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Qatar invites bids to reconstruct Gaza

Ma’an – 02/10/2012

GAZA CITY – The Qatari government on Tuesday invited tenders for four construction projects, in the first stage of a $254 million project to rebuild the war-torn Gaza Strip.

Qatar’s ambassador to Gaza Muhammad al-Imadi is heading a committee overseeing the work.

Consultants have been invited to submit designs for a city to be named after Sheikh Hamad Ben Khalifa al-Thani. The $30-million development will include 1,000 residential units in five-story apartment blocks, schools, stores, clinics, parks and entertainment facilities, the ambassador said in a statement.

Companies were also invited to bid for the repair of three major roads in the enclave. The 35-kilometer coastal highway al-Rashid Street will cost around $50 million to repair, and $18 million has been allocated to reconstruct the 10-kilometer al-Karama Street.

The 28-kilometer Salah Addin Street will be repaired first, at a cost of $60 million, as the plans and designs are ready, al-Imadi said.

In the coming days, consultants will be invited to bid for several agricultural projects, budgeted at $12.5 million.

Housing projects worth $32 million will also be announced this week to house needy families and to re-home those who were evicted for building on public land.

October 2, 2012 Posted by | Corruption | , , , | 1 Comment

Israel’s Refugee Pawns

By JONATHAN COOK | CounterPunch | October 2, 2012

Nazareth – In the shadow of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s theatrics at the United Nations last week, armed with his cartoon Iranian bomb, Israeli officials launched a quieter, but equally combative, initiative to extinguish whatever hopes have survived of reviving the peace process.

For the first time in its history, Israel is seeking to equate millions of Palestinians in refugee camps across the Middle East with millions of Israeli citizens descended from Jews who, before Israel’s establishment in 1948, lived in Arab countries.

According to Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon, whose parents were originally from Iraq and who has been leading the government campaign, nearly a million Jews fled countries such as Iraq, Egypt, Morocco and Yemen. That figure exceeds the generally accepted number of 750,000 Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war.

Israel’s goal is transparent: it hopes the international community can be persuaded that the suffering of Palestinian refugees is effectively cancelled out by the experiences of “Jewish refugees”. If nothing can be done for Arab Jews all these years later, then Palestinians should expect no restitution either.

Over the past few weeks that has been the message implicit in a social media campaign called “I am a refugee”, which includes YouTube videos in which Jews tell of being terrorised while living in Arab states after 1948. Ayalon has even announced plans for a new day of national commemoration, Jewish Refugee Day.

This month, the Israeli foreign ministry and US Jewish organisations formally launched the initiative, staging a conference in New York a few days before the opening sessions of the General Assembly.

Israel’s choice of arena – the UN – is not accidental. The campaign is chiefly designed to stifle the move announced by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in his General Assembly speech last week to begin seeking UN status for Palestine as a non-member state.

After opposition from the US forced the Palestinians to abort their bid for statehood at the UN Security Council last year, Abbas is expected to delay making his new request until November, after the US presidential election campaign to avoid embarrassing President Barack Obama.

Abbas’s move has spurred Israel to take the offensive.

Anyone who doubts that the Israeli government’s concern for Arab Jews is entirely cynical only has to trace the campaign’s provenance. It was considered for the first time in 2009, when Netanyahu was forced – under pressure from Obama – to deliver a speech backing Palestinian statehood.

Immediately afterwards, Netanyahu asked the National Security Council, whose role includes assessing strategic threats posed by the Palestinians, to weigh the merits of championing the Arab Jews’ case in international forums.

The NSC’s advice is that Arab Jews, known in Israel as Mizrahim and comprising a small majority of the total Jewish population, should be made a core issue in the peace process. As Israel knows, that creates a permanent stumbling block to an agreement.

The NSC has proposed impossible demands: contrition from all Arab states before a peace deal with the Palestinians can be reached; a decoupling of refugee status and the right of return; and the right of Arab Jews to greater compensation than Palestinian refugees, based on their superior wealth.

Israel is working on other fronts too to undermine the case for Palestinian refugees. Its US lobbyists are demanding that UNRWA, the UN agency for the refugees, be dismantled.

Bipartisan pressure is mounting in the US Congress to count as refugees only Palestinians personally displaced from their homes in 1948, stripping millions of descendants of their status. While another – and seemingly contradictory – legislative move would insist on Arab Jews being granted the same refugee status as Palestinians.

The Palestinians are deeply opposed to any linkage between Arab Jews and Palestinian refugees. Not least, they argue, they cannot be held responsible for what took place in other countries. Justice for Palestinian refugees is entirely separate from justice for Arab Jews.

Moreover, many, if not most, Arab Jews left their homelands voluntarily, unlike Palestinians, to begin a new life in Israel. Even where tensions forced Jews to flee, such as in Iraq, it is hard to know who was always behind the ethnic strife. There is strong evidence that Israel’s Mossad spy agency waged false-flag operations in Arab states to fuel the fear and hostility needed to drive Arab Jews towards Israel.

Likewise, Israel’s claim that it has a right to represent Arab Jews collectively and lay claim to compensation on their behalf ignores the reality that Israel was compensated handsomely for absorbing Jews, both through massive post-war reparations from countries such as Germany and through billions of dollars in annual handouts from the United States.

But there is a more fundamental reason to be sceptical of this campaign. Classifying Arab Jews as “refugees” skewers the central justification used by Zionists for Israel’s creation: that it is the natural homeland for all Jews, and the only place where they can be safe. As a former Israeli MP, Ran Hacohen, once observed: “I came at the behest of Zionism, due to the pull that this land exerts, and due to the idea of redemption. Nobody is going to define me as a refugee.”

Netanyahu’s government is making a deeply anti-Zionist argument, one it has been forced to adopt because of its own intransigence in the peace process.

Its refusal to countenance a small Palestinian state in the 1967 borders means the global community feels compelled to reassess the events of 1948. For most Arab Jews, that period is now a closed chapter. For most Palestinian refugees, it is still an open wound.

October 2, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Honduras: A Second Human Rights Attorney Is Murdered

Weekly News Update on the Americas | September 30, 2012

Unidentified assailants gunned down Eduardo Manuel Díaz Mazariegos, a prosecutor with the Honduran Public Ministry, shortly before noon on Sept. 24 near his office in Choluteca, the capital of the southern department of Choluteca. Díaz Mazariegos had worked on human rights cases as well as criminal cases for the ministry. He was the seventh Honduran prosecutor murdered since 1994, and his killing came less than two full days after the similar murder of Antonio Trejo Cabrera, an activist private attorney who represented a campesino collective in a dispute over land in the Lower Aguán Valley in northern Honduras [see Update #1145]. (La Tribuna (Tegucigalpa) 9/24/12; EFE 9/25/12 via Univision)

The Associated Press wire service reported on Sept. 24 that Trejo had written a request in June 2011 for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, or CIDH in Spanish) in Washington, DC, to order emergency precautionary measures for his protection. “If anything happens to me, to my goods or to my family,” Trejo wrote, “I hold responsible Mr. Miguel Facussé [and two others that AP declined to name], who can attack my life through hit men, since they know that the lawsuits against them are going well and that the campesinos are going to recover the lands that [Facussé and the others] stole from them illegally.”

Cooking oil magnate Facussé is the main owner of disputed land in the Aguán; presumably Trejo also named the two other major landowners in the dispute, René Morales and Reinaldo Canales. After Trejo’s murder Facussé issued a written denial of any “direct participation of my person or of the personnel of my companies in so abominable an act,” although he added that Trejo had committed “fraudulent acts against [Facussé’s] company.” Marlene Cruz, an attorney who represents another Aguán collective, told AP that she and Trejo were scheduled to attend a hearing at the CIDH in Washington on Oct. 19. Cruz is now thought to be in danger.

Trejo, who came from a campesino family and was born in the San Isidro collective in northern Honduras, was also involved in another high-profie case: he had filed a complaint against a neoliberal project, the Special Development Regions (RED, also known as “Model Cities”), for creating privatized autonomous regions in the country. Trejo denounced the project in a television debate less than 24 hours before his assassination, saying it was backed by “Ali Baba and the 40 thieves of the government.” Michael Strong, the director of the US-based MGK Group, a leading “model cities” sponsor [see Update #1144], said he was “horrified” by the murder and that “if Trejo had lived long enough to be acquainted with us, he would have concluded that our approach is beneficial for Honduras.” (AP 9/24/12 via El Nuevo Herald (Miami))

October 2, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | Comments Off on Honduras: A Second Human Rights Attorney Is Murdered

US waives sanctions on states using child soldiers for security interests

Press TV – October 2, 2012

The Obama administration has waived nearly all US sanctions against countries using child soldiers despite a recent executive order to fight human trafficking.

US President Barack Obama issued a presidential memorandum on Friday waiving sanctions under the Child Soldiers Protection Act of 2008 for Libya, South Sudan and Yemen that Congress legislated to halt US arms sales to countries that are “worst abusers of child soldiers in their militaries,” the US-based periodical Foreign Policy reports Tuesday.

According to the report, Obama also partially waived penalties against the Democratic Republic of the Congo in an effort to allow continued military training and arms sales to the African country.

Angered by Washington’s move, human rights activists say the waivers are damaging to the aim of using US influence to discourage nations that get American military support from using child soldiers. They also insist the measure contradicts the rhetoric Obama used in a speech he delivered on Friday when signing the executive order.

“When a little boy is kidnapped, turned into a child soldier, forced to kill or be killed — that’s slavery,” Obama claimed during his address. “It is barbaric, and it is evil, and it has no place in a civilized world. Now, as a nation, we’ve long rejected such cruelty.”

Many among the American human rights community are upset that despite such forceful oratory against the use of child soldiers, the US president has waived for the third consecutive years all penalties against states that are major abusers of the human rights violation.

“After such a strong statement against the exploitation of children, it seems bizarre that Obama would give a pass to countries using children in their armed forces and using U.S. tax money to do that,” said Jesse Eaves, the senior policy advisor for child protection at World Vision, as quoted in the report.

Eaves insists that the Obama administration wants to maintain its ties with regimes that it needs for security cooperation and that such blanket use of US waivers allows the administration to avert the objective of the law, which was supposedly to uphold internationally recognized human rights and child protection protocols when dishing out American military aid to other nations.

“The intent in this law was to use this waiver authority only in extreme circumstances, yet this has become an annual thing and this has become the default of this administration,” Eaves was quoted as saying in the report.

According to the periodical, Obama first waived the sanctions in 2010, the first year they were to go into effect. At the time, the White House failed to inform Congress of its decision in advance, triggering a strong backlash. A reported justification memo pointed to a number of security-related excuses for the waivers. Sudan was going through a fragile transition, for instance. Yemen was crucial to counterterrorism cooperation, the administration argued.

October 2, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , | Comments Off on US waives sanctions on states using child soldiers for security interests

US: Student Rights Disappearing

Staff Writers | October 1, 2012

In the aftermath of 9/11, we’ve seen plenty of attacks on privacy and personal security, and students are not immune to this effect. From RFID tracking to mandatory drug and pregnancy testing, new laws and policies are slowly beginning to creep in and take over the privacy that students have enjoyed in the past. We’ve discovered nine troubling signs that student rights are in danger. If these can slip by, what’s coming next?

Some students are required to wear IDs:

At Northeast Mississippi Community College, students are required to keep their NEMCC ID badge in plain sight at all times or face warnings and tickets. The administration’s primary reason for the IDs is safety, but the policy raises privacy concerns for students, who cannot opt out of the program. Northeast Mississippi isn’t the only school adopting student IDs, and some are going so far as to include RFID in their IDs to assist with attendance records. Experts believe that this could become a trend in American schools, but some parents are outraged. In at least one elementary school, the push back has been so extreme that the RFID program was terminated due to privacy concerns.

Students are required to share their contact information with the Armed Forces:

High school students are automatically signed up to share their contact information with the Armed Forces, presumably for recruiting purposes. This is a part of the No Child Left Behind law, and although students can opt out, the parent or student must explicitly request otherwise. Releasing student contact information is viewed as a serious violation of student privacy.

Mandatory drug testing is becoming more prevalent:

Linn State Technical college, a small technical school with just 1,200 students, has become the first university in the country to make drug testing mandatory for enrollment. Every new student at LSTC is required to take a urine test within their first five to 10 days of the school year, or withdraw from the university. Students are also subject to random testing throughout the rest of the year. The university community has pushed back, asserting that mandatory drug testing is too much of an invasion, setting a dangerous precedent for the ability of schools to regulate students’ lives.

Pregnancy testing is also a concern:

In one Louisiana public school, female students who are suspected of being pregnant must submit to a pregnancy test. If they refuse to take the test or are found to be pregnant, they’re kicked out of school and forced to pursue homeschooling instead. This policy is in clear violation of federal law, specifically, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 that mandates schools can’t exclude students based on pregnancy or related conditions. But it’s not just this one school with a problematic policy: the ACLU evidence suggests that illegal discrimination is a major contributing factor to the high dropout rate (70%) of teen girls who give birth.

Educational records can be shared with outside entities:

Schools are privy to lots of sensitive information about their students, including grades, discipline records, income, and even mental health issues. This is the sort of information that most families would prefer to keep private, but new rules allow it to be shared with entities outside the scope of education. That means student information can be placed in state databases without the consent of students and parents.

Students can be monitored via wiretaps:

The FCC has recently released a campaign that is forcing universities to comply with national wiretapping laws. This means that universities are altering their private networks and the Internet in order to allow for monitoring of Internet usage, instant messaging, and even cell phone texts. Additionally, these mandates allow universities to be subpoenaed for medical and other student records. Previously, universities were exempted from wiretapping due to their private networks, but following the 2001 terrorist attacks the Department of Justice asked the FCC to expand their reach.

Schools are blocking student access to LGBT websites:

Blocking pornographic websites is a common practice among public schools, but some are taking things a step further, blocking access to LGBT websites that are not at all pornographic. Many of the commonly used web filtering software packages block out LGBT-positive websites that share information about LGBT issues and organizations. These packages do not, however, block out anti-LGBT websites that condemn LGBT people and encourage them to change their sexual orientation. The ACLU has argued that this “viewpoint discrimination” violates students’ rights under the First Amendment.

Free speech is getting edged out:

On many college campuses, free speech is dramatically limited. Campuses typically have a “free speech zone,” but at some schools, this zone is in a low traffic area so far from the heart of campus that it’s not an ideal location to share messages. At other schools, free speech can be limited to certain days or hours, and even give administrators the right to review and approve of materials before they’re shared. For some students pursuing free speech, these restrictions can keep them from effectively sharing their message. Specifically, at Yuba College in California, students had to apply for permission to speak 14 business days in advance, register literature 48 hours prior to distribution, and are limited to the hours of 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays for public speeches, extreme measures for any student or group wanting to spread the word about their issue.

Student due process rights are being threatened:

It’s not hard to understand why many college campuses take a hard line on rape, but it’s important to remember that accused rapists have rights, too. Under the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, it was proposed that universities receiving federal funding must allow sexual assault victims to appeal the results of college disciplinary hearings. That means that students accused of sexual assault could be tried twice for the same crime, a “double jeopardy” situation that is not allowed in U.S. courts. This is troublesome and an unfortunate way for presumably innocent accused rapists to be held back from moving on with their lives.

October 2, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | 1 Comment