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الأحد، 28 أبريل 2013

Palestinian Children Denied Education in Israeli Prisons

Palestinian Children Denied Education in Israeli Prisons

By Jillian Kestler-D'Amours

Palestinian children take part in a rally in front of the Red Cross headquarters in Gaza City marking Palestinian Prisoners Day, April 17, 2012. (photo by REUTERS/Suhaib Salem)

BEIT UMMAR, WEST BANK — Seventy-three. In that many days, Sadek Abu Maria’s life has drastically changed.

"It’s easier than before, but it’s still difficult because I have exams, and the majority of the material I wasn’t there for," the 15-year-old told Al-Monitor from his family’s living room in the West Bank village of Beit Ummar.
Abu Maria is in 10th grade at a local school in Beit Ummar. He was arrested in early January on the charge of throwing stones and detained at Israel’s Ofer military prison, on the outskirts of Ramallah, for almost two and a half months.
The Palestinian Ministry of Education makes children repeat their academic year after they’ve missed a certain number of school days; Abu Maria says he’s missed more than is allowed and is now waiting to hear if he can take the exams in three weeks with his classmates.
"I was a little behind. I struggled a bit, but bit by bit, I’m catching up," Abu Maria explained, adding that if he’s held back, he will most likely drop out of high school and take a vocational-training course to become a carpenter instead.
"If they pass me this year, I will continue [high school]," he said, adding, "It’s already affected my life, at school and with my family. Inside, I’m trying to hold back so I don’t react [angrily] to everything."
Thousands of children affected
The Israeli military authorities arrest, interrogate and detain an estimated 700 Palestinian children under the age of 18 annually in the occupied West Bank. Most are arrested on suspicion of throwing stones. Since 2000, approximately 8,000 Palestinian children have been detained.
As of April 1, 236 Palestinian children — including 39 under the age of 16 — were held in Israeli detention and interrogation facilities, a 27.5% increase from the previous month, according to Palestinian prisoner-rights group Addameer.
In addition to being subjected to ill-treatment while in Israeli prisons and interrogation facilities — ranging from verbal abuse, sleep deprivation, beatings and other forms of physical and psychological torture — Palestinian child detainees struggle to continue their education while in prison.
Most Palestinian child detainees are held at Ofer military prison, on the outskirts of Ramallah, or in the juvenile wings at Megiddo and Rimmonim prisons, which are located inside Israel.
No formal educational resources are made available to prisoners at Ofer, while both Rimmonim and Megiddo prisons offer middle-school and high-school-aged students the chance to continue their studies on a limited basis, according to Israeli human rights group B'Tselem.
At Ofer, Sadek Abu Maria had no access to educational courses, aside from the Hebrew courses older prisoners taught him. The prisoners also taught Arabic and mathematics for beginner-level students.
He attended Hebrew classes for two weeks — every day, except Friday and Saturday, for up to two and a half hours per lesson — before dropping the language when it became too difficult. Now, Abu Maria says that the prisoners have made their makeshift education curriculum compulsory for all younger detainees.
"There are three classrooms. There were desks, chairs and a blackboard. Everything," Abu Maria said. "It’s better if everyone would learn there instead of wasting their time."
Education subject to "security"
In 1997, a group of Palestinian children filed a lawsuit against the Israeli Prison Service, demanding that their right to education be upheld. While the Tel Aviv Central Court ruled that Palestinian youth detainees had the same right as Israeli children to be educated, the court stated that education for Palestinians should be "subject to security considerations."
The Israeli authorities interpreted this caveat as allowing them to restrict what courses are offered in prison. According to B'Tselem, Palestinian detainees can take some subjects — including mathematics, Arabic and world history — while all others, including economics, current events, history and all sciences, areprohibited.
"It’s clear that it’s not according to the Palestinian curriculum, and not all the topics that are taught in Palestinian schools are taught to Palestinian children. There are so many topics that are not covered," explained Ayed Abu Eqtaish, accountability program director at Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCI-P).
"This stems from the philosophy of the prison — that it’s for punishment and retribution, not for rehabilitation — so the prisons are not equipped, legally speaking, for holding child prisoners. If the prison authority does not provide education, it’s a problem ..."
Equal access to education
Article 94 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states that "the education of children and young people shall be ensured; they shall be allowed to attend schools either within the place of internment or outside."
The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights also stipulates that signatories must "recognize the right to everyone to education" and that education "shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and the sense of its dignity, and shall strengthen the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms."
On March 7, DCI-P and Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, wrote a letter to the Israeli Prison Service demanding that all Palestinian minors receive access to education while in detention.
"The practice of not providing appropriate education to detained Palestinian children infringes their rights to education, dignity and equality. It breaches Israeli constitutional law and contradicts the Israeli Supreme Court’s decision that prisoners have the right to education while in jail," the letter stated.
According to Abu Eqtaish, the Israeli prison authorities must ensure that Palestinian children have the same access to education as Israeli children who are detained.
"The prison authority does not care about the Palestinian children and about ensuring their right to education. Even if they do not want to invest money in bringing teachers from outside, there is another proposal, which is the willingness of other prisoners to educate child prisoners," he said.
"There is a request from prisoners to teach child prisoners in prison, because there are a lot of prisoners who have the capacity to teach … but so far, there is no response from the prison administration."
Jillian Kestler-D'Amours is a Canadian journalist and documentary filmmaker based in Jerusalem. She is a regular contributor to Inter Press Service news agency, Al Jazeera English and Free Speech Radio News. Follow her on Twitter: @jilldamours.


Empty Stomachs From Guantanamo to Palestine

Empty Stomachs From Guantanamo to Palestine

By Patrick O. Strickland

April 26, 2013

Ramallah, Occupied West Bank - Official numbers estimate that nearly half of the prisoners presently being detained in Guantanamo Bay are on hunger strike. On April 16, clashes broke out when guards attempted to forcefully move detainees from their communal cells into single-person cells.
According to The Guardian, "around a dozen [prisoners] are being force-fed to keep them alive," but other media put the number at over 15.
Amnesty International condemns the use of force-feeding, noting that it "it may amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment." During such force-feeding sessions, detainees are strapped to restraint chairs for hours at a time, and their extremities are tightly tied, their mouths gagged, and their nostrils subjected to invasive feeding tubes.
Further reports have emerged suggesting that the guards have displayed "deliberate indifference" to the hunger strikers, denying them drinkable water and basic medical necessities in a heartless attempt to crush their resolve and put an end to the mass hunger strike.
Despite appeals from lawyers and human rights organizations, who point out that several of the prisoners are on the brink of death, US District Judge Thomas Hogan denied an emergency motion for relief filed by one of the detainees, Musa'ab Omar Al-Madhwani, a Yemeni national arrested at just 22 years old and held for over a decade with neither charge nor trial. According to Hogan, Al-Madhwani had "self-manufactured" the "imminent danger" of death that his rapidly declining health now poses.
The hunger strikers, being held as part of the broader "war on terror" despite the United States government's inability to prosecute them, highlight the resounding hypocrisy of the Obama administration. In 2007, while campaigning for his first presidential term, Obama vowed to "close Guantanamo, reject the Military Commissions Act and adhere to the Geneva Conventions."
Upon ascending to presidency, Obama signed an executive order to close the detention center within one year. After retreating from political opposition, however, the White House granted itself an additional six months in July 2009. Since then, a series of limp excuses and ineffectual groans of intent have alighted from Washington, but Guantanamo, the moral outhouse of the American justice, remains the dumping ground for suspects that are ostensibly guilty of nothing more than being Muslim in shady places at the wrong time.
Meanwhile, a similar drama, draped in all the same moral infringements and bombastic insults to the basic tenets of habeas corpus, unfolds in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. According to Addameer Prisoner Support Network, 4,812 Palestinians were being held in Israeli military prisons as of February. From this total, 219 are classified as children, 31 of whom are under 16-years-old. 178 Palestinians are presently detained under the file of "administrative detention," in which they are thrown behind bars indefinitely on the testimony of "secret evidence," denied both charge and trial. According toPalestinian officials, 207 prisoners have died in occupation prisons since 1948.
Throughout the last few years, several prisoners launched lengthy hunger strikes that chalked up a number of successes against their jailers. In early 2012, administrative detainee Khader Adnan, accused of being an Islamic Jihad activist, staged a highly publicized 66-day hunger strike that, though it nearly costing his life, resulted in his eventual freedom.
Following in his footsteps, Hana Shalabi astoundingly went 43 days without food until Israel grudgingly agreed to release her. Shalabi rallied the Palestinian street behind her and inspired some 2,000 prisoners to go on mass hunger strike against their imprisonment. In exchange for ending their collective strike, Israeli Prison Services unenthusiastically agreed to end solitary confinement, allow family visits for prisoners from the Gaza Strip, improve basic living conditions and to not extend the sentences of then-present administrative detainees.
Nonetheless, Gavan Kelly of Addameer said in an interview that "Israel has reneged on almost all of the obligations on which it agreed." Nothing could accurately portray the truthfulness of this statement more than the case of Samer Al-Issawi, a Jerusalem-born administrative detainee who has pressed on for over eight months without food.
Israeli Prison Services tried to strike a deal in which Al-Issawi would be deported to Europe or Gaza. After stating his steadfast commitment to returning to his Jerusalem village or taking his hunger strike to the point of death, alongside months of Israeli officials vowing that the government will not cave in to Al-Issawi's demands, Israel has grudgingly agreed to release him to his Jerusalem village.
Throughout the highly emotional trajectory of his hunger strike, an international campaign has sprung up to raise awareness about the plight of prisoners in Israeli lockup. From Guantanamo to Palestine, prisoners have served to cultivate a nascent form of international solidarity that unmasks the dual duplicity of American empire and its favored colonial outpost. Their empty stomachs continue to deliver a number of stultifying blows to the institutions of injustice.


Palestinians Fight Unlawful Deportation

Palestinians Fight Unlawful Deportation

By Jillian Kestler-D'Amours

Doha Ibrahim Abeyat (left) and her sister, Hind, hold a photograph of their father, Ibrahim, who Israel deported from the West Bank in 2002.
(Jillian Kestler-D’Amours / IPS) 

April 25, 2013
ABEYAT, Occupied West Bank, Apr 24 2013 (IPS) - Hind Ibrahim Abeyat has spent most of her life separated from her father. "Every house in Palestine has something – someone in prison, a martyr," the 19-year-old told IPS from her family home in Abeyat village, near Bethlehem.

"For us, our father isn’t here. My friends ask me, 'How can you live without your father?’"

Israel exiled Hind’s father, Ibrahim Abeyat, from the West Bank at the height of the Second Intifadah, after the Israeli army’s infamous siege of the Nativity Church in Bethlehem in 2002.

At the time, Israel was carrying out a large-scale military operation in major Palestinian cities across the West Bank. In the midst of the Israeli assault on Bethlehem in April 2002, a group of Palestinian fighters and civilians took refuge in the Nativity Church, believed to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ, in the city centre.

Some 200 Palestinians were trapped inside as Israel lay siege on the church for 39 days and fired live ammunition and other weapons at the building. After an American-brokered deal was reached to end the attack, Israel exiled 26 Palestinians hiding inside the church to the Gaza Strip, and another 13 to various European countries.

"It was forbidden to look out the window, forbidden to go outside. We didn’t know what was happening," said Doha, Hind’s 22-year-old older sister, explaining that the Israeli army surrounded the family home while her father, who is affiliated with Hamas, was in the church.
"This is our homeland, our land. It is our right. The situation is very, very hard for me."

After being flown to Cyprus, Ibrahim Abeyat was eventually deported to Italy, where he remains today. His wife spends six months of the year with him there, and the other six months with her children in the West Bank.

For seven years, Hind and her seven siblings – now aged between 17-30 – could only speak to their father over the phone. They now talk to him daily over the Internet.

"It’s very, very difficult. I don’t see my family," Ibrahim Abeyat told IPS via Skype from Italy.

"I want to go back to my homeland, and end these 11 years (in exile). This is our homeland, our land. It is our right. The situation is very, very hard for me," Abeyat said.

Between 1967-1992, Israel deported 1,522 Palestinians from the occupied Palestinian territories, according to Israeli human rights group Btselem. In 1992 alone, with the approval of the Israeli Supreme Court, Israel deported 415 Palestinian members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad to South Lebanon.

Palestinians are deported under Israel’s Emergency Defence Regulations, which date back to 1945 during the British mandate of Palestine. The specific law for deportations – which was cancelled inside Israel yet remains in effect in the occupied territories – states that a military commander can force any person to leave and remain outside of Palestine.

During the Second Intifadah, the Israeli Supreme Court also ruled that Israel has a right to issue "orders of assigned residence" to transfer Palestinians to the Gaza Strip. The court based its decision on Article 78 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states that an occupying power can subject people to assigned residence "for imperative reasons of security".

Article 49 of the Convention, however, outlaws deportations, and individual or mass forcible transfers, of people living under military occupation "regardless of their motive".

Israel has also forcibly relocated relatives of people accused of committing crimes against Israelis to the Gaza Strip, in violation of the Convention’s Article 33, which states that no person "may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed".

In late 2011, a deal was brokered between Israel and Hamas to release 1,027 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for a captive Israeli soldier. Of the Palestinians released, almost 200 were exiled to the Gaza Strip, and 41 were deported abroad.

"Given the stark asymmetry in power between the occupied Palestinian and occupying Israeli parties involved, neither the potential 'consent’ of the prisoner, nor the fact that these deals may have been negotiated by a Palestinian authority can serve as justification for the deportation," stated Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq.

In March, former prisoner Ayman Sharawna – who was first released from Israeli jail as part of the 2011 prisoner exchange, and then was re-arrested in January 2012 – was deported to Gaza after conducting an open-ended hunger strike for 261 days.

"I felt sure that if I did not go, I would die. I was suffering, physically and psychologically," the 37-year-old father of nine from Hebron, told the Gaza-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR).

"My experience in prison prepared me for life in Gaza. To be exiled to Gaza was the least loss I could expect. I am against exile, but it was my only option. Otherwise, I surely would have died."

On Tuesday, Reuters reported that Palestinian prisoner Samer Issawi – who had been intermittently on hunger strike for over eight months – would finally end his protest and be released to his Jerusalem home next December. Issawi refused several Israeli attempts to deport him over the course of his hunger strike.

"These strong positions never happened suddenly. People should sacrifice themselves and should fight (to reach) a new stage in their fight," Murad Jadallah, a legal researcher at Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Addameer told IPS.

"The case of the hunger strike of Samer Issawi will be like a turning point in fighting against the deportations."


Iraq: Demonstrators remember the slaughtered in Hawija

Iraq: Demonstrators remember the slaughtered in Hawija

The Common Ills

April 26, 2013

That's one of the photos from Iraqi Spring MC of Wednesday's funerals for the martyrs killed in Hawija for the 'crime' of conducting a sit-in.  On Tuesday, Nouri's forces took to the air in helicopters to shoot at them and rolled over them with military vehicles, shot at them, arrested them.  All for the 'crime' of taking part in a sit-in.  These are the dead that Arthur Bright has smeared.

As Kat's observed, Nouri al-Maliki is the new George Wallace.

At Anbar University today, protesters condemned the Hawija massacre.National Iraqi News Agency reports that sit-ins took place in Falluja and Ramadi.  Alsumaria reports thousands turned out in Ramadi (look at the picture even if you don't read Arabic -- the size of the crowd is impressive)  and they decried the killing of peaceful protesters in Hawija.   NINA reports, "Preachers in Diyala denounced storming arenas of sit-in Haweeja by the army and the killing of protesters, strongly condemning the government for what happened in Hawija of Kirkuk province."   They quote a coordinating member of the Anbar demonstrations stating "the Maliki government has lost its legitimacy when ordered army to open fire against unarmed people."   Alsumaria covers the protesters in Mosul (check out the picture) noting the demonstration expressed its solidarity with the people of Hawija and called for one Iraq of one people where the people are safe from Nouri's forces.

Iraqiya MP Liqaa Wardi speaks with NINA and states Nouri's reckless actions in Hawija have "created unprecedented reactions of anger." 

In this morning's New York Times, Tim Arango notes:

Sheik Abdul Malik al-Saadi, a leading Sunni cleric who wields enormous influence over Iraq’s Sunni population, has urged members of Iraq’s security forces to abandon their posts and join the opposition to the Shiite-led government, saying they should do so just as "their brothers did in Syria."
In linking the raging civil war in Syria to the growing unrest here in Iraq, the declaration is one of the surest signs yet that the sectarian battles under way in both countries are regarded by Sunnis as two elements of a budding regional sectarian conflict. The civil war in Syria pits a Sunni-led rebellion against a government dominated by Alawites, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

 Along with yesterday's defections, Iraqi Spring MC notes 25 have defected today in Kirkuk.  The defections may or may not be connected to the remarks of al-Saadi. Anytime the Iraqi forces have been used by Nouri to attack Iraqis, there have been defections.  This was most noticeable when Nouri attacked Basra in 2008 (and why the US military command was so outraged -- see the April 2008 appearances of then-Gen David Petraeus and then-US Ambassador Ryan Crocker before the various committees in the US Congress --  that he jumped the gun on the planned invasion).

Mohammed Tawfeeq and Joe Sterling (CNN) maintain that the protests are over Sunnis feeling they are treated like second-class citizens.  When does CNN plan to note the rapes in prisons and detention centers that outraged the protesters?  Or is rape and torture of women just considered "second-class" and not crimes?  They note that 4 are dead and thirty-six are injured from the bombing of Baghdad's al-Qubeisi mosque. 

AFP notes, "The gunmen pulled out of Sulaiman Bek under a deal worked out by tribal leaders and government."  AFP could be more specific but choose not to be.  "Government" isn't Nouri.  NINA explains Salahuddin Province Governor Ahmed Abdullah al-Jabouri announced yesterday that he had met "with security commanders and local tribal leaders reaching an agreement by which the crisis will be solved tomorrow, and the military force to withdraw, according to the request of tribes' leaders, to be replaced with local police force."  Kitabat also makes it clear that the the peace agreement was made by the provincial government.

Kitabat has an analysis of the provincial vote.  We'll wait for hard numbers before doing the same.  The IHEC still hasn't posted them.

What is known is that Nouri won 8 provinces.  It's a pity Iraq doesn't just have 8 provinces or even 12.  Then Nouri's pipe-dream of a majority government might be possible.  Iraq has six provinces that haven't voted.  Four that did didn't go for Nouri.  The six that haven't voted?  Five will absolutely not go for Nouri (Anbar, Nineveh and the KRG).  Kirkuk won't get to vote.  But that's 8 provinces for Nouri and 7 against.  That's not going to be a majority government when the parliamentary elections roll around.  Equally true, there's been a flip-flop on parliamentary and provincial with one group turning out for one and another for the other.  It's a see-saw effect that goes with voters disgust.  There is nothing in the results that speaks well for 2012 and, as we noted before, these reflections did not and would not reflect on Nouri's own power.  These are local elections.

I'm very curious about the results for Sadr.  Cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr wants to be prime minister.  There are various reports on how his party did.  That's not the question though.  The question really comes down to: Is Moqtada a boxer?

If so, he may have done something very smart.  Parliamentary elections matter more than provincial.  So if you wanted to do a fake jab or feign weakness, this would be the one not to worry about getting supporters out for.  And Moqtada really didn't do a lot of urging, did he?

Those are things to consider about the elections.  We'll cover violence in the snapshot, it's all over Iraq.

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Iraqi forces kill 43 Iraqis and destroy six mosques

Iraqi forces kill 43 Iraqis and destroy six mosques

Middle East Monitor

Al-Haweeja: Picture showing innocent protestors shot dead in summary executions with their hands tied behind their backs. The man circled is Dr. Amer Addoury who was still alive in this picture but was later also shot in a summary execution.

April 25, 2013
Iraqi forces affiliated with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have killed around 43 Iraqis and destroyed a number of mosques in Solaiman Beek village in Saladdin Governorate.

Iraqi sources said: "Forces and militias of Al-Maliki forcefully attacked the village because of fierce clashes with the inhabitants. The total number of destroyed mosques is six, along with many houses. That led to the displacement of a large number of families seeking safety and security."

Al-Maliki's forces and militias, the Iraqi news agency reported, attacked the village with helicopters, which launched large bombs and rockets at residential areas. This resulted in the death of 43 residents in preliminary statistics, the news agency said.

The heavy shelling pushed the families to migrate to Takreet and Karkook governorates.

Heavy clashes erupted between residents of the village and the Iraqi forces. Residents said that they fought to protect the citizens, who have been subject to the violence of the sectarian Iraqi government.


الجمعة، 26 أبريل 2013

Obama and the game of drones

Obama and the game of drones

Eamonn McCann

April 24, 2013

Richard Nixon's underlings had more scruples about the use of military force than the liberals around Barack Obama, says Belfast Telegraph columnist Eamonn McCann.
SCARCELY HAD the smoke cleared from the April 15 atrocity in Boston before President Obama was back playing the game of drones.
The human detail was horrendous. No one of ordinary sensitivity can have failed to feel a shudder of sorrow and pity at accounts of 8-year-old Martin Richard--killed by the blast as he ran back to his mother and sister after cheering his father over the finishing line.
And there was the second bomb, obviously deliberately intended to kill people hurrying to tend to the injured and dying. "How does anyone become that evil?" asked columnist David Freddoso.
Freddoso, like most Americans and most others, was evidently unaware that follow-up bombing is standard practice in U.S. strikes against suspected terrorists in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and elsewhere. The military term is "double-tap."
Since coming to office, Obama has authorized more than 300 drone attacks in Pakistan alone, killing at least 3,000 people, including as many as 1,000 civilians, of whom 176 have been confirmed by aid and human-rights agencies as children.
The U.S. is not at war with Pakistan. So whence comes Obama's legal or constitutional authority to order the bombing of its territory and the killing of its citizens?
A 16-page memo--titled simply The White Paper, and leaked to NBC News in February--sets out the administration's justification for strikes against presumed al-Qaeda operatives abroad, including U.S. citizens, such as Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, killed by drones in Yemen, in spite of never having been indicted for any crime.
The precedent cited is the Nixon/Kissinger bombing of Cambodia in 1969. But one difference between then and now is that the Cambodia bombing caused consternation within Nixon's administration.
One senior State Department official, William Watts, point-blank refused an order from Kissinger to coordinate information on the effect of the attacks, because he wasn't convinced the action had a sound legal basis. Kissinger told him, "Your views represent the cowardice of the Eastern establishment."
Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis described Watts then "coming towards Kissinger as if to strike him," before turning and walking out of the office. Minutes later, Watts's written resignation was delivered into Kissinger's hand.
Watts was then confronted by Kissinger's top military aide, Alexander Haig, shouting, "You can't resign. You've just had an order from your commander-in-chief." Watts retorted, "F*** you, Al. I just did." Two other Kissinger aides--Anthony Lake and Roger Morris--also quit.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
THE POINT is this: Can anyone imagine any of those smart, plausible, progressive people who surround Obama taking such a principled stance today?
Roger Morris had no compunction back then about publicly declaring that bombing countries with which the U.S. was not at war was criminal and, coming from people who waxed eloquent about the rule of law and the sanctity of life, shamefully hypocritical.
Where are his equivalents today? All too busy, perhaps, finessing their boss's nicely calculated expressions of concern at the three murders in Boston?
It has been a striking feature of Obama's presidency that opposition to his military adventures has mainly come not just from the right, but from some who are regarded as the ridiculous right.
Six weeks ago, Tea Party Republican Rand Paul mounted a 13-hour filibuster in the Senate, delaying the nomination of new CIA chief John Brennan in protest against Obama's refusal to say straight that it would be illegal for the president to order the drone-killing of an American citizen on U.S. soil.
Is this not astonishing? And astonishing that it hasn't sparked hullaballoo? Can Obama not acknowledge in his mind that the family, the friends, the neighbors of adults and children blown to bits by American bombs are likely to be as angered by the cruelty and loss as he has been by the murder of young Martin Richard?
Does it not occur to him that this is among the main reasons for the hatred of the U.S., which drives so much terrorism in today's world?
He is a learned man who has said he loves Shakespeare. Perhaps he should re-read Shylock's words from The Merchant of Venice, Act III, Scene I:
...If you prick us, do we not bleed?
If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us,
Do we not die? And if you wrong us, do we not revenge?
If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that.


The US Perpetrates a Boston Bombing Weekly in Pakistan, Yemen & Afghanistan

The US Perpetrates a Boston Bombing Weekly in Pakistan, Yemen & Afghanistan

Sean A. McElwee

Sadaullah Khan lost both legs and one eye in a 2009 drone strike on his house (Reuters)

April 24, 2013
The Boston Bombings left three dead and more than 100 injured and some have suggested circumventing the rule of law to prosecute the perpetrator. Yet, in Pakistan the unconstitutional drone war continues to kill innocents. On April 14, between 4 and 6 Pakistanis died in drone strike and numerous civilians were injured. Another strike three days later killed 5 more and injured several. Yet there are no protests in America to capture the responsible party, nor will there ever be justice. The people of Waziristan live in constant fear, and face bombings like that of Boston almost weekly.
The two April strikes both involved significant amounts of terror, with drones "hovering over the area" for long periods of time, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. These drone strikes, contrary to administration claims, rarely target "high-level" members of terrorist organizations, and often "militants" include young boys aged 10-16.
Only recently have we begun to learn of the shady covert drone war. Mark Mazzeti’s recent The Way of the Knifedetails the beginning: the United States became the lapdog of the Pakistani government, performing a drone strike to kill Nek Muhammed in exchange for access to the airspace.
While the government acknowledges that trials would be preferable for the rule of law, this heavily redacted report gives the true reason for the targeted killing program: it’s cleaner, simpler and less embarrassing to just off the suspected terrorists. The government uses mafia logic – why waste time and energy risking the rule of law when you can just swoop in and launch a smart bomb?
Farea al-Muslimini testified this week to United State Senate about the "psychological fear and terror" that his village faces daily after a recent drone strike. He argues that while the strike may be cleaner for the United States government, on the ground it leaves significant psychological scarring. He said,"The drone strike [in my village] and its impact tore my heart, much as the tragic bombings in Boston last week tore your hearts and also mine."
While we mourn the horrific events in Boston, we must remember that our government perpetrates a Boston bombing weekly in Pakistan, Yemen and Afghanistan.
Sean McElwee has previously written for The Day and The Norwich Bulletin and on and He is a writer for The Moderate Voice.


Israeli Army Demolishes Popular Palestinian Restaurant

Israeli Army Demolishes Popular Palestinian Restaurant

By: Jihan Abdalla for Al-Monitor Palestine Pulse

April 24, 2013

AL-MAKHROUR, West Bank — A large pile of twisted zinc and concrete rubble in a parking lot is all that is left of the popular al-Makhrour restaurant in the occupied West Bank. Dirty pots and pans lie on the ground and broken glass crackles under the feet of owner Ramzy Qissiyeh as he tries to salvage more buried items.
Last week, Israeli soldiers arrived with bulldozers and demolished his family-owned restaurant, located in the picturesque valley near the West Bank city of Bethlehem. Qissiyeh said this is the second time the Israeli army has demolished his business, citing the lack of a building permit.
"All I could do was watch and mourn," Qissiyeh told Al-Monitor. His family house next door also has a pending demolition order, but has so far been spared.
Interim peace agreements signed in the 1990s allotted around two-thirds of the West Bank, Area C, to full Israeli military and administrative control.
The Israeli army said all construction in the West Bank is subject to building codes and planning laws, and unauthorized construction is grounds for demolition. Residents say building permits are nearly impossible to obtain and they are forced to build without them. They also accuse Israel of using demolitions to tighten its hold on the territory and evict them from their land to expand Jewish settlements.
A spokesman for the Israeli civil administration, Guy Inbar, said the restaurant was destroyed per a demolition order issued back in 2005.
"This restaurant is well known as an illegal structure, built without any building permit or plan," Inbar told Al-Monitor. "There are many other illegal structures in the area."
Severe restrictions on building and farming
The steep, rocky valley of Wadi al-Makhrour is dotted with ancient apricot and olive-tree terraces. Residents of the neighboring village of Beit Jala have for decades owned the fertile agricultural area that since 1967, the year Israel occupied the West Bank, has been subject to severe Israeli building and farming restrictions. Only a few small brick houses are scattered over the hills.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), between 2000 and 2007, over 94% of applications for building permits in Area C were denied. The body said for the 2.5 million Palestinians living in the West Bank, construction is prohibited in up to 70% of Area C, and a range of restrictions in the rest of the area make it virtually impossible to get a building permit.
According to the Applied Research Center in Jerusalem (ARIJ), since 2011, the Israeli army has demolished the restaurant, four houses, an agriculture well and 53 electric poles in al-Makhrour. Several other houses and structures have pending demolition orders.
"There has been a deliberate Israeli campaign to prevent development in that area, where even repairing old agricultural structures is prohibited," Suhail Khalilieh, head of the settlement-monitoring department at ARIJ, told Al-Monitor.
Between 2000 and 2009, according to OCHA, 5,600 demolition orders were issued in Area C, and more than 1,600 buildings were demolished.
In a March 2013 report, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions said that in 2012, Israel demolished a total of 600 Palestinian structures, including at least 189 homes. Some 880 Palestinians, more than half of them children, were displaced.
"The motivation for demolishing these homes is purely political and racially informed: to either drive the Palestinians out of the country altogether (the "quiet transfer") or to confine the four million residents of the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza to small, crowded, impoverished and disconnected enclaves," the report said.
A new settlement plan
Overlooking al-Makhrour is the Jewish settlement of Har Gilo, home to some 500 Jewish settlers. The faint rumble of construction can be heard over the hill as more identical stone apartments are built. Rights groups say Israel plans to build another settlement called Givat Yael nearby.
Israeli group Ir Amim said the plan for the Givat Yael settlement, which dates back to 2003, involves 3000 dunums (741 acres) of land to provide 14,000 housing units for over 40,000 settlers, along with a commercial area and a sports club.
Some 500,000 Jewish settlers live in the West Bank and east Jerusalem in over100 settlements, most of which are located in Area C. The World Court has ruled that all settlements are illegal. Israel rejects this, and has said it will keep many of the settlements under any future peace deal with the Palestinians. The ARIJ said land belonging to the Palestinian villages of Beit Jala, Battir and al-Walajeh would be annexed as part of the Gival Yaelsettlement.
If constructed, Givat Yael will create a contiguous built-up area linking Jerusalem with the Har Gilo settlement and create a strategic link with the Gush Etzion settlement block, located southeast of Jerusalem.
Khalilieh said al-Makhrour falls in a strategic location for Israel, as it constitutes a geographical linking point between the Gush Etzion settlement block and the Har Gilo settlement.
"Al-Makhrour would fill some of the territorial gap between the two settlements," Khalilieh said.
Palestinian population in Area C shrinking
According to a European Union report issued last year, in 1967, between 200,000 and 320,000 Palestinians lived in Area C of the West Bank. But demolition of Palestinian homes and structures and the prevention of new construction has seen the population drop to 150,000. Meanwhile, the settler population in Area C has grown from 1,200 to 310,000, the report said.
In al-Makhrour, Qissiyieh said his restaurant had only been operating for two weeks when the trucks came for the second time to demolish a restaurant that cost him all his savings and several loans he can no longer repay. He said he cannot risk a third demolition and is considering leaving the area altogether.
"Everyone has a certain amount of pain and pressure they can handle, I think I’ve surpassed mine," Qissiyieh said with a shake of his calloused hands. "I’m tired, I can’t play this cat-and-mouse chase anymore."
Jihan Abdalla is a Palestinian freelance journalist and television producer based in Jerusalem. Follow her on Twitter @jihanabdalla.


Calls for the UN to intervene to lift the siege imposed on the protesters of Hawija.

Calls for the UN to intervene to lift the siege imposed on the protesters of Hawija.


April 24, 2013
BAGHDAD / NINA / MP, of the Iraqiya coalition, Talal al-Zobaie asked the United Nations to intervene to lift the siege imposed by the security forces on the sit-in Square in Hawija, of Kirkuk province.

He told the National Iraqi News Agency / NINA / today 21. April : "The security forces surrounded protesters in Hawija two days ago and prevent the entry of water and food, which is alarming heavily on this region and the political forces have to prevent what is happening before it takes other dimensions."

Zobaie called on human rights organizations to intervene as these practices are breaches of human rights.

It is mentioned that the President of the House of Representatives Osama al-Nujaifi expressed grave concern to what is happening in Hawija, calling for urgent solutions to the tragedy suffered by sitters and speed up to enter foods and water to the sit-in Square and end the siege. / End


Nouri al-Maliki's words last week set the stage for yesterday's slaughter

Nouri al-Maliki's words last week set the stage for yesterday's slaughter

The Common Ills

The best English article on Iraq today is Tim Arango's  article.  If you have the print version of the paper, you've got a strong version but I think the one online is better. The headline betrays objectivity but he didn't write the headline: "Dozens Killed in Battles Across Iraq as Sunnis Escalate Protests Against Government."  I think the more honest headline is "Sunnis Escalate Protests Against Government as Dozens Killed in Battles Across Iraq."  It covers yesterday's slaughter of the sit-in in Hawija.  

One thing's missing in the coverage of Hawija -- western or Arabic.  The protesters were attacked and slaughter yesterday.  Yes, that happened.  But what happened last week?  Or is no going to make the connection?  Yes, Friday, Nouri's forces killed 1 protester and wounded three others.  I'm not talk about that.  I'm talking about last week when Nouri rushed back to Baghdad in the middle of campaigning for State of Law candidates because he was publicly denounced as a "Liar" in the midst of a speech he gave attacking the protesters?

From Thursday's snapshot

  Kitabat reports that tribal leaders in Dhi Qar have signed a letter apologizing to activists.  For what?  For Nouri's "abusive verbal attack" on them.  Nouri gave a little speech where he called the peaceful activists lawless rebels and threatened to use force against them.  Peaceful protests have been going on across Iraq, peaceful protests against Nouri, since December. 
They aren't the only ones condemning Nouri for those remarks.  NINAnotes that Osama al-Nujaifi's party has condemned the remarks and called for Nouri to stop verbally attacking demonstrators and return to Baghdad to oversea security issues.  Osama al-Nujaifi is part of the Iraqiya political slate but this was his Motahedoon Coalition issuing the condemnation.  Iraqiya also condemned the remarks.  Maysoun al-Damlouji, Iraqiya spokesperson, is quoted by NINA stating, "Describing our honorable people who peacefully demonstrate across Iraq demanding their legitimate rights as conspirators is the ugliest words you can use against the oppressed people." Iraqiya MP Ahmed al-Alwani added that Nouri's attacks on demonstrators "incite sectarian strife."
Even Nouri's new bride Saleh al-Mutlaq is calling out the remarks leadingKitabat to wonder if the honeymoon is over for Nouri and Saleh or if this is just more propaganda from Saleh in an attempt to boost the votes for the National Dialogue Front? 

Nouri has returned to Baghdad. Kitabat explains that he rushed back to Baghdad after his speech in Nasiriyah was interrupted with cries of "Liar!" when he began verbally attacking the protesters.

Mike noted Jason Ditz ( explaining the problems with Nouri's claims that those attacked were terrorists and Ba'athists:

Iraqi troops raided the camp early in the day, and the Defense Ministryclaimed that they found rocket-propelled grenades and sniper rifles among the protesters. Mysteriously, none of these weapons appear to have been used by the protesters to protect themselves during the raid, and protest leaders say some of the slain were just run over by military vehicles during the advance on the camp.

What Nouri's presenting now, these charges?  It's what he's smeared protesters as and it what got him denounced as a liar.

There is talk of, and calls for, calm and careful dialogue from 'both sides.'  Then how about Nouri apologizes for his verbal attacks on protesters?  Those attacks give the go-ahead to his forces to treat the protesters as if they're something less than human.

Equally true, any real investigation into what happened will have to factor in Nouri's public remarks from last week. 

Kitabat notes that the Association of Muslim Scholars note that the government continues its assault on protesters only if its seeking to tear Iraq apart and the scholars are calling for this Friday's protests to be around the theme of national unity.  Alsumaria adds that the Arab League also expressed their concerns about what is happening in Iraq, called for a full investigation into what happened in Hawija and for those responsible to be brought to justice.

Already Nouri's State of Law thugs are trying to spin the slaughter.  Alsumaria reports State of Law is whispering that the Kurds benefit from the events in Hawija.  I'm sure they do.  I'm sure everyone who is not crazy Nouri al-Maliki benefits from the slaughter.  Everyone looks more mature, more like a leader, more everything.  

We didn't note a rumor in yesterday's snapshot because it was so stupid. But that's when State of Law started their whispers. And they tried to say the Peshmerga was in the square.  They weren't.  But that's what State of Law's trying to do now.

If there's anything more disgusting than slaughtering innocent civilians, it's then trying to pin that slaughter on your political opponents.  Nouri is responsible.  And all the whispers and rumors -- which is all the catty, backbiting bitches of State of Law have ever had to offer -- will not change the fact that Nouri's forces killed those people.  Nothing will change that, not all the bad gossip in the world.

Alsumaria notes Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk) has announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in yesterday's assault. Kitabat reports thousands have turned out today for the funerals of yesterday's victims -- they count at least 34 funerals -- and that mourners chanted slogans.  Sami al-Assi, a mourner, tells Kitbat that they don't want a commission or a committee or financial compensation, they want the killers punished.

The vote will becoming out soon, the totals.  Things to watch for?  There are rumors Ali al-Dabbagh is a contender.  I'm not interested in the horse racing aspect.  But for the last two weeks, he's been denounced (by State of Law largely) for a satellite TV interview he did with a member of Saddam Hussein's administration.   al-Dabbagh was Nouri's spokesperson until he suddenly quit announcing, basically, that not only was he not involved in the corrupt Russian arms deal, but also that he wasn't taking the fall for it. 

No results are known currently.  But this is news: Adil Abdul Mahdi is meetingwith other Shi'ites and stating that there should be no partnership among winning Shi'ites -- he says, "We should distribute the ten southern provinces on the winning political blocs" and not via coalitions formed after the elections.  Adil Abdul Mahdi is a two-term Vice President of Iraq.  He resigned in the summer of 2011 over government corruption and Nouri's inability, after promising he'd address it in 100 days, to address it.  He is a political rival of Nouri's.  He is also someone who wanted to be prime minister (and may still).  Big Oil was Mahdi's biggest supporter when it came to him being prime minister.  He also had comments on the voting -- click here for Kitabat if you're interested in that.  Again, we're waiting on the release of the numbers by the IHEC. 


Statement of The Central Committee of Coordination to Support the Iraqi Uprising On the Massacre of Hawija

Statement of The Central Committee of Coordination to Support the Iraqi Uprising On the Massacre of Hawija

The Central Committee of Coordination to Support the Iraqi Uprising

April 24, 2013

On Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at dawn, forces of the Iraqi army, led by the commander of the ground forces criminal Ali Ghaidan attacked a public square in the town of Hawija, in the province of Tamim (Kirkuk), where there were approximately 4,000 peaceful protestors. The attack resulted in the death of 50 civilians and wounding several hundreds according to security sources. The massacre comes after a siege of the square that lasted four days, cutting of water, food and medicine on the peaceful protesters. Many of the Iraqi cities in Anbar, Nineveh and Salahuddin announced civil disobedience to protest the siege of the protesters in Hawija.

For the last four months, millions of Iraqis in many cities have been participating in a sit-in protest against the repressive policy of the government of Nouri al-Maliki, especially against the inhuman treatment of detainees, torture, arbitrary arrests and abuses, particularly against women held in prison as hostages. They were also protesting against the administrative and financial corruption, the political paralysis and non-existent services and a sectarian government, wholly subjected to the will of the Iranian regime. It is important to remember that the head of the government, al-Maliki, has publicly threatened the peaceful protestors since the early days of the sit-in that he will use force to disperse them.

Although this is not the first time that the repressive Iraqi authorities assassinate the peaceful protestors, it had happened before in Fallujah, Baquba and other places during the past few months; and it has also carried out more arrests and violations of reprisals, and executions in response to the protest, instead of listening to the citizens and try to respond to their demands. But this time it has exceeded all limits and norms when the non-national sectarian army opened its fires against thousands of civilians in a horrific massacre, to the silence of the world, Arabs and Muslims.

The Central Committee of Coordination to Support the Iraqi Uprising, as it declares in the strongest expressions its condemnation and denunciation of these crimes, holds the illegal Iraqi authorities installed by the American occupation, the full responsibility for this slaughter, and all other crimes that preceded it. It also holds the entire international community, the United Nations, the Arab League and the Islamic Conference, and all human rights organizations and organizations calling for peace and democracy, holds them responsible for silence before shedding the Iraqi blood for 10 years of criminal occupation and its horrible consequences against the Iraqi people, land, economy, and culture.

At the same time, the Committee appeals to all the forces of good in the world, to support the Iraqi uprising of and the heroic Iraqi resistance in its struggle against the occupation, and exercise all the political, media, and legal pressures to expose this slaughter and prosecute its perpetrators.

The Central Committee of Coordination to Support the Iraqi Uprising
April 23rd, 2013