Syria. It is often particularly difficult for those who are Palestinian, as I discovered on a recent trip to the country.

Visiting the Palestinian refugee camp Ein al-Hilweh near the city of Sidon, I met a group of twenty Palestinian women who had fled Yarmouk, an unofficial camp in Damascus and the largest Palestinian community in Syria. Despite its designated neutrality in the conflict, Yarmouk’s strategic significance has made it a major target. Only last week, it was reported that two Palestinians were hanged from trees within Yarmouk following accusations that they supported the Assad regime (“UNRWA deplores brutal killing of two Palestine refugees in Yarmouk,” UNRWA, 4 March).

Terror

UNRWA estimates that around 85 percent of Yarmouk’s residents have now become displaced (“Over 85 percent Palestinians fled Syria’s Yarmouk camp: UNRWA,” Al Arabiyya, 12 March). The women whom I spoke to in Ein al-Hilweh painted a bleak picture of recent life in Yarmouk as they described constant shelling, shootings and kidnappings.

They spoke of the particular terror caused by frequent kidnappings and resulting ransoms which most people cannot afford to pay. Many have relatives who are still in Syria, and are deeply concerned about their safety. With parts of the country cut off from network coverage, they are often unable to speak to them on the phone and are uncertain of their well-being.

The women themselves have taken shelter in Ein al-Hilweh, which is the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon. Their journeys here were blighted by a wide range of obstacles, as they faced problems caused not only by the violence itself but also by practical travel difficulties and bureaucratic complications at the border.

One woman, Maha, described the nightmare she faced accessing Lebanon. “There was confusion because another woman had the same name as me, so the Syrian authorities took my ID card at the border. The driver was not willing to wait while I argued with them, so he drove off with my luggage still in his car and left me at the side of the road. I had to borrow money from my brothers in order to travel to the necessary administrative office and renew my ID. It was four months before I could obtain the necessary documents and enter Lebanon. My seven children had all been able to enter but I had to stay behind in Syria and wait.”

Um Mahmoud faced similar problems. Once she arrived at the border, the Syrian guards told her that she could not take her children or even her husband with her out of the country. As a result, the whole family waited there from noon until night, trying to persuade the guards to let them pass. Like Maha, Um Mahmoud lost her luggage when the driver refused to wait and drove off without them.

Describing cold conditions and a lack of food at the border area, she recalled that her children started to cry as night set in. She continually begged the guards to let them pass, telling them that her mother was sick in Lebanon, and eventually they relented. After the Syrian guards signed exit papers for five persons, Um Mahmoud and her family walked to the Lebanese side of the border and then took a bus to Beirut. They came south to Ein al-Hilweh the next day.

Some of the women I talked to were old enough to remember their original displacement from Palestine in 1948. Anisa, aged 79, still vividly recalled her family’s flight from their home in Acre during the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing that led to Israel’s establishment. They traveled on a donkey through Lebanon and eventually settled in Yarmouk, where Anisa would later marry and raise her children. Nearly 66 years after her first displacement, Anisa found herself back in Lebanon, escaping another war. “Before it was Israelis killing Palestinians and now it is Arabs killing each other,” she said.

The systemic problems faced by Palestinians in Lebanon create further complications. Syria has historically provided some of the best treatment to Palestinians of any Arab host country. With no restrictions on their right to work, travel or to access services, Palestinians in Syria enjoy many of the same rights as Syrian citizens.

Fewer rights now

By contrast, Lebanon has the toughest restrictions on Palestinian rights of any Arab state. The 400,000 Palestinians registered in Lebanon are banned from working in more than 20 professions, and are not entitled to state assistance for services such as health care. There are extremely high rates of unemployment and poverty rates among Palestinians in Lebanon, which have shocked many of the new arrivals from Syria. “It was better in Yarmouk before the war. We have less rights in Ein al-Hilweh” said Um Mahmoud. “We hope that the situation will improve so we can go back.”

However, the women all spoke favorably about the generosity of the residents of Ein al-Hilweh. “People are good to us here,” said one. “They are very similar to us. We are all Palestinian, whether here or in Yarmouk.” In a humbling display of compassion, many Palestinians in Ein al-Hilweh have taken strangers into their home and given them refuge. While exacerbating Yarmouk’s already serious problem of overcrowding, this has at least meant that those fleeing Syria have some security.

Yet Ain al-Hilweh is not their home. Despite the violence now consuming Syria, the women’s affection for Yarmouk is clear. “Yarmouk is much bigger than Ein al-Hilweh; it’s like a full city,” one woman said. “It used to be very safe before the crisis began. We are living well here and people are welcoming but we would like to go back to Syria.”

Unfortunately, that does not look likely anytime in the near future.

(Source / 15.03.2013)

Two years on, mistakes in Syria benefit Islamists

Abdul Wahab Badrakhan

The date March 14 has a special Syrian significance. The most famous is the Lebanese March 14 which made history for the birth an independent national movement corrupted by the movement of Syrian regime followers worried by the end of an existence of a semi occupation imposed by Syria on Lebanon. As for the Syrian March 14, it is the last day before the revolution erupted. It is the day the regime dreams it can go back to in order to restore how the situation was before the revolution. During two years, the regime only proved one thing that it is only concerned with power and not Syria. Therefore it did not treat its country like any enemy. It confronted it with its entire arsenal to avenge and to make it worse than how the cruelest of invaders made it.

For these two years, it never for one moment occurred for the regime figures that they could have been wrong or rather that they are actually wrong. They are not even frank with themselves, and they are certainly not frank among each other. They go further in lying and sinking in a lie they themselves invented. They are no longer concerned in anything other than drowning Syria and the Syrians in this lie.

Into the abyss

The revolution at the beginning was simple rather naive. But the bloodshed resorted to in order to extinguish it was exactly what awakened it. The people were soon to realize that they were climbing up a rock to bring the regime into the abyss. They know that if they get weak, tired or reluctant, this rock will roll down and crush them. And that is why there will be no retreat.

The regime has planted barricades and bases everywhere. Not for the lookout for the Israeli enemy which it has a conclusion of truce with. But to prepare for an inevitable war against the people. However all these plans that it spent decades making looks now like they are serving the rebels. Most of the rebels’ field achievements were accomplished by the gains they made from the regime’s warehouses.

Militarizing the revolution did not achieve its goal and it was a wrong estimation that such a move will finalize the situation for the regime’s interest. Now, the regime’s only request is that this country or that stop financing and arming the opposition…so it can exterminate it forgetting that there was no opposition with a name and that it was left for many months only being asked to stop killing and resorting to politics. On the contrary, it was for the sake of resuming murders that the regime taunted all mediations and stalled all Arab and international initiatives because it knows well that they will not maintain its authority and that they aspire to replace it with another.

Conspiracy?

There was no “conspiracy.” If there is, two orientations of it have been clarified. The first one is granting the regime all the time and opportunities to militarily finalize the revolution or conducting a political operation to rescue itself and embarrass the opposition whom their “friends” did not provide with plenty of options. The second one is that after the regime became stubborn, it is still granted all the time and opportunities to destroy cities and towns and push four to five million Syrians outside their homes or the country. As for the people’s resistance against the regime (including foreign support), it first began as a reaction to violence, then it transformed into self-defense and eventually became a real war where the regime is losing one position after the other.

Despite the regime’s brutality and distress, international parties persevered informing it that they think the only solution is political and that it must be part of this solution. The regime though only sees the solution as one supervised by it and reached under its ceiling. Therefore, it does not admit responsibility for the bloodshed, destruction and displacement of people.

The international administration was and is still an aide factor for the regime. The U.S. and Russia repel one another thru the media but they actually agree on what they want (Israel’s security which the Syrian regime was a real guarantor for) and what they do not want (the rise of jihadi movements linked to Al-Qaeda or cooperating with it). What recently changed is that the third party, Iran, which has been present since day one in the regime’s backstage has become a schemer partner effective in its decisions. It revealed the borders of the Russian influence. Based on that, the crisis has become on the verge of regionally exploding. It has become deeply linked to the Iraqi and Lebanese crises. On the other hand, the field activity of jihadists from Al-Nusra Front, Islamic Front and its division called “Ahrar al-Sham,” “Syrian Liberation Front” and the “Gathering of Ansar al-Islam” in Damascus and its countryside expanded. All of these groups as well as other similar ones benefited from Iraqi, Palestinian and other nationalities’ experience of training, military industry and operating vehicles.

In both cases, international parties realized the gravity of the mistakes they committed due to their lack of managing the crisis. These mistakes led to a situation full of impossibilities: military finalization, achieving a political solution, preserving the state and the army, protecting the minorities and maintaining the unity of people, and regional stability. Therefore also came the impossibility of keeping away any danger from Israel. All these results made it inevitable for the Americans to resort to the option of “moderate opposition” or “friendly opposition” in hopes of altering the formula and reaching the illusion of Bashar al-Assad’s “persuasion” that is his concessions regarding a “political solution.” However, they are too late. When Barack Obama was presented with the suggestion to arm the opposition or at least encourage “allied parties” to arm the opposition, the suggestion was based on a general study of the battlefield in Syria. However, he strongly opposed the suggestion giving room for the Russians to show what they can do with the regime. But the situation in the battlefield has changed now. The jihadi opposition fighters were the first ones to give up on international community so they depended on their own resources and trespassed the “Free Syrian Army” which for months cared about maintaining itself. The FSA however was very much harmed due to international marginalization. The recent activity to revive it and bet on it may place it in a confrontation with the jihadists. Therefore, FSA chief of staff brigadier general Salim Idriss was keen on being realistic when making his statement before the E.U. He admitted the dispute with “Al-Nusra Front” yet said he supported what it was achieving in field.

Jihadists benefit

On the political level, although the international parties realize the facts of the inadequate structure the opposition was based upon, they did not come up with any useful plans to help the opposition organize and make use of its experiences. On the other hand, the opposition parties were not capable of uniting their efforts, reaching agreements and resolving their disputes, both inside and outside Syria, in accordance with a united agenda which priority is getting rid of the regime. In reality, the legendary dedication in steadfastness, resistance and sacrifice by the opposition inside Syria was not complemented with something similar by the opposition outside Syria. On the contrary, it was complemented with competition over positions and disputes among parties. This prevented the emergence of at least a temporarily recognized leadership. This also prevented a good employment for distributing tasks and roles. These defects obstructed and delayed uniting military councils although such a strategic move is gravely required. It is true that the coalition’s situation recently improved, but the current controversy regarding the establishment of an “interim government” or “executive body” revealed the fears of jurisdictions it must enjoy and the possibility of these jurisdictions becoming the new headline that the world deals with and so the coalition which concealed the council became concealed itself. In all cases, international parties are still afraid of activating the opposing “government” so it will not be a decisive step in undermining the political solution which based on the Geneva Accord must begin with a “government with complete jurisdictions” – an idea rejected by the Syrian president.

The mistakes of the regime, the opposition and the international parties benefitted one party. which in fact. is several parties that represent Salafi jihadist movements that have funding from various sources and political backgrounds. Although these parties are not united, they have displayed tangible combat effectiveness on the ground. They were also ahead of the opposition government as they established “legitimate commissions” in the liberated lands. They even stimulated the regime to instruct Mufti Ahmad Badreddine Hassoun to call for counter jihad for the sake of the regime or for the sake of covering what the regime’s sources say that “sweeping attacks” are being prepared to be launched through Iranian jihadists and their partisans.

(Source / 15.03.2013)

Damascus threatens to strike Syrian rebel groups in Lebanon

Syrian rebel fighters celebrate after taking over the village of Aljanodiya, northwestern Idlib province, following fighting against pro-Syrian regime forces, on Jan. 30.

 Damascus warned Friday that it will strike Syrian opposition forces in Lebanon if the Lebanese army does not stop the rebels from entering the country.

According to the Syrian Foreign Ministry, a large number of armed rebels have infiltrated into Syrian territory from the Lebanese border, the SANA state news agency reported Friday.

The report added that the opposition forces have entered the area of Al-Mathouma, Ain al-Shaara, Al-Jousiya and Karyat in Tal Kalakh’s countryside.

“Terrorist groups are still present inside the Lebanese lands, they are seen by the naked eye from the sites of our forces, who are practicing the utmost degree of self-restraint, hoping the Lebanese competent authorities to exert their efforts in controlling the borders with Syria,” the Syrian foreign ministry said in a cable sent to Lebanon.

The ministery added that although the Syrian army is restraining itself from hitting “rebel targets” in Lebanon, its patience is not “unlimited.”

Lebanon has repeatedly said that it dissociates itself from the Syrian conflict. However, there have been intermittent clashes in the northern part of the country between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad supporters and those against him.

(Source / 15.03.2013)

Iran Special: How Western Media Missed The Important Story from Israel

 

Joanna Paraszczuk and Scott Lucas write for EA:

On Thursday, the head of Israel’s military intelligence, Major General Amir Kochavi, made an important announcement. He said that, while Iran is developing its nuclear programme in 2013, it “has not yet decided to build a bomb”.

Here’s the catch: those who rely on Western media are unlikely to learn of this.

Instead, they will be treated to this far scarier spin, also taken from Kochavi’s presentation: “Iran and Hezbollah Have Built 50,000-Strong Force to Help Syrian Regime”.

So why did one declaration of Kochavi — which is a misreading of a statement by an Iranian military commander last autumn — make the headlines? Why is another — which is far more significant and points to the debate within Israel over what to do about Tehran — ignored?

Kochavi was speaking at the Herzliya Security Conference, a high-profile annual gathering of officials, analysts, academics, and journalists. For those following Israeli diplomacy and military policy, it is an essential gathering to get both insight and the public-relations line from the Israeli Government.

The General’s words soon made it into the English-language Jerusalem Post. Because the paper is generally “hawkish” about Iran, it was an eye-opener to see the “not yet decided to buld a bomb”.

Many readers, however, may not have gotten far enough to have their eyes opened. The key statement was in the fifth paragraph of the Post’s original story. Later, it was further obscured — placed at the end of the seventh paragraph and hedged with this: “The Iranian leadership would like to find itself in the position of being able to break out to an atomic weapon stage in a short period of time.”

More importantly, the Post’s headline was tangential: “Iran Believes Chance of Attack on It is Low”.

Most importantly, the Post’s sub-headline was on a completely different topic:

Military intel head Kochavi tells Herzliya Conference Iran and Hezbollah are setting up militia in Syria made up of 50,000 fighters.

Strangely, this sub-headline almost disappears in the article. The only reference to it comes in the ninth paragraph: “Assad’s allies, Iran and Hezbollah, know that the Syrian dictator’s fate is sealed, Kochavi said, and have flooded Syria with a militia consisting of 50,000 fighters.”

This indicates that, despite the drama of the claim, Kochavi only made it in passing and that he gave no support for the 50,000 figure.

And indeed he is unlikely to have been able to do so. For while Iran’s military is providing logistical support to Damascus, the “50,000-man Iran-Hezbollah militia” is an urban legend based on a key distorition. As we noted last month, after The Washington Post ran a scare story:

The head of the Revolutionary Guards, Mohammad Ali Jafari, only acknowledged in September that a militia exists, not that it has been fostered and trained by Tehran:

“There are more than 50,000 Syrian people who have organized as a people’s army, or a force of Syrian Basij, who are standing beside the army in the face of the unfair attacks from the countries of the region and outside the region.”

So not only did Western journalists not check the repeated “50,000” claim — they echoed The Jerusalem Post’s sub-headline that this was the Big Story. Here’s Julian Borger of The Guardian, who is in Herzliya:

Iran and Hezbollah have built a 50,000-strong parallel force in Syria to help prolong the life of the Assad regime and to maintain their influence after his fall, Israel’s military intelligence chief has claimed.

Major General Aviv Kochavi said Iran intended to double the size of this Syrian “people’s army”, which he claimed was being trained by Hezbollah fighters and funded by Tehran, to bolster a depleted and demoralised Syrian army.

But what about Kochavi’s statement that there no imminent prospect of an Iranian bomb?

Borger never mentions it. Indeed, caught up in the “50,000” — and soon “100,000” — spin, he does not expand a single word on the nuclear issue.

Here’s The Daily Telegraph of London, with its reporter Robert Tait filing from Jerusalem: “Iran Has Force of 50,000 in Syria, Claims Israel“.

Tait repeats Borger’s story, using the same quotes from Kochavi. In the final four paragraphs of the article, however, he does turn to the nuclear question: “[Kochavi] said Iran’s nuclear programme — which Israel says is aimed at building an atomic bomb — had been slowed but not sufficiently to prevent it from developing weapons.”

Tait does not mention the head of military intelligence’s assessment that Iran is not actually building a bomb.

So why is that omission important, as many Western outlets play Follow the Leader on the “50,000” story?

Kochavi’s statement about Iran and the Bomb was not just a throw-away line. It was an important signal. The General was saying that, while the Iranian nuclear programme had to be watched carefully,it is not an imminent threat to Israel — one requiring a military strike on Tehran’s facilities in the near-future.

Kochavi is not the only high-level official putting out that message. On the eve of his trip to Israel, President Barack Obama told the country’s Channel 2 in an interview on Thursday that Iran was at least  a year away from any weapon. Thus, while “all options were on the table” over the nuclear issue, Washington would continue to pursue diplomacy and tough sanctions — and would urge Israel to support that.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may not like that message, preferring to hold out the prospect of airstrikes in forthcoming months. It appears, however, that his military and intelligence services — who put out the message earlier this month that it might be 2015 or 2016 before Iran has a nuclear weapons — are on Obama’s side.

While others have been distracted, the Daily Star of Lebanon hears the message:

 

Netanyahu has not publicly revised the spring-to-summer 2013 dating for his “red line”. But several Israeli officials privately acknowledged it had been deferred, maybe indefinitely. 

“The red line was never a deadline,” one told Reuters.

 

That was the Big Story in Major General Amir Kochavi’s statement on Thursday.

It is not the one many people will get today.

(Source / 15.03.2013)

One week before killing Palestinian dad, Israeli policeman stated wish on Facebook to slay Arabs

Ziad Jilani was shot in the head at point-blank range.

One week before he shot Palestinian motorist Ziad Jilani in the head at point blank range, Israeli border policemanMaxim Vinogradov expressed on Facebook his wish to kill Arabs and Turks. And on his profile on another social media site, Vinogradov identifies himself as belonging to the extreme right, expresses his love for violence, names “undocumented Arab workers” as his favorite sport, his hobbies as “hitting and destroying things,” and for the category of favorite food, he lists “Arabs.”

The Israeli border police claim that on 11 June 2010, Jilani attempted to run them over in a terrorist attack in the Wadi al-Jozneighborhood of Jerusalem, and, fearing for their lives, they shot to kill in accordance with police procedures. The Israeli state prosecutor agreed with police claims and refused to press charges against Vinogradov and Police Superintendent Shadi Har al-Din, both of whom admitted to shooting Jilani. Jilani’s family is now pursuing justice for Ziad in Israel’s highest court.

“If it was a terrorist attack, why would Ziad bump into the group of police officers at such a slow speed? Not a single police officer spent one night in the hospital because of their injuries. It was not even a major accident,” said Bilal Jilani, Ziad’s brother.

“Just doing my job”

“They know they [the border police] were wrong, because if my husband had been a terrorist, the government of Israel would have demolished my house, and they wouldn’t be giving me a widow’s pension,” Moira Jilani, Ziad’s wife, said. But the question, of course, is whether the officers acted properly based on information they had at the time, or if there was wrongdoing sufficient to press criminal charges.

Translation of exchange between Maxim Vinogradov and a friend, who states “Exterminate Turkey and all the Arabs from the world.” Vinogradov replies : “I am with you, brother and with the help of God I will start this :)” to which friend responds, “Hehehe and you are capable of it. :)”

Waiting for his hearing at the Israeli high court earlier this week, Shadi Har al-Din said, “I was just doing my job.”

The appeal heard by the Israeli high court doesn’t address Jilani’s guilt or innocence. It doesn’t seek to determine the guilt or innocence of Maxim Vinogradov or Shadi Hir al-Din. It simply aims to compel the state prosecutor to press charges against the police officers. In order to press charges, the high court must overturn the decision of the state prosecutor to close the case after the police internal investigations unit (known as Machash) decided there was “lack of evidence.” A previous appeal filed by Jilani’s family after new evidence exposed falsehoods and inconsistencies in the police testimonies was unsuccessful, so the high court is the last chance the family has to seek justice through the criminal system.

No accountability

Impunity is rampant among Israel’s security personnel. A recent report by the Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din finds that out of 103 investigations opened in 2012, not a single indictment was served for offenses committed by Israeli soldiers in the West Bankand Gaza (“Law enforcement upon IDF soldiers in the occupied territories,” Yesh Din, 4 February). Yesh Din said its study of a large sample of cases involving police misconduct found that nearly 90 percent were closed due to investigation problems.

Yesh Din spokeswoman Reut Mor also said that since findings from internal investigations were kept secret, it was impossible for victims’ families to know if an investigation was done and what results were reported. “That’s part of the problem,” Mor said.

Screenshot of Maxim Vinogradov’s profile on Israeli social media site Mekusharim. For full-size image and partial translation, visit Killing Without Consequence.

She referred to the case of Bassem Abu Rahmah of the West Bank village of Bilin, whose murder by Israeli forces during a protest in 2009 was caught on videotape from three different angles. “They didn’t start the investigation until three years after Abu Rahmah’s death, and now, four years after the death, it’s really very difficult to do a high quality investigation,” Mor said.

Despite the lack of findings from the police investigation, many facts about Ziad Jilani’s case are well-documented. Killing without Consequence, a website established to mobilize supporters of the Jilani family, presents a shocking sequence of events pieced together from eyewitness accounts collected by the family’s lawyer.

Shot in head

At the time of the accident, despite the density of innocent civilians in the area, the police opened fire so randomly that bullets were lodged in cars and walls; a seven-year-old girl was hit in the neck sitting in a parked car. Jilani drove away from the shooting and turned down the street where his uncle lived, which he knew to be a dead end.

When Jilani stopped and got out of the truck, he was shot in the back. Witnesses saw Jilani on the ground bleeding when he was approached by Maxim Vinogradov, who shot him twice in the head. Border police then prevented a nearby ambulance from providing first aid for approximately 20 minutes, and when Ziad’s cousin came out of the house to provide first aid, Vinogradov hit him with a club causing a serious gash that required stitches. Video of the scene featured on the website shows Ziad Jilani lying prone without any medical attention.

Bilal Jilani, Ziad’s brother, said, “They let Ziad be taken to the hospital without accompanying him. When he was pronounced dead, they didn’t do an autopsy like they usually do in terror cases. They wanted him buried so there would be no evidence.”

“As far as we know, we are the first Muslim family in Jerusalem to ever allow a body to be exhumed from the grave,” said Ziad’s wife, Moira. “But once we heard from eyewitnesses that Ziad had been shot twice in the head while lying on the ground, we knew we had to do it in order to prove that the police were lying.”

“After we exhumed Ziad’s body, the Machash invited Maxim and Shadi to do a second reenactment during which they both changed their statements,” said Bilal Jilani. “They both initially said that Shadi shot Ziad and only from a distance, but later ‘remembered’ that Maxim had shot him. Maxim said, ‘I think it was in the head.’”

Threat on Facebook

Investigation by the Jilani family — not by Israeli investigators — turned up the statements by Vinogradov on the website Facebook the week before the shooting saying that he desired to kill Arabs, and the racist and violent comments on his profile on the Israeli social network website Mekusharim.

The Jilani family’s lawyer from Meezaan Center for Human Rights in Nazareth argued that Ziad died because he was Palestinian. Once Jilani was shot and lying on his stomach, they could have arrested him. There was no need to kill him.

Ziad’s widow, Moira, and his three daughters, Hana (now 20), Mirage (18) and Yasmeen (10), and his mother and siblings sat along with 50 observers in the small courtroom earlier this week. Three judges presided; three lawyers defended the police, and one lawyer, Hassan Tabajah, represented the Jilani family. Moira and most of the family could not understand the hearing, which was conducted in Hebrew, and some supporters were denied entry because there weren’t enough seats. Proceedings were twice interrupted so that the judges could finish business from cases heard earlier in the day. The atmosphere was tense and sad.

At the end of the trial, an Israeli friend of Moira Jilani asked the state’s lawyer how she slept at night. The lawyer answered, “Very well, thank you.”

“Hopeful sign”

The family, however, was more optimistic after the hearing than they had been before. “They heard the case and, rather than rule on the spot, they have asked to examine all the state’s evidence themselves, not relying on the state’s lawyers’ claims,” said Tabajah, the lawyer.

“There is no legal precedent for the supreme court [as the high court is also known] intervening in a decision of the Israeli state prosecutor,” Tabajah explained. “They have jurisdiction, but have not used it even once since the state was established in 1948. The judges could have said at the beginning of the hearing that they refused to intervene, and this would have prevented us from making our case. But they didn’t. This is a hopeful sign.”

“I was surprised, and moved that the judges expressed condolences for the family’s loss,” said Neta Golan, an Israeli human rights activist who attended the hearing. “I’ve seen them blatantly disregard Palestinians before, but today they showed a human side. We’ll have to wait to see if they follow through.”

Bilal Jilani said, “If the Israeli supreme court really looks at the evidence of this case, and if they still say there are no grounds to press charges against the officers who murdered Ziad, then it means Israel has no credibility at all. They rule by the law of the jungle.”

(Source / 15.03.2013)

Israel’s incoming defense minister evaded war crimes arrest, called Palestinians “cancer”

Israel’s next “defense” minister poses for a photo with notorious racist blogger Pamela Geller

This is Moshe Ya’alon, the Likud parliamentarian set to become minister of “defense” in Israel’s new hard-right coalition government due to be sworn in early next week.

In a 2002 interview with Israeli paper Haaretz, when he was Chief of Staff of the Israeli army, Ya’alon said the “Palestinian threat” was “like cancer” and an “existential threat.” He explained that his solution was “applying chemotherapy.”

The “chemotherapy,” was the massive destruction his forces visited on Palestinian society during the second intifada. Israeli forces infamously fired over a million bullets at Palestinian demonstrators within the first few days of that popular uprising.

Under pressure, Ya’alon later back-pedaled, saying his statements were “inopportune,” but that he had been “taken out of context” reported financial publication Globes in Hebrew.

War crimes

In 2005, the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a lawsuit against Ya’alon, charging him with war crimes for his role in the Israeli army’s 1996 attack on a United Nations compound in Qana, Lebanon that killed more than 100 Lebanese civilians who had taken shelter there, injuring many more.

At the time of the lawsuit, Ya’alon was a fellow at the AIPAC-founded Washington Institute for Near East Policy in Washington, DC.

In 2006 a federal judge dismissed the case on the grounds that Ya’alon enjoyed immunity under the Foreign Sovereigns Immunities Act. But Ya’alon’s legal problems did not end there.

He was invited to a 2009 fund-raising event for Israeli soldiers in London, but had to cancel the trip for fear of arrest on suspicion of war crimes.

The charges to have been brought against him related to the infamous 2002 Israeli bombing of an apartment block in Gaza, which killed 14 civilians, including children.Hamas military leader Salah Shehadeh was also killed in the attack.

This is the same incident for which the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights brought a case against Ya’alon and Israeli air force commander Dan Halutz in the Spanish National Courtin 2008. An appeal against a lower court decision to close the case was pending before Spain’s constitutional court as of 2011.

Ya’alon had been invited to London in 2009 by the Jewish National Fund. According to The Guardian, one of the lawyers who advised Ya’alon not to travel was Daniel Taub, now the Israeli ambassador in London.

Notorious Islamophobe

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Ya’alon is vaunted by Pamela Geller, a notorious Muslim-hater and leading demagogue among racist bloggers.

Geller once described him as “Israel’s best shot for the right leadership” and boasts of having interviewed him alongside other Zionist bloggers.

In that interview, Ya’alon seemed to concur with some of Geller’s disturbing ideology, agreeing with Geller that:

Yes, this is the main challenge… to create what I call an awakening in the West. The West is sleeping. In many terms it reminds of the situation before World War II. It’s very clear, the threat [of Islamic jihad] is very clear.

Geller was one of the key inspirations for the Muslim-hating, pro-Israel, convicted terroristAnders Breivik, so it is grimly fitting she would take inspiration from killers like Ya’alon.

(Source / 15.03.2013)