Throughout the whole of 2015 the Rafah Crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt was open for just 21 days. On 31 December, the Egyptian authorities opened the border to deliver the corpse of a 28 year-old mentally-ill Palestinian, Ishaq Khalil Hassan, who was shot in full view of the cameras after he had strayed into Egyptian waters while swimming in the Mediterranean. As the Israeli-led — and Egyptian-backed — blockade of Gaza enters its tenth year, there is little hope that the Rafah Crossing will be opened for any meaningful number of days in 2016.
In fact, a combination of domestic and external factors are likely to continue to prevent an early end to the siege. The cold-blooded killing of Hassan by the Egyptian army in late December was indicative of a hardening of Cairo’s attitudes toward the Palestinians in Gaza. As a result, many more will pay with their lives, either through being denied unrestricted passage through Rafah to get essential medical treatment, or by attempting to smuggle basic needs through the tunnels once described as Gaza’s “lifeline”; or by falling victim to Israeli or Egyptian state violence.
For now, there is no shortage of excuses for keeping the Rafah Crossing closed; the usual excuse given to the Palestinians is that the security situation in north Sinai necessitates the closure. While it is true that there is a deadly insurgency in the Sinai which is taxing the resources of the Egyptian security forces and needs a massive political effort to resolve, that does not justify the demonisation and extrajudicial killing of Palestinians.
It has not gone unnoticed that on every occasion that the crossing was open last year there was a major security incident on the Egyptian side of the border. Coincidence? Perhaps, or maybe such incidents were planned in order to provide the Egyptian authorities with an excuse to keep Rafah closed. We will probably never know.
Israel’s role in prolonging Gaza’s humanitarian ordeal, however, is far more clear-cut. Soon after Hamas was elected to run the Palestinian Authority in January 2006 the Israelis imposed economic sanctions against the enclave. At the time, Dov Weisglass, an advisor to the then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said, “The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.”
The following year, Israel declared Gaza to be a “hostile entity” and tightened further its sanctions regime. By adopting this designation, the Israeli cabinet had in effect voted to keep Gaza under a permanent state of siege.
Repeated calls by world leaders, including UN chief Ban Ki-moon, to end the blockade have all fallen on deaf ears. In 2010, Mr Ban condemned the blockade, saying that it caused “unacceptable sufferings.” Today, international aid agencies have confirmed that 80 per cent of Gaza’s inhabitants are aid dependent because of unemployment and poverty created by the Israeli siege.
It has now become abundantly clear that the aims of the blockade have gone well beyond the near-starvation proposed by Weisglass; it has been extended to ensure that young Palestinians in Gaza are even denied the basic right to an education. According to the Palestinian ministry of education, the blockade is currently impeding the building of 55 schools in the territory.
Internally, political analysts and observers in Gaza don’t expect 2016 to be any better than last year. There is a general sense among most that without a resolution of the differences between the two main factions, Fatah and Hamas, things will not improve. Perhaps the most intractable factor in this dossier is who controls the Rafah Crossing.
This week, a new formula has been proposed by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Islamic Jihad and other factions to resolve the issue. It suggests the appointment of an independent body of technocrats to oversee the border with the reappointment of those Fatah officials who were removed when Hamas took over the territory in 2007. At the same time, it stipulates that those officials employed by Hamas should retain their positions. An agreement on this formula between Fatah and Hamas could pull the rug from under the feet of the Egyptian government and nudge it to reopen the crossing.
Another ray of hope comes from the ongoing talks between Turkey and Israel, both of whom have now decided to normalise relations. While Israel has agreed to some of the Turkish conditions —notably an apology for the Freedom Flotilla attack in 2010 and compensation for the victims’ families — one condition remains hanging in the balance: Ankara’s demand for an end to the blockade of Gaza. As it has done so many times in the past, Israel has agreed to an “easing” of the restrictions but, as before, it has not actually defined what that means. If past experience is anything to go by, it means very little.
Sources close to the talks, though, have told MEMO that Turkey has proposed the construction of a sea port in Gaza and offered to administer it. So far Benjamin Netanyahu and his government remain implacably opposed to this. Nevertheless, although it will be a bitter pill to swallow it may actually be the best face-saving device for the Israelis to accept. After all, Israeli commentators and intelligence officials alike have realised that instead of weakening Hamas the blockade has strengthened the movement.
While it is hard to imagine a year worse than 2015, Gaza is caught in a downward spiral from which it will be difficult to escape. However, this Turkish proposal provides a chink of light that, with goodwill, could lead to 2016 not being as bad as last year after all. Some courageous steps are needed to make it work, but it is possible. to 2016 not being as bad as last year after all. Some courageous steps are needed to make it work, but it is possible.
“Occupation is in itself a form of terrorism”
MOSCOW – Russia and the United States agree that Daesh, al-Qaeda and Jabhat al-Nusra are terrorist organizations but differ over blacklisting Hezbollah and Hamas, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
Speaking to the Interfax news agency on Tuesday night, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said: “Our opinions coincide as regards to the main terrorist organizations. These are ISIS, al-Qaeda and Jabhat al-Nusra.”
But “we are not even discussing Hezbollah and Hamas with the Americans,” he added.
Moscow has routinely held senior-level contacts with Hamas officials and leaders.
Commenting on the Russian position, political analyst Abdul Sattar Qassem said: “Hamas cannot be compared to Daesh or al-Qaeda. It can only be viewed in terms of its resistance to the Israeli occupation.”
“The Israeli occupation and the USA are the real terrorists. They are fighting all those who stand in their way,” he added.
“Blacklisting Hamas as terrorist is unacceptable for Moscow. There is no evidence to corroborate the fact that Hamas is a terror group,” he said.
“Israel has been misleading the world into believing that Hamas is targeting Israeli civilians, which is not in fact the case,” the analyst stated.
“Hamas is a movement of national liberation that defends its people. It does not seek to wage wars for the sake of wars. It is engaged in a fight against an entity that colonized its motherland,” he explained.
However, “does Russia dare blacklist Israel as a terrorist entity for the crimes it has perpetrated against the Palestinians?” Qassem wondered. “It is not enough that Russia refuses to dub Hamas a terror group. It should dare include Israel on its terror list.”
“There is no colonizing power in the world but Israel. Occupation is in itself a form of terrorism,” the analyst further stated.
At the Brookings Institution in Washington last Friday, Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon gave an expose of his country’s perspectives on the conflict in Syria. Ya’alon is a former chief of staff of Israeli armed forces. His extensive remarks betrayed Israel’s acute dilemma on the policy front following the traumatic defeat its diplomacy suffered in attempting to forestall the Iran nuclear deal. Israel is finding it hard to turn a new leaf, while other protagonists in the region and indeed the Obama administration are moving on. Ya’alon made the following points:
- Russia is playing a “more significant role” than the US in the Syrian conflict at present. This is not to Israel’s liking, because Russia supports the ‘Shia axis’, which includes Iran, Syria (Assad regime), Hezbollah, Houthis in Yemen and other Shia elements in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, etc.
- Israel disfavors the Syrian peace process devolving upon the UN-sponsored International Syria Support Group and the Vienna talks because it recognizes Iran’s key role in reaching any settlement, which can only lead to the consolidation of Iran’s ‘hegemony’ in Syria.
- The geopolitics of the Middle East in general and in Syria are centred around three groupings: a) The “very solid” Shia axis which at present enjoys the support of Russia, is anathema to Israel; b) The Muslim Brotherhood axis which comprises Turkey, Qatar, and Gaza (Hamas), which is “not on the same page” as with the US or Israel; and, c) The Sunni Arab camp, “the most significant camp” in the region, which lacks leadership, but brings together Israel with Saudi Arabia and other GCC states, Egypt, Jordan, and Morocco.
- The US should “orchestrate” and lead the Sunni Arab camp; in Syria, this means defeating Daesh with the foot soldiers provided by Sunni Arabs and Kurds, whom, therefore, Washington should ‘empower, support, finance and arm’. The US should have done this from the very beginning, but it is not yet “a lost cause. There is still a chance to do it”.
- One of the dangerous implications of the Iran deal is that Tehran is increasingly perceived as “a part of the solution” in Middle East’s hot spots, whereas, a resurgent Iran is a more confident Iran which is all set on the path to become a big military power. The S-300 missiles supplied by Russia recently “are going to be operational within a couple of weeks.”
- The Russian military operations in Syria have been a failure insofar as Moscow had estimated that a 3-month offensive would gain more territory for the Syrian regime, whereas, this hasn’t happened, and, therefore, pressure has built on Moscow to explore a political settlement.
- A settlement is hard to reach in Syria and the country will remain unstable for a very long time to come.
Interestingly, Ya’alon conceded that the “apocalyptic, messianic” regime in Iran is firmly ensconced in power in Tehran and “with more money now, without political isolation, without external pressure”, it has more room to maneuver. Thus, no change can be expected in the Iranian policies. As he put it, “I don’t see the chance to have McDonald branches in Tehran as the new future”.
The remarks by Ya’alon underscore the stark isolation of Israel in the politics of the Middle East. Evidently, Israel’s preferred option is that the US resumes its containment strategy against Iran, and, as part of the policy, should lead its regional allies to militarily push for regime change in Syria. On the other hand, the Obama administration has had enough of confrontation with Iran, has no stomach for getting involved in a prolonged war in Syria or anywhere in the Middle East. Besides, Israel is overlooking that the West’s attitude toward the Assad regime has mellowed significantly and there is overall acceptance that Assad has a role in the transition.
On the other hand, the S-300 missiles supplied by Russia recently are becoming operational within the coming week or so and they will considerably strengthen Iran’s air defence system. In sum, an Israeli military option against Iran is inconceivable from now onward. Both Iran and Israel are acutely conscious that the power balance in the region has shifted. Put differently, the spectre that is haunting Israel is the inexorable rise of Iran as a regional ‘superpower’. At one point Ya’alon put it as follows:
- We believe in the end Daesh (Islamic State) is going to be defeated. Iran is very different. It’s actually an original superpower… That is why we worry about this regime, and if they are perceived as a key for the solution because they are ready to fight Daesh, then they are going to gain more hegemony in the region… to be more dangerous, to be situated on our border, as part of the political settlement in Syria. This is very dangerous.
The implications of a Syrian settlement, reached on the basis of a consensus involving Iran, are very serious indeed for Israel. Iran put its cards on the table recently by stressing that the fate of President Assad is a ‘red line’ for Tehran – non-negotiable. And Iran openly regards Assad as an anchor sheet of ‘resistance’. Significantly, one of the most influential figures in the Iranian establishment, Ali Akbar Velayati, the advisor on foreign affairs to the Supreme Leader and a distinguished former foreign minister himself, made a stunning statement last week that Tehran expects Russia to join the resistance soon — and China too in a conceivable future. Velayati’s statement cannot be without any basis.
Israel has adopted a tactful line so far by engaging Russia and avoiding any skirmishes with the Russian forces operating in Syria. But it thoroughly dislikes the Russian-Iranian-Hezbollah axis in Syria, which is only going from strength to strength. Israel watches with unease that the Russian-Iranian military ties are poised for a phenomenal makeover. (Iranian and Hezbollah forces apparently helped in the rescue of the Russian pilot recently on the Syrian-Turkish border.) The Russian operations go hand in hand with the ground attacks by the Syrian government forces, who are assisted by the Hezbollah and are operating under the guidance of Iranian military advisors.
The crunch time comes if and when the military operations intensify in the southern regions of Syria bordering the Golan Heights. The instability in Syria is useful for Israel to disrupt the supply lines for Hezbollah. But the new reality could be a strong Iranian-Hezbollah presence in southern Syria in the approaches to the Golan Heights enjoying Russian air cover. If that happens, Israel’s illegal annexation of the Golan Heights could become a theatre for the forces of the ‘resistance’. Read Ya’alon’s extensive remarks here.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri stated in a press release on Tuesday that the Israeli ban measure against the Islamic Movement targets the Arab presence in the 1948 occupied territories.
“The Israeli decision is aimed at punishing the Islamic Movement and preventing it from continuing its role in protecting the Aqsa Mosque,” Abu Zuhri added, calling the decision as “a badge of honor” to the Islamic Movement.
The Hamas spokesman called on the international community to intervene to curb such Israeli racist measures against the Palestinians.
The Israeli security cabinet on Tuesday declared the Islamic Movement in the 1948 occupied lands an unlawful organization, effectively outlawing the group led by Sheikh Ra’ed Salah.
Following the decision, police forces raided over a dozen of the group’s offices in the 1948 occupied lands, seizing computers, files and funds.
The Israeli occupation authority also froze its bank accounts and said that 17 organizations affiliated with the Movement were served with orders to close down.
The police also called in several of the Movement’s officials for questioning, including Sheikh Salah, his deputy Sheikh Kamal Khatib, and the organization’s director of Jerusalem and Aqsa Mosque affairs, Salman Abu Ahmad.
Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah received telephone calls from Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshaal and his deputy Ismail Haniyeh expressing their condemnation of the terrorist bombings in Burj el-Barajneh.
Meshaal offered his condolences on the martyrdom of around 43 people, and stressed “the sympathy of the Palestinian people with the Lebanese and their support in the face of this painful tragedy.”
Meshaal and Haniyeh assured that the Palestinians who were allegedly involved in the blast were not refugees in Lebanon, reported al-Joumhouria newspaper on Saturday. Meshaal and Hanieh had informed the Lebanese Speaker Nabih Berri that the names mentioned by the ISIL terrorists were not of refugees, but of individuals who had died in Syria over two years ago.
The so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant terrorist group claimed responsibility for the attack, alleging it was executed by two Palestinians and a Syrian.
The Lebanese Army said two men wearing suicide vests carried out the attacks. A military statement added that the body of a third suicide attacker who had failed to blow himself up was found at the scene of the second blast.
Palestinian political Islamists Hamas have demanded Britain apologize for agreeing to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine in 1917, a move experts say had “profound and pervasive” consequences for those who lived there.
Hamas released its statement Monday to coincide with the 98th anniversary of the declaration. It claimed the 1917 agreement between then British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour and influential Jewish community leader Baron Walter Rothschild is now null and void.
The original declaration, which aimed to combine two apparently contradictory aims, read: “His Majesty’s government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”
The Israeli News Network reports Hamas wants Britain to apologize for the declaration, retract it and admit it was a mistake.
“The path of our people towards freedom, return and liberation goes like the path of other peoples who were under occupation – through struggle by all methods and means, first and foremost an armed struggle,” the statement said.
Speaking to the Daily Mail, Oxford University history professor Avi Shlaim said the Balfour agreement continued to resonate throughout the region and beyond.
“Its consequences were both profound and pervasive, and its impact on the subsequent history of the Middle East was nothing less than revolutionary,” he said.
“It completely transformed the position of the fledgling Zionist movement vis-à-vis the Arabs of Palestine, and it provided a protective umbrella that enabled the Zionists to proceed steadily towards their ultimate goal of establishing an independent Jewish state in Palestine.”
The declaration’s impact was out of proportion to its size. It took the form of a mere letter from one party to another and yet, Shlaim says, defines the state of the Middle East to this day.
“Rarely in the annals of the British Empire has such a short document produced such far-reaching consequences,” he said.
A number of former British colonies have recently called for relations between themselves and the former imperial power to be redressed.
In September, Barbadian historian Sir Hilary Beckles reminded David Cameron that the prime minister’s own family was enriched by slavery in the Caribbean colonies.
In July, Indian politician Shashi Tharoor debated Britain’s past occupation of India at an Oxford Union debate.
“Britain’s rise for 200 years was financed by its depredations in India. We paid for our own oppression. It’s a bit rich to oppress, maim, kill, torture and repress and then celebrate democracy at the end of it,” Tharoor said at the debate.
Rogue states make their own rules, mindless of inviolable international laws, norms and standards. On October 19, Israel’s repressive counter-terrorism bill passed its 2nd and 3rd readings – criminalizing legitimate resistance as terrorism, expanding regime authority to counter it extrajudicially.
Any activity can now be called terrorism or terrorist-related, innocent Palestinians subject to possible longterm imprisonment. Charity officials providing aid to anyone linked to or associated with Hamas or legitimate resistance groups can be arrested, charged and prosecuted.
Children wearing clothing bearing the Hamas name face arrest, detention, and grueling interrogations amounting to torture. The law authorizes Big Brother surveillance, more intrusive than already, replicating how the NSA operates, monitoring all phone and online communications.
Israeli Law Professor Yael Berda called the measure “scary and undemocratic…criminalizing an entire population for identifying with an organization that Israel considers terrorist (true or false)” – first introduced in 2011, redrafted several times, never brought to 2nd and 3rd readings until now, required for passage.
It expands the definition of terrorism to virtually anything considered a (real or invented) threat to public safety, well-being, property, infrastructure, the economy, religious sites or the environment.
It makes no distinction between alleged attacks against civilians, soldiers or police. Vandalism against (Israeli) religious sites is now terrorism.
Terrorist organizations are any authorities say so for any reason or none at all. Members or supporters face harsh punishment.
Any alleged terrorist crime incurs “double the penalty set for the same crimes, but no more than 30 years” imprisonment. Administrative detentions (without charges levied or trials) can be ordered more easily than before, subjecting victims to indefinite imprisonment.
Punishment for allegedly intending to conduct a terrorist act is equivalent to committing it. Noted Israeli lawyer, human rights champion Leah Tsemel calls the new law “not…about terrorism. It…remove(s) restrictions from everything to do with opposition to occupation,” criminalizing legitimate resistance.
“When it comes to the occupation, there is no rule of law,” she explained. Israel always operated extrajudicially – now with more police state authority than before.
A passage in the 100-page measure reads as follows:
“The law substantially strengthens and widens the powers of the police and the General Security Services (Shabak or Shin Bet) to suppress any legitimate protest activities against Israeli policies.”
“It also enables the use of ‘secret evidence’ in order to take preventative measures against these activities, which impedes the possibility of objecting to these repressive decisions based on their merits before the judiciary.”
According to Yael Berda, “(y)ou don’t have to do anything to be considered a terrorist. You can publish an article or make a comment in cyberspace, and you will be criminalized.”
“If you are located in the physical environment of terrorist activities, you are guilty.” The measure applies specifically for Palestinians and Arab Israeli citizens – Jews as well for opposing regime authority.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) denounced the new measure, saying “in its current form, (it) seeks to perpetuate and normalise problematic arrangements that are currently set out in emergency legislation and regulations from the time of the British mandate.”
“(D)efinitions included in the bill are very broad and could apply to people and organizations who are not engaged in terrorism. Such broad definitions give excessive discretion to law enforcement authorities to determine ‘who is a terrorist,’ with potentially serious implications.”
“For example, the definition of ‘terrorist act’ may apply to protests, including ‘disturbances.’ The definition of ‘member of a terrorist organization’ includes people who did not take any active part in the organization. The broad definitions contained in the bill and the draconian powers that it gives to authorities could potentially lead to serious human rights violations.”
The Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel condemned the measure, saying it “substantially strengthens and widens the powers of the police and the Shabak to suppress any legitimate protest activities against Israeli policies.”
It’s specifically designed to criminalize legitimate resistance – “to further suppress the struggle of Palestinian citizens of Israel and the pursuit of their political activities in support of Palestinians living under Occupation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.”
Humanitarian and cultural activities are vulnerable. So is independent journalism, legitimately criticizing repressive state policies. Its passage assures greater collective punishment – all the more urgency to resist this vile, freedom-destroying regime.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book as editor and contributor is titled Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.
GAZA – Hamas has deemed remarks by U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, an attempt to quell the ongoing Palestinian intifada and consolidate Israeli domination over the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque.
On Saturday, the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, slammed Kerry’s remarks in which he signaled Netanyahu’s commitment to allow Muslims to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque while granting non-Muslims the right to visit the holy site.
The group said Kerry’s remarks come as an attempt on part of the United States to help the Israeli occupation find a way out of the crisis it faces as a result of the Palestinian uprising.
The Movement noted that the declaration equates Muslim prayer rights with visitation rights for non-Muslims and could be used to justify provocative and sacrilegious break-ins by Israeli extremist settlers.
Hamas added that the vague language of the declaration gives Netanyahu the opportunity to maneuver and renege on any commitments in an attempt to pave the way for grabbing hold of the holy Mosque.
Hamas urged the PA president Mahmoud Abbas and the Jordanian authorities to turn down any compromise that gives the occupation the opportunity to violate Palestinian rights at Al-Aqsa or that limits Palestinians’ ability to protect the Mosque.
Hamas called on all Palestinians to watch out for attempts to abort the Jerusalem Intifada and to protect Al-Aqsa Mosque no matter the prices that might have to be paid.
The Palestinian Authority and Israeli intelligence services are behind messages in which Daesh members make threats against Hamas and accuse it of blasphemy, a senior Hamas leader has said.
In statements to Quds Press, Salah Bardawil downplayed the importance of videos which apparently show Daesh members making threats against Hamas, accusing the Palestinian Authority’s General Intelligence Service and the occupation of spreading them to confuse Hamas and to implement projects which harm the Palestinian cause.
He said the investigations conducted by the Ministry of Interior in Gaza revealed that this is a plot orchestrated by the intelligence that used Daesh’s name to smear Hamas’s name.
Bardawil added that Fatah and the Palestinian Authority are trying to attack Hamas. He added that the movement’s objective is “clear”: Resisting the occupation.
A video thought to have been published by the Islamic State’s Wilayat Damascus division appears to show two masked men warning that Daesh does not differentiate between Hamas, the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and the Israeli occupation, and it will fight them all.
CAIRO – Four Palestinians kidnapped at gunpoint in Egypt’s Sinai late Wednesday are members of Hamas, Egyptian security officials said, and are being held hostage by the Sinai Province militant group.
Egyptian officials told Ma’an that the four Hamas members were taken hostage by the IS-affiliated group as a bargaining chip to force Hamas to release some 50 Salafists currently imprisoned in Gaza.
The members were identified as Abd al-Basit Abd al-Dayim, Abdullah Said Abdullah Abu Jibbeen, Yasir Fathi Misbah Zanoun and Hussein Khamis al-Thabda.
Negotiations have reportedly begun between Hamas and the militant group, with the involvement of both Palestinian and Egyptian mediators.
Initial investigations suggest the Hamas members were taken to the al-Tuma village south of the city of Sheikh Zuweid.
Sources close to the Sinai Province group — which pledged allegiance to IS in November — have said the four kidnapped Hamas members would be killed if Hamas did not comply with the group’s demands.
The group has claimed responsibility for attacks on Egypt’s army which have killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers since 2013.
The attacks are allegedly in response to the bloody repression launched by the authorities under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s control, which has seen at least 1,400 killed and thousands more jailed.
Since last summer’s devastating war between Hamas and Israel in the Gaza Strip, there have been growing signs of internal unrest between Hamas security forces and other militant groups in the strip, with a string of small-scale explosions.
In June, video footage alleged to be from an IS stronghold in Syria showcased a public challenge by the group against Hamas’ power in Gaza, accusing the Gazan leadership of failing to enforce stringent religious law in the strip.
Prior to the threat, Hamas had reportedly been increasingly challenged by Salafist militant groups in Gaza, with some taking credit for rocket fire into Israel.
The Trial and Sentencing of Amer Jubran
On July 29, 2015, the trial of Palestinian activist Amer Jubran in Jordan reached its predictable conclusion: 10 years with hard labor for phony “terrorism” offenses, based at least in part on laws manufactured after his arrest.
Last year I wrote an article about the circumstances of Amer’s arrest and detention. At that time he was being held without charges, after being seized from his home in the middle of the night and held incommunicado at an undisclosed location for over 2 months.
In August of 2014, he was finally given a list of charges against him. These included the charge of threatening to “harm relations with a foreign government,” part of a new set of “anti-terrorism” laws enacted in Jordan in June of 2014 (a month after Amer’s arrest in May). The law is a codification of Jordan’s existing practice of arresting dissidents who call attention to the regime’s traitorous collaboration with the main political enemies of its own people: Israel and the United States. A pertinent example would be Mwaffaq Mahadin, tried in 2010 for “endangering relations with a foreign state” for speaking on Al-Jazeera about Jordan’s security cooperation with the US. Under the new legislation, this “crime” became a “terrorism” offense, punishable before the State Security Court.
In a statement about his trial and sentencing recorded from prison (recording here, transcript here), Amer recounts a moment in his interrogation by the GID (General Intelligence Directorate, Jordan’s infamous secret police) which leaves no doubt about the real decision-makers behind his arrest and imprisonment:
During the interrogation period, I was told by the GID that any decision made about me is involving (quote) ‘our American and Israeli friends’ (end-quote). All started when I refused to be a sell-out and work against the Lebanese resistance. I was told then that I will be sent behind the sun for such a refusal. And frankly it is very easy for me to disappear behind the sun rather than to be well outside, but a sell-out and traitor.
The involvement of the US in Amer’s detention and trial comes as no surprise. As I recounted in my earlier article, the US had already detained Amer while he was living in the United States for his political activism on behalf of Palestine and against the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. While living here as a green-card holder, he committed the inexcusable crime of refusing to be intimidated by the wave of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim repression that immediately followed September 11.
In 2002, he stood on a stage in Washington DC, before an anti-war gathering of more than 75,000 people, and spoke against US support for Israel and against the invasion of Iraq.
Amer has clarified in conversation that his refusal “to be a sell-out and work against the Lebanese resistance” was a refusal to act as an infiltrator and informant for the GID. He was thus charged with supporting Hezbollah.
In a similar trial that reached its conclusion a day earlier, another 12 people were sentenced for periods of up to 15 years for supporting Hamas. As one commentator asked in the Jordan Times: “[I]n whose interest is it to try those who support the Palestinian Hamas movement?”
“Anti-terrorism” laws that criminalize support for armed movements of national liberation in Palestine and national self-defense in Lebanon have nothing to do with protecting Jordan or its people. Neither Hamas nor Hezbollah has ever threatened the security of Jordan. Such laws are designed purely to protect the interests of Israel and the US in their ongoing violations of the national sovereignty of Arab lands.
Likewise, Jordan’s General Intelligence Directorate and its State Security Court function as arms of foreign powers. They are not protecting the security of Jordanians, but rather the security of Jordan’s most violent and militarily aggressive neighbor (Israel), and US soldiers who use Jordan as a base for attacking other Arab countries. Most recently, the US has been using Jordan as a base for training military forces involved in the destabilization of Syria–a conflict that threatens to engulf the entire region in violence.
To do their work effectively, these agencies must necessarily suppress the human and political rights of Jordanians. Journalists, activists, professors, religious leaders and all of Jordan’s ordinary citizens live under the constant threat of Jordan’s secret police and its judicial security apparatus. Trials before the State Security Court lack even the outward semblance of judicial independence, with judges recruited from the military and the GID itself.
In the campaign to free Amer Jubran, we are calling for letters on Amer’s behalf to be directed to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al Hussein, a Jordanian. We have no illusions about the UN or its High-Commissioner for Human Rights. The value of such a campaign is to show that people around the world are watching, and to strip away the sham of “human rights” and “democracy” in Jordan.
Jordan is the most valuable regional asset for both Israel and the US. Its GID is one of the most powerful intelligence agencies in the world, active throughout the region, and does much of the dirty work of suppressing the rights of people in the Arab world. It’s time to expose its crimes, and disrupt the political arrangement behind them.
The chair of Labour Friends of Israel has urged party members not to back anti-war advocate Jeremy Corbyn in the leadership race because he previously called for Arab groups Hamas and Hezbollah to be involved in Middle East peace talks.
Joan Ryan said Monday there were “deep concerns” about Corbyn’s leadership campaign and in particular the positions he has taken on Israel.
The Labour Friends of Israel official asked supporters to back a candidate who could play a “constructive” role in negotiating peace between Israel and Palestine.
Corbyn has faced criticism during his leadership election campaign for previously calling Hamas and Hezbollah “friends” and insisting they be involved in regional peace discussions.
Ryan, who replaced Anne Mcguire as head of Labour Friends of Israel on Monday, told the Jewish Chronicle that Labour must be “steadfast” in its support for Tel Aviv.
She added that last month’s Jewish community hustings for the Labour leadership contenders had been a key step in the party’s efforts to “win back the trust and confidence of the Jewish community.”
Ryan, who nominated Blairite Liz Kendall in the leadership contest, went on to caution Labour voters that members should elect the candidate that is most likely to play a “constructive” role in the peace process.
“We hope that Labour party members and supporters will consider when they vote which candidate is best placed to ensure that the next Labour government can play a constructive and engaged role in the crucial search for a two-state solution,” she said.
“We recognize the deep concerns which exist about positions taken, and statements made, by Jeremy Corbyn in the past and recognize the serious questions which arise from these.”
Ryan, a former Home Office minister and party whip, said Labour Friends of Israel would “continue to work with progressives in both Israel and Palestine who share our commitment to peace and co-existence.
“At the same time, we remain adamantly opposed to boycotts and sanctions, which delegitimize Israel, do nothing to further these goals and have no place in the Labour Party.”
Corbyn was grilled by Channel 4 journalist Kristan Guru-Murthy in an interview in July for having previously called Hamas and Hezbollah “friends.”
During the interview the veteran left-winger rejected the idea that he agreed with the two organizations, which Israel considers to be terrorist groups.
Following intense questioning by Guru-Murthy, Corbyn explained his position.
“Does it mean I agree with Hamas and what it does? No. Does it mean I agree with Hezbollah and what they do? No,” the Labour MP said.
“There is not going to be a peace process unless there are talks involving Israel, Hezbollah and Hamas – and I think everyone knows that.”
Corbyn added that even the former head of Israeli intelligence agency Mossad agreed that more comprehensive talks must be pursued. The Israeli intelligence chief argued at the time that any viable peace process would involve negotiations with people who hold opposing viewpoints.
The socialist candidate has faced intense criticism from Labour elites since announcing his candidacy, with a number of high-profile politicians urging voters to back other candidates.
Attacks on Corbyn’s campaign became even more heated after a YouGov poll, published by The Times newspaper on Monday night, found that Corbyn had doubled his lead over the past week and would now poll 53 percent, meaning he could secure a first-round victory without needing to count the second preferences of Labour supporters.
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair, former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and Blair-era PR guru Alistair Campbell have all urged Labour supporters to reject Corbyn, arguing he would make Labour “unelectable” in the 2020 general election.