Palestinian journalists prevented from covering Obama’s Ramallah visit

Accreditation denied to 18 cameramen and reporters; journalists plan protest letter

U.S. President Barack Obama (L) and his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas (R) arrive at a joint new conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah March 21, 2013.

VIENNA, March 24, 2013 – The office of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas denied 18 Palestinian journalists access to cover U.S. President Barack Obama’s official visit to Ramallah on Thursday for “security reasons”, according to local sources.

Those banned for “security reasons” included journalists who work for pro-Hamas media, but also journalists working for media close to the Palestinian Authority who have made critical remarks about the government in their reports or on social media.

IPI Deputy Director Anthony Mills said: “We are concerned by reports from Palestinian journalists that members of the media were denied access to an important official event because of their political affiliation or because they have been critical of Palestinian Authority officials and policies.  We urge the President’s office to undertake an investigation into this matter and ensure that journalists for all media are given equal access in future.”

Journalists seeking to cover Obama’s meeting with Abbas and the press conference that followed were invited to apply for accreditation weeks ago, according to journalists and press officers from the American consulate and the Palestinian president’s office.

One correspondent, who did not wish to be named, said that he and his colleagues had applied for accreditation on time via a website set up by the PA for this purpose, and had received confirmation messages saying that they had successfully applied.  But on Wednesday evening, the night before the Ramallah meeting, they were informed that they had been denied accreditation for security reasons.

Another photojournalist said he was surprised, because he has taken pictures hundreds of times in the Mukataa, the administrative district of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, which was behind security checkpoints for Obama’s visit on March 21.

The 18 journalists who were denied accreditation for security reasons included: Abbas Momani (AFP), Issam Rimawi (Al Hayat Al Jadeeda), Maher Alemi (Al Quds), Nael Bwaitel (Xinhua), Iyad Jadallah (WAFA), Hudaifa Srour (WAFA), Awad Rjoub (Al Jazeera website), Mohammed Daraghmeh (AP) and others, as well as a number of journalists affiliated with pro-Hamas media, sources said. (Daraghmeh was eventually granted access after he made a complaint.)

In total, around 30 journalists were denied entry to the Mukataa, but the others didn’t get in as a result of bureaucratic, logistical problems, sources said.

By way of comparison, local journalists close to this issue said that 140 Palestinian journalists did receive accreditation, as did some 250 foreign journalists and six Israeli journalists.

President Mahmoud Abbas’ Foreign Press Secretary, Abdullah Erakat, denied to IPI that journalists were denied security clearance because of their work.  “We opened the registration for everybody – not once, but twice.  We did all we could do to get people to sign up,” he said. He acknowledged that some journalists didn’t get in as a result of technical mistakes – for example, some badges were not printed in time – and said he had “lost sleep” over this issue.

However, he categorically denied that there was any blacklist.

A number of journalists are now planning to write a letter of protest to President Mahmoud Abbas, asking him to ensure that this does not happen again, IPI was told.

(Source / 25.03.2013)

Haagse imam: ga niet naar Syrië

Imam Rachid Nafi van de as-Soennah-moskee in Den HaagImam Rachid Nafi van de as-Soennah-moskee in Den Haag al-Yaqeen

Nederlandse moslimjongeren moeten niet naar Syrië afreizen om mee te vechten tegen het regime van president Assad. Dat zegt de imam van de as-Soennah-moskee in Den Haag.

Sjeik dr. Rachid Nafi schrijft in een artikel op internet dat de strijd in Syrië niet onder de jihad valt, althans niet voor jongeren in Nederland. Hij verwijst daarbij naar uitspraken van islamitische geleerden, die zouden hebben gezegd dat alleen Syriërs moeten meevechten.

“Wij horen nergens dat het Syrische volk vraagt om extra mankrachten”, schrijft Nafi. “Zij hebben genoeg strijders. Waar zij om vragen, is dat de internationale gemeenschap hun genoeg wapens geeft om zichzelf te kunnen verdedigen.”

‘Roekeloze besluiten’

Nederlandse moslimjongeren worden volgens de imam ten onrechte opgehitst. “Het fanatisme van de jongeren, dat nog eens aangesterkt wordt door allerlei oproepen van onbekende mensen via internet, filmpjes en liederen, drijft hen tot rigoureuze en roekeloze besluiten.”

Volgens de imam begaan veel Nederlandse strijders in Syrië zelfs “meerdere religieuze overtredingen”, bijvoorbeeld als ze zonder toestemming van hun ouders zijn vertrokken.

“Eén van deze overtredingen is het liegen tegen hun eigen ouders”, schrijft Nafi. “Zij vertellen hun vaak dat ze op reis gaan en houden de waarheid achter. De ouders moeten later via andere wegen vernemen dat het kind ergens is gaan strijden of zelfs dood is gegaan.”


De imam roept islamitische geleerden op om een gezamenlijk decreet uit te vaardigen over de strijd in Syrië, om “chaos en wanorde” te voorkomen. Ook wil hij zo tegengaan dat de term ‘jihad’ wordt misbruikt. Nafi is naar eigen zeggen gepromoveerd op dat onderwerp.

Moslimjongeren die ondanks het standpunt van de geleerden toch als strijder naar Syrië vertrekken, plaatsen volgens de imam hun “valse begeerte boven de islam”.

De as-Soennah-moskee stond lange tijd bekend als radicaal, maar vaart tegenwoordig een gematigdere koers. De omstreden imam Fawaz Jneid werd vorig jaar door het moskeebestuur ontslagen.

(Source / 25.03.2013)

IOF kidnap five Palestinians in W. Bank raids



JENIN, (PIC)– The Israeli occupation forces (IOF) kidnapped at dawn Monday five Palestinians, including a journalist, in raids in different West Bank areas.

Local sources reported that Israeli troops invaded Yamoun town at three o’clock in the morning, and broke into and ransacked the house of citizen Mahmoud Abul Heija and kidnapped his son Mohamed, 20, and took him in chain to an unknown place.

The sources added that the IOF stormed the towns of Silat Al-Harithiya and Zabuba west of Jenin city and established a checkpoint at the entrance to Zabuba town and embarked on searching vehicles.

The IOF also kidnapped last night a journalist and a citizen in Tel Rumeida neighborhood in Al-Khalil city and took them to an unknown place.

According to “youth against settlement” group, the IOF kidnapped journalist Abdul Aziz Nofal as he was making a report on Israel’s settlement activities in the neighborhood.

The IOF stormed as well Balata refugee camp near Nablus city and kidnapped two young men after a violent raid on their house.

(Source / 25.03.2013)

Israel “tried to banish me for 28 years,” says hunger striker Ayman Sharawna

Ayman Sharawna was treated at al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, following his eight-month hunger strike and forcible transfer to Gaza.

Ayman Sharawna needed the help of two friends, one supporting him on each side, to walk into the living room of his new apartment overlooking the Gaza seaport on Saturday. But if the physical effects of his eight-month hunger strike were visible, Sharawna projected an air of victory when he spoke with activists who had gathered to welcome him.

“My hunger strike secured two things,” he said. “First, it won my release, my freedom. Second, it prevented the arrest of other prisoners who were released in the Shalit deal [the prisoner exchange in October 2011].”

Sharawna’s hunger strike ended on 17 March with an agreement in which Israel banished him to Gaza from his home in the West Bank city of Hebron for 10 years.

A statement by Gaza’s Palestinian Centre for Human Rights called his forcible relocation“a form of collective punishment and reprisals prohibited under the Fourth Geneva Convention” (“PCHR condemns Ayman al-Sharawna’s deportation to Gaza by Israeli forces,” 18 March 2013).

Sharawna’s hunger strike was a matter of collective defense as much as securing his personal liberty, he said. “The occupation forces threatened, the night they arrested me, to arrest all Hamas prisoners who were released in the Shalit exchange. But my hunger strike stopped that.”

“Playing with words”

As for his release to the Gaza Strip, he counted it as a success. “When they offered to deport me, they gave me the choice of several different countries. But I refused to go anywhere but Gaza, which they hadn’t offered at first. I feel they regret sending me here.”

Even the term of his displacement was a struggle, he said. “They were playing with words when the agreement was drafted. They put the banishment for 28 years, but said they would allow me back after 10 years. I refused to sign. I said, ‘No, you should write 10 years.’

“I am very proud to be here in Gaza. They thought I would find it very difficult here, like a stranger. This was wrong.”

The 18 October 2011 prisoner exchange between Israel and Hamas freed Sharawna after nine years in captivity. A total of 1,026 Palestinian detainees were also released. On 31 January last year, Israeli forces raided his home and rearrested him based on the contents of a “secret administrative file.”

Military prosecutors alleged that Sharawna had violated the terms of his release, but never disclosed their charges to Sharawna or his attorneys.

The prosecutors demanded that Sharawna complete the remaining 28 years of his previous military sentence, from which he had received an Israeli presidential pardon under the exchange agreement, and began a series of secretive, often closed military court hearings against him. On 1 July last year, he announced an open hunger strike with the immediate goal of winning his freedom.

“Nothing worse than hunger”

“Nothing is worse than hunger,” Sharawna said. “A day on hunger strike is as long as 10 normal days. I am not exaggerating.

“A hunger strike in general is difficult. But after 200 days, it got very difficult, because I stopped taking sugar and vitamins. The most difficult phase in the strike was the last month, because I was chained. I was only allowed to go the bathroom twice a day.”

The Israeli Prison Service (IPS) tried various ways to convince Sharawna to resume eating. “They know that I like sweets very much,” he said with a smile. “So they used to bring sweets and put them in front of me.”

At other times the IPS withheld pain medication, offering it in exchange for an end to his strike.

Sharawna suspended his strike several times in response to promises by Israel that it would review his case. But by 17 March, he had grown wary of his captors’ assurances and refused to eat until after his release. “I insisted on leaving prison the same day the agreement was signed,” he said. “I broke my hunger strike at 10:30 pm in al-Shifa hospital” in Gaza City, where he was taken first after entering the Gaza Strip.

“The entire thing was about a challenge,” he said. “I forgot everything. The only thing I had in mind was the challenge, to win it.”

“I rarely slept,” he added. “I couldn’t sleep very much because of pain and noise intentionally caused by the officers.”

Sharawna spoke repeatedly of his fellow detainees who remained in Israeli prisons, especially Samer Issawi, now on 247 days of a partial hunger strike as of Monday, andDirar Abu Sisi, who has been held in solitary confinement since Israeli agents kidnapped the Gaza engineer from Ukraine on 19 February 2011.

“I feel worried for Samer Issawi, especially after the court hearing was delayed for two months,” he said. “My dream is for my brother, Dirar Abu Sisi, to be released soon. He is going through very hard conditions and has fainted many times.”

Another dream, he added, “is for the prisoners to be united. We are so scattered now.”

The end of Sharawna’s hunger strike was a confusing time, he said, but his release brought clarity. “For the last two months, I didn’t receive enough information from theInternational Committee of the Red Cross. I worried that my family would object to my relocation to the Gaza Strip, but when I was released, I learned that they supported it.”

“It’s been five days here in Gaza,” he added. “Every day is like a festival for me, a celebration. My family made it to Gaza in 72 hours.”

And his resolve remains strong as he looks toward the future in Gaza and beyond. “The Israelis wanted to fight me, but they couldn’t,” he said. “I will return to the West Bank. I will return to Jerusalem. We will meet at al-Aqsa mosque in the coming few years, God willing.”

(Source / 25.03.2013)

Tel Aviv has 1000 reason to be friends with Ankara: Peres

Israeli President Shimon Peres

Israeli President Shimon Peres

“On Saturday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the true motive to resume ties with Turkey was Tel Aviv’s concerns over Syria’s chemical weapons.”

Israeli President Shimon Peres says Israel has a thousand reasons to be friends with Turkey, expressing his satisfaction with the resumption of relations with Ankara.

“I can think of a thousand reasons why Turkey and Israel should be friends; I cannot find one reason why they shouldn’t be friends,” Peres said in an interview with CNN Turk on Sunday.

Peres stated that somehow both Israel and Turkey “wanted to put an end to this misunderstanding and return to the good relations that have existed between Turkey and ourselves for many good years.”

He added that Israel and Turkey are both concerned over the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria.

On Saturday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the true motive to resume ties with Turkey was Tel Aviv’s concerns over Syria’s chemical weapons.

On Friday, Israel announced a full resumption of diplomatic relations with Turkey after Netanyahu phoned Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and apologized to him over the deaths of nine Turkish activists in an Israeli attack on a Gaza-bound international flotilla.

The Israeli military attacked the Freedom Flotilla in international waters in the Mediterranean Sea on May 31, 2010, killing nine Turkish nationals aboard the Turkish-flagged MV Mavi Marmara and injuring about 50 other activists that were part of the team on the six-ship convoy.

The Israeli apology was brokered by US President Barack Obama during his recent visit to Israel. Netanyahu had previously only expressed regret for the killings and refused to publicly apologize.

On December 17, 2012, Syrian Ambassador to the UN Bashar Ja’afari said in letters to the UN Security Council and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that the foreign-backed militants could use chemical weapons against Syrians and try to shift the blame to the government.

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

The Syrian government says that the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country, and there are reports that a very large number of the militants are foreign nationals.

Damascus says the West and its regional allies including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey are supporting the militants.

(Source / 25.03.2013)

Tunisians protest against child rape calling for minister’s ouster

A young woman holds a placard during a demonstration to demand the resignation of Tunisian Minister of Women’s Affairs, Sihem Badi, outside the ministry on March 25, 2013.

Monday demanded the resignation of Tunisia’s minister for women’s affairs, Sihem Badi, accusing her of defending a children’s nursery where a three-year-old girl was raped.

The protesters, among them relatives of the victim, gathered outside the ministry in Tunis shouting slogans against Badi, including “Minister of shame, get out!” and “Ministers who protect pedophiles have no place among us.”

The young girl was raped repeatedly by the caretaker of the nursery in La Marsa, an upscale suburb of the capital, according to the police.

The suspect was arrested on Saturday.

On the same day, Badi, who as minister of families as well of women’s affairs is responsible for children’s nurseries, said a member of the girl’s family was to blame and that no measures against the caretaker were needed.

“Three weeks ago, my life turned into a nightmare. When I imagine my daughter, who weighs 10 kilos, in the hands — and on several occasions — of this 55-year-old caretaker, I have only one wish, to die,” the father of the victim told AFP.

“The children’s nursery is still open despite what happened to my daughter,” he added, his voice welling with emotion.

If found guilty, the suspect risks the death penalty, even though no executions have actually been carried out in Tunisia since 1991.

The last person to be put to death was a rapist and child serial killer.

(Source / 25.03.2013)

Verklaring van de ‘Associatie van Syrische geleerden’ omtrent de dood van ‘Al Bouti’


In de naam van Allah, de meest Barmhartige, de Genadevolle

Allah de allerhoogste zegt: “Iedereen zal de dood proeve. En alleen op de Dag des Oordeels zullen jullie de volledige beloning ontvangen [..].”

Als gevolg van de aanslag uitgevoerd in moskee Al Iman dat plaatsvondt in de avond van 21 maart 2013, waarin het leven van Mohammed Saeed Ramadan al Bouti en enkele van zijn studenten werd genomen, verklaart de Associatie van Syrische geleerden het volgende:

Met de veroordeling van het standpunt van Al Bouti tegen de Syrische revolutie en zijn steun aan het verdorven regime waarvan hij de misdaden gericht naar de bevolking rechtvaardigt:

–        Veroordelen wij het kiezen van moskeeën, de mensen van kennis en alle burgers als mikpunt waar wij tegelijkertijd de moedjahideen (strijders op de weg van Allah), die met bloed en eer standvastig de Islam verdedigen, vrijpleiten van het schuldig zijn hieraan.

–        Bevestigen wij dat deze daad werd uitgevoerd door het regime van Assad dat de gewoonte heeft om geleerden en invloedrijke personen als doelwitten te nemen, nadat zij hen hebben gebruikt waar zij hen voor nodig hadden of uit angst voor afnemende steun aan het regime. In navolging heeft het Syrische regime een individuele steunpilaar van het regime, Al Bouti, en een geleerde in de oppositie, namelijk Shaych Riad al Saab, vermoord met als doel om chaos en verdeeldheid te zaaien.

Vanwege deze redenen roepen wij de moslims op om weg te blijven van verdeeldheid. Al Bouti is teruggekeerd naar Allah, de meest Rechtvaardige en meest Wijze, terwijl het regime doorgaat in haar tirannie en barbarisme. Het is onze taak om waakzaam te zijn voor de trucs en deceptie van dit regime, waarin wij keren naar de waarheidsgetrouwe geleerden om de eenheld van de mensen van Syrië en de werelwijde Islamitische gemeenshap te waarborgen.

(Source / 25.03.2013)

Israeli calls for Passover Sacrifices at al-Aqsa



OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)– Al-Aqsa Foundation for Endowment and Heritage warned against escalating the Israeli Judaization activities at al-Aqsa mosque and al-Buraq wall particularly on the occasion of Passover Holiday.

Al-Aqsa Foundation said in its statement that Israeli groups called for a “sacrifice at the Temple Mount” as they called, in light of the launching training programs on Thursday to perform the virtual ceremony to celebrate the so-called Passover Holiday.

In related context, the Israeli authorities have set a number of measures to launch violations campaign in al-Buraq area, where it is expected that a series of violations will be carried out at al-Buraq in the coming hours and it will be escalated in the coming days as a prelude to the ceremony of the priestly blessing on Thursday.

Al-Aqsa Foundation pointed out that 40 Israeli settlers have stormed Monday afternoon al-Aqsa mosque.

The Foundation has warned in a previous statement that al-Aqsa mosque may face collective raids on the occasion of Passover Holiday, calling on the Palestinian worshipers to intensify their presence at al-Aqsa mosque.

The Foundation called on the Arab and Islamic nations to bear their responsibilities towards al-Aqsa mosque and stand against the Israeli violations.

(Source / 25.03.2013)

Conscript facing jail again for refusing to go against his conscience


Natan Blanc has been repeatedly imprisoned for refusing to serve in the Israeli armyNatan Blanc has been repeatedly imprisoned for refusing to serve in the Israeli army

We, as citizens and human beings, have a moral duty to refuse to participate in this cynical game.

Natan Blanc

A handful of Israeli teenagers go to prison every year because they refuse to serve in their country’s army on grounds of conscience.

Nineteen-year old Natan Blanc from Haifa has been through this seven times in four months.

Blanc says he will not participate in human rights violations against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. He was first imprisoned after refusing the military call-up up last November.

So far he has served 116 days in jail.  Every few weeks he is released, then tried and imprisoned again after repeating his refusal to join the army.  His most recent release was on19 March after 20 days’ imprisonment in Military Prison 6, northern Israel,

On 21 March, Natan Blanc went before the Israel Defence Forces “Unsuitability” Committee which can exempt individuals from conscription if they are deemed unsuitable for service.

Yesterday, the Committee told him he must serve in the army so Blanc looks set to return to prison after the Jewish Passover festival next month.

Blanc spoke to Amnesty International about his motivation for objecting to military service, shortly before starting his sixth sentence in early February.

“In today’s Israel, there is apartheid,” the teenager said.

“No one is talking about granting Palestinians equal rights, or even the right to vote. I do not want to take part in this situation … I want to stand behind my actions and not to do things that are against my conscience.”

Amnesty International is calling on the Israeli authorities to accept his conscientious objection and stop jailing him for his beliefs.

Blanc says he started to question conscription four years ago during Israel’s invasion of Gaza in ‘Operation Cast Lead’, when he was only 15.

“The wave of aggressive militarism that swept the country then, the expressions of mutual hatred, and the vacuous talk about stamping out terror and creating a deterrent effect were the primary trigger for my refusal,” he explained.

At the close of the 2008-2009 conflict hundreds of Palestinian and three Israeli civilians had been killed, and Gaza lay in ruins.

On the heels of ‘Operation Cast Lead’, at least nine Israeli teenagers were jailed in 2009 for being conscientious objectors – an increase in the usual numbers.

Four years later, Israel has failed to hold a thorough, independent investigation into war crimes committed during “Operation Cast Lead”, and so far there is no indication either that allegations of violations of international law committed during the November 2012 conflict with Gaza will be independently and impartially investigated.

Blanc believes that “the Netanyahu Government … is not interested in finding a solution to the existing situation”.

“We, as citizens and human beings, have a moral duty to refuse to participate in this cynical game.”

Many young Israelis avoid the draft through seeking mental or physical health deferments, or on religious grounds.

In October 2012, 17-year-old Omar Sa’ad, a Druze from the Galilee, refused in an open letter to the Prime Minister and Defence Minister to undergo a medical examination, the usual procedure for anyone once they become eligible for conscription in the Israeli army.

In the letter he said “I refuse because I am a man of peace and I hate all forms of violence, and the military institution represents for me the peak of physical and psychological violence.”

He could be arrested at any point and be taken to the induction base to undergo the medical examination.

Noam Gur went to prison in April last year at the age of 18, after declaring her refusal “… to join an army that has, since it was established, been engaged in dominating another nation, in plundering and terrorizing a civilian population that is under its control”.

She served two prison sentences before being granted an exemption from military service.

Unless the army agrees to discharge Blanc, the number of times he can be retried is technically limitless.

“I think that the repeated trials are a very bad way to handle the situation,” he told Amnesty International.

In 2003, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found that by convicting repeatedly, individuals on the basis of their conscientious objection, Israel was effectively punishing them for the same offence over and over again, thereby flouting their rights under international human rights standards which prohibit ‘double jeopardy’.

“If someone committed a crime he would know for how long is he going to sit in jail… In a civilized society I would have gone on a trial only once and that’s it, even if they would have subjected me to a longer term in prison.”

A military-run “conscience committee” decides upon exemptions for conscientious objectors, but such claims are usually only allowed to those who refuse to serve on religious grounds. .

Israeli law does allow for pacifists to be exempted but the conscience committee frequently rejects their cases.

Amnesty International believes that the Israeli government should establish a fully independent and impartial body to assess claims of conscientious objection in a fair and transparent manner.

After all, the right to object to military service on grounds of conscience is protected under international human rights law.

(Source / 25.03.2013)

Warning of settlers’ attempt to storm Al-Aqsa Mosque

images_News_2013_03_24_aqsa-desecrated-by-settlers_300_0[1]OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)– A Palestinian foundation, concerned in maintenance of holy sites and monitoring the Israeli violations, warned of settlers attempts to storm Al-Aqsa Mosque through climbing the roofs of nearby buildings.

Three Israelis managed to storm the compound of the mosque on Saturday evening and arrived to Bab al-Mathara inside Al-Aqsa Mosque, Al-Aqsa Foundation for Endowment and Heritage reported in a press statement.

The Foundation considered such act as extremely serious, especially in light of the growing incitement against Al-Aqsa Mosque and the worshipers inside it.

Eyewitnesses stated that the three settlers tried to storm Al-Aqsa Mosque after climbing the roofs of the buildings in the area of ​​Bab Selsila in the Old City of Jerusalem. Guards and worshipers caught one of them, but the other two fled.

The mosque guards handed over the detained settler to the Israeli occupation police.

(Source / 25.03.2013)