Number of Syrian asylum seekers tripled over 2011

Syrian refugees shout slogans during a demonstration at the Zaatari refugee camp in Mafraq, Jordan, on Feb. 22, 2013.

Nearly half a million people sought asylum in the developed world last year, a 10-year high, with the sharpest rise in requests from Syrians fleeing war and persecution, the United Nations said on Thursday.
In all, 479,300 asylum applications were lodged in 44industrialised countries, a rise of 8 percent on the previous year, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in its annual report, entitled Asylum Trends 2012.

“This is the highest annual total since 2003, continuing a trend of increases in every year but one since 2006,” it said.

Some 24,800 Syrian asylum seekers filed claims last year, triple the number in 2011, making them the second biggest group after 36,600 Afghan applicants, the report said.

But most Syrians fleeing the two-year conflict have stayed in neighboring countries, where 1.1 million Syrian refugees are registered, many hoping to return to their homeland, it said.

Fighting in Iraq, Pakistan and Somalia also sparked claims.

“Wars are driving more and more people to seek asylum,” Antonio Guterres, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said in a statement. “At a time of conflict, I urge countries to keep their borders open for people fleeing for their lives.”

Despite heated debates and anti-foreigner sentiment in some European countries, asylum levels are far lower than in the early 1990s, when conflicts raged in the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Great Lakes region of Africa. The peak remains1992 when more than 800,000 claims were filed, the UNHCR says.

“Even if we have seen this increase of 8 percent compared to2011, it’s nothing compared to the 1990s,” said Volker Turk, director of UNHCR’s division of international protection.

Tempest in a teapot

“It’s a bit of a tempest in a teapot type thing. Of course arise in the industrialized world is nothing compared to what you see in the developing world and in areas affected directly by crisis,” Turk told a news briefing.

Europe again received the most asylum applications of all regions last year – 355,500 in 38 countries, up by nine percent over 2011, the UNHCR said. They included 297,600 claims made in the 27 member states of the European Union (EU).

For the first time since 2001, Germany had the most claims in Europe, 64,500, a 41 percent jump from the previous year, partly due to a rise in asylum seekers from the Balkans.

France was next with 54,900 claims, with many from nationals of Russia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Albania, it said.

Sweden was third in Europe with 43,900 requests, a 48percent jump led by Syrian and Somali asylum seekers.

Italy had a sharp drop after a record year in 2011 due to the arrival of boat people fleeing revolts in Libya and Tunisia.

But the United States remained the “favored destination”, receiving the largest number of asylum claims for the seventh straight year, 83,400, or one in six filed in developed countries.

Nearly half were people from China, Mexico and El Salvador.

“The U.S. has a very strong commitment and a very strong tradition of asylum,” Turk said.

Canada recorded 20,500 new applications, 19 percent less than the previous year, while 15,800 people sought asylum in Australia, a jump of 37 percent, according to the UNHCR.

Japan and South Korea registered a combined total of 3,700asylum claims, a 28 percent rise and record in both countries, but “modest in comparison with other industrialized countries”.

On average, one in three claims is approved and asylum granted under the 1951 Refugee Convention, the UNHCR says.

“The vast majority of people who apply for asylum have a good reason to do so. You will obviously then always have a minority that may not need protection. But in most instances there is not an abuse issue,” Turk said.

(Source / 21.03.2013)

AYMAN SHARAWNA : FREE ALL PALESTINIAN PRISONERS

He dropped into Israeli prison without obvious reason, without trial and without defense. It is common things for Palestinian fighters in the struggle for the liberation of Al-Aqsa and the independence of Palestine.
The space of his jail was 1,5 x 2 m2 with only one small window of 50 x 100 cm2, with no light, no ventilation, and no toilet, it is inhumane.

One of the thousands prisoners was Ayman Sharawna (38), which can survive the longest hunger strike, 261 days in jail !!

Ayman Sharawna, he was born in Hebron, West Bank, finally realeased by Israel, with some notes that he is not returned to his house, but was sent to the Gaza Strip for 10 years.

Sharawna, who was jailed since July 1st 2012, finally arrived at the Erez, near the border of the Gaza Strip, Sunday (17/3), and immediately transported in an ambulance to one of hospitals in Gaza Strip. Thousands of local residents welcomed his freedom along the path.

Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA) correspondent Muhammad Husain with photographer Muqorrobin al-Fikri, interviewed exclusively in Gaza City on Tuesday evening (19/03/2013). Here are the interview:

After completion of the hunger strike for so long, how is your current condition?

Thank God, now I feel better than ever. Before this time, I felt intense pain all over my body because of deadly hunger. Now after treatment by doctors, the pain began to disappear and my body getting better. The doctor said Insha Allah my condition will get better soon. I also hope that by next week I’m no longer lying in the hospital and I want to start the activity like before.

You are now being deported out from your home land and your family in Khalil, the West Bank, then how is the family situation and your children there?

Indeed, the Israeli action is very bad, and it takes place every day until today. Zionist Israel thought that by deporting me from my homeland family to distant places can make me feel tortured and imprisoned. However, on the contrary, I am here with my brothers are very happy and feel free.

Insha Allah I will be back soon to the West Bank in the future, to come as a liberator of Baitul Maqdis.

And for my family there, they currently in the process to be brought into the Gaza Strip, settled with me. Their conditions are good, thank God. My Family and my relatives are also very happy to hear I was free, I was tormented after a hunger strike in a long time. But I strongly deplore the arrest of my younger brother by the Zionist Israel, when I celebrate my release.

When was your brother arrested?

Along with the day of my release from the Israeli prison two days ago (17 March 2013)

I heard you have two wives?

Alhamdulillah (with a smile). Insha Allah, in recent time, my first wife will come here. My second wife Insha Allah will follow in some other times.

Would not you have been released in 2011 with more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Corporal Ghilat Shalith? How do you get back in prison?

Yes, I was one of 1,000 Palestinian prisoners who released on the occasion of  “Wafa ‘Al-Ahrar”. Some of the prisoners were sent to the Gaza Strip, and the others were returned to the West Bank, one of them was me. The swap made the Israeli government furious. As a result, the next three months the Israeli conducted an operations to arrest back to all detainees who reside around the West Bank without any charges. At that time, I was among the first to catch.

When you were imprisoned again, you were on a hunger strike in prison, how can you survive (over eight months)?

Subhanallah. I started a hunger strike on August 1, 2012 up to 261 days. This is the longest hunger strike in the history of Palestinian prisoners. Everything is only with God’s permission so I can survive. I’m trying to survive by extending reciting Holy Quran, prayer, and always ask God’s help. Alhamdulillah, Allah gave me the strength and patience.

In the first 200 days of hunger strike, I was allowed to drink water mixed salts, vitamins and infusion, and was allowed to be examined by a doctor. However, 61 days after that, I was not allowed to consume anything. This caused very painful, for now I lost 50 kg of my weight. Finally, the Zionists Israel released me out of jail and deport me here.

However, before they released me, they tried to stop the hunger strike that I do by psychological torture. I was taken into a dark room and isolated from world. I am not allowed to see my lawyer. I’m only allowed to use the bathroom once in 12 hours.

They then brought the most delicious and tasty food in my room. They know that I am very like of sweet food. So they brought the best sweets. But all was not for me. They eat delicious food and sweets in front of me, with the hope that I would quit the hunger strike.

However, with the permission of Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala, I can face this struggle. My persistence finally able to beat their arrogance.

Who else did the long last hunger?

A lot of my friends actually were on a hunger strike. However, most of them do the hunger strike due to various reasons, among of them made an agreement with Israeli military that they would be released in the near future.

There were also among those who are on a hunger strike for a long time. As my friend, Samir Al-‘Isawi who is still in his fight hunger strike until day 220.

Now you are free from jail, what do you feel and what are your expectations?

Alhamdulillah, I am very happy and proud that my struggle paid off. I can’t describe my feeling, now I’m very happy and sad. I’m Happy because I’m free from the Zionist tyranny. But also sad considering the fact there are many brothers and sisters who I loved, who is still languishing in the prisons.

My hope, in the near future my dear friends who are still oppressed in the Israeli prisons could be free and felt like my freedom. I’m set free all Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

What is your message to your brothers and sisters in Indonesia, society, and government?

First of all I would like to thank my brothers and sisters whom I love in Indonesia, to governments, to the leaders and all the elements there.

I hope soon I can visit to Indonesia to meet them all, the good, honorable and always stand with the Palestinian people and also continue to provide support to us here.

Indonesian people who always pay attention to the rights of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. I once again convey thousands gratitude and thanks to the entire Indonesian society. May God grant my wish to visit Indonesia to see my brothers, Insha Allah.

(Source / 21.03.2013)

Obama backs independent, sovereign state of Palestine

Ramallah/Jerusalem, Mar 21: US President Barack Obama, on a historic trip to the West Bank, today told Israel that its settlement activities were “not constructive” for peace in the region, and pledged his commitment to a two-state solution as Palestinians “deserve a state of their own”.
“Palestinians deserve a state of their own. The US is deeply committed to seeing… An independent, sovereign state of Palestine,” Obama said in Ramallah after talks with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.
“I spoke to President Abbas. I heard him speak of the obstacles, including an ongoing settlement construction policy. I know that the Palestinians are frustrated,” he said.
When asked on the possibility of resuming peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, Obama criticised settlement construction saying, “I told (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu that it has been US policy not to consider settlement activity to be constructive, appropriate or advance the cause of peace.”
“If the expectation is that we can only have direct negotiations when everything is settled ahead of time, then there is no point for negotiations, so I think it is important to work through this process even if there are irritants on both sides,” Obama said.
“My argument is that even though both sides may have areas of strong disagreement, maybe engaging in activities that the other side considers to be a breach of good faith, we have to push through those things to try to get to an agreement.”
“I think we can keep pushing through some of these problems and make sure that we don’t use them as an excuse not to do anything,” said the US president, who is on his maiden visit to the West Bank on the second day of his Mideast trip.
However, Obama said he understands that Israeli politics is “complicated” and that this issue is “not going to be resolved overnight,” hinting at the current Israeli coalition government makeup overwhelmingly comprising of hardliners and pro-settlement lawmakers who would block any efforts to put an end to settlement activities.
Acknowledging that settlements cannot advance the cause of peace, Obama urged the Palestinians must not use settlements as an excuse not to talk.

(Source / 21.03.2013)

Sectarian Clashes Are Reported in Central Myanmar

BANGKOK — At least five people have been killed in fighting between Buddhists and Muslims in central Myanmar, residents and a hospital official said on Thursday, a resurgence of communal violence that is testing the country’s fledgling democracy.

A mob of Buddhists, including monks from nearby monasteries, led a rampage through the Muslim quarter of the city of Meiktila on Thursday seeking to avenge the death of a monk the day before, said a photographer who witnessed the fighting.

“The area was like a killing field,” said the photographer, Wunna Naing, who is a resident of Meiktila. “Even the police told me that they could not handle what they witnessed. Children were among the victims,” he said.

Daw Mae Yee, an official at Meiktila General Hospital, said at least five people had been killed and that they had died of burns and slash wounds. U Win Htein, a member of Parliament from Meiktila, said rioting was “still out of control” as of Thursday afternoon and that the death toll was probably significantly higher.

Religious violence has shaken the government of President Thein Sein over the past year as the gradual rollback of five decades of authoritarian rule in Myanmar has coincided with a resurgence of nationalism and racial and religious hatred.

Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is about 90 percent Buddhist, with the rest of the population Christian, Muslim and animist. Some vocal Buddhist monks have been stridently anti-Muslim in the wake of communal clashes in Rakhine State, a sliver of land in western Myanmar where religious hatred runs high.

More than 150 people, most of them Muslims, have been killed in Rakhine since last June in clashes between Buddhist and Muslim villagers, many of whom are not recognized as citizens of the country and call themselves Rohingya.

Until this week, there were hopes that religious conflicts would be contained to western Myanmar. But the clashes in Meiktila are renewing concerns that religious strife will spread to other cities in Myanmar, which are typically multiethnic, a legacy of British colonial rule.

There have been signs of rising tensions. Last month in a township on the outskirts of Yangon, the commercial capital, Buddhists attacked what they said was a mosque being built without permission.

Meiktila, a garrison city with a strong military presence, is firmly in the heartland of the country, halfway between the new capital, Naypyidaw, and the old royal city of Mandalay.

Reports from residents indicate that the military units based in the city have not yet joined the police in helping quell the violence.

Photos posted on Thursday to Facebook and Myanmar news Web sites showed buildings on fire in the center of the city.

Clashes began on Wednesday and appear to have started with a disagreement in a gold shop owned by a Muslim family.

The police in Meiktila reached by telephone declined to comment.

Two mosques and a Muslim school were burned, residents said. Many houses were also destroyed in the Muslim quarter attacked on Thursday, which is known locally as the worker ward.

The authorities declared a curfew on Thursday for the second consecutive night.

(Source / 21.03.2013)

Israel to limit Gaza fishing zone after rocket fire

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israel will reduce the Gaza fishing zone as punishment for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip following a rocket attack, the Israeli military announced Thursday.

“In response to the rocket fire earlier this morning … the Prime Minister of the State of Israel, Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Minister of Defense, Mr. Moshe (Bogie) Yaalon, have instructed the IDF to narrow the permitted fishing zone for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip from six to three miles,” the army said.

“Additionally, Kerem Shalom crossing will be closed. These changes will continue until the IDF is otherwise instructed by the political echelon.

“The IDF considers this incident with great severity and holds the Hamas terror organization responsible for any hostile activity emanating from the Gaza Strip.”

The Palestinian minister of civil affairs Hussein al-Sheikh confirmed the measure.

“The Israeli side officially informed us that Kerem Shalom crossing is closed until further notice, and that the Gaza fishing zone has been reduced from 6 to 3 miles,” al-Sheikh told Ma’an.

(Source / 21.03.2013)

Haniyeh says Obama visit will not make a breakthrough in the region

 

"We do not see that American policy is helpful regarding bringing the Israeli occupation to an end."“We do not see that American policy is helpful regarding bringing the Israeli occupation to an end.”

The Palestinian Prime Minister in Gaza has said that the visit of the US President is not going to make any “breakthrough” regarding political change on the ground. Ismail Haniyeh issued a statement to the media in which he added, “We do not see that American policy is helpful regarding bringing the Israeli occupation to an end.”

Accusing the Americans of siding with Israel on every issue despite the international condemnation and illegality of its policies, Mr. Haniyeh accused the US administration of working to legalise the occupation and settlements.

“The Americans only try to persuade the Palestinians of the viability of the deceitful peace process in order to give a cover for the increasing Israeli violations against our rights,” he insisted. “The Palestinian Authority [in Ramallah] has to recognise that its future is connected to its obligation to Palestinian national interests.”

Regarding the relationship between his government in Gaza and Iran, which is criticised repeatedly by the PA and Fatah spokesmen, the Prime Minister was clear. “Despite the clear differences between us in several respects,” he noted, “we still refuse to accept a policy which makes Iran the enemy of the Arabs instead of the real enemy which is Israel.”

Barack Obama arrived in Ramallah on Thursday morning for a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his prime minister. He was also due to meet a group of Palestinian youth in Al-Beerah, near Ramallah.

The US President will stay in Ramallah for just five hours before going back to Jerusalem for further meetings with Israeli officials. He is not expected to discuss any suggestions for the resumption of negotiations between the PA and Israel.

(Source / 21.03.2013)

Palestine Youth Orchestra: A Bridge to the World

The Palestine Youth Orchestra. (Photo: Supplied)

The Palestine Youth Orchestra. (Photo: Supplied)

By Tariq Shadid

Not everything in the Middle East, or more specifically in Palestine, is about politics. In this occupied nation, people are not only struggling for liberation and independence, but also to live a life that is as normal as possible under the difficult circumstances of Israeli oppression, persecution and segregation. People who are politically engaged may be inclined to dismiss such efforts of ordinary life as being of minor relevance, or may perhaps even entertain a negative view towards any activities that draw attention away from the struggle. This way of thinking may be understandable from an emotional point of view, but misses some important points which become obvious when the subject is approached from a more rational angle.

The Palestine Youth Orchestra was established by the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music, aiming to bring together Palestinian musicians from all over the world into an ambitious collective effort, hoping to achieve the same standards of performance as similar orchestras of other nations. In order to illustrate the point made above, the potential for a powerful positive influence of endeavors such as these can easily be made tangible and understandable.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=uL0ZcH9DbVA

It must already be obvious that the struggle for Palestinian liberation and independence does not benefit in any way from isolationism. On the contrary, reaching out to the peoples of the world is an important method of creating worldwide understanding and recognition for our aspirations as a nation. Of course we would love to see people everywhere giving their unconditional blessings to those among our people who protest against the Israeli occupation in the streets, but this is difficult to achieve if there is little awareness of who we really are as a people. In more simple terms: people who are only known for their anger, no matter how justified that anger is, do not easily make friends.

In the face of an intense campaign of dehumanization in Western mainstream media, where efforts are made to mendaciously depict Palestinians as ‘terrorists’ incapable of displaying any behavior above the level of violent barbarism, there is a real and significant need to counter this distorted image. For people to see the Palestinians as they really are, a sophisticated, proud and ambitious nation that attaches a high value to education, culture and refinement, the audience must be brought into contact with Palestinians who engage in ordinary societal activities.

These activities cannot be caught within some limited definition. Rather, they entail any activities that bring people together, which automatically includes all forms of artistic, intellectual or physical expression such as music, sports, literature, acting, film-making and dance, to mention only a few. Whenever people from outside of Palestine see Palestinians engaging in such activities, their one-dimensional image of the angry Palestinian resistance fighter suffers a major blow, and they discover that Palestinians are a people just like any other, with hopes, dreams and ambitions indistinguishable from their own.

When such bridges of identification are built, demonization efforts as undertaken by the Zionist-influenced media and entertainment industry of the West become thwarted in a way that poses a significant challenge to their otherwise overwhelming clout. The Palestine Youth Orchestra provides an excellent way to build these bridges, not only between East and West but also between Palestinians within Palestine and those in the diaspora. These latter bridges are of at least equal importance as the former, since they counteract the continuous attempts of the Israelis to drive as many wedges as possible between Palestinians who have been driven apart by geographical separation.

In this role, the Palestine Youth Orchestra functions as a mesmerizing ambassador for our people, with more bridge-building potential than any political ambassador could ever have. This can be illustrated by examples: in recognition of Palestine being its most recent member, and in respect of Palestine’s recent cultural landmark achievements, the Palestine Youth Orchestra received patronage from the Italian National Commission of UNESCO in 2012 for its tour of Italy. The Palestine Youth Orchestra has also performed in Jordan, Greece, Lebanon, Syria, Germany, Bahrain and Palestine.  Plans for 2013 include performances in Palestinian towns and cities, before continuing its tour in Jordan, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Busan (South Korea).

The 75 musicians participating in the Palestine Youth Orchestra comprise of male and female students of music between 13 – 26 years of age, some of whom study in and outside of Palestine, and some having recently graduated and standing at the beginning of their musical careers. They include Palestinians from the diaspora, from countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Algeria and Egypt, as well as from countries outside of the Middle East. Not only does the Orchestra strengthen the ties between the various communities of our people, but it also serves to protect, maintain, and further develop our cultural heritage and collective identity.

The Edward Said National Conservatory was founded in 1993, and named after the late intellectual giant and music lover Prof. Edward Said in 2004. It currently has five branches located in Jerusalem, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Nablus and Gaza, with over 1000 students altogether. The institution lives up to the vision of its namesake by providing a solid basis for Palestinian musical education. In doing so, it pays due respect to Arabic classical music as much as it does to the widely established tradition of Western classical music, with its worldwide cosmopolitan appeal and recognition. Besides this, it has an eye for the preservation and continuation of Palestinian traditional music as well, and also reaches out to more modern forms of musical expression.

The fact that my musical project, the Musical Intifada, which encompasses many different styles of contemporary music and often merges them with traditional Palestinian influences, recently received a statement of recognition from the Edward Said National Conservatory, illustrates the broad vision that rules this prominent institution. My music has a modern sound with a strong emphasis on the Palestinian struggle in its themes, which is a far stretch from the Palestine Youth Orchestra performing Beethoven or Brahms in a concert hall in Europe. Still, the Edward Said National Conservatory clearly has the broadness of vision to realize and express that this is all part and parcel of what Palestine has to offer, and that comprehensiveness is the key that opens the door to the world, and invites it to meet the Palestinian people through their music.

It should come as no surprise that considering the dire situation of the occupation, which besides the hardships of its Apartheid politics continues to pose a severe economical burden upon the Palestinian people, it can never be easy for an institution like the Edward Said National Conservatory to make ends meet. Hopefully, people all over the world realize how important it is for the Palestinians to have and cherish such institutions of musical education. I believe that whoever supports such endeavors is helping our people realize their aspirations and ambitions in a very significant way, and I therefore call upon all who read this to reach out to the Conservatory and at least lend their moral support to it, and if possible also their financial support. Every donation, no matter how small, helps in making a difference, and maintaining an educational institution that has grown to become one of the main pillars of our cultural identity and development.

(To support the Palestine Youth Orchestra, please click here.)

– Tariq Shadid is a surgeon living in the Arab Gulf who has been contributing articles to the Palestine Chronicle for many years. Some of these essays have been bundled in the book ‘Understanding Palestine’, which is available on Amazon.com. He also is the founder of the website ‘Musical Intifada’ featuring his songs about the Palestinian cause, on www.docjazz.com. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

Goldstone again? Source: rights groups fear Palestinian cave-in at UN could scuttle action on settlements

Palestinians protest Israeli plans to seize more land for colonial settlements and send a message to visiting US President Barack Obama, on 20 March 2013 near Jerusalem.

It was big news when the UN Human Rights Council published the results of an independent investigation last month on Israel’s settlements on occupied Palestinian land, seen by some as opening the door for third states to take real action against Israel, such as holding it accountable under universal jurisdiction, banning settlement products or other measures.

But now, a source has revealed to The Electronic Intifada, Palestinian human rights advocates fear that the Palestinian Authority is about to throw away this major opportunity by sponsoring a UN resolution that falls far short of what these advocates think is necessary to ensure that words are translated into action.

The UN Human Rights Council began debating the report in Geneva on Monday, a session that was boycotted by the US administration of President Barack Obama who is currently visiting the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority.

Concerns were first signalled in an overly-polite and diplomatic 14 March letter sent by 11 prominent Palestinian human rights organization to Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas urging the PLO “to strive to ensure the full implementation of [the UN report’s] recommendations, especially those pertaining to the obligations and responsibilities of Third States, by promoting a strong resolution at the UN Human Rights Council.”

But this cautious public approach masks growing alarm among human rights groups confirmed to me by a Ramallah-based source with direct knowledge of the talks that have been going on behind the scenes between Palestinian Authority officials, human rights groups and diplomats from other countries.

The source asked not to be named because the source did not have permission to share this information received from his communications. It was my view that the information provided was credible and of such significant public interest and urgency that granting the request for anonymity was justified.

Why this report is important

While there have been countless UN resolutions and reports condemning Israel’s illegal and relentless theft of Palestinian land for Jewish colonization, what is significant about the latest Human Rights Council report is that it directly raises the issue of “third-state responsibility.” What this means in layperson’s language is that it urges other states to take actions to inhibit or reverse Israel’s ongoing violations.

The report says:

In a situation of prevailing impunity, the law on State responsibility for internationally wrongful acts, including third-State responsibility, is relevant. International criminal law enables the pursuit of individual criminal responsibility for conduct that amounts to international crimes.

This is also likely why the Obama administration, which is ardently committed to maintaining Israel’s impunity and immunity, boycotted the debate.

Even Haaretz’s diplomatic correspondent Barak Ravid took the view that the report paves the way for South Africa-like sanctions on Israel over its intransigent refusal to end its colonization of Palestinian land.

What happens next?

The UN Human Rights Council must now pass a resolution on the report, which could have the effect of either burying it – as effectively happened with the Goldstone report into war crimes in Gaza during Israel’s 2008-2009 assault that killed 1,400 persons – or could ensure that its recommendations are acted on and taken to the next step.

Currently the draft resolution that has been circulating states that the Council:

Requests the United Nations Secretary General to report on the implications of the Fact-Finding Mission’s recommendation to Member States to comply with their obligations under international law and to assume their responsibilities in their relationship to a State breaching peremptory norms of international law to the General Assembly at its 68th session of 2013.

Human rights organizations, including well-known Palestinian ones, have been pushing for this language to be changed to the following:

Requests the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to submit a report, detailing the implementation of the recommendations contained in the report of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the implications of Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian People throughout the occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem, and the implementation of this resolution to the Human Rights Council at its March session of 2014.

Subtle but important change

While the changes may appear subtle to the those of us not versed in the arcana of UN technical language, the difference is important as my source explained, especially about who has responsibility for moving the report forward. My source told me:

The reason we want these changes, and particularly this reporting mechanism, is that it will lead to (1) Further delineation of third state responsibility as it pertains to Israeli settlements … (2) Leads to reporting from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights [rather than the UN Secretary General] on the implications to and implementation by states of this recommendation. (3) Thus, including these paragraphs will push our work on accountability forward.

According to the source, human rights organizations have been assured of support for such a change from the delegations from several states and typically African, Latin American, Arab and Muslim-majority states have supported whatever resolution the Palestinians put forward.

But those states, the source said, have historically taken the position that they “cannot be more Palestinian than the Palestinians.” This means it is up to the Palestinian Authority leaders who control the Palestinian UN seat to put forward a strong resolution.

Will Palestinian Authority miss another opportunity?

The problem, human rights advocates believe, is that the Palestinian Authority appears to be much more concerned about attracting support from EU states in order to embarrass the United States, which means offering a far more watered-down resolution.

My source said that human rights advocates learned from EU diplomats that Palestinian Authority representatives had been telling one thing to the human rights groups and another thing to the EU diplomats about how the PLO delegation in Geneva would vote.

The PA has, as yet, failed to give Palestinian human rights organizations a clear promise that it will propose a resolution containing the stronger language.

If the current draft containing the weak language goes through it may attract votes from EU states but it will mean the Human Rights Council report is killed off bureacratically which would be a victory for Israel, the Obama administration and other determined foes of Palestinian rights.

The Palestinian UN mission in Geneva did not respond to a request seeking comment.

PA history of undermining Palestinian cause at the UN

If the fears of Palestinian human rights groups are realized, what may happen in coming days is strikingly similar to the role the Palestinian Authority and its de facto ruler Mahmoud Abbas played previously in sabotaging two UN resolutions that could have helped the Palestinian cause advance in the UN.

As mentioned, the Palestinian Authority helped Israel and the United States fatally undermine the Goldstone report at the UN in 2009.

And in June 2010, documents leaked to The Electronic Intifada showed that the Palestinian Authority UN mission led by Ibrhahim Khreisheh colluded with European diplomats against Turkey in an attempt to pass a resolution neutralizing the UN Human Rights Council report into Israel’s attack on the Mavi Marmara.

Will this miserable history repeat itself, or will the Palestinian Authority learn the lesson and refuse to be an obstacle to real international action against the Israeli settlements it constantly decries?

(Source / 21.03.2013)

Suicide Bomber Kills Top Syrian Cleric at Mosque in Potential Turning Point

 

A leading Sunni imam with close ties to Bashar al-Assad was killed today, when a suicide bomber blew himself up inside his mosque. The bomber detonated himself inside the Eman Mosque in central Damascus, killing the imam and many other worshipers. Only early casualty report says at least 15 were killed, though unconfirmed numbers suggest it could be several more.. The cleric, Sheikh Mohammad Said Ramadan al-Buti, was one of the leading Sunni religious leaders in Syria and was a longtime supporter of Assad and his ruling Alawite sect.

While some opponents may be happy about an attack that strikes at the power base built by Assad and his supporters, attacking a mosque in the middle of evening prayers may have crossed a line that even the regime’s toughest critics cannot support.

Absolutely don’t! A mosque was bombed. Like Iraq. FUCK! RT @omarsyria: Don’t celebrate this.

The attack on the al-Askari Mosque in Samarra in 2006 was a pivtol turning point in the Iraq War, one that helped transform the conflict from an isurgency to all-out sectarian bloodbath, with Shia and Sunni militias trading ever more violent reprisasl. While the the Syria conflict has certainly seen its share of sectarian attacks already, the destruction of the mosque potentially risks pushing the conflict from a war to unseat Assad into a Sunni vs. Shia grudge match. Which is exactly what Assad himself would prefer.

Syrian news services have broadcast some footage from inside the damaged mosque, but be warned thatsome of the images are quite graphic and disturbing.

(Source / 21.03.2013)

Database of more than 60 racist Israeli laws against Arabs

 

images_News_2013_03_20_settler-graffiti_300_0[1]NAZARETH, (PIC)– The Israeli occupation issued since 1948 more than 60 racist laws against Palestinian citizens in the occupied territories of 1948 in all spheres of life, including education, state services, and civil and political rights.

The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, Adalah, confirmed in a statement that a part of these racist laws violate the Palestinian people’s rights in occupied territories and Palestinian refugees’ rights.

“Discrimination extends to all spheres of life, including land, education, allocation of budgets, prisoners and other civil and political rights”, said the center in a press statement.

The center announced the launch of a database of Israeli racist laws to coincide with Netanyahu new government assuming its role, and on the eve of World Day to combat all forms of Racial Discrimination, which falls next Friday.

The discrimination laws database, the first of its kind, will be reviewing dozens of racist laws, with a summary of each in Arabic, Hebrew and English. The database will also contain information about petitions to the Supreme Court against the some of these laws.

It also contains inflammatory and racist law drafts put down in the eighteenth legislative session of Knesset (2009-2012), that may be put on the table again.

Link to Database: The laws that enshrine Israel as a racist state

(Source / 21.03.2013)