Thursday, March 22, 2012

GMJ will be a Peaceful March

Global March Organizers Say will not Confront Forces

Ma'an News Agency
Sunday 18 March, 2012

BETHLEHEM – Organizers of an international rally to support Palestinians at the end of the month said Sunday they are not interested in confrontation with the Israeli army, after similar demonstrations a year earlier ended in bloodshed.

"We are after all not an army, but popular peaceful international forces aiming to show solidarity with Palestine and with Jerusalem," spokesman of the Global March to Jerusalem Zahir Al-Birawi told Ma'an.

The group, who list Noble Laureates Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Mairead Maguire as advisers, say they are organizing simultaneous rallies in 60 countries on March 30, which marks Palestinian Land Day.

Land Day commemorates the death of six Palestinian citizens of Israel, who took part in a general strike in protest of an Israeli decision to confiscate privately owned Palestinian lands in 1976.

Last Land Day saw Palestinians protest across the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Israel without casualties.

But two months later simultaneous rallies to commemorate the Nakba – the 'catastrophe' when thousands of Palestinians were forced out or fled in fighting that led to Israel's founding – brought thousands towards Israel's borders in Lebanon, Syria and Gaza, leaving 13 dead by Israeli fire.

In June, hundreds of protesters in Syria stormed the ceasefire line with Israel in the occupied Golan Heights, on Naksa Day, the anniversary of the 1967 war when Israel seized the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Sinai and Golan Heights. Damascus said 23 were killed when Israeli forces opened fire, while Israel disputed the toll.

A statement from the group said at the Land Day march "Palestinians and their international supporters will attempt to get as close to Jerusalem as they can: whether at the borders of Lebanon and Jordan, at checkpoints in the West Bank, or at the Erez crossing in Gaza."

Zahir Al-Birawi told Ma'an he expects millions to take part this year, and popular protests have been coordinated with governments in Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon, although not in Syria.

Organizers are waiting for confirmation from the Jordanian government on the most appropriate location for the country's protests, while in Egypt protests are planned at Al-Azhar Mosque, Tahrir Square, and a commemorative sports tournament in Cairo.

In Lebanon popular forces are working hard to determine a location for the rally near the border with Israel, and in Syria the organizers are coordinating with the local Palestinian population.

Al-Birawi noted that rallies would also take place in front of Israeli embassies world wide to protest Israel's occupation.

In Palestine, rallies have been prepared for four months, organizing committee member Salah Khawajah said.

But the organizers stressed the peaceful nature of the protests.

"During a time of upheaval throughout the Middle East, the nonviolent demonstrations on Palestinian Land Day this year could well mark a turning point in the Palestinian struggle for liberation and self-determination," a group statement said.

Friday, March 16, 2012

GMJ-Asian Caravan to Jerusalem

As we count down the days until 30th March, the Global March to Jerusalem (GMJ) continues to build momentum around the world. Over the last week official press conferences were held in Gaza and Lebanon, generating a lot of coverage in the Arabic language media. And earlier this month saw the launch of a people’s caravan in support of the GMJ that will make its way across Asia towards Jerusalem.

The GMJ-Asian caravan will include around 250 people from at least 20 different nations, including delegates from Indonesia, Malaysia, Bahrain, Philippines, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Japan, Australia and Turkey, as well as several Western countries. Members of Parliament will be participating from Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Iran.

GMJ-Asian caravan departs from India

On 9th March, the 54 member Indian delegation departed from Rajghat, a location with symbolic importance as it is the final resting place of celebrated peace activist Mahatma Gandhi. Public figures attending the departure ceremony included Shri Ram Vilas Paswan, Member of Parliament and President Lok Janshakti Party, Mr. Zuhair Hamdallah, Second Consul at the Palestine Embassy, and Shri Mani Shanker Aiyar, Member of Parliament.

When the GMJ-Asian caravan arrived in Karachi, leaders and members of the Palestine Foundation of Pakistan (PLF) welcomed the delegates with rose petals and offered garlands. The delegates were also greeted by the Palestinian ambassador to Pakistan, Dr. Hazem Abu Shanab.

GMJ-Asian caravan arrives in Pakistan

The planned route for the GMJ-Asian caravan will be through Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Iran, and then Turkey, finally traveling by ship to Lebanon where the Asian delegates will participate in the GMJ demonstrations in southern Lebanon on 30th March. In addition to the land caravan, many other Asian delegates will be flying directly to Amman to join the GMJ demonstrations in Jordan.

As it progresses along its journey towards Jerusalem, the GMJ-Asian caravan will continue to grow in size and popularity. For regular updates please visit: www.apsp.asia.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Statement Condemning Attack on Gaza

Statement from the Global March to Jerusalem Concerning Criminal Israeli Assassinations of Gaza Civilians

Just as defending and liberating Jerusalem are the duties of free people around the world, so is defending the safety and livelihoods of Palestinians throughout occupied Palestine. On March 9, the Israeli occupation army began their latest series of illegal assassinations of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip.  We, the Global March to Jerusalem, condemn the Zionist campaign of killing Palestinian citizens and imprisoning the Palestinians of Gaza in an open-air prison, just as we condemn the continued occupation of Palestinian land and the intentional destruction and Judaisation of Jerusalem, as well as all of historic Palestine.

In less than three weeks, history will be made when thousands of Palestinians and supporters from around the world march together. In light of the continued ethnic cleansing of Muslims and Christians in Jerusalem and the latest bloody attacks on the Palestinians of Gaza, now more than ever, in solidarity with Palestinians, we call on all people to join Palestinians and supporters: on March 30, 2012, we will march to Jerusalem or to the nearest possible points in neighboring countries to protest Israeli apartheid and ethnic cleansing. We demand access to Jerusalem for all peoples; to uphold Palestinian rights under international law, including all refugees' right of return; and the end to Israeli attacks on the Palestinians of Gaza.

- The International Executive Committee of the Global March to Jerusalem

Global March to Jerusalem Gathers Support

Distinguished Advisory Board includes Nobel Laureates, issues declaration

On March 30th this year, people from around the world will join Palestinians throughout the Middle East and in the Diaspora in a ground-breaking initiative: the Global March to Jerusalem, a day of peaceful, nonviolent demonstrations In Palestine and surrounding countries.

Every year on March 30th Palestinians around the world remember Land Day, which commemorates a general strike and marches in 1976 against Israeli land appropriation, a pivotal event in bringing about Palestinian national unity. This year Palestinians will call attention to the dangers facing Jerusalem as a city that embodies the cultural heritage of the three monotheistic religions: Islam, Christianity, and Judaism.
In a strategy to Judaise the holy city, the Israeli government has long denied most Palestinians – whether Muslim or Christian – access to Jerusalem, even to visit holy sites. Through methods of ethnic cleansing, Israel has been forcing Jerusalem’s remaining Palestinian inhabitants out, thus endangering the multi-religious, multi-ethnic character of the city that is the intended capital of Palestine.
Now a distinguished Advisory Board of political, religious, and cultural leaders as well as leading scholars from around the world is lending its weight in support of the Global March to Jerusalem. In a strongly worded declaration, the Advisory Board members state that Israeli government efforts to change the Arabic and cultural identity of the city are a crime against humanity. They urge that all of humanity actively support this peaceful Palestinian civil resistance movement.
The Palestinian coalition organizing the Global March to Jerusalem is perhaps unprecedented in its breadth and brings together virtually all political and religious perspectives among the Palestinian people. Supporters in five continents are joining them in a multi-cultural, multi-religious, multi-lingual effort on March 30th that includes sending delegations to join the March itself and preparing local solidarity actions as well as demonstrations at Israeli Embassies in key cities. Land caravans from India, Indonesia, and Malaysia, are already making their way towards Jerusalem, and delegations from dozens of countries are expected.
On March 30th, the Palestinians and their international supporters will attempt to get as close to Jerusalem as they can: whether at the borders of Lebanon and Jordan, at checkpoints in the West Bank, or at the Erez crossing in Gaza. There will also be a demonstration in Jerusalem itself.  Many of the Advisors will personally participate in the March: for example, Irish Nobel Laureate Mairead Maguire will join the protests in Lebanon.
Among the Advisory Board members who signed the declaration are Archbishop Desmond Tutu, South African Nobel Peace Laureate; Swami Agnivesh, former Member of the Indian Parliament; George Galloway, former Member of the British Parliament; Dr. Cornel West, philosopher, writer and civil rights activist; Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, Secretary General of the Palestinian National Initiative; Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, author and activist in the Jewish Renewal Movement; Ronnie Kasrils, South African national liberation leader and former cabinet minister; Dr. Norman Paech, former Member of the German Parliament; Marwah Daud Ibrahim, Indonesian feminist, writer and Member of Parliament; Dr. Jeremiah Wright, Pastor Emeritus at the Trinity United Church of Christ; Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohammed, former Prime Minister of Malaysia; Sheikh Raed Salah, founder of the Islamic Movement for ’48 Palestinians; Ahmad Obeidat, Former Jordanian Prime Minister; Bouguerra Soltani, Algerian Government Minister; Neta Golan, Co-Founder of the International Solidarity Movement; and H.E. Atallah Hanna, Archbishop of Sebastia, Patriarchate of Jerusalem. 
During a time of upheaval throughout the Middle East, the nonviolent demonstrations on Palestinian Land Day this year could well mark a turning point in the Palestinian struggle for liberation and self-determination. The declaration in support of the Global March to Jerusalem by this distinguished Advisory Board underscores the key role the international community can and must play in supporting the struggle for more just and democratic societies throughout the Middle East, and in Palestine. Indeed such strong support demonstrates to the world that "the people of the world demand freedom for Jerusalem" and all of Palestine.

For media enquiries please contact Zaher Birawi: +44 7850 896 057 / gmj1.icc@gmail.com

-----

Full declaration of support and a selected list of signatories
We, the Advisory Board of the Global March to Jerusalem, are alarmed and deeply troubled by the continuing repression of Palestinians in Jerusalem and by the deliberate and systematic attempts to expel and reduce the Christian and Muslim Palestinian population of the city as part of the policy called “Judaisation,” which is being applied to every part of historic Palestine.

This policy is inconsistent with all relevant United Nations resolutions on Jerusalem and contrary to the most basic principles of international law. Its purpose is plainly to ethnically cleanse Jerusalem of its non-Jewish population and transform a once proud symbol of international tolerance and religious and cultural diversity into an exclusionary and racist enclave.
Jerusalem is our common universal heritage. It is the centre of spirituality and ideological significance for all of the monotheistic religions, and a beacon of emancipation and hope for the downtrodden. This historic city is venerated across the world for enhancing the spiritual heritage of all humanity; it has been a symbol of unity and equality, with a message of love, mercy and compassion.

However the entire world is now witnessing a threat to the sovereignty, sanctity and inviolability of Jerusalem. The plan is not only to destroy the Muslim and Christian presence, but also to change and dismantle the social structure of Jerusalem, obliterating its indigenous Arab identity and changing the character of the city.
The people of the world have therefore taken it upon themselves to prevent this abomination, by mobilizing themselves in every part of the world and representing all religious, humanitarian, and cultural backgrounds in a global march to Jerusalem (GMJ) aimed at guarding the City of Peace from becoming a wasteland of intolerance. We therefore lend our names to support the convergence of people from all countries and continents of the world to Jerusalem, and to the nearest points to which they are able to approach, both inside Palestine and at the Palestinian borders with Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon, as well as in their own countries, in a peaceful march towards Jerusalem.

We therefore support this effort, and encourage all of humanity to support it, by making the pledge set forth below, that all participants in the Global March to Jerusalem have agreed to accept.
We assert the importance of Jerusalem politically, culturally and religiously to the Palestinian people and humanity as a whole. We call for the protection of the Holy Places and all archeological sites and consider all the efforts done to change its Arabic and cultural identity as a crime against humanity. We call on all international institutions to do their duties towards the city.

The defense of Jerusalem and its liberation are a duty of all free people around the world and we call on all institutions, organizations, and individuals to participate in this duty.
We condemn the Zionist campaign of ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem and the rest of Palestine including all ongoing policies intended to change the demographic and geographic situation in the city and aimed at its Judaisation. We also condemn the continuation of the Zionist occupation forces in building the apartheid wall that aims to expropriate more Palestinian lands and convert the occupied areas into shrinking cantons isolated from each other.
We support the right of the Palestinian People to self-determination, to liberate their lands and to live on them in freedom and dignity like all other people on earth.

We support the non-negotiable & inalienable rights of the Palestinian People, including their families, to return to their homes and lands from which they were uprooted.
We reject all racist laws that distinguish between people based on ethnicity or religion and call for their cancellation and criminalization.
The Global March to Jerusalem does not represent any one faction or political party, but we call for participation of all social forces, political factions, and ideologies.

The Global March to Jerusalem is a global peaceful movement, which does not use violence to achieve its goals.

Signed,
The Advisory Board of the Global March to Jerusalem (partial listing of names)

Shaikh Dr. Abdul Ghani al-Tamimi,
Poet and preacher; chairman of the Palestine Scholars Abroad

Abdullatif Arabiyyat
Former Speaker of the Jordanian Parliament

Swami Agnivesh
Founder, Bonded Labour Liberation Front and World Council of Arya Samaj; former Member of the Indian parliament; former Chairperson of the UN Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery

Ahmad Obeidat
Former Jordanian Prime Minister & Head of the National Front for Reform

Dr. Ahmed Mohammed Attia Bahar
Vice President, Palestinian Legislative Council

Tan Sri Anthony Francis Fernandes
Malaysian entrepreneur; founder and CEO, Air Asia

Dr. Anton Shuhaiber
Gaza Christian Association

Arnold Hottinger
Swiss journalist and publicist; former Middle East correspondent for the Neue Z├╝rcher Zeitung

H.E. Atallah Hanna
Archbishop of Sebastia, Patriarchate of Jerusalem

Bouguerra Soltani
Algerian Government Minister, party leader for the Movement of the Society for Peace

Dr. Cornel West
Professor of African American studies. Princeton University; philosopher, writer and civil rights activist

Datuk Yasmin Yusoff
Malaysian actress and television host

David Hartsough
Director, Peaceworkers, San Francisco

Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Nobel Peace Laureate

HE Dr. Dzukelly Ahmad
Member of the Malaysian parliament

Evelyn Hecht-Galinski
Jewish German author, activist and publicist

Dr. Francis Boyle
Professor of International Law, University of Illinois

Dr. Franco Cavalli
Oncologist and former leader of the Swiss Social Democrat Party parliamentary group

George Galloway
Former Member of British Parliament and Founder of Viva Palestina

Dr. Ghada Karmi
Writer and Co-Director, Centre for Palestine Studies, University of Exeter

Gretta Duisenberg
Founder and Chair, “Stop the Occupation” (Netherlands); Free Gaza Movement Board Member

Dr. Hammam Said
Head of the Jordanian Consultative Council of the Muslim Brothers

Hilarion Capucci
Archbishop of Caesarea, Greek Melkite Church

Ibrahim Nasrallah
Jordanian-Palestinian Poet & Novelist

Dr. Jeremiah Wright
Pastor Emeritus, Trinity United Church of Christ, Chicago, Illinois, USA

Prof. Judith Butler
Writer and philosopher, University of California, Berkeley

Laith Shubeilat
Former Jordanian Parliamentarian

Lalita Ramdas
Chair, Greenpeace International

Admiral Laxminarayan Ramdas
Magsaysay Peace Award Recipient and anti-nuclear advocate

Dr. Leo Gabriel
Austrian socio-anthropologist, journalist and documentary filmmaker; member, World Social Forum International Council

Fr. Louis Vitale
Order of Franciscan Monks; Pace e Bene; nonviolent resistor

Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb
Jewish Renewal Movement

Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohammed
Former Prime Minister of Malaysia

Mairead McGuire
Nobel Peace Laureate

Marzuki Alie
Speaker, Indonesian House of Representatives

Marwah Daud Ibrahim
Indonesian feminist, writer and Member of Parliament

Medha Patkar
Leader, National Alliance of People’s Movements; Recipient, Right Livelihood Award, Goldman Environment Prize & Amnesty International Human Rights Defenders Award

Dr. Mustafa Barghouti
Secretary General, Palestinian National Initiative; President, Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees

Neta Golan
Co-Founder, International Solidarity Movement

Dr. Norman Paech
Former Member of the German Parliament; professor of law, emeritus, University of Hamburg

Sheikh Raed Salah
President of the Islamic movement within the 1949 Ceasefire Line

Justice Rajinder Sachar
Former Chief Justice, Delhi High Court; Member, UN Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities; Senior Advisor & Counsel, People’s Union for Civil Liberties

Ronnie Kasrils
South African national liberation leader and former cabinet minister

Seema Mustafa
Syndicated columnist & former political editor, Asian Age

Prof. Siddique Hassan
Director, Vision 2016; Assistant Amir of the Jamat-e-Islami, Hind

Subhi Ghosheh
Chairman, Jordanian Beitul-Maqdes Forum

Syeda Hameed
Columnist, The Indian Express; Member, Indian National Planning Commission

HE Tony Pua Kiam Wee
Member of the Malaysian parliament

Tujan Faysal
First elected woman Jordanian Parliamentarian

Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat
Former Chief of the Naval Staff of India

Mrs. Wardina Safiyyah
Malaysian actress and television host

Dr. Yacoub Zaiadeen
Former Jerusalem Representative to the Jordanian parliament

Sheikh Yousuf Jumaa
Former Palestinian Minister of Awqaf and Religious Affairs; former preacher of Al-Aqsa Mosque

Dr. Zakaria Agha M.D.
Member, Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee; former chair, Gaza Strip Medical Association

Dr. Zeenat Shaukat Ali
Author; Vice Chairman and Founder Trustee of SAGE Foundation; Professor of Islamic Studies, St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Jerusalem for Us All

A New Music Album for Palestine

For immediate release March 2012
 
Jerusalem for Us All
An album by international artists to benefit the
GLOBAL MARCH TO JERUSALEM – NORTH AMERICA

The recent Arab uprisings throughout the Middle East and North Africa have inspired popular movements worldwide to take to the streets to peacefully protest against contemporary injustices. Many artists in these movements are also using music as a way to non-violently resist, because music is a universal human language that communicates not only our dissatisfaction with the world around us, but also our hopes for a more just and peaceful future.

Building on this wave of non-violent civil resistance, we are pleased to announce the release of “Jerusalem for Us All,” a new compilation album to benefit the Global March to Jerusalem – North America (GMJ-NA), featuring tracks from renowned international artists including: M1, DAM, Marcel Khalife, Rim Banna, Robert Wyatt and Gilad Atzmon, among many others (please see the full track listing below). The GMJ-NA is an independent and autonomous coalition of North American Groups planning to join the Global March to Jerusalem (GMJ), a groundbreaking new initiative that is organizing peaceful mass demonstrations on Land Day, 30th March 2012, in Palestine and the four neighboring countries: Egypt, Lebanon Jordan and Syria. Large non-violent solidarity protests will also be held in major cities around the world. The GMJ has the support of hundreds of grassroots organizations worldwide, and endorsements from esteemed individuals including: Nobel Peace Laureates Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Mairead Maguire, Palestinian democracy activist Mustafa Barghouti, Jewish Renewal Movement Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, ANC leader Ronnie Kasrils, American philosopher and civil rights activist Dr. Cornel West, retired US Ambassador Edward Peck, anti-war activist Medea Benjamin, international law professor Richard Falk, and historian and writer Dr. Tariq Ali.

Although the international participants of the GMJ represent a diverse coalition of voices from various religious and non-religious communities, “Jerusalem For Us All” illustrates how they can all unite for Palestine. As the DARG team, a group of young hip hop artists from Gaza, explains, “That is the power of music, where it can travel all over without borders, bring people together no matter where they are from, their backgrounds, color or even religion.” So while the album includes a diverse mix of hip hop, jazz, rock, folk, and a variety of classical cultural traditions, many of the tracks incorporate lyrics that focus directly on the situation in Palestine from a perspective not usually represented in the political mainstream.

As American singer-songwriter David Rovics points out, “Music has always played an important role in educating people about their world, and in inspiring people to take action. Music has always been an integral part of any social movement, and a massive, international social movement is what we need right now to support the initiative of the Global March to Jerusalem.” The DARG team also believes strongly in the power of music to educate others, stressing how important it is to “spread the word of justice and … the truth about what is going on in Palestine.”

The Western bias towards Israel often makes it extremely difficult for popular artists to take a political stand. Thus the creation of an international album in support of Palestine is a remarkable achievement. As the British singer and musician Aki Nawaz points out, “All or any activity to achieving justice and recognition for the Palestinian people is not just an honor to be applauded but one that takes sacrifice and courage. Many musicians and artists are deliberately suffocated and demonized into silence or targeted for any stance they take on the issue, and this speaks volumes of systems who advocate ‘freedom of expression’ yet deny it when it does not meet their sinister agenda.”

Perhaps as a result of these many sacrifices required, every artist participating in “Jerusalem for Us All” has a personal connection to Palestine, even those who are not Palestinian. For American composer Rich Siegel, this connection was a transformative experience. He explains that “having been raised deep in the cult of Zionism, I have a special passion for this issue. I hope that my music will, in some small way, contribute to freedom, peace, and justice for Palestine.” Because as American singer-songwriter Stephan Said remarks, “That beautiful spirit of non-violence for justice fills the GMJ, bringing together Muslims, Christians, Jews, people of every walk of life, to take a stand for the change we need to see."

“Jerusalem for Us All” is available at www.cdbaby.com and www.gmj-na.org for $9.99. All proceeds will benefit the GMJ-NA. Following is the track list:

1. Stephan Said, "Take A Stand" Beatnick & K-Salaam Remix
2. M1, "24 hours in Gaza"
3. DAM, "Sajin Mixdown"
4. Shadia Mansour, Robert Wyatt, Gilad Atzmon, and Ros Stephen (Ramallah Underground), “Where Are They Now”
5. Sarah Gillespie, “How The Mighty Fall”
6. Marcel Khalife, "Walking Tall" (Muntasebah al-Qamati Amshi)
7. Rim Banna,  “A Time to Cry”
8. Muhammad Assaf, “Free People of the World are Marching towards You”
9. Fun-Da-Mental, “Ja Shataan”
10. Homan Bakhtiyari, “Felistin ey Felistin”
11. Gilad Atzmon & the Orient House Ensemble, “La Cote Mediterranee”
12. DARG Team, "Calling You" (Onadekom)
13. Katibeh 5, “Malak !”
14. David Rovics, “I Wanna Go Home”
15. Phil Monsour, “I Left My Heart in Palestine”
16. Rich Siegel, “In Palestine”
17. Ragtop (Nizar Wattad), “1948”
18. Nora Roman and the Border Busters, "Song for Palestine"
19. Robert Wyatt, Tali Atzmon, Gilad Atzmon and Ros Stephen (Ramallah Underground), “The Ghosts Within”

To access the album for review please contact Sarah Marusek at:
media@gmj-na.org / +961 71 631 947 or +1 510 224 3518

English Translation of Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's Speech 4 March 2012

In His Name

The speech delivered by Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on the occasion of the forum entitled: “Declaration of Al Qods as the capital of Palestine, the Arabs and Muslims".

I take refuge in Allah from the stoned devil. In the Name of Allah, The Compassionate, The Most Merciful. Peace be on the Seal of prophets, our Master and Prophet, Abi Al Qassem Mohammad and on his chaste and pure Household and on his chosen companions and on all messengers and prophets. Peace be on you all and Allah's mercy and blessing.

I have the honor to deliver the opening speech in this forum which aims at declaring Al Qods as the capital of Palestine, the Arabs and Muslims according to the popular will. To be in harmony with the nature of the program which encompasses several other speeches in the forum, I will be very brief. Thus I wrote what I want to say, and I will commit myself to the text so that I won't take more time.

I will talk about Al Qods, its status quo, the current challenges, the responsibility towards Al Qods, the options, the horizons and the future.

First I will talk about its status quo. From the various perspectives, Al Qods is currently a unique case in the world. That means it is matchless and without equal. It is a holy city in a holy land. It is a blessed city, and all what is around it is blessed. This is unanimously agreed upon by all divine revelations. Thus it is in the doctrine, conscience and culture of billions of human beings who reside in the five continents of the world whether Muslims or Christians. Their eyes long for Al Qods and their hearts are infatuated by it. There is no other city in the world that matches with Al Qods. Besides its holiness, the city really comprises many of the sanctities and holy sites for Muslims and Christians whether Al Aqsa Mosque or Resurrection Church or others.

On the other hand, it is a city occupied by those who have nothing to do with these billions of human beings and do not represent them by any form. It is still under occupation and it has been under occupation for decades. It has also been declared an eternal capital for a terrorist, racial, colonial, fabricated entity – namely Israel - which is antagonistic to this nation and to this entire environment. There are also prompt efforts to declare it an eternal capital to the so called Jewish people in the world. These efforts are still underway. There is a bill to this effect understudy in the enemy's Knesset.

All through history, Al Qods has been a principle axis for struggle in the region. This was also the case in the past century. It is still as such, and that's how it will be in the future. To have control over it, the region was divided by Sykes-Picot; to secure control over it, new projects have always been schemed for it the last of which was the Neo Middle East project which was toppled by the resistance movements and the opposing countries in the region. We will always face one project after the other with the aim of liquidating the Palestinian cause in heart of which is Al Qods. With Al Qods as the axis, the future of this region will be drawn. In one word I say: Tell me where Al Qods is; I will tell you where the region is.

Also today Al Qods is being subject to an organized Judaizing campaign. Even more, the sanctities of Muslims and Christians are being subject to humiliation and profanation on one hand and to the risk of vandalism, demolition and eradication on the other. Its original historic people are also being subject to a displacement, exclusion and expulsion operation so that the city becomes void of its Muslim and Christian residents and their sanctities as well and so that it becomes of one known color and textile.

So the case of Al Qods is really a matchless unequaled case in the world what puts us before a real challenge which is linked to the identity, future and fate of this holy city.

Second: As for the responsibility of this city and its options, I believe that every Palestinian, Arab, Muslim, and Christian has a national, popular, religious, convictional and ethical responsibility towards Al Qods and its future, identity and destiny.

Third: I would like to highlight specifically the convictional and religious responsibility – the technical term is legitimate responsibility. Dear brothers! We believe in Resurrection and in The Day of Judgment. We believe in two kinds of reward and punishment in the Other world: holding individuals accountable and holding nations and communities accountable. We believe that then we will be asked as individuals and as nations and communities about what we have done with Al Qods and Palestine, and what we have done in face of this confrontation.

The generations which were contemporary with the establishment of the Zionist entity and especially the occupation of Al Qods – all these generations in our nation – assume the responsibility with variant ratios, and they will be asked on Doom's Day about the loss of Al Qods. It might happen that in this world nobody asks or holds the other accountable. However, as time does not make what is right wrong and what is wrong right, time does not drop responsibilities in this world as well or change the account of reward and punishment in the Resurrection Day. People forget, ignore and are negligent; however before the hands of Allah is the balance of righteousness.

Most of us are among the generations who became religiously responsible following 1967 – meaning after the occupation and loss of Al Qods. Consequently, we do not partake in the responsibility of its loss and occupation. However, we for sure assume the responsibility of having it still under control to this day, and we will be asked. So everyone of us and every group, organization, movement, party, current, society, institution, clan, tribe, people and country must prepare an answer for Doom's Day for what they did or achieved in the way of restoring Al Qods and liberating it.

Brothers and sisters! This obligation and responsibility impose on this nation a central great goal which we must seek to achieve. It is liberating Al Qods from the profanation of the occupation, and working industriously and seriously to achieve that. Until this goal is achieved, there are several other challenges which we must daily face with every possible means. I mean defending the Islamic and Christian sanctities in Al Qods, guarding its people against expulsion and displacement, and confronting Judaizing Al Qods. This may be achieved through fixed and fully considered agendas. That means we do not need to put and plan for programs. Many conferences have been convened. Al Qods International Institution has been established. Many conferences have been held whether in Tehran or in other places. I believe there is no gap on the level of programs. What we need in the confrontation of this intimidation and for defending the sanctities and guarding the identity of Al Qods and its residents is working seriously and giving this cause the appropriate priority.

As for the options, it is clear that the choice of negotiations to restore Al Qods is invalid. That's because while putting apart the stance from the choice of negotiations and from the settlement operation as a whole and if we take for granted that negotiating with the enemy may lead to a solution for a part of Palestine's occupied land or for a group of the Palestinian refugees or for some of the other related causes, it is decisive and final that Al Qods has no place in this solution. That goes to the Israeli consensus on sticking to Al Qods as a united capital for the state of Israel. Thus it is nonnegotiable. The Israelis are unwilling to negotiate Al Qods – whether western Al Qods or Al Aqsa Mosque or even their underground. All of that is behind the scope of any debate or negotiation.

That's besides the absolute western-American adoption of Israel and its security and military supremacy which US President Barak Obama indicated as his ‘holy commitment’. So he raised this commitment from the level of strategic or political or humanistic levels – in their considerations – to the level of holiness. Thus that is indubitable. Here I say between parentheses that we did not hear any comment on this holy commitment from any of the US allies and friends or those who bargain on it from the Arab and Islamic world. This truth which is indubitable does not keep before the Palestinian people along with the whole nation except the choice of resistance and armed jihad.

As for the horizons and the future of Al Qods, we believe that the major changes in the region which the resistance movements have the lion's share in making along with the major changes currently underway in the world on more than one level make us feel that we are closer to achieving the goal of liberating Al Qods more than any time in the past.

Following are some examples:

- The steadfastness of the Palestinian people all through the previous decades despite being subject to wars, risks, annihilation and expulsion and their refusal to give in to Israeli settlements and conditions.

- The international disability and even the official Arab disability to liquidate the Palestinian cause and consequently, the cause remained vitally and forcefully present in the consciences, equations and fields. In this perspective, the declaration made by Imam Khomeini (May Allah sanctify his holy secret) announcing the last Friday in the month of Ramadan as Al Qods International Day is one of the forms of keeping this cause alive.

- The fall of the Shah regime and the establishment of the Islamic Republic in Iran which absolutely backs this Palestinian, Arab and Islamic right. Here we must highly respect the Islamic Republic and its people and leaders who clearly and unequivocally declare that Israel is an illegitimate state and that it is a cancerous gland which must be eliminated from the map of existence. Though Iran is a state which has its interests and relations and though it is a part of the international community, and though it is being subject to pressure, it doesn't resort to tactics in its stance and vision. It rather expresses its strategy and depth in a clear sound way.

- The victories and achievements of the resistance in Lebanon, Palestine and lately in Iraq.

- The great change in Egypt which is viewed by the Zionists as an earthquake which threatens the existence of their entity.

- The great change in Iraq. If Iraq was fated to restore its prosperity in a quick pace, it may play a central role in this struggle. We also link great expectations in this perspective on the Iraqi forces, the Iraqi resistance and the Iraqi people.

- The feebleness and the retreat of the United States and the western states in general on more than one level.

- The changes inside the entity of the enemy on the cultural, moral, psychological, military and political levels.

- The steadfastness of the resistance axis that comprises Iran, Syria and the resistance movements in confronting all the challenges.

- The failure or the settlement and the normalization operations.

- The acceptance of the nation of the choice of the resistance and its conviction more than any time in the past in its efficiency and its willingness to move forward in this path as was proven in the past few years.

These are all strategic factors. They are very great factors which put us on this path that leads to the goal and which makes talking about the goal of liberating Al Qods a realistic speech which is based on evidences and strategic, regional, international and local data.

Brothers and sisters! This nation is destined to live what the ancient nations have experienced. The very divine and historic laws and rules which governed the ancient nations are ruling us. When the descendants of Israel refused to respond to the call of the Prophet of Allah Moses (Peace be upon him) to enter the Holy Land and told him "Go with your Lord and fight as here we will remain", humiliation and misery afflicted them. They were doomed to go astray for forty years in a hollow desert. When the nation did not respond to the appeal of Al Qods and the people of Palestine in the past century and when it failed to defend the holy land and lost the holy city, this nation was afflicted with humiliation and misery, and it was doomed to go astray also in the desert of forfeiture, disintegration, bewilderment, and feebleness for forty years.

Brothers and sisters! The forty years have passed, and from the womb of suffering, challenges and great changes new generations were born. They believe that jihad is a gateway to Heaven which Allah have opened for His very close holy men. Al Jihad is Allah's well-fortified armor and intimate Heaven. Thus the path of the resistance is the path to dignity, honor, liberation and victory.

We are no more astray. The very first signs of that were the liberation of the South in 2000 and the liberation of Gaza Strip afterwards. The signs were more confirmed when the resistance gained victory in July War in Lebanon and in Gaza War in Palestine.

All convictional, intellectual, realistic, political, moral and field data assert on the light of the norms and laws that we have ushered into the time of victories and quit the time of defeats.

In the past, Imam Hussein (Peace be upon him) wrote to those who would follow him: He who follows us shall become a martyr, and he who won't will not attain the blessed victory.” Today the resistance heroes say to all the people of this nation in the path of our resistance in Lebanon, Palestine and the region: "He who follows us makes victory; and he who won’t will not attain the blessed victory. Peace be upon you and Allah's mercy and blessing.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Western Forces Already in Syria?

Thirteen French officers 'captured by Syrian Army'

By Henry Samuel, Paris, and Amy Willis
The Daily Telegraph
Monday 5 March, 2012

Thirteen French officers have been captured by Syrian forces according to the Lebanon-based The Daily Star newspaper, the first mainstream media outlet to report on rumours of Western troops on the ground.

The French foreign ministry dismissed the report, however, telling The Daily Telegraph that not a single French soldier is on Syrian soil.

But the defence ministry was less categorical, saying it neither confirmed nor denied the claim. A photographer who recently escaped from the besieged Syrian city of Homs also dismissed suggestions French soldiers had intervened to secure his evacuation and that of three other Western reporters.

The report came on Monday as the Red Cross and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent reached two neighbourhoods of Homs where they were distributing food and blankets to civilians, including families who had fled the battered district of Baba Amr.

The teams still do not appear to have been allowed into Baba Amr itself.

“We are in the neighbourhoods of al-Inshaat and al-Tawzii. Al-Inshaat is the closest neighbourhood to Baba Amr. Obviously there is the resident population in need of help, as that neighbourhood was also affected by the violence, but it also hosts many families who have fled Baba Amr,” Hicham Hassan, spokesman of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said.

An ICRC convoy carrying food for “several thousand people” and other relief supplies had also arrived in Homs from Damascus, the second in less than a week, he said.

It has also emerged that Syria envoy Kofi Annan will go to Damascus on March 10.

The report claiming that French officers are on the ground came from The Daily Star, a reputable newspaper in Beirut.

The Daily Star cites a Damascus-based Pro-Syrian Palestinian source as alleging that the French troops are being held in a field hospital in Homs.

The source claimed officials in Paris and Damascus are brokering a deal on what to do with the French nationals.

No explanation as to why the French troops had been in Syria was given nor was any indication as to whether they had been part of a larger contingent.

It was not possible to independently verify the claims.

A foreign ministry spokesman in France said: “We deny the idea that there are French troops on the ground”. A defence spokesman said: “We have no information on this. We neither confirm nor deny it".
Damascus has not commented on the presence of French troops on Syrian soil.

However, Nato Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said last month it had no intention of intervening in the country as with Libya.

"No, I don’t think so because Syria is also a different society, it is much more complicated ethnically, politically, religiously. That’s why I do believe that a regional solution should be found,” he said.

Homs, 20 miles from the Lebanese border, remains a strategic battleground with forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad unrelenting in their bombardment of the area and anti-Assad demonstrators continuing their protests against the tyrannical dictator.

Activists said yesterday at least 12 people, including three children and three women, were killed in shelling in Rastan, a suburb of Homs, on Sunday. Men from another suburb, Baba Amr, were rounded up separately and 10 were lined up against a wall and shot, activists and refugees claimed.

French journalist Edith Bouvier was smuggled out of Syria with three others last week after sustaining a broken leg in what some claimed was a targeted-attack on western reporters.

Marie Colvin, a reporter for The Sunday Times, was killed in the shelling on February 22 alongside French photojournalist Remi Ochlick. They had been working from a makeshift media centre in the neighbourhood when they were hit.

The report did not say whether the French troops were part of the mission to evacuate the reporters, who had been holed up in a safe house for one week following the deadly shelling.

But in an interview this morning with France Info radio, William Daniels, the French photographer who escaped with Edith Bouvier, denied any contact with French forces.

“I never saw any French troops during this operation. We were only with Syrians from the (rebel) Free Syrian Army. We owe our escape to them,” he said.

He added: “We were unable to contact anyone (from the French authorities) for the entire trip as there were no telephone lines, obviously no internet and no satellite telephones, and anyway we wouldn’t have used a satellite phone as it would have allowed (the Syrian army) to locate us.”

Accounts of the escape have only mentioned rebel help, although French Ambassador Eric Chevallier returned to Damascus last week to discuss extracting the journalists safely.

France announced it was closing its embassy on Friday, as assaults continued in the region. Britain has already evacuated its embassy.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

NATO Crimes in Libya Unresolved

U.N. Faults NATO and Libyan Authorities in Report

By Neil MacFarquhar
The New York Times
March 2, 2012

BEIRUT, Lebanon — NATO has not sufficiently investigated the air raids it conducted on Libya that killed at least 60 civilians and wounded 55 more during the conflict there, according to a new United Nations report released Friday.

Nor has Libya’s interim government done enough to halt the disturbing violence perpetrated by revolutionary militias seeking to exact revenge on loyalists, real or perceived, to the government of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, the report concluded.

Published without publicity on the Web site of the United Nations Human Rights Council, based in Geneva, the report details the results of an investigation by a three-member commission of distinguished jurists. It paints a generally gloomy picture of the level of respect for human rights and international law in Libya, while acknowledging that the problem is a legacy of the long years of violent repression under Colonel Qaddafi.

NATO air raids that killed civilians in Libya have been criticized by rights groups, and the alliance’s refusal to acknowledge or investigate some of the deaths has been the subject of earlier news reports, including an extensive account in The New York Times last December. The new report represents the first time that NATO’s actions in Libya have been criticized under the auspices of the United Nations, where the bombing campaign in the name of protecting civilians from Colonel Qaddafi’s forces was authorized by the Security Council.

The report concluded that Colonel Qaddafi’s forces had perpetuated war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, torture and attacks on civilians using excessive force and rape.

But the armed anti-Qaddafi militia forces in Libya also “committed serious violations,” including war crimes and breaches of international rights law that continue today, the 220-page report said.

Through this past January, militia members continued with the mass arrests of former soldiers, police officers, suspected mercenaries and others perceived to be Qaddafi loyalists, the report said. Certain revenge attacks have continued unabated, particularly the campaign by the militiamen of Misurata to wipe a neighboring town, Tawergha, off the map; the fighters accuse its residents of collaborating with a government siege.

Such attacks have been documented before, but the report stressed that despite previous criticism, the militiamen were continuing to hunt down the residents of the neighboring town no matter where they had fled across Libya. As recently as Feb. 6, militiamen from Misurata attacked a camp in Tripoli where residents of Tawergha had fled, killing an elderly man, a woman and three children, the report said.

The commission remains “deeply concerned” that no independent investigations or prosecutions appear to have been instigated into killings by such militias, the report said.

“Libyan authorities can break with the Qaddafi legacy by enforcing the law equally, investigating all abuses — irrespective of the perpetrator,” the report said.

The commission members tried to ascertain how Colonel Qaddafi had died, but said the Libyan authorities did not give them access to the autopsy report, so further investigation was needed. Graphic videos of his last day alive on Oct. 20 suggest that the revolutionaries who captured him near his tribal hometown, Surt, beat him and executed him with gunfire.

There was no immediate reaction from the Libyan government to the United Nations report. Adel Shaltut, the deputy chief of the Libyan Mission in Geneva, said his government was studying the report.

The report gives some sense of the obstacles the Libyan government faces in trying to meet the lengthy list of recommendations that entail rebuilding the criminal justice system from the ground up. Government officials meeting with the commission emphasized the precariousness of the security situation, the weakness of the national police and the inability of the central authorities to enforce the rule of law, the report said.

It said the government was likely to face difficulty processing an estimated 8,000 detainees, with “many detainees” under the control of individual brigades and outside any legal framework. The report did note that the interim government had taken steps to set up institutions to address legal and human rights issues, including the National Fact-Finding and Reconciliation Commission.

The newest parts of the report were the questions raised about NATO attacks that killed and wounded civilians.

The commission of inquiry concluded in its report that NATO had sought to avoid civilian casualties in “a highly precise campaign” involving thousands of attack sorties.

But it also noted that in a few cases it had “confirmed civilian casualties and found targets that showed no evidence” of any military function. The commission investigated 20 NATO airstrikes, and it found that in five of them, a total of 60 civilians died and 55 were wounded. The most serious airstrike, on the town of Majer on Aug. 8, killed 34 civilians and wounded 38.

NATO identified four of the five targets as command-and-control points or troop staging areas, but the commission said that it found no physical evidence of this when it visited the sites and that witnesses denied that the five places had any military use.

The commission did not receive enough information from NATO to determine whether it had followed its own guidelines for avoiding civilian casualties when it processed the intelligence related to those sites before bombing them, the report said. It recommended that the organization carry out its own investigation.

Oana Lungescu, the spokeswoman for NATO, said the organization had reviewed its target selection and data collected during the airstrikes.

“This review process has confirmed that the specific targets struck by NATO were legitimate military targets selected consistently with the U.N. mandate, and that great care was taken in each case to minimize risk to civilians,” she said in a statement.

Hundreds of targets were rejected, and some strikes were aborted to avoid civilian casualties, she said, while noting that the Qaddafi government had often used civilian facilities to conduct military activities.

“The fact that observers were unable to detect evidence of military purpose or activity several months after the conflict cannot necessarily be taken to reflect the reality at the time of the strike,” Ms. Lungescu said.