It’s exactly three years ago that the ins and outs of the overpopulated strip were sealed off by the Israeli military just as tightly as the entire “International Community” shut its eyes and ambivalently turned its back on a horrifying massacre that was in the making. And it’s three years ago that we’ve used up what little was left of our quota of sympathy and compassion towards the Palestinians and took our collective apathy to a whole new level.
Three years after the “unilateral cessation of military operations” on January 18th, 2009; and the Israeli apparatus of mass murder and annihilation is still roaring at the borders; ready to be initiated at a moment’s notice, the IOF is literally licking its lips, salivating at the chance of yet another vicious round of wholesale slaughter, its animalistic zeal for more bloodletting is as vigorous today as it was only three years ago –if not more-, Israeli political, diplomatic and military officials alike don’t seem to miss an opportunity to beat the war drums – and they do so with an almost reckless abandon.
The day starts and ends with the gloom of impending war amassing over Gaza; on December 27th, 2011 (third anniversary of the war on Gaza), Israeli army Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz stated that another attack on the strip is “inevitable” while southern brigade commander Tal Hermoni was quoted by Haaretz newspaper as saying that another “varied and different military campaign” is being prepared, this is of course not counting the fact that targeted killings, aerial night raids and the occasional ground incursion have already become such horrible albeit daily realities in the strip.
Today, an entire population in Gaza is held hostage to dire living conditions and the Zionist state’s death grip, Israel’s heartless policy of meticulously calculating and determining the calorie-intake for Gazans is still the order of the day; university students are being robbed of their academic futures due to arbitrary travel restrictions, patients denied their right to treatment and systemic disregard for anything even resembling human rights still goes on apace.
Three years after the bombs fell; and Palestinians in Gaza –with so many cards stacked against them- are still trying to piece together the broken shards of their lives and entire families are still living through worn out photographs of their loved ones; those who lost their lives to Israel’s Casting Lead and the rest of the world’s self-incriminating silence.
Three years after the bombs fell; and new injustices heaped on top of ongoing ones. The piercing wail of sirens, keening voices of loss amongst the ruins of the strip still prevail till this very day in the little coastal enclave. Three years after the bombs fell; and the only justice the international community could afford to the people of Gaza was a meek report that was even disowned by its author.
Three years after the sky of Gaza was blanketed with all means of spiraling white phosphorous ammunitions; and the ground of the strip is still littered with leftover shells and unexploded bombs laying in wait for a second chance to claim yet more lives of Palestinian kids. Three years after the bombs fell; and living a normal childhood still remains such a rare feat for Gazan children as the sheer weight of life on Israel’s draconian terms takes its heavy toll on their fragile souls; deathly hues of the last war still take hold of their memories and the overcrowded makeshift classrooms are daily reminders of the horrors they’ve endured in that winter of 2008/2009.
Three years after Israeli “spectators” from nearby southern cities took to hilltops in groups to catch sight of the sky raining death and destruction on defenseless Palestinians, giggling, sharing laughs and passing their binoculars from one person to the next as they cheered enthusiastically for the “might” of the IOF as if the carnage unfolding right before their eyes was a mere sporting event; and killing is still a spectator sport for Israeli authorities, trigger-happy junior Israeli border officers still get their kicks from firing live rounds at Palestinian farmers attempting to harvest their crops near the “buffer zone” while hunting the Palestinians in their tunnels near the Rafah border with unmanned drones is still the “standard operating procedure”.
Three years after the bombs fell – almost one year after the dictatorship of Husni Mubarak was dissolved-; and the crushing weight of Israel’s blockade is still pressing hard against the chests of Gazans, the inhumane siege of Gaza –which has long outserved its theoretical usefulness, if there ever was any to begin with- has gradually morphed into this internationally condoned policy that the world has become, for all intents and purposes, far too comfortable to abandon; eventually this chronic passiveness has sadly maneuvered the Palestinians in Gaza into a seemingly unending life of siege and collective punishment, a life in which they have no choice but to literally tunnel their own way out.
Today “Operation Cast Lead” remains an open wound and a dark stain on the conscience of the world as its sense of morality and justice is rapidly waning and the value of a human life remains gravely skewed. Are Palestinian victims somehow not worthy of mass candle-lit vigils at dusk in honor of their memory? Will they ever have someone to recite each and every one of their names at their own “hallowed ground”? The images of the 22-day long massacre in Gaza are too strong to be forgotten; of grief stricken fathers digging the remains of their loved ones buried under the rubbles of what was once their house, of the injured wheeled into chaotic emergency rooms on office chairs, of unidentified bodies of dead children with the word “anonymous” scribbled in black markers across their tiny bellies at the morgue in the Adwan hospital and of doctors at al Shifa Hospital desperately performing CPR on little infants’ chests to no avail.
Unfortunately the media still has a blind spot when it comes to Gaza; screams of protest from Tunisia, Cairo, Benghazi and Sana’a have drowned out the incessant appeals to lift the blockade. Of course; plenty of exploits to be reaped from the Arab Spring nowadays, where -sadly enough- opportunism and gutter politics reign supreme, and so little time to do so.
Three years after the bombs fell; and it seems that Gaza will remain on the back-burner for a while; largely absent from our TV sets and daily dose of news bites, until perhaps Cast Lead II.
Ahmad Barqawi, a Jordanian freelance columnist & writer based in Amman, he has done several studies, statistical analysis and researches on economic and social development in Jordan
Washington, DC – Today, on the tenth anniversary of the arrival of the first detained men at the U.S. prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) issued the following statement:
Today marks the tenth anniversary of indefinite detention without charge or fair trials at the prison at Guantánamo, and it is an anniversary that should not have come. The men indefinitely detained at Guantánamo have been abandoned by all three branches of government, but the primary responsibility for the prison remaining open lies with President Obama. On his second day in office, President Obama signed an Executive Order mandating the closure of Guantánamo within a year. Since then, his administration has in fact perpetuated and sanctioned the system at Guantánamo by continuing indefinite detentions without charge or trial, resuming illegitimate military commissions, and most recently, signing into law the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which substantially hinders the closure of Guantánamo by restricting the transfer of the remaining 171 detained men, over half of whom have been approved for transfer by every branch of government with a stake in the matter. Despite its promise of a new era of accountability and respect for the rule of law, the Obama administration has also repeatedly acted to block virtually any accountability for those who have planned, authorized, and committed torture at Guantánamo and beyond. On this day marking ten years of injustice at Guantánamo, we call on people of conscience everywhere to demand that the prison finally be closed and to intensify opposition to all unjust U.S. detentions and prosecutions conducted in the name of national security. We must also build opposition to the government’s covert and overt wars in a re-branded “War on Terror” which is being used to justify both military detentions and military strikes to the detriment of the safety and dignity of peoples in the United States and abroad.
In the morning, CCR hosted a briefing at the National Press Club entitled “Obama’s Prison: Guantánamo Turns 10.” The briefing featured CCR’s Executive Director Vincent Warren; CCR’s Legal Director Baher Azmy; Stephen Oleskey, co-counsel in the landmark Boumediene v. Bush Supreme Court case, who argued that the men’s right to challenge the legality of their detentions has since been effectively eviscerated; Rear Admiral John Hutson, a former military officer who supported President Obama’s 2009 Executive Order promising to close Guantánamo within one year and stood behind him as he signed it; and Colonel Morris Davis, a former chief prosecutor for the Guantánamo military commissions who ultimately resigned because of the injustices he witnessed. (Short statements by participants in the press briefing can be seen on CCR’s website here.)
The press briefing was followed by a large rally in front of the White House demanding the closure of Guantánamo led by a broad coalition of human rights organizations and activists including the Center for Constitutional Rights, Witness Against Torture, Amnesty International-USA, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, and September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows. At this rally, Martha Rayner, an attorney who represents men detained at Guantánamo, read a statement signed by over a hundred habeas counsel denouncing the unjust detention of their clients and President Obama’s failure to close the prison. Ramzi Kassem, an attorney who represents men detained at Guantánamo and Bagram and a professor who directs the Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility (CLEAR) project at CUNY School of law, spoke of the injustices within terrorism detentions and prosecutions that occur domestically in the U.S. and abroad. Talat Hamdani, mother of Salman Hamdani, an emergency medical technician who died in the September 11, 2001 attacks while helping people at the Twin Towers in New York City, also called for the closure of Guantánamo.
According to habeas counsel who had spoken with their clients, the men at Guantánamo were heartened by the planned protests marking the anniversary in cities across the U.S. and planned their own peaceful protests to coincide with the rally in DC and to demand the end to their continued indefinite detention without charge or a fair trial. They planned to protest by staging sit-ins and participating in a three-day hunger strike.
Following the rally, the demonstrators marched down Pennsylvania Avenue, led by 171 people dressed in orange jumpsuits and black hoods representing the number of men still detained at Guantánamo. They continued all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, holding brief rallies at four locations to demonstrate the chain of responsibility that connects the White House, the Department of Justice, the U.S. Capitol, and the Supreme Court. … Full article
Everybody already knows that Ron Paul placed second in the New Hampshire 2012 Republican Presidental Primary. But, at 7 o’clock tonight, the New Hampshire Secretary of State published the full results of the primary, including write-ins, and Ron Paul also won the #2 spot in the Democratic Primary.
To be sure, sitting President Barack Obama bested Paul with a 49,480 to 2,273 tally, but that Ron Paul placed so highly in rank tells us a few things. First, nearly twenty-three hundred New Hampshire voters got out and drove to a polling station, knowing they were going to cast a write-in vote, knowing that it was in a primary where no delegates could be assigned to write-in votes, but as a straight protest vote.
Given the insignificance of the voting act under these rules, it is reasonable to assume that many dissatisfied voters stayed home. The numbers bear this out. NH has 223,151 registered Democratic voters, and only 60,996 (27%) turned out. Secretary of State Bill Gardner had predicted a turnout of 75,000 voters in the Democratic Primary. Were write-ins valid for delegate assignment, the numbers would have likely been even higher.
Second, Ron Paul is the second most popular candidate among Democrat voters in NH. This will be crucially important when the general election rolls around. Ron Paul already won 50% of the Independent vote in the Republican primary. The ability to build consensus and pull in Independent and other-party voters is essential to achieve a victory in the general election. […]
Ron Paul’s strong support among Democrats can be tied to many issues. From his strong anti-war message to his assessment of the obvious failure of the drug war, his fight for racial equality in the justice system, his battle against inflation or his unique budget plan which fully funds Social Security, Medicare, and Veterans’ benefits (without relying on the continuing willingness of China to buy US debt as the other candidates’ plans do) – Ron Paul’s platform delivers what many Democratic candidates only pay lip service to. … Full article
At least six people have been killed in the latest non-UN-sanctioned US assassination drone strike in the northwestern tribal belt of Pakistan near the border with Afghanistan.
Intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the US unmanned aircraft fired two missiles at two cars in the Dogga area of North Waziristan tribal region, killing six.
“The missiles hit two cars that were heading towards the border. Several foreigners were in the cars, but we have no information on their nationalities yet,” an unnamed intelligence source said.
The strike comes two days after a similar attack killed four people in the North Waziristan tribal region.
Tuesday’s incident marked the resumption of the non-UN-sanctioned US drone campaign in Pakistan, which was paused after a NATO cross-border attack killed 24 Pakistani troops on November 26, 2011.
Meanwhile, Pakistan said on Thursday it can never condone violation of its sovereignty by the US drone strikes.
“Our position on drone attacks has always been very clear. We are of the view that strategic disadvantages outweigh tactical advantages of drone strikes,” Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit said.
He added that winning the hearts and minds of the people is crucial to win against violent extremism and this cannot happen if the collateral damage continues.
“Then there is the issue of violation of our sovereignty which we can never condone,” Basit said.
The US regularly carries out attacks by unmanned aircraft on Pakistan’s tribal regions, claiming the airstrikes target pro-Taliban militants. But locals say civilians are the main victims of the non-UN-sanctioned US strikes.
The aerial attacks, initiated by former US President George W. Bush, have escalated under President Barack Obama.
While the US government has always declined to publicly discuss its aerial attacks in Pakistan, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta admitted last October the US is fighting a war in Pakistan by using the drones.
The assassination of Iranian scientists has disgraced the UN nuclear agency as the body has provided Western intelligence agencies with confidential information on Iran’s nuclear experts, a political analyst tells Press TV.
On Wednesday morning, an unknown motorcyclist attached a sticky bomb to Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan’s car near Allameh Tabatabaei University in Tehran.
Ahmadi Roshan, a Sharif University of Technology chemical engineering graduate and the deputy director of marketing at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility, was killed immediately and his driver, who had sustained injures, passed away a few hours later in hospital.
In an interview with Press TV on Wednesday, Professor Seyyed Mohamed Marandi said, “IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] officials had met him [Ahmadi Roshan] earlier.”
Marandi added that “a lot of Iranian intelligence and information have been given to intelligence sources as well as terrorist organizations” by the IAEA in the past.
The prominent political analyst said it is difficult for Iran to continue cooperation with the IAEA as the agency is “dominated by the Western countries” and puts “[Iranian] people at risk.”
Marandi said all of Iranian scientists who had been targeted by terrorist attacks “have had their names given by the IAEA to third parties.”
“It is obvious that Western intelligence agencies are carrying out these attacks, or if the Israelis are carrying them out, it is with the knowledge of the Europeans and Americans. Because these agencies are very closely aligned to one another, they cooperate extensively, they exchange information,” he added.
The latest terrorist attack comes as Iran has reached an agreement with the P5+1 — Britain, China, France, Russia, and the United States plus Germany – to hold negotiations in Turkey.
The US, Israel and their allies accuse Iran of pursuing a military nuclear program and have used this allegation as a pretext to sway the UNSC to impose four rounds of sanctions on Iran.
Based on these accusations, they have also repeatedly threatened Tehran with the “option” of a military strike.
This is while in November 2011, some of the US presidential hopefuls called for conducting covert operations ranging from assassinating Iranian nuclear scientists to launching a military strike on Iran as well as sabotaging Tehran’s nuclear program.
The calls for assassinations are not idle threats as a number of Iranian scientists have been assassinated over the past few years. Professor Majid Shahriari and Professor Masoud Ali-Mohammadi are among the victims of these acts of terror.
On November 29, 2010, Shahriari and Fereydoun Abbasi were targeted by terrorist attacks; Shahriari was killed immediately and Dr. Abbasi, the current director of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, only sustained injuries.
Iran says as the UN Resolution 1747, adopted against Tehran in March 2007, cited Abbasi’s name as a “nuclear scientist,” the perpetrators were in a position to trace their victim.
According to reports, Ahmadi Roshan had recently met IAEA inspectors, a fact which indicates that the UN nuclear agency has leaked information about Iran’s nuclear facilities and scientists.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s charge Tuesday that Iran had intended to keep the Fordow site secret until it was revealed by Western intelligence revived a claim the Barack Obama administration made in September 2009.
Clinton said Iran “only declared the Qom facility to the IAEA after it was discovered by the international community following three years of covert construction.” She also charged that there is no “plausible reason” for Iran to enrich to a 20 per cent level at the Fordow plant, implying that the only explanation is an intent to make nuclear weapons.
Clinton’s charges were part of a coordinated U.S.-British attack on Iran’s enrichment at Fordow. British Foreign Minister William Hague also argued that Fordow is too small to support a civilian power program. Hague also referred to its “location and clandestine nature”, saying they “raise serious questions about its ultimate purpose”. The Clinton-Hague suggestions that the Fordow site must be related to an effort to obtain nuclear weapons appear to be aimed at counterbalancing Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta’s statement only two days earlier that Iran is not seeking nuclear weapons.
The Clinton and Hague statements recalled a briefing for reporters during the Pittsburgh G20 summit meeting Sep. 25, 2009, at which a “senior administration official” asserted that Iran had informed the IAEA about the Fordow site in a Sep. 21 letter only after it had “learned that the secrecy of the facility was compromised”.
That administration claim was quickly accepted by major media outlets without any investigation of the facts. That story line is so deeply entrenched in media consciousness that even before Clinton’s remarks, Reuters and Associated Press had published reports from their Vienna correspondents that repeated the official Obama administration line that Iran had revealed the Fordow site only after Western intelligence had discovered it.
But the administration never offered the slightest evidence to support that assertion, and there is one major reason for doubting it: the United States did not inform the IAEA about any nuclear facility at Fordow until three days after Iran’s Sep. 21, 2009 formal letter notifying the IAEA of the Fordow enrichment facility, because the U.S. couldn’t be certain that it was a nuclear site.
Mohammed ElBaradei, then director general of the IAEA, reveals in his 2011 memoir that Robert Einhorn, the State Department’s special advisor for nonproliferation and arms control, informed him Sep. 24 about U.S. intelligence on the Fordow site – three days after the Iranian letter had been received.
An irritated ElBaradei demanded to know why he had not been told before the Iranian letter.
Einhorn responded that the United States “had not been sure of the nature of the facility”, ElBaradei wrote.
The administration’s claim that Iran announced the site because it believed U.S. intelligence had “identified it” was also belied by a set of questions and answers issued by the Obama administration on the same day as the press briefing. The answer it provided to the question, “Why did the Iranians decide to reveal this facility at this time,” was “We do not know.” Greg Thielmann, who was a top official in the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research until 2003 and was on the staff of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence during the 2009 episode, told this reporter the evidence for the claim that Iran believed the site had been discovered was “all circumstantial”.
Analysts were suspicious of the Iranian letter to the IAEA, Thielmann said, because, “it had the appearance of something put together hurriedly.”
But there is an alternative explanation: the decision to reveal the existence of a second prospective enrichment site – this one built into the side of a mountain – appears to have reflected the need to strengthen Iran’s hand in a meeting with the “P5 + 1″ group of state led by the United States that was only 10 days away. The Iranian announcement that it would participate in the meeting on Sep. 14, 2009 came on the same day that the head of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi, warned against an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
The idea that Iran was planning to enrich uranium secretly at Fordow assumes that the Iranians were not aware that U.S. intelligence had been carrying out aerial surveillance of the site for years. That is hardly credible in light of the fact that the Mujahideen-E-Khalq (MEK), the armed opposition group with links to both U.S. and Israeli intelligence, had drawn attention to the Fordow site in a December 2005 press conference – well before it had been selected for a second enrichment plant. The MEK had also revealed the first Iranian enrichment site at Natanz in an August 2002 press conference, which had been the kickoff for the George W. Bush administration’s propaganda campaign charging Iran had maintained a covert nuclear programme ever since the 1980s.
But when the MEK identified the Natanz facility, Iran’s only commitment under its safeguards agreement with the IAEA was to inform the agency of any new nuclear facility 180 days before the introduction of nuclear material. That date was then still far in the future.
In November 2003, the Bush administration engineered the passage of resolution at the IAEA Governing Board meeting condemning Iran for “18 years of covert nuclear activity”.
In fact, Iran had announced openly in 1982 that they intended to have the capability to convert yellowcake into reactor fuel. In 1983, Iran asked the IAEA to help it build a pilot plant for uranium enrichment, but the U.S. government intervened to prevent the agency from doing so.
It was that U.S. political interference that forced Iran to purchase black market centrifuge technology from the A.Q. Khan network in 1987. But Iran openly negotiated with China, Argentina and six other governments for the purchase of nuclear energy and facilities in the 1980s and 1990s.
Despite those well-known facts, the Bush administration charge that Iran had operated a “clandestine nuclear program” for “18 years” quickly become an accepted fact inserted in many stories by major newspapers such the Washington Post, New York Times and Los Angeles Times.
In asserting that there was “no plausible justification” for Iran’s enrichment to 20 per cent, Clinton sought to refute Iran’s explanation that the 20 per cent enrichment is supply fuel for its Tehran Research Reactor (TRR).
“The P5+1 has offered alternatives for providing fuel for the TRR,” Clinton said. The proposal made by the P5+1 in 2009, however, was explicitly aimed at stripping Iran of the bulk of its stock of low-enriched uranium – a prospect that was widely criticized even among critics of President Mahmoud Ahmadenijad, including Mir Hossein Mousavi , his rival in the contested June 2009 presidential election.
The main reason for the resistance to the proposal appears to have been that Iran would have been deprived of its bargaining chips in relation to eventual negotiations with the United States.
When Iran agreed to a joint Brazilian-Turkish proposal for a swap in 2010 in June 2010, the Obama administration rejected it, because it left Iran with too much low enriched uranium.
It was after that rejection that Iran vowed to enrich uranium to 20 per cent unless it obtained a supply through other means. Iran also demonstrated at the 2011 IAEA Governing Board meeting that it was working on producing its own fuel plates for the TRR, according to former IAEA nuclear inspector Robert Kelley.
GARETH PORTER is an investigative historian and journalist with Inter-Press Service specialising in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, “Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam“, was published in 2006.
Head of the Arab League’s observer mission in Syria, Sudanese General Mustafa al-Dabi, branded as “baseless” claims by former monitor Algerian Anwar Malek that the Syrian regime was committing crimes against humanity.
On Wednesday, Malek told Doha-based Al Jazeera that he had quit the mission and accused the Syrian regime of committing a series of war crimes against its people and of duping his colleagues.
But Dabi said that Malek had barely left his hotel room when deployed in Homs.
“What observer Anwar Malek said on a satellite television is baseless,” General Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi, former head of Sudanese military intelligence, who leads the operations in Syria, said in a statement.
“Malek was deployed to Homs among a team, but for six days he did not leave his room and did not join members of the team on the ground, pretending he was sick,” Dabi said in the statement.
He echoed remarks by an unnamed Arab League official who said Malek was bedridden throughout his assignment in Homs and his accusations are unfounded.
“What I saw was a humanitarian disaster. The regime isn’t committing one war crime but a series of crimes against its people,” the Algerian observer told Al Jazeera.
“The mission was a farce and the observers have been fooled. The regime orchestrated it and fabricated most of what we saw to stop the Arab League from taking action against the regime,” Malek said.
According to Dabi, the Algerian monitor requested leave for medical treatment in Paris but departed before waiting for the green light.
An Arab League official noted that two monitors quit the mission, an Algerian (Malek) and a Sudanese, and claimed Malek left “for health reasons,” while the Sudanese “was returning to his country for personal reasons.”
“Two monitors have excused themselves, an Algerian and a Sudanese,” Syria operations chief Adnan Khodeir said at Arab League headquarters in Cairo.
Russia warns of Libya-repeat
Russian Security Council secretary Nikolai Patrushev warned that NATO and Gulf Arab states are plotting to intervene militarily in Syria along the lines of the Libya intervention that eventually ousted Muammar Gaddafi.
“There is information that NATO members and some Arab states of the Persian Gulf, acting in line with the scenario seen in Libya, intend to turn the current interference with Syrian affairs into a direct military intervention,” he said in an interview published on the website of the daily Kommersant.
“The main strike forces will be supplied not by France, Britain, and Italy, but possibly by neighboring Turkey.”
Washington and Ankara may already be working on plans for a no-fly zone to enable armed Syrian rebel units to build up, he said.
Similar fears were echoed by opposition figure Haytham al-Manna of the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change in Syria (NCB), who told Al-Akhbar two weeks ago that Gulf Arab states “might turn Syria into a battleground against Iran.”
Manna stressed Syrian revolutionaries “refuse to become the victims of a war by proxy.”
Patrushev’s comments come as Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani met with US Vice President Joe Biden at the White House on Wednesday to discuss the ongoing violence in Syria.
The pair “condemned the ongoing violence in Syria perpetrated by the Assad regime and noted the significance of the Arab League observer mission’s final report due on January 19,” the White House said.
The Arab League has come under fire for its observer mission from opposition groups and Syrian President Bashar Assad, both claiming the regional body is ineffective.
Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood accused the Arab monitors of “covering up” government crimes, while Assad also lambasted the League for bias against the regime in his speech on Tuesday.
But China expressed empathy with the Arab League, saying the regional body faced “difficulties” in monitoring the violence in Syria.
“The Syrian government and other Syrian parties should provide suitable conditions to allow the observers to carry out their work,” Wu Sike, China’s envoy to the Middle East, told reporters after meeting Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi in Cairo on Thursday.
Wu voiced regret for attacks in the past few days targeting observers in Syria.
“We hope that the observers will be patient and will pursue their efforts until they achieve their goal for the sake of Syria and its people,” he added, when asked about reports that some monitors had quit the mission.
Two Kuwaiti monitors and one observer from the Arab League were slightly wounded in an attack on their convoy in Latakia on Monday.
An Arab League official on Wednesday said the trio suffered “minor cuts” when protesters broke the window of their vehicle.
Inquiry demanded over journalist death
Meanwhile, the Syrian National Council (SNC) – a main umbrella opposition organization that includes the Muslim Brotherhood as well as secular activists – accused the regime of killing French journalist Gilles Jacquier in Homs on Wednesday.
The SNC denounced the “murder” of Jacquier, saying in a statement it was a “dangerous sign that the authorities have decided to physically liquidate journalists in an attempt to silence neutral and independent media.”
Accounts of violence are difficult to verify as foreign journalists are not permitted to freely cover the crisis in Syria, but Mazen Darwich of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Speech told Al-Akhbar that it was unclear who was behind the attack.
Jacquier’s death, the first foreign journalist killed since the uprising began in Syria last March, occurred as he was covering a pro-regime rally in the Akramah neighborhood of Homs when RPGs fell on the crowd, killing nine in total, Darwich said.
A Belgian journalist, Steven Visner, was also critically wounded.
France demanded an inquiry into Jacquier’s death.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in a statement that “France expects the Syrian authorities to shed light on the death of a man who was simply doing his job: reporting.”
British Foreign Secretary William Hague condemned the attack, saying the “deaths highlight once again the terrible price being paid by the people of Homs, as well as the courage of journalists who take great personal risks to bring to light what is happening to the people of Syria.”
And EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton joined global press watchdog Reporters Without Borders in demanding a rapid inquiry.
The latest UN figures from mid-December have the death toll at over 5,000 since the Syrian uprising began last March.
Damascus has released its own figures, however, contending that 2,000 security personnel have been killed by armed groups.
Israel’s High Court has rejected a legal challenge to the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (2003, amended 2007), in a 6-5 decision on Wednesday.
The law places severe restrictions on the ability of Palestinian citizens of Israel to live with spouses from the Occupied Palestinian Territories, as well as from so-called “enemy states” (defined as Syria, Lebanon, Iran and Iraq). The judges’ majority support for the state’s position affects thousands of couples, who had pinned their hopes on this appeal.
While the official justification for the almost decade-old law has typically been about ‘security’ (with the claim that family unification allows ‘terrorists’ to enter Israel), what is interesting about this High Court ruling and the response to it is just how explicitly the law is justified in terms of ‘demographics’.
In the ruling, Justice Asher Grunis wrote that “human rights are not a prescription for national suicide”, a term often used in the context of allowing a return of Palestinian refugees. Today, that language was repeated by Interior Minister Eli Yishai, warning about the need to protect the Jewish majority. MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima) also praised the High Court’s decision in terms of ethnic separation:
The High Court decision articulates the rationale of separation between the (two) peoples and the need to maintain a Jewish majority and the (Jewish) character of the state.
A similar reaction has been voiced by the extreme right in the Knesset, like National Union MK Yaakov Katz:
A fantastic miracle took place last night in the High Court when by a happenstance majority the State of Israel was saved from being flooded by 2-3 million Arab refugees.
Adalah, in a press release, commented:
The Supreme Court approved a law the likes of which do not exist in any democratic state in the world, depriving citizens from maintaining a family life in Israel only on the basis of the ethnicity or national belonging of their spouse. The ruling proves how much the situation regarding the civil rights of the Arab minority in Israel is declining into a highly dangerous and unprecedented situation.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) also slammed the decision, stating that “the majority opinion has stamped its approval on a racist law, one [that] will harm the very texture of the lives of families whose only sin is the Palestinian blood that runs in their veins”.
Mixed Palestinian-Israeli families that have been in limbo since the Israeli legislature passed an ‘emergency, security measure’ in 2003 will remain in limbo for the foreseeable future, after the Israeli High Court on Wednesday rejected a petition that would allow these families to stay together.
Israel’s controversial ‘Citizenship Law’ provides for the naturalization of any person of Jewish descent to become an Israeli citizen (known as the ‘Law of Return’). The law also includes provisions that make it difficult for non-Jews to be naturalized as Israeli citizens. Until 2003, non-Jewish people (including Palestinians) who were married to Israeli citizens could go through a process to become citizens.
But the Israeli Knesset passed a measure in 2003 banning Palestinians married to Israelis from obtaining Israeli citizenship. The measure was called a temporary security law allegedly meant to prevent Palestinian fighters from entering Israel to carry out attacks. It has remained in place in the nine years since, and there are no plans in the Knesset to revoke the law.
In 2007, the law was expanded to include nationals of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon who are married to Israelis.
The ruling on Wednesday affects over 100,000 Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza who are married to Israeli citizens. These Palestinians live in limbo, constantly having to apply for permits to be able to be with their spouses, and never knowing if the permit will be granted. They are forbidden from driving or holding jobs in Israel, making their daily lives extremely difficult and stressful.
In a 2008 expose, the BBC interviewed Mohammed and Lana Khatib, who are unable to live together because of the Citizenship Law amendment. She is from Jenin, in the West Bank, and he is a citizen of Israel. He told reporters that their situation was “very insecure. Maybe one day they won’t give her the permission and I’ll be left alone with two kids.”
NABLUS – Israeli military forces on Thursday confiscated computers, mobile phones and camera memory cards from the office and home of a Palestinian journalist.
Soldiers raided Amin Abu Warda’s office in Nablus at 3 a.m., his colleague Atef Doughlas told Ma’an, and confiscated several items, including a work computer and mobile phone.
Witnesses said Israeli forces also raided Abu Warda’s home and confiscated his personal mobile and laptop as well as his son’s mobile phone.
Abu Warda has been held in Israeli detention since Dec. 28, 2011. The journalist is being held without charge and has not been allowed to speak with a lawyer.
An Israeli court issued a decision to extend his arrest until January 15, 2012.
Palestinian media freedom group MADA slammed the arrest, saying it “stands in direct contravention to Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees the right to freedom of opinion and expression.”
The group said Thursday that Israeli forces had escalated violations against journalists in December, with six journalists injured by gas projectiles fired at demonstrations.