and other news from Today in Palestine:
Settlers / Land, property, resource theft and destruction / Ethnic cleansing
Farmer: Settlers burned my sheep alive
NABLUS 18 Dec — A farmer said he watched a group of settlers in the northern West Bank gather his sheep and set them on fire Saturday afternoon. When he returned to the area, he told officials, he found 12 sheep burned alive, five with severe burns and two others that were only lightly burned … Mayor of Aqraba, the village near where the attack took place, Jawdat Bani Jabir, identified the farmer as 40-year-old Samir Muhammad Bani Fadl.
Settlers accused of felling trees near Nablus
Nablus 18 Dec – Israeli settlers from Givat Gilad settlement were accused Saturday of entering the agricultural lands of two farmer and felling fruit trees in a small field. Reporting the incident was Ghassan Daghlas, the Palestinian Authority official charged with cataloging settler vandalism and violence, who said the farmland was next to the village of Tell, south of Nablus in the northern West Bank
Religious Jews make midnight pilgrimage into occupied village
17 Dec – Shortly before midnight on Friday morning residents of the Salfit-district village of Kifl Haris reported dozens of Israeli military vehicles and bus-loads of what were described by locals as “settlers” entering the area. Locals estimated some 3,000 “settlers” – religious Jews, many from settlements in the occupied West Bank – entered the area as protecting troops set up checkpoints and barricades around a small tomb in the village. Locals say the tomb belongs to a sheikh from the village, while religious Jews visiting the site say it is the final resting place of Joshua ben Nun, leader of early Jewish tribes.
‘Loyal to shahidim’ inscribed on historic site (Ynet)
Abusive inscriptions at Jewish tomb site: Worshippers who came to pray in the early hours of Friday morning at the Samaria site where according to tradition, Joshua ben Nun and Calev ben Yefuneh are buried, were in for an unpleasant surprise – abusive inscriptions in Arabic graffitied on the walls of the site … “We swear – we will stay faithful to the blood of the shahidim” [Really? Wouldn’t a real Arabic speaker use the Arabic plural of “shahid”: “shuhadaa'”?]
Forgotten territory: The political, economic and social impact of the Israeli occupation on the Golan Heights / A. Dillon
Part 2: The anatomy of occupation — Part 2 in this continuing series on the Golan Heights will begin examining the parallels between the Israeli government’s occupations of the Golan and the Palestinian Territories. The commonalities between these two military engagements stretch back to 1967, when both territories were first invaded and occupied by Israeli military forces during the Six Day War with Syria, Jordan, and Egypt. Since then, Israeli government practices within the two regions have been decidedly similar in some ways, and surprisingly different in others.
Former Egyptian official claims Israel is working to reoccupy Sinai
17 Dec - A former official in the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has warned of Israeli intentions and efforts to reoccupy the Sinai Peninsula. Ambassador Hassan Issa, the former Director of the Israel desk at the Ministry said, “Israel has worked and is still working towards achieving its goal of returning to Sinai, and Israelis speak openly about this.” According to Mr. Issa, “Israel won’t rest unless it reoccupies Sinai” because “there are strategic, economic and religious reasons for doing so, including Israeli tourism to Sinai, which has objectives related to the Torah”.
Gaza teen dead after Israel fires on fishing boat
17 Dec – GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — A Palestinian boy died Friday afternoon after Israeli gunboats opened fire on his fishing boat and flipped it over off the coast of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Gaza medical services spokesman Adham Abu Salmiya said 15-year-old Ziad Samir Al-Bardawil died after being treated for his injuries at the Abu Yousef An-Najjar Hospital.
IDF denies claim of responsibility for death in Gaza waters
18 Dec – The IDF early Saturday morning denied reports that an Israeli combat ship caused the death of a 15-year-old Palestinian working on a fishing boat, Army Radio reported. According to the report, “the Army does not recognize the event” in question that was mentioned in an earlier report by the Palestinian Ma’an news agency.
Activism / Solidarity / Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions
Young man shot in the head by a tear gas projectile at the weekly demonstration in An Nabi Saleh
17 Dec (ISM) Friday, at the weekly demonstration held in the village of An Nabi Saleh, a young Palestinian was shot by a tear gas canister in the back of his head. Falling down, he was further injured on the front of his head. The military continued to shoot tear gas into the area, without regard for the people coming to help the young unconscious man. It took over 45 minutes before an ambulance arrived, as the army stopped it and prevented them from entering the village.
Beit Ummar rally sees internationals detained
HEBRON 18 Dec – Four international peace activists were detained, one soldier lightly injured and the roof of a home taken over in Beit Ummar during a weekly protest held at the edge of the town, where demonstrators decried the confiscation of Palestinian lands for the Karmi Ztur settlement.
Demonstrators scale the separation wall in Ni`lin
(with photos) Roughly thirty demonstrators including Israeli and international supporters marched peacefully to the Separation Wall as part of the weekly unarmed protest in Ni’ilin. Protesters were attacked with tear gas and soldiers entered Ni’ilin’s agricultural lands, chasing the demonstration back to the village … As soldiers entered the agricultural land they used tear gas projectiles as large bullets, firing them directly at demonstrators. This is an illegal method of crowd control and breaks Israeli army rules of conduct in crowd control situations.
Demonstrations across the West Bank
18 Dec – Dozens of demonstrators inhaled tear gas which was fired at them by Israeli forces during peaceful marches around the West Bank on Friday, onlookers said.
Emily Henochowitz is looking for work
1 Dec – Emily Henochowicz is of course the New York art student who lost her left eye to Israeli arms during a demonstration in the occupied territories against the flotilla attack on May 31. Henochowicz is a wonderful illustrator and animation artist and she needs work, also seeks a connection to animator Bill Plympton….
Video: Italy prepares second aid flotilla to Gaza
Milan, 17 Dec – Italy’s Palestine Forum group is at the heart of the efforts to provide aid and support to the Palestinians and is now planning a second convoy of aid to Gaza and the West Bank.
Asia convoy seeks to break Gaza siege
18 Dec – An Asian aid convoy comprising of politicians and activists from 18 countries, including Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, New Zealand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates is on its way to Gaza in an attempt to break Israel’s four year siege on the Strip. The “Asia to Gaza Solidarity Caravan” departed from New Delhi earlier this month and arrived in Turkey yesterday where it will hold a meeting in the Kurdish city of Diyar Bakr Saturday. The convoy’s activists include Muslims, Christians, Jews and Buddhists.
This holiday season, give a gift to Gaza
15 Dec – Dear Friend of the Canadian Boat to Gaza Project, What if you could bring real tidings of comfort and joy to the people of Palestine? And what if you could do it with the click of a button? … This holiday season, will you consider giving the gift of justice? Rather than buying a gift at a store, please consider making a donation to the Canadian Boat to Gaza in a loved one’s name. Simply go to http://canadaboatgaza.org/cms/sites/cbg/en/donations.aspx and use our easy PayPal button. Then print off a gift card for your recipient.
Memorial for victims of Mavi Marmara erected in Spain
18 Dec – A monument was unveiled in the Spanish capital Madrid to commemorate nine Turkish activists killed by Israeli commandos in the May 31 raid on Gaza-Bound aid ship Mavi Marmara. The monument, designed by sculptors Roxanne Robinson and Arevalo Beteta, was erected at the Palestine Park in Leganes near Madrid at the initiatives of three Spanish activists supported by several non-governmental organizations.
Unmanned Mexican drone crashes near El Paso, Texas
16 Dec – A remote-control drone operated by the Mexican government crashed in the United States near El Paso, Texas, this week, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency confirms to TPM … A Google search turns up a drone called a Orbiter Mini UAV made by Aeronautics Defense Systems, an Israeli company (check out the brochure and a video of the Orbiter in action here and here).
Siege / Restriction on movement / Other rights violations
An elderly woman allowed to return to Gaza after 62 years of exile
GAZA, (PIC) 17 Dec — Egyptian authorities allowed an elderly Palestinian woman to return to the Gaza Strip after she spent 62 years in exile in Jordan apart from her husband and children. Ne’mah Mattar Khamees, in her eighties, was exiled in 1948 by the Israeli occupation to Jordan … One of her daughters and one of her sons died without her having a chance of seeing them and she lived alone in Amman where she survived on charity and neighbours’ help.
Egypt intensifies clampdown on smuggling tunnels, say Palestinian sources (dpa)
18 Dec – Egyptian authorities have intensified their crackdown on smugglers’ tunnels to Gaza over the past few days, according to Palestinian sources. They said the authorities have discovered new tunnels, destroyed several and confiscated large quantities of goods that were on their way to Gaza. Tunnel owners said the crackdown focused on districts where there is a larger number of tunnels, adding that increased numbers of policemen have been deployed on the border during the campaign.
Gaza crossings closed; exports remain limited
17 Dec – Crossing terminals for the transfer of aid and commercial goods into Gaza were closed by Israeli officials on Friday, cutting short the planned transport week by one day, Palestinian liaison officers said. During the previous week of crossings activity, the bulk goods terminal was remarkably open three days in a row, expanding operations by one full day amid concerns of dwindling wheat and animal feed reserves … Despite the increase in operations, however, a report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said wheat reserves inside Gaza “remain extremely low, due to the limited operation of the conveyor belt at Karni Crossing.”
Waiting for H: 8 hours with no passport at TLV airport / Yuval Ben-Ami
16 Dec – My friend H is arriving from Sweden for a conference in Jerusalem. Though Palestinian by roots and Arab by name, H is a Swedish national and a proud subject to the three crowns. The conference deals with world history and its effects on the region. It features a three day seminar at the Yad Vashem Holocaust history institute. H chose to arrive a few days earlier and enjoy our mild winter. I’ve known her for years through Swedish friends and offered to put her up … H was due to land last night at 2:30. At 3:00 she texted to let us know that she has arrived and is kept at the “Arab room in Ben-Gurion”. It is now 10:00 in the morning, and nothing has changed since
Report details hopeless conditions in Gaza
17 Dec – LONDON (ABP) — Residents of Gaza see no hope for a brighter future — and that’s one of the most distressing aspects of the situation in the Middle East, according to an international Christian aid-and-development group’s advocacy officer for the region. Hanan Elmasu of the United Kingdom-based organization Christian Aid worked on a new briefing detailing the impact of Israel’s measures to ease the blockade of Gaza after six months.
Broken lives / Ilana Hammerman
The process of freeing a Palestinian who is desperate to support his family and was caught working illegally inside the Green Line is prolonged, painful and fraught with red tape … It follows from these data that refusal of entry is imposed sweepingly and arbitrarily on tens of thousands of Palestinians who want to work, and is not in fact based on concrete security considerations. Human rights organizations – which are unable to say who came up with it – say the policy of turning a blind eye to tens of thousands of people crossing into Israel in search of work derives from the fact that the closure of the territories is simply irreconcilable with the needs of the public: In Israel there is work and a huge demand for workers; in the territories, there is less need for them. But they want to and must work in order to exist.
Mr. President, answer Matthew Lee of the AP: ‘Why is it beneath the United States to come out and say something about this practitioner of nonviolence?’ / Philip Weiss
17 Dec – Please just watch this. If you don’t do anything else today, watch this. Promise me. Then send it to your friends. Words escape me this is so brilliant. It breaks my heart with moral urgency and sorrow. Awake America. Matthew Lee of the Associated Press stands up for days on end for imprisoned Palestinian civil disobedience leader Abdallah Abu Rahmah, at the State Department.
State Department says it has ‘raised’ Rahmah case with Israelis / Philip Weiss
17 Dec – We have just learned that Matthew Lee of AP again raised the Abdallah Abu Rahmah case this afternoon at the State Department, and the following dialogue ensued, with Ass’t Sec’y P.J.
Israeli educators press leaders on arrest of minors
17 Dec – Sixty Israeli educators wrote to the country’s leaders urging them to adhere to the law when arresting and interrogating Palestinian minors in eastern Jerusalem. The letter organized by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel outlines reports of arrests of children as young as 8, some occurring late at night, and interrogations lacking the presence of a parent—all violations of Israeli law governing the treatment of suspects under 12.
Israel extends detention of Sheikh Jarrah teen
17 Dec – Israeli police extended by one day the detention of Ayman Al-Ghawi, 19, from the East Jerusalem of Shiekh Jarrah, his family reported Thursday. Al-Ghawi was detained while he was with his mother in the nearby Wadi Aj-Joz neighborhood after an Israeli settler living in the occupied area filed a complaint against the boy, when he hit the settler’s dog with his backpack.
Palestinian captives in Hawwara complain of harsh conditions
NABLUS, (PIC) 17 Dec — Palestinian captives at the Hawwara detention centre near the northern West Bank city of Nablus … complained during lawyer visits that the conditions at the detention centre are extremely harsh and the captives do not know what to do to protect themselves against the cold weather because of the lack of blankets, any heating means and the fact that the detention centre is semi open space.
Hamas: PA detained 18 supporters across West Bank
NABLUS 18 Dec – The arrests, which could not be confirmed by Ma’an, were carried out in the northern districts of Nablus, Salfit, Qalqiliya, Jenin, Tulkarem, and Tubas as well as southern districts of Hebron and Bethlehem, the statement said. Noting a trend of continued politically motivated detentions, the statement said some 40 Hamas-affiliated students and teachers at An-Najah National University in Nablus marked their 100th day in detention on Friday.
Police detain ‘escaped collaborator’
RAMALLAH 17 Dec — Palestinian police detained on Friday an escaped prisoner in Ramallah who was sentenced to life in jail for collaboration with the enemy … Police said he would be placed in a rehabilitation center to serve his sentence. The public prosecution said the fugitive escaped from Jericho’s prison in 2006.
Racism / Discrimination
In Israel, a rabbi who argues that anti-Arab measures are un-Jewish
17 Dec – Jerusalem — At first glance, Arik Ascherman seems more like a soft-spoken university lecturer than a combative crusader for the rights of the “other,” be they Palestinian or African refugee. Yet the American-born rabbi is embroiled in two of Israel’s main conflicts today: the struggle with Palestinians over the West Bank and, within Israel, a rising tide of anti-Arab and anti-foreigner sentiment.
Abbas summons rival Qaddumi for Fatah reconciliation
AMMAN, Jordan 18 Dec — A former top Fatah leader who fell out with current leader Mahmoud Abbas during the lead-up to the last Fatah conference was summoned to Amman by his rival on Thursday for what sources said was a reconciliation effort.
Hamas: Fatah asks for unity meeting amid internal row
RAMALLAH 18 Dec — Hamas officials are mulling dates for what Fatah leaders have called the “final round” of unity talks, a report from the Hamas-linked Palestinian Information Center said Saturday. Citing informed Palestinian sources, the news site said the invitation was extended following an internal Fatah argument, with members disagreeing over whether to invite Hamas officials for continued talks.
PLC head calls for releasing political prisoners
18 Dec – Head of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLS), Dr. Aziz Dweik of the Hamas movement, called on the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank to release all political prisoners in order to create a positive atmosphere for internal unity and reconciliation talks.
Palestinian PM: Plan for statehood by 2011 remains on track
18 Dec – Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said Saturday that his plan to establish a Palestinian state by August 2011 remains on course. In an interview with Channel 2, Fayyad denied that the Palestinians aim to seek unilateral recognition or any other alternative to a two-state solution.
Israeli MK: Unilateral statehood not the answer
TEL AVIV, Israel 18 Dec — Israeli minister with the centrist Likud party, Yossi Peled said Saturday said that a solution imposed by the world in the form of a recognized unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state would be “without benefit,” Radio Israel reported.
Ban Ki-Moon names settlement freeze a top UN goal for 2011
18 Dec – The United Nations named improving the living conditions in the Gaza Strip and ending Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as part of its goals for 2011, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Friday.
Et tu Canberra? / Philip Weiss
…the hypocrisy of continuing to allow Israel to have a nuclear monopoly while gearing up for war against Iran because it seeks to join the club is becoming unsupportable among western/downunder democracies (so naturally some of them are going to seek the deproliferation of the Middle East).
Landowners angered over new West Bank road plan
BETHLEHEM 18 Dec – A plan to construct a more direct road connecting the south and central West Bank has been protested by government officials, but land owners angered by what would be a forced sale said Saturday that they intend to have the plan struck down. With Israel’s separation wall cutting off access to direct routes to the northern West Bank via Jerusalem, the treacherous valley route running through Wadi Nar (Fire Valley) was developed over the years to what is now a small highway snaking around 90 degree turns and up steep inclines. The proposal, Mayor of Al-Ubeidiya Suleiman Al-Asa said, would have lands of village residents effectively confiscated to divert the road north before it descended into Wadi Nar.
Latin Patriarch: The message of Christmas remains peace
BETHLEHEM 18 Dec — “We are running after peace, but it keeps evading us,” Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fuad Tawwal told Palestinians on Saturday … As Christians around the world prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ, Tawwal sent a message to the global community. “Christians are not an island in the Holy Land, what happens to the Palestinians also happens to Palestinian Christians,” he said.
Hyena population growing ‘out of control’ near Hebron
17 Dec – Police in Hebron recently told residents they would be unable to assist with a recent expansion of the hyena population because they have to seek authorization from Israeli officials first. The increase in the number of wild animals around the town of Halhoul, midway between Bethlehem and Hebron, has resulted in what residents say is an increase in incidents threatening dogs, livestock and children.
Israeli companies outsourcing to Palestinians (AP)
17 Dec – …Many Israeli tech firms send work offshore to eastern Europe, India or China. In the past three years, however, some have turned to Palestinian engineers and programmers. They are cheaper, ambitious, work in the same time zone, and – surprisingly to many Israelis – are remarkably similar to them … If there is hesitation, it’s in marketing Israeli products under a Palestinian name to tap into larger Arab markets off-limits to them.
Beneath Dead Sea, scientists are drilling for natural history
17 Dec – Scientists are extracting a record of climate change and earthquake history, and their early findings are “changing everything we thought we knew.”
Cyprus, Israel define sea border for energy search (AFP)
NICOSIA 17 Dec — Cyprus and Israel signed an agreement Friday that defines their sea border and allows the neighbours to forge ahead in the search for energy sources in the eastern Mediterranean. This is seen as another step in Cyprus’ search for undersea oil and gas deposits. The island has already signed similar agreements with Egypt and Lebanon. [and what about the oil and gas off the Gaza coast?]
Mobile phones for women: a new approach for social welfare in the developing world
17 Dec – Enas Salameh, a 24-year-old college graduate living in the Palestinian West Bank city of Jenin, needed a job this summer. But her family finds it unacceptable for a woman to venture alone into the city without a male companion or an appointment. Fortunately, it’s fine to use a mobile phone. In fact, although only 16 percent of Palestinian households have Internet access, 81 percent have a cell phone, according to a 2009 United Nations report.
Opinion / Analysis
The devil’s in the discourse / Nadia Hijab
17 Dec – …The U.S. is now on the wrong side of the discourse in more ways than one. The letter sent this month by 26 former European Union leaders to top EU officials and member states challenged the open-ended nature of the U.S. peace process — and America’s monopoly over the Middle East — by proposing a deadline of April 2011 to refer the conflict to the international community if there is no progress.
Blowback: Israel leaves us no choice but to boycott / Ali Abunimah
17 Dec – Palestinians have already given up so much since 1948. It’s up to Israel to end its campaign of ethnic cleansing for the peace process to move forward.
Ship of Fools 2 / Uri Avnery
…“SHIP OF FOOLS 1” went down on Yom Kippur. 2600 young Israelis, the flower of a generation, drowned with it. The “incapable” Egyptians crossed the Suez Canal, and the glorious Bar-Lev Line, the pride of the Israeli army, collapsed … “Ship of Fools 2” will also founder. We cannot foresee how. Will it be a war that will lay waste to our towns and villages? Will it be an Islamic revolution in the Arab countries? Will world politics change dramatically? There is one important difference between Ship 1 and Ship 2: then the whole world loved us, now many around the world detest us.
Israeli rabbis commit atrocity against Jewish history / Yoram Kaniuk
Renowned Israeli author Yoram Kaniuk on the Rabbi’s letter forbidding rental of apartments to Arabs — When settlers and Rabbis called the policemen and soldiers of Israel “Nazis”, hardly anyone spoke out. When I voiced criticism over this, I received phone threats. Then, last week, when MK and MD Professor Aryeh Eldad sided with rabbis who warned their flock not to rent or sell property to non-Jews, I remembered that in Nazi Germany many physicians also identified with Hitler. The term “Nazi” now lingers once more in the air, but on the opposite side to that of settlers who swore at soldiers. The word “Nazi” now lingers because the Rabbis who signed the racist declaration committed an atrocity against Jewish history.
France gives Lebanon anti-tank missiles (AFP)
BEIRUT 17 Dec — France will give Lebanon 100 anti-tank missiles, a government official said on Friday, confirming a deal that raised concerns in Israel and the United States earlier this year. “Prime Minister Saad Hariri was informed on Wednesday of the French decision to supply the army with 100 … HOT missiles that will be used by the military’s Gazelle helicopters,” the official told AFP. “The missiles will be delivered before the end of February and are being given with no conditions attached,” the official added.
Lebanon submits official complaint to UN over Israeli ‘spy devices’
18 Dec – Spy devices bearing Hebrew lettering found in Lebanon last week; Lebanese radio attributes Wednesday’s explosion to IAF covering up espionage — Lebanon submitted an official complaint to the United Nations Security Council over spy installations, allegedly from Israel, which were found in two separate areas near Beirut, Kuwaiti media reported on Saturday.
Friday: 8 Iraqis wounded / Margaret Griffis
At least eight Iraqis were wounded during the latest attacks. Although Ashuraa observances have ended, pilgrims on their way home are targets for new violence. Meanwhile, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that authorizes $160 billion towards wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Also, the U.N.’s High Commission for Refugees criticized Sweden for repatriating five Iraqi Christians who failed to win asylum.
BBC Video: Living with the ‘scars’ of sectarian violence in Iraq
17 Dec – Dozens of suspected militants have been arrested in Iraq, for plotting violent attacks on Shiite pilgrims who have been commemorating the most important day of their religious calendar. The once shockingly high levels of sectarian violence are falling but as Gabriel Gatehouse reports some Iraqis are still living in fear.
Iraqi Christians flee Baghdad after cathedral massacre / Martin Chulov in Baghdad
17 Dec – Thousands of Christians have been forced to flee in seeking refuge from militant attacks after the siege at a Catholic cathedral in October, the United Nations said today. The UN High Commission For Refugees said at least 1,000 families had fled Baghdad and Mosul since 1 September for the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq. A further 133 families had registered with the organisation in Syria, as had 109 individuals in Jordan.
Iraqi refugees match Californians in obesity rates (Reuters)
LOS ANGELES, Dec 17 – Iraqi refugees newly arrived in the United States are exhibiting high rates of chronic health conditions, including the same prevalence of obesity as Californians, government researchers reported. Iraqis represent the largest group of refugees resettling in the United States, accounting for 28,000 arrivals during the past two years — or 21 percent of the total — with nearly a quarter going to California, the most for any other state.
Allawi says will join Iraq govt if given real power (Reuters)
BAGHDAD 17 Dec – Former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said on Friday he will join a new Iraqi government led by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki if the premier follows through on promises and makes him a genuine partner.
Video: Amid the chaos, Iraqis turn to TV, Web to be heard
BAGHDAD 17 Dec – Amid political gridlock, endemic corruption, infrastructure breakdowns and persistent violence, ordinary Iraqis often feel that the chaos drowns out their voices. On television and online, however, there’s plenty of space to be heard. http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2010/12/17/105488/amid-the-chaos-iraqis-turn-to.html
Iraq’s troubled media / Hiwa Osman
17 Dec – How would you assess the Iraqi news media’s coverage of politics this year, and how would you compare it with coverage of the parliamentary election in January 2005? I would say that the coverage was a reflection of politics itself. The media is split along the same political lines that exist in today’s Iraq: sectarian, ethnic, pro- and anti-government. Most media outlets are backed by political parties, and covered events from their own perspective.
Saudi Shiites and Sunnis scuffle on Shiite feast (Reuters)
RIYADH, 17 Dec – Saudi security forces dispersed crowds of Shi’ite and Sunni Muslims after scuffles broke out in the city of Medina during the Shi’ite mourning holiday of Ashura late on Thursday, Shi’ite sources and a local journalist said. Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia applies an austere version of Sunni Islam called Wahhabism, and minority Shi’ites say that, while their situation has improved slightly under reforms launched by King Abdullah, they still face many restrictions and discrimination. The government denies these charges.
Qaddafi son’s charity to stop championing reform (AP)
18 Dec – CAIRO: A charitable foundation led by the son of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi says it wants to avoid political activities and focus on humanitarian work … “The Qaddafi Foundation received some negative criticism because of perceived political overtones after an incident involving the supply of humanitarian aid to the citizens of Gaza,” it said, quoting board member Richard J. Roberts, British biochemist and a 1993 Nobel laureate … The statement didn’t make clear what the foundation would do with ongoing projects in Gaza, such as the $50 million allocated to new housing in the Hamas-run Palestinian strip and small-scale projects for 800 families, or a health clinic in the West Bank.
Pakistan / Afghanistan
Pakistani officials: US drone strike kills 54 in Khyber / Jason Ditz
17 Dec – Last night’s US drone strikes against the Khyber Agency, which killed seven suspects, appeared to be only the tip of the iceberg, as Pakistani officials now report that the United States has launched a salvo of missiles against the agency, killing at least 54. The major strikes hit in the Spin Darang village, and were said to be targeting a meeting among suspected Lashkar-e Islam members, a group with a strong presence in Khyber which, like virtually every other faction of Pashtuns in the tribal areas, is often referred to as a “Pakistani Taliban” faction.
CIA chief pulled from Pakistan; drones kill 54 (AP)
ISLAMABAD 17 Dec – The CIA yanked its top spy out of Pakistan after his cover was blown and his life threatened, and 54 suspected militants were killed in a U.S. drone missile attack Friday in stark new signs of the troubled relationship between mistrustful allies locked in a war on terror groups … The drone attacks Friday took place in the Khyber tribal region, which has been rarely struck by American missiles over the past three years. That could indicate an expansion of the CIA-led covert campaign of drone strikes inside Pakistan. Most of the more than 100 missile attacks this year inside Pakistan have taken place in North Waziristan
Why night raids may doom US prospects in Afghanistan (TIME)
16 Dec – Night-time raids by Special Forces have become a mainstay of the U.S.-led war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, but they have turned much of the local population in the war zone against the Western presence. The conflicting narratives over what transpired in an Oct. 3 raid in the rugged farming hamlet of Loyi Rud, near the Pakistan border, is typical of the disconnect between the NATO mission and many of those it purports to protect.
Gains in Kandahar came with more brutal US tactics / Gareth Porter
18 Dec – …The military offensive in Kandahar, which had been opposed clearly and vocally by the local leadership in the province, was accompanied by an array of military tactics marked by increased brutality. The most prominent of those tactics was a large-scale demolition of homes that has left widespread bitterness among the civilians who had remained in their villages when the U.S.-NATO offensive was launched, as well as those who had fled before the offensive.
We want you out: an open letter from the Afghan Youth Peace volunteers and Afghans for Peace
17 Dec – We will listen to the People on December 19th, on the Global Day of Listening to Afghans, and we invite every one of you to pick up your phone to call us, to share one another’s pain, and to call our world to urgent reconciliation. We invite the world public opinion to overwhelm us! Email email@example.com to arrange a call.
Kabul silent over Obama’s Afghan war review (Reuters)
KABUL 17 Dec – Afghanistan’s leaders, overlooked in the summary of a “brutally honest” U.S. war strategy review, did not offer any response to the long-awaited report on Friday in a sign of the often uneasy ties between Kabul and Washington.
Afghan war not worth it, say most Americans
US public support for the war in Afghanistan has reached a record low, overshadowing a major review that has revealed modest progress in the conflict. Sixty per cent of Americans now say the war has not been ”worth fighting”, with 43 per cent ”strongly” of that opinion.
U.S. and other world news
Canada: Promoting Jewish victimhood as guise for victimizing Palestinians / Yves Engler
17 Dec – Last week the House of Commons unanimously passed a private member’s bill to establish a national Holocaust monument. While it is a good thing to commemorate the suffering of Jews in Europe, it is important to point out that uncritical support for Israel is part of the backdrop … Alongside its ardent support for Israel, Stephen Harper’s Conservative government has promoted the commemoration of Nazi crimes and the idea that anti-Semitism is worse than other forms of oppression. Concurrently, they’ve repeatedly conflated criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism.
US, last holdout on native rights declaration, reverses stand / Matthew O. Berger
WASHINGTON 17 Dec – U.S. President Barack Obama announced Thursday he was reversing the U.S.’s position and endorsing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples … In making the announcement toward the end of a speech opening the second annual White House Tribal Nations Conference, Obama’s words were followed by the applause of the some 300-plus representatives of federally recognised tribes and others in attendance … Obama noted that “by virtue of the longstanding failure to tackle wrenching problems in Indian Country, it seemed as though you had to either abandon your heritage or accept a lesser lot in life; that there was no way to be a successful part of America and a proud Native American.”
US backing for indigenous rights treaty hailed at UN
18 Dec – The announcement by U.S. President Barack Obama that the United States supports the landmark United Nations treaty outlining the rights of the world’s estimated 370 million indigenous peoples was hailed on Friday at the world body. [Would the US consider the Palestinians ‘indigenous’? Unlikely.]
Former Guantanamo detainee urges judge to clear him (Reuters)
NEW YORK (17 Dec) – Lawyers for the first Guantanamo detainee to have faced a U.S. civilian trial have asked the judge either to clear the Tanzanian terrorism suspect or grant him another trial. A U.S. jury found Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, 36, not guilty of all but one charge in November following a five-week trial.
The Republican congressman who supported terrorism / Justin Elliott
17 Dec – Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., is set to assume the chairmanship of the House Homeland Security Committee in January, and today comes the news that he intends to launch an investigation of “radicalization” among American Muslims. In some perverse sense, King, who has represented part of Long Island in Congress since 1993, may be just the man for the job: He spent years openly supporting the terrorist Irish Republican Army.
Shirin Sadeghi: Obama isn’t doing enough to scare America
17 Dec – The Christian Science Monitor‘s entire Editorial Board this week appears to have made a public plea for President Obama to undertake propaganda techniques to brainwash the American public into the levels of fear that allowed the wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq to be undertaken in the first place.
WikiLeaks cables lay bare US hostility to international criminal court
17 Dec – US embassy dispatches reveal American preoccupation with discerning court’s views on Iraq
Spielberg movies banned by Arab League, WikiLeaks cable reveals
17 Dec – Leaked dispatch reveals diplomats from 14 Arab states voted to ban the director’s films in response to his donation to Israel
Larry Flynt: Why I am donating $50,000 to WikiLeaks’ defense fund
Let’s get something straight: Julian Assange is a journalist. You can argue that he is not practicing journalism the way you think it should be practiced — releasing classified U.S. State Department documents — but he’s a journalist nonetheless. And for many of us he’s a hero … WikiLeaks had existed in 2003 when George W. Bush was ginning up the war in Iraq, America might not be in the horrendous situation it is today, with our troops fighting in three countries (counting Pakistan) and the consequent cost in blood and dollars.
WikiLeaks: Australia law not broken, says Prime Minister Julia Gillard
SYDNEY 16 Dec – Police in Australia have concluded that WikiLeaks and its Australian-born founder Julian Assange have not broken any laws in his home country by publishing classified U.S. documents, the government said Friday.
Julian Assange: WikiLeaks faces ‘very aggressive’ investigation by US
17 Dec – Organisation’s founder says he is reliant on public opinion to rein in ‘superpower that does not appear to be following rule of law’ — WikiLeaks faces a “very aggressive” and secretive investigation by US authorities stung by a perceived loss of face following the release of thousands of secret American diplomatic cables, the organisation’s founder, Julian Assange, said today.