Saturday, April 28, 2012

Syrian President Assad could be tried for war crimes, says ex-peace envoy

George Mitchell tells peace conference in Dublin that brutal crackdown on Syrian opposition may warrant Assad's indictment, Saturday 28 April 2012

"The former US Middle East peace envoy, George Mitchell, has said that the Syrian president, Bashir al-Assad, could be tried as an alleged war criminal over the brutal crackdown on opponents of his rule.

Mitchell, who was the US special envoy for Middle East peace until last May, said Assad could be tried for war crimes in the same way as Charles Taylor, the former president of Liberia who was this week found to have "aided and abetted" war crimes by a UN-backed tribunal in The Hague.

Speaking at an international security conference in Dublin, Mitchell was asked if he could envisage Assad facing a special war crimes court as Taylor did.

"Certainly, I don't think that anyone could rule that out at this time," he said......"

Saudi Arabia recalls Egypt ambassador and closes consulates

Worst diplomatic row with Jeddah since Cairo's peace deal with Israel follows Saudi arrest of Ahmed el-Gezawi, Saturday 28 April 2012

"Saudi Arabia has recalled its ambassador from Egypt and threatened to close its embassy and all its consulates in protest at a series of demonstrations against the arrest of an Egyptian man.

The Saudi state news agency said the reason behind the diplomatic move was "unjustified protests" in Egypt and attempts to storm the Saudi embassy and consulates which "threatened the safety of its employees".

The unexpected escalation followed days of protests by hundreds of Egyptians outside the Saudi Embassy in Cairo and consulates in other cities to demand the release of Ahmed el-Gezawi. Relatives and human rights groups say he was detained for insulting King Abdullah...."

Turkish deputy premier rejects arming opposition in Syria

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan gave a conference Friday at Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Boston.      
Babacan made a speech on Turkey's foreign policy and the situation in the region as well as touching on latest developments economy in Turkey and the world. Babacan said that none of the countries should aim to arm the opposition in Syria.      
Turkey does not have such an aim, added Babacan who spoke at a conference in Boston on Friday.      
Turkey fully supports political efforts and is against an external intervention in Syria, said Babacan.      
An opposition should only be shaped as a political effort in Syria, said Babacan, adding that a legitimate opposition would be important as it would present an alternative to the existing regime.      
Noting that Annan plan opened a a window of opportunity, Babacan said that the plan should immediately be implemented, and international community should support the plan.      
Also, the plan should include a timetable and a deadline, said Babacan, expressing pleasure over the support of Syrian opposition to the plan.      
Babacan also said that Turkey would not attend the meetings which would be chaired by Greek Cypriot administration in the EU.      
As Turkey does not recognize Greek Cypriot administration as a country, it will not attend the political meetings which will be chaired by the administration in the EU, said Babacan who spoke at a conference in Boston on Friday.      
Greek Cypriot administration will undertake the rotating presidency of the EU in the second half of 2012.      
However, we will pursue our cooperation with the EU institutions on technical level, Babacan said.      

You are all suspects now. What are you going to do about it?

By John Pilger

"You are all potential terrorists. It matters not that you live in Britain, the United States, Australia or the Middle East. Citizenship is effectively abolished. Turn on your computer and the US Department of Homeland Security's National Operations Center may monitor whether you are typing not merely "al-Qaeda", but "exercise", "drill", "wave", "initiative" and "organisation": all proscribed words. The British government's announcement that it intends to spy on every email and phone call is old hat. The satellite vacuum cleaner known as Echelon has been doing this for years. What has changed is that a state of permanent war has been launched by the United States and a police state is consuming western democracy.

What are you going to do about it?
The prognosis is clear now: the malignancy that Norman Mailer called "pre fascist" has metastasized. The US attorney-general, Eric Holder, defends the "right" of his government to assassinate American citizens. Israel, the protege, is allowed to aim its nukes at nukeless Iran. In this looking glass world, the lying is panoramic. The massacre of 17 Afghan civilians on 11 March, including at least nine children and four women, is attributed to a "rogue" American soldier. The "authenticity" of this is vouched by President Obama himself, who had "seen a video" and regards it as "conclusive proof". An independent Afghan parliamentary investigation produces eyewitnesses who give detailed evidence of as many as 20 soldiers, aided by a helicopter, ravaging their villages, killing and raping: a standard, if marginally more murderous US special forces "night raid".

Take away the videogame technology of killing - America's contribution to modernity - and the behaviour is traditional. Immersed in comic-book righteousness, poorly or brutally trained, frequently racist, obese and led by a corrupt officer class, American forces transfer the homicide of home to faraway places whose impoverished struggles they cannot comprehend. A nation founded on the genocide of the native population never quite kicks the habit. Vietnam was "Indian country" and its "slits" and "gooks" were to be "blown away".
The descent into totalitarianism has landmarks. Any day now, the Supreme Court in London will decide whether the WikiLeaks editor, Julian Assange, is to be extradited to Sweden. Should this final appeal fail, the facilitator of truth-telling on an epic scale, who is charged with no crime, faces solitary confinement and interrogation on ludicrous sex allegations. Thanks to a secret deal between the US and Sweden, he can be "rendered" to the American gulag at any time. In his own country, Australia, prime minister Julia Gillard has conspired with those in Washington she calls her "true mates" to ensure her innocent fellow citizen is fitted for his orange jump suit just in case he should make it home. In February, her government wrote a "WikiLeaks Amendment" to the extradition treaty between Australia and the US that makes it easier for her "mates" to get their hands on him. She has even given them the power of approval over Freedom of Information searches - so that the world outside can be lied to, as is customary.

What are you going to do about it?"

European, US Austerity Drive is Suicidal: Nobel Economist Stiglitz

'The Occupy movement has been very successful in bringing those ideas to the forefront of political discussion.'

Common Dreams

"Europe is headed down the same path that most Republicans -- and many Democrats -- are suggesting for the US: reductions in the public sector, cuts in benefits, slashing investments in infrastructure and education.

Nobel Prize-winning U.S. economist Joseph Stiglitz speaking in Vienna, Austria Thursday night said that it's a suicidal path for Europe -- and that such a policy has never worked in any large country.

Youth unemployment in Spain has been at 50 percent since the crisis in 2008 with “no hope of things getting better anytime soon,” said Stiglitz, who is a professor for economics at Columbia University. “What you are doing is destroying the human capital, you are creating alienated young people.”

In an interview earlier this week in The European, Stiglitz said, "When you look at America, you have to concede that we have failed. Most Americans today are worse off than they were fifteen years ago. A full-time worker in the US is worse off today than he or she was 44 years ago. That is astounding – half a century of stagnation. The economic system is not delivering. It does not matter whether a few people at the top benefitted tremendously – when the majority of citizens are not better off, the economic system is not working."....."

Ex-Israeli Spymaster: Leaders 'Messianic'

Says Israel More and More Racist, Belligerent

Common Dreams

"The former head of Israel's Shin Bet security agency has accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak of having "messianic feelings" behind their threats to launch a pre-emptive war on Iran and they should not be trusted.

"I don't have faith in the current leadership of Israel to lead us to an event of this magnitude, of war with Iran," Yuval Diskin said at a public meeting Friday, video of which was posted on the Internet the today and quickly became the lead news item in Israel.

"I do not believe in a leadership that makes decisions based on Messianic feelings," he continued. "I have seen them up close. They are not messiahs, these two, and they are not the people that I personally trust to lead Israel into an event."

Diskin also said, "Over the past 10-15 years Israel has become more and more racist. All of the studies point to this. This is racism toward Arabs and toward foreigners, and we are also become a more belligerent society."[Coming from a racist himself, that is saying something!]......"

علي فرزات: رسومي صدمت النظام السوري والناس رفعوها في المظاهرات

علي فرزات: رسومي صدمت النظام السوري والناس رفعوها في المظاهرات
تحدث عن علاقته ببشار الأسد وانتقد الفنانين المعادين للثورة

"لندن 'القدس العربي': في مناجاة قديمة بين رسامي الكاريكاتير الشهيرين، قال ناجي العلي لعلي فرزات: 'يبدو يا عزيزي اننا الوحيدان الحاملان السلّم بالعرض!'. بسبب هذا التشبيه الذي يعني في بلاد الشام معاكسة الاتجاه العام للأشياء دفع الرسام الفلسطيني حياته ثمناً لعناده، بينما قدّر لعلي فرزات ان ينجو أكثر من مرة، كان آخرها هجوم رجال مخابرات النظام السوري عليه وتكسير اصابعه قبل اشهر.
ورغم شهرة علي فرزات الكبيرة عربيا وعالميا فان هذه الحادثة الأخيرة حوّلته، مثل الشيخ احمد الصياصنة وابراهيم القاشوش وقرية كفرنبل وحمزة الخطيب، الى واحد من رموز الثورة السورية.
هذه الحالة الايقونية لا يرتفع اليها شخص في عيون شعبه الا بمكابدة طويلة لخصها تاريخ البشرية دائما في صراع اسطوري بين طرفين غير متعادلين في تجسدات تعبّر عن شوق الناس الى نيل أنبل ما سعى اليه البشر: الحرية!
عندما صعد فرزات منصّة مسرح قاعة بلدية كنسنغتون في حفل مخصص لدعم الثورة السورية مع سميح شقير، صنوه في امتشاق الكرامة ضد الرصاصة، حرّك يديه بطريقة فصيحة تقول: لن يستطيعوا منعي من الرسم، فضجّ الجمهور بضحكة الفرح، وحين قال كلمة السرّ: الشعب السوري انتصر حين خلع خوفه، امتدّ خيط من الكبرياء الهب ارواح الحاضرين.
التقيته في نادي 'فرونت لاين' (الخط الأمامي) بلندن المخصص للصحافيين والمبدعين المناضلين الذين كانوا على خطوط النار والمواجهات. بعينين زرقاوين مفتوحتين على التأمل والدهشة نظر كأنه يتعرف عليّ للمرة الأولى وفتح كفّيه اللذين حاول القتلة تكسيرهما.
'حدثني عن ثلاث نقاط تحوّل في حياتك. ثلاث رموز او صور لو أحببت' قلت وانا أفتّش عن مفاتيح شخصية فرزات.
عاد الفنان برأسه الى الوراء وقال: 'كان عمري 12 عاما عندما نشرت جريدة 'الأيام' اول كاريكاتور لي على صفحتها الأولى'.
العلاقة مع بشار الاسد
اغلاق الدومري

لا يعتبر فرزات ما حصل معه خسارة فالطبيعي ان يختلف مع اي سلطة وان لا يقبل رسوماته وانتقاداته الساخرة المتنفذون 'انا فنان' يقول علي، 'هذه طبيعة عملي. انا خلقت لاختلف مع السابقين ومع الموجودين حاليا ومع من سيأتوا. انا انفذ افكاري على الورق وارسلها رسائل الى الشارع ولا اتأثر بمواقف وآراء وايديولوجيات مختلفة. انا انتمي لهذا الوطن فقط والى هؤلاء الناس. لم افكر في يوم من الايام ان اكون حزبياً او انتمي لأية مؤسسة'.
المترددون في تأييد الثورة

موضوع المثقفين والفنانين المترددين بمناصرة الثورة السورية موضوع مثير للجدل والنقاش وبالنسبة لعلي فرزات فان هؤلاء المحتارين قاموا بالتشكيك بقيمتهم الفنية من خلال ترددهم 'انا اقيم الانسان اخلاقيا. الفنان قيمة اخلاقية فكرية وهو مثل بوصلة. هذه القيم هي التي تحدد الاتجاهات او المنفعة او المصلحة، ومن يغالط هذا الموضوع هو كمن يذر الرماد في العين'.
يحتج فرزات حتى على اطلاق صفة فنان على أي كان 'ليس كل من يمارس الفن هو فنان' يؤكد فرزات. 'الفنان هو من تنطبق عليه المواصفات التي ذكرتها وهي مواصفات اخلاقية وجمالية. الفنان ملتزم بهذه القيم دون الزام من احد. الفنان ليس كندرجيا يصنع الاحذية والوطن ليس مؤسسات انتاجية ومزارع ومصالح'.
ناجي العلي وحمل السلم بالعرض

سألت فرزات اخيرا عن صديقه نجيّه ناجي العلي فقال متذكرا: 'قلت للعلي مرة ان هذا قدرنا ولا يمكن ان نسلخ جلد وجوهنا ونلبس اخرى.'
وتذكر ايضا يوم سرحته صحيفة في ابوظبي من عمله نتيجة كاريكاتير ناقد 'كلّمني على الهاتف مازحا وهو يضحك: يا شماتتي فيك. قلت له: لا تشمت كثير نحن السابقون وانتم اللاحقون. كان وقتها في الكويت وفي اليوم الثاني حصل توقيفه وابعاده عن الكويت وما حصل بعد ذلك جعلني اكثر أسفا وحزنا على وطن عربي يلتهم ادمغته من المثقفين والفنانين والمبدعين. كان ناجي العلي انسانا لا يرسم بل كان ينزف رسماً لذلك كنت ترى حياته متطابقة مع رسومه'.
يقول فرزات ان ناجي العلي اخرج الكثير من الانظمة العربية وقادتها عن طورهم ولم يكن ياسر عرفات آخرهم. 'كان جمهوره في كل العالم العربي وكان تأثيره كبيرا على الفلسطينيين وغير الفلسطينيين الأمر الذي اشعر الجميع بخطورته فكان ان قرروا اسكاته.

Al-Jazeera Video: Inside Story - Is the Muslim Brotherhood in crisis?

"As Egyptians rally to 'rescue the revolution', we ask if divisions are emerging among those once united behind it. Guests: Nader Omran; Sherif Gaber; and Abdullah al-Arian."

Detained Syrian human rights defenders report torture

27 April 2012

"Concern is growing for three human rights defenders being held incommunicado at a military base near Damascus, amid reports they may be facing ongoing torture, Amnesty International said.

Hani Zitani, Abd al-Rahman Hamada and Mansour al-Omari are being held in the town of al-Mo’damiya outside the capital, at a base run by the Fourth Armoured Division, under the de facto command of the Syrian president’s brother Maher al-Assad.

Another three of their colleagues detained with them there from 19 March until 22 April were brought before a military court on Sunday, where they alleged that Fourth Armoured Division officials had tortured, including by beatings, all six men during that time.

The six men – prisoners of conscience accused of “having an illegal recording with a view to distribute banned publications” – were among 14 men and women arrested in February during a security forces raid on the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression in Damascus.

“Until now, very little information has been available about the well-being of these human rights defenders held since February’s raid,” said Ann Harrison, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.

“Given the seriousness of these new allegations, we urge the authorities to give the detainees immediate access to adequate medical care if needed and ensure they are protected from torture or other ill-treatment....."

Friday, April 27, 2012

Al-Jazeera Video: Empire - Putin's Russia

As Obama Expands Drone War, Activists & Victims’ Advocates Join D.C. Summit on Growing Civilian Toll

Democracy Now!

"Pakistani lawyer Shahzad Akbar, who represents families of civilians killed in U.S. drone strikes, was finally granted a visa to enter the U.S. this week after a long effort by the State Department to block his visit. He has just arrived in Washington, D.C., to attend the “Drone Summit: Killing and Spying by Remote Control,” organized by human rights groups to call attention to the lethal rise in the number of drone strikes under the Obama administration. Obama argues U.S. drone strikes are focused effort at people who are on a list of active terrorists and have not caused a huge number of civilian casualties. “Either President Obama is lying to the nation or he is too naive, to believe on the reports which the CIA is presenting to [him],” responds Akbar. The summit comes as the United States pursues a radical expansion of how it carries out drone strikes inside Yemen. The so-called "signature" strike policy went into effect earlier this month allowing the U.S. to strike without knowing identity of the targets.

We’re also joined by Medea Benjamin, the co-founder of CODE PINK and an organizer of this weekend’s summit. “So many people who spoke against George [W.] Bush’s extraordinary rendition and Guantánamo and indefinite detention have been very quiet when it comes to the Obama administration, who is not putting people in those same kind of conditions, instead is just taking them out and killing them,” Benjamin says. “So we need to make people speak up and say that when Obama says this [program] is on a tight leash, this is not true. This is a lie.”....."

Al-Jazeera Video: 'Suicide bomber' kills nine in Damascus

"Syrian state media say nine people have been killed in a blast in the Damascus district of al-Midan. Al Jazeera's Rula Amin reports from Beirut, Lebanon."

Real News Video (with Transcript) :Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control

Medea Benjamin: Drones kill innocent civilians and antagonize whole populations

More at The Real News

Fragmented Protests Rise in Jordan

By Mona Alami

"AMMAN, Apr 27, 2012 (IPS) - On a warm Friday afternoon, police cars blocked the roads around the Al Husseini mosque, where hundreds of men were kneeling for the noon prayers. At the end of the service, the crowds rose and marched in a compact protest behind a car bearing a banner for the Islamic Action Front (IAF), the Jordanian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.

"With our blood, our soul, we sacrifice ourselves for Jordan," chanted the crowd.

Such protests have become a weekly sight in the Hashemite Kingdom, but they have been relatively peaceful, contrary to uprisings in neighbouring countries.

"Protestors are slowly upping the ante, with slogans becoming more daring day by day," observed Mohamad Masri, a political scientist at the Centre for Strategic Studies at Jordan University.

In the streets of Amman, rumours abound of misspent public funds involving three corruption scandals – namely, allegations surrounding the state-owned National Resources Investment and Development Corporation (Mawared), the illegal licensing of a Dead Sea casino, and the Jordan Petroleum Refinery.

"Unfortunately the protests have failed to garner momentum: the opposition is fragmented, different groups have too many different grievances," remarked activist Tareq Zureikat. The pro-democracy movement is a mix of tribal Jordanians, leftists and IAF followers......"

The Embrace of the Criminal Warlords in Iraq

The Phases of War: Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and Israel

by Phyllis Bennis, April 27, 2012

"....I was at a conference a couple of days ago with the great antiwar military scholar Andrew Bacevich. He described wars like that in Afghanistan coming in phases – Chapter 1 is liberation – or in this case domination, since liberation lost. Chapter 2 is counter-insurgency, and that one didn’t do so well either. Chapter 3, he said, has moved to targeted assassinations, the drone war and beyond (actually WAY beyond Afghanistan…). Bacevich also reminded us that wars don’t end when one side proclaims victory – they end when the defeated admit that they lost. That reality speaks volumes to the current U.S. interest in negotiating an end to the war with the Taliban – and what face-saving in Washington might have to do with it......

This time, it’s all about Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu continues to ratchet up the rhetoric and the threats against Iran – knowing that in an election year, the likelihood of a U.S. president or Congress refusing to back/support/participate in an Israeli military strike, regardless of how dangerous, is virtually non-existent. What does Israel get out of it? (Hint: it’s not safety from some "existential" threat). Israel gets to preserve its nuclear weapons monopoly in the Middle East – losing that monopoly is the real danger Israeli officials worry about. That’s why the call for a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone in the Middle East is so important – to make sure no one in the region has a nuclear weapon. That certainly includes Iran, which doesn’t have one and isn’t trying to build one. And it would include Israel, whose uninspected and unacknowledged arsenal of 200-400 high density nuclear bombs remains the biggest cause of arms racing in this arms-glutted part of the world.

It’s also true that Netanyahu desperately wants a different president in the White House next year. Despite Obama’s actual history of giving Israel more military aid, greater protection in the UN, tighter military ties, and fewer consequences for expanding settlements than almost any other president, Netanyahu knows that any Republican in the White House would represent an even greater gift to Tel Aviv. And only Israel and AIPAC, the most powerful part of the pro-Israel lobbies that now represent the most right-wing extremist elements of Israeli politics, stand to benefit....."

واشنطن والنظام السوري: حقوق إنسان أم انتفاضة شعب؟

واشنطن والنظام السوري: حقوق إنسان أم انتفاضة شعب؟
صبحي حديدي

"أعود ـ دون كلل أو ملل، لأنّ الحال تقتضي، في يقيني، هذه العودة ـ إلى السجال بأنّ حزمة الأسباب التي تكفلت بإطالة عمر النظام السوري يتصدّرها سبب مركزي، وجوهري، ينتج متتالية أسباب ذات ترابط عالٍ، بحكم تطابقها أو تقاطعها. ذلك السبب هو انّ الولايات المتحدة لم تحسم أمرها، بعد، بصدد قطع ما تبقى من شرايين تغذية (لها، غالباً، صفة المصل المؤقت)، تمدّ النظام بآجال بقاء، وأحياناً تشجّع لجوءه إلى تنفيذ هجومات مضادة، بين حين وآخر. في رأس المتتالية الناجمة يأتي الموقف الإسرائيلي، الحريص على تأجيل سقوط البيت الأسدي حتى ربع الساعة الأخير، الذي لا مناص بعده من التسليم بالمصير المحتوم؛ وكذلك الموقف الروسي، الذي لا مصلحة له في الحسم، بالطبع، ما دامت واشنطن ذاتها لا تحسم؛ ومثله الموقف الأوروبي، سواء على صعيد الاتحاد مجتمعاً، أو الدول فرادى؛ فضلاً عن مواقف الدول العربية الحليفة، التي تتقلّب سياساتها على النار الأمريكية الهادئة إياها، مع فارق التسخين اللفظي الذي يخاطب القول أكثر ممّا يقارب الفعل.
لا جديد يُضاف، اليوم، إلى سلسلة الاعتبارات التي تحكم هذه المعادلة الأمريكية، ومتتالياتها الإسرائيلية والروسية والأوروبية والعربية، والتي سبق لي أن توقفت عند ثوابتها، ومتغيراتها، في مناسبات ماضية. ثمة، في المقابل، نفض للغبار عن بلاغة عتيقة، أو تجديد لصياغاتها لا يغيّر كثيراً في المحتوى الأصلي العتيق بدوره، وبعض المقررات (التي تبدو أرباع، وليس حتى أنصاف، تدابير)، على غرار ما أعلنه الرئيس الأمريكي باراك أوباما في خطابه الأخير، أثناء زيارته لمتحف الـ'هولوكوست' في واشنطن، حول فرض عقوبات على الجهات التي تزود سورية وإيران بالوسائل التكنولوجية المساعدة على تسهيل انتهاكات حقوق الإنسان في البلدين.
'ليست السيادة الوطنية رخصة للحكام كي يذبحوا شعوبهم'، قال أوباما وهو يقصد الإشارة إلى 'أي مجنون ينتهك حقوق الإنسان، ويرتكب الفظائع، والإبادة، وأعمال القتل الجماعي'؛ واعداً الشعب السوري بـ'مواصلة الضغط' على الأسد، بهدف 'عزل نظامه أكثر'، وفرض مزيد من العقوبات، والتعاون مع 'أصدقاء سورية'. ولأنّ إيلي فيزل، حامل نوبل للسلام والقيّم على شؤون الـ'هولوكوست'، كان قد غمز من قناة أوباما وسياساته، ردّ الرئيس الأمريكي بالقول: 'بينما نحاول أن نعمل كل ما نستطيع، لا نقدر أن نسيطر على كل الأحداث. ونحن نحاول في سورية، علينا أن نتذكر أنه رغم كل الدبابات، وكل القناصين، وكل التعذيب، لا يزال السوريون يتحدّون في الشوارع. ولا يزالون مصرّين على إسماع مطالبهم للعالم. إنهم لم يستسلموا، ولهذا فإننا نحن أيضاً لن نستسلم'.
ولكي يذهب أبعد، أو يطلق عبارة أشدّ لهجة بالأحرى، أضاف أوباما أنّ العقوبات الجديدة خطوة أخرى 'نحو اليوم الذي نحن متأكدون من أنه آتٍ، وهو يوم نهاية نظام الأسد الذي يذبح الشعب السوري'. ليس بفضل هذه العقوبات (التي لا تتذكّر اللواء علي مملوك، رأس جهاز المخابرات العامة، إلا اليوم... بعد أكثر من 14 شهراً على أعمال الذبح التي يتحدّث عنها أوباما!)؛ بل بفضل إصرار الشعب السوري على المضيّ بالانتفاضة حتى المتر الأخير الختامي من هذا المسار الشاقّ، الدامي، الذي كان محالاً فصار دانياً وشيكاً. وليس لأنّ النظام السوري لم يتوقف، ولم يرتدع، واستمرّ في تنفيذ المجازر حتى في المدن التي كان المراقبون الأمميون يتفقدونها (مدينة حماة، مثلاً، ومجزرة حيّ 'مشاع الطيار': 54 شهيداً، بينهم 13 طفلاً، و16 امرأة)؛ بل، بالضبط، لأنّ أفانين وحشية النظام لم تنفع، كلّها، في كسر إرادة الانتفاضة.
في المقابل، الأمريكي بدوره ولكن غير الحكومي، أو شبه الحكومي، نقرأ عن مؤتمر لـ 60 شخصية من المعارضين السوريين، يستهدف البحث في 'المواطنة والدولة المدنية الديمقراطية'، ينعقد على شواطىء البحر الميت في الأردن، وبدعوة من 'مركز القدس للدراسات السياسية'، ولكن بدعم من 'المعهد الديمقراطي الأمريكي'. وهذا معهد يسعى، وفق إعلان مبادئه، إلى 'تحسين الديمقراطية الأمريكية من خلال المشاركة المتزايدة، والفهم الأعمق للمسائل التي تؤثر في الحياة العامة، ومن أجل مواطنة أكبر في الشؤون العامة'. ما العلاقة، المباشرة على الأقلّ، بين أغراض هذا المعهد ـ الأمريكية الداخلية الصرفة، كما يلوح ـ ومسائل مثل: 'أي نظام سياسي لسورية المستقبل؟'، 'الدين والدولة'... حقوق الأفراد والجماعات...أسئلة الهوية والمواطنة والاندماج'، و'سبل التغيير في سورية... الفرص والتحديات'، و'ملامح مرحلة الانتقال إلى الديمقراطية'... التي ناقشها المؤتمرون على الشاطئ الشرقي للبحر الميت؟
الحال أنّ التناقض أو التطابق بين موقف 'المعهد الديمقراطي الأمريكي' وخطاب أوباما في متحف الـ'هولوكوست، أو الوقوع في منزلة بين منزلتيهما، هو السمة الغالبة، والأعرق بمعنى التكرار، لمعظم المقاربات الأمريكية لمسائل حقوق الإنسان ما وراء المحيط. الدليل الأفضل هو قراءة التقارير السنوية حول حقوق الإنسان في العالم، كما يدبجها مايكل بوزنر، مساعد وزيرة الخارجية الأمريكية لشؤون الديمقراطية وحقوق الإنسان والعمل، والتي تغطّي أكثر من 190 دولة، حصيلة عمل ألف شخص ونيف، قرأوا ودققوا وكتبوا آلاف الوثائق... وفي كلّ مرّة، كان الحياء ـ أغلب الظنّ، وعلى سبيل حسن النيّة ـ هو الذي يدفع بوزنر إلى أن يغضّ الطرف عن تفصيل آخر يقول إنه قادم إلى المنصب من رئاسة المنظمة الحقوقية الأمريكية المعروفة Human Rights First، التي كان لها شرف المشاركة في إماطة اللثام عن سلسلة انتهاكات حتى داخل الولايات المتحدة ذاتها.
بيد أنّ العمل في وزارة خارجية دولة عظمى تمارس احتلالًيْن عسكريين، في أفغانستان والعراق؛ وتخوض ما تسمّيه 'حملة ضدّ الإرهاب' يمكن، وقد تمّ بالفعل، في سياقاتها انتهاك أيّ وكلّ حقّ؛ أمر مختلف عن العمل في منظمة غير حكومية. ولهذا فإنّ بوزنر، المساعد للوزيرة هيلاري كلنتون، شخصية أخرى لا تشبه، إلا في الاسم والملامح الفيزيائية، الشخص الذي سبق له أن فضح الممارسات البربرية في سجنَيْ غوانتانامو وأبو غريب، ومثلها 'السجون الطائرة'، ومعسكرات الاعتقال السرّية هنا وهناك في العالم. وليس في الأمر أية غرابة بالطبع، فالمرء يفترض على الفور أنّ بوزنر وافق، عند قبول المنصب، على تعاقد يقتضي منه الدفاع عن سياسة الإدارة، لا انتقادها أو تفضيح أفعالها.
ذلك هو السبب في أنه يسارع إلى امتداح وزيرته، وقبلها رئيسه باراك أوباما، على الركائز 'الجديدة' التي اعتمداها في مسائل حقوق الإنسان: 'الانخراط المبدئي'، الذي يقوم على فهم العالم؛ وإخضاع جميع الحكومات، بما في ذلك الحكومة الأمريكية، إلى 'معيار كوني واحد'، و'الالتزام بالوفاء للحقيقة'، و'أكثر من أيّ أمر آخر نقوم به في الحكومة'. لا يكترث بوزنر، ولا الصحافيون حضور مؤتمراته، حول ما إذا كانت هذه الركائز جديدة، حقاً، بادىء ذي بدء؛ وهل جديدها، أياً كانت طبيعته، جرى تطبيقه فعلاً في الفقرات التي تخصّ انتهاكات إسرائيل لحقوق الإنسان، أو حقيقة انتهاكات السلطات السعودية أو البحرينية، إذا وضع المرء جانباً تلك الوقائع التي تخصّ الولايات المتحدة أيضاً؟
خذوا، مثلاً، إجاباته الكلاسيكية حول الأوضاع في قطاع غزّة، وعمّا إذا كان توفير مياه الشرب الصحية والمأوى والدواء والمساعدات الإنسانية الأخرى، يدخل في عداد حقوق الإنسان التي يتوجب حمايتها: لقد عولجت قضية غزة في تقارير السنوات الماضية، من جهة أولى؛ وهذه، من جهة ثانية، قضايا 'عمرانية' و'بلدية' تخصّ حماية المدنيين بصفة عامة، و'من المعقد معالجة المسائل الإنسانية في مكان تسيطر عليه 'حماس' بشكل واسع. ذلك يجعل الجهد أكثر صعوبة'! في المقابل، يظلّ بوزنر طليق اللسان وهو يتابع هجاء انتهاكات حقوق الإنسان في الصين وإيران وكوبا، واتساع نزعات العداء للسامية في أوروبا والشرق الأوسط، والتضييق على المرأة في أفغانستان والصومال والسودان (ولكن ليس باللهجة ذاتها عند الحديث عن حقوق المرأة في السعودية!)، واتساع رقعة الدول التي تعتمد عقوبة الإعدام (وكأنّ أمريكا ذاتها ليست دولة إعدامات بامتياز: في ولاية تكساس، وحدها، بلغ عدد الإعدامات 451 حالة منذ سنة 1976).
وكيف للمرء أن لا يتفرّس في الحاضر على مرآة الماضي القريب، فيستعيد تلك البلاغة الظافرة التي طفحت في خطبة باولا دوبريانسكي، زميلة بوزنر في منصب مساعدة وزيرة الخارجية الأمريكية للشؤون العالمية، أيام كوندوليزا رايس وإدارة جورج بوش الابن، حين تحدّثت عن ولادة جديدة لحقوق الإنسان بأثر من 'ثورة زهرية' في جورجيا، و'ثورة برتقالية' في أوكرانيا، و'ثورة أرجوانية' في العراق، و'ثورة الأرزة' في لبنان؟ ورغم أنّ أحداً، أغلب الظنّ، لم يدرك تماماً سبب اختيار اللون الأرجواني للعراق، إلا إذا كانت دوبريانسكي قد قصدت الإشارة إلى عنف قانٍِ هو نقيض الثورات السلمية، فإنّ مآلات الزهري والبرتقالي والأرزي صارت معروفة، مثيرة للشفقة على أهلها والشماتة في المراهنين عليها، في انتظار ما سيسفر عنه اللون الأرجواني من نهايات، أو بدايات بالأحرى.
وفي مناسبة مثل هذه التي شهدت تصريحات بوزنر، أي نشر التقرير السنوي لوزارة الخارجية الأمريكية حول أوضاع حقوق الإنسان في العالم، كان مدهشاً أن دوبريانسكي خلطت الحابل بالنابل، فانتقدت مستويات احترام حقوق الإنسان في روسيا وبيلاروسيا وكوبا والصين وكوريا الشمالية وبورما ولاوس وفييتنام وزيمبابوي وإيران والسودان ومصر والأردن وسورية والسعودية... وكأنها أنظمة متماثلة متشابهة. وكان مضحكاً، في المقابل، أن يلوّح مايكل كوزاك، سلف بوزنر في مكتب الديمقراطية وحقوق الإنسان والعمل، بفرض عقوبات اقتصادية على بعض الدول، بينها السعودية والصين! ولأنّ الولايات المتحدة لم تكن في أيّ يوم أفضل مَنْ يعطي البشرية الدروس والعظات والتقارير المفصلة حول احترام حقوق الإنسان، فإنّ موظفي الإدارة يصمّون الآذان تماماً عن أسئلة أخرى تتناول ما هو أدهى من تصدير تكنولوجيا انتهاك حقوق الإنسان: مناهضة الدكتاتوريات لفظاً، والسكوت عن فظائعها سرّاً... وعلانية أحياناً، حين تقتضي الحال!
ورغم أنّ النظام السوري هو، اليوم، رائد ما تبقى من أنظمة استبداد عربية، والأشدّ عنفاً بحقّ المجتمع، والأبشع انتهاكاً لحقوق الإنسان؛ فإنّ أهداف الانتفاضة السورية الراهنة أبعد بكثير، وأعمق وأهمّ، من مجرّد تحسين سجلّ النظام في مسائل حقوق الإنسان. البيت الابيض، أسوة بالمتتاليات المتواشجة مع خياراته الراهنة، لا يدرك هذه الحقيقة الكبرى أقلّ ممّا يفعل السوريون؛ لكنّ الفارق يكمن ههنا، أوّلاً: هذه انتفاضة قرّر السوريون أنها لن تتوقف قبل إسقاط النظام، وما تبقى من الشوط أقصر بكثير من أن يطيل مسافته أي مصل، أمريكي أو إسرائيلي أو إيراني أو روسي...

Obama officials: Annan plan 'failing'

Foreign Policy

"Two top Obama administration officials said today that the diplomatic initiative to end the violence in Syria, led by U.N. Special Envoy Kofi Annan, "is failing."

Under intense questioning during Thursday's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, both Kathleen Hicks, the current deputy under secretary of defense for policy, and Derek Chollet, National Security Council senior director for strategy, said that the Annan plan was headed toward collapse and that new options for confronting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad were being prepared.

Asked by the committee's ranking Republican, Arizona Sen. John McCain, if Assad had complied with the six points of the Annan plan for Syria, which charts a path away from violence toward political negotiations, Chollet acknowledged that violence is actually increasing.

"Do you believe the Annan plan has succeeded or failed?" McCain asked both officials.

"I would say it is failing," Chollet said.

"I would say it is failing and that Annan himself is extremely worried about the plan," Hicks concurred.

Annan lamented reports of increased violence Wednesday but said he still wanted to increase the number of monitors on the ground......"

Saudi Arabia: Abolish Terrorism Court

Court Tries Peaceful Reformers, Critics in Unfair Proceedings

April 27, 2012

"(Beirut) – Saudi Arabia should abolish the Specialized Criminal Court, set up in 2008 to try terrorism cases, but increasingly used to try peaceful dissidents and rights activists on politicized charges and in proceedings that violate the right to a fair trial, Human Rights Watch said today. In April, it sentenced two people to prison for their peaceful activism, and the trials of at least four others are ongoing, in violation of their rights to freedom of expression.

Trying Saudi political activists as terrorists merely because they question abuses of government power demonstrates the lengths the Saudi government will go to suppress dissent,” said Christoph Wilcke, senior Middle East researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The trial of peaceful reformers in a terrorism court underlines the political nature of this court.”

The charges against the rights activist and the dissident do not allege that they used or propagated violence....."

My uncle, the Brother

Sharif Abdel Kouddous
Al-Masry Al-Youm

".....Now, a little over a year after the January 25 revolution, with the Muslim Brotherhood's ascent from a banned opposition movement to the most powerful party in Egyptian politics, hairline fissures that have long existed between my uncle and the group's leadership have begun to crack apart and deepen. As the Brotherhood strains to wrap its hands around the levers of state power in Egypt, my uncle finds himself having to confront the pressing reality that the group he has considered himself a member of for so long may very well be one he will have to begin openly protesting......

He spent many nights in Tahrir during the historic sit-in that led to Mubarak's ouster. To walk with him in the square was to be in the presence of a revolutionary celebrity. Scores of people — men and women, young and old — would approach him to shake his hand, kiss him on the cheek and pose for pictures alongside him. He would be elated and humbled by the attention. "I never wanted to be a leader," he would say. "This is all I ever wanted, the love of ordinary people."

It was in the post-Mubarak landscape, however, that the divisions between my uncle's actions and the Muslim Brotherhood's leadership immediately began to manifest themselves.....

As 2011 progressed, the Brotherhood continued to move further away from the revolutionary movement and more closely align itself with the Supreme Council of Armed Forces. A protest in Tahrir on 27 May billed as the "Second Day of Rage" marked the first major demonstration the Brotherhood officially boycotted. Instead, the group released a statement in support of the SCAF and called on people not to attend. My uncle nevertheless came to the square.....

"I am against the Brotherhood taking over everything," he says. "They want the Parliament, the Constituent Assembly and the presidency? What is this?"......"

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Hospital of Horrors

The Children of Fallujah

By Robert Fisk

"The pictures flash up on a screen on an upper floor of the Fallujah General Hospital. And all at once, Nadhem Shokr al-Hadidi’s administration office becomes a little chamber of horrors. A baby with a hugely deformed mouth. A child with a defect of the spinal cord, material from the spine outside the body. A baby with a terrible, vast Cyclopean eye. Another baby with only half a head, stillborn like the rest, date of birth 17 June, 2009. Yet another picture flicks onto the screen: date of birth 6 July 2009, it shows a tiny child with half a right arm, no left leg, no genitalia......

Another of the Fallujah doctors tells me that the only UK assistance they have received comes from Dr Kypros Nicolaides, the head of Foetal Medicine at King’s College Hospital. He runs a charity, the Foetal Medicine Foundation, which has already trained one doctor from Fallujah. I call him up. He is bursting with anger.

To me, the criminal aspect of all this – during the war – was that the British and the American governments could not go to Woolworths and buy some computers to even document the deaths in Iraq. So we have a Lancet publication that estimates 600,000 deaths in the war. Yet the occupying power did not have the decency to have a computer worth only £500 that would enable them to say “this body was brought in today and this was its name”.

Now you have an Arab country which has a higher number of deformities or cancers than Europe and you need a proper epidemiological study. I’m sure the Americans used weapons that caused these deformities. But now you have a goodness-knows-what government in Iraq and no study. It’s very easy to avoid to doing anything – except for some sympathetic crazy professor like me in London to try and achieve something.”

In al-Hadidi’s office, there are now photographs which defy words. How can you even begin to describe a dead baby with just one leg and a head four times the size of its body?"

Al-Jazeera Video: Blast in Syria's Hama kills many

Al-Jazeera Video: لقاء خاص مع أردغان

A Great Cartoon by Emad Hajjaj: The Butcher of Damascus and the UN.

(Click on cartoon to enlarge.)

Obama Approves Expanded Drone War in Yemen. So This is The "New" Yemen? Why is Tawakkul Karman Quiet? Was She Bought Off??

Increased airstrikes will raise number of civilian casualties, undermine US law, and further destabilize Yemen, say critics

"The CIA and US military may target suspected al-Qaida militants in Yemen with drones even when suspects' identities are not known, report the Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post citing "unnamed" US government officials. The policy shift gives permission to the CIA and the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) to fire on targets based solely on the targets' intelligence "signatures" -- patterns of behavior detected through intercepts, human sources and aerial surveillance that indicate the presence of "key operative" or a "threatening" act......"

Real News Video : U.S. Electoral System Wallowing in a Sea of Money, Idiocy, and Corruption

Robert McChesney: Corporate media making millions from political ads, then cover ad driven horse race as news

More at The Real News

Guardian Video: Syrian civilians ask UN observers for protection

Unverified video obtained from social media purports to show residents of Homs asking UN peace monitors for help to return home and for protection from night attacks. Currently there are only 11 advance UN observers in Syria. A 300-strong monitoring mission has been approved by the security council, but has still to be put together, Thursday 26 April 2012

Syrian security forces kill at least 12 in rocket attack

Some reports put the death toll much higher with 54 dead and dozens wounded after the attack in the city of Hama, Wednesday 25 April 2012

"A rocket attack by Syrian security forces has killed at least 12 people and wounded dozens more in Syria's central city of Hama, the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The grassroots network Local Co-ordination Committee said the rocket hit a building, but it put the death toll much higher, at 54 dead, including several children.

Footage of the blast on YouTube showed a crowd of men pulling the bloodied body of a young girl from the rubble.

An activist who asked not to be named said the blast may have been an explosion from inside the building....."

Kofi Annan offers bleak progress report on Syria

Al-Jazeera Cartoon: The Annan Plan.

UN envoy's peace plan has thrown up suspicions with briefing to security council suggesting a painful, open-ended process

Ian Black
, Middle East editor, Wednesday 25 April 2012

"Kofi Annan's statement that the situation in Syria is bleak is a rare example of undiplomatic bluntness from the man in charge of what many have described as a "mission impossible" – to find a political solution to the bloodiest crisis of the Arab spring.

The UN special envoy told the security council in a closed briefing on Tuesday that the country was still experiencing an unacceptable level of violence despite a ceasefire that has been partial and tenuous from the moment it began on 12 April. Sensibly, Annan chose instead to call it a "lull in the fighting".

Syrian government troops and heavy weapons had not been withdrawn from towns and cities despite pledges that they would be. "The only promises that count are the promises that are kept," Annan observed. And alarmingly, there was evidence that Syrians who had made contact with the currently tiny – 11-strong – advance UN observer team had later been targeted by the authorities. That was "totally unacceptable and reprehensible".....

This is not proving to be the UN's finest hour. Several countries have complained that its department of peacekeeping operations is moving at a snail's pace to put together the 300-strong monitoring mission that was approved by the security council last weekend. Hervé Ladsous, the under secretary general for peacekeeping, admitted that the deployment was moving slowly and that by the end of next month only 100 monitors – a tiny number given Syria's 23 million people– would be in place.

Still, given that the terms of the UN supervision mission require the agreement of the Syrian government, it is impossible to avoid the obstacles it is now predictably throwing up. The latest is Damascus's refusal to accept as monitors nationals from the 14 countries that comprise the "Friends of Syria" group – such as the US, UK, France, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar. Russians and Chinese are apparently welcome. In parallel to that, Indian journalists are being granted visas; western media organisations find it much harder. It all looks like being a painfully long haul."

Egypt must overturn prison sentence for actor accused of ‘insulting Islam’

Amnesty International
25 April 2012

"A ruling against leading Egyptian actor Adel Imam, sentenced to three months in prison for “insulting Islam” in his films, sends out the message the country has not moved on from its Mubarak-era heritage of suppressing free speech, Amnesty International said.

The actor, who was also fined $170 (around £105), was first found guilty in absentia in February for his film roles in a case originally brought last year by a lawyer. His lawyers filed an objection against the verdict but a Cairo misdemeanours court rejected the objection on 24 April and upheld the original conviction. The lawyers say he may appeal Tuesday’s sentence.

The lawyer has filed a second complaint against Adel Imam and five other writers and producers on similar charges for their role in creating and broadcasting films and plays that Adel Imam acted in. The verdict in the second case is expected on Thursday.

This ruling sends a strong message that Egypt has still not moved on from the era of quashing free speech,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“Adel Imam and the five other filmmakers should not be punished for peacefully expressing their opinion, even if those views do not sit comfortably with some critics.”......"

Egypt’s 6th of April says Saudi lying over Gizawi

Bikya Masr

"Egypt’s political movement 6th of April protested the Saudi Arabian Kingdom’s drug smuggling accusation on Egyptian human rights lawyer Ahmed al-Gizawi, calling the royal family “liars” and demanding that the Saudi authorities release the surveillance tape of his arrest.

In a statement issued early Wednesday, the political office of the influential movement lashed out against the ultra-conservative kingdom, saying that the new Egypt will not tolerate the humiliations of any of its citizens.

“Everyone should forget Mubarak’s Egypt, we are not second-class citizens and everyone should fear the new revolutionary Egypt that will preserve its people’s dignity,” said Engy Hamdy, member of the political office of the group.

“It is as if Mubarak and Soliman passed their experience in framing people to the Saudi side,” Hamdy added in the written statement.

The group accused the Saudi authorities of lying about the charges and demanded they release the video capturing the procedures of arresting Gizawi.

Gizawi’s wife, who was accompanying him when he was arrested, told Egyptian TV that her husband was arrested before the luggage was searched. The group said that not releasing the video proves that the Saudis are “liars.”

The group announced the end of its participation of the protests outside the Saudi Embassy in Giza late on Tuesday and announced its return on Wednesday noon to continue pressure on the Saudis.

The group took part in the protest alongside many other national groups in condemning the arrest and the allegations, and demanding the release not only of Gizawi, but of all Egyptians imprisoned in the kingdom....."

Christians of the Holy Land

According to a 2008 survey, only 0.8 per cent of Christian Palestinians cited "fleeing religious extremism" as a reason for emigration

Despite claims by Israeli government officials, Christian Palestinians regularly face discrimination.

By Ben White


"A recent report by CBS show 60 Minutes on "Christians of the Holy Land" has received a lot of attention, not least for the embarrassing contribution by Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren.

It is interesting that Israel (and its advocates) have been so concerned about the impact of a short segment regarding the challenges faced by Christian Palestinians under Israeli military occupation. In fact, Ambassador Oren himself only recently tried to exploit Christians for propaganda purposes - only to find that they objected to his cynicism.

The Israeli government has long tried to suggest that the emigration of Christian Palestinians is the result of a "jihad" being waged by "terrorists" or "fundamentalists". There are obvious advantages to this strategy, particularly its dependence on pre-existing prejudices and stereotypes in the West. But it also seeks to neutralise a potentially damaging threat: that people around the world will see Christian Palestinians leaving their historic homeland due to Israeli colonisation and occupation....."

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Map: Exclusive aerial images of Syria

Click on neighbourhoods in cities of Homs and Idlib for close-ups of army deployments and widespread destruction.

Mohammed Haddad and Ben Piven

Regime builds giant wall to seal off Baba Amr

Regime builds giant wall to seal off Baba Amr
  • At least 50 feared dead in fresh regime attack on Hama tonight
  • Douma under fire for a second day, snipers target civilians in their homes
  • Army shoots dead 4 bus passengers in Khan Sheikhoun attack

Avaaz has obtained photos and information today revealing a massive concrete wall has been built around the entire boundary of the formerly restive district of Baba Amr, sealing it off from the rest of the city. Troop reinforcements also arrived in the neighbourhood today, signalling an attempt to retain full regime control of Baba Amr following heavy bombardement and eventual capture of the opposition stronghold earlier this year. One resident told Avaaz: “The army surrounded the neighbourhood of Baba Amr with this fence and there are only three entrances left, which are only used by large numbers of regime troops who have entered the neighbourhood today.”
Another resident, ‘Abdul’ told Avaaz: “We don’t know why they have built the wall. It feels like we are living in Palestine.”
Today most of Homs experienced relative peace and quiet during the UN observers’ visit around the city. One citizen journalist, Mohamed, told Avaaz: “The people asked for help from the observers and asked for the withdrawal of the army and the tanks from the city.”However brief clashes between the army and the FSA were reported today in the neighbourhoods of Alaqrabees and Jouret Shiyah after regime forces tried for a second day to penetrate the restive area of the city.

Deadlock Over Syria



".....But after the Arab defeat in the 1967 war, the Middle East entered a period of stagnation which lasted four decades. Its regimes — whether republics or monarchies — gave up any attempt at reform. They were characterised by authoritarianism, the concentration of wealth in a clique close to the leadership, and endemic corruption. While there were sporadic and spontaneous outbursts of popular discontent, the desire for social change was ignored and governments focused on geopolitical issues, clashing with each other over their policies towards the US and Israel.....

Are we heading for an Islamist winter, sectarian clashes, or the crushing of the protest movements in Syria and Egypt? We cannot discount any of these hypotheses, but they all underestimate the power of the protests, the commitment to holding democratic elections and the extraordinary resilience of the people in Syria, as in Bahrain. They are reviving social and democratic struggles largely dormant since 1967, while maintaining their support for the Palestinian cause, which has never gone away. In this context, further foreign intervention would risk stirring up divisions, as it did in Iraq and Libya, and risk transforming a democratic struggle into a sectarian one, primarily between Shia and Sunnis."

Al-Jazeera Video: Annan says Syria violence unacceptable

"Kofi Annan the UN's special envoy to Syria has been briefing the Security Council.

He denounced the renewed violence in the country as unacceptable.

Al Jazeera's Kristen Saloomey has been following events at the UN in New York."

Al-Jazeera Video: معاناة صيادي السمك العرب في يافا

"في يافا يعاني صيادو الاسماك العرب من تراجع حاد في الثروة السمكية بسبب تلويث مياه البحر من قبل مصانع اسرائيلية اضافة الى صعوبات كثيرة تضعها امامهم السلطات الاسرائيلية لتقليص نفوذهم في ميناء يافا. ويقول الصيادون ان السلطات الاسرائيلية تسعى لاجتثاثهم من الميناء سعيا لتحويله الى مرفق سياحي ضمن مشروع كبير لتهويد المدينة.

A Great Cartoon by Khalil Bendib: The Formula!

(Click on cartoon to enlarge)

Egyptian Gas Directed in the Right Direction, by Emad Hajjaj

History in the Making, as Written by the Youth

By Anas Altikriti

"LONDON - It might be a cliché and often an elaborate exaggeration to term a particular event "historic". However, few can doubt that along with the Civil Rights movements, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Berlin Wall, the revolutions that have swept through the Arab world are no less momentous or historic.....

They also sent the world a clear and unequivocal message. The West had for decades established alliances with corrupt regimes on the premise that the alternative would be far worse. The dictators seemed to have convinced their Western allies that democratic changes would bring Extremists into power, would empower violent thugs and would create anarchy.

The people also sent a message to the likes of Al-Qaeda that change through peaceful protests and non-violent means is the most effective means of change, and that violence is actually an impediment to real, meaningful and radical change.

They were all proven wrong. "

Sayef's Story and the Forgotten Children of Fallujah

The phosphorus shells that devastated this city were fired in 2004. But are the victims of America's dirty war still being born?

By Robert Fisk

"....It's as difficult to write this kind of report as it is to understand the courage of his family. Many of the Fallujah families whose children have been born with what doctors call "congenital birth anomalies" prefer to keep their doors closed to strangers, regarding their children as a mark of personal shame rather than possible proof that something terrible took place here after the two great American battles against insurgents in the city in 2004, and another conflict in 2007.

After at first denying the use of phosphorous shells during the second battle of Fallujah, US forces later admitted that they had fired the munitions against buildings in the city. Independent reports have spoken of a birth-defect rate in Fallujah far higher than other areas of Iraq, let alone other Arab countries. No one, of course, can produce cast-iron evidence that American munitions have caused the tragedy of Fallujah's children....

"Every time I watch my son, I'm dying inside," he says, tears running down his face. "I think about his destiny. He is getting heavier all the time. It's more difficult to carry him." So I ask whom he blames for Sayef's little calvary. I expect a tirade of abuse against the Americans, the Iraqi government, the Health Ministry. The people of Fallujah have long been portrayed as "pro-terrorist" and "anti-Western" in the world's press, ever since the murder and cremation of the four American mercenaries in the city in 2004 – the event which started the battles for Fallujah in which up to 2,000 Iraqis, civilians and insurgents, died, along with almost 100 US troops.

But Mohamed is silent for a few moments. He is not the only father to show his deformed child to us. "I am only asking for help from God," he says. "I don't expect help from any other human being." Which proves, I guess, that Fallujah – far from being a city of terror – includes some very brave men."

Bahrain activist Zainab al-Khawaja detained after grand prix protest

Daughter of jailed hunger striker Abdulhadi al-Khawaja remanded in custody for a week, lawyer says, Tuesday 24 April 2012

"Bahrain has remanded in custody for seven days the daughter of a jailed hunger striker for protesting during last week's Formula One grand prix, her lawyer says.

Zainab al-Khawaja was arrested on Saturday after she sat on the main road running past Bahrain's financial district during days of Shia protests held to embarrass the kingdom's rulers at a time when the race was drawing international media attention.

Activists are pressing for democratic reforms in a country dominated by the al-Khalifa family, a Sunni dynasty that rules over a majority Shia population.

Khawaja's lawyer, Mohammed al-Jishi, said: "They decided yesterday to hold her for seven days for holding up traffic and insulting a public official. She refused to talk in the investigations or to sign papers."...."

Jordan: Publisher, Journalist Charged in State Security Court

Prosecution a Blow to Kingdom’s Reform Efforts

April 25, 2012

"(Beirut) – The charges by Jordan’s military prosecutor against a journalist and publisher of a news website apparently violate their free speech rights, Human Rights Watch said today. The two were charged on April 23, 2012, with “subverting the system of government” for an article concerning the king’s supposed intervention in a corruption investigation.

The case is the fifth time in 2012 that peaceful critics have faced charges for speech offenses, a pattern that undermines the credibility of Jordan’s reform efforts, Human Rights Watch said.

Jordan cannot claim to be making democratic reforms while prosecutors hunt down journalists doing their job,” said Christoph Wilcke, senior Middle East researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Jordan’s parliament should eliminate penal code articles that punish nonviolent speech offenses, and in the meantime, authorities should instruct prosecutors to stop bringing charges under those articles.”....."

Egypt’s ON TV receives kidnap threats from Jihadist Group

Bikya Masr

"Egypt’s liberal satellite channel ON TV received a threatening letter from an unknown group calling itself “The Jihadist Group to Cleanse the Country” warning they would kidnap some of the news presenters and inflict harm on companies that advertise with channel, if the channel “does not change its media policies.”

The group threatened to kidnap popular program hosts Reem Maged and Yousri Fouda and ask for 20 million Egypt pound ransom ($3.2 million), in addition to destroying the channel’s facilities and studios.

Albert Shafik, head of ON TV, filed a police report, presenting a copy of the letter to the Giza police department.

“You have crossed all red lines and you are pushing the country to chaos, implementing an American Zionist agenda,” the letter began.

We will not turn to the government or the law, they are the means of the weak and the position that you spread through Maged. [They] will not affect our great nation,” the letter continued.

“We command you to stop immediately or else we will force you to donate 10 million pounds to charity or the Naguib Sawiris companies and ON TV studios will be destroyed,” the group added.
We would kidnap your talk show hosts and ask for a 20 million pound ransom they would be assassinated. This is also a word of warning to the advertisement companies that deal with you, if they don’t not stop, we will inflict great harm upon them, so we advise you to immediately halt your destructive policies and if you do not, we will start and if we do, we will not stop,” the letter added.

However, commentators on the news mocked the letter, saying it is an attempt of the old regime to intimidate liberal voices, while others accused the military council of being behind the threats.

The channel openly supports the human rights community and dose not hesitate to expose rights violations, with activists and rights advocates as regular guests.

The channel and especially Fouda, were put under pressure for their choice of guests and topics, most recently when Fouda’s program Akher Kalam, or the “Last Words,” was taken off the air for a day for inviting opposition novelist Alaa al-Aswany as a guest.

As a response Fouda protested by staying off air for a few weeks, but returned under public pressure."

It will be wonderful... when women can walk freely

Can music and art bring together the many different political and religious factions occupying Tahrir Square?

By Mark LeVine

It might be wonderful after all

Liberals and Left forces in Egypt by and large have little love for the Salafis, and the Ultra's lesson was well-received by most of the activists I saw after the protests. But the reality is that the Salafis belong in Tahrir Square, as movements like April 6 acknowledged when they invited all the country's main forces to join them in Tahrir for the day under the banners "Together to protect the Revolution" and "No to the Felool". Where else should they be but Tahrir to press for their demands? They too suffered horribly under the Mubarak regime, when untold thousands languished in jails and suffered brutal abuses, even as their leaders were largely coopted by the system in the last 15 years.

Indeed, the Salafis may have come late to the revolution, but they remain one of the few and most organised truly revolutionary voices in Egypt - not merely in what many would perceive as the negative sense of desiring a state based largely on their conservative interpretation of the Sharia, but because they have a much stronger social justice discourse than the increasingly establishment Muslim Brotherhood. They are thus a crucial component of any alliance against the emerging political-economic elite and its deep state patrons.

And this is what makes Tahrir so wonderful. The Salafis conquered a large part of Tahrir, but even after doing so they were forced to listen to music sung with abandon by thousands of people, who didn't go up in a poof of smoke or descend directly to Hell merely for doing so. Salafis on the street were dialoging with women and men from very different sociol-political orientations about the best way to complete a democratic transition, even as preachers regularly intoned verses from the Quran or the Shahada. The Salafis with dayglo vests who have suddenly took over security for the Midan were no less polite or smiling than the Shabab who'd traditionally run Tahrir's civilian security.

The more that Salafis or Brotherhood members have to share public space with other Egyptians (including, one hopes, a lot more Christians than were in Tahrir on Friday), the more both sides' views of the other will begin to shift towards greater understanding, and just perhaps, the beginnings of some sort of shared political vision. This is, of course, the most fundamental role of the public sphere, to enable debate that, however spirited, ultimately leads to a conception of the common good that furthers the most basic rights of all citizens.

Of course, conservatives of all religious persuasions have a hard time accepting the necessarily pluralistic and tolerant definition of the public sphere. And here is precisely where art plays such an important role. As both Ramy Essam and the members of the Freedom Theatre explained after their joint performance Friday evening, the most important job of art is precisely to represent the unrepresentable, to reflect a mirror back on society that shows not just its ugliest realities but the glimmers of hope they so often obscure. And in so doing, to give people the strength and imagination to do the seemingly impossible, and in the process change the basic frameworks through which they shape their identities and act towards to those around them.

Watching the audience, including a few Salafis, move their heads to Essam's guitar and the rhythmic motions of the Freedom Theatre's actors, the future of Egypt seemed just a bit brighter than it had when I first left my friends' apartment, 12 hours before."