International Women’s Day: Khalida Jarrar’s statement from HaSharon prison


Khalida Jarrar, imprisoned Palestinian feminist, parliamentarian and political leader, issued a statement from HaSharon prison on the occasion of International Women’s Day, greeting all struggling women in the world. The message was delivered by Palestinian lawyer Hanan al-Khatib, who visited Jarrar in prison; she is serving a 15-month sentence and was arrested on 2 April 2015. The statement follows:

On this day, we affirm that we are Palestinian prisoners of struggle, and part of the Palestinian women’s movement, and that the national and social struggle goes on constantly and continuously until we win our freedom from occupation, and our freedom as women from all forms of injustice, oppression, violence and discrimination against women. On this day, Palestinian women mark this occasion in light of the crimes of the occupation against Palestinian women, children, elders and youth. This year, our call focuses on the freedom and self-determination of our people, and the freedom and self-determination of Palestinian women: achieving equality and liberation, and ending all forms of oppression and injustice committed against them. We stand as part of a global struggle with all the world’s women freedom fighters: against injustice, exploitation and oppression.

(Source / 07.03.2016)

Israeli bulldozers raze hundreds of Palestinian trees

Israeli occupation damages the Palestinian village to build an Israeli settlement

Israeli occupation forces started on Monday morning to uproot hundreds of Palestinian trees in Al-Naqab village of Umm al-Hairan.

Umm al-Hiran is one of dozens of Bedouin villages, which had not been recognised by the Israeli occupation despite being there for decades. It is located in Wadi Attir east of Hurah Aillage

Days of Palestine, Jerusalem -Israeli occupation forces started on Monday morning to uproot hundreds of Palestinian trees in Al-Naqab village of Umm al-Hairan.

Eyewitnesses said that the Israeli bulldozers arrived in the village, which the Israeli occupation does not recognise, in the early morning and started damaging planted farms and uprooting trees.

According to the eyewitnesses, heavy number of Israeli military police escorted the Israeli bulldozers, which are working in the area.

The Israeli occupation authorities decided to damage the Palestinian farms and uproot the trees to oblige the Palestinian residents of the village to leave it in order to replace it with two Israeli settlements.

In November 2013, the Israeli occupation approved a decision to demolish the unrecognised Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran and passed plans to create two Jewish settlements, Hiran and Kassif, in the area.

Umm al-Hiran is one of dozens of Bedouin villages, which had not been recognised by the Israeli occupation despite being there for decades. It is located in Wadi Attir east of Hurah Aillage.

Arab member of the Israeli Knesset Talab abu-Arar described the Israeli decision as “clear racism” as the Jewish settlement are being built on the lands of the Arab villages, whose residents were displaced.

Abu-Arar compared the Israeli acts to the forced displacement of more than 700,000 Palestinians from their homes in 1948 prior to the creation of the occupation state.

The Higher Guidance Committee of Arab Residents of Negev is scheduled to convene and decide on practical moves in protest against the construction of Jewish settlements in Umm al-Hiran. Palestinian members of the Knesset are also set to join the meeting.

(Source / 07.03.2016)

Thousands of teachers protest stalemate, accuse union of ‘thwarting’ talks

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — More than 3,000 Palestinian public school teachers rallied outside the Palestinian Prime Minister’s office on Monday, demanding new representation in negotiations between teachers and the Palestinian Authority, as teachers entered their fourth week of strike.An emergency meeting called on Sunday evening ended in a stalemate, as teachers rejected terms laid out by a number of members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), the Palestinian Authority’s legislative body.On Monday, teachers complained that members of the PLO-affiliated teachers’ union who had previously resigned on popular demand should not have been present at the meeting.Teacher at the protest told Ma’an that they accused the union of “thwarting” agreements with the Palestinian government.During the strike, Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah released a statement “reaffirm(ing) his commitment to Palestinian teachers, students and their parents to work on finding an equitable solution to end the teachers’ strike, in order for students to return to their classrooms.””The Palestinian teacher deserves our respect and admiration; however, everyone should put the interest of our children and their education ahead of everything,” Hamdallah said.In regards to the protest, Hamdallah added that “people have the right to express their opinion, this is part of the democratic process,” but teachers said checkpoints had been set up by the PA in an attempt to stop teachers from reaching the protest.Participants who were able to attend the rally raised posters with slogans asserting that teachers would continue with their strike until their demands were met.Palestinian teachers, who have been on strike since mid-February, are seeking higher salaries as pledged to them by the PA in the 2013 agreement that was never implemented.The PA has threatened to take legal action against the teachers if they do not return to work immediately, with Hamdallah saying earlier this month that they have a “responsibility” to their students.A number of teachers have now been detained by PA security forces, who have also sought to prevent the teachers from convening at demonstrations by installing checkpoints across the West Bank and threatening public transportation drivers carrying teachers to protests.The strike marks one of the largest demonstrations against the PA in recent years, with 20,000 teachers marching in Ramallah last month, and it has exposed a divide in Palestinian society, with several small attacks taking place in recent days.Last week, a Hebron teacher was attacked with pepper spray over her support for the protest, and on Thursday, gunshots were fired on the homes of two more teachers — one supporting the strike, the other opposing it.

(Source / 07.03.2016)

Shireen and Medhat Issawi sentenced by Israeli courts: Palestinian lawyers and legal workers targeted


Palestinian lawyer and activist Shireen Issawi was sentenced to four years in Israeli prison on Monday, 7 March, and her brother Medhat Issawi to eight years in the same hearing in the Jerusalem central court. Their hearings had been repeatedly postponed; each has already been imprisoned for two years.

Shireen Issawi, a prominent Palestinian lawyer and activist in her own right, was internationally visible as the spokesperson for the campaign to support her brother, Samer Issawi, during his lengthy hunger strike in 2012 and 2013, which won his freedom; freed from prison in the 2011 Wafa al-Ahrar exchange with the Palestinian resistance, he was accused of leaving Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries and thus violating a term of his release. After winning his freedom in 2013, he was re-arrested in June 2014 along with dozens of ex-prisoners, and had his original 26-year prison sentence reimposed. The release of all of these re-imprisoned Palestinians is a major demand of Palestinian political forces.

Shireen, 34, and Medhat, 40, were accused of communicating with and providing funds to Palestinian prisoners that they represented through their legal practice, the Al-Quds Office for Legal and Commercial Affairs, which served as a liasion between families – often denied visits – and Palestinian prisoners, and Israeli lawyers and Palestinian prisoners; they transferred money to prisoners on behalf of their families. The Issawis are Jerusalemites – Palestinian residents of Jerusalem whose identity cards allow them to travel more freely throughout Palestine and visit Palestinian prisoners.

Because of Israeli laws that declare all Palestinian political parties to be “prohibited organizations,” and communication – even with family members – in these organizations to be “coordination with” or “support for” prohibited organizations, Shireen, Medhat, and fellow lawyers and legal workers were raided, spied on, and imprisoned, accused of carrying out such unremarkable, and inded, necessary activities for Palestinian prisoners as carrying them messages from family members prohibited from visiting them and depositing money in their “canteen” (prison store for the sale of goods to Palestinian detainees) accounts on their behalf. They were accused of support for “prohibited organizations” – the Palestinian political parties, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and others – of which their clients were members.

Shireen was arrested on 7 March 2014 and her brother Medhat one week later, on 13 March 2014; Medhat had previously served 20 years in Israeli prisons, while Shireen had been held under house arrest and had her law license stripped for a year – again, for supporting Palestinian prisoners. The Issawis were not the only Palestinian lawyers and legal workers so targeted – Amjad Safadi, 39, also a Jerusalemite Palestinian lawyer, was held for 50 days under interrogation in the Moskobiyeh detention center; five days after his release, he reportedly hanged himself inside his family’s Jerusalem home on 29 April 2014. He had been arrested on 6 March, alongside five other lawyers, with similar accusations to the Issawis. Shireen and Medhat have received international support – the Law Society of Britain and Wales called for their freedom, and the Alkarama Foundation presented Shireen with a human rights award.

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network condemns the sentencing and imprisonment of Shireen and Medhat Issawi, and demands their immediate release, as well as an end to the persecution and targeting of Palestinian lawyers and legal workers for providing services necessary to Palestinian political prisoners and confronting the isolation of Palestinian prisoners.

Further, we note that the entire system of the criminalization of Palestinian politics and resistance as “prohibited organizations” under military orders is a key mechanism of Israeli occupation and apartheid in order to suppress, deny and repress Palestinian political life and struggle. We further note that this criminalization is often echoed internationally by so-called “terrorist organization” lists which function to support Israeli occupation, apartheid and colonialism by criminalizing and repressing Palestinian political organizing and struggle inside and outside Palestine.

We also demand the immediate release of Samer Issawi, Samer Mahroum and over 60 re-arrested Palestinian prisoners whose sentences were arbitrarily reimposed following their release in a prisoner exchange as a mechanism of pressure against the Palestinian resistance and the entire Palestinian people – and the freedom of all 7,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons.

(Source / 07.03.206)

Saudis, Turks Bid to Open Lebanon Front

Saudis, Turks Bid to Open Lebanon Front

With a series of blatant measures, Saudi Arabia and its regional allies are evidently trying to destabilize Lebanon. The development is apiece with how Saudi Arabia and Turkey have both sought to undermine the ceasefire in Syria and to escalate that conflict to a region-wide level.

A New York Times report this week poses a rather naive conundrum: «Diplomats and analysts have spent several weeks trying to understand why the Saudis would precipitously start penalizing Lebanon – and perhaps their own Lebanese allies – over the powerful influence of Hezbollah, which is nothing new».

Well, here’s a quick answer: Russia’s very effective squelching of the covert war for regime-change in Syria. That has sent Saudi Arabia and Turkey into a paroxysm of rage.

Russia’s military intervention in Syria to defend the Arab state from a foreign-backed covert war involving myriad terrorist proxy groups, has dealt a severe blow to the machinations of Washington, its NATO allies and regional client states.

While Washington and its Western partners seem resigned to pursue regime change by an alternative political track, Saudi Arabia and Turkey are stuck in the covert-war groove. They are betting that the terrorist proxy armies they have weaponized can somehow be salvaged from withering losses inflicted by Russian airpower in combination with the ground forces of the Syrian Arab Army, Iranian military advisors and the Lebanese Hezbollah militia.

Hence, the immediate breaches of the cessation called a week ago by Washington and Moscow in Syria. Turkish military shelling across the border into northern Syria is not just a breach. It is an outrageous provocation to Syrian sovereignty, as Moscow has pointed out.

Simultaneous Saudi military mobilization, including Turkish forces, on its northeast border with Iraq, as well as the reported deployment of Saudi fighter jets to Turkey’s Incirlik airbase opposite Syria’s northwest Latakia province can also be viewed as calculated moves to undermine the tentative ceasefire. The logical conclusion of this reckless aggression by both Saudi Arabia and Turkey is to precipitate a wider conflict, one which would draw in the US and Russia into open warfare.

The series of Saudi-led initiatives towards Lebanon should be interpreted in this context. In the past week, Saudi Arabia and its closely aligned Sunni monarchies in the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have declared Hezbollah a terrorist organization. The word «anachronistic» comes to mind, belying an ulterior motive.

The Saudi rulers, led by King Salman and his son Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, also announced that they were canceling plans to grant Lebanon $4 billion in aid. Most of the aid was to be in form of military grants, to be spent on upgrading the Lebanese national army with French weaponry and equipment.

Without providing any proof, the GCC states – Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Oman in addition to Saudi Arabia – issued travel warnings to their nationals intending to visit Lebanon. The GCC also claimed that Hezbollah was interfering in their internal affairs and trying to recruit Gulf nationals into the organization to fight in Syria. The GCC has even threatened to deport Lebanese expatriate workers, some half a million of which work in the Gulf.

There were also regional media reports last week of a large cache of weapons having been seized by Greek authorities, stowed illicitly onboard a cargo ship sailing from Turkey to Lebanon.

The cumulative intent seems patent. The Saudis and their regional allies – who have been pushing for regime change for the past five years against the Russian, Iranian and Hezbollah-allied government of President Bashar al-Assad – see the escalation of regional instability as the best way to salvage their covert war in Syria.

Washington, London and Paris probably have sufficient cynical intelligence to realize that the covert war involving terrorist proxies is no longer a viable option – given the formidable forces arrayed in support of the Syrian state, not least Russian air power.

The Saudis and the Turkish regime of Recep Tayyip Erdogan appear to be inflexibly wedded to the covert war agenda. For these powers anything less than the outright removal of Assad would be seen as a grave blow to their despotic egos and, for them, an unbearable boost to their regional rival, Shia-dominated Iran.

The GCC criminalization of Shia-affiliated Hezbollah is obviously a fit of revenge-seeking given how the militia has ably helped the Syrian army retake major areas from the regime-change Sunni extremist insurgents, in conjunction with the Russian air strikes. The steady shutting down of border crossings in Latakia, Idlib and Aleppo has cut-off the terror brigades from their weapons supply routes via Turkey. This is partly why the Erdogan regime has responded by cross-border shelling in order to give re-supply efforts a modicum of artillery cover.

Moreover, the Saudi-led campaign to sanction Hezbollah is also aimed at destabilizing the sectarian fault lines inside Lebanon. Hezbollah may be denigrated by Washington and some other Western states as a «terrorist group» and of presiding over «a state within a state» due to its military wing which exists alongside the Lebanese national army.

Nevertheless, Hezbollah has constitutionally recognized legitimacy within Lebanon. This is partly due to the militia’s primary role in driving out the US-backed Israeli military occupation of the country in 2000 and again in 2006. For many Lebanese people, including Christians and Sunni Muslims, Hezbollah is held with pride as an honorable resistance force to US-led imperialism in the region.

The party – which Russia also recognizes as a legitimate national resistance movement – comprises about 10 per cent of the Lebanese parliament and holds two cabinet positions in the coalition Beirut government.

So the Saudi-led proposal to sanction Hezbollah seems nothing more than a gratuitous bid to open up sectarian fissures that have cleaved Lebanon in the recent past during its 1975-1990 civil war. The provocation of labeling a member of government in a foreign state as «terrorist» – seemingly out of the blue – has to be seen as a tendentious bid to destabilize. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah this week condemned the Saudi bid to inflame sedition in Lebanon, and it is hard to disagree with that assessment.

There are still pockets of extremist Sunni support within Lebanon that the Saudis and Turkey appear to be trying to incite. During the Syrian conflict, there have been sporadic outbreaks of violence in the cities of Sidon and Tripoli by Salafist elements with close links to Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Now those same elements are being incited to take to the streets again.

It is not clear if Lebanon can hold together. A government minister linked to a pro-Saudi faction has resigned in recent weeks over what he claims is «Hezbollah domination» in Lebanese politics.

Many Lebanese are discontent over social and economic problems dogging the country. A refuse-collection backlog over the past year has left large parts of the capital overflowing with putrid waste. The tiny country of four million is also feeling the strain of accommodating some one million Syrian refugees.

The thought of re-opening old wounds and re-igniting the horror of civil war is a heavy burden on most Lebanese citizens that may be enough to make them baulk at malign pressures.

But what can be said for sure is that the role of Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the other Arab monarchies is absolutely unconscionable and criminal. They seem fully prepared to plunge yet another neighboring country into a sectarian bloodbath in order to gratify their illicit regional ambitions.

(Source / 07.03.2016)

60 years of shame: The Palestinian camps in Lebanon

Palestinian girls walk at the refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared on the outskirts of the Lebanese northern city of Tripoli on 30 May, 2011

The Palestinian refugees in Syria were once the ones who had dignity in their lives, but in Lebanon most have had that stripped away

For decades the Palestinian camps in Lebanon have been a dark world of their own, with the texture of daily life bleaker than Gaza, and the appalling refugee camp massacres and sieges of 30 and 40 years ago by Lebanese militias in Tal el Zaatar, Shatila, and other camps, long eclipsed in media consciousness by the Israeli onslaughts and siege of the last decades on Gaza.

Palestinians fleeing from Syria’s war in the last years and months – at least 45,000 people – have found themselves in Lebanon in a far grimmer scenario than they expected, and where the international community offers a shamingly inadequate response.

In the unregistered gatherings of Syrian refugees in the farmlands of the Beqaa valley tents, caravans and mean hovels of wood and aluminium shelter many Palestinians, widows with many small children, elderly women who have lost touch with all their family members, separated children, and gaunt, tired men desperate for some work to feed their families and finding only odd days as casual labourers which cannot begin to meet even food needs, much less the rent and electricity payments, or warm blankets and jackets against the winter chill.

These are not the faces of people who easily ask for money – there is despair and shame as anyone approaches visiting outsiders, children in their arms, to ask for help. Ten years ago in Syria Palestinian refugee families in camps like Yarmouk had children who walked to school from neat clean homes, scored highly in class, went to university and then on to jobs – like their parents – which gave them security and dignity.

They have arrived in Lebanon to an unrecognisable world. The sectarian balancing act of Lebanese politics is enshrined in the country’s constitution: the president must be Christian; the prime minister Sunni Muslim; and speaker of parliament Shia Muslim. There has been near consensus of the Lebanese political class over the decades since the Palestinian refugee influx started in the violent creation of Israel in1948 that the new largely Sunni Muslim Palestinian population could never be allowed civil rights because of the feared impact on this balance.

Lebanon embraced the Palestinian right to return not just on principle, but for fear of this refugee population settling in Lebanon. Fear of resettlement was linked to a denial of basic Palestinian civil rights. Behind this unspoken deal lie decades of Lebanese seeing the Palestinian refugee camps as a security threat – long after the PLO fighters were forced to leave the country for Tunis in 1982.

Factional rivalries remain and insecurity flares periodically inside some camps and is usually controlled by the camp’s own united armed force – visibly well-trained and respected on the street. Heavily armed Lebanese army checkpoints can be seen today in control of the entrance to camps like Nahr el Bahred, Ain El Hilweh and Burj El Shamali. One of their functions is to prevent the refugees bringing building materials into the camp to improve the dilapidated housing conditions.

Lebanese law and ministerial decrees mean the refugees have no automatic right to work, to social security, to joining a union. There are at least 25 banned areas of work in Lebanon for Palestinians, including medicine, law, engineering and pharmacy, and there is no right to ownership of land or property.

A young Lebanese woman will think long and hard before marrying a Palestinian man she loves, knowing that their child will not have the right to her nationality or passport, but will be a second-class citizen in her country, short of rights and future options, with a passport valid for very few countries.

A young Palestinian man who is lucky enough to have a Lebanese mother cannot have her nationality, but he can have a home – registered to his mother, and can be one of the 50 percent or so among Lebanon’s registered 455,000 refugees, who live outside the 12 recognised camps. The most highly educated and resourceful often do find creative ways to work and survive here – with difficulty. But there is an acknowledged brain drain as many of the best also increasingly opt to leave the country if they can find a way. (See Diana Allan’s meticulously researched Refugees of the Revolution, Stanford University Press 2014.)

The crowded, impoverished 1948/9 camps of Nahr el Bared in the north, Shatila, and Burj el Barajneh in Beirut, Ein el Hilweh and Burj el Shemali in Saida and Tyr in the south of the country are today swollen further with the addition of many of the estimated newly arrived 45,000 Syrian Palestinians, who find their way east from the Beqaa valley to the coast camps. Seventy per cent of these adults are estimated to be women and they recount how husbands and sons have been killed, or gone hopefully on the work-seeking trail to Europe, or returned to Syria.

In the camps the newcomers are living among many already destitute people in a cycle of poverty and dependence: a widow with four teenagers, including one son with cancer, lives in one room above a reeking animal shelter; a mother of five lives in a freezing room without a window and has one child who has opted to sleep out in a nearby cemetery with a gang of other boys. In every home women speak of how school dropout rates and unemployment are chronic; of a child who needs coaching to catch up but will not get it; another offered a scholarship who cannot take it because she cannot afford to travel there; and of deep depression.

Thousands of national and international initiatives offer small lifelines to those they can among the chronic disabled, and most needy. Outside, electric wires run in great informal malfunctioning tangles over every alley; water supplies, sewage and drains are antique, overloaded, erratic, and a perpetual health hazard, as they have been for decades.

Sixteen years ago in Shatila a man seeing a group of foreigners with notebooks shouted at us angrily, “Yes, come and look at us. Look.  Look. Then go away, and write that we live here like dogs, like dogs.” I was stunned then, and his furious words have never faded. No one should be condemned to live like this. Worst of all is knowing that their children and grandchildren will live these lives too, or worse.

One woman after another in the camps spoke of how dramatically UNRWA’s long-running and deepening resource crisis is affecting her family. Today much-needed treatment, medicines, operations are no longer funded and the sick go without. Demonstrations outside the UNRWA offices, including one man who set himself alight recently, are a desperate daily routine. The organisation is totally over-stretched with all its five work areas in crisis. Last autumn UNRWA schools across the region came within a whisker of not opening after the summer break, with the spectre of 500,000 children on the streets instead of in class.

The 65-year system of depending on grants and voluntary contributions for 97 percent of the UNRWA budget is no longer tenable, but only Palestinian civil society presses for substantive change to the funding system.

Last autumn the Palestinian Human Rights Organisations Council, which includes 21 respected groups, asked the UN General Assembly and the secretary general for a UN resolution for a mandatory obligation on third-party states to fund UNRWA from the UN’s general budget.

They also called for an extension of the mandate to end the present legal protection gap for Palestinian refugees, who do not have the rights of other refugees under UNHCR – reflecting the perception in 1948 of UNRWA as a stop-gap for a temporary problem. But no international or Palestinian authority has had the courage to force these points onto the agenda, preferring to leave yet another generation of unseen Palestinians to lives no one should live.

Against this bleak background there are small local initiatives of young Lebanese, Palestinian and Syrian individuals who have transformed corners of the crisis and who put the world’s impotence to shame.

In a narrow alley in Shatila there is Basmeh and Zeitooneh – a charity started by group of Syrians. Two years on artists and actors have helped to make it a vibrant community centre with 700 exuberant children in school mostly for the first time, a library, and mothers learning to read and write for the first time, embroidery, small start-up businesses, and house renovations.

And an hour south on the coast in Saida is a newly built high school for Syrian refugees, Al Insani, where teachers from Syria, Lebanon and Palestine are giving, free, a level of education in a creative environment, which will ensure these children at least are not the “lost generation” the outside backers of the Syrian war designed for them.

(Source / 07.03.2016)

Syria’s Phantom “Moderate Rebels” Return From The Dead

Just last week, the “New Syrian Army,” a moniker for the discredited FSA, suddenly appeared on the Iraqi-Syrian border, “cutting off” ISIS supply lines leading back and forth between the two countries.

In this Tuesday, July 24, 2012 photo, Free Syrian Army soldiers are seen at the border town of Azaz, some 20 miles (32 kilometers) north of Aleppo, Syria. (AP Photo/Turkpix)

In this Tuesday, July 24, 2012 photo, Free Syrian Army soldiers are seen at the border town of Azaz, some 20 miles (32 kilometers) north of Aleppo, Syria

(OPINION) — The French colonial green, white, and black banner of Syria adapted by the West’s proxy “Free Syrian Army” (FSA) had long been forgotten in the sea of black banners held aloft by Washington and Riyadh’s more extreme ploy to gain leverage upon and more direct access to the battlefield.

However, as Syrian forces backed by its regional allies and Russian airpower overwhelm these forces while building alliances with other factions, including the Kurds, the West’s entire regime change enterprise faces ignominious collapse.

It appears that – having exhausted all other options – the West has decided to change as many of those black banners back to the “rebel” green, white, and black as possible, before the conflict draws to a close, giving the West the most favorable position achievable ahead of “peace talks.”

The West’s Shape-Shifting Proxies

For years, just looking at maps – including those produced by Washington-based think tanks themselves – revealed the true nature of Syria’s ongoing conflict. Forces could be seen flowing into the country as one would expect amid an invasion, not a “civil war.” While the West’s military campaigns over and upon Syrian soil claimed to be taking on the so-called “Islamic State” (ISIS), it was clear that nothing was being done about cutting off the obvious supply corridors sustaining ISIS’ fighting capacity.

In other words, the US and its “coalition’s” war on ISIS was feigned. No genuine military campaign would ever be fought on the front lines while neglecting the enemy’s logistical lifelines – especially when those lifelines led from NATO territory.

It wasn’t until Russia’s intervention on behalf of the Syrian government, that these corridors were targeted and disrupted – thus fully exposing the gambit for all the world to see.

Not surprisingly, as soon as this began, it had an immediate effect on the West’s proxy forces across the country. Since then, Russian-backed Syrian forces have incrementally begun sealing off Syria’s borders, isolating stranded terrorist factions within the interior of the country, and retaking territory as these forces atrophy and dissipate.

For years it has been asked why the West has done nothing about cutting these obvious supply corridors leading into Syria and sustaining terrorist factions like ISIS, Al Nusra, and their allies – groups which now clearly constitute the vast majority of militants fighting the Syrian government – even by the US government’s own admission.

As the global public becomes increasingly aware of this glaring point of logic, it appears that the West is now attempting to cynically leverage it, while simultaneously rescuing thousands of trapped terrorist mercenaries facing encirclement and eradication in the closing phases of the Syrian conflict.

Just last week, the “New Syrian Army,” a moniker for the discredited FSA, suddenly appeared on the Iraqi-Syrian border, “cutting off” ISIS supply lines leading back and forth between the two countries.

Reuters in their article, “Syrian rebels seize Iraq border crossing from Islamic State: monitor,” would claim:

Syrian rebel fighters seized a border crossing with Iraq from Islamic State on Friday, Britain-based war monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Islamic State had controlled the al-Tanf border crossing, which is also near the Syrian-Jordanian border, since May last year after seizing it from Syrian government forces. It had been the last border crossing with Iraq that was under the control of the Syrian government.

The only “source” is the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is in fact a single man living in England who regularly coordinates with the British Foreign Ministry.

One could ask why such border interdiction operations haven’t been done before, and in fact, why these “rebels” who are admittedly harbored, trained, funded, and armed in Jordan and Turkey to begin with, didn’t first begin by securing Syria’s borders to prevent ISIS from entering the country in precisely the same areas “rebels” are supposedly operating?

The answer is simple. The West had no intention of stopping ISIS. In fact, ISIS is the “rebels” and the “rebels” are ISIS. Their “taking” of the Syrian-Iraqi border is superficial at best. The weapons, cash, and fighters will still flow, just as they do past NATO forces along the Turkish-Syrian border. The only difference is that now these terrorists will be flying the “FSA” flag, lending them protection amid a ceasefire agreed to in good faith by the Syrian government and its allies.

Rebels are Not Prevailing – ISIS is Just Flying a New Flag

The ceasefire has, at least temporarily, bought time for terrorists groups Syria and Russia have – perhaps mistakenly – recognized as militant groups to be negotiated with. Taking full advantage of this, the “FSA” is now suddenly appearing as if rising from the dead, everywhere ISIS and Al Qaeda have dominated for years.

The New York Times published its own desperate bid to convince the global public that once again “pro-democracy protesters” were climbing out of the rubble in Idlib and Aleppo – two cities admittedly overrun by Al Qaeda and ISIS long ago – and flying the “FSA” flag.

The article titled, “Syrian Protesters Take to Streets as Airstrikes Ease,” claims that:

Street protests erupted across insurgent-held areas of Syria on Friday, as demonstrators took advantage of the relative lull in airstrikes during a partial truce, coming out in the largest numbers in years to declare that even after five punishing years of war they still wanted political change.

Under the slogan “The Revolution Continues,” demonstrators waved the green, white and black pre-Baathist flag adopted during the early, largely peaceful stages of the revolt, before the proliferation of armed Islamist factions with black jihadist banners.

Five years on from the so-called “Arab Spring,” the fully engineered nature of the original protests in 2011 have been so thoroughly exposed and understood by the public, that few if anyone believes these protests now are anything but a desperately staged public-relations campaign to prove that there are people elsewhere besides Washington, Langley, London, and Brussels, that still seeks regime change in Syria.

The West’s terrorist proxies are changing from a war-footing – having lost the war – to a last-ditch posture of claiming legitimate opposition in hopes of salvaging what’s left of the political networks and terrorist fronts that collaborated with the West in this highly destructive conspiracy.

“Uprising” in Al Raqqa

Finally, in the very heart of the West’s proxy terrorist forces, Al Raqqa – the de facto capital of ISIS – there are suddenly reports of “uprisings” by the local population. This happens conveniently as the Syrian Arab Army approaches from the west and Kurds descend upon the city from the northeast.

Leading up to this “uprising” was a story in the London Telegraph titled, “Islamic State ‘hit by cash crisis in its capital Raqqa‘,” which claims:

Faced with a cash shortage in its self-declared caliphate, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has slashed salaries, asked Raqqa residents to pay utility bills in black market American dollars, and is now releasing detainees for a price of $500 a person.

While the Telegraph credits “coalition airstrikes” for this turn of fortune, it is quite obvious thatSyrian and Russian airstrikes along the Turkish border destroying entire convoys bound for ISIS territory has led to a reduction in ISIS’ fighting capacity as well as its ability to administer seized territory.

With a terrorist force the West has spent 5 years and untold billions creating facing complete encirclement and eradication, what options are left? An “uprising” where suddenly the entire city is flying “FSA” flags, thus negating the need for Syrian or Kurdish forces to move in and retake the city?

That appears to be the narrative the West is already preparing – in Raqqa and elsewhere across Syria – as a component amid the so-called “ceasefire” and “peace talks.”

The BBC had dressed up a terrorist commander in FSA regalia for an interview – but included footage of the commander in the field operating under clearly terrorist banners. It was but an individual example of what it appears the West is doing now on a much larger scale – playing dress-up to save its immense but now stranded terrorist hordes.

FakeFSACmd_BBC_2016feb-300x170During early victories against the West’s proxy forces, Al Qaeda and ISIS militants would dress as women to flee the battlefield. Now, they are dressing up as the otherwise nonexistent “FSA.”

Will the West expect Syria and its allies to negotiate with this phantom army operating under a fictional banner? For Syria and its allies, what the West is doing is a clear violation of the spirit of the ceasefire and of upcoming peace talks. It is also a reaffirmation of the West’s disingenuous commitment to fighting terrorism – clearly using it as a tool to fight its battles for it, to serve as a pretext for intervening when terrorism alone cannot achieve an objective, and then, when all else fails, covering up entire legions of terrorists so that they can live to fight another day.

(Source / 07.03.2016)

Memo to the PA: what is more important, Israel’s security or your children’s future?

By Dr Daud Abdullah

MEMO Commentary

Last month, Palestinian teacher Hanan Al-Hroub was named among the top ten finalists for the 2016 Valley Park Foundation Global Teacher’s Prize; it was both a personal as well as national achievement. The satisfaction that accompanied her success has, however, been overshadowed by a bitter dispute between the Palestine Teachers’ Union and the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. The row threatens to undermine the outstanding work done by tens of thousands of dedicated teachers throughout the occupied Palestinian territories.

As it stands, there are no signs that the strike action which began on 10th February is about to end. On the contrary, positions are hardening on both sides with students, inevitably, paying a heavy price. Losing valuable learning hours because of delays at Israeli security check points or road closures is bad enough; losing part of the academic year because of avoidable internal Palestinian differences only adds insult to injury.

Like industrial disputes everywhere, the issues are largely about wages and conditions of work. Teachers are especially aggrieved that their demands for increased salaries have been spurned at a time when other public sector workers have been rewarded handsomely. The Teachers’ Union points out that while doctors and engineers were recently granted 90 per cent and 60 per cent increases respectively, their demands for a smaller wage rise have been rejected. Understandably, teachers feel hard done by, because university lecturers have also been able to negotiate a substantial increase in their salaries.

Around 170,000 people are employed in the Palestinian civil service across the occupied territories; most of the monthly wage bill of $150,000 comes from the tax revenue collected by Israel from trade conducted with Palestine. However, Israel has reneged regularly on its commitment to hand over Palestinian tax revenue. It withholds the income when it pleases — usually as a punitive measure against the PA — and dispenses the money when it suits Tel Aviv to do so.

More than two-thirds of the PA’s 45,000 teachers live and work in the occupied West Bank. They earn an average monthly salary of $600 and the government in Ramallah allocates about 18 per cent of the budget to education. In response to the current teachers’ demands, the PA claims that it cannot meet them because of the deficit created by dwindling international aid and the non-delivery of the revenue owed by Israel. In the 2015 financial year the total external aid to the PA slumped to $705 million from $1.087 billion in 2014.

In Palestine, international aid comes with a political price. The US, which has been a major donor, is unhappy with the policies of the Ramallah administration. Hence, in September last year, the State Department announced that it was cutting economic aid for Palestine by 21.6 per cent, from $370 million to $290 million in the fiscal year which ended that month. The political motive behind the decision was as no surprise, especially when the House Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously adopted a resolution on 22nd October condemning the Palestinian leadership for “incitement” to violence against Jews in Israel and peddling hatred through education and the media.

Despite the setback, President Mahmoud Abbas approved a budget of $4.25 billion in January for the current fiscal year. As in previous years, it reflected an almost excessive allocation for administrative spending compared to the low output for development expenses. Predictably, the lion’s share has been earmarked for the six security agencies employed by the PA: the police, Preventive Security, General Intelligence, Military Intelligence, National Security Forces and the Presidential Guards. With around 70,000 personnel, they are expected to siphon off a third of the budget.

The current industrial dispute with the Teachers’ Union is a natural consequence of misplaced priorities. No amount of intimidation, arrest and “early retirement” of teachers or their union officials will resolve the matter satisfactorily. At best, the only assured result from such an approach is an increased sense of injustice and victimisation.

It is now exactly one year since the PLO’s Central Council adopted a resolution to end security coordination with Israel. Apart from a constant barrage of rhetoric, no practical steps have been taken in this direction. The only exception has been a formal notification delivered to the Israelis last month by Palestinian security officials affirming their intent to end the costly coordination.

The short-sighted may view the striking teachers as political saboteurs. They, on the other hand, maintain that they simply want to be treated like other civil servants and be given a fairer share of the national cake.

The time is long overdue for the PA to decide which is more important, Israel’s security or the future of young Palestinians. If and when it opts for the latter, the PA will be better positioned to invest much-needed funds in delivering the well-rounded education for which Palestinian teachers like Hanan Al-Hroub have become renowned.

(Source / 07.03.2016)

Syrian Coalition Calls for More Active EU Engagement in Syria

Member of the Syrian Coalition’s political committee Abdul Ahad Steifo called on the European Union to engage more actively in Syria, especially in the political and military tracks within the framework of the recently adopted truce agreement. Steifo stressed the need to end the US and Russia’s monopoly of the decision-making with regard to Syria.

Steifo was speaking at a panel discussion on Iran and its policies at home and abroad last Wednesday at the headquarters of the European Parliament in Brussels. The panel was organized by the Friends of Free Iran group in the European Parliament, which includes more than 200 deputies from the European Parliament.

“Europe should take the initiative in the ongoing Syrian political process as it faces two big challenges; the refugee crisis and the terrorist threat,” Steifo said. He called on the European Parliament to support the establishment of safe zones in Syria.

Steifo expressed surprise over the international community’s absolute silence over the tens of thousands of terrorist elements recruited by Iran to fight alongside Assad’s forces. “The Iranian-backed militias, together with ISIS, are responsible for hundreds of massacres against the Syrian people.”

Steifo also called on the European Parliament to submit a draft UN resolution to add the Iranian-backed and Hezbollah militias to the list of terrorist groups. He also called for referring the crimes committed by these militias to the International Criminal Court and to hold the Iranian and Assad regimes to account.

The decades-long relationship between the Iranian regime and the Assad regime, Steifo added, has reached its climax with direct Iranian military invasion of Syria. “Iran’s invasion of Syria is clearly part of its expansionist policies in the region.”

Steifo concluded his remarks by stressing that the Syrian revolution broke out against tyranny and corruption and to reclaim freedom and dignity. “The revolution has now turned into resistance and national liberation movement against the foreign invaders, led by Iran and Russia.”

(Source: Syrian Coalition / 07.03.2016)

1,061 Palestinian refugees in Syrian prisons

LONDON, (PIC)– The Action Group for Palestinians in Syria said that the Syrian security forces continue their mum about the fate of 1,061 Palestinian refugees in their prisons where hundreds of others died due to torture.  The Group said, in a statement on Sunday, that documenting such cases is too difficult in light of the tight-lipped policy of the security forces and due to the fact that the families of refugees refrain from talking on the arrest of their sons in and out of the camps for their safety.  The Group documented 186 cases of arrest in different refugee camps including 186 detainees in Aideen, 141 in Yarmouk, 107 in Khan al-Sheikh, 86 in Nayrab, 78 in Raml, 53 in Hamah, and 410 in other locations and camps.  The Group also underlined that the Palestinian refugees arrested in Syrian jails are exposed to torture and 435 of them died as a result of torture. 77 of them were recognized by their families through leaked photos.

(Source / 07.03.2016)