Syrian opposition opens first embassy in Qatar

Syrian National Coalition leader Moaz Al-Khatib (C) speaks to journalists during the Arab League summit in Doha March 26, 2013.

 The Syrian opposition coalition, recognized by the Arab League as the sole representative for Syria, opened its first embassy in the Qatari capital Doha on Wednesday.

In presence of Arab and Western ambassadors, the president of Syria’s opposition coalition, Moaz Al-Khatib and Qatari Khalidal Al-Atiyah, state minister for foreign affairs, cut the ribbon at the entrance to the embassy.

The national anthem of Qatar and Syria played as Qatari and Syrian opposition figures stood underneath the Syrian opposition’s flag framed in red, green, white and black balloons.

The Syrian embassy itself remains closed since diplomatic ties were severed between Gulf states and Syria in November 2011 over its crackdown on dissent that has morphed into a civil war that has killed more than 70,000 people.

The ceremony came a day after the Arab League welcomed the Coalition to take the seat of Syria at the Arab summit in Doha. In a speech addressing the leaders, Khatib said the opposition wants to grab Syria’s seat in the United Nations.

On Wednesday, Russia – Syrian regime’s most powerful ally and a long-time arms supplier – called the Arab League’s decision to award Syria’s seat at the organization to the anti-regime National Coalition “illegal and indefensible.”

Russia’s foreign ministry noted that Khatib used the opportunity in Doha to call for the establishment of internationally-enforced no-fly zones over areas in Syria controlled by the armed opposition.

It then accused the Arab League – an organization with which it has had tense ties throughout the two-year-long conflict – of effectively supporting a military solution to the conflict instead of peace talks.

In addition to Britain and France, the Arab League has approved arming opposition fighters in Syria.

(Source / 27.03.2013)

Resistance burns bright in hunger striker’s village

Israeli forces destroy the home of Ahmad Issawi, brother of hunger striker Samer Issawi, in Issawiyeh on 1 January 2013.

For the past few months, the village of Issawiyeh has been under attack. The Israeli military has tried to break the spirit of resistance in this small place, north of Jerusalem, which is home to the hunger striker Samer Issawi.

Yet the people of Issawiyeh have kept on demonstrating their solidarity with him and otherPalestinian prisoners.

Issawi began refusing meals shortly after his arrest in July last year, and has been on intermittent hunger strike ever since. As his health deteriorates, the mobilization in support of his fast grows. Samer’s family have erected a protest tent in Issawiyeh. This tent has been demolished more than 20 times by Israeli troops.

Confiscations of land

Issawi’s arrest was not the only thing that prompted residents of the village to act. Long before that, the Israeli-controlled Jerusalem Municipality had been actively confiscating land owned by residents of Issawiyeh. Hundreds of dunums have been seized in the past year for the benefit of two planned projects: a “national park” and a dump for solid waste (adunum is 1,000 square meters).

Issawiyeh is a hot spot in Jerusalem. The protests in the village have nearly always led to heavy clashes with the Israeli forces. Nightly raids and arrests have been a regular occurrence.

Grassroots Jerusalem is an organization that has been closely monitoring the behavior of Israeli troops in Issawiyeh. “After Samer’s court hearing on 18 December, we noticed an escalation in the attacks on Issawiyeh village,” said Fayrouz Sharqawi, an advocacy officer with the group. “This escalation took the form of daily raids on the village, sometimes several times a day.

Harassment

“The Israeli authorities and border police would regularly place a flying checkpoint at the entrance to the village. The police are usually accompanied by representatives of the tax authorities and other authorities to harass the residents and punish them collectively.”

Over the past three months, more than 150 people were arrested in Issawiyeh, according to Sharqawi. “The reason for the escalation could also be the appointment of a border police commander in Jerusalem,” she added.

In November of last year, Izhar Peled was appointed as the commander of the border police in Jerusalem. This followed the appointment of Yossi Pariente as the chief of Jerusalem District Police in September of 2012. Pariente replaced Niso Shaham, who resigned after allegations of sexual misconduct (“Jerusalem police chief resigns after allegations of sexual misconduct,” Al Jazeera English, 30 August 2012).

Threats

Several police officers have expressed an intent to crush the protest movement in Issawiyeh. Muhammad Abu al-Hummus, a political activist and member of Issawiyeh Follow-up Committee, told The Electronic Intifada that the threats from officers have been more explicit lately.

One officer told the committee that his objective was to carry a cup of coffee from French Hill — an Israeli settlement in East Jerusalem — to Issawiyeh without spilling a drop. This implicit threat seems aimed at normalizing the raids of the occupation forces — the Israeli forces are usually confronted with stone-throwing as they raid the village.

“In one protest, an officer told me, ‘I will screw you one by one,’” Abu al-Hummus said. “During a questioning, an officer threatened me that they will cut Issawiyeh out of Jerusalem and surround it with a wall and hand it to the PA [Palestinian Authority].”

While attacks on Issawiyeh are not new, the brutality and intensity of the recent ones are unprecedented. The arrests and attacks did not only target people active in protests.

Issawiyeh is inhabited by more than 12,000 Palestinians. Since its occupation by Israel in 1967, more than 12,000 dunums have been confiscated according to a Grassroots Jerusalem report (“Issawiya Resists Collective Punishment,” 25 January).

In November 2011, the Jerusalem Municipality published a plan to build a “national park” on the lands of Issawiyeh and al-Tur villages. This plan will effectively suffocate Issawiya and prevent its expansion south. The municipality named the plan “They See Not, Nor Know 2012” (“Israel’s Parks Authority names plan to demolish Palestinian structures ‘They See Not, Nor Know’,” Haaretz, 13 November 2012).

“Last year the municipality decided to confiscate 740 dunums of land in Issawiyeh and al-Tur,” said Abu al-Hummus. “We protested the decision and conducted regular Friday prayers on the confiscated lands. After four months, the decision was halted. ”

“The residents have told us that the work continues despite the court’s order,” said Sharqawi. “The case is still in court.”

Plans for a dump in Wadi Cabina and the Qasim Valley would also involve the confiscation of 534 dunums from the villages of Issawiyeh, Shuafat and Anata.

Isolating Jerusalem

“The Israeli authorities are planning to fill the valley with solid construction waste thereby settling the land and [ultimately] establishing a national park in its place,” said Sharqawi. This plan aims to connect the E1 corridor between Jerusalem and the remainder of theWest Bank, and the Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim, to Jerusalem. This would advance the Israeli project of isolating Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank and prevent territorial contiguity between the northern and southern West Bank.

The dump would also effectively cut connections between the villages of Issawiyeh, Anata and Shuafat. On 30 December last year, Adalah, a Palestinian human rights group, filed an objection in court against the plan.

“About five months ago, a new front was opened against us,” said Abu al-Hummus. “The municipality confiscated lands north of Issawiyeh for the benefit of a solid waste landfill.”

“They issued orders to prevent us from reaching our lands,” he added. “Later, they confiscated the lands under the pretense that it is neglected.”

“Issawiyeh needs more exposure,” said Sharqawi. “There is no media coverage on what is happening in Issawiyeh.”

“Protests will continue”

“It is not attractive enough to the media since it is a regular hotspot for clashes,” added Sharqawi. “It is not news for the media anymore. Residents of Issawiyeh need to see people from the neighboring villages stand with them. The occupation has distracted every village and neighborhood in Jerusalem with its own unique problem.”

“We are fighting on three fronts,” said Abu al-Hummus. “We are fighting against land confiscations north and south of the village and for the prisoner Samer Issawi.

“The occupation forces — with all their units — are trying to crush our spirit. They could not crush our movement. Our protests will continue.”

Since the end of February, Israeli troops have concentrated more on Silwan, an area in East Jerusalem, than on Issawiyeh. “But the attacks on Issawiyeh have not stopped,” said Sharqawi. “They have just decreased.”

The brutal campaign against the residents of Issawiyeh has failed to quell their resistance. There is no prospect of Israeli officers being able to carry a cup of coffee into the village without spilling it.

(Source / 27.03.2013)

In het vliegtuig

Ik kwam terug van een lange reis en Allah oordeelde dat mijn zitplaats op het vliegtuig naast een groep zorgeloze jonge mannen zou zijn, wiens luid gelach en luide stemmen te veel voor mij waren en de lucht was gevuld met wolken van rook afkomstig van hun sigaretten. Door de wijsheid van Allah was het vliegtuig compleet vol en kon ik mijn zitplaats niet veranderen. Ik probeerde van het probleem te ontsnappen door te gaan slapen, maar dat was onmogelijk. Toen ik hun herrie helemaal zat was, pakte ik mijn Moeshaf (Koran), en begon op een zachte toon zoveel mogelijk Koran te lezen. Snel hierna begonnen de jonge mannen rustiger te worden. Sommige begonnen een krant te lezen en sommige vielen in slaap.

Plotseling zei één van hen met harde stem, terwijl hij naast me zat: “Genoeg! Genoeg!” Ik dacht dat ik hem stoorde doordat mijn stem te hard was, dus ik verontschuldigde me en ging verder met lezen op een fluistertoon die alleen ik kon horen. Ik zag hem zijn hoofd met zijn handen vasthouden Hij zat onrustig op zijn zitplaats en bewoog veel. Toen hief hij zijn hoofd en zei boos tegen mij: “Alstublieft, hou ermee op, ik kan er niet tegen!!” Hij stond op van zijn zitplaats en bleef een tijdje weg. Toen kwam hij terug, groette hij mij met de salaam en verontschuldigde zich. Hij viel stil en ik begreep niet wat er aan de hand was. Maar na verloop van tijd richtte hij zich naar mij met zijn ogen gevuld met tranen en zei op een fluistertoon: “Drie jaar lang of meer heb ik mijn voorhoofd niet op de grond geplaatst, en ik heb niet eens één aya gelezen! Ik ben nu al een hele maand bezig met deze reis, en er is niet één slechte daad die ik niet deed. Toen ik jou de Koran hoorde lezen, werd mijn hele wereld zwart en mijn hart vulde zich met wanhoop. Ik voelde me alsof iemand me wurgde. Ik voelde elke ayah die je las op mijn lichaam neer komen als een zweep. Ik zei tegen mijzelf: ,,Hoe lang zal deze verwaarlozing nog doorgaan? Waar zal dit pad je naar toe leiden? Wat zal er gebeuren na al dit dwaze gespeel?” Toen ging ik naar de toilet, weet je waarom? Ik had een sterke behoefte om te huilen, en ik kon geen andere plaats vinden om te vluchten van de blikken van de mensen die hier aanwezig zijn!”

Ik sprak met hem in algemene termen over Tauwbah (berouw) en het terugkomen tot Allah, daarna viel hij stil. Toen het vliegtuig geland was, hield hij me aan en het leek alsof hij weg wou blijven van zijn vrienden. Hij vroeg me, met een serieuze uitdrukking op zijn gezicht: “Denk je dat Allah mijn berouw zal accepteren?” Ik zei: “Als je oprecht en serieus in jouw berouw bent, dan zal Allah al jouw zonden vergeven.” Hij zei: “Maar ik heb verschrikkelijke dingen gedaan, heel verschrikkelijk.” Ik zei: “Heb je niet gehoord dat Allah zegt (interpretatie van de betekenis):

”Zeg: ,,O mijn dienaren, die buitensporig zijn tegenover zichzelf (door zonden te begaan), wanhoopt niet aan de Genade van Allah. Waarlijk, Allah vergeeft alle zonden. Hij is de Vergevensgezinde, de Meest Barmhartige”

(Soerah az-Zoemar: 53)
Ik zag hem glimlachen van blijdschap. Zijn ogen waren gevuld met tranen, toen zei hij vaarwel en vertrok. SoebhaanAllahil cAdhiem! Het maakt niet uit hoe groot het kwaad en de zonde is van een persoon, in zijn hart is een zaad van goedheid aanwezig. Als we het alleen maar kunnen bereiken en het laten groeien, zal het zijn vruchten dragen, inshaa’Allah. Dit zaad van goedheid is altijd aan het vechten in het hart van mensen, ook al is het bedekt met lagen van grilligheid en verlangens. Wanneer Allah het goede wil voor Zijn dienaar laat Hij een licht van leiding schijnen in zijn hart en leidt Hij hem naar het pad van degenen die geleid zijn. Allah zegt wat als volgt vertaald kan worden:

“En wie Allah wil leiden, Hij stelt zijn borst open (en wijd) voor de Islam en wie Hij wil doen dwalen, Hij maakt zijn borst (zo) nauw en beklemd alsof hij moeizaam de hemel (probeert) in te stijgen.”

(Soerah al-Ancaam: 125)
(Marianna Laarif / 27.03.2013)

vijf vrouwen uit Gaza die niet mogen studeren op de Westoever

Antwoorden van Frans Timmermans, minister van Buitenlandse Zaken, op vragen van het lid Van Bommel (SP) over vijf vrouwen uit Gaza die niet mogen studeren op de Westoever.

Vraag 1

Bent u bekend met de zaak van de vijf vrouwen uit Gaza die willen studeren aan een universiteit op de Westelijke Jordaanoever, maar door Israël niet toegelaten worden tot de Westelijke Jordaanoever?[1]

Antwoord

Ja.

Vraag 2
Deelt u de opvatting dat de vijf vrouwen het recht hebben om te studeren aan universiteiten op de Westelijke Jordaanoever en dat Israël daarom verplicht is hun reis naar de Westelijke Jordaanoever toe te staan? Indien neen, waarom niet? Kunt u uw antwoord toelichten?

Antwoord

Volgens de Nederlandse regering is Israël bevoegd veiligheidsmaatregelen te nemen. Deze maatregelen mogen echter niet tot gevolg hebben dat de facto alle studenten uit Gaza de toegang tot universiteiten op de Westoever wordt ontzegd.

Vraag 3
Kunt u bevestigen dat sinds er in september 2000 een reisverbod voor studenten van kracht werd, slechts drie studenten uit Gaza op de Westelijke Jordaanoever hebben kunnen studeren? Indien neen, wat zijn dan de feiten?

Antwoord

Het Palestijnse ministerie van Onderwijs bevestigt dat Israël sinds 2000 geen vergunningen meer verstrekt aan reguliere studenten die in Gaza wonen en willen studeren aan universiteiten op de Westelijke Jordaanoever. De drie studenten die sinds 2000 wel een uitreisvisum ontvingen, waren in het bezit van een buitenlandse studiebeurs.

De coördinator van Israëlische regeringsactiviteiten in de Palestijnse Gebieden (COGAT) onderscheidt verschillende categorieën reizigers die in aanmerking komen voor reizen van Gaza naar de West Bank. Studenten maken hier geen deel van uit, met uitzondering van hen die in het bezit zijn van een buitenlandse beurs ten behoeve van studie op de Westoever of in het buitenland. Gazaanse studenten zijn aangewezen op het studieaanbod van de drie Gazaanse universiteiten: de Islamic University of Gaza, de Al Aqsa University en de Al Azhar University.

In het academisch jaar 2011/2012 studeerden er 174 studenten met Gazaanse identiteitsbewijzen op de Westelijke Jordaanoever. Deze studenten woonden echter al op de Westoever vóór 29 september 2000, bij de aanvang van de tweede Intifada, waarna Israël de veiligheidsmaatregelen heeft aangescherpt.

Vraag 4
Kunt u bevestigen dat Israël met betrekking tot Gaza en de Westelijke Jordaanoever een scheidingsbeleid (‘separation policy’) hanteert?[2] Indien ja, wat houdt dit beleid concreet in? Indien neen, wat zijn hier dan de feiten?

Antwoord

Op een verzoekschrift van de NGO Gisha, die namens de vijf vrouwelijke Gazaanse studenten verzocht om toegang tot de Westoever, heeft het Israëlische hooggerechtshof in september 2012 geantwoord dat alleen op humanitaire gronden een uitzondering wordt gemaakt voor individuele gevallen uit Gaza. Gisha ontving eenzelfde antwoord in december 2011 op een verzoekschrift ten behoeve van een Amerikaanse Palestijn uit Gaza die naar de Westoever wilde reizen voor een huwelijksaanzoek. Volgens de Israëlische autoriteiten is er “sprake van een scheidingsbeleid tussen de gebieden [de Gazastrook en de Westelijke Jordaanoever] op basis van veiligheidsoverwegingen waardoor het aantal personen dat toegang krijgt tot Judea en Samaria wordt beperkt tot uitzonderlijke humanitaire gevallen”.

Vraag 5

Is de weigering de vijf vrouwen tot de Westelijke Jordaanoever toe te laten onderdeel van dit scheidingsbeleid? Kunt u uw antwoord toelichten?

Antwoord

Dit werd in deze bewoording bevestigd door het hooggerechtshof in september 2012.

Vraag 6

Bent u bereid er bij uw Israëlische collega’s op aan te dringen dat de vijf vrouwen alsnog kunnen studeren aan de Palestijnse universiteit op de Westelijke Jordaanoever en in EU-verband aandacht voor deze zaak te vragen? Indien neen, waarom niet?

Antwoord

Nederland zet, zowel in EU-verband als bilateraal, onverminderd in op een einde aan de blokkade van Gaza en normalisering van verkeer van goederen en personen. Dit is een terugkomend onderwerp op de EU-agenda en een prioriteit van Hoge Vertegenwoordiger Ashton.Movement and Access is tevens een belangrijk onderdeel van het Gaza bestand dat eind vorig jaar is getekend en waaraan de EU graag haar medewerking verleend. Deze kwestie, waaronder de toegang van Gazaanse studenten tot de Westelijke Jordaanoever, zal aan de orde worden gesteld in Israël.


[1] Supreme Court rejects petition by five students wishing to study in the West Bank, HCJ 495/12, http://www.gisha.org/item.asp?lang_id=en&p_id=1692, september 2012

[2] What is the “separation policy”?, http://www.gisha.org/UserFiles/File/publications/Bidul/bidul-infosheet-ENG.pdf, juni 2012

(Mail / 27.03.2013)

Syria: Security Council express ‘grave concern’ over presence of troops in Golan Heights

An observation post of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Golan Heights, Syria.

27 March 2013 – The United Nations Security Council today said it was gravely concerned at the presence of the Syrian and opposition troops inside the demilitarized area of the Golan Heights that peacekeepers have been monitoring since 1974, calling on both sides to respect the blue helmets’ freedom of movement and security.

UN peacekeepers are in the area to monitor the 1974 disengagement accord agreed upon by Syria and Israel after their 1973 war.

“The members of the Security Council expressed their deep concern at the risk that all military activities in the area of separation conducted by any actor pose to the long-held ceasefire and the local population,” according to a statement read out by Ambassador Vitaly Churkin of Russia, which holds the rotating Council presidency for the month of March.

Mr. Churkin said that the 15-member Council “also underscored the increased risk the situation poses to United Nations personnel on the ground” including the firing on UN personnel and facilities, carjacking of UN vehicles and the detention of the 21 military personnel from the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF).

The Council noted that the Government of Syria has the primary responsibility for safety and security of UNDOF’s personnel and called on all parties to respect UNDOF’s privileges and immunities and “to ensure the security of and unhindered and immediate access for United Nations personnel carrying out their mandate.”

The statement comes one day after Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous briefed the Council on the security risks and operational challenges facing UNDOF. He told journalists after the closed-door session that UN peacekeepers reduced their activities in response to the presence of armed groups from the Syrian conflict and have taken additional security measures, which include the use of more armoured vehicles.

In that context, the Council welcomed the provision of “additional security upgrades and equipment.” Council members also urged UNDOF to consider the temporary use of alternative ports of entry and departure to ensure safe personnel rotation.

(Source / 27.03.2013)

Child ‘critically injured’ in Hebron clashes

HEBRON (Ma’an) — A 12-year-old is in critical condition after he was injured in clashes with Israeli forces in Hebron, medics said.

Yousef Abu Aisha was shot in the head with a rubber bullet. Three other Palestinians were also injured by rubber bullets, a Ma’an reporter said.

An Israeli military spokeswoman did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

(Source / 27.03.2013)

Mada: 238 Violations Of Media Freedoms In 2012

The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms” MADA” held a press conference on Wednesday which reviewed the Annual Report on the violations against Media freedom in Palestine during 2012. The conference was held at MADA’s headquarter in Ramallah.

The conference was opened by the Chairmen of the Board of Directors Ghazi Hanania, who expressed that the past year witnessed a serious escalation of violations against journalists by the Israeli forces, who had no qualms to kill three journalists deliberately during its latest aggression on the Gaza Strip. Hanania added: “the occupation authorities did not hesitate or flinch to justify its murders, which points to the extent of Israeli disregard not only for the laws and international conventions, but for the lives of Palestinian journalist, thus violating freedom of expression and the most important human right “the right to live.”

Hanania then explained that reporting Israeli violations does not mean the absence of Palestinian violations: “Although we always confirmed that the Israeli violations are the most dangerous and threatening to the lives of Palestinian journalists and the most frequent, but the Palestinian violations are still high in numbers, although they have decreased compared to 2011, where the Fatah Hamas division still constitutes a fertile ground for violations to arise in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip”.

He spoke to the audience about MADA’s role in defending media freedoms, either by monitoring violations and publishing press releases, monthly reports, annual reports, and special reports, or through the activities of the Legal Unit in defending journalists and spreading legal awareness through seminars and workshops.

MADA’s annual report for 2012 explains that Media freedom status in Palestine had no promising signs since the start of the year. As journalists began the year with violations and attacks on their rights, they said their farewell to 2012 with the loss of three colleagues: Aqsa TV cameraman Mahmoud Alkoumi 30 years old, Aqsa TV photographer Hussam Salameh also 30 years old, Executive Director of the Jerusalem Educational Radio Muhamed Moussa Abu Eisha 24 years old.

MADA center reported 238 violations against journalists and Palestinian media outlets during the past year. The Israeli Occupation Forces IOF has committed approximately 70% of the overall total with 164 violations, while different Palestinian sides committed 74 violations, the equivalent of about 30% of the total violations. And in comparison with 2011 the violations have increased approximately about 11.5% (32 violations).

The general director of MADA Mousa Rimawi outlined the violations committed by the Israeli forces in Palestine, and mentioned that the Israeli Occupation turned 2012 “into hell” for journalists and Media outlets, where they committed egregious perpetual violations against Journalists, most notably the killing of three journalists, the bombing of media organizations headquarters and journalists’ homes, and the serious physicalassaults.Rimawi added that Israed did not only committ awful violations but have also amplified them by %65 with 164 violations committed in 2012 comparing to 100 violations committed in 2011.

He explained that the increase in the number and quality of violations is due to several factors, most notably the power of the Palestinian image and word, and the key role played in the world public opinion by the Palestinian press in detecting the occupation violations. The other factor is that the occupation has never been held accountable and punished for its crimes against journalists and media freedoms, which encourages the occupation to commit more violations without consideration to any human rights, and international laws and conventions that guarantee freedom of expression and protection for journalists.

Rimawi pointed that the Israeli violations were mostly committed in eight areas: Gaza, Ramallah, Jerusalem, Nablus, Bethlehem, Hebron, Jenin, Qalqilya. 70% of Israeli violations were committed: in Gaza with 63 violations, in Jerusalem with 26 violations, and in Ramallah with 25 violations.

MADA also monitored 10 types of Israeli violations: Killing (3 cases), prevention from travel (1 case) bombings (37 cases), raiding (4 cases) closing and blocking of media sites (3 cases), prevention from coverage (5 cases), confiscation of equipment (4 cases), arrest (13 cases), physical abuse (80 cases), and detention (14 cases).

The annual report also explains that many violations cannot be monitored by MADA since journalists don’t commute freely between West bank cities, Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip, for example journalists from West Bank don’t hold permission papers needed to enter Jerusalem nor Gaza, and Gaza journalists are also not allowed to enter the West Bank nor Jerusalem .

The Secretary of the board of MADA Majid Alarui reviewed the Palestinian violations against media freedoms monitored by the MADA over the past year, pointing out that the state of media freedoms is dramatically still worrying in Palestine, despite the drop in the number of Palestinian violations by 31% over the past year compared to 2011.

Alaruri reported that Palestinian violations were equally committed in Gaza and the West Bank as each witnessed 37 violations.Most notable types of violations were: prevention from travel, raiding of media institutions, preventing journalists from coverage, arrests, detentions, physical abuse, interrogations, trails, threats, and closing and blocking media sites.

Alruri pointed that detention is still the most prominent violations that have been monitored as it recorded during 2012 12 cases in comparison to 5 cases in 2011, in addition to the continued policy of calling journalists for investigation and interrogation with 13 violation reported, in addition to closing and blocking media sites, and prevention of travel.

The 2012 annual report: “MADA center noted a clear negligence of the authorities concerned in the investigation of violations against journalists and media institutions, where most cases of violations passed without serious investigation, and the impunity of the aggressors. This creates questions about the statements made by some officials in the West Bank and Gaza Strip regarding their full commitment and support to freedom of opinion and expression in Palestine”.

(Source / 27.03.2013)

Breakthrough: Mennonites divest from ‘companies that support Israel’s occupation’

mennonite central committee logo

Mennonite Central Committee logo

Yesterday the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) United States announced that its board of directors had voted unanimously on March 16 to divest the organization’s direct holdings in “companies that support Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.”

The global relief and service agency, which represents 15 Mennonite, Brethren in Christ and Amish bodies in North America, will also “choose to invest in mutual funds that limit exposure to companies on the[American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)’s Israel-Palestine Investment Screen] list and will join efforts to encourage the mutual funds that it holds to adopt similar screens,” a statement by Cheryl Zehr Walker, its director of communications, said.

“Staff also will aim to align MCC U.S.’s purchasing patterns with these investment principles.”

The MCC’s executive director, J. Ron Byler, said that his organization, consisting of pacifist churches, is opposed in principle to profiting from any acts of violence, but he alluded to the double standard in operation here: existing laws already prevent the MCC and other Western investors from funding armed struggle against Israel.

“We will take action if we become aware of offenders against Israel, but our government ensures we do no harm to Israel, while there is no such care for Palestinians,” he said.

The AFSC, whose “Investment Screen” the MCC will use, says that it bars investments only in contractors with Israel because US:

[R]egulations and similar laws in Europe make it illegal for any company or financial institution that falls under US or European legal jurisdiction, including all publically traded companies, to provide goods or services to Palestinian individuals and groups engaged in acts of violence.

The structure of these laws reflects the imbalance of power that exists in the international arena between state and non-state actors and which gives legitimacy to state sponsored violence while criminalizing violence by non-state groups. Within the Palestinian-Israeli context this contributes to the power imbalance that exists between the state of Israel and the various Palestinian factions, allowing violence by the Israeli government while criminalizing violence by Palestinian groups. The lack of balance that exists in AFSC’s list results from this structural imbalance.

Walker said that the MCC’s “investments traditionally have mirrored the organization’s core Christian values, using vehicles such as socially responsible funds.”

Its divestment vote will steer reported net assets of $68.3 million away from the AFSC list of 29 companies identified by the New England Conference of the United Methodist Church and the Coalition of Women for Peace‘s “Who Profits” project.

They include prominent targets of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement like Caterpillar Inc., the Hewlett-Packard Company, Motorola Solutions, and Veolia Environment.

(Source / 27.03.2013)

Ayatollah Sistani: Spilling blood of Iraqis, especially Sunnis, is forbidden

 

sistani

The Grand Ayatollah, Ali al-Sistani, during a meeting with a delegation of Sunni clerics from the southern governorates and the Kurdistan region and a representative of the Sunni Endowment, on the sidelines of the first national conference of religious scholars Shiites and Sunnis in Iraq to be held in the city of Najaf, issued Fatwa in sanctity of Iraqi blood in general and Sunni in particular, emphasized spilling the blood of Iraqis in general, and Sunnis in particular, is forbidden.

Grand Iraqi Shiite Cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani said that there is no real difference between Sunnis and Shiites or Kurds and Christians, adding we are servants for all Iraqis.

The Grand Ayatollah, Ali al-Sistani, during a meeting with a delegation of Sunni clerics from the southern governorates and the Kurdistan region and a representative of the Sunni Endowment, on the sidelines of the first national conference of religious scholars Shiites and Sunnis in Iraq in the city of Najaf, issued Fatwa in sanctity of Iraqi blood in general and Sunni in particular calling on Shiites to ward off danger from the Sunnis in Iraq. He emphasized that spilling the blood of Iraqis in general, and Sunnis in particular, is forbidden.

Ayatollah Sistani affirmed: Today the Shi’ite must defend the human and political rights of the minority Sunnis. The rights of the Sunni, who are being persecuted, needs to be protected by the shi’ite and everyone else in Iraq – it is all of our responsibility.

He added that our call is for unity, we do not differentiate between an Arab and Kurd, that Islam is the one who brings us together.

The head of the Sunni delegation in southern Iraq, Sheikh Khalid Al Mulla, after the meeting with Grand Ayatollah Sistani said: The Grand Ayatollah called on Shiite brothers to protect their Sunni brethren and ward off danger for them.

Mullah added: Sayyed al-Sistani said that I am a servant of the Iraqis, and there is no difference between Sunni or Shia or Kurd or Christian.

Meanwhile The Secretary General of the People Trend, Ali al-Sajri, called the Sunni clergymen to follow the stance of the Grand Ayatollah, Ali al-Sistani, to save Iraq from the sectarianism created by the politicians.

In a press statement, Sajri appreciated “Ayatollah Sistani’s stance in the current critical time created by the politicians who do not care for the interests of the Iraqi people.”

“The religious authorities have to settle the crisis because the politicians failed to settle it and they keep it for their electoral propaganda without realizing its consequences,” he added.

“The national project is not related to the politicians, but it is related to calls of the religious authorities to settle the crisis and start a new phase in Iraq,” he concluded.

Also Iraqiya coalition Eman Mosa al-Mohammadi described the fatwa of religious authority, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in sanctity of Iraqi blood and Sunnis in particular as a bright picture of the religious authorities and their keenness on the unity of the country.

She said “The religious authorities have always been and will remain a real safety valve to maintain the unity of the nation and the unity of its social fabric.”

Mohammadi added that “the Fatwa, in its pure and obviously form, in this time is a painful blow to advocates of sectarian strife who are trying to drag the country into a dangerous slider.”

(Source / 27.03.2013)

Israeli Government Seeks to Approve Largest Outpost in West Bank

The Supervisor of Governmental Property intends shortly to declare the land on which the outpost of Derech Ha’avot is situated state land. This intention was stated in a letter sent to Yesh Din’s legal advisor by the Legal Advisor to the Commander of the Judea and Samaria Area. As revealed two years ago, the Military Advocate General’s Corps itself commissioned a report on Derech Ha’avot, but is now delaying its publication since the document confirms that some 60 percent of the outpost is built on privately-owned Palestinian farmland.

Derech Ha’avot, the largest outpost in the West Bank, was established in 2001 during the second intifada. Over the years, the Palestinian landowners have repeatedly demanded the return of the land. The government has evaded these demands on various pretexts, and despite the fact that demolition orders have been issued against all the buildings in the outpost, it has refrained from executing the orders. In 2008 the landowners submitted a petition to the High Court of Justice, together with Peace Now, demanding the enforcement of the demolition orders and the eviction of the outpost. In a response to the petition given in 2010, the government claimed that due to the freezing of construction in the Territories it did not intend to enforce the demolition orders. The government added that before executing the orders it would seek to examine the status of the land on which the outpost was established. The High Court of Justice rejected the petition, but sharply criticized the government for failing to keep commitments it made before the court. After the completion of the survey, and following repeated delays, the state is now seeking to examine the possibility of approving the outpost, despite the fact that it was built illegally and in part on private Palestinian land.

Attorney Shlomo Zacharia from Yesh Din’s legal team responded to the letter: “Not only is the state reconciling itself to the breaking of the law, but it is also ultimately granting the usurped land to the lawbreakers. It is particularly outrageous that all the state authorities joined forces to accept the breaking of the law and are now attempting to provide an umbrella of state support, rather than combating organized ideological crime that violates human rights on a daily and hourly basis.”

(Source / 27.03.2013)