Friday 26 December 2008

Israel sentences PFLP leader to 30 years

Ahmed Saadat the leader of Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine

An Israeli court has sentenced the leader of the leftist Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) to 30 years in prison.

On Thursday, Ahmed Sa'adat the leader of Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine was sentenced to 30 years in prison, for allegedly leading an "illegal terrorist organization" according to an Israeli military source.

Sa'adat released a message on Thursday before his sentencing asserting that he did not recognize the authority of the Israeli military courts.

“I don't stand to defend myself before your court, as I emphasized before. I don't recognize this court, which is an extension of occupation which international law considers illegal. Our people have the right to resist occupation, and this court is based on the British emergency law of 1945 which is worse than Nazi laws,” Sa'adat's message read.

The PFLP also slammed the verdict as political.

"When the Israelis arrested him, they accused him of having killed (Rehavam) Zeevi , but this accusation did not appear in the sentencing which proves that his arrest was political and was not related to security issues," PFLP member Khalida Jarar told AFP.

Sa'adat and the four other PFLP members, convicted of Zeevi's killing were seized during a controversial raid on Jericho prison in the West Bank in March 2006 when Israeli troops stormed the jail shortly after British guards left their posts.

The PFLP claimed the killing of Zeevi after its leader Abu Ali Mustafa was assassinated by Israeli troops in Ramallah on August 27, 2001.

Saadat was a popular leader in the first Palestinian uprising in 1987 and he was electied as PFLP leader in October 2001.

Saadat gained a reputation as a man of the people who was much more charismatic than his PFLP predecessor, Abu Ali Mustafa.

Rehavam Zeevi was an ultra rightwinger and supported the ideology of "transfer," which would see all Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip expelled to neighbouring Arab countries.

Hamas holds UN liable for Israel crimes

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri

Hamas has condemned remarks by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as contribution to Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri accused Ban of encouraging the Israeli regime to continue its atrocities against the Palestinian nation, Press TV correspondent reported on Friday.

He was refereeing to Ban's Wednesday statement in which he "condemns today's [Wednesday's] rocket attacks on southern Israel." The statement added that the issue 'gravely concerned' the UN chief.

Ban's remarks come in contrast with obligations of the UN Secretary General and with international laws, which confer people under foreign occupation the right to defend, said the spokesman.

"Hamas condemns Ban Ki-moon's remarks…and recognizes it a further proof for Ban's role in Israel's atrocities against the Palestinians and a cover for Israeli measures taken against Gaza," he emphasized.

Abu Zuhri also questioned Ban's 'meaningful inaction' and indifference toward the Palestinians killed in Israeli incursions, and accused the secretary-general of making an attempt to distort realities in Palestine.

"Ban Ki-moon's comments are dangerous. Not only they do not reflect realities on the ground, they portray the occupants as victims, as if the Palestinians were the occupiers," he said.

"Such partiality does not change our will to defend our people against the Israeli intimidation and incursions," the Hamas official concluded.

Hamas: Our Leaders Do Not Fear Death

Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip said Thursday that they were not worried about the possibility that Israel might assassinate the Islamic resistance movement's top leaders.

The officials said that Hamas had prepared itself for such an eventuality to ensure there would be no leadership vacuum if Israel carried out its threats.

They also stressed that the assassination of one or two Hamas leaders would not weaken the movement or deter it from pursuing its path of "resistance" against the Israeli occupation.

"In the past, Israel killed [Hamas founder and spiritual leader] Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and [Yassin's successor] Abdel Aziz Rantisi and that didn't have any effect on Hamas," said Hamas legislator and spokesman Mushir al-Masri.

"On the contrary, the assassinations only strengthened Hamas and increased its popularity among the Palestinians."

Another Hamas spokesman, Fawzi Barhoum, said that the Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip were not afraid of death. "The Hamas leaders are on the front line in the battle against the Israeli occupation," he said. "As such, they are not afraid of joining the bandwagon of martyrs."

Both Barhoum and al-Masri pointed out that Hamas had taken into consideration the possibility that its leaders in the Gaza Strip would be targeted by Israel one day.

"Every Palestinian is a potential target of Israeli crimes," they said. They added that "since there was no shortage of charismatic figures" in Hamas, the movement would not face difficulties in appointing new leaders.

A senior aide to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said that Hamas would name new leaders "within a day or two" so as to avoid a situation where there would be a vacuum in the leadership.

"Hamas is a popular movement that doesn't center on this or that leader," he said. "Almost every member of Hamas is fit to become a leader."

The aide said he didn't know if Hamas had already prepared a list of potential candidates to succeed Haniyeh and other senior figures of the movement if and when they were assassinated by Israel.

"What is certain is that Hamas won't collapse or become weaker if one or two of its leaders are killed," the aide emphasized. "Look what happened to Fatah after Yasser Arafat died - everything is crumbling because Fatah was a one-man show run by Arafat. This is not the case with Hamas."

Haniyeh is one of three Hamas figures who make up the current leadership of the movement in Gaza. The other two are Mahmoud Zahar, the "foreign minister" of Hamas, and Said Siam, the movement's top security official in the Strip.

The three men, who enjoy tremendous popularity among Hamas supporters, are directly responsible for the movement's day-to-day activities. All three have narrowly escaped assassination attempts either by Israel or rival Fatah. Two of Zahar's sons were martyred by the Israeli occupation army over the past few years.

Hamas has two other prominent officials in the Gaza Strip who are likely to fill the vacuum in the event of the demise of Haniyeh, Zahar and Siam. The two are Khalil al-Hayeh and Ahmed Bahr, the acting speaker of the Hamas-dominated Palestinian Legislative Council.

Al-Hayeh was a member of the Hamas delegation that negotiated with the Egyptians the six-month cease-fire agreement with Israel that ended last Friday, while Bahr has largely served as a prominent spokesman for Hamas, especially in the Arab world. Because the two are widely respected in Hamas circles, they are likely to be promoted in the future.

Asked about the Israeli threats to kill Hamas leaders, al-Hayeh said Thursday: "The blood of our leaders is not more precious than that of our sons who have already been martyred. Nor is our blood more precious than that of our prisoners. We are prepared to sacrifice our blood for the sake of Allah."

The Rockets of Hunger and Israeli Propaganda

I received a message from the photojournalist and peace activist Sameh Habeeb from Gaza while I was looking at the news in the Austrian TV, which pierced my ears with talk about the rockets which Hamas supposedly shoots at the "innocent Israeli occupation" which has jailed one and half million in Gaza since before Al-Aqsa Intifada broke out.

This rocket picture was published at the ORF website (Pic Credit: MOHAMED SABER/EPA/ORF)

The rockets shown on Austrian TV looked to me like the fancy Bengala Rockets which are shot here while celebrating new year, and the clips shown on TV raise many questions:

- The picture published at the ORF website is credited to "MOHAMED SABER/EPA". Those are two first names and no family name. Who is this person? Why does he not present himself with a family name as any Arab would do? Does he exist at all or is he a fabrication?

- The rockets depicted in that picture (and on the video) look more like the fancy bengalas which can be bought in many shops all over the world before festivities than any known weapon.

- These so-called "rockets" appear to not have place for fuel or an engine, but they are supposed to fly 10-15Km ? How do they accomplish this miracle?

- How did ORF and other western media come into possession of this video which supposedly shows "Hamas fighters" shooting rockets from between fruit trees? Was it distributed by the Israeli embassy? Neither Austrian nor other western journalists are known to go to Gaza, so they can only have received them from the Israeli government, and that is what a link to exactly there from the ORF page suggests.

- If the firing of these rockets from Gaza can be doubted, from where else could they have been fired? From within Israeli territory perhaps? Could it be that the firing of these rockets is a propaganda campaign implemented by the IDF in order to "justify" a long-planned massacre against the people of Gaza?

- Could it be that the IDF is using the inhabitants of Sderot, Asqelon and other places around Gaza in order to construct a justification for genocide against a people who are already half hungered to death?

- Why did nobody ask these questions before showing the clip at several European TV stations? If western media are not sloppy in their research and their checking of sources but still publish material which is obvious propaganda, is it possible to say that this irresponsible and less than professional attitude, the wholesale regurgitation of Israeli propaganda, is tantamount to complicity in the genocide against the Palestinian people?

Even in the unlikely case that these rockets are "real", they would be an understandable yet lamentable reaction to years of illegal siege and murderous mayhem perpetrated by the Israeli regime. In this case they would be "rockets of hunger", wholly justified under international law, which allows an invaded people to defend itself with anything at their disposal.

The Israeli occupational regime is preparing to slaughter the besieged people of Gaza, and it is known that they are currently running a strong propaganda campaign around the world, controlling the international public opinion and turning their own crimes against humanity into "reactions" of the Gaza rockets.

The hungry people of Gaza under the Israeli blockade. (Pic Credit: Sameh Habeeb)

The less than objective international media has adopted the Israeli propaganda wholesale, and continues repeating their falsified stories as a preparation for destroying Gaza over the heads of one and a half million mostly defenseless people, of whom about half are children.

Non of the European media has shown an objective picture about the real situation in Gaza, which is in fact and effect a concentration camp. Even during the previous truce between Israel and Gaza, the criminal state of Israel continued its blockade to hunger out and destroy to the Palestinians in Gaza.

I would ask the well-paid international dispensers of propaganda and the world governments some simple questions:

If somebody jails you in a ghetto for over six years, or even six days, denying you the most basic of human rights, continues blockading the ghetto, killing the sick people, occupying the sky, shelling, and killing people for no discernible reason, will you stay a peaceful people for even a second?
Is there any peace under the continued hunger and blockade?

This is the story of Gaza and of these useless rockets which you are using to justify the Israeli genocide, murdering, and jailing and starving people.

The message from the hungry people of Gaza, a voice lost under western propaganda and which more people should hear, follows. More pictures of the hungry Palestinians of Gaza, can be found here:

Sameh Habeeb writes:

My Misery in Gaza pushed me to report on the Hunger of my people. I stopped by al shanty bakery mid of Gaza City. It is one of the biggest bakeries across Gaza which provides tens of thousands with bread. Hundreds of people crowded outside the bakery in a very long long row waiting for bag of bread. Children, women and men were awaiting the chance to have the bread which is totally running out in Gaza.

Abed Mas’od, 24, is a labour working in Al shanty bakery. I spoke to him whilst he was very busy preparing bread for thousands. I managed to get some information out of him.

Before the deadly crisis of bread which started 2 days ago; this bakery was preparing 30 bags of flour. But with today it makes around 100 each bag weights 60 Kilograms. Abed refers to this rise of bread-making quantity to the unrecorded request of population for bread which came after Israel ban flour into Gaza and closed borders.

"Our bakery is out of bread since days and what we have is only for another 24 hours. In fact, we have stopped our work yesterday as we ran out of flour. Now, we use grain (fodder) used for animals which will finish in hours." Bakery labor said.

Amongst the crowd a woman’s voice arose above all people in the row. She started to scream and appealed for God requesting a salvation and easing for life conditions. I came closer to the woman, then introduced myself and then started to ask her some questions. The woman, Om Ali Shoman,45, with a pale bleak face draws the suffering of entire populations.

She said, "This is our destiny. It’s a conspiracy machinated against us. What’s the fault of my children at home to stay with no bread. Did they fire rockets? Did they kill Israelis? Are they holding guns?

The number of Gaza bakeries is 47 but now the working ones are 14 only.
Normally, Gaza needs 450 tons of flour; 100 goes for bakeries and 300 for house use. Part of the house share flour is being provided by UNRWA which halted its work lately. The remaining flour and wheat quantities would be covering the needs of people except for few days.

Sameh A. Habeeb, B.A.
Gaza Strip, Palestine
Mob: 00972599306096
Tel: 0097282802825


An interview with Carlos Latuff, cartoonist/activist

He has been alternatively praised and vilified in the press for his depictions of suffering in places like the Palestinian Territories, Iraq, and the slums of Latin America. But Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff says he is not out to please anyone. MENASSAT spoke with Latuff on the heals of a newly released series of cartoons about Iraqi journalist Muntazer Al-Zaidi.


Scenes from Carlos Latuff’s comic-book, Captain Iraq - flank a real-world hero in the Arab world: the Iraqi shoe-throwing journalist, Muntazer Al-Zaidi. © Carlos Latuff

BEIRUT, December 23, 2008 (MENASSAT) — Carlos Latuff, 40, is nothing short of a one-man cartoon wrecking-ball when he hits the ink.
Based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Latuff has spent the last 15 plus years crafting a style that can best be described as “populist cartooning.” He has touched on issues like Apartheid in South Africa, the plight of Native Americans in the US and the oppression of Tibetans in China.

But perhaps his most controversial series to date is “We are all Palestinians,” in which he compares the actions taken by the Israeli government towards Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip directly to the Nazi’s treatment of Jews.

In a December interview with the Jewish cultural scholar Eddy Portnoy, Latuff said, “It happens to be Israeli Jews that are the oppressors of Palestinians. If they were Christians, Muslims or Buddhists, I would criticize them the same way.”

Latuff’s cartoon series of world leaders like former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, outgoing US president George W. Bush and British PM Tony Blair conjure up the distorted, monster-like depictions of UK-based stencil graffiti artist, Shepard Farley.

And his irreverent take on recent issues like the Bush shoe-throwing incident with the Iraqi journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi has continued to stir-up hundreds of online comments equally praising and decrying his work.

i-heart-girl writes in one online forum, “Your pieces have inspired me to keep hoping, praying, and working for peace and the end of corruption, no matter how fruitless the attempt may seem. I hope you can continue to bring awareness to the ignorant.”

MENASSAT reached Latuff in Rio de Janeiro and conducted this on-line interview.

MENASSAT: Can you tell us about your personal history? Your biography says you’re 40-years-old. How long have you been a cartoonist?

CARLOS LATUFF: I have been a professional artist since 1989. I started as an illustrator for a small advertising agency and then worked as a political cartoonist for leftist trade union papers in 1990. But I’ve been drawing since I was a kid.

MENASSAT: Why did you decide to focus on issues relating to the Arab world?

CARLOS LATUFF: My work doesn’t only concern the Arab world. I also draw cartoons about concerns closer to home, like the police brutality in Brazil, the right-wing conspiracy against Evo Morales and his administration in Bolivia, and elsewhere, about events like the Russia-Georgia crisis, the riots in Greece, and so on. I do have a special focus on Palestine because of the time I spent there. When I was in the West Bank in 1999, I decided I would support the Palestinian struggle with my art.

MENASSAT: You’ve characterized your work as controversial. What is at the heart of your cartoons that makes them controversial?

CARLOS LATUFF: Touching the taboo of the Palestinian-Israeli [conflict] is always controversial, especially when you take the side of the oppressed. My art intends to break the common perception of the issue and it challenges the mainstream version of the conflict.

MENASSAT: Your work has been featured on Independent Media Center sites ( worldwide and in more mainstream publications like The Toronto Star. Which outlets have more impact on the public and does that matter to you?

CARLOS LATUFF: Having my cartoons shown from time to time in the mainstream media is only a consequence. The method I rely on the most to distribute my drawings are the good people throughout the world that are willing to reproduce my images online, via email, on their websites, etcetera.

MENASSAT: Your cartoon series, “We are all Palestinians,” published on the Swiss Independent Media Center (IMC) site in 2002 prompted a Jewish organization to level the charge of anti-Semitism towards your work. A Swiss court suspended the criminal proceedings, but do you think it was anti-Semitism?

CARLOS LATUFF: Regarding cartoons and anti-Semitism, I have a recent interview with Eddy Portnoy, which clarifies my opinion about this on my blog, Tales of Iraq War. As a cartoonist, I feel comfortable enough to make any comparison I think necessary that expresses my point. Metaphors are the key point to political cartooning. Of course Israel isn’t building gas chambers in the West Bank, but surely we can find some similarities between the treatment given to Palestinians by the [Israel Defense Forces] and the Jews under Nazi rule.

Inaccurate or not, it’s important to highlight that such comparisons have been made worldwide—not only by cartoonists but by people such as Yosef ‘Tommy’ Lapid, Ariel Sharon’s former Justice Minister and a Holocaust survivor [who died in June of 2008.] He said in 2004, during an interview, that a photo of an elderly Palestinian woman searching through rubble reminded him of his grandmother who died in Auschwitz. For me, this is more painful than comparisons of how Palestinians live under Israeli occupation.

My cartoons have no focus on the Jews or on Judaism. My focus is Israel as a political entity, as a government, their armed forces being a satellite of US interests in the Middle East, and especially Israeli policies toward the Palestinians. It happens to be Israeli Jews that are the oppressors of Palestinians. If they were Christians, Muslims or Buddhists, I would criticize them the same way. I made cartoons about George Bush, Condoleezza Rice, Tony Blair, [former Mexican President] Ernesto Zedillo, [former Chilean dictator Augusto] Pinochet, and none of them were Jewish.

I insult the Muslims with a cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad as a [suicide] bomber and claim the right to freedom of speech, but if you make drawings about the Holocaust, then it’s hatred against the Jews.

MENASSAT: On your deviant art page, you list SebastiĆ£o Salgado as a big influence. A lot of his work has dealt with the oppressed and downtrodden in societies, and
 his assignments are often lengthy ones. Do you look to replicate this documentary approach with your cartoon work—as opposed to a one-off political cartoon?

CARLOS LATUFF: The cartoons I make aren’t directed at middle-class, bourgeoisie readers, so I really don’t care about what they think or believe. I make art for people living in Gaza, in Baghdad, in the slums of Latin America, ordinary people, the populace. I hope this art can serve to boost the morale of people suffering and the freedom fighters in every corner of the planet.




Born at a Checkpoint in Bethlehem in Palestine

Genevieve Cora Fraser

Women hang out the wash
As I stand on the lip edge
Of the hotel roof breathing frost
In the cold night air
Under a Jerusalem sky
A midnight blue dome
Punctured with bullet hole
Stars watch as the drama unfolds
As women hang out their clothes
Peering up into the vast expanse
Eternity waits, lingers, is
Weighing in on the passage
Of time fraught with dangers
We speak of Jews, Christians,
Muslims an Imam calls
Church bells clang
The shofar sounds out
G-d’s sovereignty
Accepts His dominion
As He judges the world
The King's glory is manifested
In the presence of multitudes
The blessing is given
Echoes through time
Cries break the silence
A child is born
In Bethlehem blockaded
Clashing sounds rebound
As gunfire resounds
The cold tile cracks
As I walk along the lip edge
Of existence peering down
Into the town where the Wall
Snakes along like a serpent
In Paradise tempting the world’s
Elite to bite into the apple
Of racism Apartheid’s walled ego
Snaking through deserted streets
Cut off
A city divided
As settlers gain ground
In East Jerusalem
The West Bank enclosed
Gaza choked and barricaded
The wretched existence
Of a home wrecked nation
Focuses on a chosen few
As a child is born
In obscurity at a checkpoint
At gunpoint His cries pierce
Through the frozen night
Promising new life
Bound to suffering
In Jerusalem in Bethlehem
As the world wakes
To a new dawn
Of a new day