Blog Archives

General Assembly grants Palestine non-member observer State status at UN


29 November 2012 – The General Assembly today voted to grant Palestine non-member observer State status at the United Nations, while expressing the urgent need for the resumption of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians leading to a permanent two-State solution.

The resolution on the status of Palestine in the UN was adopted by a vote of 138 in favour to 9 against with 41 abstentions by the 193-member Assembly.

“We did not come here seeking to delegitimize a State established years ago, and that is Israel; rather we came to affirm the legitimacy of the State that must now achieve its independence, and that is Palestine,” the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, told the Assembly before the vote.

Mr. Abbas noted that the world was being asked today to undertake a significant step in the process of rectifying the “unprecedented historical injustice” inflicted on the Palestinian people since 1948.

“Your support for our endeavour today,” he said, “will send a promising message – to millions of Palestinians on the land of Palestine, in the refugee camps both in the homeland and the Diaspora, and to the prisoners struggling for freedom in Israel’s prisons – that justice is possible and that there is a reason to be hopeful and that the peoples of the world do not accept the continuation of the occupation.”

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor, said his delegation could not accept today’s resolution. “Because this resolution is so one-sided, it doesn’t advance peace, it pushes it backwards,” he stated, adding that peace could only be achieved through negotiations.

“There’s only one route to Palestinian statehood and that route does not run through this chamber in New York. That route runs through direct negotiations between Jerusalem and Ramallah that will lead to a secure and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” he added. “There are no shortcuts. No quick fixes. No instant solutions.”

The Israelis and Palestinians have yet to resume direct negotiations since talks stalled in September 2010, after Israel refused to extend its freeze on settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory.

“Today’s vote underscores the urgency of a resumption of meaningful negotiations,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said after the vote was finalized. “We must give new impetus to our collective efforts to ensure that an independent, sovereign, democratic, contiguous and viable State of Palestine lives side by side with a secure State of Israel. I urge the parties to renew their commitment to a negotiated peace.”

Addressing the same gathering, the President of the General Assembly, Vuk Jeremic, appealed to “my dear friends from Palestine and Israel” to work for peace, to negotiate in good faith, and ultimately, to succeed in reaching the historical settlement.

“I have no doubt that history will judge this day to have been fraught with significance – but whether it will come to be looked upon as a step in the right direction on the road to peace will depend on how we bear ourselves in its wake,” he said. “Let us therefore have the wisdom to act in furtherance of the goal I’m sure we all share.”

In the resolution, the Assembly also voiced the hope that the Security Council will “consider favourably” the application submitted in September 2011 by Palestine for full UN membership.

The Palestinian bid for full UN membership stalled last year when the 15-nation Council, which decides whether or not to recommend admission by the Assembly, said it had been “unable to make a unanimous recommendation.”

Today’s action comes on the same day that the UN observed the annual International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. Established in 1977, the Day marks the date in 1947 when the Assembly adopted a resolution partitioning then-mandated Palestine into two States, one Jewish and one Arab.

Source: UN.



Egypt’s elections: What will happen and what’s at stake

Demonstrators worry the military, which would continue as Egypt's top authority until a president is in place, wants to keep power.

For the first time since the end of President Hosni Mubarak‘s 30-year rule, Egyptians will be able to choose their representatives to the nation’s parliament. Here’s a look at what’s at stake, how the process will unfold and why some are boycotting the elections.

Q. What are the different stages of the parliamentary elections?

Monday marks the beginning of many rounds of elections for both the upper and lower houses of parliament.

Voting will be carried out in waves — in different months and in different governorates — around the country up until March.

Elections for the lower house are scheduled to take place in three stages, the last one of which is set for January.

Upper house elections will run between January and March, and a presidential vote will follow.

Q. How many parties and candidates are participating?

Egyptians have dozens of political parties and thousands of independent candidates to choose from.

Two-thirds of the seats will be filled by parties, and the other third by open candidates.

The once-banned Muslim Brotherhood, one of the nation’s largest organizations, is expected to perform well in the election, which is taking place against the backdrop of demonstrations calling for an immediate end to military rule.

Q. Why are demonstrators still angry?

Demonstrators say they are concerned the military, which would continue to be Egypt’s top authority until a president is in place, wants to keep a grip on the country.

Many also have voiced anger about a proposed constitutional principle that would shield the military’s budget from scrutiny by civilian powers.

Military leaders say they will hand over power to a new government when one is elected. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, Egypt’s current ruling body, said presidential elections will be held by June.

Q. How deadly have recent clashes been?

At least 42 people have been killed in the recent demonstrations, including at least 33 in Cairo. An additional 3,250 have been wounded, according to Egypt’s health ministry.

Q. What’s at stake in these elections?

Egypt is the most populous country in the Arab world and a major player in regional politics. The outcome of its revolution will have wider repercussions.

“It is easy to imagine a spiraling of unrest and violence if elections are perceived as illegitimate by a significant number of Egyptians,” Shadi Hamid, an analyst at the Qatar-based branch of the Brookings Institution, wrote recently.

Hamid added that the elections “are so critical for both Egyptians and everyone else who wishes to see Egypt move toward democracy and some modicum of stability.”

Q. How do Egyptians feel about the elections?

Some Egyptians are boycotting the parliamentary elections while others say they are excited about the opportunity.

“I fought for these elections in Tahrir Square and even got shot, but I am boycotting them completely,” taxi driver Omar Ahmed said. “I don’t trust the military one bit … It’s a farce.”

But some are hopeful in the streets full of election banners — a strong sign of democracy in a country ruled for 30 years by Mubarak’s iron fist.

“I believe the election is a good thing,” activist Ashraf Nagi said. “If we are lucky, maybe we’ll get rid of (Hussein) Tantawi,” chairman of the military council.

المركز المصرى للحق فى الدواء : الداخلية ضربت المتظاهرين بأنواع من الغازات المحرمة دوليا.. منها (V X) المصنف كأخطر 5 غازات فى العالم.. و(CS) المسبب للفشل الرئوى وسرطان القولون

أعلن المركز المصرى للحق فى الدواء “ابن سينا”، أنه سيتقدم ببلاغ للنائب العام، لمطالبته بالتحقيق فى كيفية استيراد غازات محرمه دولياً من قبل وزارة الداخلية، وتقديم اللجنة التى أشرفت على استيراد هذا الغاز الذى تم استخدامه ضد المتظاهرين فى ميدان التحرير منذ يوم السبت الماضى، للمحاكمة.

كما أعلن المركز أنه حصل على عدد من أسطوانات الغاز الفارغة من شارع محمد محمود، لعرضها على عدد من المتخصصين، للتأكد من جميع البيانات المحفورة على هذه القنابل والمكونات وتاريخ الإنتاج، كذلك الاطلاع على الحالات المصابة خلال يومى الأحد والاثنين الماضيين، حيث ثبت استخدام وزارة الداخلية لقنابل مسيلة للدموع بها مكونات كيميائية من غازات سامة ومحرمة دولياً، يسبب استخدامها أمراضاً سرطانية على رأسها سرطان القولون، كذلك زيادة احتمالية حالات (شلل أو إجهاض) بعد استنشاق الغازات المحروقة بساعات تصل إلى 72ساعة.

وأوضح المركز أن أهم القنابل المستخدمة هى (CR gas‏)، والتى يدخل فى تركيبتها الكيمائية (مادة البنزوكسازيبين، dibenzoxazepine)، وهى مادة مسيلة للدموع ومسببة للشلل المؤقت وتتسرب ببطء شديد لزيادة معاناة الذين يتعرضون لها، وطورت بواسطة وزارة الدفاع البريطانية لتستخدم فى تفريق المظاهرات فى أواخر خمسينيات القرن العشرين وبداية الستينيات من ذلك القرن، بحيث تحولت من غازات تقليدية، إلى مادة صلبة فى درجة حرارة متوسطة، تبلغ قواتها نحو 10 أضعاف غاز ( سى إس) المهيج والذى استعملته أيضا وزارة الداخلية فى يومى الأحد ليلا، والذى يتسبب فى تهيج شديد للجلد، وخاصة حول المناطق الرطبة من الجسم، وتشنج فى الجفون.

كما يتسبب فى حدوث عمى مؤقت، وسعال وصعوبة فى التنفس وهلع ودرجات عالية من الرعب وانفلات فى الأعصاب، ويمكن أن ينتج عنه شلل فورى، كذلك ويشتبه فى أن يتحول إلى مادة سامة فى حالة ابتلاعه أو دخوله فى مناطق الحلق والتعرض له على حد سواء، بدرجة أعلى من غاز (سى إس) وقد يتسبب فى الوفاة فى حالة التعرض لابتلاع لكميات كبيرة منه، وهو ما يمكن أن يحدث خاصةً فى الأماكن سيئة التهوية أو الأماكن المزدحمة، حيث يمكن أن يستنشق الشخص جرعة مميتة منه خلال دقائق معدودة بأسفكسيا فشل الرئة التى تنتج عن ابتلاع كميات كبيرة من الغازات، فى الوقت الذى يستمر تأثيره لفترات طويلة تصل إلى 27 ساعة متتالية.

وأوضح بيان المركز أنه تم إيقاف استخدام الغاز فى الولايات المتحدة الأمريكية فى عام 1965، بسبب الشك فى أنه أحد أسباب سرطان القولون، وتم حظره نهائياً مع تصنيفه كسلاح (قتالى) فتاك وشديد الخطورة، فى حين استخدمته القوات الصينية خلال الحرب الأهلية بكميات واسعة أدت لموت الآلاف، حتى أصبح محظوراً بموجب اتفاقية حظر الأسلحة الكيماوية لعام 1997 (وقعت معظم الدول على هذه المعاهدة سنة 1993، وفى الفترة بين 1994 و1997 كانت جميع دول العالم قد وقعت عليها باستثناء خمس دول).

أما الغاز الآخر الذى استخدمته وزارة الداخلية (سى إس) فهو أحد مكونات مادة (كلوروبنز المالونونيتريل) شديدة الخطورة، رغم أن يوضع بصورة مخففة ولا يعد غازاً قاتلاً، تم اكتشافه أوائل ثلاثينيات القرن الماضى بالولايات المتحدة الأمريكية وظل لسنوات عديدة يتم استخدامه على الحيوانات، حيث أثبتت التجارب أنه يصيب بالإجهاض البطء علاوة على تأثيرات أخرى أهمها سرعة الاختناق وصعوبة التنفس وزيادة كميات الدموع.

وتم استخدام هذا النوع من الغاز من قبل القوات الإسرائيلية لتفريق مظاهرات الفلسطينيين، إلا أن الشرطة المصرية استخدمت هذا الغاز المسيل للدموع بكثافة فى عدة مواجهات بينها وبين محتجين، خاصة أثناء ثوره 25 يناير وواجهت الشرطة وقتها اتهامات بأنها استخدمت غاز منتهى الصلاحية فى 1986، وهو ما ظهر من خلال لجنة تقصى الحقائق وتقارير الطب الشرعى.

فى الوقت نفسه، وجدت عبوات لغاز (V X)، شديد الخطورة بسبب امتصاصه عن طريق الجلد، ليستمر تأثيره لـ 60 يوماً، وتصنفه الولايات المتحدة الأمريكية على أنه من أهم أخطر 5 غازات عالمياً، كما توجد قيود عديدة للتعامل به ولكن تلجأ بعض الحكومات الغربية لبيعه عن طريق وسطاء حتى تتهرب من المساءلة الجنائية، وما يتضح هنا هو أن الحكومة استوردت هذا النوع من الغاز منتهكة المواثيق الدولية والإعلان الدستورى، وقرار وزاره الداخلية المصرية 139 لسنة 1955 الخاص بالأحكام العامة بالمظاهرات وإجراء فض التجمهر وحق التظاهر، بالإضافة إلى انتهاكها الحقوق الأساسية للتظاهر المقدم من خلال الأمم المتحدة فى هافانا 1990 وضرب المتظاهرين بمواد كيمائيه محرمة.

Unrest in the Arab World (Interactive Map)

a map of the Arab World

A Map of Arab World

When Mohammed Bouazizi, a Tunisian fruit vendor, set himself on fire in December, he also lit the fuse for an uprising that has spread across much of the Arab world. Click on the countries to see the roots of their unrest and where they stand today.

Click here to view Arab Spring Interactive Map..

Many similarities in Arab Spring, European chaos

Graffiti says "Down with the regime" on Spain's parliament building near a riot officer during a protest before elections this month.

The victory of the opposition Popular Party in Spain’s general election means that seven leaders or governments around the Mediterranean have been thrown out within the last year, amid an explosion of popular protest. Several more are fighting for their survival. Places often perceived as the cradle of civilization have become bywords for political chaos. The causes are various, but there are common strands that suggest the fallout from 2011 will be with us for many years to come.

In the Arab world, a younger (urban) generation rebelled against authoritarian dynasties and a stifling lack of opportunity. Young Tunisians and Egyptians saw that their contemporaries elsewhere — in countries like India, Indonesia, Turkey and Brazil — had opportunity, the oxygen of free expression, growing income. Meantime, young Arabs were still trapped under the heel of unresponsive, corrupt regimes in stagnant economies.

In Europe, the consequence of bloated state spending within the straitjacket of the eurozone — the 17 countries that use the single European currency — was a contradiction bound to end in tears. Former British Prime Minister John Major wrote in the Financial Times this month, “The root of the present chaos can be traced back to bad politics taking precedence over sensible economics.” If the Arab protests were motivated by a “crisis of comparison,” Europe’s was a “crisis of entitlement” built on false expectations.

As different as their origins are, the upheavals either side of the Mediterranean have some similarities. The speed of events, the technology of globalization (money can be moved instantly around the world; immediate communication is enabled by social media) simply swamped the old order — whether an Arab potentate facing rebellious citizens or a European government facing rebellious markets.

The unrest also represents a growing distrust of and resistance from political leaders that has taken flight around the globe. In Europe, the rise of right-wing populist parties reflects disenchantment with the post-war political consensus. In the Middle East, where the polling booth has rarely offered a way to blow off steam, the upheavals have been measured by feet on the street.

Despite being very different societies, the countries of southern Europe and North Africa share other problems. Youth unemployment is sky-high — in Spain, more than 40% of those under 25 have no work; in Tunisia, 30%; in Egypt, at least 25%. Half a million young Egyptians join the workforce every year. And growth is anemic or nonexistent on both sides of the Mediterranean. The Greek economy is expected to contract 5% this year. Most economists expect an extended period of very low growth in Italy, where some 30% of sovereign debt is due to be rescheduled next year. Egypt will struggle to achieve 1.5% growth; Tunisia is flat-lining.

Kick-starting these economies would require massive stimulus spending. But there is no Marshall Plan for the new Arab world; and no political will in Europe to shower more money on the south. On Monday, Olli Rehn, the European economic and monetary affairs commissioner, said bluntly that austerity was the only path available. “One simply cannot build a growth strategy on accumulating more debt, when the capacity to service the current debt is questioned by the markets,” he said. If the Arab revolutions are to be sustained, the money will have to come from the Gulf, with a little help from a very busy International Monetary Fund.

The political earthquakes around the Mediterranean may have a common consequence too: Many of the new leaders have little or no experience of governing. Mario Monti and Lucas Papademos are experienced technocrats, but they inherit combustible crises where bare-knuckle politics will be just as important as economic expertise. In fractious parliaments, they may struggle to command consistent majorities. Mariano Rajoy, who will become Spain’s new prime minister next month, has plenty of ministerial experience but inherits a country seething with resentment toward its politicians where debt in the private sector is the biggest worry. Before the election, rolls of toilet paper bearing the faces of both Rajoy and his opponent were selling well.

In Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, political novices and academics are inheriting revolutionary situations where expectations are as unrealistic as the challenges of education, poverty and building a civil society are enormous. There are complex relationships to work out with the security forces (as has become brutally evident in Egypt), millions desperately needing work, and the main markets for their exports and tourism industries are stagnant.

The consequences of 2011 will take several years to shake out.

Best case

Analysts say the ideal scenario might go like this: The European Union, chastened by its near-death experience, adds fiscal and other economic disciplines to the luxury of monetary union. German politicians and the Bundesbank overcome their reluctance to beef up the European Central Bank as a lender of last resort for the sake of holding the eurozone together. After painful restructuring involving the slimming of government, the inner core of the EU begins to recover, providing, along the way, markets and jobs to the Arabs across the water.

Not everyone sees this as the panacea. John Major believes still closer integration “would drive voters and decision-makers dangerously far apart. More top-down Europe imposed by a remote elite could provoke a powerful antipathy.”

According to this optimistic model, authoritarian leaders and sectarian rifts in the Arab world are superseded by the “Turkish model” personified by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a devout Muslim who has presided over record growth in eight years as Turkey’s prime minister. Islam and democracy live side by side; the state remains secular (if at times overbearing); the people’s abilities are liberated; an educated middle class grows and becomes a force for stability; and the economy prospers. Syria eventually joins Egypt, Tunisia and Libya as a democracy of sorts, and Iran loses influence as a result.

There are some favorable straws in the wind. Both the Ennahda party in Tunisia (already successful at the polls with 41% of the votes for the Constituent Assembly) and a newly formed Islamist party in Libya under the leadership of Ali al-Sallabi vow to follow Turkish-style moderation, separating the state from religious affairs while accepting Sharia as the inspiration for legislation. Morocco’s Justice and Development Party (the same name as Turkey’s ruling party) expects to do well in this week’s legislative elections.

The irony of this is that Turkey turned its focus toward the Arab world and Central Asia only after its application to join the EU was pushed into the slow lane. Now, some European politicians are urging a fresh strategic dialogue with Turkey as it becomes a key player throughout the Mediterranean.

Worst case

A less-than-ideal scenario sees a new generation of authoritarian leaders emerge in the Arab world, some of them bent on a stricter application of Sharia law. The fundamental challenges of opportunity, education and women’s rights are not addressed; military forces intervene in the democratic process (as they used to in Turkey). In some places, a lack of effective government gives militant Islam room to grow; in others, sectarian rifts between Shia and Sunni fester. In Syria, the fissure is between the minority Alawites and majority Sunni. Vali Nasr, author of “The Shia Revival: How Conflicts Within Islam Will Shape The Future”, says that struggle could quickly draw in major players in the region.

In Europe, the worst-case scenario sees Germany turning its back on the “olive belt.” Last week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said of the ECB’s role: “We interpret the [EU] treaties such that the ECB doesn’t have the authority to solve the problems.” The popular mood darkens as unemployment remains stubbornly high. Far-right parties become crucial components in governing coalitions (in Finland and the Netherlands, they already are); hostility toward immigration continues to grow; and the post-war social democratic model collapses as an aging population bankrupts state services.

Add to this grim prognosis a possible split between EU members inside and outside the eurozone — the countries that have adopted the single currency. Those inside (17 at present) mesh their economies closer; those outside (10, including Britain) become marginal to the European project. British Prime Minister David Cameron has already begun arguing that Europe’s problems are the result of over-stretch.

The very worst possibility is that the eurozone collapses in disorderly fashion, taking the European single market with it and leading to a deep recession across the continent. That is a scenario now being openly discussed by the likes of Dutch Finance Minister Jan Kees de Jager.

Somewhere in between?

The course of events may end up to be a messy combination of the above. In the short term, there will be no escape from volatility and anxiety. Should new Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti fail to deliver the reforms that the markets expect, there will probably be an outsize reaction among investors. Plenty of analysts foresee a “disorderly default” by Greece and the sovereign debt of France, Belgium, Spain and Italy coming under further pressure.

As Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group, wrote Monday: “There are 17 parliaments [in the eurozone] with different political systems, party structures, entrenched special interests, and electoral calendars that make concerns of American gridlock seem quaint.”

In the Arab world, an exceptionally strong showing by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt’s parliamentary elections, continued unrest in Cairo or uncertainty about the Saudi succession might send shudders through Western allies. Syria’s descent into civil war would bring on much more than shudders.

One probable outcome of the drama of 2011 will be a shift in the center of gravity in both Europe and the Middle East. Long the economic engine of Europe, Germany is now asserting its political clout. As a condition for underwriting any rescue of the eurozone, it is likely to demand much closer integration of eurozone economies.

In the Middle East, as Egypt is preoccupied with the fallout of revolution, Saudi Arabia is beginning to assert itself. It has been unusually vocal in its criticism of Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, is developing a closer relationship with Turkey and mobilizing Arab opinion against Iran, while forcefully backing the monarchies of Jordan and Morocco. It also has the funds to reinforce its influence. Qatar’s activism in Libya and Syria is more evidence of a tilt in the regional balance toward the Gulf.

Last week, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said Europe faced “a truly systemic crisis” — words that might well have come from the other side of a stormy Mediterranean.