Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

WRITTEN By PAUL SCHEMM
The rules were simple: Don’t touch the blindfold. The handcuffs stay on. Speak only when spoken to — and then only in a low voice.

Newly released German-Egyptian activist Philip Rizk said Thursday that he was interrogated by Egypt’s State Security for four days, accused of being everything from an Israeli spy to a gunrunner for the militant group Hamas.

Rizk was arrested by security officers last Friday after participating in a small march outside Cairo calling for an end to the blockade of the Gaza Strip — a closure imposed by Egypt and Israel after Hamas gunmen seized control of the Palestinian territory in June 2007.

Rizk was held in solitary confinement for four days while friends, family and German diplomats inquired about his whereabouts and the reasons for his detention. Then he was abruptly dropped off at his apartment before dawn Wednesday.

His detention reflects Egypt’s increasing sensitivity over any criticism of its policies on Gaza and Hamas. Hundreds of members of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood have been jailed, along with a half dozen young vocal bloggers like Rizk who put their criticism online.

Egypt has made no official comment on Rizk’s detention, and he was never charged.

Rizk called himself lucky because he was held only a few days and wasn’t hurt, ascribing that to his dual nationality and a spirited campaign for his release conducted by friends. Human rights groups allege that torture, including sexual abuse, is commonplace for Egypt’s approximately 18,000 political prisoners.

“What happened for a period of four days is that I did nothing much more than answer questions while being interrogated, or sleeping, or trying to sleep,” the 27-year-old Rizk told reporters gathered on his balcony in a leafy suburb Thursday, his birthday.

“I was blindfolded the entire time, was wearing handcuffs the entire time except for a few occasions,” usually during questioning, he said. He added that he was allowed only one shower.

Rizk said two men questioned him repeatedly about his life, his friends and acquaintances, and his activities. When his answers displeased them, they would replace the handcuffs and make him stand, he said.

“Everything in your head, we want to take it out,” he quoted one interrogator as telling him.

Rather than physical abuse, “it was more the threats of what could happen to me if I were not to say the truth,” Rizk said.

“I heard sounds of things going on around me,” including screams, he said. “I don’t know if they were recordings or they were actually taking place — people being tortured.”

Rizk said his questioners accused him of spying for Israel and then of dealing weapons to Israel’s staunch enemy, Hamas.

Until his detention, Rizk operated a blog highlighting the plight of Palestinians called Tabula Gaza and was a graduate student in Middle East studies at the American University in Cairo.

He said that while he was in custody security officers went to his apartment and took his computers, cameras, portable hard drives and the research notes for his master’s thesis. They also broke into e-mail accounts and read all his mail, he said.

“They’ve taken my blog down which I’ve worked on since 2006. They have more control over parts of my life than I do. This is a horrible feeling. It took some time to sink in,” Rizk said.

http://wire.antiwar.com/2009/02/12/freed-blogger-describes-interrogation-in-egypt/

 

This article, which I only found yesterday, thanks to my friend Susanne, is slightly dated by a few weeks, but it is an absolutely astonishing document revealing the behind-the-scenes goings on prior to the current cease-fire in Gaza. Italian journalists of Arabmonitor, the first portal of the Arab World in Italy, have interviewed several of the key players who reveal steps Egypt has taken to block Turkey’s efforts at obtaining a ceasefire, their pressure on Hamas to “declare defeat”, the training of special troops of Dahlan in Egypt for a re-entry into Gaza, and the elation that Abu Mazen felt at the news of the assassinatin of Saed Siyam . Shocking reading….

THE EGYPTIAN NEGOTIATOR SHOUTED AT THE REPRESENTATIVES OF HAMAS: NOBODY IN THE ARAB WORLD CAN AFFORD TO SAY NO TO EGYPT
Damascus, January – The high-level representative of Hamas we had the opportunity to talk to chose to remain anonymous, considering the delicacy of the statements he had to make. With but a few hours into the assassination of Saed Siyam in the Gaza Strip and with equally short time left before the opening of the Arab-Islamic summit hosted by the Emir of Qatar, our interlocutor had been granted only two hours of sleep the previous night and his red-veined, deeply sunken eyeballs tell it all. He reveals to us that it’s not Egypt who is actually negotiating the terms of a cease-fire for Gaza, but Turkey: at least, as far as the demands from the Islamic resistance are concerned.
That is how we get to know that what the delegates of Hamas obtained from Egypt was not a draft for a cease-fire proposal, but a dictate: a lull in fighting for an initial two-weeks period, in order to allow for humanitarian aid to be distributed in the Gaza Strip and during which the terms for a durable long-term cease-fire would be negotiated. Cairo would actually opt for a twenty-years truce, but surely for nothing less than a fifteen-years duration of it, demanding at the same time the resistance to sign up on an unconditional defeat, to renounce armed struggle and refrain from military training for its members, as well as from producing and importing weapons.

During the short-term lull, the two-weeks halt of fire, there would be no opening of border crossings and even humanitarian aid allowed to pass into the Gaza Strip would do so at the discretion of Egypt and Israel.

“We thanked them, but explained that it was unacceptable. General Suleiman (head of the Egyptian intelligence) was furious and shouted: Nobody in the Arab world can afford to say no to Egypt”.

To describe the kind of game Cairo had been playing from early on in the run-up towards the Israeli aggression (starting 27 December), our interlocutor told us that on 26 December the Egyptians asked Hamas to “raise the white flag”, to declare defeat “and then we (the Egyptians) will intervene with the Israelis to guarantee your personal safety”. In any case, during this talk, which took place in the presence of some of Suleiman’s aides, the Egyptian interlocutors assured the Palestinians they had received guarantees from Israel that no military attack against Gaza was on the time-table. “In these three weeks of war there were days in which for periods of up to 48 hours they denied any passage through the Rafah crossing, even to gas canisters urgently needed by the surgical wards of Gaza hospitals.

That’s not all: since about ten days 400 of Mohammad Dahlan’s men (the former strongman of Fatah, the USA and Israel in the Gaza Strip) are guests hosted at an Egyptian military centre in al-Arish (provincial capital of Sinai), where they are being trained by Egyptians”. The plan is for these 400 to return to the Gaza Strip, if not on the back of Israeli tanks, then with the support from Egypt.

In recent days the waters of the Nile began to look very troubled, because Egypt did not appreciate at all the efforts of the Turkish delegation to mediate the terms of a cease-fire. General Suleiman initially even prevented the Turks from meeting the representatives of Hamas, demanding that he himself act as messenger between the two delegations. At a certain point, Ahmed Davotouglu, the senior advisor of Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, ran out of patience and the Turkish delegation from Ankara obtained permission to access the Palestinians.

“The Turks went ahead with a quite pragmatic approach. They held out to Suleiman that the Egyptian proposal was, realistically speaking, unacceptable for us and came forward with ideas that would contain guarantees for us as well as for the Israelis. For instance, they proposed to establish a presence of international monitors directly at the crossings, in joint venture with Palestinian forces from the Authority in Gaza, who at the Rafah crossing ­ but only at the Rafah crossing ­ could also consist of a a mixed forces, that is, those of the Palestinian National Authority in addition to our own. According to the Turkish proposal, the international presence would be different from the one set up by the European Union at the Rafah crossing years ago, which practically implemented orders given by Israel through remote control by monitors. According to the new proposal, the forces at the border crossings would act as an independent authority. And again it were the Turks who proposed a time-table of possibly one year for the duration of the cease-fire. We consider Turkey a partner with whom to negotiate, because it has shown much realism”.

Among the key conditions proposed by the Palestinian Islamic resistance movement for a cease-fire there is the demand for a complete and definitive halt of the Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip, the immediate withdrawal of the invasion troops, who “could withdraw within two hours”, but whose evacuation should be accomplished latest within a couple of days, an end of the siege imposed on the area and the opening of all crossings, foremost of the Rafah crossing with Egypt.

We asked our talks partner to give us his evaluation of Abu Mazen’s performance during the present crisis. “Listen, shortly after the outbreak of the Israeli aggression he was called up on telephone by the Secretary General of the Islamic Jihad Ramadan Shallah (who lives in Syria, in exile), asking him to make a gesture and to call Ismail Haniye in Gaza, to find out what was going on. Abu Mazen rejected the plea. We know from absolutely trustworthy sources that yesterday, when news reached them at the Moqata (Abu Mazen’s seat at Ramallah) that Saed Siyam had been killed, the political leaders present, among them Abu Mazen, congratulated themselves and handed out sweets. What could I ever say, at this point?”.

Abu Mazen’s term as President of the Palestinian National Authority has expired on 9 January. “Yes, but given the current circumstances, we don’t want to create additional problems and prefer to suspend the issue until after the end of the war against Gaza, following which, last not least, we must address the task of reconstruction in Gaza”.

Our interlocutor told us that last year, ahead of the Arab League summit in Damascus, Egypt had tried by every means to persuade Palestinian Authority President to boycott the meeting, but Abu Mazen responded: “If I don’t go there, my seat will be occupied by Khaled Meshaal (head of the Political Office of Hamas)”, which was the reason why he went to Damascus (at the recent Arab-Islamic emergency meeting in Doha, from which he remained absent, the seat for the leader representing the Palestinians was indeed occupied by Meshaal).

The Europeans also, who in public always took care to present themselves as “virtuous” in avoiding any contact with Hamas, during the past weeks held more than once talks with the Palestinian Islamic Resistance. “Some of them approached us to express their negative feelings over the fact that we, according to them, refused to abide by the existing cease-fire. When we pointed out to them, that is was in fact Israel who violated the cease-fire by refusing to lift the siege on the Gaza Strip, these countries slipped away.

However, three European countries kept the lines open and we are still in contact with them. They offered their help to find a way out of the crisis. I can’t tell you the names of two of them, only that they are European Union members, one of them a leading power, and the other one driven by an ambitious policy. The third one to offer us their help is Norway”.

Nevertheless, on the American front some interesting developments are coming up. Daniel Kurtzer, former US Ambassador to Israel, who is quite close to Barack Obama’s team, has met twice “as a private citizen” with Hamas leaders. His aim was to “pick up ideas”. The two talks took place in spring 2008 and then again last November, following Obama’s electoral victory. And then, how could we fail to recall that former US President Jimmy Carter had asked for a personal encounter with Khaled Meshal, and with other figures from the Hamas leadership, in April last year as well as in November.

source:

http://www.cbs.com/thunder/swf30can10cbsnews/rcpHolderCbs-3-4×3.swf
Watch CBS Videos Online

INTERVIEWED BY Kourosh Ziabari

 

Adam Shapiro, the symbol of a courageous, pure peace advocate, has long been under fire for his unconditional and categorical criticism of Israeli occupying state.

Born in 1972, the perseverant and steadfast anti-Zionist campaigner and co-founder of International Solidarity Movement vigorously makes efforts to broadcast the voice of subjugated and downtrodden nation of Palestine.

Following his meeting with Yasser Arafat in his Mukataa (government center) in Ramallah while it was besieged during the March 2002 Israeli military operation in the West Bank and Gaza, Adam Shapiro attained an international popularity and was put under the spotlight of Zionist media thereafter.

Despite enduring a stack of insults and invectives from the side of Zionist campaign in the past years, Adam Shapiro neither has relinquished nor alleviated his stance so far; rather intensified his anti-Zionist statements in the particular situations such as the horrendous 22 days of Israeli incursion into Gaza.

This interview has been done in the midst of Israeli genocide in Gaza as it’s apparent in some points of the conversation; nevertheless, it contains some informative and revealing information which are prone to be read and reflected thoughtfully.

 

Would you please elucidate about the salient and prominent activities which you usually carry out in the International Solidarity Movement? What are your agenda, modus operandi and plans to help the survivors of recent offensive in Gaza?

                  

The International Solidarity Movement (ISM) started off in 2001 as an effort to join international solidarity to the Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation and oppression. This was through the joining of foreign activists with Palestinian activists in civilian-based non-violent active resistance in the west bank and Gaza. this kind of popular resistance has always been part of the Palestinian movement, and we felt that adding the international component would force the world to recognize that the conflict was not about Jew vs. Arab or Jew vs. Muslim, but rather a situation of oppression and discrimination based on ethnicity and religion in a sense similar to the anti-apartheid movement in south Africa.

Nowadays, the ISM role continues in this way, but is also more and more involved with being an eyewitness and reporting on the atrocities of what is happening to the Palestinian people. ISM volunteers spend longer periods of time in the territories and get to know the situation in depth.  

Currently ISM has 5 volunteers in the Gaza Strip, who are responding during this assault on the people of Gaza – they are escorting ambulances and medical personnel who are responding to emergency calls; they are documenting what is happening and reporting out to the world, even as the Zionist government bars foreign journalists; they are assisting in the distribution of food and water as they can and to areas that are under major threat; and they are documenting evidence of war crimes, such as the use of white phosphorous artillery shells.

According to what you said, one effective and impressive choice that could help the progressive flow of Palestinians’ extrication and release from the harsh situation is to promote the notion of imposing sanctions, embargo on Israel. How is it possible to boycott and isolate the terrorist regime in the international stage?

 

There is a call from Palestinian civil society to boycott Israel, and it is for this reason that we are compelled to adhere to this call. That said, sanctions will most likely be symbolic at best, given the penetration of businesses in Israel and the difficulty to render such an impact.  Symbolically, however the boycott, sanctions and divestment (BDS) campaign is very useful, particularly in the west, where it enables us to alter the debate away from spurious charges of anti-Semitism towards pointing out specifically why such measures are necessary.  Additionally, the academic and cultural boycott can have tangible results, forcing Israeli academics, artists and intellectuals to confront the reality of their own position and force them to take a stand.  There are very credible and valuable efforts in this regard, including a recent determination by a UK-based teachers union.  However, in a sense, we need to remember that far more dramatic action is required, given that this situation for the Palestinians has been going on for 60 years, and the scale of the devastation and oppression of the entire Palestinian people is at such a level that symbolic actions – while good – do not meet the urgency of the situation.

 

Nevertheless, US and its European allies flagrantly veto any anti-Israeli resolution which comes on the top of UNSC agenda and don’t allow the international community to express its unequivocal and clear condemnation of Israeli massacre freely. What’s the reason, in your view, and how can that be opposed?


The reason has to do with domestic factors for the US more than anything else.  I think for the European nations it is connected to the lingering guilt over the holocaust, a situation that is exploited by Israel and some of the Jewish organizations in those countries to maintain a code of silence when it comes to clearly calling out Israel for what has been a 60-year effort of crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.  For the US, there really is no organized constituency willing to vote or donate to politicians campaigns based on this issue. Those who would are small in number and largely ineffective.  the pro-Israel lobby in the US  is not only among the organized Jewish community, but includes Christian Zionists, the military-industrial complex in the US, the information technology industry, the biotech industry, the medical community and others, all of which have significant relationships with Israel from a business perspective. This all has repercussions in the US political system and set the parameters of the debate in the US around us support for Israel. 
 

That said, I also think the Palestinian leadership has missed opportunities over the years, but most importantly it accepted the framework of peace as a means of addressing the conflict, which helped set up a false sense of parity between the two parties. Instead of maintaining a position of national liberation, or creating a movement based on equal rights or ending oppression/discrimination, the choice for 2 states in the framework of peacemaking has helped allow the us and others to ‘blame both sides’.

All of these inconsistencies aside, neither the American double standards about the Israel’s nuclear case are bearable. They are folding their arms and sitting back relaxed while everybody, even ex-President Carter has confessed that Israel deposits 200 nuclear warheads!

 

Indeed, on this point in particular the hypocrisy reaches the level of absurd. Add to the points you raise in the question to the fact that Israel has been at war more than any other state in the region and almost always as the initiator and aggressor; not only in the formal wars, but also in the cross-border skirmishes, as occurred with Egypt and Lebanon in the past. If any regime in the region was volatile and prone to use military force it is Israel. A s such, there should be great world concern about its weapons of mass destruction, also since we have seen that Israel is willing to use dubious weapons and disproportionate force such as we witnessed in Lebanon in 2006 (cluster bombs) and Gaza today (white phosphorous artillery).

 

Accordingly, it seems that the mainstream media are pusillanimously afraid of the Israeli tyrannical lobby which rules the global corporate media. They censor any kind of news reflecting demonstrations, condemnations and anti-Israeli remarks by the world’s statesmen. How can they justify this unilateral and hostile approach in conveying the information? 

 

I think many of the same factors that influence how the US and European governments act also influence the media’s role. But there is also an element of having a media strategy that requires examination. Israel and its allies around the world have a clear, organized and effective media strategy to promote the messaging and images that they want. Sure, there is media bias, but it would be false to think that that bias is the beginning and the end. After all, I know many journalists who cover the conflict and who seek to promote different perspectives in their newspapers and broadcasts. On the Palestinian side, there really is not an effective media strategy, and certainly not one that is organized. Some of these very practical details can make a very big difference in the coverage of the issue.  While I don’t think this can fully overcome the bias that does exist, it can start making changes in the overall system.

I also think with the advent of new media, including Al-Jazeera and Press TV in particular, mainstream western media outlets are being challenged and being forced to change. Even the BBC’s own Arabic service has forced a certain change in BBC’s English service, which while subtle, nonetheless has important consequences.

Finally, I think it is also somewhat easy to overcount the media, in that worldwide, the Palestinian position of justice and ending occupation and oppression is the majority opinion, despite the media coverage.  It is not world opinion that necessarily needs to change; it is the actions of governments.

So what actions are needed to administer justice about Israel? How could the world’s countries prevent it from committing further, predictable atrocities and seeking adventurous war-games in the region?

 

There needs to be unequivocal action in the international community to force Israel to end is aggression in Gaza.  This should entail full suspension of diplomatic relations (as we have seen in Venezuela and Bolivia); full arms embargo on Israel; and the establishment of a criminal court under the ICC (mandated by the Security Council) to bring forward war crimes charges.  while these maybe long-shots, we have to remember that the Palestinian people, unlike virtually any other people in the world, are wholly dependent on the international community to act to help, both because it is the international community that is responsible for the original partitioning and displacement of the Palestinians and because Palestinians do not have a state, an army or any means of self-defense.  The UN General Assembly can also act and take dramatic action, and it should – and this would be a way to overcome a us veto.

 

And what about an international investigation on the illegal employment of unconventional weapons, mass killing of women and children, beleaguering the densely-populated strip for a long time and killing journalists, media correspondents and representatives of international communities? 

There needs to be a tribunal established to try these crimes committed in Gaza.  But this is truly not sufficient. The crimes of 60 years need to be addressed.  Because of the impunity Israel has enjoyed since 1948, the lesson it learned is that there are no consequences for its actions and no limits. The Palestinians have borne the brunt of that ‘freedom to act’ for 60 years. It is not enough to say what Israel is doing in Gaza today is too much. What was done in Deir Yassin, in Tantoura, in Lid, in the Jenin refugee camp, in Israeli prisons, and hundreds of other places and over the course of years, has been beyond the limit of international law and human rights. Of course, I would welcome justice for the crimes committed in Gaza, but this should just be the beginning.