Miss Canada finalist boycotts Israel

You think beauty pageants have no content? Well, think again

The next Miss Canada could soon be parading her crown to protest against the Israeli apartheid and occupation. “If I win, I will proudly wear my crown on a boat to Gaza, in protests for social justice and against austerity,” says Hala, Miss Canada finalist, a civil engineer and board member of PAJU (Palestinian & Jewish Unity).

When assessing her chances of winning on March 5, she asks:

“Does Miss Canada want that kind of publicity? Miss Canada calling for a boycott of Israel? I don’t think so.”

Whether they want this kind of publicity or not, they probably will get some of it since the Canadian Parliament overwhelmingly voted in favor of a motion condemning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) last week. Apart from her desire to promote the rights of indigenous people from Turtle Island, as they used to call Canada, defending the rights of the Palestinians and calling for the boycott of Israel happen to be the main reasons why Hala is part of the Miss Canada contest. “I’m using the platform to spread my message of peace. I don’t really care about winning,” she says, casually.

In the wake of last week’s vote, will the organisation come under fire for having a contestant who actively protests against Israel’s lack of respect for human rights, war crimes and apartheid policies and is actively engaged in promoting the BDS campaign?

It is still unclear which impact the motion will have on the BDS movement, but the beauty pageant final this Saturday could well be, of all events, the first one to suffer from it.

Like a bull in a China shop

Why would a feminist activist participate in a beauty contest in the first place?

It all started last year when a friend suggested Hala should enter the Miss Quebec contest. She didn’t like the idea, but after giving it a thought, she gave it a try.

“Any platform is good to spread my message, as long as I don’t lose myself and sell my soul. At first feminist groups were against the idea but when I explained to them that my goal was to use the platform, they supported me. I only want to spread a message.”

During the Miss Canada contest Hala wants to promote the causes she holds dear, most importantly the BDS campaign. “Countries around the world are trying to ban this campaign saying it’s racist and anti-Semitic. But the boycott is like a peaceful strike. We’re not killing anyone, we’re not hurting anyone, we just want to raise awareness on international justice. The boycott is a democratic right, it’s a form of free speech and our group (PAJU) doesn’t only call for boycotting Israel, but also Saudi Arabia. Does that make me anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic? The president of PAJU is Jewish. These labels are irrelevant.”

The motion passed last week intends to criminalize groups calling for a boycott of Israel. A new campaign, #DroitAuBoycott, was launched before the vote. “If I become Miss Canada and call for a boycott of Israel are they going to throw me in jail, with my crown? I’d really love to see that.”

“People don’t want to hear about Palestine”

That’s what Hala was told by the organisers when she was finalist for Miss Quebec last year. “I think they didn’t understand, they were afraid it would sound anti-Semitic and they didn’t want any controversy. They thought I was Palestinian, but when I told them I was Syrian they asked me: ‘Why are you talking about this if you’re not Palestinian?’ I had to explain that I was doing this with PAJU and that it was a humanitarian cause, not a religious one. It has nothing to do with Islam or Judaism, it’s a human cause.”

Thanks to the public who showed up and welcomed her speeches in a way she had never experienced before, she reached the Miss Quebec finals. Even if she didn’t win, the judges gave her the highest score. In these contests, the public votes also come into play and since people have to pay to vote for a candidate, Hala, true to herself, encourages people to donate to charity instead of buying votes to increase her chances to win. “I prefer that people give to charity instead of the Miss Canada organisation.”

Bringing controversy in these contests through her support for the BDS campaign surely doesn’t increase her chances to win either. “One of the main reasons why I didn’t win Miss Quebec was because of my controversial speeches. Organisations like Miss Quebec and Miss Canada do not want someone like me to win and possibly wreak havoc in the media. I knew that from the start and my goal is not to win, but rather to bring visibility to my causes.”

Although Hala didn’t win the Miss Quebec crown, she claims victory. “After a while the contestants were coming to me and asking me questions about organisations like PAJU, like Amnesty International, the Federation des femmes du Québec, their speeches suddenly became deeper and they really wanted to get involved. That was my way to win the contest.”

Will Hala win the Miss Canada contest the same way or also win the crown? We will know Saturday, March 5.

(Source / 01.03.2016)

Women activists to launch freedom flotilla to break Israeli siege on Gaza

LONDON, (PIC)– The Freedom Flotilla Coalition has announced that a women’s boat to Gaza is expected to set sail for the Strip soon in order to break the blockade on the coastal territory and express solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle against the Israeli occupation. In an interview with the Palestinian newspaper al-Quds on Monday, Dr. Essam Youssef, the head of the Popular International Committee to support the Gaza Strip, said the flotilla is not only aimed at breaking the siege but also at bringing hope to the Palestinian people with the support of civil society institutions, women’s organizations and international activists. “In order to achieve these goals, the Freedom Flotilla Coalition has decided to launch a popular campaign with the participation of activists from all around the world that will challenge the siege on Gaza and draw the world’s attention to Palestinians’ plight in general and to Gazans’ plight in particular,” Youssef added. He hailed the activism and steadfastness maintained by Palestinian women throughout the national liberation struggle. Several groups have tried to pop in the Gaza Strip to lift the tough Israeli blockade imposed since 2006.  The Free Gaza Movement, a coalition of human rights activists and pro-Palestinian groups formed to challenge the Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip, had sailed humanitarian aid ships to Gaza. The first sailing took place in early August 2008.

(Source / 01.03.2016)

Mishaal: The intifada highlighted the occupation as a core problem

DOHA, (PIC)– Head of Hamas’s political bureau Khaled Mishaal has said that al-Quds intifada (uprising) proved the readiness of the Palestinian people to confront the occupation, which is “the root of the problem in the region.” Mishaal made his remarks during his participation on Monday evening in a program about the Palestinian resistance on al-Quds satellite channel. The Hamas leader underlined that al-Quds intifada confirmed that the Aqsa Mosque is a red line and the Palestinian people have a stockpile of struggle against the occupation and are able to surprise it. He expressed his strong belief that Israel’s miscalculated plots, which took advantage of regional events, would be frustrated by the bravery of the young people of the intifada. He also noted that the Palestinian uprising highlighted the occupation and its settlement activities as the core of the problem.

(Source / 01.03.2016)


By Peter Clifford       ©           (www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-and-iraq-news/)



As last preparations came into force for the agreed “cessation of hostilities” in Syria at midnight on Friday, the Islamic State (IS) launched a massive attack in nothern Aleppo province against towns and villages held by the Kurdish YPG and the Syrian Democratic Force (SDF).

The main target was Tal Abyad (Gire Spi in Kurdish) on the Turkish border. Following reported shooting from the Turkish military across the frontier, IS launched a 2-pronged attack on the town, striking from the south and the north.


Tal Abyad Under Attack From IS

The attack from the north hit the eastern side of the town, several car bombs reputedly being driven from the Turkish side of the border and hitting YPG checkpoints. The southern attack started with mortar shells fired from Raqqah and then battles gathered pace with sleeper cells inside Tal Abyad.

Some reports suggest that the IS sleeper cells had been inside Tal Abyad for more than a month and consisted mainly of “Caliphate Cubs” or young fighters under the age of 18. Other IS fighters are said to have entered the town wearing SDF or YPG uniforms.

IS fighters also attacked YPG positions in villages near to Tal Abyad at Sharghrat, Kantari, Nastleh, Ghuwera and Qantrah.

Kurdish forces, with heavy air support from the Coalition, fought back throughout Saturday for 16 hours and into Sunday when the IS Jihadists were finally defeated. Around 70 x IS fighters were reported killed near Tal Abyad and 20 members of the YPG, with many injured on both sides. 10 civilians were also reported killed in the fighting, one of them beheaded.

Retreating IS forces captured the villages of Hamam al-Turkman and Mastal near Tal Abyad and further south staged attacks on Suluk and Ain Issa, plus the surrounding villages.

By Sunday evening, the fighting was reported virtually over. An unconfirmed report says that another 100 x IS fighters were wiped out in 20 Coalition airstrikes on the village of Al-Khazali, due north of Raqqah and south-east of Ain Issa, where IS reinforcements from Raqqah had gathered.

While all this was going on, an IS car bomb hit a YPG security checkpoint at Ajila village near Ras Al-Ain (Sere Kaniya in Kurdish) in the far north-east of Hasakah province on Saturday. 2 YPG fighters were killed and 4 injured.


Islamic State Attacks SDF/YPG in Northern Syria

After Coalition jets pinpointed an IS unit holed up in the village of Hafayer south-west of Hasakah, 13 dead IS Jihadists were found dead there following a direct hit.

The Al Nusra Front (ANF) and their allies the Ahrar Al-Sham Movement, took advantage of the situation at the weekend and bombarded the Kurdish villages of Pashmera, Gunde Mazin and Basufan in the countryside of Kurdish Afrin Canton, reportedly killing and injuring many civilians on Sunday.

ANF and their allies also launched homemade mortar and bomb attacks on the Kurds in the Sheikh Maqsoud neighbourhood of Aleppo city over the weekend, some of the bombs, in a chilling message, “signed” Enver Pasha, the name of the Armenian genocide perpetrator on behalf of Turkey in World War 1.

The SDF have consolidated their hold on Shaddadi and have now moved further south towards Raqqah. Currently they are fighting around the village of Dashisha, north of Markadah, their next main target. Ironically Markadah was a major site for those Armenian genocides. The BBC has a video report from the area.

Interestingly, Anonymous, disgusted with Turkish treatment of the Kurds, have issued a video threatening to disrupt Turkish government and financial websites, HERE:


The Rebuilding of Kobane Continues

Meanwhile, a small local battalion, Kazem Aref, has joined the SDF and construction and redevelopment goes on in Kobane city. A completely new district is being built with 15 multi-occupancy buildings which will house 500 people each.

The new neighbourhood will also include a children’s home, 4 schools, a health centre, council administration buildings, markets, shops and parks.

US Central Command (Centcom) reports 24 airstrikes in Syria on Saturday and Sunday and the same number in Iraq.

Most of the airstrikes in Syria were directly in support of the Kurds, 14 strikes hitting IS at Tal Abyad and 3 at Ain Issa.

Strikes on those targets hit 7 separate IS tactical units and destroyed 33 x IS-held buildings, an IS tanker, an IS tactical vehicle, 7 other IS vehicles and suppressed 3 x IS tactical units, an IS mortar position, 9 x IS fighting positions, an IS heavy machine gun position, and an IS rocket fire position.

Strikes on Abu Kamel, Raqqah, Ma’ra and Manbij, and across Iraq, hit similar targets. The Kurdish media are reporting that one strike in eastern Mosul hit an IS convoy as it arrived at an IS weapons storage facility on Sunday, killing at least 30 x IS fighters. The Coalition had tracked the weapons delivery convoy all the way from Raqqah to its destination.

This Coalition released video shows a strike on an IS fighting position near Hasakah on 20th February 2016, here:

And another in a similar location on February 21st, here:

An interesting interview with US aircrew flying the B1 bombers that supported the fight back at Kobane city has been published. The Americans were sceptical at first but as the Kurds gave them accurate co-ordinates they were able to track the frontline and see it move eastwards as the Islamic State were driven out of the city, HERE:

Elsewhere across Syria, the “ceasefire” is generally considered to have held so far over the last 3 days, but Russia and the Assad regime have not desisted from bombing and there have been plenty of violations.

France has called for a meeting of the task force overseeing the “ceasefire” to discuss these violations this afternoon, Monday.

However, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors deaths in Syria, says there has been a marked decrease in deaths in areas where the Islamic State are not present.

Around 21 people died on Saturday and a similar number on Sunday. This compares with 144 on Friday, before the “ceasefire” began, and an average daily toll throughout February of 120.

The UN aims to take advantage of the scaling down of fighting by rolling out deliveries of aid to 150,000 people over the next 5 days, HERE:

Prisoners demand international probe on prisons’ doctors

RAMALLAH, (PIC)– Prisoners’ media office demanded the formation of international investigation committees to probe the bad role of Israeli prison doctors and to visit Israeli  jails especially the Ramle prison hospital as well as to examine detention conditions of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. The media office of prisoners said that Israeli doctors in the clinics of Israeli prisons and investigation centers do not pursue humanitarian standards and they work just as servants to Israeli Shin Bet and take part in murdering Palestinian detainees.  In a statement on Monday, the office pointed out that Israeli prison doctors exploit the need of sick captives for treatment to blackmail and pressure them in order to take confessions that convict them at courts or to make them stop hunger-striking.

(Source / 01.03.2016)

The Killing of 1378 Civilians in February 2016

382 amongst which were killed by Russian Forces

Killing of 1378 Civilians

The Syrian Network for Human Rights issued its monthly report for January, where the network documented the deaths of 1,378 individuals.
The report point out the difficulties the network team come against when documenting the deaths amongst the armed opposition factions due to the fact that the deaths mostly occur during combat not inside the cities, disallowing us to gather details such as; name, image, etc. because of the secrecy of the armed opposition factions or for security reasons or else, therefore what is being documented is much less than the actual number.
The report also confirms that getting information about the deaths amongst government forces or ISIS group is nearly impossible, and the margin of error is quite high in documenting these deaths due to the lack of methodology in documenting such incidents, as it is the network view that these statistics issued by some parties are fictitious as they lack real data.
As a result the report only mentioned the civilian victims killed by all the parties and set comparisons.
The report presented the victims death toll for February 2016, where government forces and pro-government militias killed 651 civilians including 182 children (7 children are killed every day), 110 women, and 31 victims under torture.

The report also mentioned that 45% of the civilian victims are women and children, which indicates that government forces are deliberately targeting civilians.
The report said that suspected Russian forces killed 382 civilians including 21 children and 63 women.
The report also documented the death of 9 civilians including 3 children on the hands of the Kurdish Self-management forces.
The report mentioned that 208 civilians killed by extreme Islamic groups, as ISIS killed 207 civilians including 28 children and 51 women, while An Nussra Front killed a civilian under torture.
The report also present statistics regarding victims killed by armed opposition factions, which shows that 84 civilians has been killed including 21 children and 18 women.
The report include the documentation of the death of 42 civilians including 13 children and 7 women either in migrant boat drowning incident or in explosion incidents that the network couldn’t confirm the perpetrators identity, or by armed groups unknown to the network.
The report documented the death of 2 individuals one of them is a child on the hands of the International Coalition forces.

The report stressed that the government forces and “Shabeiha” violated the International Law for Human Rights that protect the right to live.
There is also dozens of incidents that have all the elements of war crimes regarding killing, also the facts and evidences from hundreds of eyewitnesses show that 90% of the widespread and individual attacks were perpetrated against civilians or civilian objects.
The extremist groups also perpetrated several extrajudicial killings which are considered a war crime.
The report also mentioned that some of the armed opposition factions have committed extrajudicial killings that mount to war crimes, and the Kurdish Democratic Union Party forces also committed war crimes by perpetrating extrajudicial killings.
The report asked the Security Council and the International Institutions to shoulder its responsibilities regarding the continuous killings that don’t stop not for one hour, and to pressure the Syrian government to stop the arbitrary and random bombardment against civilians.
The report also holds the allies and supporters of the Syrian government –Russia, Iran, and China- the moral and material responsibility of the killings in Syria.

View full report

(Source / 01.03.2016)

Report: 200 Structures razed in O.J. and W.B. in February

RAMALLAH, (PIC)– A report issued by al-Quds Center for Studies and Research revealed that Israeli occupation forces demolished 200 structures in Occupied Jerusalem and the West Bank during the past month of February which equals four times the number of structures razed in January 2016. The report stated that the structures demolished included houses, farms, and stockyards. Israeli forces distributed over 50 demolition orders in different locations in Occupied Jerusalem and knocked down a house in the Negev for the claim of lacking a construction permit.   As for the West Bank, Israeli forces razed 150 structures in areas of the northern Jordan Valley and Msafer Yatta in al-Khalil governorate in addition to other locations in Ramallah, Nablus and al-Khalil cities.

(Source / 01.03.2016)

Fatah MP threatens to expose corruption of senior PA officials

Najat Abu Bakr, Palestinian MP

Najat Abu Bakr, Palestinian MP

Palestinian MP Najat Abu Bakr, whose is wanted by the Palestinian Authority (PA) security services, yesterday threatened to reveal details of the level of corruption of senior PA officials that “may turn public opinion upside down,” AlKhaleejOnline reported.

Abu Bakr, who has been staying in the headquarters of the PLC in Ramallah since Thursday in order to prevent the PA from arresting her, told AlKhaleejOnline that the PA is still chasing her in a clear violation of Palestinian law and sovereignty.

She warned: “If the arrest order against me is not cancelled and my case is not resolved, I will act in a different way… I have private images and documents if they are disclosed, they will turn the Palestinian public opinion upside down.”

The Fatah MP refused to give details about the documents or to disclose who they refer to, but she stressed that they are “factual” and “official” and this was not just a war of words.

Abu Bakr has been an outspoken critic of Fatah MPs and PA President Mahmoud Abbas. The PA issued a warrant for her arrest following her support for the teachers’ strike.

She said that she would remain in the PLC headquarters in Ramallah until the PA stop chasing her and completely drop her case.

(Source / 01.03.2016)

Extremist Israeli rabbi Glick storms Muslims’ al-Aqsa

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)– A group of extremist Jewish settlers led by radical rabbi Yehuda Glick early Tuesday stormed Muslims’ Al-Aqsa Mosque under the protection of the Israeli police. The break-in was carried out days after an Israeli court lifted an order barring him entry to the holy site. The Israeli court dropped the indictments against Glick after he assaulted a Palestinian elderly woman while defiling the holy site. Head of the Supreme Islamic Council in Occupied Jerusalem, Sheikh Ekrema Sabri, denounced the break-in saying it stirs up troubles and provokes Muslims. He held the occupation government and police responsible for the repercussions of the break-in and for simmering tension in the region. In 2014, Israeli occupation soldiers shot dead the Palestinian youth Mutaz Hijazi, claiming he opened fired at rabbi Glick, leaving him with serious injuries.

(Source / 01.03.2016)

Anti-regime Protestors Take to Streets amid Partial Ceasefire

A large number of protestors took to the streets in Aleppo, Dara’a and Damascus to demand the downfall of the Assad regime. The protestors called for freedom and dignity two days after a ceasefire had taken effect on Saturday.

Demonstrators held the flag of the revolution and placards condemning the heinous crimes of the Assad regime. The protestors demanded the lifting of sieges, the delivery of humanitarian assistance to those in need and the release of the detainees.

Member of the Syrian Coalition’s political committee Hassan al-Hashimi called upon the United Nations to listen to the demands of the Syrian people. He said that the root-cause of what is going on in Syria is that the Syrian people demanded freedom and dignity, but the dictatorial Assad regime responded with brute force.

Hashemi warned that the Assad regime may step up its violations of the truce and target the peaceful demonstrations and civilian gatherings. He called on the UN Security Council and the UN special envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura to take precautionary measures to protect civilians.

Member of the political committee of Suheir al-Atassi said that the Syrian revolution began as a peaceful movement but the state terror practiced by Assad’s security forces forced many soldiers to defect and join the Syrian revolution.

Meanwhile, the international Syria task force tasked with monitoring the ceasefire in Syria held an urgent meeting yesterday in Geneva to discuss the regime and Russia’s breaches of the truce agreement.

The meeting came at a request by France whose Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said that Russia and the Assad regime targeted the moderate opposition in violation of the truce agreement.

Activists on Monday recorded 43 regime violations of the truce, saying that the attacks left over 29 civilians dead, including three children and a woman.

(Source: Syrian Coalition + Agencies / 01.03.2016)