Egypt Shura Council MPs tighten grip on foreign-funded civil society

Egypt’s Islamist-led Shura Council on Monday preliminarily approves NGO draft law putting foreign-funded civil society organisations under strict supervision
Shura Council

In a fiery Monday afternoon session, the Islamist-led Shura Council (the upper house of Egypt’s parliament, currently endowed with legislative powers) approved in principle a new law aimed at regulating the operations of non-governmental organisations (NGOs).Ahmed Fahmi, Shura Council chairman and leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), said that “after being approved in principle, the new NGO law will now be referred back to the Shura Council’s human resources committee for article-by-article review and discussion.”

Mahmoud Abdel-Azim, committee chairman and leading member of the ultra-conservative Salafist Nour Party, argued that the new law would facilitate the formation of NGOs and aid the role that they play in social development. The new law, he said, would give citizens the right to establish NGOs “by merely notifying” the government and without obliging them to follow the procedures required by the earlier 2002 law.

“If requests for new NGOs are rejected, activists can appeal the rejection before the administrative courts; this is another progressive step,” said Abdel-Azim. He stressed that the law would be subject to lengthy debate by the council’s human resources committee, adding that MPs would “do their best” to take the opinions of civil society organisations into account.

For their part, MPs from the council’s Islamist majority teamed up to give the green light to the new NGO draft law, while seizing the opportunity to criticise the US and EU “for voicing concern about certain articles of the draft law, especially the one that calls for a ‘coordination committee’ tasked with licensing NGOs,” said Abdel-Azim.

A national security issue

FJP spokesman Essam El-Erian, for his part, said the coordination committee was “necessary to stem the tide of foreign NGOs – or foreign-funded NGOs – that aim to infiltrate Egypt’s national security.”

According to El-Erian, foreign funding of NGOs operating in Egypt had reached $150 million over the last two years. “All this money has been earmarked with the objective of penetrating the country’s national security,” El-Erian stated.

He went on to ask MPs to review a recent ruling by Cairo’s Criminal Court, which sentenced several foreign NGO workers to prison terms. “The details of this ruling are an adequate response to all those who ask to open the door to the foreign funding of NGOs without restriction,” said El-Erian.

He added: “We say yes to the local funding of NGOs, but we reject foreign funding unless it is approved by a coordination committee tasked with overseeing this funding.”

El-Erian went on to argue that “foreign funding of NGOs has always been politically motivated; no one pays out money like this out of the kindness of their hearts.” He added: “Let me send a message to European and American citizens: we are keen to see your donations to private NGOs for development purposes, but not to play in Egypt’s national security.”

El-Erian also asserted that the foreign funding of NGOs aimed to polarise the nation into two warring camps. “Some Europeans and Americans give money to certain factions [in Egypt] at the expense of others, and this cannot be accepted,” he said.

Representatives of other Islamist political parties also called for putting the foreign funding of NGOs under strict supervision. Osama Fikry, a representative of the ultra-conservative Salafist Nour Party, declared: “The Shura Council will never allow any organisation to exploit the foreign funding of NGOs to meddle with the internal affairs of Egypt.”

According to Fikri, “the draft NGO law is in line with Islamic Law, and for this reason we will not accept any amendment of the legislation,” which was initially tabled by President Mohamed Morsi.

Charges of ‘promoting immorality’

Adel Afifi, for his part, a representative of the Salafist Asala Party, said: “The new NGO draft law will close the door to Europeans and Americans who want to spread immorality in Egyptian society.” Afifi went on to argue that “NGOs that aim to play in politics or that want to promote liberal Western values – such as the emancipation of women and gay marriage – will be strictly forbidden from operating in Egypt.”

Afifi asked MPs not to pay any heed to objections raised by the US or EU. “I don’t care about what they say about the new NGO law; I only care about Egyptian national security.” According to Afifi, the coordination committee will be formed to ensure that the foreign funding of NGOs – along with NGOs that act as subsidiaries of foreign organisations – is strictly supervised.

The Building and Development Party, the political arm of Egypt’s Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya group, also joined the fray on Monday, arguing that “the draft law is the first of several laws aimed at restoring the sovereignty and independence of the Egyptian decision-making process.” He added: “We know the Europeans and Americans are waging a misinformation campaign against the draft law, but we only care about Egypt’s national security.”

Liberal support for NGO law

Many liberal-minded MPs, however, also voiced support for the draft law.

Abdel-Moneim El-Tunsi, representative of the secular Ghad El-Thawra Party, said that “the new NGO draft law says goodbye to supervision by the state security apparatus over civil society; Egyptians will be free to establish NGOs.”

Nagi El-Shehabi, chairman of the centrist Generation Party, declared: “Europe and the US want to spread destructive chaos in Egypt. We tell them that we will never allow NGOs funded by the CIA to operate in Egypt.”

El-Shehabi went on to assert that “some NGOs operate under the cover of ‘social development,’ but in fact they obtain foreign funding with a view to spying on Egypt.” El-Shehabi also said that “foreign funding of NGOs is part of the long-term US and European war against Islam.” He added: “They want to Westernise our society and obliterate Islam, and the easiest way to achieve this is to fund local NGOs aimed at promoting immorality and spying on our internal affairs.”

Mona Makram Ebeid, an appointed Coptic MP and political science professor, was the only deputy to attack the ‘coordination committee’ called for by the law. The committee, she contended, “represents a major obstacle before a flourishing civil society in Egypt.”

(Source / 18.06.2013)

Kenya solidarity calls to cancel Israel festival

As Kenyans and people who support the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and the end of apartheid, we are urging the Alliance Française to cancel the Israeli film festival and to find ways to raise awareness about the occupation in Palestine. It is ironic that the Israeli embassy wants to use this festival to ‘celebrate 50 years of its relations with Kenya’ and to ‘enhance Kenyan’s view of Israeli life and culture’ when Kenya has experienced its own history of colonization with its accompanying abuses, torture and repression.

Israeli_film_festival

A five-day Israel film festival was held at the Alliance Francaise, Nairobi, from 11 June. The Israeli embassy in Nairobi reports that “Ten award winning Israeli films depicting the different and fascinating facets of the vibrant Israeli society [were] screened throughout the week, two films per evening.” The Kenya Palestine Solidarity Committee sent the following letter to Alliance Francaise on 6 June, asking that the festival be cancelled in response to the Palestinian call for BDS.

It has come to our attention that the Alliance Française will be hosting the Israeli Film Festival from June 11th to June 15th, presented by the Embassy of Israel. As Kenyans and people concerned about social justice and human rights, we would like to express our views on the hosting of such an event.

To begin with, we want to draw attention to the numerous violations of human rights that Israel commits on a regular basis. Beginning with its establishment in 1948, Israel has sought to permanently remove en masse the indigenous Palestinian population of the country for the creation of a Jewish state. Since then, Israel has denied Palestinians their fundamental rights of freedom, equality, and self-determination through ethnic cleansing, colonization, racial discrimination, and military occupation. [1] Israel has also repeatedly and systematically violated international human rights and humanitarian law and defied UN resolutions.

To give just a few examples: since 2006 when Hamas won the elections in Gaza, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have been crippled by economic sanctions imposed by Israel. In 2008 to 2009, over 22 days during the military operation Cast Lead, Israel killed an estimated 1387 Palestinians in Gaza, including families and children, and repeatedly exploded white phosphorus munitions over populated areas, as has been carefully documented by Human Rights Watch. In November 2012, Israel bombed Gaza again in the Operation Pillar of Defense. According to B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, 167 Palestinians were killed by the Israeli military. Over half of them were civilians.

In the occupied West Bank, a territory manned by military checkpoints, Israel has continued to construct settlements on occupied land, despite the fact that these settlements are considered illegal under international law. These are only some of the abuses Israel carries out in occupied Palestine. We have not mentioned in detail the detention of political prisoners, displacement of Bedouin communities, daily harassment and humiliation of Palestinians at checkpoints, bulldozing of lands, uprooting of olive trees and so on.

It is not only Palestinians who have suffered from policies implemented by the Israeli government or have been killed by the Israeli military. In 2003, American peace activist Rachel Corrie was crushed to death by an Israeli Defense Force (IDF) bulldozer. In 2010, 9 Turkish activists aboard a humanitarian ship to Gaza, the Mavi Marmara, were killed in an Israeli operation. Just three days ago, Israel made a decision to deport 60 000 migrants from Eritrea and Sudan to an unidentified third country. Last year, dozens of African asylum seekers were injured in violent race riots in Tel Aviv. [2]

In an official report commissioned by the South African government in 2009, the Human Sciences Research Council confirmed that Israel, by its policies and practices, is guilty of the crime of apartheid. Numerous others, including South Africans who have a deep familiarity with racial oppression, for instance Nobel peace Laureate Desmond Tutu, have spoken of life in the shadow of Israeli repression as akin to or worse to that under apartheid in South Africa. [3]

People all over the world are condemning Israel’s policies toward Palestinians. Many have joined the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, which calls for a boycott of Israel until Palestinian rights are recognized in full compliance with international law. Israel citizens as well greatly support the call for BDS campaigns.

It is important to make the point that Israeli cultural and academic institutions, as well as cultural products like films, directly contribute to maintaining, defending or whitewashing the oppression of Palestinians, as Israel deliberately tries to boost its image internationally through academic and cultural collaborations. As part of the boycott, academics, artists and consumers are campaigning against such collaboration and ‘rebranding’. [4]

Importantly, a number of artists, especially musicians, filmmakers, and writers have refused to perform in Israel or have cancelled scheduled performances following pressure from the BDS movement including Bono, Snoop Dogg, Jean Luc Godard, Elvis Costello, Gil Scott Heron, Carlos Santana, Devendra Banhart, Dustin Hoffman, Meg Ryan, Faithless, the Pixies, Cassandra Wilson, Cat Power and Zakir Hussain. British writer John Berger, Indian novelist Arundhati Roy, US poet Adrienne Rich, British film director Ken Loach and screenwriter Paul Laverty are other prominent voices that have joined the call for BDS. [5]

As Kenyans and people who support the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and the end of apartheid, we are urging the Alliance Française to cancel the Israeli film festival and to find ways to raise awareness about the occupation in Palestine. It is ironic that the Israeli embassy wants to use this festival to ‘celebrate 50 years of its relations with Kenya’ and to ‘enhance Kenyan’s view of Israeli life and culture’ when Kenya has experienced its own history of colonization with its accompanying abuses, torture and repression. For us to celebrate our fifty years of independence and to acknowledge those who struggled and died for it, it is imperative that we take a stance against the colonization and oppression of others.

Should you need further reasons to cancel the festival, we would like to call attention to some of the problematic themes in the films that will be screened. The films ‘Turn Left at the End of the World’ and ‘Campfire’ both include the depiction of settlements, which, as mentioned above, are illegal under international law. Neither film addresses this fact, but rather, detracts attention by addressing themes such as romantic love and cultural communities.

A film festival may appear to be an innocuous public event, but in fact it is not. To support cultural products from Israel while Palestinians continue to struggle for freedom from Israeli occupation is to make a political statement. We urge you, as people who believe in the rights of all people to live in dignity and freedom from oppression, to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for self-determination and alongside the people globally who have committed to the Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment campaign against Israel.

Sincerely,

Kenya Palestine Solidarity Committee

END NOTES

[1] Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign (online), “Apartheid, Colonization and Occupation,” http://www.bdsmovement.net/apartheid-colonisation-occupation

[2] The Guardian, (online), “African Asylum Seekers Injured in Tel Aviv Race Riots,” May 24, 2012, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/may/24/tel-aviv-protest-violence-immigration

[3] South African Artists Against Apartheid,http://www.southafricanartistsagainstapartheid.com/

[4] BDS Movement, (online), “BDS Intro,” http://www.bdsmovement.net/bdsintro

[5] BDS Movement (online), “BDS Victories,”http://www.bdsmovement.net/victories

(Source / 18.06.2013)

The Palestinian Authority insults our intelligence

The Palestinian Authority government in Ramallah is not representative of the Palestinian people.

During the fourth national Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions conference in Bethlehem earlier this month, BDS and normalization weren’t the only topics brought up. The very legitimacy of the PA’s government as a representative of the people was questioned by conference attendees.

The third session during the conference consisted of Omar Barghouti representing theBoycott National Committee, Taisir Khaled representing the Palestine Liberation Organization, and finally the PA government’s minister of economy, Jawad Naji. This conference, with an estimated attendance of more than 700, was a platform offering a rare opportunity for ordinary members of the public to question those who supposedly represent them.

As expected, the majority of people in the audience weren’t fond of the minister and the PLO representative; heated discussions took place between the representatives and the attendees, and one discussion even led to the kicking out of the economy minister by conference attendees.

“Don’t disrespect your leader”

The scene during Jawad Naji’s departure was a clear indicator of the government’s lack of popularity among the people. At one point, as Naji was speaking, he said: “This [current government in Ramallah] is the government of the Palestinian people” and repeated that phrase four times. This prompted many frustrated audience members to yell out saying: “stop insulting people’s intelligence.”

The minister kept trying to argue against plenty of evidence that the PA is involved in normalization activities from head to toe. But it is safe to say that conference attendees didn’t appreciate the minister’s generic statements and avoidance of the real issues at hand.

During the question-and-answer period, conference attendee Nizar Banat had two questions for the minister. The first was about the Palestinian Authority’s financial normalization with Israel, and the second was about PA leader Mahmoud Abbas’s statement of a couple of weeks back, where he said he was proud of the PA’s security coordination with Israel.

The notion that Abbas was mentioned in a critical way irritated Naji, and consequently the minister said: “Don’t disrespect your leader, stop barking.” As a result, most of the attendees in the hall considered the minister’s insult to be directed at everyone dedicated to the fight for justice in its different forms. The minister did not apologize for his offensive insult. Later on, what happened instead was that PA thugs brutalized the citizen who dared challenge the minister on these critical issues.

PA ministers unpopular

Jawad Naji is not the only minister to have insulted a large group of the people he claims to represent, and continues to be a legitimate minister according to the Palestinian Authority.

In late 2011, the Minister of Labor at the time, Ahmad Majdalani, referred to civil servants as “brothers of whores” during a radio interview, not realizing his microphone was still on. The minister went through the usual procedure: denying accusations, internal investigation, issue of apology and resignation.

But today Ahmad Majdalani has been reassigned as a minister by former Prime MinisterSalam Fayyad, and by the new Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in the newly sworn-in government.

Protests in the West Bank continue against consecutive PA governments and their economic policies, but the people aren’t being given any attention by the ministers who supposedly represent them; what they get instead are insults. Prominent political parties within the Palestinian territories, mainly Hamas and the PFLP, have also denounced the PA’s government.

Ministers are not popular among Palestinian citizens, and occasions where ministers are set to debate members of the public are rare. The events at the BDS national conference serve as proof.

It is unfortunate that whenever a minister’s reputation is at stake, figures from the PA release generic statements stating that those ministers are part of “PA’s struggle to achieve the Palestinian national project,” while in the background, anyone who dares to challenge the government’s fraudulence is either locked up in jail or brutalized in the street.

What is happening now in the West Bank is expansion of Israeli settlements, attacks on Palestinian villagers by the Israeli occupation army and settlers, the theft of resources, and a continuous entrenchment of the colonial occupation. The PA’s only current role is to hinder any efforts that set out to challenge this heinous occupation.

(Source / 18.06.2013)

Israel demolishes public health facilities in Yatta

 

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AL-KHALIL, (PIC)– The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) demolished on Monday morning Palestinian facilities in Yatta town south of al-Khalil in the occupied West Bank.

The Israeli soldiers stormed the town accompanied with bulldozers and Intelligence officers where they demolished public health facilities under the pretext of being built without a permit, local sources said.

Meanwhile, the Israeli soldiers were intensively deployed in Dura city searching for wanted persons who opened fire towards an Israeli military vehicle near Khursa junction five days ago.

Local sources confirmed that the occupation forces raided Dura where they stormed and searched a number of houses and erected military checkpoints.

For their part, the PA security forces tightened its security measures in the city looking for the wanted persons, the sources added.

Eyewitnesses confirmed that the PA forces seized video surveillance cameras near the incident to know the identity of the armed persons.

The sources pointed that the PA forces summoned youths living near the scene for interrogation.

(Source / 18.06.2013)

Setting a dangerous precedent: 16-year-old Ali Shamlawi faces 25 counts of attempted murder for alleged stone throwing

Three months ago today, in the early hours of March, 17 2013, Israeli soldiers appeared at 16-year- old Ali Shamlawi’s house in the West Bank village of Hares. They blindfolded him, handcuffed him and took him away. His arrest was one of a spate of arrests in March of this year which saw 19 boys, aged 16 and 17 years old, arrested for throwing stones which were alleged to have caused a traffic accident on Route 5, a large road which cuts through the West Bank to service illegal Israeli settlements.

Hares is a village of 4,000 people south of the city of Nablus in the West Bank. Illegal Israeli settlements – including Ariel, the second-largest settlement in the West Bank – have been built on agricultural land confiscated from Hares. The traffic accident in question occurred on March 14 when a car carrying a mother and her three daughters from Ariel crashed into the back of a truck on Route 5 near Hares, after the truck had braked suddenly. The youngest daughter was critically injured in the crash. The driver of the truck initially attributed the sudden breaking to a flat tire but later claimed he braked suddenly when stones hit his truck.

Regional map

Locals who were at the scene of the accident moments after it occurred were interviewed by the International Women’s Peace Service (IWPS) and reported that they did not see any youth in the vicinity. However in the weeks since the accident, 61 witnesses from surrounding illegal settlements have come forward claiming their cars were also damaged by stones thrown by Palestinian youth from the side of the road. These settlers claim that Palestinian boys were 5-10 metres from the side of the road but these allegations have never been verified by the extensive CCTV footage in the area.

Since the initial arrests, 14 of the Palestinian boys have been released. However, five boys, including Ali Shamlawi, remain in prison three months later. Along with the other boys, Ali is being charged with 25 separate counts of attempted murder (one for each individual stone he allegedly threw) and is facing 25 years to life imprisonment.

Last Thursday on June 13th, Ali was in court again for his sixth hearing. Having applied to attend the hearing in advance, I was informed the night before that permission had not been granted because it would be a closed hearing – something all too common in Israeli military courts. Ali’s lawyers have since confirmed that at the hearing his detention was extended to July 25th in order for the defense team to be able to consider all evidence being used against him.

Along with the 61 “witnesses”  mentioned above, the prosecution’s evidence consists of confessions from the boys. The lawyers and NGOs working on the case insist that these confessions were forced under extreme duress and are therefore inadmissible.  16-year-old Ali was held in solitary confinement for two weeks after his arrest and denied access to a lawyer for the first few days. He was interrogated for up to 20 hours at a time and beaten. Until last week, he was also denied visitation from his family. Ali’s lawyers submitted a complaint on May 15th about the circumstances of his interrogation and torture but are still waiting to hear back from the military police investigation.

Interviews carried out by IWPS with some of the boys already released by Israel show further mistreatment of children in custody. One of the 19 boys arrested was hospitalised after being beaten by interrogators, while another reports being kept alone in a small cell where bright lights shone continuously and being threatened with harm to him and his family. Indeed, such allegations come on the heels of a February 2013 report by UNICEF which firmly concluded that “the ill-treatment of children who come in contact with the [Israeli] military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalised throughout the process…”

It is not just the treatment of these children during interrogation that should raise questions. Despite being only 16 years old, Ali is being tried as an adult in Israeli military court; while illegal Israeli settlers in the West Bank are subject to Israeli civil law, Palestinians living in the same area are subject to strict Israeli military law. Under this law, Palestinian youth can be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison for throwing stones at vehicles. Twenty years in prison for throwing stones would be considered harsh in even some of the world’s strictest regimes, but this case sets an even more dangerous precedent: the Israeli courts are charging these five boys not with stone-throwing but with attempted murder.

If the sentence is passed, this case could set a legal precedent which would allow the Israeli military to try any Palestinian youth with attempted murder for incidents of stone-throwing. While the evidence against the boys is tenuous at best (and downright illegal at worst), statistics on conviction rates in Israeli military courts do not bode well for the boys. According to a 2010 internal IDFreport, the military court system used to try Palestinians has a 99.7% conviction rate (In 2010, that meant only 25 full acquittals out of 9,542 cases).These highly troubling statistics expose the discrimination inherent in the Israeli judicial system when compared with similar statistics on settler attacks on Palestinians. A 2011 UN OCHA report revealed that over 90% of monitored complaints of settler violence filed by Palestinians with the Israeli police were closed without indictment.

With conviction rates of almost 100%, allegations of torture against children, and systematic discrimination against Palestinians, it is high time that Israel is held to account for the violations of international law endemic to its military detention and judicial systems.

For now, Ali must wait until July 25th to appear in court again, not knowing whether he will spend the rest of his life behind bars. This case has until now received little media attention. But for those of us who respect due process and human rights, it is time to speak up.

(Source / 18.06.2013)

6 Palestinians killed in Syria refugee camp

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Six Palestinians were killed at dawn on Tuesday in the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria after a bomb exploded near the local hospital, a statement issued by local group said.

The blast near the Palestine Hospital in the refugee camp killed Ahmad al-Hasan, Fahed Abbas, Yassin al-Khaja, Abdul Rahman Saleh, Ali Qassem and Khatoun Lafi Ahmad, the Association for the Sake of Palestinians in Syria said.

The statement said the Husseiniyeh and Khan Danon refugee camps were being “showered with missiles,” leaving residents without electricity, food and gas.

The group also said Syrian security forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad detained local Fatah leader Abu Nasser Qablawi in the Husseiniyeh camp for “helping the injured and taking them to nearby clinics,” the statement read.

One Palestinian is also missing from the Yarmouk refugee camp after not returning from work, the statement said, concerned he may possibly have been detained by Syrian forces.

‘Theaters of war’ 

The report follows a statement issues by UNRWA’s commissioner general said Sunday, describing the camps as “theaters of war.”

“Killings, kidnappings, poverty, destruction and fear have become part of daily life,” Filippo Grandi said Sunday during a meeting of stakeholders in Amman.

More than half of the 530,000 Palestinian refugees registered in Syria have been displaced and 15 percent have fled abroad, including 60,000 to neighboring Lebanon and over 7,000 to Jordan.

“Even Egypt now hosts many Palestine refugees from Syria, and some have reached Gaza,” Grandi said.

“The distress of Palestine refugees in Syria and displaced from Syria has given the lack of progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process an added, and very stark dimension.

The loss of camps in Syria and the uncertainty that it has wrought, are suffered by all, just as the bombardments in Gaza.”

In March, the Action Group for Palestinians of Syria said that over 1,000 Palestinians have been killed in the ongoing Syria conflict, with that number thought to have increased significantly since then.

(Source / 18.06.2013)

Israeli prison guards detain prisoner’s mother

JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — Israeli prison guards on Tuesday detained a woman visiting her son at Hasharon prison, a committee for prisoners’ parents said.
Committee head Amjad Abu Asab said prison guards detained the woman because she was carrying a mobile phone, which is banned in prison visits. She said she forgot to take it out of her handbag before visiting the jail, Abu Asab told Ma’an.
The woman, who was visiting her son Shadad al-Awar, was held her for two and a half hours at the prison and then taken to Kfar Saba police station.
Al-Awar was detained on May 5 and is now banned from family visits.
(Source / 18.06.2013)

Syrian warplanes strike rebel posts in Aleppo

Syrian warplanes struck rebel positions near a besieged military air base and other rebel-held areas in the country’s north Tuesday.

Syrian warplanes struck rebel positions near a besieged military air base and other rebel-held areas in the country’s north Tuesday as regime forces stepped up attacks against opposition fighters in the key province of Aleppo, activists said.

Rebels fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad have for months been trying to take Kweiras and two other military air bases nearby without success. The government has recently gone on the offensive in the province and in areas in the country’s heartland to recapture rebel-held territory.

Activists said warplanes also struck targets in the villages of Atareb and Kfar Hamra in Aleppo province, and troops clashed with rebels inside the provincial capital of the same name. There were no immediate reports of casualties. The regime has gone on the offensive in Homs and Aleppo, the country’s largest city, to build on the momentum from its victory at the strategic town of Qusayr earlier this month.

The violence also continued to spill over the border. Heavy clashes erupted between pro-Hezbollah gunmen and followers of a radical Sunni cleric in southern Lebanon, killing two people, officials said.

Lebanon has been on the edge for months and bursts of violence between supporters and opponents of Assad have become frequent.

The country is deeply divided along sectarian lines, with Sunni Muslims largely supporting their brethren in Syria, who make up the majority of the rebellion against Assad’s regime, and many Shiites supporting Assad, whose regime is dominated by Alawites, an offshoot sect of Shiite Islam.

The Syrian uprising began more than two years ago with peaceful protests against Assad, but later grew into a civil war that has killed 93,000 people and likely many more, according to the U.N.

Millions of Syrian fled their homes and sought shelter in neighboring countries with Jordan and Lebanon hosting the bulk of them, further fueling fears that Syrian conflict’s sporadic spill overs across the border into the Arab country of 4 million people will turn into a full blown war.

Lebanon, a country of 4 million which is still recovering from its own 15-year civil war that ended in 1990, is hosting over half a million refugees.

In Syria meanwhile, an explosion inside a housing complex in a rebel-held village in the country’s northern Idlib province killed 20 people, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

It was not immediately known what caused the explosion and who was behind it. Nobody claimed responsibility for the blast.

The complex belonged to a member of parliament, the group said. The lawmaker, Ahmed al-Mubarak, was not in the area at the time of the explosion but his brother was among those killed, the Observatory’s director Rami Abdul-Rahman said.

(Source / 18.06.2013)

Decades of Displacing Palestinians: How Israel Does It

Overview

Most discussion of Palestinian dispossession – including by Palestinians themselves – focuses on the 1948 Nakba and the forced exile of more than 700,000 Palestinians by Zionist forces intent on creating an Israeli state in mandate Palestine. However, the various measures that Israel has used to forcibly displace Palestinians since 1948 have received far less attention even though it is estimated that it has forcibly displaced 66% of the whole Palestinian population as part of its deliberate, longstanding plan to create and maintain a Jewish majority.

Al-Shabaka Policy Advisor Munir Nuseibah has identified six of the methods Israel uses to displace Palestinians, and discusses two – displacement by personal status engineering as well as by urban planning. He argues that the traditional human rights approach to the conflict is not enough. Rather, he calls on human rights advocates and organizations to apply the more recently developed transitional justice approach to deal with the mass human rights violations carried out as a matter of policy, as this is the only way toward meaningful redress and just peace.

The Missing Context for Claiming Rights

As shown in archival research conducted by the Israeli new historians, senior leaders of the Zionist movement have long advocated the “transfer” of Palestinians in order to secure a Jewish majority in an area of land where Jews were the minority. The founders of the State of Israel and their heirs translated these calls into policy and practice using a variety of methods that continue to the present day.1 Yet Israel’s motives and the systematic nature of population transfer have not been addressed. For example, the 1993 Declaration of Principles between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, which makes reference to “refugees” as one of the issues for permanent status negotiations, makes no mention of thousands of other displaced victims eligible for redress. (Needless to say, the rights of the refugees have not been addressed nor have any remedies been offered.)

It is common, in the rights-based approach literature to focus on war refugees separately from other waves of displacement. In the Palestinian context, however, it is vital to situate war refugees within the macro-picture of the conflict. As Raef Zreik notes, “the Palestinians have lost not only their rights and their land, but also the context that enables them to demand these rights in a way that makes sense.”2 The Palestinian refugees of 1947-48 and 1967 cannot “just” be seen as war refugees. They are victims of a racist policy of population transfer implemented under the cover of war and other sets of victims have been created in line with the same macro-policy.

The application of a transitional justice framework to the Palestinian-Israeli context can address the missing context Zreik identifies. The transitional justice framework has now been used in other conflicts but it has been not sufficiently studied in the case of Palestine, even though it offers a way to comprehensively redress the victims of gross human rights violations, as will be discussed in the final section of this policy brief.

Israel’s Six Methods of Forcible Displacement

Israel has utilized its legal system and institutions from the day it was established to this day in order to inflict forced displacement within the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) as well as within Israel. Its methods can be divided into at least six general categories and have led to permanent displacement of Palestinians from both sides of the Green Line.

  1. The use of violence during times of war as happened during the wars of 1948, 1956 and 1967, which created one of the most complicated refugee problems in the world as well as a significant number of internally displaced persons.
  2. Engineering of personal statuses in Israel and the OPT in a way that excludes habitual residents, or persons who should be entitled to residency rights, from the right to live in their homes.
  3. Discriminatory urban and country planning that encourages Jewish expansion and suppresses Palestinian construction in certain areas such as Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley and the Negev desert. As a result, homes and even whole villages are demolished as “illegal constructions.”
  4. Dispossessing Palestinians of their property under discriminatory laws and regulations that result in the forced eviction of families from their places of residence.
  5. Deportations under security justifications and emergency law. This method was extensively used in the OPT at the start of the occupation and is still being used from time to time.
  6. Creating unbearable circumstances in certain areas that eventually drive the civilian population to leave their homes and move to other areas. Examples of this pattern include Sheikh Sa’ad village in Jerusalem and Al-Nu’man village in the West Bank where both communities were suffocated by the construction of the Separation Wall.

All six methods of displacement have contributed to the forcible removal of the Palestinian civilian population either internally within the borders of Palestine/Israel or across international borders. It is estimated that by the end of 2011 Israel had forcibly displaced around 66% of the whole Palestinian population. Two of the methods Israel has used – personal status engineering and urban planning – are examined in more detail below.

Displacement by Personal Status Engineering

In the aftermath of the 1948 war Israel used personal status definitions to make the demographic changes needed to turn the Jewish minority in the areas it had conquered during the war into a majority. It introduced discriminatory citizenship laws in a way that would exclude all the refugees from acquiring its citizenship. Two laws regulated Israeli citizenship: the Law of Return of 1950 and the Citizenship Law of 1952. Together, the two statutes gave all Jews around the world the privileged status of Jewish “nationals” of Israel with the right to immigrate to Israel and become full citizens, while according “citizenship” to Palestinians who had remained in Israel.3 The laws excluded all Palestinian refugees although they had been residing in the area that became Israel for centuries before the establishment of the state.4 Israel’s 1954 Prevention of Infiltration (Offences and Jurisdiction) Law also served to criminalize any attempted return of a refugee to his/her home.

In the aftermath of the 1967 war, Israel introduced similar measures through the military-legal system by which it managed the occupation. Shortly after the war, during which around one third of the population was displaced, Israel took a census in the OPT. It then introduced a new system of Palestinian residency that excluded anyone who was not part of this census regardless of his or her links to the OPT. Israel then enacted a number of “prevention of infiltration” military orders that criminalized any unauthorized return in a way that was almost identical to the above-mentioned 1954 law, thus cementing the displacement of the 1967 refugees.

The policy of defining new rules for residency and then criminalizing any Palestinian who attempted to return to his/her home was not the end of Israel’s personal status engineering. Following its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, Israel annexed East Jerusalem and introduced three different types of residency status for the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The inhabitants of the OPT who were counted in the census received Israeli-issued identification cards (ID cards) with three different colors: Red for the Gaza Strip, orange for the West Bank and blue for East Jerusalem. The inhabitants of East Jerusalem were given an Israeli permanent residency status and were ruled under Israeli domestic law and legal jurisdiction, while the rest of the inhabitants were considered residents of their territories and were ruled under an Israeli military regime.

Both legal systems included ways to revoke the residency status. In the West Bank and Gaza, exit permits with an expiry date were given to those who travelled abroad. If the traveler failed to return before the expiry of the permit, his/her status would be assigned as “ceased residency” and they would not be allowed to return. This policy of residency revocation stopped in the West Bank and Gaza Strip after the beginning of the peace process.

In East Jerusalem, the residency revocation policy was similar in its effect to the one in the West Bank and Gaza, although it functioned according to Israeli domestic legal jurisdiction, not military law. Jerusalemites also needed exit permits when they travelled abroad and they lost their residency status if they failed to return before the expiry of the permit. However, unlike the residents of the West bank and Gaza, the peace process did not provide any protection for Jerusalem residents. On the contrary, Israel evolved the legal framework in a way that facilitated an accelerating rate of residency revocations.

Prior to the peace process, Israel used to revoke the residency status of Jerusalemites when they were considered to have “left Israel and settled in a country outside Israel.”5 The Entry into Israel Regulations defined a settlement outside Israel for the purposes of revocation as: living abroad for 7 years, receiving a residency status in a foreign country, or receiving a citizenship in that country by naturalization. Residence in the West Bank and Gaza was not considered a settlement outside Israel.

Once the peace process started, however, Israel suddenly changed the revocation rules without introducing any official legal amendments and without warning the public. Suddenly, it started using a new criterion to interpret one’s residence outside Israel known as the “center of life.” According to this new policy, if it were shown that the Jerusalemite’s “center of life” was outside Israel, then he/she would be liable to have his/her residency revoked. Even worse, residence in the West Bank or Gaza Strip was considered to be residence abroad, putting the residency of thousands of Palestinians who had established their homes in the suburbs of Jerusalem in danger. According to figures provided by the Israeli Ministry of Interior, the residencies of 14,152 Palestinians had been revoked between 1967 and 2011, more than 11,000 after the beginning of the peace process. These figures greatly understate the Palestinian loss of residency rights. For example, they only include partial data for 1967 – 1990 as noted by the Israeli Interior Ministry itself.6Moreover, the harsh “center of life” policy has and is being rigorously applied.

In addition to revocation of residency, Israel has also introduced limits on child registration. These limits apply not just to residents of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza; they also apply to the Palestinian citizens of Israel. Regarding its own citizens, Israel prevents the automatic granting of citizenship to children of Israeli citizens born abroad. Although this applies to Jewish and non-Jewish citizens alike, a Jewish child can always acquire his citizenship by virtue of “return”, whereas a non-Jewish infant does not enjoy this right.

The conditions ruling registration of Jerusalem children are more complicated and restrictive. Since the Palestinian inhabitants of Jerusalem are not citizens of Israel, they cannot automatically pass their residency on to their children. Between 1967 and 1994, the Israeli Ministry of Interior refused to register the children of female residents on the basis that children should take their father’s status. Currently, if both parents are residents, the Ministry of Interior registers the child, but this is not granted as a right. In fact, Israel has steadily increased the restrictions on giving children permanent residency status in cases where only one parent is a resident and where the child was born abroad, thus effectively reducing the number of Jerusalemite children registered. In 2002, Israel started to handle the applications to register Jerusalemite children born abroad as family unification cases, which was also the case in the West Bank and Gaza.

At the same time, the Israeli government decided to stop processing family unification applications by Palestinian citizens of Israel as well as by Palestinian Jerusalemites to be joined by their Palestinian spouses from the West Bank or Gaza Strip. Israel also made it more difficult to register a child who was born in Israel if only one of his parents was a resident, a policy that further affected Jerusalemites. A Palestinian non-governmental organization estimated in 2003 that these restrictions had resulted in more than 10,000 unregistered children in East Jerusalem, but there is no other source of data regarding the outcome of this under-reported tool for the forced displacement of Palestinians. It should be noted that similar restrictions were introduced to the registration of children in the West Bank and Gaza even after the Palestinian Authority was established in 1994.

Displacement by Urban Planning

Urban planning is another method that Israel has used consistently on both sides of the Green Line from the establishment of the state to the present day to displace Palestinians and replace them with Jewish colonists. In the Negev desert, for example, the majority of the civilian population was displaced during the 1948 war and as a result of forced displacements during the 1950s. Yet Israel is still targeting the residents of this area and town planning is currently the method of choice. The Israeli government has refused to recognize dozens of Palestinian Bedouin villages and towns, some of which were in existence before 1948, while others had been established as a result of Israel’s previous displacement policies. It is determined to implement a plan that would result in the destruction of some 35 Bedouin villages and to forcibly displace the Bedouin into concentrated spaces, “developing” the area for Jewish expansion.

It is worth noting that the Bedouin are also among the Palestinian population groups displaced in the OPT to make way for Jewish colonization that is illegal under international law. The Bedouin have been continuously displaced from around Jerusalem, for example, in order to expand the Ma’ale Adumim settlement which holds some 40,000 Jewish colonists. The Israeli Government plans to further expand the settlement in the direction of Jerusalem. This will displace the Jahhalin Bedouin who had already been previously displaced from Tal ‘Arad in the Negev.

Much has been written about Israel’s colonization of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which uses urban planning methods similar to the ones described above, but is worth noting the particularly important role urban planning plays in displacing Palestinians in illegally annexed East Jerusalem. Since the beginning of the 1967 occupation, Israel has confiscated 35% of the Palestinian lands in East Jerusalem and allocated them to Jewish colonization. Israel has also used zoning policies to declare 22% of Palestinian land as “green areas” on which Palestinians were not allowed to build. Currently, only 13% of the totalarea of East Jerusalem is zoned for Palestinian construction, and most of it is already built and inhabited. Israel considers any construction without a permit “illegal” and frequently demolishes such constructions, causing forced displacement of the inhabitants.

A Systematic Policy of Forced Displacement from the Start

As seen in the above discussion and in the examples given of methods of displacement, Israel’s discriminatory policy of forced displacement of Palestinians has been systematic and continuous, and is grounded in the very ethos of the establishment of the state. The significance of this understanding will come into play when a genuine peace process is launched. In the Palestinian context, there is no justification to focus on war refugees and to ignore the victims of the various methods of displacement, all of which feed into a deliberate overarching policy to forcibly replace the indigenous inhabitants by colonizers from among Israel’s existing Jewish population or recent Jewish immigrants.

A genuine peace process will make it necessary to move beyond the traditional human rights framework and to apply a transitional justice one to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The transitional justice framework offers a holistic approach not just to provide measures of redress but also to enable the identification of the human rights violations that must be redressed. For example, in Timor-Leste, the Truth Commission had a comprehensive mandate that required it to investigate the “context, causes, antecedents, motives and perspectives which led to the violations” as well as “whether they were part of a systematic pattern or abuse” and “whether they were the result of deliberate planning, policy or authorisation on the part of the state, political groups, militia groups, liberation movements or other groups or individuals.”7

Without such a comprehensive understanding of the violations, it would be impossible to meaningfully redress the victims of human rights violations and to stop the crimes. In addition to the myriad other problems associated with it, the Oslo “peace process” totally ignored many of the methods and waves of deportation and transfer of civilians; indeed, forced displacement actually increased after the peace process started.

Human rights organizations, academics, and practitioners should redraw the picture as they identify the elements that should be tackled in a transitional phase to peace and justice in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The comprehensive examination of the human rights violations is essential not only to understand them per se but also to prescribe the appropriate remedies, including the legal and institutional reforms that are essential to meaningful redress, as is clear from examples given above. The mistakes of Oslo must not be repeated: No peace can ever be established while discriminatory laws and institutions are engaged in producing an ever greater number of victims.

Footnotes

  1. 1As Nur Masalha wrote, “the notion of transfer was born almost at the same time as political Zionism itself, with Herzl’s hope to ‘spirit the penniless population across the border.’” Expulsion of the Palestinians: The Concept of “Transfer” in Zionist Political Thought 1882-1948 (Washington: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1992), 207.
  2. 2“Palestine, Apartheid and the Rights Discourse,” Journal of Palestine Studies34, no. 1 (October 1, 2004): 78.
  3. 3Israel granted citizenship to most of those who remained on its territory after the war. However, it granted different categories of citizenship based on one’s “nationality,” including Jewish, Arab, Armenian, Druze, To this day, the Israeli legal system determines some rights based on one’s “nationality.”
  4. 4One could acquire citizenship by residence if he/she: (1) had been a Palestinian citizen before the establishment of the state of Israel; (2) was counted in the census of 1952; (3) was an “inhabitant of Israel;” and (4) was physically present in Israel or entered it “legally” between the time of the establishment of the state until the enactment of the law. This effectively excluded the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who were forced to become refugees.
  5. 5Entry into Israel Regulations (1974), Article 11
  6. 6For a comprehensive account of Israel’s draconian policies toward Palestinian residency rights see http://www.civiccoalition-jerusalem.org/human-rights-resources/publicati…
  7. 7Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor, Part 2:Mandate of the Commission, Chega! Final Report of the Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor, 2005, 2.

(Source / 18.06.2013)

Klaagster weigerde echter mee te werken aan dit lichaamsonderzoek

In Nederland worden elk jaar duizenden mensen opgesloten, niet omdat ze een strafbaar feit hebben gepleegd, maar omdat ze niet in ons land mogen blijven. Het regime in deze vreemdelingendetentie lijkt op het regime voor criminelen. In wetten en protocollen is vastgelegd hoe het personeel dient te handelen. Onderstaand volgen enkele letterlijke passages uit een recente uitspraak.

Een asielzoekster die negen dagen in aanmeldcentrum Schiphol op een afdeling met andere vreemdelingen had verbleven, werd toen naar een centrum voor vreemdelingenbewaring overgebracht.

Gelet op het feit dat klaagster aldus gedurende een relatief lange periode buiten de inrichting met een aanmerkelijk aantal mensen in aanraking is gekomen, terwijl niet duidelijk is welke mate van beveiliging aldaar werd gehanteerd, kon de directeur in redelijkheid beslissen dat klaagster in het belang van de orde en veiligheid in de inrichting bij terugkomst gevisiteerd diende te worden … Klaagster weigerde echter mee te werken.

Er werd de vrouw te verstaan gegeven dat het personeel haar dan zou uitkleden. En dat daar ‘in verband met de veiligheid’ mannelijke personeelsleden bij aanwezig zouden zijn.

Omdat klaagster bleef weigeren mee te werken is zij door personeel ontkleed. Hierbij waren ook twee mannelijke personeelsleden aanwezig. Er is op haar een beenklem toegepast. Volgens de directeur is er geen sprake geweest van vaginale visitatie. Wel heeft een vrouwelijk personeelslid klaagsters bilnaad geschouwd omdat klaagster weigerde de verzochte kniebuigingen te maken. Nu klaagster geweigerd had mee te werken aan de reguliere visitatie … kon de directeur in redelijkheid beslissen klaagster in het belang van de orde en veiligheid van de inrichting de maatregel van afzondering op te leggen.


Een beenklem, voor wie zoiets nooit heeft gezien, is een werktuig om de benen en billen in spreidstand te dwingen.

De omstandigheid dat bekend was dat klaagster als vreemdelinge in de vreemdelingbewaring een problematische voorgeschiedenis had, en dus mogelijk als kwetsbare persoon diende te worden beschouwd, behoefde hieraan niet in de weg te staan.

Volgens het medisch dossier is mevrouw ernstig getraumatiseerd ten gevolge van ondergane verkrachting en mishandeling in het land van herkomst.

Bekend was immers dat klaagster in het verleden altijd, zij het onder protest, had meegewerkt aan visitaties bij terugkomst in de inrichting. Een trauma op dit gebied behoefde men dus niet te verwachten. Bovendien had klaagster geen enkele reden gegeven voor haar weigerachtige houding.

Dat er twee mannelijke personeelsleden aanwezig waren is volgens de commissie geen onbehoorlijke procedure, omdat de vrouw daarvoor gewaarschuwd was en er bovendien ‘ op dat moment geen andere, vrouwelijke personeelsleden beschikbaar waren.’ Dat de bilnaad is geschouwd acht de commissie:

een proportionele maatregel gelet op klaagsters weigering om kniebuigingen te maken. Ten aanzien van het aanleggen van een beenklem bij klaagster, geldt het volgende. Voldoende aannemelijk is dat klaagster op dusdanige wijze verzet heeft geboden tegen de visitatie dat het gebruik van vrijheidsbeperkende middelen, zoals een beenklem, gerechtvaardigd was.

Op een enkel punt stelt de commissie de klaagster in het gelijk:

Van het gebruikmaken van dit middel [de beenklem] had een schriftelijk verslag, als bedoeld in artikel 9, eerste lid, van de Geweldsinstructie penitentiaire inrichtingen, moeten worden gedaan. Een dergelijk verslag ontbreekt. Dit onderdeel van het beklag zal daarom op formele gronden alsnog gegrond worden verklaard. Aan klaagster zal een tegemoetkoming worden toegekend van 15 euro.

Enkele weken na deze visitatie, een jaar vóór de uitspraak van de beroepscommissie, had Amnesty over deze mevrouw N. een brief gestuurd. De brief citeert uit haar dossier, opgesteld in een asielzoekerscentrum waar ze eerder had verbleven, waarin haar voorgeschiedenis als ‘kwetsbaar persoon’ werd toegelicht:

… in [land X] samen met haar dochter van negen verkracht door meerdere mannen … zwaar mishandeld, toegetakeld met een mes, meerdere littekens van verwondingen … angstig en onveilig gevoel, bang voor aids of soa, vertrouwt mannen niet meer …

Niemand van het personeel van het vreemdelingendetentiecentrum was van dat trauma op de hoogte. De medische dienst wel. Maar niemand van het personeel kwam op het idee om bij het heftig verzet van mevrouw N. de medische dienst te consulteren.

Verpleegkundigen bezochten mevrouw later op de avond na de visitatie, enkele keren in de isoleercel:

… door het luikje aangesproken, mw. zit naakt heeft joggingpak onaangeraakt naast zich liggen, mw. weigert te antwoorden, staart alleen voor zich uit … mw. hyperventileert erg, ligt naakt op de grond … verkrampt, veel slijm op de kleding en de grond, opgedroogd bloed uit neus … kaak klem en r. arm+been ijskoud en verkrampt … later begon mw. te braken …

Met uitspraak van de beroepscommissie is de klacht van mw N afgehandeld.

Ik schaam mij diep over dit alles. U ook?

(Source / 18.06.2013)