A bold proposal: Palestine should give its refugees citizenship

Palestinian refugees returning to their village during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war

Palestine’s Present Status and Authorities

Reports continue to circulate about a new effort to secure a UN Security Council resolution that would accord Palestine full UN membership and set out yet another road map for ending the Israeli occupation. While full membership of the UN is useful, it is not the only avenue open to Palestine to achieve the long-term aim of national liberation, freedom from occupation and a just and rights-based life of dignity for all Palestinians.Palestine now enjoys a sufficient degree of recognition in the international community of states that it can take further steps towards strengthening its de facto and de jure existence and create new facts on the ground to enable solutions beyond the trap of the Oslo Accords. In fact, Mahmoud Abbas – acting on behalf of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) – began to go in this direction soon after the 2012 General Assembly vote to recognize Palestine as a non-member observer state, first by joining the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), then by signing on to international human rights and other treaties, and, in the wake of the failed UN Security Council vote in December, by signing on to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.It is important not to conflate the State of Palestine with the Palestinian Authority (PA), a mistake made possible by the Palestinian leadership’s own conflation of the two. In legal terms, the State of Palestine is a creation of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which the UN has recognized as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian People. The PA is merely a construct of the Oslo Accords and has varying degrees of authority in parts of the West Bank and Gaza not including Arab Jerusalem.In fact, Palestine is already a state, under both the declarative and constitutive approaches to state recognition in international practice. The PLO’s Declaration of Independence on November 15, 1988 in Algiers, as deposited with the UN, implied, ipso facto, acceptance of the pre-1967 armistice lines as borders, specifically encompassing Arab Jerusalem. As such, the entire territory of Palestine as declared in 1988 remains under Israeli occupation.The Algiers Declaration further notes “The State of Palestine shall be for all Palestinians,” which is a straightforward designation, and it contains clear provisions for equality and non-discrimination on any basis. The Palestine National Council and the PLO’s Executive Committee are the Government of Palestine, which has been conducting relations with other states on an ongoing basis, including joining international organizations and acceding to treaties, as mentioned above.The fact that Palestine gained overwhelming official recognition by a vote of the General Assembly in 2012 (138 votes in favor, 41 abstentions, 9 negative votes out of 193 member states) further supports is statehood status. Currently 135 countries formally recognize Palestine, mostly outside North America and the European Union (with the exception of Sweden and Iceland which do). Nevertheless, 17 European states actually voted for the General Assembly resolution. Many of them may soon recognize Palestine officially, as indicated by recent votes at the European Parliament, the French Parliament, and the UK Parliament, among others. This demonstrates that global support for an independent Palestine is reaching a critical mass that may be enough to get forward movement on other fronts as well.What is proposed here is that the State of Palestine can begin conferring citizenship, in accordance with the Declaration of Independence, and in exercise of its sovereign right to do so as a state, albeit still under occupation and even though its citizens are unable yet to exercise their right to return to their homeland. Importantly, this would be the first act by the State of Palestine to give priority to its hitherto almost-forgotten constituency, the stateless refugees. There are of course benefits and risks.

The Palestinians’ Mosaic Legal Status

Palestinians live under diverse legal regimes depending on where they currently reside. In the territories of Palestine (West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem), they are considered “permanent residents” by the Israeli occupation, which claims for itself the right to withdraw such residency at will – and does so on a regular basis. Palestinians have Israeli-issued identity documents on the basis of which, by virtue of the Oslo Accords, the PA provides them with “passports.”These are simply travel documents that replace Israeli-issued Laissez Passers; moreover, PA passports may not be issued to Jerusalem’s Arab residents. Jerusalemites and West Bankers may travel under Jordanian passports that have no Jordanian “national number;” these are similarly treated as travel documents.None of these documents are representative of any citizenship anywhere, and Palestinians under Israeli occupation continue to be stateless persons under international law. This of course does not apply to the more than 1.5 million Palestinians that are citizens of the State of Israel and thus are not legally considered stateless or refugees. Interestingly, the PA has also issued their “passports” to some Palestinians in the Diaspora who use them for international travel except to occupied Palestine, where they are not recognized.Most Palestinians in Jordan hold Jordanian citizenship, but are also refugees registered with the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), except for approximately 100,000 stateless Palestinians from Gaza who are not. As such they are subject to subtle and not-so-subtle tests of “loyalty” and the scrutiny they live under sometimes results in the withdrawal of that citizenship, rendering them stateless.The most vulnerable refugees are in Syria and Lebanon, where they are registered with UNRWA, and are considered both refugees and stateless persons. They live under a mixed-bag set of rights and restrictions that are different in each of those countries. In Egypt, the Palestinian refugees also remain stateless, but they are registered with the government rather than UNRWA and are subject to many restrictions in terms of the right to work, residence, education and other rights. Syria, Lebanon and Egypt may issue their stateless Palestinians travel documents subject to a variety of restrictions. The vulnerability of stateless Palestinian refugees in those countries and across the region, including Libya, Iraq, and the Gulf, has been abundantly discussed elsewhere and needs no repetition here. They should be accorded first priority for Palestinian citizenship.

Palestinian refugees wait in line to receive food in the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus in February 2015

Some Steps Toward Implementing Citizenship

Many legal, political and logistical complications arise in implementing the granting of citizenship in each of the countries where Palestinians live. These complications intersect and overlap and need to be thoroughly thought through before action is contemplated. Some starting points are suggested below that require more serious in-depth consideration.A first step would be to establish a comprehensive registry of all individuals and their families who may lay claim to Palestinian citizenship, as Sam Bahour has suggested. This would be collated from UNRWA and governmental records throughout the region and internationally, and include such data as whether they are stateless, registered as refugees, or citizens of any country. It would be a mammoth project, but it is necessary given that no such comprehensive roster exists in one place at this time, and it would help to prioritize applications by stateless Palestinians in the implementation of a citizenship process.However, before implementing a process of conferral of citizenship, Palestine must enter into specific bilateral agreements with each of the countries that have already recognized it as a state, on the assumption that they are willing to take their bilateral relations forward. To date, these relations have been little more than cosmetic, such as elevating PLO offices to embassies, flying flags and entering into some limited diplomatic relations.Such bilateral agreements could establish reciprocal arrangements on very specific terms based on the recognition of Palestinians as nationals of a friendly state. They would be designed to mutually accord preferential treatment to citizens of both states. Countries such as Lebanon and Egypt, for example, do not allow Palestinian professionals to work because of a lack of reciprocal arrangements for their own syndicated and other professionals. A bilateral agreement could remove this restriction by including a commitment by Palestine to ensure such reciprocal treatment once it is liberated from occupation.Such agreements could also open the way to the exercise of other rights, such as ownership of property or business, access to health care and a number of other rights and privileges that Palestinian refugee-citizens may enjoy as a result of their own state negotiating on their behalf. In other words, the full gamut of mutual benefits and obligations can be put into play in such bilateral agreements, including taxation and social insurance schemes for refugee-citizens that may be underwritten or made a joint venture by both states for the benefit of Palestinian citizens and the host states as well. The arrangements may also include consular protection and legal representation.In its bilateral agreements with Jordan and other countries where Palestinians are citizens, Palestine may include the provision of dual citizenship, which is a common practice across the globe. Hundreds of thousands of registered refugees have acquired citizenship in many countries, although exact numbers are not available. Palestine can enter into bilateral agreements with those countries to allow for dual citizenship and define mutual benefits and obligations as per standard international practice.Dual citizenship within the Arab world is more problematic. Preliminary information shows that nearly all Arab states do not recognize dual citizenship, although many tacitly accept it. Interestingly, the three countries with the largest stateless Palestinian refugee populations do recognize dual citizenship: Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. For Jordan, the only country where most Palestinians are citizens, this facilitates the discussion on duality of citizenship with Palestine, provided there is political agreement to do so and the current status and rights of Jordanian citizens of Palestinian origin are not jeopardized. Notwithstanding the bilateral agreements, however, the choice to apply for Palestinian citizenship should be an individual choice.The Arab League’s Resolution 1547 (9 March 1959) exhorts Arab states to support Palestinians’ “nationality” by not granting them citizenship. Palestine’s granting of Palestinian citizenship would actually be consistent with this resolution because it would strengthen and formalize Palestinian nationality. Another resolution, the 1965 Casablanca Protocol of the League of Arab States calls on member states to provide Palestinians with the right of employment, travel, and entry and exit “whilst retaining their Palestinian nationality.” It accords Palestinians “the same treatment as all other LAS state citizens, regarding visa, and residency applications.” Palestine – a full member of the League – could seek the Arab League’s recognition of Palestinian legal nationality after gaining the support of a sufficient number of member states.
Citizenship, Refugee Law and the Right to Return
One becomes a refugee as a result of being “unable or unwilling” to return to where they may face a “well-founded fear” of persecution or serious harm, as defined by the 1951 Refugees’ Convention. The Palestinian refugees are more than willing but are “unable” to return because of Israel’s refusal to allow them to do so. In international refugee law, however, the status and rights of Palestinian refugees differ from other refugees in several ways.Also according to the Convention, a refugee who acquires the nationality of a host state upon resettlement loses refugee status. This is not the case for UNRWA-registered Palestinian refugees, who are in any event excluded from the application of the 1951 convention.Notwithstanding, what is being proposed here is actually the reverse. Stateless Palestinians would be acquiring the nationality of their home country, Palestine, not of any host or foreign state. They remain refugees because of being unable to return to Palestine, and their home state – under occupation – can advocate on their behalf with the host countries for the gamut of rights and privileges agreed upon bilaterally.In fact, refugee status does not negate the nationality of the refugee: One does not lose one’s nationality or citizenship due to being a refugee. One remains a national of one’s home state – unless their legal status of “citizen” is actively withdrawn, which is a practice seriously frowned upon by international law as it creates statelessness. They may lose what is called “effective” nationality or citizenship, i.e., the active link of the citizen to his/her own state and the ability to rely on its protection or access its services, such as renewing passports. This, however, is a matter of functionality and practice not affecting the refugee’s right to that nationality.Indeed, the demand for exercising the right to return becomes even stronger when return is to a homeland of which one is a citizen. The acquisition of Palestinian citizenship can only strengthen this demand, as it legally establishes the already clear historical and geographic links of Palestinians to Palestine.

A file picture released on November 28, 2013 by UNRWA shows Palestinians at the Baqa’a refugee camp, north of the Jordanian capital Amman in 1970

Without prejudice to the collective political claim based on the right to self-determination, it is important to note that the right to return is an individual right. It is tied intricately to each individual and family’s claim to return to a homeland and to specific homes and properties that were lost due to conflict and ethnic cleansing. It would not be up to the State of Palestine to compromise or negotiate the right to return away on their behalf without their express agreement. Each individual refugee has the right to decide whether to return or to accept compensation, or both.Article 11 of the UN General Assembly Resolution 194 referred to “the refugees wishing to return to their homes…” confirming it as an individual decision. It should be noted, however, that the right to return was not established by Resolution 194, as is often claimed. Rather, it only confirmed customary law, reaffirmed by Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a right to leave one’s country and return to it, and by consequent treaties and state practice, most recently in the Balkans.One effect of granting citizenship is that it would take away the “bargaining chip” aspect of the right to return – whether to the refugees’ original homes or to the State of Palestine defined by the PLO Declaration of Independence as the West Bank, Gaza and Arab Jerusalem. Palestinian citizens certainly should be able to go to any part of Palestine that is liberated from occupation as a matter of a right of citizenship, not as part of a “concession” by Israel in the context of any future peace treaty.Furthermore, this should in no way diminish the struggle for a right to return to “original lands and homes” which would continue to be a point of contention between Palestine and Israel and between Israel and individual Palestinians. Any negotiated proposals should be referred back to Palestinian citizens through referenda or other formats should they affect any aspect of their individual claims to return to their original homes or to compensation or both.

Other Obstacles and Questions
As discussed above, there is sufficient legal basis to support the granting of Palestinian citizenship, but the political implications of a move by Palestine in this direction could be daunting in terms of Israeli, Palestinian and Arab reactions and willingness to consider the options. Israel and the U.S. would certainly react negatively and even take some measures in retaliation, but there would be nothing new in that. Threats of increasing settlements or cutting off of financial support are made – and often implemented – every time Palestine makes a move outside of the Oslo framework.Each of the countries with which Palestine has relations would present significant complications in the political negotiations towards implementation of this proposal, especially in the Arab region. Jordan and Lebanon have particular sensitivities regarding the Palestinians in their midst, and Palestinian negotiators will have to work with those countries to arrive at mutually acceptable terms and recognition. These would not be easy negotiations. For example, Egypt’s current, irrational sensitivities to Gaza Palestinians and to Hamas would have to be addressed and surmounted, and the current crisis in Syria will block any movement for some time to come. Ironically, it may be useful to start negotiating with supportive non-Arab countries to slowly build the international consensus necessary to create acceptance closer to home.There are also political landmines on the internal Palestinian front, particularly given the weakening national consensus on the broader issues facing Palestinians: Whether nominal sovereignty without control of the land is meaningful; the efficacy of international recognition of any sort given continued Israeli colonization; the very legitimacy of the Palestinian leadership, and the periodic calls for a retreat from Oslo, resignation of the Palestinian Authority and the handing over of occupied Palestine back to the Israeli occupation. The idea of granting citizenship is not intended to serve as a resolution of Palestinian political malaise, but only as a step to build on what now exists to achieve some limited progress in refugees’ lives.In fact, it may very well be a helpful step as it might facilitate reform of the PLO through a reorganization of its capacity to represent all Palestinians, within and outside the recognized territories of the State. One may dare to imagine popular (not organizational or factional) elections to membership of the Palestine National Council, and a review of the selection/election of its Executive Committee, as well as a re-consideration of the relations between the PLO and the PA, all based on the right of each individual Palestinian citizen to choose his or her representatives.The debates around Palestinians’ right to return also encompass many complications, and, to be clear, the granting of Palestinian citizenship to refugees does not resolve the issue and might even complicate its understanding. For example, would the demand for return be limited to the territories of Palestine accepted by the PLO only? As mentioned above, citizenship should not affect the individual claims that each Palestinian family has for its rights in 1948 Palestine, and it may even strengthen those claims. However, Israel may very well take the position that it has no obligation to accept a right of return to nationals of a “foreign” state. Yet this has been Israel’s position since 1948, and particularly since 1952 when it enacted its own citizenship law. This Israeli position has not diminished the Palestinian claim to the right of return, nor should it in future. One may even envision – in the wildest of possible dreams – dual citizenship with the State of Israel, provided that Israelis are willing to live at peace with their neighbors.Additionally, there are logistical complications to enable the granting of citizenship. How would the process be organized and where would it be housed, centrally or within Palestinian embassies? Can the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics in Ramallah handle the initial population registry suggested above or would it have to be established elsewhere (and would it be safe from the next Israeli bombardment?) What are the modalities? Individual Palestinians and families would probably be expected to apply for citizenship, depositing papers and documents as proof of “belonging” to Palestine, but what level of scrutiny would be required? Where and how would documents, including identity cards and passports, be received and issued and by whom? How would it be overseen given the geographic spread? What about the financial requirements? These and many other questions arise.

Palestinian man walks past a mural in the West Bank city of Jenin. The Arabic reads: “So that we don’t forget the sacred right to return.”

Time to Create Palestinian Facts

The current political stalemate can only be broken by facts on the ground. Israel continues to create its own facts in settlements, house demolitions, land confiscation and many other policies that violate human rights. Palestine should also create facts, as it has been doing in the international arena – facts that may soon become part of the political and legal landscape of the struggle for national liberation.State practice and inter-state relations form the backbone of international law, at the customary, treaty-based and UN Charter levels. New realities can be created through bilateral and multilateral arrangements that are taken within the parameters of established international norms. Palestine can create a new reality by granting citizenship depending on its success in negotiating its bilateral agreements with the countries that recognize it. Such a move may also strengthen the Palestinian position vis–vis the current political impasse. It does not necessarily create an alternative, but may help in consolidating international support and the critical mass necessary to support solutions beyond the Oslo quagmire.The major and most important challenge is how to navigate the treacherous political waters within the region, and this requires full assessments of the advantages and risks of granting Palestinian citizenship. Regional and country studies and discussions are needed to unpack the detailed implications of granting citizenship by Palestine to the stateless refugees, eventually going beyond to all Palestinians.Given the failures of Oslo, Palestinians now face a fundamental political question: Do we continue to struggle until we achieve national liberation, then put in place institutional structures and systems including citizenship rosters and the like? Or do we create facts on the ground, which then become the building blocks for national liberation? In the clear absence of political consensus on the first option, we may still be able to achieve something on the second, which is what this proposal suggests. It is hoped that it would at least merit careful and studied consideration and discussion.
(Source / 12.05.2015)

2016 Olympics: After BDS pressure, Brazilian government denies relations with Israeli company ISDS

The Palestinian national stadium in Gaza, which was destroyed during Israel's 2012 attack

The Palestinian national stadium in Gaza, which was destroyed during Israel’s 2012 attack

More than 30 Brazilian social movements and progressive organisations had called on the Brazilian government to exclude International Security and Defence Systems from Olympics contracts after the Israeli company announced in October 2014 that it had been awarded a $2.2bn deal to coordinate security at the games.

On April 8, the Ministry of Justice’s Special Secretariat for Mega-events (Sesge/MJ) replied to their letter by explaining that ISDS has not been awarded any contracts.

The reply from Sesge/MJ also stated that “any contract made by Rio 2016 won’t result in compromises by the Brazilian government”, a phrase campaigners are interpreting as a clear sign that government officials were sympathetic to their demands.

ISDS had originally announced it had been awarded a contract by the Organising Committee for the 2016 Games. When overall responsibility for security at the games shifted to the Brazilian government, Brazilian social movements began calling on the Brazilian government to ensure that the apparent deal would not remain in place.

The letter to key Sesge/MJ official Andrei Rodrigues signed by Brazilian social movements, political parties, workers unions, and different associations set out how ISDS is accused of having ties to coups, death squares and dictatorships in Central America, as well as close links with the Israeli military.

Campaigners are now preparing to pressure the Olympics Committee to cancel a separate “official supplier” deal with ISDS.

Jaman Juma, coordinador of the Stop the Wall movement, said:

“For us, boycotting this company is paradigmatic: Israel develops its methodologies and technologies through the killing and repression of the Palestinian people, and then it sells them worldwide. The end of military and security relations with Israel is an act of defense. Not only for the Palestinian people, it is an act of defense for humanity.”

Julio Turra, executive director of the biggest Brazilian workers’ union, CUT, one of the signatories of the letter to Coesrio2016, said:

“We are glad with the information the government distances itself from ISDS. It would be illegal and shameful to hire a company that develops its technologies in complicity with Israeli crimes and that accumulates complaints about its participation in Central American dictatorships.”

Mahmoud Nawajaa, General Coordinador of the BDS Palestinian National Committee (BNC), said:

“We welcome the fact that the Brazilian government categorically states it has no commercial relation with ISDS. We expect that no similar company will be hired. It is important that Brazil walks towards a fully military embargo against Israel”.

“Brazilians can be sure they will have the support from the Palestinian and international civil society on this campaign against ISDS in the Olympic Games”.

As for future actions, Soraya Misleh, from the Front in Defense of the Palestinian People explained:

“There will be a wide campaign against the contract celebrated with the 2016 Organizing Committee which makes ISDS an ‘official supplier’ for the Games. We won’t allowed the Olympic Games in our country to have such company’s logo in its publicity. It is an insult against all those who believe in human rights and justice”.

Maristela Pinheiro, from the Rio de Janeiro Committee in Solidarity with the Palestinian People added:

“There will be for sure a strong campaign against the supplier deal between ISDS and the 2016 Organizing Committee and we’ll keep monitoring Coesrio. The Olympics can’t beneficiate companies that profit through human rights violations. The Games can’t be intensifying repressive practices in our country, or endorse illegal and immoral actions”.

Felipe Butelli, from the Christian Group Kairos Brazil added:

“The call for military embargo has the support of important international names, the Nobel Peace Prize winners Desmond Tutu and Perez Esquivel among them. Brazil can’t follow on the opposite direction”

(Source / 12.05.2015)

30,000 Israeli demolition orders issued since Oslo

RAMALLAH, (PIC)–  Israeli Occupation Authorities (IOA) issued 30,000 demolition orders against Palestinian-owned facilities since Oslo accords in 1993, an Israeli rights group said in Monday.

In a new report, Planners for Planning Rights (Bimkom) affirmed that since seizing the West Bank in 1967, Israel has held full control over all planning matters for both Palestinians and Jewish settlers in area C that covers over 60 percent of the territory.

The Israeli rights group said that although settlers can easily secure building permits, Palestinians found themselves forced to build “illegally”, where hundreds of unauthorized structures have been yearly demolished.

Over 60 percent, around 360,000 hectares, of the West Bank is classified as Area C, where Israel has full control over security and also civilian affairs which are managed by the Civil Administration, a unit of the Israeli war ministry.

UN figures show there are an estimated 298,000 Palestinians living in Area C, grouped into 532 residential areas, while there are 341,000 Israelis living in 135 settlements and 100 unauthorized outposts.

“Only one percent of Area C is designated for Palestinian development, compared to 70 percent designated for settlements expansion,” the UN says.

Palestinian construction in the other 29 percent of Area C is subject to severe Israeli restrictions.

“Since Oslo Accords, Israel has issued more than 14,600 demolition orders, of which 2,925 structures have actually been demolished,” Bimkom reported.

Bimkom architect Alon Cohen Lifschitz estimates there are an average of two structures per order, meaning that over the past decade, Israel has issued demolition notices for nearly 30,000 Palestinian-owned facilities.

In 2014, 911 demolition orders were issued against Palestinian homes, barns, fence, cemeteries, and solar panels under the pretext of being built without permits.

There are currently more than 9,100 outstanding demolition orders which can be implemented at any time, Bimkom pointed out.

Since 1996, Israel has granted only a few hundred building permits for Palestinian structures.

According to Amnesty International, there were 76 building permits issued to Palestinians between 1996 and 1999.
And from 2000-2014, only 206 building permits were issued, Bimkom says.

In 2014, Israel granted a single building permit.

“In Area C, a two-tier planning system operates based on ethnic-national background: a civil and representative planning system for Jewish settlers and a military system without representation for Palestinians,” Israeli NGO Rabbis for Human Rights said.

In planning for Palestinian villages, the objectives are to limit land use and encourage dense construction, whereas in the settlements, the trend is often the opposite –- to include as much area as possible, producing particularly low density levels, it explained.

(Source / 12.05.2015)

Muslim-Bashing Can Be Very Lucrative

Muslim-Bashing Can Be Very Lucrative

Why do Pamela Geller et al. do it? Sure, they believe it. But they get bankrolled to do it—and on a major scale.
People keep asking me why does Pam Geller spew so much anti-Muslim crap? Is it part of her work as a pro-Israel activist? Did she once get food poisoning at a Middle Eastern restaurant? Is it simply because she really, really hates Muslims?

Probably all the above, but one other thing is certain: Geller gets paid pretty well to demonize Muslims. I’m talking to the tune of $200,000 a year. True, that might be walking around money for Donald Trump (who actually bashed Geller this week for her draw the Prophet Mohamed cartoon contest), but that puts her in the top 5 percent of all Americans in terms of annual income. Now, $200,000 doesn’t make a person rich these days (although the $9 million in combined divorce settlement and life-insurance payments she reportedly got certainly qualifies her). But for what she does, it’s handsome pay.

In fact, many of the people identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), and the Center for American Progress (CAP) as the leaders of the anti-Muslim industry in America are paid well for their efforts. I’m talking so much money I almost want to start hating on Muslims—and I’m Muslim.

In Geller’s case, her salary is paid from her organization the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), a group listed by the SPLC as an active “anti-Muslim organization.” In 2013, the AFDI reported $958,800 in gross receipts and paid Geller a base salary of $192,500, plus $18,750 in other income (PDF).
Not bad for a group created, per AFDI’s tax returns, to act “against the treason being committed by the national, state and local government officials, the mainstream media and others in their capitulation to the global jihad and Islamic Supremacism.” This is truly one step removed from tin foil hats and claims that the government has bugged your cheese.

But Geller, who has also been denounced by the ADL for vilifying Muslims, is just one of many profiting from hate (PDF). As Matt Duss, a former policy analyst for the Center for American Progress and now president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, noted, “It’s certainly been a lucrative industry for leading anti-Muslim bigots. Tens of millions of dollars have been poured into this.”

Duss is truly an expert in this field, having co-authored a report released in February titled “Fear, Inc. 2.0” (PDF) that investigated the Islamophobia network in America and traced the funds used to support its key players. For example, the report notes that Frank Gaffney, Fox News regular (of course), is one of the leaders of the anti-Muslim movement and is the primary engineer of the claim that Muslims want to impose Islamic law across America. Gaffney has even argued that giving Muslim Americans a day off from work for Muslim holidays is a form of imposing sharia law.

Well, Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy (CSP) in 2012 reported $3.2 million in revenue. And Gaffney, as president, paid himself $300,000 a year for his work in demonizing Muslims.

One report found that certain key foundations have donated close to $60 million in recent years to these anti-Muslim advocates.

Then there’s David Horowitz, a man described by the SPLC as “the godfather of the modern anti-Muslim movement.” He has also been denounced by the ADL for his work that “promotes anti-Muslim views and features events with anti-Muslim activists.” (PDF)

For example, Horowitz has tried to bully and marginalize Muslim-American college students by claiming that the Muslim Student Associations are “associated with terrorist organizations” and intend to “kill the Jews, to push them into the sea.”

Being “the godfather” of anti-Muslim hate appears to pay well. Horowitz’s Freedom Center in 2013 saw over $7.2 million in gross receipts and Horowitz was paid $525,000 in salary (PDF). And Horowitz even bankrolls Robert Spencer, another well-known Muslim-basher, with a $167,000-a-year salary.

Now in Horowitz’s defense, he doesn’t focus just on demonizing Muslims. He has also made other hateful comments like “There’s no community that’s more racist in America than the black community.” This guy is making a lot, but he is really earning his money.

And who can forget Brigitte Gabriel, another Fox News staple who demonizes Muslims at every turn. Gabriel runs Act for America!, which the SPLC has noted is part of the “anti-Muslim inner circle.” Gabriel has given us such anti-Muslim classics as “America has been infiltrated on all levels by radicals who wish to harm America. They have infiltrated us at the C.I.A., at the F.B.I., at the Pentagon, at the State Department.”

How much does Gabriel get paid to offer that type of garbage? Per Act for America’s 2012 tax returns, she was paid a $132,000 base salary and $84,090 as a bonus (PDF). I wonder if she earns that bonus by dishing out such off-the-wall claims as “tens of thousands of Islamic militants now reside in America…attending our colleges and universities, even infiltrating our government.”

So who funds these organizations? Well that’s more challenging to determine. It’s like trying to figure the names of the people who fund the Klan or neo-Nazis—not too many people advertise their support for them. But the Fear, Inc. report found that certain key foundations have donated close to $60 million in recent years to these anti-Muslim advocates.

The most notable are the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation and the Scaife Foundation, which each have donated over $5 million (PDF) to David Horowitz’s Freedom Center. The Scaife Foundation also donated over $3 million to Frank Gaffney’s CSP.

Why do they fund these groups is a big question. Duss explained that in his view it’s “because a group of hawkish conservative funders clearly see a political benefit to stoking Americans’ fears and suspicions of their fellow citizens who are Muslims.” This means we may see even more money flowing to these anti-Muslim advocates in the 2016 presidential race.

The bottom line is that the anti-Muslim industry is lucrative and not going anywhere soon. But at least now we can understand why some of these people engage in such hateful activities: It’s a living. And a nice one.

(Source / 12.05.2015)

US recruiting, arming terrorists to fight in Syria: Analyst

The United States is recruiting and training militants to join al-Qaeda and the ISIL terrorist group to overthrow the elected government of Syria, an author and analyst in Chicago says.

The deadly crisis in Syria that began in March 2011 is a “proxy war” waged by the administration of US President Barack Obama, Stephen Lendman told Press TV on Tuesday.

Terrorists from the al-Nusra Front, al-Qaeda and ISIL are recruited, armed and funded by America in several countries in the Middle East to fight the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Lendman said.

“This war can go on for years and years and years and who knows how many people will die and suffer horrifically from this,” he added.

The United Nations said more than 3.8 million Syrians have left their country since the beginning of the crisis and over 7.2 million Syrians have also become internally displaced.

The ISIL terrorists, who were initially trained by the CIA in Jordan in 2012 to destabilize the Syrian government, now control large parts of Syria and Iraq.

The United States and its regional allies — especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey — are supporting the militants operating inside the country.

The US military has started training “moderate” militants in Jordan to fight the ISIL terrorists in Syria, Pentagon officials said last week.

The US plans to train and arm a force that is set to total more than 15,000 militants by 2018. The program aims to train 5,000 militants annually for the next three years.

Lendman said recent reports indicating that al-Assad’s momentum in fighting off militant groups has decreased are nothing but “propaganda.”

US security officials are warning that if the Syrian government collapses, the country would face greater instability and control by extremist groups.

“What it might mean for the nation of Syria is further instability,” said US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey. “For power to suddenly transfer precipitously. And it could mean an even increased humanitarian crisis,” he said.

(Source / 12.05.2015)

German MPs arrive in Gaza

German MPs arrive in Gaza

The German lawmakers are scheduled to meet with UN officials in the Gaza Strip and to examine the destruction from a devastating Israeli offensive on the territory last summer

A delegation of 22 German lawmakers arrived in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday for a brief visit to the blockaded Palestinian territory, Gaza’s border authority has said.

Maher Abu Sabha, the head of Gaza’s border authority, told that a group of German MPs crossed into the coastal enclave on Tuesday morning through the Israeli-controlled Erez border crossing for a visit that would take several hours.

The German lawmakers are scheduled to meet with UN officials in the Gaza Strip and to examine the destruction from a devastating Israeli offensive on the territory last year, according to Abu Sabha.

In July and August of last year, more than 2,160 Gazans, mostly civilians, were killed – and another 11,000 injured – during seven weeks of ferocious Israeli bombardment.

(Source / 12.05.2015)

Israel to Force Bedouin Village to Pay for its Own Demolition

A Palestinian woman stands by the rubble of her home in East Jerusalem after it was demolished on the orders of the Israel state.

A Palestinian woman stands by the rubble of her home in East Jerusalem after it was demolished on the orders of the Israel state

The Israeli state is claiming that the town, razed to the ground 83 times, should pay for the 1,000 police deployed to carry out the destruction. ​ Israel has taken the Bedouin village of al-Araqib to court to force the desert settlement to pay US$500,000 in demolition costs, despite having been razed to the ground 83 times since 2010. The Israeli state is claiming that the southern town should fork out for the 1,000 police deployed to carry out the destruction. Because it is “unrecognized” by the Israeli government, al-Araqib is automatically approved for demolition, due to the use of Ottoman code in the 1950s, allowing it to expropriate the territory. Around half of Israel’s 90,000 Arab-Palestinian herders live in such precarious localities. Never before has a whole town been ordered to pay for its own demolition. “There is no justice in the way the state is handling it. We have proof that this land is theirs and that it is private property,” Khaled Sawalhi, a lawyer for al-Araqib told Mondoweiss. Since occupation of Palestinian territories began in 1967, Israel has demolished more than 27,000 homes. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has used demolition of property as a punishment for Palestinians he views as enemies of the Israeli state. In January, the United Nations condemned Israel for demolishing 77 Palestinian homes and displacing dozens of families in the West Bank. “Demolitions that result in forced evictions and displacement run counter to Israel’s obligations under international law and create unnecessary suffering and tension,” said U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator James W. Rawley.

(Source / 12.05.2015)

Syrian Coalition Delegates Maleh to Meet de Mistura in Geneva

The Syrian Coalition has delegated Haitham al-Maleh to meet the UN envoy Staffan de Mistura in Geneva. Maleh will hand a letter to de Mistura containing an explanation of the implementation of the Geneva Communique and also the “Document of Basic Principles for a Political Settlement” which was ratified and adopted by the Syrian Coalition and the Kurdish National Council.

During the General Assembly meeting held yesterday, the Syrian Coalition commissioned Maleh to submit a letter to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon through the UN headquarters in Geneva.

(Source: Syrian Coalition / 12.05.2015)

UPDATE 2: Sinai locals step up to fight against terrorism alongside army: Egypt’s Sisi

El-Sisi says terrorist attacks in North Sinai are being made so that “this land won’t be ours”

Sisi

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi

Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said on Tuesday that the fight against terrorism in North Sinai is not waged only by police and army personnel but also by locals.

“[The locals’ involvement] is a strong, moral message that shows they won’t accept the current conditions,” El-Sisi stated in a televised monthly speech.

He added that the people of Sinai have endured the current situation, and weren’t scared by the threats they have received [from militants].

El-Sisi also said that terrorist attacks in North Sinai are being made so that “this land won’t be ours.”

The president added that a number of projects will be launched soon to create real development and jobs in the restive North Sinai governorate.

In the past two years, Egypt has launched a war against a decade-long militant Islamist insurgency in North Sinai.

Hundreds of police and army personnel have been killed and wounded in terrorist attacks.

Hundreds of militants have also been reportedly killed as a result of military offensives. Earlier this week, Egypt’s army spokesman announced that in the past six months, 725 ’terrorists’ were killed.

Fight against corruption

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi said that the country needs to rely more on technology to reduce the incidences of corruption, while neutralising the human factor, in his third monthly speech to the nation.

“[Combating corruption] will take time,” El-Sisi stated, and said that the monitoring bodies combating the problem have been working on the problem consistently and are building on previous work.

El-Sisi also said that corruption is fought through both security procedures and the judicial system, in addition to the introduction of new legislation.

He added that in the period of one month there have been 334 documented cases of corruption and profiteering.

The president used the example of land restoration, saying that within one month, 135 square metres of land that had been illegally acquired throughout the country, had been returned.

Recapping Development Projects

El-Sisi confirmed the completion of dry digging in the mega-project of expanding the Suez Canal. He said that 1.7 million cubic metres of sand are being dredged daily.

Several heads of state have already been invited to the grand opening of the new waterway planned for August 6, El-Sisi said.

The widening of the already operational Suez Canal will create a two-way lane for ships passing through the canal, which will double the countries revenues by 2023.

El-Sisi also said some 3,200 km of roads will be finished by August, including a 400-km ring regional road that connects more than 20 governorates.

Also to be completed by August, 100 of Egypt’s poorest towns will be developed, El-Sisi said. 1,200 towns are part of the overall development plans. He said that he allocated EGP500 million from the national fund “Long live Egypt” to the project.

On the housing front, Sisi said that over the past 10 months some 70,000 housing units have been completed and another 170,000 are anticipated to be complete by the end of the year, with a total cost of EGP 35 billion.

With all the mega projects planned, attention has also been given to small and medium enterprises, Sisi said. He revealed a planned project in the Nile Delta city of Damietta for the launch of a furniture business hub on 350 acres of land.

(Source / 12.05.2015)

Lawyer Shireen al-‘Eesawy Moved Into Solitary Confinement

The Palestinian Detainees Committee has reported, Tuesday, that the administration in the Ramla Israeli Prison moved lawyer Shireen al-‘Eesawy, from the al-‘Eesawiyya town in occupied Jerusalem, into solitary confinement. Shireen is the sister of detainee Samer al-‘Eesawy.

Shireen al Eesawi

Shireen al-‘Eesawi

The committee said the administration placed the imprisoned lawyer with Israeli women, held on criminal charges, and moved her to a small solitary cell.

It added that the soldiers confiscated all electric equipment and belongings of al-‘Eesawy, and placed her in a tiny, dark and humid cell.

Shireen was repeatedly assaulted by her jailors, and by many imprisoned Israeli women, while the soldiers kept punishing and subjecting her to very harsh conditions.

The Committee stated that the escalating Israeli violations against the detainees, especially the ongoing psychological abuse, is a deliberate method used in an attempt to break the detainees, and increase their suffering.

The imprisoned lawyer, and four other female detainees, have been facing harsh punitive measures in the HaSharon Israeli prison, for the last two weeks, after an Israeli prisoner claimed they quarreled with her.

The Prison Administration did not even investigate the claim, and moved the five Palestinian political prisoners into solitary confinement.

Shireen is the sister detainee Samer al-‘Eesawy, who was sent to court Sunday where the judge reinstated his original 30-year imprisonment term for “violating the terms of his release.”

Samer was kidnapped in June of 2014, along with dozens of former political prisoners who were released as part of the Shalit Prisoner Swap agreement.

He spent ten years of his 30-year term before his was released under the Shalit deal, and the new ruling against him reinstated the twenty remaining years of his sentence.

The court also reinstated life terms against six detainees, who were released under the Shalit agreement, and were rearrested in recent months. The detainees are Aladdin al-Bazian, Adnan Maragha, Ismael Hijazi, Jamal Abu Saleh, Rajab Tahhan, and Nasser Abedrabbo.

The ruling was appealed, and the court recently decided to study each case separately before issuing its final verdict.

On Monday December 23 2013, Samer al-‘Eeesawy was released after being held for 17 months; the agreement for his release came after his historic 277-day hunger strike.

In June 0f 2014, Israel recaptured at least 50 ex-detainees that were released in the 2011 prisoners exchange agreement, al-‘Eesawy was among the kidnapped. Most of them remain held either under administrative detention – without indictment or trial – or are still awaiting military court ruling.

(Source / 12.05.2015)