Saturday, November 5, 2011

Al-Jazeera Video: Bahrain security forces clash with protesters

Syria: Homs military attacks continue, say activists


"Syrian military forces have resumed attacks in the city of Homs, activists say, despite agreeing to withdraw from urban areas under an Arab League deal.

Tanks have been shelling parts of the city, and medics at the main hospital told the BBC more than 100 bodies had arrived in the past two days.

Activists say at least 19 people were killed in protests in Homs and other cities on Friday.

Wednesday's Arab League deal had called for an end to suppression of protests....

'Machine-gun fire'

Homs has been a focus of opposition to President Bashar al-Assad since the uprising against him began in March.

Local human rights groups report continued operations against opposition strongholds, including artillery bombardments of residential areas.

The killings over the past two days have mostly been in the Baba Amr district. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights group said the area had been "raked with heavy machine-gun fire" on Friday, with a number of deaths.

It also reported that troops had opened fire in the city's Ghuta neighbourhood, killing two civilians and wounding four.

At least seven protesters were also killed by troops in the town of Kanaker, outside Damascus, the Observatory said....."

Is Netanyahu bluffing once again?

By Trita Parsi - Special to CNN

"Should the latest episode of Israeli calls for bombing Iran be taken seriously, or is it – like the many cases prior to it – yet another (politically motivated) false alarm? Like clockwork, Israeli alarm bells have gone off in the past fifteen years with predictable regularity. Bellicose statements by Israeli officials have been followed by alarmist analyses describing military measures as both necessary and inevitable. And then, without any explanation, the bellicosity recedes and Iran and Israel return to their more normal levels of animosity.

By now, as WikiLeaks documents show, U.S. officials tend to view the Israeli threats as a pressure tactic to get the United States and Europe to adopt tougher measures against Iran, and to refrain from any compromise with Tehran over the nuclear issue. These intense periods of Israeli warnings about its imminent intent to bomb Iran have indeed tended to coincide with times when the international community has been debating additional sanctions on Tehran.

This latest call for war is no different....."

Down With The Rule of The Slaughterhouse!

Courtesy of

Down With The Rule of The Slaughterhouse!

Guardian Video: Israel's navy intercepts Gaza flotilla

Two protest boats heading to Gaza to try to break the blockade have been boarded by the Israeli navy. The military said forces moved after repeated calls for the boats to turn around were ignored. It added that the boarding was carried out peacefully and nobody was hurt, Friday 4 November 2011

Guardian Video: Occupy demonstrators at St Paul's link up with protests in Syria

Occupy London protesters take part in a two-way livestream connecting demonstrations at St Paul's Cathedral with those in Damascus and Homs in Syria. They claim it is the first such event in the UK, and part of their attempts to link protest movements around the world. Around 50 UK-based Syrians took part in the protest, which streamed live to Syria

John Domokos and Mustafa Khalili, Friday 4 November 2011

Current Al-Jazeera (Arabic) Online Poll

Do you believe that the Syrian government will abide by the terms of the Arab League's initiative?

With about 600 responding so far, 93% said no.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Syria and Iran: the great game

Regime change in Syria is a strategic prize that outstrips Libya – which is why Saudi Arabia and the west are playing their part

Alastair Crooke, Friday 4 November 2011


I don't agree with a lot in this comment, but the author is well-connected and some of the points he makes are worth taking into account. I think that the author is close to Hizbullah, or at least very sympathetic to it.

"This summer a senior Saudi official told John Hannah, Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, that from the outset of the upheaval in Syria, the king has believed that regime change would be highly beneficial to Saudi interests: "The king knows that other than the collapse of the Islamic Republic itself, nothing would weaken Iran more than losing Syria."

This is today's "great game" – losing Syria. And this is how it is played: set up a hurried transitional council as sole representative of the Syrian people, irrespective of whether it has any real legs inside Syria; feed in armed insurgents from neighbouring states; impose sanctions that will hurt the middle classes; mount a media campaign to denigrate any Syrian efforts at reform; try to instigate divisions within the army and the elite; and ultimately President Assad will fall – so its initiators insist.....

The origins of the "lose Assad" operation preceded the Arab awakening: they reach back to Israel's failure in its 2006 war to seriously damage Hezbollah, and the post-conflict US assessment that it was Syria that represented Hezbollah's achilles heel – as the vulnerable conduit linking Hezbollah to Iran. US officials speculated as to what might be done to block this vital corridor, but it was Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia who surprised them by saying that the solution was to harness Islamic forces....

Hypothetical planning, however, only became concrete action this year, with the overthrow of Egypt's President Mubarak. Suddenly Israel seemed vulnerable, and a weakened Syria, mired in troubles, had heightened strategic allure. In parallel, Qatar had stepped to the fore. Azmi Bishara, a pan-Arabist who resigned from the Israeli Knesset and self-exiled to Doha, was according to some local reports involved in a scheme in which al-Jazeera would not just report revolution, but instantiate it for the region – or at least this is what was believed in Doha in the wake of the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings. Qatar, however, was not merely trying to leverage human suffering into an international intervention, but was also – as in Libya – directly involved as a key operational patron of the opposition....."

Exclusive: Video from Gaza Flotilla as Israeli Navy Prepares to Intercept Boats

Democracy Now!

"Two Gaza-bound boats carrying pro-Palestinian activists are within 50 nautical miles of their destination, but reports are emerging that Israeli Navy ships have intercepted the "Freedom Waves to Gaza" flotilla. Communication with the boats has largely been cut off. Prior to losing contact, we received two exclusive video reports from aboard the "Tahrir," the Canadian ship. Speaking to Democracy Now! correspondent Jihan Hafiz last night, passenger Ehab Lotayef said, "We are approaching the 100-nautical-mile point away from Gaza, which is usually the point where Israel declares—starts the blockade ... Will they try to come and board us? All these questions are now at the moment of truth. The major preparation we did is to prepare that we don’t want anybody to act in any violent way or in any way that can even induce violence by the Israelis."....."

Al-Jazeera Video: Footage from aid boat en route for Gaza

Al-Jazeera Video: Israel preparing for a nuclear Iran

"On Thursday the Israeli army practised evacuations near Tel Aviv. On Wednesday, it test-fired a long-range ballistic missile, its first in three years. And earlier in the week, the military was involved in joint exercises with the Italian air force near Sardinia.

Israel says the timing of these operations is a coincidence, but with the International Atomic Energy Agency about to release a new report on Iran's nuclear capabilities next week, some have speculated that Israel may be considering a strike against Iran.

Al Jazeera's Nicole Johnston reports from Jerusalem."

Al-Jazeera Video: Injured Syrians seek medical help in Jordan

Al-Jazeera Video: Raw footage from Gaza-bound ships

"The two boats carrying pro-Palestinian activists bound for the Gaza Strip have left the port of Fethiye in southwest Turkey on Wednesday after Turkish authorities gave them permission to sail to the Greek island of Rhodes.

The following raw footage shows the Canadian boat Tahrir and the Irish boat MV Saoirse at sea."

Real News Video: Euro-Chaos and Global Capitalism

Leo Panitch: We are witnessing the irrationality of capitalism and the incredible struggle of people in the street

More at The Real News

Israel’s Big Bluff

How we'll go to war with Iran

By Justin Raimondo
November 04, 2011

".....The Israeli government has been openly threatening Iran with attack for years, and we have learned not to take their outbreaks of war hysteria too seriously. During the last year of George W. Bush’s final term in office, there was heightened speculation that Tel Aviv was pressuring Washington to launch such an attack, and indeed it appears Vice President Dick Cheney argued for precisely that, albeit to no avail. Now the war talk has been revived by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who, along with his defense minister, Ehud Barak, has not only been arguing within the Cabinet for such a strike, but has now supposedly moved into the implementation stage.

We are told by the Israeli media that there is a big debate going on, with two former top officials – Meir Dagan, recently retired as head of the Mossad, and Yuval Diskin, head of Shin Bet – going so far as to leak the specifics of Bibi’s scheme in order to torpedo the plan. Dagan is said to have remarked that the war plans are "the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard" – and he’s quite right.

The problem with this alleged plan is that Israel doesn’t have the military capacity to do the job and do it well: Iran’s nuclear facilities are enclosed within hardened sites, and are spread out to such a degree that Israeli war planes would have trouble reaching them. While the Israelis have recently tested a long-range missile that has the capacity to hit Iranian targets, the idea that they could take out all the intended targets in one fell swoop is simply a fantasy. Therefore, this alleged "debate" taking place within the Israeli leadership, complete with a phony "investigation" by Netanyahu into who leaked the nonexistent Israeli attack "plan," is a non-event. The whole thing, in short, is a bluff.

But who is being bluffed here? Not the Iranians, who are surely aware of Israel’s incapacity. The volume of the war hysteria is being turned up with one purpose in mind: the Israelis want the US to do their dirty work for them. This is a threat aimed not only – or even primarily – at Iran, but at us......"

Fear and loathing in the Cannes debt festival

By Pepe Escobar
Asia Times

"After posing as the Great Liberator of Libya, French President Nicolas Sarkozy thought this week's Cannes Group of 20 summit would crown his Napoleonic ambitions. Instead, the Greeks made the (invisible) God of the Market angrier than Zeus and more psychotic than a German chancellor. All eyes are on China, but the Middle Kingdom's generosity carries a hefty price tag - European exceptionalism itself...."

The Russell Tribunal on Palestine can promote peace, truth and reconciliation

The Israel-Palestine situation demands truth and reconciliation. We hope to aid that process

Desmond Tutu and Michael Mansfield, Thursday 3 November 2011

"Opportunities to break seemingly intractable and deadlocked situations are rare – especially on a scale which has rapidly developed this year from the beleaguered cries of citizenry across North Africa and the Middle East. There is a palpable consensus that the provenance of this movement is lodged firmly in the fundamental prerequisite for meaningful democracy: self-determination. All conventions on human rights have this tenet as a core rationale. Where it is repeatedly denied and suppressed there will never be peace or justice, let alone stability.

On Saturday the Russell Tribunal on Palestine will open its third session: after Barcelona and London, this session will take place in South Africa, the location of a seminal struggle for self-determination by a community oppressed by apartheid. Partly as a result of this courageous and persistent protest by thousands of ordinary people, who were regularly demonised as terrorists by political opponents within the South African regime (and by certain world leaders, including the UK's), there was a concerted international effort to bring international law to bear upon an entrenched position.

Between 1948 and 1990, the UN regularly condemned apartheid as a crime.....

As part of a South African religious delegation to Israel in the 1980s, Michael Nuttall, the bishop of Natal, pointed out that there were things happening in Israel that did not even happen in South Africa – forms of collective punishment. This has special resonance in the light of Richard Goldstone's attempt to pre-empt the tribunal in the New York Times this week by an assertion that nothing in Israel comes close. His analysis is simplistic. No one is suggesting the two situations are identical.

These are all matters the tribunal will be assessing in order to ascertain what parallels and comparisons can be drawn. Whatever they may be, the ultimate objective is to consider the Israel-Palestine situation on its own facts and apply the norms of international law to identify three major issues. Have there been violations? If so, what are they and who is responsible? And thirdly, what are the legal ramifications and processes which should ensue? It is hoped that this process may contribute and not detract from the urgent need to progress understanding and peace, truth and reconciliation."

Egyptians call for day of action to revive their 'stifled' revolution

Links between Cairo and Occupy movement strengthen as anger grows at actions of military junta

Jack Shenker, Thursday 3 November 2011

"Egyptian activists have called for an international day of action to defend their country's revolution, as global opposition mounts towards the military junta.

In a statement appealing for solidarity from the worldwide Occupy movement that has taken control of public squares in London, New York and hundreds of other cities, campaigners in Egypt claim their revolution is "under attack" from army generals and insist they too are fighting against a "1%" elite intent on stifling democracy and promoting social injustice.

The announcement came as Alaa Abd El Fattah, the jailed Egyptian revolutionary who has become a rallying figure for those opposed to the junta, had his appeal against detention refused by a military court. He and 30 other defendants accused of inciting violence against the military will remain in prison for at least 10 more days. The authorities could then choose to extend their incarceration indefinitely....

Meanwhile, in Egypt, more political leaders have spoken out against draft constitutional principles released by the interim cabinet that would see the military's influence over civilian government permanently enshrined in law....."

Guardian Video: Syrian city of Homs hit by shelling

Amateur footage purportedly shows the besieged city of Homs being shelled less than a day after Damascus agreed to a regional plan to withdraw its armed vehicles and stop a violent crackdown against dissent. Activists in Syria's third city claimed at least seven people were killed and several more injured in the shelling. One Homs resident said the violence had intensified overnight, Thursday 3 November 2011

Video: يا مجلس عسكر إنت كذاب وقليل القيمة

جمال عيد في مؤتمر لا للمحاكمات العسكرية للمدنيين

Courtesy of Hossam El-Hamalawy

Goldstone walks alone on a bridge to nowhere

The former judge who wrote the Gaza War report recently - and wrongly - wrote that Israel does not practice apartheid.

Richard Falk

"Surely the New York Times would not dare turn down a piece from the new Richard Goldstone. He had already recast himself as the self-appointed guardian of Israel’s world reputation. This, despite the fact that he had earlier been anointed as the distinguished jurist who admirably put aside his ethnic identity and personal affiliations when it came to carrying out his professional work as a specialist in international criminal law.

Goldstone was even seemingly willing to confront the Zionist furies of Israel when criticised by one of their own adherents in chairing the UN panel appointed to consider allegations of Israeli war crimes during the Gaza War of 2008-09. A few months ago Goldstone took the unseemly step of unilaterally retracting a central conclusion of the "Goldstone Report" during those attacks on Gaza.

The former judge wrote in a column in the Washington Post that the Goldstone Report would have been different if he had known then what he came to know now, an arrogant assertion considering that he was but one of four panel members designated by the UN Human Rights Council, and considering that the other three publicly reaffirmed their confidence in the original conclusion as presented in the report, which was written and released months earlier....

Fall from grace

The sad saga of Richard Goldstone’s descent from pinnacles of respect and trust to this shabby role as legal gladiator recklessly jousting on behalf of Israel is as unbecoming as it is unpersuasive....

The Palestinians' long ordeal is sufficiently grounded in reality that the defection of such an influential witness amounts to a further assault not only on Palestinian wellbeing but also on the wider struggle to achieve justice, peace, and security for both peoples. Contrary to Goldstone's protestations that the Russell Tribunal will hinder a resolution to the conflict, it is the Goldstones of this world that are producing the smokescreens behind which the very possibility of a two-state solution has been deliberately destroyed by Israel’s tactics of delay and programmes of expansion.

In the end, if there is ever to emerge a just and sustainable peace, it will be thanks to many forms of Palestinian resistance and a related campaign of global solidarity, of which the Russell Tribunal promises to make a notable contribution. We should all remember that it is hard to render the truth until we see the truth - ugly as it may be! "

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Wall Street v. Greece: G20 Opens as Greek PM Pushes For Referendum on Bailout and Austerity Measures

Democracy Now!

"World leaders are gathering in Cannes for the opening of the Group of 20 summit today. On the top of the agenda is the Greece bailout and the European debt crisis. On Monday, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou angered many European leaders by announcing his support for a popular referendum — allowing the Greek people to decide if they want to accept the conditions of the $179 billion European Union bailout. After days of increasing criticism from European leaders, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou is now facing calls from within his party to resign. The Greek debt scandal has also pitted U.S. banking interests against France, Germany and other European powers. "The Americans are putting immense pressure on Europe saying, 'We will wreck your economy if you don’t wreck Greece's economy,’" says economic analyst Michael Hudson. President Obama is “basically telling Europe, ‘Don’t go the democratic route, support Wall Street.’”...."

EXCLUSIVE: Video Report from Gaza-Bound Flotilla Attempting to Break Israeli Blockade

Democracy Now!

"A Canadian boat and Irish boat quietly left a Turkish port Wednesday, bound for Gaza. Democracy Now! first broke the news on our live broadcast yesterday. This flotilla, named Freedom Waves to Gaza, marks the latest attempt by international activists to break the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza. The ships are hoping to reach Gaza by Friday, but Israel has threatened to stop the ships. "I anticipate that the Israeli army, probably, the navy, is probably considering boarding us at some point on our way to Gaza and the siege," said passenger Kit Kittredge of the group Code Pink. "I’m not feeling fearful. I’m feeling actually pretty peaceful. And that’s what we are: we are a peaceful boat and a peaceful flotilla going to end the siege." Democracy Now! correspondent Jihan Hafiz filed this video report from the Tahrir boat from international waters and joined us live on the telephone from the ship in international waters...."

Al-Jazeera Video: Protesters shut down huge Oakland port in US

Al-Jazeera Video: Several reported killed in Yemeni unrest

Al-Jazeera Video: Israel withholds Palestinian tax revenues

Al-Jazeera Video: Trita Parsi speaks to Al Jazeera on Israel's ballistic missile test

"Israel has test-fired a ballistic missile capable of reaching Iran, from the central Israeli Palmchamin base, Israeli radio said.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Trita Parsi, the president of the National Iranian American Council, says if Israel decided to go ahead with a strike against Iran, the current political timing is in their favour."

Al-Jazeera Video: Nisreen El Shamayleh reports on events in Syria

"In Syria, activists said security forces killed at least 13 factory workers in a village northwest of Homs.

There were other violent attacks reported in parts of the country on Wednesday.

International media are banned from Syria, but Al Jazeera's Nisreen El Shamayleh, in the border town of Ramtha in Jordan, reports on the latest events."

Real News Video: Bill Black: Jobs Now, Stop the Foreclosures, Jail the Banksters

Bill Black: Here are three things the "Occupy Movement" could focus on


More at The Real News

Too Big to Jail

By Robert Scheer

"Can we all agree that a $1 billion swindle represents a lot of money, and the fact that Citigroup agreed last week to pay a $285 million fine to settle SEC charges for “misleading investors” demonstrates a damning admission of culpability?

So why has Robert Rubin, the onetime treasury secretary who went on to become Citigroup chairman during the time of the corporation’s financial shenanigans, never been held accountable for this and other deep damage done to the U.S. economy on his watch?....."

The Merchants of Death and Me

by Philip Giraldi, November 03, 2011

"I attended a recent talk on “defense cooperation” between the United States and the Arab world. Inevitably, no one on the panel of five bothered to ask why the United States should be fueling an arms race by selling to nearly every country in the region, but as each speaker had a personal interest in arming everyone to the teeth, the omission was perhaps understandable. It reminded me of Upton Sinclair’s famous quip that “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

One panelist was a senior employee of a major defense contractor. The other speakers were also cogs in the military-industrial complex. Most of the panelists were somewhat nuanced in their pronouncements even if they could not avoid slipping into government-speak with its mixture of acronyms and expressions like “kinetic” and “COIN doctrine” that are only used when Pentagon guys get together over a brewski (or when they are trying to impress a congressional committee).....

But perhaps the most startling insight revealed by the panel is the inability to understand why the United States has been unable to sell its message “Hollywood style.” Well, it should be obvious even to the masters of war who create the ordnance that goes off with a bang all around the world that the narrative proposed by the United States, i.e., that “we are here to protect you,” doesn’t sell too well in any part of the world where the people can look around and see the devastation that has actually been delivered. Garbage is still garbage no matter how you gift wrap it.

When the panel left the stage, with congratulations all around, I thought to myself, “What monsters we have become. Someone hand me a tomato so I can throw it.” Alas, there were no tomatoes. "

After Egypt's revolution, I never expected to be back in Mubarak's jails

I have been locked up, again on a set of flimsy charges, five years after imprisonment for supporting the judiciary

Alaa Abd El Fattah, Wednesday 2 November 2011

"I never expected to repeat the experience of five years ago: after a revolution that deposed the tyrant, I go back to his jails?

The memories come back to me, all the details of imprisonment; the skills of sleeping on the floor, nine men in a six-by-12-foot (two-by-four-metre) cell, the songs of prison, the conversations. But I absolutely can't remember how I used to keep my glasses safe while I slept.
They have been stepped on three times already today. I suddenly realise they're the same glasses that were with me in my last imprisonment; the one for supporting the Egyptian judiciary in 2006. And that I am locked up, again pending trial, again on a set of loose and flimsy charges – the one difference is that instead of the state security prosecutor we have the military prosecutor – a change in keeping with the military moment we're living now.

Last time my imprisonment was shared with 50 colleagues from the "Kifaya" movement. This time, I'm alone, in a cell with eight men who shouldn't be here; poor, helpless, unjustly held – the guilty among them and the innocent.

As soon as they learned I was one of the "young people of the revolution" they started to curse out the revolution and how it had failed to clean up the ministry of the interior. I spend my first two days listening to stories of torture at the hands of a police force that insists on not being reformed; that takes out its defeat on the bodies of the poor and the helpless.....

My thoughts wander as I listen to the radio. I hear the speech of the general as he inaugurates the tallest flagpost in the world – which will surely break all records. I wonder: does pushing the name of the martyr Mina Danial as one of those "accused of instigation" in my case break a record in insolence? They must be the first who murder a man and not only walk in his funeral but spit on his body and accuse it of a crime. Or perhaps this cell could break a record in the number of cockroaches in a prison cell? Abu Malek interrupts my thoughts: "I swear by God if this revolution doesn't do something radical about injustice it will sink without a trace.""

The elite still can't face up to it: Europe's model has failed

These bailouts are for the banks, not Greece – and they're deepening the crisis of democracy at the heart of the EU

Seumas Milne, Wednesday 2 November 2011

"You might think that giving people a say in the most crucial decisions affecting their country would be second nature for a union of states that claims democracy as its most sacred founding principle. But George Papandreou's announcement that Greece would hold a referendum on the EU's latest shock therapy "rescue" plan was greeted with outrage across the chancelleries of Europe.

The Greek prime minister has now been summoned to the G20 summit in Cannes by Angela Merkel to be "read the riot act" over such reckless ingratitude. Last week's dose of new loans, 50% voluntary bank debt write-offs and yet more savage cuts and privatisations was supposed to have settled the matter and halted the threat of eurozone contagion – even if the deal's flakiness had already become painfully clear.

Papandreou's manoeuvre is, of course, a last-ditch attempt to save his political skin after months of mass street action over previous helpings of failed austerity that have driven Greek society to the brink. His government may fall and the referendum never be held, and even if it goes ahead Greeks will certainly be subjected to a barrage of threats and blackmail.

But the controversy goes to the heart of Europe's problem with democracy. It's not just fear of the risks of delay on febrile bond markets that has caused apoplexy, but the danger that Greeks might vote the wrong way. Voting is not how things are done in the EU. And whenever a state does actually consult its people – Denmark and Ireland had a go – they are made to vote again until they get it right....

But the loss of credibility created by the crisis goes beyond the eurozone to the economic ideology that has shaped the whole European Union for decades: of deregulation, privatisation and the privileging of corporate power, regardless of the modest employment rights introduced to limit social dumping......"

Israeli doctors 'failing to report torture of Palestinian detainees'

Human rights groups accuse doctors of failing to document signs of torture and returning detainees to interrogators

Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem, Thursday 3 November 2011

"Medical professionals in Israel are being accused of failing to document and report injuries caused by the ill-treatment and torture of detainees by security personnel in violation of their ethical code.

A report by two Israeli human rights organisations, the Public Committee Against Torture (PCAT) and Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), claims that medical staff are also failing to report suspicion of torture and ill-treatment, returning detainees to their interrogators and passing medical information to interrogators...."

Egyptian junta pledges to free hundreds after damning prison letter is published

Generals announce pardon for 334 inmates, following reaction to letter secretly written by activist Alaa Abd El Fattah from his cell

Jack Shenker, Wednesday 2 November 2011

"Egypt's military rulers have promised to pardon hundreds of civilians convicted in military courts, amid mounting pressure following the imprisonment of a leading revolutionary activist and the publication of a secret letter from his jail cell.

The damning anti-junta missive from jailed revolutionary Alaa Abd El Fattah was released as draft constitutional principles that could hand unprecedented power to the army were published.

Cairo's ruling generals responded to mounting criticism by announcing plans to free 334 people locked away since the fall of Hosni Mubarak in February.

Abd El Fattah's wife, Manal Hassan, told the Guardian that the military's gesture was a drop in the ocean, given the thousands of Egyptians convicted by military courts. "We're happy for those that will be released but they should never have been there from the beginning, and it does nothing to change the unjust system that put them in jail in the first place," she said.

Abd El Fattah'scousin, Omar Robert Hamilton, a film-maker, said: "Alaa isn't in jail to bargain for specific prisoner releases. He isn't in jail to bargain at all. He's in jail because he won't submit himself to this illegal and unjust tribunal system. So that system has to end, and oversight of the law be returned to the civilian judiciary."

Human rights groups estimate that more than 12,000 civilians have been processed through military tribunals this year, including several protesters, bloggers and journalists who have publicly questioned the army's commitment to democratic reform....."

UK military steps up plans for Iran attack amid fresh nuclear fears

British officials consider contingency options to back up a possible US action as fears mount over Tehran's capability

Nick Hopkins, Wednesday 2 November 2011

"Britain's armed forces are stepping up their contingency planning for potential military action against Iran amid mounting concern about Tehran's nuclear enrichment programme, the Guardian has learned.

The Ministry of Defence believes the US may decide to fast-forward plans for targeted missile strikes at some key Iranian facilities. British officials say that if Washington presses ahead it will seek, and receive, UK military help for any mission, despite some deep reservations within the coalition government.

In anticipation of a potential attack, British military planners are examining where best to deploy Royal Navy ships and submarines equipped with Tomahawk cruise missiles over the coming months as part of what would be an air and sea campaign.

They also believe the US would ask permission to launch attacks from Diego Garcia, the British Indian ocean territory, which the Americans have used previously for conflicts in the Middle East.

The Guardian has spoken to a number of Whitehall and defence officials over recent weeks who said Iran was once again becoming the focus of diplomatic concern after the revolution in Libya....."

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Al-Akhbar: A disgraceful "leftist" journal that supports "good" Arab dictators

[Ibrahim Al-Amin is the Lebanese Chirstopher Hitchens. He has lost all credibility just like Hizbullah
after the syrian revolution. Look at this article he published today in defense of Assad , a Thomas Friendmansque masterpiece: Filled with lies, inference and sensationalism. He NEVER mentions the atrocities or number of Civilians killed or jailed or tortured. To him it is all a small price to pay for the protection of the "regime of resistance", read at your own risk. Angry Arab picks on NYT and Al Arabia every day which are very easy targets, but does not dare to touch Al-Akhbar although its coverage of Syrian events has been a disgrace by every journalistic standard]

The Arab clients of Washington have a plan for Syria. A sizable group of Arab states are demanding that Bashar Assad relinquish power. Not via the street, but by dissolving his regime himself. After months of confrontations, justifiable or not, between the regime and protesters — or collaborators with foreign powers near and far

WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Loses Appeal to Stop His Extradition to Sweden

"London’s High Court has ruled Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder and editor-in-chief, should be extradited from the United Kingdom to Sweden to face questioning over alleged sex crimes. Swedish authorities want to question Assange over accusations of rape and sexual assault made by two women. Assange’s lawyers have argued the Swedish demand is legally flawed and that the sex was consensual. They are also concerned that the U.S. government will pressure Sweden to extradite him to the United States, where an ongoing investigation is underway about the source(s) who leaked classified U.S. diplomatic cables and Department of Defense files to WikiLeaks. They are now considering an appeal to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom and the European Court of Human Rights. For more, we speak with Helena Kennedy, an attorney on Assange’s legal team. We also air a statement made by Julian Assange this morning in London...."

Goldstone's 'apartheid' denial sparks strife

The author of the Gaza War report erroneously argues that Israel does not practice apartheid.

Ben White

"After his famous article earlier this year on Gaza, Judge Richard Goldstone has written a new op-ed, this time seeking to defend Israel against charges of apartheid.

There are numerous problems with Goldstone's piece, but I want to highlight two important errors. First, Goldstone - like others who attack the applicability of the term "apartheid" - wants to focus on differences between the old regime in South Africa and what is happening in Israel/Palestine. Note that he does this even while observing that apartheid "can have broader meaning", and acknowledging its inclusion in the 1998 Rome Statute.....

Goldstone's second major error is to omit core Israeli policies, particularly relating to the mass expulsions of 1948 and the subsequent land regime built on expropriation and ethno-religious discrimination. By law, Palestinian refugees are forbidden from returning, their property confiscated - the act of dispossession that enabled a Jewish majority to be created in the first place.

As an advisor on Arab affairs to PM Menachem Begin put it: "If we needed this land, we confiscated it from the Arabs. We had to create a Jewish state in this country, and we did"....."

Current Al-Jazeera (Arabic) Online Poll

Do you see the admission of Palestine to UNESCO as serving the Palestinian cause?

With about 300 responding (it is early), 83% said yes.

Al-Jazeera Video: Tensions between tribe members in Libya

"Libya's new interim prime minister has promised to make national reconciliation one of his top priorities, but in the town of Bani Walid, a former stronghold of Muammar Gaddafi, this may prove to be difficult.

The new head of the main hospital in Bani Walid is a pharmacist turned NTC fighter, and it is apparent that this is not a place where the anti-Gaddafi fighters are welcomed like heroes.

There is little communication between the fighters and the visitors, even if both stem from the same tribe.

Al Jazeera's Hoda Abdel-Hamid reports from Bani Walid, Libya."

Al-Jazeera Video: Greeks greet referendum with cynicism

لماذا تعادي أمريكا فلسطين؟!../ رشاد أبو شاور

القاسم المشترك بين الإدارات الأمريكية المتتالية منذ ترومان حتى يومنا هذا أنها تتآمر على فلسطين، وتعادي شعب فلسطين، وتعمل على تصفية القضية الفلسطينية بحيث تنتهي فلسطين العربيّة تماما، ويتكرّس بقاء الكيان الصهيوني بدون عرب نهائيا، وهو ما يضمن ديمومة الشرخ بين مشرق الوطن العربي ومغربه، لضمان الهيمنة عليه، ونهب ثرواته، وحرمانه من كل عناصر قوته وتطوره ونهوضه.
أمريكا لا تكف عن التآمر على فلسطين، وهي لا تتوقف عن دعم الكيان الصهيوني عسكريا، وسياسيا، واقتصاديا، ودبلوماسيا.. وهو ما بدأته قبل أن تعلن دولة الكيان الصهيوني، وبشكل سافر منذ إدارة ترومان التي سرّعت في هجرة ألوف اليهود إلى فلسطين، وتفوّقت على الانتداب البريطاني في السباق على إنجاز دولة للعصابات الصهيونية في قلب الوطن العربي، دون اكتراث بردود فعل العرب والمسلمين، ولا حتى بردود فعل الرأي العام العالمي ورفضه لهذا الظلم.
من جديد تعلن أمريكا عداءها لفلسطين، وشعب فلسطين، وللعرب مسلمين ومسيحيين، وللعالم كله، بتصويتها ضد عضوية فلسطين في منظمة اليونسكو، واتباع موقفها السياسي العدواني الوقح، بإيقاف دفع حصتها المالية للمنظمة العالمية، عقابا لها على الاعتراف الدولي بفلسطين البلد العريق، بلد الأديان، بلد السيد المسيح، وبلد الحضارة الكنعانية، وبلد الإشعاع الحضاري على البشرية كلها، من قلبها النابض عبر ألوف السنين: القدس الخالدة التي تحتضن كنيسة القيامة، والأقصى، والتي على ثراها مشى السيد المسيح وهو يبشر بدعوته الإنسانية، ثمّ وهو يقاد للصلب مفتديا البشر أجمعين!

Audio: Robert Scheer and Chris Hedges on Class Struggle

"Last week on Truthdig Radio, the columnists had an in-depth discussion about the Occupy movement and the ruling class, which Hedges said is “totally divorced from what’s happening.”

Al Jazeera - 15 years in the headlines

From small beginnings, the Qatar-based channel has become the world's best-known – and most influential – source of news from the Middle East

By Robert Fisk

"The Mubarak family still believe it was Al Jazeera wot did it. Without the Qatari satellite channel's constant live coverage of Tahrir Square last January and February, so the story goes, the Emperor Hosni would still be on Egypt's throne, his hair as dyed as his pronouncements, his satraps still slobbering over his wisdom, his regime still producing fake news and fake ministries and fake elections for his people....

Now, poor old Al Jazeera – or very wealthy Al Jazeera, which is closer to the truth – is the hateful channel undermining the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. "They lie – Al Jazeera is trying to kill Syria," a young Syrian government official insisted to me in Damascus last week. "They take these YouTube pictures which are lies and they are trying to destroy us all." I often appear on Al Jazeera myself. Dangerous friend. It even lets me speak my mind; say what I like; make jokes; poke fun at the pompous. Can it be that bad?.....

Now, don't get the impression that it's all squeaky clean. While the English channel was broadcasting live from the Bahrain revolution-that-wasn't, its Arabic twin was staying mum; studiously avoiding any coverage of the King of Bahrain's suppression of majority Shia protests in the streets of Manama. Osama bin Laden could broadcast unedited on Al Jazeera......"

Obama will rue his lack of principle on Palestine's Unesco membership

In pulling out of Unesco, Obama gives the right a boost and abandons all pretensions of being an honest peace broker

Ian Williams, Tuesday 1 November 2011

"....The White House should listen to the cheers in the hall that followed the Unesco vote – reminiscent of those that greeted the end of another period of diplomatic folly when Beijing took Chiang Kai-Shek's seat in the UN after decades of American pretence that an off-shore island represented China there.

Over-stretched financially and militarily, beset with problems that can only be solved multilaterally, doing Binyamin Netanyahu's bidding will win Obama few votes at home. The American Likudniks will still believe the president is an alien-born Muslim and send their votes and cheques accordingly. Abroad, the US has abandoned all logic, all signs of joined-up diplomacy, and abandoned the last vestiges of pretensions to be an honest broker in the Middle East.

As an epitaph to American diplomacy and illusions of empire, look at the votes for Palestine: Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait and Libya all voted against the US. Any more candidates for liberation?"

The world must not forsake Yemen's struggle for freedom

Yemenis are ready to pay the ultimate price to take on a brutal dictator. Yet the UN can't even bring itself to condemn him

Tawakkol Karman, Tuesday 1 November 2011

"We in Yemen are no less thirsty for freedom and dignity than our brothers and sisters in Tunis. After the fall of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, our own vigils took a new direction when thousands of young people went on to the streets. They reached their climax with the fall of the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, when millions of Yemenis called for the departure of the dictator, Ali Abdullah Saleh. Many in the Arab world were worried about our uprising. Everyone knew that the country is awash with weapons. It was feared that the revolution would descend into violence and distort the image of the other Arab uprisings.

But the Yemeni revolution surprised everyone with its astonishingly peaceful nature. This peacefulness exposed the unrestrained brutality of the regime toward the revolutionaries. They met the bullets of the regime with bare chests, preferring to guard their revolution rather than be lured into the quagmire of violence. A thousand martyrs fell and thousands more were injured, yet not one revolutionary raised a weapon in the face of the butchers.....

But perhaps the most basic error of the international community is to describe what is happening in Yemen as a political crisis and not a revolution. The Yemenis insist it is – not by words only, but with their blood, which the regime continues to shed.

In my capacity as a leader of the popular and youth revolution in Yemen, I reaffirm our adherence to the peaceful nature of our struggle until the end. At the same time, I ardently call upon the free people of the world to examine what is happening in my country and Syria especially, and to honour their responsibilities to confront rulers who do not hesitate to carry out the most heinous crimes against people who have the temerity to demand their natural rights to freedom and dignity."

Egypt's military may soon regret jailing Alaa Abd El Fattah

The imprisonment of the high-profile revolutionary could escalate tensions between the ruling junta and the protest movement

Brian Whitaker, Tuesday 1 November 2011

"Alaa Abd El Fattah is in jail. He was arrested on Sunday – accused of inciting violence against the Egyptian military – and on Monday was given 15 days' detention for refusing to answer questions to a military court.

A campaign to secure his release has also got under way with extraordinary rapidity: protests in the streets, a Twitter hashtag (#FreeAlaa) and even graffiti appeared within the first 24 hours or so. That is not especially surprising as Alaa, besides being a pioneer of Egyptian blogging, belongs to one of the most famous families of leftist agitators.

By arresting him, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which is currently running Egypt (and increasingly being referred to as "the junta"), has picked a fight with the core of the movement that toppled President Mubarak in January. Leftists, liberals and Islamists have all been rallying to Alaa's support and it may not be long before the junta starts to regret its action.

There are two reasons why this could turn into a cause célèbre. One is a growing recognition that the military, after initially supporting the revolution, has been back-pedalling ever since and in some ways is even more repressive than the old Mubarak regime. Military trials of civilians such as Alaa are the most obvious sign of that....."

Egypt: Prominent blogger and activist detained

"The authorities must stop trying civilians before unfair military courts, Amnesty International said today, after a prominent Egyptian blogger and activist was detained.

Alaa Abdel Fattah appeared before military prosecutors on Sunday, but refused to answer questions because of his opposition to civilians being tried before military courts.

The prosecution ordered his detention for 15 days pending further investigation. Activist Bahaa Saber, who was interrogated at the same time, also refused to be questioned and was released on bail.

Both men criticized the fact that the military is in charge of investigating the killing of at least 27 people on 9 October, when troops and riot police violently dispersed protests around the state television building, known as Maspero. The demonstrations were sparked by attacks on Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority.

The Egyptian military was part of the violence which occurred during the Maspero protests and is also leading the investigation into the bloodshed,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

This is totally unacceptable and raises serious and fundamental questions about the inquiry’s independence and impartiality.

“Egypt’s military authorities must allow an independent investigation into these killings if they are serious about bringing those responsible to justice.”....."

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

U.S. Pulls All Funding for UNESCO After Sweeping Vote to Support Palestinian Membership

"In an emotional—and largely symbolic—move, the United Nations cultural organization known as UNESCO overwhelmingly voted to grant membership to the Palestinians, despite opposition from the United States and Israel. Now the United States says it will cancel a $60 million payment due in November to the U.N. body. Membership dues paid by the U.S. account for about a fifth of UNESCO’s annual budget. The U.S. is also threatening to veto any Palestinian effort to be recognized by the U.N. Security Council as an independent state. "By going to UNESCO, this was a way both of gauging where the public opinion is among the various governments and, more importantly, symbolically for the world, showing that this is a moment of recognition that the 20-year-old U.S.-controlled so-called 'peace process' simply hasn’t worked," said Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies...."

As NATO Ends Libyan Bombing Campaign, Is the U.S. Seeking Greater Military Control of Africa?

"NATO ended its bombing campaign in Libya on Monday. Over the past seven months, NATO aircraft conducted more than 26,500 sorties, including 9,700 strike missions. NATO said it bombed 5,900 military targets inside the country. While NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen hailed the campaign as a success, many analysts say NATO’s intensive bombing campaign violated its U.N. mandate. "The role that NATO played in Libya has been a very, very problematic one, a very troubled one, and ultimately is going to have a very long-term, deleterious impact on Libya’s future," says Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies. "The notion that the NATO bombings somehow was to do nothing but protect civilians is simply not the case." Bennis said the Libyan revolution began as part of the Arab Spring, but the NATO intervention turned it into a "Western assault on another North African, Middle Eastern, Arab country." She also expresses alarm over the rising U.S. military presence in Africa. "Despite efforts to claim that AFRICOM [U.S. Africa Command] is really about healthcare and AIDS education and women’s rights, to be carried out by the U.S. military, we have a very serious reality that Africa now provides more oil to the United States than the entire Middle East."...."

Jonathan Steele on Afghanistan: “The War is Unwinnable: It is a Stalemate. There is No Victory”

"The U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, now entering its eleventh year, shows no sign of ending. On Saturday, 12 U.S. soldiers died in a suicide bombing in Kabul. It was deadliest single ground attack against NATO forces in the decade of war. To discuss Afghanistan, we speak with Jonathan Steele, a longtime correspondent for the The Guardian newspaper and author of the new book, "Ghosts of Afghanistan: The Haunted Battleground.” “The [U.S. military strategy] doesn’t work because you create new resistance by being there. So resistance comes 'cause you're there. You’re not there because of the resistance. The occupying force itself creates the resistance,” Steele said. “And so the crucial thing now is to recognize that the war is unwinnable: It is a stalemate. There is no victory."...."

Al-Jazeera Video: US cuts off UNESCO funding over Palestine vote

"The United States government has cut off funds to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural organisation (UNESCO), following the agency's admission of Palestine as a full member.

Washington's decision to withold $60m in funding, which is about one-quarter of UNESCO's annual budget, came after 107 out of 173 countries voted in favor of the Palestinian bid for statehood.

Although UNESCO's membership marks a small victory for Palestinian officials, it could help them protect more than 20 monumental Palestinian cultural and religious sites.

The US also condemned UNESCO's move, saying that it "undermines" the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians...."

Al-Jazeera Video: Yemeni protesters' deaths left out of media, activists say

"Yemen's opposition continues its struggle against President Ali Abdullah Saleh, but is the international media adequately covering the story?"

Al-Jazeera Video: Continuing the Egyptian revolution

"Egyptian actor, producer and activist Khaled Abol Naga discusses the progress of Egypt's revolution."

Not judges, but witnesses: the third Russell Tribunal on Palestine begins

The jury of the third session of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, taking place in Cape Town this week, will hear from individuals who experienced South African apartheid, fought against it and won.

Frank Barat
The Electronic Intifada, 31 October 2011

"“We do not represent any state power, nor can we compel the policy-makers responsible for crimes against the people of Vietnam to stand accused before us. We have no force majeure. The procedures of a trial are impossible to implement.”

With those words, the renowned philosopher Bertrand Russell opened the first Russell Tribunal on US war crimes committed in Vietnam in November 1966.

He immediately explained why these apparent limitations were in fact virtues: “We are free to conduct a solemn and historic investigation, uncompelled by reasons of state or other such obligations.”

A few months later, he opened the second session with the following words: “We are not judges. We are witnesses. Our task is to make mankind bear witness to these terrible crimes and to unite humanity on the side of justice in Vietnam.”

Move forward 45 years and replace the word Vietnam with the word Palestine, and his words could have been the perfect opening for the forthcoming third session of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, which will take place in Cape Town, South Africa from 5 to 7 November....."

The Pentagon-Arab Spring love story

By Pepe Escobar
Asia Times

"The Arab counter-revolution is stronger than ever - led by the House of Saud and its monarchy minions at the Gulf Cooperation Council. Their most precious ally is the Pentagon, as further militarization of the Persian Gulf - especially via more boots on the ground in Kuwait, and more warships - is being sold as a response to "a collapse of security in Iraq or a military confrontation with Iran".....

NATO will soon rule over the whole Mediterranean as a NATO lake. Africom is implanting itself deeper and deeper in Africa. Centcom rules the Persian Gulf with the GCC in tow. Democracy is for sissies; there's no business like the "security architecture" business."

History haunts Egypt's revolution

The Egyptian military's apparent reluctance to relinquish power has raised the spectre of what they did back in 1954

Magdi Abdelhadi, Monday 31 October 2011

"....No less important too is that the soldiers of today were all chosen in Mubarak's image – dull technocrats, uncharismatic and inarticulate. Compare that to the charismatic and fiery Nasser of the Fifties, and you realise that drawing upon the past has its limitations. It may help articulate fears and expectations of a given society, but fails to fully grasp the specificity of the present.

Yet such analogies throw into sharp focus some of the forces that have forged modern Egypt: the military and religion. Put simply, the solider and the imam, the gun and the pulpit. Renegotiating the balance of power between the two on the one hand, and between them and the wider society on the other is likely to continue to shape the nature of conflict in Egypt for some time to come."

Syria's Bashar al-Assad – an expert at buying time

The normality the regime is portraying belies the brutality Syrians suffer. It's time to stop giving Assad the benefit of the doubt

Fadwa al-Hatem, Monday 31 October 2011

"Repeating a tired mantra, each despot warns that he is different from the one before him. We were told that Egypt is not Tunisia, and that Libya is neither Tunisia nor Egypt. Syria's Bashar al-Assad is now telling the world that Syria is different, and that any threat to his rule will unleash an earthquake that would burn the Middle East.

Like Muammar Gaddafi before him, who threatened to set the Mediterranean on fire, Assad is now dealing his final card to the west and warns of fire and brimstone should anybody undermine his rule. The stubbornness of this man is breathtaking, but his warnings are not idle. Syria is at the crossroads of a civil war, and sectarian tensions have been deliberately stoked to an explosive point....

The cherry on the cake is when Assad himself then gives an interview or makes a speech – an event that is always preceded by his officials telling those who care to listen that the president will make startling revelations in the near future. Assad makes his speech or gives an interview, and political points are scored. Most importantly for the man, time is bought. Then with depressing familiarity the violence once again escalates and the cycle is repeated.

Today that cycle is entering its umpteenth turn, and like clockwork we see Assad's Telegraph interview, an interview with Shaaban in the Independent, and Robert Fisk in Damascus, asking people what they think of Gaddafi's death....."

Egyptian revolutionary Alaa Abd El Fattah arrested by junta

Mubarak opponent and blogger refuses to recognise authority of prosecutors after charge of inciting violence against military

Jack Shenker, Monday 31 October 2011

"One of Egypt's most prominent revolutionaries has been taken into custody by the country's military rulers, provoking the biggest crisis yet in relations between pro-change activists and the increasingly repressive army junta.

Alaa Abd El Fattah, a 29-year-old who has been at the forefront of anti-regime struggles for a decade and was a political prisoner during the Mubarak era, was arrested on Sunday on charges of inciting violence against the military. He refused to recognise the legitimacy of his interrogators or answer their questions and is set to be held for 15 days, a period that can be renewed indefinitely by the authorities.

Presidential candidate Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh condemned the detention as "a major setback for the Egyptian revolution", while a number of campaign groups – including the influential 6 April movement – immediately declared a policy of total non-co-operation with army prosecutors, putting them on a guaranteed collision course with the ruling generals.

"Abd El Fattah's targeting is only the latest example of the systematic targeting of journalists, media figures, bloggers and activists by SCAF [the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces]," said the 'No to Military Trials' group in a statement. "As of today we refuse to co-operate with the military prosecution of civilians and we call on all Egyptian citizens to stand with us … This is not the new Egypt we have fought and died for."...."

Syria: delaying the inevitable

Bashar al-Assad is the master of delay, delusion, and self-deception, as the isolation of his regime increases

Editorial, Monday 31 October 2011

"Eight months on, the uprising in Syria has changed. There is now a Free Syrian Army in Turkey claiming it has battalions across Syria. One such is the Khalid bin Walid battalion in Homs, a unit of several hundred army officers and soldiers who defected and now shoot back when demonstrations are fired on, ambush troop convoys, and kill regime informers....

There are few signs, however, that Syria's president Bashar al-Assad has changed. Like his fellow dictators in their final days, he is a man in denial. As 40 died at the hands of his security forces in the last few days, and Homs came under sustained assault, Assad talked in his interview with the Sunday Telegraph of a turning tide of support for the government, where the army were only targeting terrorists. In the past, an Assad speech promising reform or an interview saying he was ready to talk to the opposition was a sure prelude to yet another violent crackdown. This interview could turn out to be no different. He is the master of delay, delusion, and self-deception, as the isolation of his regime increases. Former allies peel away – first Turkey, then Saudi Arabia, and now the Arab League. But Assad was right on one point – if his regime fell the whole region would change. Unlike Egypt or Tunisia, Assad's Baáthist regime stands at the crossroads of a complex network of alliances....

There may be no alternative to civil war, but if there is, it will not be through intervention. It can only be achieved when Assad sees that he is finished, and that his only hope of survival is to agree to a transitional government and free elections."

Syria makes journalists disappear

The Guardian

"Business reporter Lina Saleh Ibrahim is the latest Syrian journalist to go missing.

The 31-year-old who works for the state-owned daily newspaper Tishreen has been missing for seven days. She was last seen leaving her Damascus home on 25 October.

On the same day, Wael Yousef Abaza - a freelancer who writes for several newspapers and Arabic news websites - was also reported to have disappeared in Damascus.

Their families have reported their disappearances to Syrian authorities but have not had a response.

Similarly, there is no information about Hussein Ghrer, a prominent blogger who vanished after leaving his home on 24 October.

A few days before, Ghrer wrote on his blog: "Silence doesn't serve us after today. We don't want a country where we get imprisoned for uttering a word. We want a country that embraces and welcomes words."

The New York-based press freedom watchdog, the Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) believes Ibrahim, Abaza and Ghrer are in state custody, but it has not been able to confirm their detention.

Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa programme coordinator, said: "The government must immediately clarify whether it is holding these journalists, and if so, why."

Several journalists have been detained by authorities since unrest erupted across Syria in March, and many remain in custody....."

Monday, October 31, 2011

Answering Judge Goldstone’s defense and denial of Israeli apartheid

What does it mean that Judge Richard Goldstone – he of the Goldstone report – has penned a desperate and propagandistic defense of Israel against what he calls the “apartheid slander” in The New York Times?
It’s a classic case of the judge doth protest too much:
One particularly pernicious and enduring canard that is surfacing again is that Israel pursues “apartheid” policies. In Cape Town starting on Saturday, a London-based nongovernmental organization called the Russell Tribunal on Palestine will hold a “hearing” on whether Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid. It is not a “tribunal.” The “evidence” is going to be one-sided and the members of the “jury” are critics whose harsh views of Israel are well known.
It is remarkable that Goldstone felt a need to launch a frontal attack on the Russell Tribunal in The New York Times. A more confident Israel (and its ardent supporters) would simply ignore it. It is a sign of weakness and panic – and therefore a good sign – that Israel is becoming hypersensitive to any and all criticism, just like apartheid South Africa in the decade before it was replaced by a democracy of all its citizens (Read Frank Barat’s op-ed on The Russell Tribunal here on The Electronic Intifada).
Goldstone attempts to argue – disingenuously – that there is no comparison to be made between Israel and apartheid South Africa:
In Israel, there is no apartheid. Nothing there comes close to the definition of apartheid under the 1998 Rome Statute: “Inhumane acts … committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.”
That is precisely what exists. Israel itself declares that it is a “Jewish state” and demands that Palestinians and the world recognize it as such. Stemming from this self-definition, which is based on a genetic, not voluntary, definition of who is a Jew, Israel claims the right to carry out all sorts of inhumane acts especially excluding indigenous Palestinians exiled from their land from returning solely because they are not Jews. Israel explicitly wants to maintain a Jewish majority in order to dominate and exclude Palestinians from having any effective political voice.
The monstrosity of Israel’s siege and war on Gaza exists precisely and only for this purpose. Did Goldstone ask himself how things would be different if the 1.6 million people – 80 percent of them refugees – corralled into Gaza were Jews? Of course Israel would welcome them back to their lands and villages with open arms, restore their property, and give them full political rights and a whole range of financial incentives.

UNESCO approves Palestinian membership bid

UN cultural body admits Palestine as full member despite US threat to cut off tens of millions of dollars in funding


"The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) voted on Monday to admit Palestine as a member, a move which will likely cause the US government to cut off tens of millions of dollars in annual funding.

The Palestinian bid received 107 "yes" votes during a UNESCO meeting in Paris, with 14 countries voting against and 52 abstaining, enough to satisfy a two-thirds majority of those countries present and voting.

The decision grants full membership to Palestine, which allows them to register certain sites, like the Church of the Nativity, in UNESCO's World Heritage register.....

Israel, not surprisingly, voted against the measure, as did the United States, Canada and several European countries, including Germany. The United Kingdom abstained, while France voted in favour...."