On a ‘Democratic Camp’ in Israel once again

Democratic Camp

Ammad Shaqour – Al-Quds Al-Arabi – 7 July 2017

Two weeks ago, 23 June to be specific, a number of weekly and daily Arabic papers issued in Israel published an article by the head of the Joint List in the Knesset, Ayman Odeh, entitled “Towards establishing a democratic camp to increase our effectiveness and influence in the advancement of our cause”. This is no ordinary newspaper article. It is the announcement of a serious political project, which could give Arab Palestinians in Israel, who carry Israeli identity cards (for the first time since the Nakba in 1948), a role in Israeli politics, with all the repercussions that entails for their overall status as citizens and their demands for equality at all levels, and their rights as an ethnic minority in Israel. It could also affect all matters relating to the occupation and Israeli colonialism on Palestinian lands, and everything connected to the Palestinian cause.

By this call for an Arab-Jew “democratic camp” in Israel, the head of the Joint List is striving to ensure that Arab Israelis have an effective role in curbing racist Israeli policy and can repudiate all the policies of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, which is more extreme, right-wing and racist than any preceding Israeli government. Odeh delineates these policies with piercing insight, in four points, on four different levels:

– The systematic work to eliminate the possibility of establishing a Palestinian state, or of establishing relations with the vast majority of other Arab governments, and the striving to make normalisation public and official policy, so that regional conflicts become the priority over the Palestinian cause.

– Incitement against Arab citizens (in Israel) with a systematicness not preceded by any prime minister, and the intensification of legislation against Arabs.

– The systematic narrowing of the democratic margins, by the pursuit of humanitarian organisations, the destabilising of the Israeli Supreme Court, attempts to control media channels and academia, and spreading a low-level atmosphere of intimidation.

– The deepening of neoliberal economic policy which breaks down all networks of social protection for the poor and middle classes.

In his article/political project, Odeh then emphasises that Arab Israelis treat Jewish participants as “equal partners” in this “democratic camp”, by way of a correct and logical formulation. He says that the Arab minority in Israel alone cannot, on one hand, impose a change in Israeli policies, while on the other, liberal Jewish forces cannot impose that change without the large Arab minority. Or, as he states in his article, “so as not to accept interpretations of a formula based purely on equality, we, the Arab citizens, must realise that, being only 20% of the population, we alone cannot bring change. Our (different and diverse) partners in the “democratic camp” must also realise well that they cannot do so without us! Alternatives [to Israeli government policies] cannot be created without the quantitative and qualitative political weight of the Arab citizens. With this critical weight and this equality, we can build the democratic camp.”

There is no doubt that this wise political project, if it succeeds, is capable of achieving a very important leap for Arab citizens in Israel, and their weight not just in Palestinian equalisation, but on the general Arab level. The practice of an effective role for the Arab minority in Israeli politics would remind us of the enormous role of Jewish minorities in America and in Europe. I am greatly aware of the vast gulf in status and opportunities between the Arab minority in Israel and the Jewish minorities in the West. What can be noted in this comparison is that the Arab minority in Israel is proportionally far larger than those Jewish minorities.

Over the span of 69 years, from the Palestinian Nakba to 1993, the year the Oslo accords were signed, and the beginning of ‘Gaza-Jericho First’, and more clearly, from the June 1967 War until Oslo, leadership and guidance of the Palestinian national effort has been tied to the Palestinian body outside the lands of Palestine. With the leaders and members of the PLO and many Palestinian families beginning to return (the total numbers, accounting for natural increase, in the first seven years of Oslo until the outbreak of the second intifada, stand at about half a million returned Palestinians refugees), the Palestinian centre of gravity has transferred to the ‘Interior’, which means the West Bank (including Jerusalem, of course), and the Gaza Strip.

Since the beginning of this century, incorrect policies, or what could be called policies lacking in sufficiently feasible or reasonable wisdom, have led to an unprecedented state of division in Palestine. This division led to the bloody coup in Gaza in 2007, in addition to the formation of core divisions between Palestinians of the ‘Interior’ and the Palestinian refugees (here we recall the Istanbul conference), as a result of the ignorance, neglect, and weak performance of the Palestinian Authority, and what the status of the PLO has led to. All this leads us to believe that the time has come for Palestinians in the ‘Interior of the Interior’, meaning in Israel, to direct the general Palestinian national effort.

With no Arab pressure for the Palestinian national effort, since the people of the Levant are preoccupied with their bloody and shameful wars, their national interests and the threats to their homelands, there is no alternative but to search for other means of support. In this context, I believe the Palestinians of the ‘Interior of the Interior’ have a role to play in this support. In life, ‘heroes’ search for a ‘role’, but ‘roles’ may also search for ‘heroes’.

Ayman Odeh concludes his article/project with an expressive and inspiring paragraph. “I do not want this article to close the debate, but to open its doors with confidence, strength and clarity. The time of fluctuation must end in the same place! Our people who support the Joint List, and who entrust us with responsibility for it, demand today more than ever that we not only analyse reality, but work to change it.”

The initiative by Palestinian citizens of Israel to establish an Arab-Jew “democratic camp” is worthy of support. It opens a wide and promising door for a fruitful national effort. Israel is not a country of six million Jews, each one the spitting image of Netanyahu or Bennett or Lieberman. It is a society of individuals, movements, organisations, clubs and parties of diverse stripes, forms, attitudes, intentions, and policies. There is no Palestinian advantage in considering and treating Israelis as though they are all mirror images of this colonial racist. It is our national interest not to be the cement and the glue which binds all the Israelis against our people and their legitimate rights and aspirations. Of old, they said, ‘he who does not realise fully will never be free of ignorance’.

Adding to the above is the outcome of the Israeli Labour Party elections two days ago, and the ascent of Amir Peretz and Avi Gabbay to the elections which will decide the chairman of the Labour Party, which may open the door for an expansion of Israeli support for the Arab-Jew democratic camp, which would have room for liberals in the Israeli camp.

It cannot be assumed that this proposed political project will proceed without any damage to the Joint List, but we must not forget that the List is a tool, and the objective, not the tool, is the most important.

Translated by Conor Fagan

Original article found here.


Prime Minister agrees to eliminate substandard housing by 2019

Tunisia – Al-Chorouk

Prime Minister Youssef Chahed announced on Tuesday evening plans to eliminate all substandard housing by the year 2019, as well as provision of opportunities for all middle-income Tunisians to benefit from the ‘First House’ Programme, which will provide affordable loans for the purposes of acquiring suitable housing. Chahed explained that 200 million dinars have been made available to support this new government programme.

During his speech to mark the beginning of activities at the National Symposium on ‘Reform of the social protection system: from Understanding to Law’, Mr Chahed said the government is working on a comprehensive reform which will go beyond circumstantial or partial treatment to treat all of the various systems of societal guarantees. This reform would broaden the scope of coverage to include groups with vulnerable occupations, especially those working in the fishing sector and irregular employment sectors.

He also explained that an analysis of the social guarantee system and the increasing financial pressure on the Treasury, necessitated the government’s expediting complete reform of the system, in order to maintain its continuity and stability, and to protect it from bankruptcy. Mr Chahed indicated the importance of visualising these total reformations, so that the Ministry of Social Affairs can ensure the rights of the current and future generations to social protection.

Translated by Conor Fagan

Original article found here.

Shtayyeh calls on Arab banks to create Palestine Investment Fund

Dead Sea – Al-Quds.com

President of the Palestine Economic Council for Development & Reconstruction (PECDAR), Dr. Mohammed Shtayyeh, has called on Arab banks to create an investment fund for Palestine, the monies of which would support productive projects, especially those in sectors which generate jobs, or are run on a for-profit, rather than a charitable, basis. During his speech at the “Reality of the Palestinian Financial Sector: Opportunities and Challenges” conference, Dr Shtayyeh said “Palestine is daring and the Arabs are daring, let capital be daring also.” The conference, organised by the Union of Arab Banks, takes place at the Dead Sea in Jordan today and tomorrow.

Dr Shtayyeh stressed the role of the private sector in the gradual disengagement from colonial dependency imposed on us by the occupation. He indicated that there is an official preference for strengthening economic relations with the Arab world. The Palestinian economy could act as a winch for policy decisions, he said, and enable local products to take the place of the Israeli products in our markets, and bolster the positions of our people in Jerusalem.

Shtayyeh laid out a picture of the economic situation to Arab investors and banking representatives, analysing the disturbances in the structure of the Palestinian economy caused by the occupation, as a result of the control over resources and borders. He said that despite all the challenges, there have still been success stories, such as the success of the banking sector, noting that the size of deposits in Palestinian banks is approximately 12 billion dollars. He added that the amount of corporate funds traded on the Palestinian securities market is valued at almost 3.5 billion dollars, and that there are about 115 thousand stockholders in companies listed on the Palestinian stock exchange.

Dr Shtayyeh explained that Palestinian banks are working under exceptional circumstances as a result of the occupation, which necessitates exceptional treatment to address the obstacles which they face. He asked Arab banks to grant facilities for productive loans, and to make it a priority to encourage investors to develop projects which would create jobs. He continued by saying that the private sector must be the principal creator of employment, and that it is unhealthy for the Palestinian Authority to remain the largest employer of the Palestinian workforce.

A number of challenges lie ahead for the Palestinians, Shtayyeh told the conference. First is the extremist government in Israel, which does not want a solution, and which undermines the Palestinian state through a tight grip on Area C, the Jordan Valley, Jerusalem, and the Gaza blockade, and its further attempts at “settlement bleaching” and its striving to make settlement legal. As for the second challenge, according to Shtayyeh, that resides with the new American establishment, which has not yet fully expressed its foreign policy, despite all the negative press which it has received. The third challenge is the weakening of Arab nations, and the destructive conflicts which it is experiencing, while finally the fourth challenge is to end the division and if there is a will, to work towards a possible solution for the conflict.

Translated by Conor Fagan

Original article found here.

Prime Minister Announces Conditions for Acquisition of Bahraini Nationality for Foreign Ships

Bahrain – Akhbar Al-Khaleej

In the Official Gazzette dated 26 January 2017, His Royal Highness Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa has issued Decree no. 3 (2017), concerning the terms and conditions for granting Bahraini nationality to foreign ships.

Article I. Without prejudice to the provisions of Article II of the Maritime Law issued by Legislative Decree No. 23 (1982), it is permissible for the Minister of Transport and Communications to grant Bahraini nationality to ships owned by non-Bahrainis provided that they meet the following terms and conditions:

(1) That the age of the vessel does not exceed 20 years at the time of its request to be registered in the records of the Kingdom of Bahrain.
(2) That the gross tonnage of the vessel is not less than 3,000 tons, and that it is self-propelled.
(3) That the vessel be classified with one of the classification societies belonging to the International Association of Classification Societies, or with one of the classification societies recognised by the Ministry of Transport and Communications.
(4) That the vessel not be restricted by the blacklist of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for inspection and control of ships in any region of the world.
(5) That the operator of the vessel has obtained a certificate of compliance in accordance with the International Code of Safety Management.
(6) That the company owning the vessel be in good financial standing.
(7) That the company owning the vessel have a legal representative in the Kingdom of Bahrain.
(8) That the company owning the vessel was founded in a country which has diplomatic relations with the Kingdom of Bahrain, and that that country not be under economic sanction from the international community.
(9) That the approval of the Bahraini Defence Force and the Interior Ministry to grant Bahraini nationality to foreign vessels is obtained. The Minister may not grant Bahraini nationality to foreign vessels owned by persons or companies belonging to states which are not friendly to the Kingdom, or do not have diplomatic relations with the Kingdom, or are in unfriendly relations with it or one of the Arab countries, except after approval of the Council of Ministers.

Article II. The Minister of Transport and Communications will implement this resolution, which takes effect from the day following the date of its publication in the Official Gazette.

Translated by Conor Fagan

Original article found here.

Al-Abadi Accused of Submitting to Kuwait


The Iraqi government’s decision to proceed with demarcation of the maritime border with Kuwait and the agreement on navigation arrangements in Khor Abd Allah have provoked a furious reaction in political and public circles, considering it a concession on the most important Iraqi access point on the Persian Gulf. They claim that the decision, which is due to be debated in parliament shortly, is a “betrayal”. The bay is situated north of the Kuwaiti islands Bubiyan and Warbah and south west of the Al-Faw Peninsula. It extends into Iraqi territory, where it joins with Khor Al-Zubair, where Umm Qasir port is located. The Iraqi government had set the year 2010 for laying the founding stone in the construction of a large port on the eastern side of Al-Faw.

Aliyah Nasif Jasim, a deputy for the State of Law Coalition led by Vice President Nouri al-Maliki, said that “the cabinet voted to grant the Khor Abd Allah to Kuwait, and to spend 750 thousand dollars on demarcating the sea border, despite everyone knowing that it belongs to Iraq alone. The sea channel is not included in international resolutions, and anyone using this empty excuse is attempting to hoodwink the Iraqi people. This decision is a betrayal of Iraq.”

Deputy Awatif Naimah said in a statement that “This is the most important Iraqi maritime territory, and the agreement gives Kuwait top priority in control of the channel, despite the fact that UN Resolution 833 gave Iraq total control of navigation within it.”

Dozens of people demonstrated in the Basra Governorate yesterday, protesting the government’s decision. A number of activists stressed the damage which would affect its residents, as well as their rejection of this “violation” of sovereign Iraqi territory. MP Hanan al-Fatalawi submitted a query to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in relation to the Khor Abd Allah agreement. She said in a press conference that she is waiting for the head of the Council of Representatives to set an appointment with al-Abadi or one of his representatives for an answer.

Mazen al-Mazni, a deputy for cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s “Al-Ahrar Bloc”, considers “the decision to proceed with implementing the UN Resolution and redraw the border with Kuwait simply a donation of Iraqi land.” He asked the government to be careful about “trifling with national assets, as they are the property of Iraq and its people, and not of any person, minister or party. We will not allow any damage to come to our land.”

In an interview with ‘Al-Hayat’, deputy Maysoon al-Damluji said that “the redrawing of the border is due to an international resolution made without the presence of Iraq, and is part of the punishments levied against the previous regime.”

In a statement on social media, Ihsan al-Shammari, a close associate of the Prime Minister, wrote that the accusations being made against the government were “an attempt by corrupt politicians to shuffle the deck and sow confusion after the victories achieved by our heroic forces, in particular the successful expeditions in the left bank of Mosul. They are spreading these lies across websites and through the media in the hopes of gaining an early election.” He added that “Parliament passed a maritime law for Khor Abd Allah between Iraq and Kuwait on 22 August 2013. The former Council of Ministers ratified it on 27 January 2014, during a meeting of the Iraq-Kuwaiti joint higher committee. The day before yesterday, the cabinet was briefed on the report by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs related to modernising the borders according to international standards, and this does not include a change in the reality of the current borders. It is a complete record of the 3rd session of the joint higher committee in 2013, which as mentioned was ratified 27 January 2014. The Council of Ministers committed to the implementation of the resolution, based on the obligations of the previous government.”

Translated by Conor Fagan

Original article found here.

The Mind of the Terrorist

Emarat Al-Youm – Abdullah Al-Qamzi

More than a week has passed since the sinful and despicable terrorist attacks which struck the governor’s base in Kandahar in Afghanistan, and which killed a group of our countrymen, who have given the most valuable thing they possessed while extending a helping hand to the needy and the vulnerable, and it is several days since I watched the film ‘Patriot’s Day’, about the terrible terrorist bombing which killed and maimed many during the marathon in the American city of Boston on April 15, 2013.

A friend of mine studying Islamic law told me that if a person arrives at a state of religious intolerance or delusion, then it is very rare that he will return to the right path, and when I thought about his words, I found them to ring true. Examples abound, in more than one Arab country, of religious outcasts who returned to terrorism after rehabilitation programmes. I don’t understand these minds, which justify the killing of civilians in the name of religion, nor do I understand how they can be convinced by the recruiters for terrorist organisations.

Terrorism even rouses them to kill parents! What a bold contradiction to the Holy Qur’anic texts, which urge devotion to the parents. As a result, the equation of Islam with terrorism has become a common idea. This is utterly void, and the religion has suffered from this scourge since the days of the Assassins, and their leader, Hassan-i Sabbah. The idea found popularity among so-called intellectuals influenced by the ideas of European Orientalists, who promoted the idea that Islam is spread by the sword. This false idea is contrary to the tolerance of the religion.

But wherever it strikes, this vicious terrorism is conuterproductive, because its aim is sabotage and destruction and nothing more. If it strikes in Europe or America, it rallies the community with Muslims, and causes the spread of cooperation and solidarity among individuals in the community, and this is the biggest proof of its failure to achieve any goal. And if it strikes in any Muslim country, it has the same effect of solidarity against it, and that is because the killing of man is an ugly crime of a wicked and criminal mind, not justified by religion, nor by ideology, nor by logic.

Terrorism is the devil’s work, and it distinguishes no one, nor does it enhance their political or religious goal. It is a warped tool for killing, for vandalism, and for spreading corruption in the land. Its fate is failure. Human nature is charitable love and its diffusion through the community, help for the downtrodden and the needy, and defence of the oppressed. Islam is a religion of this nature.

To conclude: In the film ‘Die Hard 3’, which explores the subject of terrorism, there is a scene featuring the evacuation of a school in New York because of the presence of a bomb. Police officers discover two boys hiding in a classroom after the evacuation, and a policewoman rushes to rescue them. When she realises that there will not be enough time, she decides to take them to the roof of the school, and embraces them. The scene carries profound weight because she is white, and the two boys are African-American, and this reflects community solidarity, regardless of religion or race, in the face of wretched terrorism. In another scene from the film, the villain reveals that the bomb he placed in an area teeming with children is a decoy, saying “I’m a soldier, not a beast.”

The soldier: Fights to achieve political goals.

The beast (the terrorist): Kills people to wreak havoc.

Translated by Conor Fagan

Original article can be found here.

Aoun: The Palestinian Cause Must Remain Alive to Achieve Peace in the Region

Beirut – Al-Quds.com

The Lebanese president, General Michel Aoun has stated that the Palestinian question must be kept alive in order to reach fair and lasting peace in the Middle East.

During a meeting with the Secretary General of the Arab League, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, in the Lebanese capital Beirut, President Aoun said that Lebanan supports everything which can bring solidarity between the Arab nations.

He said that the League remains an authority, and hopes that the coming Arab summit, to be held in Jordan on March 29, will be able to address the current Arab issues. He stressed that Lebanon would contribute to any Arab effort in this direction.

For his part, in a statement after the meeting Aboul Gheit said that the visit to Lebanon served to emphasise the League’s support for Lebanon, and the great value it places in the role which Lebanon plays in the Arab League and beyond.

He explained that the meeting also included a discussion of ongoing preparations for the next Arab summit, and the importance of President Aoun’s participation, in addition to the current situations in the Arab states.

Referring to the new era of American president Donald Trump, and his remarks on relations between the US and Israel, Aboul Gheit said that, “Many of his statements lack precision, and that also applies to his future statements, in the sense that we don’t know what President Trump intends to do, even after a long conversation which has extended over a year.”

He added, “We are following and watching with great concern what President Trump says about Jerusalem, and we hope that he takes care and caution with relation to East Jerusalem, because there may be profound consequences if steps are taken which are not well thought out.”

Translated by Conor Fagan

Original article can be found here.

The ‘African Dream’ Fades Away

The Algerian national team may have lost its chance to advance beyond the first round of the 2017 African Cup of Nations, after a defeat to their Tunisian counterparts in the second stage of Group B, played in the Stade de Franceville in Gabon on Thursday.

Despite clear control by ‘The Greens’ in the first half, creating a number of chances to score by Slimani, Mahrez, Guedioura, and Brahimi, the Tunisian goalkeeper Aymen Mathlouthi was on top form, and made some challenging saves, resulting in a goalless draw between the two teams at half-time.

The second half was different, and showed a marked parity between the teams, and the Tunisians exploited mistakes in the Algerian defence to score two goals. The first was knocked by Mandi into his own net after a cross from Msakni. The second goal came when Ghoulam made a fatal error in returning the ball to goalkeeper Asselah, and lost possession. A follw-up tackle by the Naples player was exploited by Wahbi Khazri to get a penalty, which was scored by Naim Sliti.

The reaction by the ‘Brothers of Mahrez’ was not strong, apart from a chance by Slimani in the eightieth minute, which was deflected for a corner, and when Hanni reduced the gap in the ninetieth minute.

The match ends with the superior ‘Carthage Eagles’ boosting their hopes of reaching the second round, while the mission for the national team to continue this African journey has become nearly impossible.

Translated by Conor Fagan

View the original article here.

Investment Ministry Announces Promotional Efforts

EGYPT – Al-Mal News, 17 January 2017

The Ministry of Investment has said that it has commissioned Mohammed Khudair, CEO of the General Authority for Investment and the Free Zones, to convene meetings with foreign missions in order to promote investment opportunities in Egypt, amid the country’s efforts to improve the investment climate.

The ministry reported that Khudair had organised a series of meetings with the Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO), to arrange a visit to Tokyo in mid-February. There he would meet with Japanese investors who are interested in investing in Egypt, the Middle East, and Africa, inform them of developments in the climate in Egypt, and display the opportunities for investment.

Khodayr also met with the Ambassador of Portugal and head of the Portuguese Trade & Investment Agency to consult on implementation operations for a cooperation agreement between the two agencies. The preparation of a protocol for visiting a Portuguese delegation interested in the Egyptian market was also discussed. According to a statement from the Ministry of Investment, the head of the Portuguese Trade & Investment Agency affirmed the interest of Portuguese investors in the Egyptian market, especially in light of the bold reforms carried out by the Egyptian state as part of its plan for sustainable development.

The chief executive attended a seminar at the Indian embassy to see how that country is making efforts to improve its investment climate, and delivered a speech illustrating the most important steps in this regard, such as the important features in the new draft investment law. He also met with representatives of major Indian companies which have investments in Egypt, to listen and learn about their problems, and to inform them of the role of the Ministry of Investment and his agency in the context of overcoming obstacles to investment. The Indian Ambassador emphasised his pride in Egyptian-Indian relations, and was greatly pleased by the reform measures currently being taken by Egypt.


Translated by Conor Fagan

Original article found here.

Weapons stores and a number of Enemy Saudi sites destroyed in Najran, Asir, and Midi

(26 September News)

Units from the army and the Popular Committees today managed to burn down enemy weapons stores, and shelled a number of Saudi sites in Najran, Asir, and Midi, scoring direct hits.

A military source explained to the Yemen News Agency (SABA) that army and Committee units had destroyed Saudi weapon stores east of the government complex in al-Rabuah, in addition to targeting a group of Saudi vehicles and troops in Manfad Alab. They also shelled a new site behind al-Hager military camp and obtained direct hits.

The source noted that military artillery had pounded Riqabat al-Hamr, an al-Sudais site, and sites neighbouring Najran with barrages of rockets and artillery shells. They also remarked that groups of enemy mercenaries in the northern Midi desert were targeted by artillery fire, resulting in a number of deaths and injuries.

Translated by Conor Fagan

View original article here.