Sunday, June 30, 2013

Bahraini democracy

“A lower criminal court in Bahrain, headed by a member of the ruling family, has sentenced a 17-year-old boy to a year in jail for insulting the Gulf island's king on Twitter.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Morsi: first elected civil President?

Morsi boasts to be the “first elected civil President”, but he is the first to hide away at the Presidential Guard Headquarters on the first anniversary of his election.

Zbigniew Brzezinski: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, their Western allies orchestrated Syria crisis

Zbigniew Brzezinski, former US national security adviser: “In late 2011 there are outbreaks in Syria produced by a drought and abetted by two well-known autocracies in the Middle East: Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Hamad Bin Khalifa of Qatar: a reformist?

“Other reasons may have prompted Hamad to resign. Now 61, he has long championed reform elsewhere in the Arab world, to the point of generously funding revolutions in Libya and Syria. But he stood out ever less comfortably for failing to practise at home what he preached abroad.” So he abdicated in order to apply what he had preached? The transfer of power from an unelected ruler (father) to another unelected ruler (son) is really viewed as a reform?!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Moving the US Fifth Fleet Headquarters from Bahrain to Qatar, Kuwait or Oman?

“The Fifth Fleet headquarters in Bahrain is the most US important maritime base in the Middle East but senior officers have become complacent about its future, Commander Richard McDaniel asserts. 
"Surprisingly, military leaders have no 'Plan B' if strategic access in Bahrain is jeopardized," McDaniel wrote, in a paper published by the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.
"Because of a strong desire to support the government of Bahrain, losing critical access is not currently being considered, and strategic basing alternatives are not being developed."

The author proposes the United States investigate alternatives in the Qatari capital Doha, where a large port is under construction, and in Shuabia, Kuwait, as well as ports in Oman.”

This is the “rule”: host a Western military/naval base, and your regime will be immune !

When UN prize winners commend Bahrain

“2013 UN Public Service Forum prize winners told Bahrain News Agency, on the sidelines of the awards ceremony held today, the Kingdom of Bahrain granted them, through hosting the Form, an unprecedented opportunity to exchange experiences with delegations from 97 countries participated in the Forum, and hailed the organizational level that spanned four days.” I wonder: did they also hail Bahrain’s “respect” for human rights? 

Systematic torture in UAE

“United Arab Emirates (UAE) state security officers have subjected detainees to systematic mistreatment, including torture, say hand-written letters from detainees smuggled out of jails, Alkarama, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch said today. The groups obtained 22 statements written by some of the 94 people on trial for allegedly plotting to overthrow the government. The mistreatment described in the letters is consistent with other allegations of torture at UAE state security facilities, and indicates that torture is a systematic practice at these facilities.

Kuwaitis send "democracy" to Syria

“At a traditional evening meeting known as a "diwaniya", Kuwaiti men drop banknotes into a box, opening a campaign to arm up to 12,000 anti-government fighters in Syria. A new Mercedes is parked outside to be auctioned off for cash

The men at the diwaniya said one large Kuwaiti family planned to equip 28 mujahideen in Syria, estimating the cost at 700 dinars per fighter. Smaller families sponsor two or three, while a member of one of Kuwait's powerful merchant families donated 250,000 dinars.”

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Morsi and Erdogan

Notice how both Morsi and Erdogan follow the same “strategy”: if you can’t convince them, confuse them.

Erdogan focuses on playing with people’s sentiments, while Morsi in yesterday’s protracted speech resorted to a wide-scale cynicism, and at times “wooing”. Both of them don’t offer concrete or convincing arguments.

On the other hand, Morsi and Erdogan use the same intimidating or challenging language. They almost wage a “war” against their “opponents”. Morsi even threatened to “chop fingers” !

At the end, they both deal with the opposition as their enemies, and not as their partners in the country’s political life. 

Meet the new Qatari Minister of Economy and Commerce

“The director-general of Qatar-based al Jazeera satellite news network has resigned to take up a post in the newly reshuffled government, the station said on Wednesday. Ahmed bin Jassim al-Thani said in a statement posted on the station's website that he was leaving the network "to serve my country," without indicating which government post he was taking.” He was appointed as the new Minister of Economy and Commerce

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

"Syrian National Council" and Qatar

This is hilarious: the so-called “Syrian National Council”, which supposedly seeks “freedom” and “democracy” in Syria, congratulated the Emir of Qatar for transferring power to his son (from one unelected ruler to another unelected one): “The Syrian National Council, a prominent opposition group, congratulated Qatar on what it described as a "pioneering and unprecedented step that gives the Arab Spring an additional big boost."” 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Transition of power in Qatar

Notice how the Qatari & co. media is amplifying the event in Qatar. It depicts the abdication of Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani as: a “historic” event, an “unprecedented” event, etc. A commentator even went to the extent of saying that what happened is the “utmost democracy”. Other commentators take pleasure in praising the “smooth transition of power” (why wouldn’t it be smooth when it goes from father to son and Qataris have no say?).

However, the above-mentioned media wants the viewer to focus only on the act of abdication. Needless to say, this is all done in order to divert attention from the core issue: no democracy exists in Qatar. So it’s not very surprising.

What is appalling, however, is that the British Foreign Secretary Hague described it - on Twitter - as a “historic day for Qatar”. How would the Foreign Secretary of a democratic country praise Al Thani family rule in Qatar? How would he commend the absence of democracy? He supports “democracy” in Syria, but dictatorship in Qatar? Of course, as long as a certain regime is a puppet of Western governments, it doesn’t matter whether it is democratic or not.

Back to the main point, no matter how much the Qatari media tries, it cannot cover up the fact that there is no democracy in Qatar, but only a dictatorship. And today, people were even kissing the hand of Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani !

Thursday, June 20, 2013

No remorse for destruction of Palestinian villages

"Former IDF commander, brigadier general of the Givati Brigade and Israeli ambassador to Tanzania, Yitzhak Pundak, expressed no remorse about the destruction of Palestinian villages in 1948, declaring it a necessity in order to establish the State of Israel. Speaking on Israeli army radio, Pundak asserted that he sleeps with a clear conscience, 'otherwise the number of Arabs in Israel would have been a million more than their number now'." 

Palestinian Prime Minister Hamdallah resigns

The newly appointed Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah submitted his resignation due to "lack of jurisdiction and power", at a time the PA itself has neither jurisdiction nor power. Stop wasting time; dissolve the PA, and let Israel - the occupying Power - bear its duties and responsibilities under international law.

Hate crimes against Palestinians, no compensation

“Two days after unidentified assailants slashed the tires of 28 cars and daubed hate slogans on homes in the Israeli Arab village of Abu Ghosh, the victims of the attacks - believed to have been carried out by Jewish extremists - voiced dismay that they are ineligible for compensation from the state. One of the families targeted by the "price tag" attack lamented that all four of the cars in its possession have been vandalized, including a luxury jeep. The cost to repair the latter vehicle could amount to NIS 5,000 per tire… According to jurists, this decision deems the victims of such crimes ineligible for compensation from the state. While those who possess comprehensive insurance may be reimbursed, most of the families and individuals targeted must cover the costs themselves.

UN: Israel tortures detained Palestinian children

“A United Nations human rights body accused Israeli forces on Thursday of mistreating Palestinian children, including by torturing those in custody and using others as human shields.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Red Cross denies reports of chemicals in Syria

“A statement to this effect came today from Robert Mardini, ICRC’s Head of Operations for the Near and Middle East, as he spoke to Russian journalists at a Moscow conference, organized by the Red Cross and the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Mr. Mardini said the Red Cross had no hard evidence that could prove either party in the conflict had used chemical weapons against their enemies.

He added ICRC volunteers had access to almost every Syrian region and vowed the Red Cross would raise this issue, should any proof of a chemical war emerge.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

European Parliament resolution on Turkey

Situation in Turkey
European Parliament resolution of 13 June 2013 on the situation in Turkey (2013/2664(RSP))

The European Parliament,
–    having regard to its previous resolutions, in particular that of 18 April 2013 on the 2012 progress report on Turkey[1],
–    having regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union,
–    having regard to the Negotiating Framework for Turkey of 3 October 2005,
–    having regard to Council Decision 2008/157/EC of 18 February 2008 on the principles, priorities and conditions contained in the Accession Partnership with the Republic of Turkey[2] (‘the Accession Partnership’), as well as to the previous Council decisions on the Accession Partnership of 2001, 2003 and 2006,
–    having regard to Rule 110(2) and (4) of its Rules of Procedure,
A.  whereas in the early hours of Friday, 31 May 2013 the Turkish police used excessive violence in an effort to disperse a group of demonstrators, who had been protesting for weeks against the planned felling of trees for a new construction project in Istanbul’s Gezi Park in the Taksim Square area;
B.  whereas the heavy-handed police intervention led to clashes with the protesters, which quickly spread to other cities in Turkey, and whereas these clashes led to four deaths and over a thousand wounded, mass arrests and severe damage to private and public property; whereas tear-gas was used extensively, with canisters being fired directly at protesters, causing serious injuries;
C.  whereas the demonstrations have gained support among different strata of Turkish society; whereas men and women participated in equal measure in the demonstrations;
D.  whereas the harsh condemnation by the Turkish Government seems to have been counter‑productive;
E.   whereas Article 34 of the Turkish Constitution guarantees the right to organise peaceful, unarmed meetings and demonstrations without permission; whereas Article 26 guarantees freedom of expression, and Articles 27 and 28 guarantee ‘freedom of expression’ and ‘unhindered dissemination of thought’;
F.   whereas the protests are also linked to concerns in some sectors of Turkish society over a series of recent decisions and legislative acts on issues such as restrictions on the sale of alcohol and educational reforms;
G.  whereas the protesters are increasingly voicing concerns over a perceived lack of representation of minority voices, authoritarian governance and lack of the rule of law and of good governance, and of fair trial and due process in Turkey;
H.  whereas the mainstream Turkish media remained silent regarding the demonstrations, and Twitter users have been arrested;
I.    whereas Turkey, as a candidate for EU accession, has the obligation to respect and promote democracy and to reinforce democratic and human rights and freedoms;
J.    whereas Commissioner Füle and HR/VP Catherine Ashton have reacted to these events;
K.  whereas freedom of assembly, freedom of expression (including through social media both online and offline) and freedom of the press are fundamental principles of the EU;
1.   Expresses its sincere condolences to the families of the protesters and of the police officer who lost their lives, and wishes the numerous wounded a rapid recovery;
2.   Expresses its deep concern at the disproportionate and excessive use of force by the Turkish police in its response to the peaceful and legitimate protests in Istanbul’s Gezi Park, and calls on the Turkish authorities to thoroughly investigate the police violence, to bring those responsible to justice and to offer compensation to the victims; warns the Turkish Government against taking harsh measures against the peaceful protesters, and urges the Prime Minister to take a unifying and conciliatory position so as to avoid any further escalation;
3    Deplores the fact that, despite the announcement by the Turkish authorities that they would hold talks with some of the protest leaders, the police violence in and around Taksim Square is continuing, thus effectively dampening prospects for talks between the government and protesters;
4.   Calls on the Turkish authorities to guarantee and respect the rights of all citizens to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and peaceful protest; calls for the immediate release of all peaceful protestors taken into custody and currently detained; demands that all detainees have unrestricted access to lawyers of their choice; asks for information on the exact numbers of detainees and injured;
5.   Deplores the reactions of the Turkish Government and of Prime Minister Erdoğan, whose unwillingness to take steps towards reconciliation, to apologise or to understand the reactions of a segment of the Turkish population have only contributed to further polarisation;
6.   Welcomes the moderate response by President Gül and the apologies to the injured protesters expressed by Deputy Prime Minister Arinç, as well as their dialogue with the Taksim platform and political opposition figures to defuse tensions; underlines the importance of dialogue between the Turkish Government and peaceful protesters;
7.   Reminds Turkey that in an inclusive, pluralist democracy all citizens should feel represented and that the majority has a responsibility to include the opposition and civil society in the decision-making process; also reminds the opposition parties of their responsibility to do their part to create a democratic political culture with respect for diverse views and opinions;
8.   Is concerned about the ongoing confrontation between the political parties, and the lack of readiness on the part of government and opposition to work towards consensus on key reforms; urges all political actors, the government and the opposition to work together to enhance political plurality in state institutions and to promote the modernisation and democratisation of the state and society;
9.   Points to the crucial role of a system of checks and balances in the governance of a modern democratic state, which should be reflected in the ongoing constitutional process, and which must be based on the principle of separation of powers, with balance between the executive, legislative and judicial functions, on respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms – in particular freedom of expression and freedom of the press – and on a participatory political culture that truly reflects the plurality of a democratic society; believes that, in itself, the organisation of peaceful and legitimate protests testifies to the vibrancy of Turkish civil society; reminds Turkey of the importance of continuing efforts to further improve its democratic institutions, the rule of law and the observance of fundamental freedoms;
10. Stresses the need for continued intensive training of the police force and the judiciary both in their formal education and during their active careers concerning the implementation of the Istanbul Protocol (a set of international guidelines against torture and ill-treatment) and also on the primacy of individual rights and liberties;
11. Calls on local and national authorities in Turkey to launch public consultations for all urban and regional development plans; recalls the need to balance economic growth with social, environmental, cultural and historical factors; calls for all relevant projects in Turkey to undergo environmental impact assessment, without exception;
12. Observes that the unprecedented wave of protests also reflects growing dissatisfaction in parts of the Turkish population concerning lifestyle regulation; reiterates that in a democratic polity governments must promote tolerance and ensure freedom of religion and belief for all citizens; calls on the government to respect the plurality and richness of Turkish society and to protect secular lifestyles;
13. Warns that the police crackdown undermines the credibility of Turkey’s regional role as a champion of democratic change in the southern neighbourhood;
14. Recalls that freedom of expression and media pluralism are at the heart of European values and that a truly democratic, free and pluralist society requires true freedom of expression; recalls that freedom of expression is applicable not only to information or ideas that are favourably received or regarded as inoffensive, but also, in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights, to those that offend, shock or disturb the state or any section of the population;
15. Is concerned about the deterioration in freedom of the press and about certain acts of censorship and growing self-censorship within the Turkish media, including on the internet; calls on the Turkish Government to uphold the principle of press freedom; stresses that an independent press is crucial to a democratic society, and points in this context to the essential role of the judiciary in protecting and enhancing press freedom, thereby guaranteeing public space for free and inclusive debate; is concerned at the large number of journalists in prison and the numerous ongoing trials of journalists; calls for the release of social media activists; views as deeply regrettable the decision of RTUK (the Radio and Television Supreme Council) to punish the TV channels that have covered the Gezi Park events since the beginning for ‘harming the physical, moral and mental development of children and young people’;
16. Reiterates its concern at the fact that most media are owned by, and concentrated in, large conglomerates with a wide range of business interests; reiterates its call for the adoption of a new media law addressing, inter alia, the issues of independence, ownership and administrative control;
17. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy / Vice-President of the Commission, the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, the President of the European Court of Human Rights, the governments and parliaments of the Member States and the Government and Parliament of the Republic of Turkey.

[1]     Texts adopted, P7_TA(2013)0184.
[2]     OJ L 51, 26.2.2008, p. 4.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Russia and UNDOF

The UN rejected Russia’s offer to replace Austrian troops in the Syrian Golan Heights by Russian ones because Russia is a Permanent Member of the Security Council. The Disengagement Agreement and its Protocol between Syria and Israel do not allow for the participation of Permanent Members of the Security Council in UNDOF.

Meanwhile, Philippines is considering to withdraw its troops from the Golan.



Tuesday, June 4, 2013

An-Naksa 46th anniversary

Chronology of events:

An-Naksa, the Debacle, also known as June 1967 War or the Six Day War. On the morning of Monday, June 5, 1967, Israeli military aircraft raided the Egyptian airfields, destroying the bulk of the Egyptian air force.

Ground attacks started immediately thereafter on the Jordanian and Syrian fronts, bound to Egypt with military common defense pacts. The Israeli Air Force (IAF) ravaged the Sinai Peninsula with almost no fight - Egyptian units deprived of air cover. By Friday June 9, IAF stood on the East Bank of Suez Canal, captured the Golan Heights and the rest of the Palestinian territories (Jerusalem, West Bank, and Gaza Strip). 

Since the start of the occupation, Israeli policies and practices under various governments - in a striking challenge to international law and UN Security Council resolutions - have been characterized by:

- confiscation of land;
- construction of settlements;
- crushing Palestinian resistance movements - politically and militarily;
- violation of human rights;
- unilateral annexation of East Jerusalem - hardly three weeks after the start of the war -  making it the eternal indivisible “Capital” of Israel.

Based on the shock of defeat, fear of the unknown, Palestinian society has passed through several phases of resistance under this occupation:

- non-cooperation between 1967 and 1970, which led to the crippling of the society, as schools, universities and courts were closed, in addition to continuous general strikes among professionals and business network;
- “Sumoud” - steadfastness - between 1970 and 1982, marking the rise of a national front from PLO factions;
- isolation - following the exodus of Palestinian fighters out of Jordan in 1970, and out of Lebanon  in 1982;
- Intifada I (1987-1990) and II (2000-2003) - popular uprisings - with the aim of ending the Israeli occupation and building a new society based on freedom and independence on national soil;
- negotiations under the banner  “Land for Peace” and Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338  - leading to the Oslo I and II  accords in 1993 and 1995, respectively.

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians reached a total deadlock many years ago, despite changes of governments.

Successive Israeli Governments have systematically threatened and imposed sanctions against Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem, and have continued their settlement activities everywhere, expropriation of lands,  house demolitions, deportations and other violations of human rights, the most blatant being the construction of an 8 m high concrete  Separation Wall built on Palestinian lands despite a negative Advisory Opinion  of the International Court of Justice in The Hague rendered on 9 July 2004 - let alone attacks on Christian and Islamic religious sites by fanatic settlers.

Before resuming negotiations with the Palestinians, Israelis put forth yet another impediment: namely that Palestinians should first recognize the “Jewish character” of the State of Israel - while Palestinians from their side, accepting the challenges, claim the cessation of all settlement activities and the release of prisoners in Israeli jails.

US successive administrations seem unwilling to exert any form of pressure on Israel - which is indeed the only way to get out of the political impasse and bring parties back to the negotiations table. 

Some live witnesses from a close and reliable source:

Between 1948 and 1967, there were a number of Arab Consulates General posted in Jerusalem, considering the international character of the City (Embassies were located in Amman): Egyptian, Saudi Arabian, Syrian, Lebanese and Iraqi. Also, there was a Representative Office of the Arab League.

Some of the Arab Consuls had chosen to flee away to their respective Capitals before the outbreak of the war. Early in the morning of Tuesday, June 6, some Arab Consuls - Egyptian, Syrian, Iraqi and the Representative of the Arab League - sought refuge at the adjoining Belgian Consulate General in Sheikh Jarrah. In the afternoon of the same day, the Israeli Army had already seized the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, after invading UNRWA buildings. Israeli heavy-armed paratroopers – in violation of international law - rushed into the compound of the Belgian Consulate General despite the fact that the gate was closed and the Belgian national flag raised over the building.  They knocked savagely on the main door, claiming to search the building for Jordanian snipers posted on the roof.  There were none. When they came to know about Arab Consuls hidden inside the Consulate, they arrested all the four Arab diplomats, notwithstanding their sheltering inside a foreign Consulate. These diplomats were dragged out of the premises to detention, inside Israel, which lasted until the end of the year, when a swap of prisoners took place with each of the Arab countries !

On Wednesday, June 7, the Israeli Army hoisted the Israeli flag over the tower of the Ophthalmic Hospital belonging to the London-based Order of St. John of Jerusalem - a private British property in Sheikh Jarrah. Thanks to the intervention of the British Government, through the offices of the British Consul General in Jerusalem, the Israeli flag was removed from atop the building right on the following day.

Simultaneously, the Israeli Army seized the prestigious, 4-storey Ambassador Hotel, again in Sheikh Jarrah, and made it its General Headquarters for nearly four years. The basement of the Hotel served as a detention area for the captured Palestinians living in the area.

On the same day, the entire Old City of Jerusalem fell under occupation; Israel confiscated the keys to Bab Al-Magharbeh (Western Gate of Al-Aqsa Mosque) compound, never to return them to the Islamic Waqfs (Trusteeship).  The Israeli flag was hoisted over the Western Wall …

On Sunday, June 11, the inhabitants of the Old City’s Mughrabi Quarter adjacent to the Wailing Wall were given three hours to evacuate their homes, before the entire quarter was demolished to create a plaza !

On Wednesday, June 14, the Wailing Wall was opened to the Israeli public while the inhabitants of the Old City were put under curfew.

On June 28, the Knesset voted on the unilateral annexation of the Eastern part of Jerusalem, declaring it the “unified, indivisible, eternal Capital” of the State of Israel. On the same day, Palestinian residents of Jerusalem were allowed for the first time to walk inside Israeli-held Jerusalem (West Jerusalem), and contemplate with pain and bitterness their homes and properties – inhabited by Jewish immigrants - for the first time since the day they were evicted therefrom back in 1948 …

On June 29, Israel dismissed the elected Mayor and council members of the Arab Jerusalem Municipality. Mayor Rawhi Al-Khatib was offered to join the Israeli-held municipal council of the City - which he flatly rejected.

In an attempt to ensure Israeli control of the roads in the entire City, Israel allowed nine Egged bus routes to operate parallel to the Arab public transport system. Meanwhile, Palestinian vehicles were forced replace their old plate numbers by Israeli registration ones.

On July 18, the West Bank Islamic High Court of Appeals was required to transfer its seat to Ramallah or Nablus, while the Jerusalem Court was ordered to place itself under the Israeli Muslim Court of Appeals in West Jerusalem.

On July 21, Anwar al khatib, Governor of Jerusalem, former MP Daoud Husseini, lawyers Abdul Muhsen Abu Maizer and Ibrahim Bakr were banished by Israel from certain areas in the Occupied Palestinian Territories because of their refusal to accept the illegal annexation of East Jerusalem.

On August 11, a one-day curfew was imposed on the inhabitants of East Jerusalem. Census was taken, and a week later, Palestinians were forced to acquire Israeli blue ID cards.
                                                            *                      *

Under the circumstances there is no more sense talking about a two-State solution. This idea is dead. The Israeli practices  - like building and expanding settlements, confiscating lands, Judaisation of Jerusalem, disrupting geographical continuity  between the different localities of the West Bank, position of Israeli leaders and political parties - have buried it completely.  Israeli leaders confirm their outspoken rejection in principle and in practice of any withdrawal to pre-June 1967 lines.

We often hear about proposals, mediations and initiatives from different sides - but they all lack credibility.  They are all deemed to fail as none of them  claims, puts pressure, or  does anything to put an end to the excessive Israeli practices on the ground, with a view  to pave the way before a two-State solution. The Palestinian leadership conversely offered everything it could in order to reach a peaceful settlement.  It accepted to renounce nearly 78% of historical Palestine lands, opted for negotiations, modified the PLO Charter, accepted security coordination. All these concessions were met by more and more settlements and by hooliganism and vandalism by settlers who make fun attacking peaceful Palestinian residents, cutting olive trees, assaulting shrines - under the protection of Israeli soldiers …