Israeli drone raid wounds 6 Palestinians
February 25, 2011 § Leave a comment
The Thursday drone strike hit a vehicle that was travelling in the southern city of Rafah along the coastal sliver’s border with Egypt, Xinhua reported.
It followed several aerial assaults across the besieged enclave, which was reported to have caused no casualties.
Earlier on Wednesday, Israel’s F-16 warplanes and Apache helicopters carried out multiple airstrikes across the Gaza Strip.
In June 2007, Israel and Egypt placed the territory under siege and imposed an unprecedented blockade on nearly all movement and supplies in and out of the coastal strip.
Poverty, unemployment, lack of medicine and medical equipment are the main issues in the Gaza Strip, while most Palestinian children are physically stunted from malnutrition.
The United Nations has repeatedly warned of a humanitarian crisis for Gaza’s 1.5 million residents.
Even human rights groups have criticized the international community for its silence on the siege on Gaza and the 22-day Israeli war in December 2008 that shattered the stagnant economy of the territory.
The offensives killed more than 1,400 Gazans and inflicted a damage of above $1.6 billion on the territory’s economy.
With poverty rate at almost 70 percent and unemployment hovering around 50 percent, many Gazans live on handouts from relatives and local aid agencies as they spend most of their dwindling monthly income on food.
Unauthorized US strikes kills 10 in Pakistan
February 25, 2011 § Leave a comment
Two non-UN-sanctioned US drone strikes on Pakistan’s northwestern tribal belt bordering Afghanistan have claimed ten lives and caused many more injuries.
The first drone attack fired four missiles on the Data Khel area near Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan. It killed at least four people and injured several others. Shortly after the first attack, a second fired two missiles on a vehicle approaching the scene, causing more fatalities. “Identities of those killed in the strike also could not be immediately known,” a Pakistani security official told AFP. A Brookings report published in 2009 suggests that poor US surveillance has led to high civilian fatalities in Pakistan despite US claims that the air raids target militants. The report says that for every militant killed, about 10 civilians lose their lives. Pakistan has put the civilian death toll from the non-sanctioned strikes at 55 for every militant killed. Islamabad has repeatedly said that the attacks are counterproductive in the so-called fight against terrorism and only inflame anti-US sentiment. The US had halted drone attacks for one month following the killing of two Pakistani nationals by Raymond Davis, an employee at the US embassy in Islamabad. Washington insists that Davis acted in self-defense and should be released based on his diplomatic immunity. Pakistani intelligence officials assert he was an undercover contractor for the CIA and should remain in custody.
Libyan leader must end spiralling killings
February 20, 2011 § Leave a comment
Colonel al-Gaddafi has been the de facto leader of Libya since 1969
20 February 2011
Amnesty International today called on Libyan leader Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi to immediately rein in his security forces amid reports of machine guns and other weapons being used against protestors and a spiralling death toll in Benghazi, Misratah and other cities.
“Forces loyal to Colonel al-Gaddafi are using unwarranted lethal force against protestors calling for change and the result is a wholly predictable one,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa. “Large numbers of people are being killed and the situation is escalating alarmingly. More than one hundred have been killed so far”
“It looks like Libya’s leader may have ordered his forces to put down the protests virtually at any cost, and that cost is being paid in the lives of Libyans.”
Amnesty International researchers have been told by eyewitnesses, lawyers and medical staff in Benghazi that at least 34 people were shot with live ammunition last Friday, mostly with bullet wounds to the head, chest and neck. Dozens more people were injured.
On Saturday, security forces are reported to have opened fire with live ammunition on thousands of mourners who gathered outside a Revolutionary Guards building on their way back from the cemetery and chanted anti-government slogans and denounced the Guards as “killers”, demanding that they leave Benghazi. Twenty people are reported to have been killed. Many others who were injured were evacuated to al-Jala hospital and other Benghazi hospitals.
Sources at al-Jala hospital said most of the victims had been shot in the head, chest or neck, suggesting that the security forces had intended to kill them. Doctors said they were struggling to cope and running out of blood supplies and medicines to treat the wounded.
Other protestors were reportedly killed when security forces opened fire on hundreds of people holding a sit-in in front of Benghazi’s North Court. Those present included lawyers, doctors and members of the Abu Salim families organising committee, set up by relatives of prisoners killed in the prison by Colonel al-Gaddafi’s forces in 1996, for which no one has ever been held to account. More than a dozen others were reportedly gunned down in Misratah on Saturday, the first day of protests there,
“The latest reports speak of Libyans in Benghazi being shot down with machine guns and other weapons by tough new troops, including possibly foreign mercenaries, who have been ferried in to suppress the protests,” said Malcolm Smart.
“Colonel al-Gaddafi must immediately put a stop to this bloodshed. He and the others directing the crackdown on protesters, and anyone else involved in abuses, must know that they will be held to account.”
How will Libya’s protests play out?
February 20, 2011 § Leave a comment
The revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt took us all by surprise, and have still not played out. Libya is the least transparent country in the Middle East at the best of times. Just now, with most communications down, it is truly a mystery wrapped in an enigma.
Disturbances started on Wednesday, apparently triggered by the arrest of a lawyer and human rights activist. This was the warmup to a planned “day of rage” on Thursday, commemorating a demonstration in Benghazi in 2006 in which a dozen or so people had been killed. On Friday there were already funerals of protesters, and midday prayers at the mosques as usual provided a springboard for demonstrations.
Since then violent disturbances have spread almost all over the country, with the important exception of the capital, Tripoli, which has been tense but has not seen serious violence. In the second city of Benghazi, Tripoli’s traditional rival, and elsewhere, tribal solidarity is strong, and protesters have in many cases been able to win over local police and even local revolutionary committees, the hardcore of support for the regime. Violence against them has come mainly from the army or the so-called militias, led by kinsmen of Muammar Gaddafi. Information is sketchy, but machine guns and other heavy weapons have been used. The death toll has horrified local people as well as the world.
In Tripoli there have been large and rowdy pro-government demonstrations in which Gaddafi himself, with typical panache, was seen taking part. There has been some disorder, but no reports of killings so far as I know. There are many stories, but no absolute proof, that pro-government protesters in Tripoli and elsewhere have included mercenaries from Africa, probably Chad. It is said that Tunisian pilots, unaware of the situation, have flown in planeloads of Africans. Of course, a big weapon in the hands of the regime is cash, which will have been used liberally to organise and pay pro-government activities, and possibly to buy off protesters.
Libya has no religious divisions, and there has been no involvement of Islamist fundamentalism in these troubles. Some well-known religious leaders have called for an end to the violence. Imams at mosques are reported to have refused to use government-approved scripts for sermons.
At first the protesters were calling for reform and an end to corruption. Now the call is explicitly for the departure of Gaddafi. He will not easily give up. Assuming that the Libyan protesters have the stamina and determination of those in Tunisia and Egypt, even in the face of gunfire, the resolution of the conflict seems to depend on two factors: will the disturbances spread to the different urban environment of Tripoli? And will the army – composed of Libyans, not foreign mercenaries, and therefore open to tribal influences which are largely unknown – continue to be willing to fire on unarmed civilians?
Like recent events elsewhere in the Middle East, the Libyan uprising shows that our obsession with the threat of jihadi violence, the Blair mantra that “9/11 changed everything”, has not been helpful in understanding and dealing with the problems of the region. I do not however conclude that Britain or America or “the west” should be blamed for what is happening now in the Middle East, or should be intervening in some way. We can and do condemn the use of violence for political ends. But if we pretend that we can somehow control events we only give credibility to the threadbare allegations of foreign interference already made by tyrants with their backs to the wall.
Oliver Miles is a former British ambassador to Libya
Back Next Week
February 17, 2011 § Leave a comment
The Canaanite will be back next week posting latest reliable news. As you all know and can see, there are many events that have been showering in middle east.
Meet Egypt’s Future Leader
February 9, 2011 § Leave a comment
By ESAM AL-AMIN
O Youth, today is your day so shout
No more slumber or deep sleep
This is your time and your place
Bestow on us your talents and efforts
We want Egypt’s youth to hold fast
As they resist the aggressor and outsider
Egyptian Poet Ibrahim Nagi (1898-1953)
On June 6, 2010, soft-spoken businessman Khaled Said, 28, had his dinner before retreating to his room and embarking on his daily routine of surfing the Internet, blogging, and chatting with his friends on different social websites. Several days earlier, he had posted a seven-minute online video of Alexandria police officers dividing up confiscated drugs among themselves.
When his Internet service suddenly was disrupted that evening, he left his middle class apartment in the coastal city of Alexandria and headed to his neighborhood Internet café. As he resumed blogging, two plain-clothes secret police officers demanded that he be searched. When he inquired as to why or on whose authority, they scoffed at him while blurting out: emergency law. He refused to be touched and demanded to see a uniformed officer or be taken to a police station.
According to eyewitnesses, within minutes they dragged him to a nearby vacant building and began to severely beat up his tiny body, eventually smashing his head on a marble tabletop. His body was subsequently dumped in the street to be retrieved later by an ambulance that declared him dead. According to his mother, Leila Marzouq, his body was totally bruised, teeth broken, and skull fractured.
Immediately, the Interior Ministry started the cover-up campaign. The official report claimed that Said was a drug dealer who tried to escape arrest. They claimed that when he was busted he died by asphyxia as he tried to swallow the narcotics. The authorities backed up this incredible account with two medical reports from the state’s medical examiner. The government print and TV media recycled the official version by painting the reclusive and shy blogger as a reckless drug addict and dealer.
However, when graphic images of Said’s body began to circulate online, other political bloggers and human rights activists were enraged and the nascent youth movement to rescind the 29-year old emergency law started to transform itself from online group discussions to popular protests in the streets of Alexandria, which were predictably met with more police repression and brutality.
Since he became president in 1981, Hosni Mubarak has been utilizing the emergency law as a club to beat down political activity and civil liberties, as well as a means to sanction abuse and torture. According to human rights groups including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Egyptian human rights groups, no less than 30,000 Egyptians have been imprisoned under the law, which allows the police to arrest people without charge, permits the government to ban political organizations, and makes it illegal for more than five people to gather without a permit from the government.
Even the U.S. government confirmed the regime’s atrocious record when the 2009 State Department Human Rights Report submitted to Congress in March 2010 stated, “Police, security personnel, and prison guards often tortured and abused prisoners and detainees, sometimes in cases of detentions under the Emergency Law, which authorizes incommunicado detention indefinitely.”
Said’s case is hardly unique. A recent report published by the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights documented 46 torture cases and 17 cases of death by government secret police between June 2008 and February 2009.
Since his murder the case of Khaled Said has become the cause célèbre for Egypt’s youth. Hundreds of thousands of young people across Egypt have watched related online videos, songs, raps, sketches, or participated in group chat room discussions. A simple Google search of his name yields millions of results, almost all anti-government.
One of the groups that embraced this cause was the April 6 Youth Movement. It started as an Egyptian Facebook group founded by Human Resources specialist Isra’a Abdel Fattah, 29, and civil engineer Ahmed Maher, 30, in spring 2008 to support the April 6 workers strike in el-Mahalla el-Kobra, an industrial town along the Nile Delta.
On their Facebook page, they encouraged thousands to protest and join the labor strike. Within weeks, over 100,000 members joined the group, who were predominantly young, educated, and politically inexperienced or inactive. Moreover, by making extensive use of online networking tools, they urged their members to demonstrate their support for the workers by wearing black, staying at home, or boycotting products on the day of the strike.
As the secret police cracked down on the April 6 labor strikers, both Abdel Fattah and Maher were arrested, tortured (in the case of Maher, threatened with rape), and detained for a few weeks. Both came out of the prison experience more committed to the cause of freedom and democracy, as well as more determined than ever to carry on with their program of political reforms.
Asma’a Mahfouz, 26, a petite Business Administration graduate, is another prominent figure in the April 6 Youth Movement. By her account she did not have any political training or ideology before joining the group in March 2008. With her two colleagues she immediately helped set up the Facebook page urging Egyptians to support and join the strikes.
More significantly, Mahfouz played a critical role in the mobilization efforts for the current popular revolution. She posted passionate daily online videos imploring her countrymen and women to participate in the protests. In a recent interview, she elucidated her role when she stated, “I was printing and distributing leaflets in popular areas, and calling for citizens to participate. In those areas, I also talked to young people about their rights, and the need for their participation.”
She continued, “At the time when many people were setting themselves on fire, I went into Tahrir Square with several members of the movement, and we tried a spontaneous demonstration to protest against the recurrence of these incidents. However, the security forces prevented us and removed us from the Square. This prompted me to film a video clip, featuring my voice and image, calling for a protest.”
“I said that on the 25th of January, I would be an Egyptian girl defending her dignity and her rights. I broadcasted the video on the Internet, via Facebook, and was surprised by its unprecedented distribution over websites and mobile phones. Subsequently, I made four further videos prior to the date of the protest,” she added.
If Maher is the movement’s national coordinator, Muhammad Adel, 22, a college junior majoring in computer science, is its technology wizard and media coordinator. Online he jokingly calls himself “The dead Dean,” in a reference to his young age and what could be in store for him from the secret police.
In November 2008, he was arrested at the age of twenty, detained and placed in solitary confinement for over 100 days because of his political activities on the Internet. He was denied any means of communications with his family during the whole period. His interrogators pleaded with him to stop blogging so he could be freed. He refused to give them any commitment until he was freed in March 2009.
According to the “April 6 Youth” movement’s platform, its main concerns include promoting political reforms and democratic governance through a strategy of non-violence; constitutional reforms in the areas of civil rights, political freedoms, and judicial independence; and economically addressing poverty, unemployment, social justice and fighting corruption. Their focus is primarily the youth and students. Their means of communications, education and mobilization relies on the extensive use of technology and the Internet.
Wael Ghoneim, 30, a brilliant communications engineer, has been working for several years in Dubai, U.A.E, as Google marketing director for the Middle East and North Africa. As a consequence of the murder of Khaled Said by Mubarak’s regime, he was enraged and created the popular Facebook page “We are all Khaled Said.” A few days before the current uprising he left Dubai to Cairo so he could be part of the historical events.
As the administrator of the popular webpage, Ghoneim was instrumental in the online mobilization efforts of the Jan. 25 uprising. So on the evening of Jan. 27, four plain-clothes secret police officers kidnapped him during the protest, an event that was captured on tape. For the next twelve days the government refused to acknowledge that he was arrested until the newly appointed Prime Minister announced his release on Feb. 7 as a gesture to the demonstrators because of his popularity and prominence in the youth movement.
Upon his release, Ghoneim said that he was kept blindfolded and in isolation the entire time he was in detention as he was interrogated about his role in the uprising. After his release he gave an emotional TV interview calling the three hundred people that have lost their lives during the popular revolution the real heroes of Egypt.
Furthermore, one of the most articulate voices of Egypt’s revolution is thirty-seven year old Nawwara Nagm. Since her graduation as an English literature major, she has been a well-known political activist as well as a severe critic of Mubarak’s regime working as a journalist and blogger for opposition newspapers. In 1995 she was first arrested and sent to prison at the age of twenty-two because she protested the inclusion of Israel in Cairo’s annual Book Fair.
Both of her parents are also well known in Egyptian society. Her father, Ahmad Fuad Nagm, 81, is perhaps the most popular poet in Egypt today. He has been in and out of prison during most of the past five decades (during the reigns of Nasser, Sadat, and Mubarak) because of his political and satirical poems that directly attack not only the regime but also its head. Her mother is Safinaz Kazem who broke many barriers as a female journalist. Educated in the U.S. in the 1960’s, she became one of the most respected literary and film critics and political analysts publishing in major Egyptian newspapers and magazines.
Since the uprising began on Jan. 25, Nawwara has been an eloquent spokesperson expressing the steadfast political demands of the organizers and protesters, and in the process mobilizing the support of millions of Egyptians and Arabs who are constantly following the revolution on Al-Jazeera and other satellite networks.
On Sunday Feb. 6, the youth groups that spearheaded Egypt’s revolution formed a coalition called the “Unified Leadership of the Youth of the Rage Revolution.” It consisted of five groups with a grassroots base and are considered the backbone of the organized activities of the revolution.
The coalition includes two representatives from each of the April 6 Youth Movement, the Justice and Freedom Group, the Popular Campaign to Support El-Baradei, the Democratic Front Party, and the popular Muslim Brotherhood Movement. In addition four independent members were also added to the leadership for a total of fourteen members. Maher, the coordinator of the April 6 movement, and Ghoneim, an independent, were elected to the leadership. All members are from the youth in their late 20s or early 30s.
Ahmed Naguib, 33, a key protest organizer, has explained how the leadership was formed. He said, “There are people from the April 6 and Khaled Said movement,” referring to groups that worked non-stop to set off the uprising. Speaking of some opposition parties that want to hijack the revolution or negotiate on its behalf, he said, “They talk a lot about what the youth has done, but they continue on the same path as the government, marginalizing young people – except for the Muslim Brotherhood and El-Baradei group.”
Coalition spokesperson is attorney Ziad Al-Olaimai, 32, from the Popular Campaign to Support El-Baradei. He read a statement on behalf of the coalition at a news conference that laid out their seven demands, namely: the resignation of Mubarak, the immediate lifting of emergency law, release of all political prisoners, the dissolution of both upper and lower chambers of parliament, the formation of a national unity government to manage the transitional period, investigation by the judiciary of the abuses of the security forces during the revolution, and the protection of the protesters by the military.
Muhammad Abbas, 26, is another leader of the coalition representing the youth of the Muslim Brotherhood movement (MB). After initial hesitation at the beginning of the uprising, the MB has brought since Jan. 28 tens of thousands of its supporters to join and help organize the efforts in Tahrir Square as well as in other demonstrations across the country.
On Feb. 2, government goons were beating up, throwing Molotov cocktails, and shooting at the demonstrators. Some of the female demonstrators under siege called Muslim Brotherhood leaders Mohammad El-Biltagi and Esam El-Erian pleading for help. Both leaders rushed to Tahrir Square after midnight leading over five thousand MB members to break the siege.
Dr. Sally Tooma Moore, 32, a Christian Copt and an independent member of the coalition’s leadership, is an Egyptian-British medical doctor. Under gunfire, she helped save hundreds of lives using a makeshift hospital in a Cairo mosque during the violent attacks of the security forces and the outlaws sponsored by the ruling party.
In a recent interview she demonstrated the unity of all Egyptians, Muslims and Copts when she said, “It’s totally beyond description how the mosque has been transformed into a working hospital. It is a mosque but there are no religious divisions.” Her answer to a question by Al-Jazeera about the regime’s assertion regarding the lack of stability in the country was, “What is stability without freedom?”
Revolution and counter-revolution: A test of two wills
Since the inception of the popular revolution on Jan. 25, the regime’s reaction has gone through many typical stages. The first phase was the customary use of security crackdown and utilization of police brutality, which yielded over three hundred people killed and five thousand injured.
A list of the people killed by the regime since Jan. 25 was published on the opposition’s magazine website, Al-Dustoor. It shows that over seventy per cent of those killed were under the age of 32, including children as young as ten, with female casualties constituting about ten percent of the total.
During this stage, the regime cut off all Internet, mobile phone, and instant messaging services in a frantic attempt to disrupt communications and information exchange between the organizers of the revolution. But the genie was already out of the bottle.
When that failed miserably, and in a desperate attempt to end the uprising, the regime created a state of chaos by withdrawing the police and security forces from the streets including from neighborhood police stations, while releasing thousands of criminals from prisons around the country hoping to spread terror and fear as a substitute to stability and order as the beleaguered president warned in his first address.
The formation of popular committees to protect the neighborhoods coupled with the arrest of the thugs roaming the streets was able to defeat this deplorable scheme. The thugs that were arrested by these committees were handed over to army units deployed throughout the country.
The next stage was a tactical retreat by the government, occurring as the embattled president tried to deflect the popular call for his immediate resignation. Four days after the commencement of the uprising and the subsequent crackdown, he gave an address dismissing his cabinet; mainly sacking his Interior minister as well as other corrupt businessmen who were doubling as ministers of major industrial sectors of the economy.
He appointed his old Air Force colleague, Gen. Ahmad Shafiq, as the new Prime Minister while still incredibly retaining eighteen ministers in the cabinet. He also appointed his long-serving intelligence chief, Gen. Omar Suleiman, as his first ever Vice President so he could be the face of the regime in leading a “dialogue” with the opposition to enact “political reforms.” But these acts were considered too little too late by the revolutionaries, and were rejected outright. In their eyes, he had lost his legitimacy when the first protester was shot dead on Jan. 25.
Within days, the regime offered many sacrificial lambs in the hope that public anger would subside. The ruling party that Mubarak has headed for decades, the National Democratic Party (NDP), was overhauled. All senior leaders, including his son Gamal, were purged. Many corrupt businessmen, who were considered influential party members just before the revolution, were now under investigation by the state prosecutor and prohibited from travel. A few were put under house arrest. Still the angry public was not satisfied, continuing to call on Mubarak to leave.
Moreover, throughout the popular protests the regime used all means to taint the main organizers of the revolution. First, they claimed that the protesters were members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. This claim while parroted by American Islamophobes and right-wing media, was never taken seriously in Egypt. It was clear to all that the main organizers did not belong to any political party or ideology. In fact, the MB did not join the protests until the Day of Rage on Friday, Jan. 28.
Then the state media repeated the claims that the organizers were agents of foreign powers, financed and manipulated by a foreign hidden agenda. The accusers could not make up their mind. They accused them of working for Iran, Qatar, Hezbollah, Hamas, the U.S. and Israel.
In one instance, state media falsely claimed to have obtained seven Wikileaks documents that showed a conspiracy between Qatar (read Al-Jazeera), the U.S. and Israel to de-stabilize Egypt. Why the U.S. and Israel would undermine a staunch ally like Mubarak was never addressed.
Najat Abdul-Rahman, a journalist in a state-owned magazine called 24 Hours, admitted to her boss that she was pressured by the regime to call a pro-government TV station and falsely claim to be one of the organizers of the protests. She then claimed on air that she and other fellow organizers were trained in the U.S. and Qatar by the Israeli Mossad to spread chaos in Egypt. Although she tried to change her appearance and mask her voice while on camera, her colleagues at the magazine were able to identify her and reveal her identity. She has been suspended without pay pending an investigation.
The regime then turned its fury against the media. It stripped the broadcasting license of Al-Jazeera and withdrew the accreditation of all its correspondents. It also started arresting, harassing, and beating up foreign journalists including CNN’s Anderson Cooper, ABC’s Christiane Amanpour, and CBS’s Katie Couric. This prompted Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to declare, “This is a violation of international norms that guarantee freedom of the press. And it is unacceptable under any circumstances.” Egyptian journalist Ahmad Mahmoud was killed after being shot point blank while taking a photograph.
With intense international pressure mounting, Mubarak gave a second address in which he promised not to seek re-election for a sixth six-year term this September, but nonetheless he refused to bow out and resign. Throughout the crisis, he tried to portray a false image of being confidant and in charge. But clearly the ego of this dictator was bruised as he was denounced daily by millions of his people.
By the end of the first week, it was clear that the stubborn president would not listen to anyone. He was able to at least secure the neutrality of the army, which was not prepared to turn against the people. But it was still loyal to its long-serving commander-in-chief, and would not depose him.
Meanwhile, Vice President Suleiman moved quickly to contain the political fallout of the revolution, and invited the opposition parties for a dialogue including the regime’s nemesis, the MB. Although all opposition groups initially echoed the street demand of Mubarak’s ouster, some groups, which had very little public following, gladly joined Suleiman hoping to have a seat at the table and to get some attention.
But everyone knew that without the participation of the youth movement or the MB, any dialogue with the regime would be meaningless. While the youth steadfastly maintained their position of “no dialogue unless Mubarak is out,” the MB fell into the trap of the regime and participated, along with many other opposition groups, in a dialogue with Suleiman.
It was a classic trap. More than forty opposition members entered a room where a huge portrait of Mubarak hung on the wall, a slap across the face of millions of Egyptians who were chanting for his ouster in the past ten days. It was clear that Suleiman was in charge of the meeting as he chaired the session and dictated the agenda. The groups were guests in his house. Not a great start.
At any rate, the regime did not give an inch. Suleiman even refused to entertain discussing the idea of Mubarak’s ouster. He simply reiterated all the “concessions” given by Mubarak in his earlier speeches including cosmetic changes to the constitution, and pledging that Mubarak would not run in the next presidential elections.
It is not clear why the MB participated, but most observers believe that the group sought legitimacy after being outlawed since 1954. It is ironic that the group would seek legitimacy from a regime that has just been de-legitimized by its people.
Upon the end of the meeting, the regime immediately issued a communiqué that thanked Mubarak, and reiterated the regime’s perspective and interpretation of events. It claimed inaccurately that all participants agreed on the road map towards finding a solution to the “crisis,” which was based on limited reforms to the constitution and elections, while maintaining all state institutions and characters including the fraudulent parliament. It did not promise the immediate lifting of the emergency law. Ironically, a day after the dialogue Suleiman declared on national TV that “Egypt is not ready for democracy.” So much for a reform agenda.
The MB leaders who attended the meeting held a press conference afterwards that not only contradicted Suleiman’s assertions, but also previous statements given by other MB leaders such as Abdul Monem Abu-el-Futooh, who maintained the original stand of no negotiations until Mubarak’s ouster. It seems that for a perceived short-term gain, the MB was looking weak and confused. A day later the MB rejected Suleiman’s characterization of the talks and renewed its demand for Mubarak’s ouster.
Meanwhile, the Youth leadership in Tahrir Square immediately rejected Suleiman’s offer and proclamations. They declared that they were neither party to any agreement nor willing to consider any proposals until Mubarak is removed. For the previous twelve days they have been able to mobilize over ten million Egyptians in the streets, why should they compromise on their first demand? They asked rhetorically. The will of the people shall be respected, and must defeat the stubbornness of Mubarak and his regime, they declared. After fifteen days the crowds have been sharply on the rise all over the country. Daily they number in the millions from all walks of life.
Checkmate: Revolution legitimacy trumps an archaic constitution
For a day, the declared results of the so-called dialogue by the regime created breathing space for the feeble regime to recover. On Monday Feb. 7, the U.S. and its European allies, which for days had been hinting and pushing for Mubarak’s resignation, suddenly changed their stand and accepted for Mubarak to stay until September in order to allow for “a constitutional transfer of power.”
On Feb. 8, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowly stated, “if President Mubarak stepped down today, under the existing constitution, … there would have to be an election within 60 days. A question that that would pose is whether Egypt today is prepared to have a competitive, open election.”
In effect, supporters of the revolution feared that its momentum might slow down, a stalemate may come to pass.
Since the uprising began, Mubarak has been hiding behind the new face of the regime, Gen. Suleiman. The U.S, Israel and other Western countries strongly prefer him over any other candidates to maintain the status quo and “stability,” in order to keep the current balance of power in the region, which is hugely in favor of Israel.
Newly released Wikileaks documents reveal that Suleiman has been a long-standing favorite by the U.S. and Israel to succeed Mubarak for many years. The London Daily Telegraph recently published leaked cables from American embassies in Cairo and Tel Aviv showing the close cooperation between the Egyptian Vice President and the U.S. and Israeli governments.
The newspaper described that “One cable in August 2008, stated that “Hacham was full of praise for Suleiman, and noted that a ‘hot line’ set up between the MOD and Egyptian General Intelligence Service is now in daily use,” in reference to David Hacham, a senior adviser from the Israeli Ministry of Defense.
In another cable, Tel Aviv diplomats added: “We defer to Embassy Cairo for analysis of Egyptian succession scenarios, but there is no question that Israel is most comfortable with the prospect of Omar Suleiman.” Moreover, the paper stated that “the files suggest that Mr. Suleiman wanted Hamas isolated, and thought Gaza should go hungry but not starve.”
Regardless, the organizers of the revolution declared that they have no trust in the regime. They asked rhetorically how could they trust a Vice President whose loyalty is to a discredited and illegitimate president. Thus they firmly rejected not only Suleiman and his parameters for a way forward, but also the premise that any real change would come from adhering to a constitution that has been shredded many time by an illegitimate regime. They advocated a position that called for the legitimacy of the revolution over any outdated constitutional legitimacy.
The youth leaders maintain that all institutions of state power, except the army, which on the surface declared its neutrality, have lost their legitimacy in lieu of the will of the people to support the revolution. They insisted that the people have already spoken and called for Mubarak’s ouster, the dissolution of parliament, the replacement of the government, and the formation of constitutional experts to re-write a new constitution. Therefore, all efforts by the regime to re-constitute itself through promised reforms to maintain its grip on power are illegitimate and rejected. This is a popular revolution not a protest, they maintained.
As the government attempts to weather the storm and deal with Tahrir Square as a Hyde Park phenomenon, a place where people vent their frustrations, the leadership of the revolution has devised new tactics to force the regime to accept their demands.
They have called for massive demonstrations not only in public squares but also called for similar protests around strategic governmental buildings. For example, on Feb. 8 in addition to a million demonstrators in Tahrir Square, hundreds of thousands held huge demonstrations around the Prime Minster’s building, preventing him from reaching his office. They also blocked the parliament, preventing any member from going in or out. They vowed that soon the presidential palace would be surrounded.
The protesters were also joined this week with professional syndicates and labor unions. Hundreds of judges stood in Tahrir Square on Tuesday wearing their judicial robes in support of the revolution. Similarly, hundreds of journalists chased away the pro-government head of their union declaring the union independent and free. Likewise, hundreds of university professors from colleges across Egypt showed up at Tahrir Square declaring their full support for the goals of the revolution.
Next week schools and universities will be back from the Spring break. The organizers plan to call on hundreds of thousands of students to participate in the demonstrations that could paralyze the whole education system. Meanwhile, they have also reached out to labor unions calling for massive strikes across the nation, especially in state factories and public industries. When this is fully implemented, Egypt’s export business could come to a screeching halt.
Slowly but surely selected major industries such as transportation, oil, or navigation through the Suez Canal could also be severely hindered. Sports activities have already ceased. The film industry has stopped all productions. There is no end to what activities the revolutionaries could advocate or call for. The initiatives are in their hands. They believe that they have the legitimacy and the support of the people.
In short, the revolution has adapted to the maneuvering of the regime and has adopted a comprehensive program of activities that are creative and extensive. Time is no longer on the regime’s side. With the passing of each week more Egyptians are joining the revolution. A culture of freedom and empowerment is on the rise.
Meanwhile, the international community could speed up the inevitable, which is the collapse of the corrupt and repressive regime. Last week the Guardian and several financial publications including the Wall Street Journal and MSNBC, showed that Mubarak’s family might be worth between $40 to $70 Billion. Most of this wealth is believed to be in the U.S, the U.K, Switzerland, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. In short, Western governments have access to ill-gotten money that belong to the Egyptian people. They can start investigations to determine the legality of these assets.
Similarly, they can encourage Mr. Mubarak to go to Germany for his annual (extended) medical check-up, after which he could render his resignation. The people of Egypt would not forget who stood with them during their revolution, who stood against them, and who was on the sideline.
When Mahfouz, the revolution’s video blogger was asked what her expectations are now after the massive demonstrations, she answered, “All Egyptians, not only the protestors, have broken through the fear barrier. I expect only one outcome – protests will continue until Mubarak steps down from power.”
Mubarak and his Western backers better take notice. Checkmate.
Israeli Military Surrounds West Bank Village of Nabi Saleh, Detains Minors
January 25, 2011 § Leave a comment
The Ramallah-area village of Nabi Saleh is currently surrounded by the Israeli military and Special Forces, and villagers fear the army is planning a home demolition. The area is currently closed, and people arriving from the road in cars are being checked. nabi-saleh- Residents of Nabi Saleh, together with international and Israeli activists, hold weekly demonstrations against the Separation Wall and settlements
Ten-year-old Kareem Saleh Tamimi was playing outside his home in Nabi Saleh on Tuesday morning (24 January) when a unit of Israeli Special Forces officers, dressed in civilian clothing, took him. Tamimi was taken to an unknown area, with no explanation for his detention. Not long after, the Israeli military arrived in the village, and clashes erupted between the community and the occupation forces. The soldiers used tear gas on the population. This is the secomd time this week that Israeli forces have entered Nabi Saleh and arrested a minor. Isalm Tamimi, the 14 year old brother of Kareem, was arrested in Nabi Saleh at 2am Sunday morning during an Israeli night raid on the village. The elder Tamimi was interrogated for eight hours following his arrest, during which time he confessed to stone throwing and the weekly Nabi Saleh demonstration against the Separation Wall. According to Israeli activist Joseph Dana, Islam Tamimi’s lawyers were present in the police station and constantly pleaded with interrogators to talk with the child but were only given access to their client after five hours of interrogation. His parents, who have legal right to be present when a child is under investigation, were denied access to their son. On Monday, Israeli authorities asked that he remain in jail until a hearing on Thursday, Dana reported. According to some reports Kareem Saleh Tamimi is now being held in custody with his brother. Child arrests are not uncommon in the West Bank. A November 2010 UNICEF report criticized Israel for maintaining that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (ICRC) does not apply in the West Bank. According to Defense for Children International (DCI) and other rights organizations, the Israeli military in the West Bank and Gaza regularly violates child rights by arresting minors, like the Tamimi brothers, using children as human shields, and allowing settler violence aimed at children. Since 2004, DCI-Palestine has documented 15 cases of children being used as human shields by the Israeli army; however, this was the first case in which convictions have been recorded. The ICRC was ratified by Israel in 1991 and has also been ratified by 200 other countries throughout the world, though not the United States. The ICRC generally defines a child as any human being under the age of eighteen, unless an earlier age of majority is recognized by a country’s law. Israeli military orders applying to the occupied Palestinian territory define a child as under the age of 16, although Israeli civilian law defines a child as under 18, the committee noted. This age discrepancy is problematic in the West Bank where the Israeli military detains and arrests Palestinians under the age of 18; while the Israeli army does not consider these Palestinians to be minors, the state of Israel and the ICRC do.
To the tyrants of the Arab world…
January 16, 2011 § Leave a comment
|In cities across the Arab world, people have been reinvigorated by the Tunisian uprising [EPA]|
Tunisians have sent a message to the Arab world, warning leaders they are no longer immune to popular anger.
The Tunisian uprising, which succeeded in toppling Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the Tunisian president, has brought down the walls of fear, erected by repression and marginalisation, thus restoring the Arab peoples’ faith in their ability to demand social justice and end tyranny.
It is a warning to all leaders, whether supported by international or regional powers, that they are no longer immune to popular outcries of fury.
It is true that Ben Ali’s flight from the country is just the beginning of an arduous path towards freedom. It is equally true that the achievements of the Tunisian people could still be contained or confiscated by the country’s ruling elite, which is desperately clinging to power.
But the Tunisian intifada has placed the Arab world at a crossroads. If it fully succeeds in bringing real change to Tunis it will push the door wide open to freedom in Arab word. If it suffers a setback we shall witness unprecedented repression by rulers struggling to maintain their absolute grip on power.
Either way, a system that combined a starkly unequal distribution of wealth with the denial of freedoms has collapsed.
A model of tyranny
Tunis may have been an extreme example, but all Arab regimes are variations on the same model, which obediently follows Western-instructed economic ‘liberalisation’ while strangling human rights and civil liberties.
The West has long admired the Tunisian system, praising its “secularism” and “liberal economic policies”, and, in its quest to open world markets and maximise profit, has turned a blind eye to human rights violations and the gagging of the media – two functions at which the Ben Ali regime excelled.
But Tunis, under Ben Ali, was not a model of secularism but a shameless model of tyranny. It turned “secularism” into an ideology of terror – not merely in the name of countering Islamic extremism but in an attempt to crush the spirit of opposition – Islamic, secular, liberal and socialist alike.
As with previous examples of countries it deemed to have embraced ‘successful economic models’, like Chile under the late dictator Augusto Pinochet, the West, particularly the US and France, backed the Ben Ali regime – prioritising forced stability over democracy.
But even when such governments remain in power for decades, thanks to Western support and a security apparatus that suppresses the people with immunity, it is only a matter of time before they come to a humiliating end.
The West, and the US in particular, has always abandoned its allies – a memorable example is the way in which Washington dropped Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the late shah of Iran, when popular anger threatened the country’s stability.
The Arabs are listening
The people of Tunisia have spoken and, most significantly, the Arab people are listening.
The Tunisian protests have already triggered peaceful demonstrations in Jordan, where people have protested over inflation and government efforts to undermine political liberties and press freedoms and have demanded the departure of Samir al-Rifai, the prime minister.
The government, seemingly concerned by the unfolding developments, sought to appease popular discontent by reversing what had been the ninth increase in fuel prices since 1989. But it was too little, too late, particularly as food prices continue to rise, and Jordanians are expected to continue their demonstrations over the coming weeks.
The government would do well to learn from Tunis that repression by the security forces can no longer solve its problems and guarantee the consent of its citizens.
In Egypt, the opposition Movement for Change appears to have been reinvigorated by the events in Tunisia. And in Arab capitals, from Sana’a to Cairo, the people are sending a message to their own governments, as well as expressing their support for the Tunisian people, by organising sit-ins in front of Tunisian embassies.
Arabs of all generations are also expressing their sentiments online – not only congratulating Tunisians but also calling for similar movements in their own countries. And on Facebook, many have replaced their profile pictures with images of the Tunisian flag, as though draping themselves in the colours of an Arab revolution.
Fear and jubilation
The failure of one of the Arab world’s most repressive security forces to quell people power has been met with jubilation. Bloggers have compared the event to the fall of the Berlin wall, suggesting that it will usher in a new era in which the Arab people will have a greater say in determining their future.
Mohamed Bouazizi, the young Tunisian who set himself on fire in protest against unemployment and poverty, has become a symbol of Tunisian sacrifices for freedom.
Activists across the region have called for the “Tunisation” of the Arab street – taking Tunis as a model for the assertion of people power and aspirations for social justice, the eradication of corruption and democratisation.
But the celebratory atmosphere dominating the blogosphere and wide sectors of Arab society is tainted by a prevailing sense of caution and fear: Caution because the situation in Tunis remains unclear and fear that there may be a coup d’état, which would impose security but stifle popular aspirations.
Whether the Tunisian uprising will succeed in bringing about radical reforms or be partially aborted by the ruling elite remains to be seen. But it has already empowered people across the Arab world to expose the fallacy of regimes that believe adopting a pro-Western agenda will enable them to fool their people and guarantee their longevity.
History has shown that security forces can silence people but can never crush the simmering revolt that lies beneath the ashes. Or in the words of the beloved Tunisian poet Abul-Qasim al-Shabi in his poem To the Tyrants of the World:
Wait, don’t let the spring, the clearness of the sky and the shine of the morning light fool you …
Because the darkness, the thunder’s rumble and the blowing of the wind are coming toward you
from the horizon
Beware because there is a fire underneath the ash
Medics: Settler shot pregnant Hebron teen
January 16, 2011 § Leave a comment
HEBRON (Ma’an) — A settler shot a pregnant 16-year-old girl twice in the foot on Saturday near an illegal Israeli settlement in the West Bank city of Hebron, medics said.
Summer Rabi Jaber, six months pregnant, was transferred to the Hebron Government Hospital with two bullet wounds in her foot. Doctors said she was referred to the Al-Mizan Hospital, which would be better able to monitor the effect of the incident on the fetus.
Jaber is from the Al-Baq’a area east of Hebron, and according to medics was shot by a resident of the illegal Kiryat Ar’ba settlement.
An Israeli newspaper reported Friday that the Israeli army would collect weapons from settlers in the West Bank, due to the “prevailing calm” and out of fear they would be used against Palestinians.
The Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot said the military directive had already been passed on to security officers in settlements in and around Hebron.
According to the report, the improved security situation in the West Bank and the growing number of thefts of weapons contributed to the decision.
But it was also taken over concerns about settlers taking the law into their own hands and shooting any Palestinians they perceive as a threat, the paper said, without citing a source.
AFP contributed to this report
Ahrar: 1337 Palestinian children killed since Aqsa intifada
January 16, 2011 § Leave a comment
RAMALLAH, (PIC)– Israeli occupation forces (IOF) and Israeli settlers have killed 1337 Palestinian children since the Aqsa intifada in late September 2000 until late 2010, the Ahrar center’s research and media unit said in a documentary report.
The study published on Friday said that the children were killed in direct murder crimes or during shelling, random firing, confrontations, and targeting residential areas.
It noted that the biggest number of children killed was in Gaza (977) followed by Nablus (92) then Jenin (77).
The study said that the IOF detained around 3300 Palestinian children in 2010 and around 11000 in the past three years, including 103 girls.
Fuad Al-Khafsh, director of the Ahrar center, held the Israeli occupation authority fully responsible for crimes committed against those Palestinian minors. He asked human rights groups and all concerned institutions to prosecute IOF leaders and Israeli security apparatuses for such crimes.
In a related development, IOF soldiers stormed Zabuba village west of Jenin on Friday night and took away a 16-year-old boy from his home.
Witnesses reported that the soldiers broke into several homes and questioned their owners after searching them.