The new venue for a debate with Ilan Pappe was packed with a standing room only crowd
IIan Pappe, the outspoken Israeli historian, has criticized an Italian university for succumbing to “Zionist intimidation” by canceling a debate in which he was scheduled to take part.
Just days before the 16 February debate was due to take place, the University of Rome III denied the event’s organizers use of its prestigious Center for Italian and French Studies for the debate. The event — dealing with the use and abuse of identity in Europe and the Middle East — did go ahead, but at a different venue.
The last-minute cancelation is another case of preemptive muzzling by an institution of higher learning. “It is very disturbing to see how freedom of speech is framed in Europe,” Pappe told The Electronic Intifada. “Ridiculing the prophet Muhammad in cartoon is the litmus test for a society that cherishes freedom of speech; however an open candid conversation about Israel and Palestine is disallowed as an incitement.”
The initial reasons given by the university referred to “procedural errors.” Pappe found this excuse to be even more sinister.
“Nobody can really say openly that they disallow a debate on Palestine, so usually technical issues are mentioned by the prospective hosts of such events, while Zionist lobbies more openly celebrate another successful case of silencing debates on Israel’s policies in Palestine,” said Pappe, who is best known for documenting how Zionist forces uprooted almost 800,000 Palestinians and destroyed more than 500 Palestinian villages in 1948.
Indeed, a pro-Israel website, Informazione Corretta, claimed victory, stating that thanks to “friends in Rome,” the venue had been denied due to protests over its proximity to the city’s Jewish quarter.
University succumbs to “intimidation”
In an email message to The Electronic Intifada, the University of Rome III press office stated that the university had not refused to host the event, as an alternative venue had been offered.
The organizers, however, were quick to point out that the alternative venue was a wholly inadequate, ill-equipped space reserved for dance performances and offered as cover for the last-minute revocation. What was far more disturbing, they say, was the university’s efforts to delegitimize the debate, denying the use of its logos and scrubbing the event from its website.
The university’s initial announcement of the event is still visible via Google cache.
Pappe, who has experienced these attempts at censorship in many countries, said, “The bad feeling is not leaving us: yet another respectable institute of higher education in Europe succumbed to Zionist intimidation and terror.”
The Zionist lobby’s attempt to silence its critics did not work. The new venue was packed with a standing room only crowd, as was a last-minute overflow room, providing the opportunity “to listen to an open debate in which Palestine was one issue in a wider conversation about power and knowledge,” said Pappe.
It also laid bare the cowardice of the university, showing more concern for external pressure groups than its own reputation, independence and societal obligations.
As Pappe noted, “The struggle here is therefore not only for the right of the Palestinians’ plight to be heard but also for academia to cease its shameful surrender to the powers that be and fulfill more courageously the role they are paid for: to be society’s watchdogs and not the puppies of the governments.”
An open letter launched by the organizers and signed by Pappe expresses outrage at the university shirking its responsibility to increase “opportunities for debates that foster critical thinking” rather than censor them.
The letter also calls on “the academic communities in the world to stand against the selective use of the principles of freedom of speech and academic freedom.” The letter was published on Sunday and quickly received more than one hundred signatures from academics around the world.
Silencing Palestine across Italy
This is just one instance in a disturbing trend of efforts to shut down discussion of Palestinian rights and history in public spaces in Italy, and the more alarming tendency of authorities to succumb to pressure and unfounded accusations.
On 27 February, Rome’s La Sapienza University revoked authorization to screen the documentary The Fading Valley by the Israeli director Irit Gal. The film deals with waterissues in the occupied West Bank’s Jordan Valley.
The No Acea Mekorot Committee works to end an agreement between Rome’s water utility and the Israeli company responsible for the theft of Palestinian water resources. The group said in a press release that the cancelation followed a phone call from the Israeli embassy and objections by several students, after which the dean withdrew permission to use university facilities.
“It is unacceptable that the Israeli embassy intervenes in the decisions of Italian universities,” the committee said. “Worse still is the dishonorable and shameful way in which Italian academic institutions cave to its diktats.”
Negating Palestinian history
In Turin last November, days after an exhibition featuring photos from the digital archive of UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees, opened at the Museum of Resistance, efforts began to have it closed.
The Jewish Community of Turin threatened to cancel its organizational membership at the museum unless the exhibition was suspended, accusing the UN agency of “notoriously expressing anti-Semitic views.”
While the museum kept the exhibition open, it took the bizarre measure of posting a notice at the entrance and on its website informing visitors of the protests of the Jewish Community of Turin “criticizing the unilateral, biased and prejudiced anti-Israeli” nature of its contents.
The museum’s press office confirmed to The Electronic Intifada that this was the first time a disclaimer had been posted for an exhibition.
In addition, the museum canceled two events scheduled during the exhibition — a roundtable discussion, which included a speaker designated by the Jewish Community of Turin, due to “organizational reasons” — and a reading of the late Palestinian poetMahmoud Darwish’s work. According to the museum, these events were pulled in order to avoid “misrepresentation” of the exhibition.
The University of Padua also recently revoked a student association’s authorization for fundraising events for Syrian and Kurdish refugees. In a posting on Facebook, organizers said they had been told of the cancelation following complaints from a single Israeli student about a map near a fundraising table, not officially part of the event, where another student had written “Palestine” over Israel.
The student organizers said the dean not only canceled future fundraising events by the group but also required that requests for events dealing with Palestine be presented jointly with an Israeli student.
Also in November, as the newspaper La Stampa reported, Daniela Santus, a professor at the University of Turin, refused to chair a panel for a discussion of a thesis by two undergraduate students because the topic was Palestine.
That same professor had invited Israel’s deputy ambassador to Italy to speak at the university in 2005.
Ruba Salih, an academic with the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, took part in the discussion with Pappe in Rome. Referring to comments by the philosopher Judith Butler that “not all lives are grievable,” Salih denounced the selective way in which discussions about Palestine are censored.
“When Palestinian children are described as human shields, they inevitably enter the realm of non-human, they become objects and legitimate targets of war, deprived of subjectivity,” Salih observed. “They become non-lives, or expendable lives, to safeguard the lives of those that do exist.”
(Source / 02.03.2015)
Egypt last had a full legislature combined with a civilian executive in February 2011. Back then after having lost popular legitimacy and effective control of the country, Mubarak was pushed from power, and parliament was then dismissed.
Since then, there have been legislatures, and there have been elected executives – but never both at the same time. Mursi came close, as he did enjoy the existence of the upper house of parliament, coinciding with his presidency – but not a full legislature.
March and April in 2015 were hitherto packaged as a landmark when there would be, for the first time in more than four years, a functioning legislative along with an elected executive. Cases brought to the Supreme Constitutional Court, however, meant that a series of challenges were heard against the legal regime that elections were meant to be held under.
The court rejected several challenges – crucially, the court has upheld the constitutionality of the electoral law and political rights law, which many political forces have convincingly argued will result in a fragmented and disproportionate parliament. As it is, that parliament debut will be yet further delayed.
The method of division for constituencies, which was to be governed by a presidential decree passed in 2014, was deemed unconstitutional. It’s not a small thing. Effectively, it means a delay in parliamentary elections – and that delay could easily stretch to the autumn or the winter, as a result of the hot summer months, Ramadan, and vacation periods.
One could argue that this would probably not bother the sitting executive. Indeed, many analysts speculate the former military officer has little patience for formal politics, having gone straight from the ministry of defense to the presidency, with virtually no time in between.
At the best of times, parliaments can be perplexing for an executive branch to work with – and Egypt’s parliament is unlikely to be an example of the best of times.
However, that is not the point. The current political dispensation is based on the road-map imposed by the military on the July 3, 2013 – and while that road-map has proven to be quite elastic in implementation since then, it does have certain elements built into it.
One of them is parliamentary elections – until that is carried out, there will be no opportunity for the Egyptian state to claim internationally that it has managed to fulfil even what it considers to be its transition to democracy.
No checks or balances
To put it another way – the executive may not be keen to have parliamentary elections, but it knows it has to have them. For many months, the presidency has been essentially advertising those elections in international engagements – and delays have been persistent.
The delaying of them now misses what was supposed to be an important symbolic milestone in advance of the economic conference in Sharm al-Sheikh later this month. That poses a difficult image control issue for the authorities to handle – one it didn’t want to have to deal with.
Of course, the authorities could easily package this as evidence that the judiciary is, indeed, independent, and the new political dispensation is committed to the rule of law. Yesterday’s ruling does not prove that assertion in the slightest – nevertheless, on one level, it’s irrelevant.
There has been no checks or balances on the executive throughout the post-Mursi period
The final result is the same: no parliament, and the continuation of the executive enjoying legislative authority without any checks or balances.
There are, however, two other things to keep in mind as this is pondered over. The first is that this is yet more evidence that the notion that Mubarak’s Egypt of 2010 has simply reasserted itself, and Egypt has come full circle is a simplification that does not really aid in much analysis. 2015 is not 2010 – and the regime of Hosni Mubarak is quite different from the emerging political dispensation of today.
That is not to say it may be a better dispensation. Indeed, in many ways, it is demonstrably worse. But it is also quite different. There are different elements at play in 2015, and the relationships between those elements are also different.
If that is not correctly and appropriately understood, any proper analysis of what is happening – as well as what may yet come to pass – will be deeply flawed.
The second thing to note, which is a comparison to the past – when then president Mohammed Mursi was ruling without a proper legislative check on his power, suggestions were made in some quarters to ameliorate that state of affairs until a legislature could be elected into office.
That ranged from a presidential council of sorts – or a legislative appointed committee made up of senior political and legal figures – and so forth. These were good suggestions, coming from a good place – seeking consensus and accountability at a time when Egypt needed it, and could have used it to push forward.
They were, as we know, ignored. The silence now, in contrast, is quite poignant. There has been no checks or balances on the executive throughout the post-Mursi period – and it is not clear that even the next parliament will be able to play a sufficient role in that regard.
Well beyond the parliamentary elections – whenever they happen – the need for effective accountability of the executive, regardless of who it happens to be, will remain a key challenge for Egypt.
(Source / 02.03.2015)
PA and the Israeli occupation are partners in the strict Gaza siege
In July last year, Amnesty International said that there could be no justification for “targeting a civilian structure that provides crucial services to so many civilians.”
Days of Palestine, Gaza Strip –Affected by Israeli siege, the only power-plant in the Gaza Strip is expected to shut down in few days.
An official in the power plant said that the fuel donated by Qatar to the power plant is running out very soon and “until now, there are no alternatives.”
The Israeli occupation has been putting many restrictions on the entrance of fuel to the plant, and the same time, the Palestinian Authority (PA) imposes high taxes on the fuel heading to it.
Gaza’s sole power-plant, which was damaged during the war, has been struggling with a severe lack of fuel. Therefore, it has been able to supply electricity only six hours a day for each household.
In July last, Amnesty International said that there could be no justification for “targeting a civilian structure that provides crucial services to so many civilians.”
“The strike on the power plant, which cut off electricity and running water to Gaza’s 1.8 million residents and numerous hospitals has catastrophic humanitarian implications and is very likely to mount to a war crime,” Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme, said.
Gaza has been forced into dependence on Israeli electricity as a result of a PA-Israeli economic protocol signed in 1996, which has crippled domestic production and repair capabilities.
(Source / 02.03.2015)
Shiite militants take four Islah party members to an undisclosed location
Members of Ansarullah Movement (Houthis) march and chant slogans during a protest at the Sittin street in Sanaa on 20 February, 2015
Shiite Houthi militants on Monday raided an office of a Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated political party in Yemeni capital Sanaa, a party source has said.
“Houthi militants ransacked the party’s Sanaa office,” the source, from Yemen’s Brotherhood-affiliated Islah Party, told the Anadolu Agency.
The Houthis stormed the office on Sunday and took four party members to an undisclosed location.
Since it seized Sanaa last September, the Shiite group has confiscated several of the Islah Party’s offices in Sanaa and reportedly attacked other offices in other parts of the country.
Houthi leader Abdel-Malek al-Houthi recently accused the party of colluding with Al-Qaeda inside Yemen.
Tension has mounted in Yemen since the Houthis seized Sanaa last September, from which it has since sought to expand its influence farther afield.
On 6 February the Houthis issued a “constitutional declaration” dissolving the elected parliament and establishing a 551-member transitional council.
The declaration was, however, rejected by most of Yemen’s political forces – along with some neighbouring Gulf countries – which described it as a “coup against constitutional legitimacy.”
Some Gulf States have accused Shiite Iran of backing fractious Yemen’s Houthi insurgency.
Hadi ‘remains the legitimate president’
Meanwhile, the US envoy to Yemen threw his support Hadi after talks in the southern port city of Aden on Monday, saying he remains the “legitimate” leader.
Ambassador Matthew Tueller was the latest high-profile diplomat to travel to Aden, Hadi’s base since he fled effective house arrest in the capital last month following a power grab by the Shiite Houthi militia.
“President Hadi remains the legitimate president of Yemen and the key person to ensure that Yemen moves forward on a peaceful and stable path,” Tueller told reporters after meeting Hadi.
A number of countries closed their embassies in Sanaa indefinitely last month and evacuated diplomats and staff due to the worsening security situation.
The Houthis oppose a plan to divide the republic into six federal regions — a roadmap agreed on during national dialogue stipulated in a peace deal brokered by Gulf neighbours and sponsored by the United Nations.
“The Yemeni people, in electing president Hadi and in participating in the national dialogue conference which he led, have made clear that Yemen’s future lies in implementing the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) initiative and the national dialogue outcomes,” said Tueller.
He warned that “those who are trying to undermine the national conference outcomes or undermine the GCC initiative are seeking to lead Yemen in a very dangerous path.”
“We strongly support those who are seeking to lead Yemen to implementation of the national dialogue outcomes,” he added.
Yemen has been gripped by unrest since longtime president Ali Abdullah Saleh stepped down in early 2012 after a bloody year-long popular uprising.
Aden has turned into Yemen’s de facto political and diplomatic centre since Hadi’s arrival.
The UN envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar, also travelled to Aden last week for talks with Hadi aimed at jump-starting reconciliation talks.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has called for the expansion of trade and business relations between Iran and the Netherlands.
Zarif said on Monday that Iran is planning to restore its economic ties with the Netherlands to the previously prosperous levels.
The top Iranian diplomat made the remarks in a meeting with the Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders in Geneva, Switzerland.
“The volume of trade exchanges between the two sides has dropped in recent times and we should see it increased by using the opportunities that are ahead of us,” Zarif said in the meeting.
Admitting that some fields of cooperation have been affected by the current sanctions imposed on Iran, Zarif expressed hope that the two countries could increase their cooperation in other areas, especially in the tourism sector.
The Dutch foreign minister, for his part, called for increased cooperation between the two countries in the fields of environmental protection, agriculture and irrigation.
Koenders expressed hope that current negotiations between Iran and major international powers on the country’s nuclear program could bear fruit.
The top Dutch diplomat also hailed Iran’s unique position in the Middle East, saying that the country plays a key role in regional developments.
Heading a high-ranking delegation, Zarif is in Switzerland to continue his negotiations with representatives of the United States and the European officials in a bid to reach a comprehensive agreement over Tehran’s nuclear program before the end of June.
(Source / 02.03.2015)
Al-Qaeda had sought the release of prisoners in Saudi Arabia as well as a ransom for Abdullah al-Khalidi
A Saudi diplomat held hostage in Yemen for almost three years by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has been freed, officials say.
Abdullah al-Khalidi, Saudi Arabia’s deputy consul in the southern port city of Aden, was seized in March 2012.
He appeared in several AQAP videos that called on the Saudi authorities to do more to secure his release.
An interior ministry statement carried by Saudi state media on Monday said that Mr Khalidi was now back in Riyadh.
It did not say how he came to be released but that it was a result of “intensive efforts” made by the kingdom’s security services.
The jihadist group had sought the release of all its members detained in Saudi Arabia as well as a ransom in exchange for freeing Mr Khalidi.
AQAP initially asked for $10m (£6.5m) in ransom, but later doubled its demand to $20m (£13m), tribal mediators said in August 2012.
In December, AQAP militants shot dead two hostages – American journalist Luke Somers and South African teacher Pierre Korkie – during a failed attempt by US commandos to rescue them in south-eastern Yemen.
(Source / 02.03.2015)
A top Hamas general has said that though his organization isn’t interested in a confrontation with Israel, the Gaza-based Islamist group is doubling its arsenal of rockets and missiles in anticipation of a possible future war.
Marwan Issa, a top commander for Hamas’ Al-Qassam Brigades, told a Gaza City conference, that the group aims to forge regional alliances with anyone who can assist its cause, Israel Radio reported.
“We are not seeking confrontation with Israel, but we continue to strengthen our capabilities by producing more rockets” he was cited as saying on Monday.
This was Issa’s first public appearance in over three years. Unlike his predecessor, Ahmed Jabari, who was killed in a targeted Israeli attack in 2012, Issa keeps a low profile and is rarely photographed.
The military commander added that any attempt to impose a blockade on Hamas will fail.
Issa also decried Saturday’s ruling by an Egyptian court which listed Hamas, founded as the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1987, as a terrorist organization.
While an Egyptian court ruled in January that Hamas’ armed wing was a terrorist organization, Saturday’s verdict refers to the entire group and threatens to further aggravate tensions between Cairo and Hamas.
The US, Canada and Japan also consider the organization a terrorist group. The European Union court, meanwhile, ordered Hamas to be removed from the EU terrorist list in December 2014.
Since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, after seizing power from Fatah, a nonviolent organization run by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the group has been in involved in three military conflicts with Israel.
Last summer, Israel’s 50-day operation Protective Edge left more than 2,200 Palestinians, most of whom were civilians, dead, and leveled much of Gaza City. Israel explained its assault on Gaza as a response to Hamas’ firing of Qassam rockets into its territory.
Seventy-two Israelis were also killed during the conflict, 67 of whom were soldiers. An Amnesty international report found that Israeli forces committed war crimes by targeting civilian homes. Palestine is going to lodge an ICC case against Israel in April.
Last September, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu compared Hamas to the Islamic State, the militant Islamist group notorious for ruthless brutality. Hamas’ founding charter calls for the destruction of Israel, and the group does not recognize Israel’s right to exist. However, in 2011 the Islamist group agreed to a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank.
In 1990s and the 2000s, the group routinely staged suicide bombings within Israel. In recent years they have shifted to firing rockets and mortars into Israel.
(Source / 02.03.2015)