Refugee children die in Jordan fire

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Riot police clash with protesters near the Israeli embassy in Amman,  March 14, 2014

AMMAN: A fire caused by a candle tore through a Syrian refugee caravan in a town north of Jordan, killing two children, a civil defense department official said on Sunday.

“The two Syrian brothers, aged two and five, died late last night after their caravan caught fire in Zaatari town in the Mafraq governorate,” he told AFP.

“The fire swept through the caravan. The children died after sustaining fourth-degree burns,” the official said, adding that “a candle sparked the fire.”

The town hosts the 7-sq-km Zaatari Syria refugee camp, home to around 100,000 people.

The official said the incident took place outside the camp.

In December, two Syrian children and their father died when a gas cylinder exploded in their tent at Zaatari.

Since the opening of the camp in July 2012 there have repeatedly been demonstrations held by the camp population. The main concern relates to the lack of sufficient food supplies and better accommodation.

The camp has seen an increasing number of reports of crime, including prostitution and drug-dealing.

(Source / 16.03.2014)

Palestinian political prisoners continue to face health crises within the occupation prisons

abusisiThe Palestine Prisoners Center for Studies reported on the cases of Ayman alKhader Alaya, from Jenin, and Dirar Abu Sisi, of Gaza, after the ongoing deterioration of their health.

Abu Sisi has remained in an isolation ward in Eshel prison with only three other prisoners despite repeated promises from occupation authorities to remove him from isolation, in which he has been held since he was kidnapped from Ukraine by Israeli forces in 2010, until his recent transfer to Soroka hospital for two days. He is suffering from heart problems, gallbaldder, kidney and stomach disease, and has vision problems in his left eye.

He was diagnosed with a serious gastrointestinal infection, and that antibiotics did not teat the infection. He is taking 11 pills daily, yet despite no notable improvement in his condition, was returned to the isolation section in Eshel. Alaya is also held in the isolation section of Eshel and suffering from a serious infection in his foot and elsewhere in his body. He is serving a 16 year sentence and has been imprisoned since 2003.

thaerhalahlehThaer Halahleh, who suffers from Hepatitis C, contracted during a prison dental operation, also called for solidarity to save the sick prisoners, reported his lawyer Moataz Shukeirat.

Halahleh not receiving proper treatment for hepatitis, reported Shukeirat; he is also experiencing severe stomach pain and lost consciousness for two hours recently. Halahleh is a former long-term hunger striker who secured his release from administrative detention through a lengthy hunger strike in 2012, only to be re-arrested by the occupation in April 2013.

He called for human rights organizations to follow up on the health conditions of the Palestinian political prisoners, noting that they face significant neglect in treatment and delay in the diagnosis of disease. Halahleh particularly highlighted the cases of Moatassem Raddad, Khaled Shawish, Mansour Moqtada, Murad abu Maliq and Yousry al-Masri, facing severe health crises.

Shukeirat also raised the case of Munif Mohammed Abu Atwan, who has lost 70% of his vision. He is held in Ramon prison and serving five life sentences. Abu Atwan has requested to have an outside physician enter the prison, but his request has been denied, and he is not receiving treatment despite needing surgical intervention for his vision loss.

The Center said these cases demonstrate a policy of deliberate disregard for the lives of sick prisoners by the occupation authorities, subjecting them a slow death in prison. The number of seriously ill Palestinian political prisoners continues to increase due to this policy, reported the Center.

(Source / 16.03.2014)

Libya: A tale of two regions and a ship

Intense competition between Libya’s regions is a crucial factor in shaping the country’s post-revolution politics.

 

The oil tanker affair cost Prime Minister Ali Zeidan his job, writes El-Kikhia
The oil tanker affair was a great embarrassment to the Libyan government and it ultimately cost Ali Zeidan his job as prime minister despite the fact that he was powerless to do anything about it.

The post-revolution interim government was neither experienced in governance nor in setting up political institutions. Fearing that a government with a strong executive leadership might turn dictatorial, those who set up the current government vested almost all powers in the General National Congress (GNC) and very little in the executive – or in this case, Zeidan’s government.

To make matters worse, the GNC has not done much to stem the rising tide of Islamist groups in Libya because it is disproportionately influenced by a coalition of Islamist parties that emerged following the 2011 revolution.

Herein lies the dilemma and the essence of the chaos engulfing Libya. The government has neither the power nor an instrument of coercion to ensure law and order. Even the military was set up to take orders from the head of Parliament, rather than the prime minister or the minister of defense.

The Islamists in Parliament detest Zeidan because they view him as a secularist. Towards that end, they have made it extremely difficult for him to do his job and they have been an obstacle in approving all of his policies. Ideological competition is normal and healthy, yet unlike the Libyan milieu, checks and balances as well as separation of powers hem in political institutions in democratic systems.

GNC in control

In Libya, the GNC holds all the strings. To make matters worse, large factions maintain militias. The Islamic faction supports The Room of Thuwar Libya, which arrested Zeidan a few months ago. The secularist National Forces Alliance have the Qaqaa and Sawaiq brigades, which threatened to remove the GNC when the NFA demanded the resignation of the GNC. Misurata’s militia has filled the vacuum left by the effete Libyan military. When the military refused to follow Zeidan’s orders, he turned to the Misurata militia, which obliged but got paid.

A case in point was the removal of Muammar Gaddafi supporters from a southern base. The military refused to comply with the prime minister’s orders and the GNC did not back him up. Zeidan turned to the Misurata militia, which did the job.

A more recent example involved the North Korean registered oil tanker that illegally entered Libyan waters and acquired an illegal shipment of Libyan oil. The prime minister ordered the Air Force to sink the tanker. When his orders were ignored, he instructed the navy to intercept it. That order was also ignored, forcing him to call upon the Misuratans to come to his aid. They tried but did not succeed as they did not have the necessary equipment to prevent the tanker from outpacing them.

After 12 weeks of debates, the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies in the GNC have finally managed to garner enough votes to remove the prime minister – albeit, the vote was mired in controversy and accusations of illegality and fraud.

The final part of the puzzle can be found in the eastern province of Cyrenaica where most of Libya’s oil and water can be  found. It is the cradle of the revolution and the most neglected part of the country.

Tribes but not tribal?

The Libyan revolution is still unfolding and it will – undoubtedly –  take time before a comprehensible image reflecting the new realities in the country comes into focus. Explaining Libya’s turmoil in tribal terms is,  for all intents and purposes, barking up the wrong tree. Libya has tribes but it is not a tribal society.

The country is overwhelmingly urban and while tribal identification has emerged in response to the state of insecurity, it is not a pivotal factor.

The most recent approach to explain the instability is now tied to the militias and their influence in the disruption of Libyan society and the fall of the current prime minister. However, neither of these explanations tells the full story because the sources of Libya’s current problems are structural. These problems will not disappear until the structure is either revamped or replaced by an entirely new one.

The country’s multi-faceted and multi-layered structural issues are best exemplified by the massive incongruence between social structures in the East and the West regions.

Intense competition

The power struggle in western and southern Libya is not based on tribes. It’s rooted in competition and jockeying for power between regions such a Misurata vs Zintan, or Warshfana vs Zawya, Bani Walid vs Misurata, Jabal al-Garbi vs Geryan, or Tabu vs Awlad Sliman.

Misurata has many tribes, as does Zintan and Bani Walid. Power struggle among these regions has been the major problem for the ruling authorities. The most serious issue is not the competition between the regions but the hostility and intensity of the competition. It is such that actors can annihilate one another without pausing to think about the consequences of their actions or the resulting human tragedy.

Such rivalry finds roots in the past  during independence period in 1947-1950. The same regional competition almost prevented the country from gaining its independence and was only avoided when Cyrenaica, the eastern coastal region of Libya, gave the western provinces an ultimatum to put an end to that senseless rivalry and instability, and fall under the leadership of the Sanusi family.

The alternative was the splitting of Cyrenaica into an independent state. Indeed Cyrenaica did declare itself an independent Kingdom in 1949 but soon metamorphosed into the Kingdom of Libya when the West and South fell in line and ended their conflict.

Ideological struggle

Cyrenaica has more tribes than the western region but tribalism plays a miniscule role in politics. Unlike the west, where the conflict is the result of regional competition, conflict in the eastern provinces is the result of an ideological struggle. It is a struggle between middle-of-the-road progressives and Islamist goups. The Sufist Sanusiya religious movement upholds a centrist view of Islam and, as a result, protected Libya for many years from radicalism that came to it from the East.

Unfortunately, Colonel Gaddafi, in his ceaseless attempt to demonise the Sanusiya movement, opened the floodgates to radical organisations that planted themselves in Libya for the past quarter of a century. His attempt to eradicate Islamist groups militarily was a complete failure and merely drove them underground. They have now emerged to pose a serious threat not only to Libya but also to all North Africa region.

The final part of the puzzle can be found in the eastern province of Cyrenaica where most of Libya’s oil and water can be found. It is the cradle of the revolution and the most neglected part of the country. Cyrenaicans are fiercely independent and want a larger share of autonomy, freedom, and access to their resources.

The deadlock in the GNC and the inability of the government to provide relief from four decades of Gaddafi-imposed poverty as well as the state of insecurity pushed its inhabitants to the edge.

In a recent incident, Ibrahim Jathran, a 33-year-old guard of the main oil ports, shut down oil production. He demanded that gauges be put on the oil pumps at the terminals as well as an accounting of where the oil money has gone since the revolution. A final demand was that a referendum on federalism be conducted in Cyrenaica.

None of his demands were met and as a result he formed a provincial government and sought buyers for Cyrenaica’s oil. Most Cyrenaicans do not support Jathran’s efforts even though they sympathise with his goals and do want more autonomy and a larger share of the wealth.

But in a context of chaos, nothing is certain. Libya will hold elections for a new Parliament in July 2014 and if the election of the constitutional committee of 60 is any indication, the Muslim Brotherhood and their allies are likely to lose all their seats in Parliament. The only certainty though is that people’s patience is running thin as a result of  the deadlock in the GNC, the government’s inability to provide relief from four decades of Gaddafi-imposed poverty as well as the ever deteriorating state of security.

(Source / 16.03.2014)

Bomb kills three in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley

Two of the dead were members of Hezbollah who had approached the vehicle in the town of Nabi Osmane

At least three people were killed and six wounded when a car bomber struck a petrol station in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley near the border with Syria, a security source said.

He said two of the dead were members of Hezbollah who had approached the vehicle in the town of Nabi Osmane, a bastion of the group, which has been the target of attacks over its involvement in Syria’s civil war next door.

Hezbollah-operated Al Manar television broadcast images from the site of the blast showing the twisted metal of a burnt-out car. What appeared to be the structure of the petrol station and an adjacent building were heavily damaged. Civilians, soldiers and emergency response workers were on the scene.

Hezbollah is fighting alongside Syrian government forces against a Sunni Muslim-led insurgency seeking to topple President Bashar al-Assad, whose minority Alawite sect is an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam.

Hezbollah has been subjected to car bombings and rocket fire over the past year in the Bekaa Valley and in the heavily residential areas of south Beirut where it maintains a strong presence and support base.

One person was killed in Nabi Osmane on Saturday after several rockets were fired from the border area near Arsal, a town about 10 km (6 miles) to the southeast which anti-Assad rebels have used regularly to cross into Syria.

(Source / 16.03.2014)

12 Palestinians on hunger strike in Israeli prisons

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — The Palestinian Prisoner’s Society said on Saturday that 12 Palestinians being held in Israeli prisons are currently on hunger strike in protest against “arbitrary and repressive” measures taken by Israeli forces against them.

A report issued by the society said that Akras al-Fseisi, Moammar Banat, and Waheed Abu Maraya, all from Hebron governorate, have been on hunger strike for 66 days, and Amir al-Shams, also from Hebron, has been on strike for 64 days.

The report explained that the prisoners were engaged in a hunger strike against their administrative detention by Israeli forces without any charge.

Administrative detention refers to the tactic of keeping a prisoner without charge or trial for extended periods of time, often due to “security” concerns.

Israel routinely uses this tactic on detained Palestinians, even though international law stipulates it only be used in exceptional circumstances.

The report also said that the Hatem Sabarna, Ahmad Sabarna, and Shaher al-Heeh, also from Hebron governorate, are engaged in solidarity hunger strikes with those prisoners protesting their administrative detentions.

The report said that Kefah Hattab from Tulkarem has been on hunger strike for 42 days in order to demand recognition as a prisoner of war by Israel.

Ayman Atabish, Aref Haribat, Hamad Abu Ras, all from Hebron governorate, have spent 16 days on hunger strike to protest their administrative detentions as well.

The society did not identify the twelfth hunger striker.

According to Israeli human rights groups B’tselem, in Oct. 2013 140 Palestinians were being kept in administrative detention in Israeli prisons, down from a high of nearly 1,000 in 2002.

4,881 Palestinians were being held in Israeli jails as of Jan. 2014, according to Israeli human rights organization B’tselem. Another 1,415 were in Israeli prisons for being inside Israel without permits.

Under international law, it is illegal to transfer prisoners outside of the occupied territory in which they are detained, and the families of Palestinian prisoners’ face many obstacles in obtaining permits to see their imprisoned relatives.

(Source / 16.03.2014)

‎80 Palestinian NGOs urge Abbas to hang on ‘constants‏’‏

Barack Obama participates in a bilateral meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (R) at the Muqata Presidential Compound in Ramallah March 21, 2013 (Reuters / Jason Reed)Barack Obama participates in a bilateral meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (R) at the Muqata Presidential Compound in Ramallah March 21, 2013

Gaza, ALRAY – 80 Palestinian non-government organizations (NGOs) called on President Mahmoud Abbas, scheduled to meet his U.S. counterpart on Monday, to reject any agreement that detracts from the Palestinian people’ right to self-determination.

The signatories under the umbrella of Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network (PNGO) demanded in a petition Abbas “not to bend to U.S. pressure and to hang on the rights of Palestinian people who, along with all who believe in the justice of Palestine Cause, struggled and continue to struggle for them,”

Abbas is scheduled to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama tomorrow, Monday, amid continued U.S. efforts aimed to mount pressure on the Palestinian leadership to agree to the so-called framework peace plan put forward by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

The petition said the meeting between the two leaders comes at a time where Israel insists that a future Palestinian state must recognize Israel as a Jewish state and continues building colonial settler units in occupied West Bank and particularly East Jerusalem and besieging the Gaza Strip.

The petition stressed the need that the president and all Palestinian groups and factions move to a national strategy based on unity. That could enable the restructuring national institutions to ensure pan-Palestinian participation reflective of the national Palestinian identity of Palestinian political spectra, and could help seek an international recognition of the right of the Palestinians to establish an independent state.

Fatah-dominated Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) has been officially negotiating with the Israeli occupation since 1993 without achieving tangible gain.

After a three-year pose triggered by Palestinian Authority’s rejection of Israel’s settlement building in the West Bank, conditioned U.S.-backed negotiations resumed in July 2013 and were scheduled to last up to nine months to reach a final status to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict by mid-2014.

Some of signitories to the petition:

Palestinian Medical Relief Society-PMRS

Arab Center for Agricultural Development-ACAD

Addameer Foundation for Human Rights

Union of Health Work Committees-UHWC

The Agricultural Development Association-PARC

Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR)

Al Mezan Center for Human Rights

The Palestinian Association For Rehabilitation Of Disabled

Democracy and Workers’ Rights Center

Culture and Free Thought Association (CFTA)

Union of Health Care Committees

The Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS)

The Central Blood Bank Society (CBBS)

Center for Women’s Affairs

Association Najdeh (AN)

Gaza Women Graduates Association

Gaza Community Mental Health Programme (GCMHP)

MAAN Development Center

Al Wafa Charity Society

Eastern Association for Aggriculture and Development

The Palestinian Institute for the Study of Democracy

Youth Development Association

The Union of Palestinian Women Committees Society

Palestinian Association For Development & Reconstruction ( Padr )

Young Entrepreneurs Palestine Association

 Assembly of the Federation of Churches

(Source / 16.03.2014)

Photostory: Israeli bulldozer driver murders American peace activist

16 March 2003

An ISM volunteer holds up Rachel Corrie’s US passport as another peace activist sits in shock, Al-Najjar Hospital, Rafah, Occupied Gaza. Rachel was killed by an Israeli bulldozer driver while protesting the demolition of a Palestinian home. (Mohammad Al-Moghair)

On 16 March 2003 in Rafah, occupied Gaza, 23-year-old American peace activist Rachel Corrie from Olympia, Washington, was murdered by an Israeli bulldozer driver. Rachel was in Gaza opposing the bulldozing of a Palestinian home as a volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement.

Rachel and seven other ISM activists were in the Hi Es Salam area of Rafah, Gaza, trying to prevent the razing of Palestinian land and property. Present were two Israeli occupation army bulldozers and a tank. For a period of two hours, the activists played ‘cat and mouse’, attempting to prevent the illegal demolitions by physically blocking the passage of the two bulldozers.

 

Rachel Corrie (ISM Handout)

An e-mailed report from the Palestine Monitor stated:

“Rachel Corey [sic], 23 years old from the state of Washington, was killed while she was trying to prevent Israeli army bulldozers from destroying a Palestinian home. Other foreigners who were with her said the driver of the bulldozer was aware that Rachel was there, and continued to destroy the house. Initially he dropped sand and other heavy debris on her, then the bulldozer pushed her to the ground where it proceeded to drive over her, fracturing both of her arms, legs and skull. She was transferred to hospital, where she later died. Another foreigner was also injured in the attack and has been hospitalized – at this stage his nationality is unknown.” (15 March 2003) A press release from the International Solidarity Movement stated that:

“Rachel had been staying in Palestinian homes threatened with illegal demolition, and today Rachel was standing with other non-violent international activists in front of a home scheduled for illegal demolition. According to witnesses, Rachel was run over twice by the Israeli military bulldozer in its process of demolishing the Palestinian home. Witnesses say that Rachel was clearly visible to the bulldozer driver, and was doing nothing to provoke an attack.” (15 March 2003)The photos below clearly show that Rachel was well marked, had a megaphone which removes any doubt that the activists’ presence was somehow invisible to the driver, and she clearly posed no threat to the bulldozer driver.

 

Picture taken between 3:00-4:00PM, 16 March 2003, Rafah, Occupied Gaza. Rachel Corrie (L) and Nick (R) oppose the potential destruction of this home (to the west of the Doctor’s home where Rachel was killed). In the instance pictured, the bulldozer did not stop and Rachel was pinned between the scooped earth and the fence behind her. On this occasion, the driver stopped before seriously injuring her. Photo by Joseph Smith (ISM Handout).

 

Picture taken between 3:00-4:00PM on 16 March 2003, Rafah, Occupied Gaza. A clearly marked Rachel Corrie, holding a megaphone, confronts the driver of one of two Israeli bulldozers in the area that were attempting to demolish a Palestinian homes. She was confronting the bulldozer in order to disrupt its work, and prevent it from threatening any homes. Photo by Joseph Smith. (ISM Handout)

Picture taken at 4:45PM on 16 March 2003, Rafah, Occupied Gaza. Other peace activists tend to Rachel after she was fatally injured by the driver of the Israeli bulldozer (in background). This photo was taken seconds after the bulldozer driver dragged his blade over her for the second time while reversingback over her body. He lifted the blade as seen in the photo only after he had dragged it back over Rachel’s body. This image clearly shows that had he lifted his blade at any time he may have avoided killing her, as the bottom section of the bulldozer is raised off the ground. Photo by Richard Purssell. (ISM Handout)

Picture taken at 4:47PM on 16 March 2003, Rafah, Occupied Gaza. Rachel Corrie lies on the ground fatally injured by the Israeli bulldozer driver. Rachel’s fellow activists have dug her a little out of the sand and are trying to keep her neck straight due to spinal injury. Photo by Joseph Smith. (ISM Handout)

 

Rachel in Najjar hostpital, Rafah, Occupied Gaza. Rachel arrived in the emergency room at 5:05PM and doctors scrambled to save her. By 5:20PM, she was gone. Ha’aretz newspaper reported that Dr. Ali Musa, a doctor at Al-Najjar, stated that the cause of death was “skull and chest fractures”. (Mohammad Al-Moghair)

A later report from ISM Media Coordinator Michael Shaik in Beit Sahour offered more details about the events:

“The confrontation between the ISM and the Israeli Army had been under way for two hours when Rachel was run over. Rachel and the other activists had clearly identified themselves as unarmed international peace activists throughout the confrontation.

The Israeli Army are attempting to dishonour her memory by claiming that Rachel was killed accidentally when she ran in front of the bulldozer. Eye-witnesses to the murder insist that this is totally untrue. Rachel was sitting in the path of the bulldozer as it advanced towards her. When the bulldozer refused to stop or turn aside she climbed up onto the mound of dirt and rubble being gathered in front of it wearing a fluorescent jacket to look directly at the driver who kept on advancing. The bulldozer continued to advance so that she was pulled under the pile of dirt and rubble. After she had disappeared from view the driver kept advancing until the bulldozer was completely on top of her. The driver did not lift the bulldozer blade and so she was crushed beneath it. Then the driver backed off and the seven other ISM activists taking part in the action rushed to dig out her body. An ambulance rushed her to A-Najar hospital where she died.”

”This is a regrettable accident,” Israeli Defence Forces [sic] spokesman Captain Jacob Dallal was reported as saying in Ha’aretz newspaper. “We are dealing with a group of protesters who were acting very irresponsibly, putting everyone in danger.”

Members of the Israeli army and associated Israeli settler paramilitary units have been responsible for the killing of 2,181 Palestinians and the injuring of another 22,218 between 29 September 2000 and 14 March 2003.

In addition to the killing of Rachel Corrie by the bulldozer driver, Israeli troops have shot and killed several other internationals in different incidents during the Intifada: German doctor Harald Fischer, Italian cameraman Rafaeli Ciriello, and British United Nations worker Iain Hook.

(Source / 16.03.2014)

Scandal of billion dollar deals between Saudi Arabia and Veolia

 

Veolia Environmental

Veolia is a French company specialising in environmental work in the fields of water, recycling, energy and transportation. The company has recently had a lot of media coverage given its contribution to supporting Israeli settlements.The company has been registered by international activists concerned with the Palestinian cause on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) list since 2005, “due to their immoral work serving the occupation in various areas in Palestine”.

Currently is it involved in a railway project in Jerusalem that links the illegal West Bank settlements and Jerusalem which is considered one of the occupation’s main means and an important step in the context of the Judaisation of Jerusalem project and the expansion of settlements in the city. It not only transports Israelis passing through, but also facilitates access between the new Israeli settlements and the settlers as a means of easing settlements and outlining a mechanism and infrastructure for its expansion. This is considered a violation of the Geneva Accords which prohibit the occupation from transporting its citizens to occupied territories, so this is not only a clear violation of Palestinian rights, but also a violation of international agreements made in this regard.

Veolia’s activity ranges between environment workshops, water and transportation, as it works through one of its subsidiaries (T.M. M.) and Tovlan Landfill, near Jericho, as a report by Corporate Watch Research Group, specialising in monitoring the work of international companies, stated the violations made by Veolia with regards to the management of the landfill. Veolia buries the waste of 21 settlements in the landfill near the Jordanian border, this has many health and environmental “side effects” on neighbouring Arab villages such as Fasayil and Abu Al `Ajaj, leading to the displacement of the residents of the latter, the population dropping to 200 residents from thousands in 1999, the year the landfill was established.

There are also those who leave their homes during the summer only to return in winter when the smell from the landfill is not as strong. The livestock, which is the main source of income for locals, also suffered big losses.

The residents of these villages are also deprived of electricity, while the residents in settlements have electricity and water at discounted rates in order to motivate them in live in settlements. The recycling of the waste in the landfill contributes to the provision of electric energy by means of renewable energy.

Who works in the landfill? Palestinians work in the landfill and they are deprived of any labour rights, as their wages are half the minimum wages set for Israeli workers and they are deprived of work and health insurance.

The company also has shares in the bus routes, such as route 109 and 110, which provide transportation for settlers on Highway 433 in the West Bank running through the settlements. The occupation enforces apartheid/segregation rules on highway 433, as Palestinians are not allowed to use the highway.

Veolia is also involved in facilitating Israeli exclusion operations, as well as facilitating the transfer of settlement waste, transporting it to Palestinian areas and causing many long-term health and geographic problems. This has encouraged the indirect expulsion of Palestinians, all of which has contributed to the process of racial segregation in transportation in those areas.

Similarly, it has recently provided water and sanitation services to many of the Israeli occupation’s settlements in the occupied West Bank, including the Modi’in Ilit settlement located between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in the occupied Palestinian territories.

This means that three out of Veolia’s four subsidiaries – water, waste and transportation – actively work to support settlements.

Veolia’s activities are considered a flagrant violation of international law, specifically Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention which states that “Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive”.

International law also prohibits Israel from using occupied land for its own benefit and, therefore, burying waste from the settlements in the occupied territories is a violation of United Nations Resolution 63/201 dated January 28, 2009, which:

“Calls upon Israel, the occupying Power, not to exploit, damage, cause loss or depletion of, or endanger the natural resources in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan.

Calls upon Israel, the occupying Power, to comply strictly with its obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law, with respect to the alteration of the character and status of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.

Also calls upon Israel, the occupying Power, to cease the dumping of all kinds of waste materials in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan.”

In addition to violating international law, Veolia’s acts violate the resolution of the Arab summit in Khartoum, in March 2006, which provides for the following:

The condemnation of the project aiming to link West Jerusalem to the occupied West Bank through occupied East Jerusalem and the stressing of the illegality of this project. It also calls on the two French companies [Alstom and Veolia] to immediately withdraw from the project and demands punitive measures be taken against them if they don’t comply. The Arab Summit also urged the French government to take the necessary measures in this respect to honour its obligations under international law.

To top this all off, Veolia’s activity in the occupied territories contradicts the company’s declared goals and strategies which aim to “reduce the negative environmental impacts of waste” and “help raise the citizens’ standard of living”.

It is clear that Veolia selectively applies these goals, as it only aims to raise the standard of living of the settlers, at the expense of the Palestinians and in violation of international treaties and the most basic human rights.

This company’s long history of racism and the oppression of the Palestinians’ rights was enough to convince the public opinion in different parts of the world to boycott it.

The campaign to reduce the company’s activity and completely boycott it was successful in impacting its work, which has suffered due to losses estimated at more than $12 billion over the past six years in order to prevent the renewal or signing of new contracts in many countries worldwide. These include Australia, Sweden, Norway, Netherlands, Ireland, Scotland and finally England. In addition to this, a coalition of boroughs in south-west London refused to bid on the tender offered by Veolia for a £1 billion waste removal deal last April. In January 2009, Veolia lost a contract worth €3.5 billion Euros to run the metro in Stockholm.

In addition to the efforts made globally to boycott this company and reduce its activity, French company Alstom, a company working in partnership with Veolia on the Jerusalem railway project, linking Jerusalem and the settlements, lost the second phase of the Saudi Haramain Railway project, which connects Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia. This is in spite of the fact that the company had previously won the contract for the first phase. The value of the second phase contract is about $10 billion.

Since the end of 2008, the BDS National Committee, along with its partners, have made popular, official and media efforts in order to convince the Saudi authorities to exclude Alstom from the Haramain Railway deal due to its involvement in the Israeli occupation’s projects aiming to Judaise Jerusalem. Many letters and documents to this effect were sent to official parties in Saudi Arabia from the BDS Committee, as well as several official, popular, Palestinian, Islamic and international parties in the context of a coordinated campaign targeting this company.

Veolia in Saudi Arabia

Despite all of the information mentioned above, all the background information, business links, relations with the Israeli occupation and settlement operations, as well as its direct involvement in facilitating the expansion of settlements and the Judaisation of Jerusalem, and in spite of the boycott exercised by British and other organisations and governorates against Veolia, it has continued to operate and make outrageous profits in Saudi Arabia for years.

The company’s work in Saudi Arabia is narrowed down to the fields of water, sanitation and water desalination. It exists in Saudi Arabia through the Veolia Water Solutions & Technologies, Saudi Industries Ltd, with branches in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam. Veolia also operates in Saudi Arabia under the Sidem Saudi Ltd, one of Veolia Water Solutions & Technologies, Saudi Industries Ltd’s subsidiaries, which has branches in Jeddah, Khobar and Jubail. Sidem specialises in designing and building large desalination plants.

Veolia Water Solutions & Technologies, Saudi Industries Ltd has landed many large contracts with the Saudi government in recent years. The two contracts worth noting are the desalination plant contract with the Power and Water Utility Company for Jubail and Yanbu, signed in 2007, and the management, operation and maintenance of the water and sanitation sector deal in the Saudi capital Riyadh, signed in 2008.

In 2007, Veolia signed a contract with the Power and Water Utility Company for Jubail and Yanbu to establish one of the largest water desalination plants in the world worth $945 million. One year before signing the deal, Saudi Arabia signed the Arab Summit resolution in Khartoum.

Furthermore, Veolia has landed 62 water desalination contracts in Saudi Arabia since 2007. In 2008, Veolia signed a large contract with the National Water Company to manage, operate and maintain the water and sanitation in the Saudi capital Riyadh. Veolia expects this deal to achieve a $60 million profit.

In December 2011, Veolia signed a contract with the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals to establish research centres in the Dhahran Techno Valley.

While Alstom – Veolia’s partner in the Judaisation of Jerusalem project and the Jerusalem railway project, connecting Jerusalem to the settlements – lost the second phase of the Haramain Railway project worth about $10 billion, Veolia (in full partnership with Alstom) is signing contracts worth billions of dollars in Saudi Arabia, despite its blatant violation of international law and the rights of the Palestinians.

Veolia has been working in Israel before it entered the Saudi market, and its involvement in settlements began very early on, before it made any deals with the Saudi government.

It is both embarrassing and astonishing that Veolia’s involvement in the settlements was not taken into account when it was awarded these huge business deals in Saudi Arabia and that the vast global BDS campaign against Alstom and Veolia in 2011 did not impact Veolia’s operations in Saudi Arabia, as the company signed an agreement with the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in December of the same year.

It is also shameful that at a time when international companies and parties are taking a stance against this company for violating the most basic human rights in Palestine and its participation in the brutal Israeli occupation and settlement, the Saudi government is signing contracts with the same company in various business areas. This in a country which is supposedly a leader in the belief in Palestinian rights, as well as protecting such liberties and condemning all human rights violations during this serious Palestinian tragedy.

A company with such a shameful history of working to enhance Israeli settlements should not find a work environment that opens the doors to trading in a country like Saudi Arabia, which has a long history of supporting the Palestinian cause.

While Veolia is losing billions of dollars in contracts in Stockholm and London, it is signing a billion dollar deal in Jubail and making profits of up to $60 million dollars in Riyadh!

The least that is expected of Saudi Arabia is not to sign contracts with Veolia, to pressure the company and make it choose between carrying out its responsibilities in accordance with international law, stop supporting the settlements and violating the rights of the Palestinians or to get out of Saudi Arabia and cease all forms of business with it.

(Source / 16.03.2014)

Isolating Hamas – Are we sure?

These are difficult times for Hamas.

For one thing, its parents organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, is under attack by a growing number of regional leaders and is increasingly banned from partaking in mainstream policy-making.In Egypt, not only has the Mohammed Morsi-led administration been ousted from power, the current interim government, under the leadership of Field Marshall Sisi, has officially classified the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. Saudi Arabia recently blacklisted the organization in a similar way, ordering membership and/or support to be criminalized and punished with jail time of up to twenty years.

Now, the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas are certainly not identical organizations, and differ greatly in terms of the methods they select to bring about political change. That said, Hamas was created by Brotherhood leaders, combines the Sunni Islamist ideologies of Mohammad al-Banna and Sayyid Qutb, and traditionally receives a great deal of political and economic support from its affiliates across the region. The boycotts are thus certain to negatively impact Hamas’ political and economic standing.

Additionally, Hamas’ authority and leadership in the Gaza Strip is increasingly challenged by different Palestinian factions defying its desired monopoly of Gaza’s relations with Israel. Of specific relevance to this regard are last week’s altercations between the IAF and Islamic Jihad.Although specifics are as of yet unclear, it appears as though in response to the assassination of three Islamic Jihadists by Israel, about sixty rockets were fired at southern Israel, precipitating further IAF retaliation.

Apart from the fact that these attacks greatly endanger the ceasefire upheld since 2012, they also point to the lack of strong and centralized leadership in the Gaza Strip. Particularly, while Islamic Jihad ensured that all of its undertakings had been discussed and coordinated with HamasHamas was angered over the fact that its specific instructions were not abided by. To make matters worse, Egyptian mediators limited their efforts to Islamic Jihad, transforming Hamasinto a mere spectator of events.

Needless to say, many in the West are cheerful knowing that Hamas is currently facing some tough challenges. Without the financial support for the Palestinian Authority, the EU and US boycotts of the 2006 Palestinian elections, and the land, air, and sea blockade of the Gaza Strip by Egypt and Israel propellingHamas’ demise, is it hoped that perhaps current developments will finally free the world from these much-despised Gazan theocrats. But would we feel the same, knowing about the alternative support Hamas is currently seeking?

One the one hand, it appears that Hamas is dealing with its problems by seeking rapprochement with the Palestinian Authority, and by working towards Palestinian reconciliation. I discussed such initiatives here, but have to report that hardly any progress has been made. Both parties continue to delegitimize each other on various platforms, the Palestinian Authority does not appear to be in a hurry to reciprocate Hamas’ conciliatory gestures, and the international community has yet to express its support or start investing in the process.

As this route is not proving particularly fruitful, it appears  that Hamasmight be rebuilding ties with Iran. As has been widely documented,Hamas-Iran relations suffered a major blow when the former formally withdrew its support for long-time Syrian ally, President Bashar al-Assad. While contacts were never conclusively severed, Tehran responded by slashing its funding for the organization, which was estimated at around $23 million per month.

Today things seem to be changing. The Rouhani regime appears eager to warming up its relationship with other powers in the region to strengthen its position in negotiations with the West. Hamas constitutes an important element in such strategy. In this light, we know that Khaled Meshaal has been meeting with Iranian representatives in Ankara and Doha, and has discussed the details of cultivating relations and the need for moving past earlier crises. Additionally, reports have confirmed that, although limited due to logistical constraints, Iran has resumed its financial aid to Hamas.

Faced with this new reality, the West must ask itself the following questions. Is it not true that by trying to revive the Palestinian unification process, Hamasshowed its willingness to abide by the Cairo and Doha reconciliation deals, and participate in discussions about its own rights to power, new elections, and democratic representation? Is it not true that by extending a hand to the Palestinian Authority, an administrative entity largely designed by pro-Western and pro-Israeli policy-makers, is was working within the Oslo framework and de facto admitting to the legitimacy of such deal? What chances to integrate Hamasinto mainstream politics did we miss, by supporting its supposed isolation?

As Hamas and Iran rekindle their relationship, the West ought to critically reflect upon the role it played in setting the scene for such development.

(Source / 16.03.2014)

Palestinian prisoner ‘at risk of death’ 2 months into hunger strike

JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — A Palestinian man on hunger strike in Israeli custody is at risk of dying, a lawyer said Sunday.

Palestinian Authority Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs lawyer Hiba Masalha said she visited hunger striker Waheed Abu Maria in Wolfson Hospital on Saturday, and that he is in critical condition.

Abu Maria, who has been on hunger strike for 67 days, has lost 88 lbs, is unable to walk, and suffers from continuous head and chest pain in addition to shortness of breath, memory loss, and vision impairment, Masalha said.

The hunger striker only accepts salt and water, refusing vitamins and medical examinations, the lawyer said.

She added that three guards are stationed in his hospital ward, where his left hand and right leg are chained to his bed. He is not allowed to receive visitors.

A spokeswoman for the Israeli Prison Service confirmed that Abu Maria had been transferred to a hospital and that guards were stationed in his room.

She said she could not provide any further details about his health or the status of his administrative detention.

Abu Maria is a leader in the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement who is being held in administrative detention without a trial.

According to prisoner rights group Addameer, Abu Maria was arrested on Oct. 30, 2012 after the Israeli army “launched sound grenade bombs … and used a remote device to blow up (his) front door.”

“After causing significant damage to the home, a large number of (Israeli army) forces entered the house and tried to physically remove Waheed from the premises,” the Addameer report says.

“The raid in its entirety lasted for three hours, until Waheed was arrested and immediately taken to Ofer Military Prison and given an administrative detention order for six months.”

The report says his administrative detention has been extended five times since he was first arrested.

According to a Saturday report by the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society, 12 Palestinians are currently on hunger strike in Israeli custody.

According to Israeli human rights group B’tselem, in October 2013, 140 Palestinians were being kept in administrative detention in Israeli prisons, down from a high of nearly 1,000 in 2002.

4,881 Palestinians were being held in Israeli jails as of Jan. 2014, according to a report by the same organization. Another 1,415 were in Israeli prisons for being inside Israel without permits.

Under international law, it is illegal to transfer prisoners outside of the occupied territory in which they are detained, and the families of Palestinian prisoners’ face many obstacles in obtaining permits to see their imprisoned relatives.

(Source / 16.03.2014)