Tuesday, 31 January 2012

The plight of Aqaba

The village of Aqaba in the West Bank has had its share of trouble with the occupying Israeli State.
For years, the Israeli army carried out army "exercises" within the village, often injuring villagers with live bullets.
The present Mayor was himself so injured as a young boy and has since been confined  to a wheelchair.  An Israeli court eventually stopped this practice within the village but the army exercises continue in the environs.
With international help and financial support (including US support) a kindergarten school was built within the troubled village.

However, demolitions of homes by the Army and the rebuilding of them by villagers became an unwanted pattern of life for the people of Aqaba.

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"A month ago they were here last time," Mayor Haj Sami Sadeq told  Gush Shalom, te Israeli Peace and Human Rights group. "They destroyed our access road, which we call 'The Peace Road' and demolished several houses. When the children who had been thrown out of their homes were crying, the soldiers posed for souvenir photos on the bulldozer, smiling and laughing".

An American Human Rights group invited the disabled mayor to a lecture of the US to raise awareness.  Following this, the Civil Administration head,  Brigadier General Motti Almaz, made an unprecedented personal visit to the village.

 "He sat with me at the local council offices. I told him: 'You're destroying our homes and we build them again. What else can we do? This is our village, we have nowhere else to go. I told him that in our village there had never been clashes with the army, neither in the First Intifada nor in the Second one. For years the army carried out training with live ammunition among the village houses, villagers were killed and wounded. I personally, the mayor, was hit at a young age and remain in a wheelchair for life, and yet I feel no bitterness or hatred. I support peace. I just ask that they live us alone. I asked Almaz to approve a zoning plan for our village so that we can build legally. I asked him to allow us to rebuild the access road to the village - with our own money and labor, just that they don't destroy it. I asked him to let us build a school on 42 dunums of state land which are in the middle of the village and which we can't use. To allow us to be linked to the water pipe, so that we will no longer need  to fetch water by tankers, at twenty Shekels per cubic meter. I told him that ten years ago, the electricity pylons at the entrance to the village were pulled down, and in 1999 Knesset Members wrote to Defence Minster Ehud Barak and he gave instructions not to touch our electricity - but still, two months ago they came and again pulled down twenty pylons. I put all problems and issues to Brigadier General Almaz, and for everything I said he answered 'We will look into it', 'We will take care of it'. And he went off.", the Mayor told Gush Shalom

"What happened next? A few days later there arrived in our village the local representative of the Civil Administration, a man named Yigal (he does not tell his family name) and started handing out demolition orders. 

Demolition orders for houses, for cattle sheds, even for the tabun bread ovens. Seventeen demolition orders in total. And he told us, this whole village is illegal, everything must be destroyed. Is this the 'looking into it' which the Civil Administration Head promised us? 

Then the Head of the Jenin Area Civil Administration, located at the Salem Chekpoint, came to our village. I asked him 'Why did you send us Yigal with the demolition orders?' And he said: 'No, I did not sent him, this did not come from me'. And then. after another few days Yigal came back with another eight demolition orders. Demolition orders also for our kindergarten and clinic. A total of 25 demolition orders for a village which consists of 45 houses in all. So what am I to do now? What can I tell villagers who ask me 'You are talking about peace. Where is your peace?' "

Monday, 23 January 2012

My First Petition on Change.org

If you look at Change.org the Petition Site you should find a new petition there with one signature so far. If you agree with it please add yours.

It is for President Barack Obama and reads as follows:


All war is evil. Countless millions have died and are still dying because of it. Add to that the injured in body and mind, the forced carers of the injured, the bereaved, the families and friends of the bereaved, the warped indoctrinated minds and personalities of its soldiers - and above all the children.

Young people at the age of idealism are coaxed into armies where they are taught to hate and kill fellow human beings.

You are the President of the United States of America which has by far the highest military expenditure in the world

In its short two and a half centuries of existence, the United States has engaged in over 100 wars or military interventions in other countries.

This far exceeds the wars or interventions participated in by other countries
As the chief war-maker, the United States has a responsibility to try to end war globally.

Yours is the only country to have used a nuclear bomb.. The use of any kind of bomb is horrendous, barbaric and outrageous, when you think of the frightened civilians, children and adults who are powerless against this mass murder from the sky.

I am requesting you, as President of a very powerful country, to start to undo the damage of war. You can refuse to declare or participate in any other war. You can withdraw from the arenas of war around the globe.

Right away you can suspend all bombing operations in Afghanistan and never again send pilots to unthinkingly or intentionally murder people indiscriminately from the sky.


Thursday, 12 January 2012

Protest at the US Embassy re Guantanamo

Yesterday, my friend Colm Roddy and I went to the US  Embassy with our placards to protest against Guantanamo.

That obnoxious prison is still open in spite of Barack Obama's election promise to close it.
In the picture, Colm is in the orange suit. His sign reads:

Colm was on his knees for one hour of our 90 minute protest.

He had seen the Ambassador going to a restaurant across the road with two minders.  Later, they returned and, as they did, I stood where  he might see my sign. He peered at it as he came closer. It reads


Ambassador Dan Rooney stood before me and I said "Mr Rooney, I have a letter here for you", as I took it out of my pocket.  He turned his head away while one of his minders reacted slightly.  "Will you accept a letter from me?" I asked.  Again, he turned away and pointed to a minder saying "Give it to him" , which I did.

The letter and the envelope were handwritten by me on my way to the Embassy.
The letter read:

"We are protesting at the US Embassy today on the tenth anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo prison.  President Obama gave a solemn undertaking to close it - why is it still open?
The shame of the Bush era clings to your President and will take many years or decades to undo.
With best personal wishes  Justin Morahan"

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Malaysian Tribunal finds Bush and Blair guilty of war Crimes

In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, after two years of investigation by the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission (KLWCC), a tribunal  consisting of five judges with judicial and academic backgrounds found George W Bush and Tony Blair guilty of crimes against peace, crimes against humanity, and genocide as a result of their roles in the Iraq War.  The decision was unanimous. (Aljazeera)

The judges gave their verdict after four days of hearing, on 22 November 2011.  Both defendants were absent during the proceedings as they had declined an offer to present a defence or send a representative. The court appointed a defence counsel for them in their absence.

Although the verdict was not enforceable in a normal manner associated with a criminal court operating within a sovereign state or as constituted by international agreement, the tribunal nevertheless hopes that its recommendations will have a legal weight expected to extend beyond a moral condemnation of the defendants.

The tribunal added two Orders to its verdict in accordance with the  KLWCC Charter that controlled its operating framework:

1) Report the findings of guilt of Bush and Blair to the International Criminal Court in The Hague;
2) Enter the names of George W Bush and Tony Blair in the Register of War Criminals maintained by the KLWCC.

The tribunal and its verdict brings into the public domain once again the idea of "universal jurisdiction" whereby states claim criminal jurisdiction over persons whose alleged crimes were committed outside the boundaries of the prosecuting state.

In the celebrated Filártiga v Pena-Irala case, a US court awarded over $10million to the Filártiga family because of the horrific torture of their son Joelito by Inspector General Americó Pena-Irala in Paraguay.  In this case however both the Filártiga plaintiffs and Pena-Irala happened to be in the US jurisdiction at the time the family sued the torturer.

As Bush and Blair were absent from Kuala Lumpur, they may escape punishment but the Tribunal could be a precedent for other such tribunals. At least it's a start.