239 Palestinians arrested in last week by occupation forces

239 Palestinians were arrested in Jerusalem and the West Bank over the past week, reported the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club on Friday, August 15. 132 are from Jerusalem, 32 from Ramallah/al-Bireh, 25 from al-Khalil, 16 from Bethlehem, 10 from Nablus, 9 from Jenin, 5 from Salfit, 4 from Tulkarem, 3 from Tubas and 3 from Jericho areas. 366 Palestinians have been arrested by occupation forces to date in August.

Over 100 Palestinians from Jerusalem were arrested in two days, with raids throughout the area targeting Palestinian Jerusalemites in Sho’ufat, Beit Hanina and elsewhere.

On Thursday morning, August 14, 52 Palestinians from Jerusalem were arrested, following the arrest of 57 on the previous day. 20 more Palestinians were arrested in early morning raids in al-Khalil, Bethlehem and Jenin on Thursday, including four teenage boys – Haydar Hamamrah, Muhammad Hamamrah, Firas Hamamrah and Bakr Shawasha, all 16 and 17 – from the Bethehem area village of Husan, and Mohammed Melhem, 14, from Fasayel, near Jericho.

On Friday, 96 Palestinians from Jerusalem – 17 held in Ashkelon, 4 minors held in Ofek, and the rest held at al-Moskobiyeh detention center – were released on 5000-shekel bail (approximately $1435 US) and on five days house arrest.

Mass arrests of over 600 people have taken place in the Jerusalem area in the past 2 months, including a number of members of the Abu Khdeir family of Shou’fat, the relatives of Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir, murdered and burned by Israeli settlers. Most have been arrested for participating in demonstrations against the settler attacks.

Ma’an news reported that among the released were: Ahmad Abu Khdeir, Abd al-Rahman Abu Khdeir, Rami Abu Khdeir, Amer Zidani, Mohammad Sarhan, Amro Abu Khdeir, Mohammad Abbasi, Ahed Abbasi Ziyad al-Qaq, Ali Abu Diab, Naim Hadiyeh, Mohammad Odeh, Luai Rajabi, Tariq Sarhan, Ahmad Awwad, Ali Hamdan, Hazim Castro, Ahmad Abu al-Hawa, Daoud Abbasi, Ihab Hamdan, Issam Najib, Fira Miraji, Mohammad Miraji, Nidal Froukh, Ali Sayyad, Hisham Qawasmeh, Awad Sabbagh, Ismail Ghteit, Awdi Odeh, Ammar Zaytoun, Thaer Abu Lafi, Jihad Mirii, Wisam Abu al-Hawa, Shihab Shweiki, Munir Abbasi, Fadi Arafeh, Anwar Arafeh, Adnan Shahwan, Mohammad Siyouri, Aed Abbasi, Radhi Abu Khdeir, Akram Fakhouri, Ghalib Abu Sneineh. Mahmoud Arnaout, Hassan Asim, Khalid Tawwash Nimr Basti, Rajab Abu Sneineh, Basim Basti, Mohammad Jabir, Wisam Nofel, Anas Afghani, Ramzi al-Rashq, Hamza Afghani, Abdullah Abu Diab, Amir Rajab, Samir Rajab, Khaldoun Ashmar, Mohammad Samman, Mohammad Ibrahim, Khadir Baaraani, Mahmoud Dweik, Mahmoud Shawish, Mustafa Natsheh, Mahmoud Natsheh, Mutaz Jabir, Mamdouh Halawani, Omar Ibrahim, Ayman Basti, Salih Tawwash, Ammar Husari, Munir Basti, Mohammad Obeid, Mustafa Ghanim, Taha Obeid, Salama Obeid, Dauod Mohammad, Yazan Obeid Moussa Hamdan, Mahmoud Hamdan and Nizar Hamdan.

(Source / 16.08.2014)

Enough lies, the Arab body politic created the ISIS cancer

Hisham Melhem

Most people are averse to introspection, and rarely engage in self-criticism. Arabs are no different. However, the political culture that developed in the Arab World in the last 60 years, particularly in countries ruled by autocratic regimes, shifted blame from their catastrophic failures in governance to other external, sinister forces. For these countries, self-criticism has become next to impossible.

Over time, this legacy has created fertile terrain for conspiracy theories, delusions, self-deception, paranoia and xenophobia. If you read an Arab newspaper or many a website in the region, you will invariably encounter some of these symptoms. Admittedly, sometimes they can be entertaining, but in most cases they are downright ugly, reflecting deep pathologies of fear.

Conspiracy theories

Conspiracy theories reign usually in undemocratic societies lacking transparent institutions, free and vibrant media and a political culture that does not shy away from dealing with issues that some may consider taboos.

Clinging to conspiracy theories, particularly in times of challenge and uncertainty becomes attractive because it relieves the believers of any sense of responsibility for what is taking place in their midst, and apportion it to hidden and powerful forces beyond their control. Denial of reality and/or responsibility is the other side of conspiracy theories. In this manufactured world others, usually conniving, ill-intentioned and cunning are behind our travails and not us.

The unimaginable brutality of this latest manifestation of Political Islam in the Arab world is too much to bear for many Muslim Arab

Hisham Melhem

Of course, conspiracy theories also exist in open and democratic societies, but they are usually confined to fringe groups. Just listen to the rants of the extreme right wing in the U.S. about government conspiracies against them including preparing internment camps to incarcerate them. Sometimes sizable numbers of people believe in conspiracy theories; just witness the number and shifting conspiracy theoriessurrounding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy over the years.

The shocking and unbridled savagery of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which morphed recently into the Islamic State, is a case in point. The unimaginable brutality of this latest manifestation of Political Islam in the Arab world is too much to bear for many Muslim Arabs. So they either deny the atrocities claiming that Muslims would never commit such heinous acts (even while the perpetrators of the crimes assert that their violence is to spread their puritanical twisted version of Islam) or resort to the easier option and pick one of the many conspiracy theories that are being peddled by Intelligence agencies, political groups, journalists, or self-appointed guardians of religious sects and ethnic groups. Conspiracy theories work well when they are peddled by individuals who claim to be defending a group of people such as an ethnicity or a religious sect, against impending danger since it is easier in this case to frame the threat to the group as existential.

ISIS is made everywhere

Even before its swift and bloody control of one third of Iraq, uprooting and killing Christians and Yazidis and occupying Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, ISIS was made everywhere except in Syria or Iraq or by Arabs generally. Depending on one’s sectarian background or political leanings, ISIS for many was made in America with a little help – as usual- from the Israelis; others, especially those who loath the Iranian-Syrian-Hezbollah axis would say with equal certainty that ISIS was made in Iran, with the conniving of the Syrian regime. But those who support the Iranian-led axis would assert un-equivocally that ISIS was made by the U.S. in collaboration with a Gulf state, take your pick: Saudi Arabia or Qatar or even Turkey.

In this twisted political environment, evidence or proof to buttress an argument are not necessary or are flimsy at best, and when the conspiracy is denied, the denial is considered a proof.

But since conspiracy theories usually are based on imagined causes and effects and by pointing to those who benefit from a development or an event, it becomes self-evident to some to claim that just because the Assad regime has diabolically benefitted from the war ISIS has waged against the Free Syrian Army and/or other Islamist opposition groups, then Assad is either behind ISIS or is conniving with it directly and operationally.

The recent fighting between ISIS and Assad’s forces in Eastern Syria shows that there is no validity to such claims. Those who claim Iran is behind ISIS, because Tehran wants to breakup Iraq or keep it in perpetual struggles, don’t like to entertain a simpler view which asserts that Iran’s national interests are better served by a stable and allied Iraq that would be dependent on Iran or floats in Iran’s political orbit, a reality that would allow Iran to extent its influence from the Gulf to the Mediterranean. Former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, trying to shift the blame for the disintegration of Iraqi defenses in the North from himself to the Kurds, had claimed that Erbil, the Kurdish capital “is a headquarters for ISIS, Baathists, al-Qaeda and terrorists.”

It is true that Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar have provided arms and funds to Syrian opposition groups including an array of Islamist organizations in addition to Turkey. Particularly, the large sums of money given by wealthy individuals from the Gulf as aid which may have reached the extremists including al-Nusra Front and ISISearly on does not mean that the Gulf states have created ISIS, since these states have already designated ISIS as a terrorist organization. Moreover, they are preventing their nationals from joining the “Jihad” in Syria and Iraq, and are cooperating with the U.S. Treasury Department to prevent transfer of funds from private bank accounts in Western countries. Recently, the U.S. Treasury Department has designated three Kuwaiti ISIS financial supporters as Specially Designated Global Terrorists.

Stamped: ISIS is made in America

With ISIS stunning ascendency in Iraq, which forced the Obama Administration to launch limited air strikes against ISIS military formations threatening the lives of thousands of Yezidis, Christians as well as the Kurdish city of Erbil, a new conspiracy theory about the origin and evolution of ISIS swept the region, alleging this time, that no less an authority than former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton is asserting that ISIS was made in America. And for a while this conspiracy, dominated both the traditional and social media, particularly in Lebanon. Screenshots of fake quotes allegedly from Clinton’s memoire “Hard Choices” claiming the US was the brains behind the murderous ISIS were widely exchanged on twitter and on Facebook. Even by the low standards of conspiracy theories in the Middle East this one was particularly jarring.

Of fabricated quotes and a fake Emir

The fabricated quotes attributed to Clinton are so outlandish and surreal, that anybody with any political sense would not believe them even without checking the book. Clinton is alleged to have said that the U.S. has established ISIS in order to divide the Arab world but these plans were thwarted by the Egyptian military coup against the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Cairo, and that the U.S. and its European allies agreed that the Islamic State will be established on 2013/7/5” to be followed by our immediate recognition of this state… but everything collapsed “, after the Egyptian coup. The fake excerpts also claim that the Islamic State was supposed to help Washington in partitioning the Gulf region so that Washington would achieve total hegemony over the oil wells and the maritime lines of the region. This outrageous nonsense was published in whole or in part on websites and some publication, including the reputable Lebanese daily Annahar . A column by one of its contributors contained these lies as well as allegations that Edward Snowden the former NSA analyst has revealed that the Israeli Mossad intelligence service along with the CIA have established ISIS. He also quoted a web site allegedly claiming that an Iranian intelligence service has revealed the true identity of the “Emir” of the “Caliphate” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, whose real name is Shimon Eilot, a Mossad agent. The only thing secretary Clinton has said about ISIS recently was that the U.S. “failure” to help Syrian rebels early on, has contributed to the rise of ISIS.

These outlandish lies prompted Lebanon’s foreign minister Jibran Basil, a man not known for being deliberative; to summon the American Ambassador to Lebanon David Hale to inquire about Clinton’s alleged claims. (Had he consulted his embassy in Washington to check the veracity of the claims, he would have saved himself and his country a profound embarrassment). The situation forced the U.S. embassy in Beirut to post a strong denial on its Facebook page: “Any suggestion that the United States ever considered recognizing the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant as anything other than a terrorist organization, or had any role in its creation, is patently false. Allegations circulating in Lebanon to the contrary are a fabrication.”

A complex history

Those who have a more charitable view of the prevalence of conspiracy theories in the ME would point out that since the Second World War, the U.S. and its allies did engage in clandestine activities and conspiracies, including fomenting coups, influencing elections and collaborating with unsavory characters in the name of combating communism and radicalism, and that the invasion of Iraq was based on baseless allegations regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction and lies. That is all true, but that does not excuse the wide tendency of many Arabs, including journalists and government officials to believe in outlandish conspiracies without bothering to present evidence. The lies and fabrications spread by many in the Egyptian media before and after the coup of 2013 about the policies and views of U.S. officials towards Egypt, such as accusing the former U.S. ambassador Anne Patterson of urging the Muslim Brotherhood to use violence, or greeting Secretary Clinton on one of her visits to Cairo as “The supreme guide of the Muslim Brotherhood “are a national embarrassment. There is no escaping the fact that most of what is considered political discourse in many parts of the Arab world reflects the paucity of intellectual life in those societies.

Gutted societies

Ever since the 1967 Arab defeat in the war with Israel, Arab politics have been influenced and mostly shaped by various stripes of Islamists, including the radical and violent groups that constitute the antecedent of al-Qaeda and ISIS. Their emergence was in the making for decades. Today most of the politics in various Arab states from the countries of the Maghreb; Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya, through Egypt and on to Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain and Yemen is highly influenced by Islamists who occupy a shrinking spectrum. Most of the debates are essentially “all in the family” of Islamists kinds of debates. The rise of the Islamists; such as al-Nahda, the Muslim Brotherhood, the various Salafists, the Jama’a Islamia, Hezbollah, Hamas and later al-Qaeda and ISIS has been facilitated by the depredations of the “secular” Arab regimes, the military strongmen and the one party rule, particularly the depravities of the Baath Party in both Syria and Iraq.

Over decades, the societies of Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Algeria, Yemen, Libya and later on Tunisia have been thoroughly wrecked by the brutality and corruption of these regimes. Arab societies gradually became politically and intellectually arid. Progressives, leftists, liberals and enlightened nationalists who dominated political life in many of these societies for decades were hunted, intimidated and deprived of forming any kind of independent political organization. Civil society was gutted, particularly in Syria and Iraq, where the ruling elites controlled every aspect of social and economic life, such as unions, social associations, universities and other organizations and associations in a way that the colonial order before independence could not dream of. In the meantime, the Islamists, many of whom were also subjected to the same treatment; either went underground or managed through charities and the Mosque to maintain some political viability and a modicum of organization.

The Islamist tide

In the 1970’s and 80’s, the Islamists began to assert themselves politically, claiming that both the State and the other secularists have failed after the 1967 defeat were unable to achieve economic growth. Some began to resort to violence in Egypt and Syria, and the Islamists that the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat cultivated when he took power in 1970 to counter the Nasserites and the leftists, ended up assassinating him. Later on, more virulent Egyptian Islamists waged a terror campaign against Western tourists and tried to kill President Hosni Mubarak. In the meantime the Islamization of the war against Soviet occupation of Afghanistan where Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Pakistan with the active collaboration of the United States, changed the political dynamics not only in South Asia but also in the Middle East. An ill wind was blowing ushering the coming of a more conservative, austere, brand of the religion which few dared to call the intolerant tide of political Islamism.

By the time the United States invaded Iraq, Saddam Hussein’s wars and domestic depravities have already broken Iraq and totally alienated the Shiites and the Kurds. By the time the Syrian uprising began, the sectarianism of the Assad dynasty, the looting of the state and its resources by a small political and economic elite that included Sunnis and Christians pushed Syria to the point of implosion. The U.S. invasion of Iraq let loose unforeseen forces and dangerous sectarian tendencies and ethnic divisions that exposed to what extent the Iraqi State has been hollowed. And the Syrian uprising, which the regime diabolically succeeded in militarizing and deepening its sectarian- ethnic fissures, has degenerated into the ugliest and costliest civil war since the beginning of the season of Arab uprisings.

ISIS, a cult from hell

It is no longer very useful to talk about Syria and Iraq as unitary states because many people involved in the various struggles there don’t seem to share a national narrative. It is instructive to observe that those who are ruling Damascus and Baghdad don’t seem to be extremely moved to do something about a force that eliminated their national boundaries and in the process occupied one third of each country, and is bent on creating a puritanical Caliphate stretching from Mesopotamia to the Mediterranean. ISIS is exploiting the rage and alienation of the minority Arab Sunni Iraqis by the increasing sectarian policies pursued by Nouri Maliki for 8 years, just as it is exploiting the anger of the Majority Sunni Arabs in Syria who have been marginalized by the Assad dynasty for more than 40 years.

For the time being, ISIS will benefit from this deep Sunni disaffection, and time will tell when its growing nihilism and barbaric ritual killings will drive people to rebel against it. ISIS is al-Qaeda on steroids. ISIS’s standards of depravity (mass executions, beheading, and crucifixions puts it way beyond the Taliban in Afghanistan). ISIS is the first modern terrorist organization that acts as a cult, and led by a leader who acts like a leader of a secrete death cult society, a modern day version of the 12th century Hassan-i Sabbah, the Ismaili Persian leader of a small group of zealots sometimes referred to as Hashashin, or “Assassins” who waged a campaign of violence and terror from his mountain redoubt in Northern Persia against the Seljuk Turks. The difference now is that ISIS is not ensconced in a mountain redoubt, but has established a primitive form of governance, with bureaucracies, tax collection and religious courts infamous for meting out horrific death sentences.

ISIS maybe the reject of al-Qaeda, but like al-Qaeda, it is the illegitimate child of modern political Islam that grew and expanded in what the Arabs refer to as البيئة الحاضنة, an “embracing environment.” The ugly truth is that the ISIS cancer was produced by a very ill and weak Arab body politic.

(Source / 16.08.2014)

Arab Israelis fired from jobs for criticizing Gaza offensive on Facebook – NGO

Israeli soldiers celebrate on board their Merkava tank near the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip as they return from the Hamas-controlled Palestinian coastal enclave on August 5, 2014 (AFP Photo/Thomas Coex)

Israeli soldiers celebrate on board their Merkava tank near the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip as they return from the Hamas-controlled Palestinian coastal enclave on August 5, 2014

Arab Israelis are being sacked from their jobs for criticizing their country’s actions in Gaza on Facebook. There is no exact number, but it is thought that dozens have been affected, according to to a local NGO.

The New Israel Fund made the claim after Palestinian workers came to them after requesting assistance after they had been fired for posting negative comments about Israel’s offensive in Gaza, the i100 news website reports.

This has been a real problem since the start of the conflict, and it is completely illegal. Israeli employment law does not allow employees to be terminated for expressing their political views. This is about private opinions expressed outside the workplace,” said Steven Beck, who is the director of international relations at the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.

At least 25 pages on Facebook have been set up to try and punish unpatriotic Israelis. With names such as ‘Exposing the Traitors” and “Not in our Schools”, names, photos and the places of work are posted of those who do not agree with Israel’s policy. It is also asked that their employees sack them.

Beck added that since Israel started its campaign in Gaza, those who oppose it are seen as traitors “by certain segments of the population”, making it hard for dissenters to make their voices heard.

There are many in Israel who do not want to get painted this way so as a result there is very little space for debate. Employers might be trying to avoid larger problems in their organizations or even seeing it as a way of protecting employees from themselves, but at the end of the day it is illegal. Freedom of expression is the foundation of any democracy and as a principle it needs to be strong enough to withstand even speech that is difficult to hear,” Beck stated, speaking to the i100.

Last month a municipal worker Isra Gara –an Arab – was fired for welcoming the death of 13 Israeli soldiers in Gaza. Three other Israeli Arabs – a doctor and nurse at two different hospitals and an employee of the Safed municipality – have been suspended for critical comments on social media, Haaretz reported.

Despite making up a fifth of Israel’s population, many Arab Israeli’s say they experience discrimination, despite having exactly the same rights as Israeli Jews.

(Source / 16.08.2014)

British arms sales to Israel face high court challenge

Leading UK law firm claims government’s failure to suspend existing export licences is illegal

A Palestinian man carries a child killed in the blast outside a UN run school in Rafah, in the south

A Palestinian man carries a child killed in the blast outside a UN run school in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, earlier this month

The government faces being dragged into the high court over the sale ofmilitary hardware to Israel in an unprecedented legal move that puts the UK’s controversial export policy on a potential collision course with the EU.

Law firm Leigh Day, representing the Campaign Against Arms Trade(CAAT), has written to the business secretary, Vince Cable, claiming that the failure by the British government to suspend existing licences for the export of military components to Israel is unlawful as there is a risk that they may have been used in Gaza. It says that it has been instructed to seek a judicial review of the government’s reluctance to suspend licences unless it agrees to stop the export of the components.

The move puts the UK’s multimillion-pound military export programme in the spotlight when Israel’s actions in Gaza have caused international concern and there is mounting disquiet about the role foreign states are playing in facilitating the conflict, which is now the subject of an uneasy ceasefire.

The government has come under sustained pressure to justify its continued sale of military equipment since Israel launched Operation Protective Edge on 8 July. To date, more than 1,900 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed, according to Palestinian and UN officials. On the Israeli side, 67 have died, all but three of them soldiers.

Following a review initiated by the prime minister this month, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills announced it would suspend 12 export licences for arms and other military equipment to Israel only if the current ceasefire was broken.

However, in its letter to Cable, shared with the Observer, Leigh Day says the definition of what constitutes a “broken” ceasefire leading to a resumption of hostilities is not defined or explained. It says the campaign group is concerned that arms manufactured in Britain may have been – and could continue to be – used in Gaza in breach of international humanitarian and human rights law.

The law firm cites the air strike on a UN school in Rafah as an example of such a breach. The attack, reportedly by Israeli troops, resulted in the deaths of 10 civilians and was described by the UN as a “gross violation of international humanitarian law” and a “moral outrage and a criminal act”.

“If arms from the UK are being used to commit crimes against humanitarian law, and human rights law, then export licences for these materials must be revoked immediately,” said Rosa Curling of the human rights team at Leigh Day, who is representing the campaign group.

“If this is not done, the government’s current policy is unlawful and susceptible to legal challenge. We have asked the government to clarify the review of the arms export licences and requested details of all current licences to understand what is being sent so we can get a better picture of whether any of the arms supplied by the UK have been or may be used in criminal acts.”

Export licence applications to Israel are considered case by case and checked against EU criteria which stipulate that the government must consider their impact on regional peace, security and stability, as well as the human rights record of the recipient. Campaigners believe the UK’s decision to continue to allow exports of military equipment to Israel runs counter to these criteria.

“After the slaughter of recent weeks, it beggars belief that the UK government is continuing to allow the export of components which it admits could be part of equipment used by the Israeli Defence Forces in Gaza,” said Ann Feltham, parliamentary co-ordinator at the CAAT. “Such equipment containing UK components has been used in Israeli attacks in the past and the licences should never have been granted in the first place.”

Any suspension of exports would have an impact on UK military hardware manufacturers. The CAAT claims that since 2010 the UK has licensed £42m of military equipment to Israel, including that used in targeting systems and drone components. UK companies also provide components that go into US-built equipment destined for Israel.

The legal challenge launched by Leigh Day, the firm that secured £20m in compensation from the government on behalf of victims of torture during Kenya’s Mau Mau uprising in the 1950s, is highly unusual but not without precedent. In 2004 the high court refused permission for a judicial review into the government’s continued sale of military equipment – including Scorpion tanks, Saracen armoured personnel carriers and Hawk aircraft – to Indonesia.

(Source / 16.08.2014)

Philosophy and chemistry banned in schools by ISIS

An ISIS “faith-strengthening” event for children in one of the ISIS’ strongholds in Aleppo province

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has established an “Islamic curriculum” for students living in the Syrian northern city of Raqqa and banned the study of philosophy and chemistry, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported Friday.

The militants called on teachers and school directors to “prepare an Islamic education system in the schools of Raqqa,” which would be reviewed by a board of education appointed by ISIS.


They vowed adequate wages to teachers and principals in Raqqa.

The decision to remove chemistry and philosophy from the curriculums comes as ISIS militants said “they do not fit in with the laws of god,” the London-based monitor group said.

The Sunni fighters have already closed several schools in the province, which had an educational program consistent with the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad.

ISIS, which first emerged in Syria’s war in spring 2013, has since imposed near-total control in Raqqa province and Deir Ezzor on the Iraq border.

(Source / 06.08.2014)

Why Activists Are Blocking an Israeli Ship From Docking on the West Coast

A coordinated “Block the Boat” solidarity action will leave Israel looking elsewhere to unload its goods.

Amidst the terror Israel has unleashed on Gaza, activists on the West Coast have organized a Palestinian solidarity action that is not only politically symbolic, but economically hits Israel where it hurts.

Starting Saturday, activists in Oakland, Los Angeles and Seattle plan to block an Israeli ship from unloading goods at their city’s ports as part of a larger boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. These “Block the Boat” actions come as a response to the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions’ call for supporters to “educate and build awareness among the labor movements of the U.S., and urge them to condemn the Israeli aggression and to boycott Israel.”

On Saturday, organizers in Oakland will march to the port and form a picket line in front of its gates early in the morning before the port workers, who are members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, are scheduled to begin their shift. Organizers are hoping to stop workers from unloading a ship owned by Zim Integrated Shipping Services, which is the biggest cargo shipping company in Israel and has ties to the Israeli government and military via stock ownership.

More than 1,000 protesters are expected at the Oakland action, said Reem Assil of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center, which is one of more than 70 groups endorsing the event.

“Symbolically for Oakland we can say, not in our name,” Assil said. “We’re not going to be complicit and an accomplice to the ongoing genocide and massacres going on.”

Oakland organizers have coordinated with supporters in Long Beach, CA, and the ports of Tacoma and Seattle in Washington in hopes that Zim won’t reroute to another port on the West Coast like it did four years ago. In 2010, in response to Israel’s attack on a flotilla bringing humanitarian aid to Gaza, Oakland activists and port workers made history by being the first to ever block an Israeli ship in the United States. That ship redocked in Los Angeles a day after, and unloaded there.

“This time, we want to make sure there’s a disruption to Israel commerce all over the West Coast,” Assil said, adding that this would cause a sustained economic burden on the company.

The Oakland organizers’ biggest coordination efforts, however, have been with the labor movement. In fact, the event, which was originally scheduled for August 2, was postponed in order to do more outreach to the ILWU workers.

“We don’t want workers to be alienated, we want workers to be part of the fight,” Assil said. “And so we have spent the last few weeks really honoring that commitment and building with the workers themselves.”

Assil said Block the Boat organizers and active members of the ILWU have been flyering and talking to members about the Saturday action in terms of “worker power”—especially because they are under negotiation for a new contract.

But these negotiations have made the action this year more complicated than in the past. For one, ILWU is unable to take an official stand on the action. Also, during negotiations there is no arbitrator who can evaluate the port during the Block the Boat action and deem working conditions unsafe; this happened in 2010, leaving workers with no option of crossing the picket line.

This, along with a loss of double-time pay for workers, presents difficulties for a successful action. An ILWU port worker named Anthony, who is spreading the word about Block the Boat, said he responds to co-workers’ financial concerns by talking about the bigger picture.

Anthony said, “I ask them, ‘Are you okay with innocent people being killed?’’’

(Source / 16.08.2014)

Egypt PM blames saboteurs for rising power cuts

Speaking to reporters, Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab said 300 attacks on electricity pylons nationwide have deepened the crisis, leading to a drop in production by up to 15 percent

Egypt’s premier on Saturday partially blamed the country’s worsening energy shortage — with rolling blackouts of up to six hours in some Cairo neighborhoods — on saboteurs seeking to undermine the government, a veiled reference to Islamist opponents.

In recent weeks, rolling blackouts in Cairo and other cities have increased amid an energy crunch linked to shrinking revenues, depleted natural gas resources, lack of maintenance on debilitated power plants, and the government’s inability to pay its debts to foreign oil companies.

Speaking to reporters, Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab said 300 attacks on electricity pylons nationwide have deepened the crisis, leading to a drop in production by up to 15 percent. He called it “devilish planning” aimed at paralyzing the government.

“Without sabotage, we already have a problem,” he said. “This is increasing the problem to paralyze us totally.”

State television and private pro-government media have regularly reported such attacks, usually referring to the assailants as supporters and members of the Muslim Brotherhood group of ousted President Mohammed Mursi.

Since Mursi’s ouster last summer, his supporters have held near daily protests, demanding he be reinstated and denouncing the military for deposing him.

At the same time, the country has seen a rising wave of militant attacks against police and the military, with radical groups claiming responsibility and vowing to avenge the killing and detention of hundreds of Islamists.

The government has blamed the attacks on the Muslim Brotherhood, which has denied any involvement. The government has also declared the group a terrorist organization.

Mahlab said police have intensified their campaign to arrest saboteurs.

“Those who harm their country have no rights. We will continue to fight terrorism,” he said.

The Interior Ministry, responsible for the police, accused the Brotherhood of gathering information about the electricity infrastructure through its supporters in the government in order to facilitate the attacks.

Interior Ministry spokesman Hani Abdel-Latif said the police identified 40 suspects, divided into six different cells, who have planned attacks against electricity infrastructure.

He said that the Brotherhood has resorted to acts of violence and sabotage because it is no longer able to bring large numbers of supporters into the streets.

The electricity cuts were one of the main sources of public anger against Mursi during his turbulent year in office. The military overthrew Mursi – Egypt’s first democratically elected leader — last summer amid massive protests calling for his resignation.

The death toll from violence during protests by Mursi supporters on Thursday and Friday has meanwhile risen to nine people, health ministry officials said Saturday.

Five were killed Friday and four others on Thursday in clashes with security forces and local residents during small, scattered protests mostly in and around the capital Cairo.

The demonstrations were marking the one-year anniversary of the Aug. 14 dispersal of two protest camps set up by Mursi supporters, which left hundreds of people dead in the worst mass killing in Egypt’s modern history.

(Source / 16.08.2014)


By Peter Clifford                  ©                       (Source / 16.08.2014)



In Hama province Opposition fighters have taken control of Arzeh village and Tel Sheyha and are now just 3 kilometres north of Hama military airport which they have pounded with Grad missiles and mortars, setting off fires in the base. The effects of the fighting can be seen on the western edge of Hama city, especially at night, HERE:

In Homs province it is reported that some of those who agreed to lay down their weapons in Old Homs after an brokered deal with the Assad regime have died under torture, while around Mount Sha’ir north-west of Palmyra, heavy clashes are occurring between Government troops and the Islamic State.

Kafranbel's Tribute to Freedom and Robin Williams


Kafranbel’s Tribute to Freedom and Robin Williams

On the subject of torture, 4 former detainees at Assad’s Sednaya military prison in 2014 have given testimony to Human Rights Watch (HRW) confirming the evidence of 55,000 photographs released by the former Assad policeman known as “Caesar” (HERE).

All four of the former detainees told HRW that they had witnessed the death of fellow detainees in Sednaya prison in Damascus following a combination of beatings, torture, malnutrition, and disease. You can read more, HERE:

In Daraa province a car bomb exploded on Friday near a mosque in Opposition-controlled Namar killing 14. The perpetrators of the attack are unknown.

Opposition forces in Daraa province have attacked the Kassara checkpoint north-west of Inkhil and forced the regime to withdraw 25 soldiers from the Nbhaat checkpoint in Daraa city after heavy mortar fire.

However, moderate Opposition fighters are seriously under pressure in Aleppo province and near Damascus.

At Mlieha, Assad’s troops backed by Hezbollah, took control of most of the town on Thursday after months of fighting, but at very heavy cost. Opposition sources estimate that 1,000 pro-Assad fighters have been killed in battles around Mlieha in the last 4 months alone.

The loss of Mlieha, just 7 kilometres (4 miles) from central Damascus, is a blow to the Opposition as it is seen as the gateway into the Opposition-held Eastern Ghouta area and a main supply route.

In the northern part of Aleppo province, the Opposition are losing ground to the Islamic State who overran 8 villages between Aleppo city and the Turkish border on Wednesday and captured Baghaydin village near the frontier on Thursday. 40 Opposition fighters were reported killed and 12 from the Islamic State.

The Islamic State appears to be heading north for Azaz, which could cut the moderate Opposition supply lines from Turkey and south to Marea, which would threaten all the Opposition districts in the eastern half of Aleppo city where they are already under pressure from Assad’s forces and constant barrel-bomb attack.

You can read more in Charles Lister’s grim analysis on prospects for the moderate Opposition in Syria, HERE:

EDITOR: The following was published in February 2014, but I missed it then – a plea for Syria issued by Stephen Hawking, the physically disabled scientist with the brilliant mind:

“What’s happening in Syria is an abomination, one that the world is watching coldly from a distance. Where is our emotional intelligence, our sense of collective justice?

When I discuss intelligent life in the universe, I take this to include the human race, even though much of its behaviour throughout history appears not to have been calculated to aid the survival of the species. And while it is not clear that, unlike aggression, intelligence has any long-term survival value, our very human brand of intelligence denotes an ability to reason and plan for not only our own but also our collective futures.

We must work together to end this war and to protect the children of Syria. The international community has watched from the sidelines for three years as this conflict rages, engulfing all hope. As a father and grandfather, I watch the suffering of Syria’s children and must now say: No more”.

You can read the whole of Stephen Hawking’s article on Syria, HERE:

A beautiful story from Yarmouk, the Palestinian refugee camp, held by the Opposition and still under siege and attack in the southern part of Damascus city.

Reminiscent of Roman Polanski’s film, “The Pianist”, while bombs fall and people starve, 26 year old Ayham al-Ahmed plays the piano and organises a singing group for children called “Buds of Yarmouk”.

18,000 residents still just about survive in Yarmouk. Before the siege Ahmed weighed 70 kilos, now he weighs just 45 (99 lbs). The children sing of those that have gone – “You have been gone for a long time… you who are in Beirut, in Turkey, we miss you” – and raise the spirits of those who remain.

Piano playing is not without its dangers. Moving his piano from street to street with his friends, Ahmed incurred the wrath of extremists who had invaded the camp, before withdrawing under the a recent truce.

“For them it is haram (religiously prohibited). They threatened to break my fingers,” Ayham says, “so I played early in the morning while they slept.”

You can read more of Ayham’s story, HERE:



Ayham Al-Ahmed Plays His Piano of Hope While All Around is Despair

The 14th August also marked the date this week that 2 years ago Austin Tice, an American freelance journalist disappeared in Syria in 2012, with no contact or information since. His parents have just celebrated his 33rd birthday and written a letter that they hope he will somehow read. Their moving story is in the Washington Post.


In northern Syria, the Yezidi escaping from Mount Sinjar are finding refuge in a small refugee camp, Camp Nowroz, in the Kurdish area before moving on to cross back into Kurdish Iraq.

The people arriving here have walked 40 miles in heat that ranges between 40 and 50 degrees C during the day and plunges into much colder temperatures at night. At this refugee camp just over the Syrian border, there were 20 families 2 weeks ago – now there are 15,000 people.



Syrian Refugees in Arsal, Lebanon Left in Burnt Out Camp

Syrian Kurdish forces are recruiting young Yezidi men to fight against the Islamic State and putting them into training programmes. “We didn’t ask for this war, but we no choice but to fight back”. The BBC Syria news service has a video report.

As if displacement and losing your home is not enough, Syria seems to be suffering the worst drought for 50 years, destroying wheat crops and olive groves.

In Turkey the strain of the enormous ingress of Syrian refugees is beginning to show with riots in the town of Gaziantep after a Turkish landlord was allegedly stabbed by a Syrian refugee. 50 Turkish residents were arrested in the riots, while 12 Syrians were wounded.

The Turkish authorities have now moved 2,000 people from 400 families by bus to refugee camps outside the city and at the same time called on international help to ease the burden and cost of looking after 1.2 million displaced Syrians.

This article relates the experiences of Syrian refugees escaping altogether and heading down the road to Europe,HERE:

While an article in the Huffington Post on Syria news says that “Syria has Become a Humanitarian Catastrophe of Epic Proportions”.

A video from the Mercy Corps who are working to alleviate the crisis, is here:

As if all of that were not enough, Syrian VDC @lopforum has documented as at 14th August 2014, 12,020 civilian deaths from Assad’s airstrikes, of which 4,903 have died in 2014 alone.

95.4% of all airstrike deaths are civilians, of which 26.2% are children, 13.4% women – and just 4.5% combatants.

67% of civilian airstrike deaths in 2014 were caused by barrel-bombs. 562 victims were aged under 5.

Making a nonsense of the justification for air attacks by Assad’s military that they are “eliminating terrorists”, just 574 of the documented deaths recorded above have been of Opposition fighters. You can read more data, HERE:


TIMELINE – 15th AUGUST 2014 11.55 GMT – UPDATED 21.55 GMT:

Iraq’s caretaker Prime Minister, Nouri Al-Maliki, finally threw in the towel on Thursday and admitted defeat in his bid to be re-elected, proceeding in a televised broadcast to publicly hand over to his successor.

With PM designate Abadi and politicians for other parties standing next to him, Maliki said, “I announce before you today… the withdrawal of my candidacy in favour of the brother Doctor Haidar al-Abadi”. While Abadi has just under a month to form a new government, Maliki remains in post and commader-in-chief of the armed forces.



Maliki “Throws in the Towel”

Maliki’s acceptance of defeat was hailed by the US as “a step forward” and the hope now is that Abadi can form an administration that is inclusive of all sections of Iraq’s society, especially Sunnis, Shia and Kurds, who can work together to defeat the onslaught by the Islamic State.

There are still question marks over Maliki’s rule as he is seen to have conducted affairs totally in favour of the Shia population leading to the alienation of the Sunnis and the current crisis where Sunni tribes supported the advance by the Islamic State, and also to have authorised the military to drop barrel-bombs on Fallujaha and other locations.

Perhaps his departure has already spurred a positive Sunni reaction.  According to reports coming out of Iraq today, Friday, members of more than 25 prominent Sunni tribes have taken up arms against the Islamic State (IS) and their allies west of Baghdad in an uprising that started at 6.00am. According to Anbar province’s police chief, Major general Ahmed Saddak, the uprising is backed by the security forces and in initial fighting 12 IS militants are reported killed.

After 20 US marines and special operations personnel spent 24 hours on top of Mount Sinjar on Wednesday, having since returned to base, the US administration has concluded that following humanitarian aid drops and hard work by the Kurdish Peshmerga and Kurdish militia, the YPG, to guide people off the mountain, only about 4 – 5,000 Yezidi people remain.

This is a far cry from the 20,000 to 30,000 reported earlier in the week.

If their assessment is correct, the Pentagon will not now send a rescue mission to airlift those remaining, who should be able to leave under cover of darkness led by the Peshmerga as groups have been doing every night for the last 10 days. The US special forces reported that they found pallets of aid supplies on the mountain that had not been opened.

2,000 of the Yezidi remaining on Mount Sinjar are resident there and may not want to leave. Interestingly, they believe the mountain is the final resting place of Noah’s Ark after the great flood described in the Bible subsided. The BBC’s Paul Wood reports from the top of Mount Sinjar, HERE:

(EDITOR: Let’s hope the US assessment is right. Hospitalised Yezidi MP Vian Dakhil [who broke a leg, not a wrist as reported earlier, in a helicopter crash on Mount Sinjar] says that there could be as many as “80,000 still on the mountain”, particularly on the south side.) The Wall Street Journal has an alternative assessment, HERE:

You can read President Obama’s statement of the Mount Sinjar situation, HERE:

Britain’s SAS special operations unit is also widely reported to have been operating in northern Iraq for the last 6 weeks in support of the Americans and Kurds. Britain made 7 air drops over Mount Sinjar and has given Iraq £13 million ($21.7 million) in aid.

This and other contributions will certainly be needed. Since the Islamic State invaded northern Iraq, approximately 1.5 million people have been displaced, most of them ending up in Kurdistan with some towns pushed to breaking point.



Displaced Yezidi Now Living Outdoors in Zakho, Kurdistan

The UN has given the Iraq situation its highest emergency rating in order to speed aid deliveries and an estimated $312 million is needed just to meet current needs.

The UN Security Council is also due to pass a resolution shortly isolating the Islamic State by stopping countries buying their oil and banning recruitment to their armies.

To some peoples’ horror, Islamic State supporters have appeared on London’s Oxford Street handing out leaflets urging readers to emigrate to the new “Caliphate”.

Passers-by who confronted the group say they were racially abused. The Iraq news in the Daily Mailcovers the incident.

EU diplomats, led by the UK and France, are also meeting today to discuss sending arms to the Kurds who are continuing the battle against the Islamic State on the frontline, HERE:

US jet fighters and drones additionally struck at the Islamic State (IS) again yesterday, Thursday, destroying 2 armed vehicles that were firing at the Kurds and later targeting a MRAP, a heavily armoured US-made vehicle originally supplied to the Iraqi Army and lost by them in the rapid IS advance.

There are unconfirmed reports that the US is considering military intervention from the air in Iraq’s Anbar province in order to protect Baghdad. Scott Lucas of EAWorldview comments on the whole messy situation of the US and Iraq and Syria, HERE:

The BBC’s Iraq news service has a video report on the whole situation.

Extraordinary photograph of the aftermath of Tuesday’s aid helicopter crash on Mount Sinjar, taken by Moises Saman who was in the aircraft at the time:



Aftermath of Tuesday’s Helicopter Crash on Mount Sinjar

Hamas: Israel must meet demands or face long war

An Israeli soldier fires a tear gas canister at Palestinian protesters following a protest against the Israeli offensive in Gaza, in the West Bank village of Silwad, near Ramallah August 15, 2014.

CAIRO: Offers made to the Palestinian delegation in Cairo do not meet the aspirations of the people, said Hamas’s head of foreign affairs, Osama Hamdan, raising doubts about the chances of reaching a truce with Israel in the Cairo-brokered talks.

Hamdan said on his official Facebook page Saturday: ” Israel must accept the demands of the Palestinian people or face a long war.”

Israel launched its military campaign on July 8 to quell cross-border rocket fire from Hamas in Gaza. The United Nations said 425,000 of 1.8 million population of Gaza have been displaced by the war, which has killed more than 1,900 Palestinians and 67 Israelis.

Most of the Palestinian dead have been civilians, hospital officials in the small, densely populated enclave say.

Israel and the Palestinians agreed Wednesday to extend a cease-fire agreement in Gaza by five days to continue indirect negotiations on a lasting truce. The cease-fire expires on Monday.

The two sides are not meeting face-to-face in Cairo: Israel regards Hamas, which advocates its destruction, as a terrorist group.

Hamas’s demands include lifting a blockade on Gaza, reducing movement restrictions on the territory’s 1.8 million residents, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh told Al-Aqsa Hamas television last week.

(Source / 16.08.2014)

Drone kills three suspected al Qaeda militants in Yemen – official

(Reuters) – A drone attack killed three suspected al Qaeda militants on Saturday in Yemen’s eastern Hadramout province, a local official told Reuters.

“The three armed men were travelling in a vehicle along a desert stretch between Yemen and Saudi Arabia’s border when the drone shot two rockets at them. All three are dead,” the local official said.

No details were given on whether it was a U.S. or Yemeni drone.

Earlier this month, the Yemeni army sent extra troops to the Wadi Hadramout region in northeastern Yemen to counter attempts by militant group Ansar al Sharia to declare an Islamic emirate in the city of Seiyoun.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) exploited a power vacuum wrought by the 2011 uprising that eventually ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh to carve out areas of dominance in south and east Yemen. Since then, AQAP has repeatedly attacked state institutions, including army camps and state buildings across the U.S.-allied country, killing hundreds of people.

A U.S. ally, with a population of 25 million, Yemen is trying to end three years of political unrest, which began when mass protests erupted in 2011 against Ali Abdullah Saleh, the president of 33 years, who stepped down.

(Source / 16.08.2014)