Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Hillary Clinton's First 2016 Campaign Video? (Nov. 30, 2012 - CSPAN)

          Published on Dec 3, 2012 by
Aired: November 30, 2012 on CSPAN. The Saban Forum 2012 (which focuses on Middle East issues as related to U.S. foreign policy) kicked off with a keynote speech by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Clinton's remarks were immediately preceded by a tribute video to her career in service of the United States. President Barack Obama, Senator John McCain, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and others are featured offering praise for Secretary Clinton's life, career, and good works.

Hillary is Running: A Dispatch from the Saban Forum

Hillary Clinton is running for President. And the Israeli political class is a full-blown train wreck. These are two conclusions, for whatever they are worth, based on a three-day conference I attended this weekend at the annual Saban Forum, in Washington, D.C.

A word about the scene: Haim Saban, an Israeli-American media and entertainment mogul, has for the past nine years been hosting a conference, sometimes in Jerusalem, more often in Washington, focussed on the Middle East. The attendees are mainly government officials, present and former; business people; institute-niks; a few reporters. There are very few Arabs; this year the most notable exception was Salam Fayyad, the Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, though he didn’t stick around long, since the Palestinian Authority, thanks in large measure to Israel, is in grave peril, losing ground all the time to Hamas. Except for a few events, Chatham House rules obtain: meaning that the official events are off the record. The presumption is that the incidental meetings are more important than the panels and speeches.

Friday night, however, was on the record—and surprisingly revealing. Hillary Clinton was the main speaker. In a packed ballroom of the Willard Hotel, she was greeted with a standing ovation and then a short, adoring film, a video Festschrift testifying to her years as First Lady, senator, and, above all, Secretary of State. The film, an expensive-looking production, went to the trouble of collecting interviews with Israeli politicians—Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak, Tzipi Livni—and American colleagues, like John Kerry. Tony Blair, striking the moony futuristic note that was general in the hall, said, “I just have an instinct that the best is yet to come.”

The film was like an international endorsement four years in advance of the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary. The tone was so reverential that it resembled the sort of film that the Central Committee of the Communist Party might have produced for Leonid Brezhnev’s retirement party if Leonid Brezhnev would only have retired and the Soviets had been in possession of advanced video technology. After it was over there was a separate video from the President. Looking straight into the camera, Obama kvelled at length: “You’ve been at my side at some of the most important moments of my Administration.”

When the videos were over (and as the evening moved on), there was much chatter about what Clinton would do after she steps down from the Cabinet next month—get a haircut; take a few weeks sleeping off jet lag at Canyon Ranch; read the polls and the political landscape; do good works; do good works for the good people of, say, Iowa—and so on. Everyone had a theory of which they were a hundred percent certain. There wasn’t much doubt about the ultimate direction. 2007-8 was but a memory and 2016 was within sight. She’s running.

“I am somewhat overwhelmed, but I’m obviously thinking I should sit down,” Clinton said as the videos concluded. “I prepared some remarks for tonight, but then I thought maybe we could just watch that video a few more times. And then the next time, I could count the hairstyles, which is one of my favorite pastimes.” An old joke with Hillary, but the crowd, tickled to be there, rosy with wine, roared.

All kinds of circumstances could intervene between now and 2016 to derail her—politics, health, family matters, a renewed Clinton fatigue—but Hillary’s numbers are enormous, her ambition equal to her capacities, and she was in high political gear. She proceeded to give a serious, sturdy speech of a certain kind; if not quite AIPAC-ready, it was a speech extremely careful not to ruffle anyone’s delicate feelings or becloud her last days as Secretary of State. She asked of Israel only that it show more “generosity” to the Palestinians. She was quick to point out that, both in the recent Gaza crisis and then in the U.N. vote on Palestine’s non-member observer status, “we had Israel’s back.” She pointed out that the U.S. had “underwritten” Iron Dome, the missile-defense program that protected Israeli territory from rockets fired from Gaza.

But as the coming days would prove, the Netanyahu government repaid American diplomatic allegiance by doing precisely what would embarrass and anger the Obama Administration most: first, by announcing new settlement activity in the West Bank and then by punishing the Palestinian Authority financially by withholding tax receipts. And yet the Israelis have been quick to rebuff any talk of a crisis in U.S.—Israel relations; all the talk is of “shared values” and “your only ally in the region.”

Clinton only prodded Israel gently, but was quicker to poke the Palestinians. “The Palestinians could have had a state as old as I am, in 1947,” she said, during a short question-and-answer session. And then she spoke, without any complicating details, about how Bill Clinton and Ehud Barak offered a comprehensive deal to Arafat in 2000 and how Ehud Olmert did the same to Mahmoud Abbas.

Netanyahu was not at the Saban Forum, but his notorious foreign minister and hard-right-wing coalition partner Avigdor Lieberman was. Lieberman, who has a history of making vicious remarks about Israeli Arabs and a range of other subjects, is rarely made available for interviews with the foreign press; the chance of embarrassment and international incident is too high. But here he was, in D.C., as Clinton’s pre-dinner opening act. Lieberman, who was born in the U.S.S.R. and lives on a settlement, was interviewed onstage by NPR’s Robert Siegel.

“Everyone wanted me to be politically correct,” Lieberman said as he settled into a chair onstage. “I’ll do my best.”

And so he did. Lieberman avoided any language that would fly into the headlines as racist or xenophobic. A keen and intelligent interviewer, Siegel seemed uncharacteristically reluctant to press Lieberman very hard or bring up Lieberman’s history of indelicacies where Arabs are concerned. Lieberman speaks English with a distinct accent, but he is fluent—and he was especially fluent in the talking points of the Netanyahu government. “Settlements are not an obstacle to peace. The opposite is true.” “Israel has never interfered in the internal domestic politics of any country.” False, darkly comical, but not especially inflammatory, not by his standards, anyway. Later in his performance, Lieberman managed to amuse himself when he said that the main problem for the Palestinians was not Israel or occupation but rather the fact that for the Palestinians the average income does not approach ten thousand dollars a year and that there is scant acquaintance in Ramallah or Rafah with the works of Voltaire and Rousseau. That forty-five years of grinding occupation may play a role in the depressed economy of Gaza City or in the modest enthusiasm for “Candide” and “Emile” in Jenin seemed not to enter Lieberman’s smug analysis.

On Saturday, there were off-the-record panels and an off-the-record onstage conversation with Bill Clinton at the Folger Shakespeare Library. But, there was an on-the-record post-dinner conversation with Ehud Olmert, the former Israeli prime minister, Netanyahu’s predecessor and, now, ferocious enemy.
Olmert is a former hardliner, a Revisionist and Likudnik, who, as prime minister, moved distinctly and courageously to the left on the Palestinian issue, but was also widely distrusted for the disastrous 2006 war in Lebanon and Operation Cast Lead, in Gaza, two years later. His poll numbers were sometimes so low that they were within the margin of error of zero. Olmert, who has been plagued with legal problems since leaving politics, has been flirting with getting back into the game—a jovial egotist, he palpably aches to make a comeback—but how he proposes to do that, considering his miserable showing in current public opinion polls, his legal “challenges,” and much else, is the question. His onstage interrogator, David Ignatius of the Washington Post, led off by asking Olmert if he was going to get into the January 22nd Israeli elections. Olmert, delighted to be asked, said that he could not answer such a question abroad; he would have an announcement in Jerusalem early next week. Israeli sources tell me that Olmert wants terribly to run, but he is in no position to do so and most likely will not.

Throughout the day, particularly among Americans with ties to Democratic Administrations, there was a great deal of despairing hallway talk about the state of Israeli politics—the stark contrast between the vitality of Israeli economic, cultural, and academic life, and the miserable state of its political culture, the poverty of skill, talent, and imagination. The centrists and center-liberals at the conference—Ehud Barak, Tzipi Livni, and others—were so obviously in the eclipse and their rhetoric was tired and scattered. Their sense of defeat and frustration was distinct.

Olmert, who has a legacy to defend and an ego to feed, was clear and alive, but even when he was right on the issues, he undermined himself with his bombast. He rightly slammed Netanyahu for giving Obama a “slap in the face” over the weekend and mocked the prime minister for pretending to be friends with Obama after being his “enemy” in the Presidential campaign just a few weeks ago.” Olmert called Mitt Romney’s campaign trip to Israel—which featured a fundraiser with Sheldon Adelson, who also owns a pro-Netanyahu newspaper—completely “inappropriate…It was made to create the impression among Jewish American voters that Romney was riding to the White House on the shoulders of Israel.” And yet he undermined himself in every self-intoxicated gesture and self-adoring rhetorical turn.

Olmert also violated the rules of the conference by dragging something that was off the record onto the record. He accurately, if generally, described how, earlier in the day, Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago and Obama’s former chief of staff, had spoken angrily and bluntly about the way Netanyahu has repeatedly betrayed the friendship of the United States, lecturing Obama in the Oval Office and now, after the U.S. had underwritten the Iron Dome anti-missile system, supported the operation in Gaza, and voted Israel’s way in the U.N., embarrassing the Obama Administration by taking punitive actions against the Palestinian Authority. After describing Emanuel’s remarks, Olmert went on to agree with them.

Olmert was unflinching in his criticism of Netanyahu. “This government is not dedicated to the cause of peace in a realistic way,” he said. “The most important thing for a prime minister,” he said, any Israeli prime minister, is to create two states for two peoples.

What was striking was that Israeli politics is now utterly dominated by Netanyahu, Lieberman, and an increasingly rightist coalition. And, demographically, the Israeli electorate is only getting more conservative.
Meanwhile, there is no peace in sight; the Palestinian Authority is losing ground to Hamas (“In their terms, Hamas has delivered and we have not,” Salam Fayyad admitted to me.) And the region is growing more unpredictable and explosive. Even a politician with the talent of a Roosevelt, would be hard pressed to navigate Israel in this predicament. What Israel has is Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman.

After Olmert’s session was over, the night concluded with, and I am not making this up, Joseph Lieberman, the soon-to-be-retired senator from Connecticut, and Yossi Vardi, the Israeli digital entrepreneur, doing stand-up comedy onstage. I will spare you the details—even though no one called Chatham House Rules—but suffice to say that Joe Lieberman telling dirty jokes involving pickles is not necessarily the experience of a lifetime.

In the morning there were more panels. And then there was a lunch. They were off the record.

Secretary Hillary Clinton Speech Schedule

Secretary Clinton Delivers Remarks at the "Transformational Trends 2013" Forum

          Published on Nov 30, 2012 by
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivers remarks at the Foreign Policy Group's "Transformational Trends 2013" Forum at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. on November 29, 2012. A text transcript can be found at

Secretary Clinton Delivers Remarks in Recognition of World AIDS Day

          Published on Nov 29, 2012 by
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivers remarks in recognition of World AIDS Day at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. on November 29, 2012. A text transcript can be found at

Secretary Clinton Delivers Remarks Entitled "U.S. and Europe: A Revitalized Global Partnership"   
          Published on Nov 29, 2012 by
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivers remarks on entitled "The U.S. and Europe: A Revitalized Global Partnership" at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. on November 29, 2012. A text transcript can be found at

Secretary Clinton Delivers Remarks at the 20th Anniversary of GLIFAA

          Published on Nov 29, 2012 by
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivers remarks at the 20th Anniversary of the Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFAA) at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. on November 28, 2012. A text transcript can be found at   

Secretary Clinton Delivers Remarks at the International Council on Women's Business Leadership

          Published on Nov 28, 2012 by
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivers remarks at the International Council on Women's Business Leadership meeting. A text transcript can be found at

This was Sec. Hillary Clinton's speech schedule for Nov 27-Dec 4th.  You can see them by following the links. Now that is impressive!  

-12/04/12  Meeting With the Staff and Families of the U.S. Missions to the EU and NATO, and U.S. Embassy Brussels;  Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; Embassy Brussels, Chief of Mission Residence; Brussels, Belgium
-12/03/12  His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej's Birthday and Thailand's National Day;  Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; Washington, DC
-12/03/12  Meeting With Staff and Families of the U.S. Embassy in Prague;  Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; Prague, Czech Republic
-12/03/12  Remarks With Czech Republic Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg;  Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; Czernin Palace; Prague, Czech Republic
-12/03/12  Video Remarks for Wildlife Conservation Day;  Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; Washington, DC
-12/03/12  Video Remarks on Syria;  Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; APTN Soundbite; Prague, Czech Republic
-12/03/12  Video Remarks on Westinghouse;  Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; Reuters Soundbite; Prague, Czech Republic
-12/01/12  Remarks at the 35th Annual Kennedy Center Honors;  Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; Benjamin Franklin Room; Washington, DC

-11/30/12  Central African Republic National Day Message;  Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; Washington, DC
-11/30/12  Lao People's Democratic Republic's National Day;  Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; Washington, DC
-11/30/12  On the Occasion of Romania's National Day;  Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; Washington, DC
-11/30/12  Remarks at the Art in Embassies 50th Anniversary Luncheon;  Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; Benjamin Franklin Room; Washington, DC
-11/30/12  Remarks at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy 2012 Saban Forum Opening Gala Dinner;  Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; The Willard Hotel; Washington, DC
-11/29/12  Remarks With Georgian Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze Before Their Meeting;  Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; Treaty Room; Washington, DC
-11/29/12  Remarks at the Foreign Policy Group's "Transformational Trends 2013" Forum;  Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; The Newseum; Washington, DC
-11/29/12  Remarks in Recognition of World AIDS Day;  Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; Benjamin Franklin Room; Washington, DC

-11/29/12  U.S. and Europe: A Revitalized Global Partnership;  Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; Brookings Institution; Washington, DC
-11/28/12  Mauritania National Day;  Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; Washington, DC
-11/28/12  Remarks With African Union Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma After Their Meeting;  Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; Treaty Room; Washington, DC
-11/28/12  Remarks at the 14th Annual Award for Corporate Excellence;  Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; Benjamin Franklin Room; Washington, DC
-11/28/12  Remarks at the 20th Anniversary of GLIFAA;  Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; Benjamin Franklin Room; Washington, DC
-11/27/12  Remarks to the International Council on Women's Business Leadership Meeting;  Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; Benjamin Franklin Room; Washington, DC
-11/27/12  Remarks to the Millennium Challenge Corporation;  Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; Millennium Challenge Corporation; Washington, DC

4 Middle East Stories and 1 African

Petitioners urged to act now against Uganda's 'death to gays' bill

By staff writers
23 Nov 2012

The Ugandan Parliament is set to pass a brutal law that could carry the death penalty for homosexuality, and campaigners are lobbying hard against it.

After a massive global outcry last year, Ugandan President Museveni blocked the bill's progress in the country's parliament.

But political unrest is mounting in Uganda, and religious extremists are hoping confusion and violence in the streets will distract the international community from a second push to pass what is being described as "a hate-filled law."

The critical time is the next 24 hours, human rights activists said yesterday afternoon (22 November 2012).
"Being gay in Uganda is already dangerous and terrifying," they explain. "LGBT Ugandans are regularly harassed and beaten, and just last year gay rights activist David Kato was brutally murdered in his own home."

Kato was a Christian. But sadly many church leaders in Uganda are either colluding with or remaining silent about the bill. There has also been a massive, community based misinformation campaign across the country, associating homosexuality with a whole range of heinous behaviours.

The draconian law which could impose life imprisonment for people convicted of same-sex relations, and the death penalty for “serial offenders”. Even NGOs working to prevent the spread of HIV can be imprisoned for activities deemed “promoting homosexuality”, which effectively means any support or work with LGBT people.

Uganda is currently in political turmoil, missing millions of aid money in a way that has embroiled the parliament in scandal. Anti-gay campaigners have perceived in this situation the ideal chance to slip in the shelved anti-homosexuality bill, dubbing it a "Christmas gift" to Ugandans.

Last time, an international petition condemning the gay death penalty law was delivered to the Ugandan parliament – spurring a global news story and enough pressure to block the bill for months.

When a tabloid newspaper published 100 names, pictures and addresses, of suspected gays and those identified were threatened, petition group Avaaz supported a legal case against the paper and won.

"Together we have stood up, time and time again, for Uganda’s gay community. Now they need us more than ever," declared Avaaz yesterday.

* International petition: 

Yemen conflict a 'human rights disaster', says report

By agency reporter
4 Dec 2012

A raft of gross and deeply disturbing abuses committed by an al-Qa’ida affiliate and Yemeni government forces during their struggle for the control of the southern region of Abyan in 2011 and 2012 must be the subject of impartial, thorough and independent inquiries, Amnesty International said in a new report out today.

Conflict in Yemen: Abyan’s Darkest Hour documents violations of the rules of war during the armed conflict between government forces and Ansar al-Shari’a (Partisans of al-Shari’a), an Islamist armed group affiliated to al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula.

It also details horrific human rights abuses committed in the governorate of Abyan and other areas in the south of Yemen during the rule of the Islamist group between February 2011 and June 2012, including public summary killings, crucifixion, amputation and flogging.

“Abyan experienced a human rights catastrophe as Ansar al-Shari’a and government forces vied for control of the region during 2011 and the first half of 2012,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty’s director for the Middle East and North Africa.

”The Yemeni authorities must ensure that a commission of inquiry announced in September 2012 covers the truly shocking abuses committed. The tragedy of Abyan will haunt Yemen for decades to come unless those responsible are held to account and victims and their families receive reparations.”

Ansar al-Shari’a rapidly established control of the small city of Ja’ar in the governorate of Abyan in early 2011, at a time when the Yemeni authorities were brutally repressing protests calling for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to quit.

The armed group successfully attacked government forces and officials, looted banks and seized ammunition, heavy weapons and other military equipment from abandoned Yemeni military and police stations.
It quickly gained territory and by mid-2011 it controlled most towns and villages in Abyan, including the governorate’s capital, Zinjibar.

During its rule, it was responsible for widespread and disturbing human rights abuses including via 'religious courts', set up as part of the organisation’s governing structure. These frequently imposed cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments on alleged criminals, suspected spies working against Ansar al-Shari’a and people who transgressed cultural norms, including summary killings, amputations and floggings.

Saleh Ahmed Saleh al-Jamli, 28, was found guilty by a 'religious court' in Ja’ar of planting two electronic devices in two vehicles carrying Ansar al-Shari’a commanders.

The ruling obtained by Amnesty International said the devices had enabled US drones to kill the commanders in Zinjibar and claimed Saleh al-Jamli “confessed” to a judicial committee.

The 'religious court' ruled that Saleh al-Jamli be killed, and his remains crucified.

Amnesty International was also able to confirm that Ansar al-Shari’a had amputated the hand of at least one person suspected of theft – a young man the organisation met whose left hand had been amputated between June and September 2011 in a public square in Ja’ar.

He was arrested along with a couple of his friends by members of the armed group who accused them of stealing electric wires. The friends were eventually released. The youth, who is a member of a marginalised community widely referred to as al-akhdam (servants), said that his hand was amputated after he was tortured for five days without access to a lawyer or his family, without attending trial and without prior knowledge of the punishment.

Residents told Amnesty International that the amputated hand was suspended by a rope in the town’s market for all to see.

As these events were taking place Ansar al-Shari’a sought to tighten its grip on power through threats, intimidation and the enforcement of a highly repressive social and religious code.

The rights of women and girls in particular came under attack and severe dress codes were imposed, as was a strict separation of the sexes and restrictions at work and in schools.

A schoolteacher told Amnesty International that Ansar al-Shari’a had one female representative for each school to supervise the implementation of the armed group’s instructions.

Almost immediately after Ansar al-Shari’a took control of Abyan and extended its reach to other areas in the south, the Yemeni military launched several attacks to regain control, culminating in a major offensive on 12 May using air power and artillery. By the end of June 2012, government forces succeeded in driving the group out of Abyan and surrounding areas.

The toxic mix of fighting and human rights abuses meant an estimated 250,000 people from the southern governorates, particularly Abyan, were displaced.

Ansar al-Shari’a meanwhile used residential areas as its base, particularly in Ja’ar, recklessly exposing civilian residents to harm.

Scores of civilians, including children, were killed and many more injured as a result of air strikes and artillery and mortar attacks by government forces.

Yemeni government forces used inappropriate battlefield weapons such as artillery in civilian residential areas. In other attacks government forces appeared to fail to take necessary precautions to spare civilians.
While Ansar al-Shari’a were driven out of the cities and towns they controlled in June 2012, there remains a danger the group will re-emerge and that the armed conflict will resume.

This report is based on the findings of an Amnesty International fact-finding mission to Yemen in June and July 2012. Amnesty International interviewed residents, activists, journalists, witnesses, victims and relatives of victims from Abyan governorate, mainly in Aden and Ja’ar, and visited areas affected by the conflict, including Ja’ar, Zinjibar and al-Kawd.

Outrage at plans for military base on Mount of Olives

By staff writers
2 Dec 2012

Christian, Jewish, Muslim and secular commentators have condemned plans by the Israeli government to build a military base on the Mount of Olives.

The area, which includes the site at which Jesus is believed to have been arrested, has sacred and historical significance in Christianity, Judaism and Islam. It is also in East Jerusalem, Palestinian land that is occupied by the Israeli army.

According to the Israeli Ministry of the Interior, the building will cover 42,000 square metres and house colleges for training Israeli soldiers. Israeli citizens have until mid-December to object to the plans, although momentum is building for an international campaign.

Israel's Ministry of the Interior declared, “The site that was eventually chosen is the optimal one, in view of its proximity to the university on the one hand and the possibility to contribute to the life of the city on the other”.
But Hagit Ofran of the Israeli group Peace Now insisted, “The location, at one of the most sensitive and disputed areas in Jerusalem, is a little more than provocative”.

She added, “One can’t think of Mount of Olives as real estate. It is important for the three monotheistic religions.”

At the base of the Mount of Olives is the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus was arrested prior to his crucifixion by the Roman imperial authorities. According to Luke's Gospel, the Mount of Olives was also the site of Jesus' final meeting with his disciples before his ascent to heaven.

There has been a Jewish cemetery on the Mount for over 3,000 years. A number of Jews have chosen to be buried in it in the belief that the resurrection of the dead will begin there when the Messiah comes.

Within Islamic teaching, a thin bridge will connect the Mount of Olives and the Haram A-Sharif (the Dome of the Rock mosque) at the end of days.

Ofran said, “On top of all this holiness, the Mount of Olives is under dispute between us and the Palestinians, and we will have to solve this dispute only through an agreement. Bringing the military academy to this spot is quite insensitive and if I may add, not so smart, of our government.”

Israeli peace campaigners have accused their government of fast-tracking the planning process for political reasons.

Daniel Seidemann, an Israeli lawyer specialising in conflict resolution, said, “I have received a number of phone calls from foreign governments saying, ‘What can you possibly be thinking? You are engaged in an act of self-ostracism.'”.

British Quaker Hannah Brock, who has previously worked on human rights issues in Bethlehem, has worked with other campaigners to set up a petition calling on the Israeli government not to go ahead with the plans.
She points out that the site is on occupied land, and adds that she would oppose a military base by any army or government on such a sacred and sensitive site.

She told Ekklesia, “A military college is yet another poignant and potent reminder of the militarisation and militarism of this 'Holy Land': the threats of violence, the visibility of machines that can hurt, maim and kill people, and the willingness to use them. The contrast in this place where Jesus was gathered up to heaven couldn't be more stark.”

The petition against the plan can be found at A paper version of the petition can be printed at

Palestine upgrade 'brings obligations under international law'

By agency reporter
1 Dec 2012

Palestine's historic recognition as a non-member observer state of the United Nations brings with it obligations under international law, Amnesty International says.

The vote at the UN General Assembly in New York on Thursday was decided by 138 votes in favour, 41 abstentions, and nine against.

Palestine is in a position to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and other human rights and international humanitarian law treaties, bolstering accountability for human rights violations and crimes under international law.

"This would open the door for victims of human rights abuses to seek justice and empower them to claim their rights," said Widney Brown, Senior Director of International Law and Policy at Amnesty International.
“In particular, it should advance efforts to ensure international justice for war crimes and possible crimes against humanity committed by all sides in the 2008-2009 conflict in Gaza and southern Israel.

"Palestine should promptly accede to the Rome Statute affirming that it accepts the ICC’s jurisdiction over crimes committed since 1 July 2002. It should also accede to related treaties and agreements.

"The victims who suffered during the 2008-2009 conflict have waited too long for justice. Palestine should act quickly to ensure justice is no longer delayed," said Ms Brown.

Amnesty says it is concerned at reports that several states, including the United Kingdom and the USA, put pressure on Palestinian diplomats to renounce accountability mechanisms for crimes under international law.
“Victims’ access to justice is not something to be bartered away,” declared Ms Brown.

“This attitude is particularly alarming in light of reported violations of international humanitarian law committed in Gaza and Israel during recent hostilities between Israel and Palestinian armed groups.”

Amnesty International has condemned the continuing failure by both the Hamas de-facto administration in Gaza and by Israel to conduct prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigations of suspected crimes committed during the 2008-2009 conflict.

The international human rights NGO has repeatedly urged Israel to lift completely its blockade on Gaza, which imposes a collective punishment on more than 1.4 million Palestinians in clear violation of international law.
"Withholding money or resources will exacerbate the humanitarian situation,” said Ms Brown. “Under international law, Israel, as the occupying power, is forbidden from using collective punishment and is responsible for the welfare of those occupied.”

In January 2009, in the aftermath of the 22-day conflict in Gaza and southern Israel, the Palestinian Authority submitted a declaration invoking Article 12 (3) of the Rome Statute to the ICC stating that it recognized the ICC’s jurisdiction over crimes under international law committed during this armed conflict with the intention of enabling the Office of the Prosecutor to conduct a preliminary examination of those crimes.

On 3 April 2012, the Office of the Prosecutor concluded that it was unable to proceed with investigating and prosecuting these crimes unless the relevant UN bodies (in particular, the Secretary General and General Assembly) or the ICC Assembly of States Parties (made up of 121 states that have ratified the Rome Statute) decide that Palestine qualifies as a state within the meaning of the provision under which the Palestinian Authority had lodged the declaration.

Amnesty International has repeatedly called for the UN General Assembly to refer the Fact-Finding Mission’s report on the 2008-2009 Gaza-Israeli conflict to the UN Security Council so that it could consider referring that situation to the Prosecutor of the ICC to investigate crimes under international law committed by both sides.

Egypt’s new constitution limits freedoms and ignores rights of women

By staff writers
2 Dec 2012

The draft constitution approved by Egypt’s Constituent Assembly poses serious human rights problems, a number of NGOs have said.

Criticism has come from Human Rights Watch, Amnesty and others over the past 24 hours.

The draft falls well short of protecting human rights and, in particular, ignores the rights of women, restricts freedom of expression in the name of protecting religion, and allows for the military trial of civilians, Amnesty said on 30 November 2012.

“This document, and the manner in which it has been adopted, will come as an enormous disappointment to many of the Egyptians who took to the streets to oust Hosni Mubarak and demand their rights,” commented Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.
Freedom of religion is limited to Islam, Christianity and Judaism, potentially excluding the right to worship to other religious minorities such as Baha’is and Shi’a Muslims.

The constitution fails to provide for the supremacy of international law over national law, raising concerns about Egypt’s commitment to human rights treaties to which it is a state party.

Furthermore, the document fails to fully guarantee economic, social and cultural rights, such as protection against forced evictions - it also tolerates child labour.

Paradoxically demands for dignity and social justice were at the heart of the '25 January Revolution'.

“The process of drafting the constitution was flawed from the outset, and has become increasingly unrepresentative. We urge President Morsi to put the drafting and referendum process back on the right path, one that includes all sectors of society, which respects the rule of law – including the vital role of an independent judiciary – and results in a constitution that enshrines human rights, equality and dignity for all,” said Hadj Sahraoui.

Amnesty has expressed concern that the assembly - widely boycotted by opposition political parties and Christian churches - is not truly representative of Egyptian society. The body is dominated by the Freedom and Justice Party and the Nour Party. At the outset, the assembly only included seven women and their numbers have since dwindled.

Opposition political parties have withdrawn their members from the assembly, as have Christian churches, in protest at the assembly’s make-up and decisions.

They have voiced a number of concerns, including the lack of representation of young people, of a variety political parties, and the role Shari’a law has played – including in respect of women’s rights.

The assembly also faced criticism for not doing enough to enshrine the right to adequate housing – a key concern for the estimated 12 million Egyptians living in slums.

A decree issued last week by President Morsi gave the Constituent Assembly an additional two months to complete its work. However on Wednesday the body announced that it would finalise the text in a day. Yesterday, the draft was rushed through a plenary session of the assembly, with no time for real debate or objections from the members.

“The new constitution will guide all Egyptian institutions and it should set out the vision for the new Egypt – one based on human rights and the rule of law: a document which is the ultimate guarantor against abuse. The constitution must guarantee the rights of all Egyptians, not just the majority.” said Hadj Sahraoui.

“But the approved draft comes nowhere near this. Provisions that purport to protect rights mask new restrictions, including on criticism of religion. Women, who were barely represented in the assembly, have the most to lose from a constitution which ignores their aspirations, and blocks the path to equality between men and women. It is appalling that virtually the only references to women relate to the home and family.”

When asked about the lack of women’s rights in the draft constitution yesterday in a state television interview, President Morsi said women were citizens like all others. The President’s position mirrors the approach of the Constituent Assembly in ignoring the rights of women.

The vote to approve the constitution came ahead of a 2 December ruling on the assembly’s legitimacy by the Supreme Constitutional Court, which was widely expected to order the body’s dissolution.

President Morsi’s decree, which was announced on 22 November, prevents any judicial body from dissolving the assembly.

The decree, which also removed the Public Prosecutor, granted the president sweeping powers and stopped the courts from challenging his decisions, has sparked widespread anger and protests in Egypt.

Opposition groups plan to march to the presidential palace today (Friday), while the Muslim Brotherhood has called for a protest to support the President on Saturday.

The draft constitution now passes to a national referendum which must take place within 15 days. Any such referendum would require supervision by judges but Egypt’s Judges Club, an independent network of judges numbering some 9,500 members, has announced that its members will not take part.

Judges throughout the country are striking in protest at President Morsi’s decree, which they see as a threat to their independence.

“Instead of marking a return to order and the rule of law, the adopted text of the constitution has plunged Egypt into even greater chaos and deadlock,” said Amnesty's Hadj Sahraoui.

Costas advocates for gun control

Updated Dec 3, 2012 6:53 PM ET


NBC broadcaster Bob Costas used his halftime segment on ''Sunday Night Football'' to advocate for gun control following this weekend's murder-suicide involving Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher, causing an immediate debate on social media.

In a segment about 90 seconds long, Costas paraphrased and quoted extensively from a piece by Fox Sports columnist Jason Whitlock.

After praising the column, Costas said: ''In the coming days, Jovan Belcher's actions and their possible connection to football will be analyzed. Who knows? But here, wrote Jason Whitlock, is what I believe. If Jovan Belcher didn't possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.''

Belcher shot and killed Perkins, the mother of his 3-month daughter, on Saturday morning, then drove to Arrowhead Stadium and committed suicide in the parking lot of the team's practice facility.

The online reaction to Costas' segment was swift, with many people criticizing the broadcaster for expressing his personal views on a program meant for entertainment.

Bob Costas Talks Gun Control Reflecting on Kansas City Tragedy

Bob Costas, the longtime sportscaster for NBC, had some choice words for the gun culture in America at tonight's halftime of the Eagles-Cowboys game. Costas' remarks will infuriate conservatives and gun nuts. He cited this piece (In KC, it's no time for a game) by Fox Sports' Jason Whitlock, who expressed contempt for the NFL's decision to have Kansas City play on Sunday after the murder-suicide..

BOB COSTAS: Well, you knew it was coming. In the aftermath of the nearly unfathomable events in Kansas City, that most mindless of sports clich├ęs was heard yet again: something like this really puts it all in perspective. Well, if so, that sort of perspective has a very short shelf-life since we will inevitably hear about the perspective we have supposedly again regained the next time ugly reality intrudes upon our games.

Please, those who need tragedies to continually recalibrate their sense of proportion about sports would seem to have little hope of ever truly achieving perspective. You want some actual perspective on this?

Well, a bit of it comes from the Kansas City-based writer Jason Whitlock with whom I do not always agree, but who today said it so well that we may as well just quote or paraphrase from the end of his article.

“Our current gun culture,” Whitlock wrote, “ensures that more and more domestic disputes will end in the ultimate tragedy, and that more convenience-store confrontations over loud music coming from a car will leave more teenage boys bloodied and dead."

“Handguns do not enhance our safety. They exacerbate our flaws, tempt us to escalate arguments, and bait us into embracing confrontation rather than avoiding it. In the coming days, Jovan Belcher’s actions, and their possible connection to football, will be analyzed. Who knows?"

“But here,” wrote Jason Whitlock, “is what I believe. If Jovan Belcher didn’t possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.”

International Day of Persons with Disabilities, 3 December

Today (3 December) is the 20th International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The main theme of IDPD 2012 is “Removing barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society for all”.

UN Enable, which sponsors and resources the Day, explains:

Over one billion people, or approximately 15 per cent of the world’s population, live with some form of disability.Persons with disabilities, “the world’s largest minority”, often face barriers to participation in all aspects of society. Barriers can take a variety of forms, including those relating to the physical environment, to information and communications technology (ICT), or those resulting from legislation or policy, societal attitudes or discrimination. The result is that persons with disabilities do not have equal access to society or services, including education, employment, health care, transportation, political participation or justice.

Evidence and experience shows that when barriers to their inclusion are removed and persons with disabilities are empowered to participate fully in societal life, their entire community benefits. Barriers faced by persons with disabilities are, therefore, a detriment to society as a whole, and accessibility is necessary to achieve progress and development for all.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) recognises that the existence of barriers constitutes a central component of disability. Under the Convention, disability is an evolving concept that “results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.”

Accessibility and inclusion of persons with disabilities are fundamental rights recognised by the CRPD and are not only objectives, but also pre-requisites for the enjoyment of other rights. The CRPD (Article 9, accessibility) seeks to enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life and development. It calls upon States Parties to take appropriate measures to ensure that persons with disabilities have access to all aspects of society, on an equal basis with others, as well as to identify and eliminate obstacles and barriers to accessibility.

In spite of this, in many parts of the world today, lack of awareness and understanding of accessibility as a cross-cutting development issue remains an obstacle to the achievement of progress and development through the Millennium Development Goals, as well as other internationally agreed outcomes for all.

The commemoration of International Day of Persons with Disabilities in 2012 provides an opportunity to address this exclusion by focusing on promoting accessibility and removing all types of barriers in society.

* International Day of Persons with Disabilities -

* UN Enable: Development and human rights for all -

Via Ekklesia in 2012 and 2011

* People's Review of WCA -

* Spartacus report and movement -

* Welfare Reform Bill: Financial privilege, constitutional convention, fiscal and second chamber reform implications (Sue Marsh) -

* Responsible Reform: Changes to Disability Living Allowance (Spartacus Report) -

* Betraying disabled people and welfare (Karen McAndrew) -