Mushtaha: Hamas foundation a decisive moment for Palestinians

Member of Hamas political bureau Rawhi Mushtaha said that founding the movement 28 years ago was a significant achievement and a decisive moment for Palestinians.

In a special, Mushtaha said that while Palestinians were mourning the murder of Palestinian laborers by an Israeli settler few days before, the declaration of the new movement gave momentum to Palestinian protests and sparked the first intifada.

He said that Hamas endured Israeli hits one after another with marked resilience, noting that the creation of the movement’s armed wing (al-Qassam Brigades) in 1991 came after the occupation thought it had contained the movement with major arrest campaigns in 1988, 1989 and 1991.

Mushtaha underlined the movement’s success in integrating armed resistance with political and social work, confirming that Hamas grows stronger by the day.

“They thought they can sway us off the path of resistance, but we won the elections and, despite the siege, showed the world surprising steadfastness and durability.” Mushtaha said.

“I feel confident about Hamas’s future and the future of the Palestinian cause. Liberation is down the road.” He added.

Rawhi Mushtaha is a member of Hamas political bureau and a founder of its armed wing. He spent 20 years in Israeli prisons and was freed in the 2011 swab deal.

(Source / 14.12.2015)

MP Jarrar: My detention is political

RAMALLAH, (PIC)– Member of Palestinian legislative Council (PLC) Khalida Jarrar said that her detention in Israeli jails is political par excellence. She accused the Israeli judiciary of seeking to silence anyone who exposes Israeli crimes.

The Palestinian Committee for Prisoners and Ex-Prisoners quoted MP Jarrar, who is currently held in HaSharon prison, as stating that her defense had presented an immunity appeal to the court in accordance with the international law’s immunity granted for elected officials, but the appeal was turned down.

The lawmaker added that “I did not expect anything from military courts. They are a joke, it’s like a big theater, I do not trust them and my detention has been political since the beginning.”

Jarrar also said that she refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of the court, adding that all charges pressed against her are “ridiculous” and related to completely legal activities, including social and political work as a member of parliament.

She also pointed out that she was badly treated along with other prisoners while being transferred from Ofer court to HaSharon prison.

Jarrar added that she and other prisoners were handcuffed and their feet were shackled during visits by family members or lawyers.

On Dec. 6, an Israeli military court sentenced Jarrar to 15 months in jail. The lawmaker was also fined 10,000 shekels ($2,582) and given a suspended sentence of 12 months within a five year period.

PLC member Khalida Jarrar was arrested on 2 April 2015 and initially placed under an administrative detention order of 6 months, which was subsequently limited to one month and two days. She was then charged with 12 charges, following international outcry at her administrative detention order.

There are currently five PLC members held illegally in Israeli jails without charge or trial.

(Source / 14.12.2015)

Qassam Brigades: Resistance is our response to occupation

GAZA, (PIC)– Hamas’s armed wing al-Qassam Brigades renewed on Monday evening its adherence to resistance option to remove occupation from Palestine.

On the eve of the 28th anniversary of Hamas’s inception, spokesman for the Brigades Abu Obeida tweeted that Hamas’s inception was the start of Israeli occupation’s end.

“We will never compromise on our constants mainly the liberation of Palestine, resistance option, al-Aqsa Mosque, the right of return, and the release of all Palestinian prisoners”, he added in another tweet.

“Our weapon was and will always serve as our response to occupation”, Abu Obeida said.

The spokesman for the Brigades hailed the steadfastness of the Palestinian people in occupied Jerusalem, West Bank, Gaza Strip, and in the diaspora.

He also hailed the Palestinian resistance fighters in the West Bank and occupied Jerusalem who made heroic sacrifices.

(Source / 14.12.2015)

Will election of women open door to reform in Saudi Arabia?

Women rest after casting their votes at a polling station during municipal elections, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Dec. 12, 2015

The election of a handful of Saudi women in municipal elections is an important milestone in the kingdom. It’s a baby step but sets a precedent. Washington should quietly encourage more; it has successfully done so in the past under the right circumstances.

At least five women were elected in the municipal council elections Dec. 12, according to press reports. These are only the third elections in Saudi history; the first male-only vote was held just a decade ago. For most of its history the kingdom rejected the entire concept of democratic balloting. For an absolute monarchy fused with a theocracy to accept the concept of elections — no matter how inconsequential the office — is a significant change.

Voter apathy is understandably high. Less than 1.5 million Saudis registered to vote out of 28 million citizens; only 11% were women. That also means some men voted for women. Saudis know real power remains in the hands of the royal family and the clerical establishment. Two-thirds of the seats in the councils are elected, up from half in the last vote, but one-third are still appointed by the government.

There were many restrictions on voting and campaigning. Saudi human rights activists rightly note the Ministry of the Interior disqualified some female candidates for unspecified reasons and generally played an obstructionist role. Saudi women were required to show identity cards and proof of residency, which are often difficult for them to do. The most senior cleric in the kingdom publicly spoke against female participation.

The late King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud introduced the idea of elections a decade ago and is also responsible for expanding the vote to include women. Abdullah also led the way for expanding female education, even appointing a female deputy education minister. His successor, King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, approved letting this vote go forward, although some had expected him to reverse his brother’s decision.

The election came at a time of enormous challenges for Saudi Arabia. The fall in oil prices has badly hurt government finances and the kingdom spent one-fifth of its reserves in 2015. The prospects for a rise in prices soon are low, especially with sanctions on Iran ending.

The region around Saudi Arabia is in chaos. Syria, Iraq and Yemen are in civil war. Both al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS) are operating inside the kingdom. Iran remains a threat to Gulf stability.

The possibility of a lasting cease-fire in Yemen is a rare hopeful development. The Saudi-led coalition has not won a decisive victory; instead the war is a bloody stalemate with catastrophic humanitarian consequences for most Yemenis. The United Nations hopes to begin political talks in Switzerland this week to resolve the conflict.

The only winners in the war have been jihadist extremists. IS assassinated the Saudi-sponsored governor of Aden this month; he was a former general in the old communist South Yemen. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula seized control of a second provincial capital this fall.

The United States should use its considerable influence to press for a political compromise that ends the war. Washington has taken a very low profile in the conflict.

The United States can also do more to encourage reform inside the kingdom. A good model of successful US intervention took place in the early 1960s. Then, the kingdom was locked in a decadelong power struggle over the succession to the modern kingdom’s founder, Ibn Saud. King Saud and Crown Prince Faisal each had their supporters in the family. Saud was seen as incompetent and wasting Saudi oil revenues on his own pursuit of luxury.

Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser led a powerful nationalist movement across the Arab world that toppled monarchies like the Saudis’. In the fall of 1962, the Egyptians and Russians backed a coup in Yemen that removed the Zaydi Shiite monarchy and then openly threatened to do the same to the House of Saud. A massive Russian airlift was pouring Egyptian troops into Sanaa to back the coup and threaten Riyadh.

President John F. Kennedy invited Faisal to the White House on Oct. 5, 1962. They had a working lunch with their aides to discuss the Yemen coup and the Russian role in assisting Nasser. Kennedy committed to ensuring Saudi security; he would later deploy US fighters to defend Saudi airspace after Russian bombers attacked Saudi border posts.

After lunch Kennedy took Faisal upstairs to the private family living room. Alone, Kennedy told the crown prince that Saudi Arabia’s biggest vulnerability was internal, that change was needed to avert a coup. The Royal Saudi Air Force was grounded because its pilots kept defecting to Egypt with their aircraft. Without changes at home, the monarchy would fall.

Faisal responded positively to Kennedy’s argument. He promised to abolish slavery in the kingdom (it was still legal) and prioritize education. Upon his return to Riyadh he did both. He finally ousted his brother Saud a year later and created the foundations of stability that were the hallmark of the state for the next half century. He sent his daughters to school, setting an example.

Kennedy’s combination of security assurances and encouragement of reform worked because of the situation the kingdom faced in 1962. It is a role model for today.

(Source / 14.12.2015)

Hamdan: No contradiction in Hamas’s relations with KSA and Iran

BEIRUT, (PIC)– The Hamas leader Osama Hamdan said there is no contradiction in the good relations of Hamas with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and its relations with Iran.

In a statement to Quds Press on Monday, Hamadan said, on the 28th anniversary of Hamas’s inception, that his Movement is keen on balanced relations with all Arab and Muslim countries for the support of the Palestinian cause.

He added that Hamas seeks to strengthen its relations with both of Iran and Saudi Arabia for the sake of supporting the Palestinian rights, stressing that Hamas’s relations with the Arab countries and foreign states are growing.

The Hamas leader denied any change in his Movement’s positions, saying that the Palestinian cause represents a symbol of resistance and liberation.
(Source / 14.12.2015)

Should Palestinians and Israelis be ready for a ‘one state reality’?

By Ben White

For Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, genuine statehood would be no guarantee of protection from Israeli aggression

Writing in Middle East Eye last month, I noted remarks made by US Secretary of State John Kerry, where he described “the current situation” between Israel and the Palestinians as “simply not sustainable”. Last week, at the annual Saban Forum in Washington DC, Kerry repeated the warning.

Addressing an audience that included senior Israeli political and military figures, Kerry said “current trends including violence, settlement activity, demolitions, are imperilling the viability of a two-state solution”, and urged action “in order to prevent this untenable one-state reality from taking hold.”

That wasn’t all. Kerry pointed out that “many current Israeli ministers have been… clear that they oppose a Palestinian state – not just now but ever.” According to the senior US diplomat, “continued settlement growth raises honest questions about Israel’s long-term intentions.”

Yet even at the same gathering, Israel’s Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon defended the continuation of the “status quo” that Kerry insists is unsustainable. When former US ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk suggested to Ya’alon he was advocating a “1.5 state solution”, the minister was unrepentant:

It’s not a Palestinian state in the ways you might imagine. It’s something different. [Former Israeli PM Yitzhak] Rabin called it “a political entity less than a state”.

This juxtaposition – warnings by Israel’s strongest allies and a shrug of the shoulders from an Israeli leadership accustomed to rhetorical slaps on the wrist that never amount to anything more serious – is contributing to cracks in long-standing political alliances that are only likely to widen.

But as international actors increasingly talk of a “one state reality”, and Israel’s opposition to an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip becomes ever more explicit, there are some important questions that are, by and large, going unaddressed.

A critique of the two-state solution based on the alleged irreversibility of Israel’s “facts on the ground” in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) can only go so far, and has some dangerous pitfalls – for one, it is an implicit reward for Israeli war crimes (the settlements).

The growing international recognition that Israel’s 48-year-long colonisation of the OPT has made a Palestinian state impossible thus creates the space to advance a critique of the two-state solution based on its fundamental undesirability, rather than on Israel’s “facts on the ground”.

Why undesirable? In short, because of what it means for the majority of Palestinians: refugees expelled in the Nakba – even in the best case scenario, the vast majority of whom would be eternally dispossessed, and Palestinians with Israeli citizenship who would be forever discriminated against in a “Jewish state”.

Even for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, genuine statehood would be no guarantee of protection from Israeli aggression: just look to the experience of Gaza and Lebanon over the last decade for clues.

Then there are the practical issues: the division of Jerusalem, water resources including aquifers and rivers, access to holy sites, and so on. Under a two-state solution, these require thorny and complex arrangements; in a democratic one-state, they are simplified (though not simple).

However, there are many versions of a single state, and indeed one of them is effectively what exists now. Some Israeli leaders, like Ya’alon, and probably Netanyahu too, want to simply persist with this de facto one-state reality – others, like Jewish Home’s Naftali Bennett, seek formal annexation of “Area C” of the West Bank.

But as the two-state framework is definitively abandoned, attempts to preserve the core elements of the settler-colonial status quo will not all look like Bibi or Bennett’s temporarily-permanent apartheid. Other models that perpetuate discrimination against Palestinians while privileging Jewish citizens will surely emerge.

There will not be a vacuum, and post-two-state alternatives are just as likely – if not more so – to be a new vehicle for thwarting the Palestinians’ rights rather than for their implementation. Yet rather than doing the necessary work on what comes next, the main Palestinian political factions, including both Fatah and Hamas, are still, in their own ways, chasing the chimera of statehood.

Israeli journalist Nahum Barnea, writing on the Saban Forum, said US officials “learned an important lesson”: that “as far as the Israeli government is concerned, the two-state solution is dead.” The poison was administered openly and over a long period of time, through land expropriations, settlements, demolitions, settler roads, closures, expulsions, and the Wall.

However, Barnea added, “the Americans will keep holding on to this formula, because they have no other formula, and it’s easier to hold on to it than to search for other solutions.” At some point, however, other solutions will be discussed, and advanced. Who will be ready?

(Source / 14.12.2015)

Israeli fanatics vandalize Muslims’ al-Aqsa Mosque

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)–  A horde of Israeli fanatic settlers, escorted by police officers, stormed on Monday morning the plazas of Muslims’ the holy al-Aqsa Mosque.

The break-in was carried out via the Maghareba Gate under heavy shield by Israeli special troops and rapid intervention forces.

The Israeli soldiers have also come down heavily on the young Muslim worshipers, seizing their IDs at the gates of al-Aqsa.

The peaceful Muslim worshipers kept chanting “Allah is the Greatest” in protest at the desecrating break-in.

A group of Muslim women maintained vigil outside of al-Aqsa after they were banned from entering the Mosque to perform their religious prayers.

Over recent weeks, Israeli fanatics and soldiers have stepped up assaults on the al-Aqsa Mosque, sparking further tensions across the occupied Palestinian territories.

(Source / 14.12.2015)

The long road to labeling settlement products

A Palestinian man works at a textile factory in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Barkan, southwest of Nablus, Nov. 8, 2015. Few issues have caused more friction between Israel and the European Union than the EU plans to impose labeling on goods produced in Jewish settlements on occupied lands

The European Commission’s Nov. 11 “interpretive notice” clarifying “the application of existing [European] Union legislation on indication of origin of products to products originating in Israeli-occupied territories” was not arrived at quickly or easily. In fact, it dates back to the mid-1980s.

In 1986, the issue had involved the legalities of how a Palestinian manufacturer in Ramallah could export its products to the European Economic Community (EEC), the EU’s predecessor. In 1995, the question arose as to why EU customs officials were failing to collect duties on Israeli settlement products because the settlements were not considered part of Israel, which had a preferential trade agreement with the EU. In 2012, discussion revolved around whether EU law permitted EU-funded support to activities and operations in settlements. The product labeling issue then became one of how the origin of items produced in Israeli settlements should be accurately identified — as all products must be under EU law — so as not to mislead European consumers.

Years of quiet and persistent action and advocacy dating back to 1984 paved the way for today’s notice. Around that time, some Palestinians had begun thinking about the value of exports. Among them was Charles Shamas, a lingerie manufacturer in Ramallah who approached the EEC about exporting his products to Europe. Now a senior partner with the Ramallah-based Mattin Group, Shamas spoke at length with Al-Monitor about the progression leading to the current labeling guidelines.

Shamas told the Europeans that he wanted to know how Palestinian producers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip could participate in the system of preferential trade that the EEC was constructing around the Mediterranean basin. Since the EEC did not consider the occupied Palestinian territories to be part of the State of Israel, Shamas also needed to know how the origin of his lingerie should be declared and labeled in accordance with EEC provisions. His questions were answered in 1986, when the EEC Council of Ministers adopted a regulation authorizing the Arab Chambers of Commerce in Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, to certify export products originating in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Shamas, also a cofounder of the Palestinian trade promotion organization and Al-Haq, the leading Palestinian human rights organization, explained the depth of the problems he has faced over some 30 years. “Since 1986, virtually all of the major political crises between Israel and the EU have erupted when the EU was moved to clarify what its own law requires and to correct the law’s deficient implementation.” Today’s drama around the labeling issue is more of the same.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed the November labeling guidelines, which Israel has called a “discriminatory step,” when he met Nov. 30 with Federica Mogherini, EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, at the Paris climate summit. The preceding day, Israeli officials had suspended diplomatic dialogue on the peace process because of the guidelines. It was unclear how long the suspension would last or whether it was merely a public relations stunt.

Israeli claims of discrimination appear to ignore other instances of the EU applying economic restrictions, such as those on trade with Crimean companies after Russia annexed the territory in March 2014. The EU’s official website states, “As part of the EU’s non-recognition policy of the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol, the EU has imposed substantial restrictions on economic exchanges with the territory. These include: a ban on imports of goods originating in Crimea or Sevastopol unless they have Ukrainian certificates.”

Shamas said that the European Commission’s action on labeling should not be interpreted as a politically motivated move or diplomatic tactic. “The EU authorities were asked to clarify their own law and implement it. Properly speaking, there was no political decision to be taken. The policy was decided when the law was made,” he observed.

According to Shamas, the labeling guidelines attempt to correct the EU’s failure to effectively implement its own legislation after numerous complaints by consumers and parliamentarians about products that they knew were made in Israeli settlements but were labeled “Made in Israel.” “As the problem festered, the pressure to fix it mounted. The labeling notice itself stated the notice does not create any new legislative rules,” said Shamas.

The United Kingdom had gotten the ball rolling on Dec. 10, 2009, when it issued “Technical Advice: Labelling of Produce Grown in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.” In 2010, the European Parliament formally called on the European Commission “to produce guidance on the labeling of goods from the Occupied Palestinian Territories, ensuring that Israeli settlement products are clearly distinguished from Israeli goods and Palestinian products.” In 2012, Denmark issued voluntary labeling guidelines to allow supermarkets to require the labeling of settlement goods. In 2014, Belgium followed suit.

“But everybody was waiting for the commission to act,” Shamas said. “It was the only institutional player that could resolve the confusion and put an end to the politicized debate about labeling within the EU.” The guidelines merely clarify that settlement products cannot be labeled products of Israel. As Shamas described it, “The EU is just getting its own house in order.”

When entities like the EU knowingly engage with activities involving serious breaches of international law or permit their nationals to do so, it can significantly affect the intensity of such breaches and the likelihood of their continuation. Shamas remarked, “What often matters most to governments is how their own internal law may actually require them to assess such activities and situations and then limit interactions with them.”

When the EU was moved to address questions about its rules and regulations, the requirements of its own law gave new teeth to international law. Now people are asking whether even importing settlement products is consistent with EU policy and legislation.

The Israeli Knesset’s Committee of Economic Affairs held a meeting Dec. 7 on the EU labeling notice. Ohad Cohen, representing the Ministry of Economic Affairs, was quoted in the press as saying that the exports in question amount to no more than $50 million, while a representative for settlers in the Jordan Valley put the figure at $130 million, or 500 million shekels.

For most Israelis and Palestinians, as well as Europeans, money is not the issue. The labeling guidelines redraw the clear line established under international law between Israel’s proper settlements and its illegal ones.

(Source / 14.12.2015)

Israeli Special Forces abduct Palestinian in al-Khalil

AL-KHALIL, (PIC)– Israeli Special Forces at noon Monday abducted a Palestinian young man called Basem Eid Halayqah, 25, from al-Shuyoukh village in al-Khalil, while he was walking near Maale Adumim settlement.

The family of the kidnapped Palestinian said that he was heading to his work in the northern West Bank when he was stopped by Israeli Special Forces.

The undercover forces then arrested him under weapon threat and took him to an unknown destination.

(Source / 14.12.2015)

Report: US Pilots in Syria Ordered to Ignore ISIS Oil Convoys

According to reports, U.S. pilots in Syria have “flown over oil tanker convoys 4 lanes wide at times and been told to stay silent”

The U.S. is also using flying dinosaurs to "target" ISIS
The U.S. is also using flying dinosaurs to “target” ISIS

American officials and responsible western news pundits have had a hard time explaining why the U.S.-led “anti-ISIS” coalition, after more than one year, has been unable to stop ISIS’ lucrative oil smuggling operation. Maybe because they were never trying to stop it in the first place? Via New Eastern Outlook:

Reports from pilots and sources up and down the Pentagon chain of command tell an interesting story. Considering America’s years of experience at “precision bombing” and the vast intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities of the world’s largest military, America’s utter failure in curtailing ISIS and her dozens of “sister organizations” has been inexplicable.

American pilots flying over Iraq and Syria have quietly leaked their story for over a year now but no news agency will carry it. They say they have flown over oil tanker convoys 4 lanes wide at times and been told to stay silent.

They report mysterious aircraft dropping supplies to ISIS and al Nusra, they are silenced on that as well.

Hardly surprising. Add in the fact that the Pentagon consistently airdrops ISIS weapons and equipment “by accident”, and one begins to question how serious this “anti-ISIS coalition” really is.

If U.S. planes actually targeted ISIS oil convoys, they’d probably get shot down by Turkey.

(Source / 14.12.2015)