a different side of Israel

Tag: Human Rights

Prominent Saudi Activist goes on Hunger Strike

Mohammed al-Bajadi has long been a human rights activist in Saudi Arabia. Bajadi is credited with forming a coalition of loyal followers in the movement for civil and political rights. He is also the founder of the Saudi Association for Civil and Political Rights (ACPRA), an organization that the Saudi government refuses to recognize as a legitimate group.

In March of 2011, Bajadi was detained in the Qassim province following a protest over the detention of civilians accused of militant activity. Bajadi was charged with organizing the demonstration, supporting protests for pro-democracy and possession of illegal books.

According to members of ACPRA, Bajadi has gone on a hunger strike and is in deteriorating health as a result of refusing food and water. However, Mansour al-Turki, the spokesman for the Interior Ministry, counteracted the statement and insisted that Bajadi is in fine health.

Over the weekend, ACPRA went public with a letter written by Bajadi that was smuggled out of prison by a visitor who was seeing another inmate. In the letter, Bajadi says that he is moving forward with his hunger strike. He also purported that he was force fed at a prison hospital.

Bajadi’s supporters have been barred from visiting him. They continue to report on his health and announced that his sugar levels have dropped to dangerous levels. The interior ministry, however, continues to refute these claims and insists that Bajadi has been consuming his meals.

While Saudi Arabia has largely escaped the conflicts that are occurring throughout most of the Arab regions, the country has been consistently slammed for human rights violations. It holds a notorious reputation for adopting a zero tolerance attitude towards political dissenters. A report estimates that there are currently 30,000 political prisoners being held without being formally charged. Saudi officials have refuted the estimate and deny that there are such inmates in detention.

Dear Activist

This letter was published by Netanyahu’s office has been circulated with mixed responses. After the flytilla came through the Public Diplomacy page summarized:

“The Israel Police Implemented security measures today at Israels international airport in order to prevent any disruptions and and disturbances. 78 activists were denied entry into Israel. 18 flew back to the countries they came from and others will fly back within 24 hours. 9 Israelis were detained for causing public disturbances at the Arrival Terminal and where questioned by Police. “

Overall it went by pretty quietly and doesn’t seem to be a real success. That mostly depends on your political position though…for or against….

Video Surfaces of Migrant Worker in Lebanon being Beaten and Dragged into Car

Alem Dechasa, a domestic worker out of Ethiopia, took her own life just days after a video surfaced of her being beaten and forced into a car in Beirut, Lebanon. The disturbing video brings to light a human rights issue that has been largely ignored in Lebanon. The abuse of migrant workers, particularly women, is an epidemic that is largely ignored and swept under the rug.

Recently, as many as eight civil society groups appealed to Lebanese authorities to adopt labor laws to address the increasing number of abuse that have been committed against migrant workers. The footage was shown on Lebanese news and showed Dechasa being physically assaulted by a man while a second assailant dragged her into a car. The attacker was later identified as the brother of the head of a migrant worker recruiting firm.

The recruiting agency alleges that they were trying to bring her back to Ethiopia due to her mental health issues. Dechasa was later found by police who brought her to a detention center. From there, she was transferred to Deir al-Saleeb psychiatric hospital for evaluation. It was at this location that she took her own life.

At this point, no arrests have been made. Civil rights groups have since been urging Lebanese officials to condemn such human rights violations that have been occurring against migrant workers like Dechasa. While her case drew national attention due to the video, there are hundreds of more cases of migrant workers being brought over to work as maids who are abused on a daily basis. It is a serious problem that is not getting the level of outcry that it needs.

Migrant workers are currently not covered under Lebanese labor laws. This is something that human rights groups are addressing at the moment. Hopefully, something can be done before another worker turns up dead.

UN Human Rights Council Finds Syria is Complying with International Conventions

This is the so called “UN Human Rights Council” – A pathetic joke!

Saying it Out Loud

A human rights oriented report issued in honor of the 60th anniversary for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights crowned the country of Israel as most unsupportive western country to the disabled and minorities. The report addressed aspects such as health, education, accommodation, the right to privacy and many more.
The most unsettling kind of discrimination for me is the legal and legitimate blunt kind directed at Arab citizens in Israel. It manifests itself daily in legislation and policies unquestionably favoring Jewish citizens.

Taboo as it may be, I cannot avoid the comparison between Jews facing anti-Semitism in early 20th century Europe and Arabs facing racism in 2012’s Israel. Actually, some Israeli extremists where probably inspired by those “anti-Semite Monsters”.

I often encounter the horrific, irresponsible and practically illegal declaration: “death to Arabs”. As infants who innocently repeat curse words that their unsuspecting parents blurred out, without understanding the full meaning, questioning or casting doubt, so do Israelis that “hear” their government’s relations with Arab citizens and duplicate. No job opportunities, funding or quality education is perfectly fine, they’re Arabs and it’s their fault. Since infancy we have been suckling on the tales of their inferiority and our superiority, their blame and our innocence, them and us, so without a shadow of doubt – they had it coming.

When I talk with friends my age, a progressive and information driven generation, I often hear estranged, recited slogans. We can discuss art, music, sex and fashion in a deep and meaningful way, but the moment the Arab “problem” arises they become the echo of a blind and hateful mob.

So, what came first, the policy or the hatred? All of those decision makers where once children, students, soldiers and this hate trickled deep within their minds. They now have the honor of fulfilling the message of superiority by ignoring the needs of a large segment of the population they took upon themselves to serve. And so the torch of hatred is passed on from generation to generation, parent to child, teacher to student, elected official to attentive citizen.

One cannot ignore the threat of terror, the fear and the bereavement which ache and throb in all of us. I knowingly separate the politics, lands and local history from the welfare of Arabs in Israel. Those two conversations usually collapse into one and are misused as excuses for one another. This is a country of complexities that deeply scar our reality throughout years of settlement, resistances, wars, terror attacks and more. All take their toll on our spirits, sensibility and morals.

Homer, in 800 BC said: “The outcome of the war is in our hands; the outcome of words is in the council”. I say: The outcome of the war is in our words, as they shape our reality.

Guest Post by Maayan Cohen

Ahmadinejad: No Homosexuals in Iran

In 2005, Human Rights Watch reported that two Iranian teenagers were executed for homosexual conduct. In 2007, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed there were no gay people in his country. In 2011 he secured this as a fact once again.

According to the Associated Foreign Press, three men were executed by hanging for “forbidden acts against religion” in Iran. The forbidden act? You guessed it!

Iran Human Rights reported via the state-run Iranian news agency ISNA that these men were put to death for acts against Sharia, “based on the articles 108 and 110 of the Iranian Islamic penal code.”
Articles 108 and 110 of the penal code are a section of the chapter covering the punishment of sodomy, according to Iran Human Rights.

Murder, armed robbery, rape, drug trafficking and adultery are other crimes that are actually punishable by death in Iran.

Ahmadinejad recently gave a statement saying:

“In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals like in your country… We don’t have that in our country. In Iran, we do not have this phenomenon. I don’t know who’s told you we have it.”

Ralph Alter wrote in the American Thinker:

“The Obama administration thus far has been willing to overlook the rapid development of Iranian nuclear weaponry, the brutal repression of the Iranian people, Iranian sponsorship of terror groups, Iranian provision of IED’s to Iraqi and Afghan military groups meant to kill American soldiers, and Iranian support for Hamas, the PLO and any other group willing to inflict harm upon the nation of Israel.
One suspects this latest affront to a legitimate Democrat constituency may finally engage the B.O. Administration to take action against Ahmadenijad and his not-so-merry pranksters. Obama will go to almost any lengths to maintain his pose as the agent of Muslim outreach for the West, but this vile breach of politically correct etiquette may prove to finally be a bridge too far.”

If Ahmadinejad is allowed to continue then his statement just might end up to be correct…
No Homosexuals will be left in Iran.

Liar Liar Pants on Fire

Bashar al-Assad’s cabinet has approved a bill to allow independent political parties other than the Baath Party, which has been in control since 1963.

SANA a Syrian news agency reported that the bill prohibits parties founded on the basis of “religion, tribal affiliation, regions, and professional organizations as well as those which discriminate on the basis of race, sex, or color.” This suggests the Kurdish nationalist parties may not be recognized, along with the Muslim Brotherhood, a Sunni Islamist party currently banned in Syria, but snowballing in popularity in Egypt where disillusioned citizens lack leadership they can believe in and trust.
It is hard to imagine however, that Assad’s intentions can be in anyway, good. He is, after all, a murderer.

Under the new law the government will retain control over the formation of parties that must apply for a license in order to operate. All new parties are also obliged to respect the constitution, which protects the dominance of the Baath party as the “leading party in state and society” despite Assad’s promises to look at altering it.

According to human rights groups, more than 1,500 civilians have been killed and more than 12,000 detained since the uprising started in March of 2011. Activists have reported ongoing detentions throughout the country and a persistent clampdown in the neighborhood of Bab Sbaa in Homs.

As predicted, protests have intensified in the week leading up to Ramadan when diplomats and analysts say they expect demonstrations to grow in size and frequency.

A SERIES OF SYRIAS SITUATIONS: resolve of a demogogue

Syrian President Bashar Assad is expected to announce constitutional amendments and sweeping reforms, including the jettisoning of loathed state of emergency laws that give the regime carte blanche to arrest people without charges. On Tuesday, Assad fired his entire Cabinet.

Since March 18 more than 60 people have been killed in military crackdowns to put the lid on protests. Assad, though, promised his people security forces “would not attack protesters” and he did not give orders to attack them.

Concerning the bloody protests in the border city of Deraa Assad said:

“Is not in the heart of Syria it is in the hearts of Syrians. [Deraa] is in the forefront in confronting the Israeli enemy and defending the nation. No one can be defending and conspiring at the same time…this cannot happen. The people of Deraa do not have any responsibility in what has happened. We are all with Deraa…Whoever is part of the Syrian nation always stands tall…Our enemies act every day in an organized and public matter in order to harm Syria.”

He continued:

“Deraa is a county near the Israeli enemy. A man cannot defend his homeland while at the same time conspire against it, so the citizens of Deraa are not responsible for what happened.”

Assad added the protesters are “smart in their timing, but stupid by choosing a country that will not be defeated by any step.”

The Syrian president alluded to a mixture of “internal and foreign” factors influencing the protests. What he called the “domino effect” pursued by the “past administration in the United States,” saying the former US president’s intentions backfired and had the “opposite effect” for the region.

“What has happened so far only strengthens Syria…The Syrian people are peaceful but will not hesitate to defend their causes and principles if he must.”

He blames the protests on “conspirators” who want to destroy the country and “enemies with an Israeli agenda.”

“Our enemies work every day in an organized and public fashion to hurt Syria…Our enemies’ aim was to divide Syria as a country and force an Israeli agenda onto it, and they will continue to try and try again.”

Meanwhile, a recent exposé by Champress, an Internet site with close ties to the regime, revealed that a covert Saudi-American plan was underway to topple Assad’s government. According to the report, the plan, which was first broadcast on the Iranian Arabic-language television station Al-Alam, was devised in 2008 by the Saudi national security advisor, Prince Bandar bin Sultan and Jeffrey Feltman, a veteran U.S. diplomat in the Middle East who was the erstwhile ambassador to Lebanon and currently assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs.

More From Egypt and Elsewhere

As mayhem continues throughout the Middle East, journalists are in danger, and consequently, so is revelation of truth. In Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, has been accused by the Committee to Protect Journalists for “an unprecedented and systematic attack” on international reporters.

The committee’s executive director, Joel Simon, said:

“This is a dark day for Egypt and a dark day for journalism…With this turn of events, Egypt is seeking to create an information vacuum that puts it in the company of the world’s worst oppressors, countries such as Burma, Iran and Cuba…We hold President Mubarak personally responsible for this unprecedented action…and call on the Egyptian government to reverse course immediately.”

Incognito agents have gone so far as to enter hotels and confiscate equipment. The Committee to Protect Journalists reported on Friday 101 direct attacks on news facilities and journalists. Ahmad Mohamed Mahmoud of the newspaper Al-Ta’awun, was shot and killed by sniper fire while filming demonstrations in central Cairo’s Qasr al-Aini, adjacent to Tahrir Square.

Injured Associated Press photographer Khalil HamraAl-Jazzera, BBC, Al-Arabiya, ABC News, the Washington Post, Fox News, and CNN all said they have staff members who’ve been attacked. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International also reported that staffers were detained.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, despite the ongoing Internet black-out said:

“There have been no instructions to hinder the coverage of the media in the Tahrir area…I made clear that they have full freedom to do anything they want.”

Egyptian and American sources told the New York Times that Egyptian Vice President, Omar Suleiman, who nearly escaped an assassination attempt in recent days that took the lives of two of his body guards, met with army leaders to discuss steps to weaken President Hosni Mubarak’s authority and possibly have him removed him from the presidential palace.

The capital of Sudan, Khartoum, is another city where waves of protests became violent. On Saturday morning, 12 journalists were kidnapped.

Along with similar demonstrations in Syria, Turkey, Malaysia and Iraq, hundreds of Jordanian protesters marched toward the Egyptian embassy in Ankara, calling Mubarak a puppet of Israel. Jordan’s main Muslim opposition, however, said it wants to give their new leader an opportunity to carry out the political reforms promised.

Among reforms that the Jordanian population would like to see are financial. According to a wire by the latest WikiLeaks release, more than 80% of the Hashmonean Kingdom’s budget is spent on “bloated” civil service and a military “patronage system” – including supporting U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

The Jordanian government told U.S. diplomats that:

In spite of increased calls by opposition groups and non-governmental figures to explain its Afghanistan assistance and end its security cooper with the United States … Mash’al Al Zaben, Chief of Staff for Strategy, stated that Jordan would stay in Afghanistan until the last U.S. soldier came home.”

Jordan’s deficit hit a record $2 billion this year, while inflation rose six percent and unemployment figures hit 12.9 percent.

The WikiLeaks documents also told of Jordan’s military support to NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. According to the ambassador:

“Jordan has already made a significant contribution of forces in Afghanistan (ref B), currently numbered at 850 troops, which includes an infantry battalion, a special operations company, and a field hospital…Prince Faisal and Minister Hasan will likely make a number of offers for increased participation in Afghanistan. Prince Faisal and Minister Hasan will likely make a number of offers for increased participation in Afghanistan…”


Tweeting around the Egyptian Internet gag order:

Muslim Brotherhood:

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Is Richard Goldstone An Anti-Semite?

Head of the UN fact finding Mission on Operation Cast Lead, Richard Goldstone, released in the Jerusalem Post an op-ed article, in defense of his, mainly Israeli and American criticizers. The article comes five weeks after the official release of the Goldstone Report.

Switzerland UN Gaza War CrimesThe President of the Human Rights Council announced the mandate that the Report was:

“to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law that might have been committed at any time in the context of the military operations that were conducted in Gaza during the period from 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009, whether before, during or after.”

Justice Goldstone maintained in the article that his intentions were entirely subjective. He reminded his enemies that he is former member of the South African Constitutional Court and former Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda; that he has a history of supporting the Jewish State, and served on the Board of Governors at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. And also that he was highly critical of the “alleged fraud and theft by governments and political leaders in a number of countries in connection with the United Nations Iraq Oil for Food program.”

He explained that

“In all of these, allegations [I] reached the highest political echelons. In every instance, I spoke out strongly in favor of full investigations and, where appropriate, criminal prosecutions. I have spoken out over the years on behalf of the International Bar Association against human rights violations in many countries, including Sri Lanka, China, Russia, Iran, Zimbabwe and Pakistan.”

Since the likes of Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz called him a Jewish “anti-Semite”; Goldstone felt the need to clear things up. “As A Jew” he wrote, “I felt a greater and not a lesser obligation to do so. It is well documented that as a condition of my participation I insisted upon and received an evenhanded mandate to investigate all sides and that is what we sought to do.”

Richard Falk, a Princeton University professor, and strong criticizer of the IDF in terms of alleged violations of Human Rights against Palestinians, predicts that “the weight of the report will be felt by world public opinion.

Civil Unions under the Microscope in Israel

The place of Civil Unions in Israel is being analyzed in Knesset, as preliminary versions of final legislation bills are being looked over. Knesset Law Committee chairman David Rotem, presented a bill on Tuesday, which while did not represent his overall out look on the issue, at least made steps in the right direction.

rotemAccording to the bill, the government is to appoint a registrar for Civil Unions; and only Civil Unions may be joined by citizens that are not Jewish. Couples will have almost the same rights as marriages, accept that they will not be allowed to adopt children, or the use of a surrogate mother, for 18 months after their union is confirmed. Also they will not have the same rights regarding Citizenship Law, Right of Return Law and Entry to Israel Law.

Tzipi Hotovely a spokesperson from Likud, said she supported the bill but opposed the idea that it was just the first step toward much broader legislation. Human Rights groups have been vehemently opposed to the bill even as it stands, as they feel that it is a form of discrimination against gays and lesbians, and more modern/liberal lifestyles.

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