Saturday 11 July 2009

Arad admits Israel failed over Iran


Sat, 11 July 2009 08:55:26 GMT

The Israeli prime minister's National Security Advisor has admitted that the regime has had no success in hindering Iran's peaceful nuclear progress.

Israel displayed an "abominable" failure to address Tehran's nuclear development between 2003 and 2007, Benjamin Netanyahu's aide Uzi Arad said, according to a Friday interview published in Haaretz.

The head of Israel's National Security Council also suggested threatening the Islamic Republic with a naval blockade in a change to the "scorched earth" policy that Netanyahu inherited from the previous administration.

"The more credible and concrete the option, the less likely that it will be needed," he said.

Arad also said "living with" a nuclear Iran, as the West has done with the Soviet Union and China, was not an option for Israel.

The Israeli official claimed that the Middle East would turn into a multi-nuclear region if the West fails to shut down Iran's centrifuges, describing such a scenario as a “nightmare.”

He made the remarks as Israel is known to be the region's sole nuclear-armed state with over 200 ready to launch atomic warheads.

Despite its sizeable arsenal of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, Tel Aviv is bent on portraying Iran as the real threat to the region, an accusation that Tehran throws back at Israel.

Iran argues that, unlike Israel, it is a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and has willingly opened its atomic activities to the most stringent supervision of UN nuclear watchdog inspectors, according to the terms of the NPT.

Tehran also denies having any intentions of acquiring nuclear weapons, while staying adamant that it will continue to defend its 'inalienable right' to pursue uranium enrichment for civilian applications, allowed to under the NPT, no matter how hard that may be for Israel and its Western allies to accept.

OCHA: Israeli separation wall to expropriate 9.5% of West Bank area


[ 11/07/2009 - 09:02 AM ]

RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- The UN office for coordination of humanitarian affairs in the occupied Palestinian lands (OCHA) said in a report that the Israeli separation wall would confiscate 9.5% of the West Bank area.

The report distributed on Friday by OCHA office in Cairo revealed that the length of the wall would reach 709 kilometers, which is double the length of the armistice line (green line) of 1948 between the West Bank and the Hebrew state.

It noted that 85% of the construction area was in the West Bank while 15% was in the green line, noting that eastern Jerusalem was included inside the wall.

The report said that 35,000 Palestinians would live in the area between the wall and the 1948 borders while 26,000 Palestinians would be surrounded from all areas by that wall, which would separate entire families from their relatives and delay students' daily trek to their schools and universities while Muslims and Christians would be barred from reaching religious sites in the holy city of Jerusalem.

The Journey to Gaza Begins: Cynthia Mckinney is Due to Join Viva Palestina U.S.A Convoy to Gaza!


The journey to Gaza begins
‘After five days in Cairo, we are ready to set off with vehicles and medical supplies’

Iraq war veteran and ANSWER Coalition representative Michael Prysner reports on the Viva Palestina delegation’s journey to challenge the Israeli blockade of Gaza and deliver humanitarian supplies.

Lead banner, Gaza demo, DC, 01-10-09

In the past several months, the ANSWER Coalition has organized several rallies, marches and demonstrations in support of the Palestinian struggle, and raised funds for humanitarian supplies for Gaza and to send representatives to Gaza as part of a humanitarian delegation.

Your financial contribution is urgently needed. You can make a contribution through a secure server by clicking here, where you can also find information on how to contribute by check.

We filled New York’s JFK airport on July 4 with Palestinian flags and kaffiyehs, chanting “Viva, Viva Palestina!” as hundreds of international travelers watched us unload a truck full of wheelchairs, walkers and medical aid.
This powerful image was a visual reminder of the hundreds of people in Gaza who have endured amputations and crippling injuries from U.S. munitions fired by Israel during the recent December-January massacre. The cruel Israeli blockade prevents even wheelchairs from entering Gaza.
At the Cairo airport, the Egyptian security forces were overwhelmed by the number of Viva Palestina t-shirts amassed outside. With local press trying to cover the event, the Egyptian police tried to shut down the spectacle and shuffle everyone onto busses. Everyone stood strong, ignoring the Egyptian authorities and giving the media ample time to get images and conduct interviews.
The people in Egypt have expressed their support and gratitude for what we are doing here. Since our arrival, our solidarity trip has been covered by many media outlets, including Al Jazeera, Press TV, and several of the largest Egyptian television stations. I have been interviewed several times on behalf of ANSWER.
A very large press conference was held at the Egyptian Journalists Union, where a banner hangs outside protesting the working conditions imposed by the Egyptian government. It was attended by more than a dozen media outlets.
I spoke on behalf of the ANSWER Coalition, reporting on the growing movement in the United States—a movement that will fight until the Israeli siege ends and there is real justice for every Palestinian. One Egyptian newspaper journalist hugged me and said, “You are always welcome in Egypt.”
This morning, half of our delegation left to begin the drive to the first city where we’ll stop on our way to Gaza. We have purchased 47 brand new vehicles that we will leave in Gaza. Vehicles in Gaza are just as vital as medical aid to meet the need for public transportation, ambulances and more. Many of the vehicles break down and are no longer functional. The vehicles we have purchased will serve the people of Gaza for years to come.

woman outside tent in Gaza

The Israeli siege and blockade of Gaza has created a
humanitarian catastrophe for the Palestinian people.

The rest of us have remained in Cairo for an additional day to use the rest of our funds to purchase as much medical aid as possible. We will then set out to meet up with the rest of the team, load the vehicles and head for Gaza.
The energy and morale in the group are very high. There are nearly 200 people here who will deliver aid to Gaza, provide medical care, and return home to tell their stories about the realities on the ground. Cynthia McKinney is due to join us after spending just one night in the U.S. following her return from an Israeli prison.
We are setting out for Gaza to break the siege—to disobey the criminal blockade that forbids toys for children and materials to rebuild the homes, schools and hospitals that have been reduced to rubble. We are going in the largest delegation from the United States to ever head to Palestine. Not only are we making history on this trip, but we are defining a new period by setting the stage for a renewed struggle for the liberation of Palestine from colonial rule. Every day the movement to free Palestine grows. Every day we are closer to victory.

Prysner speaks at Gaza demo, 01-10-09

Michael Prysner speaks at “Let Gaza Live”
demonstration, Washington, D.C., Jan. 10.
Meet Michael Prysner
Michael Prysner joined the U.S. Army when he was 17 years old, hoping that he would get a college education and, in his own words, “believing that the U.S. government stood for freedom, justice and equality.” Prysner was later deployed as part of the initial invasion of Iraq.
Of his experience, Michael wrote: “I spent 12 months in Iraq, doing everything from prisoner interrogations, to ground surveillance missions, to home raids. It was my firsthad experiences in Iraq that radicalized me. I soon realized that my purpose in Iraq was to be the oppressor, and to clear the way for U.S. corporations with no regard for human life.
“I separated from the Army in 2005. I understood that illegal conquering of Iraq was for profit, carried out by a system that serves a tiny class of superrich whose endless drive for wealth is at the expense of working people in the United States and abroad.
“I still had the same drive to fight for freedom, justice and equality as I did when I joined, and I understood that fighting for those things meant fighting against the U.S. government, not on behalf of it.”
July 11, 2009 - Posted by Elias

Gaza's children struggle with memories of war


Gaza's children struggle with memories of war AFP/File – Palestinian Ghasan Matar, 14, who lost his legs in an explosion during the Israeli war on Gaza, sits …

by Patrick Moser Patrick Moser Fri Jul 10, 3:51 am ET

GAZA CITY (AFP) – Fourteen-year-old Ghasan Matar won't talk about the explosion that cost him his legs and killed his brother. In fact, six months after the end of the Israeli war on Gaza, he still barely talks at all.

He spends most of his time staring at the walls and a huge poster depicting his older brother against a bloody background of war featuring a Kalashnikov assault rifle and dead Israeli soldiers.

He says he never thinks about the day when the house was hit during heavy shelling of Gaza City's Zeitun neighbourhood. He insists he has no nightmares. "I'm doing fine," he says, and then clams up.

"He's very traumatised. He doesn't speak, tries to act like nothing happened," says social worker Nisrin Ramadan during a visit to the boy's crumbling brick home.

"There are many cases like this of deep shock and loss of hope," says Ramadan, who works with the Society for the Physically Handicapped.

More than 300 children were among the 1,400 Palestinians killed and many more were wounded during the 22-day Israeli offensive that ended on January 18, according to Palestinian figures.

And experts say a vast majority of the children who make up more than half of Gaza's 1.5 million population, will bear the psychological scars for years to come.

"Children here have lost joy in life. They can laugh but there is no joy. They are unable to maintain hope," says psychiatrist Eyad Sarraj, who heads the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme.

Seven-year-old Ahmed Salah al-Samuni smiles timidly as he is tossed a green plastic ball but quickly loses interest, instead digging his nails into a couch in a brightly coloured room used for psycho-social counselling sessions.

"I remember that Israelis came and ordered us out. Shells were fired," he says when asked what he remembers of the war.

"Grandmother and grandfather are dead," he says, going on to list about 10 others who died when his house was bombed. In all, 29 were killed in the attack, 18 of them from his direct family.

"I love Azza and want her back," he says of his two-and-a-half year-old sister who was among the dead.

After the attack, he lay in a pool of blood. It's only when he cried out for his mother that she realised he was still alive.

A large scar runs across his face, another along his hip. His nose is still deformed from the shrapnel wounds.

Just a few months ago he had regular fits of rage, when he'd beat his brothers and break whatever was in his path.

"He'd scream out at night: 'The Jews are coming to kill me'," his father says.

His psychological scars are also starting to heal. "But it's a long process. He has seen so many dead bodies," says counsellor Sabri Abu Nadi.

A huge number of children went through "horrible situations" during the war, says Saji Elmughanni, the Gaza spokesman for the UN children's agency UNICEF. "Nowhere was safe" in the overcrowded sliver of land wedged between Israel, the Mediterranean and Egypt.

"All children here went through some degree of exposure to violence."

Many bury their feelings deep inside.

Njood Basal, 14, who suffered serious shrapnel wounds to the head, spends much of her time sitting on her bed in a room where light filters through holes in the tin roof.

She chats on the Internet with friends "in other countries, mainly the West Bank."

"I don't tell them what happened ... they ask, but I always change the subject. I feel upset when I talk about the situation."

Outside her house, a poster depicts her cousin Talat Basal. Her family says he was a "martyr," a member the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Islamist Hamas movement that rules Gaza.

Psychiatrist Sarraj says the exposure to extraordinary levels of violence is certain to turn many of today's children into tomorrow's extremists.

"I'm sure there will be a new breed of militants, they'll want a more militant group than Hamas to feel protected," he says.

Reminders of the war that Israel launched to halt rockets fired by Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups are everywhere: buildings reduced to rubble, shell-scarred facades, charred car wrecks.

At night, firing can be heard from the Israeli naval ships that ensure fishermen don't venture more than a few kilometers (miles) from shore.

Mental health experts say many children in the tiny coastal enclave still live in fear of renewed military attack.

"Whether consciously or unconsciously, the fear of another war is always there," says Sarraj.

Awad Sultan, 12, lives in one of dozens of tents set up north of Gaza City to house families who lost their homes in the war.

He says he still has nightmares. "Israeli soldiers try to catch my dad and destroy houses."

What was once his family home is now just rubble.

The bicycle he loved riding is a charred piece of wreckage. Now he plays with other kids from the camp in a large tent set up by social workers.

"We have fun, but what's the use. We come back and think about the war."

Barack Obama or Cynthia McKinney – Who Represents Black America Toward Palestine and Israel?


Submitted by Bruce A. Dixon on Wed, 07/08/2009 - 09:48

cynthia vs barackby BAR managing editor Bruce Dixon

Former congresswoman Cynthia McKinney has just returned from an Israeli jail where she was briefly imprisoned, along with human rights activists from several nations, for her second attempt at publicly running the brutal US-Israeli blockade trying to bring coloring books, food and medical supplies. Why are the US and Israel imposing this collective punishment upon 1.5 million civilians. How does McKinney's stand match up against that of our first black president, the most powerful man in the world who calls it a "humantarian crisis" but will do nothing about it? And how do they both stack up against the legacy of Dr. King?

Barack Obama or Cynthia McKinney – Who Represents Black America Toward Palestine and Israel?

By BAR Managing Editor Bruce A. Dixon

Both Obama and McKinney have traveled to the region more than once in the last several months.”

It's almost an unfair question. Barack Obama's many apologists have explained their lips off telling us how he could not run and cannot govern as president of Black Americans, or the president of Americans neck-deep in consumer debt, or the president of Americans who want an everybody in-nobody out health care system. To get elected and to govern, they wisely assure us, Barack Obama has chosen to be and must be the "president of everybody," if by everybody you mean private health insurers, Wall Street banksters, Pentagon contractors and greedy chambers of commerce everywhere. The president is a grown man, and he gets to make those choices.

So do the rest of us, and on questions pertaining to the Middle East, a Euro-centric place name if ever there was one, every public opinion survey that bothers to differentiate white from black US opinion indicates that African Americans are, in the main, far more sympathetic to the cause of Palestinians than either their white neighbors or their first black president. Barack Obama then, is operating well outside the black consensus on Palestine and Israel, while former Georgia congresswoman Cynthia McKinney swims confidently in the mainstream of black opinion and the prophetic tradition of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Both Obama and McKinney have traveled to the region more than once in the last several months. The president gave a speech in Cairo sternly advising Palestinians to give up violence in pursuit of justice, while seeming to ignore the grossly disproportionate violence, official and unofficial, of the Israeli settler state against them. Obama acknowledged what he called a humanitarian crisis in Gaza without facing his own and the American role in creating that crisis, let alone advancing any measures that would ameliorate it.

““My suitcase,” McKinney told BAR, “was full of crayons. Somebody in authority should explain why crayons and coloring books for Palestinian children are a threat...”

What President Obama calls Gaza's humanitarian crisis is actually a medieval siege, in which Israel, with the full diplomatic and military backing of the US, its principal armorer and banker, has sealed 1.5 million people off from the outside world. For more than two years practically no Palestinians have been permitted to enter Gaza, either from the Israeli-occupied West Bank or elsewhere. Electricity has been cut to a few hours per day and water to a fraction of needed quantities while the Israeli armed forces prohibit Palestinians from purchasing or receiving parts to build, repair or expand capacity. Hundreds of ordinary items needed to carry on civilized life are also banned, including cement, soap, toothpaste, foodstuffs, medical supplies, books, paper clothing and crayons.

In December 2008, and June 2009 Cynthia McKinney, traveled to Cyprus and in the company of human rights activists from many countries attempted to sail to Gaza with a cargo of cement, coloring books, building, medical and humanitarian supplies in order to illustrate the inhumanity and absurdity of the blockade. Both times, the boats were intercepted by the Israeli navy, their GPS units destroyed, and the craft boarded. This time, twenty-one persons including the Irish Nobel Laureate Mairead Maguire were arrested and imprisoned for several days before being deported.

My suitcase,” McKinney told BAR, “was full of crayons. Somebody in authority should explain why crayons and coloring books for Palestinian children are a threat. Somebody should tear down this wall.” McKinney took pains to point out that the blockade, as well as the murderous assault that occurred in December, were carried on with arms and fuel supplied by the US, and with its full diplomatic backing. The blockade of Gaza is causing widespread malnutrition among Palestinians, including children, and is doubtless costing lives daily. “All of us need to ask,” McKinney said, “why our government, through the Israelis, is pursuing this barbaric policy toward the Palestinians, and we must demand that it end right now.”

Why are Israel and the US, with the help of Egypt, imposing this brutal siege upon Gaza?

McKinney also brought with her insights on the racial composition of Israeli prisons. She said she met women in the Israeli prison from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Coite D'Ivoire and other African countries. She observed that a huge number of prisoners, aside from Palestinians, were black Africans and Asians. Where Israel formerly depended upon Arab labor to do many of its everyday tasks, since the beginning of its policy of siege it has recruited large amounts of foreigh labor from non-Muslim parts of Africa and Asia to do all the jobs on the low end of the pay and social status scales. Foreigners, of course, have few if any rights in Israel, and can find themselves locked up for extended periods for the most minor of status offenses.

Why are Israel and the US, with the help of Egypt, imposing this brutal siege upon Gaza? After the death of Yasir Arafat in 2006, Palestinians held elections, closely supervised by observers from many nations, and certified by them to be free and fair. But the Palestinians had the poor judgment to elect a political party --- Hamas --- not favored by Israel and the US. Cutting off their trade and travel, what remained of their opportunity to seek work in Israel or visit their Palestinian relatives in the West Bank, only a few miles distant, curtailing their electricity, water, building, medical and other supplies was, according to US and Israeli policymakers, supposed to make them come to their senses. It hasn't worked. Outside pressure has, if anything, made the Palestinians of Gaza stick tighter together, and rally round the government that the US and Israel so disapprove of. It was the Bush policy for nearly two years, and now it has been the Obama policy for all of six months.

While Obama was the president-in-waiting, conducting daily news conferences on his plan for the economy, denouncing the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, and browbeating members of his own party in congress into voting trillions of public dollars for Wall Street, Israel launched a full-scale military attack against Gaza, throwing hundreds of thousands of rounds of artillery, including cluster munitions and white phosphorus along with strikes from helicopters and jet aircraft, killing more than a thousand civilians. Barack Obama declined to comment publicly, noting that his inauguration was still a few days distant, and that the US had “only one president at a time.” In a similar legalistic vein, during Obama's Cairo speech he pointedly said that the US did not recognize the legitimacy of “continuing Israeli settlements.” But the Israeli government has, with US government funding been planting armed colonies of Israelis on strategic hilltops and ridges throughout the Palestinian West Bank for more than twenty years now, connecting them with a network of roads which Palestinians are forbidden to travel upon or even to cross under pain of arrest. Obama said nothing about these and other longstanding outrages.

Next to Arab Americans, blacks are probably the nation's most skeptical group about the fundamental justice of an Israeli settler state”

Almost a year ago, when Barack Obama received the Democratic nomination, the air was thick with

comparisons and connections between his career and that of Dr. Martin Luther King a generation earlier. In the heady moments of Obama's historic nomination and inauguration it was easy for many to confuse and conflate one with the other. But the air is clearer now. The president's selective moralizing on violence and nonviolence, his legalistic evasions of responsibility, his lawyerly distancing from the consequences of his own actions and inactions are more the stuff of Boss Daley than they are the prophetic witness to injustice of Dr. King. Six months into the Obama presidency, the man whose career many saw as the culmination of the work of the apostle of nonviolence has killed more than 700 Afghans, many of them civilians, with airborne robot drones.

Next to Arab Americans, blacks are probably the nation's most skeptical group about the fundamental justice of an Israeli settler state which imparts rights of residence, citizenship, and more on the basis of Jewish identity, while denying these rights to people whose ancestors have lived there for thousands of years. To African Americans who bother to educate themselves at all on the matter, Israel's identity-pass system, its Jewish-only roads, its separate license plates that allow Israeli Arabs and other non-jews to be profiled at a distance, the ongoing settlement policy cited by President Obama, and the raw, unpunished racist violence of Israeli settlers toward Palestinians have all the hallmarks of a modern, twenty-first century apartheid state. Thanks to Cynthia McKinney and others, more of us are becoming educated on the real nature of the Israeli state, and the consequences of American support of it. We expect to see that work continue, and be taken up by an ever wider section of African American churches, student and civic organizations who believe, as did Dr. King that a threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

We said at the beginning that the comparison was almost unfair. Almost. It's really not unfair at all. Neither Barack Obama nor Cynthia McKinney are being forced or compelled to make the choices they do. They are both grown, well educated, sober, sensible parents and US citizens. But between President Obama and former congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, it's easy to see who is following in the prophetic footsteps of Dr. King, and increasingly, who is Black America's real representative to Palestinians, Israelis, and the Middle East.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at BAR and based in Atlanta GA. He can be reached at bruce.dixon(at)

Barghouthi: Our people insist on ending the longest occupation in modern history


[ 11/07/2009 - 10:23 AM ]

RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- Dr. Mustafa Al-Barghouthi, the head of the Palestinian national initiative and a prominent Palestinian lawmaker, stressed Friday that the Palestinian people are determined to end the longest occupation in modern history and restore their freedom and independence.

These remarks came during the weekly anti-wall protest held in the village of Bil’in on the fifth anniversary of the decision issued by the international court of justice in The Hague which criminalized the construction of the apartheid wall and demanded Israel to tear it down.

Dr. Barghouthi highlighted that the Israeli military suppression practiced against the weekly popular protest organized in Bil’in would never deter the Palestinian people from continuing their struggle and resistance against the occupation, settlement, and the apartheid wall and would not intimidate international activists from showing their solidarity with the Palestinian cause.

He also hailed the anti-wall protests held in the Palestinian villages of Ni'lin, Shofa, Masarah, Yatta and all areas surrounded by the wall, and the steadfastness of their people against the Israeli policies of uprooting and judaization.

The lawmaker demanded, in his speech, to transfer the decision issued by the international court of justice to the UN in order to issue a resolution obliging Israel to stop its settlement activities and imposing deterrent sanctions against it.

The Israeli occupation forces (IOF), as usual, attacked the protesters in Bil’in using tear gas and waste water against the protesters which led to dozens of suffocation cases.

Local sources reported that the IOF troops kidnapped a Palestinian citizen called Adeeb Abu Rahma and an anti-wall activist called Rooney.

According to the popular committee against the wall and settlement, the organizer of the Bil’in protest, the IOF troops continued to invade the village of Bil’in kidnapping eight villagers and one international supporter last week. Local activists and international supporters responded to the nightly invasions by staying all night touring the village and stopping the troops from kidnapping more civilians.

In a related context, Aviv Rishav, an IOF commander in Ramallah said that the construction of the separation wall in the villages of Bil’in and Ni'lin was almost finished, adding that his troops were deployed along the fence to prevent Palestinians from approaching it.

During a similar anti-wall protest held on the same day in the village of Masarah, two Palestinian citizens were injured when IOF troops attacked the peaceful march with batons and rifle butts.

Several speeches delivered by participants stressed the need for enforcing the decision issued by the international court of justice in The Hague against the wall and called on the international community and the free people of the world to seriously move to end the Israeli apartheid system.

The IOF troops also attacked the weekly non-violent protest against the wall in Ni'lin village on Friday and it was reported that they kidnapped three local youths after beating them severely.

As the protesters were marching towards the wall, IOF troops attacked them with tear gas. Some people were treated for the effects of tear gas inhalation. Later on local young men retaliated and hurled stones on the troops, eyewitness reported.

In another context, the Islamic Jihad Movement warned that there is a real danger threatening the Palestinians of 1948 occupied lands.

“We see that it is the right time to sound the alarm of warning against the real danger which is threatening the 1948 Palestinians because the coming threat is serious and the Palestinian authority (PA) has to be aware of being sucked into this trap set by Netanyahu who is pushing the PA into recognizing Israel as a Jewish state prior to any agreement,” representative of Islamic Jihad in Lebanon Abu Imad Al-Rifa’ee told Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper.

Rifa’ee also described the government of Netanyahu as a war cabinet preparing to wage new wars in the region.

Zahhar: Egypt told us about Fatah reluctance to achieve reconciliation

Zahhar: Egypt told us about Fatah reluctance to achieve reconciliation

[ 11/07/2009 - 07:44 AM ]

GAZA, (PIC)-- Dr. Mahmoud Al-Zahhar, a member of the political bureau of Hamas, stated Friday that Egyptian officials told his Movement that Fatah faction has no willingness at all to reach an agreement to end the inter-Palestinian division.

In a statement following the Friday prayers, Dr. Zahhar said that the reasons for the failure of the national dialog sessions became known to everyone, affirming that ex-PA chief Mahmoud Abbas implements publicly and blatantly the policies set by US officer Keith Dayton.

He underlined that the Egyptian security delegation sent to Ramallah was carrying new proposals to shrink the gap between the main Palestinian rivals, reiterating his Movement’s keenness on the success of the national dialog.

The Hamas official pointed out that in the event no agreement was reached in the seventh round of the dialog, a new date would be set for another round.

In the same context, Dr. Mousa Abu Marzouk, the deputy head of the political bureau of Hamas, said that the Egyptian security delegation’s meetings with Hamas leadership in Damascus were aimed to bridge the gap between Hamas and Fatah before initiating the next round of dialog.

In a statement to the PIC, Dr. Abu Marzouk underlined that the Egyptian mediator has a clear objective that is to reach a reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah, and acts according to its responsibilities in this regard.

He noted that the persistent inflexibility of Fatah leaders was the main reason for reaching a deadlock during the last round of dialog, adding that the things which were rejected by Fatah were either formulas reached by both sides or proposals made by Fatah itself.

Telling It Like It Is~About Israel


this is a must read from AL-AHRAM written by Stuart Littlewood, I really love his stuff. This is an excellent piece:
Israel insults, again

Having forced another mercy ship to Gaza to turn back, Stuart Littlewood* asks if Israel can do anything to anyone without consequence

On Tuesday, the Israeli navy, in a blatant act of piracy on the high seas, assaulted the vessel "Spirit of Humanity" and abducted six British nationals who were taking part in a voyage of mercy. The tiny unarmed ship was bringing a humanitarian cargo of medicines, children's toys and reconstruction materials to the devastated people of Gaza.

Those on board the "Spirit of Humanity" were acting in accord with donors' pledges of $4.5 billion for reconstruction and rehabilitation and US President Barack Obama's request to Israel to let those supplies pass.

The ship had been searched and given security clearance by the port authorities in Cyprus before sailing, and posed no threat.

Richard Falk, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in Palestine, says the seizing of the "Spirit of Humanity" is unlawful and the continuing blockade of Gaza a crime against humanity. Yes, Mr Falk. But the question, as always, is: what is your paralytic, useless organisation doing about it? Or is handwringing all it's good for?

Many here, including myself, immediately wrote to David Miliband, the British foreign secretary, about the outrage. Two days later I called the Palestine Desk at the Foreign Office in London. The person I spoke to sounded uncomfortable having to trot out the same old gobble-de-gook about "working hard to resolve the problem" and "doing all we can". He said the six Brits were in Israeli custody and nobody was sure where exactly the incident took place. However, the vessel was fitted with a SPOT GPS tracker, so the system should have a record of their position when attacked.

The real problem, as I suggested, is that Israel dares to kidnap Brits on the high seas and doesn't fear the consequences -- no doubt confident there won't be any. I was reminded that Israel had issued warnings (and so had the Foreign Office) not to travel in that area. What area? Mustn't one travel in international waters?

The spokesman assured me that progress was being made. There was "movement" on getting humanitarian supplies into Gaza, but I pointed out that nobody had seen any evidence of Israel conforming to international law and the Geneva Conventions. He claimed there was also "movement" on halting settlements on occupied territory, although I observed that the Israelis had just green lighted more illegal building.

I also reminded him about the ramming of the "Dignity" by an Israeli gunboat while on a similar mission 53 miles from shore, and how people here were still hopping mad that nothing had been done about it. That vessel, with 16 onboard, was badly damaged and had to limp to a safe Lebanese port. As far as I know, there was never an offer of compensation and no demand from London. As usual, somebody else had to pick up the tab for Israel's unbridled destruction.

The "Dignity" had a cargo of 3.5 tonnes of medical supplies, the majority donated by the Cyprus government, and a British skipper and a Greek mate. It carried 14 passengers, one of whom was Cynthia McKinney. There were also two surgeons and a Palestinian physician. A friend of mine was among them and wrote this chilling account of the attack:

"At 04.55 hrs EMT on 30 December, searchlights appeared astern. There were two Israeli gunboats. They came abreast, circled and stayed with us. These boats can do over 45 knots, carry 10 tonnes of fuel and have sophisticated weapon systems including Hellfire missiles. Tracer bullets were fired skywards, forming ellipses, and flares put up. At 05.30 hrs approximately, one gunboat was playing its searchlight on the port side of "Dignity". Suddenly there was a tremendous crash at the bow, and then another almost simultaneously, and another on the port beam... The bow dipped and it seemed the boat was breaking up. It was dark, the wind force was four to five and there was a 10ft sea. The master shouted "We have been rammed". It was feared the boat would sink. He broadcast a mayday distress signal; there was no response.

"Cynthia McKinney and Caoimhe Butterly could not swim; life jackets were rapidly deployed to all. The hull was taking water but bilge pumps were working. The first words from a commander of one of the gunboats came over the radio. First there was the accusation that the ship's company was involved with terrorists and that it was subversive. Then there came the threat to shoot. The master was forbidden from making for Gaza or further south to Arish in Egypt. He was ordered to return to Larnaca -- about 160 miles -- even though the boat was badly damaged and the Israelis did not know whether there was sufficient fuel, which there was not. He set a northerly course and the boat stayed buoyant in a moderating sea. A crewmember arranged with the Lebanese authorities for a safe harbour in Tyre, where jubilant crowds thronged the quays. A UNIFIL ship came out to escort us, and the Israeli gunboats, which were following, fell back.

"Was there lethal intent? A gunboat came out of the black of night with no lights showing whilst a searchlight from the other gunboat displayed our port hull as its target. It would have approached at about 30 degrees to the 'Dignity's' port and at speed. The intention to sink the 'Dignity' and thus to drown its company was clear. If the hull had been GRP (glass reinforced plastic) it would have shattered and the boat would have sunk like a stone 53 nautical miles off Haifa. Fortunately, the hull was constructed of marine ply with timber ribs and survived... The ship's company were repatriated except for a resolute Scot, Theresa McDermott. She was imprisoned in Ramleh gaol. When the British Consulate in Israel was contacted for assistance in finding Teresa, staff refused to help locate her saying they couldn't provide assistance to a UK citizen unless she personally requested it. Teresa was released after six days, her 'crime' probably being a member of the International Solidarity Movement, like Rachel Corrie before her."

My written question to Miliband was simply this: "Why isn't Her Majesty's Government providing the mercy ship 'Spirit of Humanity' with an escort to protect against the unlawful, piratical interference and threat to life by the Israeli navy? There have been repeated incidents of harassment, damage, theft and armed aggression on the high seas or in Palestinian waters by the Israeli regime against unarmed vessels."

The British government has loudly pledged Royal Navy help to stop the "smuggling" of arms to the Gaza resistance but won't protect Gaza's fishermen from being fired on by Israeli marauders while trying to earn their living. And evidently the government can't be bothered to protect its own people going about their lawful business. But, sure enough, they kicked up an almighty fuss when Iran nabbed 15 British sailors two years ago for allegedly straying into Iranian waters.

For our sins we are saddled with a foreign secretary who calls for Israeli tank crewman Gilad Shalit's release but not the release of 11,000 Palestinian civilians -- some of them women and children -- languishing in Israeli jails. On 25 June Miliband said: "Today is the third anniversary of the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit. Both British ministers and the British ambassador in Israel have had repeated contact with Gilad's family and emphasised our support for Gilad's immediate release. Last September, the ambassador helped to deliver over 2,000 Jewish New Year cards for Gilad to the ICRC as part of a campaign organised by the UK Jewish community. I repeat the UK's call to Hamas for his immediate, unconditional, and safe release. We share the Shalit family's dismay at Hamas's refusal to allow the ICRC access to Gilad."

The British people are waking up to the truth about Israel's lawlessness. In the absence of firm action from the British government they are taking steps of their own, in the form of boycotts, which have driven Miliband to complain that "the government is dismayed that motions calling for boycotts of Israel are being discussed at trade union congresses and conferences this summer". He insists that boycotts "obstruct opportunities for cooperation and dialogue and serve only to polarise debate further. Boycotts would only make it harder to achieve the peace that both Palestinians and Israelis deserve and desire."

Miliband hasn't learned the lesson of the last 61 years. And our prime minister-in-waiting, David Cameron (a Zionist and, like Brown and Blair, a patron of the Jewish National Fund), is no different. He says: "I think there's something else we need to do, which is to say to our academics in this country that boycotts of Israel are completely unacceptable, and I think we also need to say that to the trade unions."

Nowadays you have to carefully pick your way through a veritable obstacle course of pro- Zionists, Chosen Ones and Israeli stooges that inhabit every nook and cranny in the corridors of power and dominate Britain's key defence bodies. These Israeli flag-wavers seem only too happy for the Israelis to insult us -- and the rest of the world -- while rewarding them with more and more trade and scientific cooperation.

* The writer is author of the book Radio Free Palestine , which tells the plight of the Palestinians under occupation.

Posted by irish4palestine at 8:31 AM

Ni'lin July 10 2009. Two boys kidnapped by disguised members of Israeli army


"Demonstration in Ni'lin against the illegal Apartheid Wall. About 10 members from a special unit in the Israeli army disguised as Palestinian protesters brutally attacked and kidnapped two local boys, 17 and 18 years old"

Palestine Video - A Palestine Vlog

Viva Palestina U.S.A. Convoy to Gaza :Video Update from Egypt



This is an interview with Alison Weir of on her way to Gaza with the Viva Palestina U.S. Aid convoy to Gaza spoke to Hesham Tillawi of Current Issues T.V.

July 10, 2009 - Posted by Elias


July 11, 2009 at 8:18 am (Activism, Gaza, Humanitarian Aid, International Solidarity, Palestine)

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Photos, from top to bottom: New York City Councilperson Charles Barron and Abdullah in his son’s cab; some of Abdullah’s children; Charles Barron with an elder from the village.

by Sarah Ikhmayes, Al-Awda-NY
On our way to Alexandria

The day started out beautifully. Most of the 80 people that were heading to Alexandria to pick up the trucks that will be driving us into Gaza, were in the lobby by 8. You can really feel the excitement within the delegates. Not because we were going into a different city, but because this was really a step forward toward Gaza.

About 2 hrs later we began boarding the bus. And supposedly 2 1/2 hrs later we were supposed to be in Alexandria. But things don’t always work out as you plan. We eventually reached Alexandria 4 hrs later. We stopped at a McDonalds so that everyone can stretch and get something to eat. An hour and a half later we found ourselves heading to Customs, where the Egyptians were holding the cars. But get this, they didn’t give it to us. After waiting nearly 2 hrs for them, the Egyptians informed us that the Minister of Investment was visiting and was inside the building. Therefore for “his safety”, we were not allowed inside to get a hold of the vehicles. The authorities told us to come back on Saturday because Friday is a holy day for Muslims and many government institutions are closed.

One of our fellow delegates was not feeling to well. So we were told that we would be taken to this hotel so that we may rest and freshen up. About an hour passed before we got off the bus and into this residential building that we were going to be spending the next 2-3 days. However, many of us were disgusted at what we saw and went Hotel Hunting.

We did not go Hotel Hunting because we can’t handle hardship and dirt, but because we would rather pay the same money for something much cleaner.

And here we are, almost 9 hrs later in Alexandria. Awaiting the day the Egyptian government releases those cars so that we can make our way into the hearts of the Gazans.

Because no matter how much they try to delay us or try to make it impossible for us to reach Gaza, we will continue to stand here waiting. Time of course is not on our hands on this journey, but we will continue to stand. Viva Palestina!
Praying to return…
Dima & Dahlia Abi Saab (Al-Awda NY)

Dozens of children were running around the streets greeting us today when we arrived at Abdullah’s house, the cab driver we met a couple of nights before. He invited a group of us from the Viva Palestina convoy to his house for some tea, and we were blessed with the presence of Councilman Charles Barron.

When we arrived, we had our cameras out and were video taping and taking pictures of all the children. They all ran towards us and began posing for the camera, and jumping on top of each other and screaming take a picture of me, take a picture of me! Their faces lit up when ever the cameras came out and the dirt on their face from a long day’s worth of playing covered their little faces. The conditions of the neighborhood didn’t seem much different from those in a refugee camp that we’ve seen in videos so many times. Tightly compressed areas (although not nearly as compressed as those in Palestine), not in great conditions and children running around playing with a soccer ball with clothing that were ripped and covered with dirt from the ground that was purely dirt and sand.

All the children surrounded us and began kicking the soccer ball to us and we played a short game. The young boys began showing their talent by kicking the ball in the air, bouncing it on their knees, and then flipping it behind them. Then the elders began approaching us after seeing our bright blue Viva Palestina shirts. People were asking us about our Viva Palestina shirts, and we told them about our mission. To our surprise, Abdullah told us that 95% of the people living in Teqseem Abu Taleb are Palestinians who were exiled from Palestine. So when they found out about the convoy, the older men of the village began telling us about their experiences, and how they left Palestine. After a few minutes of conversing, Abdullah took us up stairs. We met his five boys, his daughter, Shaima and his gracious, beautiful wife. We all sat crowded in a room, and everyone took out their video cameras as Abdullah repeated his story for the Councilman as we drank the delicious sage tea. Mr. Barron had many questions for Abdullah, but one that stood out the most to us was when he asked if Abdullah wanted to return to Palestine. Abdullah answered with an emotional response: he said he prays everyday that he can return there with his children, and die there because he wouldn’t want to die on foreign land.

Sitting with Abdullah, yet again, reminded us all of why we were here in Egypt, how important this convoy is and the value of our organization — Al-Awda: the Palestine RIGHT TO RETURN coalition. We also realized that when four women came to talk to us as we were leaving Abdullah’s home. They were asking if we can take some medicine for their family living in Gaza who are in dire need of medication. They kept saying that all they want is medication, the people of Gaza NEED medicine to survive and the criminal blockade and siege on Gaza is preventing the sick from receiving any medication and people will end up dying.

These particular women had a family member who had recently received a kidney transplant and not only was her medicine completely unavailable in Gaza but the pharmacies in their area wouldn’t sell them more than one at a time due to some restrictions. They endlessly thanked us for our mission as we assured them we all desire the some thing, for a Free Palestine!

To get a real taste of life in Egypt, and see how many Palestinians residing in Egypt live, we needed to go to Abdullah’s house and enter his life for an hour or so. All the people we met, young and old all wanted one thing — and that was to return to their land and live in peace in their homes. Abdullah again reminded us of how important this mission is, and reminded us that these are conditions that we are in temporarily, but for the people living in this village, for the Palestinians living in diaspora — this is their life.


A fanatical ultra-orthodox welcome


Anne Barker, an Australian journalist with the ABC, caught in the mob’s hate in occupied Jerusalem, with an audio testimony. So called Christian zionists might be interested to see how these fanatics, which the zionist entity apparently and not surprisingly fails to bring to heel as with the fanatic illegal settlers, brook no reasonable acceptance of any others who wish to do normal things on Saturdays but rather must conform to their narrow religious dogmas — or be spat on and set upon by hundreds in orthodox Hasidic Jewish mobs. See also some important observations from Dan Lieberman that follow about historic co-existence in the Holy City and the apartheid state’s hidden agenda for Jerusalem.

Anne BarkerAs a journalist I’ve covered more than my share of protests. Political protests in Canberra. Unions protesting for better conditions. Angry, loud protests against governments, or against perceived abuses of human rights.

I’ve been at violent rallies in East Timor. I’ve had rocks and metal darts thrown my way. I’ve come up against riot police.

But I have to admit no protest – indeed no story in my career – has distressed me in the way I was distressed at a protest in Jerusalem on Saturday involving several hundred ultra-Orthodox Jews.

This particular protest has been going on for weeks.

Orthodox Jews are angry at the local council’s decision to open a municipal carpark on Saturdays – or Shabbat, the day of rest for Jews.

It’s a day when Jews are not supposed to do anything resembling work, which can include something as simple as flicking a switch, turning on a light or driving.

So even opening a simple carpark to accommodate the increasing number of tourists visiting Jerusalem’s Old City is highly offensive to Orthodox Jews because it’s seen as a desecration of the Shabbat, by encouraging people to drive.

I was aware that earlier protests had erupted into violence on previous weekends – Orthodox Jews throwing rocks at police, or setting rubbish bins alight, even throwing dirty nappies or rotting rubbish at anyone they perceive to be desecrating the Shabbat.

But I never expected their anger would be directed at me.

I was mindful I would need to dress conservatively and keep out of harm’s way. But I made my mistake when I parked the car and started walking towards the protest, not fully sure which street was which.

By the time I realised I’d come up the wrong street it was too late.

I suddenly found myself in the thick of the protest – in the midst of hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jews in their long coats and sable-fur hats.

They might be supremely religious, but their behaviour – to me – was far from charitable or benevolent.

As the protest became noisier and the crowd began yelling, I took my recorder and microphone out of my bag to record the sound.

Suddenly the crowd turned on me, screaming in my face. Dozens of angry men began spitting on me.

Spit like rain

I found myself herded against a brick wall as they kept on spitting – on my face, my hair, my clothes, my arms.

It was like rain, coming at me from all directions – hitting my recorder, my bag, my shoes, even my glasses.

Big gobs of spit landed on me like heavy raindrops. I could even smell it as it fell on my face.

Somewhere behind me – I didn’t see him – a man on a stairway either kicked me in the head or knocked something heavy against me.

I wasn’t even sure why the mob was angry with me. Was it because I was a journalist? Or a woman? Because I wasn’t Jewish in an Orthodox area? Was I not dressed conservatively enough?

In fact, I was later told, it was because using a tape-recorder is itself a desecration of the Shabbat even though I’m not Jewish and don’t observe the Sabbath.

It was lucky that I don’t speak Yiddish. At least I was spared the knowledge of whatever filth they were screaming at me.

As I tried to get away I found myself up against the line of riot police blocking the crowd from going any further.


Israeli police in their flak jackets and helmets, with rifles and shields, were yelling just as loudly back at the protesting crowd.

I found them something of a reassurance against the angry, spitting mob.

I was allowed through, away from the main protest, although there were still Orthodox Jews on the other side, some of whom also yelled at me, in English, to take my recorder away.

Normally I should have stayed on the sidelines to watch the protest develop.

But when you’ve suffered the humiliation and degradation of being spat on so many times – and you’re covered in other people’s spit – it’s not easy to put it to the back of your mind and get on with the job.

I left down a side street and walked the long way back to the car, struggling to hold back the tears.


In Why Jerusalem?, Dan Lieberman notes how the Ottomans permitted Jewish worship, unlike the intolerance and planned exclusion of other faiths by the current apartheid entity:

According to Karen Armstrong, Jerusalem, Jews did not pray at the Western Wall until the Mamluks in the 15th century allowed them to move their congregations from a dangerous Mount of Olives and pray daily at the Wall. At that time, she estimates that there may have been no more than 70 Jewish families in Jerusalem. After the Ottomans replaced the Mamluks, Suleiman the Magnificent issued a formal edict in the 16th century that permitted Jews to have a place of prayer at the Western Wall.

The only remaining major symbol of Jewish presence in Jerusalem’s Holy City is the Jewish quarter, which Israel cleared of Arabs and rebuilt after 1967. During its clearing operations, Israel demolished the Maghribi Quarter adjacent to the Western Wall, destroyed the al-Buraq Mosque and the Tomb of the Sheikh al-Afdhaliyyah, and displaced about 175 Arab families.

The full piece is worth reading in full, in which he argues that “Israel is destroying Jerusalem’s heritage and subjugating its spiritual meaning” in an effort to redirect attention away from the US as a focus for world Jewry toward Jerusalem, and reap tourism shekels and a baragaining chip against Palestinians in the process:

Jerusalem has significant tourism that can be expanded. It can provide new commercial opportunities as an entry to all of the Middle East. An indivisible Jerusalem under Israeli control is worth a lot of shekels.

Israel competes with the United States as the focus of the Jewish people. It needs a unique Jerusalem to gain recognition as the home of Judaism.

By controlling all of the holy sites, Israel commands attention from Moslem and Christian leaders. These leaders will be forced to talk with Israel and Israel will have a bargaining advantage in disputes.

Whatever Israel gains, the Palestinians are denied. Even if Israel agrees to the establishment of a Palestinian state, it will direct its policies to limit the effectiveness of that state. Since East Jerusalem and its holy sites greatly benefit a Palestinian economy and increase Palestine legitimacy, Israel will do everything to prevent East Jerusalem being ceded to the new state of Palestine. An “indivisible” Jerusalem is part of that effort.

Lest we forget:

In the Museum of the Citadel of David is an inscription: The land of Israel is in the center of the world and Jerusalem is the center of the land of Israel.

This self-praise was echoed at a West Jerusalem coffee house in a conversation with several Israelis. A youthful Israeli abruptly sat at the table and entered the conversation with the words: “All the world looks to Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the center of the world and Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Everyone needs Jerusalem and they will need to talk with Israel.”

And that is why Israel desperately wants its greater Jerusalem.

Along with the illegal squatters, those fanatic hasidic Jews are all part of the plan in this hidden agenda.

Tough menu to swallow


By Hadas Ziv

Every time Gazans sit down for a meal, they face a depressing reality. The selection of foods available to them is dictated almost entirely by a harsh policy imposed by the Israeli government, which, as of late, has even refused to allow such innocuous-seeming foods as pumpkins, pasta or beans to cross the border.

The goal behind Israel's tight control of Gazans' dietary regime is definitely not improving their health. Rather, the government argues that allowing "luxury" foods into Gaza would only add to the popularity of Hamas' leaders, enabling them to better feed their constituency. But, in the eyes of many observers, Israel's policy of limiting foods that enter the Strip is almost tantamount to starvation, and comes dangerously close to collective punishment, both of which are not only illegal and immoral methods to use in pursuit of Israeli security, but also do little to improve that security.

The restrictive Israeli policy only encourages the opening of unofficial - and potentially more dangerous - routes into Gaza. When foodstuffs cannot enter the Strip through official channels, they are smuggled in through Hamas-controlled tunnels and thus mainly reach Hamas associates or those Gazans able to pay the smugglers' prices. The poor are left at the mercy of the fluctuations of a market in which supply is severely low and prices ever-rising.

Such a situation clearly contradicts the best interests of Israelis and Palestinians who want their societies to be open and egalitarian. Indeed, what long-term Israeli interest is served by having pregnant women and children suffer anemia, which causes well-documented damage to fetal and juvenile development? Limiting their access to iron does not improve Israeli security. Rather, it constitutes a gross violation of our own basic human values and the morality of Israeli society.

Can the experts please explain: Why does the Health Ministry recommendation for the diet of Israeli infants and toddlers - "soft fruit such as bananas and avocado, cooked chicken and beef, and cheese cubes" - not apply to Palestinian children? These particular items are all strictly forbidden from entering Gaza, while rice and a limited selection of meat and produce are the only food items in fact allowed to enter.

Several months ago, ministry officials approached the United Nations to consult with them about their dietary plan for the Gaza Strip. The UN officials - as one might guess - politely told them to go to hell, refusing to have anything to do with such a policy. The Israelis then turned to a Health Ministry dietician, whose advice might have led to the present policy according to which, as Israeli officials have stated, "the minimal requirements for the sustenance of Gaza Strip residents are being observed without inflicting a humanitarian disaster."

The participation of medical experts in drawing up the menus for Palestinians in Gaza - if they knew what policy their advice would help produce - is a grave violation of medical ethics. It is possible that the ministry's dietitian believed her advice would help prevent total starvation in Gaza, but by being involved in the "diet" policy she violated the obligation to act in the best interests of her patients, that is, the Palestinians whose nutrients she was prescribing. After all, Gaza is not suffering from a sudden drought or malnutrition brought on as a result of a natural disaster. We are speaking of deliberate deprivation via "a minimal diet" that can be stopped at any moment.

In 1845-1847, a parasite destroyed entire potato crops across Ireland. Years of British economic policies there had created a situation wherein potatoes were almost the only food the Irish consumed. And yet, even as widespread hunger ensued, Britain restricted the entry of humanitarian aid. For this reason the Irish still say that while it was a parasite that caused the blight of their crops, it was in fact the British who caused starvation. In the case of Gaza, it may be said that Israel inflicted both the destruction and starvation on the Strip's residents.

Among its own citizens, the Israeli government has encouraged blindness: Although we know that this policy will not and cannot serve our interests, although we know it is not the way to bring Gilad Shalit home, we still insist on imposing it. Because we don't want to make the difficult concessions that would bring him home.

In the end, it all boils down to a simple message that was repeated by some during and after Operation Cast Lead: While Israel may have the right to do something, it does not have the green light to do anything at all. We must ask ourselves seriously whether the menu for Gaza is truly a necessary security measure that Israel has a right to employ, or whether it is an unnecessarily vindictive policy that may, in the long run, actually endanger the state's security and morality. For me, this is a rhetorical question.

Hadas Ziv is the director of Physicians for Human Rights, Israel.


Posted by JNOUBIYEH at 7:53 PM

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Worse than Iraq: 184 UK soldiers dead in 'the longest campaign'


Contributed by Nadia

Five killed in single bomb blast as operation makes them vulnerable

British soldiers in Afghanistan

B company of the Black Watch in the back of a Viking vechicle. Photograph: Sean Smith

With thousands of British troops moving out of their bases in a major operation to confront the Taliban in northern Helmand, they are becoming increasingly vulnerable to a determined, though unconventional, enemy.

Fifteen British soldiers have been killed over the past 10 days, the highest losses to enemy action since UK troops were first sent to Afghanistan in 2001; 184 have now lost their lives there, more than the total killed in Iraq.

Most have been the victims of bombs. Details of the latest incidents are still sketchy. It is known that five British soldiers were killed by a bomb while on foot patrol in the Sangin valley. Several Afghan soldiers were also killed.

The attack was in a part of the country where it had been hoped signs of normal life were returning. Bob Ainsworth, the defence secretary, said only a few days ago: "I visited Sangin where we are holding more ground, the market is bustling, people are feeling safer. I took part in a shura [consultation] with the local governor and his council of the elders. He told me that the people don't want the Taliban back – that we must stay and finish the job."

A sixth man died in a separate incident near Nad-e-Ali in Helmand province, the Ministry of Defence said. A serviceman from the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment, he was killed in a Viking armoured amphibious vehicle in Babaji. He had been involved in Operation Panther's Claw, a big offensive against the Taliban coinciding with a similar operation by US troops further south.

Lieutenant Colonel Nick Richardson, spokesman for Task Force Helmand, said: "The loss of this brave Tankie has hit us all deeply. We grieve for him at this very sad time. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and colleagues who feel the greatest loss. His loss has not been in vain."

His family has been informed.

Earlier, the MoD confirmed there had been two deaths in separate incidents on Thursday. One soldier from 4th Battalion The Rifles was killed in a blast while on foot patrol near Nad-e-Ali. The second, from the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment, attached to 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, was killed during an engagement with insurgent forces near Lashkar Gah on Thursday evening.

As MPs criticised the government over its handling of the conflict, the former British ambassador to the UN Sir Jeremy Greenstock, told the BBC he did not think the operation in Afghanistan was well-enough resourced.

He said: "We don't have enough troops in the army to run these sorts of operations any more, we've cut down too far."

But he added: "We want to see an Afghanistan that doesn't threaten us, therefore we do have dogs in this fight."

Menzies Campbell, the former leader of the Liberal Democrats, said: "Public support and confidence in government policy in Afghanistan will only be maintained if there is a clear strategy with definite objectives accompanied by unequivocal evidence that the troops have the equipment they require for this most difficult and dangerous task.

"Surpassing the figure for fatalities in Iraq may bring about a significant watershed in public opinion. The troops need to know that they have wholehearted backing, but that is not enough. They need the tools for the job."

The government is also coming under heavy criticism from both serving and former defence chiefs for not providing adequate equipment for UK troops fighting in southern Afghanistan.

General David Petraeus, chief of the US Central Command in Afghanistan, described the battle in the southern region of the country as "the longest campaign" during an address in San Francisco.

He said soldiers would face tough conditions as they try to "reverse the cycle of violence" in insurgent strongholds, adding that it would take a "sustained and substantial commitment" in southern Afghanistan to repel the Taliban.

In the worst month, in September 2006, 19 military personnel lost their lives, including 14 killed when an RAF Nimrod crashed. The 13 who died in June last year included the first female soldier killed in Afghanistan.

Some 75% of British military casualties in Afghanistan have been army personnel. An analysis of the ages of the troops that have died shows that around 68% are in their 20s, but that 7% were in their late teens.

The death toll over the past 10 days included Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Thorneloe, of the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, the first commanding officer in the British army to have been killed since the Falkands.

A Child in Palestine The Cartoons of Naji al-Ali]

Pens and swords: Michel Faber praises the work of a visionary Palestinian cartoonist [A Child in Palestine The Cartoons of Naji al-Ali]

Pens and swords

Michel Faber praises the work of a visionary Palestinian cartoonist

The pen is mightier than the sword, they say. The Palestinian political cartoonist Naji al-Ali certainly hoped it might be, and once drew a sword with a pen nib at its point. More characteristic of his peculiar genius for symbolism is the drawing used on the cover of this book,
in which the pen stands upright, its nib doubling as a candle flame.
It's a potently simple image, yet complex: the dripping wax suggests sorrowful tears; the pen's upright balance is perilously unsupported, like the Palestinian state itself; yet the backdrop of night sky, with its foully obscured moon, seems to reference the Amnesty International
catchphrase about it being better to light a candle than curse the darkness.

A Child in Palestine The Cartoons of Naji al-Ali
Few artists could have been more biblically destined for al-Ali's prophetic status. Born in Galilee, he was a victim of the nakba ("disaster") in 1948 when the Jews cleared the Promised Land of its previous inhabitants. He grew up in Lebanese refugee camps and prisons, scribbling protest cartoons on the walls, and eventually found work in newspapers. From 1969 onwards, his images featured the figure of Hanthala, the barefoot child who silently watches all the evils perpetrated in the Middle East. Hanthala became phenomenally popular in the Arab world, spawning a Garfield-like industry of coffee mugs, T-shirts, keyrings, and so on. But instead of a spoilt fat cat, here was a ragged witness to atrocity and political betrayal.

Naji al-Ali steadfastly declined to make speeches, allowing his cartoons to speak for him. I don't know whether he felt, as many visual artists do, that images are diluted by "explanation", or
whether he figured he might stay alive a bit longer if he (and Hanthala) functioned as mute witnesses rather than quotable demagogues. In any event, his luck ran out in 1987, when he was shot in the head outside the London offices of a Kuwaiti newspaper he was working for. Reportedly, he'd recently been warned by the PLO to "correct" his attitude to Yasser Arafat - a warning to which he responded by lampooning Arafat once more.

Al-Ali's refusal to be the mouthpiece of a political party - even one representing his own oppressed people - is somewhat compromised by A Child in Palestine. The cartoons are surrounded by an armature of text. Abdul Hadi Ayyad, in a series of introductory essays, delivers exactly the kind of rhetoric that one might expect to hear at an anti-Israel rally.

The "Zionist settler project" or "Zionist entity" drives out the "indigenous" population, but the indomitable Hanthala "proudly declares that he is prepared to grasp his Kalashnikov to find the answers".

Mahmoud al-Hindi adds captions to the cartoons - "Palestinian children throw rocks at the Israeli road-roller (a symbol of continued land-appropriation confiscation and illegal settlement-building)".
The Iraqi poet Ahmad Matar weighs in with: "Naji al-Ali's works were like a compass which always pointed towards Truth; and that truth will always be Palestine." Why do these words make me wince in suspicion, whereas al-Ali's cartoons make me wince in sympathy?

Maybe because I'm aware that Israelis have their own truth which will always be Israel, and the words therefore smell of absolutist non-communication. Or maybe it's because al-Ali's artistry nuanced and universalised the political views he undoubtedly shared with the editors of this book.

In any case, al-Ali's views evolved over time, a fact which Ayyad, in his worshipful eagerness to present al-Ali as a timeless prophet, doesn't acknowledge. Joe Sacco, whose foreword strives for
diplomacy, describes how "devastated" al-Ali was by the 1982 Lebanon invasion and notes that in the subsequent cartoons, Hanthala "lost his cool". That's one way of putting it. Hanthala stops watching and starts flagwaving (literally), kicking the Israeli map and throwing rocks. The crucified Jesus yanks a nailed hand from the crossbeam to throw a stone in support of the intifada. It is in such images that one gets a sense of al-Ali being unhinged, perhaps, by the unrelenting scale of Palestinian misery, and
crossing a line into the militarised defiance that made his eventual assassination inevitable. And, while it can't have been easy for the editors of A Child in Palestine to choose a few dozen cartoons from among the thousands that al-Ali produced, I can't help seeing a political agenda behind their decision to favour the more militant ones at the expense of so many of his most awesomely sad and tender images. Al-Ali, in his prime, created visionary symbols of inhumanity and the pity of war which transcended the specifics of the Israel/Palestine conflict. A few of them are reproduced here, but most are not.

For much of his working life, al-Ali insisted that it was essential to retain hope. Some of his later cartoons suggest that he found it increasingly impossible to cling to that ideal, and that instead of chronicling the endurance of the Palestinian people during a horrible phase of their history, he may have felt he was paying witness - with Hanthala-like impotence - to a gradual genocide, a final solution that would exterminate forever his boyhood dreams of homecoming. If that's so, then this book will have two legacies. First, it will introduce British readers to al-Ali's formidable talent, albeit with a selection that doesn't do full justice to his greatness. Second, and very sadly, it may serve as documentary proof that the sword is mightier than the pen.

• Michel Faber's The Fire Gospel is published by Canongate.

posted by annie at 8:17 PM

Headscarf Martyr Proves European Bias Against Muslims

Headscarf Martyr Proves European Bias Against Muslims
Readers Number : 1365

Al-Arabiya Picture
July 07, 2009

Outrage over the murder of a pregnant Muslim woman in Germany who has become known as the “hijab martyr” mounted Tuesday following her funeral and protests in her native Egypt over what Muslims see as European Islamaphobia and western media double standards.

Marwa al-Sherbini, a 32-year-old Egyptian-German, was buried in her coastal hometown of Alexandria, Egypt Monday amid demonstrations by Egyptians mourning her senseless death and calling for retribution.

" What we demand is just some attention to be given to the killing of a young innocent mother on the hands of fanatic extremist "
Abdel Azim Hamad, al Shuruq

Sherbini was stabbed to death 18 times Wednesday as she prepared to testify against her assailant, who was in court to appeal a previous defamation conviction against her.

The assailant, knonw only as Alex W., had been convicted and fined €750 ($1,050) last year for calling Sherbini a "terrorist," "b*tch" and "Islamist" after she asked him to leave a swing for her three-year-old son Mustafa.

Her funeral drew thousands of angry mourners and Egyptian officials who called on the government to seriously deal with the tragic killing and take immediate action.

"There is no god but God and the Germans are the enemies of God," they chanted.

Ramzi Ezz, Egypt's ambassador in Germany told Al Arabiya the results of the investigations could be released in a few days, but noted that Egyptian law calls for life imprisonment of the murderer.

Sherbini's brother Tarek al-Sherbini vowed to avenge her killing. "We believe in an eye for an eye," he told Egyptian national television.

Dubbed the "martyr of the head scarf," Sherbini was three months pregnant when her 28-year-old attacker stabbed her countless times in front of her two-year-old son.

"The killer is a terrorist who should receive severe punishment for what he has done, something that contradicts all the values of humanity, decency and religion," Grand Imam Sheikh Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi told Egypt’s official MENA news agency.

Alex also stabbed Sherbini's husband, Elwi Ali Okaz while he was trying to save his wife. And adding further insult to injury, a security guard shot Okaz in the leg because he mistook the husband for the attacker because of his ethnic looks according to German prosecutors.

"The guards thought that as long as he wasn't blond, he must be the attacker so they shot him," Sherbini told an Egyptian television station.
Alex W. remained in detention and prosecutors have begun investigating the murder but have downplayed it as a lone incident.

Christian Avenarius, the prosecutor in Dresden where the incident took place, said the killer was driven by a deep hatred of Muslims. "It was very clearly a xenophobic attack of a fanatical lone wolf."

A German government spokesperson condemned the attack and said Berlin "naturally condemns this in the strongest terms."

Sherbini's shocking death ignited angry protests on the ground and online as shocked mourners held her murder up as proof of the xenophobia gripping European politics.

"This isolated incident is a foreseen consequence of the kind of anti-burqa and anti-niqab rhetoric Sarkozy has engaged in France," one user said on a Muslim listserv.

Others said the incident showed the extent to which hate crimes against Muslims are ignored while those of Muslims against westerners are over-hyped.

Abdel Azeem Hamad, chief editor of the independent Egyptian daily al-Shorouk, said that if the victim had been a Jew, there would have been an uproar.

"What we demand is just some attention to be given to the killing of a young innocent mother on the hands of fanatic extremist," he wrote in his column.

Many in Sherbini’s homeland were outraged by the attack and saw the low key response in Germany as an example of racism and anti-Muslim sentiment.

An Egyptian blogger Hicham Maged wrote that it simply proved anti-Muslim sentiment in Europe "Just imagine if the situation was reversed and the victim was a Westerner who was stabbed anywhere in the world or — God forbid — in any Middle Eastern country by Muslim extremists," he said.

One commentator pointed to muted response by Western media as proof of double standards against Muslims as Sherbini's murder comes as western media continued to reference the 2004 murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh for his controversial film on Muslim women but meanwhile ignoring the-week-old death of a Muslim German woman by a European fundamentalist.

"I can't believe it took so long for this news to reach me/us. Had it been an 'honor' killing, we would already have several NGO's condemn it and experts on Muslim issues speaking on why these terrible Muslims do these terrible things," Nagihan, a user on a Muslim list serve wrote. "I am shocked and awed at this double standard."

A Facebook fan page created recently drew a whooping 300,000 fans in less than a week, with many mourning Sherbini as a martyr and calling for spiritual purification.

"May God forgive this woman and give her eternal paradise for literally
being killed for her beliefs," said one Facebook fan.

Alexandria's Popular Local Council said it would name a street after Sherbini to commemorate her senseless killing.