Sunday, November 30, 2008

Workers from the Mahalla Textile Co. & Tanta Flax Co. Launch Sleep-in Protest at Egyptian Trade Union Federation HQ

Some twenty workers/labor activists have conducted a sit-in followed by a sleep-in at the headquarters of the (state controlled) Egyptian Trade Union Federation on November 30-December 1. These worker activists are protesting their dismissals and punitive relocations – from both the Mahalla Textile Company and the Tanta Company for Flax & Oils.

Over the past few weeks, five worker-activists were punitively relocated from the Mahalla Textile Company after having participated in a labor demonstration there on October 30. Kareem El Beheiri was relocated to the company’s branch office in Cairo, Mohammad El Attar relocated to Alexandria, Amal Saeed and Wedad El Demardash were relocated to the company’s on-site nursery; and most recently Wael Habib was ordered to be relocated to Cairo.

Apparently these punitive relocations serve two purposes: to distance worker-activists from the company (in the hopes of diminishing labor unrest,) and to emphasize the message to other workers at the company that punitive measures will be taken against those workers who do protest (in demand of their rights.)

Inside the ETUF headquarters Mohammad El Attar informed me that two other worker-activists from the Mahalla Textile Company - “Saeed Attiya and Mohammad Zare’i were recently forced to resign upon the orders of the administrative board.”

Also within the ETUF headquarters, Kareem El Beheiri led male and female workers into chanting “We won’t leave! Bring-on the police and the prison cells! We won’t leave!” These protesting workers are demanding that the ETUF leadership, specifically President Hussein Megawer, order their re-instatement. Their calls have apparently fallen on deaf ears.

As for the workers from the Tanta Company for Flax & Oils – seven have been sacked from their jobs after they partook in a strike at their company on July 2. Gamal Othman, Ashraf El Harti, Ahmad El Shenawi, Ali Abu Leila, Aqqad Tantawi, Hisham ‘Oqal, and Ra’afat Ramadan were all fired from the company on July 15. ‘Oql and Ramadan are both members of the (eleven member) local union committee at the Tanta Company.

Worker Gamal Othman said that “we were all fired from our jobs in light of this strike. We were fired because we were demanding our rights – specifically our rights to overdue incentive pay, medical compensation pay, and our profit-sharing payments.”

Othman added: “the Tanta Company was privatized three years ago, being sold to - or more accurately - being stolen by a group of Saudi investors. Ever since we have been denied our profit-sharing payments – this despite the fact that the company is making millions of pounds worth of net profits each year.”

“We have contacted Saeed El Gohari (the President of the General Union for Textile Workers) numerous times regarding our complaints and grievances – but nothing has come of our efforts. We want our jobs and rights, that’s why we are sleeping-in here. We have been laid off without pensions or compensations. Since most of us have not been employed at the company for more than (the legally designated) twenty years, we are thus denied access to any sort of pension plan.”

Most of these workers, from both the Mahalla Textile Company and the Tanta Flax Company, announced their intention to participate in the solidarity demonstration due to be held outside the Journalists’ Syndicate on December 1 – at six pm.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Commemorating the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People

Sixty one years have elapsed since the UN issued its Resolution (181) for the "Partition of Palestine", and ever since the UN has been unable/unwilling to help the displaced Palestinian People regain their lands, homes, or rights.

The power structures inherent within the UN, particularly in the UN Security Council, have clearly translated into the fact that the Palestinian People will not regain their rights through this state-centric international organization.

Israel's Apartheid Zionism, its war crimes, illegal occupations, extra-judicial killings, collective punishments, its perpetual violation of human rights and its disregard for humanitarian norms will always be safeguarded by the US presence in the Security Council. Israel is the watchdog of American imperialism in the Middle East; and the American State (with its veto power) will continue to support the crimes committed by its imperialist proxy.

The states of the UN will not liberate Palestine; it is the Palestinian resistance that will do so.

All Power to the Palestinian Resistance & Freedom Fighters!


International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People
UN Observer

The date of 29 November was chosen because of its meaning and significance to the Palestinian people. On that day in 1947, the General Assembly adopted resolution 181 (II), which came to be known as the Partition Resolution. That resolution provided for the establishment in Palestine of a “Jewish State” and an “Arab State”, with Jerusalem as a corpus separatum under a special international regime. Of the two States to be created under this resolution, only one, Israel, has so far come into being.

The Palestinian people, who now number more than eight million, live primarily in the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967, including East Jerusalem; in Israel; in neighbouring Arab States; and in refugee camps in the region.

The International Day of Solidarity has traditionally provided an opportunity for the international community to focus its attention on the fact that the question of Palestine remained unresolved and that the Palestinian people are yet to attain their inalienable rights as defined by the General Assembly, namely, the right to self-determination without external interference, the right to national independence and sovereignty, and the right to return to their homes and property from which they had been displaced.

In response to the call of the United Nations, various activities are undertaken annually by Governments and civil society in observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. These activities include, among other things, the issuance of special messages of solidarity with the Palestinian people, the organization of meetings, the dissemination of publications and other information material, and the screening of films. MORE:

AFP - Egyptian police arrest 28 Islamists

November 29, 2008

CAIRO (AFP) — Egyptian police arrested 28 members of the Muslim Brotherhood opposition group on Saturday, a security official said.

Twenty-four members of the Islamist group were arrested in the town of Marsa Matruh, north of Cairo, and another four in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria in early morning raids.

"They were detained for membership of an illegal organisation and possession of banned literature," the official said.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which calls for an Islamic state in Egypt through peaceful means, is officially banned by the government but fields independent candidates in parliamentary and municipal elections.

The movement won a fifth of seats in the 2005 parliamentary election, which observers said were marred by police intervention and fraud.

Police have arrested dozens of the Islamists this year and also barred some of their leadership from travelling outside the country.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Egyptian Police Crackdown Against Students Calling for Lifting of Siege Imposed on Gaza Strip

AFP - Egypt police beat protestors
Nov 26, 2008

Baton-wielding Egyptian riot police clashed with hundreds of students at Cairo University who were protesting today against the blockade of the Gaza Strip.

About 600 police clashed with 300 students at the downtown campus, an AFP photographer said. At least one demonstrator needed treatment for head wounds.

Police entered the campus, the photographer said, despite a court uling barring them from university grounds.

The students were independents or members of different opposition groups, said a Muslim Brotherhood official.

Yesterday the Islamist group had called on the government to open the Rafah border crossing with Gaza, which Israel blockaded after Hamas seized the territory from the Fatah-dominated government in 2007.

Egypt occasionally opens the crossing to allow Palestinians, usually medical patients, students or pilgrims, to enter and leave the impoverished coastal strip.

"There is a consensus by different national parties that it is our responsibility to lift this siege on Gaza," said senior Brotherhood activist Essam el-Arian.

The government has barred several attempts by the Brotherhood and opposition activists to send convoys of medical supplies through Rafah.

Egypt: Blogger Arrested Detained in Unknown Location

Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (Cairo)
26 November 2008
Posted to the web 27 November 2008

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) has condemned the security forces' arrest of blogger Mohamed Adel, who runs Meit blog ( ). Adel has been kidnapped and held in an unknown place since 20 November 2008.

Adel's house was surrounded by forty soldiers, special police forces and three police vans who broke into his home, searched his house and confiscated books and CDs. The 20-year-old blogger was not home during the police search. It seems that police had been tapping his phone. He was kidnapped while he was on his way to meet a friend who is a journalist.

Although Adel's father has filed two lawsuits against the attorney general demanding his son's whereabouts be revealed immediately, the general prosecutor confirmed that his son was wanted for questioning. ANHRI and Adel's friends have been informed that he is being held at the headquarters of state security known as "Lazogli" in Cairo, a place of ill repute where torture has been practiced on the infamous fourth floor.

Gamal Eid, the executive director of ANHRI, said in a statement: "An enormous security force and special forces to take into custody a young blogger who owns nothing other than a keyboard and a blog! This is the law of the state of emergency which has ruled Egyptians for 27 years".

It is worth mentioning that Adel is the second blogger to be arrested under state of emergency laws. The first was Musaad Abu Fagr who runs the blog
http://wednane3ish.katib. In addition to this, other bloggers have been persecuted.

For further information on the Fagr case, see:

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Mahalla Textile Co. Punitively Relocates 5 of its Workers - on the Basis of their Labor Activism

Journalist Hossam El Hamalawy reporting on 3arabawy:

Wael Habib banned from entering Ghazl el-Mahalla

Racist Security Policies Challenged in Historic US Court Verdict

Judge Rules That Suspects Cannot Be Detained Because of Ethnicity

The New York Times

November 24, 2008

A federal judge in Brooklyn ruled on Monday that the United States government could not use ethnicity as justification for detaining two Egyptian-born men who were questioned for four hours after a cross-country flight in 2004.

The two men, Tarik Farag, a former New York City police officer, and Amro Elmasry, who was working in Egypt for General Electric, sued the government, saying the questioning was unjustified. The government said that the men, who were arrested but not charged with any crime, had acted strangely during their flight from San Diego to Kennedy International Airport and that two counterterrorism agents had observed them switching seats, checking their watches often and speaking in Arabic.

The government said that the men’s ethnicity was a factor in deciding to detain them, and argued that it was an acceptable factor.

But Judge Frederic Block of United States District Court in Brooklyn disagreed. In response to the government’s request for a determination without a trial, the judge said there was enough merit for the case to continue. He cited the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II in saying that the 9/11 terrorist attacks should not justify detaining a suspect based on race.

It was unclear if or how the judge’s ruling — which may be appealed — would affect law enforcement; advocates on both sides of the issue considered the ruling to be significant, even if it was only an initial step in defining the parameters of surveillance in the context of security versus civil rights.

“This case is important because, for the first time, a federal court has squarely rejected the claim that Arabs can be stopped and detained as suspected terrorists because of their race,” said Christopher Dunn, associate legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “Hopefully this will mark a turning point in the ethnic profiling that has pervaded law enforcement in the aftermath of 9/11.”

Judge Block wrote that he understood the way the 9/11 attacks had altered the mind-sets of airline passengers and necessitated strict enforcement of security. Yet he cautioned that “fear cannot be a factor to allow for the evisceration of the bedrock principle of our Constitution that no one can be arrested without probable cause that a crime has been committed.”

Robert Nardoza, a spokesman for the United States attorney’s office in the Eastern District of New York, said it was reviewing the ruling, which the judge called the “first post-9/11 case to address whether race may be used to establish criminal propensity under the Fourth Amendment.”

Andrew C. McCarthy, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and a former federal prosecutor, said the ruling “sharpens a question that needs to be addressed: What is the proper consideration of factors like ethnicity in questions of surveillance?

“The police officers want to know what the rules are. It may turn out to be bad to the American people if it tells them to do something that is counter to common sense.” Common sense, Mr. McCarthy said, dictated that the police should be able to take race and ethnicity into account in surveillance.

Judge Block said that “it is beyond question that perceived ethnicity alone cannot give rise to reasonable suspicion or probable cause.” He added, “Otherwise, officers would be entitled to qualified immunity for arresting airline passengers solely for conversing in their native language.”

In this case, Judge Block also dismissed the government’s other reasons for putting the plaintiffs under legal arrest, which included the men’s switching seats to be closer to each other on the airplane, talking loudly in Arabic and erasing phone numbers on a cellphone upon landing.

He wrote that “the two men were met at the gate when the plane landed by at least 10 armed police officers in SWAT gear with shotguns and police dogs, ordered to raise their hands, frisked, handcuffed and taken to a police station, where they were placed in jail cells.”

“There was just no reason for the arrest,” said Anthony C. Ofodile, the lawyer for Mr. Farag, who was 36 at the time, and Mr. Elmasry, who was 37. “No crime was committed; they did not suspect that any crime was being committed for an arrest. If they wanted to monitor them, they could have done that without putting them through the trouble they put them through at the airport.”

Mr. Farag worked as a correction officer for the United States Bureau of Prisons after leaving the Police Department. Mr. Elmasry worked for General Electric in Egypt and had a valid United States visa.

“I am happy that they agreed with us that people cannot just be arrested based on their ethnic background because 9/11 happened,” Mr. Ofodile said. “I expect that there will be an appeal, but we are prepared to defend it. I have not lost any case on appeal that I prevailed in before.”

AP - 5 prosecuted for violating Egypt reporting ban

The Associated Press

November 25, 2008

CAIRO, Egypt: Egypt's state-owned news agency says two editors and three journalists will be tried for violating a gag rule on the trial of a Egyptian tycoon accused of ordering the murder of a Lebanese pop star.

Last week, the judge in the murder case issued strict guidelines limiting reporting on the trial to vague procedural information and the verdict.

The Middle East News Agency said Tuesday that Magdi el-Galad, editor of the independent Al-Masri al-Youm, Abbas el-Tarabili, editor of opposition Al-Wafd and three of their reporters will go on trial Dec. 4 for publishing the testimony of a witness.

Hisham Talaat Moustafa is charged with ordering the death of Lebanese pop star Suzanne Tamim.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Police officers banned on Cairo University campus

Daily News Egypt

By Sarah Carr
November 25, 2008

CAIRO: The Cairo Administrative Court Tuesday issued a ruling that bans the presence of police officers on Cairo University’s campus.

The verdict obliges the university to employ civilian personnel as security guards.

While the verdict only concerns Cairo University, its effect should extend to all Egyptian universities, Cairo University professor Abdel Galil Mostafa from the faculty of medicine told Daily News Egypt.

University campuses are currently policed by interior ministry personnel and police officers who have no link to the university in which they work and are not answerable to it.

Both students and professors complain of intense and continuous interference by police officers on campus in all aspects of university life, including academic affairs.

Individuals competing in the recently-held student union elections were “vetted” by security groups, and independent candidates from the Muslim Brotherhood and left-wing currents removed from the candidates’ list.

Earlier this month, two engineering students from Helwan University, Nagy Kamel and Mostafa Shawky, filed a legal complaint against police officers who physically assaulted them while they were attempting to enter the engineering faculty.

Both students are known members of the Socialist activist group, Resistance Students.

Kamel told Daily News Egypt that interference by security bodies in Helwan University is pervasive and that politically active students and their families receive threats from them.

The case had been brought by members of the March 9 Movement, a group of Cairo University professors who came together in March 2003 in protest of the US invasion of Iraq and who now press for university autonomy and academic freedom.

The administrative court upheld March 9’s challenge to the presence of police personnel on university campuses on the basis of its violating the Egyptian constitution and the universities law.

“Universities contribute to the elevation of thought, progress of science and development of human values … for this reason the Egyptian constitution has always guarded the independence of universities,” a summary of the ruling obtained by Daily News Egypt reads.

According to the summary, the court made reference to Article 18 of the Egyptian Constitution which protects university independence and Article 317 of the implementing statute of the Universities Law.

Article 317 provides that each university is responsible for creating its own security units.

The article provides that personnel employed in these units must wear identifiable uniforms and insignia and states that they report to, and receive their orders from, the university president directly.

The article limits the duties of this unit to protecting university buildings and forbids its interfering in academic life.

“No restrictions whatsoever may be placed on a university’s exercise of its activities since this undermines the university independence described in the constitution,” the summary reads.

The ruling provides that the absence of a security unit answerable to the president on Cairo University’s campus, and the presence of security personnel pursuant to a decree issued by the interior minister in 1981 is unconstitutional and has no basis in law.

Mostafa said that Cairo University’s administration is under an obligation to implement the verdict immediately.

“Legally speaking the decision should be implemented right away — even if the government decides that it wants to go through the complicated legal process of appealing this verdict,” Mostafa told Daily News Egypt.

“We’ll have an official copy of the ruling within a few days which we will present to the rector so that he can implement it,” Mostafa continued.

In Commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

I received this from the United Nations Information Center in Egypt:

The UN calls on states to protect women, yet this is something largely beyond the states' control (especially domestic violence.)

Women must fight back for their rights; the state will never be able to free women from violence and subservience.

The self-empowerment of women worldwide is the only viable means by which to eliminate such violence.


UN Secretary General on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women:

All of us have a responsibility to help end violence against women

On the International day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said violence against women are human rights violations that do more than harm individuals and undermine the development, peace and security of entire societies. He called upon States to “honour their commitments to prevent violence, bring perpetrators to justice and provide redress to victims. And each of us to speak out in our families, workplaces and communities, so that acts of violence against women cease”

25 November 2008

Across the world, in countries rich and poor, women are being beaten, trafficked, raped and killed. These human rights violations do more than harm individuals; they undermine the development, peace and security of entire societies.

Women everywhere are at risk, but those living in societies experiencing armed conflict face even graver danger. As conflicts have become more complex, the pattern of sexual violence has evolved. Women are no longer in jeopardy only during periods of actual fighting; they are just as likely to be assaulted when there is calm, by armies, militias, rebels, criminal gangs or even police.

We do not know the true number of victims, but we do know that there are far more crimes than ever get reported, and far fewer lead to arrests. In too many places, rape still carries a stigma that forces women to avoid the courts that should exist to protect them. In some countries, victims are brutalized twice: first during the crime itself, and then by the justice system, where they may face trumped-up charges of “adultery” and the possibility of subsequent punishment.

Even when perpetrators are identified, they often go unpunished, especially if they are working in the police or military. At times, these crimes are particularly shocking. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s troubled North Kivu province, where some 350 rape cases are reported every month, victims are also sometimes subjected to genital mutilation.

Even more disturbing is the age of many victims. In certain violent areas of Haiti, fifty per cent of the young women have been raped or sexually assaulted. Of the handful of courageous victims who do seek justice, one in three is under thirteen. During one particularly violent month earlier this year in Liberia, the majority of reported rapes were committed against girls under the age of twelve, some of whom were not even five years old.

These examples come from countries where the United Nations has a peacekeeping presence. Thanks to the Security Council’s groundbreaking resolution 1820, adopted in June, the use of sexual violence as a tactic of warfare is now recognized as a matter of international peace and security. According to the resolution, peacekeeping missions, in particular those with mandates to protect civilians, must now include the protection of women and children from all forms of violence in their reporting on conflict situations. Resolution 1820 also requested stronger efforts to implement the vital zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation by UN personnel, and urged troop and police contributing countries to ensure full accountability in cases of misconduct.

The adoption of resolution 1820 is part of a growing global trend to address this scourge. This past February’s Vienna Forum to Fight Human Trafficking, and the continued leadership of the General Assembly, are additional signs of international momentum.

At the national level, more and more countries are meeting their obligations to protect women through comprehensive legislation, better services for victims, stronger partnerships and increased efforts to engage men and boys in addressing the problem.

This progress is welcome, but there are still gaps. We need to do more to enforce laws and counter impunity. We need to combat attitudes and behaviour that condone, tolerate, excuse or ignore violence committed against women. And we need to increase funding for services for victims and survivors.

I am determined to strengthen these efforts, including through my global campaign “UNiTE to end violence against women”, which aims to raise public awareness, increase political will and resources and create a supportive environment to make good on existing policy commitments.

All of us – men and women, soldiers and peacekeepers, citizens and leaders – have a responsibility to help end violence against women. States must honour their commitments to prevent violence, bring perpetrators to justice and provide redress to victims. And each of us must speak out in our families, workplaces and communities, so that acts of violence against women cease.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Anarchism & Radical Environmental Art

Artwork by Radical Graphics

AFP - Egypt bolsters Gaza border force as Palestinians demonstrate

Nov. 24, 2008

EL-ARISH, Egypt (AFP) — Egypt on Monday sent 400 police to bolster security at its Rafah border terminal with the Gaza Strip amid demonstrations by Palestinians calling for the crossing to be opened.

The officers were deployed around the crossing point -- the sole Gaza frontier post which bypasses Israel -- "to deal with any possible violence by Palestinian demonstrators," a security official told AFP.

Hundreds of Palestinians have been gathering on the Gaza side of the border crossing since Saturday, demanding the crossing be opened for the sick to receive medical attention and for Muslim pilgrims to travel to Saudi Arabia.

A demonstration by Palestinian women was due to take place later on Monday, the official said.

Earlier this month, Egypt opened its border with the Gaza Strip to allow thousands of students and people needing medical attention to leave the besieged Palestinian territory.

Israel said on Monday it allowed some supplies into Gaza amid mounting international concern over the worsening humanitarian situation for the territory's 1.5 million inhabitants, virtually sealed off from the outside world.

In July, thousands of Palestinians stormed the border in a bid to flee the impoverished territory which has been under a crippling Israeli blockade since the Islamist movement Hamas seized power in June 2007.

In the ensuing clashes, Egyptian security forces drove the crowd back from the border with water cannons as Palestinians hurled rocks before being dispersed by baton-wielding Hamas security men.

In January and February after Hamas destroyed parts of the border barrier, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians flooded into Egypt in search of vital supplies denied them by the Israeli blockade.

REUTERS - Egypt police kill African migrant on Israel border

Mon 24 Nov 2008

RAFAH, Egypt, Nov 24 (Reuters) - Egyptian police shot dead an unidentified African migrant on the border with Israel on Monday as he tried to enter the Jewish state illegally, a security official said.

A police patrol spotted the man near the border and opened fire on him when he tried to escape, ignoring an order to stop, a hospital source said.

The hospital source added that the man had been shot in the stomach, thigh and leg and was dead on arrival at El Arish hospital. The dead man carried no form of identification, the sources added.

His death brings to 27 the number of African migrants killed by Egyptian security on the border with Israel this year.

The migrants, mainly from Sudan, Ethiopia or Eritrea, are looking for work or asylum in Israel.

For years Egypt tolerated tens of thousands of Africans on its territory but its attitude hardened after it came under pressure to halt rising numbers of Africans trying to cross the border into Israel.

Earlier in November, U.S.-based rights group Human Rights Watch called on Egypt to stop shooting African migrants.

(Reporting by Yusri Mohamed and Mohamed Yousef)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Fuck Francisco Franco's Falange Fascists

Spain's Franco hailed after civil war abuse probe dropped
23 Nov 2008

By Martin Roberts

MADRID, Nov 23 (Reuters) - Hundreds of people giving Fascist salutes rallied in Madrid on Sunday to mark the death of former Spanish ruler General Francisco Franco, days after a judge gave up an attempt to investigate atrocities during the 1936-39 civil war and the dictatorship that followed.

Many at the rally wore the blue uniform shirt and red beret of the far-right Falange party and other symbols of Franco's regime as they gathered outside the Palacio de Oriente, a former royal palace and site of his last public appearance.

"I am here out of gratitude and homage to those who fell in the war of liberation from Marxism," said Francisca Garcia from Seville, referring to the conflict which followed a rebellion led by Franco and resulted in a dictactorship which only ended with his death in 1975.

Garcia was still smarting at a new law which banned her from wearing her uniform and other political symbols at a mass held at Franco's tomb the day before.

"This goverment is a left-wing dictatorship," she said, then crossed herself as a priest on a stage blessed Franco.

However, a reknowned judge this week dropped attempts to probe the disappearance of 130,000 people, many of them summarily shot by Franco's forces and buried in mass graves.

Prosecutors said the investigation defied a 1977 amnesty law covering the civil war. Conservatives said the move would re-open old wounds.

Judge Baltasar Garzon said he now expected local courts to open 19 mass graves he had identified and exhume remains including those of poet Federico Garcia Lorca.

Garzon came to prominence when he tried to extradite former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet for human rights crimes, which drew charges of hypocrisy as no one in Spain had been prosecuted on similar grounds.

In contrast to truth commissions set up after Latin American dictatorships such as Argentina and Chile, Spain has shied away from confronting the bloodshed during and after its civil war as it emerged as a prosperous liberal democracy post-Franco.

But relatives who helped compile lists of the disappeared for Garzon say they will continue their long campaign to unearth and identify victims' remains.

"If this door closes in the High Court, we still have the moral argument of so many families who want to find their relatives," said Emilio Silva, president of the Association for the Recovery of Historic Memory.

(Reporting by Martin Roberts; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

REUTERS - Egypt detains 17 members of Muslim Brotherhood

Sun 23 Nov 2008

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian police detained 17 members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the country's strongest opposition group, on Saturday on suspicion of holding an illegal meeting, security sources said.

They said the Brotherhood members were arrested in Fayyoum, south of Cairo. Some were detained while leaving a mosque after evening Muslim prayers, while others were taken into custody from their homes, the sources said.

The men were being held on accusations of belonging to a banned group and holding a gathering without a permit, charges authorities frequently levy against Brotherhood members. The Islamist group advocates turning Egypt into an Islamic state through the ballot box.

A Muslim Brotherhood official told Reuters he was unaware of any fresh detentions.

The government calls the Brotherhood a banned organisation although the group operates openly and fields independent candidates in parliamentary elections. It won a fifth of seats in 2005 parliamentary polls.

Political analysts say the government wants to stop the Brotherhood from mounting a serious political challenge to President Hosni Mubarak, in power since 1981, and police often detain members for long periods without formal charges.

AFP - Riot in Egypt city after police kill man by mistake

CAIRO (AFP) — Police fired tear-gas at about 2,000 rioters in the southern Egyptian town of Aswan on Sunday as they protested the police shooting to death of a bird-seller, a security official said.

Police with the anti-drug squad had mistaken the man, Abdel Wahab Abdel Razeq, for a drug dealer.

"They were going to arrest a drug dealer. They went into the wrong apartment," the official said.

Egypt's official MENA news agency reported that the man had opened fire on police before being shot, although this was not possible to confirm.

On hearing of Abdel Razeq's death, the protesters surrounded the hospital where his body was taken and pelted it with stones, smashing windows.

Riot police clashed with the demonstrators, firing tear-gas to disperse them. Four protesters were injured in the clash.

MENA reported that an Aswan prosecutor has summoned the policemen for questioning.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Lebanon's Sectarian Bomb

Commemorating 65 Years of Sectarianism – Lebanon Celebrates its Day of Independence

The Lebanese State commemorated its 65th year of independence on Saturday - November 22, 2008. As a citizen of Lebanon I regard November 22 as a day of celebration – in commemoration of independence from French colonialism. Yet I also regard it as being a day for mourning – mourning the sectarian nature of this tiny country.

The independent State of Lebanon was founded in 1943 on the basis of sectarianism and religious discrimination, and has been ruled on this prejudicial basis for the past sixty five years.

This discriminatory system of politics has been the root cause of two devastating civil wars (1958 & 1975-1990) and countless numbers of armed sectarian conflicts. The Lebanese State has always been ruled by a Maronite Christian president, a Sunni Muslim prime minister, and a Shi’I Muslim parliamentary president; parliament is also divided according to the same discriminatory scheme.

Until the signing of the Taif Agreement representation in parliament was skewed in favor of the Lebanese Christians – six Christian MPs for every five Muslim MPs. Since 1990 the 128 member legislative council has been divided on the sectarian basis of 50:50 – 64 seats for Christian MPs and 64 for Muslim MPs . Parliamentary representation is further subdivided according to different sects of Christianity and Islam - 34 seats reserved for Maronites, 14 for the Greek Orthodox, 8 for the Greek Catholics, 5 for the Armenian Orthodox, 1 for the Armenian Orthodox, 1 for Protestants, and 1 for other Christians; While 27 seats are reserved for Sunnis, 27 for the Shi’a, 8 for the Druze, and 2 for the Alawis. This parliament of sectarianism is responsible for choosing the state’s ministers - who are also chosen on a sectarian basis.

Lebanese politicians are chosen on the basis of their religious origins rather than the basis of their competence/incompetence. This sectarian system of politics is doomed to fail again and again; it can only lead to further divisions, animosities, and bloodshed amongst the Lebanese people.

The Taif Agreement stipulated that the abolition of Lebanon’s system of sectarian politics is a national priority; yet it did not provide a timetable for the phasing-out of this system.
It is high time that Lebanon finally free itself from sectarianism and faith-based divisions.

May Lebanon never forget the victims of its civil wars and its sectarian conflicts. May it always remember that (from 1975-1990) some 150,000 Lebanese were killed, another 100,000 wounded/maimed, and around 900,000 more were displaced.


I dream that the resilient people of Lebanon will celebrate their 66th year of independence free from all forms of sectarianism and discrimination – although this is highly unlikely to occur given the nature of Lebanon’s power-hungry politicians.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Anarchists & Anti-Capitalists to Converge On Washington DC on January 20

Calls for a "Protest/Celebration" commemorating President Barack Obama's inauguration in Washington DC & other US cities/towns.

Alf mabrouk ya Obama;-)

“Celebrate People’s History & Build Popular Power” bloc on January 20, 2009


Hope from People: Build Popular Power Bloc
Friday, November 21 2008

An open letter to those seeking to build a world from below, in which many worlds are possible

We call on all anarchists, horizontalists, autonomists, anti-capitalists, anti-authoritarians, and others organizing a world from below to bring our best creative spirits to the project of a “Celebrate People’s History and Build Popular Power” bloc on January 20, 2009, in Washington, DC—or in your hometown, if you can’t make it.

As people striving toward a nonhierarchical society, yes, we can—and should—be rigorously critical of Barack Obama. It goes without saying that we want a world without presidents; we want worlds of our own constituting via directly democratic structures, not states. But not all heads of state are alike, and if we fail to recognize both the historical meaning and power of this particular moment, we will ensure our own irrelevance.

We can—and should—also be in critical solidarity with people who have been violently marginalized, who see in the Obama campaign the possibility of their own agency. The inauguration affords a unique space for us to stand with a diverse group of activists inspired by Obama, many new to political organizing, even as we maintain our views on the limits of change from above.

Perhaps, as people working to build a world from below without electoralism or statecraft, we also need to listen on January 20. It is neither the time nor the place to critique hope or excitement on the part of people who have engaged in grassroots struggles in so many ways and won a substantial victory. The inauguration marks a watershed event in the often cruel history of these United States, and the whole world will be watching, hoping that we’ve done just a little to grapple with the legacy of slavery, lynching, segregation, displacement, and racism in general, both of the personal and institutional varieties.

There’ll be a true rainbow coalition on the streets of DC, made up of exactly those people who the libertarian Left has always aligned itself with and always should: those who are not radicals but who have been exploited, oppressed, and relegated to powerlessness. So instead of breaking things, if we’re serious about building visionary social movements, doing meaningful anti-racism work, and honoring those who have resisted and dreamed before us, we should break bread with those millions globally who will feel moved by Obama’s inauguration—many of whom were also moved enough to participate politically (well beyond voting) for the first time in this election.

With our bloc—using banners, photos, artwork, zines, theater pieces, posters, armbands, and other visual expressions—let’s illustrate the many moments when people on this continent and across the world aspired to better approximations of freedom, via their own forms of collective organizations and mutual aid. Let’s create and display images of social movements, cultures of resistance, and especially our experiments to institute the new society in the shell of the old: from popular assemblies to self-managed workplaces, from freedom schools to free clinics, from autonomous villages to reappropriated land, and much more. And let’s remember all those many moments throughout history when we took to the streets, factories, schools, and neighborhoods; when we built movements ranging from abolition and civil rights to the American Indian Movement and the Black Panthers, from Zapatismo to Ya Basta!, from No One Is Illegal to anti-capitalist mobilizations, from Argentina’s factory occupations to Oaxaca’s federated assemblies; and when we reclaimed the commons and, in the process, ourselves.

For if we aspire one day to live in a world without borders and prisons, without states or capitalism—or presidents for that matter—we must stand in solidarity on January 20 with those most impacted by hierarchy and institutional oppression. Then, in the days beyond, we’ll join with millions of others in demanding fulfillment of, as Obama put it on election night, the possibility of change, as we support the growth of social movements toward a free and directly democratic society.

Points of Unity:

– We believe that human freedom and happiness would be best guaranteed by a society based on principles of self-organization, voluntary association, egalitarianism, and mutual aid. And thus, we reject all forms of social relations premised on systemic violence and hierarchy, such as the state, capitalism, and white supremacy.

– On January 20, we will actively seek to cooperate with as well as support anyone who is working to create a more liberatory world, and in fact, to learn from them and each other.

– We will gather as a bloc, unmasked and with open arms, respecting the celebratory spirit of the day—presence rather than protest—and will encourage others who want to honor social struggles from below to join us.

To sign on to this call, please send us an email at hopefrompeople [at] gmail [dot] com.

For the bloc’s meeting place and time, ideas for celebratory images, and upcoming details on the post-inauguration teach-in and party, keep checking this Web site.

Egypt risks unrest if poor not protected in slowdown

Reuters, Friday November 21 2008

By Alaa Shahine

CAIRO, Nov 20 (Reuters) - The world economic crisis could lead to a repeat of the unrest that broke out in Egypt earlier this year if the government fails to cushion millions of poor people from its impact.

A new bout of discontent is unlikely to threaten the survival of the government. But it could discourage investment, which has driven Egypt's economic boom of the last four years.

Analysts said the government should try to improve ways of getting food subsidies to the poor to reduce wasteful spending.

It should carefully increase public spending and cancel a new corporate tax which is unpopular with investors, they said.

Egypt, the Arab world's most populous nation with 82 million people, is not among the countries hardest hit by the crisis.

Expectations are that real gross domestic product growth will drop to 5.25 percent in the 2008/09 fiscal year, down from 7.2 percent in 2007/8, according to a Reuters poll. [LH651534]

Compared to industrial countries facing recession, that looks good, analysts said.
The problem is that even when the economy was growing between 6 and 7 percent over the last two years, high inflation and low wages provoked violent protests and labour strikes.

"In the absence of a clear social policy to protect the poor, Egypt remains threatened by more social protests," political analyst Amr El-Choubaki said.


The unrest culminated in April when thousands of workers in the industrial town of el-Mahallah el-Kubra clashed with police. At least two people were killed and more than 100 wounded.

The government responded by increasing public-sector salaries by 30 percent. It later raised fuel prices and imposed taxes on firms operating in free-zone areas as part of measures to finance the wage hike, exacerbating inflation.

"Everybody now knows that the tax increase for companies in free zones was a wrong decision," said Monette Doss, a senior analyst at Prime Holding, an Egyptian investment bank.

Lower global commodity prices and base effects are expected to cut inflation to an average of 9.1 percent in 2009 from 18 percent in 2008, the Economist Intelligence Unit said. With inflation receding, unemployment will be the main concern.

The government, which has not signalled an interest in reviewing tax policies, has announced an economic stimulus package worth 15 billion Egyptian pounds ($2.71 billion), one third of it directed at new water and sewage projects.

"These are the two most important things for the people. The spending will create jobs, and the subsidies will ensure that they have access to basic needs," said Mohamed Abu Basha, an economist at investment bank EFG-Hermes.

The state is projected to spend nearly 80 billion pounds this fiscal year on subsidies, more than it spends on health and education.

But the government has yet to find a better way to distribute food subsidies. Critics say the current system, which offers items such as bread and cooking oil at cheap prices, is flawed because the subsidies also go to the rich.

Nor has the government done any meaningful work to overhaul a poor education system that is ill-equipped to provide students with the necessary skills for the job market, analysts say.

Part of the problem with public education is that it remains free, which limits the state's ability to secure more funding for teachers' wages. Meanwhile, Egyptian households spend billions of pounds a year on private tuition.

"Fixing education should be the first move," Choubaki said.

The economy could also be harmed by the rise in piracy off the coast of east Africa. Shipping companies are choosing to avoid the Egptian-owned Suez Canal and send cargoes of oil and other goods around southern Africa.

Unrest could also make it difficult for the ruling elite to rally around Gamal Mubarak, the politician son of President Hosni Mubarak, as successor to his 80-year-old father, analysts said. He has denied any such ambitions so far.

While opposition groups remain too weak to pose a challenge to the government, the younger Mubarak could prove to be too controversial a candidate among pillars of the ruling elite such as the army.
(Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Photos of Protesting Train Conductors & Drivers

Around 100 Train Conductors from Different Governorates Hold Protest Stand Demanding Improved Wages at Cairo’s Ramsis Station

Nearly one hundred train conductors/drivers staged a protest stand on Thursday, November 20th in central Cairo’s Railway Station at Ramsis Square in demand of improved wages and working conditions. These railway workers, along with others, have announced their intention to strike if their demands are not met by Monday, November 24. The workers’ negotiations with the Egyptian National Railways Authority are expected to continue until that date.

These workers have demanded that the Egyptian National Railways Authority raise their mileage pay - from the unrealistically low rate of 9 piasters per kilometer, to a mere 25 piasters per kilometer.

Numerous workers agreed that the new Railway Authority President, Mahmoud Sami, has disregarded all their grievances and pleas. These railway workers also denounced their local trade union committee, which they said is dragging its feet in negotiations with the ENRA’s officials and “is bargaining for peanuts.”

An enraged train conductor, who identified himself as “Karam,” shouted: “We demand improved mileage pay, we are only asking that they pay us at the rate of 25 piasters per kilometer. We also demand adequate compensation for work-related injuries, realistic medical compensation pay, and the payment of travel compensation.”

Ramadan Mohammad Ali, a train conductor from the Southern Egyptian Governorate of El Minya, said: “I’ve been working on a diesel powered train for 20 years now and I receive only LE 600 per month (around US$ 113/month.) How am I to subsist on this meager wage in this day and age? This sum is insufficient for me alone – so how am I supposed to feed my wife and two children?”

Another train driver from the Nile Delta City of Tanta, Mohammad El Masri, said “I’ve been working here for 13 years, however, despite all these years of service I am paid only LE 350 per month (around US$ 66/month.) Moreover, we are penalized with deductions from our wages for malfunctions aboard the old trains that we operate. This is injustice!”

A few train conductors/drivers led a group of journalists along with them to inspect their typical daily working conditions - on board a worn-out and faulty locomotive. Oil and grease covered the floorboards in the engine room; the slippery floors provide for extremely hazardous working conditions amongst the burning engines and moving mechanical parts. The control panels looked like a recipe for disaster.

There are some six or seven thousand train drivers/conductors servicing the ENRA across Egypt. Repressive Egyptian labor laws and codes prohibit railway workers from undertaking strike action; nonetheless desperate railway workers have occasionally conducted strikes in defense of their rights.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Efforts to Liberate Egyptian Trade Unions from the State’s Control & Oppression:

Independent Drafting Committee Convenes to Amend & Formalize their Outline for Trade Union Amendments

A drafting committee of some fifteen worker-activists, trade unionists and labor lawyers convened today (Wednesday, November, 19) at the offices of the Hisham Mubarak Legal Center (an independent labor & human rights NGO) to amend and formalize a 32-point plan that had been formulated during the course of several previous meetings.

This committee is to put forward its recommendations in the form of a draft law - or as proposed draft amendments - to be presented to the People’s Assembly (Parliament) so as to replace the repressive provisions of the extant Trade Union Law #35/1976. The drafting committee is basically attempting to persuade the Egyptian State into implementing those international labor rights (and human rights) agreements which it voluntarily ratified – especially ILO conventions #87 (Concerning Freedom of Association & Protection of the Right to Organize) and #98 (Concerning the Application of the Principles of the Right to Organize and to Bargain Collectively.) The Egyptian State ratified both of these conventions in the 1950s yet has never brought them into effect.

Law 35/1976 (together with Labor Law # 12/ 2003) practically prohibits all strike action, and does not allow for any independent union organization beyond the strict confines of the state-controlled Egyptian Trade Union Federation/ETUF.

Accordingly, the drafting committee is further formulating its 32-point plan – the provisions of which are being discussed, amended, and legally re-phrased. These provisions are to be presented to the public (specifically to workers, unionists, journalists, MPs, NGOs, etc.) during the next general meeting at the HMLC on December 15.

During this latest meeting the drafting committee debated and discussed the wording of their 32 points - adding provisions and specific stipulations as they went along, point by point. Amongst these (proposed) stipulations was that: Any 20 workers or more (in one workplace, industry, or vicinity) have the right to establish their own independent trade union – merely be notifying the authorities (specifically the Labor Ministry.) Extant Egyptian legislation stipulates that more than 200 full-time workers (in the same workplace) are required to establish a trade union committee (which must affiliate itself to its respective general union within the ETUF.)

The participants debated whether to use the term “trade union/labor union” or the more flexible term “workers’ organization” in the text of their provisions; eventually they agreed upon the term “trade union” - as being the entity which bears the legal personality. In effect they have proposed that only trade unions (or trade union federations) are to be granted legal recognition - while other organizations such as workers’ leagues, committees, communes, etc. are not to be granted legal personality.

Other points of contention included whether to stipulate that –“all workers, without distinction, have the right to join and establish a trade union” OR that both “Egyptian and non-Egyptian workers have the right…” The committee eventually agreed that the former wording was preferable. The committee went on to specify that - agricultural workers, seasonally employed laborers (3ommal el tara7eel,) foreign workers, and even the unemployed should be granted the right to form their own independent unions.

These efforts which are being exerted for the sake of liberating Egypt’s trade unions from state control & intervention are commendable, even historical; yet many (if not most) of these progressive provisions are likely to be shot-down by the reactionary elements which dominate the Egyptian parliament – specifically by the businessmen MPs from the ruling National “Democratic” Party.

Teachers' strike closes private, public schools across Lebanon

Tens of thousands of educators converge on Beirut

Daily Star Lebanon
By Nicholas Kimbrell
Wednesday, November 19, 2008

BEIRUT: Tens of thousands of teachers in Lebanon staged a one-day strike Tuesday, closing schools throughout the country and preventing as many as 1 million students from attending their classes. The teachers were demanding higher pay, arguing that a government-decreed wage increase, in effect since September, was inadequate.

As part of the strike, thousands of public and private school educators, along with professors from the state-run Lebanese University, gathered outside of Parliament in Downtown Beirut to protest against what many have labeled an "unfair" pay and benefits package.

Historically, many union and syndicate-led protests have been negatively affected by political divisions, with sectarian allegiances influencing the level of participation.

But Tuesday's event showed few signs of politicization.

In Sidon, for example, a public intermediate school for girls, known to be close with Education Minister Bahia Hariri, observed the strike. And Hariri herself has voiced support for the teachers' demands.

Indeed, the strikers appeared to exhibit a unified front in showcasing their discontent. Organizers estimated that 100,000 teachers across the country observed the protest, and one million students were forced to stay home because of the strike.

Nehme Mahfoud, head of the Teachers Syndicate, told The Daily Star that the country-wide strike was "very successful."

"The strike was inclusive of all Lebanese areas," he said. "More than 100,000 teachers and 1 million students abided by the strike."

Mahfoud estimated that 3,000 educators attended the sit-in in front of Parliament.

He said that the syndicate had presented a petition to Parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berri, who was out of town but had agreed to meet with the group next week. Mahfoud also said that the Teachers Syndicate had met with Minister Hariri.

"We met with Hariri and she said she was convinced by our demands, that she would conduct a financial study regarding our demands and defend our demands in the next Cabinet session," Mahfoud said.

In September Cabinet raised minimum wage from 300,000 LL ($200) a month to 500,000 LL ($333) a month. Teachers say the increase is not enough, noting that no additional allocations were made for rising transportation and health costs.

Mahfoud offered the example of partial salaries paid to retired teachers. "The government is still paying teachers 75 percent of the previous minimum wage for family indemnities," he said.

He said the syndicate would wait until next week to meet. "If positive developments come from this strike we'll be satisfied," he said. "Otherwise we will consider staging more protests."

When asked how the strike might affect students, Mahfoud said that in order for teachers to provide an adequate learning environment for students, they need to be comfortable and paid a fair wage. "If I can't feed my kids how can I teach other peoples' kids?" he asked.

During an interview with the Voice of Lebanon radio station, the education minister described Tuesday as a "sad" day "because Lebanon's students did not attend their classes."

"It's important to establish a balance between the interests of the teachers and the interests of the students," Hariri said, adding that "students should not be used to put pressure on the government even if the demands are fair."

Hariri noted that she is currently assessing the teachers' demands, but that the strike was not responsible for her decision. She added that she is launching a campaign to assess teachers' performances to ensure the best possible learning environment for Lebanon's students.

"I understand the some teachers are hard-working and worthy of a reward," Hariri said, "but, on the other hand, some are incapable of coping with the challenges of the 21st century."

But Mahfoud stressed that the teachers' strike extended beyond the demands of one profession. "The strike is meant for the whole labor force," he said.

Lebanese transport unions and syndicates have announced that they will protest outside National Social Security Fund offices across Lebanon on Wednesday and Thursday.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Pro-Israeli Egyptian Government - Stop Supplying Apartheid Zionism With Fuel!
Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Egypt court freezes Israel gas deal

An Egyptian court has overruled a controversial 20-year deal on gas exports to Israel.

Judges ruled in favour of Ibrahim Yousri, a lawyer who says that Egypt is losing $9m for each day that Cairo upholds the fixed-price agreement with Tel Aviv.

Many Egyptians view the gas deal with their former enemy as a betrayal, although Tuesday's court ruling can be appealed against by the government.

"Ibrahim was supported by other political activists who think that exporting gas to Israel helps the Israeli army continue its occupation of Palestinian territories," Amr el-Kakhy, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Cairo, said.

Egypt began to pipe natural gas to Israel in May, in line with a 2005 agreement to deliver 1.7 billion cubic metres of gas per year.

Price difference

In recent months, Ahmed Mohamed Nazif, Egypt's prime minister, has signalled that Cairo wants to increase revenues from its energy exports amid the rising cost of gas, although he has not explicitly referred to the deal with Israel.

Private media organisations and opponents of the Egyptian government have led calls for Cairo to raise its prices for the gas it delivers to Israel.

"According to some experts and analysts here in Egypt, the country pledged to supply Israel with petrol and oil from Sinai in the Camp David peace treaty [between Israel and Egypt in 1979]," our correspondent said.

"When Egyptian oil supplies began to run out three or four years ago, Israel stepped in and demanded the export of gas.

"This is why the Egyptian government went into this memorandum of understanding with the Israeli government. It was not subject to approval by the Egyptian parliament – this is what has angered activists here."

Anti-Israel sentiment is still pervasive in Egypt, 29 years after the two countries signed a US-backed peace treaty.

Egypt and Israel fought against each other in four wars between 1948 and 1973.

Anarchist Artist Collective Occupies Posh London Townhouse

Published: November 10, 2008

LONDON—The tony London neighborhood of Mayfair has some unlikely new residents.

Last month, a group of teenagers, artists, and anarchists calling themselves the Da! collective moved into a £6.25 million, six-story townhouse on exclusive Upper Grosvenor Street.

The group had been eyeing the property for six months, according to member Stephanie Smith, 21: "We had put tape on the keyhole and kept looking through the letter box to see if anyone had been there." On October 10, with several members dressed as builders and Smith sporting a clipboard and a fur coat, the group propped a ladder up against the home and entered through an unlocked window.

A month into their residency, Da! has colonized the building's 30-plus rooms, filling them with sleeping bags, mattresses, and art installations. They've draped an anarchist flag from one of the balconies, changed the locks, and reconnected the utilities, but still have received no word from the buildings owner, Deltaland Resources Ltd., which is registered in the British Virgin Islands.

"Squatting is not a criminal offence, it's a civil matter," said Smith. "If the owners want to kick us out they will have to apply for an eviction notice."

Monday, November 17, 2008

Sunday, November 16, 2008

AFP - Egypt court orders media blackout on singer murder trial

CAIRO, Nov 16, 2008 (AFP) - A media blackout was imposed on Sunday on the trial of an Egyptian tycoon accused of ordering the brutal slaying of the Lebanese pop singer who jilted him.

Mohammadi Qunsua, presiding in the Cairo court, decided to "forbid media to publish (any item) related to the trial or to report details of the hearings", according to a court official who asked not to be named.

Media can only report court decisions such as adjournment of hearings or the verdict, she said.

Hisham Talaat, a stalwart of Egypt's ruling National Democratic Party, allegedly paid retired policeman Mohsen al-Sukkari two million dollars to kill Suzanne Tamim, 30, whose throat was cut in a luxury Dubai apartment in July.

Mustafa denies conspiracy to murder and the former policemen has pleaded not guilty to a murder charge.

The case, with its mix of wealth, show business, sex and politics and in which the two men could face the death penalty, has gripped Egypt where powerful businessmen are rarely seen to face justice.

Egyptian media said Tamim had a relationship with Mustafa over a three-year period that ended several months before her death.

The singer was found dead in the apartment on July 28 with her throat slit and several stab wounds in her body.

Al - Obama aide in 'anti-Arab' row & Agencies

November 14, 2008

Rahm Emanuel, US president-elect Barack Obama's chief of staff, has apologised to an Arab-American group for comments made by his father that disparaged Arabs.

Benjamin Emanuel was reported as telling an Israeli newspaper about his son last week: "Obviously, he will influence the president to be pro-Israel. Why wouldn't he?

"What is he, an Arab? He's not going to clean the floors of the White House."

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee had sent a letter to Emanuel calling on him to distance himself from his father's remarks.

Rahm Emanuel, also an Illinois congressman, called the group's president, Mary Rose Oakar, on Thursday to apologise on behalf of his family.

"These are not the values upon which I was raised or those of my family," the group quoted him as saying.

Pro-Israel 'fears'

The committee, in a statement on its website, said Emanuel told Oakar it was unacceptable to make such remarks against any ethnic or religious group.

Oakar welcomed the apology, saying: "We cannot allow Arabs and Muslims to be portrayed in these unacceptable terms."

Some analysts in the Middle East have raised concerns about the appointment of Emanuel, who has a record of strongly supporting Israel, suggesting he could use his position to influence Obama's policies in the region.

Emanuel dismissed the suggestions earlier this week, saying Obama did not need his influence to "orientate his policy toward Israel".

Benjamin Emanuel is a Jerusalem-born doctor who was active in the Irgun - an underground Zionist organisation that fought the British in Palestine prior to the founding of Israel in 1947.

AFP - Sinai Bedouin pledge 'hard response' unless police tried

SHEIKH ZWAID, Egypt (AFP) — Bedouin tribesmen in north Sinai pledged a "hard response" unless police officers are put on trial after three Bedouin were killed and their bodies left near a rubbish dump.

Police say the three were armed and had shot at police after refusing to stop at a checkpoint near the Israeli border on Tuesday.

However, police officials acknowledge the bodies were left half-buried near a dump, although they have not provided an explanation. A security official said none of the three was wanted for offences.

Abdullah el-Urjani, a brother of one of the dead men, said the Bedouin are not likely to forget this week's deaths.

"What do you think? We are united now, and behind each one of us there are thousands. What's there to be scared of now?" he told AFP.

Another brother, Bashir el-Urjani, agreed. "Last time we gave concessions. Not this time. If they don't try these officers (involved in the killings) there will be a response. A very hard response."

The deaths prompted angry Bedouin to occupy police stations and detain more than 70 policemen.

In one incident on Tuesday, the Bedouin besieged a police station in Wadi el-Aazariq and took hostage more than 40 policemen. After their release a day later, some policemen were taken to hospital suffering bruises, broken bones and shock, medical sources said.

The Bedouin walked away with 72 automatic rifles, 20,000 bullets, walkie-talkies and night vision goggles.

Bedouin also laid siege to another police station in Madfouna for hours, before overrunning it and detaining a commander and 10 policemen.

About two dozen officers sent as reinforcements were intercepted by three cars full of armed Bedouin, who drove the policemen off to a stretch of desert and abandoned them there.

Later in the day, police decided to abandon their posts, to come back on Wednesday with reinforcements.

--'The Arabs are shooting, so we'll shoot them'--

In Sheikh Zwaid, Bedouin from the Tarabin tribe, one the largest tribes in Sinai, with members in Israel, the occupied Palestinian territories and Jordan, gathered under a tent on Friday to mourn their dead and offer condolences to the close relatives.

Abdullah and Bashir el-Urjani heard on Tuesday morning that their brother Ahmed, along with two relatives, had been shot and killed.

Tensions had been high since the evening before, when another Bedouin from the tribe was killed, also after allegedly refusing to stop at a checkpoint.

The death set off protests throughout the night, with demonstrators firing bullets into the air.

"Things were heated," said Bashir el-Urjani, "The police probably thought: the Arabs" -- the name used by Bedouin for themselves -- "are shooting, so we'll shoot them."

The relatives of the dead said they were peaceful and had never been arrested. Two of them, Urjani and Marwan el-Rifai, ran a tourist resort in Dahab and had attestations of good character from police to facilitate their travel in Sinai, their relatives said.

But what exploded the tensions was the manner in which the bodies of Ahmed el-Urjani and the two Bedouin who were killed on Tuesday were treated, Bedouin and police sources said.

Their relatives, with the help of Israeli soldiers pointing from their side of the border, found them near a rubbish dump a few hours after they died.

Video footage of the corpses, taken by relatives and seen by AFP, showed the bodies with gaping high-calibre bullet wounds to the chests and smaller bullet wounds to the heads.

"That was really hard, what they did to the bodies," said Bashir el-Urjani. "You kill someone, and then mutilate him. Why? That was the real problem."

--'They treat us like occupiers'-

"The police would only do this in Sinai," Urjani said. "They treat us like occupiers, as though we usurped their land. They have always treated the Arabs badly."

The Tarabin, and all the roughly 200,000 Bedouins who live in Sinai, have long complained of discrimination by the Egyptian government, which recovered Sinai from Israel in 1982.

Egyptian police, who have accused members of the tribe of involvement in the drug trade with Israel and human trafficking, clamped down after a spate of bombings against Sinai tourist resorts between 2004 and 2006, which killed dozens of foreign tourists and Egyptians.

Police blamed what they said was an Islamist terrorist group based in El-Arish, close to Sheikh Zwaid, and which they said was led by a member if Tarabin and Egyptian-born Palestinians.

Thousands of Bedouin were arrested, and dozens killed in arrest operations. The crackdown provoked condemnation from Egyptian and international human rights groups, who said arrests were carried out without warrants and that police tortured prisoners.

The arrests, and exile from Egypt of some Tarabin and Bedouin from other tribes, still cause resentment among the Tarabin who spoke to AFP.

They also complain of discrimination, arbitrary arrests and frequent harassment at checkpoints. In 2007, Bedouin rioted twice in the north, protesting the death of a tribesman and, after a clash between rival Bedouin tribes, alleged police inaction.

Green Left Online - Israel attacks Gaza as food runs out

Stu Harrison
15 November 2008

While the world was distracted by the US elections, Israel broke its four-month-old ceasefire with the Hamas-run Gaza government on November 4, entering the territory and killing six people and capturing six others.

Israeli authorities claimed that the attacks were in response to specific intelligence, so they had not broken the ceasefire. With Palestinian militants returning fire on Israeli border towns and Israel proclaiming it innocence, Israel accused Hamas of exploiting the situation for political gain.

Israel is continuing its blockade of the Palestinian territory. Lack of access to fuel has lead to major blackouts and access to humanitarian aid, including food, has been blocked by Israeli authorities.

With the renewed attacks, Israel has cut access to Gaza to foreign journalists. Conny Mus, a reporter with Dutch television network RTL, was quoted by a November 12 Associated Press report stating, “This is Israel’s policy, to not show what’s going on in Gaza”.

Mus was one of 14 journalists barred from entering Gaza via the Erez crossing checkpoint on November 12.

While Israel was quick to argue that humanitarian goods can still enter the territory, the United Nations food and works project has explained that Gaza could be out of food within days if the blockade is not lifted.

UN spokesperson Chris Gunness told Al Jazeera on November 12 that the people in Gaza were not just being subject to “a physical sense of punishment, but also a mental one”.

“We feed 750,000 people in Gaza and these are some of the poorest and most disadvantaged people in the Middle East”, Gunness said. “Something very unusual is happening here. This is becoming a blockade against the UN itself.”

The UN has also been banned from importing educational materials into Gaza for blind students. “These blind children, as far as I am aware, are not firing rockets”, Gunness stated.

“And the material we are trying to get to them would make a pretty floppy rocket if they tried to make one from it.”

Gunness criticised Israel’s hypocrisy on human rights, stating: “They are telling children in Gaza that they have to respect rights universally. How can we tell those same children, ’Oh, by the way, you have to respect rights of people in Israel but they are actually stopping us giving you food?’”

Outgoing President Ehud Olmert has explained that it is only time before Israel launches a fully fledged attack on Gaza: “We’re in no hurry, but we know very well that the moment of confrontation will eventually come.

“The question is not whether there will be a confrontation, but when it will take place, under what circumstances, and who will control these circumstances, who will dictate them, and who will know to exploit the time from the beginning of the ceasefire until the moment of confrontation in the best possible way”, Olmert explained on November 11.

This has become a hot button issue in the lead up to the February 10 Israeli elections.

Current frontrunner, Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu, has already called for no compromise on the issue of control over Jerusalem and for an end to the current peace talks.

The latest upsurge in attacks on Gaza has occurred in the aftermath of the third international ship carrying humanitarian aid to break the Gaza blockade in as many months, the SS Dignity.

The latest ship carried European parliamentarians, Arab leaders, journalists and activists from Cyprus, who delivered basic supplies, helping expose the brutality of Israel’s blockade.

One of the voyagers, former British parliamentarian Baroness Jenny Tonge, expressed her disgust of Israel’s tactics in a November 10 BBC News report: “Gaza’s a prison. We’ve seen shortages of absolutely everything.

“The schools don’t have paper, the hospitals don’t have medicines. We’ve just been shown some of the tunnels to Egypt which have had to be dug to get badly needed supplies.”

The Popular Committee Against the Siege (PCAS), a non-partisan group headed by independent Palestinian MP Jamal El Khoudary, used the opportunity to announce the creation of a new international body, Global Action for Palestine, to help coordinate international non-violent actions.

PCAS has been the local Palestinian group supporting the voyages and various other non-violent actions against the siege.

From: International News, Green Left Weekly issue #775 19 November 2008.

Friday, November 14, 2008

APP - UN to suspend food aid to 750,000 Gazans following border closure

November 15, 2008

UNITED NATIONS (APP) -- The UN agency assisting Palestinian refugees said Thursday it was forced to suspend food distributions to half of Gaza’s 1.5 million residents since Israeli border closures have prevented the delivery of vital supplies for over a week.

The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) said it is unprecedented for its warehouses to be empty of food.

“It’s been a week since we’ve been able to get any food supplies into Gaza, which has caused us to fall into this particular crisis,”

John Ging, the head of UNRWA in Gaza, told UN Radio.“We have quite simply run out because again we haven’t been allowed for many months to build up a reserve and that’s why we are in such a precarious situation. This evening, our stores are now empty and we won’t be able to resume our food distribution until such time as we get a resupply together,” he added.

“It’s very harrowing for the population here, not just physically but psychologically as well.”

All Gaza commercial crossings remained closed Friday for the ninth day in row, with no humanitarian or commercial goods being allowed in.

UNRWA said it is not clear when the crossings will reopen or when it will be able to resume its distributions. It stressed that having hundreds of thousands of hungry and desperate people in Gaza is not in the interests of anyone who believes in peace. Meanwhile, the Office of the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO) reports that fuel was prevented from entering Gaza today, with the Israeli Government citing as its reason the firing of mortars and rockets into Israel. As a result, Gaza’s power plant will shut down today and probably remain closed until Sunday. Supplies of diesel and petrol are also running low, according to UNSCO.

Court Rules that the (pro-Israeli) Egyptian Government Must Allow Humanitarian Aid Through to Gaza Strip

Afrique en ligne:

Egypt court says aid must be allowed into Gaza

Cairo - 14/11/2008

Cairo, Egypt - Despite an Israeli economic blockade in place to limit traffic to and from the Gaza Strip, an Egyptian court has ruled that Cairo must allow humanitarian aid and supplies to enter Gaza via the Rafah Border Crossing. The Rafah Border Crossing is the small Mediterranean stip of land's only border to the outside world.

Presently, Egypt has limited humanitarian trucks from entering Gaza as part of its border crackdown in line with Israeli policies.

The court said the action was in violation of Egyptian law and contradicted official government policy.

Most humanitarian aid has entered Gaza via Israeli crossings since Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007.

Egypt has opened the Rafah crossing only a number of times to allow students, Muslim pilgrims to Mecca, the sick and those with foreign citizenship to enter Egypt.

The crossing was most recently open from 6-8 November.

Israel argues that the border is a hotspot for terrorist activity and has demanded Egypt keep it closed.

The Jewish state has only allowed limited supplies to enter Gaza, which has left a majority of the population reeling from the economic blockade.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Anarchism & Radical Art

AFP - Egypt bars doctors from Saudi over flogging

CAIRO, Nov 13, 2008 (AFP) - Egypt on Thursday barred doctors from taking up jobs in Saudi Arabia after an Egyptian medic was sentenced to 1,500 lashes and 15 years in jail for allegedly turning a Saudi princess into a drug addict.

Manpower and Immigration Minister Aisha Abdel Hadi has "stopped issuing work permits to Egyptian doctors in Saudi Arabia until the end of the crisis," the independent Al-Masry al-Youm newspaper reported.

The decision came after talks between the Egyptian consulate and the Saudi Arabian authorities reached a dead-end, the newspaper quoted an unnamed official as saying.

No permits will be issued until further notice, it said, but added that Egyptian doctors already in Saudi Arabia can continue working because they have contractual obligations.

Doctor Rauf Amin, 53, was sentenced for giving the unidentified princess morphine to ease her pain following a riding accident, which allegedly turned her into an addict.

The penalty against Amin, who is being whipped at the rate of 10-15 lashes a week during his prison term, has sparked protests in Egypt.

Hamdi al-Sayyad, director of Egypt's Doctors Syndicate, last week described Amin's trial as unfair and his sentence -- which was doubled on appeal in March from 750 lashes and seven years prison -- as torture.

"He did not have a fair trial; there was not even any adequate medical expert opinion," he said.

"This judgment is more about torture than justice and does not correspond with any kind of law, human rights or even sharia (Islamic law)."

Flogging is a standard punishment in the ultra-conservative Gulf kingdom, which enforces a strict Islamic doctrine known as Wahhabism.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

REUTERS - Egypt must stop shooting migrants at border: HRW

Wed. 12 Nov. 2008,

By Cynthia Johnston

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt must stop shooting African migrants, including Sudanese refugees fleeing Darfur, when they try to make the dangerous trek over the Sinai desert border into Israel, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday.

The U.S.-based rights group, in a report on the perils of African migration between Egypt and Israel, said Egyptian security forces had shot or bludgeoned to death at least 33 mainly African migrants at the Israeli border since July 2007.

Israel, meanwhile, has forced back to Egypt scores of African migrants who crossed into its territory, without first allowing them to present refugee claims. Their fate once back in Egyptian hands remains unknown, Human Rights Watch said.

"Egyptian border police in the Sinai are using lethal force to stop migrants, refugees and asylum seekers from crossing into Israel. The youngest victim we know of is a 7-year-old girl," Bill Van Esveld, who wrote the report, told a news conference.

"The Egyptian government needs to send a clear message that shooting defenceless, harmless, threatless people at the border needs to stop immediately," he said.

Egypt for years tolerated hundreds of thousands of migrants on its territory but its attitude hardened in 2007 after it came under Israeli pressure to stop growing numbers of Africans trying to cross into the Jewish state.

Human Rights Watch said 13,000 migrants had travelled through Egypt and crossed the border into Israel since 2006.

Egypt cracked down hard. Egyptian forces shot dead a pregnant woman from Darfur at the border in July 2007. Later, Israeli soldiers saw Egyptian guards bludgeon several wounded migrants to death, the rights report said, citing Israeli media.

"We heard them crying and screeching in pain until they died," one soldier was reported to have told Israel's Channel 10, according to Human Rights Watch.

Since then, Egyptian police have killed an average of more than two migrants a month at the frontier, although Human Rights Watch says the real number of migrant deaths in the Sinai may be significantly higher than the 33 it has reported.

"People in the refugee communities in Cairo are really anxious that people go toward the border and they never hear from them again," Van Esveld said.

Egyptian foreign ministry officials could not be reached for comment, but Egypt has said previously it is trying to balance security with respect for international obligations.

The report said Israel was violating rights of migrants, including refugees from religious persecution in Eritrea or conflict in Darfur, which Washington has called genocide.

The report urged Israel to stop forcing migrants back to Egypt, where they face military trials and possible deportation to home countries where they could face death or torture.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Hundreds of Students at the American University in Cairo Conduct Sit-ins Protesting Astronomical Tuition, Fees & Shoddy Overpriced Services

The American University in Cairo (AUC) is generally regarded as being Egypt’s finest educational institution; the AUC is also the country’s most expense university in terms of tuition and fees – far beyond the reach of average Egyptian workers/employees. The University claims that it is a non-profit institution, yet it charges its students increasingly astronomical sums of money for their educations.

In September 2008 the AUC was relocated from Downtown Cairo’s Tahrir Square to its new location in the isolated area of El Qatamiya – tens of kilometers into the rocky-desert outskirts of Cairo. Moreover, the new campus lacks a number of labs, halls and other facilities – many of which are said to be still under construction. Transportation to and from (the now-isolated) AUC, on the university’s buses, is reportedly an expensive service with few routes. Furthermore, the students at this isolated campus do not have access to food/restaurants beyond that which the university’s food court and its cafés have to offer. The food is practically monopolized by a few overpriced restaurants/cafés found on campus. Numerous AUC students also have grievances regarding new housing and dormitory arrangements.

Student protests, sit-ins, and demonstrations are very few and far between at the (elite /bourgeois) AUC – yet some 500-600 students conducted several sit-ins during the course of this week in which they protested against the University administration’s poor planning and its profit-making schemes. The students publicly grilled the University’s President, David Arnold, with their many questions and grievances.

Bravo (Active) Students,

The following is a message circulated by the dismayed students of the AUC who are struggling to cope with the new University campus:

After the success of the 5th of November sit-in - and by success, I mean the unexpected turn out and the fact that we actually managed to bring the Administration's attention to our demands - President David Arnold has agreed to meet with the students to discuss their demands in an open forum.

This is the time where you can voice any of your concerns about the move to the new campus in a civilized manner.

The basic concerns outlined in the petition signed on Monday include issues on:
- Transportation
- Food
- Housing

However, this forum should not be about individual cases alone. More importantly, it should be about the breach of trust between the student body and the administration that has been building since the start of the academic year.

- The university has been turned into a profit-making institution rather than an academic institution.

- The administration is not aiding or at least not rigorously trying to take action towards providing the students with an environment that will facilitate their learning both in classrooms and extra-curricular activities.

- Concerns, demands, petitions, etc. have been going through a slow bureaucratic process since the beginning of the semester that has not been getting anything fixed.

In all circumstances, we are all part of the AUC community and we should understand that moving to a new campus is never easy and, hence, we need to work together (students, faculty, staff, & administration). However, as long as the administration neglects us, this cannot happen and the problems will continue.

for more information visit:

note: please, invite as many of your AUCian friends as you can & if you have any photos or videos of the 5th of November, please upload them to this event.
Thank you for your support & hope to see you all on November 10th.