Author: Friends of The Fifth Column

Nothing is simple in Palestine

Almost nothing in Palestine is what you expect for the most part. And, this is so true of the negative things you see. No matter how bad you think things are or expect them to be, you are almost always guaranteed that they will be worse (usually much worse) when you actually see them. And if you tell people the truth you may be thought to be making things up. But, this is Palestine and things are this unbelievable and this bad. This was true today for me (to put it mildly). Part of our team was invited by an “inspector” from the United Nations office based here in Al Khalil to go to a Bedouin village in the South Hebron Hills where a demolition took place yesterda

Hundreds of Haitians stuck in Mexico waiting to cross the border

At this busy border crossing Wilmer Salomon waited with a dozen other Haitian people to put his name on a list for an appointment with U.S. immigration officials.

Mexico has served as a liaison for desperate Haitians trying to reach the U.S. There are at least 4,000 Haitians in San Diego according to humanitarian organizations. In Nogales, more than 160 Haitians have signed up for appointments with U.S. authorities according to a Mexican immigration official.

“I know getting to the United States won’t be easy, but only then I’ll be satisfied,” Salomon said in French. Back in Haiti he worked as an auto mechanic but struggled to provide for his wife and two children. So Salomon left for Brazil in 2015 and planned to send money back to support his family. Brazil offered legal residency to 50,000 Haitians after the 2010 earthquake.

India’s War on Cash

This past Tuesday, India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, made an announcement that the existing ₹500 and ₹1000 currency notes would cease to be legal tender. The result was widespread chaos. People rushed to ATMs to withdraw smaller denomination notes, or to banks to get the old notes exchanged. The lines were long (even resulting in scuffles and stampedes). The ATMs quickly ran out of cash, and banks failed to supply enough notes.

People were unable to shop for basic things such as groceries and food. An 8-year old girl died, because her father could not get her to the hospital, since the petrol pump attendant refused to accept a ₹1000 note (which is essentially paper now).

This is just a small fraction of the horror stories from across India. The government has reintroduced these notes with a different design and added a new ₹2000 note. But what was the wisdom behind this whole exercise and making people suffer so much? Here are the excuses given by the government.

China, Iran Ink Military Pact as Tehran Looks at $10 Billion Deal With Moscow

As Iran prepares for a Trump presidency in Washington, Beijing and Tehran signed a cooperation agreement Monday to conduct joint military drills and “create a collective movement to confront” the threat of terrorism, according to Iran state television.

The two nations have been strengthening their military relationship in the last few years, sending naval ships to each other’s ports, helping to set the stage for the pact to be signed by Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan and his Iranian counterpart General Hossein Dehghan.

Iranian outlet Tasnim News quoted Dehghan describing the collaboration as an “upgrade in long-term military and defense cooperation with China.”

Greek Police Clash with Demonstrators Protesting Obama’s Visit to Athens

Leftist demonstrators protesting against US President Barack Obama’s visit to Athens clashed with police, who used tear gas to disperse the crowd as people tried to break through cordons.

Some 7,000 people took to the streets of central Athens on Tuesday to protest Obama’s visit to the Greek capital. The demonstrators initially planned to walk all the way to the US Embassy located in another part of the city, but the procession was disrupted as protesters clashed with police officers.

“We don’t need protectors!” one of the banners carried by the demonstrators read. Some could be heard exclaiming: “Yankees go home!”

RUSSIA TO JOIN LIST OF NATIONS LEAVING ICC

Following the departure of several African nations, Russia has joined the growing list of countries abandoning the Western dominated International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Russian Foreign Ministry (FM) said they were withdrawing their signature from the Rome Statute signed in 2000. The FM said that they were backing out of the agreement on the order of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Similar to the complaints lodged by the African nations that left, Russia has said that “The court did not live up to the hopes associated with it and did not become truly independent,” and agreed with poorer countries who say the court is “one-sided and inefficient.”

French Government Creates Illegal Database on over 60 Million Citizens

By setting up a single database centralizing information on the entire French population behind their backs, France’s Socialist Party (PS) government is giving the state vast repressive powers. Coming amid the state of emergency, it constitutes a fundamental threat to democratic rights, in particular to opposition within the working class to austerity and war.

The database, named “Secure Electronic Titles” (TES), was decreed into existence on October 30. It centralizes the personal and bio-metric data of all holders of passports or national identity cards. It concerns over 60 million people, that is, virtually the entire French population. The official launch of the database took place last Tuesday in the Yvelines area and will be extended across France at the beginning of 2017.

The database was prepared in violation of the law, behind the backs of the population. It was first proposed in 2011 at the National Assembly, during a debate on a secure national ID card, and sharply criticized by the National Commission on Information-Processing and Liberties (CNIL). While recognizing as “legitimate the use of bio-metric information to identify a person,” the CNIL ruled that “bio-metric data must be conserved in an individualized data system.”

Pump Down the Volume: Palestinians Say Israeli Bill Will Lead to Religious War

The Israeli Knesset Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday approved a bill prohibiting religious institutions from using outdoor amplification.

If the Israeli-proposed bill becomes law, mosques will be forced to stop using public-address systems to call Muslims to prayer five times a day, resorting only to the volume that can be achieved by the unamplified human voice.

The calls usually last several minutes, the first sounding early at dawn and the last just before sunset. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who supports the bill, believes that the practice disturbs the peace, and that it is the government’s duty to protect citizens from noise.

Saudi Arabia: Prosecution for Forming Human Rights Group

Short-Lived Organization Closed Under Pressure in 2013

Saudi prosecutors filed criminal charges against two activists in late October 2016, for “forming an unlicensed organization” and other vague charges relating to a short-lived human rights organization they set up in 2013, Human Rights Watch said today. None of the alleged “crimes” listed in the charge sheet resemble recognizable criminal behavior, and none of them took place after October 2013.

The defendants, Mohammad al-Otaibi and Abdullah al-Attawi, formed the Union for Human Rights in 2013, but they were unable to obtain a license for the group because Saudi Arabia generally did not allow independent non-charity nongovernmental organizations at that time. In late 2015, Saudi Arabia issued a new law that would theoretically allow such groups to obtain licenses, but authorities have continued to jail and prosecute independent activists based on similar charges.

APPOINTMENT OF CHINESE OFFICIAL TO HEAD OF INTERPOL PROVOKES WORRY

The recent appointment of Meng Hongwei as president of Interpol is one worrisome to human rights advocates across the world. Meng, China’s vice minister of public security, would be the first Chinese president of Interpol, though Chinese officials have served as vice presidents of Interpol and as members of its executive committee in the past. Presidents of Interpol serve four year terms and are elected by Interpol’s General Assembly.

Namely, in his position as vice minister of public security in China, Meng has used his position to orchestrate government crackdowns on group that the Chinese government views as undesirable. These include members of the Falun Gong and individuals targeted by Chinese president Xi Jinping’s ongoing anti-corruption campaign, which has in many cases used accusations of corruption to carry out political purges. Meng was also appointed head of China’s Coast Guard in 2012 and carried out the militarization of the civilian coast guard in order to bolster China’s disputed territorial claims in the South and East China Seas.

Ethiopian Authorities Arrest Zone9 Blogger Befeqadu Hailu Citing ‘State of Emergency’

Befeqadu Hailu, one of the best-known voices in Ethiopia’s stifled media environment, was arrested on November 10, 2016. In the morning hours, authorities took Befeqadu from his home to a jail cell in a nearby police station. He spent the day in there and was then transferred to a police station located in a neighborhood called Kotebe.

A member of the high-profile Zone9 blogger collective and a Global Voices contributor, Befeqadu is an active voice in the blogosphere and on Twitter. When the Ethiopian government declared a state of emergency, he wrote:

Russian Minister Ulyukayev Put Under House Arrest Over Bribery Accusations

A Moscow district court ruled on Tuesday to place Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev under house arrest in the large bribery case for two months.

Earlier in the day, Ulyukayev was officially charged with bribery on a very large scale. Ulyukayev demanded a bribe for a positive assessment of Russian energy company Rosneft’s acquisition of Bashneft company’s shares, according to the Russian Investigative Committee said.

Investigators said in court they had compelling evidence against Ulyukayev, including audio and video recordings, witness accounts, as well as fingerprints on banknotes.

US drone base in Tunisia: expanding a borderless war against terror to North Africa

By normalising the use of drones, the US might be planting a seed that people in the Arab world reject: the seed of arbitrariness.

Despite the large criticism directed toward the unabated use of armed drones as a weapon of choice in the “global war against terror”, led by the United States, the recent revelations about the establishment of a US drone base in Tunisia show that their use is expanding.

This information comes after the announcement of the construction of a 100 million drone base in Agadez, in the centre of Niger, indicating an increase of counterterrorist drone operations in north-west Africa. Although governments in the region have publically claimed they are not hosting US bases, there remains little doubt that such bases do exist at least in Niger and Tunisia, signalling an unconstrained and dangerous expansion.

Iran, Turkey Determined to Boost Ties: Envoy

Iranian Ambassador to Turkey Mohammad Ibrahim Taherian underlined the resolve of Tehran and Ankara to broaden and deepen their bilateral ties.

During a recent meeting in the Turkish capital with Head of Turkey’s Ana Vatan Party Ibrahim Celebi, the Iranian envoy said the two countries share numerous commonalities and are on the path toward congruent views on some regional developments.

He stressed that Tehran and Ankara should take on greater responsibilities to resolve ongoing crises in the region.

Kazakhstan: Beer Baron’s Downfall Spells Trouble for Activist Trial

A military court in Kazakhstan has sentenced a brewery tycoon to 21 years on coup-plotting charges, bringing a close to an opaque two-month-long trial that shed little light on exactly what happened.

The fear now is that Tohtar Tuleshov’s conviction could have grave repercussions for small-time civil activists charged on related offenses.

The Astana Military Court on November 7 determined that Tuleshov had sought to provoke turmoil by financing a wave of anti-government protests, as well as financing a transnational criminal group.