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December’s 0.25% interest rate tweak upwards to a mere 2.75% continues to hurt the world’s biggest economy as it faces the unwelcome prospect of reabsorbing more than $4.5trillion in Quantitative Easing the US has flushed into its banking system since 2009. That has its president and its Commerce Department calling on the US Fed to reverse the December call.

At the same time, US President Donald Trump continues his wrecking ball approach to trade talks with China. The prospects of a weaker dollar and a constipated trade trade outlook has investors sitting on the sidelines with equities sagging in early Asian trade.

However, the JSE lifted after opening today, with the All Share index rising 0.17% and the Top 40 up 0.12%.

Pembury Lifestyle Group says it will discontinue its investments in retirement villages and will dispose of them.

Group Five says on Sens it has published its business rescue status report on its website (www.groupfive.co.za).

Fin24

Beti suggests recovery in second half

South Africa’s economic activity remains robust, if activity at the country’s ATMs is anything to go by. May’s Bankserv Economic Transactions Index (Beti) is suggesting a recovery in the second half of the year, with increased activity across all indicators for the second, consecutive month. https://www.fin24.com/Economy/sas-bank-transactions-a-good-sign-for-growth-maybe-20190613-2

Secunda’s deadly air a ‘baptism of fire’ for Creecy

Air quality around Secunda remains a threat to human life more than a decade after the government identified the area as a priority, court papers filed by the Centre for Environmental Rights reveal. They want new Environmental Minister Barbara Creecy hold good to the state’s previously stated commitments. https://www.fin24.com/Economy/analysis-baptism-of-fire-for-environment-minister-as-as-govt-taken-to-court-over-air-quality-20190613-2

Citing “reputational risk”, Sygnia dumps Deloitte

Outspoken index tracker Sygnia asset management says its parting ways with its external auditor, Deloitte, due to “reputational risk”. Deloitte is under investigation for its role in the African Bank and Steinhoff scandals and Anglo American recently announced a parting of the ways with the auditor. Deloitte says Sygnia’s statement contains “inaccuracies” and will “set the record straight” in due course. https://www.fin24.com/Economy/sygnia-cites-reputational-risk-as-it-parts-ways-with-auditors-deloitte-20190612

Old Mutual tries Footgear on for size

Old Mutual Private Equity, one of the biggest private equity firms in SA,  has bought a majority stake in Footgear, the footwear retailer. https://www.fin24.com/Companies/Retail/old-mutual-private-equity-tries-footgear-on-for-size-20190612-3

Ireland warns “hard Brexit” threat just got real

The danger of England crashing out of the European Union is a very real threat, Dublin is warning. Ireland’s foreign ministry says EU attitudes are hardening behind Ireland and will protect it as a continuing member state when it comes to negotiations. https://www.fin24.com/Economy/no-deal-brexit-now-a-very-serious-risk-irish-official-says-20190612

Slack Tech sees $17bn value for listing.

Workplace chat and collaboration software company Slack Technologies says it expects a valuation of between $16billion and $17billion when it lists next week.on the NYSE. https://www.fin24.com/Companies/ICT/slack-listing-likely-to-value-it-at-up-to-17bn-20190612-2

Saudi Arabia arrests, tortures scores of Palestinians

Scores of Palestinians living in Saudi Arabia have been arrested and tortured over their participation in charitable activities, Twitter account Prisoners of Conscience revealed yesterday.

The group, which reports on political prisoners in Saudi Arabia, released a series of tweets including details of the detentions and the circumstances surrounding them.

According to the tweets, Saudi intelligence services committed rights abuses and tortured the Palestinian prisoners during and after their arrest, mainly those working with businessmen Osama and Hisham Filali, Mohamed Bin Mahfouth, Warees Bin Mahfouth and Saleh Abu Ghosh.

Saudi security forces stormed the houses of the Palestinians at night, locked women and children in one room and confiscated electronic devices before arresting them.

Some 150 people have been arrested on the grounds of their charitable work, including businessmen and 40 Palestinians in Jeddah alone.

The tweets noted that all of the prisoners are prevented from contacting their families. Some are entering their second year in detention. “Families of some prisoners do not know anything about them even during Ramadan and the Eid,” the group said.

During the past months, Saudi security services carried out a wide and secret arrest campaign against Palestinians in the kingdom.  The Palestinian embassy in Riyadh has done to support those affected.

Saudi Arabia has arrested thousands of activists, intellectuals, clerics, journalists and businessmen over the past two years in an attempt to eliminate any possible opposition to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Source: MEMO

Why Ace Magashule’s call for South African quantitative easing should be supported.

By Al Ameen Templeton

Quantitative Easing is a fraud; the US Fed and the ECB are printing money – the dollar and the euro are intrinsically worthless.

Presently, the world’s mature, stagnating economies – The US, EU and Japan – are being allowed to get away with it, but this is coming at enormous cost to the rest of the world.

They are ripping up the fabric of a multilateral world in the pursuit of depraved, short-term interests in a desperate attempt to shore up privileged access to foreign markets and products that are a legacy of the colonial period.

They not only want the privilege to continue, they want to pay for that privilege by simply printing worthless money.

Yes, as Stoddard’s stab at white-man honesty in the above quote notes, “there is an element of discrimination at play here”: white nations must be allowed to print money without question while darker nations must not. With them, it is a matter of sophisticated monetary experimentation; with us it’s just a “Mugabe option”, a grubby money grab that cannot be countenanced.

The latter is the truth.

QE has been described as “bailouts for billionaires” because the money doesn’t reach the retail level, it doesn’t reach ordinary people.

And the motivations for Magashule’s proposal are probably just as venal as those of the bankers in the US and EU who first proposed the policy.

A “Safari QE” would probably be just as elitist as anything washing about in the stagnating economies.

But the lie that it is is something that will not be confessed until the veracity is exposed when everybody starts to do it.

So, the sooner we start doing it the better. This scam needs to come to an end sooner rather than later, because it is not a victimless crime.

The upshot of current QE is consumers in emerging markets like South Africa are being forced to shoulder the obligations the labour aristocracy that is the consumer army in stagnating economies should be carrying.

Principal among these is a higher interest rate burden.

The QE tool works via central banks creating money to buy government and corporate bonds from banks, giving them cash to lend to the real economy. Driving up demand for bonds raised their price, causing the yield, or interest rate, to fall – which had the effect of slashing borrowing costs for the government, businesses and households.

That has caused a search for higher interest rates in other economies. The upshot is that emerging market consumers are being tied into macroeconomic agreements that attract portfolio flows into their economies, propping up their trade imbalances, but forcing them to maintain an interest rate set higher than the conditions in their domestic markets warrant.

So, we in South Africa are struggling under a repo rate as 6.75%. Our last repo rate hike – ostensibly to fight inflation – occurred last year November just after we’d slipped into recession after two successive quarters of negative growth. That hardly meets “overheating” conditions usually requiring a hike to cool down an economy.

The real reason we hiked rates, putting aside all our Reserve Bank’s posturing and spluttering, was in anticipation of an expected US Fed rate increase that duly came in December when the US Fed lifted US interest rates to 2.75%.

In other words, control of the economy or our ability to affect it has been taken from our hands. We in South Africa must endure higher interest rates irrespective of our spending habits. No matter how disciplined we are, our efforts at curbing our spending habits will have no effect – our interest rate will shadow US rates, irrespective of their consumers’ actions as well.

The stagnating economies of the US, EU, and the UK and Japan since the Credit Crunch of 2008 have issued – as a conservative estimate that ignores other stimulus programmes – well over $7trillion in quantitative easing money.

This is money they are showing no intentions of repaying, neither are they showing any ability to do so.

The UK has issued £345billion since 2008. The verdict on 10 years of quantitative easing

The European Central Bank pumped about $3trillion into the continental economy using QE. However, much like George W Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” proclamation in Iraq transpired to be premature, so too did the end to the ECB’s QE programme turn out to be nothing more than wishful thinking. European Central Bank confirms end of quantitative easing programme

By April this year, it was back on stimulus. ECB announces details of new targeted longer-term refinancing operations (TLTRO III)

The US has printed over $4trillion of QE money since 2008. Quantitative Easing Definition

As the Guardian newspaper mentioned faintly in May:

“The measures were designed for an emergency, yet still remain in place today, with the proceeds from any maturing bonds immediately used to fund more QE purchases. However, the fact that it has not been stopped – and that rates remain close to zero – indicate that the policy has not worked emphatically.”

As Andrew Sentence, an MP on the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee who helped put together the quantitative easing superstructure, says: ““The real problem we have with the economy is that it (quantitative easing) hasn’t turned out to be an emergency measure, it’s turned out to be the status quo.”

In other words, the world’s stagnating economies have not reversed the process. They’ve flushed the system with cash as an emergency measure, but they have not reversed the process.

They have not withdrawn the money from the system. They have not repaid the money.

In other words, they’re being allowed to print money for free and to get away with it. Quantitative easing has turned out to be a scam. It is a “unprecedented experiment” – to use another mainstream, banking-economist euphemism – that has not worked.

The time has come to pay back the money.

But that is not going to happen any time soon.

And that is why Magashule’s call for a quantitative easing safari in South Africa needs to be supported.

What’s good for the goose is good for the guinea fowl. If they can do it, we can do it.

And we’d be damn fool not to. It would be like going to a gunfight with a knife.

Voters in the reservoirs of the world’s labour aristocracies are not going to vote for higher interest rates. They’re not going to say the dollar and the euro are worthless.

That’s our job.

Saudi Arabia to execute three prominent moderate scholars after Ramadan

Three prominent moderate Saudi Sunni scholars held on multiple charges of “terrorism” will be sentenced to death and executed shortly after Ramadan, two government sources and one of the men’s relatives have told Middle East Eye.

The most prominent of these is Sheikh Salman al-Odah, an internationally renowned scholar known for his comparatively progressive views in the Islamic world on Sharia and homosexuality.

Odah was arrested in September 2017 shortly after tweeting a prayer for reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and its Gulf neighbour Qatar, three months after Riyadh launched a blockade on the emirate.

The other two slated for execution are Awad al-Qarni, a Sunni preacher, academic and author, and Ali al-Omari, a popular broadcaster. They too were arrested in September 2017.

All three had massive followings online. Odah’s Arabic Twitter account boasts 13.4 million followers alone, and the hashtag #freesalmanalodah emerged after his arrest. Omari’s TV station “For Youth” also had a huge audience.

Two Saudi government sources independently confirmed the plan to execute the three men, who are currently awaiting trial at the Criminal Special Court in Riyadh. A hearing was set for 1 May, but was postponed without setting a further date.

One source told MEE: “They will not wait to execute these men once the death sentence has been passed.”

A second Saudi government source said the execution of 37 Saudis, mostly Shia activists, on terrorism changes in April was used as a trial balloon to see how strong the international condemnation was.

“When they found out there was very little international reaction, particularly at the level of governments and heads of state, they decided to proceed with their plan to execute figures who were prominent,” said the source, who like the first spoke on condition of anonymity.

The timing of the executions will also be dictated by the current rise in tensions between the United States and Iran.

“They are encouraged to do it, especially with the tension in the Gulf at the moment. Washington wants to please the Saudis at the moment. The [Saudi] government calculates that this enables them to get away with this,” the first source said.

A member of one of the scholars’ families told MEE: “The executions, if they go ahead, would be very serious, and could present a dangerous tipping point.”

Middle East Eye has approached the Saudi authorities for comment.

Provoking condemnation

The detention of the three scholars has already provoked the condemnation of the United Nations and the US State Department, as well as rights groups Human Rights Watch (HRW), Reprieve and Amnesty International.

In September, a year after his arrest, Odah appeared at a closed hearing of the Special Criminal Court, a tribunal set up by the interior ministry to try cases of terrorism. Odah was then accused by the special prosecutor of 37 charges of terrorism.

These included alleged affiliation to “terrorist organisations”, which the prosecution named as the Muslim Brotherhood and the European Council for Fatwa and Research, two prominent international Islamic organisations.

A second set of charges accused him of exposing “injustices towards prisoners” and of “expressing cynicism and sarcasm about the government’s achievements”.

The third set of charges alleged an affiliation with the Qatari royal family and cited Odah’s public unwillingness to support the Saudi-led boycott on the peninsula emirate.

Two days before his own brutal murder at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi told friends in London that these 37 charges revealed everything they needed to know about the rule of law in the kingdom under its de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

“He will crush dissent at all cost. These charges must be publicised,” Khashoggi said at the time. “Odah will be executed not because he is an extremist. It’s because he is a moderate. That is why they consider him a threat.”

Reacting to Middle East Eye’s report, HRW’s Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson said: “Any further executions of political dissidents is a direct consequence of the Trump administration’s enabling environment, and its repeated, public vice-signalling: no matter what heinous abuse you commit against your people, we’ve got your back.”

In January last year, a UN panel of experts, part of the Human Rights Council, accused Riyadh of ignoring repeated calls to halt violations as it arrested religious figures, writers, journalists and activists “in a worrying pattern of widespread and systematic arbitrary arrests and detention”.

The panel of experts said: “We are also seeking the government’s clarification about how these measures are compatible with Saudi Arabia’s obligations under international human rights law, as well as with the voluntary pledges and commitments it made when seeking to join the Human Rights Council.

“Despite being elected as member of the Human Rights Council at the end of 2016, Saudi Arabia has continued its practice of silencing, arbitrarily arresting, detaining and persecuting human rights defenders and critics.”

The US State Department also cited the trial of Odah and the two other scholars in an annual report on human rights earlier this year.

“The public prosecutor brought 37 charges against [Odah], the vast majority of which alleged ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and Qatari government, in addition to his public support for imprisoned dissidents,” the report said.

“None referred to specific acts of violence or incitement to acts of violence, according to a HRW statement on 12 September.”

Source: MEE, Additional reporting by Ali Harb
Feature Image : SkyNews

‘Breaking the silence’: Report documents torture in Kashmir

By Rifat Fareed

Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir – Prisoners in Indian-administered Kashmir have been subjected to abuse and torture, including “water-boarding, sleep deprivation and sexualised torture”, according to a report by two rights bodies.

The 560-page report released on Monday mentions solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, and sexualised torture including rape and sodomy, used as torture techniques against Kashmiris.

Other torture methods included electrocution, hanging from a ceiling, dunking detainees’ head in water (which is sometimes mixed with chili powder), said the report by Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) and Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS).

During the torture detainees were stripped naked, beaten with wooden sticks, and bodies were burned with iron rods, heaters or cigarette butts, it said.

“Muzaffer Ahmed Mirza from Tral and Manzoor Ahmad Naikoo were subjected to insertion of a rod through their rectum. It caused multiple ruptures to their internal organs,” reads one of the 432 testimonies documented in the report.

“While Mirza died after a few days in the hospital of lung rupture, Naikoo had to undergo five surgeries to finally heal the wounds he received due to this torture.

“Apart from insertion, a cloth was wrapped around Naikoo’s penis and set on fire.”

Titled, “Torture – Indian state’s instrument of control in Indian-state of Jammu and Kashmir”, it said that more than 70 percent of the torture victims were civilians.

‘Rights violations’

India has stationed more than half a million security forces in the disputed Muslim-majority region to quash an armed rebellion against its rule. Indian forces have faced criticism for excessive use of force, with the UN human rights body last year calling for an international probe into rights violations.

The UN Human Rights Chief had also called for establishing a Commission of Inquiry (COI) to conduct a comprehensive independent international investigation into allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir.

A COI is one of the UN’s highest-level probes, generally reserved for major crises like the conflict in Syria.

Rights bodies have called for repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), a law that gives forces immunity from prosecution.

The report, which documents cases since the start of the armed rebellion in 1990s, reveals many detainees were put under behavioural coercion where they were forced into activities that were against their “religious beliefs” like rubbing piglets on their bodies or forcing them to consume alcohol.

In some cases, it said, rats were put inside victims’ trousers after soaking sugar water on their legs.

“The prisoners are forced to eat or drink filthy and harmful substances like human excreta, chili powder, dirt, gravel, chili powder mixed water, petrol, urine, and dirty water,” it said.

‘Reluctant in reporting’

The report reveals most of the civilian victims were usually reluctant to report the atrocities due to the fear of reprisals at the hands of security forces.

“Victims have been randomly picked up, tortured and never even told what they were tortured for,” it said.

In a prologue of the report, former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan E Mendez, said the report “will be enormously helpful in drawing attention in the international community to the need to express concern about India’s human rights record”.

‘Most underreported’

Parvez Imroz, the human rights lawyer and the president of JKCCS, told Al Jazeera that “torture is one of the massive human rights violations going on unabated in the region from last many decades”.

This report is an effort to break the silence around this heinous crime,” he said.

The Director General of Police, Jammu and Kashmir state, Dilbagh Singh, rejected the torture claims.

“There are no such cases, if there have been any allegations, there are magisterial inquiries and other investigations. If they have any such case, they must tell us and we would respond to them”.

Vijay Kumar, the advisor to the governor of the restive region, said that he would comment after reading the report.

Profile of torture victims

The report said that more than half of the 432 victims suffered some form of health complications after being tortured.

“In the 432 cases studied for this report, 24 are women. Out of these 12 had been raped by Indian armed personnel,” the report says.

The torture survivors have battled with psychological issues long after their physical wounds were healed.

“Of the 432 victims, 44 suffered from some form of psychological difficulty after being subjected to torture,” it said.

A study published in 2015 by Doctors Without Borders (known by its French initials MSF) said that 19 percent of the population in the region suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Although India has been a signatory to the United Nations Convention against Torture (UNCAT) since 1997, it has not ratified the treaty to date. In all three UPRs conducted by the UNHRC in 2008, 2012 and 2017, it was recommended that India ratify the convention.

In 2010, Prevention of Torture Bill was introduced in the Indian parliament but was not passed and it lapsed in 2014.

Khurram Parvez, who is also one of the researchers for the report said that “the report is a challenge to state-imposed erasure of history and memory”.

Source : Al Jazeera
Feature image : ANA

UCT mulls plan to boycott Israeli varsities

UCT’s senate has agreed to a more consultative process on a proposal calling for the boycott of Israeli universities in occupied Palestinian territories.

UCT spokesperson Elijah Moholola said the senate also agreed that the UCT executive would determine how the consultation process should be carried out, and the executive would work on the implementation of the consultation process.

The council did not adopt the senate’s resolution, and its view was that a number of issues required clarification, including a full assessment of the sustainability impact of the senate resolution, and that a more consultative process was necessary before the matter could be considered further.

This comes after the senate took a resolution in favour of a proposal for the institution not to enter into any formal relationships with Israeli academic institutions operating in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The UCT Palestine Solidarity Forum said the boycott was devised by the academic freedom committee as part of a campaign for a boycott of all Israeli universities.

The forum said boycotting all universities condemned the state of Israel.

“Given that Israel routinely abuses Palestinian human rights, be it through racist laws, colonising Palestinian territories, demolishing Palestinian homes, unjustly imprisoning Palestinians, building walls, laying siege to Gaza or shooting children, we think that an academic boycott of all Israeli universities is justified as it would put pressure on the Israeli state to cease its illegal and immoral activities.”

The forum believes that Israeli universities are sites where the state’s ideology is promoted and reinforced.

Movement Progress SA chairperson Tami Jackson said: “If we accept an enforced academic boycott of Israeli institutions, we are bound in principle to accept an academic boycott of many other countries too.”

She said adopting policies against Israel would isolate UCT from the international academic community and damage its institutional reputation.

Source : Cape Argus, Sisonke Mlamla

Amnesty: Israel arms human rights violators UAE, Myanmar

A new report by Amnesty International has accused Israel of selling arms and intelligence equipment to serial human rights violators, including the United Arab Emirates (UAE), South Sudan and Myanmar.

The report – which was published by Amnesty’s Israel office in Hebrew – found that “Israeli companies continue to export weapons to countries that systematically violate human rights” and that “often these weapons reach their destination after a series of transactions, thereby skirting international monitoring and the rules of Israel itself”.

The human rights organisation therefore called on Israel’s Knesset and Ministry of Defence (MoD) to “more tightly monitor arms exports and enforce transparency guidelines adopted by other Western countries that engage in large-scale weapons exports,” Haaretz reported.

The Israeli daily translated large portions of the report, which argues that since “there are functioning models of correct and moral-based monitoring of weapons exports […] established by large arms exporters such as members of the European Union and the United States, there is no justification for the fact that Israel continues to belong to a dishonorable club of exporters such as China and Russia.”

Amnesty continues: “The absence of monitoring and transparency [has] for decades let Israel supply equipment and defense-related knowledge to questionable states and dictatorial or unstable regimes that have been shunned by the international community.” Eight such “questionable” states were named in Amnesty’s report, including South Sudan, Myanmar, the Philippines, Cameroon, Azerbaijan, Sri Lanka, Mexico and UAE, some of which were under sanctions and weapons-sales embargos at the time Israel sold its arms.

A number of the countries named in Amnesty’s report have previously been exposed as recipients of Israeli arms and intelligence equipment. The UAE, for example, is known to have purchased Israeli spyware firm NSO Group’s Pegasus software, a tool which has been used to hack into the iPhones of prominent activists, journalists and Amnesty International staff. Just this week, Amnesty announced that it was supporting legal action against Israel’s MoD to demand that it revoke NSO’s export license.

Meanwhile, Israel’s selling of surveillance technology and assault rifles to South Sudan, where the regime and army has committed ethnic cleansing and aggravated crimes against humanity, has drawn fierce criticism from activists. In 2017, a group of Israelis petitioned Israel’s Supreme Court to force the disclosure of the names of those Israeli companies involved in selling arms to the East African nation.

However, as today’s Amnesty report notes, “with no documentation of sales, one cannot know when [these arms] were sold, by which company, how many, and so on”. Amnesty adds: “All we can say with certainty is that the South Sudanese army currently has Israeli Galil rifles, at a time when there is an international arms embargo on South Sudan, imposed by the UN Security Council, due to ethnic cleansing, as well as crimes against humanity [including] using rape as a method of war.”

Israel’s arms deals were thrust into the spotlight once again in 2017 by the crisis in Myanmar, which saw the Burmese military forcibly displace over half a million Rohingya Muslims from Rakhine state, driving them into neighbouring Bangladesh. The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights subsequently called for the Myanmar government to be brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity including ethnic cleansing and genocide.

In September 2017, Israel issued a gag order against its Supreme Court, forcing it to keep secret details of its ruling on a petition against arms sales to Myanmar. As a result, few details pertaining to the sales are known, with Amnesty’s report adding only that Myanmar’s chief of staff carried out the arms deal and apparently posted about it on his Facebook page.

Source: MEMO

Nakba Day: Palestinians mark 71st anniversary of ‘catastrophe’

Scores of Palestinians have been wounded amid protests to mark the 71st anniversary of Nakba Day, with demonstrations and marches across the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Thousands gathered on Wednesday near the Israeli separation fence in eastern Gaza, the scene of weekly demonstrations over the past year.

According to the Gaza ministry of health, at least 47 Palestinians were wounded by Israeli soldiers during the protests. Witnesses said the soldiers fired live ammunition, tear gas canisters and rubber-coated steel bullets to disperse protesters and keep them away from the fence.

The Israeli military said about 10,000 “rioters and demonstrators” gathered in several places along the Gaza Strip fence and that troops responded with “riot dispersal means”.

Al Jazeera’s Natasha Ghoneim, reporting from Gaza, said that the size of the crowd was modest compared to previous demonstrations along the fence.

“Hamas had been urging people to turn up in large numbers to protest what it calls the occupation and show resistance. This is day nine of the ceasefire here and it’s also a moment where people are trying to go back to ‘normal lives'”.

‘Catastrophe’

Wednesday’s rallies were called to mark Nakba Day, what Palestinians term the catastrophe that befell them in the war that led to the establishment of Israel in 1948, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forcibly displaced from their homes.

For over a year, Palestinians in Gaza have been holding weekly protests along the fence, calling for the right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants to the territory of today’s Israel, as well as for an end to a 12-year blockade imposed by Israel.

According to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry, since the launch of the demonstrations, the Israeli army has shot and killed 305 Palestinian demonstrators, including 59 children and 10 women.

Residents in Gaza City on Wednesday also took part in a general strike to mark the day of mourning. A mass walkout was staged in the city, with shop-owners closing their businesses.

“It’s a very sad day for Palestinians, it’s a black day for our people. Seventy-one years have passed, and God willing we’ll return to our homeland soon or later,” said Gaza resident Baker Ibrahim.

Eurovision protests

On Tuesday, the eve of Nakba Day, dozens of left-wing activists protested against Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in Tel Aviv, where the first Eurovision semi-finals were being held.

“We are here to protest against the endless bloodshed in Gaza,” said one of the organisers, Noa Levy.

Protesters carried banners reading “boycott Eurovision” and “songs and glitter cannot hide homeland being occupied”.

Ever since Israeli singer Netta Barzilai carried off last year’s prize with her spunky pop anthem “Toy,” earning Israel the right to host Eurovision, increasing numbers of cultural figures have pressured performers to pull out of the contest.

Dozens of European artists, led by former Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters, signed a letter calling for the contest to be moved to another country.

Demonstrations have erupted outside television studios at a number of national finals.

Boycott activists stormed the stage during France’s semi-final round, raising fears of disruption at the main event.

Iceland’s performers have vowed to leverage their platform to show the “face of the occupation”.

Although the BDS movement, a Palestinian-led campaign advocating boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, failed to compel any of the 41 national broadcasters to quit the competition, the campaign has drawn international attention to topics that Israel had hoped to avoid.

Scores of demonstrations to mark the day of mourning and Eurovision protest were planned throughout the country on Wednesday.

‘Deactivate Airbnb’

In another protest coinciding with the Nakba commemoration, campaigners called on supporters of the Palestinian cause to at least temporarily deactivate their Airbnb accounts on Wednesday to protest against its listings in settlements in the occupied West Bank.

After Israeli pressure, the company last month reversed course and scrapped plans to ban homes in settlements from listing on the site.

The decision has led to fresh anger from groups opposed to the settlements, which are considered illegal under international law.

A range of organisations including Jewish Voice for Peace and the Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy have backed a call for an at least temporary deactivation, with organisers saying thousands had pledged to do so.

“Ultimately we would like Airbnb to reverse its decision but we know that won’t be easy,” Salem Barahmeh, executive director of PIPD, told AFP news agency.

“But I think what we ultimately want to do is end this culture of impunity where international companies are allowed to be complicit in supporting war crimes and Israeli settlements that have been responsible for displacing Palestinians.”

Airbnb declined to comment, pointing instead to its statement from the April reversal.

That statement says that while the company will not ban the illegal settlement homes it will give all profits from those listings to charities.

Campaigners say this does not stop the settlers from making profits.

Around 400,000 Israelis live in settlements that dot the West Bank and range in size from tiny hamlets to large towns, in addition to 200,000 living in settlements in occupied East Jerusalem.

Settlements are built on land in Palestinian territories that Palestinians see as part of their future state.

Nakba of the Jordan Valley: Israeli military exercises wreak havoc on Palestinians

On the floor of a residential tent in Khirbet Humsa al-Fawqa, toys lay scattered.

Playtime for the village’s children was cut short when the Israeli military declared the area a closed military zone and forced the Palestinian community to evacuate their homes in the early hours of Sunday.

Following an eviction order four days earlier, the 98 residents were prevented from accessing their homes for three days. Throughout May and June, they will be evicted 12 times for three days each, the army informed them.

Palestinians were told their homes would be within range of tank shells while the Israeli army uses the area to carry out military drills.

On the morning of the eviction, father of five Mohammed Sulaiman Abu Qabbash dropped his children at a nearby community and hurried back in an attempt to guard the tents and sheep. The 35-year-old paced back and forth, nervously monitoring the area. He expected Israeli soldiers to arrive soon and force him out.

“We will sleep under the sky for the next three days. We have no other choice, we cannot say ‘no’ to such power,” Mohammed told Middle East Eye.

If the community refuses to evacuate when commanded, it risks forced removal, expropriation of their livestock and retroactive fines.

Under international law, driving residents of an occupied territory from their homes is considered forcible transfer of protected persons, which constitutes a war crime. But residents of Palestinian communities in the Jordan Valley are no strangers to such disruptive Israeli policies.

The valley, which is a fertile strip of land running west along the Jordan River, is home to some 65,000 Palestinians.

Since 1967, when the Israeli army occupied the West Bank, Israel has transferred at least 11,000 of its Jewish citizens to the Jordan Valley. Some of the settlements in which they live were built almost entirely on private Palestinian land.

About 46 percent of the Jordan Valley has been declared a closed military zone by the Israeli army since the occupation began.

Approximately 6,200 Palestinians reside in 38 communities in places earmarked for military use, and have had to obtain permission from the Israeli authorities to enter and live in their communities.

In violation of international law, the Israeli army not only temporarily displaces the communities on a regular basis, but also demolishes homes and infrastructure from time to time.

Besides undergoing temporary displacement, the Palestinian families living there face a myriad of restrictions on access to resources and services. Meanwhile, Israel’s seizure of land has confiscated natural resources for the benefit of settlers.

Living the Nakba

Fasting amid displacement and temperatures that have reached 40 degree Celsius is doubly difficult this Ramadan, said Khadija Abu Qabbash as she prepared to leave.

The pregnant mother of five washed a pile of clothes by hand in the morning. Her 15-year-old daughter, Deema, hastily helped her to hang the clothes to dry before Israeli soldiers arrived.
Palestinian Bedouin in the Jordan Valley caught between Israeli army and settlers
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“We escorted the children out this morning, and now the car is back to take us,” she told MEE with tears streaming down her face. “I won’t be able to cook anything for iftar. We’ll have to make do with canned food.”

Israeli forces evict the families of Khirbet Humsa al-Fawqa on a regular basis. The evictions, however, usually take place during the day, with the residents allowed to return in the evening.

“I don’t know whether they are actually carrying out a military drill. Sometimes they evict us and do nothing. They aim to coerce us into leaving the area for good,” Khadija said.

Israel’s actions in the Jordan Valley have been well-documented by human rights groups and local NGOs, which assess that the objective of such measures is to drive out Palestinians and to stifle their development in the area.

Highly strategic, Israeli politicians have made it clear on several occasions that the Jordan Valley would remain under their control in any eventuality, even prior to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent comments on his plans to annex areas of the occupied West Bank.

In 2013, peace negotiations were rejected by Israel when it was suggested that it cede some control of the valley.

Commenting on Sunday’s evacuation of Khirbet Humsa al-Fawqa, Walid Assaf, head of the Palestinian Authority’s National Committee to Resist the Wall and Settlements, said in a statement that there were efforts to stop the temporary eviction through lawyers, but the Israeli military order could not be challenged.

“Just as they forced Palestinians from their homes in 1948, today they are doing the same. We will not give up,” added Khadija, referencing the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing of historic Palestine by Zionist militias 71 years ago, commemorated annually on 15 May.

‘They do not want Palestinians here’

Primarily a shepherding community, the families of Khirbet Humsa al-Fawqa wake at 3am to milk their sheep and prepare cheese ahead of their journey to the markets in the nearby city of Tubas.

Harb Abu Qabbash, 40, told MEE that each family owns around 300 sheep. Since it is difficult to transport them out of the area, many of the younger sheep stay behind when the Palestinians are evacuated and often die of hunger with no one to attend to them.

With the military exercises taking place, thousands of hectares of barley and wheat are under threat of being burned, he added. According to Harb, this happens regularly.
“Our biggest fear is that a shell lands on one of our tents. If that happens it would be catastrophic and we would lose everything,” said Harb.

“The Israelis want to seize the area and empty it of its residents. They do not want Palestinians here” he added.

“In 2005, they demolished out tents and infrastructure on the pretext that they were built without a permit. When we apply for permits, they do not issue them.”

When not faced with evacuations, military exercises and demolitions, the Palestinians in the community struggle to source enough water for their needs under the Israeli occupation.

“Each family and their sheep utilise a total of two to three water tanks each day,” Harb said.

“Transporting the tank to the community takes two hours. There is a water well five minutes away from here, but the Israeli army has barred us from using it and designated it for Israeli settler use only.”

Source : MEE
Feature Image : MEE/Shatha Hammad

REVEALED: New ‘deal of the century’ details shows minimal Israeli concessions

Under the US plan known as “the deal of the century”, the Israeli military would retain control over settlements, the Jordan Valley and borders for five years as final status negotiations continue, a senior US diplomat working on the deal has told Middle East Eye.

The plan, as described by the official, would cement the status quo between Israelis and Palestinians and the only concession asked of the Israelis would be freezing settlement building at the heart of the West Bank during the initial five-year period.

Among the most detailed information yet published about the “deal of the century”, MEE can reveal that according to the plan Gaza would be under the control of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas would be expected to hand its weapons over to the PA which would continue to cooperate with Israel on security.

But it was not clear what would happen at the end of the five years or what the consequences would be if Hamas refused to give up its weapons.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to talk about the issue to the media, said the deal is meant to be “a vision”, rather than a detailed plan, and the role of the American side will be as a “facilitator”, not a mediator or arbitrator.

“It’s up to the parties. They can have two states, one state, confederation, federation or whatever they like to call it,” he said.

The controversial deal, which has been the subject of ongoing speculation and leaks, is now expected to be released next month, a year after a flurry of reports suggested the deal, already delayed even then, would be unveiled imminently.

The US diplomat also said:

The Old City of Jerusalem would be recognised as Israeli with Palestinians only given access to holy sites. Jewish settlements and communities in the city would also be considered Israeli, but Palestinian neighbourhoods would be part of a Palestinian entity.

While Israeli settlement building in the West Bank would be frozen for five years, Israel could continue to build settlements in areas expected to be part of Israel in a final deal. West Bank settlers would be given a choice after the final deal to stay or move out.

A major part of the plan will be economic incentives, and the US administration has been seeking large donations to fund the peace agreement. Expected donors include Arab Gulf countries, the US, EU, Japan and China.

The plan would also create a regional umbrella for the peace process that includes Arab countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and others.

The issue of settlements, the Jordan Valley, borders and refugees will be on the negotiation table in final status talks.

“The plan does not respond to 100 percent of the claims of both parties, it’s something in the middle,” he said.
Palestinian protectorate

The spectre of the deal alone has garnered fierce reactions from Palestinian leaders and others who anticipate that it will only consolidate Israeli control and close the door on the right of return for refugees and sovereignty forever.

And while the US diplomat said that countries in the region were expected to be donors supporting elements of the plan, the deal is certain to be rejected by Arab states along with the Palestinians – which could bolster Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who has long argued that he has no partner in peace.

Palestinian officials briefed on the plan told MEE this week that the US aims to turn the West Bank into an Israeli military protectorate similar to those in African countries in the 20th century before their independence.

On Wednesday, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh dismissed the deal as an “Israeli plan written by American hands” which would give Israel “a free hand to annex most of the West Bank under the title of security”.

Shtayyeh, speaking to members of a US academic delegation visiting Ramallah, said the Trump administration had been pressuring Palestinians, thinking that they might be forced to accept the plan, but it wouldn’t work.
Shtayyeh
PA Prime MInister Mohammad Shtayyeh and PA President Mahmoud Abbas in April 2019 (AFP)

“The extortion policy of the Trump administration, whether by shutting down the PLO office or moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, and draining the financial resources of UNRWA and the Palestinian government, will not compel us to surrender and accept the deal,” Shtayyeh told the delegation.

Palestinians, he said, would not accept the plan if it did not include a commitment to the creation of an independent state with the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital.

“If the ‘deal of the century’ does not include Jerusalem, the borders and the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, why should we accept them?” he said.

 

Source : MEE
FEature Image : Kevin Lamarque,REUTERS

Islamic Radio Loses an Icon – May Allah Grant Ebrahim Gangat Jannatul Firdaus

Flags are flying at half mast in the media world today as radio personality and veteran Ebrahim Gangat lost his battle to cancer and passed away last night at his home in Roshnee, Vereeniging in the South of Gauteng.

The long time radio presenter and social activist had been critically ill for the past few weeks.

The radio icon breathed his last close to midnight on the 7th night of the holy month of Ramadaan.

Marhoom Gangat served as prime time presenter at Radio Islam International before moving to Channel Islam International where he became a household name for more than 15 years.

He later followed his young colleagues who opened Salaam Media and was the senior member who guided them with compassion and wisdom which he acquired in over 20 years of radio broadcasting.

Marhoom Ebrahim’s departure from this world has left a hole in the radio industry and 1000s of listeners devastated.

We make Dua that Allah grant him the highest stages of Jannah as he became a flag bearer of deen in the morning radio show on various radio stations.

 

If ‘Spoilt Ballot’ was a party, it would have been placing 6th so far

Whether by accident or design, South African voters spoilt enough ballots that could have won a party a healthy representation in Parliament if the trend continues until all the ballots are counted.

At 14:30 on Thursday, 83 408 spoilt ballots were counted out of 6 209 463 ballots.

This would have placed a hypothetical “Spoilt Ballot Party” in sixth place on the national ballot at that snapshot in time. It constituted 1.3% of the total ballots cast and would have been enough for a few seats in Parliament.

It was ahead of the ACDP’s 62 249 votes, or 1% of the counted votes, and below the IFP with 124 378 or 2% of the counted votes

There were about 54 times more spoilt ballots than ballots with a cross behind Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s African Content Movement, who had 1 532 votes at the time.

At the time, approximately 45% of the national votes cast had been counted, with the voter turnout at 65.47% in the completed voting stations.

The trend followed a similar pattern across the provinces.

Parties trending below 1% at the time of writing include GOOD at 0.61%, the UDM at 0.53%, ATM at 0.47% and COPE at 0.33%.

Counting continues across the country.

 

Source : Jan Gerber, News24

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