Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Military court acquits 3 workers, suspends sentences of 5 others

Military court acquits 3 workers, suspends sentences of others
Lina Attalah

August 30, 2010

A military court ruled three workers of the Helwan for Engineering Industries innocent and suspended sentences from six month to one year against another five.

The workers were accused of vandalizing factory properties worth of LE162,000, deliberately stopping production, resulting in LE1,300,000 of losses, assaulting the factory chairman, and contacting the Muslim Brotherhood's official website with "secret information."

The case was stirred by an explosion in the factory in late July, which prompted workers to complain to the chairman about safety standards, to no avail. Two weeks later, another hydrogen cylinder explosion killed a worker, which raised his colleagues to action.

The trial was considered contentious since it is the first military trial to be held against workers on allegations pertaining to their protest since 1952. In 1952, two workers were sentenced to death after being accused of plotting to topple the revolution.

In his defense of the workers, Khaled Ali, head of the Egyptian Center for Social, Economic and Cultural Rights said that three main arguments were used.

“We spoke about the non-constitutionality of the military court law, whose amendment was directly sent to the People's Assembly for approval before going through the Shura Council,” he said.

A legal amendment in June exposes any worker employed by the military industries sector to military tribunals if accused of any charges from the penal code. The amendment included trying civilians who commit crimes in border areas in military tribunals. Human rights advocates reproach that such measures increase the trying of civilians by military courts.

“We also reminded the court that strikes are no longer criminalized by the law, after Egypt’s ratification of the Convention of Social and Economic Rights and in light of the precedent set by the dropping of charges by supreme state security courts,” said Ali. In 1986, major charges held by a supreme state security court against railway workers were dropped.

Ali added that the workers had no intention or knowledge of revealing classified information about a military establishment.

“Those are soft rulings that put into consideration a lot of political issues, such as the upcoming elections and the fact that the minister (of military production Sayed Meshaal) is running,” said Kamal Abbas, executive director of the Center for Trade Unions and Workers Services.

Lawyers also demanded from the court to address allegations to the factory chairman Mohamed Amin for the manslaughter of Ahmad Abdel Hadi, the worker who died following the gas cylinder explosion.

“The case went well in the end although we were really frightened. But the real problem is with this legal amendment,” Abbas added, reminding that workers of military production industries have always been subject to civilian courts.

In 2000, the workers of the factory were also brought to a military prosecutor following protests against poor safety standards. But the prosecution did not escalate the case to a military tribunal.

Military tribunals are exceptional courts, the verdicts of which can only be appealed through high military appeals courts. Only President Hosni Mubarak can overturn rulings handed down by military appeal courts.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Egypt: Don't Refer Workers to Military Trial

Egypt must not try factory workers before a military court

27 August 2010

Amnesty international has condemned the trial before an Egyptian military court of eight factory workers, all civilians, detained after taking part in a protest against poor safety conditions at the factory, following an explosion which killed one of their fellow workers.

The trial of the eight workers from Helwan Factory for Engineering Industries (Military Factory No. 99) resumes at the military court in Nasr City, in the east of Cairo on Saturday.

It is the first such trial since the authorities amended the Military Justice Code in June to allow workers in a military factory to be tried before a military court for “stopping work in utilities of public interest" and "assault on freedom to work”, preventing others from working.

"Trials of civilians before military courts, whose judges are serving members of the military, flout international standards of fair trial and are inherently unjust," said Amnesty International.

“Thousands of protests, strikes and sit-ins have been staged by Egyptian workers in both the public and private sectors, protesting the rising cost of living and demanding better wages and working conditions. This latest referral before military courts of workers is therefore a disturbing step.”

“These men should be tried by a civilian court for recognizable criminal offences, in line with international standards for fair trial or else they should be released.”

Seven of the men have been charged with deliberately stopping production, destroying factory property and assaulting a public official.

The eighth man is charged with "disclosing military secrets" and "contacting the media with information on the factory's security".

It is feared that the men are being prosecuted because they refused to work and halted production after an explosion killed one of their fellow workers.

Their lawyers told Amnesty International that they all deny the charges against them.

Since the opening of the trial on 22 August, the defence lawyers have not been allowed to obtain a copy of the case files and have only been allowed to read parts of the files because some of the documents are said to contain military secrets.

The demonstration against poor working conditions at the Helwan Factory for Engineering Industries took place on 3 August, after the explosion of a gas canister killed Ahmed Abdel Hadi and injured at least six other workers.

The eight defendants were among a group of 25 workers who were referred to the National Authority for Military Production for investigation on 8 August after promises by the factory’s administration that safety and working conditions would be improved.

The eight, Ahmed Taher Hassan, Ayman Taher Hassan, Ahmed Mohammed Abdel Mohaimen, Mohamed Tarek Sayed, Wael Baioumy Mohamed, Hisham Farouk Eid, Ali Nabil Ali, and Tarek Sayed Mahmoud were brought before the military prosecution, who ordered their detention before referring them to a military court for trial on 21 August.

"Rather than prosecute and try these men for what appears to be legitimate demands for their safety at work, the Egyptian authorities should do their utmost to improve working conditions and safety in the workplace" said Amnesty International.

In line with international law, Amnesty International opposes the trial of civilians by military courts. Such trials violate the right to a fair and public hearing before a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law as guaranteed in Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Egypt is a state party.

Military courts were established in Egypt under the Code of Military Justice (Law No. 25 of 1966). The Law was amended in April 2007, but the changes did not address the fundamental flaws inherent in trying civilians before military courts.

Solidarity With 8 Workers Standing Military Trial

On Wednesday, August 25, a group of 20 labor activists protested outside the office of the General Prosecutor - where defense lawyers petitioned the prosecution to prevent the trial of 8 (civilian) workers before a military tribunal.

The eight workers were employed at the Helwan Factory 99 - a military production facility - they were arrested and brought before a military tribunal on Sunday, August 22, after protesting deadly working conditions in which they are employed.

One of their co-workers was killed in an industrial explosion, and further explosions in this factory led to the injury of other workers earlier this month.

Workers protested against these industrial accidents and fatal working conditions at their factory, and briefly boss-napped one of the factory's chief administrators.

Demonstrators outside the General Prosecutor's office chanted against the referral of civilians to military trials, and chanted for the workers' rights to strike and protest.

Placards compared this trial to the historic military trial of Workers Mustafa Khamis and Mohamed Baqari - who were executed by Egypt's military junta for striking in 1952.

One protester picked up a megaphone and announced "we denounce the referral of any and all civilians to military courts. We denounce the military trials of civilians like Khairat el-Shater and members of the Muslim Brotherhood, MP Talaat el-Sadat, Madgy Hussein of the Labor Party and others attempting to lift the siege on Gaza, along with other activists."

The military trial of the eight workers is ongoing, and further protests and solidarity stands are planned.

Ancient Egyptian bust resembles Michael Jackson

Ancient Egyptian bust looks like Michael Jackson

Gavin Wilson

Aug 24, 2010

This ancient Egyptian bust has been drawing visitors to a US museum - because it looks like Michael Jackson. The 3,000-year-old relic is on display at the Field Museum in Chicago. It has been on display since 1988 but it is only recently that fans have pointed out its similarity to the late King of Pop, even down to the disfigured nose. A museum spokesperson told a US newspaper: 'The similarity between the limestone statue of a woman - which is about 3,000 years old - and Jackson is astounding.' The spokes - Splash/The Field Museum

An ancient Egyptian bust has been drawing visitors to a US museum – because it looks like Michael Jackson.

The 3,000-year-old relic has been on display since 1988 at the Field Museum in Chicago.

But it is only recently that fans have pointed out its similarity to the late King of Pop, even down to the disfigured nose.

A museum spokesperson told a US newspaper: 'The similarity between the limestone statue of a woman – which is about 3,000 years old – and Jackson is astounding.'

The spokesperson added: 'I have no idea whether Jackson ever visited the museum.'

The limestone bust was carved sometime between 1550BC and 1050BC.

Israel Rejects UN Council Flotilla Investigation

Israel Rejects UN Council Flotilla Investigation

24 August 2010

U.N. officials say the Israeli government is blocking them from speaking to Israeli soldiers about the country's raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla.

In a statement to the Associated Press Tuesday, a U.N. Human Rights Council investigator said the three-person panel will need to question Israeli soldiers in investigating the May 31 attack that killed nine pro-Palestinian activists.

But the investigators from Britain, Trinidad and Malaysia have been refused entry by Israel, which rejects the mission as biased. Israel says it will not comment on the probe.

The panel began a two-week visit to Turkey and Jordan Monday in order to question witnesses and government officials about the attack.

The council's inquiry is separate from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's own panel on the incident, which is expected to produce an interim report by mid-September.

The council said a team arrived in Turkey, under whose flag the vessel was registered, after hearing other witnesses in London and Geneva. The mission will head to Jordan on August 29.

Israeli commandos killed nine pro-Palestinian activists during the raid, eight from Turkey and a Turkish-American. Israel says its forces acted in self-defense but the action drew wide condemnation.

Israel is conducting its own investigations into the flotilla incident, one by the military and one by an independent panel. Turkey has also launched a probe.

*Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

In Memory of Sacco & Vanzetti

Sacco & Vanzetti

On August 23rd, 1927, the State of Massachusetts executed immigrant anarchists, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, after an international campaign to stop their execution. This page is a tribute to their memory.

Nicola Sacco was born in Italy and emigrated to the United States in 1908. With Bartolomeo Vanzetti he was arrested on charges of murdering a shoe factory paymaster and guard at South Braintree, Massachusetts. They were tried and convicted in an atmosphere of anti-radical hysteria. The trial ended July 14, 1921, and they were electrocuted August 23, 1927. During the years of their incarceration, widespread doubt of their guilt reached worldwide proportions resulting in protest. Many books and articles, written by those in and out of the legal profession, have left detailed accounts of one of the most controversial and best known cases in United States history.

Bartolomeo Vanzetti was arrested with Nicola Sacco on charges of murdering a shoe factory paymaster and guard in South Braintree, Massachusetts, and convicted on July 14, 1921, Vanzetti left a most moving articulate statement of the vindication of Sacco and himself in an atmosphere of hysteria the two were sentenced to die and were electrocuted on August 23, 1927. With the encouragement of supporters, Vanzetti issued letters and articles from his prison cell and displayed a highly sensitive intelligence despite the fact that he was largely self-educated. The Sacco-Vanzetti case inspired controversy reaching worldwide proportions. Belief in their innocence became widespread as they were seen to be victims of anti-anarchist hatred.

Neither has been officially cleared of the charges against them in the State of Massachusetts although considerable pressure has periodically mounted to bring this about.

Two Good Men - Song by Woody Guthire (Performed by David Rovics)

Sacco & Vanzetti Commemoration Society - saccoandvanzetti.org

Egypt: Civilian workers stand military tribunal after protests

The Associated Press (CP)
Civilian workers go before Egyptian military tribunal after protesting conditions at factory

Sunday 22, August

CAIRO — Eight workers who protested poor safety conditions at a factory making Egyptian warplanes were brought before a military tribunal Sunday in a rare case of civilians facing military justice in Egypt, a labour rights group said.

Military tribunals normally handle cases related to terrorism and national security, and sentences are swift and harsh.

The workers are accused of attacking the factory director in response to an explosion of a gas canister that killed a colleague and wounded several others this month. They have also been charged with disclosing military secrets for allegedly discussing the explosion and their protest with news media.

A spokesman for the Center for Trade Union and Workers' Services, Tarek Zakriya, said workers scuffled with the factory director during a strike to protest deteriorating safety conditions at the Helwan Engineering Industries Company.

The facility just south of Cairo, also known as Military Factory 99, is one of Egypt's largest army factories. Workers there make and assemble warplanes.

The trial was adjourned until Wednesday. Military trials are closed to media and there was no official comment on the proceedings.

Egypt: A Prison for African Migrants?

Ethiopian Journal News
The Egyptian territory has become a human prison for African migrants

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

They are hung from trees by metal chains attached to their arms and provided with plastic bags to collect their urine to drink when they are thirsty. They are gang raped, tortured with electricity and held prisoner in desert camps. When they escape they are shot, either by their Beduin captors or by Egyptian police. These savage and disturbing details, published piecemeal over the years, are just a part of the picture of what is being done in Egypt’s Sinai desert to African migrants.

The story probably begins with the end of the Ethiopia-Eritrea War in 2000, the beginning of the Darfur genocide in 2003 and the end of the war in South Sudan in 2005, each of which in its own way created numerous refugees. In December 2005, Egypt began cracking down on African migrants, in one infamous incident many (between 10 and 60) were massacred by police attempting to clear a park of their encampments.

This helped provide incentive to travel further afield, with Europe a tough destination, they trickled into Sinai and thence to Israel. Eritreans, who now make up the majority of refugees (10,000+), have been arriving in Israel since 2007. In that year it was reported that 48 African refugees deported to Egypt by Israel had been abused and then disappeared. One migrant claimed Egyptians imprisoned him and “poured boiling water on his body.”

At the time Egypt was busy trying to get rid of the refugees, sending them back to Sudan if possible. Criticism about the “disappearances” was raised by activists in 2007 mostly to complain that Israel should stop its “hot return” policy of immediately returning refugees to Egypt. One report alleged that 139 refugees had disappeared.

What the disappearances highlight is the increasing brutalization meted out to Africans in Sinai beginning in 2007.

Between July 2007 and October 2008, the media reported that 33 Africans were shot in Sinai while trying to cross the border into Israel. By March of 2010 more than sixty had been killed. The man charged with implementing the policy is General Muhammad Shousha, governor of north Sinai. For him it is quite clear; “of course it’s not a mistake that we shoot them, it’s necessary to shoot them. To deal with an infiltrator, he has to be fired at.” The migrants reported that the Egyptian border guards shot at women and children and that if they were captured alive they were then subjected to beatings and insults; “you are a Jew” and “you are the enemy of the Arabs and of Islam.”

They also claimed that the Egyptians wanted to know who trafficked them.

Suspicion of the Africans is part of a larger story. Some Egyptians argue that the smuggling is bad because it strengthens Israel; one Sinai resident claims “we are helping Israel. These migrants will go, take away Arabs’ jobs, work in agriculture and construction and it will all contribute to Israel’s plans.”

The privately owned, independent Egyptian newspaper Al Masry Al Youm has done some intrepid reporting on other horrors experienced by the migrants while in Sinai. An Ethiopian named Youssef related that he had gone to Khartoum in Sudan to work in a hotel and was approached by a Sudanese man who promised him a job in Egypt. He boarded a truck with others from Sudan and Eritrea and was transported in five days to Sinai. There he discovered the lure of a job was a scam and instead he was imprisoned by his Beduin smugglers. They demanded $3,000 and told him they would then take him to the Israeli border. Another man named Ali, also from Ethiopia, experienced a similar bait-and-switch.

He was beaten daily and told to phone family and raise money for his release.

IN JANUARY the Israeli police arrested an Ethiopian and two Eritrean migrants for involvement in extortion and human smuggling. The three men had been hired by Beduin in Sinai to contact families of imprisoned Africans in Israel and extort money for the release of their family members being held in Sinai.

When arrested the men had $100,000, evidently collected to be sent on to Sinai for the release of African refugees. The stories coming out of Sinai are horrifying.

Migrants speak of desert camps run by the Rashida Beduin tribe. They are watched over by armed guards and tortured by being scalded with heated metal bars.

Modern day slavery exists. One woman, Wizar Tasapai from Eritrea, was tied up and kept in a fuel tank and told her kidneys would be sold if her family in Israel didn’t pay $2,800. The Beduin told her cousin “the girl is in a bad condition.

She is beaten and raped.” Her family paid the ransom to an Eritrean at the Central Bus Station in Tel Aviv and he transferred it to Beduin. The woman eventually made it to Israel. Rape seems to be a typical brutality carried out by the Beduin smugglers against African women. An Eritrean woman reported to the Israeli authorities in February 2010 that she had been raped by eight Beduin men in Sinai.

A July 2010 report noted that women were often separated from the men and that they were all held in prisons underground.

In the same month the bodies of 10 African migrants were found mutilated in Sinai.

According to the Beduin of northern Sinai, the Egyptian security forces arrest them on smuggling charges.

But a recent incident seems to contradict those claims. On August 14th it was reported that 300 Africans were being held prisoner at a Beduin camp. One of them managed to steal a weapon and free several others. In an ensuing gun battle six Eritreans were killed. Egyptian police fanned out from al-Mahdeyya village, south of Rafah and shot two fleeing Eritreans and arrested 17 others.

There was no report that the Egyptians tried in any way to free those migrants being held captive. The Egyptian police seem primarily interested in killing or expelling the migrants.

Today Sinai has become a human prison, a place of death, gang rape and murder. While initially many of the Africans were refugees it seems now that, as with the sex slave trade in Eastern European women that was a staple of the 1990s in Sinai, the slave trade in Africans in Sinai has become a business – one where victims are recruited and then transported to Israel only as a way to get rid of the human cargo.

Israel has decent relations with Egypt’s security forces in Sinai. It is time to send the message that only a massive and coordinated crackdown on the Beduin smugglers will stop the flow of illegal immigrants, help Egypt’s image and end the hell that Sinai has become.

Eritrean migrant dies after Israel border shooting

Eritrean migrant dies after Israel border shooting

23 Aug 2010

ISMAILIA, Egypt, Aug 23 (Reuters) - An Eritrean migrant who was shot by Egyptian police ten days ago while trying to slip into Israel died late on Sunday, medical sources said, raising the migrant death toll along the Egypt-Israel border.

The death of the 25-year-old man brings the number of migrants killed by smugglers and police in the incident to eight.

At least 30 migrants have died along the sensitive border so far this year, with at least 25 killed by Egyptian police and the rest by smugglers. Border forces killed a total of 19 migrants in 2009.

Egyptian police also detained 19 African migrants who attempted to cross the border in a separate incident on Sunday, security sources said.

The Sinai penninsula is a major transit route for African migrants and refugees seeking work or asylum in Israel. It is also used by smugglers to ferry narcotics and weapons into Israel along with a range of goods into the blockaded Gaza Strip.

Egypt has come under pressure from Israel to stop the flow of migrants through their joint border, as well as from international rights groups who want it to investigate the suspected use of excessive force against unarmed migrants.

Security forces say they fire at migrants only after repeated orders to stop are ignored, and that in some cases smugglers have opened fire on border police.

(Reporting by Yusri Mohamed; Writing by Yasmine Saleh)

(Editing by Nina Chestney and Noah Barkin)

Israel & Propaganda: Wikipedia Editing for Zionists

Wikipedia Editing for Zionists

Updated | Monday | 10:14 a.m. This week in Jerusalem, two Israeli groups hoping to smite their online enemies, both domestic and foreign, began a course in the “Zionist editing” of Wikipedia entries.

At the opening seminar, attended by about 80 activists, one of the organizers, Naftali Bennett, said that the aim of the course is to make sure that information in the online encyclopedia reflects the worldview of Zionist groups. For example, he said, “if someone searches [for] ‘the Gaza flotilla,’ we want to be there; to influence what is written there, how it’s written and to ensure that it is balanced and Zionist in nature.”

Mr. Bennet is the director of the Yesha Council, which represents Israeli settlers living in the occupied West Bank. Another of the course’s organizers, Ayelet Shaked of the My Israel movement, told Arutz Sheva, an Israeli news organization based in the West Bank, that the use of the word “occupied” in Wikipedia entries discussing Palestinian territory conquered by Israel in 1967 was just the kind of problem she hoped a new team of editors could help fix.

Ms. Shaked told The Guardian that the new editors were needed for entries related to Israel since, “People in the U.S. and Europe never hear about Israel’s side, with all the correct arguments and explanations.”

One of the participants in the seminar, Miriam Schwab, said in an Arutz Sheva video report from the seminar roon, “I’ve personally tried to edit things in Wikipedia that were against Israel, small things, and my changes were erased or undone and I didn’t understand why.”

She added, “In general, it’s so important for us to be online working to defend ourselves and to prove to the world and to ourselves that we are just and we are right.”

The editors are expected to work on Wikipedia entries in both Hebrew and English since, as the Israeli newspaper Haaretz noted, “For years now, Wikipedia has been a fierce battleground between the Israeli right and left.” In a report on the editing course, the newspaper explained:

The organizers’ aim was twofold: to affect Israeli public opinion by having people who share their ideological viewpoint take part in writing and editing for the Hebrew version, and to write in English so Israel’s image can be bolstered abroad.

The Yesha Council also announced a prize for the “Best Zionist Editor” — the person who over the next four years incorporates the most “Zionist” changes in the encyclopedia. That lucky encyclopedist will receive a trip in a hot-air balloon over Israel.

Update: In a follow-up post on this subject, we look at some of the reader reaction to this post, including comments from Miriam Schwab, an Israeli blogger who took part in the editing training.

KSA urged not to paralyze man as punishment

Saudi Arabia urged not to deliberately paralyse man as retribution punishment

20 August 2010

Amnesty International has urged the Saudi Arabian authorities not to deliberately paralyse a man in retribution for similar injuries he allegedly caused during a fight.

Reports say a court in Tabuk, in the north-west of the country, had approached a number of hospitals about the possibility of cutting the man's spinal cord to carry out the punishment of qisas (retribution), as requested by the injured victim.

"We urge the Saudi Arabian authorities not to carry out such a punishment, which amounts to nothing less than torture. While those guilty of a crime should be held accountable, intentionally paralysing a man in this way would constitute torture, and be a breach of its international human rights obligations," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, acting director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme.

According to one report, one hospital said it would be possible to medically administer the injury at the same place on the spinal cord as the damage the man is alleged to have caused his victim using a cleaver, during a fight more than two years ago, causing similar paralysis.

The court may decide not to impose the paralysis punishment and could instead sentence the man to imprisonment, financial compensation, or flogging.

The man, whose name has not been made public, has already been sentenced to seven months imprisonment for the offence. Amnesty International has received information that he was convicted and sentenced following a trial where he was said to have had no legal assistance.

Under international human rights law, the use of this sentence would constitute a violation of the absolute prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

It would contravene the UN Convention against Torture to which Saudi Arabia is a state party and the Principles of Medical Ethics adopted by the UN General Assembly.

Saudi Arabia regularly sentences people to various forms of corporal punishment.

Flogging is mandatory in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for a number of offences and can also be used at the discretion of judges as an alternative or in addition to other punishments.

In cases of qisas (retribution) other sentences passed have included eye-gouging, tooth extraction, and death in cases involving murder.

According to the Principles of Medical Ethics adopted by the UN General Assembly, it is a gross contravention of medical ethics, as well as a breach of applicable international instruments, for health personnel, particularly physicians, to engage, actively or passively, in acts which constitute participation in, complicity in, incitement to or attempts to commit torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Cairo's unified prayer call, not so unified

Cairo's unified prayer call, not so unified

Jano Charbel

Fri, 20/08/2010

Photograph: Jano Charbel

Since 2004, the Ministry of Religious Endowments has been talking of plans to unify the call to prayer among Cairo's some 4,000 mosques. This year, Minister Mahmoud Hamdy Zaqzouq declared that this plan would be enforced at the beginning of Ramadan in order to limit the "war of the microphones.”

Egypt would be following in the footsteps of Syria, Turkey, and the UAE, all countries which have successfully unified calls to prayer.

So far only about 50 of the city’s mosques have been equipped with the receiver devices needed to broadcast the unified call to prayer, while none of the countless zawyas (little mosques, literally “corners”) have been equipped.

Despite initial media reports that the non-unified calls to prayer were going to be officially phased out, the opposite seems to be true.

The azan, or call to prayer, is broadcast five times a day, typically via loudspeakers or megaphones; each azan is followed by a shorter call known as iqama – when worshippers actually congregate at the mosque.

Sheikh Mustafa Bakr, an official from the Ministry of Religious Endowments in Nasr City, told Al-Masry Al-Youm that, "only 40 mosques of a total of 107 in Nasr City have had their calls to prayer unified since the beginning of Ramadan.” Zawyas, according to Bakr, are still not accounted for in the Ministry’s plan.

Although he did not have information as to the exact location of these mosques and zawyas, Bakr added that "all the mosques which have been equipped with transmission devices so far are affiliated with the [Ministry of] Religious Endowments."

In theory, the first phase of the unification plan would include Heliopolis and Nasr City, while the next phase would focus on the south of Greater Cairo, specifically al-Haram and the Giza Governorate.

According to the Ministry of Endowment’s projected plans, Egypt's mosques--including 100,000 outside of Cairo--would fall under the system by the end of the year.

There are some concerns that the government is interfering in the affairs of mosques across the country, especially in light of Zaqzouq's warnings last month that the utilization of mosques for political activities, such as electoral campaigning and protests or demonstrations, would be forbidden.

Opponents of governmental intervention in mosque affairs have also claimed that the Ministry of Religious Endowments and the Ministry of Interior intend to install CCTV cameras in mosques to monitor worshippers, sermons, and donations. The Ministry of Endowments has adamantly refuted these claims.

Salafists and other conservative Islamist groups have also objected to regulations imposed on mosques and zawyas by the government to appoint preachers.

Other regulations include those issued in 2002 by the Ministry of Religious Endowments, which stipulate conditions for the registration of mosques andzawyas, dictating that mosques must have an area of no less than 100 square meters, while zawyas cannot be smaller than 50 square meters.

Religious officials also dismissed reports that the government has been planning to regulate Friday sermons and unify their themes.

“These are baseless claims. The Ministry has no such plans," Bakr explained, stressing that the contents of Friday sermons, traditionally very political, will remain the exclusive domain of local preachers.

In Nasr City's Raba'a al-Adawiya Mosque, worshipper Ahmad Atris said that calls to prayer have not yet been unified in the 8th zone of Nasr City, where he lives.

“All six mosques around my home announce the azan at different times and pitches. The result is a cacophony of voices, some of which are very discordant," Atris said.

At the mosque, a turbaned and robed sheikh, Bassiouny Abdel Aziz, who serves as the muezin (prayer caller) at Raba'a al-Adawiya responded to Atris’s statement saying, "The call to prayer is supposed to be announced via an attractive voice so as to encourage the faithful to converge upon the mosque for prayer.”

Abdel Aziz added, "Unfortunately the timing of muezinin are off. One starts as the other is finishing, or is in the middle of his azan. Moreover, their voices are often off key. What we end up with is a lot of noise which may actually discourage the faithful from their prayers."

The muezin told Al-Masry Al-Youm that his mosque, one of the largest in Nasr City, has purchased and installed the Ministry of Endowment's transmission device. He added that he knew of only two other (relatively large) mosques around Raba'a al-Adawiya that have installed these devices. The devices, said to cost LE170, broadcast a live transmission of a qualified muezin conducting the call to prayer.

Abdel Aziz went on to say that neither he, nor any other muezin that he knew of, was resisting plans for a unified call to prayer.

"We don't perceive the unified call to prayer as a threat to our services. After all, it is only the azan that is unified. As for the iqama, it is still the local muezin who announces it.”

Residents of Nasr City told Al-Masry Al-Youm that calls to prayer had yet to be unified. While residents of Heliopolis, in neighborhoods including Masaken Sheraton, Hegaz Square, and Heliopolis Square, likewise said that calls to prayer had not been unified in their location.

One Heliopolis mosque, Al-Khulafaa' Al-Rashideen, a large mosque in the Merryland neighborhood, has installed a transmission device. However, residents say that technical problems have temporarily prevented the use of the transmission device.

Egypt: Doctor faces trial for girl's FGM death

Deutsche Presse-Agentur
Egyptian doctor faces trial for girl's death after circumcision

Fri, 20 Aug 2010

Cairo (dpa) - An Egyptian doctor will stand trial for manslaughter, after a 13-year-old girl on whom he performed a circumcision operation died, local media reported on Friday.

The doctor was arrested after an unknown woman reported the incident to a hotline service set up in Egypt to help in cases involving female genital mutilation practices.

The girl was reportedly buried without a death certificate in the Nile Delta province of Menoufiya.

Egypt banned female circumcision in 2008, and top Muslim and Christian preachers have campaigned against the practice.

Despite the ban, female genital mutilation remains widely practiced in rural areas of the North African country.

According to the United Nations Children's Fund, there are 150 million girls and women worldwide whose genitals have been mutilated. Most of them are in African and Arab countries.

UN urges Israeli to lift restrictions on Gaza's access to land & sea

UN News Centre
Gaza: UN urges lifting of Israeli restrictions on access to land and sea

19 August 2010 – The United Nations is calling for the urgent lifting of Israeli military restrictions on civilian access to Gaza’s land and sea, which has eroded the livelihoods of Palestinian residents and worsened the plight of a population already under an economic blockade.

Over the past 10 years, the Israeli military has expanded restrictions on access to farmland on the Gaza side of the 1949 Armistice Line between Israel and Gaza – also known as the ‘Green Line’ – and to fishing areas along Gaza’s coast, with the stated intention of preventing attacks by Palestinian armed factions.

“This regime has had a devastating impact on the physical security and livelihoods of nearly 180,000 people, exacerbating the assault on human dignity triggered by the blockade imposed by Israel in June 2007,” states the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the World Food Programme (WFP), which carried out a study on the impact of the restrictions.

Israel imposed the blockade on Gaza, where some 1.5 million Palestinians live, over three years ago for what it called security reasons after Hamas, which does not recognize Israel’s right to exist, ousted the Fatah movement in the Strip in 2007.

Most farmers interviewed for the study reported that their income from agriculture had been reduced by less than a third of the previous amount since the expansion of the restricted area in 2008, while others said their incomes were wiped out.

In addition, the income lost in the fishing sector as a result of the access restrictions is estimated at some $26.5 million over a five-year period.

The study said that the erosion of livelihoods has forced affected families to develop a variety of coping mechanisms. For example, farmers affected by the destruction or loss of access to fruit orchards or greenhouses have shifted to the cultivation of open-air crops, mostly wheat and barley.

One coping mechanism in the fishing sector has been to sail into Egyptian waters to buy fish from Egyptian fishermen, which is subsequently sold in markets in Gaza. The trips to the sites where these transactions are conducted are long and dangerous, lasting between six and 10 hours in each direction, and expose fishermen to the risk of coming under fire or being arrested by Israeli or Egyptian naval forces.

Other fishermen opt to import Egyptian fish through tunnels running under the Gaza-Egypt border.

Some Palestinians also report the gradual liquidation or renting of personal and productive assets to generate income – from selling off women’s jewellery and gold, to selling or renting land, equipment, greenhouses, and livestock.

The restrictions also affect access to schools, seven of which are located within the restricted areas, and have significantly impeded the maintenance and upgrade of existing wastewater and electricity infrastructure, negatively impacting the provision of services to the entire population of Gaza, according to the study.

“To start addressing the dire situation of one of the most vulnerable segments of Gaza’s population, the current restrictions on civilian access to Gaza’s land and sea must be urgently lifted to the fullest extent possible,” OCHA and WFP stated.

They also cited the need for larger and better targeted humanitarian assistance to mitigate the impact of the ongoing erosion of livelihoods and to prevent a further deterioration of the situation for Gaza’s inhabitants.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Seven Eritreans Shot Dead at Egypt-Israel Border

Agence France Presse
Eritrean death toll on Israel-Egypt border rises
August 15, 2010

EL-ARISH, Egypt — An Eritrean woman shot in clashes with smugglers and police on Egypt's border with Israel earlier in the week died of her injuries on Sunday, raising the death toll to seven, a security official said.

The woman was among a group of African migrants who were trying to sneak into Israel from Egypt on Friday when the deadly clashes broke out.

Four Eritreans were killed on the spot by smugglers when migrants seized their weapons in a bid to escape, while two others were shot dead by Egyptian police barring them from illegally crossing the border.

The police detained 22 migrants on Friday and launched a manhunt for other members of the group estimated to number 60 -- some of whom were said to be armed -- and for the smugglers.

On Saturday, four of the migrants managed to cross into Israel, five others were arrested and two -- an Eritrean and a Sudanese -- were wounded as border guards opened fire, the official said.

Friday's smuggling operation turned deadly when the traffickers demanded more money to release the migrants after a failed bid to smuggle them across the border, migrants told police.

Twenty-nine African migrants have now been killed this year trying to cross to Israel in search of a better life and job prospects, 24 of them by Egypt's police, according to the security services, compared to 19 last year.

Agence France Presse
Six Eritreans 'shot dead on Egypt-Israel border'
August 14, 2010

EL-ARISH, Egypt — Smugglers and police have shot dead six Eritreans near the Israeli border, in the latest case of illegal crossings that have become perilous, an Egyptian security official said on Saturday.

The deadly clashes took place late on Friday after the African migrants seized the weapons of the people traffickers in a bid to escape, the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

He said four Eritreans -- three men and a woman -- were killed in an exchange of fire between the migrants and smugglers, and police shot dead two Eritreans from the same group as they tried to cross illegally into Israel.

The police detained 22 migrants, five of whom were wounded in the violence, and were still searching for the smugglers as well as for other members of the group estimated to number 60, the security official said.

After a failed attempt to smuggle the migrants into Israel, the traffickers had demanded money for their release, migrants told the police.

The deaths bring to 28 the number of African migrants killed so far this year in attempts to cross to Israel in search of a better life and job prospects, 24 of them by Egypt's police, according to the security services.

The figure compares with 19 migrants killed last year in Egypt, a country with a 1979 peace treaty with Israel which has called for stricter border controls. Most of the migrants hail from Eritrea, Sudan and Ethiopia.

Cairo has rejected harsh criticism from human rights groups of its policy of using potentially lethal force against migrants along its 250-kilometre (150-mile) border with Israel.

The Sinai desert border has become a major trafficking route for African migrants seeking jobs and for east European women headed for the sex trade.

UK Union Backs International Condemnation of Israel

UK union backs international condemnation of Israel

13 August 2010

London : Britain’s leading transport union, the RMT, has backed a motion condemning Israel at an international conference representing more than 4,600,000 union members.

The resolution, voted for by delegates at the annual International Transport Federation (ITF) conference in Mexico, called for action on “illegal Israeli settlements”.

The RMT, led by Bob Crow, a long-term patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, seconded the motion proposed by the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) at the conference, which ended on Thursday.

The ITF, the umbrella organisation for more than 750 transport unions in 155 countries around the world, also condemned Israel’s attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in international waters at the end of May, when nine humanitarian workers were killed.

British and international trade unions have become more vocal in backing the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.

Earlier in 2010 Britain’s largest union, Unite, unanimously passed a motion calling for a boycott of Israeli companies, while the University and College Union for academics and lecturers supported several anti-Israel resolutions at its national conference.

Egypt’s Workers Struggle to Keep Unions Free

AFL-CIO Now Blog
Egypt’s Workers Struggle to Keep Unions Free
James Parks

Aug 9, 2010

The first recorded workers’ strike was more than 5,000 years ago by the builders of the Pyramids in Egypt. Today, despite substantial government repression and persecution of workers, thousands of Egyptian workers are carrying out that long tradition of protest across their country. The Solidarity Center reports that from 2004–2008, some 1.7 million workers in Egypt participated in 1,900 strikes and their voices have grown even louder in the last two years.

This week, the AFL-CIO honored the courageous men and women of the Egyptian workers’ movement with the prestigious George Meany-Lane Kirkland Human Rights Award, the first time the U.S. union movement has honored a workers’ organization from the Middle East.

The award was accepted by Kamal Abbas, general coordinator of the Center for Trade Union and Worker Services (CTUWS) and Kamal Abu Eita, president of the Independent General Union of Real Estate Tax Authority Workers (IGURETA), the first independent trade union in Egypt in more than 50 years.

The Egyptian government tried to silence the CTUWS, closing down two of its regional offices and its headquarters in 2007. Bowing to an Egyptian court decision and international criticism, the government allowed CTUWS to reopen in July 2008.

IGURETA was formed after municipal tax collectors held an 11-day sit-in strike in front of the Ministry of Finance, gathered 30,000 signatures and elected local union committees in the provinces. It took more than a year for them to gain recognition for their independent union.

In his acceptance speech, Abbas said Egypt’s workers now have a vision of a better future:

They are now approaching the future, beating on its doors with their strong hands, raising flags of freedom and chanting songs of hope.

With every new day for more than 45 months Egyptian workers have delivered a new message: We are not gears in a machine spoiled by misuse. We are not cheap goods supplied to attract investments, we are not goods accumulated in markets, so their prices are devalued and their esteem debased. We are human beings, entitled to a decent living, entitled to freedom, justice and equality.

Abu Eita said the tax collectors won their battle despite a

fierce war waged by the government to use union-busting tools supported by all non-union factions. But the will of independence became a fortress, a fortress that stands in the face of attempts of demolition and containment.

During the awards ceremony, Sen. Robert Casey (D-Penn.) praised the determination of the Egyptians and said independent and democratic trade unions are essential to democracy:

The leadership of the Egyptian labor movement is critical because first and foremost, it helps the workers of Egypt. It helps to inspire a new generation of Egyptians to understand that it is possible in a democracy to express a political view without resorting to violence and without fear of government retribution.

When asked how the U.S. union movement could help Egypt’s workers, Abass and Abu Eita stressed that the workers need our solidarity and our help to build and develop their union movement step by step. They urged U.S. workers to do whatever we can to take their issues to the global community through organizations such as the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the International Labor Organization (ILO).

As Abass put it, they have a new understanding of the American union movement now that they have visited the country:

We have discovered we have friends in the [U.S.] trade unions who deal with us as friends, with whom we can build real solidarity and relationships built on mutual respect and appreciation.

Click here to read Kamal Abbas’ speech, here for Abu Eita’s speech and here for Sen. Casey’s remarks. Read the Solidarity Center’s report on workers’ rights in Egypt here.

Egypt: Round-up of Recent Labor Protests

Labor unrest persists among private sector workers
Jano Charbel

A wave of industrial unrest has swept through the private sector this week.

A delegation of some 150 employees from the privatized Egyptian Company for Telephone Production, located in Helwan, gathered at the state-controlled Egyptian Trade Union Federation on Wednesday to demand redundancy packages, owed to them since June. This followed an unsuccessful visit by a delegation of ten workers to the Ministry of Manpower on Tuesday.

Dissatisfaction stems from the fact that since the company ceased production in October 2008 employees have seen only seven months’ basic salary from the company and an additional seven months’ payments (LE200 per month) from the Ministry of Manpower’s emergency funds, according to a representative of the work force, Hisham Abdel Razeq.

Abdel Razeq showed Al-Masry Al-Youm an agreement signed by Minister of Manpower Aisha Abdel Hadi dated 25 May 2010 in which she pledged that each of the 224 workers (employed by the company before privatization in 2000) would receive their unpaid wages in full plus a LE50,000 redundancy package on 23 June 2010. In an interview last week in one of the state-owned dailies the Minister restated that the 224 would receive all their wages whilst an agreement had been reached with the company by which the 539 workers employed since privatization would be redeployed in jobs affiliated to the Ministry of Communications.

According to the protesting workers, by June only 270 had been transferred to new positions and the money had not been received. According to Abdel Razeq, “The policies of the ministry and [the Jordanian investor who purchased the company] Ayman al-Hegawi are contributing to the destruction of the company and the loss of our livelihoods.”

This is merely the latest in a string of incidents amongst private sector workers whose companies have been affected by financial crises.

On Monday a delegation of around 50 workers from the private sector Salemco Textile Company, located in 10 Ramadan City, visited the Ministry of Manpower in the hope of either having their company resume production or negotiating redundancy packages; on Tuesday seven representatives from the Hebiraw Company for Pharmaceutical Raw Materials tried the same approach along with the demonstrators from the Egyptian Company for Telephone Production.

Disillusioned workers from Salemco said that production at their company had ceased as of January 2010.

Local union member Abdel Sadeq Abdel Maguid said “We conducted sit-in and sleep-in protests twice outside Parliament and the Shura Council, we filed appeals at the General Union for Textile Workers, the Egyptian Trade Union Federation, the Ministry of Manpower; and in an act of desperation on Wednesday we blocked-off the Cairo-Ismailiya Desert Highway for nearly one hour. Police officers forcibly dispersed us on Wednesday and told us to come here to the Ministry of Manpower.”

Each of the company’s 500 workers received six months of payments, amounting to LE200 per month, from the ministry’s emergency fund, but have been left without any source of income since July. A representative for the work force said that the ministry is attempting to resolve their problem-- either by resuming production or arranging redundancy packages.

On the following day it was the turn of the Hebiraw Company for Pharmaceutical Raw Materials (located in the Free Trade Zone of Qena) to congregate outside the ministry before filing their appeal to the Labor Disputes Bureau. Saad Abdel Rabu, a representative of the workers said, “Production at our company was frozen in March 2009. Since then we have received no wages, and no assistance payments from the ministry.” He claimed that company owner Refaat al-Sayyed received a LE10 million loan from the ministry’s emergency fund to re-open the company and to compensate its 400 workers, “but we have not been compensated nor has the company been re-opened. We demand that the company owner be held accountable.”

Other incidents of unresolved labor issues include a sit-in conducted by some 200 workers in the Mansoura Espagna Textile Company in protest against their administration’s decision to place them on unpaid vacation, while around 1700 workers at the Ahmonseto Textile Company in 10 Ramadan are still awaiting the liquidation of their company and their compensation – ever since the company owner Adel Agha fled the country in June 2008. Meanwhile, workers from the privatized Tanta Flax and Oils Company have successfully filed law suits against Saudi investor Abdel Ellah al-Kaaki and his administration for the liquidation of the company and their compensation. All production at this company was frozen in May 2009 following a string of strikes and lock-outs.

On 25 July, representatives of workers from 25 different companies, most of which were privatized or private sector companies staged a silent protest and filed complaints at the International Labor Organization regarding their employers’ practices. Demonstrators held placards reading “the road to investment must not come at the expense of workers”.

Read also:
اعتصام عمال التليفونات يدخل يومه الثالث

Survivors of Hiroshima & Nagasaki Call for Nuclear-Free World

Survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Attacks Call for Nuclear-Free World


Aug 6, 2010

Their skin is charred. Their bones melted away. Many watched their parents die. Yet they consider themselves the lucky ones. 65 years ago, they survived the unimaginable: the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

They are called the Hibakusha. They are a unique group which hopes their dramatic stories will convey the need to eliminate the scourge that nearly killed them during two days that changed the world, 65 years ago.

Mikiso Iwasa says August 6th, 1945 began like any other day. "It was a hot summer day, and the cicadas were singing," said Iwasa. Then the sound changed.

"We heard the sound…from the north and the children screamed. It's a plane! It's a plane!," he recalled.

During that day in the Japanese city of Hiroshima, survival rested solely on being in the right place at the right time.

Iwasa believes he survived the atomic bomb dropped out of the U.S. B-29 plane, named the Enola Gay, only because he was sheltered directly behind his home.

While then seven-year-old Michiko Kodoma's classmates played outside, she went inside her wooden elementary school that day, to take her seat. Suddenly she saw a light.

"I saw a bright blast, and I saw yellow and silver and orange and all sorts of colors that I can't explain. Those colors came and attacked us, and the ceiling beams of the wooden school along with the glass from the window pane all shattered and blew away all at once."

Kodoma says what she witnessed next are horrors that no child should ever experience. "[There were] people whose eyeballs had popped out their sockets. There were those who held their babies – burnt black; they themselves had no skin. There were those whose intestines had come out of their bodies, and confused they struggled to put them back in."

After the blast, Kodoma's father found her and carried her to safety on his back. Together, they tried to save her older sister, but here injuries were too severe.

"Three days later, she leaned on me and passed away," Kodoma said.

The initial bomb blast on Hiroshima is believed to have killed 70,000 people.

The horror did not end. On August 9, and 230 miles south of Hiroshima, similar scenes of death and anguish unfolded again; this time in Nagasaki.

65 years later, time has healed many of the wounds inflicted by Japan and the United States on each other. Today, it is hard for younger generations to even fathom that these staunch allies were once bitter enemies.

The Hibakusha, which in Japanese means explosion-affected people, fear that time has also made people forget. Their numbers continue to dwindle, leaving them little time to remind people of the horrors they experienced.

The group travels around Japan and the world, preaching tolerance and peace.

In May, many of them struggled to board planes, perhaps for the final time. They travelled to New York for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Talks held at the United Nations. They wanted to seize the momentum created by the Obama administration and other global leaders who are fighting to stop nuclear proliferation.

Sumiteru Taniguchi, still struggling from his injuries, travels with respiratory equipment. He tells his tale and lifts his shirt with arms that reveal melted skin to show the world where his rib cage had once been.

"Every day I wondered when I would die. Every day I would scream, Kill me! Kill me!"

Mikiso Iwasa, who had taken refuge behind his house, returned days later to search for his mother. She had been burnt beyond recognition.

"That wasn't a human, it was a thing. My mother was killed as a thing. Not as a human."

For a month afterward, he says he walked through the streets of Hiroshima looking for his sister and any help he could find.

"After that month, I started showing symptoms of illness – red spots appeared on my body, my throat hurt, I couldn't eat, I had a temperature, my gums bled, and my hair fell out. For 20 days I remained in bed, on the verge of death," said Iwasa.

"For 12 years the Hibakusha were left to themselves. So we helped each other. Especially because we were sick, we [couldn't] work. "If we do get a job, we get sick again. We lived with our sickness."


According to recent statistics by the Japanese Ministry of Health there are around 227,000 Hibakusha left. They include not only the survivors of the bombs, but also the fetuses that were being carried by their mothers at the time.

Many who survived the bomb, died later because of a lack of medical infrastructure and assistance from the Japanese government, which was struggling to recover from the attacks. Radiation sickness was not understood in the years immediately following the bombings, and many of the Hibakusha found themselves ostracized from society.

But in 1957, 12 years after the explosions, a law was enacted, formally recognizing the survivors as the Hibakusha, and they were finally able to receive the medical treatment they deserved.

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists estimates there are nearly 8,000 operational nuclear weapons around the world.

After a year of intense negotiations, the United States and Russia agreed in March to the most comprehensive arms control agreement in nearly two decades. If the START treaty is ratified by the Senate and Russian Parliament, it will cut the nuclear arsenals of both countries from around 2,200 deployed warheads each to 1,550.

The Hibakusha are quick to remind the world that it took merely two bombs, considered weak by today's standards, to wreak absolute devastation.

As they gather in the now rebuilt cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, on they are using the 65th anniversary of the bombings to warn the world of what they suffered.

"We have overcome and in order to not let the human race experience such atrocities, we have come to say abolish nuclear weapons and never create Hibakusha again," said Iwasa. "This is not something that we're doing for ourselves, but for you and all people to never have to experience this again."

Egyptian Woman Tells TV of Police Rape

The Associated Press
Egyptian woman tells TV of alleged police rape
(AP) - Aug 6, 2010

CAIRO — An Egyptian woman has given an unusual televised account to a private station accusing police officers of raping and robbing her in a rural part of the country.

The allegations feed into a growing debate in Egypt about police abuse, which human rights groups say is systematic.

The purported rape victim, wearing a full-face veil, told the Modern Masr station that three men tied her down in the back of a police van and took turns raping her. She had stopped to ask for directions.

Sobbing, the woman says she went public to caution other women about police abuse.

Rights activist Aida Seif al-Dawla said Friday that her center is reaching out to the victim to help her with the trauma of the attack and the media exposur

No Guns? They Must Be Terrorists!

The Guardian
Mark Steel: No guns? They must be terrorists

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Somehow, the Chilcot Inquiry has become like Big Brother. About once a month it pops up as a small item in the news and you think: "Oh blimey, I didn't realise that was still going on." Before long, like Big Brother, they'll come up with stunts to try and revive some interest. So they'll reintroduce contestants from previous inquiries such as Martin McGuinness and Christine Keeler, or make some witnesses complete a task of finding hidden ping-pong balls in the room or they have to give evidence blindfold.

So it might seem these procedures are pointless, in which case it makes no difference that the Israelis have agreed to co-operate with a United Nations inquiry into the episode in which nine people died after the Israeli Defence Force went aboard the Mavi Marmara as it sailed towards Gaza.

But it seemed to matter to the Israelis, because until this week they insisted their own inquiry was sufficient, and that was already under way. One fact emerging from this process was that the victims, according to "Sgt S" who shot six of them, "were without a doubt terrorists". And he produced evidence to back this up, which was: "I could see the murderous rage in their eyes".

This matches the classic definition of a terrorist according to international law, as someone "with murderous rage in their eyes", and shows the key witness in any terrorist trial isn't the forensics expert or explosives analyst but an optician. If they're trained well enough they can shine a light at the iris and tell whether you're short-sighted, long-sighted, Hamas or Basque separatist.

But there was more. According to the Jersusalem Post the IDF told the inquiry that the group on the boat were "well-trained and likely ex-military" because "each squad of the mercenaries was equipped with a Motorola communication advice, so they could pass information to one another". A Motorola communication advice? So these so-called peace-activists were armed with mobile phones! It's a wonder the whole Middle East wasn't set alight. And to think Motorola and other sinister arms dealers such as Nokia and Orange go round trading in this deadly merchandise quite openly.

If the IDF were asked to police a rock festival, at the moment when everyone used their mobiles to take a photo they'd open fire on the whole crowd. Then once 3,000 were dead, Sgt S would say: "Well done, boys, if we hadn't been so careful that could have turned quite nasty."

One possible difficulty in proving the optically murderous gang's intent could be that none of them had guns. But the IDF dealt with that by saying the "mercenaries" preferred to use "bats, metal bars and knives, since opening fire would have made it blatantly clear they were terrorists and not peace activists". So this was another cunning trick of the terrorists, to disguise the fact they were terrorists by not doing anything terrorist. My neighbour's much the same; disguising her terrorism by being 74 and spending all day peacefully doing the garden without ever shooting anyone, the evil witch.

Even more blatantly, the inquiry was told the group did have guns on board, but "the mercenaries threw their weapons overboard after the commandos took control of the vessel". Because that's classic guerrilla training, to carry guns right up until the moment when the enemy arrives, and then throw them away. This is the strategy of all great military thinkers. That's why Nelson, at the Battle of Trafalgar said: "Men, I see the French, and so let every Englishmen do his duty, and chuck all our weapons in the sea. That'll teach the bastards."

On and on this goes, with Prime Minister Netanyahu making it clear he agrees with it, himself calling the victims "mercenaries". Because these mercenaries were trying to get goods such as medicine to an area that's under a blockade, which is typical mercenary behaviour, except instead of gun-running, they were inhaler-running.

But bit by bit Israel is finding it has to answer for itself publicly, and the old excuses are not so easily accepted. From now on they'll have to put a bit more thought into their bollocks, which has got to be for the good.

Why Anarchism?

Why Anarchism?

August 04, 2010

It's tough to be a self-confident anarchist in the 21st century. After all, we're living in times that are so dominated by radicalism on behalf of the powerful, that to choose a radical position on behalf of ordinary people, marginalized people, or the earth is seen as foolish, crazy, or criminal.

When endless preemptive war, unchecked government spying, accelerated ecological destruction, and spiraling casino economics are discussed as casually as this year's Oscar nods, and even the corporate-centered policies of President Obama are described as a potential trojan horse for a Marxist regime, those of us with any actual socialist or leftist ideas are written right off the political map.

It's no wonder then, that anarchists--who are already isolated enough within socialist and progressive communities--are often so shy about what we believe.

We're anarchists. Intersections is an anarchist publication. So why is reading Intersections like reading one of those "Where's Waldo" books, hunting for the elusive "A word" or any explicit mention of anarchist ideas?

It's because of jokes like this: "Organized anarchists - isn't that an oxymoron?" We've chosen to take a radical position on behalf of ordinary people, marginalized people, and the very earth we live in, but the media paints us as foolish, crazy, or criminal. When endless preemptive war, unchecked government spying, accelerated ecological destruction, and spiraling casino economics are discussed as casually as this year's Oscar nods, our viewpoint is written right off the political map.

But just because we're ignored or ridiculed doesn't make us wrong. On the contrary, our problems we're facing now have happened precisely because people with the worst ideas, most wrong, dehumanizing ideas have been the loudest, most consistent, and most unapologetic. Anarchists have been consistently at the forefront of social change from the fight for the eight-hour day to the legalization of birth control to the more recent fight against the WTO.

In my view, anarchists have three key things to offer the world:

A clear and unflinching rejection of abused power and systematic oppression. Anarchists aren't afraid to call it as we see it, and what we see is a world that is still organized for the benefit of a few, at the expense of the rest of us. We see a continued legacy of institutionalized racism, ongoing gender and sexual violence, "democracy" that is democratic in name only, increasingly rabid global capitalism, and the snuffing out of millions of species and ecosystems with no consequences or accountability. We don't accept this reality. We don't think it's normal, or moderate, or sensible. That's part of being anarchists.

A passionate belief that we can build a society around our the best qualities. Anarchists know that we are all works in progress, and we are painfully aware of how easily power and insecurity can corrupt even good people, but we also know and see the incredible potential that we all have- especially when we work together and hold each other in check. We are willing to believe that cooperation, listening, empathy, and sharing can actually become the bedrocks of our communities, workplaces, and decision-making structures. Contrary to popular myth, we don't believe in chaos, but rather in bottom-up self-government, from the block to the job to the capitol. That's part of being anarchists.

A political strategy that entrusts billions of us to build change in our own ways. Anarchists believe that the means are the ends, and that the best way to win a new society is to start building it right now while we fight the worst aspects of the old one. We believe in focused community work, in presence, listening, humility. We believe in winning people over through communication and shared values, and in toppling the power structure through massive collective action, rather than through charismatic leaders or top-down policies. That's part of being anarchists.

These are the reasons I keep going as an anarchist. And I hope also that these are some reasons why you'll keep reading Intersections, why maybe you'll write us or engage us at a local event, and broaden your own political perspective. Because it's not crazy to disagree with today's norms. When today's norms are brutal, cynical, and radically unjust, the only sane act is to oppose them, to speak the truth, and to strive, always, for justice and liberation.