February 19th, 2011

EDITOR: The Empire lives on!

In a cynical and bigoted reaction to criticism, Ian McEwan has tried to square the political circle – to take the 30 pieces of silver from the Murderous regime, as well as to criticise the same people whose money he takes, and whose policies he supports by agreeing to deal with them in defiance of the many calls for him to do the decent thing and give up the prize. Like Margaret Atwood before him, he proves that avarice and the need for more fame and praise, by whatever means, is winning over humanity and morality with world-famous writers. Novelists they may be, moral figures they are not!
McEwan proves that he is a worthwhile sone of the British Empire, the power which created and complicated the conflict in Palestine, and acts as one who inherited and perfected the typical hypocrisy of the empire.

Ian McEwan to accept Israel book award but criticise occupation: The Guardian

Novelist defends his acceptance of prize after calls to reject it in protest at occupation of Palestinian territories
Harriet Sherwood in Tel Aviv

Ian McEwan at a press conference in Tel Aviv. Photograph: Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

The novelist Ian McEwan will criticise Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land in his speech accepting the Jerusalem Prize for literature on Sunday evening, saying that the open and democratic nature of novels is antithetical to the government’s settlement policies in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

He will refer to “a strand of nihilism which is closing off the future here”, he told the Guardian shortly after his arrival in Israel for the ceremony. His attendance has drawn bitter criticism from supporters of the Palestinian cause.

The author took part in the weekly protest in Sheikh Jarrah, an area of East Jerusalem which has seen Jewish settlers evict Palestinian residents to take over their homes and establish hardline footholds in the Arab part of the city.

In the company of the celebrated Israeli author David Grossman, McEwan spoke to activists who told him they appreciated his presence. “The welcome I had from various strands of the Israeli peace movement completely vindicated my decision to come,” he said. “They feel the tide is running against them. I feel it’s very important to support that important hope and conscience. It was very stirring.”

McEwan attempted to get close to the homes from which long-term Palestinian residents have been expelled by settlers but was prevented by Israeli security forces. “But I got a good sense of how Palestinian families are waiting to be evicted,” he said, adding they faced a “relentless tide”.

He said he intended to “make my own thoughts clear” when accepting the prize from Jerusalem’s mayor, Nir Barkat, an enthusiastic advocate of expanding the Jewish presence in the east of the city.

East Jerusalem was occupied and later annexed by Israel in 1967 in a move illegal under international law and not recognised by most of the international community. Settlement building and expansion there has been a key issue blocking peace negotiations.

The Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.

McEwan said he planned to make further visits to East Jerusalem and the West Bank during his stay.

Earlier, at a press conference in Tel Aviv, the author described Israel as a “country with true democracy of opinion” and defended his decision to receive the award, saying it was “much more useful to come and engage and keep speaking” than to freeze out or boycott Israel over its occupation of the Palestinian territories.

“I am very conscious of being in a country with a true democracy of opinion,” he said. “I am perfectly aware that you cannot isolate [literature] but I take it as a bad sign when politics permeates every corner of life. I don’t feel I endorse every corner of Israel’s domestic or foreign policy … but I feel it’s right to engage with it.”

He said it was a great honour to be awarded the prize, to be presented at the opening of Jerusalem’s International Book Fair, pointing to past recipients as “writers and philosophers of such distinction”.

“Like most people, I want Israel to flourish. I’m very concerned that things have reached such a stalemate politically. It seems to me to be a rather depressing time politically to come here – but that makes it all the more urgent to keep talking.”

McEwan faced calls in the UK to reject the prize in protest at Israel’s continued occupation of the Palestinian territories. In a letter to the Guardian last month, British Writers in Support of Palestine said the writer’s acceptance of an award in recognition of individual freedom in society was “a cruel joke and a propaganda tool for the Israeli state”.

The author responded at the time by saying that despite his opposition to illegal settlements, he was in favour of “dialogue, engagement, and looking for ways in which literature … can reach across political divides”. On Friday, he said it was a “fatal error to confuse people with their governments”.

He had spent the past few weeks “camped out in front of my television set” watching the pro-democracy protests in Egypt and other countries in the region.

He felt exhilarated by what he saw, and was struck by the swift collapse of the “social contract – how people feel bold enough to withdraw their consent. Crowds aren’t usually wise, but [the Egyptian protesters’] restraint under pressure was heroic.”

But he warned that “the story was still unfolding”. Referring to the bloody response of the Bahrain regime to protests, he said: “Egypt has raised the game for the tyrant – they know they’ve got to get in quick and hold everyone down.”

He added: “For every moment of exhilaration on the street, there is a Robespierre in waiting.”

He hoped the Israeli government would “welcome the spread of democracy rather than be too distrusting. Netanyahu said Israel must hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Hoping for the best is not enough, maybe [Israel] should be agitating for the best.”

Israel, he suggested, should harness its creativity in other spheres to the peace process. “Politics is too bunker. Israel needs to summon up the creative energy of its scientists, musicians, writers and artists and extend it into politics.”

He paid tribute to contemporary Israeli novelists such as Grossman, Amos Oz and AB Yehoshua, who “had made a huge impact around the world”.

McEwan declined to discuss his next novel, saying only it was “slightly more historical, meaning it’s set in 1972″ than his latest book, Solar, about climate change.

He hoped the award of the Jerusalem prize was not a valedictory on his career, “especially as I’m half way through my next novel. I feel like Mrs Thatcher: I will go on and on.”

Prize controversies

The literary prize suggests a rarefied world, but it can also be a contentious one. Launched in 1996 to counter a perceived overlooking of women authors by existing literary awards, it was the Orange prize’s very raison d’être that attracted ire.

Amid widespread chuntering about it being discriminatory, Germaine Greer, pictured, complained that someone would soon found a prize for writers with red hair, while Auberon Waugh nicknamed it the Lemon prize. Guardian columnist Simon Jenkins wasn’t happy either. “The Orange prize is a blot on Britain’s literary landscape,” he wrote after its launch. In 2005 he expanded: “I’m amazed, frankly, that it’s lasted so long. It validates all those men in the Garrick who refuse to admit women.”

The Booker prizeThe pre-eminent book award, the Booker prize, has also had brushes with notoriety. In 1972 John Berger used his acceptance speech to trot out the usual platitudes,however, Berger insteadhe launch a stinging attack on the prize itself, drawing attention to the fact the sponsors, Booker McGonnall, had acquired much of their wealth from 130 years of trading in the Caribbean. “The modern poverty of the Caribbean is the direct result of this and similar exploitation,” he said. Berger donated half his £5,000 prize money to the Black Panthers – “the black movement with the socialist and revolutionary perspective that I find myself most in agreement with in this country”. Adam Gabbatt

EDITOR: The Arab Intifada is spreading beyond national borders!

While Mr. McEwan is busy doing important things in Israel, the Arab world is busy getting rid of its dictatorial regimes. In a historical swathe of unprecedented political action across the Middle East, in Yemen, Algeria, Bahrrain, Egypt, Iraq, Tunisia, and now Libya. Despite the murderous treatment by the tyrant regimes, and the continued support by western government of these regimes, they are all tottering on the brink of collapse. Those who have written off the Arab masses as undemocratic fundamentalists, see their chicken coming home to roost. This new pan-Arabism is not one dictated and directed from above, but the genuine connection built between the oppressed across the region, all following in the wake and model of the first Palestinian Intifada – ‘peacefully, peacefully’!

It is always the regime which is not peaceful, which emlpoys thugs and criminals as part of its policing the rebelious population, which kills and tortures its own citizens. The west stands along and watches nervously as its favourite tyrants are swept away, not quite knowing how to react. Their continued support of the tyrants to their last gasp on the throne will not be easily forgotten, one assumes, once democratic governments are to be established in all countries.

No Bahrain dictatorship - no US 5th Fleet in the Gulf!, by Carlos Latuff

Scores killed in Libya protests: Al Jazeera Online

Human Rights Watch says 84 people killed in past three days during rallies calling for ousting of Muammar Gaddafi.
19 Feb 2011
Crowds have taken to the streets in Libya demanding more representation and the overthrow of Gaddafi
Security forces in Libya have killed scores of pro-democracy protesters in demonstrations demanding the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi, the country’s long time ruler.

Human Rights Watch said on Saturday that 84 people had died over the past three days.

A doctor in Benghazi told Al Jazeera that he had seen 70 bodies at the city’s hospital on Friday in one of the harshest crackdowns against peaceful protesters thus far.

“I have seen it on my own eyes: At least 70 bodies at the hospital,” said Wuwufaq al-Zuwail, a physician.

Al-Zuwail said that security forces had also prevented ambulances reaching the site of the protests.

The Libyan government has also blocked Al Jazeera TV signal in the country and people have also reported that the network’s website is inaccessible from there.

Protesters shot

Marchers mourning dead protesters in Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city, reportedly come under fire from security forces, as protests in the oil-exporting North African nation entered their fifth day on Friday.

Mohamed el-Berqawy, an engineer in Benghazi, told Al Jazeera that the city was the scene of a “massacre,” and that four demonstrators had been killed.

“Where is the United Nations … where is (US president Barack) Obama, where is the rest of the world, people are dying on the streets,” he said. “We are ready to die for our country.”

Verifying news from Libya has been difficult since protests began, thanks to restrictions on journalists entering the country, as well as internet and mobile phone black outs imposed by the government.

Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters seeking to oust Gaddafi took to the streets across Libya on Thursday in what organisers called a “day of rage” modelled after similar protests in Tunisia and Egypt that ousted longtime leaders there. Gaddafi has ruled Libya since 1969.

Pro-government supporters also were out on the streets on Friday, according to the Libyan state television, which broadcasted images labelled “live” that showed men chanting slogans in support of Gaddafi.

The pro-Gaddafi crowd was seen singing as it surrounded his limousine as it crept along a road in the capital, Tripoli, packed with people carrying his portrait.

Deadly clashes

Deadly clashes broke out in several towns on Thursday after the opposition called for protests in a rare show of defiance inspired by uprisings in other Arab states and the toppling of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

The worst clashes appeared to have taken place in the eastern Cyrenaica region, centred on Benghazi, where support for Gaddafi has historically been weaker than in other parts of the country.

Libya’s Quryna newspaper reported on Thursday that the regional security chief had been removed from his post over the deaths of protesters in Bayda.

Libyan opposition groups in exile claimed that Bayda citizens had joined with local police forces to take over Bayda and fight against government-backed militias, whose ranks are allegedly filled by recruits from other African nations.

Political analysts say Libyan oil wealth may give the government the capacity to smooth over social problems and
reduce the risk of an Egypt-style revolt.

Gaddafi’s opponents say they want political freedoms, respect for human rights and an end to corruption.

The government has proposed the doubling of government employees’ salaries and released 110 suspected anti-government figures who oppose him – tactics similar to those adopted by other Arab governments facing recent mass protests.

Gaddafi also has been meeting with tribal leaders to solicit their support.

The Gurdian 18th Feb 2011, by Steve Bell

Egypt’s revolution will not go home, youth groups say: Ahram online

Pro-democracy protesters have vacated Tahrir Square, but they insist the revolution will continue until its all of its major goals are met, creating a fully democratic Egypt
Lina El-Wardani
WRITERS IN THE REVOLUTION: Mahmoud El-Wardani recalls the onset of the Tahrir demonstrations
As a host of goups, youth movements and organizations, created before, during or after the outbreak of the 25 Januaray Revolution, rush to expand and develop their organizational and political capacities, there seems to be a consensus among them that the ousting of former President Hosni Mubarak is merely a beginning, and insist that the revolution’s goals are still to be realized. Foremost on their agendas is the abolishing of the infamous 30-year-long state of emergency, the immediate release of all political prisoners, full freedom to form political parties and trade unions, and the formation of a national unity government of independents and technocrats that excludes the former ruling National Democratic Party.
Having willingly vacated Tahrir Square following Mubarak’s resignation, the groups would like to see Friday continue as a day of protest, until such a time as their demands are met in full. Yet another “Million Man” demonstration has been called for tomorrow, 18 February, to celeberate the success of the revolution and ensure that it continues until democracy is achieved. The demonstration will take place in the now world-famous Tahrir square in downtown Cairo.

Dozens of small initiatives and groups have also been formed recently. One of these is the Revolution Youth Coalition (RYC) which combines the 6th of April movement, Freedom and Justice movement, Muslim Brotherhood youth, the Democratic Front Party youth, the Youth Movement in Support of El Baradei,  and the youth of the National Association for Change.

Khaled Abdel Hamid of the RYC believes that they will continue to protest every Friday until their demands are met. He adds that the outbreak of labour strikes is keeping the revolution alive and driving it towards complete success.

Mohammed Waked, a leftist activist and member of the Revolutionary Socialists, agrees with Hamid. “Labour protests are powerful because the government can neither buy them nor oppress them. So there will be more protests and they will increase and spread from one company to another, it will spread to different sectors too,” says Waked, “Now it is economic but it will be political soon.”

Labour activists have been very busy lately, calling for a new independent labour union and the abolishment of the existing pro-government union.

Following the fall of Mubarak, strikes and protests spread to almost every sector in Egypt, both public and private.

Widely known Egyptian blogger Alaa Abdel Fatah coordinates meetings for the newly formed “Professionals’ coalition”, which includes Doctors Without Borders, the 9 March University Professors Movement and Cinema Professionals, among others. He takes part in other initiatives as well and says “Most of these movements don’t work together, but when you see the documents and demands they come up with, you see they have a consensus on certain things like the immediate release of political prisoners, canceling the emergency law and a technocratic national unity government for at least nine months or a year until proper elections are held.” Alaa Abdel Fatah also shared his list of suggested technocrats for this new government on his blog http://www.manalaa.net.

Other initiatives include one group that is forming a leftist party. “This has to be done, because often in Tahrir you could see a lot of leftists who don’t want to join the (legal) Tagammu party. Also, it is very important to have a leftist voice alongside the strong liberal and Islamist voices coming up,” says Elham Aidarous, a pending member of the yet-to-be leftist party.

However, many of the people who participated in the revolution and camped out in Tahrir square until the regime was forced to step down are not politically active at all.

“Many of them are middle and upper-middle class with no political experience, but they all aspire to a democratic and liberal political atmosphere,” says Waked, who works with many of these initiatives.

Aidarous agrees with Waked, but believes that in about two months time many of these people may choose to join either a liberal or a leftist party once they become more politically aware.

Abdel Hamid of the YRC agrees with Aidarous that this is how politics typically works, and is against any party that wants to hijack the revolution. “I am against any party that wants to call itself the 25 January party, or Tahrir revolution party, because the revolution is for everyone,” says Abdel Hamid, in reference to two parties currently being formed. He also accused the people setting up these parties of not having a clear political agenda, and recommends they get experience in politics first before forming a political party.

Finally, there are local committees to protect the revolution in Maadi, Helwan, Boulak and other neighborhoods in Cairo. These committees conduct community awareness campaigns in their neighbourhoods to make sure the revolution persists until its demands are met and a true democracy is established.

Fresh clashes in Bahrain protests: Al Jazeera online

Tear gas fired on protesters attempting to retake Pearl roundabout, as military are ordered to pull out by crown prince.
19 Feb 2011


[WARNING: This video contains images that some viewers may find disturbing]
Police have fired tear gas on protesters attempting to occupy the Pearl roundabout in Manama, the Bahraini capital, after the military was ordered to withdraw by the country’s crown prince.

While military vehicles have now moved away from the roundabout, they have repositioned themselves around the same area, Al Jazeera’s online producer in Manama reported on Saturday.

Al Jazeera’s web producer reports that doctors are preparing to receive casualities at the city’s main hospital
As soon as the military had pulled out, more than 60 protesters attempted to occupy the square, but they were tear-gassed by police forces.

About 60 police jeeps are currently parked in and around the square, and they have blocked access to protesters. Helicopters were also seen flying overhead.

Our producer said that so far there were no confirmed casualties at the Salmaniya hospital, but that the facility had deployed ambulances to the square.

Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, the crown prince, ordered the military to withdraw on Saturday afternoon, saying that the police would now be responsible for enforcing order, the Bahrain News Agency reported.

The General Union of Bahraini Workers has called a strike for Sunday, according to a member of the workers union at national flag carrier Gulf Air.

Dialogue rejected

Earlier in the day, opposition leaders rejected calls from the government for a “national dialogue”.

Abdul Jalil Khalil Ibrahim, the head of the main opposition Wefaq bloc, said on Saturday that the government must resign and the army must withdraw in order for any talks with the ruling family to take place.

Ibrahim Mattar, a member of the group, which quit parliament on Thursday, said his party did not believe there was a “serious will for dialogue because the military is in the streets”.

Sheikh Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifa, the King of Bahrain, had earlier asked the crown prince, to start a national dialogue “with all parties”.

Also on Saturday, Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, called for the dialogue process to begin “without delay”. She also said that she was “deeply concerned” by reports of the use of violence by security forces, and called on all sides to show “restraint”.

While the military has now begun withdrawing from the streets, a precondition that the opposition had set for talks to take place, it is unclear if and when the dialogue will take place.

The Pearl roundabout was the scene of shootings after nightfall on Friday, when security forces appear to have opened fire with live rounds on protesters.

The circumstances around the shooting are not clear, but officials at the Salmaniya Hospital say that at least 66 people were injured, several with gunshot wounds to the head and chest.

Some doctors and medics on emergency medical teams were in tears as they tended to the wounded. X-rays showed bullets still lodged inside victims.

“This is a war,” said Dr Bassem Deif, an orthopaedic surgeon examining people with bullet-shattered bones.

Protesters described a chaotic scene of tear gas clouds, bullets coming from many directions and people slipping in pools of blood as they sought cover.

‘Time for dialogue’

Speaking on state television on Friday evening, the crown prince called for calm, saying it was “time for dialogue, not fighting”.

“The dialogue is always open and the reforms continue,” Sheikh Hamad al-Khalifa said on Bahrain TV.

“We need to call for self-restraint from all sides, the armed forces, security men and citizens,” he said. “I urge you, there should be calm. Now is time for calm.”

Jalal Firooz, of the Wefaq bloc, said demonstrators had been  marking the death of a protester killed earlier this week before marching on the roundabout, where troops were deployed.

A doctor at Salmaniya hospital told Al Jazeera that the hospital is full of severely injured people after the latest shootings.

“We need help! Our staff is entirely overwhelmed. They are shooting at people’s heads. Not at the legs. People are having their brains blown out,”  a distraught Dr Ghassan said, describing the chaos at the hospital as something close to a war zone.

He said the hospital was running short of blood and appealed for help to get more supplies. Police had no immediate comment.

An Associated Press cameraman saw army units shooting anti-aircraft weapons, fitted on top of armoured personnel carriers, above the protesters in apparent warning shots and attempts to drive them back from security cordons about 200 meters from the roundabout.

Protesters claimed live ammunition was used against the demonstrators.

“People started running in all directions and bullets were flying,” said Ali al-Haji, a 27-year-old bank clerk. “I saw people getting shot in the legs, chest and one man was bleeding from his head.”

US condemns violence

Barack Obama, the US president, discussed the situation with King Al Khalifa of Bahrain in a telephone calln on Friday, asking him to hold those responsible for the violence accountable.

He said in a statement that Bahrain must respect the “universal rights'” of its people and embrace “meaningful reform”.

“I am deeply concerned about reports of violence in Bahrain, Libya and Yemen. The United States condemns the use of violence by governments against peaceful protesters in those countries and wherever else it may occur,” he said.

“The United States urges the governments of Bahrain, Libya and Yemen to show restraint in responding to peaceful protests and to respect the rights of their people.”

On Friday, thousands observed funerals for the four people killed in a pre-dawn raid on a protest encampment at Manama’s Pearl roundabout a day earlier.

Riot police had used clubs, tear gas and bird-shot guns to break up the crowd of protesters.

They also tore down their tents, and blockaded the roundabout with police vehicles and barbed wire. More than 200 were wounded in that raid.

At the funerals on Friday, many chanted slogans against Bahrain’s ruling Al Khalifa family.

They said that while they would earlier have settled for the prime minister being sacked, they were now demanding the fall of the entire ruling government, including the royal family.

Mourners told Al Jazeera that they were both grief-stricken and angry at the heavy-handedness of the police, and that they were demanding that the international community take notice of what they call the brutality of the security forces.

As Friday prayers commenced, Sheikh Issa Qassem, a prominent Bahraini Shia Muslim religious leader, delivering his sermon in a northwestern village, described Thursday’s violence as a “massacre”.

Al Jazeera’s correspondent, who cannot be named for security reasons, reported that Qassem said the government was attempting to create a “sectarian divide” between Sunnis and Shias. He advocated peaceful protests, saying “violence is the way of the government”, and that protesters should not espouse violent actions.

“Many of those who in the past came out [to protests] … are afraid. They’re frightened and they don’t want to turn up at a protest … because they are fearful for their lives,” our correspondent said, citing an incident on February 15 in Manama, when at least one person was killed when police fired on a funeral procession.

Also on Friday, Bahraini state television showed pictures of a pro-government rally, attended by hundreds of people, taking place in Manama, despite a ban on public gatherings.

WRITERS IN THE REVOLUTION: Nawal El-Saadawi’s greatest pleasure in meeting all sorts of Egyptians: Ahram online

Nawal El-Saadawi meets and talks to all sorts of Egyptians at Tahrir Square
Dr. Nawal El-Saadawi is a  prominent writer and psychiatrist

I have lived to witness and participate in the Egyptian Revolution from Jan 25, 2011 until the moment of writing this essay in the morning of Sunday, Feb 6, 2011. Millions of Egyptians, men and women, Muslims and Christians, from all doctrines and beliefs, are united against the current oppressive and corrupt regime, against its revered top pharaoh who “still holds on to his throne even if shedding his people’s blood”, against its corrupt government and the ruling party which hire mercenaries to kill the youths, against its cheating and fake parliament whose members represent illegal properties, women, drugs, and bribes, against its elites who are called ‘the educated elites’ who sold their conscience and pens , destroyed education, public and private morals and culture, and misled the public and individual opinion to gain temporary interests and  ruling positions , be small or big ones.

Young men and children, men and women have spontaneously gone out of their houses, led and protected by themselves, after the security and policemen have failed and the controlling elites of culture and media have crumpled down. Millions of Egyptian, men and women, went out in the streets in all provinces, cities and villages, in Aswan, Alexandria, Suez, Bour Said, and all parts of the homeland. In Cairo, the capital, we have encamped in Meidan al-Tahrir for 11 days, day and night till now. Meidan al-Tahrir has become our land and our camp. We settle on its asphalt and inside tents as a solid entity of men and women…we will never leave our place even though the police, disguised in civilian clothes, attack us and even if al-Meidan is attacked (like what happened on Feb 2) by mercenaries hired by the regime. Those were given bribes (50 EGP and a chick for a soldier, and the bigger one’s rank the bigger the bribe is).They stormed into al-Meidan riding horses and camels, armed with various weapons (red, yellow, and white ones). One of the horses was about to trample on me while I was standing in al-Meidan with the young men. They carried me away from this primitive attack; I saw them with my own eyes moving around in al-Meidan, shooting everywhere. Amid the dust and smoke which surrounded al-Meidan and its surrounding buildings, I saw firing flames flying in the sky, young men falling, and blood shedding. A semi-military war broke out between the regime’s henchmen and the peaceful Egyptian people who were calling for freedom, dignity and justice. But the defense committee of the revolutionary young men managed to fight back those mercenaries and captured some horses and camels and 100 mercenaries with their IDs, among them were state security officers, central security officers, policemen, and some of them were jobless and criminals who were released from prisons. Some of them confessed that they were bribed with 200 EGP and promised with 5000 EGP if they managed to scatter the youths in al-Meidan by using their swords and sharp weapons. They described the youths who led this revolution as “the kids who made the disturbance” using the language of Mubarak’s big heads who gave orders and money.

The young men built their tents in the square to get some rest. Women with their infants lied down on the ground in the cold and rain. Hundreds of ladies and girls, never harassed by anyone, walked proudly feeling freedom, dignity, and equality among their fellows. Christians are participating in the revolution side by side with Muslims. I was surrounded by some young men from Muslims Brotherhood: they said to me “We disagree with some of your opinions in your writings but we like and respect you because you have not acted hypocritically with any regime or force inside or outside the country.” During my walk in the square, people were coming to me, men and women, from different directions, embracing and hugging me saying “Dr. Nawal, we are the new generations who have read your books and inspired by your creativity, rebellion and revolution” I swallowed my tears and said “This is a happy occasion for all of us, a celebration of freedom, dignity, equality, creativity, rebellion, and revolution.”

A young woman, named Rania, “We ask for a new constitution, a civil one, which does not segregate between races, gender, and religion.”  Another young man, a Christian named Butrus Dawood, said “We want a civil personal statute which does not segregate between people in terms of doctrine, gender or religion.” A young man named Tariq al-Dimiri declared, “The young men made the revolution and we have to select our interim government and a national committee to change the constitution.” A young man, Mohamed Amin, said “We want to open the People’s Assembly and Shura Council and proceed with honest elections to choose a new president and new popular councils.”A young man named Ahmed Galal said, “We are a popular revolution that puts a new social contract, not just demands, slogan of our revolution.” Free equality, and social justice, who makes revolution is one who puts the new government rules, chooses the transitional government, selects National Committee which changes the constitution, establishes a committee of governors of the revolution so that opportunists (the owners of wealth and power) are not imposed on us. Committees of governors did not participate with us in the revolution, but comes now to us by plane from Europe or America. Among the Egyptians who lived their lives outside or inside the country now come to become leaders of the revolution. We say: “Who did the revolution are the ones who are leading the revolution.Among us governors from young people of thirty years, forty or fifty years of age. We have competencies in all scientific political and economic fields. We are the ones who form a committee of our governors and our government in transition, and the National Committee to change the constitution and laws. A young Mohamed Said said  “I feel proud for the first time in my life because I am Egyptian. Despair and depression were gone and defeat was turned into victory. We paid the price of freedom with the blood of our martyrs. There is no power to bring us back.

Al-Meidan turned to an entire city with its facilities, and in the hospital thereabout sleep injured and wounded, doctors and nurses from the masses of young people volunteered, residents volunteered with blankets, medicines, cotton and gauze, food and water, something like a dream and fantasy, I am living with the young men and women day and night. Committees were formed among these young men and women to handleall chores from sweeping the Meidan to transporting the injured to hospital, providing food and medicines, taking over the defense of the Meidan and responding to the lies of the system in the media to nominate the names of the Transitional Government and the Committee of governors, and others. Walls for the houses, institutions and taboos that distinguish between citizens, women and men, Muslim and Christians or others faded. We become one nation, no divisions on the basis of sex, religion or other,all demanding the departure of Mubarak and his trial and his men in the party and the government, the bloodshed on Wednesday, 2 February and all days since 25 January, corruption and tyranny over thirty years of rule, and the rest of the interview.

EDITOR: Uncle Obama never fails!

Obama proves again to be the proud political bed-fellow of Dubya, in move which is even against the supposed policy of the US itself! When it comes to Israel, there are no lwas, calculations or precedents – “We the People will support you the Jewish People in whatever you do or say!”

Another proof to the rottenness of the UN system and its outdated and illogical regulations, giving all the power but none of the responsibility to the past empires. Like the Arab regimes, its time will also come soon.

Israel ‘deeply appreciates’ U.S. veto on UN resolution condemning settlements: Haaretz

Prime Minister’s Office thanks Obama for nixing Security Council resolution proposed by Arab states censuring Israeli settlement activity.

Israel said it was deeply grateful to the United States on Saturday after it vetoed a United Nations resolution put forward by the Palestinian leadership condemning Israeli settlement activity. “Israel deeply appreciates the decision by President Obama to veto the Security Council Resolution”, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said in a statement.

Israel was “prepared to pursue negotiations vigorously” and was “eager to get on” with Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, the premier’s office said. The “decision by the US makes it clear that the only path to such a peace will come through direct negotiations and not through the decisions of international bodies,” it continued.

The United States voted against a United Nations Security Council draft resolution on Friday that would have condemned Israeli settlements as illegal. The veto by the U.S., a permanent council member, prevented the resolution from being adopted.

The other 14 Security Council members voted in favor of the draft resolution. But the U.S., as one of five permanent council members with the power to block any action by the Security Council, struck it down.

The resolution had nearly 120 co-sponsors. The Obama administration’s veto is certain to anger Arab countries and Palestinian supporters around the world.

The U.S. opposes new Israeli settlements but says taking the issue to the UN will only complicate efforts to resume stalled negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians on a two-state solution.

Palestinians say continued settlement building flouts the internationally-backed peace plan that will permit them to create a viable, contiguous state on the land after a treaty with Israel to end its occupation and 62 years of conflict.

Israel says this is an excuse for avoiding peace talks and a precondition never demanded before during 17 years of negotiation, which has so far produced no agreement.

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians began in September but collapsed just three weeks later when a partial Israeli freeze on construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank expired. The Palestinians have said they will not return to the negotiating table until Israel renews the freeze.

How school trips to Hebron resemble visits to Auschwitz: Haaretz

Just as upon return from the state-sponsored trips to Auschwitz, Jewish students will come back from Hebron feeling more nationalist than ever before.
By Gideon Levy
More than half of Jewish school children in Israel have visited Auschwitz; each year more than 10,000 go on a trip to Poland or on the March of the Living, a pilgrimage to the death camps. They come back shocked and nationalist. These tours mislead the weeping students for a moment as they wrap themselves in the national flag, before and after downing a Vodka Red Bull in their rooms.

These programs bring back thousands of teens who have learned nothing about the danger of fascism, who have heard nothing about morality, humanity and the slippery slope on which a dangerous regime might pull down a complacent society. Just more and more blind faith in strength, xenophobia, fear of the other and inflamed passions. So in their current format, these tours are missed opportunities whose damage is greater than their use.

Now Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar wants to add a tour to the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron. Thousands of teens will be taken in armored buses to the danger zone, accompanied by soldiers and armed bodyguards. A safari in Hebron. During the visit, a curfew will be imposed on the last Palestinians left in the neighborhood. The students will be hurried into the ancient site that is believed to be the Cave of Machpelah – the tombs of the patriarchs and matriarchs who are probably not buried there. No one will show them what is around them. No one will tell them what happened to the thousands of people who lived near the tomb.

Their guides, the most violent and atrocious of the settlers in the territories, will not tell them what they have done. They will discuss the history of the place with Zionist selectivity. They will tell them about the 1929 Hebron massacre, but not about the 1994 Baruch Goldstein massacre. The students will see a ghost neighborhood around them and will not ask why it is abandoned, and whom the inhabitants were afraid of when they fled.

Here, too, as at Auschwitz, they will only scare them more and more. At Auschwitz they will make them frightened of the Poles and in Hebron of the Arabs. Everyone always wants to annihilate us. They will return from Hebron excited at having touched the ancient stones and even more blinded from not having touched the people who lived alongside those stones. They will see nothing and learn nothing. As at Auschwitz, they will come home even more nationalist: Hebron forever, and the force of arms.

After all, what will they be told? What are the hidden messages? That the sanctity of the place means sovereignty. That the place is sacred to us, but only to us. That there is Abraham but no Ibrahim. That the fact that there is Jewish history here must “sanctify” it, even in the eyes of secular students, whom one would suppose have nothing to do with anything holy. A mixed multitude of fabrications, propaganda and uneducational messages.

If the education minister were true to his job and his image as a relatively enlightened minister, he would have organized a true tour of Hebron. A “Let Us Ascend to Hebron” program? Indeed, but on condition that everything is included: the Jewish tradition and the Jewish injustice.

That will not happen, of course. If Sa’ar were honest, he would have also encouraged heritage tours for the Arab school children in this country. Let the Jewish kids go to Auschwitz and Hebron, and the Arabs to Deir Yassin and Sheikh Munis. They also deserve to learn about the history of their people and their country. It would be better if all Israeli school children, Jews and Arabs, went to all those heritage sites, learning each other’s fate. That will not happen either, of course. Instead, we have an education minister who tries to have it all: sitting like a liberal in Tel Aviv’s Cafe Tamar with Labor MK Shelly Yachimovich, and as a nationalist, sending students on trips to the occupied Tomb of the Patriarchs.

But the problem, of course, is not who is education minister. The problem is what we are instilling in our students; where we are taking them (and ourselves ) and what we are telling them there. The students who return from the annual field trip to Hebron will be worse students. They will learn to touch history and hide from reality. They will believe that Abraham the patriarch has been buried for thousands of years in Hebron, but they will learn nothing about justice and humanity, which are buried there a thousand times deeper.

Overcoming Israel’s attempts to discredit protest: The Electronic Intifada,

Ismail Patel, 15 February 2011

Instead of addressing human rights concerns, Israel seeks to delegitimize those leveling the charges. (ActiveStills)

In recent months, Israel’s tactics to discredit legitimate protestors have become increasingly Orwellian as it steps up its campaign against human rights activists within the country and abroad, especially in the United Kingdom.

Human rights groups in Israel will now face scrutiny following the formation of a government-approved parliamentary committee to investigate Israeli organizations which criticize Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Thus, instead of tackling legitimate human rights concerns, Israel seeks to delegitimize those leveling the charges, despite the masses of evidence to support their claims.

Israel is also promoting and consolidating the Zionist narrative in the UK, using intimidation and guilt against those challenging Israel’s occupation, human rights abuses and its expansionist aspirations.

Two leading Israeli organizations with close links to the government, the Reut Institute and the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs, both warned recently that London was becoming a center for anti-Israel activity culminating, they claim, in a rise of anti-Semitism because British Muslim-led organizations are being given free rein.

Reut boasts on its website that is seeks “to provide real-time, long-term strategic decision-support to Israeli leaders and decision-makers,” hardly making it an independent observer. It published a report on London in November titled “Building a Political Firewall against the Assault on Israel’s Legitimacy,” which claimed that London is the “Mecca of Delegitimization” and a key player in all major recent “delegitimization” campaigns concerning Israel (download the full report [PDF]).

“Delegitimization” is the term coined by the Reut Institute last year to describe a whole variety of activities by Palestinian and solidarity activists who call for Israel to end its occupation, abide by international law and respect the human rights of all Palestinians wherever they are.

Reut’s report on London was followed by another from the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs which spared virtually no organization in London connected to the anti-war movement from the accusation of being “delegitimizers.”

Common to both of these reports was the labeling of British Muslim organizations as “Islamist,” drawing on their ancestral and religious links to imply they had ties with Iran, Hizballah and Hamas, and thus present an existential threat to the democratic West. By drawing such spurious links, Israel and its apologists hope to demonize British citizens, shore up political support for Israel and score easy political gains by appealing to Islamophobia and fear.

This spin has been quickly picked up by Israel’s acolytes in the UK media. On 29 December 2010, The Times reported the ludicrous and baseless accusations by the Israeli defense ministry that the London-based Palestine Return Centre was involved in “terror-related activities” and served as a front for Hamas (James Hider, “City condemned as ‘hub of hubs'”).

Writing in The Sunday Telegraph a few days earlier, Andrew Gilligan bemoaned that the Charity Commission, the UK’s charity watchdog, has lost its bite when it concluded that it “found no evidence of irregular or improper use of the Charity’s funds” in reference to separate accusations made in the Telegraph against another British Charity — Muslim Aid.

Thus, by failing to follow Israel’s lead and implicate innocent charities like Muslim Aid in supporting terrorist networks in Palestine, Gilligan, rather like Israel, chose to demonize those who fail to toe the line. We should take pride in the fact that the Charities Commission acts independently, rather than succumbing to political pressure to withdraw charitable status.

While the fear of “Islamism” is being pumped in the veins of one arm of the nation, the other arm is being injected with the false idea that anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism. That is a point contested by, among others, many British Jewish individuals and organizations who stand in solidarity with Palestinians in calling for an end to Israel’s occupation and other human rights abuses.

Resorting to accusing Israel’s critics of “anti-Semitism” is an old tactic that is being revived with new zeal in an attempt to intimidate into silence those calling for an end to Israel’s impunity and exceptionalism.

What Zionists fail to understand is that the Free Palestine movement has permeated across all sections of British society and religious affiliation is incidental. Israel’s divide-and-rule tactics have not succeeded in breaking the will of a brutalized Palestinian population, and they will not work against the solidarity movement in the UK either.

While continuing to build illegal colonies on Palestinian land; evicting Palestinians from Jerusalem; subjugating millions through routine, brutal violence and killing; and corraling Palestinians in elaborate systems of movement control, such as the illegal West Bank wall and the blockade of Gaza, Israel insists that it always be presented as peaceful, reasonable, humane, compassionate and magnanimous. These virtues are extolled and celebrated in Judaism, as in many other religions, but they are not ones that have ever been practiced by Israel toward Palestinians.

There is no doubt that at present Israel has the sympathy of the UK government. But the public is more and more aware of the realities and it is doubtful that the Zionist offensive can silence British people’s sense of justice and intimidate and blackmail us into thinking that by criticizing Israel’s practices and calling for justice for all, we are attacking Judaism.

The British sense of justice will overcome attempts by the Zionist lobby of equating anti-Semitism with illegal Zionist occupation and practices in West Bank and Gaza Strip. These tactics are intended to divide people from each other and to sow sectarianism and fear. We mustn’t allow them to succeed.

Ismail Patel is Chair of UK based NGO Friends of Al-Aqsa, and author of several books including Palestine: Beginner’s Guide and Medina to Jerusalem: Encounters with the Byzantine Empire.

Dampening the fires: Al Ahram Weekly

Washington never understood Egypt’s revolution, writes Graham Usher
Barack Obama praised the Egyptian revolution with his usual eloquence. “Egyptians have made it clear that nothing less than genuine democracy will carry the day,” he said. “It was the moral force of nonviolence — not terrorism, not mindless killing — that bent the arc of history toward justice once more.”
It would have meant more could he have said his administration had helped bend the arc. But mostly Washington was behind the curve in this revolt: sometimes, indeed, it was on the wrong side of the barricades.

Egypt’s tumultuous 18 days caught the US off-balance and off-guard. Despite an investment of $35 billion in military aid to Egypt over 32 years, the administration wielded little influence over Hosni Mubarak’s regime and none at all over the millions that made it fall.

Nor — whatever the rhetorical flourishes — was there any doubt about America’s primary goal: having recognised that the scale of the protests meant a move to a post-Mubarak era in Egypt was irreversible, it nonetheless kept insisting any transition must be “orderly”, be led by the military and that it cast in rock Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel, the cornerstone of a US regional order the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt have started to loosen.

“The core of what is the American interest in this… is Israel,” said Daniel Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator. And, “the problem for America is you can balance being the carrier for the Israeli agenda with Arab autocrats, but with Arab democrats, you can’t do that.”

That’s why Washington’s relief was audible when, on 12 February, Egypt’s new military rulers announced they would honour all international treaties. It’s also why the first emissary Obama sent to the region after Mubarak’s fall was not to meet the young revolutionaries on Tahrir Square but rather the old rulers in Jordan and Israel, two among several regional allies shaken by the tremor. “We want to reassure our… partners that our commitment to them… remains strong,” said a US military spokesman.

United on the goal, the administration was divided over tactics. Obama, convinced the wave of protests was real and irrepressible, worried that any US failure to side with them would be remembered with bitterness by Egypt’s next generation and potential leaders. This was why he exhorted Mubarak — in public and private — that any transition must be “genuine” and “must start now”.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, however, stressed orderliness. Prompted by Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, she warned that a too rapid move to elections risked the process being “hijacked by new autocrats”. The reference was to Iran 1979 but it also gave credence to an Israeli bogey of the Muslim Brotherhood taking power via a free vote, à la Hamas in the 2006 Palestinian elections.

The upshot was a policy incoherence that satisfied no one. Egypt’s revolutionary youth spied rejection; the regime saw perfidy; while America’s regional partners smelled betrayal, appalled by its apparent readiness to ditch a loyal ally of 30 years.

Washington seems to be weaving the same opacity for the post-Mubarak transition. On 11 February Obama called on the military to lift Egypt’s emergency and revise the constitution to make change “irreversible”. But he ignored civilian demands for a presidential council to replace the military one and a transitional government to succeed a cabinet handpicked by Mubarak. This may eventually chart a path to civilian rule. But its road is clearly martial, with only the military empowered to map the course.

There are also rumours of a well-oiled American “democracy promotion machinery” to steer Egypt’s “youthful secular forces” into the void left by the NDP and sideline any resurgent Brotherhood. But co-option is not going to work. One of Washington’s former doyens, Ayman Nour, told Egypt Radio on 12 February that “the Camp David Accord [peace accord with Israel] is over… Egypt must at least renegotiate the terms.”

The US seems not to have learned any of the lessons of Egypt’s revolution. Preoccupied with seeking regime or self-appointed “transitional” figures who refused or were unable to transition, it failed to see what was before its eyes: that Egypt’s young revolutionaries had between themselves transcended those old ideological divides of liberalism, secularism and Islamism and instead, in liberating Tahrir Square, had become the beacon for a national and popular movement that shook the regime to its core.

It wasn’t US pressure that compelled the military to divest Mubarak of his powers. It was lawyers, doctors, textile workers taking to the streets in an avalanche of strikes, demonstrations and nonviolent civil disobedience. The military elites were loyal to Mubarak, said a Western diplomat in Cairo on 11 February, but “it became increasingly clear they would not go down with” him.

Second, any “genuine democracy” at home will mean independence abroad. It’s not clear what will be the fate of Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel. It will probably rest on the power of what remains an unreconstructed military in the next Egyptian government.

But one thing is clear. Any military even remotely accountable to an elected Egyptian civilian government will never again be allowed to collaborate in the siege on Gaza; in the rendition of CIA fingered “suspects” to interrogators and torturers in Egyptian prisons; or in a sham American “peace process” that delivers security to Israel while it colonises what remains of Palestine. In any free Egypt the depth of peace will be measured by the extent of Israel’s withdrawal from occupied territory and the degree of Palestinian independence on its soil.

Perhaps the US will convey that message to its allies. But few in Egypt will be holding their breath. And those who helped fan a spark into a prairie fire will probably shrug their shoulders. “If the US supports the revolution, it is good for the US,” Islam Lotfy told the New York Times on the revolution’s 13th day. “If they don’t, it’s an Egyptian issue.”

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