November 23, 2009

After ceasefire declaration by Hamas, Israel launches air strikes in Gaza

Israeli airstrike on Gaza
November 22, 2009 21:19
By Saed Bannoura - IMEMC News

Early Sunday morning, the Israeli airforce launched a series of missiles into the central, northern and southern Gaza Strip, wounding seven Palestinians. The air strikes follow a Saturday night declaration by the Hamas leadership in Gaza (the elected leadership of the Palestinian people) that they had managed to convince the armed factions in Gaza to cease firing homemade shells across the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel.

The pattern of Israeli air strikes following Palestinian cease-fire declarations is one that has become common over the years, particularly in 2008, when Hamas declared a six-month ceasefire, but Israeli forces refused to recognize or participate in that ceasefire, instead launching numerous attacks on Palestinian fishermen, extrajudicial assassinations of suspected fighters, and air strikes on civilian areas. One of the most egregious examples of this pattern was on July 21, 2002, when, just hours after Hamas announced the conclusion of a delicate negotiation with all armed groups which resulted in the declaration of a unilateral ceasefire, Israeli forces launched a massive airstrike on an apartment building in Gaza City, killing 22 civilians, 14 of whom were children. The ceasefire eroded after that attack.

In Sunday's attack, Israeli forces hit a metal foundry in central Gaza, a trailer home in northern Gaza, and smuggling tunnels in the south used by Palestinians to sneak in much-needed food and medical supplies that are banned from entry into the Gaza Strip by the Israeli siege.

The Israeli military said that the air strikes were in response to a shell that had been fired by Palestinian fighters early Saturday morning, causing no injuries or damage. The Israeli military gave no response to the fact that later on Saturday, Hamas officials had announced a ceasefire that they had negotiated with all of the fighting factions in Gaza.

According to Israeli sources, almost 270 shells have been fired by Palestinian fighters into Israel since January, causing no injuries and very little damage (the Palestinian homemade shells are small, crude and impossible to aim). The Israeli sources added that this is a significant decrease from 2008, when they claim that nearly 3,300 shells and other small projectiles were shot over the border.

In the last year, Israeli forces have killed over 1500 Palestinians in Gaza, the vast majority of whom are civilians. In the same time period, Palestinian fighters have killed 5 Israeli civilians.

Gaza water unfit for human consumption: Palestinians

Nov 21, 2009

GAZA CITY (AFP) – Water in the Gaza Strip is so salty that it is unfit for human consumption, a Palestinian official in charge of water supplies inside the besieged coastal territory said on Saturday.

"The water is no longer fit for human consumption, with analysis and international studies showing that just 10 percent of water in the Gaza Strip is usable... threatening the lives of Palestinians," Munzir Shiblak warned.

He called in a statement for "the necessary measures to be taken to end the problem of salinity in Gaza water supplies, a problem that is getting worse."

Shiblak called the water situation "critical."

He said the amount taken from underground aquifers last year to supply 1.5 million people with drinking water and for agriculture was 160 million cubic metres, but that natural replenishment was 80-90 million cubic metres.

"The ground water deficit rose to more than 80 million cubic metres last year, and if this situation continues reserves could collapse in the next few years," Shiblak said.

In September the UN Environment Programme also said Gaza's underground water supplies are "in danger of collapse" following years of overuse and the devastating war Israel waged in the territory at the turn of the year.

"Unless the trend is reversed now, damage could take centuries to reverse. Since the aquifer is a continuum with Israel and Egypt, such action must be coordinated with these countries," UNEP said in a report.

Israel and Egypt have sealed off the impoverished enclave to all but basic goods since the Islamist Hamas movement seized control in June 2007, severely hampering the upkeep of basic infrastructure.

The sewage system has been particularly hard-hit, as Israel does not allow the import of virtually any pipes or other metal equipment that it fears could be used by Palestinian militants to make improvised rockets.

UNEP estimated that restoring the aquifer beneath Gaza could require 1.5 billion dollars (a billion euros) over 20 years, including the construction of desalination plants to ease the pressure on underground sources.

The report said over-extraction was causing seawater to seep into the freshwater aquifer, sending salinity levels above the 250 milligrammes per litre considered safe by the World Health Organisation.

November 22, 2009

Israeli spies ‘infiltrate’ Johannesburg airport

By JONATHAN COOK - The National

NAZARETH, Israel // South Africa deported an Israeli airline official last week following allegations that Israel’s secret police, the Shin Bet, had infiltrated Johannesburg international airport in an effort to gather information on South African citizens, particularly black and Muslim travellers.

The move by the South African government followed an investigation by local TV showing an undercover reporter being illegally interrogated by an official with El Al, Israel’s national carrier, in a public area of Johannesburg’s OR Tambo airport.

The programme also featured testimony from Jonathan Garb, a former El Al guard, who claimed that the airline company had been a front for the Shin Bet in South Africa for many years.

Of the footage of the undercover reporter’s questioning, he commented: "Here is a secret service operating above the law in South Africa. We pull the wool over everyone’s eyes. We do exactly what we want. The local authorities do not know what we are doing."

The Israeli foreign ministry is reported to have sent a team to South Africa to try to defuse the diplomatic crisis after the government in Johannesburg threatened to deport all of El Al’s security staff.

Mr Garb’s accusations have been supported by an investigation by the regulator for South Africa’s private security industries.

They have also been confirmed by human rights groups in Israel, which report that Israeli security staff are carrying out racial profiling at many airports around the world, apparently out of sight of local authorities.

Concern in South Africa about the activities of El Al staff has been growing since August, when South Africa’s leading investigative news show, Carte Blanche, went undercover to test Mr Garb’s allegations.

A hidden camera captured an El Al official in the departure hall claiming to be from "airport security" and demanding that the undercover reporter hand over his passport or ID as part of "airport regulations". When the reporter protested that he was not flying but waiting for a friend, El Al’s security manager, identified as Golan Rice, arrived to interrogate him further. Mr Rice then warned him that he was in a restricted area and must leave.

Mr Garb commented on the show: "What we are trained is to look for the immediate threat – the Muslim guy. You can think he is a suicide bomber, he is collecting information. The crazy thing is that we are profiling people racially, ethnically and even on religious grounds … This is what we do."

Mr Garb and two other fired workers have told the South African media that Shin Bet agents routinely detain Muslim and black passengers, a claim that has ignited controversy in a society still suffering with the legacy of decades of apartheid rule.

Suspect individuals, the former workers say, are held in an annex room, where they are interrogated, often on matters unrelated to airport security, and can be subjected to strip searches while their luggage is taken apart. Clandestine searches of their belongings and laptops are also carried out to identify useful documents and information.

All of this is done in violation of South African law, which authorises only the police, armed forces or personnel appointed by the transport minister to carry out searches.

The former staff also accuse El Al of smuggling weapons – licensed to the local Israeli embassy – into the airport for use by the secret agents.

Mr Garb went public after he was dismissed over a campaign he led for better pay and medical benefits for El Al staff.

A South African Jew, he said he was recruited 19 years ago by the Shin Bet. "We were trained at a secret camp [in Israel] where they train Israeli special forces and they train you how to use handguns, submachine guns and in unarmed combat."

Mr Garb claimed to have profiled 40,000 people for Israel over the past 20 years, including recently Virginia Tilley, a Middle East expert who is the chief researcher at South Africa’s Human Sciences Research Council. The think tank recently published a report accusing Israel of apartheid and colonialism in the Palestinian territories.

"The decision was she should be checked in the harshest way because of her connections," Mr Garb said.

Ms Tilley confirmed that she had been detained at the airport by El Al staff and separated from her luggage. Mr Garb said that during this period an agent "photo-copied all [her] documentation and then he forwarded it on to Israel" – Mr Garb believes for use by the Shin Bet.

Israeli officials have refused to comment on the allegations. A letter produced by Mr Garb – signed by Roz Bukris, El Al’s general manager in South Africa – suggests that he was employed by the Shin Bet rather than the airline. Ms Bukris, according to the programme, refused to confirm or deny the letter’s validity.

The Israeli Embassy in South Africa declined to discuss evidence that it, rather than El Al, had licensed guns issued to the airline’s security managers. Questioned last week by Ynet, Israel’s largest news website, about the deportation of the airline official, Yossi Levy, an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman said he could not "comment on security matters".

A report published in 2007 by two Israeli human rights organisations, the Nazareth-based Arab Association for Human Rights and the Centre Against Racism, found that Israeli airline staff used racial profiling at most major airports around the world, subjecting Arab and Muslim passengers to discriminatory and degrading treatment in violation both of international law and the host country’s laws.

"Our research showed that the checks conducted by El Al at foreign airports had all the hallmarks of Shin Bet interrogations," said Mohammed Zeidan, the director of the Human Rights Association. "Usually the questions were less about the safety of the flight and more aimed at gathering information on the political activities or sympathies of the passengers."

The human rights groups approached four international airports – in New York, Paris, Vienna and Geneva – where passengers said they had been subjected to discriminatory treatment, to ask under what authority the Israeli security services were operating. The first two airports refused to respond, while Vienna and Geneva said it was not possible to oversee El Al’s procedures.


What are western church leaders doing to protect the Holy Land?

People's Geography
22 November, 2009

Stuart Littlewood (pictured), in conversation with Angie Tibbs, has some interesting words to say about the profoundly tenacious and courageous clergy, both Christian and Muslim, in the face of the brutal israeli occupation of occupied Palestine, including Bethlehem and Nazareth. Stuart met with several priests and imams in the occupied West Bank and its worth highlighting his observations about the Latin Patriarchate Catholic Church and the apparent lack of action by the Vatican and other denominational leaders, all of whom the zionist entity discriminates against. You can read the interview in full here.

Angie: What towns and villages did you visit in occupied Palestine and what were your impressions?

Stuart: Much of the time was spent with Palestinian priests in their parishes. These are the Church’s front-line troops. They are abused and sometimes shot at by the Israelis, yet they remain focused and good-humoured.

[...] I was also shocked by the way the Israelis have systematically trashed the Holy Land and many of its antiquities. Once-beautiful landscapes, many with biblical connections, are now crowned with hideous hill-top settlements or military installations. Town and country planning principles are unheard-of. Israel’s vandalism, visible everywhere, has ruined a gentle Arab civilization and its heritage, and that’s something else they’ll never be forgiven for.

Angie: Are Western church leaders playing a sufficient role in protecting the Holy Land, its religious history, and its people?

Stuart: The Catholic Church, which has a significant presence in the Holy Land and runs a number of schools, appears to be fighting the battle alone. Anglican Church ministers I have spoken to are largely disinterested. Yes, their faith is focused on the Holy Land, they teach the Holy Land texts and they deliver sermons on the Holy Land, but what do they really care about it? One morning they’ll wake up and discover that the Holy Land – the central plank to their existence – has been stolen from under their noses.

The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem – the Catholic Church in the Holy Land – does its best, but I don’t think it gets the support it deserves from the Vatican. As for the rest, they could unite and surely do much more. While Israel was planning its blitzkrieg against Gaza’s Muslims and Christians – after blockading and starving them with the British government’s connivance – the Archbishop of Canterbury went swanning off with the Chief Rabbi on a visit to Auschwitz, preaching their joint solidarity against extreme hostility and genocide! The Archbishop talked about the collective corruption and moral sickness that made the Holocaust possible. But where was his concern for the shattered Christian remnants in Gaza? Or for the murdered, maimed and homeless Muslims who, many claim, are being subjected to a ’slow genocide’? Let’s remember that the Israelis’ killing spree left nearly 60,000 homeless and 400,000 without running water, and they still won’t allow cement and other reconstruction materials to be brought in.

Did the Pope visit Gaza to show solidarity with his frightened and impoverished flock there?

Pious wofflers in their palaces make me sick, when genuine men of God – those in the front line, the priests, the nuns and the imams – risk their lives as they work round the clock to bring comfort to the victims of political greed and aggression.

Angie: What were your contacts telling you about the conditions in Gaza?

Stuart: One message in particular still haunts me. Fr Manuel Mussallam, the elderly priest in Gaza, emailed to say: “If you wish to really understand what is taking place in the Gaza Strip, please open your Bible and read the Lamentations of Jeremiah. This is what we are living. People are crying, hungry, thirsty, desperate. They need food. Even if there is food for sale, people have no money to buy it. They have no income, no opportunities to bring food from outside and no opportunities to secure money inside Gaza. No work, no livelihood, no future… They have no hope and many very poor people are aimlessly wandering around trying to beg for something from others who also have nothing. It is heartbreaking to see.”

He ended: “I beg you, we do not need pity, we need only justice. If you don’t give justice, there will be no peace. Peace is the farthest thing away from the mind of anyone, Christian or Moslem, in Gaza at this time.”

Angie Tibbs is a writer/activist living in Canada. She can be reached at

Stuart Littlewood is a writer/photographer living in the UK. Check out his web pages at Words & Pixels and Radio Free Palestine.

People's Geography:

I would additionally direct interested observers to have a look at the The Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism issued by the Eastern Patriarch and Local Heads of Churches In Jerusalem. As a person with a Levantine Christian heritage, I am proud of their courage and fortitude, as I am of such groups as the Christian Peacemaker Teams, the principled stand of the World Council of Churches, as well as various church groups in the US and Europe whom have voted to divest from and boycott Israel (US campaign, Palestinian campaign). And Jewish peace-groups too who work so actively to counter the zionist entity’s crimes committed in their name; a very impressive percentage — reportedly about a third — of the International Solidarity Movement or ISM’s active members are Jewish, for example.

Secret files show UK courts were misled over 9/11 suspect Lotfi Raissi

By Paul Lewis
The Guardian
November 22, 2009

Lotfi Raissi

Lotfi Raissi, the Algerian wrongly accused of training pilots involved in the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York. Photograph: Martin Argles/The Guardian

British prosecutors failed to disclose crucial evidence to the courts in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks in a case that resulted in an innocent pilot being jailed for five months, previously unseen documents reveal.

Lotfi Raissi, an Algerian living in the UK, was the first person in the world to be arrested after the 2001 attacks in New York and Washington DC. Accused of being the "lead" instructor of the 9/11 hijackers, Raissi, 27, was held in Belmarsh high security prison awaiting extradition to the United States.

In a landmark announcement, Jack Straw, the justice secretary, is shortly expected to reveal whether the UK government will accept responsibility for the miscarriage of justice and pay Raissi compensation.

The Guardian has obtained classified documents produced by the FBI and anti-terrorist officials in the UK after the 9/11 attacks which shed new light on how the courts were misled. They include:

• A report by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) into the way its staff handled the case, revealing prosecutors made unfounded allegations about Raissi's involvement in 9/11 on the basis of an oral briefing from two FBI agents outside court.

• A confidential letter from Scotland Yard's anti-terrorist branch to the CPS two months before Raissi was released, back-tracking on the key allegation that was being used in court to link Raissi to a senior al-Qaida suspect linked to Osama bin Laden.

• Memorandums from the FBI to anti-terrorist officials in the UK, revealing 9/11 investigators never wanted Raissi to be arrested and were informed about the unreliability of the evidence against him months before the courts were told.

Ministers were forced to consider Raissi's claim for damages after a ruling by the court of appeal last year that found there was evidence that Scotland Yard and the CPS had circumvented "the rule of English law" in what judges believed would amount to a serious abuse of process.

Now 35, Raissi still lives in the UK but says he has been unable to rebuild his life. He has been forced to abandon his promising career as a commercial pilot.

The FBI became interested in Raissi days after the attacks because he trained at the same Arizona flight school as Hani Hanjour, the hijacker who piloted the plane that crashed into the Pentagon.

Despite a specific plea from the FBI not to arrest Raissi but to gather information about him discreetly, anti-terrorist officers from the Metropolitan police stormed his house in Berkshire on September 21 on suspicion of the terrorist attacks 10 days earlier.

Rather than release Raissi when it emerged there was insufficient evidence to charge him, law enforcement officials in the UK colluded with the FBI to obtain a warrant for his extradition. There was no evidence to justify a warrant for terrorism, so Raissi was requested on charges relating to an allegation that he failed to disclose his knee surgery in a pilot application.

In court, the CPS said the pilot application allegations were mere "holding charges", and said he was in fact wanted for his alleged role in a conspiracy to commit mass murder during the 9/11 attacks.

However, as their case for keeping Raissi in Belmarsh began to unravel, prosecutors introduced a new piece of evidence. They relied in successive hearings on an address book which they claimed belonged to Abu Doha, an Algerian terror suspect said to have had personal contact with Bin Laden in Afghanistan.

The address book contained a number linked to an apartment used by Raissi in Arizona, and supposedly connected him to a global terrorist conspiracy. However, two months into his incarceration at Belmarsh, anti-terrorist officers informed the CPS that they no longer believed the address book belonged to Doha, and said it was more likely to be the property of a man called Adam Kermani, who lived in Islington, north London.

Kermani, an ex-boxer, was of so little concern to police that he had never been arrested or interviewed. Kermani's name and Home Office number were written on the front of the address book, which was found in a locked briefcase at his house.

Judges were not informed of this development until February 2002, after which Raissi was released.

The FBI however had been fully briefed months earlier, writing to Scotland Yard to confirm the owner of the address book was "not Abu Doha as originally thought".

Full article

Exelon Halts Three Mile Unit Work After Contamination

By Aaron Clark

Nov. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Exelon Corp. halted work yesterday inside the Three Mile Island 1 reactor in Pennsylvania after radiological contamination was detected inside the containment building.

“We have stopped work inside the reactor building while we investigate the cause of the contamination,” Beth Archer, a company spokesman said in a telephone interview. “There was no contamination outside the reactor building and there was no threat to public health and safety.”

A monitor near a temporary opening cut into the containment building created to move the new steam generators inside “showed a slight increase in a reading and then returned to normal” Exelon said in a statement yesterday. The 786-megawatt unit has been shut since Oct. 26 for refueling and maintenance during which workers will replace the steam generation.

About 150 workers inside the containment building were sent home at about 4 p.m. yesterday after an airborne radiological alarm sounded. One worker received 16 millirem of exposure, which is below the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s limits. Exelon’s “annual occupational dose limit” for nuclear workers is 2,000 millirem.

A millirem is a unit of measurement for a radiation dose. The average person is exposed to about 360 millirems a year from naturally occurring radiation, according to the American Nuclear Society.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has sent a radiation specialist and a regional manager to the power plant to “follow-up on yesterday’s incident” the commission said in an e-mailed statement today.

Unit 2 at Three Mile has been shut since 1979 following a partial core meltdown. It was the biggest nuclear accident in U.S. history.

Book Review: "The God Delusion"

Left i on the News

I recently finished reading Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion, in which Dawkins presents his arguments not only against the existence of God but affirmatively for an affirmation in atheism, tackling such subjects as "is religion the source of morality?" and "is religion actually a bad thing?" Being both a scientist and a Marxist, I didn't need Dawkins to convince me of the non-existence of supernatural forces, and since convincing religious people that there is no God is neither high nor frankly anywhere on my agenda, the discussion along those lines were interesting but little more.

Dawkins also, in my opinion, places too much emphasis on religion in its role in places like Iraq, Palestine, Northern Ireland, and so on. He repeatedly returns to the subject of suicide bombers, but in a completely decontextualized way. You could easily conclude that all suicide bombers are Muslims and that their sole motivation is getting to heaven. Which would hardly explain why Muslims all over the world aren't committing such actions, or why Palestinians weren't acting as suicide bombers before 1948, or why Al Qaeda isn't carrying out actions against Switzerland, or Venezuela, or China, but only the world's imperialist powers who are occupying their countries (indeed, I'm pretty sure the word "occupation" does not occur anywhere in the book). The idea that suicide bombs are a weapon of the hopeless and powerless, and that Palestinians would happily fight against Israeli occupation with tanks and jet fighters if only the world would sell such things to them, seems not to have occurred to Dawkins.

There was one major subject in the book which I found absolutely fascinating. Like, I'm guessing, most people, I read "Bible stories" as a child but never actually read the Bible. Having now read Dawkins (and taking his citations "on faith"; I don't plan to look them up), I think I know why I wasn't encouraged to do so. In his discussion on "is religion necessary for morality," Dawkins takes up at length the "morality" one can find in the Bible.

Take the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, for example. Everyone knows that, as Lot and his wife were leaving those doomed cities, Lot's wife looked back and was turned to salt (by itself a curiously harsh punishment for merely stealing a glance at the ongoing destruction, even if it was in contradiction of God's order). But what preceded that event? Two angels came to Lot, and the people of Sodom demanded that Lot hand them over to them. Lot's "moral" defense of the angels? He hands over his two virgin daughters to the mob for their pleasure to save the angels. Elsewhere in the Bible, a Jewish priest offers his own concubine and the daughter of his host to an angry mob to be gang-raped, in order to save his host.

Then there's Jericho. Everyone knows "Joshua blew his trumpet" and "the walls came tumbling down." But did you know that genocide followed? "They utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword." Joshua, I remind you, is seen as hero to the Jewish people, not a mass murderer.

There are many, many more examples of the "morality" one finds in the Bible. But Dawkins expands on the Jericho story, which bears directly on our world today, because Joshua's destruction of Jericho was part of the conquest of the "Promised Land." When a thousand Israeli schoolchildren were asked if Joshua acted rightly, 66 percent gave total approval and 26 percent total disapproval, with the approvers often citing as their reason the "fact" that "God promised them this land." And some of the disapprovers only disapproved because Joshua destroyed not just the people, but the animals as well! But here's the denouement of the story. When another group of Israel children were given the same story to read, but with the names and locations changed to ancient China, only 7 percent approved and 75 percent disapproved. And lest you think this is just schoolchildren, Dawkins notes that Maimonides, widely considered the greatest Jewish scholar of all time (he lived in the 12th century), agreed with the children (in the Jericho case): "If one does not put to death any of them that falls into one's power, one transgresses a negative commandment, as it is said, Thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth."

Lest you think I'm contradicting myself about the importance of religion, my opinion is that this is not about religion at all, but tribalism. In either case, however, it certainly sheds a bit of light on the attitudes of people like the Israeli settlers today. God not only promised them this land, but told them it was their duty to kill anyone who got in the way. Lovely stuff.

Dawkins doesn't spare the New Testament, lest you think that what most of us would consider immorality (to put it mildly) is only found in the Old Testament. I'll leave that as an exercise for the reader.

Arab League demands international inspection of Israeli jails

22/11/2009 - 10:46 AM

CAIRO, (PIC)-- The general secretariat of the Arab League has called for opening the Israeli jails for international inspection and monitoring to put an end to the Israeli violations of Arab and Palestinian prisoners' rights.

The League, in a press release on Sunday for its assistance secretary general for Palestine and occupied Arab lands affairs Mohammed Subaih, asked the human rights groups to pressure Israel into opening its jails for inspection since it’s the only country in the world legalizing torture and administrative detention.

It called on the world community to force Israel into halting crimes against detainees and to end its violations of international doctrines in this regard.

Israel should be held fully responsible for the lives of Palestinian and Arab detainees in its jails, the League said, pointing out that around 200 detainees had died in Israeli jails as a result of torture while 1,000 others are held while suffering different chronic and serious diseases.

Shocking levels of racism are commonly accepted in Israel

by Yaniv Reich on November 21, 2009

Is Israel unique in having serious social problems with racism, particularly with anti-Arab racism? Of course not. Just about every country in the world has racist undercurrents that occasionally bubble to the surface. But in what other ostensibly Western, democratic societies would the team captain of a professional sports need to apologize publicly to the team’s fans for daring express the sentiment, at an anti-violence conference, that he wanted an Arab player on the team? More importantly, how could society accept this?

Yediot Ahronot reports:

Beitar Jerusalem captain Aviram Baruchyan met Thursday evening with fans belonging to the “La Familia” organization and apologized for saying that he would like to see an Arab play in the football team.

The fans told him they were hurt by the remark he made about 10 days ago at an anti-violence conference.

Baruchyan said at the end of Thursday’s meeting, “The most painful thing is that I unfortunately hurt Beitar’s fans, and I understood that I hurt them very much. It’s important for me that the players know and that everyone knows that I am with them through thick and thin, and I don’t care what other people think or write.

“However,” he added, “it’s important for me to stress that I’m not the one who decides on these things, but if at the moment the fans don’t want it, there won’t be an Arab player in Beitar.”

A useful contrast can be found in European football’s effort to stamp out racist chanting by some fans at competitions. This incident says much, of course, not just about the racist fans “hurt by the remark”, but also about the institutional environment of professional sports, civic life, and Israeli attitudes that allow occupation to continue almost entirely unchallenged.


China has stake in Kashmir peace

AFP - November 21, 2009

SRINAGAR: The leader of Indian Kashmir's moderate separatists said on Saturday China has a stake in peace in restive Kashmir as part of the disputed Himalayan region is under Beijing's control.

The statement came amid rising Sino-Indian tensions over a Chinese embassy policy of issuing different visas to Indian Kashmir residents and the disputed Indian border state of Arunachal Pradesh.

"I believe China is not a party to the Kashmir conflict but it has stakes as far as peace in the region is concerned," Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who heads moderate separatists, said in a statement.

Kashmiri separatists have rarely mentioned China's role in resolving the dispute over Kashmir that is mainly divided between nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan. China holds a small area of Kashmir.

"China has a direct link with Kashmir as certain parts of Kashmir, including Aksai Chin, are under its control," said Farooq, adding he would soon visit China on an invitation from a non-governmental organisation.

Pakistan, which holds Kashmir's northern tip, has fought two of its wars with India over the territory since the subcontinent's independence from British rule in 1947.

Farooq, who is chief priest at Kashmir's main mosque, also welcomed a joint statement earlier in the week by US President Barak Obama and his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, which voiced support for better India-Pakistan relations.

"Hurriyat welcomes the approach adopted by China and America jointly in terms of addressing the issue of Kashmir in South Asia," he said.

India has bristled at the US-Chinese statement, saying it requires no outside help to improve relations with Pakistan.

Indian-administered Kashmir is in the grip of an Islamic insurgency which has claimed more than 47,000 lives by official count since the start of the revolt in the region in 1989.

China, a close ally of Pakistan, views Kashmir as a disputed region.