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JFP 4/29: Egypt Says Will Open Gaza; Gary Johnson Interview
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 29 April 2011 - 6:49pm
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April 29, 2011
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*Action: Send a Letter to the Editor on Afghan withdrawal and drawdown
Senator Boxer has introduced a bill requiring the President to establish a timetable for the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan - a timetable with an end date. A real deadline for US withdrawal would facilitate meaningful peace talks. More visible Senate criticism of the endless war can move the White House to a substantial drawdown of U.S. troops this summer. Send a letter to your local newspaper - we've provided a draft.
Gary Johnson: I Would Get Out of Afghanistan Tomorrow
In an interview with Robert Naiman, former New Mexico governor and GOP presidential candidate Gary Johnson advocates military withdrawal from Afghanistan within months; supports Boxer bill requiring a real timetable for military withdrawal; advocates 43% cut in the military budget; advocates ending US military involvement in Libya; questions why we have a U.S. military base in Okinawa that people there don't want; supports legalization of marijuana and says legalization would end 75% of the border violence in Mexico, saving thousands of lives.
Americans for Peace Now: Palestinian Reconciliation Deal is an Opportunity for Obama
APN welcomed news of a Fatah-Hamas deal. To the degree that the agreement provides for elections and a joint government, this is an opportunity that the Obama administration should not squander.
Afghanistan Study Group: Growing List of Conservatives Including Coulter And Norquist Oppose War In Afghanistan
"Please help us by forwarding this information to your conservative friends."
Glenn Greenwald: Obama's Comments on Bradley Manning Mark "Amazing Amount of Improper Influence" in WikiLeaks Case
"One of the cardinal rules of being a president is that you don't decree private citizens guilty of crimes before they've been adjudicated of having been convicted of a crime. And amazingly, even John Mitchell, the most corrupt attorney general in American history, knew that… Here, it's much worse for Obama to do that, because Bradley Manning is a member of the military under his command. The people who will decide his guilt are inferior officers to Obama as commander-in-chief. It's an amazing amount of over and improper influence on the military process."
"Occupation Has No Future": an Interview with David Zlutnick
Leslie Thatcher speaks with filmmaker David Zlutnick, who talks about his new documentary, "Occupation Has No Future," which focuses on Israeli militarism and explores the work of Israelis and Palestinians organizing against the occupation.
Tom Tomorrow: Two Guys Standing on an Incline
A slippery slope in the Libya War.
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1) Foreign Minister Nabil al-Arabi said on Friday Egypt will permanently open the Rafah border crossing to ease the blockade on Gaza, AFP reports. Arabi said Egypt would take "important steps to help ease the blockade on Gaza in the few days to come." He said Egypt would no longer accept that the Rafah border - Gaza's only crossing that bypasses Israel - remain blocked, describing the decision to seal it off as "shameful."
2) A Libyan doctor in Misrata said a NATO airstrike has killed 12 rebels in the city in the latest friendly fire incident, AP reports. Dr. Hassan Malitan said the rebels had assured him that they had been in contact with NATO forces about their location.
3) The Israeli army used force Friday to break up several anti-barrier, anti-settlements protests in different areas of the West Bank, the Palestinian news agency WAFA reports. In the village of Beir Ummar, near Hebron, Israeli soldiers beat two people and threw tear gas inside their car, WAFA says. This week's protests had one common theme, and that was support for the reconciliation agreement reached between Fatah and Hamas in Cairo on Wednesday.
4) A Bahraini national security court has sentenced four men to death for killing two police officers during the pro-democracy protests that were crushed by the authorities last month, The Independent reports. The sentences are likely to deepen divisions between Bahrain's Shia majority, which has been demanding greater political and civil rights, and the Sunni monarchy, backed by Saudi Arabia and the Sunni-dominated Bahraini security forces, The Independent says.
"The people are very angry," a Bahraini MP said. He said the defendants were not allowed any lawyers in court. He added that the government had moved quickly to try those it held responsible for the death of the two police officers, but had done nothing to investigate the killing of 26 Bahrainis, including four who died in custody, during the protests.
5) The San Francisco Chronicle is apparently in trouble with the White House for posting video of a protest against the White House's treatment of Bradley Manning, Peter Hart writes for FAIR. The Chronicle reported that the White House threatened to exclude the Chronicle from pooled coverage of its events in the Bay Area after the paper posted the video.
6) The Pentagon says Bradley Manning is no longer being held in solitary confinement and is now being allowed to move among other military prisoners, the Guardian reports. The Guardian says that President Obama "reportedly" told a Manning supporter: "He broke the law." [The conversation was recorded.] The supporters interpreted Obama's words as referring to Manning, the Guardian says, and have complained that by declaring the suspect guilty the president has destroyed the chance of a fair trial. [If this is merely the "supporters"'' interpretation of who the pronoun "he" referred to, it would be good to know who else the Guardian thinks the President might have been referring to - JFP.]
7) More than 200 members of Syria's ruling Ba'ath party have resigned over the Syrian government's violent repression of pro-democracy protests, the first public sign of serious dissent within the governing ranks, The Telegraph reports. The violence is thought to have killed more than 450 people, and international criticism sharpened after 100 people were killed on Friday.
8) 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 Hamas and Iran, the New York Times reports. 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. Many Egyptian analysts, including some former officials and diplomats who served under then-President Mubarak, say they are thrilled with the shift.
1) Egypt to open Rafah border crossing with Gaza
Hassen Jouini, AFP, Fri Apr 29, 12:31 pm ET
Cairo – Egypt will permanently open the Rafah border crossing to ease the blockade on Gaza, Foreign Minister Nabil al-Arabi said on Friday, sparking Israeli concerns over regional security.
Arabi told Al-Jazeera Egypt would take "important steps to help ease the blockade on Gaza in the few days to come," according to the Arabic-language satellite channel.
He said Egypt would no longer accept that the Rafah border -- Gaza's only crossing that bypasses Israel -- remain blocked, describing the decision to seal it off as "shameful."
The announcement came days after Gaza's Islamist Hamas rulers and their secular West Bank rivals Fatah, which controls the Palestinian Authority, agreed to end their rift and form an interim government to prepare for elections.
In talks before the deal, the two sides had discussed reopening the crossing after positioning PA representatives at the border, a condition in a US-brokered 2005 border crossing agreement between Israel and the PA.
Senior Hamas official Mahmud Zahar told AFP it was understood the crossing, which under the 2005 agreement was to be monitored by European Union delegates, would be opened after a unity deal. "It has always been understood that passage was to open as there was an agreement," he said.
Zahar did not say whether the PA would send representatives to the border, a requisite for the presence of the EU monitors under the 2005 accord.
Palestinian officials welcomed the move, with chief negotiator Saeb Erakat saying it was one step towards loosening the siege on the Gaza Strip. "We welcome this step by Egypt. We have been pressing them all the time to end the suffering of the people in Gaza, but the real siege is caused by Israel because there are many border crossing with Israel but only one with Egypt," he said. "We ask Israel to open all the borders to end this crime against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip," he told AFP.
Hatem Ewidah, the Hamas official in charge of border crossings in Gaza, also welcomed the move, but stressed it was "important to open the commercial crossing with Egypt" to reduce the impact of the blockade.
The United Nations has called the blockade illegal and repeatedly demanded it be lifted.
Egypt has actively supported Israel's blockade, frequently coming in for harsh regional criticism for keeping the border closed and for building an underground wall in a bid to curb smuggling, which it views as a security risk.
But earlier this year, mass street protests led to the overthrow of president Hosni Mubarak, with the new military regime keen to review its policy on Gaza.
2) Libyan doctor: NATO airstrike killed 12 rebels
AP, April 28, 2011
Misrata, Libya - A NATO airstrike has killed 12 rebels in the besieged city of Misrata in the latest friendly fire incident in Libya's chaotic battlefield, a doctor in the city said Thursday.
The airstrike was on Wednesday, the second day of intense fighting around Misrata's Mediterranean port, the city's only lifeline to the outside world. A steady stream of boats have been bringing in humanitarian aid through the port and ferrying out hundreds of wounded civilians and foreign migrant workers who were trapped when the fighting broke out two months ago.
Dr. Hassan Malitan said he believed the attack was a mistake but insisted it was caused by NATO aircraft. He said the attack came moments after he and another doctor visited a site where rebels were holed up in a building about three miles east of the port.
"We drove about 200 meters (yards) and we heard a huge explosion that shook the earth," Malitan said. He said he looked back and saw smoke rising from where they had just sat with the men. As he and the other doctor began slowly driving back toward the building, a second missile crashed into it, Malitan said. "We started crying and screaming out their names," he said. "It was clear that the missiles came from the sky and we heard the airplane," he said.
Malitan said he was surprised to see rebels so far east, and said they assured him that they had been in contact with NATO forces about their location.
3) Israeli Army Uses Force to Break Up Weekly West Bank Protests
WAFA, April 29, 2011
Ramallah – The Israeli army used excessive force Friday to break up several anti-barrier, anti-settlements protests in different areas of the West Bank.
This week's protests had one common theme, and that was support for the reconciliation agreement reached between Fatah and Hamas in Cairo on Wednesday.
In Bilin, where the popular peaceful protests began six years ago against seizure of village land to build a barrier around Jewish settlements in the area, the Israeli army used force to break up the weekly Friday protest, according to witnesses.
One child was hurt when a tear gas hit him in the leg and many others suffered from tear gas inhalation, said village activists.
They said the protest started peacefully in the village with the participation of Israeli and international members of solidarity groups. The protestors marched through the village chanting pro-reconciliation slogans and ended up at the fence Israel is building to separate the village from most of its agricultural land.
Israeli soldiers at the fence showered the protestors with tear gas once they got near the fence, forcing them to disperse.
Similar protests occurred in nearby Nilin and in the village of Nabi Saleh. Protests also took place in al-Ma'sara, near Bethlehem, where the army also used force to disperse the protestors.
In the village of Beir Ummar, near Hebron, Israeli soldiers beat two people and threw tear gas inside their car when they approached the village main entrance of a main road linking Hebron to Bethlehem and often used by Jewish settlers.
4) Bahrain sentences four men to death for killing two policemen
Patrick Cockburn, The Independent, Friday, 29 April 2011
A Bahraini national security court has sentenced four men to death for killing two police officers during the pro-democracy protests that were crushed by the authorities last month.
The sentences are likely to deepen divisions between Bahrain's Shia majority, which has been demanding greater political and civil rights, and the Sunni monarchy, backed by Saudi Arabia and the Sunni-dominated Bahraini security forces.
A further 400 people who have been detained are expected to be prosecuted, according to the state news agency.
"The people are very angry," Ali al-Aswad, a Bahraini MP, said. "This comes as a surprise as the defendants were not allowed any lawyers in court and we did not know what was going on." He added that the government had moved quickly to try those it held responsible for the death of the two police officers, but had done nothing to investigate the killing of 26 Bahrainis, including four who died in custody, during the protests.
King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa and the Bahraini royal family appear to have adopted a policy of systematically terrorising the Shia of Bahrain, who make up 70 per cent of the indigenous population.
The royals have directed the crackdown against Shia activists and institutions. Shia mosques and shrines are being demolished or wrecked and anti-Shia graffiti has been painted on the walls.
Mohammed Sadiq, of Justice for Bahrain, said: "I have no doubt that they [the defendants] were tortured." He said the authorities were trying to prove that the pro-democracy movement had used violence. "They are trying to provoke people to take up arms but we are going to remain non-violent." In addition to the four men, another three were sentenced to life imprisonment for the same offence.
The script of a Bahraini television documentary, released by the authorities last night, contained the "confessions" of the men, according to a government statement. "Today is the day when justice prevails and when the long arm of the law catches all those who betrayed the nation and undermined its security," the documentary said.
The monarchy appears to have largely succeeded in breaking up the pro-democracy movement since it launched a counter-offensive on 15 March. It has detained doctors who treated injured demonstrators. And patients who had taken part in the protests were dragged from hospital beds, according to the US-based Physicians for Human Rights. Even waving the Bahraini flag has been treated as an offence.
The role of the condemned men in the protest rallies is uncertain. They had denied the charges. "They were activists in their villages and we think they were targeted because of their activities," Nabeel Rajab, head of the Bahrain Centre Human Rights, was reported as saying. "This will deepen the gap between the ruling élite and the population." Other Bahraini sources said the young men, who are all Shia, were not previously known as campaigners or activists.
5) White House Threatens to Blacklist Paper for Covering Protest
Peter Hart, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, 04/29/2011
The San Francisco Chronicle is apparently in trouble with the White House for posting video of a protest against the White House's treatment of suspected WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning. The Chronicle's Carolyn Lochhead reports:
"The White House threatened Thursday to exclude the San Francisco Chronicle from pooled coverage of its events in the Bay Area after the paper posted a video of a protest at a San Francisco fundraiser for President Obama last week, Chronicle editor Ward Bushee said. White House guidelines governing press coverage of such events are too restrictive, Bushee said, and the newspaper was within its rights to film the protest and post the video."
Chronicle reporter Carla Marinucci was the designated "pool" reporter at an Obama fundraiser--meaning that her write-up would be shared with other reporters who were not allowed into the event.
But something truly newsworthy happened--and she reported it: "At the St. Regis event, a group of protesters who paid collectively $76,000 to attend the fundraiser interrupted Obama with a song complaining about the administration's treatment of PFC Bradley Manning, the soldier who allegedly leaked U.S. classified documents to the WikiLeaks website."
As part of a "print-only pool," Marinucci was limited by White House guidelines to provide a print-only report, but Marinucci also took a video of the protest, which she posted in her written story on the online edition of the Chronicle at SFGate.com and on its politics blog after she sent her written pool report.
The Chronicle's story closes with this ironic point about the White House's view of technology and information-sharing: "At Facebook the day before the San Francisco fundraiser, Obama said, "The main reason we wanted to do this is, first of all, because more and more people, especially young people, are getting their information through different media. And obviously, what all of you have built together is helping to revolutionize how people get information, how they process information, how they're connecting with each other.""
Apparently Marinucci posting a video was a little too much revolutionizing.
6) Bradley Manning no longer held in solitary confinement, Pentagon says
Soldier now detained among medium-security inmates at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas as he awaits court martial
Ed Pilkington, The Guardian, Friday 29 April 2011
New York - Bradley Manning, the US soldier accused of leaking classified cables to WikiLeaks, is no longer being held in solitary confinement and is now being allowed to move among other military prisoners, according to the Pentagon.
Reporters were allowed to view the kind of accommodation in which Manning is currently being detained, at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, after he was moved earlier this month from Quantico marine base in Virginia as he awaits court martial.
His treatment in Virginia– which included 23 hours in his cell and being stripped down to a smock at night – was widely condemned by human rights groups including Amnesty International and the UN rapporteur on torture, who subsquently launched an investigation into conditions.
Manning is now detained among other medium-security inmates also awaiting military trial, according to Associated Press, which took part in a media tour of his new accommodation. The move implies that Manning has been cleared as a suicide risk, as any detainee deemed a risk of suicide would be held on their own.
It has long been a complaint of Manning's lawyer, David Coombs, that the advice of psychiatrists at his old prison in Quantico was ignored. Records show that mental health professionals regularly assessed him and found him to be no risk to himself, but Manning was kept on a "prevention of injury" order, which required him to be segregated from other inmates.
Reporters were told that Manning will, in future, be housed alongside another 10 or so prisoners, all of whom are awaiting trial. AP said he will have his own cell, wear standard prison clothing and have open access to a communal area except overnight.
Last week President Obama was accosted by Manning supporters at a fundraising event in San Francisco. The president spoke to one supporter and reportedly said: "He broke the law."
The supporters interpreted Obama's words as referring to Manning, and have complained that by declaring the suspect guilty the president has destroyed the chance of a fair trial.
[Note how the Guardian strains "balance": Manning's supporters say the President was referring to Manning, but we can't really be sure who "he" referred to - JFP.]
7) Syria: 200 Ba'ath officials quit in protest against regime
Telegraph, 6:48AM BST 28 Apr 2011
More than 200 members of Syria's ruling Ba'ath party have resigned over President Bashar al-Assad's violent repression of pro-democracy protests, the first public sign of serious dissent within the governing ranks.
Resigning from the Ba'ath party, which has ruled Syria since taking power in a 1963 coup, was unthinkable before pro-democracy protests erupted in the southern city of Deraa on March 18.
The violence is thought to have killed more than 450 people, and international criticism sharpened after 100 people were killed on Friday and security forces began an attack on the southern city of Deraa on Monday.
Two hundred party members from Deraa province and surrounding regions said they had resigned in protest against the attack, in which security forces killed at least 35 people.
"In view of the negative stance taken by the leadership of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath party towards the events in Syria and in Deraa, and after the death of hundreds and the wounding of thousands at the hands of the various security forces, we submit our collective resignation," they said in a declaration.
Another 28 Ba'athists in the coastal city of Banias also resigned on Wednesday in protest at the "practices of the security forces against honourable citizens ... and torture and murder they committed".
8) In Shift, Egypt Warms to Iran and Hamas, Israel's Foes
David D. Kirkpatrick, New York Times, April 28, 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."
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.
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.
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