China bans Muslims from fasting during Ramadan, say Uighur community

Shops and restaurants are being ordered to stay open during daylight hours – or risk being shut down

China has, once again, banned Ramadan in parts of the far western Xinjiang district for Muslim party members, civil servants, students and teachers.

Muslims throughout the district – which is known to have a minority population of Uighurs – have been told not to fast during the Holy Month.

The Uighur leader, Dilxat Raxit, sees the move as China’s attempt to control their Islamic faith and warned that the restrictions would force the Uighur people to resist the rule of the Chinese government even more.

He added: “The faith of the Uighurs has been highly politicised and the increase in controls could cause sharp resistance.”

In recent years, Chinese authorities have blamed separatist Uighurs for a string of terrorist attacks on civilian crowds and government institutions, but the group has consistently denied involvement.

Issues in the Xinjiang region between Uighur Muslims and Chinese authorities have been intensifying over the years
Activists have long-accused Beijing of exaggerating the threat as an excuse to impose restrictions.

Mr Raxit told Radio Free Asia: “They [the Chinese government] are extracting guarantees from parents, promising that their children won’t fast on Ramadan.”

According to the government’s website, halal restaurants near the Kazakh border are being encouraged by food safety officials to stay open during daylight hours in Ramadan.

Shops and restaurants owned by Muslins have also been ordered to continue selling cigarettes and alcohol over the course of the month – or be shut down altogether.

Beijing is continuing to crack-down against ‘religious extremism’ although human rights groups call it ‘religious repression’, adding that authorities want to prevent Muslims from ‘instilling religion’ into public bodies.

The ruling party says religion and education should be kept separate and students should not be subject to ‘religious influences’, although this rule is rarely enforced for children of Han Chinese, who – if they have a religion – are mostly Buddhist, Daoist or Christian.

(Source / 18.06.2015)

IDF soldiers killed Palestinian teen who posed no danger, report finds

Israeli soldiers ambushed three Palestinian teenagers with live ammunition, killing one, despite the fact that they posed no immediate threat. Neither the soldiers nor their commanders will face any charges.

Illustrative photo of an IDF sharpshooter aiming his weapon (Photo by ChameleonsEye /

Illustrative photo of an IDF sharpshooter aiming his weapon

An IDF commander ordered soldiers to fire live ammunition directly at Palestinian teenagers who broke through part of the separation fence, resulting in the killing of 14-year-old Yousef a-Shawamreh last year. This, despite the fact they they posed no immediate danger, according to a B’Tselem report released Wednesday criticizing the military’s decision to close the investigation without indictment.

On March 19, 2014, three Palestinians – an 18-year-old and two minors, one of them a-Shawamreh – walked up to the separation barrier in the area of the village of Deir al-‘Asal al-Foqa, southwest of Hebron. The IDF knows that certain parts of the barrier are often crossed by Palestinian youth who go to pick edible gundelia plants from their families’ land on the other side.

B’Tselem originally thought they crossed through an opening but later learned from military footage (video below) that they cut through the metal fence that the military sealed the previous day. This means that the IDF knew that whomever tried to cross that day would have to first sabotage the fence. That person would then be deemed “a fence saboteur” – and by definition suspected of committing an offense serious enough to warrant carrying out a suspect-apprehension procedure, including firing at below the knees.

According to B’Tselem, the investigators did not ask the commander why he had decided, by sealing the gaps in the fence, to incriminate anyone who crossed it as “suspected of a dangerous offense.”

According to the military, the soldiers in the field called out to the boys to stop, firing two warning shots in the air before firing at 14-year-old a-Shawamreh with a shot that should have been directed at his legs, but which they claim accidentally hit his waist. The Palestinian teens who were with a-Shawamreh testified that they didn’t realize there were any warning shots but rather were immediately fired upon.

B’Tselem slammed the Military Advocate General’s decision to close the investigation without serving any indictments. ”No apparent attempt was made to reconcile the contradicting versions given by the suspects and by witnesses, and the responsibility of the commanders who decided to mount an armed ambush at the spot was utterly ignored.”

Whether or not the open-fire regulations directed by the

commander on that day were indeed in line with the IDF’s protocol, the incident is highly suspect. Why would soldiers who knew the fence was sealed the day before stand by and watch the three youth as they broke through, only to approach them afterwards. It is almost as if they waited for them to do it (a form of entrapment) so they could then justify firing on them. The bottom line, however, is that a 14 year old was killed for picking plants on land that he can no longer freely access due to the route of the separation barrier. If the protocol allows for him to be shot for that, there is clearly something very wrong with the system at its core.

(Source / 18.06.2015)

Israeli Jewish settlers set fire to church in Tiberius

Graffiti spray-painted on the walls of the church reads: ‘Deity is to cut you [Christians] into pieces.. Jews are very strong compared with other strangers.’

Extremist Israeli Jewish settlers set fire on Thursday morning to Church off Tiberius shores, north-eastern occupied Palestine.

Israeli occupation authorities did not condemn the incident or describe the settlers’ act as form of terrorism. They said they would initiate an investigation into it

Days of Palestine, Tiberius –Extremist Israeli Jewish settlers set fire on Thursday morning to Church off Tiberius shores, north-eastern occupied Palestine.

Witnesses told Days of Palestine that the extremist Jewish settlers broke into Tabgha Church at 03:50am and set fire to several parts of it.

The fire came at most of the church, the witnesses said, causing much damage that affected the main prayer hall.

Five civil service staffs could extinguish the massive fire.

When Christian officials arrived in the scene, they found that the settlers had sprayed much graffiti in different parts of the church.

Rubble of the Catholic Church property, which was razed to the ground by the Israeli occupation last year.
Rubble of the Catholic Church property, which was razed to the ground by the Israeli occupation last year.

The graffiti reads: “Deity is to cut you [Christians] into pieces.. Jews are very strong compared with other strangers.”

Meanwhile, Israeli occupation authorities did not condemn the incident or describe the settlers’ act as form of terrorism. They said they would initiate an investigation into it.

It is worth mentioning that extremist Israeli Jewish settlers set fire to a Greek Orthodox seminary in occupied Palestinian Old City of Jerusalem on February 26, this year.

“Jesus is a son of a whore” and “Redemption of Zion” were spray-painted on the walls.

Last year, the Catholic Church has lashed out at the Israeli government, after one of its property in East Jerusalem was bulldozed to the ground.

(Source / 18.06.2015)

David Cameron invites Egypt’s Sisi to London after Morsi death sentence

The British government has defended its decision to extend an invitation to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi the day after his administration condemned the ousted leader to death

Ousted Egyptian President, Mohamed Morsi reacts as he learns that he will face the death penalty

Ousted Egyptian President, Mohamed Morsi reacts as he learns that he will face the death penalty

The British government has defended its decision to invite Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to London the day after his administration condemned the country’s former president to death.

A Cairo court confirmed the sentence against Mohamed Morsi on Tuesday, compounding a far reaching crackdown that has engulfed opposition from the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood to secular grassroots activists.

Egypt’s state news agency reported that Mr Sisi had received the invitation the next day.

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi 

A spokeswoman for Prime Minister David Cameron told reporters on Thursday that the British government was examining the possibility of a visit from Mr Sisi “later this year” to discuss mutual interests. When pressed on Egypt’s human rights record, she said the meetings would allow British officials to “raise matters of concern”.

The British government backed the pro-democracy uprising that brought Mr Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood to power, even sending Mr Cameron for a stroll around Cairo’s Tahrir Square shorty after it hosted the popular uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak from power in 2011.

But it grew disillusioned with Mr Morsi’s tenure after before he was overthrown by a military coup in July 2013. Although critical of a state-led massacre the following month, the planning of which Mr Sisi was heavily involved in, the British government has since worked hard to maintain good relations with the Egyptian regime.

A combination of repression and limited economic growth in Egypt has returned a degree of predictability to the relationship, and Mr Sisi’s administration is seen as a key counterterrorism partner for the west as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isil) metastasizes through the Middle East.

Thursday’s announcement that Mr Sisi may visit London is a reflection of this. But there are concerns that Cairo will view the invitation as a sign that Britain will turn a blind eye to its security apparatus’ worst excesses.

“A failure to speak out will be seen as Britain ditching all talk of human rights and democracy – all the heady rhetoric of 2011,” said Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding. “If Britain is to stand for anything, and not betray those who craved real change in Egypt, Cameron must be clear in public and in private about the need for democracy, rule of law and accountability in Egypt.”

Britain has also been criticised for its business as usual approach with Bahrain. On Tuesday, the Western-backed Gulf kingdom jailed the leader of its constitutional opposition the day after British Armed Forces Minister Penny Mordaunt opened a new naval base there.

(Source / 18.06.2015)

Ending memoricide– the Nakba Museum project

Nakba museum1

A decade ago I was on a speaking tour in Washington DC with Husam el Nounou, administrative director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program. I will never forget while exploring the National Museum of the American Indian, he suddenly left in tears. As we stood in front of the large stone edifice he explained this is what he fears for Palestinians, that we will mostly know their culture and history through static dioramas reflecting a reality that exists only in the past, while the remaining population is left to eke out a desperate existence living on reservations.

More recently Bshara Nassar whose family founded the extraordinary Tent of Nations near Bethlehem in the West Bank, also arrived in Washington DC to work on a master’s degree in conflict transformation. He noticed the numerous museums dedicated to recording the history and culture of oppressed peoples, the National Museum of the American Indian as well as the Holocaust Museum, Laogai Museum, Women in the Arts, African Art, etc. In this city where the powerful narrators of human history collect and frame the cultural and historical bits and pieces that shape official memory, he realized there was no space for Palestinian stories. He noted a deafening absence of his own family trauma, the experience of the Nakba, Arabic for “Catastrophe,” referring to the loss and dispossession of the indigenous peoples that began in 1948 with the founding of the State of Israel.

A team of Palestinian and Jewish-American artists, (“a passionate Palestinian” and “a well meaning Jew”), joined Bshara to organize, fundraise, and launch the first in the world Nakba Museum Project of Memory and Hope. They chose to focus on the 750,000 people originally displaced from their homes in historic Palestine and their five million descendants, UN registered refugees living the consequences of that expulsion in nearby villages, cities, refugee camps, and the Diaspora.

On June 13, 2015, the humble but deeply aspirational two-week exhibit opened at the Festival Center in Washington DC. The exhibit features large, beautifully rendered panels (produced by a German group Fluchtlingskinder im Libanon e. V., a charitable organization dedicated to aiding Palestinian refugee children in Lebanon), each focusing on different fragments of history. The panels start before 1917, moving sequentially up to today, explaining important United Nations Resolutions, and the human consequences of this complex and tortured saga. The sections encompass factual texts, excellent maps, evocative historic photos, and personal narratives to present a compelling and accessible account. Some of the material is from the Israeli organization Zochrot, Hebrew for “Remembering,” that researches the destroyed Palestinian villages in Israel and brings this information and the painful questions that arise to an ambivalent and largely ignorant Jewish Israeli public. But this is not only a tribute to a past that has been made invisible; there are also a series of panels with narratives and photos of today’s refugees, living in camps from Lebanon to cities in Germany, making these stories personal, real, and compelling.

The exhibit also features poetry, stories and paintings by Palestinian refugee artists curated by a painter from the Dheisheh Refugee Camp in Bethlehem, Ahmed Hmedat, who recruited other Palestinian artists and helped to assemble their work for display. Near that exhibit are stark and gorgeous photographs exploding with the harsh realities of the Israeli occupation and the beauty and bounty of the land, and video interviews of Palestinians telling their Nakba stories, taken from my documentary film project,Voices Across the Divide. The paintings depict both metaphor and reality; ruthless austere landscapes, walls, guard towers, children playing in the concrete jungles of the refugee camps, and the powerful yet ephemeral dream of return.

People nibbled on humus, sipped wine, networked, hugged, and absorbed the power and message of the exhibition. Bshara spoke briefly: “For too long our story was silenced, trapped in the politics of power… no one can tell our story for us.”

He seeks to create a safe place where these stories can be told and heard; “not just about the past, the past reaches into the present.” He wants to be clear this is “not a victim story,” not a story about political arguments or religious conflict. He is “here to tell the human story, this is what we are all about with all the complexities and contradictions, tragedy and courage. A story of hope that refuses to give up.”

He wants to create this process of bearing witness through art, creativity, and dance, and stresses this is only the beginning. “The story is the land and the land is the story.” He reminds us that the Nakba is ongoing and education and deep reflection are critical to understanding, compassion, and celebration on a global level.

Visitors to the Nakba museum in Washington, photo by Alice Rothchild


Visitors to the Nakba museum in Washington

While Bshara insists this is not a political project, many scholars and activists have explored the concept of “memoricide” (Ilan Pappe) or “sociocide” (Eve Spangler) as it relates to the absence of the Nakba in the telling of modern history. It is clear that we can only know the past if we have the stories and the evidence; thus the erasure of the memory of certain experiences as well as the re-interpretation of said memory is critical for our understanding as well as our misunderstanding of history and our ability to move forward towards conflict resolution. Within this struggle this erasure occurs in the context of Israeli nation building, territorial expansion, racist attitudes towards the “other,” justifications for military and state behaviors within a certain framing such Biblical promises, the Nazi Holocaust and permanent victimization, “Hamas is ISIS and ISIS is Hamas,” etc.

This deliberate state-sponsored erasure of Palestinian voices and the evidence of their centuries old existence thus constitutes a form of historical genocide, of attempting to destroy the memory of a people’s history and thus the people themselves. I suggest that refusing to forget is thus a deeply political act.

Exhibit in the Nakba museum


Photograph in the Nakba museum

I drive by the impressive National Museum of African American History now under construction with an evocative bronze metalwork façade. The building shimmers with an African rhythm, grounded in Yoruban art and architecture, a testimony to the centrality of African Americans in the history of our nation and the critical importance of acknowledging the generations of slaves, their descendants, and their rich contributions to the history and culture of the United States. My thoughts drift back to the Nakba Museum and the critical importance of acknowledging that history for Palestinians as well as for Israeli society, American Jewry, and the US public.

I try to imagine studying US history and omitting Native Americans, slavery, Japanese internment, the McCarthy era, mass incarceration of black men, all the ugly injustices, prejudices, and power disparities that are part of the uncomfortable process of nation building and the continuous struggle to create a democratic and tolerant society.

Like Palestinians, the Nakba Museum Project of Memory and Hope is filled with loss, trauma, resiliency, and beauty, and like the people it is celebrating, deeply in need of a welcoming, permanent, and tolerant home.

(Source / 18.06.2015)

Shireen Issawi to start another hunger strike

Prisoner, Shirin Issawi

Prisoner, Shirin Issawi

Prisoner Shirin Issawi announced that she will begin an open-ended hunger strike in protest of her isolation and detention conditions in Israel’s Ramla prison, private sources told the Voice of Prisoners radio station yesterday.

According to the sources, Issawi’s is taking action in the hope that the Israeli prison authorities will allow her family to visit her. Her family have been denied access to her for two months.

Issawi’s other demands include allowing her to receive some personal items like clothing and clean bedding set as well as some electric devices like a TV set, a fan and a radio.

Israeli authorities transported Issawi from HaSharon prison to an isolation facility under the pretext that she incited other prisoners. They also placed four prisoners in solitary confinement after a prison guard attacked prisoner Ihsan Dababseh.

Issawi, 35, was detained on 3 June last year. She is the sister of Samer and Medhat Issawi who are borth being held in Israeli jails.

(Source / 18.16.2015)

Hamas officials: extension of truce with Israel in the cards

Hamas officials are expecting that it will soon be possible to extend the temporary truce with Israel to a period of 5 years according to a proposal laid out by Qatar which includes an easing of the Israeli siege on Gaza and the establishment of a floating seaport off the coast.

Hamas leader Khalil al-Haya said: “Talks on a truce depend on the public opinion.”

Local news sources had said that Hamas’ proposal presented an offer of a truce with Israel in return for a seaport and an airport and peace extending at least 5 years via Western diplomatic mediation.

UN Envoy to the Middle East, Robert Serry visited Swiss Consul Paul Greening in the Gaza Strip more than once, and the two officials met with a number of Hamas leaders such as Vice President of the Political Office Mousa Abu Marzouq, Basem Na’im and Ghazi Hamed.

Israeli media sources quoted what they called ‘documents’ as confirming that Hamas’ offer proposes a truce lasting between 3 and 5 years based on Western diplomatic mediation.

Hebrew news site Walla said that the ‘communiques and documents from Hamas concerning the truce proposal were delivered to Israel by Western diplomats’.

The news site added that Hamas was based in the Gaza Strip and ‘living in conditions more difficult than ever’.

Walla indicated that Hamas had also proposed a truce lasting up to 15 years, but had rescinded this proposal and instead reached out to Western diplomats for their approval on a 5 year truce. The truce includes the halting of all military operations above and below ground in return for an Israeli commitment to respecting the ceasefire, as well as an easing of the siege on Gaza, allowing the import and export of goods, the establishment of a sea port and the rehabilitation of the Yasser Arafat International Airport located between Rafah and Dahaniya close to the Egyptian border.

According to the Israeli news site, Middle East Quartet Envoy Tony Blair presented a document in English to Hamas, via the Working Men Group in Gaza, which guarantees the establishment of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital and the right of return.

(Source / 18.12.2015)

Israeli forces prevent Egyptian poet from entering West Bank

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israeli authorities on Thursday prevented Egyptian poet Hisham al-Joukh from entering the West Bank to participate in a poem recital event.

He was to take part in a Beit Jala summer of culture and art festival. The reasons for not allowing him to enter were unclear.Organizers of the event said it would be postponed to a later date.
(Source / 18.06.2015)

Saudi king in Ramadan address: We reject sectarianism and sedition

During his speech, Saudi King Salman said that the kingdom had full confidence in Saudi citizens

Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz said in a Wednesday address marking the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan that his country will stand in the way of sectarianism and will not allow sedition.

“With the help of God, we are shielding our country and citizens against sedition, unrest and sectarian tensions,” King Salman said.

“We emphasize our total rejection of sectarian categorization and we are aware of its dangers to national cohesion in our country,” he said in the message carried by the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

In Ramadan, Muslims around the world refrain from eating, drinking, smoking, or marital relations from sunrise to sunset.

During his speech, the Saudi king also said that the kingdom had full confidence in Saudi citizens.

“We also emphasize that our confidence in the Saudi citizen has no limits. We will not tolerate those who are negligent, and we will hold accountable whoever attempts to undermine our security and our religious and national values,” King Salman said.

“Our religion is the religion of love, compassion and tolerance and its message was revealed as a mercy to the people. Its path is the path of goodness and construction; and its approach is that of moderation, dialogue and intimacy. Our religion unifies rather than separates. Our religion renounces violence and terrorism,” he said.

The monarch added that that Ramadan should be used to boost religious and professional commitments.

Also in celebration of the Holy month of Ramadan, King Salman sent cables of congratulations to leaders of Islamic countries, according to SPA.

(Source / 18.06.2015)

EU drive to label West Bank settlement exports unlikely to harm Israel, experts say

Wondering how much and what exactly West Bank settlements export to Europe? Here are the answers.

Construction at the West Bank settlement of Ma'ale Adumim

Construction at the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, near Jerusalem, Sept. 16, 2014

With the European Union seemingly bent on moving ahead with plans torequire labeling of all goods produced outside Israel’s internationally recognized borders, speculation abounds over how badly this could hurt the country’s exports.

So how much do Jewish settlements in the West Bank, Golan Heights and East Jerusalem actually sell in Europe? It’s not a number that’s easy to come by, as the Israeli government publishes no separate figures on exports from these disputed areas – presumably out of concern it might be seen as tacit acknowledgement of their questionable status.

But according to figures obtained by Haaretz from a high-ranking authority on foreign trade matters, exports originating from the settlements are a mere drop in the bucket, at least in relative terms.

Figures compiled by this well-placed source – who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter – show that in 2012, the last year for which they exist, industrial exports from the West Bank, Golan Heights and East Jerusalem to the European Union totaled $100 million, accounting for less than 1 percent of Israel’s total industrial exports to this huge trade bloc (excluding diamonds). Industrial exports from the West Bank, Golan Heights and East Jerusalem to the entire world totaled $250 million that year, accounting for slightly over half a percent of the total.

According to this source, the overwhelming majority of industrial exports from the settlements are not finished goods, but rather, components – pipes, tubes, spare parts and the likes. In other words, the type of merchandise that rarely finds its way onto supermarket or department store shelves, where it could be picked out easily by discerning consumers who pay attention to labels.

Agricultural exports from the settlements to Europe, the source estimates, total no more than “a few million dollars.” Most of these are dates and grapes grown on kibbutzim and moshavim – different forms of cooperative settlement – in the Jordan Valley.

This is not the first time the European Union has cracked down on exports from Jewish settlements located over the Green Line. Ten years ago, it threatened that if Israel did not distinguish between goods produced within and outside its internationally recognized borders, as required by the free trade agreement between the two sides, it would strip all Israeli exports of their free trade status on the continent.

Faced with that ultimatum, the government agreed that the customs authorities in Europe would receive special codes by which to identify goods originating in the settlements so that they could slap import tariffs on them. The Israeli government, meanwhile, agreed to compensate exporters from the settlements for any losses accrued as a result. For the past 10 years, about NIS 7-8 million (approximately $1.8-2.1 million) has been set aside each year in the state budget for this purpose.

After being stripped of their preferential status in the European markets, exports from the Jewish settlement now face the even greater risk of total boycott once their origins are identified openly through labeling.

“From my talks with the Europeans, it would seem to me that they are looking for any possible way right now to shake up the status quo,” said Arie Arnon, a professor of economics at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, who specializes in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

“Although the volume we’re talking about is extremely small,” he continued, ”the fear is that it will develop into something bigger. Some stores many not want to deal with the hassle of putting special labels on goods from the settlement, so they may just stop bringing in goods from Israel entirely. This could also develop into a secondary boycott, with European companies and consumers cutting off ties not only with businesses operating in the settlements, but also with those located inside Israel that are also active in the territories, like the banks.”

According to the high-ranking foreign trade source, about 600 factories owned by Israelis operate in the West Bank.  In recent years, international pressure has forced several of the big exporters among them to move their production facilities inside Israel’s internationally recognized borders. These include the Barkan winemaker, the Bagel Bagel pretzel maker, the Swedish-owned Mult-T-Lock lock manufacturer, and most recently — in wake of a huge international backlash—the  SodaStream seltzer machine maker.

This week, the Ahava skin care products manufacturer based near the Dead Sea, announced that it is contemplating setting up another factory near its existing facility but within Israel proper.

In 2006, Gush Shalom, the peace activist group headed by Uri Avnery, published a list of several hundred products made in areas beyond the Green Line.

Five years later, the Knesset passed the so-called “anti-boycott law,” which penalizes persons or organizations that call for a boycott of Israel or the settlements. Concerned that it might be sued for heavy damages under the law, Gush Shalom removed the list from its website. (An appeal by Gush Shalom and other organizations against the law was basically struck down earlier this year).

Adam Keller, the spokesman of Gush Shalom, says that the organization does not distinguish between ideological and non-ideological settlements in drawing up its lists. Still, he notes with irony that it is mainly farmers from settlements in the Jordan Valley considered to be “non-ideological” who will bear the brunt of the new labeling edict. “Most of the more radical settlements are located in the mountainous areas, where there’s not a lot of agriculture,” he says. “So the people there, who mainly work in the civil service, are less likely to be affected.”

Yarom Ariav, a former director-general of the Israeli Finance Ministry and senior executive at Israel Chemicals, one of the country’s largest exporters, said the new European directive, which has yet to be approved, is more symbolic than anything else. “In terms of the amount of damage to the economy, it’s negligible,” he noted, “although when it comes to individual exporters, it could definitely be significant.”

In Ariav’s view, the main danger of the new labeling decree is that it could trigger a chain reaction. “It could definitely cause the boycott movement against Israel to expand, and if there is no peace agreement on the horizon, I definitely see that happening,” he says. “There’s a dynamic involved here in which people get used to the idea of Israel and anything connected to Israel being considered tainted. The next phase could be an undeclared consumer boycott and then an all-out boycott.”

(Source / 18.06.2015)