In the past six weeks, the Jenin Freedom Theatre, still recovering from the unsolved 4 April murder of its co-founder and mentor, Juliano Mer-Khamis, has faced a new stumbling block: the Israeli military.
First, at 3:30 in the morning on 27 July, Israeli soldiers arrived at the Freedom Theatre to arrest Adnan Naghnaghiye, Location Manager of the Theatre, and Bilal Saadi, chairperson of the Theatre’s Board of Directors in Jenin. Soldiers further threw stones and huge blocks of concrete at the building, shattering several windows. In the Theatre’s press release, night guard Ahmad Nasser Matahen relates how “they told me to open the door to the theatre. They told me to raise my hands and forced me to take my pants down. I thought my time had come, that they would kill me.” When General Manager Jacob Gough and Theatre co-founder Jonatan Stanczak arrived on the scene, they were “forced at gunpoint to squat next to a family with four small children surrounded by approximately 50 heavily armed Israeli soldiers. Whenever we tried to tell them that they are attacking a cultural venue and arresting members of the theatre,” adds Jonatan, we were told to shut up and they threatened to kick us, I tried to contact the civil administration of the army to clarify the matter but the person in charge hung up on me.”
Adnan and Bilal were detained without charges for almost a month, denied access to a lawyer for over two weeks, and subjected to beatings and sleep deprivation, all as part of a supposed investigation into the murder of Juliano Mer-Khamis.
Then, on 6 August, Rami Awni Hwayel, a 20-year old acting student who currently holds a lead role in the theatre’s adaption of Waiting for Godot, was handcuffed, blindfolded, and taken away by the Israeli army at the Shave Shomeron checkpoint between Nablus and Jenin. Though the army quickly determined he had nothing to do with Juliano’s murder, he was held for a month pending investigation of a confession, extracted during interrogation, that he had illegally sought employment in Israel for 10 days many years ago. In an open letter to the Israeli Embassy in London, Jacob Gough relates how at a court hearing on 17 August, the military judge “stated that the police and army were wrong to have picked up Rami and spent this time as they have on this matter, and that Rami obviously has no connection to the murder of Juliano, however, in what just seems to be an attempt to ‘save face’, the Israeli authorities are looking to imprison him under the aforementioned charge.” The army usually punishes perpetrators of this ‘crime’ by sending them back across the border; for Rami, who, like Adnan and Bilal, was initially held for over two weeks without a lawyer, it will now be more difficult than it usually is for a resident of Jenin refugee camp to secure a visa to tour Waiting for Godot throughout America this September.
Finally, at 2am on 22 August, the Israeli army arrived in Jenin, surrounded the Theatre and entered the home of the Nagnaghiye family, where they beat and arrested Mohammed, theatre security guard and brother of Adnan. They also ransacked and trashed all three floors of the Nagnaghiye family home: “Furniture was thrown to the floor and broken, and there was even dog excrement on the floor. The army also took another three residents of the camp on the same night.”
The stated reason for all of these arrests is an Israeli investigation into the unsolved murder of Juliano Mer-Khamis. However, in an interview given on 3 September, Jacob Gough related that “initially [the army] gave the normal rubbish excuses, like ‘they’re acting against the security of the region’. We then found out they are supposedly doing an investigation into the murder of Juliano. But then I don’t count investigations where you kidnap people and treat them inhumanely, treat them to sleep deprivation- for a week they didn’t sleep- and then you try to get them to confess. Like this they work. That’s not an investigation, that’s trying to pin it on somebody.”
Indeed, Jacob says in an Open Letter to the Israeli Security Apparatus that “in every one of [Bilal’s] court hearings so far, when the Israeli security services have requested an extension of detention, it has been noted in court documents that no information pertaining to the murder of Juliano has been gained from interrogation”, and that “on Sunday 14 August Adnan was in court for another extension of detention, [and] the judge gave the security services an additional 8 days but stated that they needed to wrap the interrogation up as they have not gained much from this time before.”
In addition, the inhumane treatment inflicted on the detainees casts doubt on the real motives of the Israeli army. On 22 August, the same day that Mohammed Nagnaghiye was taken, the two men detained on 27 July – Mohammed’s brother Adnan and Bilal Saadi- were released with no charges filed against them. In the open letter to the Israeli Embassy, Jacob relates that “finally after 2 weeks [Bilal’s] lawyer was allowed access to him… he told her that they had treated him ‘inhumanely’. As of now we only know that they were using disorientation techniques (he had no idea whether it was night or day) and whilst having him shackled painfully and after denying him food for a long period of time they then put food in front of him, obviously with no possible way for him to eat with dignity.” Adnan had been “in much a similar position to Bilaal, but spent 16 days without access to a lawyer.”
Israel also appears to be deliberately impeding the movement of Freedom Theatre actors in and out of the West Bank. In our interview last Saturday at the Theatre, Jacob related that members of Rami’s theatre troupe, which plans to tour Waiting for Godot through America in September, “have all had to have visa application meetings with the American consulate. The American consulate doesn’t come to the West Bank, so these students have to go to Jerusalem and Jordan. Jerusalem is a lot easier. In the past these students have never had problems getting to Jerusalem, and suddenly- stopped. None of these children can go, they are all perceived as a security threat.” In a phone interview on 5 September, Jacob reiterated that “there is no doubt in my mind that this is related [to the army’s arrests]…it all occurred at exactly the same time…[this is] another part of the Israeli army crackdown. I’m sure it’s connected.”
In the Jenin refugee camp “there is fear, fear of being associated with the theatre, [because] we have had someone killed, lots of people arrested…”. But fear seems to be a common factor on both sides of the equation. “After Juliano’s death”, Jacob explains, “it was shown how much support the Freedom Theatre has in the world, and not just people. Politicians, organizations, media as well…[one] of the most dangerous things for Israel, is showing that places like the Freedom Theatre can reach really far…we’ve had the actor’s union in Britain, actors’ unions in America, France, Germany- the Parliament in Britain, France, Germany, Sweden, at least- Congressmen in America as well- people phoning the Israeli embassies and sending them letters all the time, asking what’s happening, what are you doing to the Freedom Theatre. The Israeli embassies started sending back replies, which I’ve never seen before! I’ve never seen the Israeli embassy reply to these kinds of letters, they just go whatever…we don’t care. It feels like we’re hitting a nerve, and we try to harness that.”
On 1 August , the General Secretary of Equity, the trade union representing 36,500 UK based performers, actors and creative workers, wrote to the Israeli Embassy in London to ask why the Freedom Theatre’s “location manager, Adnan Naghnaghiye, and Board member, Bilal Saadi, “are currently being detained following an attack on the theatre”. The letter concludes that “as an organisation which campaigns for freedom of expression, we are obviously very distressed about these reports. I therefore urge you to ensure that the individuals concerned are released immediately and safely returned to Jenin.”
Two weeks later, on 16 August, Equity received a reply from the Israeli Embassy. Citing the murder of Mer-Khamis, the letter states that “the authorities have instigated profound and comprehensive investigations which led them to the arrest you mention in your letter. Although we are aware that damage to the property was caused during the arrest, this was not intentional.”
In his open letter to the Israeli Embassy, Jacob replies that “though it is good of the ambassador to admit damage was caused to the theatre, to say throwing rocks at windows is unintentional is not just wrong, but also a lie. Anyhow, even unintentional harm/damage is at the very least negligent.” An even more curious lapse on the Israeli Embassy’s part, however, is that they ignored completely Equity’s complaint regarding the arrests of Adnan and Bilal, and instead spoke of the arrest of Rami, which was not even mentioned in Equity’s letter and which had nothing to do with ‘damage to the property’ of the theatre, because it occurred far from the theatre! Through this strategic move, the Embassy seeks to deflect attention away from the army’s mistreatment of Adnan and Bilal, and onto “[Rami’s] involvement in a number of other unsolved crimes”- the heinous crimes, namely, involved in crossing the Green Line briefly to bring a little money back to his impoverished refugee camp.
If Rami and his classmates are able to tour ‘Waiting for Godot’ through the US this September, “the hope”, says Jacob in his reply to the Embassy, “is [that] they will manage to get offers of scholarships to continue their training, a rare opportunity and ray of light for these youth who have spent their whole lives under occupation…This whole farce of court proceedings puts this trip for [Rami] in a very precarious position and further works to undermine the work of The Freedom Theatre, which I would say seems to be more the goal of the Israeli authorities than a genuine investigation into the murder of our friend and leader, Juliano Mer Khamis.”
When Juliano founded the Freedom Theatre in Jenin in 2006, he hoped to use performance and art to show to the world a Palestinian people and their vibrant, creative culture and self-identity. In April 2006, four years after the Battle of Jenin, in which 15-20% of the camp’s infrastructure was destroyed by the Israeli army, Mer-Khamis said in an interview with author Arthur Nelsen in London that “in Jenin – especially in Jenin – something is happening, in the good sense of the word. There is a universalist discourse, an international happening…an international campaign around a new kind of resistance…we want to be part of this third Intifada which is on the way in a way to hopefully influence at least some of the people in Jenin camp, towards non-violent, cultural international resistance.”
The Freedom Theatre’s hope remains that, after the violent suppression of the first two Intifadas, a successful Palestinian revolution today must revitalize Palestinian culture and self-identity, and inspire international recognition not merely of a Palestinian state and governing power, but first and foremost of a Palestinian people. On 4 April 2005, one year before the founding of the Freedom Theatre, Juliano said that “we are facing the end of the destruction of the Palestinian people by the Israeli forces. We are in a situation today where not only the political and the economic infrastructure are destroyed, the Israelis are destroying the neurological system of the society, which is culture, identity, communication. We felt that creating a project which will deal with the arts, with cinema, with theatre, with the media activities, computers, web sites, is the best way to fight this deconstruction of the identity of the Palestinian, which is deliberately done in the last year by the Israelis. Israel is pushing back the Palestinian people into the Stone Age…communicating with the outside world, bringing people from the outside world, breaking the wall down, if not physically, metaphorically- is creating the grounds for hope. We cannot bring hope, hope- we cannot bring it in a sack or a package. We can create the grounds so people can build up hope, and this is our task today, to create the grounds for those children.”
In the face of Israeli army harassment, Jenin’s Freedom Theatre has received an outpouring of support, both internationally and within Palestine. In addition to the ferocious and impassioned letter-writing campaign, it has received many donations from abroad to support increasing legal fees.
Additionally, most recent events may indicate that, in response to international pressure, the army is relaxing its crackdown on the Theatre. Mohammed Nagnaghiye, who was arrested on 22 August, received a 15-day extension of his arrest on the 29th, but was then unexpectedly released on 3 September. He did not report any abuse at the hands of the army, and was quickly allowed access to a lawyer. In addition, two technicians at the Theatre, Mohammed Saadi and Ahmad Matahen, along with an acting student, Momeen Syatat, were told to hand themselves in to the Salem military base outside of Jenin by 1 September. The Theatre wrote on its website, “to walk into the arms of the Israeli security service quite often means disappearing from the surface of the earth, never knowing when you will come back and knowing that you are most certainly facing harsh treatment. We demand that Mohammed, Ahmad, and Momeen be treated no worse and no better than any Israeli citizen brought in to participate in a civil criminal investigation. Their legal rights, as stipulated by international law, must be honoured.”
Thankfully, all three residents of Jenin refugee camp were simply asked a few questions, and then released. Over the phone on 4 September, Jacob noted that “the pressure that the theatre put on and that our friends around the world put on, seems to have made a difference. Otherwise the army would’ve kept acting the way it usually does…They even said to some of the guys who went the other day ‘we like the Freedom Theatre, we support the Freedom Theatre!’”
Indeed, at strategic moments Israel does claim to support the Freedom Theatre. Juliano was, after all, an Israeli citizen and well-known Israeli actor; in addition, token gestures of goodwill towards Palestinian arts initiatives bolster Israel’s public image. In reply to Equity’s letter, the Israeli Embassy in London spoke of how “Mr Juliano Mer-Khamis, the director of the theatre, was shot and killed in his car by masked terrorists…Mr. Mer-Khamis…taught alternatives to violence to Jenin’s youth…following his death, the Israeli authorities took it upon themselves to solve his murder and bring his murderers to trial.” In his open reply to the Embassy, however, Jacob retorts that “as there is no evidence or lead or knowledge of who may have committed this attack, it is rather presumptuous of the Israeli Embassy to say it was a Palestinian. Likewise we don’t comment on any theories that it may have been an Israeli…Juliano [son of an Israeli mother and a Palestinian father] was a symbol of co-operation that served very well to show that Jewish-Israelis can live and work with Palestinians, something many far-right Zionists would not like to see…”
In addition, though he taught alternatives to violence, Juliano never tried to teach alternatives to resistance- throughout his life he remained unequivocally opposed to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. As he said in 2006, shortly after the founding of the Theatre, “What we [are] doing in the theatre is not trying to be a replacement or an alternative to the resistance of the Palestinians in the struggle for liberation. Just the opposite. This must be clear…We are joining, by all means, the struggle for liberation of the Palestinian people, which is our liberation struggle.”
It is this commitment to resistance that motivates Israel to crack down on the Freedom Theatre. As the Theatre continues, in the memory of Juliano, to support the struggle for the revitalization of the Palestinian people, it remains to be seen whether the Israeli powers will continue to impede its progress.
Today’s opening statements in the Irvine 11 trial included explicit deconstruction by the defense team of the Orange County District Attorney’s argument that the Muslim students who protested an Israeli official’s speech last year did so in violation of a California penal code for conspiracy.
“You cannot have a conspiracy to commit an unlawful act if there is not an unlawful act that has been committed,” stated a defense attorney in the courtroom today.
The trial, now underway in the Orange County courthouse in Santa Ana, California, focuses on the prosecution’s claim that the students violated the penal code that could send the students to jail for up to two years on two misdemeanor counts: conspiracy to disrupt a meeting, and disruption of a meeting.
Kifah Shah, media coordinator and spokesperson for the Irvine 11 solidarity group, Stand With the Eleven, told The Electronic Intifada that approximately 100 supporters packed the courtroom after attending a press conference outside of the courthouse. Several major media organizations also attended the pre-trial debriefing, which was organized by local community leaders from such groups as the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), and several interfaith leaders and professors at UC Irvine.
The LA Times’ Orange County-based Daily Pilot reported that Father Wilfredo Benitez of the Saint Anselm of Canterbury Episcopal Church stated at the press conference that “[t]his smells of persecution. In a free country … this should simply not be happening.” The report continued:
Moutaz Herzallah, whose son Taher is among the defendants, said Rackauckas “threw the [U.S.] Constitution in the trash” when he decided to press charges.
Moutaz Herzallah, who is from Gaza, said he immigrated to the United States “to have peace, dignity and honor” and that the D.A. should be prosecuted for his disregard of the Constitution.
Shah said that the opening day of the trial “went really well.”
“There were a lot of people there, and a lot of community members came out to support. There was a sentiment of eagerness in the room awaiting and anticipating justice. There was a hopeful feeling,” she added.
I asked her if she had a sense of whether the selected jurors were given a clear picture of what went on during Ambassador Oren’s speech that has led to the prosecution of the students, following the opening statements by the defense and prosecution teams.
Yes. They went over what happened and explained it thoroughly to the jury. They went through exactly what happened, and obviously in their own terms. In terms of the opening statements, the prosecution is arguing that this was a “heckler veto” — meaning that individuals don’t like what’s being said, and decide to “veto” a speech. The prosecution lawyer reiterated that the students tried to “shut down” the event, to provide the evidence during his statements that [the protest] was a conspiracy. He also went over the fact that they belong to a group, the Muslim Student Union (MSU), and that these defendants “conspired together as a group to enact a heckler’s veto.”
He said that the MSU “was not happy” that the ambassador, Michael Oren, was coming to campus, and “they didn’t want to debate the ambassador — they decided they wanted to shut down the event within the guise of acting as individuals. They wanted to shut him down.” Like I said, he repeatedly asserted that the Irvine 11 wanted to shut down the event.
The other part is that he also talked about that it’s the act itself that the jury will deliberate upon, and not the content of the speech. He added that in the beginning of [Oren’s event] itself, the chair of the Political Science department had stated that we “expect and relish debate on campus, but will expect nothing but civility and courtesy” [from the audience]. And then he said that even the Chancellor, when the protest began, that “this is outrageous, and this violates the rules.” So the prosecuting attorney chose these statements in particular to tell a story to the jury — that this was a violation of rules, that this was a conspiracy to shut down the event.
The defense attorneys also laid out what the defendants did during the protest, and what that looked like for them. What … really hit it on the head was that [defense attorney] Reem Salahi stated exactly what was written on the index cards [from which the students read during their protest]. This was a concerted, calculated effort — it was not their intention to resist removal, they were not trying to stall or prolong anything — they simply wrote down what they wanted to say on their index cards, said what they had to say, which amounted in total for each of them just a few seconds, which took up a cumulative five minutes including the jeers from the crowd.
In their emails [that were subpoenaed during the investigation], the students were talking about not resisting, being nonviolent, acting with a certain demeanor — the defense was illustrating how it wasn’t their intention in any way to “shut down” the event. At the end of the event, even Michael Oren had said that he wished the students who protested and were removed from the ballroom “had stayed … it was that group that I wanted to address.”
The defense said really well that “you cannot have a conspiracy to commit an unlawful act if there is not an unlawful act that has been committed.” So what the prosecution has is a conspiracy to commit a crime, and then the actual committing of that crime. But in terms of whether or not a crime was committed, we’re looking at CA Penal Code section 403 which states that there is a violation if a meeting has been disturbed or broken up. However, there was not a crime that was committed here — Oren did finish his speech, at the end of which he stated that he wished the students had stayed.
Another argument is that Oren wasn’t able to do a question and answer — but if you look at how the event was advertised, they didn’t even say that there was an intention that there was going to be a question and answer section to Oren’s speech. The penal code was not violated. That means that the prosecution’s argument of a “shut down” didn’t happen.
In closing, I asked Shah to talk about the solidarity efforts of her campaign, Stand With the Eleven.
Well, even from the opening statements, this is a political opportunity for the district attorney’s office — everyone knows he’s running for re-election, and I really think that if this is selective prosecution, it’s really important to remember that now it’s not just about these ten students, but it’s significant for all Americans at this point. The precedent that is set concerns everyone’s rights to free speech.
The district attorney is the one who’s committing egregious acts of intolerance and persecution. It’s not about these ten students in a courtroom anymore, now it’s about every American and everyone’s rights to free speech.
The Electronic Intifada will continue to update our readers on the Irvine 11 trial. The verdict is set for 23 September.
On July 18, 2011, Sean Hoare was found mysteriously deceased by London police. This is notable for two reasons.
The first reason is that Hoare was a primary whistle-blower in the unfolding crisis at News Corporation. The scandal has implicated multitudes in illegal and immoral electronic eavesdropping on everyone from an abducted teenager to Prince William and his brother.
The second and far more ominous reason is because Sean Hoare’s demise was not suspicious in any way. The London police, though already implicated in the scandal for widespread corruption through bribe-taking and callow complicity in shuttering earlier eavesdropping investigations, assure us it is so.
Naturally, only the pitifully paranoid or unsettlingly obsessed would doubt this claim.
Everyone knows whistle-blowers are by far the most likely people to generally have poor timing in all matters of corporeal termination. At the most inopportune times they are prone to hang themselves, have inconvenient heart attacks, overdose on pills, and get into car accidents in which the other parties mysteriously vanish.
“In novels and films the hero is lauded for his efforts at illuminating this world’s evils. In reality the hero is usually not identified at all, except perhaps by his remains.”
Thus, absolutely no one else was involved in Sean Hoare’s accident. It is a certainty that this will be deemed a former narcotics abuser’s drug overdose. Simple as that. We know this because we are told so (and we know to heed the master’s halt). Here are a few historical examples to erase all doubt.
DR. DAVID KELLY
Dr. David Kelly was a British scientist and expert in biological warfare employed by the British Ministry of Defence. He also became a very inconvenient figure when he met for an unauthorized discussion with a BBC reporter about the true state of the government’s dossier concerning Iraq’s supposed stockpiles of chemical weapons.
Dr. Kelly disputed claims that Iraq had the capability to fire biological weapons within 45 minutes, a major British argument for invading Iraq the second time. While Kelly said he believed it likely Iraq secreted some modicum of chemical weapons following international inspections, he was dubious as to their extent and immediate threat. Following his own inspections in Iraq, Kelly became more certain of his suspicions and spoke to a reporter from The Observer to state that Iraq did not possess mobile germ-warfare laboratories and that Iraqi claims of such devices being innocuous hydrogen-balloon production facilities were entirely accurate.
Yet what might have turned into an embarrassment for the British government and a serious impediment to its second war on Iraq was all but erased from memory when Dr. Kelly decided to kill himself. Despite numerous supportive letters and emails, a supposedly despondent Kelly went for his usual evening walk and ingested 29 painkiller tablets. Then for good measure, he cut his wrists. No one saw him do it and his family says they didn’t believe it, but what would they know? Kelly was gone, along with any hope of others in similar positions coming forward to prevent thousands of deaths and billions squandered. Naturally, Dr. Kelly’s keen sense of timing made it a good day for government and gun-sellers the world over.
COMMERCE SECRETARY RON BROWN
Ron Brown was United States Secretary of Commerce in the first Clinton Administration, appointed following exceptionally successful fundraising. He perished in a 1996 air crash near Croatia. Weather was claimed to have been the cause, though anyone who took the extra step of investigating would have learned the storms were not nearly so severe as initially stated. Following the accident, no public contact was made for a full 10 hours. Rescuers, much as they would later be during the JFK, Jr., disappearance, were directed toward the opposite direction of the crash site. When they finally reached the scene, a flight attendant was said to be upright and conscious (but died of a broken neck before reaching the hospital).
When additional rescue crews arrived, everyone was dead. Witnesses at Brown’s autopsy claimed he had what appeared to be a bullet hole in his temple region. Obviously, they must have been mistaken. It was merely the age-old “Whistle-Blowers’ Malady” which had struck. Ron Brown (who had already stated if he was going to jail, he wasn’t “going alone”) had been under investigation by US independent counsel and nearing indictment before Congress to answer charges of corruption followed up with widely rumored interrogation regarding the Clintons’ questionable financial dealings.
Karen Silkwood was a woman who worked at the Kerr-McGee nuclear plant near Crescent, Oklahoma. As a member of the Oil, Chemical & Atomic Workers Union’s bargaining committee, she was assigned to investigate health and safety issues. Apparently there were innumerable violations at the plant, most notably those of exposing workers to contamination. As a consequence, Silkwood testified before the Atomic Energy Commission. Later that year, she was found to have plutonium contamination 400 times the legal limit. Following decontamination she was deemed to have similar levels of poisoning the next day, despite having been assigned only paperwork at the plant. On a third day her levels of radiation were even higher, to the point she expelled contaminated air from her lungs as she breathed. A decontamination team was sent to her home, which was determined to be heavily exposed to radiation.
Silkwood by then had assembled a wealth of paperwork on the conditions at Kerr-McGee, including her own plutonium poisoning, which was found to have originated from a section of the plant she had not been able to access for at least four months. A meeting was set with a reporter from The New York Times and a national official from her union. Yet that night, as she drove en route from a local union meeting, she had a fatal car accident. Naturally, sleeping pills were found on the scene and the police deemed the cause due to a weary driver. Certainly no official report has ever been altered and no surreptitious injection ever made to a person’s body.
Authorities discounted skid marks on the road, damage on the rear of Silkwood’s auto, and microscopic paint chips belonging to another vehicle. All the documentation she was carrying concerning Kerr-McGee’s supposedly dangerous and criminal operations mysteriously disappeared. Still, only the paranoid regard this case as other than an accident. In no way related to the abuses she helped expose, grounds at the plant were still being decontaminated 25 years on.
Rudolf Hess was the longest-held prisoner of World War II. He was interned at Landau Prison until 1987 when, like all inconvenient figures, he hanged himself with electrical cord. Nothing should be made of the fact that the 93-year-old Hess was physically unable to raise his hands above his head. No mention should be made of the overwhelming evidence that in 1941 he had embarked from Germany on his way to Scotland to meet with members of the highest levels of British establishment after the fall of France in an attempt to end the war before it reached catastrophic levels of devastation. (The earliest period of that conflict was called the “Phoney War.”)
Moreover, one is requested to ignore the verified reports that not long before the incident, even Winston Churchill’s cabinet came quite close (save Winston) in voting to end hostilities and sue for peace before widespread destruction ensued. As to Hess, upon landing short of his destination he requested to be taken to the Duke of Hamilton. Unfortunately for the course of Western Civilization, this was denied and his cache of documents was removed from him. For the next several decades he was held (in isolation) far longer than those who actually committed wartime atrocities. As a possible release neared, he killed himself with no witnesses, though in 2008 Hess’s medical caretaker publicly stated the British SIS had aided Hess in exiting the mortal plane. Though immediately fired for this outrageous act of honesty, that man has thankfully not otherwise suffered.
All of the above people died by accident. Although they knew things that powerful people preferred they did not know, none of them was inconvenient to the powers that be. None of them had millionaires and politicians as enemies.
This is clearly the best of all possible worlds. Neither business nor government has any but the noblest intentions. Decent people are always rewarded justly and richly, and no one ever gets killed for doing the right thing.
Thus, we know that the one man with a semblance of conscience in the Murdoch hacking case had a simple narcotics overdose. Any contrary notion is idiotic, conspiratorial, and laughable.
In novels and films the hero is lauded for his efforts at illuminating this world’s evils. In reality the hero is usually not identified at all, except perhaps by his remains.
And now if the author will be excused, one must need return to bright coloring books, composition of cheerful songs concerning equality, and the reading of fairy tales and fables.
Palestinian refugee Mudalala Akel, 86, still holds the keys to her family’s home
in what is now Israel. [MaanImages/Wissam Nasser, File]
Palestinian refugees in Lebanon living in and outside the camps have always dreamt of being a part of the state of Palestine.
I have dreamed of participating in the first and the second intifada, in the peaceful protests against the apartheid wall, and in the daily struggle against the occupation in the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza as much as I have dreamed of being raised in my homeland and as much as I’ve continuously been hoping for a chance to visit Palestine.
I have also wished that President Abbas would visit some of the camps to see the drastic situation refugees are living in Lebanon instead of only looking to raise the Palestinian flag on the embassy of the state newly recognized by Lebanon. A major question is being raised amongst the refugees’ population in Lebanon: What will be our future?
The major and primary concern a refugee like myself has, faced with the formulation and declaration of the state of Palestine, is the drastic dilemma which will soon face the six million refugees around the world; leaving them with a state that shares the same name as their place of origin but to which they neither legally or physically belong to.
In 2009, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad declared the two-year plan for the establishment of the state of Palestine on the 1967 territories. Since then, as a Palestinian refugee in Lebanon, my doubts for being a part of the new order have increased. Lately, an additional reason for my concern was added to the Oslo Accords, Camp David, Road map, Geneva Accords, and many other leaks: the request of recognition of the state of Palestine in the UN.
Although strategies and plans have already been implemented by Fayyad on the Palestinian ground to prepare institutions to take over the occupied territories from a public governance perspective, little emphasis has been placed on the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.
Countries around the globe are recognizing the state of Palestine within the borders of the June 4, 1967, but where does this leave the 7.5 million Palestinian outside the 1967 territories including the approximate 1.4 million Arab Israelis? How will they be represented? Will they be naturalized in their hosting countries? How will their host countries treat them?
And how will the seven points of the final agreement be solved between the state of Palestine and the state of Israel?
Those are but a few of the questions that have remained unanswered, leaving Palestinians all over the world questioning their status quo, and wondering what will become of their current identity. Apart from the refugees in Gaza and the West Bank, the rest of the Palestinian refugees will not enjoy the right to citizenship in the future state of Palestine, and will therefore be deprived of all rights to their land and state protection which they used to legally enjoy under the PLO.
We as the Palestinian diaspora are certainly heading towards the unknown, approaching the strand of hope we had of claiming the rights the Palestinian National Movement had given us. Everything the movement has established over the history of the Palestinian struggle will most certainly be lost by demolishing the PLO which has long been the only representative of the whole Palestinian population.
Many other questions also arise in light of the current events. What will happen to the PLO? Although it is corrupt and requires urgent restructuring and organizational development, and does not actually protect the rights of the Palestinian refugees or Arab Israelis as it should, it still does hold legitimacy since it is an organization that has been recognized by the UN since 1974.
Why should this historical backbone be taken away from the Palestinians? How will my family in Akka be represented by the Palestinian state?
In return, what will their legal position and commitment be towards the state of Palestine knowing that they hold Israeli citizenship, which is not guaranteed because their citizenships can and might be revoked any day by the Israeli government which openly discriminates between Arab-Israelis and Jewish-Israelis.
What gave the Palestinian leadership the right to decide on behalf of all Palestinian refugees around the world what will be happening to us and to our futures? How will the people exert the right to self determination granted to the PLO if it is replaced by the State of Palestine?
As a Palestinian refugee, who has only ever been represented by the corrupt Palestine Liberation Organization, which has never given me as a refugee the chance to vote, audit or evaluate its governance or decision making strategies, I still prefer to be recognized by it rather than becoming naturalized in another country and losing the right to return to my land of origin.
We as refugees in Lebanon proved on May 15, when we marched to the Lebanon -historical Palestine borders, that nothing will stand between us and our rights in our homeland.
It took me a long time to reach a stand from the plans of a new Palestinian state, but by now I am sure it is a trap to dissolve the Palestinian people and the Palestinian cause.
As a refugee in Lebanon, I don’t want a state that does not associate me as a Palestinian refugee in its future plans. I don’t want a state that does not protect my right of presentation. I don’t want a diplomatic step that attempts to solve a complicated conflict from the shallow end of the conflict, ignoring the source and the main core of the problem.
I don’t accept to be driven to a deeper unknown and a deeper sense of isolation from my Palestinian roots.
From the Arab spring, the Palestinian leadership should learn the right lesson; the lesson that the will of the people and the right of the people should be respected and preserved or the continuity of their positions will not be guaranteed.
President Abbas, do you hold a fair, convincing and just answer for our worries?
Nizar El Laz is a human rights activist in the Palestinian community in Lebanon
Two weeks after an Associated Press investigation exposed the New York Police Department (NYPD)’s ”demographic units” used to spy on a wide array of Muslim New Yorkers, a journalist has published startling new details that reveal the breadth of that operation. The details are sure to raise new alarms in the Muslim-American community in New York City (NYC) as the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks approach.
The New York City Police Department has been spying on hundreds of Muslim mosques, schools, businesses, student groups, non-governmental organizations and individuals, NYPD Confidential has learned.
The spying operation has targeted virtually every level of Muslim life in New York City, according to a trove of pages of Intelligence Division documents obtained by NYPD Confidential.
The documents do not specify whether the police have evidence or solid suspicions of criminality to justify their watching the Muslim groups.
The breadth and scope of the surveillance described in the documents suggest that the police have been painting with a broad brush and may have targeted subjects without specific tips about wrongdoing.
Specifically, Levitt reveals exactly who the NYPD spied on:
The NYPD’s spying operation has compiled information on 250 mosques, 12 Islamic schools, 31 Muslim student associations, 263 places it calls “ethnic hotspots,” such as businesses and restaurants, as well as 138 “persons of interest,” according to the Intel documents.
Police have singled out 53 mosques, four Islamic schools and seven Muslim student associations as institutions of “concern.” They have also labeled 42 individuals as top tier “persons of interest.”
At least 32 mosques have been infiltrated by either undercover officers, informants, or both, according to documents, which are dated between 2003 and 2006 and marked “secret.”
The NYPD has also been monitoring Muslim student associations at seven local colleges: City, Baruch, Hunter, Queens, LaGuardia, St. John’s and Brooklyn.
The department calls the two student groups at Brooklyn and Baruch colleges “of concern” and has sent undercover detectives to spy on them, the documents reveal.
The department defines a Muslim student association as “a university based student group, with an Islamic focus, involved with religious and political activities.”
The documents reveal that an Intelligence Division Cyber Unit has monitored MSAs at Brooklyn, City and Queens colleges.
The department also lists 10 non-governmental organizations as “of concern.” According to the documents, all 10 organizations have been spied upon by NYPD undercovers, informants, detectives with the Joint Terrorist Task Force or what the documents describe as a “secondary.”
On the NYPD list of 42 top tier “persons of interest” are: a corrections officer, a former imam, an un-indicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, a lecturer at Brooklyn College and what the department describes as a “Brooklyn College MSA member [who] has expressed desire to be a suicide bomber in Palestine.”
The police have spied on all these people with either an undercover officer, an informant, or both, the documents say.
The spying operation–which appears to run afoul of a 2004 NYC law that prohibits racial and ethnic profiling by the NYPD–was created by former CIA agent David Cohen. Cohen has previously been criticized for helping spearhead an expansive NYPD operation that saw the department travel the globe to monitor social justice activists ahead of the 2004 Republican National Convention.
Muslim-American and civil liberties groups have slammed the NYPD operation. A statement by the Muslim-American Civil Liberties Coalition demands:
• the New York City Council to investigate and oversee the NYPD’s operations, as well as a City Comptroller Audit;
• the Obama Administration to initiate a federal investigation into the extent to which the CIA has engaged in domestic spying within the United States, in violation of law and its manadate;
• Congress and the New York State Senate to hold hearings into the NYPD’s, FBI’s, and CIA’s surveillance and policing practices in Muslim communities with a focus on the role of informants;
• Congress and New York State Senate to pass enforceable anti-racial profiling legislation;
• NYPD and the Department of Justice to revise their internal guidelines to disallow the use of surveillance and informants absent suspicion of specific criminal activity.
The response to the relevations about the NYPD casting a large net over NYC Muslims is by no means the first time civil liberties and Muslim-American advocacy groups have clashed with the NYPD. As I reported for the Gotham Gazette last November:
Arguably the biggest irritant came when the police department released a 2007 report, titled Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat. The report detailed the process by which it saw some American Muslims as being “radicalized” into terrorists and said that, while Americans Muslims are “more resistant to radicalization than their European counterparts, they are not immune.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations promptly criticized the report, saying, “Its sweeping generalizations and mixing of unrelated elements may serve to cast a pall of suspicion over the entire American Muslim community.” In the wake of the report, the Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition formed and critiqued the report for presenting “a distorted and misleading depiction of Islam and its adherents.”
Following meetings with Muslim organizations, the police department quietly issued a two-page clarification that stressed that the “NYPD’s focus on al Qaeda inspired terrorism should not be mistaken for any implicit or explicit justification for racial, religious or ethnic profiling.”
While Muslim organizations welcomed the clarification, criticism of the report remains.
“It’s not clear what the NYPD really thinks, because it’s leaving the bulk of its assertions and its conclusions in place,” said Faiza Patel, who works with the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Project. The clarification “didn’t address all of [the Muslim community's] concerns. The way it was done — really kind of hidden there — makes it seem as if the police department is talking out of two sides of its mouth.”
The United Nations has condemned a deadly airstrike by the Yemeni regime on a hospital in southern Yemen where government forces have stepped up attacks backed by US airstrikes against alleged armed groups.
The UN deplored the latest attack on Al-Razi hospital in Abyan in south Yemen, where at least seven civilians were killed.
“The targeting of civilians and the obstruction of humanitarian aid constitute a serious violation of International Humanitarian Law,” the Associated Press quoted a UN statement as saying on Wednesday.
The ground and air offensive unfolded on Wednesday in the southern Yemeni province of Abyan, where the armed groups seized control of its capital city and surrounding towns earlier this year.
A medical official in Abyan, which has become a flashpoint for fierce fighting between the US-backed government forces and alleged al-Qaeda-linked militants, said Asmaa Hamza, a 14-year-old girl, was killed in Wednesday’s military airstrike on al-Razi hospital.
It was the second attack on the same hospital in the town of Jaar in less than 48 hours, witnesses said, adding that the Wednesday airstrikes on Jaar also targeted a high school, a hotel, residential buildings and a police station, near areas where the military believes “militants” are seeking refuge.
Airstrikes in the area wounded at least 20 civilians, several of whom being seriously injured, according to a hospital official.
The Yemeni regime claims it launched the attacks against al-Qaeda militants in the south.
This comes as anti-government uprisings against the rule of Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh have been raging across Yemen since January.
Hundreds of thousands of people have turned out for regular demonstrations in Yemen’s major cities, calling for an end to corruption and unemployment and demanding Saleh’s ouster.
Hundreds of people have been killed and many more injured during the unrest as a result of the brutal crackdown on anti-government protests by military forces and loosely-organized individuals loyal to Saleh.
Protesters insist that the US and Saudi Arabia are making efforts to save the ailing regime of Saleh.
Saleh and five other high-ranking officials have fled to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment, following a rocket attack on the Yemeni presidential palace in Sana’a on June 3.