Sunday, 19 July 2009

Palestinian Authority faces crisis as Abbas collaboration splits Fatah

The divisions in Fatah have gone beyond boiling point. The splits that emerged around the preparations for the Sixth Fatah Conference were reported on in May and the statement by 82 senior Fatah members issued in the same month accusing Abbas of attempting a coup. It was followed by the news this Wednesday that Al Jazeera was to be banned from the West Bank. Banning Al Jaazera is not going to help Abbas. And the accusation against Abbas amounts to the highest form of treason against the Palestinian people as embodied in President Yasser Arafat.

No wonder Russian deputy foreign minister Alexander Saltanov sought out Hamas leader Mishaal (pictured above) to discuss latest political developments, as Fatah implodes...

"The Palestinian Authority has stated its decisions are in response to Al Jazeera reporting the accusations made by secretary-general of the Fatah movement Mr Farouk Kaddoumi against the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and his adviser Mohammed Dahlan.

"Mr Kaddoumi accused both leaders of being aware of an Israeli conspiracy to kill the late president Yasser Arafat.

Al Jaazera

PIC reports that Abbas has wanted to shutdown the TV channel's operations ever since the Gaza war in it which it considered Al Jaazera to be biased in favour of Hamas.
Meanwhile, a well informed Palestinian source, who preferred to remain anonymous, told Al-Jazeera website that Fatah leader and former PA chief Mahmoud Abbas had decided to close Al-Jazeera offices following the latest Israeli war on Gaza alleging that it was biased in favor of Hamas.

The talks in Egypt aimed at achieving some sort of national reconciliation always seemed unrealistic given the current Fatah leaderships fondness for working with the US and Israeli military, to say nothing of its kidnappings and killings of Hamas supporters.
Ezzat Al-Resheq, a member of Hamas political bureau, stated Saturday that Fatah leaders still circumvent the issue of political arrests in the West Bank, ruling out the possibility of reaching a reconciliation agreement without the release of all political prisoners.

In a press statement to the Palestinian information center (PIC), Resheq said that the meeting held with Egyptian officials and Fatah delegation focused on the political arrest file.

He added that his Movement prepared a list of all prisoners affiliated with Fatah who are still detained but did not receive any list from Fatah.

more at the Palestinian Information Center

Egyptian riot police attacks on Gazans at Rafah shows regime's fear

Micheline Garreau posted an announcement to the cause Palestinian & International Campaign - End the Siege & Lift Blockade of Gaza .

...July 15, should have been a day of rejoicing here at Rafah Gate because the Viva Palestina convoy had finally been authorized to enter Gaza, but it turned into a nightmare for the many Palestinian families held up on the Egyptian side. Finally, at 10 pm we were smiling again when we saw Jenny Linnel and Nathalie Abu Chakra, two members of ISM-Gaza come through the Gate. The Egyptians had been denying them entry because they had arrived in Gaza on board the ships of the Free Gaza movement.

For those who don’t know the Rafah Gate, the frontier between Egypt and Gaza is situated in the middle of nowhere-- 2 kilometers from Rafah. There is no hotel; the Egyptian police have closed the town to foreigners and have installed dozens of checkpoints—I would say one every 50 meters! And you can’t tell me it’s to stop contraband headed to Gaza because all the pathways leading to the tunnels are wide open.

Large numbers of Palestinian families denied entry for weeks on end--or longer—are forced to live in hotels in El Arish, a seaside resort 40 kilometers from the border. Because it’s high season, the hotels have hiked up their rates, so it costs these families a fortune. And that’s without the taxi fares. The price of a taxi between El Arish and Rafah is anywhere from 35 to more than 100 Egyptian pounds, and if you want to avoid the checkpoints, it can run to close to 300 pounds.

Among these families are Palestinians living abroad who have come to visit their families, to attend weddings; others are returning from hospital stays in Egypt or abroad; there are also young people who have finished their studies etc….Everyone has his or her own story.

Elated at news of the arrival of the Viva Palestina convoy, many of these families, exhausted and in debt, came today to try their luck at Rafah, hoping that the Egyptian police would be more lenient and that they might be able to get some help from members of the convoy.

But that was, unfortunately, not the case: for these families the day turned into a nightmare. They had arrived early in order not to miss the convoy, so they waited all day in the scorching sun. The first members of the convoy began to arrive around 2 pm in buses under heavy security.

Then the horror began: at this very moment, the Egyptian riot police set upon the Palestinian families them and began forcibly evacuating them. People were shouting, screaming, weeping—and the cops kept on beating them savagely.

We tried to slip into Rafah Gate in the midst of the confusion. We even succeeded, but were then dragged back out.

The scene we were witnessing was once again so shocking that Iman, furious, was shouting insults at Mubarak and his minions.

Laila got into one of the buses and called for the help of the members of the convoy, but they replied that there was nothing they could do. “We want to get into Gaza and we don’t want any trouble.”

A man in the bus called out, “I’m a Palestinian.” And one Palestinian woman, stuck in Egypt for many days couldn’t help saying to him, “Oh, fine, you’re a Palestinian from America and I’m a Palestinian from Gaza. You can get in and I am not even allowed to return to my home in Gaza.” By then the Egyptian police had arrived and they pulled Leila and this woman out of the bus.

No contact between Palestinians and foreigners. That has been the order of the day every day since we pitched our tents here at Rafah.

We can understand the attitude of the members of this impressive convoy, with its buses, refrigerator trucks and vans. It has been so difficult for them to get this far with half of their humanitarian aid(the other half was confiscated in Alexandria) that it was hard for them to jeopardize delivery of the remaining supplies by attempting to help the people they were watching being beaten up before their very eyes. They would have been heavily penalized—they would have been refused entry into Gaza.

How can one comprehend Egyptian policy? How can one understand these Egyptian policemen who viciously beat the Palestinians and treat them like sub-humans, like enemies? Why prevent the Palestinians from returning to their own homes? Who gives the orders? Why not tell them what procedures they need to follow? And, by the way, is there one? We have asked these questions countless times, and each time we got a different answer.

The only thing we are sure of is that the Egyptian authorities are pathologically corrupt, that they collaborate willingly with the Zionist entity and that they lie to their police force and army units to make sure they keep mistreating the Palestinians.

We are going to wait for the return of the Viva Palestina convoy and we...

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The Causes Team

But the riot police and the state aren't having it all their own way, as the continuing strike wave in Egypt shows:

Egypt Daily News CAIRO: A policeman died and tens people were injured when thousands of quarry workers and owners clashed with police in Egypt on Thursday, security sources and witnesses told Reuters.

The protesters marched into Al-Minya city, in the central province of Al-Minya 210 kilometers south of Cairo, and blocked a bridge spanning the Nile, to protest against a decision by the authorities to impose new duties on quarried rock, security sources said.

Police used teargas to disperse the crowd, but the protesters stoned police, injuring at least four officers, security sources said.

An official told the Associated Press that police fired tear gas Thursday at some 3,000 workers who were throwing stones.

One policeman died, and accounts differed as to whether he was killed during the stoning or from exposure to teargas.

Reports of the total number injured varied. Security sources said at least 17 riot police had been wounded, and more than 20 protesters were suffering the effects of teargas inhalation.

Police arrested some of the protesters. Estimates by security sources of how many ranged from five to close to 50.

The website of the independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm said the government had imposed duties of LE 40 per ton of quarried stone, leading some quarries to shut down and lay off their laborers.

Protesters said they held the demonstration because petitions to officials had been ignored and some quarries had been shut for more than two weeks, the website said

However, an official told the Associated Press that the governor later reversed his decision to avoid more violence. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

Labor unrest has become common in Egypt, usually over pay, and often in privatized companies. Even professional groups such as doctors, pharmacists and lawyers have stopped work or threatened strikes over pay. Worker frustration with rising prices and shortages of subsidized bread flared into two days of clashes with security forces in the city of Mahalla El-Kobra north of Cairo in April last year. Three people were killed and scores injured. –Agencies

Palestinians wounded, foreign activists detained protesting settlers at Beit Ummar

AL-KHALIL, (PIC)-- Israeli occupation forces (IOF) on Saturday kidnapped nine foreign activists and wounded five Palestinians while quelling a peaceful march against settlement activity in Beit Ummar village, Al-Khalil district.

Local sources in the village said that fistfights were reported between Palestinians and foreign activists on the one hand and IOF troops on the other, noting that the soldiers used force to break up the demonstration.

The soldiers used batons and rifle butts to assault the marchers wounding five Palestinians, they added.

Meanwhile, IOF soldiers detained a Palestinian youth in Qalqilia city late Saturday night and another from Bil'in, Ramallah district, at dawn Sunday.

Furthermore, Israeli border guards rounded up 178 Palestinian workers over the weekend on charges of entering 1948 occupied Palestine without work permits while seven other persons were arrested for transporting the workers.

Viva Palestina US delivers despite Mubarak's threats

By Soozy Duncan.

Allowed only 24 hours in Gaza under threat of not being allowed to return to Egypt, the Viva Palestina convoy has been a whirlwind of activity since crossing the border at Rafah Wednesday night. Organizers have attempted to compress 3 days of planned activities into a single day.

Thursday started by watching a press conference featuring Gazan Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh with members of the Neturei Karta, an organization of anti-Zionist Rabbis from Munsey, New York, who traveled with the caravan. Haniyeh emphasized that the government and the people of Gaza take no issue with Jews, but rather with Zionism and the ongoing oppression and blockade by Israel. Rabbi Dovid Weissman concurred that Jews, Christians and Muslims had coexisted peacefully in Muslim countries for centuries prior to the birth of Zionism, and asked for the people of Gaza to join him in praying for the peaceful dismantlement of the state of Israel.

The group then drove around the Gaza Strip in buses to see the aftermath of the bombing onslaught 6 months ago before attending another press conference at the Legislative Assembly and traveling to Shafa Hospital in Gaza City to deliver the medical aid which was brought from the United States and gathered in Cairo. Finally, delegates met with families of some of the 11,000 prisoners being held in Israel at the Ministry of Prisoners in Tel Alhwa, where children of parents killed in December and January also addressed the group.

Fraser Gaspard of Denver, Colorado, said of seeing the devastation firsthand, “It really shows how effective the American weapons we give Israel are, and how deliberate Israel was in its attack from the spots that were hit, schools, hospitals, a cement factory, homes in refugee camps. You could see it was a war of terror against the Gazan people.”

For Mahmoud Elayan from New Jersey, the most impressive visit was the meeting at the Ministry of Prisoners. Elayan shared, “Three little girls spoke about losing 29 other immediate family members. I have 2 little kids, and I can’t imagine them going through anything like that. To see them still keeping hope like that when they’ve suffered so much, it was touching. I had to leave the room.”

Bringing medical aid was only one of Viva Palestina’s stated purposes. The convoy also sought to learn and share the stories of the Gazans who have lived under 61 years of occupation and the severe assault from December to January. Nour Mattar, a Palestinian born within the borders of Israel who now resides in Orange County, California, said of his experiences, “With all the blockade and all the pressure, if you drive around and talk to people you find they still have great spirit. They‘re not willing to give up or stand down, even though Israel has used every possible weapon they could, militarily, economically and politically.”

Having lived in Gaza for most of the years between 1997 and 2005, the journey was a homecoming for Bethany Gonzalez of Kansas City, Kansas. “Today I realized how much I really miss living in Gaza,” said Gonzalez. “The city and the people, everyone is so kind and hospitable, even with all they’ve been through.” She intends to return with the second Viva Palestina convoy from the U.S. in December, scheduled to coincide with the first anniversary of the attacks.

Mohamad, a recent graduate from the Islamic University, volunteered to serve as an interpreter for the delegates. Asked about the current state of the people of Gaza, he said, “The children now are still suffering from psychological pain and suffering. Whenever they hear any sound they say ‘Bomb! Bomb’ and start crying. For adults it is almost the same.” Mohamad expressed excitement about the past Viva Palestina convoy from London and the plans for future caravans from Venezuela, Moscow, Beijing, and the next from the U.S. “They decrease the suffering among the Gazans. The convoys break the siege and bring us medical aid. The people of Gaza feel really grateful and proud. These convoys uplift our spirits and help us feel stronger and more steadfast.”

Asked what he hopes for himself and all Gazans, Mohamad states simply, “We hope that we will have enough to live, and be able to live in peace, just as the other people of the world.”

By Soozy Duncan.