Saturday, April 30, 2011

In Shift, Egypt Warms to Iran and Hamas

Hi.  Today’s LATimesExtra has a fine obit tribute to Hazel Dickens, but  makes the common error

of calling her a Bluegrass singer.  It’s important, as the songs and culture of the Appalachian and

Ozark mountains goes back centuries.  Hazel was among the finest singers and purveyors of this

great tradition. Bill Monroe created  bluegrass, in the 1940’s,  transforming the music,, training

most of it’s original stars, wrote many great songs and  was the most dynamic, imposing performer

I’ve ever seen.  Both Bill and Hazel knew and respected the difference, Bill often saying it, on stage.


Here’s a wonderful Youtube  performance sent me from: Genise Schnitman []

sent: Friday, April 22, 2011 7:16 PM, the day of Hazel’s passing.


To: Ed Pearl

Subject: "Hazel Dickens: It's Hard to Tell the Singer From the Song"



Rest in peace.




In Shift, Egypt Warms to Iran and Hamas, Israel’s Foes


David D. Kirkpatrick

NY Times: April 29, 2011


CAIRO — Egypt is charting a new course in its foreign policy that has already begun shaking up the established order in the Middle East, planning to open the blockaded border with Gaza and normalizing relations with two of Israel and the West’s Islamist foes, Hamas and Iran.


Egyptian officials, emboldened by the revolution and with an eye on coming elections, say that they are moving toward policies that more accurately reflect public opinion. In the process they are seeking to reclaim the influence over the region that waned as their country became a predictable ally of Washington and the Israelis in the years since the 1979 peace treaty with Israel.

The first major display of this new tack was the deal Egypt brokered Wednesday to reconcile the secular Palestinian party Fatah with its rival Hamas. “We are opening a new page,” said Ambassador Menha Bakhoum, spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry. “Egypt is resuming its role that was once abdicated.”

Egypt’s shifts are likely to alter the balance of power in the region, allowing Iran new access to a previously implacable foe and creating distance between itself and Israel, which has been watching the changes with some alarm. “We are troubled by some of the recent actions coming out of Egypt,” said one senior Israeli official, citing a “rapprochement between Iran and Egypt” as well as “an upgrading of the relationship between Egypt and Hamas.”

“These developments could have strategic implications on Israel’s security,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the issues were still under discussion in diplomatic channels. “In the past Hamas was able to rearm when Egypt was making efforts to prevent that. How much more can they build their terrorist machine in Gaza if Egypt were to stop?”

Israel had relied on Egypt’s help to police the border with Gaza, where arms and other contraband were smuggled to Hamas through tunnels.

Balancing its new independence against its old allegiances, Egypt is keeping all its commitments, including the peace treaty with Israel, Ambassador Bakhoum emphasized, and she said that it hoped to do a better job complying with some human rights protocols it had signed.

But she said that the blockade of the border with Gaza and Egypt’s previous enforcement of it were both “shameful,” and that Egypt intended soon to open up the border “completely.”

At the same time, she said, Egypt is also in the process of normalizing its relations with Iran, a regional power that the United States considers a dangerous pariah.

“All the world has diplomatic relations with Iran with the exception of the United States and Israel,” Ambassador Bakhoum said. “We look at Iran as a neighbor in the region that we should have normal relations with. Iran is not perceived as an enemy as it was under the previous regime, and it is not perceived as a friend.”

Several former diplomats and analysts said that by staking out a more independent path, Egypt would also regain a measure of power that came with the flexibility to bestow or withhold support.

If Egypt believes Israel’s refusal to halt settlements in the West Bank is the obstacle to peace, for example, then “cooperating with the Israelis by closing the border to Gaza did not make sense, as much as one may differ with what Hamas has done,” argued Nabil Fahmy, dean of the public affairs school at the American University in Cairo and a former Egyptian ambassador to the United States.

Many Egyptian analysts, including some former officials and diplomats who served under then-President Hosni Mubarak, say they are thrilled with the shift. “This is the new feeling in Egypt, that Egypt needs to be respected as a regional power,” said Emad Gad, a foreign policy expert on relations with Israel at the official Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.

Egypt is recognizing Hamas, he said, for the same reason the Egyptian prime minister recently had breakfast with his family at a public restaurant without heavily armed body guards: any official who wants to stay in government is thinking about elections. “This is a new thing in Egyptian history,” Mr. Gad said.

Mahmoud Shokry, a former Egyptian ambassador to Syria under Mr. Mubarak, said: “Mubarak was always taking sides with the U.S., but the new way of thinking is entirely different. We would like to make a model of democracy for the region, and we are ensuring that Egypt has its own influence.”

In the case of Iran, a competing regional power, Ms. Bakhoum noted that although Egypt broke off relations with the Islamist government after its 1979 revolution, the countries reopened limited relations in 1991 on the level of a chargé d’affaires, so normalizing relations was more of an elevation than a reopening.

The deal between the Palestinian factions capitalized on the forces unleashed around the region by Egypt’s revolution. In its aftermath, Hamas found its main sponsor, the Assad government of Syria, shaken by its own popular protest movement, while the Fatah government in the West Bank faced throngs of young people adapting the chants of the Egyptian uprising to the cause of Palestinian unity.

Egypt had laid out a proposal virtually identical to the current deal for both sides as early as 2009, several participants from all sides said. But the turning point came in late March, about six weeks after the revolution.

For the first time in years of talks the Hamas leaders were invited to the headquarters of the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs instead of merely meeting at a hotel or the intelligence agency — a signal that Egypt was now prepared to treat Hamas as a diplomatic partner rather than a security risk.

They also met with Egypt’s interim head of state, Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, the leader of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and Mr. Mubarak’s longtime defense minister.

“When I was invited to the meeting in the Foreign Ministry, that was something different, and this is what the agreement grew out of,” said Taher Nounou of Hamas. “We definitely felt that there was more openness from the new Egyptian leadership.” Foreign Minister Nabil el-Araby told the Palestinians that “he doesn’t want to talk about the ‘peace process’ any more, he wants to talk about the peace,” Ambassador Bakhoum said.

She said the Egyptian government was still studying how to open the border with Gaza, to help the civilians who lived there, and to determine which goods might be permitted. But she said the government had decided to move ahead with the idea.

Mona El-Naggar contributed reporting.



Friday, April 29, 2011

Sister Citizen: For Birthers, Obama's Not Black Enough

PS (Pre-Script): And it never stops.  Donald Trump has now launched a

demand that Obama produce his school records.  It is both hilarious,

coming from idiots about a near genius, (Dr. Einstein, when did you learn

to speak? Ans.: 4 yrs. old, actually!-EP), which Stephen Colbert brilliantly

mocks, to the tragic. Reportedly, 45% of Americans believed, until

yesterday, that President Obama was not a citizen.  In any event, Melissa

Harris-Perry addresses some deep issues underlying these coded, nonsensical

attacks.  Put yourself in someone else’s boot, just for this moment.



Sister Citizen


For Birthers, Obama's Not Black Enough


By Melissa Harris-Perry

The Nation:  the May 16, 2011 edition


Remember when the media regularly asked if Barack Obama was “black enough” to get the support of African-Americans? In 2007 pundits wondered if a black-identified but technically biracial candidate who came of age in the post–civil rights era, was raised far from traditional African-American communities, was educated in the Ivy League and boasted a foreign name might be more palatable to white voters than black ones. Today this query seems hopelessly naïve and endearingly optimistic about the fluidity of American racial identities. After the secret-Muslim accusations, the witch doctor posters, the “You lie!” shout-down and the chimpanzee e-mails—it is clear that President Obama is certainly “black enough” to experience both racially motivated public attacks and exceptional support among racial minorities.


But the tenacity of the birther movement has revived the issue of Obama’s blackness for me. Nearly a quarter of Americans, most of them white, believe President Obama was not born in the United States. The resilience of the birther myth—lately given air by Donald Trump—has even forced the White House to post a copy of Obama’s birth certificate online in hopes of settling the matter once and for all. Good luck—this controversy isn’t about documentation; it’s about deeply held beliefs, even faith claims, about who is and is not a legitimate citizen.


Many on the left say that birtherism is just racism, but there’s more than simple racial animus behind it. I suspect that part of the problem is that Obama is indeed not black enough; specifically, the president is not sufficiently Negro—the historical variation of blackness that is uniquely and indisputably American.


The American slave system disrupted the ability of enslaved Africans to retain or pass along their ethnic identities. Igbo, Ashanti, Akan, Yoruba and Hausa became interchangeable units for sale. While slaves nurtured fragments of cultural, religious and familial traditions, much of the specificity of their African experience was surrendered to an imagined and indistinct notion of “Africa.” Moreover, the law did not initially recognize slaves or their US-born children as American. So enslaved Africans were women and men, literally without a country, defined solely in terms of their labor value. Their descendants eventually achieved citizenship, but to be an American black, a Negro, is to be a rejected child who nonetheless clings to her abusive father because she knows no other parent. To be a black American descended from slaves is to lack, if not a birth certificate, then at least a known genealogy—to have only a vague sense of where one comes from, of who one’s ancestors were and of where one belongs.


In this sense, Obama is not very black. He is not a Negro. As a black man, President Obama’s confident and clear knowledge of his lineage is precisely the thing that makes his American identity dubious. Unlike most black people, he has easy access to both his American and his African selves.


In 1897 W.E.B. Du Bois wrote, “One feels his two-ness,—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two un-reconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.” Although Obama is the child of a black African and a white American, one does not sense this un-reconciled two-ness in him. He confidently embraces a triumphant American narrative that echoes the tone of voluntary immigrants more than the pathos of the dominated.


Compare Obama’s Dreams From My Father with Michelle Robinson’s senior thesis. The First Lady reflected a Du Bois–like struggle with being the outsider within. She wrote, “My experiences at Princeton have made me far more aware of my ‘Blackness’ than ever before. I have found that at Princeton…I sometimes feel like a visitor on campus; as if I really don’t belong.” Whatever racial invectives have been hurled at Michelle, they have never included a claim against her American identity. Her familial lineage in slavery, the Great Migration and Chicago’s South Side are far too emblematic of American blackness to raise suspicions about her country of birth.


But in another sense, birther-ism is the dual-edged blade of African identity for black Americans. In the eighteenth century, choosing the designation “African” was a symbol of self-determination. For example, the Free African Society, founded in Philadelphia in 1787, and its religious offspring, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, were founded in the spirit of defiance of slavery and racial inequality. Later, emigrationist movements led by Paul Cuffee and Marcus Garvey offered physical and psychic return to Africa as an alternative to the horrors of American racism. These efforts reflected black people’s rejection of the idea that they are a people without a place. No one can find the country of “Negro” on a map, but the continent of Africa, no matter how remote after centuries of disconnect, is a real place. To claim it was to recognize one’s humanity.


But black people have also found it troubling to call Africa home. Emphasizing African identity can mean relinquishing hard-earned affirmations of American-ness. The Negro was made an American through the sin of slavery but kept this identity through the sacrifices of citizenship: taxes, military duty, labor, effort, patriotism and struggle. Few acts of racism elicit more disgust among black folks descended from eighteenth-century slaves than being told to “go back to Africa” by a white person whose American heritage goes back only to the twentieth century.


When birthers accuse President Obama of not having a “real” birth certificate, they’re telling him to “go back to Africa.” It’s a taunt he’s able to dismiss because he knows exactly where and when he’s from. But for black Americans descended from slaves, to question one’s birth raises perhaps a more troublesome enigma: to be born in servitude to someone, but from nowhere.


Melissa Harris-Perry


Thursday, April 28, 2011

DN Turns to Libya, interviewing Leila Fadel, in Benghazi,


Inside War-Torn Libya: As NATO Intensifies Air Strikes, Rebels Struggle to Break Gaddafi’s Control of Libya


Anti-Gaddafi rebel fighters in Libya have called on NATO to offer them more assistance to try to end the military stalemate in the country. NATO patrols and air strikes are still trying to break the hold of forces loyal to Col. Muammar Gaddafi. Pro-government troops have been shelling the port area in Misurata, the only city in western Libya that is in rebel control. There are reports Gaddafi’s forces are using human shields in the city. Leila Fadel, Washington Post Cairo bureau chief, joins us from Benghazi.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn to Libya, where anti-Gaddafi rebel fighters in Libya have called on NATO to offer them more assistance to try to end the military stalemate in the country. All across Libya, NATO patrols and air strikes are still trying to break the hold of forces loyal to Colonel Gaddafi. Pro-government troops have been shelling the port area of Misurata, the only city in western Libya held by rebels. There are reports Gaddafi’s forces are using human shields in the city.

A United Nations team is due to arrive in Tripoli to investigate allegations of human rights violations in Libya since the start of the conflict in February. The team was appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council following the Libyan government’s crackdown on protesters.

Earlier this week, Italy announced it will begin using its Air Force to bomb military targets in Libya in the latest escalation by NATO forces. Italy had previously said it would not take part in NATO-led air strikes, citing its former 40-year colonial rule of the country.

Meanwhile, during talks in Ethiopia, the African Union said NATO should focus on the mandate of the U.N. resolution.

RAMTANE LAMAMRA: We call on the—for the fighting to stop and for the air strikes to avoid targeting senior officials of Libya, as well as—as well as infrastructures of the country. There is a need to implement the Resolutions 1970 and 1973 in accordance with what they meant to achieve, and that is the protection of civilians.

AMY GOODMAN: To discuss the latest developments, we go to Benghazi right now in eastern Libya, where we’re joined on the phone by Leila Fadel, the Washington Post bureau chief in Cairo. She has spent many weeks reporting from Libya.

Leila Fadel, welcome to Democracy Now! It’s very good to have you. I know it’s tough to keep this line going. Just describe what’s happening in Benghazi right now.

LEILA FADEL: Well, Benghazi, actually, is quite quiet, uncharacteristically. The east has relatively calmed in the last 10 days, with little to no fighting. I went to the hospital in Ajdabiya, which is pretty much the front line here in the east, yesterday, and the halls have been empty for 10 days, no injuries. The fighters say they have commands to stop and hold their position, which is completely different than, of course, Misurata.

AMY GOODMAN: And describe who is there and what the feeling is in Benghazi, who the rebels are that you’ve been speaking to, what they are asking for.

LEILA FADEL: In Benghazi, I mean, the opposition here is—as you know, of the Council, many are lawyers and judges and academics. The fighters are a diverse group of young men, older men, teachers, engineers, some who believe they’re fighting in God’s name, some who feel that this is the way Libya should be freed. But the thing that sort of unites everyone here is the idea that if they do—if they are defeated, they will all be killed or punished for what they have started.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you tell us a little about Misurata? You’ve been reporting on it for weeks now.

LEILA FADEL: Yeah, I spent a week in Misurata, and I would say it’s a—it’s quite a dire situation there. They are a city that is under siege. Their only lifeline is the sea. The port has been under heavy fire the last two days in an attempt—according to the rebel forces there, they say it’s an attempt to cut off their only lifeline to aid, to humanitarian aid, to get out of the city. Many migrant workers are trying to get out of the city. Families are trying to get out of the city. But it also is their line for weapon supplies that are coming from Benghazi.

AMY GOODMAN: You went into the hospital there. Describe what you saw.

LEILA FADEL: The hospital was—basically, they have set up a tent outside the main hospital, called Hikma Hospital, where they evacuated to because the larger trauma clinic came under heavy fire and is uninhabitable now. And it is a constant rotation of the wounded and the dead being brought into that tent, treated. Doctors say they have to choose to—whether to treat or not to treat injuries, because they don’t have enough space and doctors to focus on every case.

I saw a lot of civilian deaths and injuries in the hospital—eight-year-old children, four-year-old children, who had been shot in the head. I saw lots of shrapnel wounds. For families who were sitting at home, the fire has been quite indiscriminate, tank shells into apartment buildings, rocket attacks into apartment buildings. A huge amount of internal displacement, because families are searching for a place that’s safe in Misurata, and so far it’s been really difficult to find that place.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about why Misurata, why the people rose up there?

LEILA FADEL: In my conversations with people in Misurata—you know, it’s a very wealthy city, and it’s known for trade. You found among the fighters doctors and biologists and economists and engineers, people who had two to three homes and cars. Many of them said that they couldn’t handle the killings that were happening in the east. The huge—the bigger crackdown started in the east here in Benghazi. And so, Misurata rose up. And now that they have risen up, they feel they can’t turn back. As I said before, they know that there is a huge punishment in store if they do succumb, as they saw happen in Zawiyah.

Their resistance is quite organized, actually, compared to the east, and I don’t know if that’s because, unlike the east, where you can retreat towards the border, there is nowhere for anybody to retreat there. So they’ve been able to set up a city where they have emergency lanes for ambulances and rebel fighter trucks. They have units that are somewhat organized, with combat doctors. They’ve set up berms and barriers to try to protect them from shelling. But they’ve also really incurred a lot of destruction on their city in order to save it.

But everybody here speaks of the same sort of psychological prison that they’ve been in for 41 years, that everything has been about one man, a personality cult, where they can’t think or say anything that they believe without being jailed or disappearing. And so, I think that really unites most fighters who—and most opposition that have risen up against Muammar Gaddafi here.

AMY GOODMAN: Leila Fadel, it’s interesting, when we’re covering other uprisings in the Middle East, we’re talking about the pro-democracy activists; immediately in Libya, we talked about the rebels. Why? Why the difference? And can you talk about what their background is, how young people are, if they were fighters before?

LEILA FADEL: Mm-hmm. Well, I think in the beginning we covered this as we did all the other revolutions in the Middle East. But this quickly became an armed conflict. But these were not people who walked around with weapons and RPGs. These were people who had never picked up a weapon in their life. But the killing and the suppression here was to a degree that we didn’t see in Egypt and we didn’t see in Tunisia. And even though the military defected, some of the military defected, especially in the east, and Abdul Fatah Younis defected, the military here has been gutted. It doesn’t have ammunition. It doesn’t have the supplies. All of that goes to what they call the Katibas, which are basically Muammar Gaddafi’s militias, which he has supplied with the best weaponry and training. And those are the forces that they are fighting here.

And these groups—I mean, most of the fighters that I’ve spoken to, especially in Misurata, have never fought before. You do have a small contingent of people who have fought in the name of—who have fought in Afghanistan and Iraq, because they believed that it was wrong for foreigners to invade Muslim countries and kill Muslims. I did profile one fighter who spoke about his time in Iraq. He talked about how he didn’t believe in the system, the belief system of al-Qaeda, but he did believe that foreign troops should not invade Muslim countries. And he would welcome here in—he wanted air strikes. At the time, there was no-fly zone—there was no no-fly zone, and there were no air strikes going on, but he wanted that. The only thing he didn’t want was troops on the ground.

AMY GOODMAN: Leila, how are you keeping yourself safe? I mean, many journalists have been kidnapped, among them the New York Times crew, Anthony Shadid, most recently Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros, Mohammed Nabbous, a Libyan reporter, and we don’t know all the Libyans who have been killed. How are you keeping yourself safe?

LEILA FADEL: Well, Benghazi is now relatively safe. There have been no incursions by Gaddafi forces in Benghazi since the air strikes began last month. The front lines in the east are dangerous. Many journalists have been taken. I try not to pass the fighters. You also have to be careful with the fighters themselves. Like I said, they have never shot off weapons before, and sometimes they hurt themselves, because they don’t know how to use them. So you try to—you know, as a writer, I don’t have to get a perfect shot. You try to speak to people near the fighting, in the fighting, but keep yourself safe.

In Misurata, unfortunately, it’s very difficult to keep yourself safe. You have to take risks because you want to tell the story of what’s happening there. And that claimed the lives of friends of mine, my colleagues obviously, Chris and Tim. And that’s because it is so indiscriminate. You don’t know where a Grad rocket is going to drop. And speaking to people in Misurata, they said all of Misurata is a front line. So even if you’re at the most dangerous point or in a place where you believe is safe, you are still in danger there.

AMY GOODMAN: Also, Ali Hassan al-Jaber, the Al Jazeera cameraman who was killed in an ambush near where you are, near Benghazi. Finally, the U.N., the significance of this group that’s going in, a fact-finding mission to investigate on both sides. I mean, Human Rights Watch, of course, has condemned Gaddafi forces, but also rebels planting land mines.

LEILA FADEL: Yes. I think it would be difficult for anyone operating in Tripoli to get the larger picture of what’s happening, because the government has been so successful, at least with journalists, in trying to mitigate the message. And in order to operate in Tripoli, you know, my colleagues who are in Tripoli have to sneak around, sneak out of this hotel, in order to try to find out what’s actually happening in Tripoli. And much of what is happening in Tripoli, we don’t know, because the government has such control there. So I think that’s very difficult. The NATO role here in the east and also in Misurata has been welcomed, but also condemned for not doing enough to stop the siege on Misurata and also to stop Gaddafi forces in the east.

AMY GOODMAN: And the feeling of Italy bombing Libya, which has had this history of colonial rule and has killed so many in the past?

LEILA FADEL: Mm-hmm. Honestly, I think that, at this point, the opposition generally isn’t being picky. They’re taking whoever will come in and try to help them. This is a game of survival for them, and they don’t have the time to train up their forces. They understand that their military cannot win this, because it’s not a military. It’s a group of guys with guns who are trying to come under some type of command. And so, I haven’t heard large-scale complaints about the Italian intervention.

AMY GOODMAN: Leila Fadel, thank you so much for being with us, Washington Post bureau chief, usually in Cairo, now in Benghazi, where she has spent many weeks reporting from Libya. Thank you so much, and please be safe.

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Fatah and Hamas Announce Outline of Deal

Hi. There’s now been a joint news conference announcing the

actual formation on the new entity.  Today’s Democracy Now

interviews UCLA Prof. Saree Makdese on the issue.  He brings

up the major problems facing a Palestinian government in an

occupied land, and the many issues of over half of Palestinians

living in exile.  Nonetheless, it’s an important development.



Fatah and Hamas Announce Outline of Deal


By Isabel Kershner

NY Times: April 27, 2011


JERUSALEM — Fatah and Hamas, the rival Palestinian movements, announced an

agreement in principle on Wednesday to end the years-long internal

Palestinian schism.


Taher Al-Nounou, a spokesman for the Hamas government in Gaza, said the two

sides had reached a preliminary agreement to form a transitional unity

government for the Palestinian territories to be followed by new elections

after a year. He said the leaders of Fatah and Hamas are expected to meet

within a week to sign a formal agreement.


At a press conference to announce the deal in Cairo, the Palestinian

negotiators offered few details of the proposed transitional government,

saying it would be composed of neutral professionals and that the leaders of

each side would work out the details.


While the deal, reached after secret Egyptian-brokered talks, promised a

potentially historic reconciliation for the Palestinians, Israel warned that

a formal agreement would spell the end of the Israeli-Palestinian peace



In a televised address on Wednesday, even before the Fatah-Hamas press

conference, the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, sent a stern

warning to the Palestinian Authority president and Fatah chief, Mahmoud



“The Palestinian Authority has to choose between peace with Israel and peace

with Hamas,” Mr. Netanyahu said, adding, “Peace with both of them is

impossible, because Hamas aspires to destroy the state of Israel and says so



The choice, he said, was in the authority’s hands.


The news comes as the so-called Arab Spring has shaken the Middle East,

leading to the demise of two longtime autocrats and raising new fears in

Israel about its alliances and security. Especially alarming to Israel was

the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, which has a peace agreement

with Israel.


Relations between Fatah, the mainstream secularist movement led by the

Palestinian president, Mr. Abbas, and Hamas, the Islamic militant group,

have deteriorated since Hamas won parliamentary elections in 2006. They

ruptured a year later when Hamas seized full control of the Gaza Strip, the

Palestinian coastal enclave, after a brief factional war, routing Fatah

forces there and limiting the influence of Mr. Abbas and his Palestinian

Authority to the West Bank.


Asked why the deadlocked talks had come back to life, Mr. Nounou said, “The

will was there for everyone.” He also credited the new mediators from Egypt,

put in place after that country’s revolution, with “an exemplary

performance,” including weeks of courtship at private meetings with each

side before they met face to face with each other for the first time today.


The tentative deal is the first sign that the recent upheaval in the region,

and specifically the Egyptian revolution, has reshuffled regional diplomacy.

Previously, efforts to reconcile the two Palestinian factions fell under the

jurisdiction of Mr. Mubarak’s right-hand man, Omar Suleiman. Although he

talked to both sides, he and the Egyptian government were considered openly

hostile to the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Hamas is an offshoot, and deeply

committed to Egypt’s alliance with Israel.


Mkhaimar Abusada, a professor of political science at Gaza’s Al-Azhar

University, said that the Palestinian Authority’s failure to reach an

agreement with Israel and the disappointment following the American veto of

a United Nations Security Council resolution against Israeli settlement

construction in February encouraged Mr. Abbas’s Fatah party to come to an

agreement with Hamas. The Islamic group was motivated by changes in the

region, especially the revolt in Syria, where Hamas’s politburo is based, to

get closer to Fatah, he said.


The agreement appeared to catch the Obama administration, like many others,

by surprise. Tommy Vietor, the spokesman for the National Security Council,

said that the administration was seeking more information about the

agreement and its terms, but sharply warned that it considered Hamas a

terrorist organization that would not be a reliable partner in peace talks

with Israel.


“As we have said before, the United States supports Palestinian

reconciliation on terms which promote the cause of peace,” Mr. Vietor said.

“Hamas, however, is a terrorist organization which targets civilians.”


He added that any Palestinian government had to accept certain principles

announced by international negotiators, including renouncing violence,

abiding by past agreements with the Israelis and recognizing Israel’s right

to exist. Hamas has never agreed to those conditions.


Before the press conference, Palestinian officials said Hamas and Fatah

agreed on three main issues that had thwarted previous rounds of talks aimed

at reaching a national reconciliation.


Mahmoud Zahar, a Hamas leader, told Al-Jazeera from Cairo that the issues

included the interim leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization,

the Palestinian umbrella organization from which Hamas has so far been

excluded; a tribunal for elections; and a deadline for elections. Mr. Zahar

said they were to be held within a year of the signing of the final

agreement, which is expected to take place in Cairo next week.


Mr. Zahar added that Hamas and Fatah would together nominate the members of

the technocratic government and of the 12-judge elections’ tribunal.


 He also said that an agreement was reached on another contentious issue,

control of the security services, but he did not elaborate. In November,

officials from the two movements met in Damascus but failed to reach an

agreement due to differences on security.


Mr. Abbas has been pressing in recent months for reconciliation, under

popular pressure for national unity and ahead of plans to seek international

recognition of Palestinian statehood at the United Nations this fall.


Successive rounds of Egyptian-brokered talks between the rival parties have

failed in past years. Last month, Mr. Abbas said that he was ready to go to

Gaza and meet with Ismail Haniya, the leader of the Hamas government, who

had already invited Mr. Abbas and Fatah to resume unity talks.


The last round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks broke down soon after they

started last September when a temporary Israeli moratorium on construction

in West Bank settlements expired. The international powers have been working

to get the sides to resume negotiations, and Mr. Netanyahu has recently been

considering making some kind of offer to the Palestinian Authority to try to

preempt a United Nations vote, according to Israeli officials.


But Mr. Netanyahu made it clear on Wednesday that he would not deal with Mr.

Abbas and the Palestinian Authority if it took the route of national unity

with Hamas.


Hamas, Mr. Netanyahu said, “Fires rockets at our cities and anti-tank

missiles at our children,” referring to a recent attack by Hamas militants

on a school bus in Israel that killed a 16-year-old Israeli youth.


“I think the very idea of the reconciliation shows the weakness of the

Palestinian Authority, and leads one to wonder whether Hamas will take

control over Judea and Samaria as it did over Gaza,” Mr. Netanyahu added,

using the biblical name for the West Bank.


Earlier Wednesday, Mr. Netanyahu instructed the Israeli military and

security establishment to take all necessary measures to ensure the

enforcement of Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza amid reports of plans for

another international flotilla this spring. Mr. Netanyahu met with his

senior ministers and security officials and said that diplomatic efforts

should continue to prevent the flotilla from setting out, and that the

blockade was necessary to prevent weapons from being smuggled to militant

organizations in Gaza.


Last May, Israeli naval commandos raided a flotilla that was trying to

breach the naval blockade of Gaza and killed nine pro-Palestinian activists

on a Turkish vessel after violent confrontations broke out. The incident

stirred international outrage and caused a crisis in relations between

Israel and Turkey, a longtime regional ally.


David D. Kirkpatrick and Mona El-Naggar contributed reporting from Cairo,

Fares Akram from Gaza and Steven Lee Myers from Washington.



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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Inhumane Treatment of Bradley Manning!

Hi. An Op-Ed in this morning’s LA Times, titled ‘Tilting the scales of Justice,’

is written the chief prosecutor at Guantanamo (2005-7) about the impact on

military justice of Obama’s recent comments re the ‘guilt’ of Bradley Manning.

If you haven’t yet read it, please do so.  It undermines the entire trial.


The material below is from Avaaz, an international humanitarian organization. 

Their own goal of 250,000 signatures to send to Obama was reached.  When I

signed, I saw signatures coming at the rate of 5 seconds each, from across the

world.   It was amazing.  Lots of important material is here, which may persuade

you to join the campaign to allow Manning humane treatment and a fair trial.



From: Karen Pomer

Here is an email you can forward to friends and family:

Dear friends,

Right now, Wikileaks whistleblower Bradley Manning is being tortured in a US military prison. Manning is subjected to utter isolation that can drive many people insane, with short periods each day where he is stripped naked and abused by jeering inmates.

Manning is awaiting trial for releasing secret military documents to Wikileaks – including a video of US soldiers massacring Iraqi civilians. And his brutal treatment appears to be part of an intimidation campaign to silence whistleblowers and crack down on Wikileaks. The US government is split on this issue, with diplomats publicly criticizing the military for Manning's treatment, but President Obama has stood aside so far.

Obama cares about the US' global reputation - we need to show him that it's at stake here. Let's build a massive global call to the US government to stop torturing Manning and uphold the law. Sign the petition below -- our message will be delivered through hard-hitting ads and actions in Washington DC as soon as we reach 250,000 signatures:

On paper the United States opposes torture. The US Constitution forbids “cruel and unusual punishment". And, along with almost a hundred other countries, the US has signed an international convention promising to treat all prisoners “with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person”. But today Bradley Manning is utterly isolated in a cell without sheets, not allowed to exercise and is being subjected to brutal humiliation that is causing serious mental harm. This violates US and international law.

Bradley is being held under 'prevention of injury' status despite 16 reports from military mental health professionals that he should be removed from these severe conditions. His lawyers are trying to enforce his basic Constitutional and international human rights in court, but so far the military tribunal responsible for Bradley’s fate has ignored his suffering.

There has been a crack down on Wikileaks since the explosive revelations of US military crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq. Many speculate that this brutal pressure on Bradley is intended to force him to implicate WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. But Obama promised Americans and the world that he would protect, not persecute, whistleblowers:

"Often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government is an existing government employee committed to public integrity and willing to speak out. Such acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled."

Bradley's cruel treatment does the opposite and sends a chilling message to others who may want to expose important information. Let's act quickly to put massive international pressure on the United States government to honor its commitment to human rights and the protection of whistleblowers and end the shockingly cruel treatment of their own citizen. Sign the petition below:

Bradley Manning claims he is a patriot and has admitted to releasing information that he felt the world had a right to know. While reasonable people can disagree about the approach of Wikileaks and the the rights or wrongs of those who delivered information to them, the illegal torture of Bradley Manning, who has yet to receive a fair trial or be convicted of any crime, is a shameful violation of human rights and human dignity.

With hope and determination,

Emma, Ricken, Pascal, Janet and the rest of the Avaaz team


Check out Obama's statement on the importance of whistleblowing released on his official website

PJ Crowley resigns over Bradley Manning remarks, The Guardian

Soldier's inhumane imprisonment, LA Times

US: Explain Conditions of Bradley Manning’s Confinement, Human Rights Watch

Stripped naked every night, Bradley Manning tells of prison ordeal, The Guardian

WikiLeakers and Whistle-Blowers: Obama's Hard Line, Time,8599,2058340,00.html

The Implications of the Inhumane Treatment of Bradley Manning, Huffington Post

U.S. Pledges Rights Improvements, New York Times

Bradley Manning: charge sheet is a 7-million-person global campaign network
that works to ensure that the views and values of the world's people shape global decision-making. ("Avaaz" means "voice" or "song" in many languages.) Avaaz members live in every nation of the world; our team is spread across 13 countries on 4 continents and operates in 14 languages. Learn about some of Avaaz's biggest campaigns here, or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

This message was sent to To change your email address, language, or other information, send a message to, contact us via this form -- or simply click here to unsubscribe.To contact Avaaz, please do not reply to this email. Instead, write to us at or call us at +1-888-922-8229 (US).


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