April 7, 2011

Goldstone has paved the path for a second Gaza war: Haaretz

Anyone who honored the first Goldstone has to ask him: What exactly do you know today that you didn’t know then? Do you know today that criticizing Israel leads to a pressure-and-slander campaign that you can’t withstand, you ‘self-hating Jew’?
By Gideon Levy
All at once the last doubts have disappeared and the question marks have become exclamation points. Dr. Ezzeldeen Abu Al-Aish wrote a short book in which he invented the killing of his three daughters. The 29 dead from the Al-Simoni family are now vacationing in the Caribbean. The white phosphorus was only the pyrotechnics of a war film. The white-flag wavers who were shot were a mirage in the desert, as were the reports about the killing of hundreds of civilians, including women and children. “Cast lead” has returned to being a phrase in a Hanukkah children’s song.

A surprising and unexplained article in The Washington Post by Richard Goldstone caused rejoicing here, a Goldstone party, the likes of which we haven’t seen for a long time. In fact, Israeli PR reaped a victory, and for that congratulations are in order. But the questions remain as oppressive as ever, and Goldstone’s article didn’t answer them – if only it had erased all the fears and suspicions.

Anyone who honored the first Goldstone has to honor him now as well, but still has to ask him: What happened? What exactly do you know today that you didn’t know then? Do you know today that criticizing Israel leads to a pressure-and-slander campaign that you can’t withstand, you “self-hating Jew”? This you could have known before.

Was it the two reports by Judge Mary McGowan Davis that led to your change of heart? If so, you should read them carefully. In her second report, which was published about a month ago and for some reason received no mention in Israel, the New York judge wrote that nothing indicates that Israel launched an investigation into the people who designed, planned, commanded and supervised Operation Cast Lead. So how do you know which policy lay behind the cases you investigated? And what’s this enthusiasm that seized you in light of the investigations by the Israel Defense Forces after your report?

You have to be a particularly sworn lover of Israel, as you say you are, to believe that the IDF, like any other organization, can investigate itself. You have to be a blind lover of Zion to be satisfied with investigations for the sake of investigations that produced no acceptance of responsibility and virtually no trials. Just one soldier is being tried for killing.

But let’s put aside the torments and indecision of the no-longer-young Goldstone. Let’s also put aside the reports by the human rights organizations. Let’s make do with the findings of the IDF itself. According to Military Intelligence, 1,166 Palestinians were killed in the operation, 709 of them terrorists, 162 who may or may not have been armed, 295 bystanders, 80 under the age of 16 and 46 women.

All the other findings described a more serious picture, but let’s believe the IDF. Isn’t the killing of about 300 civilians, including dozens of women and children, a reason for penetrating national soul-searching? Were all of them killed by mistake? If so, don’t 300 different mistakes require conclusions? Is this the behavior of the most moral army in the world? If not, who takes responsibility?

Operation Cast Lead was not a war. The differences in power between the two sides, the science-fiction army versus the barefoot Qassam launchers, doesn’t justify things when the blow was so disproportionate. It was a harsh attack against a crowded and helpless civilian population, among which terrorists hid. We can believe that the IDF didn’t deliberately kill civilians, we don’t have murdering soldiers as in other armies, but neither did the IDF do enough to prevent them from being killed. The fact is, they were killed, and so many of them. Our doctrine of zero casualties has a price.

Goldstone has won again. First he forced the IDF to begin investigating itself and to put together a new ethics code; now he unwittingly has given a green light for Operation Cast Lead 2. Leave him alone. We’re talking about our image, not his. Are we pleased with what happened? Are we really proud of Operation Cast Lead?

Peres’ peace push in Washington is hopeless: Haaretz Editorial

Netanyahu sees the conflict with the Palestinians as a public relations problem and refuses to pursue any Israeli political initiatives. He believes that if he can just manage to convince “the world” that the Palestinians are to blame for the stalled peace talks, he will have done his job.

In recent days, President Shimon Peres has been busy defending the domestic and international stature of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. At home, Peres helped Netanyahu stave off criticism over his indulgent flights abroad; and on Tuesday, Peres traveled to Washington to present Netanyahu’s positions to U.S. President Barack Obama.

The reports from the White House were not surprising: Obama praised Peres, while offering recycled cliches about the opportunity for peace. The reports that came out of Israel at the same time, about the construction of hundreds of apartments in Jerusalem beyond the Green Line, were not surprising either, and neither was the U.S. State Department’s routine criticism of the settlements.

There’s nothing new here; everything is operating as usual. Netanyahu is buying time, the settlements are expanding, and Peres is talking about peace and backing up the government. After sending Peres to D.C., Netanyahu went to Berlin and Prague himself yesterday, in an effort to secure international support for his struggle against Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The prime minister wants to depict Abbas as a non-partner and to keep the Palestinians from declaring independence in September, with the United Nations behind them.

Netanyahu sees the conflict with the Palestinians as a public relations problem, one that can be resolved by conveying better messages than the other guy. He refuses to pursue any Israeli political initiatives; at most, the prime minister hints at some vague steps he intends to take. He believes that if he can just manage to convince “the world” that the Palestinians are to blame for the stalled peace talks, he will have done his job. Netanyahu is hoping and betting that Obama, who recently announced that he will be seeking reelection, will not intercede.

This is a dangerous and harmful approach. Rather than paving the way to a deal with the Palestinians, it leads solely to an intensification of the occupation and the conflict. Under Netanyahu’s leadership, Israel is moving inexorably closer to a political disaster and an international boycott. The peace initiative put forth this week by former senior security officials and leaders in the business and academic sectors expresses public opposition to the prime minister’s policy of digging in rather than moving forward. Such opposition, and not Peres’ pointless talks in Washington, is how we can restart the negotiations and rescue Israel from its political crisis.

Egypt students, workers and Brotherhood join Youth Coalition in calling for “Cleansing Friday”: Ahram online

Tomorrow is expected to witness large scale demonstrations as the forces of the 25 January revolution join in calling for a “Friday of Cleansing”, demanding the dismantling of the old regime and retribution
Ahram Online, Thursday 7 Apr 2011

Art students from the University of Helwan decorate the walls of the arts academy with murals commemorating the revolution (Photo: AP Photo/Manoocher Deghati)

Last week’s “Save the Revolution” day saw tens of thousands gather in Tahrir Square calling for all unmet revolutionary demands to be addressed, including the trial of Hosni Mubarak and all corrupt members of his inner circle and family, the formation of a presidential committee and the retrieval of the former ruling National Democratic Party’s funds. The atmosphere in Tahrir, according to many activists, was almost reminiscent of the first 18 days of the popular uprising which resulted in the ousting of former president Mubarak.

The absence of the MB was quite palpable. An Ahram Online correspondent reported from Tahrir last Friday that the Islamist group was conspicuously absent from the square. However, MB youth member Mohamed Heikal Abbas says the Brotherhood had received word of the Coalition of the Revolutionary Youth’s call for protest too late. Nevertheless, youth members of the group, such as Abbas went down to the square, he says.

This week, however, the Brotherhood has announced plans to participate.

The committee which called for this weeks protest intends to focus on one primary demand: the arrest and prosecution of  Mubarak and his family members, who ‎are all under house arrest in Sharm El-Sheikh, pending an investigation.

Bringing to justice all former oligarchs such as Fathi ‎Sorour, Safwat El-Sherif and Zakaria Azmi was also highlighted as a major demand. ‎The former heads of Parliament, the Upper House and Mubarak’s office respectively ‎were the inner circle of the old guard supporting the ousted president during his 30 year dictatorship. ‎

They are also held accountable for the counter-revolution, which resulted in over 600 protesters being killed ‎and several thousand injured.‎

The last protest  which called for similar demands was followed by the decision to freeze their assets as welll as a court ruling allowing for their bank accounts to be inspected.‎

Students staging the now weeks-long sit-in at Cairo University released a statement on Tuesday also calling for a a Tahrir protest..

The students are demanding the removal of the university’s president as well as the heads of faculties.

The statement released also included demands to investigate all allegations of corruption at the university, revoke all charges against students for demonstrating and a formal apology from the university president for allowing military police to enter the campus and disperse a student sit-in.

Joining the student groups, youth coalitions and the Brotherhood will be textile workers from Shebin El-Kom and El-Mahalla, according to Kamal El-Fayoumi, a trade unionist from El-Mahalla Textiles. Trade unionists and workers have decided to meet in Tahrir Square on Friday to demand the removal of the Egyptian Federation of Trade Unions (EFTU), the return of privatised companies to the public sector, a minimum monthly wage of LE1,200 and the trial of the corrupt “gang”, including Mubarak, former minister of investment Mahmoud Mohieldin, former minister of manpower and emigration Aisha Abdel Hady and Said El-Gohary, general-secretary of the textile and yarn union – viewed as a branch of the corrupt, state-controlled EFTU.

Hamas announces cease-fire on part of all Gaza factions: Haaretz

Following cross-border fighting flare-up, Hamas says cease-fire, agreed upon by all Gaza factions, to come into effect starting Thursday night.

Hamas announced Thursday that a cease-fire on the part of all factions in the Gaza Strip will come into effect at 11 P.M. local time.

Officials in Hamas said that the decision was made following a meeting between all Gaza factions and Arab agents.

The Hamas offer comes as fighting flared in Gaza on Thursday after a Palestinian anti-tank missile hit an Israeli school bus, wounding two, and Israeli forces retaliated with planes and artillery, killing five Palestinians.

Palestinian medics said at least 30 people were injured in three hours of attacks by Israeli forces. Firing tapered off after nightfall.

A 50-year old Palestinian in east Gaza was killed by shelling in the afternoon and four others were killed by air attacks in the south near the border with Egypt.

A 16-year-old Israeli boy on the bus was seriously wounded and its driver was injured.

Armed Islamist movement Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, took responsibility for the attack on the bus, saying it was retaliating for Israel’s killing of three Palestinian militants in an air strike on Saturday.

An Israeli F-16 warplane bombed a major security compound of the Islamist Hamas group which rules Gaza, rocking Gaza City with a big explosion and wounding at least one person there.

“We hope this situation will be contained, but we will not shy away from taking all the necessary action, offensive and defensive, to protect our country and to protect our citizens,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a news conference during a visit to Prague.

The IDF said 45 rockets and mortars were launched into Israeli territory from Gaza in the space of three hours, the heaviest fire in two weeks. There were no immediate reports of further Israeli casualties as a result.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas urged Western powers to intervene “to stop this aggression”, the official Wafa news agency reported from Ramallah in the West Bank.

Abbas also urged Palestinian militants not to give Israel an excuse to hit Gaza.

The missile attack followed a relative lull in cross-border fire between Gaza and Israel after a sudden rise in violence last month in which at least 16 Palestinians were killed.

Israel and Hamas had signaled readiness to return to a de facto ceasefire which has kept the border relatively quiet since the end of the December 2008-January 2009 Gaza war.

A Hamas spokesman on Thursday repeated that his movement wants “calm” to return to the tense standoff.

 

Police training programs twin US-Israeli racism: The Electronic Intifada

Hira Mahmood and Wafa Azari, 7 April 2011

Activists protest in Atlanta after police killed 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston, November 2006. (W.A. Bridges Jr./Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

The racism of the American “war on drugs,” especially in the south, is notorious. So is the racism faced daily by Palestinians. In Atlanta, a university program allows these two manifestations of racism to feed off each other and community activists are organizing to shut the program down.

On the evening of 21 November 2006, the Atlanta Police Department’s recently disbanded Red Dog Unit killed Kathryn Johnston, a 92-year-old Black resident of the northwest Atlanta neighborhood of English Avenue. As she sat in her home watching television, several Atlanta policemen bashed in her front door to execute their fraudulently obtained “no-knock” search warrant. After firing 39 shots, the police officers handcuffed Johnston, placed a dime bag of marijuana on her corpse and vacated her home, leaving her to bleed to death there (Ernie Suggs, “City to Pay Slain Woman’s Family $4.9 million,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 16 August 2010).

Organizers with the Movement to End Israeli Apartheid-Georgia (MEIA-G) read a newspaper article about the court proceedings following Johnston’s brutal murder, stumbled upon a brief note about the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange (GILEE) and wondered what it was and how was it connected to Johnston’s death.

MEIA-G was established in February 2009 after an unprecedented mobilization in response to the 23-day-long Israeli assault on Gaza. Hundreds rallied in the streets of Atlanta in solidarity with the Palestinian people, vowing to organize to support them in their struggle for liberation. After launching MEIA-G, we endorsed the 2005 Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions and identified GILEE as our primary campaign target.

Housed in Georgia State University’s (GSU) Criminal Justice Department, GILEE is a police exchange program whereby high-ranking Georgia police officers travel to Israel to learn counter-terrorism tactics from the Israel national police. Conversely, Israeli police officials travel to Atlanta every two years to learn Georgia’s drug enforcement tactics such as those employed against Johnston, Tremaine Miller, Pierre George and countless other African-American victims of police abuse and aggression. Through GILEE, the Israeli police adopt these tactics and employ them on Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinians residing in the occupied West Bank.

While GILEE has relationships with several international police agencies, its relationship with the Israeli police is the most intimate and most troubling. Israel is one of the most brazen violators of human rights and international law in the world. Israeli police, in their execution of the racist and discriminatory policies of the Zionist government, have been and are a major source of these violations. MEIA-G hopes to keep the brutal police methods and tactics employed by the Israeli police from being adopted and implemented in Atlanta. To do this, MEIA-G seeks to expose and shift the practices of both the Atlanta and Israeli police by eliminating this exchange program, the aim of which is to proliferate repressive police tactics internationally.

Alongside 18 campaign endorsers and more than 1,200 individual supporters, the MEIA-G and GSU’s Progressive Student Alliance have built, cultivated and sustained a growing coalition organizing to eliminate GILEE from GSU and ultimately from Atlanta.

While the collaboration between the US military and the Israeli military is well-documented, social justice activists in the US are just now beginning to uncover the depth of collaboration between US and Israeli police forces. These collaborations further underscore the extent of the “special relationship” between the US and Israel, and their similar needs, as European settler-colonial projects, for elaborate systems of social control to manage the troublesome “undesirables” in their midst.

The US south has a particularly troublesome history of managing “undesirables.” With the formal abolition of slavery after the Civil War, a critical social question arose: how would the Georgia elite maintain its wealth and power in a society dependent on cash crops like “King Cotton” that relied upon a cheap, controllable and stable labor force? Policing provided the answer: newly established law targeting such activities as vagrancy and loitering were used to arrest and incarcerate southern Blacks. In short, prisons replaced plantations and police officers replaced plantation overseers (see Angela Davis, Abolition Democracy: Beyond Empire, Prisons and Torture, pp. 7-18).

Both the US and Israel are rooted in outside colonial forces invading a territory with the goal of possessing the maximum amount of natural resources — namely land — while erasing its indigenous population. In both cases, the US and Israeli militaries were created to engage the “external” threats of the unconquered indigenous populations, while their police forces were created to maintain control over the conquered indigenous populations (and other subjugated peoples like enslaved Africans) absorbed and “internalized” within these nation-state projects.

The US boasts the highest incarcerated population in the world — more than two million persons, including more than 800,000 Blacks. This does not include those on parole, on probation or unable to be employed because of a criminal record. Policing plays an integral role in not only surveiling, controlling and intimidating communities of color but also in funneling people into prisons. With such an exorbitant national incarceration rate, what do Georgia police officials like current Atlanta Police Department Chief of Police George Turner, former Chief of Police Richard Pennington and current Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director — all of whom have sojourned in Israel for the GILEE training — have left to learn about terrorizing and controlling these communities?

The Zionist project of confiscating the most amount of Palestinian land with the least amount of indigenous Palestinians remaining has one vital flaw. Evidenced in more than 60 years of resistance and resiliency to occupation, apartheid and genocide, Palestinians continue to resist the Zionist program of ethnic cleansing. Following the expulsion of 800,000 Palestinians in 1948, the Israeli state was tasked with controlling that pesky, residual population throughout historic Palestine. Under the guise of counter-terrorism, it is the Israelis’ sophisticated social control mechanisms that Georgia police officials learn to inflict upon Georgia residents.

The Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange operates within a public university but is largely funded by private donations, including donations from corporations and former graduates of the program. The extent of private support for this program is symptomatic of neoliberalism transforming public institutions in a way that compromises their integrity. GILEE does not reflect the desires of the Georgia State University community as evidenced by the opposition to the program voiced by numerous students, faculty and community members.

The director of the GILEE program is Dr. Robert Friedman, Professor Emeritus of Criminal Justice at GSU. Dr. Friedman serves on the advisory board of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT), an Israeli organization that has actively opposed human rights groups and acted as an apologist for the Israeli security apparatus. Boaz Ganor, founder and executive director of the ICT, serves as a board member for the GILEE program.

Another highly influential, and controversial, Israeli politician — Avi Dichter — has visited Atlanta to meet with Georgia law enforcement officials as part of GILEE. Dichter has been charged with extrajudicial killings, war crimes and other human rights violations by the Center for Constitutional Rights for the 2002 air strikes on Gaza. The meetings between Israeli and Georgia officials, the unknown specificities of the training program, and the large infiltration of money into the GILEE program from unknown sources are all being done under the auspices of Georgia State University, a public institution.

Activists throughout the US are beginning to uncover more and more police exchange programs in which US law enforcement officials travel to Israel to learn “counter-terrorism” tactics. Campaigns organizing to shut them down continue to take root. We have a political obligation to expose these programs, highlight how they impact oppressed communities in the US and close them as we build a more just world free of racist violence in both the United States and Palestine.

Hira Mahmood is a student activist and BDS organizer studying English literature at Georgia State University.

Wafa Azari organizes with the Movement to End Israeli Apartheid-Georgia. Currently residing in Atlanta, she was born and raised in Oujda, Morocco.

Gaza: Israeli forces strike after attack on bus: BBC

Israeli tanks, helicopters and planes have struck Gaza after an anti-tank missile fired from the Palestinian territory hit a bus in southern Israel.

The Israeli bus was nearly empty when it was hit by the missile, medical sources said

A teenaged boy on the bus was critically injured and the driver was also wounded.

Four people were killed and some 35 injured in the Israeli strikes, Gaza hospital officials said.

Israel meanwhile said it had successfully used a new missile-defence system for the first time.

Two missiles fired from Gaza in the direction of the city of Ashkelon were destroyed in mid-flight by an Israeli interceptor missile.

“Our Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepted two projectiles successfully,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

Compound bombed
The military wing of the Islamist Hamas movement said it carried out the bus attack. It said this was a response to the killing of three Hamas members in Israeli strikes earlier this week.

Reports say 45 mortars were fired from Gaza into Israel.

Following the bus attack, an Israeli plane bombed a compound in northern Gaza belonging to Hamas. Targets in Gaza City and Rafah were also hit.

Helicopters also machine-gunned a target in Gaza for the first time since Israel’s offensive more than two years ago, the Reuters news agency reports.

All senior Hamas figures are believed to have gone into hiding in expectation of further Israeli strikes.

Jon Donnison
Driving into Gaza City from the border, loud explosions could be heard. A huge plume of black smoke rose up to the north from an apparent Israeli air strike. Ambulances overtook us, speeding the injured to Shifa hospital.

This looks like another potentially dangerous escalation, and a reminder that the Gaza-Israel conflict has not gone away.

Militarily, Israel is far superior, a fact which is reflected in the casualty figures.

Both Hamas and Israel have recently said they wanted a return to calm. But both are under pressure from their constituents to act.

Israel, where casualties are rare, is under pressure from its border communities to punish militants in Gaza for any attacks. Hamas is under pressure from its militant wing and other armed groups in Gaza to respond forcefully. Both sides seem unable to see the other’s perspective.

The bus attackers used an anti-tank missile, the Israeli army said – the first time such a weapon had been used against an Israeli civilian target.

The bus had been dropping off schoolchildren near the Nahal Oz kibbutz, and was carrying only one passenger when it was hit, Israeli medical sources said.

A 16-year-old boy suffered a serious head wound and was taken to hospital for surgery.

Call for intervention
Mr Netanyahu said Israel would take any action necessary to deter attacks from Gaza.

“We hope this situation will be contained but we will not shy away from taking all the necessary action, offensive and defensive, to protect our country and to protect our citizens,” said Mr Netanyahu during a visit to Prague.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas urged Western powers to intervene, but also urged militants not to give Israel an excuse to hit Gaza.

Mr Abbas called on the West “to immediately intervene to stop this aggression”, the official Wafa news agency reported.

The US State Department condemned the Palestinian militants’ attack. Spokesman Mark Toner said there was “no justification of the targeting of innocent civilians.”

Earlier on Thursday, Israel carried out air strikes against smuggling in the south of the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian medics say more than 30 people were injured in the Israeli strikes

Last month saw some of the worst violence since Israel launched Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in December 2008, says the BBC’s Jon Donnison in Gaza.

In one week in March, at least 10 Palestinians – including several civilians and children – were killed by Israeli attacks.

In the same period, militants in Gaza fired more than 80 rockets and mortar shells into southern Israel.

Hamas had pledged to try to restore a ceasefire that ended on 16 March when an Israeli air strike killed two of its militants in the Palestinian territory.

However, Israel said it had suffered “bouts of terror and rocket attacks”.

Despite recent calls for calm, neither side seems to be able to stop firing, our correspondent says. Both say the other started it.

Israel says it holds Hamas responsible for all attacks coming out of Palestinian territory, even if it is other militant groups carrying them out.

Egyptian filmmakers rush to document the revolution: Ahram online

Egypt’s filmmakers are thronging to record the manifold stories of the Egyptian revolution on celluloid
Menna Taher, Thursday 7 Apr 2011
With Egyptian history being made with every passing day, filmmakers in the country appear to turn their backs on the “luxury” of the long feature film, and are scrambling to make documentary or short feature films, recording the Egyptian revolution or capturing from a whole range of angles.

“It’s important to try to document [the current events] now, but to shape it into a drama needs time as you learn the real meaning behind every event,” said the filmmaker Amr Salama.

Salama is finishing up his film Asmaa, starring, Tunisian born female star Hend Sabry, and is also working on a documentary along with filmmakers Ayten Amin and Tamer Ezzat, and produced by Mohamed Hefzy. The documentary is divided in three different parts; one about the police, the other about the revolutionaries and the third – his part – about the politicians during the Mubarak era.

Tahany Rached and Mona Asaad are also working on a documentary following the current events.

“Part of doing it is to understand the events ourselves,” said Assad. “We are concentrating on the social changes that have affected people and selecting different individuals, who became pro-active during the events. One is a 50-year-old man, who was an activist in his younger days and now has found different ways to contribute,” she explains.

The documentary is produced by Studio Masr, albeit on a tight budget. “All the crew are volunteers because of their interest in the project,” she continued.

Asaad said that they are still not sure whether the documentary will be compiled as a film or a separate series.

Intifadat Intifadat, an online initiative for short documentaries also plans to document events, especially those stories that are not getting enough media attention. The topics of their interest include worker’s rights and accounts of torture.

They have screened one of their documentaries in Berlin and won the prize for best documentary in the AUC series: Egypt Rising.

“We want anyone who has an interesting video to send it to us,” said Jasmina Metwaly, one of the contributors. Metwaly believes that all the videos on national television are idealising the revolution and they mean to counter that idea. “The revolution is not over,” Metwaly said.

A group of filmmakers including Youssry Nasrallah, Marwan Hamed, Kamla Abou Zikry, Mariam Abou Auf and Sherif El Bendary are making a series of shorts, compiled into one film, all revolving around moments during the uprising and intend sending it to the film festival at Cannes.

“I wasn’t going to make a film about the events as I don’t believe in including political statements in my films. I like to concentrate on individuals; their suffering, their character and their interaction with others,” El Bendary said.

“This is why I made a film about an old man with his grandson in Suez, trying to get home after the curfew and the obstacles they faced on the way.”

Kamla Abou Zikry chose to make her film during the first day of the protests, the symbolic 25 January.

“The films all take place during the period from 25 January until the resignation of Mubarak,” said Abou Zikry.  She revealed that it revolves around a blonde woman in the protests.

Abou Zikry was also shooting a series adapting Sonallah Ibrahim’s novel Zaat, which is at a standstill at the moment because of lack of funds. She has been working on it for seven months now.

Another group of directors are also creating a series of shorts, which will be produced by the Adl Brothers. Filmmakers include, Saad Hindawy, Ahmed Ghanem, Ayten Amin and Hala Khalil.

Tamer El Saeed was also asked to join, but he is uncertain if he will participate because he must finish his film In the Last Days of the City, starring Khaled Abdallah.

The film revolves around a filmmaker in his mid-30s reminiscing about a childhood when Cairo and Egypt seemed brighter. It also relays the stories of his friends from Iraq and Lebanon, and is shot in Cairo, Baghdad, Beirut and Berlin.

Khairy Bishara is also working on editing his first English film Moondog. The film, a biography is half-confessional, half-magical realism and a self-funded low-budget feature.

Many short videos will be distributed on Youtube are also in the making. Karim El Shennawy, the director of the satiric short Article 212, is making its sequel – Article 212 with amendments.

Another 11-minute video entitled Hekayet El Thawra, (Story of the Revolution) directed by Nagy Ismail, features many actors and artists, including Amr Waked, Asser Yassin, Basma, Youssra El Lozy, Mahmoud Hemeida and Tarek El Telmesany reciting poetry by Ahmed Haddad.

The video will be aired for the first time on television in the show Baladna Bel Masry on 7 April at 9 pm.

Tamer El Ashry is also making a video of Haitham Dabbour’s poetry to be distributed on Youtube.

Marmara to return to Gaza in May: YNet

Vessel involved in deadly raid in May 2010 scheduled to take part in another flotilla to Gaza Strip next month, IHH declares. Total of 15 ships to participate in ‘Freedom flotilla 2′

The Marmara ship which was involved in the deadly IDF raid last May is scheduled to return to Israel as part of the “Freedom flotilla 2″ next month, head of the IHH Bülent Yildirim said Thursday.

The flotilla is slated to depart in the second half of the month of May. “What happened in last year’s flotilla will not affect us or the next flotilla,” Yildirim said. He noted that the Marmara will depart from Europe and will carry artists, journalists and politicians. The organizers claim more than 15 vessels are slated to take part in the flotilla.

In May 31, 2010 a Navy force raided the Marmara ship which had broken the naval blockade on the Gaza Strip. On board the vessel were terrorists from the IHH organization who ambushed the soldiers ahead of time. The ship also carried peace activists who apparently were not aware of the Turkish group’s intentions

Several of the Navy commandos were attacked and kidnapped to the lower deck. The soldiers were then forced to use live ammunition and killed nine of the passengers. A week after the incident the Turkish press distributed photos of bleeding IDF soldiers captured by the activists.

Since returning to Turkey the Marmara has turned into a memorial site commemorating the event. The IHH recently hosted 10 Palestinian children on board the ship.

Students of Egypt’s American University question its ties to Mubarak’s regime: Ahram online

The American University in Cairo boasts of its commitment to academic independence and liberal education traditions, yet some of its students and staff are now questioning the depth of these commitments
Salma Shukrallah , Thursday 7 Apr 2011

AUC students demonstrate in solidarity with the university's workers' sit-in to demand higher wages. Photo courtesy of Gigi Ibrahim

Upon Mubarak’s overthrow and days after the American University in Cairo (AUC) resumed classes, an anonymous group of AUC students circulated a petition questioning the university’s constitution, which states that “students are prohibited from engaging in non-academic religious and political activities, as well as any unauthorised group formation within the university.”

The students argued in their statement that “AUC identifies itself as, above and beyond all things, Egyptian, and insists that it is apolitical, when its behaviour indicates that it is precisely the product of the outgoing regime and its institutions.”

The group says that as an institution the university claims to be neutral towards politics, while its positions are highly political and have been very much connected to Mubarak’s toppled regime.

Anthropology professor, Hanan Sabea, says that while many students and professors were present in Tahrir Square during the early days of February the university expected them to to resume classes.

The Chronicle of Higher Education mentions that the AUC president sent an email to all faculty that read that if they do not show up by the opening date of the university their absence would be considered an ‘immediate resignation’, which “angered many faculty members.”

While the university’s warning – or threat – could be seen as a sign that the institution was adopting a “neutral” position during the revolution, it has come across to some Egyptian members of the faculty and staff as an attempt to isolate them from Egyptian society.

Even worse, to others it appeared that the university was defending the now ousted regime.

“What will the university do with the Suzanne Mubarak hall, will it change the name? It used to celebrate Police Day, what did that mean?” asks Sabea.

In fact, Sabea’s questions were raised by students before the revolution. For example, when the university celebrated Police Day in 2010, student Philip Rizk, who only a year earlier had been detained, blindfolded and interrogated for three consecutive days by the police, sent a letter to the university president protesting the decision to host such a celebration.

Rizk’s concern was disregarded by the university, and, in a premonitory fashion, Egypt’s revolution started precisely one year after Rizk sent his letter of protest. The very first day of demonstrations was planned on Police Day for the express purpose of condemning police violence and brutality.

After Mubarak was forced to step down by the millions of Egyptians that had taken to the streets AUC requested that each department contribute to the success of the revolution academically. Sabea says “we were asked to collect testimonies and the like.” Obviously not satisfied, she continues “The university wants us to collect rather than engage.”

Students involved in the campaign share Sabea’s concerns and insisted the university’s policies imposed “separatism,” seeking to isolate its students from the wider Egyptian society.

While their isolation was the focus of early action, in their third and fourth petitions students openly accused the university of commemorating the former regime’s corrupt figures, highlighting the educational institution’s alleged complicity with the old regime’s state security apparatus, which is widely known for torturing and killing Egyptian citizens. One close-to-home example is the detention and torture of AUC alumni Hossam El-Hamalawy by state security in 2000.

The university’s alleged involvement with the old regime’s security apparatus was related to the use of its Tahrir Square campus by police snipers to kill demonstrators gathered in the square during Egypt’s 25 January Revolution.

AUC President Lisa Anderson officialy condemned police using Tahirir’s campus to fire at protestors, and in an official statement noted that the univesity had no knowledge that the gates of its then empty campus had been forced open, and that its rooftop was used to fire on demonstrators, as evidenced by empty shells found there.

However, students have focused on the role of state security on campus prior to the revolution, a role they claim violated student freedoms through threats, interrogations and even torture. They cite El-Hamalawy when he spoke of state security officers, who: “openly boasted of their relation to – and influence on – the American University in Cairo,” according to El-Hamalawy’s written testimonies and the student petition.

The petition further explained that “students on campus have repeatedly been subject to interrogation by security personnel over educational material and the content of lectures. Students have also been questioned regarding the actions and events of different AUC approved organisations/clubs.”

As a consequence student demands after the revolution have included the “immediate removal of all restrictions on political expression and assembly on campus,” and furthermore, “for AUC administration to disclose all agreements with the Egyptian government and state security and to cut all ties with these forces” and “to maintain from this point forth a complete transparency policy regarding the security of the campus.”

Moreover, the students have demanded the removal of two AUC staff members, namely the head of the security office Ashraf Kamal and director of the office of student development Mahmoud Dabour.

According to AUC student, Mariam Abughazy, both should have their positions revoked because of their background, involvement in violating student freedom and right to privacy as well as their relation to the old regime and its security apparatus.

Kamal is a former state security officer while Dabour is an NDP member responsible for approving and monitoring student activities.

AUC transparency is the pen name the student group issuing the petitions goes by. Their statements are posted via their blog, Facebook page and Twitter.

When contacted by Ahram Online the official response of the university to the campaign was that “The University has established complaint panels to receive complaints about any members of the staff, and all complaints are investigated; however, the University does not discuss publicly personnel issues, which are confidential, including informal accusations against members of the community.

Only accusations that are provided in writing are investigated. And while the details remain confidential, to protect both those making complaints and those against whom the complaints are made, the results of the investigations are made public”.

AUC has lately been suffering criticism triggered by worker strikes and demonstrations within the university demanding higher wages. It has also been accused of “corporatizing” its institution after it named several rooms, buildings and areas on its new campus after the names of corporations, despite it being a non-profit institution.

 

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