Saturday 23 April 2011

Official: The gas agreement with Israel invalid if Mubarak was guilty

[ 23/04/2011 - 02:28 PM ]

CAIRO, (PIC)-- A top Egyptian judicial official revealed that the interrogation of ousted president Hosni Mubarak about the issue of gas exports to Israel may re-open the file of the gas agreement between the two governments.
The official told the Palestinian information center (PIC) that in the event Mubarak was proved guilty of wasting public money regarding the issue of gas exports to Israel, the whole agreement would be revoked and considered detrimental to Egypt's higher interests.

He said the sole beneficiary of the gas agreement was the former regime and Israel, so it could be canceled or at least would be changed in a way serving Egypt's interests.

The Egyptian public prosecutor Abdulmajeed Mahmoud decided on Friday to extend the detention of Mubarak for 15 days for further investigation.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian

US weapons to Israel are disincentives to peace

23 April 2011

Against the background of Israel’s contempt for international law and violations of Palestinian human rights, and as Washington now considers raising the debt ceiling and making even more substantial cuts to the 2012 budget, Josh Ruebner argues that “the moral, financial and political costs of arming Israel can no longer be ignored”.

Israel may be forgiven for failing to realize the current fiscal woes of the United States. After all, US military aid to Israel not only sailed unscathed through last week’s passage of the 2011 budget, but reached the record level of 3 billion dollars.

The United States additionally provided Israel 415 million dollars for procurement, research and development of joint US-Israeli missile defence projects, including 205 million dollars to fund Israel’s newly-deployed Iron Dome system.

This anti-missile battery already has altered significantly the strategic balance in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict when Israel successfully shot down incoming rockets fired from the Gaza Strip earlier this month. With the assured diplomatic backing of the United States to prevent Israel from being held accountable by the international community for its illegal blockade, Iron Dome will embolden Israel to tighten its siege and escalate its attacks on the occupied Gaza Strip by providing its citizens with additional protection against retaliatory fire.

US funding of Iron Dome is but one example of many of how US weapons transfers to Israel enhance Israeli military dominance over Palestinian freedom and create perverse economic disincentives for Israel to defy US policy goals, such as halting Israel’s colonization of Palestinian land, ending its collective punishment of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and negotiating in good faith a lasting peace agreement.

As long as US weapons continue to flow, Israel will feel free to disregard the Obama administration’s mild blandishments and half-hearted attempts to bring Israel to the negotiating table. Unfortunately this disincentive structure is set to be reinforced over the coming years.

Under a Bush-era agreement, US weapons transfers to Israel are scheduled to total 30 billion dollars during 2009-18, an annual average increase of 25 per cent above previous levels. With this 2007 Memorandum of Understanding, the United States solidified Israel’s position as the largest recipient of US military aid this decade. In line with increases proposed under this arrangement, President Obama asked for a record-breaking 3.075 billion dollars of weapons for Israel in his 2012 budget request.

A new online database – How Many Weapons to Israel? – casts doubt on whether the United States can afford, either morally, financially or politically, to continue transferring weapons to Israel at taxpayer expense without examining the ramifications of this policy.

During 2000-09, the United States licensed, paid for, and delivered to Israel more than 670 million weapons and related equipment, valued at nearly 19 billion dollars, through three main weapons transfer programmes (Foreign Military Sales, Direct Commercial Sales and Excess Defence Articles). These weapons transfer programmes accounted for nearly 80 per cent of the more than 24 billion dollars in military aid appropriated to Israel during these years. The bulk of the remaining money was spent by Israel on its own domestic arms industry, a unique exemption written into law for Israel. All other countries receiving US military aid are required to spend the whole sum within the United States.

Military aid to Israel ran the gamut from the patently absurd - one used food steamer valued at 2,100 dollars – to the lethal – 93 F-16D fighter jets valued at a total of nearly 2.5 billion dollars. With nearly 500 categories of weapons transferred to Israel, the United States is pervasively, intricately and comprehensively involved in arming its military.

These weapons transfers also make the United States deeply complicit in almost every action the Israeli military takes to entrench its illegal 43-year military occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip and the apartheid policies that undergird its government’s stance toward Palestinians.

From September 2000 to December 2009, roughly the same period during which the United States transferred these 670 million weapons to Israel, the Israeli military killed at least 2,969 Palestinians, of whom 1,128 were children, who took no part in hostilities, according to the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem.

For example, Israel killed 446 unarmed Palestinians, including 149 children, with missiles fired from helicopters. The Pentagon classifies the number, types and value of missiles transferred to Israel; however, the United States gave Israel nearly 200 AH-64D Apache, Sikorsky CH-53 and Cobra helicopters from which at least some of these lethal missiles were fired. It was likely one such US-supplied missile from a US-supplied helicopter that Israel fired in the Jabalya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip on 29 December 2008, which killed five sisters, Jawaher (age four), Dina (age seven), Samar (age 12), Ikram (age 14), and Tahrir Baulusha (age 17) during an attack on a nearby mosque.

Israel’s misuse of US weapons to commit human rights abuses like these against Palestinian civilians should trigger sanctions against, rather than increasing amounts of military aid to, Israel. The Arms Export Control Act limits the use of US weapons to “internal security” and “legitimate self-defence”. Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip is defined by the US government as a foreign military occupation, and the killing of thousands of unarmed civilians in support of a military occupation cannot be justified as legitimate without distorting the meaning of self-defence.

In addition, the Foreign Assistance Act strictly prohibits US foreign assistance to any country that “engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights”. The State Department’s recently released 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices documents amply, if not comprehensively, Israel’s human rights abuses of Palestinians.

As Washington now considers raising the debt ceiling and making even more substantial cuts to the 2012 budget, the moral, financial and political costs of arming Israel can no longer be ignored.

If the Obama admininstration is serious in its efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and genuine in its stated commitment to the universality of human rights, then it must utilize the significant leverage the United States wields over Israel through its military aid programme. By terminating weapons transfers to Israel at least until Israel upholds its obligations under US and international law, ends its illegal military occupation of Palestinian land and negotiates in good faith a just and lasting peace with Palestinians, the United States can create an incentive structure to achieve its frustrated policy goals.

Josh Ruebner is National Advocacy Director of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, a national coalition of more than 350 organizations working to change US policy toward Israel/Palestine to support human rights, international law and equality. He is a former Analyst in Middle East Affairs at Congressional Research Service

Insider: The Shin Bet chooses all PA security trainees

[ 23/04/2011 - 02:25 PM ]
RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- An insider of the de facto interior ministry in Ramallah city said the Shin Bet interferes in choosing the Palestinian trainees to be given training in the security or military field at home and abroad.
The source told the Palestinian information center (PIC) on condition of anonymity that the selection of participants in any security and military training courses requires that the Palestinian Authority (PA) send a list of their names to the US military envoy who checks it along with the Israeli side before making a new list approved by the Shin Bet.
This is not confined to the training courses provided by the CIA, but it includes all kinds of training which the PA police and security members receive in Arab and Islamic countries, the source added.
"Even those who are assigned training courses in Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Tunisia, and Algeria and other countries are subject to this Israeli security check through the American side," he affirmed.
He noted that the Israeli criteria in this context are clear that the trainees should not have directly or indirectly any kind of links to resistance activities against Israel or related to resistance fighters.
In a separate incident, the PA security militias kidnapped an ex-detainee called Mohsen Shareem from Qalqiliya city after releasing him from their jails.
Shareem suffers from diabetes and hypertension and was released by a court order due to his deteriorating medical condition.
River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian

Middle East and North Africa: Revolution and Counter-Revolution

by Johan Galtung

April 19, 2011

U.S. military command zonesTranscend Media Service — Chandra Muzaffar, in his superb JUST Commentary for March 2011, argues for Gaddafi to step down, and adds that if he does, he may be remembered “for some of his outstanding accomplishments in the first decades of his rule – accomplishments such as the closure of the huge American air base in Libya in 1970; his nationalization of oil; the pivotal role he played in the reorganization of OPEC that enabled it to emerge as a powerful cartel challenging Western dominance over the oil industry; his massive man-made river project to irrigate desert land; his housing schemes for the low-income segment of society; and other infra-structure programmes.” All are absent from mainstream media today.

Add to the above Gaddafi’s role in shaping the Arab League, thwarted by the US-backed international military venture code-named Operation “Odysseus Dawn” (March 19–31, 2011) to enforce United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973; thereafter, it became Operation “Unified Protector” under NATO command. Add also Gaddafi’s role in the African Union, which he chaired from 2009 to 2010. He turned his attention south rather than east (Egypt, Saudi Arabia etc). And you have an answer to why the West, not only the USA, hated him from the very beginning. But then he became a victim of his own success – a dictator seeing himself as indispensable.

The recent pan-Arab revolt, described as the Arab Spring, has five characteristics. It is anti-autocratic, anti-kleptocratic (against greedy, corrupt governments), anti-imperialist, for youth and for women. Gaddafi’s profile is mixed, but not like Mubarak of Egypt or Ben-Ali of Tunisia, the two recently fallen rulers. Nor like for the Saudi Royal House and the Bahraini and Yemeni leaderships. Macro history (characterizing big, long-term historical trends) moves slowly. Nasser and Gaddafi set the course, but few would expect them to succeed immediately. They will both be remembered when the present Western dwarfs are forgotten.

The counter-revolution was planned a long time ago. The CIA set up the “National Front for the Salvation of Libya” (NFSL) way back in 1981, followed by the “Libyan National Army” (LNA), now known as the Benghazi rebels. On November 2, 2010, the Anglo-French agreement to attack Libya no later than January 30, 2011 was signed – for the first time since the attack on Egypt in October 1956. In all likelihood, the attack on Libya is equally ill-fated. We sense already that Obama is distancing himself from the French-led attack, transferring some of the imperial role on a France that exacted a high price for rejoining NATO as a full member (French demands included America’s acceptance of an independent European defense and a leading French role in NATO’s command structure). Is Sarkozy, le petit Napoléon, hoping to take over as the USA gets increasingly bankrupt, already servicing debt with 41 cents of every federal dollar spent? Well, we shall soon find out, but NATO is still under US command and the EU is still unable to formulate a joint independent policy.

The West sacrificed dispensable figures like Ben-Ali and Mubarak, and then used Libya to create a humanitarian emergency of their own making. Who kills more civilians with cluster bombs or depleted uranium? But in cities re-conquered by Gaddafi, no massacre has taken place so far, as Stephen M. Walt points out in Foreign Policy (See “Is America Addicted to War? The Top 5 Reasons Why We Keep Getting Into Foolish Fights,” April 4, 2011).

The alliance mobilized by the deeply Christian-Zionist Hillary Clinton to fight Gaddafi got “Yes” from 10 out of 15 UN Security Council members, while half of humanity (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and Germany) abstained. These member-states are neither against saving civilians nor for selective humanitarianism. In the Arab League, only 11 of 22 members voted – 9 in favor and Syria and Algeria against (Syria may be the next US target). Only Qatar and the United Arab Emirates participate militarily in the operation against Gaddafi. Qatar is displaying its usual ambiguity, and the UAE is totally unambiguous – pro-US.

This is NATO’s first African invasion (it has to be called as such) after several in Asia.

There was no attack on a NATO member-state. No common enemy, no real discussion, no vote, and no consensus within the Western alliance. Germany and Turkey are opposed and refuse any combat role. Turkey is involved in complex mediation, with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan focusing his efforts on Gaddafi, and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on the rebel-held Benghazi. Other factors in the background:Gaddafi seems to have wanted to switch from Western oil companies to Russian, Indian and Chinese companies, just as Saddam Hussein of Iraq had moved from dollars to euros; anti-Gaddafi forces in Benghazi say that when they have won, oil contracts will be awarded to those who helped them.

 President Nasser speeking at Al-Azhar
 mosque  during the tripartite aggression

The key to this whole exercise is control of Africa, which in 1956 was still mainly owned by Britain and France.

Libya had become an Italian colony way back in 1911. Now, Africa’s union is posing a threat. African nations are asserting their independence, and developing ties with China. NATO wants to control Africa through the United States African Command (AFRICOM) and European Command (EUCOM) – all synonyms for the Pentagon. This is where Libya enters, in rejecting AFRICOM, with Sudan, Eritrea, Zimbabwe and the Ivory Coast. These countries are to be subdued for not allowing US bases.

The Libyan action may put Africa on fire. Watch Turkey and Africans mediating, Libya eventually democratizing and Gaddafi stepping down to an honorary position, but staying in the country. Of course, Benghazi has rejected this, as has the NATO secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who wants Gaddafi in the International Criminal Court.

 Johan Galtung is a distinguished scholar, founder of the discipline of peace and conflict studies and of TRANSCEND International (, a conflict resolution network. Read more articles by Johan Galtung.

Mishaal, national figures discuss Palestinian reconciliation in Damascus

[ 23/04/2011 - 10:14 AM ]

DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- Head of Hamas's political bureau Khaled Mishaal met in Damascus on Thursday with a Palestinian delegation of independent national figures led by businessman Muneeb Al-Masri and discussed with them the issue of the internal reconciliation.

The two sides talked about the developments in the Palestinian arena and the initiative made by the delegation to end the division and promote national unity.

The meeting was described as serious and positive and both sides agreed on the need for continuing these efforts.

For his part, Palestinian premier Ismail Haneyya met with a delegation of Palestinian businessmen at the cabinet headquarters in Gaza on Thursday.

Haneyya reiterated his government's keenness on ending the inter-Palestinian division and spare Gaza people any Israeli aggression.

The premier also briefed the guests about the latest developments in the Palestinian arena, especially the murder of Italian activist Vittorio Arrigoni.

In the same context, a delegation of independent figures on the same day met with Hamas lawmakers in Nablus city within the efforts being made nowadays to end the division and restore the national unity.

The delegation briefed the lawmakers about their meetings in this regard with Egyptian officials, including the foreign minister, the intelligence director, and the Arab League secretary-general.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian

The false hope of "revolution" in Syria

Posted By May Akl Tuesday, April 19, 2011 - 6:43 PM

More bloody days seem to be ahead for Syria. Security forces have apparently decided to crackdown on what they call "Salafist armed groups", while protesters who call themselves "freedom fighters" seem to have become bolder since the first Deraa incident. But in the euphoria of the so-called Arab youth revolution, assuming and even hoping that unrest in Syria will eventually lead to the collapse of the Assad regime is not only an unrealistic assumption, but a naïve theory betraying a faulty knowledge of the Middle East -- and specifically the dynamics of Syrian politics.

Similarly, assuming that the events unfolding in Syria are of the same nature as the ones that rocked the Arab world, and led to the collapse of dictatorships long supported by the West, is also a misreading of reality.

The latest April 10 ambush against a Syrian army patrol in the coastal town of Banias is proof that a Jihad-like approach is a force behind the movement demanding reforms. Despite atrocities the regimes in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, and Bahrain perpetrated against freedom demonstrators, there was no significant act of violence against national armies in these countries. More importantly, to be able to conduct such a successful ambush killing nearly 10 troops, one needs to be armed, organized, and well-trained. Indeed, this scenario does not resemble anything we are witnessing in the above cases.

In the context of these leaderless revolutions that stemmed from rightful social, economic, and political demands, the only organized and well-structured group has been the Muslim Brotherhood. For 83 years now, the aim of this widespread movement has been to instill the Quran and Sunna as the sole reference for ordering the life of the Muslim family and state. Whether it will finally succeed in doing so by claiming to embrace the hopes and dreams of the Arab youth is not to be ruled out. As such, the real beneficiaries of Arab regime changes are yet to be discovered.

While this theory has yet to be proven in Tunisia, Egypt, or Yemen, it is easier to note in Syria, where the last Muslim Brotherhood uprising was brutally crushed by Hafez Assad in Hama in 1982. But the Brotherhood in Syria, under claims of demanding reforms, does aim at overthrowing the Syrian regime. The latter has been struggling with the international community for quite some time now. And although deeply shaken by the investigation into Lebanon's Hariri assassination, the Assad regime has managed to survive tough years from 2005 until now. All of these ingredients make Syria's story a more complex and delicate one.

On April 1, a few days after the beginning of turmoil in Syria, and while on a visit to Turkey, the secretary-general of Syria's Muslim Brotherhood, Riad Al-Shaqfa, in a joint press conference with the Brotherhood's political chief, Mohamed Tayfur, said repeatedly that they didn't believe Syrian President Bashar Assad would carry through with promised reforms and predicted that protests would continue (the two men also reportedly called on the Syrian people to take to the streets). The statement proved so diplomatically costly for Turkey that its foreign ministry issued a statement a few days later, making it clear that the country did not adopt calls for instability in its neighboring country, even if such sentiments were voiced from its capital: "It is impossible for Turkey to tolerate and to approve any initiative which will harm the reform will of friendly and brotherly Syria and disrupt its stability along this critical period."
Earlier, at the end of March, Qatar-based Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi, a fan of Nazi anti-Semitism who has said that Hitler was "Allah's divine punishment for the Jews", incited Sunnis in Syria on an Al Jazeera broadcast sermon to revolt against the Assad regime, and said that Assad was "a prisoner of his own religion." Giving the Syrian unrest a religious identity, it was not much of a surprise when, on April 1, Qaradawi further described demonstrators in Syria as "Jihadists."

Put in such perspective, the dynamics of the Syrian uprising are radically different than elsewhere. To the surprise of the Syrian authorities, cities where relatively significant demonstrations were held were not mainly Sunni strongholds or regions known for their historical abhorrence of the Assad regime. These demonstrations happened in multi-religious areas like the province of Deraa, considered to be the reservoir of high-ranking Baath military and state officials, such as the vice-president Farouk al Sharaa. This shows that the uprising seems to be fed by pockets of protesters (Bander Brotherhood) rather than by a large popular movement. While in Tunisia, the largest popular protest gathered nearly 10 percent of the population, the largest combined protests in Syria have amounted to barely one percent of the population. Indeed, the so-called opposition essentially failed to mobilize the Syrian population.

This might be due to the fact that the Syrian people have not yet forgotten the Hama massacre and that they have not yet managed to break the barrier of fear. But that is harder to understand since, if there was a good time to break the barriers of fear, it would be now -- with the domino effect sweeping across the Arab world, and with a Syrian regime already partly ostracized by the international community and struggling to restore good international relations. And when freedom is so badly sought as we have witnessed in Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen, oppression does not stop the crowd. Various "Khaled Said" phenomena are only supposed to fuel large-scale public anger rather than hush its voice.

But just as popular revolutions cannot be stopped, they cannot be provoked, either. As such, the groups that masterminded the Syrian turmoil might have placed a wrong bet, as their assumption that the Syrian people would be quick to join them has not been borne out in fact. Ultimately, this failure could be what motivated them to resort to other tactics -- such as the ambush -- which are more likely to make these groups lose their credibility as democratic freedom fighters and foster instability.

If the fear factor is only partly responsible for preventing a fully-fledged revolt in Syria, then the Syrian people must be apprehensive of another possible reality: the unknown of a post-Assad period. As it stands, most Syrians simply think that there is no better alternative to the current regime. Despite its history and much contested policies, Syria is -- pragmatically speaking -- a country that has managed to maintain its political stability in the region. It is an indisputable key player in the region: no solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to the situation in Iraq, or to the crisis with Iran or Hezbollah can be conceived without the involvement of Syria, one way or the other. This strength has fostered a nationalist feeling throughout the country. Further, Syria is a secular country where minorities are protected, and as much as they might want to see a regime change in their country, the majority of Syrians cannot accept their country becoming another Iraq -- in terms of security -- or another Saudi Arabia -- in terms of religious rule.

Another factor is that the Syrian people are generally proud of, and have high hopes for, their president. It is true that they are dismayed at the high level of corruption surrounding the president's old guards, but they do believe that he can make gradual change (which he has already started) with economic reforms to be followed by the recently announced new wave of media and political reforms, in addition to today's commitment to lift the 48-year-old emergency law. As such, they can view a gradual and smooth opening of the Syrian political system as a better and safer guarantee for a regime transition -- even as this remains a long-term project.

At the regional level, the fall of the Assad regime is very likely to have critical consequences on neighboring countries. From Turkey to Israel, going through Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq, this fall would mean a radical alteration of the political, and more importantly religious, map of the Middle East. The question lies in whether these states want to see Syria fall into the hands of the Brotherhood.

At the international level, policy-makers should be able to learn from their mistakes, especially in the U.S. In its bid to cut its losses when the oppressive and corrupt regimes it supported for so long fell apart, the U.S. found itself obliged to let go of their old allies and embrace the people's movement. But in Syria, such a movement does not exist.

While exhorting Arabs to embrace reforms, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced last Tuesday that President Barack Obama would lay out a U.S. policy toward the Middle East and North Africa in the coming weeks. Hopefully, this policy will for once refrain from falling prey to its own rigid categorization -- to the black or white approach -- and rather try to understand the subtleties of situations in different contexts. Hopefully, it will also acknowledge the fact that democracy and people power can actually be used as a cover for extreme groups to access power. Indeed, extreme Islam does not always come with a turban; sometimes, it comes with a tie.

After all, Clinton hinted in late February that the U.S. administration would not oppose the arrival of the Muslim Brotherhood to power in Egypt.

It would have been more accurate to say that the US won't be able to do anything to oppose the Brotherhood's arrival to power since the group is so involved in the Egyptian people's uprising.

But it would be outrageous -- to say the least -- to think that in Syria, the U.S. position will be aligned with that of Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi; unless American realpolitik sees al-Qaradawi as a "reformist" and "freedom fighter" opposing the "dictatorship of Bashar Assad".


May Akl, a 2010 Yale World Fellow, is the press secretary of Lebanese MP Michel Aoun. She has contributed opinion essays to the Daily Star and YaleGlobal online magazine.

In case you missed it: Does Abdul Halim Khaddam Have Anything to Do with What's Going on in Syria?

Israeli Forces Injure 13 Palestinians During Anti-Wall Protests

Local Editor
Israeli occupation forces attacked after yesterday Friday prayer the weekly anti-wall protests in the West Bank villages of Bilin, Nilin, Al-Nabi Saleh, and Al-Ma'sara, injuring 13 Palestinians including a journalist and three international supporters and arresting four.
Israeli soldiers fired rubber bullets and tear gases at protestors leaving 12 Palestinians injured in the village of Bilin, local sources reported. Many suffered of the effect of tear gas inhalation.
Sources added that Protestors waved Palestinian flags and photos of the martyrs Jawaher and Basim Abu Rahma demanding national unity and condemning Israeli violations against Palestinian citizens.
Witnesses stated that Israeli soldiers detained an elderly man after severely beating him. All protestors gathered on the Palestinian territories which are threatened to be confiscated by Israeli authorities to make way for Jewish settlers.
On the other hand, Israeli forces closed all entrances of al-Nabi Saleh village preventing citizens in and out of the village. Israeli soldiers provoked and harassed participants as they were chanting slogans demanding release of Palestinian prisoners inside Israeli jails.
In the village of Al-Ma'sara, Israeli forces suppressed the weekly non-violent rally beating a number of participants who called for an end to Israeli occupation and an end to national division.
Meanwhile in the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian farmer was shot Friday by Israeli gunfire during his work in the north of Beit Lahya.
Adham Abu Silmya, Medical emergency spokesman, said that Israeli forces stationed at the northern borders opened fire at a group of farmers leaving one injured, who was evacuated to Kamal Udwan hospital to receive medication. His health condition was described as moderate.
Israeli army frequently attack Palestinian farmers and gravel workers near the buffer zone restricting access to their own lands.
Also on Friday, three Palestinians were injured as Israeli army fired artillery shell at warehouses near Al-Montar crossing known as Karni in the east of Gaza city.

IOF troops enter southern Gaza, bulldoze land

[ 23/04/2011 - 08:58 AM ]

RAFAH, (PIC)-- Israeli occupation forces (IOF) advanced tens of meters into eastern Rafah in the southern area of Gaza Strip on Saturday morning, local sources reported.

The sources told the PIC reporter that seven army vehicles including a bulldozer advanced into eastern Rafah and leveled land amidst intermittent firing.

The IOF troops routinely enter eastern Gaza border areas and bulldoze land and destroy property.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian

Syria Turmoil on “Good Friday”

DAMASCUS- Snipers shot dead at least three mourners Saturday in Douma, a suburb of the Syrian capital where funerals were underway for several protesters killed the previous day, witnesses said.

SANA: Fabricated Videos of Acts of Violence in Syria

(DP-News – Agencies )  

DAMASCUS- Syrian Army personnel on Friday found mobile phones using non-Syrian SIM cards and positioning software and digital cameras containing short fabricated videos depicting acts of violence and fake repression of protests, according to SANA.

Add caption

SANA added “The phones and cameras were carried by members of an armed criminal group that attacked a military location in Rakhem al-Hirak area in Daraa countryside.

The group members also carried clubs, swords and metal implements that were used during protests against security forces, in addition to bottles full of real blood to be used in filming fabricated acts of violence and bottles filled with gasoline to start fires.”
The gunmen opened fire from roof-tops as a funeral procession made its way to a cemetery, killing at least three mourners and wounding one, a witness and a human rights activist in Douma told AFP by telephone.
The people of al-Midan quarter in Damascus refuted claims by some malicious media sources that the police opened fire and used tear gas to disperse gatherings in the area on Friday afternoon.

One of the citizens said that there were no gatherings or any sign of such things in the quarter, expressing surprise over what is shown on some channels, while another citizen said that security prevails across the entire quarter from al-Ashmar Square to Bab Msalla, and that what some channels are broadcasting are mere lies.

Two policemen were killed and 11 were wounded in attacks launched by armed groups in Damascus and Homs on Friday.

A source at the Syrian Interior Ministry said that Tarek Makkawi and Simon Isa were martyred after armed groups shot them in the Moadamieh area in Damascus and the Bab Amr area in Homs.

An armed group on Friday opened fire on fire engines and hit them with stones in the Juber area in Damascus, according to SANA.

The fire engines were on their way to extinguish fire after receiving a call from the area's inhabitants in this regard.

Several firemen were seriously injured and were taken to a hospital.

In a statement to the Syrian Satellite Channel, one of the firefighters said that they headed to Juber to extinguish a fire at a gas station, and when they reached there, a gathering started throwing stones on them despite the fact that the fire engines were not close or heading towards them.

Hamas disapproves new US plan about Palestinian state

[ 23/04/2011 - 08:26 AM ]

GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement said it rejects the plan about a Palestinian state without the right of return which the US administration intends to declare soon.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told the Palestinian information center (PIC) that his Movement refuses this American overture and considers it an attempt to terminate the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes they were expelled from in 1948.
Spokesman Abu Zuhri warned that the US administration is planning to extract a waiver of the right of return from the Palestinian Authority (PA) in exchange for an empty pledge of a Palestinian state.
The spokesman stressed that what is needed is a genuine international support to end the Israeli occupation and not to establish an illusionary Palestinian state.
The US plan stipulates that Israel should recognize a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, and in return the Palestinians should waive the right of return to "Israel's territories", accept occupied Jerusalem as a capital for the two states and protect Israel's security.
For his part, senior Hamas official Wasfi Qabha expressed his belief that this US plan is an attempt to circumvent the Palestinian people's right to freedom and independence.
"America wants to establish a Palestinian state on paper just like someone selling fish still in the sea," Qabha opined in a press statement to the PIC.
The US wants to show itself as keen on the establishment of a Palestinian state while it has used its veto against a resolution calling on Israel to end its settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian lands, the Hamas official said.
He added this plan is part of the US support for Israel's oppressive and barbaric policies against the Palestinian people.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian

Israeli court imposes house arrest on two Jerusalemite children

Israeli court imposes house arrest on two Jerusalemite children

[ 23/04/2011 - 07:34 AM ]

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- The Israeli magistrate court in occupied Jerusalem imposed house arrest on two Palestinian minors at the pretext of attacking Jewish settlers' houses.

The court sentenced Ibrahim Siyam, 15, and Yazan Siyam, 16, to one week house arrest in their homes in Silwan town south of the Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem.

It also ordered their families to escort them to and from school for five days after the conclusion of the house arrest.

Local sources said that the children were detained and questioned over the past two days before they appeared in the court hearing on Friday.

Israeli interrogators question Jihad prisoners
Palestinian prisoners suffer amid medical neglect
Palestinian man arrested in Al-Khalil Saturday morning

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian

Lobbification Part II — Dr. Lawrence Davidson

- 23. Apr, 2011

In his Farewell Address given in 1796, George Washington warned of “combinations and associations” which might succeed in substituting their own desires for “the delegated will of the nation.”

—Dr. Lawrence Davidson / My Catbird Seat

In a piece titled Lobby, Lobbification, Lobbified (16 April 2011) I asserted that lobby power has corrupted the legislative branches of government particularly at the federal level. How and why this has happened needs further explanation. Most people point a finger at the corrosive impact of money and that certainly plays a pivotal role. It is extraordinarily expensive to run for any major office at either the state or national level, and increasing numbers of our candidates come from the super rich. Lobbies or special interests also supply a lot of the money a politician needs to fund repeated election cycles. However, the problem presented by special interests is still more fundamental.

I – The Structural Problem

The influence of lobbies and special interests is a structural part of our system and has been so since the founding of the nation. This being the case, the United States is not really a democracy of individuals. Rather, it is a democracy of competing interest groups or factions. In my book, Foreign Policy Inc. (U. of Kentucky Press, 2009) I coin the word “factocracy” to describe the real nature of American politics.

The country’s founding fathers were acutely aware of the nature of factocracy and they feared its influence. In his Farewell Address given in 1796, George Washington warned of “combinations and associations” which might succeed in substituting their own desires for “the delegated will of the nation.” James Madison dedicated his Federalist Paper number 10 to the issue of factionalism within the republican environment. He feared “men of fractious tempers, local prejudices or of sinister designs” who would “betray the interests of the people” by “intrigue” or by “corruption.”

Madison attributed the tendency toward factionalism to human nature. The pursuit of self-interest spurs faction formation and therefore its “causes cannot be removed.” So one is left with the task of designing ways to control it. Madison was of the opinion that the new born United States was a big enough conglomeration of groups that, if its governing institutions were properly arranged, the nation’s large number of competing interests would check each other. Also, the country was, in his opinion, territorially large enough that “those who may feel a common sentiment have less opportunity of communication and concert.” So, in his work on the nation’s constitution he built in representative bodies with what he felt to be sufficient numbers of delegates to make the domination of one or a few factions difficult and augmented this with checks and balances between different parts of the government.

Unfortunately, Madison’s efforts have failed. Technology solved the communication problem and powerful factions formed not only in the legislature but also outside of it. Lobbies and special interests concentrated on the particular aspects of policy that interested their members and became so numerous that one or another special interest now influences all important aspects of both domestic and foreign policy. Presently there are over 11,000 lobbyists in Washington DC and they spend about $3.5 billion annually to assure that their parochial interests stand in for the national interest. Indeed, it is hard to recognize the national interest amidst all the special interest clamor.

II – Just who are the constituents?

Here is another way to understand this phenomenon. One might ask, who are a politician’s main constituents? At election time there is no doubt that the voters play that role. At that time all politicians focus their speeches, media measures and other propaganda on the voters. The candidate who wins this information combat (please note that campaign information need not be accurate or objective) and best organizes voter turnout wins the election. However, after the election the importance of the voters temporarily recedes. At best the now elected politician will perform a holding action with the voters. He or she may establish local offices to hear voters’ complaints and needs. This office may even assist the voters in solving problems concerning the government. But these will be low end delegated tasks. Between elections the real constituency on which the politician focuses his or her personal attention are the special interests that can supply large donations. It is these constituents that make it financially possible to engage in the organizing and information combat that goes on at election time. As the system presently operates, electoral victory would be very difficult without the support of the lobbies. Thus, these between election times constituents are in very good position to strike a deal with the politician that will strongly influence his or her legislative voting and/or policy formulation behavior.

Sometimes there is an overlap between the special interests and the election time voter. For instance, in some states defense contractors such as Boeing or General Electric are major employers and Senators or Representatives from such states who vote to lower the budget of the Defense Department may be seen as working against the interest of both the corporation and its employees. That is, against the interests of a major campaign donor and a relatively large group of voters. It is obvious how hard it would be to operate against these interests. However, at other times the special interest may have nothing to do with the economic welfare of the state or district in question. Such a lobby may have simply struck a bargain that trades its financial donations and media clout for the politician’s legislative support. That is the case of the Zionists and similar lobbies.

III – The Zionist Modus Operandi

Here is how a special interest such as the Zionists might operate. Let us say you are a new Senator from some U.S. state that has only a small number of Jewish voters and but scattered pockets of Christian Zionists ones. You come to Washington, DC and soon thereafter are visited by someone from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). They explain that they can encourage both Jewish and Christian Zionists from around the country to contribute to your campaign fund and mobilize local media support for you often at their expense. As to the Jewish or Christian Zionist element among your voting constituents they will promise to get those voters out for you. In exchange, all you have to do is vote in a pro Israel manner in the Senate when required.

Chances are you know little about the Middle East in general and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict particular. Except, of course, you have grown up in the same pro-Israel informational environment as the rest of the American population. The conflict seems not to be a voting concern with the majority at home so taking up the Zionist offer apparently will not alienate anyone. So what do you have to lose? Even if you are one of the exceptional politicians who pay attention to complaints about Israeli barbarism and give them credence, and therefore are not inclined to take up this offer, the consequences of declining might cause you to hesitate. For if you say no to the Zionists they simply go to your opponents. Not just to the opponents in the competing political party, but also to whomever is your competition in the next primary election. From wealthy and powerful potential allies the Zionists could instantly become wealthy and powerful potential enemies. And they have a known record of success at defeating those politicians who will not cooperate with them.

Part IV – Conclusion

In truth it is a Faustian bargain. Once you sign on with a special interest such as the Zionists they soon become a primary constituent of yours, not only between elections, but also at election time via their media and voter mobilization efforts. They soon become a central part of your team. You no longer look to the State Department for information about the Middle East or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Now all that comes from AIPAC and similar sources. Thus your deepening dependency on this lobby is not just financial but also informational. They have melded your world view with theirs. Congratulations, you have been officially lobbified.

Dr. Lawrence Davidson is the co-author of A Concise History of the Middle East and author of America’s Palestine: Popular and Official and The Alexian Brothers: An Evolutionary Look at the Monastery and Modern Health Care. A member of West Chester University’s history faculty since 1986, he earned his bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University and completed his master’s and Ph.D. degrees from Georgetown University and the University of Alberta in Canada, respectively.

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West Bank march crackdown leaves woman in critical condition

[ 23/04/2011 - 07:16 AM ]

WEST BANK, (PIC)-- A Palestinian woman was left in critical condition after inhaling tear gas fired by Israeli soldiers at a weekly march in the West Bank town of Bil'in, medics at the Palestine medical center said.

The soldiers used tear gas and rubber bullets to suppress the march launched noon Friday.

The same day during an anti-Jewish settlement march in Nabi Saleh, Israeli occupation forces (IOF) assaulted and arrested an elderly man and three foreign activists and suppressed the march using tear gas and stun grenades. Dozens suffered breathing difficulties after inhaling tear gas.

Also noon Friday, IOF soldiers hampered a march in Al-Ma'sara near Bethlehem as it progressed to the apartheid wall there. Marchers were stopped and assaulted by the hands and rifle butts of soldiers.

A Palestinian man was injured and dozens suffered from the effects of breathing tear gas after IOF soldiers cracked down on a weekly anti-separation wall and anti-Jewish settlement march in Na'lin.

The IOF closed the entrances of the village near Ramallah and blocked locals from entering and exiting. They also blocked reporters and activists from entry to take part in the weekly anti-settlement march.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian

Bin Jeddo resigns from al-Jazeera TV, Bin Jeddo Confirms Resignation to Al Manar Website

Apr 23, 2011

Beirut, (SANA)-Lebanese As-Safir newspaper quoted reliable sources as saying that journalist Ghassan bin Jeddo, Director of al-Jazeera TV in Beirut, resigned after the TV station had shifted from being a media source into an operation room for instigation.

"Bin Jeddo tendered his resignation several days ago," the sources said, adding that the reason behind this step was because al-Jazeera has abandoned profession and objectively and turned into "a room for instigation and mobilization.

" The sources underlined that one of the reasons that pushed Bin Jeddo to resign is the provocative policy of al-Jazeera which is unacceptable, particularly in light of the historical juncture the region is passing through.


Bin Jeddo Confirms Resignation to Al Manar Website
Local Editor

Head of Al Jazeera TV Station Office in Beirut Ghassan Bin Jeddo resigned from his post a few days ago, as “Al Jazeera has abandoned professionalism and objectivity, turning from a media source into an operation room that incites and mobilizes,” Lebanese As-Safir newspaper reported on Saturday.

Bin Jeddo confirmed this step in an interview with Al Manar website. He pointed out that “the reasons published in As-Safir behind the resignation are true, however they are not the full reasons”, adding that various other issues urged him to take this step that he will talk about its details later.

The Lebanese daily has quoted reliable sources saying that the unprofessional inciting attitude that Al jazeera is adopting at this historic phase in the region is unacceptable.

The sources indicated to As-Safir the ethical base of Bin Jeddo’s resignation, as he cannot accept the station’s full coverage to the situation in Libya, Yemen, and Syria, while completely blacking out the crisis in Bahrain.

As for the policy Al jazeera is following on the Syrian situation, the sources clarified that this case is a matter of morals and principles for Bin Jeddo.

As-Safir pointed out that former Al Jazeera journalist supports the Syrian people’s demands; however, he recognizes the important national role that Syria plays in the region.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian

"A shift in power in Egypt hasn't changed much of the geopolitical map. A shift of power in Syria would have tremendous consequences.........."


Malley on NPR:
SIEGEL: Now, I understand that you did not meet directly with President Assad, but I wonder what your sense of him is. After all, he was regarded at the outset as being interested in big reforms. Then he pulled back. Does he actually want to reform things, do you think?
Mr. MALLEY: Well, in my impression, it's twofold. First of all, I think he understands the economic plight that his country faces. I mean, one would have to be blind not to see it. And to that extent, he knows that he's going to have to reform the country. On the other hand, the notion that some people have had over the years that he could reform the country against his own regime, that was the illusion, that he could turn against the very pillars of support of his regime and become a revolutionary that would lead a revolution against those who brought him to power. And that's not going to happen. And so it's not a matter of him being stuck. It's that he is part of the very regime that today is trying to save itself, and it's not going to save itself by committing suicide.

SIEGEL: How would you describe what the U.S. interest in all this is, to help the Assad regime save itself and maintain a stable Syria; to help them be thrown out so that it would thwart Iran's influence? What is the U.S. interest here?
Mr. MALLEY: I think this is one of those very complicated cases. And one could judge the complexity by the ambiguity of what the administration and the shifting tone of the administration. I don't think that they saw it as to their advantage to have instability in Syria, partly because they didn't know what's going to come next. And, you know, we don't know what's going to come next. It's not a society that the U.S. knows that well. There is a history of Islamist activism. On the other hand, of course, if you were to tell anyone in the administration that tomorrow you'd have a government that would be less pro-Iranian, that wouldn't be providing weapons to Hezbollah, that would be prepared to make peace with Israel, I think they would take it. So it's really a question of fearing the unknown, fearing instability, which could come, you know, at a great cost to many, many Syrians. You have a community of minorities, religious and ethnic minorities, who could suffer greatly. So I think the administration was hoping that the regime would reform enough. As the toll mounts every week, they're inching towards a much tougher position.
SIEGEL: You've worked in the Middle East and followed the region for years. How do you place what's happening right now in Syria in the context of the history of the region and also of uprisings in nearby countries?
Mr. MALLEY: Well, first of all, I think once again it goes to prove that nobody's immune and that it could happen anywhere, and we just will only know it after it happens. I think the paradox of the Syrian situation is, on paper, Syria's much less important than Egypt. I mean, the fact that Mubarak fell should be more significant than whether or not Bashar Assad falls. And yet, because Egyptian foreign policy basically didn't have much of a role over the past several years, the shift in power in Egypt hasn't changed much of the geopolitical map. A shift of power in Syria would have tremendous consequences for the U.S., for Iran, for Lebanon, for the rest of the region, and that's why so much is at stake..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 10:54 AM

Israeli occupation soldier injured in confrontations in occupied Jerusalem

[ 22/04/2011 - 08:39 PM ]

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- Clashes broke out Friday afternoon between IOF troops and Palestinian youth in different neighbourhoods of the occupied city of Jerusalem.

In the Eisaweyah suburb of Jerusalem young Palestinians clashed with occupation forces and burned a military vehicle after it overturned by throwing petrol bombs at the vehicle. Eyewitnesses said that an IOF soldier suffered burns.

Meanwhile, in the Silwan suburb of Jerusalem Palestinian youth hurled stones and empty bottles at occupation soldier who responded by firing teargas canisters and rubber-coated bullets without reports of any injuries.

These clashes are the results of daily raids carried out by the IOF and the fanatic settlers into various neighbourhoods of occupied Jerusalem and the harassment of the Palestinian population that usually accompanies such raids.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian

Syria after Ministry says rallies must be licensed

Demonstration at University
SYRIA- “The new government in Syria has taken action to meet the demands of the Syrian people,” Nidal Kabalan, Syrian Ambassador to Turkey, said on Wednesday, commenting on the latest developments in the protest-hit Middle Eastern country.

The ambassador said the lifting of emergency rule in the country, as well as a transition to a multiparty system and a law on media, was among those demands.

A new era of reforms has begun for Syria and all segments of the society are excited about the process, Kabalan said, adding that the violence should be stopped in order to ensure the effective implementation of reforms.

Regarding the role Turkey may play in the ongoing process in Syria, Kabalan said his country was thankful for its neighbor’s support on the matter and “eager to benefit from Turkey’s experiences concerning the multiparty parliamentary system.”
The Globe and Mail said that 4,000 university students from Daraa and surrounding areas protested near the city's al-Omari Mosque.

The news website added “Activists also said dozens of students protested Wednesday at Aleppo University in the country's north, adding there were confrontations on campus between pro and anti-government students.”

AP reported “Syrian Authorities has coupled its crackdown with a series of concessions, including an end to the state of emergency, which gives authorities almost boundless powers of surveillance and arrest.”
“Homs has been tense since clashes between protesters and security forces killed at least 12 people Sunday. On Tuesday, security forces there opened fire with live ammunition and tear gas on hundreds of anti-government demonstrators during a pre-dawn raid that killed several people.”

On Wednesday too, human rights activists said Syrian authorities arrested an opposition figure at his home during an overnight raid, hours after the government announced an end to emergency rule.

Syrian Human Rights League chief, Abdul-Karim Rihawi, said security agents picked up Mahmoud Issa from his home in the central city of Homs after an interview he gave to Al-Jazeera satellite TV late Tuesday.

Rights activist Mazen Darwish said the interview Issa gave to Al-Jazeera angered relatives of a Syrian brigadier general who was killed along with his two sons and a nephew Sunday in Homs.

The government says they were gunned down by “armed gangs” that authorities blame for the violence during anti-government protests of the past month.

Darwish said Issa, in the interview, said he didn't know who was behind the killing and called for an investigation, enraging bereaved relatives who reportedly threatened Issa before alerting the police.

Issa, who spent years in prison for his pro-democracy views, was picked up from his home shortly afterward.

Britain's Foreign Office on Wednesday said U.K. nationals should consider leaving Syria on commercial flights, after it upgraded warnings about unrest there. In a statement, the ministry said it had changed its advice “in light of the deterioration in the security situation in Syria.”

British diplomats had warned that violent clashes are anticipated between local security forces and demonstrators.

The U.S. response to the recent events in Syria reveals that the Arab revolts have not completely shaken President Obama’s faith in a misguided policy of engagement with anti-American authoritarian regimes. To date, over two hundred pro-democracy protestors have been slaughtered in a government crackdown in Syria. The U.S. response offers little to be proud of in terms of promoting American interests and ideals. Instead, it compromises both.

There have been two major moments in the U.S. approach to Syria over the course of the past several weeks. First, there were Secretary of State Clinton’s remarks which cited comments characterizing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as a reformer. “Many of the members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he’s a reformer,” said Clinton on March 27th. Next was President Obama’s condemnation of violence on April 8th in response to the killing of approximately 20 Syrian protestors in one day.

The Obama administration needs to get a grip on two key points.

One, Assad is not a reformer. His March 30th speech confirmed as much. To be sure, Assad has made a few concessions as a result of the protests. He issued a decree granting citizenship to Kurds, lifted the government ban on teachers wearing face veils, and closed a casino. More recently, he formed a new cabinet. But the continued violence in Syria suggests his actions are not necessarily evidence of reform so much as they are attempts to placate unrest. Syrian activists are justified in continuing to push for freedom and democracy.

Two, the U.S. has little interest in Assad retaining his grip on power in Syria. President Obama’s efforts to distance Syria from its ties to Iran and Hezbollah have failed. Besides, if the ultimate goal of that policy was to weaken Iran and Hezbollah, the current situation presents a fresh opportunity to do just that.
River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian