American Methodists Must Be Fearless about Divestment

By Stuart Littlewood

Why is the United Methodist Church apparently making such heavy weather of voting for divestment from corporates – specifically Caterpillar, Motorola and Hewlett-Packard – that profiteer from the brutal Israeli occupation of Palestine?

Americans can surely learn from their British brethren who blazed a trail through this minefield at their annual conference nearly two years ago. They voted to boycott products from Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestine, regarded as illegal under international law, and to encourage Methodists across the country to do the same.

Been There, Done That

Their action answered a call from Palestinian Christians, a growing number of Jewish organisations both inside Israel and worldwide, and the World Council of Churches.

Christine Elliott, Secretary for External Relationships, explained: “The goal of the boycott is to put an end to the existing injustice. It reflects the challenge that settlements present to a lasting peace in the region.”

Yes, they got some flak. Right on cue, the Board of Deputies of British Jews blew a fuse. In a joint statement with the Jewish Leadership Council they said the Methodists should “hang their heads in shame”. The Chief Rabbi led the charge warning that the implications would “reverberate across the hitherto harmonious relationship between the faith communities in the UK”.

Ah, those precious inter-faith relationships… The truth is, Israeli Jews simply don’t do “harmonious relationship” out there in the Occupied Territories. Terror, oppression and dispossession are more their style.

What upset the Chief Rabbi most was the report ‘Justice for Palestine and Israel’ submitted to the Methodist Conference. Its recommendations included the following…

“In listening to Church Leaders and our fellow-Christians in Israel Palestine as well as leaders of Palestinian civil society we hear an increasing consensus calling for the imposition of boycott, divestment and sanctions as a major strategy of non-violent resistance to the Occupation. The Conference notes the call of the WCC [World Council of Churches] in 2009 for an ‘international boycott of settlement produce and services’ and calls on the Methodist people to support and engage with this boycott of Israeli goods emanating from illegal settlements (some Methodists would advocate a total boycott of Israeli goods until the Occupation ends).”

It also said that the Methodist Church had consistently expressed its concern over the illegal Occupation of Palestinian lands by the State of Israel, and that its continuation not only compounded Israel’s illegal and immoral action but also made any accommodation with the Palestinian people and future peace in the region less likely.

The Chief Rabbi declared the report “unbalanced, factually and historically flawed” without saying in what way it was inaccurate. The Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council said the authors of the report had “abused the goodwill of the Jewish community”. Here is their full text:

“This is a very sad day, both for Jewish-Methodist relations and for everyone who wants to see positive engagement with the complex issues of Israeli-Palestinian relations. The Methodist Conference has swallowed hook, line and sinker a report full of basic historical inaccuracies, deliberate misrepresentations and distortions of Jewish theology and Israeli policy. The deeply flawed report is symptomatic of a biased process: The working group which wrote the report had already formed its conclusions at the outset. External readers were brought in to give the process a veneer of impartiality, but their criticisms were rejected. The report’s authors have abused the trust of ordinary members of the Methodist Church, who assumed that they were reading and voting on an impartial and comprehensive paper, and they have abused the goodwill of the Jewish community, which tried to engage with this issue, only to find that our efforts were treated as an unwelcome distraction.

“This outcome is extremely serious and damaging, as we and others have explained repeatedly over recent weeks. Israel is at the root of the identity of Jews and of Judaism, and as an expression of Jewish spiritual, national and emotional aspirations, Zionism cannot simply be ruled as illegitimate in the way that the Methodist Conference has purported to do. This smacks of breathtaking insensitivity, as crass as it is misinformed. That this position should now form the basis of Methodist Church policy should cause the Conference to hang its head in shame, just as surely as it will cause the enemies of peace and reconciliation to cheer from the sidelines.”

If Israel is at the root of their identity you’d think they’d demand from the regime the sort of conduct that projected a better image. For 46 years the “goodwill” of the Jewish community has counted for nothing in securing justice for the Palestinians and bringing to an end their misery at the hands of the State if Israel. Who are they to talk of “breathtaking insensitivity”?

If arrogance is the only response to serious concerns about Israel’s barbarity towards Muslims and Christians in the Holy Land, perhaps it’s time that implications did indeed “reverberate” across the faith communities, not only in the UK but around the world including (and especially) the US.

Infiltrators Avidly Support “Unrighteous Nation” of Israel

It’s no surprise to hear that the United Methodists, and even their legislative body, have been infiltrated by Zionists. They should expect it and be ready to throw them out.

Over here the grit in the Methodists’ vaseline call themselves Methodist Friends of Israel. “We are Christians who are members or adherents of the Methodist Church, who love Israel and want to bless her and who fully accept God’s everlasting covenant with His chosen people,” they say. “While recognising that the nation of Israel is, like all nations of the world, an unrighteous nation that does not always get things right, we firmly stand with her at all times and continue to support her in an increasingly hostile world. We will not turn our backs as so many did in the 1930s.

“We see that anti Semitism is on the rise throughout the world with synagogues and graveyards vandalised and Jews being attacked both verbally and physically and that there appears to be a direct relationship between the increased attacks on Jews and the blanket condemnation of Israel by the media, many charitable organizations and world bodies such as the UN. We are concerned that the whole, true picture of what life is like in Israel is given to the world rather than the biased half truths, distortions and lies that are presently reported.

“We are concerned that many churches are going down the politically correct line of condemning Israel’s policies and are thus contributing to the strong anti Semitic views of the world.”

Note that they are concerned only with “what life is like in Israel”, not the hell Israel has created in the Occupied Territories for Christian and Muslim Palestinians. They blame others for rising anti-Semitic sentiment and fail to see that the lawless thuggery of the Israeli regime is the problem.

What else do these deviant Methodists believe in?

  • They believe the Scripture prophesy restoring the Jews to the land of Israel. What we see today is a fulfilment of the prophecy and it is a privilege to witness this fulfillment.
  • They believe Israel is central in the enactment of God’s purposes as we move in these “last days”.
  • They believe in blessing Israel however possible including buying goods and produce from Israel and resisting all calls for boycotts.
  • They believe in supporting Israel’s defence of its people and their right to live without the threat of missile attacks, homicide bombings etc.
  • They believe in standing against libelous attacks against Israel.
  • They believe in fully supporting Israel’s right to the land given them by God.

Needless to say, the Methodist Friends of Israel website reads like pages from some Zionist propaganda rag. At this very moment they are running a tour of Israel. Of Israel, mark you, not Palestine. What sort of view of the Holy Land will that give their pilgrims?

Enough of This Inter-faith lah-di-dah?

Having taken their bold decision at the conference and bravely flown through the flak, UK Methodists let themselves down somewhat by turning wimpish. They began trying to mend fences with the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

Why bother, one is tempted to ask. Why demean themselves? Have the Board of Deputies ever condemned or punished the Israeli regime’s crimes against humanity?
Until they do, let them stew.

Nevertheless the President of the Methodist Conference wrote to the Board of Deputies and the President of the Board of Deputies, we’re told, welcomed the opportunity for a constructive conversation. They explored in particular, said a statement, the need to clarify the use of specific words and phrases such as Zionism and Christian Zionism. And they expressed their gratitude for the support given by the Council of Christians and Jews.

So they’re friends again and all’s well that ends well. Which must be gratifying for Palestinians as they continue to starve under the jackboot and fry or be parted from their limbs under almost daily air-strikes.

It’s not good enough. True Christians everywhere – not just the Methodists – need to stiffen the sinew and toughen up. Why continue this inter-faith lah-di-dah with religious delinquents? Decent and sensible people from all faiths get along just fine without help from religious busybodies and loudmouths.
But if the irredeemable hardcore are determined to stir up “reverberations” they are of course free to do so, within the limits of the law.

– Stuart Littlewood’s book Radio Free Palestine can now be read on the internet by visiting www.radiofreepalestine.org.uk. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

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What’s Next for Libya?

posted by Steve Lendman @ 12:23 AM

My PhotoNATO’s “responsibility to protect” (R2P) was subterfuge to wage war. Months of terror bombing left Libya a charnel house.

Africa’s most developed country was ravaged, not liberated. Protracted struggle continues. Expect it to persist for years.

When is war not war? It’s when mass killing and destruction are called the right thing. It’s also when terrorizing and traumatizing an entire population continues unaddressed.

Libya breaking into separate countries after NATO intervention
Libya was developed and peaceful until NATO intervened. It arrived on cruise missiles, bombs, shells, other munitions, depleted and enriched uranium, other terror weapons, fifth column infiltrators, and media scoundrel complicity, as well as coverup and denial.

No nation or alliance may interfere in the internal affairs of another except in self-defense if attacked. NATO R2P authority was Trojan Horse deception. Crimes of war and against humanity followed. They continue out-of-control.

NATO’s still involved. Thousands of US forces guard key oil facilities, ports, and perhaps other strategic sites. Occasional air attacks occur. NATO warships occupy Libya’s ports. US, Italian, French, and perhaps other forces are involved. January reports from Misrata said Apache helicopters slaughtered rebels trying to scale Brega oil platforms.

Insurgents battle each other and Green Resistance for control. Frequent clashes leave rivals and civilians dead or injured. Militias control local areas and neighborhoods. Thousands of Gaddafi loyalists and Black African guest workers were murdered or held captive and tortured. Dark-skinned Libyans and guest workers are especially threatened.
 
On October 23, Obama duplicitously “congratulated the people of Libya on today’s declaration of liberation. After four decades of brutal dictatorship and eight months of deadly conflict, the Libyan people can now celebrate their freedom and the beginning of a new era of promise.”

He’s a frontman for power. He’s an inveterate liar and war criminal multiple times over. He added another imperial trophy to colonize, plunder and exploit. Keeping it’s another matter. Libya’s one of history’s great crime. Green Resistance struggles to restore Jamahiriya rule.

Obama matched the worst of Bush and exceeded him. Libyans, Afghans, Iraqis, and Syrians revile him. So do millions of others for good reason. Hopefully one day they’ll have the last word.



Qaddhafi could have got on a flight to Cuba;
but he died fighting in defence of Libya



Liberation never comes easily or quickly. For sure, it’s worth protracted struggle to achieve, no matter the cost.
 
Gaddafi was no coward or quitter. Neither are Libyans and others throughout North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia.



Their liberating struggle won’t end until America’s imperial scourge ends, and NATO’s consigned to the dustbin of history. Humanity depends on it.

NATO’s sole new millennium accomplishment consists of endless unwinnable wars. Coalition partners eventually tire and pull out.

America may end up isolated. It excels in making enemies and losing friends.



The battle for Iraq continues. Afghanistan’s war was lost years ago. Libya’s also though political Washington, coalition partners, media scoundrels, and NATO won’t admit it.

The alliance wages lawless imperial aggression against nonbelligerent countries. Yugoslavia was first, then Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

Daily terror bombings massacred tens of thousands of Libyans. Insurgent gangs continue committing shocking atrocities. Libya’s revolutionary struggle won’t end until Green Resistance purges them eliminates NATO’s control.

Gaddafi’s murder investigation was whitewashed. Killers don’t judge themselves guilty.

In mid-February, a UN News Centre release “welcomed….Libya’s new electoral authorities.” It urged “free elections” be held as soon as possible.

On February 12, members of Libya’s so-called Higher National Electoral Commission (HNEC) were sworn in days after National Transitional Council (NTC) officials adopted electoral laws to choose National Congress members. A 200-member constituent assembly is planned.

The Jamahiriya News Agency (JANA) quoted HNEC’s Othman al-Kajiji saying last week in June “elections will be held on schedule as set by the constitutional declaration.”

So-called elections install powerless puppets subservient to Washington, Britain, France, and other rogue NATO partners. Free Libya won’t exist until loyalists regain it.

Last September, Security Council Resolution 2009 established a UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). Its mandate belies its mission.

Allegedly it’s tasked to “restor(e) public security and the rule of law, promot(e) inclusive political dialogue and national reconciliation, and (help) the (NTC) embark on the drafting of a new constitution and on laying the foundation for new elections.”

In fact, it’s part of NATO’s imperial occupation. UN Special Representative for Libya’s Ian Martin heads it. He’s Ban Ki-moon’s Post-Conflict for Libya Special Advisor. He serves Washington and other NATO allies, not Libyans.

They face enormous challenges to overcome. They include imperial occupation, destabilization, divisiveness, and violence ravaging the country. Media scoundrels report nothing. Libyans fear what’s next.



A view of the deserted town of Tawergha, Libya,
on September 4, 2011.



Insurgents battle for local control. Death squads eliminate rivals and other targeted victims. Tawergha residents were terrorized last year. Their nightmare continues.

Thousands were killed or exiled to refugee camps. Raids continue. Arrests, torture and deaths result. Human rights atrocities are horrific. Other areas are targeted. Libya’s a raging cauldron. No central control exists.

NATO intends the same fate for Syria and elsewhere. Installing Western puppets is planned. In Libya, they got more than they bargained for. The same holds for Afghanistan and Iraq. Nonetheless, conflicts and violence continue. With more planned, the entire region’s threatened.

Libya was ravaged and destroyed. Tens of thousands were killed, many more injured and displaced. Violence, fear and poverty replaced Gaddafi’s social state. No wonder most Libyans supported him. No wonder they revile NATO.

The alliance hailed a successful mission accomplished. US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called the war an “inspiring revolution.” He added that Washington helped “creat(e) a unique alliance against tyranny and for freedom.”

Libyans know otherwise. Daily terror replaced peace and calm. None of it shows signs of ending. No one knows who’s next to die. Everyone suffers. Kafkaesque reality plagues the country. Few doubt who’s responsible.

In February 2011, the UN Human Rights Council established the International Commission of Inquiry on Libya. In March 2012, it reported crimes of war and against humanity committed by both sides.

It said insurgents “committed serious violations, including war crimes and breaches of international human rights law, the latter continuing at the time of the present report. The Commission found these violations to include unlawful killing, arbitrary arrest, torture, enforced disappearance, indiscriminate attacks, and pillage.”

It didn’t address horrific NATO war crimes. Instead it said participating nations “conducted a highly precise campaign with a demonstrable determination to avoid civilian casualties.” It added that further investigations are recommended to evaluate its effectiveness.

Thousands of bombing missions reigned death and destruction for months. Civilians were willfully targeted. Western and Qatari Special Forces aided insurgent violence. Coverup and denial whitewash NATO crimes. Washington orchestrated and directed them. Gaddafi’s Libya no longer exists.

On January 21, Press TV cited the London-based pan-Arab daily Asharq Alawsat saying Washington sent 12,000 soldiers to Libya. They landed in Brega. They came to control key oil fields, facilities and ports.

A Final Comment

Wherever NATO intervenes, death, destruction, and human misery follow. Libya’s disintegrating in chaos and violence. Tribes and rebel gangs battle for dominance. NTC control’s impossible. A new semi-autonomous Cyrenaica region was declared. It extends from Sirte to Egypt’s border. It holds about two-thirds of Libya’s oil.

Oil rich Fezzan region also seeks independence. Tripolitania remains. Its own oil fields lie close to Tripoli. Syrian insurgents are being trained there.

Last year, some observers predicted balkanization. In early March, factional Eastern leaders discussed recognizing Tripoli as Libya’s political capital and Benghazi its financial one – sort of like a Washington/New York division.

Given ongoing violence, instability and lawlessness, perhaps June elections won’t happen as planned. Establishing legitimate rule’s impossible. Restoring peace and calm won’t happen soon. It may take many years to accomplish.

Dozens of insurgent factions remain heavily armed. Operating independently, they won’t integrate into a national army. Clashes continue across mostly Northern areas. Thousands of Gaddafi supporters languish in prisons.

Green Resistance fighters struggle for freedom. So do major tribes against puppet governance. Libya’s so violent, dysfunctional, and unstable, neighboring countries are threatened.

Mali’s late March military coup appears fallout from Libya. It may be replicated elsewhere in North Africa and perhaps beyond. Niger’s also endangered. There’s more involved than meets the eye, including controlling regional resources. Besides oil, Libya, Mali, and Niger have valuable uranium deposits. Washington seeks control.

America and the IMF are involved in Nigerian violence. Western oil giants largely control its oil. However, China made inroads with exploration and infrastructure deals. It wants more. That puts Beijing at odds with Washington and other Western interests.

Currency wars are also at issue. Nigeria’s foreign reserves are 80% in dollars. The rest are in euros and Sterling. Russia, China, India, Iran, and other countries increasingly want less dollar dependence. Moving away enough threatens it as the dominant world reserve currency. Washington’s determined to prevent it. Succeeding’s another matter.

The more China becomes a major Nigeria player, the less dominant dollars in the country become. Destabilizing violence may be involved to prevent it. It’s too early to know for sure but bears watching.

At issue is controlling North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. Washington seeks global dominance, especially over resource rich areas. Independence and freedom depend on preventing it.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

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RT News: Al Jazeera Reporter resigns and speaks the truth about Syria

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Empty Stomach Warriors (III): Omar Abu Shalal Sets His Mind

A Palestinian youth sits in side a mock cage with his hands tied in chains during a protest after Friday prayer to call for the release of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails in Gaza City on 27 April 2012. (Photo: AFP – Mohammed Abed)
Published Monday, April 30, 2012
On 15 August 2011, Omar Abu Shalal was attempting to cross the Allenby Bridge – one of the crossings between the West Bank and Jordan – with his sister Samira, when Israeli authorities promptly arrested him.
Omar was immediately sent to Ofer prison just west of Ramallah. A few hours later he was handed a six-month administrative detention order, without knowing why he was imprisoned or what the charges against him were.
He was travelling to Saudi Arabia on a pilgrimage when he was arrested. It was in the middle of the month of Ramadan. While his sister continued on the journey, Omar found himself transferred to Megiddo prison near Haifa.
Omar has lived under an occupation regime where adhering to a certain political rhetoric is ample excuse to be arrested for years, or even imprisoned for life.
What makes his story unique is that he was wanted by and imprisoned by the Israeli army and the Palestinian Authority (PA).
Politically affiliated with Hamas, Omar was arrested in 2002 and sentenced to 36 months in prison. During that period Omar’s mother passed away without seeing her incarcerated son, which as Samira recounted, devastated him.

Following infighting between members of Hamas and Fatah in 2007, Omar fled to Jenin to keep a low profile as he was wanted by the PA for one year. Following June 2007, the month which saw the highest number of casualties in the fighting, 4000 followers of Hamas were arrested as part of the PA’s systematic clampdown on Hamas supporters. Three months later, the PA arrested Omar and he was sentenced to one year and a half in the Jneid prison in Nablus, a facility that was known for human rights abuses and for torturing Hamas affiliates. According to an AP report, these measures have desisted since the year 2010.

 
Fifty-four-year-old Omar is divorced with no children, and lives in one of Nablus’ three refugee camps, al-Ain. He has a two-year diploma in electrical maintenance and works as a porter in the city center, off-loading trucks, and transporting goods on foot. According to Samira, he had no plans to remarry.
On 15 February 2012, Omar’s detention was further extended by six months. Inspired by the hunger strikes of Khader Adnan and Hana Shalabi, and by the solidarity strikes of Bilal Thiab and Thaer Halahleh, Omar began his open-ended hunger strike on March 7.
In the solidarity tent set up in the middle of Nablus’ bustling city center, several posters of Omar Abu Shalal have been put up with small papers taped on top marking the number of days he’s been on hunger strike. On Monday April 30, Omar entered his fifty-sixth day without food.
“When I first heard of his strike, I welcomed it,” Samira confessed. “At the same time, I was scared for him, since I know that when my brother sets his mind to something he won’t back down until he’s achieved whatever it is he wanted. He always had strong faith in undertaking big decisions like this.”
The lawyer representing Omar, Mohammad al-Abed, reported that when he saw Omar on April 22, he was complaining of severe pain in his stomach and head. His blood pressure was low, and his diabetes symptoms were severe. Despite this, Abed insisted Omar’s morale was very high, and that he was unwavering in continuing his strike.

“I’ve requested an appeal for Omar’s case in the Israeli High court,” Abed said. “I’m waiting to hear whether the appeal will be accepted or rejected. Given the dangerous level his health is at, every day that passes without receiving an answer from the court is extremely risky.”

 
An appeal for an administrative detainee revolves around the misuse of administrative detention, thus challenging the prisoner’s imprisonment on that basis. Abed plans to use Omar’s sharply deteriorating health as a pretext for challenging his detention, but the lawyer admits that it’s a long shot that it will be even taken into consideration by the Israeli prosecutor and judge.
Samira is critical of the PA’s silence over the prisoners in Ramleh prison hospital who have refused food for two months, and over the mass hunger strike that began on April 17 with an estimated 2000 prisoners participating.

“I demand that Abu Mazen take a stance on this issue, which is one of the pillars of our cause. He’s been negotiating with Israel for years now and our situation has just gotten worse. He should be negotiating to release prisoners, something that is worthy. I suppose the PA is scared that the current hunger strike movement might hurt its relations with Israel, so that is why they have kept quiet. What does that say about our ‘leadership?’”

Her eyes momentarily glisten over when asked about facing her brother’s impending death. “We hope Omar will come back home to us alive and well. Whatever is written by God will happen. Our faith in Him is enormous.”

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Egypt’s Gama’a Islamiya denounces protests against Saudi

Manar Ammar | 30 April 2012 |
Egyptians demonstrating at the Saudi embassy in Cairo have forced the mission to close.

Egypt’s Islamic Group, or Gama’a Islamiya, said that the Saudi Arabian-Egyptian relations are “historic” and denounced the protests that led to the closing of the Saudi Embassy in Cairo.

The group issued a statement Sunday night saying that the bilateral relations cannot be “reduced to a number of protests.”

Hundreds of Egyptians continued to protest the detention of Egyptian human rights lawyer Ahmed al-Gizawi, who the Saudi authorities arrested on April 17 on his arrival to the kingdom and accused him of smuggling drugs.

Egyptians refused the Saudi allegations, as Gizawi was a known fighter for the rights of Egyptians detained in Saudi and saw the arrest as retaliation for his activism.

The political Islamic group, who denounced violence in the early 2000s, was responsible for many bloody massacres including the assassination of president Anwar al-Sadat.

They have returned to practicing politics after the fall of the previous regime in early 2011. Their statement added that the crisis should be dealt with through diplomacy and urged the Egyptian side to practice transparency and reveal any information they might have on the case.

The Egyptian embassy in Saudi have said that they have followed the Gizawi case and that they believe the Saudi allegations of drug smuggling, saying that they saw his signature on a confession of the crime.
The embassy is being accused by Egyptians who live in Saudi with corruption and loyalty to the Saudi royal palace over the interests of Egyptian citizens, and many have called for the dissolving of the diplomatic mission there as they are remnants of the old regime.

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Aoun Lashes Out at Feltman, Says Ship Carrying Weapons Danger on Lebanon, Syria

Local Editor

Head of the Free Patriotic Movement Gen. Michel Aoun assured that an impending visit to Lebanon by the US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman aims at supporting corruption.

“Feltman is coming [only] to support the corruption which he had upheld throughout his presence in Lebanon,” the Head of the Change and Reform bloc said Monday, following a bloc’s meeting in Rabieh.

Jeffrey Feltman, who served as the US Ambassador to Lebanon from 2004 till 2008, is expected to arrive to Lebanon on Wednesday on a two-day visit.

Following the Rabieh meeting, Aoun said that the simmering issue of extra-budgetary spending is an item that is at the core of sharp differences among the components of the Lebanese political corps.

He highlighted the necessity for the Lebanese President to sign the related decree, which he termed as “morally binding” for him.

LA Detects Weapons Ship Heading to Syria .



Besides, Aoun rebuked a fresh incident off the northern coast, whereby a Sierra Leonean-flagged commercial ship carrying weapons to Syria was intercepted by the Lebanese Army in Salaata.
Three containers with a large quantity of assorted arms as well as heavy, medium, and light ammunition were confiscated, a communique by the Army indicated on Saturday.



“This is an attack on Lebanon, and a moral attack through using the Lebanese territories to dispatch weapons to a brother country,” he said, adding it is also an attack on neighboring Syria.
On a different note, Aoun renewed calls to adopt proportionality with one single district as a basis for the looming 2013 legislative polls, namely amid spiraling strain amongst feudal parties over what each sees as best electoral law.

A proportionality-based law that would ensure a more effective representation of Lebanese voters than is provided by the current winner-takes-all 1960 system in which an electoral list that receives at least 51% of the votes wins all the seats in a district.

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Empty Stomach Warriors (II): Bilal Thiab Chooses the Life He Wants to Live

Palestinian stone-throwers take cover behind a garbage bin during clashes with Israeli troops following a protest in support of Palestinian prisoners on a hunger strike in Israeli prisons outside Ofer prison near the West Bank city of Ramallah 26 April 2012. (Photo: REUTERS – Mohamad Torokman)
Published Friday, April 27, 2012
Long and Hard Struggle: Bilal Thiab on 60 Days of Hunger Strike
Even as a young boy, Bilal Thiab despised authoritative oppression. He refused to listen to adults telling him off for innocent mistakes and later that personality trait solidified into one that openly challenged the men in uniform trampling on people’s freedom.
Thiab was just 18 years old and a high school senior when he was first arrested by the Israeli occupying army in October 2003 from his village of Kufr Rai. He was sentenced to prison for seven and a half years for what Israel called his “political activism in the Islamic Jihad group.”
When he was arrested, he defied the Israeli soldiers’ commands to look at the ground instead of at their faces, and when he refused they threatened to shoot him. Thiab was unshaken, and replied scathingly that either way, death is inevitable. These comments caused a significant amount of distress for his mother who was listening in on the exchange from the other room, confined there by the soldiers.
After his release in February 2010, life was never the same for Thiab. He was arrested for short periods of time and was repeatedly summoned by the Israeli intelligence for interrogations, which usually lasted for days. One interrogation in May lasted for seven days. Thiab was also arrested by the Palestinian Authority for 28 days, a subject his mother, 65-year-old Umm Hisham is not keen to discuss.

“There is no point in talking about this now,” she murmured, turning away with one hand on her face. “We need all the support we can get, from President Mahmoud Abbas and [Prime Minister] Salam Fayyad.” She looked up with a worn out smile. “He went on hunger strike for 14 days after the PA arrested him.”

 
Adjusting to “freedom” after prison was a hardship in itself, especially since Thiab found himself being constantly called for interrogations by Israel and intermittently, by the PA.

“He wanted to live his life the way he imagined, but couldn’t because the occupation stole any meaning of life from him,” Umm Hisham said. “He has such a strong respectable character, but he was denied leading a life any young man of his age should be able to, such as starting a family, going to wedding parties outside the village, and visiting other towns and cities.”

Thiab’s restricted freedom of movement was illustrated emphatically in January 2011, after he tried to go to Jenin to visit his sister-in-law after she had given birth to twin boys. A flying checkpoint was waiting for him just outside Kufr Rai, and he was subsequently strip-searched and detained for several hours before being sent home again. “He left prison for a bigger prison,” Umm Hisham underlined.
After apprenticing as a barber, Thiab opened a barbershop in his village. Barely 12 days later, he was taken away by Israeli forces yet again for interrogation, during which they goaded him and made fun of his profession. When he returned home, he never went back to his barbershop again.

On 17 August 2011, Thiab was hanging out with four of his neighbors on his brother’s roof. It was in the middle of the month of Ramadan, and the villagers have a habit of staying up late during the holy month. At 1am, sound bombs suddenly went off around the house, and the courtyard was rapidly swarming with a special unit of Israeli soldiers, all dressed in civilian clothes. Another group of soldiers, this time easily distinguishable from their uniforms, made their way up to the roof and detained all of the five young men. The soldiers then rounded up all the women and children into one room. Isam, one of Thiab’s brothers, was handcuffed in a different room, and the soldiers kept stomping on his body. The soldiers released the four men who were with Thiab, but handcuffed and blindfolded him and proceeded to drag Thiab on his knees to where the army jeep was standing, about 200m away.

Thiab went on 14 days of hunger strike in solidarity with Khader Adnan, and later for another 12 days in solidarity with Hana Shalabi. When the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) renewed his detention for another six months at the end of February 2012, Thiab immediately began his hunger strike with his friend and fellow inmate Thaer Halahleh. They were separated and placed in different cells, and when it became clear they were not going to end their hunger strike the IPS moved them both to solitary confinement. On March 28, Thiab and Halahleh were hospitalized, and are currently in the Ramle prison hospital.

Jamil Khatib, the lawyer for Thiab and Halahleh and other hunger strikers who have also been hospitalized, last visited them on Wednesday, April 25.

“On the 59th day of his hunger strike, Bilal’s health is at a very dangerous level,” Khatib stressed. “He has lost 25kg, has difficulty speaking, a low blood sugar level, and constant pain in his stomach. His hair is falling out, and suffers from frequent dizziness in addition to falling unconscious at times. He is very weak, and can’t move on his own.”

On Monday, April 23, the Israeli military court rejected Khatib’s appeal to release both Thiab and Halahleh. The next day, Khatib appealed to the High Israeli court in Jerusalem and demanded two things: to process the appeal as soon as possible, and to transfer Thiab and Halahleh to court in ambulances, not military jeeps.

Thiab and Halahleh have made it clear that they refuse to be exiled anywhere outside their own villages.

Khatib says that a deal to exile both prisoners in return for an end to their hunger strike wasn’t officially presented to him by the Israeli intelligence, since he has made it clear to them that he will not negotiate on this condition. Furthermore, Thiab and Halahleh have made it clear that they refuse to be exiled anywhere outside their own villages.

 
“I expect them to continue with their hunger strike, on the path that Khader Adnan spearheaded,” Khatib said. “They are determined to hunger strike until freedom or martyrdom. This is their latest message to us. They also ask for more positive support and for a clear strategy from media and organizations in covering their case.”
Azzam, another of Thiab’s brothers, is on his 30th day of hunger strike in solidarity with his brother, regardless of the fact that he is carrying out a life sentence since 2001.
“Bilal is the youngest of my 13 children,” Umm Hisham said. “His father died when he was 8 months old, so he was always spoiled by his brothers and sisters. I ask everyone, anyone whose human rights means something to them, to help us, to release Bilal, to free Bilal.”

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian  

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