Snaps from Egypt

This via a recommendation on Twitter by Ali Abunimah [@avinunu]. It was posted to YouTube on 29 January. Al-Jazeera English just reported that it was filmed on Friday 28 January (the “day Egyptians lost their fear”,  the AJE narrator said), at what was labelled 6 October bridge but which someone in Cairo corrected to Qasr an-Nil bridge:

It was not until the next day that we began to get an idea, just an idea, of the death toll in the protests around Egypt.

Below, this report — a rare report from several hospital morgues around Egypt — gives a small glimpse of the casualties.

Estimates of the total figure has not been updated since mid-day Saturday.

No one knows, yet, how many have died at protests around Egypt in the past week.

According to other Tweets (just below), this is the video that got Al-Jazeera banned in Egypt.
@julieposetti RT @khadijapatel: This is the story from the Cairo morgue that got #AJE banned in #Egypt #jan25:

Or, go to this page here.

Israel + Egypt (+ US too) coordinate new security moves in Sinai

“As far as I know, yesterday and the day before [Friday + Saturday], Israel agreed to authorize the Egyptian military to bring more people into the Sinai”, Israeli Brigadier-General Tzvika Foghel said in an interview on Sunday.

Foghel, who has served in Israel’s Southern Command where he occasionally is recalled for active duty, said that to his knowledge, this involved some 100 to 150 Egyptian Army personnel.

Israel’s agreement was limited, and given only for “a couple of days, during these days [of large-scale and widespread popular protest against Egyptian President Husni Mubarak]”, Foghel noted.

These exceptional Egyptian military personnal have now deployed all along the border, from Gaza to Eilat, with some stationed near the Egyptian Sinai port of El-Arish, he indicated.

“We have the same interests”, Foghel said.

Yossi Gurvitz wrote on his blog, Wish you Orwell, here and on the website of +972 magazine, a collective of Israeli bloggers, here, that “It’s hard to believe the IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] is not aware of Egyptian army movements into Sinai, which is technically an invasion and a breach of the peace accords. If the Egyptians acted without coordinating their movements with Israel, this is very troubling news; such a move, after all, led to the Six Days War. If the act was coordinated, then someone in the government has to explain under what authority he acts. The peace accords were approved by the Knesset, and changing them would conceivably require its approval. Furthermore, the issue raises the question of whether Israel supports the Mubarak regime against its own citizens”.

But, as it turns out, the IDF has been fully involved in the Egyptian Army’s deployment this weekend.

It seems clear that planned and internationally-coordinated steps have been taken to ensure there would be no security vacuum, in preparation for any eventuality in Egypt.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reportedly said on American television news interview programs Sunday that “We want to see an orderly transition so that no one fills a void, that there not be a void”.

Juan Cole wrote on his Informed Comment blog here, today, that “Leaders who have authority do not have to shoot people. The Mubarak regime has had to shoot over 100 people in the past few days, and wound more. Literally hundreds of thousands of people have ignored Mubarak’s command that they observe night time curfews. He has lost his authority”.

According to a story on the freewheeling Israeli website,, “Early Sunday, the Egyptian army quietly began transferring armored reinforcements including tanks through the tunnels under the Suez from Egypt proper eastward to northern Sinai … Our Jerusalem sources report the Netanyahu government may have tacitly approved it”.

However, the Israeli military has indeed given its explicit approval.

According to the terms of the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel [and its subsequent annexes] negotiated at Camp David by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Israel’s full withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula, which finally took place in 1982, was conditioned on the complete and permanent demilitarized of the Sinai.

Under the strict terms, a maximum of 750 Egyptian military personnel are to be allowed in the Sinai at any given time.

But, according to Foghel, “the soldiers should be only from the Egyptian national guard or from the border police”

After the Hamas rout of Fatah/Palestinian Preventive Security Forces in Gaza in mid-June 2007, Egypt requested Israel’s agreement to double – to 1500 – the number of Egyptian military personnel deployed in Sinai to deal with the new situation. After considerable debate within the Israeli military, this request was denied. The argument was won by Israeli military officers who suspected that Egypt was only using the situation as an excuse to increase its military deployment at Israel’s southern border.

Israeli Brigadier-General (Ret.) Shlomo Brom, now an analyst in Tel Aviv’s Institute of National Security Studies (INSS), said that though he doesn’t recall the exact numbers, there was eventually agreement, in talks between the two sides, on an increase in the numbers. This seems to have happened after the Hamas-engineered toppling of a wall along the Philadelphi Corridor between Gaza and Rafah in January 2008 – as tightened Israeli-military-administered sanctions caused the shut-down in Gaza’s only electrical power plant due to a shortage of industrial diesel fuel supplied exclusively via Israel.

Foghel indicated that there is no need, under the Camp David treaty, for Egypt to obtain permission for any number of additional non-military police personnel.

Obtaining Israel’s agreement for any Egyptian special forces or members of the Egyptian intelligence services would usually be obtained through Israeli Foreign Ministry personnel, who would liaise with the Israeli Army to get permission, Foghel said.

The U.S.-led Multinational Force Observers are based near Rafah in the Sinai to monitor the situation, in accordance with the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty (+ annexes).

Meanwhile, in the past couple of days, there have been confusing and contradictory reports about what is going on now in the Sinai.

Israel’s said, in the same story referred to above, that members of the Izzedin al-Qasem brigades crossed from the Gaza Strip into the Sinai Peninsula overnight [Saturday to Sunday], and battled Egyptian Interior Ministry special forces in Rafah and in El-Arish.

The Debka story, posted here, also reported that this infiltration was coordinated with “Bedouin tribesmen and local Palestinians”, who were simultaneously engaged in clashes with Egyptian forces, also in Rafah and in El-Arish.

Fogel said that this report is “probably right, in the circumstances – though these days they have been acting with more common sense”.

Earlier, there were reports from Gaza that Egyptian forces had left Rafah, but that Gaza’s Interior Ministry had subsequently secured the border.

Meanwhile, a second scenario – on which Foghel would not comment – involved the possible re-deployment of the Israeli Army from the Philadelphi Corridor, a narrow dirt road that runs all along the southern Gaza border with Egypt from which the IDF withdrew at the time of the unilateral Israeli “disengagement” ordered by former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2005.

Israeli Army planners have kept the redeployment scenario [along the Philadelphi Corridor] on the back burner, but still warm, in recent years.

There are indications that, with agreement of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority that may now be in place, Israeli redeployment in the Philadelphi Corridor – on a temporary and pragmatic basis – is now again under consideration.

The tacit consent of Hamas would also be required for Israeli redeployment along the Philadelphi corridor – and may also have recently been given.

For this reason, the INSS’s Shlomo Brom says he finds this scenario far-fetched and very hard to believe. “This would mean war in Gaza”, he said. Why? “Because Hamas is in control. Whether the Palestinian Authority agrees or disagrees is meaningless, because they don’t control the Gaza Strip … It would mean the temporary reoccupation of Gaza”.

In the current circumstances, however, Hamas might find it possible to go along with such an arrangement, if clearly temporary – and if it is linked to a broader political arrangement which would envisage a better solution for Hamas than the present scenario.

Hamas might also have no choice.

The Jerusalem Post’s well-connected defense correspondent Yaakov Katz reported on Sunday here that “Regime change in Egypt would force the IDF to reallocate resources and possibly increase its strength in the South, senior defense officials warned on Saturday”.

Katz said that the Israeli Military had set up special teams working both in Beersheva in the Israeli Negev and in the Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv.

He added in his JPost story that “Israeli concerns regarding Egypt relate to several issues but focus on the long-term strategic effect Mubarak’s downfall would have on the country and the Muslim Brotherhood’s potential to take over the country. The Brotherhood has said that one of the first things it would do would be to rip up the peace treaty. Israel is also concerned about the effect a regime change would have on Egypt’s border with Gaza, where security forces have recently been working more aggressively to stop arms smuggling to Hamas. While weaponry and explosives have still made their way to the Strip, the security forces have nonetheless been effective in curbing the flow. ‘A change in power could change what happens on the border

More funerals on Sunday for Saturday's dead in Egypt

More funerals are being held on Sunday for those killed in protests throughout Egypt on Saturday.

There is no accurate count of the scores of dead or the many thousands of injured, yet.

On Sunday morning, the Egyptian Minister of Information — the one who was supposed to have resigned with the rest of the entire Mubarak cabinet on Saturday morning — revoked the press credentials and the required licenses for Al-Jazeera to work in Egypt.

However, no move had been made to shut them down by noontime.

UPDATE: an hour later, Al-Jazeera was taken off Nilesat, an Egyptian-owned and operated satellite TV channel…

Al-Jazeera said via Twitter that it would be covering the situation in Egypt from headquarters in Qatar, and sent out a via Twitter of its journalists who would continue to follow the situation on the ground where they were throughout Egypt.

All journalists sending out Tweets on Sunday morning said that there was a noticeable change in the atmosphere, with more Army units on the streets, and helicopters flying low overhead.

The 200 demonstrators who slept overnight in Tahrir (Liberation) Square were the only ones there, apparently, as the Army was blocking access to any citizens wanting to enter the square on Sunday morning.

Funerals for Friday's dead in Egypt pause protests — momentarily

Funerals will be held today [Saturday] for what now looks like scores of dead, killed in protests against the Egyptian government in cities throughout the country on Friday.

The numbers of known casualties is growing exponentially, as hospitals and morgues release bodies to their families for burial.

The numbers are appalling.

The public warnings given yesterday by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, then by the White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs — and then by U.S. President Barak Obama himself, following the broadcast of a late-night speech by Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak — make it very clear, at least, that the U.S. will not tolerate any more.

Once the numbers of dead become quite clear, it may well be that the U.S. will already have had to cut away from any further support for Mubarak’s rule.

As’ad AbuKhalil posted this on his Angry Arab blog, late last night (he’s in California): According to a “source wants to stay anonymous but I cant evaluate the credibility of the source: ‘A source from within the Presidential Guard has claimed to my friends in Cairo that the army intends to end the protests on Sunday, by any means necessary even if it meant violence and bloodshed. Junta goons are causing chaos in Cairo to claim an unstable situation which will extend until Saturday. Then under the guise of bringing back order, they will “crush them with any amount of force needed!”. The sources are unsure of the American role but believe the Americans will go with it’.” This is published here.

No way the Americans will go with it — despite the clueless fumbling of the Obama Administration in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, and in the days of the Tunisia protests, there is no way, no way at all that they will go along with the number of deaths of protesters in Egypt — who, everybody in the world could see, were unarmed demonstrators — that are being reported today.

BikyaMasr newspaper is reporting here that “According to Al Jazeera English, the army has called on Egyptians not to gather in public, a sign some say could result in widespread violence and mass deaths if the military chooses to enforce such rules … The official death toll continues to mount and has been reported to be at least 60 people across the country, in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez. Rumors of widespread protests to begin at 3 pm Cairo time have also been reported”.

UPDATE: The internet is not yet back up in Egypt, two days after it was shut down (see below). BikyaMasr, an English-language paper published in Cairo, said at 2 pm on Saturday, via an exchange of Direct Messages on Twitter, that full internet service has indeed not yet been restored. They indicated they are able to publish online because their reporters are calling in stories to people outside, who are posting for them…

BikyaMasr published a report yesterday on how the media is being targetted in Egypt, here. Journalists have been targetted individually, physically, and their equipment has been confiscated or damaged — in addition to the shut-down of communications services nationwide.

On Friday, the U.S. administration — including Obama himself — went very, very strong only on the supression of the internet and social media and more traditional means of communication as well, calling for the immediate restoration of these services, which the American officials said were human rights linked to the freedom of opinion and expression.

An interesting account, “Egypt leaves the Internet” by James Cowie, was posted on the blog on January 27, 2011, and has been updated. This post reports that “in an action unprecedented in Internet history, the Egyptian government appears to have ordered service providers to shut down all international connections to the Internet. Critical European-Asian fiber-optic routes through Egypt appear to be unaffected for now. But every Egyptian provider, every business, bank, Internet cafe, website, school, embassy, and government office that relied on the big four Egyptian ISPs for their Internet connectivity is now cut off from the rest of the world. Link Egypt, Vodafone/Raya, Telecom Egypt, Etisalat Misr, and all their customers and partners are, for the moment, off the air … This is a completely different situation from the modest Internet manipulation that took place in Tunisia, where specific routes were blocked, or Iran, where the Internet stayed up in a rate-limited form designed to make Internet connectivity painfully slow. The Egyptian government’s actions tonight have essentially wiped their country from the global map … This has never happened before …
One of the very few exceptions to this block has been Noor Group (AS20928), which still has 83 out of 83 live routes to its Egyptian customers, with inbound transit from Telecom Italia as usual. Why was Noor Group apparently unaffected by the countrywide takedown order? Unknown at this point, but we observe that the Egyptian Stock Exchange ( is still alive at a Noor address. Its DNS A records indicate that it’s normally reachable at 4 different IP addresses, only one of which belongs to Noor. Internet transit path diversity is a sign of good planning by the Stock Exchange IT staff, and it appears to have paid off in this case. Did the Egyptian government leave Noor standing so that the markets could open next week?
Update (17:30 UTC Friday): The Internet routing situation for Egypt continues to be bleak, with an estimated 93% of Egyptian networks currently unreachable. Renesys saw no significant improvements or changes in Egyptian international Internet routing overnight. We have examined the takedown event more closely, looking at the sequence in which Egyptian service providers removed themselves from the Internet … Our new observation is that this was not an instantaneous event on the front end; each service provider approached the task of shutting down its part of the Egyptian Internet separately.
* Telecom Egypt (AS8452), the national incumbent, starts the process at 22:12:43.
* Raya joins in a minute later, at 22:13:26.
* Link Egypt (AS24863) begins taking themselves down 4 minutes later, at 22:17:10.
* Etisalat Misr (AS32992) goes two minutes later, at 22:19:02
* Internet Egypt (AS5536) goes six minutes later, at 22:25:10.
First impressions: this sequencing looks like people getting phone calls, one at a time, telling them to take themselves off the air. Not an automated system that takes all providers down at once; instead, the incumbent leads and other providers follow meekly one by one until Egypt is silenced”… This can be read in full here.

Egyptian protestors stay the course in big turnout on Friday

Al-Jazeera has been shut down on NileSat, and moved to another frequency, notices on Twitter inform us. Today is the day of the “million person” march in Egypt.

Now, is overcapacity, too.

A Muslim Brotherhood spokesperson has just said the key demand, for them, is that Husni Mubarak step down. He said Egypt has “an unjust, repressive government”. Other demands are for freedom of expression, and dissolution of the Parliament, and removal of Mubarak’s son Gamal as a prime candidate for replacing his father…

Mubarak had been expected to make a live statement to his nation at 6pm, about 1.5 hours ago, when a 13-hour curfew was to have gone into effect. But, thousands and thousands of Egyptians are still out in the streets in cities around the country.

All protests were banned in Egypt today, too — but that, too, was completely ineffective.

The army was sent out into the streets out of Egypt earlier in the day.

By 7:30 in the evening, Al-Jazeera was reporting that there was no police presence left on the streets. At least two police personnel carriers were burning, after having been set on fire by the protestors.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a live appearance instead (from Washington) in which she called first of all upon the Egyptian government to refrain from using force against the demonstrators. She said that the U.S. supports “the universal human rights of the Egyptian people”, including freedom of expression and assembly. And she called on the government to reverse its unprecedented steps to cut off communication in the country.

UPDATE: Later — after 1 am on Saturday — a recorded statement by Egyptian President Mubarak was broadcast on state television and internationally. Mubarak said there was a “fine line between freedom + chaos”. He said that Egyptians were worried about unrest and insecurity, and fearful for the future. And, he added, “I asked govt to step down today + will name a new one tomorrow”.

After Mubarak’s statement was aired, U.S. President Obama spoke to him by phone, reportedly for 30 minutes — then Obama made his own public on-air statement. Obama said that “our first concern” was to “call on the Egyptian authorities to refrain from using violence… Violence will not address the grievances of the Egyptian people. Wahat is needed are concrete steps to address the grievances of the Egyptian people”. And, Obama said pointedly, “all governments must maintain power by consent, not by coercion”, and added that “the U.S, will continue to stand by the Egyptian people”…

Diana Butto asks: how can Sa'eb Erekat retain the title of "Chief Palestinian Negotiator"

In an internet interview, from an unclear and unspecified location, with the new “TV” unit of the Institute of Palestine Studies, Diana Butto — a Canadian-born Israeli-Arab-Palestinian former spokesperson for the PLO’s Negotiations Support Unit, who later also worked, for a period, for Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad —

“We already knew about Israel’s intransigence, but what’s more interesting for me is the level of desperation, and the ways in which they tried to get the Israeli negotiators to actually like and support them, in order to get a better position”… We never really saw the dialog between the Israeli negotiators and Palestinian negotiators, but what we heard from the Palestinian negotiators all the time was just a clinging to slogans”.

Here is the full interview:

Diana Butto also says, in this interview:
“It reveals that Israel was simply not interested in having negotiations in the first place…

“You see the U.S. role in this — and both of these two actors point out what should be, what is patently obvious … You can’t have a weak party negotiating with a much stronger party…it’s never going to work. If there’s one thing we should be learning about this is that’s we should be moving away from this model of negotiations to something that is very different [she does not give any suggestions].

“We have no transparency in the West Bank. We can’t see how much money, for example, a very small thing, what percentage of the budget is spent on the security apparatus? How much money does the President’s Office have? How much money do they spend when they go out on these trips to the U.S. and the rest of the world? … At the end of the day, this is information that the PA and the PLO have never revealed in open sources to the Palestinian people, which is why people are upset about it, and which is why they []are backpedalling”…

On Palestinian reactions: “I guess I had expected that people were going to be more upset about the papers than anything else … But this is already is a government, a leadership that is entirely unrepresentative of Palestinians, in that they haven’t been elected, certainly the PLO officials have not been elected … I’m not entirely certain how Sa’eb Erekat was appointed ‘Chief Palestinian Negotiator’, and why he gets to retain that title, even after several of the blunders that he’s made in the past. So this is a leadership that’s not very representative, and yet there hasn’t been a massive revolt against this leadership”…

“The two more muted reactions are far more interesting — the first is to blame Qatar … and then the other reaction is one … that I hope will take shape more in the future: that somebody needs to be held accountable for all of these things, whether on the basic level, why are these documents so unsecure? That’s something that somebody needs to be held accountable for, namely Sa’eb Erekat; and for the fact of what’s contained in these documents, somebody should be held to account; the fact that these positions were taken, somebody should be held to account”.

Abbas + Erekat greeted by organized demonstrations of support upon return from Cairo

It’s always been striking how much the Palestinian political style is reminiscent of the Cold War era Soviet bloc, or even of present-day North Korea — though the Palestinians are much looser and more spontaneous…

Today, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas returned from a couple of days’ visit to Cairo that just happened to coincide with the big, big, big Al-Jazeera series highlighting discoveries in leaked documents detailing what’s happened in the past couple of years of Israel-Palestinian negotiations. He was greeted by a political demonstration in his favor.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, who accompanied Abbas to Cairo, was hoisted, like a bridegroom, on the shoulders of young men in a similar but less glossy demonstration in Jericho upon his return.

[These scenes looked and felt very different from the demonstrations in Cairo’s Tahrir Square today…]

Then, he gave an interview to Reuters which was posted by Haaretz, in which he said: “Al-Jazeera is inciting against me + my family, “asking Palestinians to shoot me, physically”…

That was even before the third night’s revelations on Al-Jazeera.

In the first segment, a B-movie reenactment of some of the negotiating sessions showed Erekat saying:
“We have had to kill Palestinians to establish one authority, one gun, and the rule of law… We have even killed our own people”.

This was, in fact, reported months ago in the Israeli press.

All Al-Jazeera journalist Clayton Swisher — whose introduction to this issue was as a security guard for the U.S. State Department during former President Bill Clinton’s Camp David talks with Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat, and the Taba talks a few months later — had to do was simply follow-up on the reports previously published in the Israeli press. He had the Al-Jazeera organization, with the money and staff and other resources, to do it.

Meanwhile, at least one former consultants to the PLO’s Negotiations Affairs Department’s Negotiations Support Unit (NSU) has been named as a prime suspect in leaking these documents to Al-Jazeera.

In response, the NSU issued this statement: “We deny unsubstantiated reports in Israeli and other media outlets attributing the source of the alleged leak of classified documents to Negotiations Affairs Department advisors. The PLO is currently investigating the issues surrounding the alleged leaking. Contrary to what these irresponsible and unsubstantiated media reports have alleged, no NAD advisor has been arrested or left the country and all continue to carry out their responsibilities. Accordingly, we demand for all media allegations attributing responsibility to any Negotiations Affairs Department advisor, wherever published or broadcast, to be retracted and redacted immediately. Naming such personnel is irresponsible, constitutes willful slander and very seriously puts at risk the safety of innocent individuals. Accordingly, and pending the results of the PLO investigation currently underway, we additionally demand for corrections to be printed and broadcast conspicuously by all responsible media outlets”.

Many Palestinians in Ramallah are asking this question: Why this timing? Why were these Palestine Papers released now? Probably, simply because they were ready…

But, as the third day of destabilizing revelations coincides with post-Tunisia protests in Egypt and Jordan and Yemen (and a copycat in Lebanon, but for different reasons (Lebanon’s was rather more similar to the Palestinian demonstrations today in support of Abbas and Erekat), the volatility of the situation here increases dramatically.

The organized demonstration against Al-Jazeera in Ramallah yesterday, and for Mahmoud Abbas and Saeb Erekat today, can also be seen as not-so-veiled threats of chaos and mob action against anyone in the opposition, whoever they are.

In the Ramallah office building where Al-Jazeera studios are in the penthouse on the roof, demonstrators threaten the men filming this video:

The ante has been upped to the max.

All sides believe they are being targetted: Al-Jazeera staff, Saeb Erekat, and at least one former adviser to the PLO’s Negotiations Affairs Department’s Negotiations Support Unit (NSU) amed as a suspect for leaking the documents to Al-Jazeera.

Next, there could be actual killings and blood shed… Suddenly, regrettably, and most unfortunately, this is now in the air…

Israeli officials, who usually love the chance to get a word in, are uncharacteristically silent. Understandably. The future of the Palestinian leadership is now in the balance.

Though officials are silent, the Israeli media is stepping in. The Jerusalem Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh wrote today that: “After assuming the role of prosecutor and judge, Al- Jazeera, the Arab world’s most influential TV network, has ruled that the leaders of the Palestinian Authority have betrayed their people and must therefore step down from the stage … Al-Jazeera is now waiting for the executioner (the Palestinians, in this case) to carry out the death sentence. Al-Jazeera’s dramatic show trial, which began on Sunday night, has undoubtedly caused massive damage to the PA leadership in the West Bank. The blow is so severe that it’s hard to see how the PA leadership can ever recover … The TV station has already decided that the defendants are guilty of the three charges against them. The station’s unequivocal message to Palestinians is that Abbas and his men are traitors who need to be removed from the scene, and the sooner the better. It’s hard to see how, in light of this damning verdict, the PA will be able to salvage what’s left of its credibility. Al- Jazeera has succeeded in instilling in the minds of many Palestinians and Arabs the belief that the leaders of the PA are a bunch of corrupt traitors who serve Israeli and American interests. The damage to the PA’s image and reputation is colossal and irreparable.”. This is posted here.

Another JPost story, by Herb KEenon, says that “Al-Jazeera relentlessly continued to pound the PA leadership Tuesday night with its latest dump of Palestinian documents, essentially accusing it of collaboration with Israel in the killing of terrorists [sic]. In a story on its English web site entitled ‘The al-Madhoun assassination’, the network, basing itself on a handwritten notes of a meeting between then defense minister Shaul Mofaz and PA minister of interior Naser Youssef, Al-Jazeera writes that the PA has ‘shown operational willingness to co-operate with Israel to kill its own people, the Palestine Papers indicate’.” This is posted here.

Indeed, in the one-hour special on the Palestine Papers on Al-Jazeera tonight (day 3), a report by Mike Hanna from Gaza was aired, in which Hanna said, “The Palestine Papers reveal the extent to which all Palestinians are held hostage to what is called a ‘negotiating process’.”

But, Palestinian Security Services spokesperson General (?) Adnan al-Damiri was cut off during his appearance during the special program when he said (wearing a suit and a tie, and not a military uniform) when he said: “I can say that the security forces of Palestine did not take part at any time [in planning assassinations of Palestinians] … We are a small, new security force and we are under occupation…”

The situation is absolutely explosive.

If the U.S. and Israel don’t do something to support the Palestinian cause (and not just the Palestinian leadership) right now, all bets are off…

Revolution is in the air.

Al-Jazeera staff in Ramallah fear retribution for Palestine Papers leaks

A small demonstration was held in Ramallah’s central Manara Square on Monday — not against the Palestinian negotiators, but against Al-Jazeera, which is going big, big, big with a special multi-part broadcast that started Sunday night and will continue over a couple of days about documents concerning Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in recent years.

Journalists who were there said there were only some tens of demonstrators in Manara Square – and they were carrying signs denouncing Al-Jazeera (“Al-Jazeera = Zionism” and “Al-Jazeera is collaborating with Shabak”).

This small group of demonstrators then tried to enter the office building where Al-Jazeera has its studios on the rooftop, but “Palestinian police calmed them down”, one journalist reported.

He added that the local Al-Jazeera staff is afraid of the reaction. “They were expecting it, and though they were afraid of an even harsher reaction. They are even afraid for their lives”.

Local Al-Jazeera staff were reportedly distancing themselves, in conversations with their journalist colleagues, from this big Al-Jazeera story, and said it came from headquarters in Doha, Qatar, and not from their offices here.

Al-Jazeera has been working on this for several months – one report suggested three months.

It has been clear that although the Palestinian negotiators had agreed to keep silent about the content of discussions, they were also anxious to put out their side of the story once leaks began to flow from the Israeli side, blaming the Palestinians.

A team of producers and reporters and correspondents has been in the Jerusalem-Ramallah area for the past couple of days. A group of Al-Jazeera staff discussing the program on Saturday over supper in the American Colony hotel were overheard saying that only a restricted small circle of staff knew about this program ahead of time.

They thought, correctly, that this was going to be big — and the satellite channel gave the resources to support it.

They also thought that other documents (perhaps from the Israelis) might also be revealed live, on air, as the program continues for several days this week.

Many outside experts and commentators clearly had been given advance copies of some of the revealed material, Wikileaks style (and sworn to secrecy too), and their critiques and commentaries were ready immediately after the first part of the Al-Jazeera special program aired Sunday night.

The Al-Jazeera International staff were, however, apparently not prepared for the angry Palestinian denunciation.

Al-Jazeera’s bureau and staff have regularly had problems with, and been threatened with sanctions from both Israeli and Palestinian governments here on the ground. But this is the first time they have actually spoken about fearing death threats.

Al-Jazeera's "Transparency": Palestinian negotiators hung out to dry

We reported on this blog what Sa’eb Erekat said last May in a speech to an audience of Israeli officials, ex-officials, and journalists at the security think-tank INSS in Tel Aviv. [I was later told that Erekat was very pleased and thought it had been a great success, but Israelis present said that Erekat did not understand how to talk to an Israeli audience…]   At this session in Tel Aviv in May, Erekat told the crowd, who were of course polite, “that the Palestinian side had presented two maps of their own — one offering a territorial swap of 1.9 percent –countering the Olmert proposal for a 6.5 percent swap (including 0.7 percent for a safe passage between the West Bank and Gaza). The second map, Erekat said, showed the built-up areas of Israeli settlements that constitute some 1.2 percent of West Bank land.  Erekat added that the 46 square kilometers of “no-man’s land” should be split down the middle ‘according to the Peru-Ecuador formula’  for their border conflict”. Our earlier report is posted here.

We reported also earlier, in March, here, that a Palestinian official in Ramallah said: “maps were ‘shown’ during the Annapolis process of negotiations in 2008. But, he said, the Israeli interlocutors ‘refused to hand over any maps or any papers’ … The Palestinians, he said, ‘gave an offer to exchange [or swap] 1.9 percent of the West Bank. We also showed this to the Americans and gave them [the Americans] a map’. The Israelis, he said, indicated they ‘had an idea of swapping 6.5 percent of the land”…

Here’s what Haaretz reported he’s been saying:
“According to Al-Jazeera, Palestinian negotiators secretly agreed to concede almost all of East Jerusalem to Israel.
The Palestinian Authority reportedly offered in 2008 that Israel take control of all neighborhoods in Jerusalem except Har Homa, the first time in history the Palestinians made such a proposal, one that they refused to during the Camp David summit.
Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, also proposed in an October 2009 meeting that Jerusalem’s Old City be divided, giving Israel control over the Jewish Quarter, part of the Armenian Quarter, and part of the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.
Further details reveal that the Palestinian agreed that solely10,000 Palestinian refugees return to Israel as part of the Palestinian right of return, and that Erekat agreed to the Israeli demand that Israel be recognized as a Jewish state.
Among other documents due to be released is an Israeli offer to transfer Israeli Arabs citizens to the territory of a future Palestinian state.
Moreover, Al-Jazeera revealed that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was personally notified by a senior Israeli official that Israel was planning an attack on the Gaza Strip, the night before Operation Cast Lead. Israeli and Palestinian officials reportedly discussed targeted assassinations of Hamas and Islamic Jihad activists in Gaza”.
This is posted here.

The Jerusalem Post later reported that Erekat “denied that the PA had agreed to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. He said that when he was asked by Israel to accept this demand, he replied that it was tantamount to asking a Palestinian to join the Zionist movement”. Indeed, that is indeed what I heard him say, several times… This JPost report is posted here.

Al-Jazeera has been working on this for several months. A team of producers and reporters and correspondents has been in the Jerusalem-Ramallah area for the past couple of days. They thought, correctly, that this was going to be big, big, big — and the satellite channel gave the resources to support it. They also were — and are — prepared for other documents (from the Israelis?) to be revealed live, on air, as the program continues for several days this week

Many people had advance copies of some of this material.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that he didn’t know where the documents had come from, but said that all information about the negotiations had been shared with his Arab brothers. Others said that the source came from within the PLO’s Negotiations Affairs Department itself (run by Erekat) — or perhaps some of its discontents.

It mighty be too much of a compliment to suggest that the suspended Fatah Central Committee member Mohammad Dahlan and some of his group of supporters may have played a role… though this may in fact be the case.

In any case, it is worth reproducing a lot of Karma Nabulsi wrote almost immediately after the program in The Guardian’s Comment is Free Section here that: “It’s over. Given the shocking nature, extent and detail of these ghastly revelations from behind the closed doors of the Middle East peace process, the seemingly endless and ugly game is now, finally, over. Not one of the villains on the Palestinian side can survive it. With any luck the sheer horror of this account of how the US and Britain covertly facilitated and even implemented Israeli military expansion – while creating an oligarchy to manage it – might overcome the entrenched interests and venality that have kept the peace process going. A small group of men who have polluted the Palestinian public sphere with their private activities are now exposed. For us Palestinians, these detailed accounts of the secretly negotiated surrender of every one of our core rights under international law (of return for millions of Palestinian refugees, on annexing Arab Jerusalem, on settlements) are not a surprise. It is something that we all knew – in spite of official protests to the contrary – because we feel their destructive effects every day. The same is true of the outrageous role of the US and Britain in creating a security bantustan, and the ruin of our civic and political space. We already knew, because we feel its fatal effects … The release into the public domain of these documents is such a landmark because it destroys the final traces of credibility of the peace process. Everything to do with it relied upon a single axiom: that each new initiative or set of negotiations with the Israelis, every policy or programme (even the creation of undemocratic institutions under military occupation), could be presented as carried out in good faith under harsh conditions: necessary for peace, and in the service of our national cause. Officials from all sides played a double game vis-à-vis the Palestinians. It is now on record that they have betrayed, lied and cheated us of basic rights, while simultaneously claiming they deserved the trust of the Palestinian people”

She continued: “This claim of representative capacity – and worse, the assertion they were representing the interests of Palestinians in their struggle for freedom – had become increasingly thin over the last decade and a half. The claim they were acting in good faith is absolutely shattered by the publication of these documents today, and the information to be revealed over this coming week. Whatever one’s political leanings, no one, not the Americans, the British, the UN, and especially not these Palestinian officials, can claim that the whole racket is anything other than a brutal process of subjugating an entire people … The Palestinian leadership’s weak and incompetent posturing is the opposite of dignified and honourable national representation, and proves useless to boot. On the positive side, had such deals eventually come to light, Palestinians would have rejected them comprehensively. But the worst betrayal has been what this hypocrisy has bequeathed to the young generation of Palestinians. These officials have led a new generation to believe that participating in public governance is base and self-seeking, that joining any political party is the least useful method to advance principals and create change. Through their harmful example, they have alienated young Palestinians from their own history of resistance to colonial and military rule, so they now believe that tens of thousands of brilliant, imaginative and extraordinarily brave Palestinians never existed or, worse, fought and died for nothing” …

Yes, and now I mourn for those who died.

Police visit Duvalier + take him for questioning

Probably CNN had it first: “Baby Doc” Duvalier’s surprise arrival in Haiti on Sunday “brought calls for arrest from [Michele] Montas and members of human rights groups”.

Michele Montas — radio journalist, ex-UN spokesperson, and sorely-aggrieved widow of assassinated journalist and agronomist Jean Dominique (shot and murdered in 2000 outside the studios of Radio Haïti Inter, which he directed and ran, one of many still-unsolved crimes in Haiti) — says she was going to file a criminal complaint against Duvalier. She told CNN: “We have enough proof. There are enough people who can testify. And what I will do is go to a public prosecutor and there is a public prosecutor that could actually accommodate our complaints”… This CNN story can be read in full here.

Javier Zuniga, special adviser at Amnesty International, told CNN that “The widespread and systematic human rights violations committed in Haiti during Duvalier’s rule amount to crimes against humanity … Haiti is under the obligation to prosecute him and anyone else responsible for such crimes”.

And Jose Miguel Vivanco, Americas director of Human Rights Watch, told CNN that “Duvalier’s return to Haiti should be for one purpose only: to face justice”.

But Alertnet [Reuters] said Duvalier was being taken for questioning on suspicion of “stealing from the treasury”.

CNN added that “Duvalier was supposed to have held a news conference Monday but it was canceled and so far, the former dictator has remained huddled inside the Karibe”.

The Los Angeles Times later reported that “Police led the 59-year-old Duvalier from the luxury hotel room where he had stayed since his surprise return Sunday after 25 years of exile, past the pool, through the kitchen and out the back to a waiting dark-blue Nissan patrol sport-utility vehicle. He waved to waiters, hotel staff and hordes of reporters. He moved unsteadily and received help … A police convoy escorted Duvalier and his entourage to a courthouse … Haitian authorities said he would be questioned and could be released before the end of the day. It was not clear what, if any, charges the Haitian judiciary would be contemplating”. This is published here.

Two additional details: An AP story reports here that Duvalier’s defense attorney says Duvalier does not even have a passport, though the attorney asserts Duvalier can leave the country anytime he wants. [The story also notes that Duvalier separated from his “free-spending wife” in 1993…]

A documentary film, The Agronomist, was made by Jonathan Demme [Silence of the Lambs], who met Jean Dominique and Michele Montas during their years in exile. Information about the film is posted here.

Here are some excerpts from that site:
“For millions of Haitians, the voice of Jean Dominique continues to shout in the microphone ‘Yo arete Konpè Philo! Yo arete Konpè Philo’! (They arrested Konpe Philo!). The year was 1980, and the Duvalier regime had decided to put a halt to the growing media contestation that had heightened the conscience of the all social classes to unprecedented levels in Haiti. Intellectuals, artists, street vendors found their voices in the team assembled by Jeando and his wife Michele Montas. [One of the radio personalities was Konpè Filo, who characteristically spoke in a mocking tone] … the regime had reasons to worry about their pervasive impact on the status quo. Predictably, Jean, Michele, their team and dozens of other Haitian media personalities were rounded up and sent in exile during the infamous Decembre noir of 1980. But the damage had already been done. Six years later, in 1986, after continuous protests, the 29 year-old regime fell. Jean returned to Haiti the same year where he literally landed on the shoulders of the thousands of fans who had ran to the airport to welcome their hero. The optimistic vast smile, the pipe, the commanding voice, the V sign… the charm played again: in a matters of weeks, thousands of poor folks, wealthy businessmen, starving artists, obscure and reknowned intellectuals, street vendors… had poured money in a never seen collection drive to raise the funds necessary to rebuilt Radio Haiti Inter. In one of those tragedies of epic magnitude, Jean’s blood was spilled in 2000 [during the presidency of Jean Claude Aristide], when he thought that he had come back to see democracy flourish in his country, leaving his spouse of 28 years at the helm of a radio targeted for 30 years for its commitment to the empowerment of the Haitian masses. Since then, Michelle Montas, while assuring the management of the radio, and seeking justice for the murder of her husband, has been the target of threats and one assassination attempt that left a body guard dead. The story of Jean Dominique and Michel Montas goes beyond just the story of a Haitian radio station in Haiti and one man’s dedication. This is a human journey that exemplifies the struggle of Haitians for justice, the pursuit of the truth even at the ultimate cost, the quest for a dream and the resilience of an idea and an ideal through a couple, then a woman”.

Q: Tell us something about the private Jean that people wouldn’t know? Dealing with you, dealing with people in his private life…

Michele Montas: Only his close friends knew about his unique sense of humor, a self-deprecating sense of humor that allowed him to laugh in the face of tragedy and to always put things into proper perspective. The general public saw the fiery militant, the biting journalist, the cultured intellectual. But beyond that Jean was a great storyteller, a fascinating and funny companion.

Q: Did you at all time, share the views and approaches of your husband?

Michele Montas: Jean and I certainly shared the same views. We discussed national and international politics, our work, the newsroom, and his editorials on a daily basis and we deeply respected and trusted each other. I cannot remember a major disagreement in the 28 years we lived and worked together. We also had a common approach to our profession as journalists. Our strategies might have been different at times, as we do have very different personalities. Sometimes Jean would react more aggressively than I would. Sometimes those close to him would not immediately understand his moments of “sacred anger” as we called them, but Jean was a man of extraordinary vision and with a unique sense of perspectives. The principles that guided his life were of steel. Very often I realized in hindsight that his gut feelings on a number of issues were the right ones.

Q: Is Jean’s assassination an indication that the system won’t tolerate dissent in Haiti?

Michele Montas: It is obvious that true independence of thoughts and spirit is rarely tolerated in Haiti. In Jean’s case it was not only his critical attitude towards the different governments and politicians of Haiti but also his independence towards the traditional business elite. It is important to note also the increasing climate of intolerance and impunity that, in the last few years, has created in Haiti the conditions for Jean’s assassination” …

Will that end now?