BBC...Middlie east - 20/09/08
Archbishop Desmond Tutu has delivered a scathing report to the UN Human Rights Commission on Israel's shelling of Beit Hanoun in Gaza in 2006.
The report, leaked on Monday, says the shelling may have been a war crime.
It criticises an Israeli inquiry that concluded that the shelling was due to a flawed artillery system.
The Archbishop also criticised the international community for "failing to fulfil its role in respect of the suffering of the people of Gaza".
"It is the silence of the international community in the face of what is happening there which most offends. This silence begets complicity," he said.
The right to life has been violated not just through the killings, but also through the lack of an adequate investigation of the killings
Archbishop Desmond Tutu
He expanded on this in comments to journalists.
"I think the West, quite rightly, is feeling contrite, penitent for its awful connivance with the Holocaust," Archbishop Tutu said.
"The West is penitent, the penance is being paid by the Palestinians."
Nineteen Palestinian civilians were killed in the shelling.
The Israeli military was at the time trying to prevent rocket attacks by Palestinian militants.
Archbishop Tutu's report said that the "Israeli response of a largely secret internal military investigation is absolutely unacceptable from both legal and moral points of view".
The mission appears to have legitimised the iron fisted control of the Hamas terrorist organisation holds over the Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip
"In the absence of a well-founded explanation from the Israeli military - who is in sole possession of the relevant facts - the mission must conclude that there is a possibility that the shelling of Beit Hanoun constituted a war crime," his report said.
The Israeli delegate at the Human Rights Council, Aharon Leshno-Yaar, rejected the conclusions of the inquiry.
"The mission appears to have legitimised the iron-fisted control of the Hamas terrorist organisation over the Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip. It is not clear to me whether such action is appropriate by a representative from the Quartet," he said.
The Palestinian ambassador to the UN, Mohammad Abu-Koash, said: "The Israeli shelling of civilians in Beit Hanoun, while asleep in their homes, and targeting those fleeing, is a war crime, and it's perpetrators must be brought before international justice."
Archbishop Tutu appealed to the UN Human Rights Council to show the same concern for protecting Israelis from Palestinian attacks as it does for Palestinian suffering under Israeli occupation.
The council has been widely criticised for its frequent and heavy criticism of Israel while appearing to soft-pedal on human rights violations elsewhere in the world.
He said Hamas also had an obligation under international law to stop the firing of rockets into Israel.
Germans thwart anti-Islam rally
COLOGNE, Germany — Tens of thousands of Germans took to the streets of the western city of Cologne on Saturday, September 20, to protest an anti-Islam conference of European far-rightists.
"We're here to show racism the red card," Cologne Mayor Fritz Schramma told the cheering crowd, reported Reuters.
He slammed the local far-right group Pro-Koeln, which is organizing an "Anti- Islamisation Congress," as "arsonists and racists" hiding under the cloak of a citizens' movement.
Carrying banners saying: "We are Cologne -- Get rid of the Nazis!," protesters gathered outside the city's cathedral to demonstrate against the congress.
Some of the protesters carried placards reading "Nazis out of Cologne" and "Temples, synagogues, churches and mosques -- everything's okay".
Most of the protests, called by trade unions, churches and anti-racist movements, saw thousands of students, families and local businessmen and women carry signs with slogans including "No to Racism" and "Cologne is rebelling!"
They disrupted the Pro-Koeln congress, ensuring less than 50 delegates were able to return to the meeting on Saturday morning.
The two-day congress, opened on Friday, brought together 150 far-right politicians and publicists from across Europe to protest Muslim presence in Europe.
Around 150 bars in Cologne stopped selling Pro-Koeln members the local Kolsch beer.
Many taxi and bus drivers were refusing to transport delegates to the congress.
One hotel even cancelled bookings made by "undesirables."
"Racists and extremists aren't welcome," stressed Mayor Schramma.
A far-right rally to protest the construction of a mosque in Cologne was also cancelled by police Saturday after clashes with opponents.
"The rally has been cancelled," said a police spokesman.
Police said 40,000 people protested against the rally, which had been expected to attract 1,500 people but only dozens showed up.
Many protestors cheered the rally ban.
"It's a victory for the city of Cologne and a victory by the democratic forces in this city," Mayor Schramma told the DPA news agency.
On Friday, several hundred opponents of the congress formed a human chain around a mosque in solidarity with the Muslim minority.
Though Islam is Europe's second religion, European Muslims are facing campaigns from far-right groups to have stately mosques on claims that they are signs of the "Islamization" of Europe.
Armin Laschet, minister for minorities in North Rhine-Westphalia state, told the Tagesspiegel newspaper it was the first time an entire German city "stood up to protect its Muslims."
Germany is home to some 3.2 million Muslims, Europe's second-biggest Muslim population after France.
CAIRO — A Jewish charity is seen behind the funding of a controversial anti-Islam documentary being widely circulated across the United States to scare Americans from Islam and Muslims, reported the St. Petersburg Times on Friday, September 26. "We don't have to say who its directors are or give financial information until Nov. 6, 2008," Gregory Ross, spokesman for Clarion Fund, said.
Clarion Fund, a shadowy NGO founded in 2006 by Canadian filmmaker Raphael Shore, has shipped out millions of copies of "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against The West" documentary in 14 US states by mail and as an advertising supplement of major newspapers.
The film, produced by Clarion, features interviews with commentators famed for their notorious anti-Islam views, including Martin Gilbert, Daniel Pipes and Steve Emerson.
It also shows footage of terror attacks, clips from Arab TV and historical films.
Clarion Fund has declined to unveil the source of its funding for the film.
But an investigation by the St. Petersburg Times found that the fund is connected to Aish HaTorah, a charity founded in Israel in the 1970s.
According to the daily, Ross, the Clarion spokesman, was listed as an Aish HaTorah international fundraiser on a federal election donation form in June 2007.
The name written on the mail permit for the bulk mailing of the anti-Islam film was Elke Bronstein, who worked for Aish Discovery, which produces high-tech programs and films for Aish HaTorah.
Clarion's address, according to Manhattan directory assistance, is the same address as Aish HaTorah International, a fundraising arm of Aish HaTorah.
The Clarion Fund and Aish HaTorah International are also connected to a group called HonestReporting, which produced the anti-Islam documentary.
Two of three Clarion Fund directors appeared in 2006 as Aish employees on Aish websites. The third appeared on the Aish executive committee.
The revelation comes two days after the umbrella US Muslim group filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to investigate whether Clarion was a front for the Israeli charity.
"American voters deserve to know whether they are the targets of a multi-million-dollar campaign funded and directed by a foreign group seeking to whip up anti-Muslim hysteria as a way to influence the outcome of our presidential election," said Nihad Awad, Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
In the complaint, CAIR said that Clarion acted as a front for Aish HaTorah to help Republican presidential nominee John McCain win the November elections.
"The Clarion Fund recently financed the distribution of some 28 million DVDs containing the film ‘Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West’ in what many political analysts describe as ‘swing’ states in the upcoming presidential elections," said the complaint.
"Those same analysts say the distribution of the ‘Obsession’ DVD was designed to benefit a particular presidential candidate, namely Sen. John McCain…
The complaint said Clarion Fund is incorporated in New York as a Delaware based foreign not-for-profit corporation.
"According to the Delaware Department of Corporations, Robert (Rabbi Raphael) Shore, Rabbi Henry Harris and Rebecca Kabat incorporated Clarion Fund. All three of whom are reported to serve as employees of Aish HaTorah International, an organization apparently based in Israel.
"Also according to the Delaware Department of Corporations, the incorporators of the Clarion Fund used Aish HaTorah’s New York City address to incorporate Clarion Fund in Delaware…
"It appears that the funding for the production, marketing and distribution of ‘Obsession’ may have originated from Israel-based Aish HaTorah International."
jazakAllah. Thanks for the effort.
UNITED NATIONS: Following a request by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal earlier this week, the UN Security Council met yesterday to discuss Israeli settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories.
At the meeting Prince Saud said that settlement activities by the Israelis “make the creation of a viable Palestinian state impossible.”
Israel authorized last month the construction of hundreds of more Jewish housing units in annexed East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas were among the speakers. Israel opted out of sending President Shimon Peres. Instead the new Israeli envoy, Gabriela Shalev, took the floor.
Prince Saud said: “Changing the geographic and demographic makeup of the occupied territories is the one issue that threatens to bring down the peace process.”
Kouchner agreed and said building settlements is a major obstacle. “The EU thinks settlements are illegal and they harm the credibility of Israel,” said Kouchner. “There will be no peace without total, immediate halt to settlement activities.”
For her part, Rice urged Arab states to “consider ways they might reach out to Israel” and underscored the fact that Israel “belongs to the Middle East.” She added that the Arab world needed to fully understand that “Israel belongs to the Middle East and will remain” in the Middle East.
In a brief encounter with the press after the Council meeting, Saud said the whole purpose of the meeting was to draw attention to the very important topic of Israel’s policy of continuing to build settlements in occupied territories.
“We all heard all delegations confirming the illegality of those settlements and their threat to the peace process,” said the Saudi foreign minister.
East Jerusalem continues to be the major obstacle in the peace process. While Israel is ostensibly committed to pulling back from most of the West Bank, it stands firm on a united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty. On the other side, the Arab states agree that no viable Palestinian state is possible without Jerusalem being its capital.
Prince Saud called for greater participation by the international community to resolve the settlement issue.
Shalev said that Israel does not welcome the initiative to address this topic at the UN Security Council. “Those who initiated the Security Council discussion in the belief that it will contribute to the promotion of peace are wrong,” she said.
Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said Arabs are not looking for more bloodshed. “We need an honest broker,” he said, adding if the Council does not address the issue, it would be discussed elsewhere anyway. ¬
Washington has threatened to seize Iraqi assets and oil money if Baghdad rejects a controversial US-proposed security pact, Iraq says.
Upon arrival in Iraq from Washington, President Jalal Talabani told reporters that he is concerned over Washington threats.
"Washington threatened to use any means to seize Iraqi assets if we do not support the security pact," Marsadiraq quoted Talabani as saying.
Washington currently seeks to sign a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with Baghdad to give legal basis to its military and political presence in oil-rich Iraq after a UN mandate defining its status expires on December 31.
While there have been indications that the proposed pact may conditionally require US troops stationed in Iraq to leave the country by the end of 2011, it does not necessitate a withdrawal unless Baghdad can fully restore stability in the country.
The deal has been severely criticized by prominent Iraqi political and religious figures, who say it would undermine the country's national sovereignty.
In late August, thousands of Iraqis took to the streets to denounce the agreement. The security deal will allow permanent American bases in the country and will grant US personnel immunity from prosecution inside the bases. The Americans, however, would be liable for prosecution outside their bases.
As controversy surrounds the proposed pact, the US may not be able to convince Iraq to sign the agreement. On Monday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and parliament declared that any deal should take Iraqi interests into consideration.
Maliki warned that US pressure would only create a political discord inside the Middle Eastern country and threaten the democratically-elected government.
VIENNA: A UN nuclear conference of 145 nations indirectly criticized Israel for refusing to put its atomic program under international purview.
But the Jewish state managed to evade being targeted by Islamic countries pushing for a vote on Saturday to link it to nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.
Iran, Israel's most outspoken foe, spearheaded the verbal attack on the Jewish state, as it has done at past general conferences of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Israel is widely considered to have nuclear arms, but has a "no tell" policy on the issue.
Chief Iranian delegate Ali Ashgar Soltanieh said Israel's nuclear capabilities represent a "serious and continued threat to the security of neighbouring and other states."
He took the United States and other Western backers of Israel to task for their "shameful silence" on what he said was the menace posed by Israel's atomic arsenal.
The meeting voted for a resolution urging all nations to open their nuclear activities to outside inspection and work toward the establishment of a Mideast nuclear weapons free zone. With Israel the only country in the region considered to have atomic arms, passage of the resolution constituted indirect criticism of the Jewish state.
The resolution called on all nations in the Middle East "not to develop, test or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons," and urged nuclear weapons states to "refrain from any action" hindering the establishment of a Mideast zone free of nuclear weapons.
But US and the European Union managed to block an effort by Muslim nations and their supporters to submit a resolution more directly critical of Israel and its "nuclear capabilities."
Although last year's meeting followed a similar pattern, the votes for and against the two motions reflected shifting dynamics on the issues.
On Saturday, delegations had so far voted 82-0 for establishing the Mideast nuclear weapons free zone, with Israel, Syria and the US among those abstaining. Last year it was 53 in favour, the US and Israel against, and 47 abstentions.
Part of the shift reflected Israel's success in pushing for the resolution to include language that was indirectly critical of Iran and Syria - two nations under IAEA review for possibly hiding undeclared nuclear activities.
The fact that the second motion more directly critical of Israel was only narrowly defeated indicated support for the Islamic nations was growing, particularly among developing countries. Of those present at the meeting, 46 nations voted against the motion, 43 voted for it, and seven abstained.
The issue of establishing a Mideast nuclear weapons free zone has been on the IAEA conference agenda for 16 years, though the vote on Saturday was only the third on the topic.
The meeting usually tries for consensus, and the balloting reflected increased politicization over the Middle East dispute and, more recently, concerns about Iran's nuclear ambitions.
Muslim nations consider Israel the region's main nuclear threat. The United States and its allies see Iran's defiance of the UN Security Council in its development of technology that could be used to make the bomb as the greatest menace to Middle East peace. Iran says it wants to perfect the technology - uranium enrichment - not to make the fissile core of nuclear warheads but for fuel to generate power.
Iran was not formally on the agenda of the six-day meeting, which was scheduled to end later Saturday. But concerns about its nuclear defiance figured prominently in comments from a substantial number of Western delegations - something Soltanieh was critical of.
"Iran is not the issue of this conference," he said, adding that "Israel is the only case" in the context of a proliferation danger in the Mideast.
Fiction meets fact in Hebron film
By Tim Franks
BBC News, Hebron
Actress Yousra Barakat (centre) in Hebron
The film tells of a girl who breaks curfew to attend her graduation
It is an ordinary story, in an extraordinary setting.
Hebron is the site for what its Israeli makers claim is the first fictional feature film ever to be shot in the city.
The city has become a byword for some of the sharpest tensions on the West Bank. It is the only West Bank city where Jewish settlers live in the midst of Palestinians.
The plot of Graduation is slender: it tells the story of a young Palestinian woman called Ayat, who is played by 23-year-old actress Yousra Barakat.
Ayat is attempting to reach her college graduation on the night of the Jewish festival of Purim. The Palestinians in the centre of the city are under curfew, so that the Jewish settlers can hold their Purim parade - a wild whirligig of coloured lights, loud music, fancy dress and feverish dancing.
I wanted to make the smallest story I could possibly tell, so that people could identify with it, but also say to themselves, 'This is really crazy, how can people live like this?' But yet this is the routine
Ayat decides, along with her younger brother, to break the curfew. Theirs is an attempted journey past roadblocks, sealed entrances and checkpoints, and past soldiers and settlers.
The film's director is Yaelle Kayam, a 28-year-old from Tel Aviv and graduate of the Sam Spiegel Film School in Jerusalem.
"I wanted to make the smallest story I could possibly tell," she says, "so that people could identify with it, but also say to themselves, 'This is really crazy, how can people live like this?' But yet this is the routine."
Ms Kayam believes that the majority of people in Israel are "not aware at all" about what life is like for Palestinians in Hebron, or how the settlers behave.
She says that when she showed friends in Tel Aviv some of the earlier material she had shot, from the Purim parade, they thought that it had all been staged.
We watched rehearsals under a baking September sun, during Ramadan.
From the rooftop, where the actors were peering at the imaginary parade beneath, there was a clear view of the streams of men pouring towards the Ibrahim Mosque.
Director Yaelle Kayam
Kayam wants her film to increase awareness of restrictions in Hebron
Hebron is the West Bank's largest city, home to 160,000 Palestinians. Dotted through the centre of the city are the few hundred Jewish settlers, guarded by several hundred Israeli soldiers.
It is the presence of these settlers that has turned Hebron into a patchwork of internal checkpoints and closures.
From the material already shot by Yaelle Kayam and her Israeli crew, one of the most arresting, almost other-worldly scenes, shows Yusra watching, from the caged first-floor balcony of a Palestinian house, the Purim parade below.
In real life, the house belongs to Zlika Muhtaseb, a 46-year-old teacher, and life-long resident of Hebron.
As with all the houses along this street, Zlika's balcony is enclosed in a stout metal mesh to guard against the stone-throwing from young settlers. She says that, in any case, she is rarely allowed out on to the street which her home overlooks.
"It was the main street in Hebron, connecting the north with the south," she said. "But the settlers said that Palestinians shouldn't use it, because of security."
She last used the door onto Shuhada Street more than a month ago. At the roundabout 200m from her house, she was stopped by a soldier.
"He was surprised to see me. 'Where did you come from?' he said. I showed him my house. He said: 'You're not allowed to use this street. Go back.'
"I showed him my permit. He said: 'It's not valid. It does not apply here.' I asked him where I should use it. He said: 'I don't know, it doesn't apply here.'"
Zlika does have another doorway she can use, but it takes her on a much longer detour, through several more checkpoints, to get to where she wants to go.
Tim Franks, on the roof of the house
The Qafisha family must cross to a neighbour's roof to go outside
At least she does have another entrance. That is an improvement over the Qafisha family, who live a short walk away, and whose house has also been the site for some of the filming.
Five years ago, their only door to the street was welded shut by the Israeli army. Since then, the 10 members of the family - from grandparents to grandchildren - have a rather more complicated route to the outside.
They have to ascend uneven, switchback stone steps, stooping to avoid the ceiling, in order to reach their roof. There they cross through a ragged hole in an outside wall on to their neighbours' roof.
They then make their way down a series of steep stairways to the neighbouring doorway.
The older women of the family say that they have been left depressed and sometimes injured by the ordeal of just coming and going from their home.
Graduation is due to premiere next April. It is a work of fiction. But only just.
5526 Palestinians Killed by IOF in past 8 Years
5526 Palestinians Killed by IOF in past 8 Years Date : 6/10/2008 Time : 17:19
RAMALLAH, October 6, 2008 (WAFA) - The PLO Department of Arab International Relations said that 5526 Palestinian citizens were killed by the IOF during the past 8 years. Amongst the victims 1,010 were children, 340 women, 664 school students and 11 journalists.
In a report covering the period from Sep. 30th, 2000 ? Sep. 30th, 2008 - during Al-Aqsa Intifada - the PLO mentioned that 32,000 Palestinian citizens were wounded by the IOF, 7500 were disabled, 3,600 of whom were left with permanent disabilities. Another 33,000 Palestinians suffered from tear gas inhalation. 247 Palestinian patients that were denied permissions to cross the Gaza borders for further treatment abroad have passed away. 167 Palestinian citizens were killed by Israeli Jewish colonizers. The IOF always protected the Jewish colonizers while conducting their aggressions against Palestinian villages and citizens, the report said. ?165 Palestinian citizens were killed on the Israeli checkpoints across the West Bank ; 40 Palestinian pregnant women lost their embryos while waiting to pass through those checkpoints,? the report mentioned. The report also stated that 8300 Palestinian houses were demolished by the IOF. Different sorts of weapons were used during the demolitions. 900 of these houses were demolished in Occupied Jerusalem under the pretext that the houses were built without an Israeli permit. 70,000 Palestinian houses were damaged, leaving thousands of its inhabitants homeless and without any shelter. As for East Jerusalem the report said: ?The Israeli Occupation Authorities (IOA) continues to judaize the Occupied East Jerusalem by surrounding it with the Apartheid Segregation Wall, and establishing checkpoints in and around the city, severely restricting Palestinian mobility. Palestinian Muslims and Christians are prevented access to their holy places in order to pray. Many Palestinian houses in Occupied Jerusalem have been demolished, many Jerusalemites' IDs were confiscated and other Jerusalemites' residency was cancelled.?
More than 65,000 Palestinian citizens have been detained by the IOF during the past 8 years, the report said.
?11,000 Palestinian prisoners are still in the Israeli jails facing severe detaining conditions and 76 Palestinian prisoners have died in the Israeli jails after being subjected to harsh torture,? the report states.
The construction of the Apartheid Segregation Wall of 730km length on the land of 1967 Palestinian Territory , has claimed more than 300,000 dunums ( 1 acre = 4 dunums) of Palestinian land. Additionally 1,000,300 trees have been uprooted, in order to construct the Wall.
Furthermore the report mentions that there are approximately 630 permanent roadblocks and checkpoints across the West Bank , of which 93 are manned checkpoints and the 537 are unmanned.
During September 2008 IOF attacks in Palestinian areas have caused the deaths of 6 Palestinians, among them 4 children and also causing injury to 86 Palestinian citizens and a British journalist. Additionally 4 Palestinian patients, denied permissions to cross the borders for further treatment, have passed away, and 274 Palestinian citizens have been arrested, while 589 dunums of the Palestinian lands has been seized to construct the Apartheid Wall, this month alone. Source: AJP