Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Day 12

I should apologise for not putting up any journey-related blogs of late. It isn't for want of activities or experiences. In fact, the situation has been quite the opposite. I'm currently in the heart of Israel living and meeting with committed Zionists, aka Israeli citizens. It's been an eye opening experience for me and it has helped to further humanise the conflict. I'm also on the verge of some big interview scoops. Hopefully more on that later.

On another note, something of an interesting and sad story for you. Last time I was here I met Hisham, a friendly and helpful Palestinian hostel manager in Jerusalem. He told me about his torture experience in an Israeli dungeon following a suicide bombing he was suspected of carrying out. He claims to have never been involved in it and, to be sure, he was finally released by the Israelis because he refused to confess to involvement in the bombing despite days of torture.
Meeting Hisham was high on my list for this trip and I duly visited the hostel in East Jerusalem where I met him last. As I walked up the stairs leading to the hostel's entrance I was greeted by a new face. He explained that Hisham was no longer here. He had been kicked out by the owner because of his inability to manage the hostel. Initially he was allowed to stay, as a paying lodgee, but eventually even this was cancelled. Hisham fled to the hostel next door where he remains, not as a worker but as a guest.

Concerned at his wellbeing I immediately went to the adjoining hostel only to discover he was sleeping. Eventually he awoke and I reintroduced myself. Astonishingly he remembered who I was.

"From Sydney?" he asked.

"Yes" I replied.

When I met Hisham last time I remember him speaking about his wife, children and extended family. Clearly he was no longer living with them. I did not press the issue and at least physically he looked very much the same as before. Moreover, his mind was still sharp but the body, and body language, was less robust. We sat and drank mint tea and spoke sporadically. Occasionally bohemian looking Western tourists drifted in. But apparently none were activists. Once a hotbed of activist ferment, the hostel was now a semi-operational facility with semi-employed staff.

Interestingly, I met a tall, heavily stoned Serbian bloke who kept on telling the duty manager "I love you." I later noticed the same man walking through the Old City... wearing a monk's garb. In the hostel he professed to being an Orthodox monk but, of course, no one believed him.

Jerusalem is interesting that way. Something of a hotbed for the spiritually needy and bankrupt, as well as other types.

J Street

Are liberal Jewish voices in America being drowned out by powerful conservative lobbyists? A group of prominent left-leaning Jewish-Americans thinks so.

Monday, April 28, 2008

He's too black

Exit polls in Pennsylvania found that 12% of whites said that race was a factor in deciding their votes while Clinton won white union households and white Catholics by about 70% to his 30%.

A Newsweek poll published yesterday suggests that 19% of voters were not ready to elect an African-American president.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

All of a sudden China is scary

This comes courtesy of Crikey.com.au:

White men with guns seem naturally reassuring to the psyche of a colonial settler state nestled in the midst of Asia. The armed yellow man induces quite a different effect. Compare the response to the Chinese torch attendants with the reaction to the personal army that George Bush brought to Sydney not so long ago.

Another good article on fear of China and the Asian other here.

The waiting game - day 10

Today I went to apply for an Israeli press card. I hailed a taxi and asked it to go to the address on the website. It turns out the address is for the head office, not the one journalists are meant to go to. The head office happens to be the fortress-like Prime Minister's Office. The barricade before the entrance is surrounded by three or four big security guards with very big machine guns. Needless to say I was stopped and my belongings searched. A guy delivering some take away food was also asked to stop and prove the contents of his delivery were high in carbohydrates and saturated fats and low in explosives. Eventually a very diminutive but helpful woman arrived and explained where I had to go. It was the prefect kodak moment but alas I couldn't exactly draw my camera out.

I suspect I won't get the pass. My sponsor isn't a large enough media outlet and my most recent piece for them is a pretty damning critique of Israeli society. If I don't get it it basically means I can't get into Gaza. To be honest, if that happens, I'll be pretty disappointed.

[A photo taken on my daily walk back up the hill away from the old city heading south east. In the distance you can see the separation wall that keeps all those terrorist Palestinians out]

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Why you can't trust Mid-East reporting

The US claim that Syria was developing nuclear weapons has hit the headlines. Check out the New York Times' curious piece on the site Israel bombed. Notice that you have to wait until the bottom of the page to read what Syrian officials said. But what's been almost entirely ignored is the fact that Israel bombed another sovereign nation when there was no immediate threat. Now what would happen if Syria bombed Israel's nuclear facilities, which we happen to know already have at least a hundred nukes?

The International Atomic Energy Agency has said it "deplores the fact that this information [alleging the existence of a nuclear facility]... was not provided to the Agency in a timely manner... to enable it to verify its veracity and establish the facts." That is diplomatic speak for 'not happy Jan'.

Most importantly, you'd think the fact that the US launched a murderous war in Iraq on the back of faulty intelligence would warrant a bit of skepticism towards the present claims. Yet most of the reporting has, at best, skirted around this. Surely allegations concerning nuclear weapons from the country with the most powerful military force in the world, not to mention largest stockpile of nuclear weapons, ought to be treated with significant skepticism?

Israel's American spy network

You may find this shocking.

God, monotheism and the rest of it

Last year I read Karen Armstrong's Battle for God. Basically it's a history of fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. I was impressed by her ability to describe complex histories and theological concepts using only plain language. I'd strongly recommend having a read of it as it's a good source of history and information on the development of these faiths. My copy is full of post-it notes. I just saw the documentary of her book History of God. While it's generally not bad, it's not particularly informative. Perhaps the book is more detailed. However what really surprised me was that it was really only about the development of God under Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Even then, the information wasn't really grounded in established fact and historical and archeological evidence but was rather a loose anthropological excerise. There's nothing wrong with that if your purpose is to produce a television documenary that leaves you with a warm, fuzzy feeling. But surely people ought to be given more detail. And not just about these three major faiths but other religions too.

To be honest, I think the three 'major' monotheisms get far too much air time. It's as if no other religious traditions exist. Moreover, the documentary treated pagan and polytheistic religions as precursors to monotheism, thereby implying that they are somehow less developed or sophisticated. Economically and geopolitically the world map may not be drawn up on the basis of adherence to one of the monotheistic religions. East Asia is an economic power house even though most of its peoples are not monotheists. However, I think there's a danger of relegating a lot of very useful and interesting thinking because it doesn't conform to the monotheistic template. For years, once becoming an atheist, I enjoyed reading the Tao Te Jing. It's so wonderfully ambiguous and paradoxical and poetic that it gives the reader the freedom to make of it what he or she feels. I think that is how most people, even monotheists, operate; especially when left to their own devices. Maybe we ought to celebrate that more.

Living in Jerusalem this past week and a bit has certainly confirmed the bankruptcy of organised religion. As much as religion has the capacity for beauty, surely the greatest beauty rests in the personal expressions not the grand public spectacles? But perhaps, being something of a loner, I'm a little biased on this point.

[A woman celebrating Orthodox Easter with the flame that symbolises Christ.]

China and the West's double standards

We need China to be "terrible" — in Tibet and elsewhere — because we don't want to be the only ones defined as oppressors, as colonialists: we need to convince the world (and ourselves) that China is part of the club. So that we can say, as we always did, that brutality is common to all men, no matter what culture they belong to, no matter what economic system is ruling their lives. If Chinese foreign policy is not as terrible as ours, we have to make sure that we make it look like it is. Otherwise, what would justify our star wars and surveillance measures?

Andre Vltchek in NewMatilda.com.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Wall Art - Jerusalem old city

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Denying the Nakba

I just received this email from a distinguished academic. He's involved in medical aid work in Afghanistan. In fact, he okays much of the donations from his Western government to clinics in Afghanistan. I shudder to think how he treats the Afghans.

Dear Iqbal,
There is too much Pallywood going on to believe even what you see there. My mother was in the West Bank and was treated to the same spectacles. They're good, but they do get caught, as with the recent "blackout". Check out:
I assume that you are an immigrant to Australia. Where from?
Yours, [insert redneck]

Historic first session

The United Kingdom came in for robust questioning on its human rights record from other UN member states last week at the Human Rights Council, during the historic first session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). Over the course of three hours, 38 countries took the floor to ask UK Justice Minister Michael Wills about a wide range of issues, including racial discrimination, corporal punishment against children, abuses committed by UK armed forces abroad, and failure to ratify particular UN conventions and their protocols.

Coming at a time when the UK government is trying to pass yet another piece of counterterrorism legislation, which includes extending pre-charge detention to 42 days, it’s no wonder a significant number of countries asked about UK counterterrorism policies. Neighbors such as The Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland expressed concern about 42 day detention, but so did countries like Syria and Algeria. Algeria’s representative pointed out that the Human Rights Committee - the UN body that monitors compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights - had recently "upbraided" Algeria for allowing up to twelve days of pre-charge detention.

Justice Minister Wills defended the UK’s counterterrorism approach as proportionate, necessary and subject to parliamentary and legal review. On this, as on most of the other issues touched upon, Wills gave little reason to believe the UK would change its position, despite the criticisms it received. Many interveners congratulated the UK on the broad consultations it conducted with domestic nongovernmental organizations leading up to the UPR. Indeed, the UK circulated a draft national report among NGOs and asked for input. But consultation is not synonymous with compliance, and the official report did not reflect many of the NGOs’ opinions that the government had so eagerly sought.

Overall, given the constraints of the forum - 3 minute interventions by states, with periodic responses from Mr. Wills - it was a substantive "interactive dialogue" that touched on major human rights issues in the UK. Other reviews in this historic first UPR session have not been nearly as challenging. But what happens now? An outcome report containing 29 recommendations - some broad-brush, others quite specific - that came out of last week’s debate will likely be adopted in June by the full Human Rights Council. Ultimately though, the UK will only be held to account for implementation of those recommendations it accepts, not the ones it rejects.

(From Human Rights Watch)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Daniel Pipes

Daniel Pipes is one of the most dangerous hate speakers of our times. One minute, in Australia, he argues that Islam is incompatible with democracy. The other he argues in The Jerusalem Post (literally only two days later!!) that it is not.

I don't want to heap praise on the fellow because it's not exactly an act of genius, but he does have a way of massaging his racism so that it appears less offensive than it is. Compare, for example, the Jerusalem Post piece, which is actually quite informative and well written and around 95% correct, with something like this. Pipes knows exactly how to talk to his audience.

What he shows is that a racist in the guise of an intellectual can help legitimate a lot of very nasty things. One ought to cross reference this with the respected scientist James Watson, who discovered DNA, and his belief that 'blacks' are a less intelligent variant of homo sapiens sapiens. Here's a quote from the Sunday Times piece, written by one of his old assistants, which lifted his lid:

He says that he is “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa” because “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really”, and I know that this “hot potato” is going to be difficult to address. His hope is that everyone is equal, but he counters that “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true”. He says that you should not discriminate on the basis of colour, because “there are many people of colour who are very talented, but don’t promote them when they haven’t succeeded at the lower level”. He writes that “there is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically. Our wanting to reserve equal powers of reason as some universal heritage of humanity will not be enough to make it so”.

When you read what Watson says it sounds a lot more valid, almost respectable. Like Pipes in the JPost there are a deal of valid points raised. But masked within the euphimisms and indirect speech is a classically racist argument: blacks (or Muslims, or turnips, and so on) are not just inferior, but inherently so.

This is not the racism of the BNP or Pauline Hanson. No. Call it racism for the bourgeoisie.

Back in Jerusalem - Days 5-6

It's stinking hot in Jerusalem. While this has done wonders for my pores and complexion it's also reduced my capacity to wander the hills and streets. Yesterday (Tuesday) I managed a little bit of a wander through the Jewish and Arab/Muslim quarters of the old city. It was really quite a wonderful if sometimes wierd and tense experience.

I met a friendly Ethiopian security guard while I was entering the Western Wall complex (you have to go through metal detectors). When I told him I was from Australia he asked if I'd sponsor his visa application. He wasn't joking either. I suggested he seduce a nice Australian girl and ask her to sponsor him.

This is the Western or wailing Wall. It is the western side of the old Jewish temple that sat where the Al Aqsa mosque now resides. It's the holiest site for Jews and it is quite a sight watching many of those praying become emotional, some even hug the wall.

This is an inner section of the Western Wall. Bizarrely, I was asked for money by two different Jewish beggers and I saw more of them outside. I've read that poverty and the rich/poor gap is increasing in Israel so it was sad to see it 'confirmed' like this.
I had a bit of difficulty entering Musjid-e-Al Aqsa complex. It was beyond the tourist opening times and I found it difficult to convince the Israeli soldiers, police and paramilitary folks (all six of them!!) that I was Muslim. I rattled off the few suras I still remember but it wasn't enough. So I resorted to showing my driver's licence and press passes. The end product of all this - the mosque complex, which is huge and quite beautiful, was close to deserted.
I really liked this lamp.

Here you can see the main room of Musjid-e-al Aqsa. It's actually the smaller of the two domes in the complex. According to canon, this is where Prophet Muhammed teleported from Mecca to Jerusalem via winged-mule before being transported to heaven at the Dome of the Rock (the bigger dome) where he hung out with other Prophetic lumeries such as Abraham, Jesus and Moses. Oh and Allah too.

Beautiful wall art outside Al Aqsa.

A street market in one of the halls exiting the Al Aqsa complex.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Every year I marvel again at the genius of this ceremony. It unites the whole family, and everyone - from the venerable grandfather to the smallest child - has a role in it. It engages all the senses: seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching. The simplistic text of the Haggadah, the book which is read aloud, the symbolic food, the four glasses of wine, the singing together, the exact repetition of every part every year - all these imprint on the consciousness of a child from the earliest age an ineradicable memory that they will carry with them to the grave, be they religious or not.

Hamas bans lawyers

Palestine Centre for Human Rights is Concerned over the Ban of its Lawyers from Visiting Prisons in the Gaza Strip

PCHR is deeply concerned over the continued ban on visits for its lawyers to their clients in the prisons administered by the dismissed government in Gaza. The Centre views this ban as a violation of International Law and relevant international standards. Specifically, this ban violates the right of detainees to lawyer visits. The Centre is concerned that this ban is motivated by the perpetration of illegal actions such as torture and other forms of cruel and inhumane treatment against prisoners.

The Centers lawyers have not been able to visit their clients in Gaza prisons for over two months. The Centre has documented at least 30 instances in which lawyers were prevented from visitation despite prior coordination with the relevant authorities and with the prisons. Every time the lawyers face obstacles that bar the visits, including “The security officer is not in the prison” and “the place is not suitable for visits.” The last visit to an imprisoned client by PCHR’s lawyers was on 20 February 2008.

One of the recent ban on visitation occurred on Tuesday, 15 April 2008, when lawyers attempted to visit 18 prisoners in Gaza Central Prison in Gaza City. The lawyers submitted the visit request with the approval of the Ministry of Interior signed on 7 April. The Minister noted on the letter “Internal Security Apparatus to facilitate the mission of human rights organizations in accordance with regulations.” After waiting for more than half an hour at the gate, the guard informed the lawyers that the visit is not possible due to the unsuitability of the place.

PCHR maintains records for tens of prisoners banned from lawyer visits throughout the Gaza Strip. Some of them have not met their lawyers for more than 4 months, including some ill prisoners. The Centre repeatedly demanded from security services to facilitate and ensure these visits in order to assess the health conditions of these prisoners and ensure their reception of adequate healthcare.

It is noted that many prisoners were not subjected to adequate legal procedures. Some were detained by the Police; while others were detained without warrant by Internal Security. Some prisoners were questioned and tortured, including the use of handcuffs, blindfolds, and severe beating. They were detained without being brought in front of a judge.

In light of this situation, PCHR calls upon the dismissed government in Gaza to:

- Ensure that judges and prosecutors fulfill their responsibility over prisons to ensure that all detainees were detained according to due process in accordance with Article 126 of the Penal Code No. 3 for the Year 2001. The Centre also calls for the implementation of Articles 105, 123, and 128 of the afore-mentioned law.

- Release all prisoners who were illegally detained; and to take all necessary steps to ensure their enjoyment of their legal rights.

- Allow PCHR’s lawyers to visit their clients in prisons and detention centers in accordance with the law.

Rest in Peace

Riad Hamad
(For more information watch this interview)

Monday, April 21, 2008

Read the Israeli press

If you want to understand the conflict here, something I struggle to do, you need to read the Israeli press. For example, today's Ha'aretz has this in it:

Miller writes that many ethnic groups, such as the Irish and the Cubans, are deeply involved in American foreign relations; however, no group in America can compete with the clout of the Jewish community with its influence on centers of power. This former senior Jewish official is the first to accuse the U.S. administrations of the last 15 years, both Democratic and Republican, of a bias in the Israeli-Arab conflict.

You simply could not write something like that in a Western newspaper. You'd be branded anti-Semitic.

Breaking news

While I've been here there have been several developments...

Ex-president Carter has met with Hamas and urged that they be included in peace negotiations.

Hamas did a surprise attack on Israeli forces near Gaza. Several, mostly Palestinian, people have been killed in the ensuing battle, including a Palestinian cameraman working for Reuters. Evidence suggests Fadel Shana was deliberately targeted.

However, what has received virtually no coverage is the kidnap of 27 civilians by Israeli forces following the initial Hamas attack.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Nazareth - Days 3-4

Here's some pictures of Nazareth where I was staying this weekend. It is the largest Arab population centre in Israel.

Adjacent to Nazareth is Nazareth Illit, a Jewish settlement which is far more developed and far less interesting. Illit is to the left and Nazareth to the right in the photo below.

Nazareth is a predominantly Christian city. According to my friend the reason why it wasn't ethnically cleansed during Al Nakba in 1948 was because the Zionists feared a backlash from their European patrons. Below is a beautiful Catholic church with a rather wicked view.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Jerusalem - Day 2

[Entering the Old City markets via the Damascus Gate]

[Mountains of spices in the Old City markets]
[Al Aqsa, the third holiest mosque for Muslims, is the gold-domed building on the right. Behind it is the mountain top where some Jews believe the true believers will ascend to heaven]

[An intersection near the Church of the Holy Sepulchre]

[Ubiquitous Israeli soldiers... and tourists in the Arab quarter of the Old City]
['Sharon House' - a settlement set up by Ariel Sharon on land confiscated from Palestinians in the Old City]
[Selling shoes outside the Damascus Gate, Jerusalem Old City]
Today, my first full day here, was spent roaming through the old city of Jerusalem. I bought some ‘Indian spices’ with which to cook a curry for my very generous hosts. Last night I walked around a fancy neighbourhood and saw one of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s mansions. The place was eerily vacant! Apparently he's in a bit of hot water trying to explain how he can afford such an expensive residence. Perhaps he's vacated it until a parliamentary investigation is completed. Here and there you could see the fading markers of previous Arab occupants. A typical indicator was a bit of Arabic etched into the stone doorway at the entrance to a house.

Because it’s Passover in Israel all government offices and many businesses are closed for the next seven days. The real action, then, will commence the week after that. But the hiatus gives me an ample opportunity to line up some interviews and tours of cities in the West Bank. I’m also going to visit the Australian Embassy to discuss ‘coordination’ of entry into the Gaza Strip with the Israeli military. You need to get permission from the Army to enter or leave Gaza. The civilian folk have nothing to do with it. Foreign nationals are usually coordinated via their country’s diplomats.
Next stop, Nazareth.

Friday, April 18, 2008

House Negro returns to Palestine

[Old Jerusalem as seen from the east]

I've returned to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories to continue documenting the human side of the conflict here. Most of my time will be spent in the Occupied Territories, although on this occasion I intend to do some stories from Israel as well.

This morning I arrived at Ben Gurion Airport. With the help of some contacts I was able to get out of the airport in a speedy 3 and a half hours. The last time I entered Israel I was kept for over 8 hours, interviewed thrice, and strip searched. Oh did I mention I also met a drunk orthodox Jew muttering on about blowing something up in the Negev desert?

Anyway, I'm a little exhausted right now. But please come back soon, if not every day, for a new instalment of my latest journey.



Monday, April 14, 2008

Carter speaks to Hamas

Former Knesset Member Uri Avnery, activist of Gush Shalom (The Israeli Peace Bloc), congratulates Jimmy Carter for his wise and courageous decision to meet in Damascus with Haled Mash’al and other Hamas leaders and talk with them on the ways to promote peace in our region. Simultaneously, Avnery sent letters to PM Olmert as well as to Foreign Minister Livny and Defence Minister Barak – calling upon them to terminate the orchestrated campaign against Carter and make use of the former US President's position and prestige in order to end the suffering and bloodshed among both peoples, as well as achieve at last an exchange of prisoners which would restore to their homes and families the captured Israeli soldier Gil’ead Shalit as well as a significant number of Palestinian prisoners.

Source: Gush Shalom.

Have you noticed?

...that Obama is constantly in the news, apparently for making an inappropriate comment. Will they yet let a black man become President?

Worldwide shortage of food

...desperation in dozens of countries has turned deadly of late. In the past week alone there have been violent, food-related riots in Haiti, Indonesia, the Philippines and Cameroon.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Obama and Israel

Obama implicitly admitted that Wright's views were rooted in opposition to Israel's deep ties to apartheid South Africa, and thus entirely reasonable even if Obama himself did "not necessarily," as he put it, share them. Israel supplied South Africa with hundreds of millions of dollars of weaponry despite an international embargo. Even the water cannons that South African forces used to attack anti-apartheid demonstrators in the townships were manufactured at Kibbutz Beit Alfa, a "socialist" settlement in northern Israel. Until the late 1980s, South Africa often relied on Israel to lobby Western governments not to impose sanctions.

Back to the Promised Land

In September 2005 I went to Israel and occupied Palestine. Next week I’ll be returning for another long trek through the land promised to too many. I hope to keep a daily diary so that family and close friends know where I am. Already it looks like the journey will be my latest foray into the realm of uncertainty. For example, I intelligently booked a flight that arrives in Israel at the start of Passover, the religious festival that extends over a week grinding every day life, including public transport, to a halt. Despite that, my main concern is how the Israeli customs officials at the airport will greet me. Keep you posted.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

No guns please we're Aussies

Chinese paramilitary police criticized for heavy-handed tactics in the Olympic torch relay will not be allowed to run in the Australian leg, the country's prime minister said Thursday.

Truth be told the Australian Government is only doing this for populist reasons. But good work nonetheless!

60 years of dispossession

''It is 60 years of Israel's independence, which also means that it is 60 years of suffering of the people who were here,'' he said.

Daniel Barenboim on Israel's 60th anniversary.

Something to fight for

... I think what used to be called, centuries ago, "wage slavery" is intolerable. I mean, I do not think that people ought to be forced to rent themselves in order to survive. I think that the economic institutions ought to be run democratically - by their participants, and by the communities in which they live. And I think that through various forms of free association and federalism, it's possible to imagine a society working like that. I mean, I don't think you can lay it out in detail - nobody's smart enough to design a society; you've got to experiment.

- Noam Chomsky, "Understanding Power - the indispensible Chomsky"

Courtesy of my brother's book shelf. He always seems to have a great collection.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

US and the Israel/Palestine 'peace process'

Yesterday's Ha'aretz noted something that ought be front page news here in the West:

In an instructive article published by the U.S./Middle East Project, Frederic Hof - who used to head the Mitchell Committee staff - writes that in April 2001, a few weeks after he submitted the Mitchell Report to the State Department, Sen. George Mitchell spoke on the phone with the new secretary of state at the time, Colin Powell.

Mitchell said the report's recommendations on the cessation of violence and confidence building between the two sides, including freezing construction in the settlements and renewing political negotiations, would not be implemented on their own. Mitchell noted that in light of the mutual lack of confidence between Israel and the Palestinians, nothing would happen unless the United States firmly led the process.

Hof believes that an American effort to help implement the report could have stopped the deteriorating situation in the territories and brought both sides back to the negotiating table.

Unfortunately, he writes, "I came quickly to the unhappy conclusion relatively soon after the report's release that there had never been any intention on the part of the Bush administration to do any heavy lifting to help the parties implement the report's recommendations." The Quartet also made do with submitting the road map to the two sides, and ordered them to cope on their own with the heavy challenge of setting a timetable and monitoring the fulfillment of their commitments.

You can read the whole thing here.

Bangladesh posts war crimes list

Al Jazeera reports:

Bangladeshi war veterans and intellectuals have published a list of alleged war criminals from the country's 1971 independence struggle with Pakistan.

The War Crimes Fact Finding Committee (WCFF) spent two decades documenting war-time incidents and announced the publishing of the list on Friday.

The list has nearly 1,600 names and the publishers are demanding the prosecution of those who are alive.

The WCFF has also proposed the setting up of a post-apartheid South African-style truth and reconciliation commission.

Prominent names

Among the big names on the list are Yahya Khan, president of Pakistan during the 1971 war, General Tikka Khan, under whose command Pakistan launched the military crackdown to crush the liberation movement in Bangladesh and Lieutenant General Ameer Abdullah Khan Niazi, the Pakistani general who surrendered to India in December 1971.

Among the Bangladeshis on the list was Matiur Rahman Nizami, the head of the Jamaat-e-Islami party and a minister in a coalition government until October 2006.

Interesting that they don't mention this.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Gaza's civilian casualties

The human rights organization B'Tselem on Monday said in a statement that more than half of the Palestinians killed in the Gaza Strip in Israel Defense Forces operations in recent days did not take an active part in the fighting. This statement came after the IDF Chief of Staff issued a statement saying that 90 percent of those killed were in fact armed militants.

In their statement, B'Tselem outlined a string of incidents in which IDF allegedly killed innocent bystanders in the course of military operations aimed at battling the escalating rocket fire from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel.

According to data gathered by B'Tselem, 106 Palestinians were killed between February 27 and march 3. Fifty four of them were civilians who didn't take part in the fighting, and 25 were under 18, the statement said.

The human rights group cites as an example an incident that occurred on Thursday, in which four children were killed and two others were wounded in an Israel Air Force strike targeting rocket launchers. The children had been playing soccer in a street east of the Jabaliya refugee camp. The organization's inquiry into the incident revealed that the Qassam launcher may have been situated 100 meters from the site of the strike, and no militants were harmed in the strike.

Another incident cited by B'Tselem is the death of a brother and sister aged 16 and 17 while they were watching the violence from the window of their home east of Jabaliya. According to witnesses, the two were shot in the head and the chest.

B'Tselem expressed concern over the high number of civilians, especially children, who have been killed recently in the Gaza Strip. " Israel has a right to defend its citizens from rockets, which are in themselves a war crime, and it is what it must do," the organization wrote. " Israel must do so within the confines of the law, which must conform to the criteria of differentiation and proportionality as defined by international humanitarian law."

The sub prime crisis explained

Friday, April 04, 2008

Post-colonial crimes in Balochistan

This week is the 60th anniversary of the Pakistani invasion, annexation and occupation of the independent state of Balochistan. On April 1, 1948, Pakistani troops poured across the border. Ever since, Balochistan has been under illegal military rule from Islamabad.

The Baloch people were never asked if they wanted to be part of Pakistan. They never voted to join Pakistan. Indeed, the Baloch parliament voted unanimously against incorporation into the new Pakistani state.

Thousands of Baloch people have been massacred, hundreds of thousands made refugees, and thousands more have disappeared or been tortured and jailed, often without trial. Pakistan is guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Lock your children

“He’s a warrior. He’s a poet. He’s a scholar. He’s a pundit. He’s a military commander. And he’s a very charismatic, young, brash rising star within A.Q., and I think he has become the heir apparent to Osama bin Laden in terms of taking over the entire global jihadist movement.”

So claims a US security analyst when speaking of Al Qaeda supposed new star leader in Afghanistan. Interesting how the Americans always have to mythologise the enemy, much as they exaggerated the strategic threat posed by the Soviet Union.

Confiscation of Palestinian land continues

Israel claims that new construction in eastern Jerusalem , captured in 1967, cannot be called settlement activity because Israel annexed the eastern half and it is no longer occupied territory. Unfortunately, no other country recognizes the annexation. Every other government in the world, including the United States , believes that east Jerusalem is occupied territory, and that civilian Israeli construction there is forbidden under the Geneva Conventions.

More important, Israel committed itself in the framework of President Bush’s 2003 Road Map to peace to “freeze all settlement activity (including natural growth of settlements).” There’s no exception for new building inside the settlements’ municipal boundaries, which Israel insists it’s entitled to do. New homes for the settlers’ growing families are exactly what is meant by “natural growth.”

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Why blog?

I've been tagged by da Toaf; I have to list three motivations for blogging. Here's mine:

1. It helps keep me sane while the smell of smoke engulfs my globe;

2. Allows me to vent, ramble and pontificate with little or no sense of guilt or self-consciousness; and

3. Blogging is part of my secret plans for world domination. The revoluation shall commence any moment now...

Now it's Chungking Express, Kowloon Roo and Waspoh's turn to give three reasons!!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Your help is needed

On the morning of Wednesday, Feb. 27, award-winning schoolteacher Riad Hamad, founder of the Palestine Children's Welfare Fund (PCWF) was getting ready to leave for work when the doorbell rang in his modest apartment in Austin, Texas. It was a dozen FBI and IRS agents bearing a search warrant from Judge Robert Pittman, known for his hostility to Palestinians and Arabs, with whom Riad had had previous experience.

For most of the day, the agents searched every nook and cranny of the apartment, then left with more than forty boxes of papers, files, computers and CDs. No charges were filed at the time against Riad and he was not arrested, but the investigators said they had probable cause to investigate wire fraud, bank fraud and money laundering.

PCWF thus joins the Middle East Children's Alliance, Kinder USA and Holy Land Foundation - all dedicated to helping Palestinian children as a major part of their work - as objects of investigations that have damaged the functioning of their mission. In no case were these organizations found guilty of wrongdoing.

It is not a coincidence that Riad and PCWF have been targeted. PCWF has been associated with all these organizations, and it is reasonable to assume that when investigations turned up nothing there, they used the references to PCWF to go fishing. Riad has been expecting this for 37 years but refuses to be intimidated, and insists upon exercising his full right to defend Palestinian rights - and his own - in America.

How about you?

Riad lives off his modest schoolteacher salary only. The proceeds from PCWF have benefited thousands of Palestinians with jobs, food, medicine, books, hospital equipment and other humanitarian needs. www.pcwf.org

He cannot afford the costs of defending his legal rights. Will you help? All of us who care about Palestinian and human rights, including our own, have a stake in defending Riad's.

Here's what you can do:

1. Call or write your Congressional Representatives and tell them to find out why PCWF and other organizations that benefit Palestinian children are being targeted.

2. Help Riad wth his legal expenses by sending your donations to:

Riad Hamad Legal Support Fund
405 Vista Heights Road
El Cerrito, CA 94530

Further information will be posted as it becomes available at Riad Hamad's weblog, http://blog.myslantedview.org/