EU parliamentarian urges Palestinian intifada

Irish member of the EU parliament criticised by some after calling for Palestinians to launch a third uprising.

Palestinians threw rocks at Israeli border police in Ramallah, West Bank during the first intifada in 1992
European politician Paul Murphy has come under criticism from his colleagues in the European Parliament after he called for the Palestinians to start an intifada against the Israeli Occupation during a recent TVinterview.

Murphy has been a member of the Parliament since 2011 and is a vocal opponent of the Israeli occupation of Palestine. He joined an aid flotilla to the Gaza strip in 2011 that was intercepted by Israeli security forces.

A socialist MEP from Ireland, Murphy is cynical of the most recent revamp of peace talks and does not believe that Israel is interested in a viable Palestinian state. He has come under fire from his fellow MEPs for his belief that a redeveloped struggle, similar to the first intifada, could link up the Israeli left and working class with the Palestinians to overthrow “the capital establishment of Israel”.

“There are many positive examples from the first intifada of mass protests, strikes and marches and checkpoints that I think would be ideal tactics to redevelop now,” Murphy said. “I think a mass struggle from below, a Palestinian spring, with democratic committees of struggle, is absolutely necessary now in order to fight against poverty, oppression and for a viable Palestinian state.”

His calls come as resumptions of peace talks take place for the first time in three years which aim to achieve a “final status” deal within nine months. Prior to 2010, peace talks had collapsed partially due to Israeli settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which Palestinians want for a state that would include the Gaza Strip and all territories captured by Israel in the six day war in 1967. The international community and international law do not recognise Israel’s annexation of the land.

‘Armed self-defence’

“A lot of the violence happening in Israel and Palestine is perpetrated by the Israeli state, I believe the Palestinians have a right to defend themselves against that aggression,” Murphy told Al Jazeera. “That may involve armed defense against soldiers and I wouldn’t have a problem with that.”

Murphy has been lambasted by several of his colleagues in the European Parliament for his views. UK Conservative Charles Tannock said comments like this would “only result in futile and needless violence” and that it would be a “massive setback” for peace talks.

A lot of the violence happening in Israel and Palestine is perpetrated by the Israeli state, I believe the Palestinians have a right to defend themselves against that aggression

Paul Murphy, Member of the European Parliament

Irish MEP Sean Kelly who expressed his disdain at Murphy’s comments. “In a region already beset with conflict, it is abhorrent to call for violence as a tool to achieve collective goals,” Kelly told Al Jazeera. “The only route to a peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is through dialogue and compromise on both sides.”

Kelly also drew parallels between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the struggle in Northern Ireland suggesting that the two have similar narratives and therefore the same solutions could be implemented in finding peace.

“We have a successful model in the Northern Ireland Peace Process, which makes it all the more abhorrent that Mr Murphy, who as an Irish citizen has benefitted from this process, is now calling for violence elsewhere,” Kelly said.

Murphy responded to his critics by calling for a reevaluation of what they consider an intifada to be.

“The MEPs who have condemned my call for a mass movement along the lines of the first intifada as a call for violence and terror are either deliberately misconstruing my words or are entirely ignorant about the history of the Palestinian struggle,” Murphy said. “Intifada is simply the Arabic word for ‘uprising’, something that is entirely justified and clearly necessary when you look at the ongoing oppression.”

Intifada is an Arabic word which literally means “shaking off”, though it is popularly translated into English as “uprising”, “resistance”, or “rebellion”.

‘Anti-colonial struggles’

According to the Israeli human rights group  B’Tselem during the first intifada which began in December 1987, 1,376 Palestinians and 94 Israelis were killed. Between September 2000 and October 2012, 507 Israelis and 6561 Palestinians have been killed in the region.

UN resolution 3246 from 1974 weighs in its support of an armed Palestinian struggle reaffirming “the legitimacy of the peoples’ struggle for liberation from colonial and foreign domination and alien subjugation by all available means, including armed struggle” and “strongly condemns all governments which do not recognise the right to self-determination and independence of peoples under colonial and foreign domination and alien subjugation, notably the peoples of Africa and the Palestinian people”.

Israel has been criticised for its policies in more than 100 UN resolutions and is on record for being the country that has broken the most UN resolutions since the UN was founded in 1945.

Murphy believes the EU is complicit in the oppression of the Palestinian people, saying “The EU cries a few more crocodile tears than US imperialism, but politically and economically it supports the Israeli elite.”

“Israeli armaments companies, such as Elbit and Israel Aerospace Industries, are recipients of funding from the EU,” he said.

Trade relations have been upgraded between the EU and Israel, effectively integrating Israel into the “single market”. Murphy believes that this is a political statement of support for the Israeli establishment which effectively turns the other cheek to the oppression of Palestinians.

(Source / 07.08.2013)

Yemen’s government says it uncovers al-Qaeda plots

People present their documents before entering the departure lounge at Sanaa International Airport to leave Yemen on August 6, 2013.

Military and intelligence officials in Yemen said Wednesday they uncovered an al-Qaeda plot to fire missiles at foreign embassies in the capital and to attack naval forces guarding international shipping in the Red Sea.

Details of the plot, which was reminiscent of the suicide attack on the USS Cole in 2000 that killed 17 American sailors, emerged as Yemen remains in a heightened state of alert that has seen the U.S. and British embassies evacuated and a new suspected U.S. drone strike that killed seven alleged militants from the terrorist group.

The discovery of the al-Qaeda plot prompted the Defense Ministry to step up security around the strategic Bab el-Mandeb waterway, which connects the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden. Officials banning speedboats or fishing vessels from the area, and military forces have been ordered to shoot to kill anybody who arouses suspicion or refuses to identify themselves.

Defense Minister Minister Gen. Mohammed Nasser Ahmed visited the area Sunday and urged the forces, known as Battalion 117, to stay on high alert for possible suicide attacks, according to officials who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

An estimated 3.5 million barrels of oil passed daily in 2010 through the Bab el-Mandeb strait, increasing the strategic importance of impoverished Yemen, which itself has only a relatively small production of oil and natural gas. Revenue from oil and gas production is declining, worsening Yemen’s ability to provide social services.

The militants from the terrorist group’s Yemeni branch – known as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula – also were said to be plotting to use long-range missiles to target embassies and diplomats’ residences, or try to take foreigners as hostages, the officials said.

Ahmed urged the forces to stay “on alert against any sabotage operations aiming at destabilizing the country,” according to the officials.

Drastic security measures have been instituted across Sanaa, with multiple checkpoints set up, and tanks and other military vehicles guarding vital institutions.

In Sanaa, an AP reporter said a drone buzzed over the capital for hours during the day.

Residents speak of their fears about possible terrorist attacks, although life is going on as normal, with shoppers buying new clothes and food for the four-day Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr.

A Yemeni government spokesman claimed earlier Wednesday that it had foiled a separate plot to target the southern cities of Mukalla and Bawzeer, then send militants disguised as Yemeni troops to attack two nearby strategic oil ports on the Arabian Peninsula, government spokesman Rageh Badi said.

Badi said other al-Qaeda militants would also try to sabotage oil pipelines to “create panic among Yemeni army and Yemeni security services.” Pipelines in the lawless south have been repeatedly attacked by al-Qaeda militants and armed tribesmen who maintain ties with the terrorist group.

Details of the plot were first reported by the BBC.

A Mideast official urged caution about the Yemeni government spokesman’s assertion that the al-Qaeda plan was to take over the Yemeni ports. The official said al-Qaeda has long tried to target the oil industry, and kidnap foreign oil executives, but lacks the troop strength to overrun the oil facilities, which are ringed by Yemeni troops, or the equally well-defended port cities.

The Mideast official said the recent rise in drone strikes – five in 10 days – had been carefully coordinated with U.S. officials together with Yemeni action on the ground in response to the threat from the al-Qaeda branch, which is considered the most active of the terrorist network.

A U.S. intelligence official would only confirm that the U.S. and Yemen coordinate all counterterrorist action. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the counterterrorism campaign publicly.

The description of the al-Qaeda plots came a day after the U.S. and Britain evacuated staff due to a threat that prompted Washington to close temporarily 19 diplomatic posts in the Middle East and Africa. The Yemeni military officials did not link the al-Qaeda plot described Wednesday to the U.S. decision last week to temporarily close its diplomatic posts in the Middle East and Africa.

A U.S. intelligence official and a Mideast diplomat told the AP that the closures were triggered by the interception of a secret message between al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahri and Nasser al-Wahishi, the leader of the Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, about plans for a major attack.

President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi met with military, security and intelligence officials in an emergency session late Tuesday and warned them that al-Qaeda has infiltrated the security service, putting its militants in key positions as well as recruiting agents to work for the terrorist group, according to officials familiar with the discussions at the meeting. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

The president described Yemen’s security situation as “fragile,” the officials said.

Hadi had outlined the al-Qaeda strategies to President Barack Obama during a recent visit to Washington, vowing “to take drastic security measures to clamp down on al-Qaeda and their hideouts to foil their plots,” the officials said.

The terrorist group, however, is believed to have been infiltrated by informants who give the government the location and movements of al-Qaeda elements.

Security officials and residents said the suspected U.S. drone strike killed seven suspected al-Qaeda militants in Shabwa province in southern Yemen, setting two vehicles on fire. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter with the media.

Residents of the Markha region of Shabwa province said they saw several bodies in two burning cars. The residents also spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing retaliation.

While the United States acknowledges its drone program in Yemen, it does not confirm individual strikes or release information on how many have been carried out.

One of the infiltrations of al-Qaeda led to the successful attack in November against Saeed al-Shihri, the group’s No. 2 official in Yemen, after three unsuccessful strikes. The Saudi-born militant was released from the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay after nearly six years and was critically injured in a drone strike and later died of his wounds, the militant group acknowledged.

The al-Qaidi branch in Yemen has been bolstering its operations for the past few years after key Saudi operatives fled there following a major crackdown in their homeland.

The group overran entire towns and villages in 2011, taking advantage of a security lapse during nationwide protests that eventually ousted Yemen’s longtime ruler, Ali Abdullah Saleh. Backed by the U.S. military, Yemen’s army was able to regain control of the southern region, but al-Qaeda militants continue to launch deadly attacks on security forces.

The militants have largely been driven into the mountains and countryside, and Yemeni intelligence officials say the current threat may be retaliation for that offensive.

Yemeni political analyst Maged al-Madhadqi said al-Qaeda was dealt a blow during the offensive last summer but has always been able “to feed on the weakness of the state.”

“The group has managed to preserve a solid organization and to recruit from the poor and seek hideouts and positions in many of Yemen’s remote areas where the state control doesn’t exist,” he said.

Al-Madhadqi said drones have been buzzing overhead in Sanaa for three days.

“Drones are flying over the president’s house. Never happened before,” he said, adding that it was “infuriating people.”

“All the talk about uncovering a plot appears to be unconvincing, given the lack of trust between people and security agencies. They didn’t tell us what the plot was about exactly, who are those involved and what are the details. They just gave us a headline and left us wondering,” he said.

“The extreme measures taken by the United States point to some grave threat. So far, we have not learned anything about it.”

Tribal leader Mohammed Nasser al-Agr of the southern city of Shabwa, where gas pipelines were said to be targeted by al-Qaeda, said that the U.S. drones have “significantly affected al-Qaeda influence and role.”

“The strikes were decisive and painful. … They were successful. … They were like the straw that broke the donkey’s back.”

(Source / 07.08.2013)

NY Times “correction” on Israeli settlements gets the facts wrong

The New York Times today issued this correction to its 4 August article “Israeli Decree on West Bank Settlements Will Harm Peace Talks, Palestinians Say” by Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren:

An earlier version of this article misstated the United States’ view of the West Bank settlements seized by Israel in the 1967 war. While much of the rest of the world considers them illegal, for several decades the United States has not taken a position on the settlements’ legality; In a statement on Tuesday, the State Department said, “We do not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity.”

But the “correction” is wrong. Even if the United States does not now dare to say that Israeli settlements are illegal, it has done so clearly in the past, including in binding UN resolutions.

UN Security Council Resolution 465 of 1980, for instance, states:

all measures taken by Israel to change the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure or status of the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem, or any part thereof, have no legal validity and that Israel’s policy and practices of settling parts of its population and new immigrants in those territories constitute a flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War and also constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East.

As the official voting record for that resolution indicates, it passed through the Security Council unanimously, which means the United States voted for a binding resolution declaring the settlements to be illegal.

The finding in this resolution has been reiterated repeatedly by the Security Council, and it has never been rescinded, and it is consistent with a 1979 State Department legal opinion that the settlements are illegal.

Statements by US officials on illegality of settlements

At the time, the US clearly considered the settlements to be illegal.

  • As President Jimmy Carter said in a 13 June 1980 press conference, “We consider these settlements to be contrary to the Geneva Convention, that occupied territories should not be changed by the establishment of permanent settlements by the occupying power …” (Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Jimmy Carter, 1980 (Government Printing Office, 1982), p. 1114, cited in US Official Statements, (Institute for Palestine Studies, 1992 ISBN 0-88728-244-X)).
  • Carter had stated his position previously, as president, for example, on 12 April 1980: “Our position on the settlements is very clear. We do not think they are legal, and they are obviously an impediment to peace. The Israeli Government, however, feels that they have a right to those settlements …” (Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Jimmy Carter, 1980, p.680).
  • US Secretary of State James Baker stated at a 20 July 1991 press conference in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, that “The settlement activity is something that the United States has opposed for a long time. Our particular opposition today to settlement activity is that it constitutes an obstacle to peace. In the past, the position of the United States has been that it was, in fact, illegal” (Foreign Policy Bulletin, vol.2, no.2, Sep/Oct 1991, pp.61-62, cited in US Official Statements).

After this, the Clinton administration and all its successors began to use watered down language, calling the settlements such things as “unhelpful,” or “obstacles to peace.”

The Obama administration introduced the tricky phrase – quoted in the “correction” – that the US “does not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity.” The statement makes a nod toward international law, but the insertion of the word “continued” is a clever way for Obama to say that, like his predecessors, he accepts all the existing settlements. It’s just the new ones he doesn’t like.

What is The New York Times trying to say?

A plain reading of the “correction” is that it is an effort to mislead readers into thinking the United States has never considered Israeli settlements to be illegal. This is obviously untrue.

If the Times wanted to inform readers, instead of serving as a propaganda platform for whitewashing Israeli policies, it could have said something like this: “The United States has in the past stated that Israeli settlements are illegal, and has voted for UN Security Council resolutions affirming this position. In recent years, the United States has, however, refused to re-state its position publicly, opting instead for formulas less likely to put it into conflict with Israel and its US-based lobby.”

That would be true.

(Source  / 07.08.2013)

Tunisia ruling party official labels parliament freeze a ‘coup’

An anti-government protester wears a Guy Fawkes mask as another shouts slogans during a demonstration in Tunis August 6, 2013.

The suspension of Tunisia’s embattled Constituent Assembly on Tuesday has been labeled an “unacceptable coup” by the body’s leader, Mustafa Ben Jaafar, said an Assembly member from the country’s ruling Islamist party.

“What Ben Jaafar did is part of an internal coup. It is an unacceptable coup,” Nejib Mrad of the Islamist party Ennahda told local television station Al Mutawassit, according to Reuters news agency.

The opposition also wants to dissolve the Constituent Assembly.

Jaafar announced the parliament freeze on Tuesday, amid mass protests calling for the Tunisian government’s ouster.

“I assume my responsibility as president of the ANC (assembly) and suspend its work until the start of a dialogue, in the service of Tunisia,” he said on state television.

“I call on everybody to take part in dialogue,” said Ben Jaafar, whose Ettakatol party has not resigned from the cabinet but called for a new government team to be formed.

The Ettakatol party is part of the coalition of the ruling moderate Islamic movement Ennahda, which the secular opposition wants to oust from power.

Some 40,000 opposition protesters massed outside the constituent assembly building on Tuesday night to demand the resignation of the governing coalition led by the, AFP news agency reported, citing police sources.

(Source / 07.08.2013)

CIA official: Syria war biggest threat to US security

The war in Syria poses the greatest threat to US security because of the risk of the government falling and the country becoming a weapons-rich haven for Al-Qaeda, a CIA official says.

CIA second-in-command Michael Morell gave the assessment in an interview published Tuesday by the Wall Street Journal as he prepares to retire after 33 years with the agency.

Morell said there are now more foreign fighters flowing into Syria each month to take up arms with Al Qaeda-affiliated groups than there were going to Iraq to fight with Al-Qaeda at the height of the war there.

The Syrian government’s weapons “are going to be up for grabs and up for sale” as they were in Libya when Moamer Kadhafi fell, he added.

“It’s probably the most important issue in the world today,” he said of the war in Syria, “because of where it is currently heading” — toward the fall of the government of President Bashar al-Assad, according to Morell.

Morell also said the violence in Syria has the potential to spill across borders into Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.

Morell told the Journal that second on his list was Iran, followed by the global Al-Qaeda threat, North Korea, and cyberwarfare.

On Al-Qaeda, he said the United States had “significantly degraded” the group’s capabilities in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

But the terror network has also scored victories, such as its dispersal, which he said has spread its ideology and global reach.

Morell will be replaced by Avril Haines, a 43 year old White House lawyer.

(Source / 07.08.2013)

Confidence-Building Measures Needed For Israel-Palestine Talks

Palestinians hold placards during a protest calling for the release of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails after Friday prayers in Jerusalem’s Old City, April 19, 2013.
Whenever peace talks are considered there are two elements that need to be attended to: the actual negotiations and the public at large. The negotiations themselves require agreement on the parties to the talks, the framework on which the talks are based, the duration of the talks and the various procedures that govern the negotiating process.
A parallel, and some would argue as more important, is the role of the general public. Negotiations are a peaceful means of resolving a violent conflict. Rejection by the public of a negotiating procedure or the eventual results can — and have often — ended up in a major spike in violence. Whenever cease-fire agreements fail, it is usually due to a lack of faith by the respective parties that the political elements attached to the cease-fire are acceptable and sustainable.

In the Palestinian-Israeli context there is a tremendous role in how the public reacts to the procedure of the talks, and eventually whether the public signs on and approves the results of the talks or not. Some would argue that negotiations over the final status of the occupied territories that were launched in the White House in 1993 failed because of the refusal of Palestinian and Israeli rejectionists. Islamic Hamas supporters launched suicide attacks, Israeli Jewish settlers killed 29 worshipers in Hebron and assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin as well as caused havoc in the occupied territories.

Politicians and peace envoys have differed as to the importance and effectiveness of what is often referred to as confidence-building measures (CBMs). Some argue that CBMs are important to bring around a reluctant population that is skeptical of peace talks. Others argue that CBMs are mere decor and are superficial acts that the public can easily see through — and in fact some argue that it frustrates people because it is seen as a replacement of genuine progress toward ending the conflict.

Israeli CBMs toward Palestinians are often in the form of releasing prisoners, removing checkpoints, easing travel restrictions or widening the areas in occupied territories in which Palestinians can build. Palestinian CBMs are often rhetorical in nature: changes in school textbooks or what is shown on national television.

Over the years, these CBMs have often backfired. Peace sponsors and Palestinians have reported that CBMs are carried out to cover settlement activities. Or when prisoners are released, they are often individuals who have a few days or weeks left of their prison term, and therefore are not worthy of the term “peace gesture.” Released prisoners have also often been rearrested, sometimes under administrative detention orders, which require no specific charge or trial by the Israeli military. Palestinian textbooks and TV coverage has been reviewed so many times that it is difficult to see what more Palestinians can do to make Israelis believe that the Palestinian people want peace even though they are still suffering under occupation.

Gestures are expected to be voluntary acts of goodwill toward the other. However, in the Palestinian-Israeli context, it has become a high-prized negotiating instrument. Whenever one side believes a particular issue is of importance to their adversaries, the negotiating value often becomes exaggerated.

In recent months, it became clear, for example, that President Mahmoud Abbas’ main preoccupation was to secure the release of former Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) fighters who carried out acts under his organization’s commands, but have remained in jail while he and other PLO officials were allowed to return to Palestine. Knowing this, the Israelis raised the cost and basically blackmailed Palestinians into agreeing to go into a long and protracted peace process, despite the issues to be negotiated on having been hashed out so many times before.

The peace talks lasting nine months were forced on the PLO in return for the release in stages — to ensure the continuation of the peace talks — of the pre-Oslo prisoners. Palestinians are convinced that even in nine months no dramatic change will take place except for the delay of all nonviolent Palestinian efforts to pressure Israel in international circles. This has become the price that Abbas has been forced to pay to secure the release of 104 of his comrades.

While releasing these prisoners will be a nice — though 19 years late — present to these prisoners, their families and Abbas’ political future, real CBMs do exist, in case anyone is interested.

Topping the list would be genuine relief on the freedom of movement between Gaza and the West Bank, as well as within the West Bank and between Palestinian areas and the rest of the world. In the road map agreement back in 2002, Israel was committed to returning to the pre-October 2000 positions. This meant that Palestinian police would be stationed on the King Hussein (Allenby) Bridge, most existing checkpoints (including Kalandia) would be dismantled and a free passageway between Gaza and the West Bank would be ensured to Palestinian goods and people. The Israeli human rights organization focused on freedom of movement, Gisha, issued a detailed report showing the impact that Israeli restrictions on Gaza is causing the people of the Strip.

Many measures and acts can be made by both parties as well as third parties, to help convince a skeptical public of the genuine desire of political leaders in peace. Using these gestures as bargaining chips for a quid pro quo is yet another proof that those making such demands are not interested in peace.

(Source / 07.08.2013)

Saudi Arabia Offers Russia Deal For Backing Off Assad Support

saudi arabia russia assad

AMMAN/DOHA, Aug 7 (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia has offered Russia economic incentives including a major arms deal and a pledge not to challenge Russian gas sales if Moscow scales back support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Middle East sources and Western diplomats said on Wednesday.
The proposed deal between two of the leading power brokers in Syria’s devastating civil war was set out by Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan at a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow last week, they said.

Russia has supported Assad with arms and diplomatic cover throughout the war and any change in Moscow’s stance would remove a major obstacle to action on Syria by the United Nations Security Council.

Syrian opposition sources close to Saudi Arabia said Prince Bandar offered to buy up to $15 billion of Russian weapons as well as ensuring that Gulf gas would not threaten Russia’s position as a main gas supplier to Europe.

In return, Saudi Arabia wanted Moscow to ease its strong support of Assad and agree not to block any future Security Council Resolution on Syria, they said.

A Gulf source familiar with the matter confirmed that Prince Bandar offered to buy large quantities of arms from Russia, but that no cash amount was specified in the talks.

One Lebanese politician close to Saudi Arabia said the meeting between Bandar and Putin lasted four hours. “The Saudis were elated about the outcome of the meeting,” said the source, without elaborating.

Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, could not immediately be reached on Wednesday for comment about the meeting. A Saudi Foreign Ministry official was also not immediately available to respond.

Putin’s initial response to Bandar’s offer was inconclusive, diplomats say. One Western diplomat in the Middle East said the Russian leader was unlikely to trade Moscow’s recent high profile in the region for an arms deal, however substantial.

He said Russian officials also appeared sceptical that Saudi Arabia had a clear plan for stability in Syria if Assad fell.

CHEMICAL WEAPONS

However, in a possible sign of greater flexibility by Moscow, other diplomats said that in the run-up to the meeting Russia put pressure on Assad to allow in a U.N. mission to investigate the suspected use of chemical weapons.

The U.N. team is expected to visit Syria next week.

“This was one of those unannounced meetings that could prove much more important than the public diplomatic efforts being made on Syria,” one diplomat said.

A senior Syrian opposition figure said there had been a “build-up of Russian-Saudi contacts prior to the meeting”.

“Bandar sought to allay two main Russian fears: that Islamist extremists will replace Assad, and that Syria would become a conduit for Gulf, mainly Qatari, gas at the expense of Russia,” he said. “Bandar offered to intensify energy, military and economic cooperation with Moscow.”

Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Muslim powers have been strong supporters of the mainly Sunni rebels battling Assad, from Syria’s minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam. The rebels have been joined by foreign Sunni jihadis.

Assad has enjoyed military support from Iran and fighters from Hezbollah and Iraqi Shi’ites.

Russia has maintained military sales to Syria throughout the two year conflict in which 100,000 people have been killed, and helped block three U.N. draft resolutions criticising Assad’s crackdown on the mainly peaceful protests against him in 2011.

The Security Council has been considering a possible resolution on aid for Syria for several months and a shift in position by Moscow could alleviate this.

Ruslan Pukhov, director of the Moscow-based defence think tank CAST, said he had no direct knowledge of the offer, but he would not be surprised if a contract to supply Saudi Arabia with 150 Russian T-90 tanks were revived.

“There was an order of T-90s that was stopped for mysterious reasons, and if this is a resurrection of that order then we could suspect that the Saudis want something in return and that something could be linked to Syria,” said Pukhov, who is close to Russia’s Defence Ministry.

“If the Saudis want Moscow to outright drop Assad, they will refuse the deal, but they may have a more nuanced position, which they could possibly agree to.”

Russia and Saudi Arabia penned an arms contract in 2008 for 150 T-90s as well as more than 100 Mi-17 and Mi-35 attack helicopters as well as BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles, but the contract has stalled for years.

Russian newspaper Kommersant reported at the time that the contract was concluded to persuade Moscow to curtail its ties with Iran, though the Kremlin denied that report.

(Source / 07.08.2013)

Palestinian political prisoner savagely beaten by Israeli soldiers as he enters his 99th day of hunger strike

Ramallah, 7 August 2013 – Addameer Prisoner Support & Human Rights Association lawyer Fares Ziad recently visited three of the twelve Palestinian political prisoners currently on hunger strike in Israeli jails. Ziad confirmed that the health of all three continue to rapidly deteriorate, with one hunger striker savagely beaten by five Israeli soldiers. All three have been on hunger strike for 99 days.

On August 4th, 5th and 6th Ziad visited Mohammad Rimawi in Suroka Hospital in Beer Sheva and confirmed that Rimawi stopped taking vitamins, water and minerals on 4 August. Rimawi is suffering from severe problems in liver and kidney function, general weakness, fatigue and dizziness and is unable to walk without assistance.

On 5 August Mohammad was informed that he would be moved to another section within the hospital. Upon enquiring about the reasons for the proposed move Rimawi had his hands and legs shackled and was then thrown on the ground and savagely beaten by five Israeli soldiers who were guarding him. Ziad confirmed that that the bruises on Rimawi are still clearly visible.

Following the attack Mohammad was moved to another section within the prison and shackled to the bed. He was then visited by an Israeli officer who threatened to force feed him if he continues his strike, while also threatening to move him to isolation in Ramon prison without providing any medical treatment until he dies in his cell. When Rimawi told the officer about the recent attack he was told he didn’t care and that they can treat him with violence and force due to the lack of international attention on his case, particularly from Jordan.

Rimawi subsequently told the head of hospital department where he being held in about the threats he had received from the Israeli officer. The hospital official, who is also a doctor, told Rimawi that as long as he is conscious nobody can force feed him but once he loses consciousness doctors can do whatever it takes to keep him alive, even without Rimawi’s permission.

Mr. Fares also visited Abdullah Barghouthi who is currently being held in Affoulah hospital. He remains in critical condition, and suffers from a number of ailments including problems with his liver, low blood pressure and constant migraines. He is also unable to walk without assistance and is taking only water, salt and mineral supplements. Currently Barghouthi is shackled to a bed by his right hand and his left foot and is guarded by three Israeli soldiers. Like his fellow hunger strike Barghouti has been threatened with force feeding should he fall into a coma.

Fellow hunger striker Ala’ Hammad is also being held in Suroka Hospital in Beer Sheva and was until recently being held in the same room as Mohammad Rimawi. Hammad remains in critical condition. On 5 August Hammad fainted and remained unconscious for five hours, without the guards calling a doctor. After finally receiving treatment Hammad regained consciousness.

All three hunger strikers hold Jordanian citizenship and are demanding to be released from Israeli prisons to serve the remainder of their sentences in Jordan in line with previous agreements between Israel and Jordan. Addameer again calls on the international community to immediately intervene to save the lives of all hunger strikers and pressure Israel to abide by its legal obligations. Addameer condemns the treatment to which hunger strikers are subjected to, particularly the physical abuse and the threats of force feeding which according to the World Medical Association’s Declaration on Malta states ‘is never ethically acceptable’.

(Source / 07.08.2013)

The @PFLP_ps leader warns “Palestinian leadership marching towards “Oslo 2″

 

Fight Back News Service is circulating the following statement from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)

Israel blocks PFLP leader from travelling to Cairo for unity annoucement The Palestinian leadership is marching toward a serious disaster and concessions on Palestinian national constants, and we fear that it is heading toward “Oslo 2,” said Comrade Jamil Mizher,member of the Central Committee of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. In an interview, he said that “the return to negotiations on US/Israeli terms represents a lifeline to the occupation and the Obama administration, looking for achievements at the expense of our rights, in order to preserve its strategy and vision in the region and preserve the security of the occupation state.” Mizher noted that the US and Israel are taking advantage of the current situation in the Arab countries.

“The Palestinian leadership has slipped to a dangerous point, discussing annexation of settlement blocs and outposts in the West Bank and Jerusalem, which limits any state to a group of enclaves and cantons,” said Mizher. “This includes discussion of exchange of territory, conceding the right of return, and threatens Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.” There is talk of a ‘sovereign state’ in exchange, said Mizher, and therefore we are confronting serious concessions of Palestinian national and human rights.

Mizher called for popular actions in Jerusalem, Gaza, the West Bank, Occupied Palestine ’48 and everywhere in diaspora in order to force the Palestinian negotiators to undo this step and end the negotiations. The negotiation policy is one that has taken place over a long period of time, said Mizher, and not only has it achieved nothing, it has in fact caused great damage to the Palestinian cause.

Mizher said that the release of a limited number of prisoners cannot be exchanged for concessions on Palestinian rights. These heroic prisoners fought for self-determination, liberation and return, he said, and will not accept that their freedom comes in exchange for concessions of their rights; he called upon national and Islamic forces to use all means to release prisoners.

(Source / 07.08.2013)

HAPPY EID?

By Jafar M Ramini            Jafar Ramini

I doubt it.  How could it be a happy Eid when we, Arabs and Moslems, cannot even agree on the sighting of the crescent moon at the beginning or at the end of Ramadan?  A sorry state of affairs indeed.

I stopped celebrating any Eid in June 1967 when Israel defeated the inept and ill-prepared Arab armies, mainly from Egypt, Jordan and Syria and usurped the remainder of the historical land of Palestine, plus a large chunk of the Sinai Desert and the Golan Heights.
A bit extreme?  Maybe but my pride, as an Arab and a Moslem, and my deep sense of loss forbids me from even contemplating a celebratory mood when all appears to be lost.
No, Eid is a day like any other in the Ramini household in London with me trawling the internet; reading, researching and looking for that glimmer of hope that says ‘all is well in Palestine’ and the world has come to its senses.

Alas, all is not well in Palestine. In fact things are going downhill rapidly. More divisions in the ranks, more oppression by the Israeli occupation forces, more brutality by the illegal squatters on the Palestinians, more tightening of the noose around Gaza, more land grabs, more illegal settlements, more mowing down of trees, more burning of meadows, more house demolitions, more desecration of Holy places and the list of woes goes on and on and on.

The Arab/Muslim world is in turmoil. The blood shedding continues apace, even though it is the holy month of Ramadan. The intrigues and the cowardly treachery of most Arab leaders are there for everyone to see.

All of this while the so-called civilized world looks the other way. Sorry, I tell a lie. All of this while the so-called civilized world is hypnotized by the conjuring tricks of the Zionist occupiers of our land and the hapless blundering of Mr. John Kerry. ‘PEACE PROCESS? ‘. No peace in sight, just a process.
In the words of the late John F. Kennedy

How very right you were Mr. President.   JFK pic and quote
For the Zionist occupiers of our land fair and open negotiation is not in their game plan. What they have in mind and have planned for decades is expansion, intimidation and war by all means available. This is a taste of what they have in mind, not only for Palestine but the entire Middle East.

“Greater Israel”: The Zionist Plan for the Middle East

The Oded Yinon Plan

 The following document pertaining to the formation of “Greater Israel” constitutes the cornerstone of powerful Zionist factions within the current Netanyahu government, the Likud party, as well as within the Israeli military and intelligence establishment.
According to the founding father of Zionism Theodore Herzl, “the area of the Jewish State stretches: “From the Brook of Egypt to the Euphrates.”  According to Rabbi Fischmann,  “The Promised Land extends from the River of Egypt up to the Euphrates, it includes parts of Syria and Lebanon.”
When viewed in the current context, the war on Iraq, the 2006 war on Lebanon, the 2011 war on Libya, the ongoing war on Syria, not to mention the process of regime change in Egypt, must be understood in relation to the Zionist Plan for the Middle East. The latter consists in weakening and eventually fracturing neighboring Arab states as part of an Israeli expansionist project.
If you wish to read the entire document here is the link:
Israel, by hook or by crook, always gets what Israel wants. The PA were frog-marched to Washington and Mr. Kerry has not wasted any time in showing American bias and his affinity to the Zionist masters.
Here is the latest report on this shameful farce from Al Tahir.
Israel expects to retain about 85 per cent of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories at the end of the negotiations, Yedioth Ahronoth said on Thursday.
Citing sources in the US Congress, the newspaper estimated that Israel would keep control over all of the major settlement blocs. Immediately after Israel’s Tzipi Livni and Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat left Washington, it is claimed, Secretary of State John Kerry phoned some of his friends in Congress, most of whom are pro-Israel, to feed back on the talks.
It is said that the two sides not only discussed arrangements and measures regarding the negotiations, but they also discussed the expected land swap to ensure that the settlements will come under formal Israeli sovereignty. Kerry assured his friends that Israel’s interests would be protected.
One congressman, described by the Israeli newspaper as a major friend of Israel, asked Kerry if the Palestinians would recognise Israel as a Jewish state. “One of my major goals is to establish a Jewish country for Jews,” Kerry is alleged to have replied.”
The Americans are occupied in their present and hostages to their past. The total domination of the Zionist forces, be they Jewish or Christian in America and the shameful treatment of the early Americans towards the native Americans and the imported African slaves plays a great part in their bias and affinity towards Israel.
As Thomas Jefferson said, ‘when injustice becomes law rebellion becomes a duty.’
People of Arabia, my compatriots, the time to face this mortal challenge to us all is now. Please unite, please resist, and please find your way back to the fold.