18 August 2014

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Malaysiakini

The people who doubt Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail’s suitability as Selangor menteri besar (MB) and who claim that Malaysia is not ready to accept a woman to govern either the state, or the nation, are wrong. Step forward, the self-appointed ‘First Lady of Malaysia’ (FLOM), Rosmah Mansor.

In the past, many people, especially those from Umno Baru, despised the FLOM because they believe that she was masquerading as the FLOM when she was really the prime minister. Najib Abdul Razak, they said, is her proxy. So, are the critics of Wan Azizah afraid that the top echelons of political power will become too crowded with women? So, who are the groups which are sabotaging Wan Azizah?

Many people claim they want change, but when faced with opportunity for change, which is to have Wan Azizah as the MB, they develop cold feet. They fear uncharted waters. Dr Wan Azizah is not unfit to be MB, but Malaysians are afraid of change.

The trouble also lies with the indecisive politicians, in Umno Baru, BN, Pakatan and PAS, and the conservative people who want to retain our patriarchal society.

The people who currently hold the reins of power know that when Wan Azizah turns the country around, they will be in trouble. They know they will lose power, status and wealth, and be punished for their past crimes.

The men who fear a woman at the top are probably afraid that a woman will show up their weaknesses.

The rakyat is fed up with the current administration which puts in minimal effort to help uplift the lives of women. A few years ago, Najib nominated himself as the women, family and community development minister but failed to bring any meaningful changes for Malaysian women.

Najib could not even force himself to sack his predecessor for her role in the National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) scandal.  Was he afraid of what she could do to him? An honest person can never be conned. Likewise, a person who has nothing to hide does not fear the skeletons tumbling out of his closet.

Malaysians want something done about the many crimes against women – the gang rapes, the child marriages, the increase in domestic violence, the abuse of maids, sometimes by women themselves, women being infected by HIV/Aids by their husbands, women who are abandoned by their polygamous husbands, the abandoned babies and the single mothers with no lifeline.

Why are Malaysian men, principally Malay men, averse to women holding senior and important roles in society, especially in politics?

Are they afraid that women in power might behave like the wife who has discovered her husband’s cheating and will curtail both his nocturnal and extracurricular activities? Will the Malay men fear that Wan Azizah may force a complete overhaul of the syariah law, in Malaysia, to gain more protection to Malay women?

‘Priority to her husband’s needs’?

Do Malay men have the same opinion as the vice-president of the Obedient Wives’ Club (OWC), Rohaya Mohamad (left), who in 2011 said that women should be “high class whores in bed” to prevent their husbands from straying. Perkasa’s Ibrahim Ali certainly thinks so. He said, “From a Muslim perspective, the wife has to drop all of this (cooking, etc). She must give priority to her husband’s needs.”

If only Rohaya realised the struggles of Malayan fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers, who in the early 1900s, valued education. They fought for the right of education for their daughters. They did not think that to become whores was the full extent of an education. They wanted to empower their daughters.

The trouble with Wan Azizah is that compared with other Umno Baru women, she is educated, well-travelled, sophisticated and squeaky clean; but that does not stop people from making up lies about her, like former PKR Youth secretary Lokman Nor Adam, who jumped like a frog to Umno Baru and defamed Wan Azizah with claims that she led an extravagant lifestyle and had a penchant for expensive suits.

Around the world, there are women who had to take charge of multi-million dollar enterprises when their husbands died. These women, who had previously not known how to pay an electricity bill, were able to make their companies more successful.

If they did it, why can’t Wan Azizah be MB? Many of her detractors claim that she lacks experience, but is this really such an impediment? She will have an army of advisers, including economists, lawyers, security experts, bankers, academics and industrialists to assist her.

Wan Azizah may not be good at ‘investing’ like a former Umno Baru politician, who corralled public funds to secure the purchase of many luxury condominiums. Wan Azizah may not have the financial wizardry of one Umno Baru wife, who is able to purchase multi-million ringgit jewels and handbags, because she began saving when she was a teenager.

PAS acted like a dithering adolescent with its wishy-washy endorsement of Wan Azizah. They must learn that one can be committed to democracy and equality, and still be a true Muslim.

The opposition to Wan Azizah is not because of her sex, her educational background, or that she is Anwar’s wife. She could be perfect in every way, but her detractors will always be able to find a reason for her unsuitability.

The only reason people oppose Wan Azizah is that they do not want the floodgates to be opened, for the empowerment of women. They fear the moment when Malaysians discover that Malaysian women are as good as, or better than, men, at ruling, promoting justice and equality, ensuring peace and harmony, and providing opportunities for all.

18 August 2014

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Media Statement
For Immediate Release
18th August 2014

UMNO’s Attacks Upon My Lawyer Is An Orchestrated Attempt To Interfere With Fitnah 2 Appeal In Fed Court

On 14th August 2014, the Federal Court fixed 28 and 29th October 2014 for hearing of my appeal against the Fitnah II conviction by the Court of Appeal. This is my final legal recourse against the unjust and politically motivated Fitnah 2 conviction.

Since the fixing of the appeal dates, Umno has orchestrated the making of hundreds of police reports by Umno divisions nationwide against N Surendran, who is my lawyer in the Fitnah 2 appeal. Among others, top Umno leader Mukhriz Mahathir has publicly called upon all Umno divisions to lodge police reports, whereas Umno-owned Utusan Malaysia’s editorial has called for immediate action against my lawyer.

The excuse for this campaign of intimidation against my lawyer is that he had said in a press conference after attending case management for the appeal that the charges against me are a political conspiracy involving Prime Minister Najib Razak.

My lawyer has the right and the duty to speak of Najib’s involvement in the Fitnah 2 conspiracy to jail me. The involvement of Najib in this conspiracy was one my main defences during the trial at the High Court; and will be raised extensively in my appeal in the Federal Court on 28 and 29 October 2014.

The evidence of Najib’s involvement is clear and shocking. Najib had met with the accuser Saiful on 24 June 2014, which is two days before Saiful claims the alleged incident took place.

When asked about it, Najib initially lied that only his officer met Saiful supposedly regarding a scholarship. Later, Najib changed his story and admitted meeting Saiful at his residence.

The meeting was set up by Najib’s own special officer Khairil Anas. Najib’s personal lawyer, who is now prosecuting me, Shafee Abdullah has also admitted that he was present.

Top policeman SAC Datuk Rodwan, who was involved in the Fitnah 1 conspiracy in 1998, also met Saiful the same evening of the meeting with Najib. Saiful was also in contact with then IGP Musa Hassan. Musa was deeply involved in the 1998 conspiracy as the investigating officer.

This is blatant conspiracy staring us in the face!

Ignoring all this, the court of appeal perversely decided to convict me on 7 March 2014, on the eve of the Kajang move.

Now, Umno is going all out to prevent my lawyers from even mentioning Najib’s involvement in this conspiracy.

In my statement from the dock which I read out during the trial, I have said :

“This entire process is nothing but a conspiracy by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to send me into political oblivion by attempting once again to put me behind bars.”

“Najib Razak is doing the same thing as his mentor did, which is to employ all means within his power through the media, the police, the Attorney-General and the judiciary in order to subvert the course of justice and to take me out of the political equation.”

How is it a crime for my lawyer to state to the public this essential ground of my defence in the Fitnah 2 appeal?

I believe the top Umno leadership is involved in orchestrating this campaign of intimidation. The intention is to prevent me from getting a fair hearing during the appeal on 28 and 29 October, and to cover-up Najib and Umno’s role in the conspiracy.

These attacks upon my lawyer Surendran are a clear and blatant interference by Umno in the pending appeal, as it is a direct attempt to prevent the ground of conspiracy from being raised by my lawyers.

I call upon Najib and Umno to stop this interference with the legal process; there must be no pressure, direct or otherwise, upon the lawyers and the courts. If the legal process is allowed to function independently and impartially, I am confident of being acquitted. With this latest move, Umno and Najib show no sign of allowing this to happen.

ANWAR IBRAHIM

15 August 2014

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TMI

Saya memerhatikan pergolakan Selangor sambil mendisiplinkan diri dengan membisu sekian lama. Diharapkan ia tidak menambahkan kekeruhan sedia ada sekalipun sekian ramai awak-awak mengharu-birukan lagi keadaan dengan komen yang sesetengahnya tidak bertanggungjawab, bahkan mencederakan nama baik PAS.

Tikus lebih mudah merosakkan labu kerana menghancurkan lebih mudah daripada membina.

Namun begitu, Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim sebagai seorang insan gentleman dan berakhlak mulia mesti tahu batas beliau boleh menumpang PAS.

Beliau boleh mendapatkan simpati, perlindungan sementara dan sokongan PAS dalam lingkungan semangat Pakatan Rakyat (PR). Presiden PAS Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang sudah menghulurkan ranting zaitun untuk beliau. Episod itu sudah berlalu.

Perkembangan lain berlaku selepas episod itu. Di mana PAS tidak wajar timbul tenggelam dengan Khalid dan menggorbankan prinsipnya yang lebih besar, nama baiknya, akhlak politik dipegangnya dan amanah atas nama PR yang ia perolehi daripada rakyat Selangor.

Tan Sri sudah dipecat sebagai ahli PKR. Oleh kerana beliau belum diterima menjadi ahli mana-mana parti gabungan dan bukan mewakili PR lagi.

Tan Sri sedar sepenuhnya hal ini?

Kerajaan Selangor adalah kerajaan PR. Bukan kerajaan Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim.

Bagaimana seorang Ahli Dewan Undangan Negeri (Adun) Bebas bukan anggota PR boleh terus menjadi menteri besar PR?

Tan Sri memecat exco daripada PKR dan DAP. Juga mengambil pelbagai langkah politik lain lagi yang ikut memalitkan PAS tetapi PAS tidak pernah tahu mengenainya.

Tindakan ini boleh memecahbelahkan PR kerana seakan-akan menunjukkan PAS terus mendokong menteri besar yang sudah hilang legitimasi.

Ia merosakkan PAS dan Tan Sri tidak berhak berbuat demikian kepada PAS.

Untuk memecat exco daripada PKR dan DAP dan mengekalkan PAS, ia mesti dibincangkan lebih dulu dengan PAS (Jawatankuasa PAS Pusat) dan mendapat persetujuan gabungan yang lain.

Setahu saya, PAS Pusat tidak pernah bermesyuarat dalam tempoh ini untuk memutuskan kedudukan itu.

Saya selaku salah seorang naib presiden tidak pernah dimaklumkan mana-mana pihak tentang hal ini. Setahu saya, PAS Pusat juga tidak pernah memberikan mandat kepada sesiapa untuk memutuskan perkara ini.

Dengan ini, Tan Sri sudah melibatkan PAS untuk survival Tan Sri sebagai menteri besar dengan cara yang menjejaskan nama baik PAS di mata rakyat Selangor. Ini sangat tidak wajar.

Bagaimana Tan Sri boleh kekal sebagai menteri besar dengan tidak melepaskan jawatan secara bermaruah pada hari sama Tan Sri  dipecat sebagai ahli PKR? Sultan menitahkan untuk Tan Sri kekal adalah kebijaksanaan baginda tetapi Tan Sri mempunyai pilihan untuk menolak perkenan itu atas pilihan Tan Sri sendiri.

Apa lagi bertindak seakan-akan Tan Sri  masih berkuasa penuh padahal asas legitimasi Tan Sri  sudah runtuh. Untuk kekal sebagai menteri besar, Tan Sri tidak boleh mencaturkan 15 Adun PAS untuk menggenapkan cukup bilangan bagi pembentukan kerajaan Selangor PAS + Umno + Khalid + lompat parti DAP/PKR.

Itu sangat tidak bermoral. Itu meniru gaya Umno di Perak. Perbuatan terkutuk dan ditolak amalan demokrasi yang mulia. Memasukkan perkongsian kuasa PAS dan Umno melanggar banyak prinsip yang dipegang PAS selama ini.

Umno adalah lawan PAS dan tidak ada mana-mana kuasa dalam PAS boleh mengizinkan PAS berkongsi kuasa dengan Umno tanpa melalui kelulusan Muktamar Agung PAS.

Ia tidak mungkin dilakukan dalam jangka masa Tan Sri membilang jumlah Adun untuk mengekalkan Tan Sri sebagai menteri besar sekarang. Tan Sri sudah tidak mempunyai cukup bilangan sekarang.

Jika itu dilakukan PAS, bermakna PAS menerima hubungan ‘sodomy’ (liwat).

15 Adun PAS dipilih rakyat Selangor atas tiket kerja sama PR. Umno ditolak majoriti rakyat Selangor kecuali di 12 DUN. Kedudukan Umno adalah sebagai pembangkang dan PAS adalah sebahagian kerajaan Selangor.

Membawa Umno daripada pembangkang dan duduk sebagai kerajaan bersama PAS dengan menolak dua lagi parti gabungan yang dipilih secara sah oleh rakyat adalah perbuatan terkutuk yang tidak dizinkan Islam.

Islam tidak mengizinkan pengkhianatan. Islam tidak mengizinkan pecah amanah. Dalam hal ini, amanah majoriti pengundi Selangor memilih PR sebagai kerajaan dan menolak Umno.

Tan Sri sebagai tokoh korporat yang biasa dengan angka tentu tahu, sekalipun 15 Adun PAS campur 13 Adun Umno campur Tan Sri, ia hanya berjumlah 29 Adun daripada 58 jumlah Adun.

50:50. Ia tidak membolehkan Tan Sri mendapat majoriti mudah dari awal, sekalipun jika PAS dan Umno sanggup bersekongkol untuk mendaulatkan seorang insan bernama Khalid Ibrahim lebih daripada segala-galanya.

Sementara PAS dan Umno kedua-duanya, secara pendirian parti yang rasmi, tidak pernah memberikan persetujuan itu sehingga hari ini. Hari Jumaat yang mulia – 15 Ogos 2014 – hari ini.

Jika Tan Sri mengharapkan Rodziah Ismail dan Datuk Teng Chang Kim yang disebut-sebut kononnya akan bersama Tan Sri sehingga Tan Sri melewatkan pemecatan Rodziah berbanding yang lain, namun mereka mengambil pendirian insan bermaruah dan pendekar terbilang kerana kekal bersama parti masing-masing.

Syabas! Saya amat bangga dengan mereka dan ia memberikan hiburan bagi hati yang gundah di tengah kecenderungan menggunakan “jual beli kuda taruhan”.

Kentalnya Rodziah menolak tawaran kekal dalam exco sekalipun berkereta besar dan bergaji lumayan adalah satu tamparan yang patut menyedarkan Tan Sri pada saat itu juga.

Legitimasi Tan Sri sebagai menteri besar sudah berakhir.

Harapan mendapatkan sekurang-kurangnya seorang Adun untuk mendapatkan majoriti mudah sudah tertutup.

Apa lagi bila dua Adun PAS mengambil langkah bersendiri mereka menolak Tan Sri sebagai menteri besar secara terbuka.

Sekalipun jika jarum boleh berpatah ke belakang, saya akan menasihatkan mereka untuk terlebih dulu mendapat restu parti. Itu yang terbaik.

Tetapi tindakan mereka meletakkan usaha pihak mana jua untuk mewujudkan sebuah kerajaan gabungan PAS, Umno, Khalid dan Adun lompat gagal dan mustahil.

Tan Sri tahu ini.

Lantas, apa lagi yang ditunggu?

Tidakkah mulia untuk Tan Sri bermaruah melepaskan jawatan menteri besar?

Atau Tan Sri kini berfikir untuk membubarkan Dewan Undangan Negeri (DUN)?

Bukankah tindakan itu akan menyusahkan Tuanku Sultan Selangor?

Kenapa tidak pada tarikh Tan Sri mengadap Sultan Selangor baru-baru ini Tan Sri mencadangkan DUN dibubarkan?

Jika kerana Tan Sri gagal mendapatkan cukup bilangan Adun dan Sultan Selangor mengambil langkah membubarkan DUN, ia pada hemat saya, akan mencemarkan istitusi diraja.

Model Perak di mana tokoh yang mendapat sokongan majoriti dilantik tanpa pembubaran DUN dan tanpa sidang DUN hendaklah menjadi cermin. PAS sudah mengalami pengalaman pahit bila menteri bedar Kelantan yang dilantik atas tiket PAS dan hendak ditukar oleh PAS, antara lain bukan kerana kesalahan jenayah rasuah tetapi semata-mata kerana gagal mengikut semangat dan arahan parti, mencetuskan krisis disebabkan Umno melanggar konvensyen urusan parti lain tidak boleh dicampuri parti gabungan yang lain.

Malangnya Umno melanggar konvensyen itu. Lama PAS mengutuk tindakan jahat Umno itu. Dari dulu hingga kini. Ia tercatat dalam dokumen rasmi PAS, ucapan pemimpinnya dan tesis para mahasiswa.

Oleh itu, Tan Sri tidak harus mengheret PAS dalam krisis Tan Sri.

Parti Tan Sri berhak menukar Tan Sri dengan calon lain.

PAS boleh memberikan pandangan tetapi harus akur prerogative itu adalah hak PKR.

Itulah yang berlaku di Kedah semasa ada pandangan Tan Sri Azizan Abdul Razak wajar ditukar daripada terus menjadi menteri besar.

PKR tidak menjamah urusan itu.

Jika Tan Sri berterusan mengheret PAS, seakan Tan Sri mahu PAS dilihat melanggar konvensyen yang sudah dijunjung sejak ia kehilangan kuasa di Kelantan 1978. Jika budi PAS yang sudah menunjukkan setia kawan bersama Tan Sri dihargai, janganlah PAS diseret lebih jauh.

Meletakkan jawatan adalah langkah terhormat. Ia bukan akhir sebuah karier politik.

Bertindak secara tidak bermaruah itulah sebenarnya akhir sebuah karier politik. Dan hitamnya rekod kehidupan.

Pada hari Jumaat yang berkat ini, kita memohon panduan Allah.

Husam Musa,

Naib presiden PAS, 15 Ogos 2014.

13 August 2014

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RT

Thousands of people marched from the BBC headquarters in London, at Broadcasting House to Hyde Park, on Saturday, August 9.

Once again, as with the other recent demonstrations in solidarity with the Palestinians, the media has failed in reporting the numbers accurately.

Interestingly, a piece in the Guardian which at least covered what must have been one of the largest public displays of support for Gaza, and opposition to the state of Israel since millions marched against the illegal war waged on Iraq in 2003, noted that “According to police, more than 20,000 people marched”. Which technically is true. More than 20,000 people did march, but by all accounts the true figure was more likely closer to 150,000.

But of course, rather than acknowledge the level of support and sympathy that is growing for the Palestinians, in part due to the fact that social media circulating the stories which fail to reach the public’s eyes and ears, most in the media would rather willfully bury their heads in the sand.

It might be the case that of late that institutions and platforms like the BBC have been forced to alter, ever so slightly their coverage of the so-called Israeli Palestinian conflict, to actually reflect something closer to the truth, and some real Palestinian voices, but this is only because of a huge level of public outcry.

 

Reuters / Luke MacGregorReuters / Luke MacGregor

The demonstrations outside the BBC’s offices must have deafened the chief execs. Such is the nature of power. They have not shifted their tone, albeit by just a millimeter because of some kind of moral epiphany. It is because it is becoming more and more apparent that the siege on the media, plays a direct role in shaping public opinion, which directly fuels the disinformation, which is key in legitimizing the illegality of the occupation in people’s minds.

Clearly public protests and other forms of resistance can and do have an impact. If nothing else, large numbers of people hitting the streets (if reported) at the very least puts the issue firmly on the map.

And it was not just in London where people took to the streets to show their disgust at the actions of the Israeli government, and IDF extremists.

In South Africa, the biggest public demonstrations since the fall of the apartheid system were seen, as South African’s acknowledged, as did their great leader Madiba, that apartheid in Palestine must stop. Indeed, Nelson Mandela once said “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”

Could the tide be turning? If the media begins to change is tune, then perhaps this underpins the fact that public support now overwhelmingly identifies with the plight of the Palestinians, even if the media does not wholly reflect it.

A good example of the need some feel, to nonetheless cling to the stale propaganda which the continued oppression of the Palestinians depends on, can be seen here.

 

Reuters / Luke MacGregorReuters / Luke MacGregor

Ali Abunimah, founder of the website Electronic intifada debates a commentator renowned for his pro-Israeli bias, and eloquently destroys each of the propagandistic talking points which Zionist supporters love to cling to, articulated here by J.J Goldberg. Goldberg repeats the same talking points you’ll always here the defenders of Israel’s terrorism cling to, despite the fact that Palestinians are facing annihilation. Abunimah very clearly, dismantles each of them.

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi stepped down as a government minister from the coalition government, stating that she found the government’s position on Gaza to be “morally indefensible”.

There is another worrying direction though, that public debate is veering to regarding the bombardment of Gaza.

First are discussions about the rise of anti-Semitism. As we have seen a rise in Islamophobia throughout Europe, reports over the last few days have showed an equally worrying spike in racist attacks on Jewish communities throughout Europe.

Any reasonable person would thoroughly reject any form of racism, including rejected directed at Jewish communities. This goes without saying. But we must be equally vigilant in dealing with Islamophobia which unfortunately in the Western media, directly feeds into the justifications for the treatment of Palestinians. People think the Palestinians are terrorists, largely because Hamas the elected government of Palestine are presented as such. I will say that again.

 

Reuters / Neil Hall Reuters / Neil Hall

Hamas are the elected government of Palestine, who receive no funding from the US, nor do they have any diplomatic support, unlike the IDF extremists, who have killed hundreds of civilians in their latest and periodical assault on Gaza. This leads to my final point.

I have done a few radio appearances in recent days including one on LBC. It is interesting to me, that despite the fact that literally hundreds of innocent Palestinians have been butchered, many of the questions I faced were about the rise in anti-Semitism, and also the legitimacy of Hamas as elected representatives of the besieged Palestinian people.

It is a surreal world, when Westerners whose taxes fund the oppression in Palestine, think that the Palestinians (And people like me who try to highlight the injustice they face), in the face of unimaginable suffering, and unimaginable war crimes, somehow have to answer for the leadership they have chosen. We only have to imagine how the world would react to hundreds of innocent Israelis being killed on beaches, synagogues and in hospitals as is happening to the Palestinians, to understand just how much the media and political establishment favor the terror state of Israel.

The world would not stand for it, but they stand for this, because whether they realize it or not, many people believe that Palestinian lives are not worth anything, that they are terrorists, despite the fact that they are the victims of terrorism.

 

Reuters / Luke MacGregorReuters / Luke MacGregor

The Palestinians are being murdered by one of the most sophisticated armed forces in the world, and all the compliant media can do is bleat on about Israel’s right to defend itself.

The dynamics of this so-called conflict are really very simple. Israel are terrorists and the IDF are extremist militants carrying out the actions of a murderous state.

The victims of this terrorism are the Palestinians. Hamas are the government of the Palestinians. This is not conjecture, this is fact, acknowledged by International law and every human rights organization which is respected.

The media has for so long favored those enforcing the apartheid state, but the tide will turn. It is a sick world when the victims of terrorism are called terrorists and the ones carrying out the terrorism are presented as democrats.

It is even more unbelievable that people believe the lies they are fed, in the face of undeniable evidence that Israel simple wants to rid the hold land of every single Palestinian. What is happening in Gaza is systematic ethnic cleansing. The world needs to wake up and stop entertaining this silly notion of Israel’s right to defend itself when plainly and simply Israel is trying to erase the Palestinians from the history books.

11 August 2014

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Mewakili seluruh kepimpinan dan akar umbi KEADILAN, setinggi ucapan tahniah diucapkan kepada sahabat saya Recep Tayyip Erdogan di atas kemenangan beliau melalui Parti Keadilan & Pembangunan (AK Party) dalam pemilihan Presiden tanpa perlu melalui pusingan kedua.

Pemilihan Presiden ini yang julung kali diadakan dalam sejarah demokrasi Turki nyata sekali memberi impak positif buat Turki dalam mendepani arus perubahan. Meski berhadapan saingan sengit, keupayaan Erdogan meraih lebih 50 peratus undi membuktikan AKP di bawah kepimpinan Erdogan diyakini untuk terus mengemudi Turki.

Doa kami di Malaysia buat Erdogan dan AKP agar terus memainkan peranan aktif dan istiqamah demi memperjuangkan keadilan sejagat.

ANWAR IBRAHIM

9 August 2014

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TMI

PAS spiritual leader Datuk Seri Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat has distanced himself from the party’s Shura Council decision endorsing embattled Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim to continue as Selangor menteri besar – making it harder to define the Islamist party’s stand on the issue.

The former Kelantan menteri besar also said he left the meeting deliberating the matter about 30 minutes after it had started as he was not feeling well.

“I attended the meeting for a short while. I left before the decision was made. The Shura Council secretary came to my house later, after Maghrib and explained the decision,” Nik Aziz told reporters at a Hari Raya open house in Kota Baru late on Thursday, indicating that he had not participated and given his views on the matter at the meeting.

Nik Aziz made these comments coincidentally when the Shura Council released its statement on Thursday, but his views on the matter were somehow overlooked by the media.

However, an audio clip of Nik Aziz’s view on the matter is now being circulated on YouTube and among party faithful in several blogs, including in http://www.malaysiawaves.net/

Nik Aziz added that he had been trying to keep out of the political manoeuvring taking place in Selangor that appears to have divided the ruling Pakatan Rakyat (PR) coalition.

“Politics in Selangor, I have said it before, even Kelantan I am willing to let go, why should I interfere in Selangor? The Kelantan that I treated like my own son, the state that I care most about, I was willing to give to someone else. Why should I take care of Selangor? The people of Selangor should know how to take care of their own state,” he was quoted as having said on Thursday.

Since Nik Aziz’s statement and the Shura Council’s stance were released at the same time, many assumed that he was in agreement with the council’s decision.

Based on the audio clip, Nik Aziz appeared to distance himself from the decision, saying he only attended the meeting for about half an hour and left because he was unwell.

“I was not there long. I left before the decision was made. The secretary of the meeting came to my house to inform me the outcome of the meeting,” he said, explaining his signature on the statement along with that of his deputy, Datuk Dr Haron Din.

Yesterday, opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrhaim said PKR was not bound by the decision of the PAS Shura Council, which he added did not have all the facts on the issue.

He said he would furnish additional details and information on the matter.

“PAS cannot make a decision on behalf of PKR. In solidarity with Pakatan Rakyat, we respect their views,” Anwar had told reporters at the party headquarters in Petaling Jaya.

PKR has said it wants party president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail to replace Khalid as the menteri besar but PAS senior leaders have publicly said that they did not see the need to replace Khalid.

PAS has now scheduled August 17 to decide whether Dr Wan Azizah should take over from Khalid, a week after the original meeting on the matter.

The PKR leadership is to meet today on the latest developments while DAP has scheduled a meeting tomorrow on the matter, ahead of a PR leadership council meeting late tomorrow.

PKR has also scheduled a disciplinary board meeting with Khalid this evening but the Selangor menteri besar has asked for August 15 to explain his reasons to remain in office until the next general election.

The PR coalition has 44 seats in the 56-seat assembly with DAP and PAS having 15 each while PKR has 14 seats. The other 12 is with Umno, which surprisingly endorsed Khalid to keep his job.

9 August 2014

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Haaretz

Reporters who covered “Operation Protective Edge” in Gaza dismiss Israeli accusations of giving Hamas an easy ride.

On Wednesday night Benjamin Netanyahu briefed the foreign press, summing up four weeks of warfare in Gaza. “Now that the members of the press are leaving Gaza and are no longer subjected to Hamas restrictions and intimidation,” he said,” I expect we will see even more documentation of Hamas terrorists hiding behind the civilian population, exploiting civilian targets. I think it’s very important for the truth to come out.”

The prime minister’s voice betrayed no rancor but his words masked a deep frustration in his office over what one adviser called “a conspiracy of silence” by the foreign correspondents reporting from Gaza for the past month. “They have remained silent over how no one digs too deep into the Hamas side or into how they use civilians as human shields,” the adviser said. “That’s how they get an opportunity to cover Gaza, and it creates an imbalanced picture, which is bad for Israel. We should be trying to expose that.”

Netanyahu’s expectations have yet to be fulfilled. Of the 710 foreign journalists who crossed into Gaza during Operation Protective Edge, only a handful have claimed they were intimidated by Hamas or produced hitherto unpublished footage of rockets being fired from civilian areas, such as the pictures filmed by Indian channel NDTV, which were shown at the Netanyahu briefing. Maybe such footage will still emerge — all the foreign correspondents interviewed for this piece insisted that it doesn’t exist, and not because they wouldn’t have liked to obtain such pictures.

“It’s a phony controversy,” said one reporter who spent three weeks in Gaza and, like most who were interviewed, asked to remain anonymous. “This is a post-facto attempt to claim the media’s biased and Netanyahu [is] therefore infallibly right.”

Elusive Rockets

But how could Hamas and other Palestinian organizations launch 2,657 rockets and mortar shells from Gaza, Israeli officials ask, and only NDTV reporter Sreenivasan Jain captured a launcher on film? Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor says he can’t believe “how veteran war photographers couldn’t capture even one launch team, a single Hamas fighter on a barricade, the kind of exclusive photo they routinely risk their neck for.”

“What nonsense,” says one senior correspondent based in Israel. “The fact that NDTV succeeded proves nothing; it was an almost unbelievable opportunity. There are places which are just too dangerous and a photographer has to first protect himself.”

“I didn’t see a rocket at point of launch,” says one European photographer who left Gaza a few days ago, “but I did see a lot in the air, and those pictures were published. If I had a chance I would have photographed launchers, but they were well hidden. Israel, with all its sensors and drones, didn’t find them all.”

“You couldn’t tell exactly where a rocket was being launched from,” says an American reporter. ”Often they were hundreds of yards away, although you could hear the launch and see the contrails. We didn’t hesitate to mention the general area in our reports, but that didn’t necessarily add much.”

“There are always some gung-ho photojournalists who would go to any front line, no matter how dangerous,” says Anne Barnard, the New York Times Beirut bureau chief, who spent two weeks reporting from Gaza. “But that requires essentially an informal embed with the militants, to even be able to locate them without getting caught in crossfire on the way. Our team in Gaza noted frequently in stories that Hamas operates in urban areas and from farm fields. We mentioned witnessing specific rocket launches in numerous stories, witnessing the rocket going up from some distance away, that is. But in two weeks I never saw a rocket crew; for obvious reasons, to avoid getting a hit by Israeli strikes, they try not to be seen.”

Missing in Action

The elusive rocket launchers are only one detail in the Israeli criticism. Where were the Hamas attackers throughout the operation? Why are pictures of uniformed and armed fighters totally absent from the coverage?

“I described the few Hamas fighters I saw in my pieces,” says one veteran war reporter, “but there were so few of them. It reminded me a lot of Lebanon in 2006, where you didn’t really see Hezbollah fighters even right at the border. Except for one chance encounter with a mortar team who looked embarrassed to be spotted. It was the same in Iraq, too, in the 2003 insurgency. Most of the time the fighters were invisible and dangerous.”

Reporter after reporter returning from Gaza has spoken of how, with the notable exception of spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri, Hamas fighters melted away during the warfare, even abandoning their regular checkpoint at the entrance to the Strip from Erez, so no one was checking the journalists’ passports.

“Members of the political wing could only very occasionally be found or talked to,“ says Barnard. “This was frustrating because, of course, there are many questions they should be asked, not just to respond to Israeli allegations but to evaluate their performance on their own terms and those of Palestinians in Gaza: Are their strategy and tactics effective? Do they believe they have popular support for their conduct of the conflict and the decisions they made? How do they respond to people who complain that they went into hiding and left ordinary people who had no choice about the fact that their neighbor was in Hamas to be targets?”

The New York Times came in for specific criticism from pro-Israel advocates who focused on the seeming failure of its star photographer, Tyler Hicks, to capture any militants in his camera lens.

“Tyler saw some guys come out of a hole in the side of a building in Shujaiyeh during the brief cease-fire on July 20,” recalls Barnard. “They were without guns but making gestures to say no photos. I put that in the story. Tyler also took pictures of at least one Hamas member being buried, but again funerals were harder to access than usual because they were held quickly and without much fanfare and [with] few mourners because of the danger. You could understand why they stayed out of sight: Israel appeared to be defining Hamas targets very broadly, to include any member of the Hamas administered police, government, etc. They may have felt that they would be targets, and so would the reporters they were talking to. We certainly were concerned about that ourselves.”

“There’s been a lot of talk about Hamas preventing us from seeing them,” says another correspondent with extensive experience in covering Middle East wars. “But the fact is that the areas they were fighting in were just too dangerous. If I had tried to report from Shujaiyeh during the fighting, I would probably have got killed. Hamas isn’t a regular army: When they leave the fighting areas, they don’t wear uniforms or carry guns.”

None of this impresses the Foreign Ministry’s Palmor. “The fact remains [that] we didn’t see anywhere pictures of fighters carrying weapons or launching rockets. There were humanitarian cease-fires when they were free to walk around without being attacked. Why didn’t they try to photo them then? I don’t think anyone was in Hamas’s pay. That’s why the question mark is so large. We know Hamas were trying very hard to hide, not just for their security but for propaganda purposes. We have heard of reporters who said they weren’t allowed near fighters and were threatened. But this is the A-Team of the war-reporting profession. How did Hamas succeed so completely?”

Press Freedom

This is perhaps the biggest bone of contention that Israeli spokesmen have with the foreign media corps: Why won’t they acknowledge they were being pressured and monitored by Hamas? All but a few journalists deny there was any such pressure.

“I wasn’t intimidated at any point,” says one seasoned war reporter. “I didn’t feel Hamas were a threat to my welfare any more than Israeli bombings. I’m aware some people had problems, but nothing beyond what you would expect covering a conflict. Hamas’s levels of intimidation weren’t any worse than what you occasionally experience at the hands of the IDF, which didn’t allow access to fighting for most of the conflict either. As a rule no armed forces permit you to broadcast militarily sensitive information.”

If anything, most reporters are complaining that Hamas seemed to make little effort to engage with the media. “How could there be Hamas censorship if there was no Hamas to be seen?” says one exasperated reporter.

“The American military, and many others including Israel, imposes limits on embedded reporters under which you cannot reveal troop movements, weapons locations and other info that could compromise ‘operational security,’” says another experienced correspondent. “There was no such official restriction from Hamas because there was no embed and almost no contact. Hamas did not complain about anything to anyone on our team.”

In a few cases, journalists who tweeted on their personal Twitter accounts about seeing rockets launched from specific areas deleted the tweets after other Twitter users complained. Most of these complaints seem to have come, though, from local residents who were worried that they would lead to Israeli strikes. “I heard that Hamas officials made inquiries about a reporter who tweeted about rocket launches,” says one journalist, “but it seemed they were asking to see if she was really a reporter and not a spy.”

In another case, a number of reporters have said off the record that Hamas officials summoned one photographer and warned him that they would confiscate his camera if he didn’t delete a certain picture. There are also reports of fighters brandishing rifles to prevent photographers from taking their picture, but all the reporters insist these were isolated cases.

“Look, no one is claiming for one moment that Hamas is an enlightened organization that believes in freedom of the press,” says one reporter who has been visiting Gaza for years. “I don’t think I have to mention that fact in every report I make. But at least over the last month, they were simply too busy fighting to bother themselves very much with the media.”

Government officials are convinced that the great majority of foreign journalists are simply too embarrassed to admit that they worked under Hamas monitoring. “It’s clear that they were being intimidated and had to face abnormal pressure,” says one spokesman. “We know of specific cases in which they were harassed and menaced.”

“I can’t really judge them,” says another senior press official. “It is extremely difficult with Hamas in your hotel lobby and in the corridor.”

Asymmetric Journalism

“Israel wants reporters to write about the conflict as it conceived it, as a security problem framed by the IDF,” says one reporter with 30 years experience in hot spots worldwide. “Most journalists chose to report it from the point of view of [the] humanitarian impact of conflict, which is what war reporters actually usually do. They’re not writing like defense correspondents. I personally chose not to speak to Hamas mouthpieces because I hold Hamas propaganda in as much contempt as that of Netanyahu.”

“In all conflicts, reporters are loath to ‘serve’ either side by revealing information that could lead to a specific strike in real time,” says the New York Times’s Barnard. “Even information that could be seen as having led to a specific strike.

“First of all, that could endanger all reporters by making them be seen as spies. But beyond that, we are observers, not participants. We don’t want to be the reason that, say, a bomb was dropped. What if it killed a bystander? So let’s say I had seen a rocket launch from a specific building in Gaza, which I did not, I would not have reported it in real time, by my own choice. For one thing I wouldn’t want the return strike to come while I was standing there. That said, I also assume the Israeli military has better ways than reporters’ tweets to know where rockets are launched from. But I would, and did, report launches that we saw, in stories a few hours later.”

“Much of the criticism from the government, and groups monitoring the [coverage,] is from people who don’t understand the real role of the media. They just want to see which side ‘wins’ in each report,” says a another journalist in Gaza. “Our job isn’t to give out points, and this isn’t a game. The great majority of our readers simply rely on us to explain what is happening here.”

But Israeli spokesmen find it hard to accept such a view of the reporters’ role in Gaza. “Their entire objective seems to be to supply pictures of dead babies and blood,” says one. “Not context.” Another spokesman echoes him, saying that “when it gets down to pictures of dead children, then Israel can’t win because we don’t have any. That’s the fact of life.”

Many reporters, especially those belonging to large news organizations that had reporters and teams on both sides of the conflict, dispute these claims.

“There’s an asymmetry here, not just in the warfare but also in the coverage,” says one bureau chief. “You can’t cover an organized army and a guerrilla group in the same way, and it’s pointless to try. You have to find the correct proportions in each report and news package, and I believe we did a good job of that.”

Not all the Israeli officials share the criticism. Nitzan Chen, director-general of the Government Press Office, says that “you can’t judge the correspondents without having been in their place. At the end of the day they also have families and want to get home in one piece. Their job isn’t to do [PR] for Israel; they don’t work for us. All in all, I think the coverage was relatively balanced.”

On the other side are some correspondents who accept at least a bit of the Israeli criticism.

“Looking back, I should have at least tried to report a bit more about the Hamas fighters and still plan to,” says one reporter still in Gaza.

“There was just so much work around the civilian casualties and the destruction that it swamped us. Going to home after destroyed home, where multiple family members were killed, was just too shocking, even for those who had covered Syria. The civilian angle took up nearly all the attention, but the Hamas angle should have got more coverage, especially the fact [that] they were fighting with so much greater tenacity and discipline than in 2009 and, to judge by the Israeli strikes, had hidden weapons in private homes and mosques. That should have been covered better, but there was just so much death all around.”

8 August 2014

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TMI

How does one become the head of a government? And when one does, does one forget the people who supported you and voted you into public office?

Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim (pic), the beleaguered incumbent Selangor Menteri Besar, believes that state government matters are separate from the party and he does not need to explain his actions to the party or rather, he is beyond the party’s scrutiny.

So, who is he answerable to? To the state ruler? To the people who elected him directly in Port Klang or to the people who voted for his Pakatan Rakyat (PR) coalition or to those who had confidence in him as menteri besar?

When he was the prime minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had always stressed that he was only in that office because he was the Umno president. He owed his position as PM to his his party and that was why he had to take cognisance of the party’s views in running the country.

Obviously, Khalid does not think the same way.

In a three-page reply addressed to the PKR disciplinary board chairman Datuk Dr Tan Kee Kwong, which was posted on the Selangorku website, Khalid said the board’s show cause letter had asked him to give detailed explanations on five issues.

They include the water restructuring deal in Selangor, MB’s new allowance, tax increase on business licenses, the proposed Kidex expressway and the Bank Islam out-of-court settlement issue.

“The five additional issues which have been raised were discussed by the state government committee which has the executive power to administer Selangor.

“The PKR disciplinary board only has the authority to decide on any transgressions related to the party and not state administrative issues,” Khalid said in his reply, which his political secretary submitted to the party this morning.

This is where Khalid is wrong.

He is answerable to his party because he is the MB by virtue of the support and confidence of his party. The party leadership now has no confidence in him, hence the crisis enveloping the state government.

As a public official, he is also answerable to the voters and that is why he has to make public the out-of-court settlement with Bank Islam. If he had lost the case, Khalid could be a bankrupt and lose his Port Klang state seat and be out of the Selangor Menteri Besar’s job in a flash.

He obviously does not view the situation that way. What would his options be if PKR goes ahead and sacks him? What would his options be if his executive councillors resign?

And, who put him where he is today? At the very least, he should listen to those who put him in public office, supported his job, and end this sorry spectacle of a leader ignoring his own people.

8 August 2014

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TMI

The PAS Shura Council is not privy to all the details on the Selangor menteri besar (MB) tussle, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said today, after the council announced its support for Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim to remain as MB.

The opposition leader said while he respected the decision of the council to retain Khalid, it needed to be briefed on certain facts.

“I feel that there are issues that we need to explain to them (the Shura Council) that they are not privy to before this.

“And Khalid is not only a leader in Keadilan and a menteri besar but also a friend and like family to me, so I don’t want this to  prolong or cross unethical boundaries,” he said at a press conference today.

He also called on PKR members to stick to the facts and the interests of the party when debating the MB issue, and nothing beyond that.

When asked about a comment that Khalid’s refusal to relinquish his MB post is similar  to his refusal to resign from the Cabinet in 1998, Anwar said that it was not the same, as the issue of transition of leadership and the ‘Kajang move’  was not new and had been discussed and decided since January 15 this year.

He added that although Khalid had said that he was not fully supportive of the Kajang move, he was elections director for the Kajang by-election.

“There were umpteen meetings between PR leaders and also with Khalid, so I don’ t think it is correct to equate that rancorous exchange in 1998 with the position now and the issues raised.

“At the right time, if compelled, I will explain, but for now the public needs to know that we have observed the process of the transition of the MB post through many meetings, counseling and advice over the last six months,” he said.

Anwar said the the Selangor MB issue would be the focus of the PKR central leadership council tomorrow, but added that he could not say for sure if they would announce a decision after the meeting.

On whether Selangor PKR lawmakers were told to sign a statutory declaration pledging support for Datuk Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail as MB, he said that it was only a suggestion at this point and a decision on that would be made later at a more suitable time.

6 August 2014

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Foreign Policy

By: Jimmy Carter, Mary Robinson

Ending this war in Gaza begins with recognizing Hamas as a legitimate political actor.

Israelis and Palestinians are still burying their loved ones as Gaza’s third war in six years continues. Since July 8, when this war began, more than 1,600 Palestinian and 65 Israeli lives have been sacrificed. Many in the world are heartbroken in the powerless certainty that more will die, that more are being killed every hour.

This tragedy results from the deliberate obstruction of a promising move toward peace in the region, when a reconciliation agreement among the Palestinian factions was announced in April. This was a major concession by Hamas, in opening Gaza to joint control under a technocratic government that did not include any Hamas members. The new government also pledged to adopt the three basic principles demanded by the Middle East Quartet comprised of the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, and Russia: nonviolence, recognition of Israel, and adherence to past agreements. Tragically, Israel rejected this opportunity for peace and has succeeded in preventing the new government’s deployment in Gaza.

Two factors are necessary to make Palestinian unity possible. First, there must be at least a partial lifting of the 7-year-old sanctions and blockade that isolate the 1.8 million people in Gaza. There must also be an opportunity for the teachers, police, and welfare and health workers on the Hamas payroll to be paid. These necessary requirements for a human standard of living continue to be denied. Instead, Israel blocked Qatar’s offer to provide funds to pay civil servants’ salaries, and access to and from Gaza has been further tightened by Egypt and Israel.

There is no humane or legal justification for the way the Israeli Defense Forces are conducting this war. Israeli bombs, missiles, and artillery have pulverized large parts of Gaza, including thousands of homes, schools, and hospitals. More than 250,000 people have been displaced from their homes in Gaza. Hundreds of Palestinian noncombatants have been killed. Much of Gaza has lost access to water and electricity completely. This is a humanitarian catastrophe.

There is never an excuse for deliberate attacks on civilians in conflict. These are war crimes. This is true for both sides. Hamas’s indiscriminate targeting of Israeli civilians is equally unacceptable. However, three Israeli civilians have been killed by Palestinian rockets, while an overwhelming majority of the 1,600 Palestinians killed have been civilians, including more than 330 children. The need for international judicial proceedings to investigate and end these violations of international law should be taken very seriously.

The U.N. Security Council should focus on what can be done to limit the potential use of force by both sides. It should vote for a resolution recognizing the inhumane conditions in Gaza and mandate an end to the siege. That resolution could also acknowledge the need for international monitors who can report on movements into and out of Gaza as well as cease-fire violations. It should then enshrine strict measures to prevent the smuggling of weapons into Gaza. Early discussions have already taken place. The Elders, an international group of elder statesmen of which we are a part, hope these discussions will continue and reach fruition.

At the Palestinians’ request, the Swiss government is considering convening an international conference of the signatory states of the Geneva Conventions, which enshrine the humanitarian laws of warfare. This could pressure Israel and Hamas into observing their duties under international law to protect civilian populations. We sincerely hope all states — especially those in the West, with the greatest power — attend and live up to their obligations to uphold the Fourth Geneva Convention, which governs the treatment of populations in occupied territory.

Unity between Fatah and Hamas is currently stronger than it has been for many years. As Elders, we believe this is one of the most encouraging developments in recent years and welcome it warmly. This presents an opportunity for the Palestinian Authority to reassume control over Gaza — an essential first step towards Israel and Egypt lifting the blockade.

The Palestinian Authority cannot manage the task of administering Gaza on its own. It will need the prompt return of the EU Border Assistance Mission, an international effort to help monitor border crossings that was launched in 2005 and suspended in 2007. EU High Representative Catherine Ashton has already offered to reinstate the program, covering not only Rafah but all of Gaza’s crossings. Egypt and Israel would, in turn, cooperate with international monitors to be deployed in Gaza and along its borders, backed by a U.N. Security Council mandate to protect civilian populations. A valuable precedent for trust-building between Egypt and Israel is the international peacekeeping force operating in the Sinai, mandated by the peace treaty signed by the two countries in 1979.

The international community’s initial goal should be the full restoration of the free movement of people and goods to and from Gaza through Israel, Egypt, and the sea. Concurrently, the United States and EU should recognize that Hamas is not just a military but also a political force. Hamas cannot be wished away, nor will it cooperate in its own demise. Only by recognizing its legitimacy as a political actor — one that represents a substantial portion of the Palestinian people — can the West begin to provide the right incentives for Hamas to lay down its weapons. Ever since the internationally monitored 2006 elections that brought Hamas to power in Palestine, the West’s approach has manifestly contributed to the opposite result.

Ultimately, however, lasting peace depends on the creation of a Palestinian state next to Israel.

Leaders in Israel, Palestine, and the world’s major powers should believe that policy changes are within reach that would move Israelis and Palestinians closer to a day when the skies over the Holy Land can forever fall silent.

6 August 2014

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Ynet

In op-ed written for Foreign Policy, former US president accuses Israel of ‘deliberate attacks on civilians’ saying there was ‘no humane or legal justification for the way the IDF are conducting this war.’

Former US president Jimmy Carter has called on the United States and EU to recognize Hamas as “not just a military but also a political force” in an op-ed written for Foreign Policy on Monday.

“Hamas cannot be wished away, nor will it cooperate in its own demise. Only by recognizing its legitimacy as a political actor – one that represents a substantial portion of the Palestinian people – can the West begin to provide the right incentives for Hamas to lay down its weapons,” Carter writes.

In his op-ed, the former president accuses Israel of “deliberate attacks on civilians,” saying these are war crimes.

“There is no humane or legal justification for the way the Israeli Defense Forces are conducting this war. Israeli bombs, missiles, and artillery have pulverized large parts of Gaza, including thousands of homes, schools, and hospitals. More than 250,000 people have been displaced from their homes in Gaza. Hundreds of Palestinian noncombatants have been killed. Much of Gaza has lost access to water and electricity completely. This is a humanitarian catastrophe,” he writes.

While he does lay the blame on Hamas for doing the same – indiscriminately targeting Israeli civilians – he draws a comparison between the number of casualties on both sides.

“However, three Israeli civilians have been killed by Palestinian rockets, while an overwhelming majority of the 1,600 Palestinians killed have been civilians, including more than 330 children. The need for international judicial proceedings to investigate and end these violations of international law should be taken very seriously,” he asserts.

Carter pledges his support to the Palestinian unity government, calling it “one of the most encouraging developments in recent years.”

Carter also urges the UN Security Council to vote on a resolution “recognizing the inhumane conditions in Gaza and mandate an end to the siege.”

He stipulates the need for international monitors to control Gaza’s border crossings, as well as report on ceasefire violations, calling for the reinstatement of the EU Border Assistance Mission that was launched in 2005 and suspended in 2007, when Hamas took over the Gaza Strip after a Palestinian civil war.

6 August 2014

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In These Time

By: Noam Chomsky

‘We have no dignity, no pride; we are just soft targets, and we are very cheap. Either this situation really improves or it is better to just die.’

Amid all the horrors unfolding in the latest Israeli offensive in Gaza, Israel’s goal is simple: quiet-for-quiet, a return to the norm.

For the West Bank, the norm is that Israel continues its illegal construction of settlements and infrastructure so that it can integrate into Israel whatever might be of value, meanwhile consigning Palestinians to unviable cantons and subjecting them to repression and violence.

For Gaza, the norm is a miserable existence under a cruel and destructive siege that Israel administers to permit bare survival but nothing more.

The latest Israeli rampage was set off by the brutal murder of three Israeli boys from a settler community in the occupied West Bank. A month before, two Palestinian boys were shot dead in the West Bank city of Ramallah. That elicited little attention, which is understandable, since it is routine.

“The institutionalized disregard for Palestinian life in the West helps explain not only why Palestinians resort to violence,” Middle East analyst Mouin Rabbani reports, “but also Israel’s latest assault on the Gaza Strip.”

In an interview, human rights lawyer Raji Sourani, who has remained in Gaza through years of Israeli brutality and terror, said, “The most common sentence I heard when people began to talk about cease-fire: Everybody says it’s better for all of us to die and not go back to the situation we used to have before this war. We don’t want that again. We have no dignity, no pride; we are just soft targets, and we are very cheap. Either this situation really improves or it is better to just die. I am talking about intellectuals, academics, ordinary people: Everybody is saying that.”

In January 2006, Palestinians committed a major crime: They voted the wrong way in a carefully monitored free election, handing control of Parliament to Hamas.

The media constantly intone that Hamas is dedicated to the destruction of Israel. In reality, Hamas leaders have repeatedly made it clear that Hamas would accept a two-state settlement in accord with the international consensus that has been blocked by the U.S. and Israel for 40 years.

In contrast, Israel is dedicated to the destruction of Palestine, apart from some occasional meaningless words, and is implementing that commitment.

The crime of the Palestinians in January 2006 was punished at once. The U.S. and Israel, with Europe shamefully trailing behind, imposed harsh sanctions on the errant population and Israel stepped up its violence.

The U.S. and Israel quickly initiated plans for a military coup to overthrow the elected government. When Hamas had the effrontery to foil the plans, the Israeli assaults and the siege became far more severe.

There should be no need to review again the dismal record since. The relentless siege and savage attacks are punctuated by episodes of “mowing the lawn,” to borrow Israel’s cheery expression for its periodic exercises in shooting fish in a pond as part of what it calls a “war of defense.”

Once the lawn is mowed and the desperate population seeks to rebuild somehow from the devastation and the murders, there is a cease-fire agreement. The most recent cease-fire was established after Israel’s October 2012 assault, called Operation Pillar of Defense.

Though Israel maintained its siege, Hamas observed the cease-fire, as Israel concedes. Matters changed in April of this year when Fatah and Hamas forged a unity agreement that established a new government of technocrats unaffiliated with either party.

Israel was naturally furious, all the more so when even the Obama administration joined the West in signaling approval. The unity agreement not only undercuts Israel’s claim that it cannot negotiate with a divided Palestine but also threatens the long-term goal of dividing Gaza from the West Bank and pursuing its destructive policies in both regions.

Something had to be done, and an occasion arose on June 12, when the three Israeli boys were murdered in the West Bank. Early on, the Netanyahu government knew that they were dead, but pretended otherwise, which provided the opportunity to launch a rampage in the West Bank, targeting Hamas.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed to have certain knowledge that Hamas was responsible. That too was a lie.

One of Israel’s leading authorities on Hamas, Shlomi Eldar, reported almost at once that the killers very likely came from a dissident clan in Hebron that has long been a thorn in the side of Hamas. Eldar added that “I’m sure they didn’t get any green light from the leadership of Hamas, they just thought it was the right time to act.”

The 18-day rampage after the kidnapping, however, succeeded in undermining the feared unity government, and sharply increasing Israeli repression. Israel also conducted dozens of attacks in Gaza, killing five Hamas members on July 7.

Hamas finally reacted with its first rockets in 19 months, providing Israel with the pretext for Operation Protective Edge on July 8.

By July 31, around 1,400 Palestinians had been killed, mostly civilians, including hundreds of women and children. And three Israeli civilians. Large areas of Gaza had been turned into rubble. Four hospitals had been attacked, each another war crime.

Israeli officials laud the humanity of what it calls “the most moral army in the world,” which informs residents that their homes will be bombed. The practice is “sadism, sanctimoniously disguising itself as mercy,” in the words of Israeli journalist Amira Hass: “A recorded message demanding hundreds of thousands of people leave their already targeted homes, for another place, equally dangerous, 10 kilometers away.”

In fact, there is no place in the prison of Gaza safe from Israeli sadism, which may even exceed the terrible crimes of Operation Cast Lead in 2008 to 2009.

The hideous revelations elicited the usual reaction from the most moral president in the world, Barack Obama: great sympathy for Israelis, bitter condemnation of Hamas and calls for moderation on both sides.

When the current attacks are called off, Israel hopes to be free to pursue its criminal policies in the occupied territories without interference, and with the U.S. support it has enjoyed in the past.

Gazans will be free to return to the norm in their Israeli-run prison, while in the West Bank, Palestinians can watch in peace as Israel dismantles what remains of their possessions.

That is the likely outcome if the U.S. maintains its decisive and virtually unilateral support for Israeli crimes and its rejection of the long-standing international consensus on diplomatic settlement. But the future will be quite different if the U.S. withdraws that support.

In that case it would be possible to move toward the “enduring solution” in Gaza that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called for, eliciting hysterical condemnation in Israel because the phrase could be interpreted as calling for an end to Israel’s siege and regular attacks. And—horror of horrors—the phrase might even be interpreted as calling for implementation of international law in the rest of the occupied territories.

Forty years ago Israel made the fateful decision to choose expansion over security, rejecting a full peace treaty offered by Egypt in return for evacuation from the occupied Egyptian Sinai, where Israel was initiating extensive settlement and development projects. Israel has adhered to that policy ever since.

If the U.S. decided to join the world, the impact would be great. Over and over, Israel has abandoned cherished plans when Washington has so demanded. Such are the relations of power between them.

Furthermore, Israel by now has little recourse, after having adopted policies that turned it from a country that was greatly admired to one that is feared and despised, policies it is pursuing with blind determination today in its march toward moral deterioration and possible ultimate destruction.

Could U.S. policy change? It’s not impossible. Public opinion has shifted considerably in recent years, particularly among the young, and it cannot be completely ignored.

For some years there has been a good basis for public demands that Washington observe its own laws and cut off military aid to Israel. U.S. law requires that “no security assistance may be provided to any country the government of which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.”

Israel most certainly is guilty of this consistent pattern, and has been for many years.

Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, author of this provision of the law, has brought up its potential applicability to Israel in specific cases, and with a well-conducted educational, organizational and activist effort such initiatives could be pursued successively.

That could have a very significant impact in itself, while also providing a springboard for further actions to compel Washington to become part of “the international community” and to observe international law and norms.

Nothing could be more significant for the tragic Palestinian victims of many years of violence and repression.

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