Saturday, February 8, 2014

Yarmouk, the refugee camp that shames the world

Tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees trapped in a Syrian camp by the war are enduring appalling conditions that ought to concern all of us. Christopher Gunness, spokesman for the UN relief effort, says humanitarian aid must be stepped up

Yarmouk refugee camp
Crowds wait to be allowed across the frontline at Yarmouk to reach the area where the UN distributes aid. Photograph: UNRWA
The lexicon of man's inhumanity to man has a new word – Yarmouk. The camp, on the edge of Damascus, was once the bustling, vibrant heart of the Palestine refugee community in Syria, where 160,000 Palestinians lived in harmony with Syrians of all stripes. Over the past six months, it has become synonymous with infant malnutrition, women dying in childbirth for lack of medical care and besieged communities reduced to eating animal feed – all this in the capital city of a UN member state in the 21st century. Yarmouk sums up the tragic, profound suffering of civilians in the Syria conflict. It should not have to.
This tragedy has a human face. Khaled, aged 14 months, is a war child. He was born as Syria's pitiless conflict engulfed Yarmouk: armed opposition groups entered the camp and government forces responded by encircling it. Trapped with his parents and four siblings, he has seen more suffering in his short life than most of us will experience in a lifetime.
Khaled embodies Syria's tragic conflict, but also the opportunities that we must grasp. He would probably be dead had it not been for Dr Ibrahim Mohammad of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), who treated him for a severe form of malnutrition known as kwashiorkor, caused by a prolonged lack of protein. He also had symptoms of rickets.
"When I first saw Khaled he looked like a five-month-old," says Mohammad. "He was about to die. Khaled had survived on water and almost no solid food for two months."
When asked about life in Yarmouk, Khaled's mother Noor, 29, becomes agitated. "Hell would be better," she says. "We boiled spices with water and drank it. We ate grass until all the grass was gone."
When Noor gave a birth to Khaled at home, she was able to breastfeed him, but with her poor diet her milk stopped after two months. Cow's milk smuggled into the camp was prohibitively expensive and no powdered milk was available. Khaled went without. He was lucky. Noor says her four-month-old niece starved to death.
KhaledKhaled, aged 14 months, is recovering well after being treated for a severe form of malnutrition known as kwashiorkor. Photograph: UNRWA
"Everyone assumed they would soon be dead because of hunger or shelling," she says. "Death was everywhere. One of my neighbours died in childbirth. The midwife was called away mid-birth, to assist another woman, and when she returned, my neighbour had bled to death."
There are many Khaleds and many more Noors in Yarmouk. UNRWA workers have encountered them every morning since 18 January, when the Syrian authorities allowed UNRWA to take in food. Each day, crowds of gaunt figures await the distribution team on Rama Street, at the northern edge of the camp. After their ID cards are checked, some of them go across no man's land, defined by opposing sniper positions, and join the long queues to the distribution area.
The wait is stressful and exhausting. At the end of each day, once darkness falls and the UN distribution team returns to its base in Damascus, hundreds of civilians, in a visible state of desperation, fatigue and anguish, return to their harsh existence inside Yarmouk, many of them with nothing. On our best day, 30 January, we delivered more than 1,000 food parcels, each containing enough supplies to feed a family for about two weeks. On more difficult days, we have managed as few as 26 or as many as 645. War is no respecter of need.
As with all humanitarian work in conflict, rewards are small, frustrations are manifold and danger is everywhere.
On 14 January, an UNRWA relief convoy of six trucks with food for 6,000 people, along with 10,000 doses of polio vaccine and other medical supplies, left our main warehouse in Damascus. We were required to use the southern entrance to Yarmouk. This meant the convoy had to drive 20km through an area of intense conflict, in which numerous armed opposition groups, including some of the most extreme jihadist organisations, have a strong and active presence.
Citing security concerns, the Syrian authorities did not permit UNRWA to use the northern entrance to Yarmouk, which is under government control, and which is generally regarded as more likely to be accessible with relatively less risk.
As the convoy approached Yarmouk from the south, it was joined by a government security escort, which enabled the vehicles to reach the last government-controlled checkpoint. The convoy was cleared to go beyond and the Syrian authorities provided a bulldozer to clear the road of debris, earth mounds and other obstructions. However, as this was happening, the bulldozer was struck by gunfire and forced to withdraw, though with no casualties. Thereafter, bursts of gunfire, including heavy machine-gun fire, erupted close to the UNRWA vehicles. One mortar exploded close to the convoy. Our team withdrew, mercifully without casualties.
We were undaunted. Our humanitarian mission continues. Following successful access to Yarmouk on 18 January, we have now delivered more than 6,000 basic food parcels and 10,000 polio vaccines. This is not enough. We need more. We need secure, substantial and sustained access. And we need this for all civilians in Syria. There are many Yarmouks.
Let me end by returning to Khaled. Four weeks later, and he has been transformed with nutrition and medication. His lifeless face now carries a smile, his swollen abdomen and limbs look healthy thanks to the work of Mohammad. Today he weighs as much as an eight-month-old. He grew exponentially with modest assistance and with continued medical care. Our health department is confident he will reach the size and weight of a normal, healthy baby.
Nature will take its course, we hope, and perhaps with a nurturing, stable environment, eventually Khaled will achieve his full human potential. That remains our goal for him and for all our beneficiaries in Yarmouk and beyond. We must see Khaled's rapid recovery and that of his mother Noor as symbols of hope, as symbols of our commitment to the people of Yarmouk and to all civilians in Syria.
Yarmouk has been a challenge to the humanity of all of us. UNRWA is rising to that challenge. We must all rise to that challenge. For while the people of Yarmouk and other civilians in Syria are deprived of their dignity, the dignity of all of us is diminished.
Perhaps ultimately the word Yarmouk can take on another meaning. Perhaps when the war is over, Yarmouk will come to be seen as an example of human compassion, where the pitilessness of war was overcome by the sheer force of human dignity.
For more information on UNRWA's work in Yarmouk, or to donate, contact


■ Yarmouk was established in 1957 to accommodate an informal and largely tented area for Palestinians who had fled after Israel's foundation in 1948. It is a built-up urban area, once home to 112,000 people, with schools, hospitals, apartment blocks and shops.
■ Palestinians in Syria have passports and some have served in senior government positions. Factions operating there have included Fatah; the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command; and Hamas, whose external office under Khaled Meshaal was based in Damascus for a decade.
■ Hamas's refusal to support Bashar al-Assad's regime against the rebels in 2011 saw Meshaal and other members of the external Hamas leadership quit Syria in 2012 for Qatar, leading to a breach with Shia Iran – one of Assad's main backers - that had been supportive of the Sunni Hamas.
■ As the Syrian war intensified, Yarmouk struggled to remain neutral. There were clashes between those – some of them Sunni salafists –who supported the largely Sunni anti-government opposition and those who favoured staying out or who backed the regime dominated by Alawites, a Shia offshoot. Those supporting the opposition prevailed. As the population fled and the camp began to empty, the issue was settled as armed opposition groups moved in. The Syrian army then blockaded and bombarded YarmoukPeter Beaumont

Videos show settlers attacking activists, as Israeli soldiers stand by

Egypt: Release women protesters facing trumped-up charges

Amnesty International

 Since the beginning of the academic year in September 2013, several protests have been held on university grounds by the “Students against the Coup”, an anti-government activist group.
Since the beginning of the academic year in September 2013, several protests have been held on university grounds by the “Students against the Coup”, an anti-government activist group.
© Demotix
The detention of the three women at Mansoura University is just another example of the mounting crackdown on protesters and free expression in Egypt. They are facing fabricated and illegitimate charges simply for exercising their rights.
Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International
Fri, 07/02/2014

The Egyptian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release three women arrested last November at a protest at Mansoura University, said Amnesty International.   
The organization said authorities should drop all the charges against the women, who are due to go on trial on Saturday 8 February. If convicted, they face up to life in prison. 
“The detention of the three women at Mansoura University is just another example of the mounting crackdown on protesters and free expression in Egypt. They are facing fabricated and illegitimate charges simply for exercising their rights. The authorities have displayed a brazen disregard for the right to peaceful assembly in recent months and have sought to clamp down on any form of dissent with a restrictive new protest law,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui. 
“Amnesty International considers the women prisoners of conscience detained solely for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression and assembly. They have denied any involvement in the violence and this has been corroborated by the university security. It is baffling that they now may face life in prison.” 
Abrar Al-Anany 18 and Menatalla Moustafa 18, both students at Mansoura University and Yousra Elkhateeb, 21, a recent graduate, were arrested on 12 November 2013 after clashes erupted on the university campus between supporters and opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood.  They have been held at Mansoura’s Public Prison ever since, where they are each allowed only a weekly five-minute visit with their families. 
The clashes, which broke out during a protest held by student supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, lasted more than five hours and left at least 70 people injured.  After university security tried and failed to take control of the situation the university president called state security forces to intervene. They then entered the university campus with armoured vehicles and shot tear gas to disperse the students. At least 23 students were arrested, including the three women. 
“Students who have been involved in violent acts should be dealt in accordance with the law and in line with Egypt’s human rights obligations. Students under the age of 18 must be treated according to juvenile justice rules,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui. 
The Ministry of Interior did not allow the two students to have their books to study inside the prison and they were prevented from taking the end-of-semester exams. 
The women are charged with belonging to a banned organization using “terrorist” methods – a charge regularly used by the authorities against those perceived to support the Muslim Brotherhood.  They are also charged with protesting without permission under Egypt’s restrictive new protest law as well as charges of thuggery, attacking security forces and destroying public property. 
According to witnesses and the women’s lawyers, they were not involved in the clashes. The women had peacefully taken part in protests earlier but sought safety in a room at the university’s faculty of pharmacy when violence broke out. 
Amnesty International has seen a copy of a letter from the security department at Mansoura University to the public prosecutor stating that the women did not take part in the violence and asking for their release. 
“The authorities seem determined to punish anyone who expresses dissent, irrespective of facts,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui. 
“The Egyptian authorities must stop treating peaceful protesters like criminals. The relentless crackdown on demonstrations, freedom of expression and independent reporting must end.”

Since the beginning of the academic year in September 2013, several protests have been held on university grounds by the “Students against the Coup”, an anti-government activist group. University campuses and even dorms have become frequent sites of clashes. 
The clashes at Mansoura University on 12 November 2013 lasted more than five hours and left at least 70 people injured. The security forces fired tear gas from outside the university to disperse students inside. Later they entered the university grounds after the university’s president had asked for them to intervene to end the violence. 
Universities across Egypt have been affected by protests and clashes including the largest two universities in Greater Cairo – Cairo University and Ain Shams. - Al-Azhar University remains a centre of student unrest. At least five al-Azhar University students have been killed in  confrontations with security forces, and over 200 arrested. Security forces have used excessive force – including lethal force – to disperse the protests, and in some cases fired into or entered university grounds. 
Hundreds of students have been rounded-up by security forces during protests and clashes throughout Egypt. Over 500 students have been arrested in various protests since 3 July 2013. Courts have issued convictions in three cases against al-Azhar University students, sentencing them to prison terms ranging from a year and a half to 17 years. 
A new protest law restricting the right to public assembly signed by interim President Adly Mansour on 24 November 2013, fails to meet international standards. It gives the Interior Ministry wide discretionary powers over protests including the use of firearms against peaceful protesters. Protesters convicted of breaking the law can face up to five years in prison and fines of LE100,000 (USD$14,513). 

Bassem Youssef Returns! البرنامج - موسم 3 - الحلقه 1 كامله

Threats, assaults and arrests … the perils of reporting from Egypt

Indictment of British al-Jazeera correspondents symptomatic of multifaceted campaign against journalists

"The British foreign secretary, William Hague, has expressed concern about a crackdown on free expression in Egypt after the indictment of two British journalists on charges of "spreading false news" and aiding alleged terrorists – part of a campaign against journalists that has taken many forms in recent weeks.
In a statement Hague urged the Egyptian interim government "to demonstrate its commitment to an inclusive political process which allows for full freedom of expression and for journalists to operate without the fear of persecution".
The al-Jazeera English correspondents Sue Turton and Dominic Kane are among 20 journalists charged in Egypt with tarnishing the country's reputation abroad, and helping the former president Mohamed Morsi's now-banned Muslim Brotherhood. The pair are safely out of the country, but four of their al-Jazeera colleagues are still in jail after being arrested last year, while one was released this week.
Al-Jazeera is the most prominent target for Egyptian authorities as it is owned by Qatar, which has acted as a safe haven for Brotherhood members since Morsi's overthrow in July. But all foreign media have come under threat because, unlike almost all local outlets, international reporters have tended to question the government narrative that Egypt is on the path to democracy.
As a result, Egyptian newspapers and television channels – both public and private – have claimed that all foreign journalists are funded by the Muslim Brotherhood, or foreign spies. Government officials have also played their part, attacking foreign news outlets, including the Guardian.
"Egyptians believe they are in a state of war against the Muslim Brotherhood, and anyone who gives them a microphone is seen as also wanting to destroy Egypt," said Rena Netjes, a Dutch broadcast journalist who fled Egypt this week after being accused of spreading false news. "So they want to close down anyone who gives them a voice."
The effect on journalists reporting in public spaces has been chilling. Covering anti-government demonstrations has always been dangerous because of the state's frequent use of live bullets and teargas, and the police's tendency to briefly detain journalists at the scene. But now correspondents are wary of reporting at state-sanctioned protests because many members of the public are so hostile to foreign media. – while otherssomeSome think twice about asking journalistic questions in the street, or even of disclosing their profession to taxi drivers.
Nadine Marroushi, a British freelancer and former news agency reporter working in Egypt since 2011, was interviewing pro-government demonstrators making their way to Tahrir Square on the third anniversary of Egypt's revolution on 25 January when she was suddenly accused of working for al-Jazeera. "He kept saying 'al-Jazeera, al-Jazeera', and then he said: 'We have to arrest her,'" Marroushi said, in a story that strikes a chord with anyone reporting in Egypt.
The crowd's mood shifted instantly. People started to attack Marroushi and her colleague, "and one woman was basically strangling me with her scarf". The police sheltered the pair in a nearby building while the mob banged on the door.
While tourists are welcomed with open arms at Egypt's tourist sites, most Cairo-based journalists have experienced similar assaults in crowds, at the hands of both local citizens and police. The weekend Marroushi was attacked, a German film crew was hospitalised after being attacked by a mob, and an Italian journalist was also beaten up. On 25 January alone, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) documented 24 infringements against journalists.
The crackdown on Morsi supporters and secular activists has been far more brutal, but some journalists now fear they will be next after Islamists and then leftist revolutionaries were targeted.
Hossam Meneai, an Egyptian documentary-maker, was arrested at his home on 22 January – a shocking incident that frightened many, said Meneai's British flatmate, Nizar Manek. "They have pulverised the Brotherhood and now they are going after secular liberals, even non-political actors who may at some stage pose some difficulty for the regime," said Manek, a business journalist who witnessed Meneai's arrest, and who has now fled the country. "Hossam and myself are fairly ordinary people – so the fact that they can turn up at our door means they can turn up at anyone's."
Speaking to journalists this week, Egypt's foreign minister, Nabil Fahmy,tried to assuage concerns about a media crackdown. "We welcome foreign press," said Fahmy. [] "We provide them with assurances of press freedoms, and guarantees for their safety, as long as … [they] pursue their efforts in the law."
But what the law says about journalists is often unclear. The authorities have given only incomprehensible advice on the legality of interviewing the Muslim Brotherhood, who are now designated terrorists despite holding public office less than a year ago. Egypt's new constitution supposedly enshrines free speech, except "in times of war", a term the government has used to describe the crackdown on Islamists.
Authorities stress that accredited journalists have the right to work freely, but there are numerous recent accounts of officials placing more and more obstacles in the path of correspondents seeking accreditation.
Photojournalists are in a particularly precarious position. Not only does the nature of their work force them closer to the violence, but their equipment makes them more visible to vigilantes and police, said Mosa'ab Elshamy, an acclaimed local photojournalist, whose brother Abdullah is one of four al-Jazeera journalists in jail.
"The atmosphere of fear the government has created has made the public suspicious of anyone holding a camera – just as they are suspicious of people looking foreign," he said. "If you're on the streets with a camera and a gas mask, equipment which is not easy to conceal, it's a big challenge."
Photographers leave home expecting at the very least to be stopped for carrying a camera, and perhaps even detained if the camera contains protest photos.
In one case among many, Mosa'ab Elshamy's third brother Mohamed – another respected photojournalist – was also detained for several hours last month because his camera carried pictures of a demonstration. At least four international photojournalists have left Egypt since December because the environment makes it almost impossible for them to do their work.
"Possessing a camera is essentially an offence now," said Mosa'ab Elshamy, "and certainly possessing a camera with protest photos in it.""

The truth about the criminal bloodbath in Iraq can't be 'countered' indefinitely

babt pilger
A baby in a Baghdad hospital in July 2003. 'Half a million Iraqi infants died as a result of sanctions, according to Unicef.' Photograph: Joseph Barrak/AFP/Getty Images
The media cover-up has been a weapon in the crimes of western states since the first world war. But a reckoning is coming for those paid to keep the record straight
"The BBC's Today programme is enjoying high ratings, and the Mail and Telegraph are, as usual, attacking the corporation as leftwing. Last month a single edition of the Radio 4 show was edited by the artist and musician PJ Harvey. What happened was illuminating.
Harvey's guests caused panic from the moment she proposed the likes of Mark Curtis, a historian rarely heard on the BBC who chronicles the crimes of the British state; the lawyer Phil Shiner and the Guardian journalist Ian Cobain, who reveal how the British kidnap and torture; the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange; and myself.
There were weeks of absurd negotiation at Broadcasting House about ways of "countering" us and whether or not we could be allowed to speak without interruption from Today's establishment choristers. What this brief insurrection demonstrated was the fear of a reckoning. The crimes of western states like Britain have made accessories of those in the media who suppress or minimise the carnage.
The Faustian pacts that contrived a world war a century ago resonate today across the Middle East and Asia, from Syria to Japan. Then, as now, cover-up was the principal weapon. In 1917 David Lloyd George, the British prime minister, declared: "If people knew the truth, the war would be stopped tomorrow. But of course they don't know and can't know."
On Harvey's Today programme I referred to a poll conducted by ComRes last year that asked people in Britain how many Iraqis had been killed as a result of the 2003 invasion. A majority said that fewer than 10,000 had been killed: a figure so shockingly low it was a profanity.
I compared this with scientific estimates of "up to a million men, women and children [who] had died in the inferno lit by Britain and the US". In fact, academic estimates range from less than half a million to more than a million. John Tirman, the principal research scientist at the MIT Centre for International Studies, has examined all the credible estimates; he told me that an average figure "suggests roughly 700,000". Tirman pointed out that this excluded deaths among the millions of displaced Iraqis, up to 20% of the population.
The day after the Harvey programme, Today "countered" with Toby Dodge of the LSE – a former adviser to General Petraeus, one of the architects of the disasters in both Iraq and Afghanistan – along withMowaffak al-Rubaie, a former Iraqi "national security adviser" in the occupation regime, and the man who led Saddam Hussein to his lynching.
These BBC-accredited "experts" rubbished, without evidence, the studies and reduced the number of dead by hundreds of thousands. The interviewer, Mishal Husain, offered no challenge to their propaganda. They then "debated" who was responsible. Lloyd George's dictum held; culpability was diverted.
But for how long? There is no question that the epic crime committed in Iraq has burrowed into the public consciousness. Many recall that "shock and awe" was the extension of a murderous blockade imposed for 13 years by Britain and the US and suppressed by much of the mainstream media, including the BBC. Half a million Iraqi infants died as a result of sanctions, according to Unicef. I watched children dying in hospitals, denied basic painkillers.
Ten years later, in New York, I met the senior British official responsible for these "sanctions". He is Carne Ross, once known in the UN as "Mr Iraq". He is now a truth-teller. I read to him a statement he had made to a parliamentary select committee in 2007: "The weight of evidence clearly indicates that sanctions caused massive human suffering among ordinary Iraqis, particularly children. We, the US and UK governments, were the primary engineers and offenders of sanctions and were well aware of the evidence at the time but we largely ignored it and blamed it on the Saddam government … effectively denying the entire population the means to live."
I said to him: "That's a shocking admission."
"Yes, I agree," he replied. "I feel ashamed about it ..." He described how the Foreign Office manipulated a willing media. "We would control access to the foreign secretary as a form of reward to journalists. If they were critical, we would not give them the goodies of trips around the world. We would feed them factoids of sanitised intelligence, or we'd freeze them out."
In the build-up to the 2003 invasion, according to studies by Cardiff University and Media Tenor, the BBC followed the Blair government's line and lies, and restricted airtime to those opposing the invasion. WhenAndrew Gilligan famously presented a dissenting report on Today, he and the director general were crushed.
The truth about the criminal bloodbath in Iraq cannot be "countered" indefinitely. Neither can the truth about our support for the medievalists in Saudi Arabia, the nuclear-armed predators in Israel, the new military fascists in Egypt and the jihadist "liberators" of Syria, whose propaganda is now BBC news. There will be a reckoning – not just for the Blairs, Straws and Campbells, but for those paid to keep the record straight."

Al-Jazeera reporter - journalism is not terrorism and I'm not a terrorist

The Guardian

Sue Turton, above, is a presenter and senior correspondent with Al-Jazeera English. She has been indicted in her absence by the Egyptian authorities on a charge of aiding terrorists. She and a colleague, Dominic Kane, were among 20 people accused of spreading false news, bringing Egypt into disrepute, and conspiring with terrorists.
"At least, unlike five other imprisoned Al-Jazeera staff, she is outside Egypt. She is therefore able to write about the situation inside the country, and about the arrests of three Al-Jazeera English colleagues. Here is her story...
We are careful at Al-Jazeera not to label anyone a terrorist. After all, one man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter. But the Egyptian prosecutor general sees things very differently. To him, journalism can be terrorism.

The charges levelled against me and my colleagues are an affront to every journalist who has reported accurately and independently from Egypt in recent times.

We weren't there to promote one side or the other. We had no agenda. We just told it as we saw it. How did the daily grind of stories on a 24-hour news channel become such a threat to an all-powerful military-backed government?
I've been physically attacked, verbally abused, shot at, bombed and arrested in my 25 years as a TV reporter. They're occupational hazards. But being accused of assisting terrorists is not.
I've covered the Egypt beat many times for Al-Jazeera but I flew into Cairo last September last year on a story about Syria. I had gone to cover a meeting of the Arab League foreign ministers to discuss possible US military action against the Assad regime.
It was just two months after Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhoodleader, was ousted by the military and we already had a team in an Egyptian jail.
As the foreign ministers were settling down in the general assembly chamber we got a call from our bureau chief. The police were raiding our offices and had arrested the accountant.

Cairo is a rumour mill - who knows what to believe?

We were told the police were on the way to the Arab League to arrest all Al-Jazeera staff. But we left unhindered. Cairo is a rumour mill, so who knows what to believe?
But we were unsure of just how safe our presence was, and we could have shut up shop and left. Maybe we should have. But that's not what Al-Jazeera is about. And it's not why I joined the channel as its Afghanistan correspondent after 12 years working alongside Jon Snow at Channel 4 News.
I covered the Libyan revolution and the Syrian conflict, plus stints in Egypt, Jerusalem, Ramallah and Moscow. Conflict is where you see people in the raw, and life is a constant juggling act of pushing the boundaries just far enough to do the job without getting locked up or hurt.
When you cover a conflict there is always one side that wants to arrest or kill you. When you work in countries that don't respect the human rights of their own people you will be doing interviews that those in power don't want aired.
I knew I was reporting without government accreditation. Being granted such a pass had become increasingly difficult for us. Is not having accreditation a reason not to report a story? It's certainly not a reason to lock a reporter up for a day, never mind 40 days.
After the raiding of our Cairo bureau we thought things would calm down. Surely Egypt didn't want more damaging headlines about western journalists being imprisoned or worse.
The advice was to move to a large international hotel and stay in full view. So we all checked into the Marriott in Zamalek, a major international hotel full of foreign businessmen and other journalists.
This is when I worked with Baher Mohamed, our producer [in jail since 29 December]. He is Egyptian so he has no foreign embassy lobbying for his release. Just a lot of guards and police who don't much like Al-Jazeera questioning their methods.
Baher is a proud Egyptian and an even prouder father. I lost count of how many times he went on to the streets to tell us what was going on as it was too dangerous for westerners to venture out. His enthusiasm is infectious.

Peter Greste, now in jail, is one of our stalwart correspondents

Our bosses acted quickly to find us reinforcements and a few days later Mohamed Fahmy walked into the Marriott [also in jail since 29 December]. More handsome than George Clooney, and with a kind, gentle manner, Mohamed steadied the ship.
He has worked for CNN and the BBC and has a large following of over 18,000 on Twitter for his considered, well-informed comments. He persuaded most of the Egyptian staff to keep working for us and tried to settle frayed nerves.
There were rumours that the police were looking for us, but we weren't in hiding. I reported on stories about pollution, football violence, bombings in Sinai and the Morsi trial – the same kind of fodder Al-Jazeera covers in bureaus across the world.
I was one of a number of correspondents to rotate through the Cairo bureau. Peter Greste [in jail since 29 December] is one of our stalwart correspondents, based in East Africa. He had only been in Egypt for three weeks when he was arrested.
He had been reporting on the same stories with the same producers and cameramen, doing the same sorts of interviews, trying to make sense of the aftermath of the revolution and last summer's change in leadership with a seasoned eye.
I remember him doing a live cross with me as I anchored from the studio on Christmas Day and thinking how measured his answers were.
If the new men in charge want to be seen as governing a civilised society with checks and balances and a respect for human rights then they must embrace a free press, not incarcerate those who dare to differ."

Friday, February 7, 2014

The New Dark Age

Don’t say we didn’t warn you...

By Justin Raimondo
harmony_640.jpg (640×509)
What’s next – concentration camps for dissidents? Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia thinks so:
"U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia told law students at the University of Hawaii law school Monday that the nation’s highest court was wrong to uphold the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II but that he wouldn’t be surprised if the court issued a similar ruling during a future conflict.
"Scalia was responding to a question about the court’s 1944 decision in Korematsu v. United States, which upheld the convictions of Gordon Hirabayashi and Fred Korematsu for violating an order to report to an internment camp.
“’Well, of course, Korematsu was wrong. And I think we have repudiated in a later case. But you are kidding yourself if you think the same thing will not happen again,’ Scalia told students and faculty during a lunchtime question-and-answer session.
"Scalia cited a Latin expression meaning ‘In times of war, the laws fall silent.’
"’That’s what was going on – the panic about the war and the invasion of the Pacific and whatnot. That’s what happens. It was wrong, but I would not be surprised to see it happen again, in time of war. It’s no justification but it is the reality,’ he said."
Interestingly, Scalia makes the key connection between what’s going on abroad, i.e. our foreign policy of perpetual war, and the state of civil liberties at home, which is more than one can say about many if not most of his conservative admirers.

When I was a wee libertarian lad, we used to have a slogan, the kind you put on stickers and leave in public places: SAVE YOUR CANDLES, THE DARK AGES ARE COMING! Back then, in the 1960s, if anyone had suggested that by 2014 we’d be living in the kind of country where one’s every communication is recorded and stored – the kind where journalists fear to report the truth about what their government is doing, and where the abolition of the First Amendment is being openly considered by elected officials – they would’ve been ridiculed as purveyors of pure speculative fiction. And with no small justification: in retrospect, however, it turns out that old bumper sticker was prescient as hell."

Emad Hajjaj's Cartoon

براميل الأسد مسموح بها دولياً!

Assad's Barrel Bombs:

Internationally Sanctioned....

Blessed Worldwide.......

With a Divine Message!

Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes at five-year high: aid groups

A Palestinian man reacts as he sits atop rubble after his home was demolished in Jabel Mukaber, a village in the suburbs of East Jerusalem, in this February 5, 2014 file picture. REUTERS-Ammar Awad-Files
1 OF 3. A Palestinian man reacts as he sits atop rubble after his home was demolished in Jabel Mukaber, a village in the suburbs of East Jerusalem, in this February 5, 2014 file picture.


"(Reuters) - Aid agencies working in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem expressed alarm on Friday at a spike in Israeli demolitions of Palestinian property coinciding with renewed U.S.-backed peace negotiations.
The statement by 25 aid organizations said the number of demolitions increased by almost half and the displacement of Palestinians by nearly three-quarters between July 2013, when the talks began, and the end of the year, compared to the same period in 2012.
Of the 663 Palestinian structures torn down last year, the highest number in five years, 122 were built with international donor aid, the groups said.
The International Red Cross announced this week it would stop delivering tents to Palestinians made homeless by demolitions in the Jordan border region of the occupied West Bank, citing Israeli obstruction and confiscation of aid.
"International and local aid organizations have faced increasingly severe restrictions in responding to the needs created by the unlawful demolition of civilian property, in violation of Israel's obligation to facilitate the effective delivery of aid," wrote the groups, which included Oxfam and Christian Aid.
Israeli military and political officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Israel captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem, along with the Gaza Strip, in the 1967 war. It quit Gaza in 2005, and the enclave is now governed by Hamas Islamists opposed to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's peace-making strategy.
The Palestinians want the more than half a million Jewish settlers there, along with Israeli soldiers, to leave the occupied territories. Israel balks at such sweeping pullouts, citing historical claims on the biblical lands.
The Jordan Valley - the proposed eastern border of a future independent Palestinian state - has been especially contentious as Israel insists on keeping an army presence there after any peace accord. Palestinians have rejected this, saying a temporary international force should do the job, with Israel observing.
In recent decades, the Palestinian population in the region has declined as the water supply from the River Jordan has been diverted and Israel set up military zones and settlements.
Palestinian activists set up a protest camp in a derelict village there last week. At dawn Israeli forces scattered the group ahead of a mass rally for Friday prayers.
"They came in large numbers with their armored vehicles but that will not break our will, the popular resistance will continue and will be victorious and we will return," lawmaker Mustafa Barghouti, a member of the sit-in, said.

In a statement, the Israeli military described the protesters as "provocateurs" and said their evacuation was prompted by stone-throwing attacks on a nearby highway "and other legal considerations".