Saturday, December 31, 2011

Welcome to 2012

Happy New Year from Chris Riddell, Saturday 31 December 2011

(Click on cartoon to enlarge)

Al-Jazeera Video: Families of Egypt bombing victims blame Mubarak

"The bombing of a Coptic Church in the Egyptian city of Alexandria last New Year's Eve left 21 people dead and divided communities along sectarian lines.

The government of former President Hosni Mubarak blamed Salafists, an ultra-conservative Islamic sect.

But others believe the former interior minister was involved. So far no one has been prosecuted for the attack.

Al Jazeera's Jamal ElShayyal reports from Alexandria."

Al-Jazeera Video: Arab mission warns Syria as opposition unites

Al-Jazeera Video: Largest Syrian opposition groups sign unity agreement

Al-Jazeera Video: Inside Story - Egypt's NGO crackdown

Imperialism and the “Anti-Imperialism of the Fools”

By James Petras

"One of the great paradoxes of history are the claims of imperialist politicians to be engaged in a great humanitarian crusade, a historic “civilizing mission” designed to liberate nations and peoples, while practicing the most barbaric conquests, destructive wars and large scale bloodletting of conquered people in historical memory.....This essay will concentrate on analyzing contemporary US imperial ideological arguments for legitimizing wars and sanctions to sustain dominance.....

Over the past four decades US imperialism has fomented at least two dozen “grass roots” movements which have destroyed democratic governments, or decimated collectivist welfare states or provoked major damage to the economy of targeted countries.....

The imperial “grass roots” strategy combines humanitarian, democratic and anti-imperialist rhetoric and paid and trained local NGO’s, with mass media blitzes to mobilize Western public opinion and especially “prestigious leftist moral critics” behind their power grabs.....

... Hopefully, the progressive and leftist writers and scribes will learn from the ideological pitfalls of the past and resist the temptation to access the mass media by providing a ‘progressive cover’ to imperial dubbed “rebels”. It is time to distinguish between genuine anti-imperialism and pro-democracy movements and those promoted by Washington, NATO and the mass media. "

Bonfire of the dictators

In the last part of our series, Robert Fisk ponders the fate of the despots who fought grimly against a revolutionary tide

By Robert Fisk
Saturday 31 December 2011

"How come they lasted so long?

We are so keen to analyse the revolutions that tore the Middle East's dictatorships apart this year that we have forgotten the record of endurance of these vicious men and their sheer, dogged, ruthless power to survive.....

If the local Genghis Khan appears to be winning, and especially if he's got lots of oil, then you can militarily help the rebels by trying to kill your former ally. This is especially useful if you have previously slobbered all over him in your desire to steal his country's natural resources.

The Blair-Cameron Punch-and-Judy show with the author of the Green Book is a text-book example....

There is, of course, another pre-planned path for Western leaders: rage against oil-poor dictators who kill their fellow countrymen, but call for them to "step aside" rather than "step down" (Assad) if you or your local ally (Israel) fear that their replacement might prove a lot worse. If, on the other hand, they are immensely wealthy and also strategically useful (Bahrain), you may criticise them, but under no circumstances call for their overthrow. Ditto for Saudi Arabia and all the other glittering kingdoms of the Gulf.

And advice for both Arabs and the Western leaders who rule them by proxy. Be patient. The Bahrainis rose up too soon. The Egyptians rather late. But revolutions are often followed by counter-revolutions (Field-Marshal Tantawi and the Muslim Brotherhood versus the revolutionaries of Tahrir Square, for example, soon to be followed by Tantawi versus the Brotherhood) and they go on for a long, long time. We journalists like to have neat, date-packaged stories, to wrap up revolutions by edition times when in fact – oh, woe betide all editors – the Arab Awakening will continue long after we have died of old age.

So this is a column to cut out and keep over the next year. Read, learn and inwardly digest. And if you really can't make out right now whose side to support or desert, call for "both sides to exercise restraint" until you've made up your mind. Touche."

Leading article: Alarming signs of a whitewash in Syria

The Independent

"The Arab League monitoring mission in Syria is in danger of descending into bloody farce.

The 60-strong delegation is there to oversee a peace plan, to which the regime has nominally agreed, requiring troops and heavy weapons to be withdrawn from Syrian cities. But far from quelling the violence that has claimed more than 5,000 lives since March, the first week of the month-long visit has seen an escalation in tension, which culminated in clashes between government forces and tens of thousands of demonstrators yesterday.

That the violence has increased is, in itself, no indictment of the observers. Protesters have taken to the streets in greater numbers precisely because the foreign team is there, in the hope of either provoking a repressive response from the government, or of passing unmolested and so drawing more people to their banners. Rather more alarming are the complaints that the observers' movements are restricted by the security services, that there has been limited engagement with protesters, and that civilians have been shot in cities even while monitors were visiting them. Such criticisms require immediate answers if the integrity of the mission is to be maintained.

Most disturbing of all, however, are the comments from General Mustafa al-Dabi, the head of the delegation, describing the situation in Homs as "reassuring" even as film footage surfaced that appeared to show his monitors witnessing heavy gunfire and civilian casualties....

Unless General Dabi is replaced and the Arab League mission put on a footing more clearly independent of the Assad regime, it will forfeit all credibility. And with Syrians losing their lives at the hands of their government on a daily basis, an international whitewash is not just immoral but actively counterproductive."

Egypt: National and International Human Rights Organizations are Under Attack

Joint Urgent Appeal
December 29, 2011

"......We strongly condemn the ongoing crackdown on NGOs in Egypt and view it as a way in which these organizations might face trumped-up charges linked with criminal offenses, in an attempt to provide a scapegoat to provide impunity for the SCAF and Egyptian authorities and to silence voices critical of ongoing human rights violations. These attacks constitute a severe violation of the right to Freedom of Association, as provided in Article 22 of the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and fall within the general policies of the government of Egypt and the SCAF to undermine public freedoms in the Country. During the past 10 months of military rule, the SCAF has been accused of conducting activities hostile to human rights and fundamental freedoms: the SCAF has been accused of using live ammunition against peaceful protestors, torturing political detainees, and referring more than 12000 civilians to military trials. We call on the SCAF and the Egyptian government to immediately halt its attacks on the above-mentioned NGOs and to refrain from attacking additional NGOs in Egypt."

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)

Human Rights Watch (HRW)

East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP)

Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS)

Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR)

Asian Legal Resource Centre

Saudi Arabia: Renewed Protests Defy Ban

Release Imprisoned Advocates of Peaceful Reform
December 30, 2011

"(Beirut) – Saudi reform advocates have staged several protests since mid-December, 2011, despite a categorical ban on protests issued last March, Human Rights Watch said today. In Riyadh, Buraida, and Qatif, security forces immediately arrested the protesters, who were peacefully protesting the detention without trial of hundreds of people held for long periods in intelligence prisons.

Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry should immediately release scores of detained and convicted peaceful advocates of reform, Human Rights Watch said.

Saudi Arabia is not immune to the Arab Spring,” said Christoph Wilcke, senior Middle East researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The basic human right to protest peacefully is all the more important in a place like Saudi Arabia, where there are almost no other means of participating in public affairs.”...."

Current Al-Jazeera (Arabic) Online Poll

Do you believe that the Arab people will see more of their aspirations fulfilled in 2012?

With about 200 responding (it is early), 89% said yes.

Friday, December 30, 2011

حديث الثورة - قراءة تحليلية لحصاد عام 2011عام الثورات

حديث الثورة - قراءة تحليلية لحصاد عام 2011عام الثورات

عزمي بشارة

Video: شام - حلب - مارع - لا تـبـيـعـوا دمـائــنـــا 30-12-2011

شام - ادلب - حشود المتظاهرين لحظة وصول اللجنة 30-12

شام - مدينة إدلب - إطلاق النار في جمعة الزحف 30-12

Arab League presence gives cover to Syrian protesters

Demonstrations across the country with the most defiant protests taking place where the Arab League monitors were present

Martin Chulov in Beirut, Friday 30 December 2011

"The largest demonstrations in Syria since the summer have laid siege to parts of Damascus and most key towns and cities, emboldened by Arab League monitors whose presence appeared to provide protesters with cover from regime gunmen.

An estimated 500,000 people are thought to have taken to the streets across the country, with the largest and most defiant protests taking place in areas where the observers were present.

The touring members of the Arab League states could not stop the bloodshed, however, with opposition groups claiming up to 31 people were killed nationwide. Almost all deaths were reportedly in areas that the 60-man delegation is yet to visit.

At least four areas of Damascus and parts of Syria's second city, Aleppo, were occupied by large groups of demonstratorsa marked difference from the time when rallies only took place in the south and west of the country.

The main opposition group inside Syria, the Local Co-ordination Committees, claimed that 150,000 people were chanting in front of monitors in the capital, with security forces watching on.

The open defiance in the regime's power bases suggests that the support which President Bashar al-Assad had regularly boasted of in the capital may not be iron-clad. Opposition activists in Douma in northern Damascus said up to 24 protesters were wounded there by nail bombs thrown into the crowd.

Two key opposition cities, Deraa in the south, where the uprising began, and Homs near the Lebanese border, which has become the centre of the nine-month revolt, were heaving with demonstrators chanting anti-regime slogans and waving a national flag last flown before the Assad clan swept to power in Syria more than 40 years ago....."

Celebrate Now! The Clown King is the New Host of Hamas! Qatar Paid The Clown Over $1 Billion for That; Any Higher Bids?? The Clown Will Consider.

عائلات قادة الحركة يتسربون بالجملة لعمان والدوحة ومكاتب دمشق خالية ولا يوجد بها سوى 'الغفارة'
السعودية لن تدعم الانفتاح الاردني على حماس قبل تفكيك علاقاتها بايران

"عمان ـ 'القدس العربي': الرسائل والاشارات التي تصل عمان من الرياض توحي بان المملكة العربية السعودية متحفظة او على الاقل مترددة فيما يخص دعم خطط الاردن للانفتاح على حركة حماس واحتضانها مجددا سياسيا ولوجستيا.
وما يصل للاردنيين من ايحاءات صادرة عن مكتب وزير الخارجية السعودي الامير سعود الفيصل، يتضمن رسالة مباشرة تقول بان الرياض وفي هذه المرحلة تقترح تأجيل العودة السياسية لقادة حركة حماس للساحة الاردنية، ووقف اندفاع الوساطة القطرية والاقتصار في هذه المرحلة على العودة الانسانية ذات الطابع الانساني بتلك النسخة التي يبشر بها رئيس الوزراء الاردني عون الخصاونة.
وطوال الاسابيع القليلة الماضية تسربت عائلات شخصيات مهمة في حركة حماس الى بلدان مجاورة لسورية، من بينها الاردن ومصر ولبنان، مع عدد كبير وصل قطر فعلا ويبحث عن مكان للاستقرار فيه.
وحسب مصدر مقرب جدا من الحكومة الاردنية تحدث لـ'القدس العربي'، فان زوجات واطفال عدد كبير من قادة حماس في مكاتب دمشق غادروا فعلا، وان عددا لا يستهان به دخل الاردن فعلا وحصل على جوازات سفر اردنية، ومن تبقى في مكاتب دمشق عمليا بعد هذه الهجرة البطيئة هم بعض العاملين وبعض قيادات الصف الثاني بحيث يقترب وجود حماس اليوم من الاقتصار على 'غفارة' سياسية في مكاتب حماس.
ويبدو ان استضافة العائلات وتوفير ملاذات انسانية لعناصر حماس في دمشق خطوة يوافق عليها الجانب السعودي فيما يخص مشروع الاردن وقطر لانجاز عودة سياسية لقادة حماس الى الساحة الاردنية، والرياض هنا تتحفظ على العودة السياسية ولا تعارض الانسانية.
وفي الكواليس ثمة شرط سعودي يحذر الاردن من التطبيع المباشر والسريع مع حماس، فالحكومة الاردنية تلاحظ بان تناغماتها مع قادة حماس لم تحصل مثلها اطلاقا على الجانب السعودي، فكل النوافذ السعودية لا زالت مغلقة امام قادة حماس والزعيم السياسي للحركة خالد مشعل اشتكى مؤخرا لشخصية سياسية اردنية من ان الاخوة في الرياض اغلقوا حتى قناتين قديمتين 'كنا نتبادل عبرهما الرسائل'.
ولا يخفي السعوديون شرطهم بان تتخلص حماس تماما من علاقتها الايرانية حتى تتلقى الاتصالات منها، وهو امر حاول مشعل ورفاقه شرحه بالاشارة الى ان المسألة دعوة ضمنية للانتحار، فمن غير الممكن مغادرة دمشق والانقلاب على طهران فجأة ومن دون مبررات وحتى من دون التزام برعاية سعودية مقابلة.
لهذه الاسباب وعلى نطاق واسع يمكن ملاحظة حجم السعي الاردني للتأمل والتفكير قبل الاستجابة الكاملة للوساطة القطرية التي تقترح تحولا شاملا في العلاقات السياسية بين الاردن وقادة حماس، وهو امر يتوقعه ويلمح اليه حتى الناطق باسم الحكومة الاردنية راكان المجالي ووزراء اخرون.
لكن القيادي الاسلامي والوكيل القانوني لحركة حماس في الاردن المحامي موسى العبداللات يبدو مستعدا للقول بان الوساطة القطرية نجحت فعلا ليس فقط بترتيب العلاقات بين الاردن وحماس، ولكن باقناع السلطات الاردنية بتطوير هذه العلاقات والتجاوز السريع لخلافات السنوات الماضية.
ورفض العبداللات عندما سألته 'القدس العربي' توضيح مقاصده عن التطوير الذي يلمح اليه وسقفه لكنه قال: اتوقع في المستقبل الوشيك لقاء بين الاخ مشعل وصانع القرار الاردني برعاية قطرية، وعلينا الا ننسى ان حماس اصبحت لاعبا مهما في الاقليم بعد المصالحة والتطورات الاخيرة وخصوصا الربيع العربي.

Al-Jazeera Video: Activists hold mass rallies across Syria

"Massive street demonstrations have erupted across Syria - after anti-government groups called for a show of strength.

They said they wanted to make clear to visiting Arab League observers just how desperate their situation is.

Amid the protests, activists reported the deaths of at least 32 people on Friday.

Al Jazeera's Dorsa Jabbari reports from Beirut in neighbouring Lebanon."

Al-Jazeera Cartoon: 2011, the Year in Review

Al-Jazeera Video: Empire - The decline of the American empire


Panel Includes:

Tom Engelhardt,
Stephen M. Walt

Al-Jazeera Video: Syrian activists call for more protests

"The nine-month old uprising is said to have been further emboldened by the presence of 60 Arab League monitors who arrived in Syria at the beginning of the week.

Their brief is to spearhead the implementation of a peace plan --

But with continuing daily confrontations and the observers accompanied by government security and officials some believe they will not see the full picture.

Meanwhile, Syrian activists are calling for more protests across the country on Friday.

They say they want Arab League monitors to take action to end the violence.

At least 38 people were killed by security forces on Thursday.

Al Jazeera's Nick Toksvig reports."

Al-Jazeera Video: Egypt security forces storm NGO offices

"Egyptian security forces have stormed the offices of 17 human rights and pro-democracy groups.The ruling military said it is investigating how the groups are funded.

At least two US rights groups - the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI) - were targeted in the operation.

The US expressed deep concern over the raids and urged Egyptian authorities to immediately halt "harassment" of non-governmental organisation staff.

The US state department said the raids were "inconsistent with the bilateral cooperation we have had over many years", hinting it could review its military aid if they continued.

Al Jazeera's Tom Ackerman reports."

الخيار الثوري المدني في سوريا

ومن حسن الحظ أن أهم فصائل المعارضة الديمقراطية تتفق اليوم على التزام مؤسسات الدولة والسلطة السياسية بما يلي:

أ- الشعب مصدر السلطات وأساس الشرعية.
ب- استقلال سوريا وسيادتها ووحدتها، شعبا وأرضا.
ج- تأصيل فصل السلطات الثلاث: التشريعية، والتنفيذية، والقضائية.
د- حماية أسس الديمقراطية المدنية (وبشكل أساسي حرية التعبير والتنظيم والتجمهر والتعددية السياسية والتداول على السلطة، واللا مركزية الإدارية).
هـ- التأكيد على أن الوجود القومي الكردي جزء أساسي وتاريخي من النسيج الوطني السوري.
و- المواطنون متساوون أمام القانون في الواجبات والحقوق المدنية والسياسية والاقتصادية والثقافية والاجتماعية. حرية الدين والاعتقاد مكفولة في الدستور، وتحترم الشعائر والطقوس الدينية والمذهبية، مع نزع القداسة عن العمل السياسي والمدني.
ز- نبذ العنف والتمييز القومي والطائفي والديني والجنسي، والوقوف ضد الإرهاب والاستئصال والفساد، وكذلك ضد الانتقام والثأر. وإلغاء القوانين والقرارات الاستثنائية الصادرة في ظل الدكتاتورية، ومباشرة العمل لمعالجة آثارها في إطار لجنة مصالحة وإنصاف وطنية.
ح- التمسك بالتراب الوطني وتحرير الأرض السورية، وإقامة علاقات أخوة وتعاون مع الدول العربية، وعلاقات متينة ومتكافئة مع الدول الإقليمية، وتعاون واحترام متبادل مع دول العالم، لتأخذ سوريا الديمقراطية موقعها الفاعل في المجتمع العربي والإقليمي والدولي، بما يخدم المصالح الوطنية العليا والأمن والاستقرار في المنطقة والعالم.
ط- الالتزام بدعم الشعب الفلسطيني وحقّه في إنشاء دولته الحرّة السيّدة المستقلّة وعاصمتها القدس، وكذلك دعم كلّ الشعوب العربية والمظلومة في تطلّعاتها التحررية ومناهضة الاستبداد.
ي- الالتزام بالمواثيق والاتفاقيات الدولية وميثاق الأمم المتحدة وميثاق الجامعة العربية والشرعة الدولية لحقوق الإنسان.
ك- الاستفادة من كافة الكوادر والطاقات السورية، داخل وخارج البلاد، من أجل إنجاح المرحلة الانتقالية وبناء الديمقراطية في الجمهورية السورية الثانية.

إن تمسك الكتل الكبيرة للمعارضة السورية (هيئة التنسيق الوطنية، المجلس الوطني السوري، الشخصيات العامة الاعتبارية...) بهذه الثوابت يجعل من الممكن الانتقال إلى شكل أرقى للعمل المشترك بين أطراف المعارضة الوطنية السورية.

Egypt's raids on NGOs are about control

SCAF, while feasting on billions in US military support:"Those traitors who take US money want to ruin the country!"

Restricting NGO funding is typical of authoritarian regimes happy to take foreign aid but less happy about human rights

Brian Whitaker, Friday 30 December 2011

"Imagine you live in Saudi Arabia and want to start a discussion group with some friends. The only way to do it legally is to ask the king's permission....

In most Arab states any sort of civil society organisation, even something as innocent as a youth group or stamp-collecting club, has to be registered with the authorities, and if the authorities don't like the sound of it they may refuse or simply ignore the request, leaving the applicants in a legal limbo.

In Bahrain and Oman they can refuse permission on the grounds that the organisation is unnecessary or, in Oman's case, "for any other reasons" decided upon by the ministry of social affairs. In Qatar, if a society wants to admit non-Qatari members it must ask the prime minister first.

The right of people to get together in pursuit of shared interests or purposes is one of the building blocks of freedom. Exercising that right is the essence of civil society activity, and you can't have a flourishing democracy without a flourishing civil society.

That is why authoritarian regimes are wary of NGOs and other civil society organisations, and why they seek to control or restrict them. Such activities are viewed as subversive because they undermine the idea that the authorities always know best. Even charitable work can be considered dangerous if it draws attention to the government's failure to provide basic services.....

In Syria, Jordan and Qatar (plus Egypt under Mubarak) the nation's charitable efforts are dominated by the ruler's wife....

Viewed in this context, the raiding of NGO offices in Egypt on Thursday is not especially surprising – though, of course, one of the main goals of the revolution was to put an end to such dictatorial practices, and the raiding of 17 NGOs in a single day was unprecedented, even during the Mubarak years.....

It's a spurious argument. The idea that NGOs should not be funded from abroad holds no water at all when the Egyptian military themselves are perfectly happy to accept American taxpayers' money, and in fact depend on it. Since 1975, Egypt has received well over $50bn in US aid – much of it military. Against that, the $40m recently allocated by the US to promote democracy and human rights in Egypt is a drop in the ocean.

The real issue is not an objection to foreign money on principle. The Egyptian military want it and need it, but they also want to determine how it shall be spent. And they would rather have it spent on weapons than on irritating little NGOs that keep bleating about democracy and human rights."

Riding Israel: A tragicomedy

Senior political analyst explains why Newt Gingrich is no Tom Cruise, and why touting Israel is a mission impossible.

By Marwan Bishara


".....One mission too many

Generally speaking, the pro-Israeli adage and sound-bites are the brainchild of Israel lobbyists and Republican like Frank Luntz.But even Luntz has warned: "Don’t pretend that Israel is without mistakes or fault. It’s not true and no one believes it".In his how-to-market-Israel guide, he adds, "We’re at a time in history when Jews in general (and Israelis in particular) are no longer perceived as the persecuted people. In fact, among American and European audiences -sophisticated, educated, opinionated, non-Jewish audiences - Israelis are often seen as the occupiers and the aggressors. With that kind of baggage, it is critical that messages from the pro-Israel spokespeople not come across as supercilious or condescending."Tell that to the Republican candidates.

Defending the Israel right-wing coalition in the Western public sphere is becoming "mission impossible" with "the thrills and fun are quite few and far between".

This past week provided an excellent example. Hamas leader Khalid Masha’al reconciles with President Mahmoud Abbas, accepts a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, and adopts popular non-violent resistance while Israel’s military Chief of Staff Benny Gantz warned that Israel will attack Hamas controlled Gaza 'sooner or later' while his government announced the construction of new illegal settlements in the West Bank.

But those presidential candidates, desperate for the organizational, media and financial support of the Israel Lobby, are not concerned with any of any such developments. They will "love Israel to death", literally the death of Palestinians or Israelis.

That starts with "increasing all strategic aid in all forms" to "moving our embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem", moves through denying Palestinian human and national rights, and ends with threats of bombing Iran.

The comedy of "outloving" Israel was best captured by US comedian Jon Stewart who graded Republican presidential candidates statements on Israel according to a Yarmulkometer."

Thursday, December 29, 2011

حديث الثورة - تطورات الثورة السورية في ظل بعثة المراقبي

Cameraphones capture the images of the year – in pictures

Cameraphones have entered the mainstream of photojournalism with a huge rise in the number of images published by the media this year due to a combination of the Arab uprisings, the Occupy protests and improved mobile technology, Thursday 29 December 2011

(8 images)

20 October 2011: A National Transition Council fighter pulls Muammar Gaddafi on to a miltary vehicle in Sirte in this still image taken from video

Guardian Video: Syrian soldier aims gun at young boy

A Syrian soldier appears to be taking aim at a young boy during a protest in Deraa, Syria, in this video posted on YouTube., Thursday 29 December 2011

Egypt raids on NGOs hint at wider crackdown

Even charitable work can be a sensitive matter in Arab regimes if it highlights the state's failure to provide basic services

Brian Whitaker, Thursday 29 December 2011

"Arab regimes have always been wary of civil society organisations. A flourishing civil society promotes active citizenship, undermining the idea that the ruling elites know best. Even charitable work, unthreatening and apolitical as it might seem, can be a sensitive matter if it highlights the state's failure to provide basic services.

For that reason, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Arab countries – if they are allowed at all – usually need a government permit. In Egypt, a complex legal framework minutely regulates their activities, management and finances, making it easy to harass or close them down on some technicality if the authorities take a dislike to them.

One Egyptian NGO, the Nadim centre, which provides medical and other support for victims of torture, was raided a few years ago and threatened with prosecution on a host of charges, including possession of a questionnaire about torture and books about human rights, without a permit. After a public outcry, the list was reduced to just two alleged violations: not having a first-aid kit or a fire extinguisher (both of which were on the premises at the time).....

Though occasional raids cause little surprise, the simultaneous raids on several organisations on Thursday are very unusual and suggest a concerted attempt to crack down on them...."

Egypt court acquits policemen of killing protesters


"CAIRO: An Egyptian court acquitted five police officers of killing protesters during the 18 days of protests that eventually ousted former President Hosni Mubarak on February 11, state television reported.

The announcement was met with widespread anger from activists who have long demanded justice against the police for shooting and killing protesters during the January and February uprising.

It is another setback in our struggle to have our families receive justice for those who killed Egyptian citizens,” said Mohamed Radwan, the brother of a protester who was shot dead by police on February 2 of this year.

“This just shows we have returned to life under dictatorship,” he told

Explaining its ruling, the court said that the policemen had acted in self-defence [A term borrowed from the IOF] after they were attacked on January 28 in Cairo’s working-class district of al-Sayeda Zeinab, the television said....."

Syrian Activist Speaks Out From Hiding As Arab League Mission Fails to Slow Deadly Crackdown

"Syrian troops continue to fire on protesters despite a visit by Arab League monitors to assess the Assad regime’s compliance with a plan to resolve the country’s political crisis. More than 5,000 people have been killed in the nine-month-long uprising. We’re joined from Damascus by Bassel, a Syrian activist and filmmaker just back from the city of Homs, where three dozen people were reportedly killed the day before monitors arrived. Speaking from hiding, Bassel says the violence in Homs is threatening a civil war pitting local civilians and Army deserters against the security forces. We’re also joined by Karam Nachar, a U.S.-based Syrian cyber-activist who details how he is working with Syrian protesters via social media platforms to organize and get out images of the protests and the Assad regime’s crackdown...."

Al-Jazeera Video: Syria's opposition question Arab mission

"At least 13 people were killed in Syria on Wednesday, activists said, as Arab League observers continued their mission to visit flashpoint cities in the country.

Against this backdrop, the opposition is questioning the suitability of some of the people on the team overseeing the regional bloc's plan aimed at putting an end to President Bashar al-Assad's crackdown on protests.

Others are calling the mission a farce and accusing the government of trying to bide time and avoid more international condemnation.

Many anti-government protesters say that whatever the mission finds, they remain steadfast in their drive to end Assad's rule.

Al Jazeera's Charles Stratford reports."

Real News Video: US Wars Far From Over

David Swanson: Leadership of both parties committed to a militarist agenda

More at The Real News

Arab League "Observers" Taken for a Tour By the Bloody Rabbit, by Emad Hajjaj

The Head of the observers team said that the situation in Homs, "is not frightening!"

Which tyrant will fall next?

The Year of Revolution: As the leaders of Syria and Bahrain cling to power, Patrick Cockburn explains how they have managed to resist the protesters – and wonders whether they can survive another 12 months

By Patrick Cockburn

"....In Syria and Bahrain religious identity helps explain loyalty to the powers-that-be. Protesters in Bahrain might insist that their programme was secular and democratic, but everybody knew that a fair poll would affect revolutionary change by putting the majority Shia in power instead of the minority Sunni. In Syria, similarly, democracy means that the Sunni, three quarters of the population, would effectively replace the Alawites, a heterodox Shia sect, as rulers of the state.

This does not mean that the demonstrators in both countries had a secret sectarian agenda. It was simply that political divisions already ran along sectarian lines. In Bahrain the security forces were almost entirely Sunni. As the year went on sectarian hatreds became starker.....

The bright hopes of the Arab Spring are vanishing and peaceful protests may have had their day across the region as civil confrontation threatens to turn into civil war."

United States as a global power: new world disorder

The US is struggling with a paradox: while its military power retains global reach, its role as world leader is gradually ending

Editorial, Wednesday 28 December 2011

".....Military overreach and serial economic crises have bequeathed us a generation of small leaders who battle with events that outsize them. They have stopped trying to fashion them, but appeal instead to a defensive desire. Protectionism not internationalism rules the day. The Middle East has been transformed from a zone of allies to one in which Washington has been reduced to the role of spectator. It is now largely a taker of Middle Eastern policy, not one of its makers. There are other parts of the globe where US power projection finds natural allies, such as the Pacific, where China's rise is feared. So the paradox is that while US military power retains global reach (it is working on supersonic cruise missiles, and long-range drones) its stewardship as world leader, as a generator of the next big idea, is gradually ending. There may come a time when international institutions are rebuilt to fill this vacuum. But that time is not yet. Until then, a new world disorder would be nearer the mark."

Egypt police raid offices of human rights groups in Cairo

US National Democratic Institute among organisations targeted as part of investigation into funding of civic society groups

Peter Beaumont, Thursday 29 December 2011

"Egyptian security forces have launched raids on a series of high-profile human rights and pro-democracy organisations based in Cairo, including the US National Democratic Institute, founded by former secretary of state Madeleine Albright, and the International Republican Institute.

During the raids riot police confined staff to their offices and forbid them from making phone calls. About half a dozen Egyptian and international groups were targeted as part of a widespread investigation into foreign funding of Egyptian civic society groups.

The raids on NDI and IRI, however, both of which have received US state department funding for their operations, will be bound to cause friction with the US government, which underwrites military aid to Egypt to the sum of $1.3bn (£843m) annually.

In recent months, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has accused local non-governmental organisations of receiving money from abroad, and has argued that the recent unrest in the country is by "foreign hands"......"

Palestinians hoping to leave Gaza Strip asked to collaborate with Israel

Patients in need of treatment across border among those targeted by Israeli intelligence agency, says human rights group

Phoebe Greenwood in Gaza City, Wednesday 28 December 2011

"Palestinian patients and business people hoping to leave the Gaza Strip are being asked to collaborate with Israel in exchange for an exit permit, a leading Israeli human rights organisation claims.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) say that 172 people, mostly men aged 18 to 40, were called for interrogation by the Shabak, Israel's internal intelligence agency, last month. Some who attended interviews were granted exit permits.

Three years on from Operation Cast Lead, Israeli informers play a critical role in monitoring militant cells in the Gaza Strip. Senior sources within the Israeli Defence Forces say a ground operation is more likely now than at any point since the December 2008 offensive. As tensions simmer, collaborators are an invaluable resource....."

The Bahrain Uprising in Numbers

by Rannie Amiri, December 29, 2011

"Population of Bahrain: 1.2 million

Number of citizens: 535,000

Percentage of citizens who are Shia Muslim: 70

Percentage of those in government: 13
Of the 1,000 National Security Apparatus employees, percentage who are non-Bahraini: 64

Percentage who are Shia Bahraini: less than 5
Day pro-democracy protests began in Bahrain as part of the Arab Spring: Feb. 14, 2011

People who took to the streets: 300,000

Proportional equivalent if Egyptians had done likewise: 40 million
People killed since Feb. 14: 50

Fatalities as a result of tear gas shot into residential homes or birdshot fired at close range: 30

Age of youngest victim: 5 days

Arbitrary arrests: 1,500

Civilians sentenced by military courts: 208

Physicians sentenced for offering medical treatment to demonstrators: 20

Cumulative jail terms levied: 2,500 years
Bahraini officials held responsible for killings or the systemic use of torture: 0

Mosques destroyed: 40+

Journalists targeted: 90+
Bahrain’s rank among countries in political prisoners per capita: 1st

Proposed U.S. arms sales to Bahrain: $53 million

Years the al-Khalifa family has ruled Bahrain: 228

Days left in power: numbered"

Hamas and the Arab Spring

The Arab Spring is an opportunity to mend fortunes by rebranding Palestinian politics for statehood and good governance.

Larbi Sadiki

"Exeter, United Kingdom - On a "win-loss" scale, Hamas features more as amongst the "winners" not "losers" of the Arab Spring. Ismail Haniyeh's current diplomacy "shuttle" around several Arab capitals is designed, amongst other things, as a declaratory policy embracing the Arab Spring.

However, the embrace remains a little ill-defined around the edge, and faces many challenges......

Favoured by the Arab Spring geography more than Fatah, Hamas must do two things: practice power-sharing with Fatah and work to this end. In the footsteps of other Islamists from Morocco to Egypt, power-sharing and pluralism are the name of the political game. Islamists need the liberals and the secularists to construct democratic order. It applies to the EMB, which has elevated it to an art in a short time span, and equally to Hamas.

Hamas knows its affairs better, and there are all kinds of hidden matters along the spectrum of political calculus, but now that it is almost entirely out of Syria, it should condemn the Syrian regime. Even if it may hang out in power for longer than expected, it is a doomed regime. Haniyeh, amongst other Palestinian leaders, has been clear about their support for the Arab Spring. Syria remains a difficult test, but one that requires a moral stand.

The Palestinians have for so long been left to a dire state of dehumanised existence at the mercy of local, regional and international political vicissitudes and whims.

The Arab Spring is both an opportunity for mending fortunes, and a test to rise to, by rebranding Palestinian politics for the tasks of statehood and good governance."

Q&A Noam Chomsky: Dictatorships, US relations & state propaganda

Al-Masry Al-Youm

"....Recently, he offered to share his personal views on post-Mubarak Egypt with Egypt Independent.

Egypt Independent:
What is your view on the unfolding of events regarding the military’s transitional period? And where do you think the US stands on this?

Noam Chomsky: From the outset, there has been every reason to expect that the US and the military, which are of course closely allied, would do what they can to limit functioning democracy.

Egypt Independent: For what particular reasons, in your opinion?

Chomsky: The military, for obvious reasons: they want to maintain the maximum of political control and protect their considerable economic interests. The US government, for a range of reasons: The narrowest is that they are well aware of Egyptian public opinion, as reported in polls run by the most prestigious US polling agencies, and the last thing they want is for those opinions to be reflected in policy, as would happen in a functioning democracy. The broader reason is that in general, democracy is considered a threat to power interests, at home as well. Abroad, it is well-established in mainstream scholarship that the US has supported democracy if and only if it conforms to strategic and economic interests, and there isn’t the slightest evidence that these understandable, if deplorable, commitments have changed......"

The Real Agenda of the M.B. : Peace With Israel and War on the Seculars!

Leading Brotherhood figure: Yes, we'll prohibit booze

Al-Masry Al-Youm

"“We'll prohibit alcohol,” said Sobhi Saleh, a leading figure of the Muslim Brotherhood at a Tuesday rally in New Valley, an area west of Cairo.

“Tourism does not mean nudity and drunkenness,” he added. “We Egyptians are the greatest religious people, and we don’t need that.”

Saleh also said the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party will apply Islamic Sharia law. “It was planned since 1928,” he said. “But Islam is the solution.”

He accused Mubarak regime remnants of inciting violence on Mohamed Mahmoud Street and in front of the cabinet building.

His colleague, Khaled Ouda, said they want to damage the economy. “They want the people to blame us when we find no money to pay wages when we come to power,” he claimed."

قيادي إسرائيلي يطالب عائلة مبارك بإعادة 300 مليون دولار منحت لتغيير المناهج المصرية

قيادي إسرائيلي يطالب عائلة مبارك بإعادة 300 مليون دولار منحت لتغيير المناهج المصرية
قيادي إسرائيلي يطالب عائلة مبارك بإعادة 300 مليون دولار منحت لتغيير المناهج المصرية

أفاد موقع "تلفزيون نابلس" الإلكتروني ان القيادي في حزب العمل بنيامين بن أليعزر طالب مؤخرأً الرئيس المصري المخلوع حسني مبارك بـإعادة 300 مليون دولار، كان الجانب الإسرائيلي قد أنفقها لتغيير المناهج التعليمية في مصر، بهدف الحد من العداء لإسرائيل.

وفي السياق ذاته يجري جهاز رقابي كبير في مصر تحقيقات بما يعرف بفضيحة تغيير المناهج، التي تشير الأنباء الى تورط سوزان مبارك، زوجة الرئيس المصري المخلوع فيها. ويضم ملف التحقيق تسجيلات صوتية لجلسات جمعت بين سوزان مبارك وخبراء إسرائيليين ومتخصصين في تغيير المناهج المتعلقة بمادتي التربية الدينية والتاريخ، وكذلك خبراء في اللغة العربية وعلم النفس الاجتماعي، وبحضور السفير الإسرائيلي لدى مصر، وفقاً للموقع.

وتؤكد صحيفة "روز اليوسف" ان مبارك تعهدت للإسرائيليين في الاجتماع الذي تم في قصر رئاسة الجمهورية في عام 1998 بالضغط على وزيري التربية والتعليم، والأوقاف وكذلك مفتي الديار المصرية، للعمل على تنفيذ خطة تغيير المناهج، بما يتوافق مع الرغبة الإسرائيلية.

كما تؤكد الصحيفة ان مبارك استلمت 300 مليون دولار بعد مرور شهرين من المحادثات مع الخبراء الإسرائيليين، وتعهدت بأن تأخذ على عاتقها مسؤولية إعادة طبع المكتب الدراسية، بحيث تخلوا من الآيات القرآنية والأحاديث النبوية التي تهاجم اليهود.

وكان الخبراء الإسرائيليون قد أطلعوا سوزان مبارك على الأسباب التي حالت بنظرهم دون تقبل المصريين لفكرة التطبيع مع بلادهم، وأهمها المناهج لمادتي التاريخ والدين المعتمدة في المراحل الدراسية الثلاث.

وبحسب الموقع فإن الرئيس حسني مبارك نفسه انخرط في العمل لتنفيذ الاتفاق، وأوصى بتقليل الدروس التي تتحدث عن الصراع العربي الإسرائيلي، والتركيز على دروس تتحدث عن فوائد عملية السلام. كما أعلنت سوزان مبارك موافقتها على ان تشمل المناهج الدراسية آيات من التوراة، وعلى إلقاء الضوء على حقبة تواجد اليهود في مصر.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Al-Jazeera Video: Arab League observers continue Syria visit

"The credibility of the Arab League is on the line in Syria, as its observers prepare to visit three more cities at the heart of the anti-government protests.

Activists say another 13 people have been killed across the country, on the second day of the mission to monitor the violence there.

The observers are led by Mustafa al Dabi, a Sudanese general who previously served in Darfur. His initial reaction was that his monitors had seen "nothing frightening" on their first visit to the flashpoint city of Homs on Tuesday.

France and Russia have both called for Arab League monitors to be given more freedom of travel to determine the real situation.

Al Jazeera's journalists aren't allowed into Syria, so Dorsa Jabbari sent this report from Beirut."

Al-Jazeera Video: Controversy over Arab League mission to Syria

"Syrian activists have criticised the choice of Mustafa al-Dabi, a Sudanese general, to head the Arab League's observer mission to Syria.

Al-Dabi is a staunch loyalist of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for genocide committed in Darfur.

Al-Dabi was Sudan's military intelligence chief, and was sent to Darfur to quell the unrest there. He is accused of creating the Arab militias known as the Janjaweed."

Real News Video: Egypt's Revolutionary Artists' Union Revived in Tahrir Square

"We are here expressing ourselves using art, pencils and a paint brush"

Alaa Abdel Fattah, Egyptian Blogger and Critic of Military Regime, Speaks Out After Months in Jail



"Alaa Abdel Fattah, a prominent Egyptian revolutionary activist and blogger, has been released from prison after nearly two months behind bars. Fattah was ordered jailed by a military court on October 30 and summoned to face charges that included inciting violence — a charge he firmly denies. He refused to cooperate, rejecting the legitimacy of the military court who wanted to try him as a civilian. We speak to Fattah about the Egyptian revolution’s ongoing struggle against the military regime and his ordeal in one of Egypt’s worst prisons, which prevented him from attending the birth of his first son. Fattah’s trial comes just as Egypt’s ousted leader, Hosni Mubarak, returns to a Cairo courtroom today to face charges over the deaths of 840 protesters during the uprising against his rule. "What comes next might be even tougher and even more difficult," Fattah says, "but I don’t think that this revolution is going to end without really completely renegotiating the order of power in Egypt and across the Arab world."....."

Confronting intimidation, working for justice in Palestine

Ilan Pappe
The Electronic Intifada
27 December 2011

"If we had a wish list for 2012 as Palestinians and friends of Palestine, one of the top items ought to be our hope that we can translate the dramatic shift in recent years in world public opinion into political action against Israeli policies on the ground.

We know why this has not yet materialized: the political, intellectual and cultural elites of the West cower whenever they even contemplate acting according to their own consciences as well as the wishes of their societies.

This last year was particularly illuminating for me in that respect. I encountered that timidity at every station in the many trips I took for the cause I believe in. And these personal experiences were accentuated by the more general examples of how governments and institutions caved in under intimidation from Israel and pro-Zionist Jewish organizations.

A catalogue of complicity.....

Learning firsthand how pro-Israel intimidation works....

Standing up to pressure.....

Do not cave in to intimidation....

Reducing the influence of the United States....

Letting the other America play a role

Open Letter from Gaza: Three Years after the Massacre

Besieged Gaza, Occupied Palestine

"We, Palestinians of Gaza, 3 years on from the 22-day long massacre in Israel's operation 'Cast Lead', are calling on international civil society to make 2012 the year when solidarity with us in Palestine captures the spark of the revolutions around the Arab world and never looks back. On this anniversary we demand an international liberation movement that eventually leads to just that, liberation for us Palestinians from 63 years of brutal military occupation and ethnic cleansing that pours shame on any organisation or government claiming to endorse universal human rights.

We will never forget the hurt of 3 years ago, the criminal onslaught that we lived through, the blood of over 1400 murdered men, women and hundreds of children running through the streets of Gaza, between the rubble, soaking our beds and etched on our minds. We will never forget. For they are still dead, and thousands more are still maimed....

Our call this year will accept no compromise. We call upon all Palestine solidarity groups and all international civil society organizations to demand:

An end to the siege that has been imposed on the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as a result of their exercise of democratic choice.

The protection of civilian lives and property, as stipulated in International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law such as The Fourth Geneva Convention.

The immediate release of all political prisoners.

• That Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip be immediately provided with financial and material support to cope with the immense hardship that they are experiencing

An end to occupation, Apartheid and other war crimes with immediate reparations and compensation for all destruction carried out by the Israeli Occupation Forces in Gaza......"

List of signatories:

General Union for Public Services Workers
General Union for Health Services Workers
University Teachers' Association
Palestinian Congregation for Lawyers
General Union for Petrochemical and Gas Workers
General Union for Agricultural Workers
Union of Women’s Work Committees
Union of Synergies—Women Unit
The One Democratic State Group
Arab Cultural Forum
Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel
Association of Al-Quds Bank for Culture and Info
Palestine Sailing Federation
Palestinian Association for Fishing and Maritime
Palestinian Women Committees
Progressive Students’ Union
Medical Relief Society
The General Society for Rehabilitation
General Union of Palestinian Women
Afaq Jadeeda Cultural Centre for Women and Children
Deir Al-Balah Cultural Centre for Women and Children
Maghazi Cultural Centre for Children
Al-Sahel Centre for Women and Youth
Ghassan Kanfani Kindergartens
Rachel Corrie Centre, Rafah
Rafah Olympia City Sisters
Al Awda Centre, Rafah
Al Awda Hospital, Jabaliya Camp
Ajyal Association, Gaza
General Union of Palestinian Syndicates
Al Karmel Centre, Nuseirat
Local Initiative, Beit Hanoun
Union of Health Work Committees
Red Crescent Society Gaza Strip
Beit Lahiya Cultural Centre
Al Awda Centre, Rafah

Video: مستشار في الديوان الملكي السعودي يُحرم أسر جنود إسرائيليين

Predictions for 2012

A look into the future

by Justin Raimondo, December 28, 2011

" Predictions are always problematic – there’s that pesky notion of “free will,” [.pdf] not to mention the stubborn refusal of reality to conform to our preconceptions. Yet they are obligatory for a columnist this time of year, and so what I’m going to do is assign a probability to each “prediction.”

1) War with Iran – One could argue we are already at war with Iran, what with US support for the terrorist Jundallah – a Sunni extremist group with links to al-Qaeda – which is attacking Iranian civilians and wreaking havoc in Iranian Baluchistan. Also, the sanctions we have imposed on Iran are, in themselves, acts of war – and we’ve seen how Iran is responding with threats to block the Strait of Hormuz, which a great deal of the world’s oil must pass through. The odds of a minor incident in this volatile region blowing up into a major confrontation are quite high. Adding fuel to the fire: continuing US efforts to destabilize Syria, an Iranian ally, could prove to be the tripwire that drags us into war with Tehran. Moves by Hezbollah to shore up the Syrian Ba’athists could bring in Israel – and ultimately the US. ......

Probability: 65%.......

3) The “Arab Spring” comes to the Kingdom – The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, that is. We have already seen some of this in the Eastern, predominantly Shi’ite provinces, but the coming rebellion promises to be broader. There is simply no way for the Kingdom to block the influx of democratic-secular ideas flooding into the region, and the regime’s vaunted economic invulnerability is increasingly threatened by the global downturn. The emirates and sheikdoms of the Gulf have already been hit with protests, and what is happening in Bahrain may provide, in miniature, a look into the Kingdom’s future.
Probability: 50%

4) The “Arab Spring” comes to Jordan, Morocco, and even Israel – Jordan and Morocco, two pro-US Arab states ruled by monarchs both capricious and servile, are due for large-scale turmoil. The same worldwide economic downturn, combined with complaints of corruption, that brought down the pro-American dictator of Tunisia threatens the Moroccan monarchy, which has only made cosmetic changes in an attempt to head off an open rebellion. In Jordan, the Muslim Brotherhood is out in the streets protesting police brutality – which they call “official terrorism” – and seeking to duplicate their success in Egypt. By the end of 2012, the era of kings may be nearly over in the Middle East.
Israel is also headed for a major confrontation with its Arab citizens, of which there are over 1.5 million. The rise of Jewish extremism, the popularity of parties calling for the expulsion of all Arabs, and recently proposed legislation that calls the loyalty – and basic rights – of Arab Israelis into question are all factors fueling this imminent explosion. The Israelis built a wall to keep the Palestinians out – but what will they do when their own Arab population rises up? It will start as a nonviolent protest, and when it escalates it isn’t going to be pretty.
I’m going to give two probability ratings for this item, one for the Jordan-Morocco prediction:
Probability: 65%
And one for the Israeli Arab prediction:
Probability: 50%....."

Current Al-Jazeera (Arabic) Online Poll

Has 2011 made you, as an Arab, more hopeful?

With about 800 responding, 78% said yes.

(Cartoon by Emad Hajjaj)

Syria: Detainees Hidden From International Monitors

Arab League Should Demand Access to All Sites Used for Detention

December 27, 2011

"(New York) – Syrian authorities have transferred perhaps hundreds of detainees to off-limits military sites to hide them from Arab League monitors now in the country, Human Rights Watch said today. The Arab League should insist on full access to all Syrian sites used for detention, consistent with its agreement with the Syrian government.

The Syrian foreign minister, Walid Moallem, was quoted in the Independent on December 21, 2011, saying that the international monitors would be free to move around the country “under the protection” of the government but would not be permitted to visit certain “sensitive” military sites.
“Syria has shown it will stop at nothing to undermine independent monitoring of its crackdown,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Syria’s subterfuge makes it essential for the Arab League to draw clear lines regarding access to detainees, and be willing to speak out when those lines are crossed.”

A Syrian security officer in Homs told Human Rights Watch that after the government signed the Arab League protocol on December 19 he received orders from his prison director to assist with an irregular detainee transfer. He estimated that on December 21 and 22 approximately 400 to 600 detainees were moved out of his detention facility to other places of detention.

“The transfers happened in installments,” the official said. “Some detainees were moved in civilian jeeps and some in cargo trucks. My role was inside the prison, gathering the detainees and putting them in the cars. My orders from the prison director were to move the important detainees out.”
He said that officials who accompanied the detainees out of the facility told him they were being taken to a military missile factory in Zaidal, just outside of Homs....."

Egypt’s “Hitler’s oven” general to face lawsuit

Bikya Masr

"CAIRO: An Egyptian human rights organization has filed a lawsuit against retired general and military junta advisor Abdel Moneim Kato for “inciting violence.”

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) and the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) said in a press conference that a joint lawsuit was filed against Kato for his numerous comments they believe are inciting “libel and slander, and hate speech against protesters.”

The first court session will be held on February 1, ANHRI said in a statement.

Kato has come under fire recently for his firebrand comments against protesters who have been facing massive crackdowns from the military....."

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Arab League monitors visit Homs

Tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets to try and prevent what some warned would be a whitewash inspection

Julian Borger, diplomatic editor, Tuesday 27 December 2011

"Tens of thousands of Syrian demonstrators took to the streets of Homs during a visit by Arab League monitors, to protest against alleged mass killings of civilians and prevent what some warned would be a whitewash inspection.

Syrian security fired teargas into the crowd, which the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed was 70,000 strong, as it approached the centre of the restive city.

The army appeared to withdraw some tanks from Homs hours before the Arab League visit, after pounding rebel districts the previous day. But opposition activists alleged that many tanks had been hidden in government facilities for the visit and that snipers were opening fire on people trying to recover bodies from ruined buildings.

The protesters appeared determined to show the Arab League observers the scale of the damage to residential neighbourhoods, concerned that the inspection could be stage-managed by the government. The Syrian National Council (SNC), the main umbrella group of opponents to President Bashar al-Assad, said the observers were "being held prisoners by the Syrian system"...... "

Guardian Video: Syrian army tanks patrol through Homs

The Arab League sent monitors to Syria on Monday even though President Bashar al-Assad's regime has intensified its crackdown in the week since agreeing to a plan to stop the bloodshed. Activists say government forces have killed several hundred civilians in the past week, and warned that the regime was preparing a massive assault on the besieged Baba Amr district of Homs, Tuesday 27 December 2011

Al-Jazeera Video: Activist: Verdict has shamed military

"An Egyptian woman has won a case against the country's military after she was forced to undergo a so called "virginity test".

Samira Ibrahim says she went through the ordeal with six other women, after they were arrested during protests in Tahrir Square in March.

She spoke to Al-Jazeera's Jamal Elshayyal shortly after the ruling was passed: "The verdict has definitely encouraged me."

"My message to the women of Egypt is: take to the streets and don't be afraid. We are in state of revolution and anything can happen," she said."

Egypt’s military prosecutor condemns end to “virginity tests”

Virginity-Tester-In-Chief is Unhappy About the Court Order to End the Test!

"CAIRO: After a Cairo court ended the controversial virginity tests on Egyptian female activists by the military, the chief military judicial official Adel el-Morsy lashed out at the court order to suspend the practice.

He said in a statement that the court order “is not applicable because such a practice was never part of the military’s prison code,” continuing the military’s stance that the virginity tests never took place in the first place, despite a military official telling CNN last summer that they did in fact occur.

Samira Ibrahim, a victim of the tests, had filed a lawsuit against the military over the procedures, which she said were conducted in the open and in front of soldiers on March 9, after being detained by the country’s ruling military junta.

Morsy argued that if the “tests” had taken place, it “was only done as an individual act” and was not military policy.

He added that the person responsible for subjecting women to “virginity tests” would have to face criminal accountability, and that the “accused military doctor,” whose name has yet to be provided, “is currently being tried in front of the Supreme Military Court.”

The doctor’s case has been adjourned to January 3, Morsy added.

Earlier on Tuesday, the court, ruling on a lawsuit filed by victims Samira Ibrahim and Maha Mohamed in two separate cases, called for the immediate cessation of such practices at military facilities across the country.

The cases had been filed by Ibrahim with the assistance of lawyers from the Hisham Mubarak Law Center and the Nadim Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture.

Although dozens of young women were subjected to the tests on March 9, the 25-year-old Ibrahim is the only one who has spoken out about the incident and filed a lawsuit against the military rulers....."

Al-Jazeera Video: Syrians protest as Arab monitors visit

"In the Syrian city of Homs, thousands of people gathered in the streets to protest against the regime as Arab League monitors arrived there as part of a plan aimed at ending the crisis.

Residents of the area want to get the attention of the observers, as they say the government's violent crackdown on dissent continues.

So far, the head of the mission inside the country says the Syrian government has been co-operative. Observers will visit Homs again on Wednesday.

Al Jazeera's Dorsa Jabbari reports."

Al-Jazeera Video: Homs residents try to meet Arab monitors

"Syrian activists posted a video online showing residents of Bab Amr in Homs province trying to talk to Arab League observers.

Arab League peace monitors are on a mission to assess whether Syria has halted its nine-month crackdown on protests against President Bashar al-Assad."

U.S. Grants Entry to Yemen President As Arab Spring Protesters Demand Accountability, Regime Change

"The New York Times reported Monday the Obama administration has decided in principle to allow embattled Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh to enter the United States to receive “legitimate medical treatment.” If the report is true, the United States will have agreed to Saleh’s arrival hours after his forces killed nine people demanding he be tried for deaths of protesters over the past year. Over the last several months, hundreds of thousands of Yemenis have been demonstrating across the country demanding Saleh face trial for charges ranging from corruption to deadly crackdowns on protests. Saleh agreed last month to step down in return for immunity from prosecution for himself and his family. “[The U.S.] has continued to attempt to hedge its bets and go a little bit down one road and a little down another road. The result being we have this mess in Yemen where the country is in danger of fragmenting and falling apart,” says Gregory Johnsen, a former Fulbright Fellow in Yemen. “If that happens, if the country of Yemen breaks into four or five different Yemens, then the security threat the United States and the international community will face from the tip of South Arabia is going to be much greater than it has been up to this point.”......"

Al-Jazeera Video: Zeina Khodr comments on the Arab League mission to Syria

Tahrir doctors: The military treated us like prisoners of war

Al-Masry Al-Youm

"The military police assaulted volunteer doctors working at the field hospital in Tahrir Square, doctors have said. The doctors say the military told them it was helping the wounded.

The military police burnt our first aid kits,” said Dr. Mona Mina at a press conference on Sunday, adding that they were treating the doctors as if they were prisoners of war. “They must respect the international conventions that Egypt has signed in this regard.”

“The wounded have the right to medical treatment, even if they were thugs,” she said, refuting the army’s excuse for removing the make-shift clinics.

Dr. Karim Abdel Halim said the military police beat him with clubs and shocked him with taser guns. “And they took my mobile phone and my camera,” he said.

“I cannot believe I was beaten by the Egyptian army,” said Dr. Ahmed Hussein, while Dr. Ahmed Kolaib said the army sprayed the doctors and the demonstrators with a gas that causes paralysis and epilepsy. “They also targeted our eyes with their shotguns,” he said.
Dr. Abdallah al-Karbony demanded an apology from the ruling military council, and a promise not to assault doctors again while they are on duty."

Palestinians in a 'Jewish state'

Palestinians living in Israel face institutionalised discrimination and segregation in a supposedly democratic state.

Ben White

"Israel's crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories - like the settlements, the killing of civilians and the demolition of homes - are openly condemned in the West by human rights groups and others like never before. But as the peace process remains stuck, and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu forces the issue of Israel as a "Jewish state" into the spotlight, understanding the situation of Palestinian citizens of Israel has become crucial to grasping the core of the entire conflict.

So-called "Israeli Arabs" have got it better than most Palestinians, who are either under military rule or forcibly excluded from their homeland. But the institutional discrimination they have faced since 1948 goes to the heart of the contradiction that Israel is "Jewish and democratic".

Many people will concede that the military occupation of non-citizens for over 40 years is undemocratic. Yet, inside the pre-1967 borders, Israel is far from the "liberal democracy" central to the propaganda, in areas like land, planning, housing, immigration and state budgets. Rhetoric and policies associated with the far-right in Europe - like an obsession with "demographics" and birth rates, or boosting one kind of population in a given area to counterbalance an "undesirable" minority - are mainstream in Israeli politics

In my new book, Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination and Democracy, I unpack some of the core elements of how Israel's Palestinian citizens have been treated since 1948. One aspect is the area of nationality and citizenship rights, as this short extract explains......"

Monday, December 26, 2011

Ultra Religious Jews spit on 7 year old girl because she looks immodest

Naama Margolis, an 8-year-old from Bet Shemesh, is the most famous girl in Israel today. In fact, nobody can stop talking about her.
And why is that? Well, on Friday evening, Naama told her story on the most watched news show in the country. Interviewed by Channel 2’s Shai Gal, Naama told how she was afraid to go to school, just a few hundred meters from her house in Bet Shemesh, because Haredim cursed and spit on her for being dressed “immodestly.
The report, translated in full below, has sent Israeli public discourse on relations between secular and religious into a frenzy.
Since the report, the Israeli Prime Minister has spoken about it, the Haredi Beit Shemesh Mayor has condemned it, Haredim in Beit Shemesh attacked a Channel 2 news team who came to town again on Sunday, and rioted when municipal workers took down signs calling for segregation between men and women. They later put the signs back up. Today, the city announced plans to put up 400 security cameras.
But guess who hasn’t said anything? That’s right: the rabbis. Apparently, they don’t care. And why should they? It’s not like they recognize the state or anything. And guess what else: They don’t have to. Because the invalid who spoke from inside his car at the end of the item is actually right. Out of all the ignorance he spewed, he managed to say one correct thing at the end: