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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

President al-Assad Grants General Amnesty for Crimes Committed before May 31, 2011

May 31, 2011


DAMASCUS, (SANA)-President Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday issued Legislative Decree No. 61 for the year 2011 granting general amnesty for crimes committed before May 31, 2011.

The amnesty includes all members of Muslim Brotherhood and other detainees belonging to political movements.

The amnesty also pardons half penalties for felonies if there was no personal claim.

Article 1:

Granting general amnesty for all crimes committed before May 31, 2011 according to the following:

a. Replacing death penalty with life sentence of hard labor or long imprisonment sentence according to the crime.
b. Replacing life sentence of hard work with 20 years imprisonment with hard labor and replacing long-life imprisonment sentence with 20 years imprisonment.
c. Temporary sentence for the convicted who reached age 70 by the date of issuing this decree.
d. Life sentence for the convicted who reached age 70 by the date of issuing this decree if the crime committed before he/she was sixty.
e. Full punishment for crimes included in Law 49 for the year 1980.
f. Half penalty of temporary sentence for felonies.
g. Full punishment for misdemeanors.
h. Full punishment for breaches of law.

R. Raslan/ Mazen

Syrian Sources: President al-Assad to address the nation within coming two days…7-member committee formed to prepare for a national conference
Damascus…

The Italian "AKI" News Agency quoted reliable Syrian sources as saying that President Bashar al-Assad is to deliver a speech within the coming two days in which he will announce the formation of a seven-member committee in charge of preparing for holding a Syrian national conference aiming to find a solution for the crisis Syria has been experiencing for the past ten weeks.

The sources said that the committee will be led by Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa, while its membership will consist of two Baath Party Regional Leadership members, two National Progressive Front members, and three independent figures.
The committee's task is to prepare for holding a hoped-for national conference to which neutral and independent figures, who don't represent any political or opposition parties, will be invited.

According to the sources, the conference is to specify the shape of the forthcoming constitutional amendments in addition to the elections law, publications law, legislative elections law and other reform laws.

Therefore, the People's Assembly's elections, which were scheduled to be held within the coming few weeks, are expected to be postponed until the national conference concludes its deliberations.

Worth mentioning is that the legislative elections draft law has been completed and published on websites for discussion.

(Champress – AKI)

Sayyed Nasrallah’s Full Speech on May 25


His Eminence Sayyed Nasrallah’s Full Speech
Resistance & Liberation Day 2011

In His Name

May 25th, 2011

The speech delivered by Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on the Resistance and Liberation Day on May 25th, 2011.

I take refuge in Allah from the stoned devil. In the Name of Allah, The Compassionate, The Most Merciful. Praise be to Allah, The Lord of the world.

Peace be on the Seal of prophets, our Master and Prophet Abi Al Qassem Mohammad Bin Abdullah, his chaste and pure Household, chosen companions, all prophets, messengers, martyrs and fighters in the path of Allah until Judgment Day.


Brothers and sisters! Peace be upon you all and Allah's mercy and blessing.

I welcome you on your holiday and I would like that you consider your presence under the sun as a kind of assistance and equality with the Resistance fighters who have spent 30 days under the sun.

First I would like to address all of you, all the Lebanese and our Arab and Islamic nation with felicitations on the Day of Resistance and Liberation which we will talk about Inshallah and which coincides this year with a very solemn and dear occasion which makes the occasion this year brighter and more blessed namely the birth of the daughter of the Prophet – the Lady of all the ladies in the world, her father's mother and the soul between his two sides – Sayyeda Fatima Zahra (Peace be upon her).

We have chosen this year to mark this occasion and holiday in Bekaa – in the village of Nabi Sheath and in the neighborhood of our teacher, leader and the master of our martyrs Sayyed Abbass Mussawi (May Allah bless his soul) because we want from electing the place at this time to stress on the partnership of Bekaa and people of Bekaa in the liberation of the South and Western Bekaa since the establishment, continuity and persistence until today and until the achievements of goals and to remind of the jihad of this blessed kind town which was one of the first villages in Bekaa that believed in the Resistance and embraced it since the time of the absented Imam leader Sayyed Mussa Assader.

This town was a warm bosom and a safe haven for those migrating to it namely the fighters from the occupied Lebanese lands. It was the link between the training camps in Jenta and Yahfoufa and its hills and valleys and the operation fields in the South, the Mountain, West Bekaa, Dahiyeh and Beirut on the days of occupation and is still in the neighborhood of the resting place of our master and leader Sayyed Abbass and his wife dear solemn lady martyr Um Yasser and his young child Hussein so as to remind the world of the role of this leader, teacher, resisting fighter, establisher and humble, ascetic, good-natured master who offered as sacrifice his wife, child and even his soul to grant this anniversary and holiday some of its concepts that we must be reminded of.

Brothers and sisters!

In this place, in the neighborhood of the hills and valleys of Jenta and Yahfoufa and the first training camps, Sayyed Abbass got enrolled in its first military cycle which smells of the chaste scent of martyrdom from every hill, valley and on every road on which martyrs used to fall by Israeli aerial bombardment when we used to exercise in the open air with determination to attain the factors of power to restore our land, dignity and freedom and prevent the invading occupiers from achieving any of their goals. This land is pregnant with memories which we must mark every day and every night and not only every year.

Brothers and sisters!

As there are many topics – as I have not appeared since some time to address you – I find myself obliged to start directly with the topics apart from introductions and praising which you were and are still not in need of.

On this occasion, I would like to handle several topics: the Palestinian issue, the Arab issue, the situation in Syria – because it's the first time I talk about this issue with such details and clarity – and finally the situation in Lebanon. Indeed I will handle the great media political event which can not be neglected – namely the speeches and the recent stances announced lately by the two heads of occupation, tyranny and hegemony in the world – Barak Obama and Netanyahu as I will refer to some concepts of these two speeches in every situation I will tackle.

We have this annual commitment to mark the Day of Resistance and Liberation. By this commemoration, we assert that this holiday is not for a group or a faction or a sect. It is rather a holiday for all the Lebanese people. It rather must be a holiday for the Palestinian people and the peoples of our Arab and Islamic nation.

On the Resistance and Liberation Day, we stress that the victory of the Resistance on May 25th is the fruit of the accumulation of all sacrifices since 1948 until today offered by all factions, groups and parties which remained steadfast, had patience, resisted, fought, were arrested, were wounded and offered martyrs. Thus we take pains that it be a national holiday cum laude.

If we are able to change May 25th to a national day cum laude, the Lebanese will discover the greatness of the historic achievement which was made on May 25th, 2000 away from grudges, fanaticism, internal consideration and narrow Lebanese allies. Then we will view the victory as a national victory and a national victory cum laude.

We insist on commemorating this occasion first for its greatness, second for the importance of its eternal, permanent and vivacious implication which we need in our life and third for its centrality in the events in Lebanon and the region because what took place on May 25th, 2000 changed the face of Lebanon and the equations in the region. There is a permanent strategic and a special moral need– a strategic need on the political and military levels and a strategic need especially on the moral level - to commemorate this holiday and consecrate it. In our modern history, there is the Nakba Day followed by the Naksa Day. Our nation which recalls the days of Nakba and Naksa needs to recall the days of triumphs to get rid of the moral, psychological, political and military repercussions of the days of Nakba and Naksa to wipe away those black days from its history, conscience, present and future.

Today, when we see and listen anew to the stances and speeches of Obama before the Jewish Zionists and their supporters in AIPAC and from Netanyahu before the Americans in the Congress – as the place, form and content are all important - we become more certain of our choices and the soundness of our path from the very beginning.

The developments and events in the last three decades – at least since 1982 - proved that the correct realistic, rational, logical, fruitful and effective choice that leads to the achievement of goals is the popular armed resistance and the unrealistic, absurd, irrational, maddening choice which does not lead to any goal but rather leads only to depression, frustration, humiliation, degradation and begging on the doors and thresholds is the choice of negotiations.

If we in Lebanon waited for a national consensus in 1982 and following 1982 or for an Arab consensus or a united strategy or an international movement or the United Nations or America or the West our territory would have been occupied and by 2011 it would have been still occupied. Israel would have completed the occupation of Lebanon and came along to Baalbeck, Hermel, Tripoli, Zgarta and the rest of Lebanon and settlements would have been built to the south of Litany River at least. Lebanon would have become a second Israel in the region and not only at the middle of Syria but also at the side of the whole nation. Millions of Lebanese would have been displaced inside their nation and so on.

But the Resistance with its sacrifices, jihad, the blood of its martyrs and patience toppled all these potential results and restored to us our land and honor without conditions and found a historic turn also in the Arab-Israeli struggle on the level of the region. Let's go back a little in history. This is why I at times say that some Lebanese still cannot realize the greatness of the historic victory in 2000. Isaac Shamir then said that Israel after the pullout from Lebanon is different from Israel before the pullout from Lebanon. He was not talking about Israel and Lebanon. He was talking about Israel in the region. Shamir himself says that if Ben-Gurion was able to come back to life and look from over his tomb on Israel he would have found that the strategic pillar on which Israel was found had collapsed. What is the strategic pillar according to Ben-Gurion? It is the strategy of psychologically overpowering the Arabs – meaning that the Arabs come to believe that Israel is powerful and capable and that its army is undefeatable and that they are only before the choice of accepting Israel and succumbing to its conditions. Ben-Gurion says we must reach a stage in which the Arab soldier comes to believe that the only available choice before him in the battle is escape. In 2000 the one who escaped was the Israeli soldier. In 2000, the one who fell was the Israeli soldier. In 2000, the equation changed, and that was because of this choice and the soundness of this choice.

Also Netanyahu who was talking two days ago said in a lecture he gave in 2006 that "the historic path of the state of Israel has been turned upside-down since the beginning of the withdrawal from Lebanon in the year 2000 all the way passing through the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, until July war in 2006. Israel is no more unbeatable in the eyes of Arabs. Questioning the existence of Israel started looming again not only by foes but also by friends.

True days ago, Netanyahu in the Congress, was presenting himself as someone oppressed and miserable, but I could see fear in his eyes while speaking about the missiles of Lebanon, the missiles of Gaza, Iran and Syria.

Anyway, we always need to discuss our choices and means on the level of Lebanon and the region because the occupation still exists and the threat still persists. Hereof I usher into the Palestinian topic.

After listening to the speeches delivered by both Obama and Netanyahu, the big question comes: What did Obama and Netanyahu leave for the Palestinian people and the Palestinian authority and the Palestinian factions? What did they leave for them?

Going back to Obama’s speech in AIPAC Conference, we find that he renewed before the Zionists his decisive commitment to Israel's security and its prevalence over the entire region and not only the Palestinians. Under his administration – though we say he is moderate and we call him Barak Hussein and Abu Ali Hussein - he pushed the US-Israeli relations and cooperation to an unprecedented level. We are good-hearted peoples. We are cheated by his black color and the name of his father – Hussein; but in the past two years only he pushed forward the relations of US-Israeli cooperation. He declared his rejection to a unilateral Palestinian State and rejected the reconciliation between Fateh and Hamas because he backs sedition not only in Palestine but also in every Arab and Islamic country. He talked about a deformed disarmed Palestinian state. He talked about the borders of 1967 but could not stand that for a couple of days.

This is the President of America. Still he could not stand for a couple of days. He started interpreting and furnishing his explanation with comments and notes in AIPAC and explaining what he means with the borders of 1967 in what looked more like an apology to the Zionists. This is Obama.

Yesterday – as was reported by the media – applauding was more than talking in Netanyahu's speech. Not a phrase passed without them applauding for him. They stood and applauded for him. In the Congress, this is a tradition with a definite significance. At times they applaud while they are seated. At others they stand and applaud. That means that all what Netanyahu had said in the US Congress is a point of consensus for the Democrats and the Republicans in America. Still the Arabs deceive their peoples saying that the Democrats are different from the Republicans; one is moderate while the other is an extremist. Yesterday America held the name of Netanyahu. America yesterday held the name of Netanyahu…

What did Netanyahu say? Al-Qods is an eternal capital to Israel. Search for a way out for the refugees outside the borders. Here Lebanon is mainly concerned in this issue. The Israeli state is a Jewish state and its Judaism must be acknowledged. There must be military presence at Jordan River. The main settlements in the West Bank must be annexed to the entity. The Palestinian state will be a disarmed state and there is no return to the 1967 borders. Then he called on PA Chief Mahmoud Abbass to tear apart the agreement with Hamas and return to negotiations.

After keeping all of that, how will the Palestinians go to negotiations? What will they say? The issue of Al Qods is over. So is the case of the borders, the settlements, the refugees and everything. There is nothing to negotiate on. Even more, when he keeps everything to himself, he promised to be generous in what he offers to the Palestinians and that he will offer painful concessions. See the deception, misleading, shamelessness and falsehood. But we are a nation with whom its enemies deal as such unfortunately.

Thus the Americans and the Israelis specified their stance clearly. They declared their viewpoint to the way out before the world. Accordingly they categorized the enemy and the friend when they talked about Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and the Resistance in Palestine and especially Hamas. Here what is the response? What is the Palestinian response? What is the Arab response? The answer was not only to the Palestinians. Yesterday, both Obama and Netanyahu gave the finishing stroke to the so called Arab Peace Initiative. What is the stance of the Arab governments and the Arab League from that? Is it not due time this initiative is taken off the table?

In Kuwait conference, King Abdullah Bin Abdel Aziz said: I do not tolerate that this initiative remain for long on the table. Hasn't it been a long time already following these speeches? Isn't time over? In your name, I call on the Arab League to declare a response to the speeches of Netanyahu and Obama by withdrawing permanently the Arab Initiative from circulation.

The response to this level of speech must at least withdrawing the Arab Initiative and at most that we must be a nation that declares its "No". As Netanyahu - who was defeated in Lebanon in 2000, defeated in Gaza, defeated in July War and afraid from the changes in the region - had the courage and boldness to say no for the return of Al Qods, no for the return of refugees and no for the return to the borders of 1967, we must be a nation which stands with courage to say: no to negotiations, no to the existence of Israel, no to the occupation of Al Qods and yes for the Resistance. The nation which does not do that is a dead nation. The governments which do not do that are dead nations. On this day, what choices remain for the Palestinians? Do some Palestinians really still have hope in negotiations and still have hope in the American administration which has threatened them with questioning, demands and confrontation in the Security Council and in the United Nations?

Again, on the Arab Lebanese May 25th, on the Day of Resistance and Liberation, I tell you: The only choice for the Palestinians is resistance to make liberation. I call on them in the name of triumphant Lebanon to meet and unite – Fateh, Jihad, Hamas and all the factions and all the Palestinian people. I call on the entire nation to adopt the choice of the Palestinian Resistance and to offer all kinds of support and assistance because what took place is not a threat to Palestine but rather to the entire nation.

Now, we move to our stance from the Arab situation. First, I must comment on the rumors circulated by some Arab media outlets and websites especially in Lebanon and have been mentioned as well in statements made by some officials whether foreigners or Arabs. This denial or clarification is not related to our political stance from what is taking place in this Arab country or that whether negatively or positively. It is rather a kind of facts clarification.

Some time ago, the NATO chief in Europe said that Hezbollah and Al Qaeda are militarily present in Benghazi and East Libya. This is not true.

Gaddafi's government a few weeks ago said that in Misrata – the Libyan city where fighting is still taking place between the rebels and Gaddafi's forces – there are snipers (not regular fighters but snipers) from Hezbollah fighting in Misrata. That is not true either.

Two years ago, some demonstrations took place in Tehran. They were addressed by the Iranian brethrens. Some Iranian Opposition websites – you know that some of the Iranian Opposition, Khalq fighters, have ties with Israel – broadly published (and that was unfortunately quoted by a gulf newspaper) that there are 1500 Hezbollah fighters in Tehran with the aim of suppressing demonstrations. Iran is a great state and a great regional power and the world takes it into consideration. It frightens Obama and Netanyahu. Does it – when it wishes to deal with a number of demonstrators – resort to 1500 fighters from Hezbollah!? When someone makes a lie, if he makes it too big, it will be revealed as a lie.

Indeed, this has precedents. You remember in Yemen, during the so-called sixth war between the regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh and Houthis. Indeed we were sympathizing with the Houthis as they are oppressed and aggressed. Then it was said that Hezbollah was in Yemen and that there were 50 Lebanese martyrs from Hezbollah and Hezbollah is perplexed how to inform their families and how to bury them. Where are they? Now in Lebanon if someone dies there is no place to hide him. What if he was martyred in Yemen or in any other place?

Accusations reached Syria. During the first days of events, a Syrian dissident appeared on Al Arabiya TV Channel (there is no problem in giving definite names). For 24 hours he appeared in voice and picture addressing me in his speech saying that Hezbollah sent to Syria 3000 fighters to defend the Syrian regime. Indeed he is strong and he was threatening us: O so and so if you do not pull them out in carriers, we will return them to you in shrouds. This is a lie. Still the Head of Media Relations in Hezbollah appeared on Al Arabiya and denied that. They broadcasted his denial once and the news remained being broadcasted for 24 hours on the respectable Arab satellites.

These days, some Arab satellites and websites broadcast some kind of news. There is a cuisine that delivers the news: a newspaper reports from a satellite and the website reports from the newspaper. So it appears that the news is general and there are several sources while it is one cuisine. These respectable media outlets – especially some websites (for example the Lebanese Forces website in Lebanon and I am not promoting this website) reported that there are snipers from Hezbollah in Homs (as if we had distributed snipers in Homs and Misrata) and that Hezbollah has 10 martyrs there. They were martyred there and they are being brought back to be buried in Lebanon.

Praise be to Allah no military action has been carried out in Bahrain yet so that Hezbollah be accused of it. People in Bahrain are still protesting very peacefully. Despite demolition of mosques, the killing of detainees, the arrest of women and breaking into homes, no military action or any violent action has taken place so far. That's why in Bahrain we were not accused of any military action. We were accused of something else.

This denial is very important before tackling the Arab situation with a couple of words and the situation in Syria with some words. However, I like to address all those liars in the Arab words whether satellite channels, newspapers, internet websites and reporters who write to earn money from Feltman, Clinton and Obama and who take money as the source of the news and not field facts: any military intervention in any of the Arab countries won't be Hezbollah responsibility at all. However suppose one day we went to fight in any square, we tell you and we tell the whole world: We in Hezbollah have the courage and bravery to say where we fight, where we kill and where we are martyred, because the arena in which we fight is to be a square of honor and not a shameful arena where we feel disgraceful to fight in and exist in.

Turning to the situation in the Arab region, yes on the political level we in Hezbollah had clear stance that back the revolutions and the peoples in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Libya and Bahrain. We held a special rally for that and we talked clearly in that rally and following it via the brethren leaders in Hezbollah and in the media. Our stance from every Arab square or Arab revolution or popular movement is decided according to two angles. Here I hope that we be precise. The first angle is the stance of that Arab regime from the Arab-Israeli conflict (its stance, position and role in the central cause of the nation namely Palestinian). So we consider the regimes we mentioned a while ago – Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Bahrain – and there well known positions, stances and roles especially concerning the Egyptian regime.

The second angle is the absence of any hope for reform at the domestic level -when the regime is closed to all doors, windows or even small gaps for reform for the benefit of the peoples of these countries.

Starting from these two angles we take our position. Our criteria are clear. Our standards are clear. We do not have double standards. We do not have discriminating standards. Some revolutions were victorious in Tunisia and Egypt. They were victorious in principle but these victories are not complete yet. Still some Arab countries are passing through difficult times like Libya, Yemen, and Bahrain.

It goes without saying that every country knows how to face its situation and solve its problems. The people of Yemen are more expert in Yemen. The people of Bahrain are more expert in Bahrain. The people of Libya are more expert in Libya and so on. However, we take a general stance. When we take a position the only thing we hope for is that the Arab and Islamic world enjoy a state of harmony between the governments and the peoples, that the regimes and governments take into consideration the concerns of their peoples and address them, and that our countries live in the best conditions of security, stability and development on all domains. This is what we all hope for… that our regimes and governments live up to the level of the aspirations of the nation and the central confrontation which this nation had assumed so far.

However, according to the Arab situation, we find it our duty to be cautious because America and Israel want to confiscate the Arab revolutions. They want to confiscate them with sweet language – Obama's words – and some money.

What is the worth of two billion dollars? Do you know – brothers and sisters – that one Gulf businessman – I do not want to say from which country – told me that the rich in one gulf country only deposit 3300 billion dollars in US banks? I say again 3300 billion dollars in US banks. There the Americans invest this money. Later and in response to any event in this Gulf country, Obama would show up to confiscate this money.

What is the worth of two billion dollars through which he wants to bribe Egypt – the mother of the world and half of the Arabs? Would Egypt sell its choice, sovereignty, dignity and political decision – and he expects that from it – for two billion dollars from here and four from there and the like?

Those who backed Husni Mubarak until the very last moment are today intervening to confiscate the blood of the Egyptians and the cries of the Egyptian and the sacrifices of the Egyptians. The same applies to the others countries.

Man feels disgrace and humiliation when someone like Netanyahu – the killer of the children in Palestine – talks about Arab youths and Arab revolutions and insults the entire nation and all of the governments of this nation.

Now let me say more. Should President Ahmadi Nejad in Iran or any Iranian official said one word yesterday on the Arab governments, you would have found uproar in the Arab media, Arab satellite outlets, the Arab league and the Arab governments. Iran is an enemy! There is an Iranian invasion to the Arab world.

Days ago Netanyahu stood in the Congress. All the Americans were applauding for him. He insulted all Arab kings, princes, rulers, governments and regimes and even Arab youths and peoples when he said that 300 million Arabs are not living in freedom, dignity and democracy or anything else. What did this great quack found? He found that only a million Arabs who exist in what he called Israel enjoy freedom and democracy.

No Mr. Netanyahu. It's up to the rest of Arabs if they do not want to answer you. We in Lebanon are the free of this world. We in Lebanon made our freedom with blood. We triumphed over your sword and the sword of your US masters. We are part of the Arab nation, the Arab peoples and the Arab youths.

America today wants to confiscate these revolutions. The peoples of these revolutions must be aware. They must not have a good opinion regarding the Americans. They must not trust the US promises. They must know that America is not concerned except with its interests.

If Mr. Obama is truthful in his claim of respecting the will of the peoples and his call to the rulers to respect their peoples, he must start with himself and respect the will of our Arab and Islamic peoples. If he is truthful in his claim, what is the will of the Iraqi people today? There is a consensus or a semi-consensus that the US occupation troops pull out from Iraq. To respect the will of the Iraqi people O Obama, get out of Iraq and don’t pressure on the Iraqi government and Iraqi political forces to stay as an occupier of Iraq but under civilized titles. He wants to keep in his embassy in Baghdad 7000 soldiers and he wants to guard it with 12000 soldiers. He wants a consulate in every province and hes want to guard it with a 1000 soldiers. He wants to keep around 50,000 soldiers under the title of embassy and consulates. If you respect the will of the Iraqi people, get out of Iraq. If you respect the will of the Afghani people, get out of Afghanistan. If you respect the will of the Arab peoples, see what these people want regarding Palestine. We are fed up with deception, misleading, lying, falsehood and fake faces.

The Americans know the position the peoples of the Arab world have regarding them. All the polls in the Arab world assert that.

Wrapping up this topic, I want to tell our Arab revolting people: Beware of the US policy and the US administration. Your goals and needs must not let you throw yourselves in the arms of the Americans again. If you want to go back to the Americans, stay where you are then.

Now we turn to the Syrian situation and our stance from the situation in Syria and what is taking place in Syria. I will be frank and very clear because the stance demands a great and a clear and a decisive responsibility.

Our stance which I will say in a while –and which is not surprising indeed – is based on a number of factors. Why did we build this stance?

The first factor: We, in Lebanon and especially in Hezbollah, are highly grateful to Syria, its leadership, its President Hafiz Assad and President Bashar Assad and the Syrian resisting and opposing and patient people who have been bearing for long decades the repercussions of the national stance of the Syrian leadership as well as the Syrian Army which has paid great sacrifices on this path.

Syria has offered much to Lebanon. Syria prevented division in Lebanon if we went back to 1975, 1976, 1977 and 1978 and recalled the great dangers of divisions on Lebanon and the region.

Syria greatly helped maintain Lebanon’s unity and halted the bloody Lebanese civil war which was about to exterminate Lebanon and the people of Lebanon. Syria supported Lebanon and its Resistance. Thus was the liberation in 1985 in the Mount, Beirut, Sidon, Tyr, West Bekaa and Nabatiyeh until the complete liberation of the border line with the exception of Shebaa Farms and Kafar Shuba Hills on May 25, 2000 and the steadfastness and miraculous victory of July 2006. We cannot forget how Syria embraced Lebanon, its Resistance and people who were displaced to Syria. It embraced us as a regime, army and people. Therefore, when we are worried about Syria, we in fact are worried about its regime and people. We are not worried only about its regime but also because of what is schemed for its regime and people.

No one is denying that Syria made mistakes in Lebanon - President Assad had tackled that in the Assembly. However, what Syria achieved in Lebanon was historic and decisive on the national level.

This is first. Second there is Syria’s stance regarding Israel, the Palestinian Resistance and Syria's steadfastness despite all pressures, noticeably following Madrid Conference and the launch of the settlement process. It remained steadfast before the bullying and temptations.

Thirdly comes Syria’s position towards the new Middle East scheme which was toppled by the Resistance in Lebanon from its eastern gate. Today America and Israel are trying to usher into from other gates.

So we are before a resisting opposing country, regime, leadership, army and people.

This is a central point. Also among the essential points that we build our stance on is that the Syrian leadership is convinced with its people on the need to implement reform, fighting corruption and opening new horizons in the Syrian political life. We believe – I personally believe and this is not built on analysis but rather on direct discussions and declarations - that Syrian President Bashar Assad believes and is serious and determined about reform. I even know more. I know that he is ready to take very great reform steps but with serenity, care and responsibility. This factor influences our stance.

So at times there is a closed regime. In Bahrain the regime was closed. Mubarak was closed. Gaddafi was closed. Zein Al Aabideen Bin Ali was closed. In Syria the regime is not closed. On the contrary he is saying I am ready and I believe in reform and I am serious and I want to carry them.

Another factor is that all given and information so far – and here I do not pose on what is said on Arab satellite outlets – assert that the majority of the Syrian people still support this regime and believes in President Assad's ability to introduce reform. Well, what is the position of the Syrian people? Let's know to stand by their side.

One of the factors that form our stance is that toppling the regime in Syria is an American and Israeli interest meaning toppling the regime in Syrian and exchanging it with another regime, similar to the Arab moderate regimes which are ready to sign a peace and submission agreement with Israel.

Another factor that constitutes our stance is what Syria means to Lebanon as what happens there has its repercussions on Lebanon and results on having repercussions on the region as a whole.

Among the factors that constitute our stance is Lebanon’s commitment towards Syria, based on Taif agreement in addition to mutual interests.

In our opinion, all of these issues and factors impose on us as Lebanese in general – now it is up to the Lebanese to accept that or not; we are saying our viewpoint - and on us as a resistance movement in face of Israel in particular to take a responsible and great stance that requires the following:

First, we should be committed to the stability, security and safety of Syria as a regime, people and army.

Second, we call upon the Syrian people – and we make this call on them today - to preserve their country and resistant and opposing regime, as well as to give way to the Syrian leadership with the cooperation of all the popular classes to implement the required reforms and to choose the course of dialogue and not confrontation.

Third, we as Lebanese shouldn't interfere in what is going on in Syria, but rather let the Syrians themselves address their issues as they are able to do that. Yes, if it is possible to play a positive role, there is no problem in that.

Fourth, we reject any sanctions promoted by US and the West through asking Lebanon to abide by them against Syria. This is the one of the goals of Feltman's visit to Lebanon. There must be a public and popular decisive and final stance regarding this issue. Lebanon must not by any means stab Syria or be led by us schemes that target Syria. We must cooperate altogether so that Syria emerge strong and steadfast because that is to the interest of Syria, Lebanon and the Arab nation.

Now I move to the Lebanese situation. Regarding the Lebanese situation, I first will tackle the accusations made by Obama against us before the AIPAC. He accused Hezbollah of carrying out what he called “political assassinations” through missiles and car bombings. Indeed this US enmity to Hezbollah is not new. Perhaps this political and judicial content from Mr. Obama is new as he was present in an occasion that shows allegiance to the Zionists.

Second his speech is baseless. Thirdly it stresses and comes again and again in the context of the conspiracy of the International Tribunal. People are waiting for Fransen to sign and for Bellemare to announce his indictment in a press conference while we all know its content.

However it was said by Barak Obama. Thanks for Barak Obama because he confirmed the authenticity of all what we said regarding the US-Israeli tribunal. The prosecutor, judge and executor in it are American. But Inshallah only and solely their skin will be whipped.

Fourthly, America, which is speaking of political assassination and booby-trapped cars, is the most terrorist country that is absolutely and fully involved in political assassinations. Books, documents, security information and what is being published worldwide assert this idea. He is talking about political assassination and booby-trapped cars; I want to remind him then of what documents, investigations, facts and even the Lebanese judiciary proved regarding the CIA which had targeted through a car bombing placed in a busy street in Bir Al Abed on March 8, 1985, Grand Ayatollah late Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah (May Allah have mercy on him), what resulted in the martyrdom of more than a hundred civilians, mostly ordinary people, children and even embryos. It was the CIA and you know who used to finance it then.

When a killer stands to accuse us do not take his accusation into consideration. That is worthless. When a just man accuses us, then we must be worried because he is just. But when the killer of hundreds of thousands in Iraq - killing takes place daily in Iraq - and Afghanistan and Pakistan, the co-killer of hundreds of thousands killed by Israel to accuse us, we don’t feel concerned. This is the first point. I really hope we stand much on Obama's speech. He did not accuse us. He rather judged on us by talking about political assassination and booby trapped cars.

The second point is that we have the honor to be attacked by Obama before the AIPAC and by Netanyahu in the Congress. Some people feel happy and assured when America and Israel praise them.

There are people who feel worried when America and Israel attack them.

Here I tell you: When America and Israel attack us and the heads of the greatest two states of occupation, killing and terrorism attack us we feel prideful and honorable. This is a badge of honor because our enemy is making acknowledgments before the AIPAC which is an annual strategic conference. Hamas must feel proud. Iran must feel proud. Syria must feel proud. That means that we have a definite status. All the members in the Congress are on their feet applauding. At a moment he talks about Hezbollah, the missiles of Hezbollah and the resistance of Hezbollah meaning the resistance of the Lebanese. That means that we have an important status and we are taken into consideration in the local and regional equation. Do not look at the negative side. Look rather at the positive side. Don't they say this in Lebanon: Look at the filled half of the glass. The half is full of Obama's and Netanyahu's abuses and accusations. They are recognizing you as a key influential part in the equation of conflict in the region. This is a source of honor to Lebanon and to Hezbollah. Here I tell you that on the contrary if Obama and Netanyahu praised us we must have held an emergency meeting on the level of the leading bodies in Hezbollah to say and search where we were wrong and what we did. We must reconsider our actions. This is the school of Imam Khomeini (May Allah sanctify his noble secret). This is America. When the greater devil praises you, you must be afraid. When the devil attacks you that means he is recognizing you as a perfect enemy. This is an important characteristic.

The third point is the Lebanese situation regarding the government since the toppling of the previous government up till now. It may be that you dislike a thing while it is good for you. The new majority has not up till now been able to form the government. The expression "the new majority" is not precise as there are the new majority, the designate Premier and His Eminence the President of the Republic. These altogether haven't up till now been able to form the government. If we took the issue to the political forces in the new majority, it might have been easier. It may be that you dislike a thing while it is good for you.

We wanted to form the government since the very second day. However, after four months, one of the unintended benefits – following the example of looking at the filled part of the glass – is that this delay has demonstrated to you how the other political bloc deals with Hezbollah in particular. Let us defend ourselves. Our allies are defending themselves daily. However a considerable time has passed in which we haven't made statements or held televised interviews.

For example when the government was toppled, the leaderships, deputies, ministers and media of the other party went through endless uproar. They created an instigating atmosphere among people saying this is a readymade coup; the government is ready; it's the government of Hezbollah; it's an Iranian government; it's the government of Wilayat Al Faqih; it's the ruling party. Didn't you hear all of this? Now they halted because it was made clear that there is no coup whether Iranian or Syrian or anything else. The whole story is that there was a government. Things were moving towards a solution. However, at one of the American moments, the solution was crippled, the government was toppled and things were over. We are forming a new government. This is the whole story. There isn't anything like a designed or a mapped out coup.

What is this coup like? It has no readymade government. In fact the government has not been formed even after four weeks. What is this ruling party which is not able to form a government? What is this speech? This reveals the level of their claims and I will not stop for long here.

They said that Hezbollah took control over the state and the authority while they knew that this is mere fabrications and untrue falsehood. They know the Lebanese texture very well. They know the nature of Hezbollah's relations with its allies and Hezbollah's concern about its allies…. However all of that shouting was messages sent to America, the West and some Arab countries to hurry up and offer help because Hezbollah is taking grip of the country and may Allah help this country then.

The second point concerning the government is that today the ones concerned in forming the government are the President, the Premier-designate and the new majority. The one directly responsible of the formation is the Premier-designate and the government hasn't been formed up till now.

Here I do not want to carry a political analysis. There are American and Western pressures despite all those who try to deny them. Delegates daily visit the President of the Republic and the Premier-designate and tell them: Our position from the government is based on who the ministers are? What is the form of the government? What is its ministerial statement? What is its position from the International Tribunal?

What do pressures mean? Does it mean holding a stick to beat someone with? We are talking about a political diplomatic life. Days ago as soon as it was said that the name of the interior minister had been agreed on and that there were advanced steps in the process of forming the government, the US Ambassador to Lebanon Connelly – who hasn't appeared since some time – directly went to President Mikati and President Sleiman (May Allah assist them). Why did she go to Presidents Mikati and Sleiman? She went to talk about the interior ministry and the government. She wanted to know where did they reach and where to they are going. She wanted to remind them that the US stance and the stance of the West and the world from the government are linked to the form of the government, the portfolios and the ministerial statement. Aren't these pressures? Aren't these called conditions? There are some internal demands which are not new also delaying the process. This has always been the case in forming the government in Lebanon.

To your knowledge – and this is the first time I talk in an official way but this exists and is circulated – it took the previous Lebanese government five months to be formed. And do you know why and how it was formed? Were the Lebanese left on there own it would have taken a year or two. The government was formed within five months because President Bashar al-Assad and King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz personally intervened. Thus it was formed in five months. Now we are still in the fourth month and nobody has interfered yet whether presidents, kings or others.

This is the nature of complications which exist in Lebanon and which happen in Lebanon. Indeed we are responsible and we will carry on. However here again we take another sample on the performance and conduct of the political forces in March 14 Bloc during these four months. In fact, that is perplexing. At one time they say Hezbollah wants to form a government and control the country and still the government is not formed yet. At others they say Hezbollah does not want to form the government. At others they say Hezbollah's interest is in political vacancy and the collapse of the state and that Hezbollah does not want the state for the interest of a petty state. You hear them as they speak on the TV, radio, interviews, magazines and articles. Indeed this is their post – to write and talk or else they won't be paid by the end of the month.

So at times they say Hezbollah wants the government and wants to control the country but the cabinet is not been formed yet because Hezbollah doesn't want to pressure on its allies apart from who these allies whom they want us to practice pressure on are. At other times they say that Hezbollah wants to impose its conditions and because its conditions are not being met, the government has not been formed yet. So under all conditions, the one responsible for vacancy and the crippling of the formation of the government in the viewpoint of March 14 is Hezbollah. Even when they attack PM Mikati and President Sleiman and mostly General Aoun they say that Hezbollah called on General Aoun to cripple the formation. This in fact holds insult for both and this is also a sample. This is as far as the so called governmental issue in Lebanon is concerned. Since the toppling of the government and all through the events of the last four months, it has become clear to you that the other camp is not authentic in its analysis, stances and performance and that it has positions set in advance.

When we gain victory over Israel they say that this is a conspiracy with Israel and a play set under the table. That means that if someone has reached a place in which he can't see anything good in you and wants to hold you fully responsible, I don't know where to the country would be taken.

What I would like to say at the end concerning the governmental issue is that we officially believe in the necessity of forming the government as soon as possible because the country can't go on living in vacancy and can't go on without a government. The existence of the government is primary and has no substitute. The parliament is not a substitute. The President of the Republic is not a substitute and the caretaker government is not a substitute. Forming the government is primary for the solution and for addressing the problems in the country on the political and security levels. If we want to talk about living, social and financial concerns and about gas and gasoline, unemployment and the high costs of living, how are these issues to be addressed without a government?

We are acting as if forming the government is the most important duties. Our interest is in the existence of an able, powerful, active and responsible government which addresses the crises of the country and confronts challenges. We don't want a petty state but rather a state because we are not a substitute for the state. I stood on this very day in Bint Jbeil and said we are the first resistance in history which triumphs and does not ask for a share in the state, authority or government. Today I reiterate that. However today we are being concerned about the concerns of the people and the country and its stability, security, welfare, crises and problems which can't be solved except through the government. Here I tell you that we will carry on exerting our efforts through Ali Khalil and Hussein Khalil and the other friends, and we will not feel desperate. We will not stop. However we do not seek to pressure on anyone. Do not bother yourselves. We do not pressure on anyone. We respect our allies and carry on discussions and dialogues with our allies, and we will reach results. At the end we will reach the desired result.

Dialogue, agreement and political effort are what yield results. Betting on a technocrat government fell because no one agreed on it from the new majority. It is known where from did the proposal of a technocrat government come? It was made by the US and the Future Movement. So if they were the majority they must rule even if in the framework of a national unity government. As such we accepted when we became a majority to rule in the framework of a national unity government. However when this bloc became the majority, they said that the solution is in a technocrat government. This is unprecedented. In fact, in a country like Lebanon, neither now nor in the past nor in the near or far future does it work that a technocrat government rule. This is an absolutely political country in its concerns, affairs, structure, essence and veracity. Talk about philosophy, logic and whatever you want. Only a political government can exist in this country and it must be protected by the principle political forces or a national unity government. This is the end of the story or else we will be wasting our time.

We want to move towards a political guarded government which assumes its responsibility and carries on with it. Indeed we back the initiative of Speaker Nabih Berri in activating the Parliament and we will participate in the meetings of the General Authority and in activating it because things must not be crippled as a result of the ongoing disorder.

As for the Resistance, here I tell you on the Day of Resistance and Liberation: This is the Resistance in which you believe and were part of. You have embraced it, supported it and offered in its course your children. In Bekaa especially there isn't a village in Bekaa where there isn't a martyr or martyrs. In this village – the village of Nabi Sheath, if you go behind the shrine of Sayyed Abbass there are martyrs and in the nearby graveyard there are martyrs. Where did they fall? In training camps and in the hills of the south and West Bekaa. This is the case of many or the majority of the villages and towns of Bekaa.

Here I tell you: This Resistance for which you offered your children is your Resistance and not our Resistance. We talk to you about it. We express it in your name.

This Resistance will carry on. No one scares us, neither Obama nor Netanyahu nor all the fleets. We belong to the land which defeated the fleets in 1982 and 1983.

We are not afraid of the threats, accusations and intimidations made by anyone. Days ago, Netanyahu has increased our conviction in our missiles. What Netanyahu said should be a message to those who argue the arms of the Resistance and a message to the dialogue table. From among all what is in Lebanon, what is Netanyahu afraid of? He is afraid of these missiles. Here I tell him: The missiles are not 12 thousands; your information which you mentioned yesterday in the Congress is too old. He must have increased the number. These rockets are ready and will remain in place. They will remain effective and will protect Lebanon. They will remain present in the equation of the region, and no one will be able to disarm us, neither in Lebanon nor in the world.

Today our missiles, which Netanyahu talked about before the Congress, represent our honor, our blood, our money, our dignity and our pride. In the Arab, religious, humanistic and moral culture comes that whoever dies while guarding his money is a martyr. Whoever dies while guarding his honor is a martyr. Whoever dies while guarding his family and people is a martyr. Whoever dies while protecting his land is a martyr. Whoever dies while guarding his honor is a martyr. Today all of that is gathered in the arms of the Resistance and the missiles of the Resistance.

This Resistance – the Resistance of Imam Mussa Assader, the Resistance of Sayyed Abbass Mussawi, the Resistance of Sheikh Ragheb Harb, the Resistance of Martyr Imad Moghniyeh and the Resistance of all the free nationalists, Islamists and Arabs in Lebanon and the region will remain faithful to its goals, to its path, to its hopes, to its expectations, to its sufferings and to the blood of its martyrs.

Again I tell you what I told you back on September 22nd, 2006: From the land of Nabi Sheath and the neighborhood of the master of the Islamic Resistance martyrs, with this chaste blood, with your prideful foreheads, with your firm will, with the steadfastness of our people and Resistance – brothers and sisters – again on May 25, 2011, I reiterate: the time of defeats has gone, and time of victories started. Victory is written on your foreheads, and yesterday I have seen defeat written on the foreheads of Netanyahu and Obama. On May 25th, 2000 I said that Israel is feebler then the spider web. Eleven years later and after Gaza, July, Maroon Arras and Majdal Shams and before hundreds of the armless Palestinian youths and before their courage, boldness and zeal and the cowardice of the Israeli soldiers again I tell you: By God Israel is feebler than a spider web.

If several hundreds Palestinian youths – indeed those who gathered in Maroon Arras are tens of thousands but those who went to the barbed wire are several hundred and those who stormed in Majdal Shams are several hundreds or above a thousand – made Israel scared. Israel acknowledged great frustration and reconsidered its bravery. When I was watching the youths on the barbed wire in Maroon Arras and in Majdal Shams and their dashing courageous bravery and their no fear of death though with their empty hands only and compared that to the extent of Israeli fear and perplexity, I recalled the words of Imam Khomeini (May Allah bless his soul) when he used to say that we are a billion Muslims. If every Muslim held a bucket of water and throw it over Israel – if we all at a time held a bucket of water each and not a missile or a machine gun and threw it on Israel – Israel would have been swept away with water. This is a symbolic expression. Israel is feeble. The problem is in us. Now after this scene, imagine if many millions of Palestinians, Lebanese, Syrians, Jordanians, Egyptians, Arabs and Muslims from all around the world gathered all along the borders with Occupied Palestine all at a time to cross the fence, what will Israel do then? What will Obama do?

However that needs a great decision. That needs a great will like the will of the Palestinian and Syrian youths who were in Maroon Arras and Majdal Shams.

This is Israel. Thus before all what is taking place around us we are very close to achieve victory and to change the equations. The US-Israeli counter-attack on the region and the peoples of the region will lead nowhere. Hundred returns and peace be upon you and Allah's mercy and blessings.

Dear Ban Ki-Moon, Your Concern for our Safety is Touching

Via MCS

- 30. May, 2011
ED NOTE: With the forthcoming possibility of the UN possibly declaring a State of Palestine with defined borders, it is important for Israel to do what they can now to “legitimize” their own existence, and to cut or minimize their losses before anyone sits down with a chart and starts drawing lines. What the UN decides or declares in chamber or on the floor, is of little relevance, compared to what happens when a small committee of people sit down and actually start lines on charts, for that is the knife which carves the goose, or slices the ham!

I recall in art that there are two ways to define an object…either by drawing a line around it, or by drawing a line around inside the space which surrounds it. The same method can be used to define the borders of States.. Outlining the shape of Palestine will limit and define the shape of Israel.

There is obvious panic in Tel Aviv, and they have the hit men making calls world-wide, dropping off verbal bullets on important and influential Heads of State’s and NGo’s desks. This also explains why Bibi displayed such a harsh and rude attitude toward his little friendly ally, Obama!

***

FREE GAZA MOVEMENT PRESS RELEASE

Dear Ban Ki-Moon, Your Concern for our Safety is Touching

We Will Continue to Sail to Gaza until Israel Lifts its Illegal Blockade
The Free Gaza Movement welcomes Ban Ki-Moon’s request that all nations, including Israel avoid violence when our flotilla sails to Gaza at the end of June. We also welcome his comments that, “Israel take “meaningful and far-reaching steps to end its closure of Gaza.”

News organizations over the past two days have decided to emphasize Ban’s concern for our flotilla by reporting he is telling governments to stop us. He can’t tell them that. We are not engaged in illegal activity in the in the Mediterranean; it is Israel’s blockade of 1.5 million Palestinians that is illegal. And as head of the United Nations, he knows that the UN High Commission for Human Rights (UN HCHR) produced a report that identified the blockade of Gaza as collective punishment – a war crime.

Audrey Bomse, attorney for Free Gaza stated, “The Report concluded that Israel was “clearly unlawful” when it intercepted Freedom Flotilla I in May 2010. Israel had no right to use force against us or detain flotilla passengers. Finally, UN HCHR asked for recognition of the activities of the Flotilla as “an agreed form of intervention” by civil society in humanitarian crises.”

We would remind the Secretary-General that the flotilla violates no international laws or laws of the sea and so an outright ban on our sailing to Gaza is essentially a statement against the rights of the Palestinian people to control their own ports, and lives.

Huwaida Arraf, chair of Free Gaza added, “Suggesting that aid to Gaza should be delivered via “legitimate crossings and established channels” implies that we accept Israel’s brutal and unlawful regime. Would the Secretary-General have said the same to the Egyptian and Tunisian people, telling them to address their grievances to Mubarak and Ben Ali?”
We do not sail just to deliver humanitarian supplies to Gaza. Palestinians don’t want humanitarian aid, they want the right to trade and have open borders and come in and out of their territory without walls and gunboats and snipers shooting at them. Palestinians in Gaza have a right to their own sea, something Israel has denied to them in some form since 1967, and almost completely since 2006.

Our mission is to end Israel’s deliberate policies that have left Gaza in need of humanitarian aid. Since governments seem to have their hands tied behind their backs, it is up to civil society to hold Israel’s feet to the fire. It seems as though, in diplomatic language, Ban is more concerned about how Israel’s violent response to our flotilla looks and does not want another international incident like last year where Israel murdered nine of our volunteers.

Freedom riders in the US during the 1960s paid no attention to governmental warnings; and Arabs in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Bahrain and Syria seeking freedom are also ignoring similar threats, and so will we. We are sailing at the end of June.

Mr. Secretary-General, the choice is Israel’s – either end the blockade or continue its violence against the Palestinians and their supporters. The blockade is an act of violence and our effort reflects the will of the international community to stand up to injustice. Therefore, your choice is to support tyranny or to support freedom.

Written by Free Gaza team | 27 May 2011
http://www.change.org/petitions/support-the-freedom-flotilla-to-gaza

We are writing to ask for your support for the Gaza Freedom Flotilla scheduled to set sail in the second half of June to the besieged Gaza strip.

At least ten ships with dignitaries, doctors, professors, artists, journalists, and activists, as well as construction supplies and humanitarian aid, will sail from ports in Europe to Gaza in an act of non-violent civil disobedience to persuade the international community to fulfill its obligations towards the Palestinian people and end Israel’s four-year illegal blockade of Gaza.

This is the second, large-scale citizen-to-citizen flotilla to be launched by international grassroots groups. Organized by 14 national groups and international coalitions, the flotilla will carry approximately 1,000 passengers. It includes a US boat named The Audacity of Hope, which will have aboard dozens of dedicated social justice activists (visit: http://ustogaza.org/).

Ban Ki-moon Calls For Obstructing Freedom Flotilla Heading To Gaza
By Saed Bannoura - IMEMC & Agencies – May 28, 2011

United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, called on Middle Eastern countries to prevent the new Freedom Flotilla from heading to the Gaza Strip to deliver humanitarian supplies next month. Ban Ki-moon sent letters to several leaders telling them that supplies must be transferred to the Gaza Strip through what he called “legal channels”, and existing mechanisms, and added that “violence must be avoided”, the Maan News Agency reported.

His statements came as the new flotilla launched on the one-year anniversary of the deadly Israeli attack against the Freedom Flotilla when nine activists were killed after the Israeli navy violently boarded the Turkish ship; dozens were injured.

UN spokesperson, Martin Nesirky, said that he is worried about reports of a new flotilla, and called on related governments to stop the flotilla in order to stop the “potential violence that could take place”.

He said that “despite the fact that Freedom Flotillas are useless, the situation in the Gaza Strip must be changed, and Israel must conduct real measures to end the siege”.

The new Freedom Flotilla will be heading to Gaza in the second half of next month while ten ships from several European countries will be part of it.

Physicians, Academics, Artists and Reporters will be onboard, and will attempt to deliver relief supplies to the besieged coastal region.

The Free Gaza movement said that the flotilla is a nonviolent act that aims at convincing the international community to fulfill its obligations towards the Palestinians, and to end the illegal four-year siege on Gaza.

Several days ago, Turkish Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, said that he hopes Israel will not attack the flotilla this time, and that it would avoid any confrontations.
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The Free Gaza movement is a human rights group that, since August 2008, has traveled nine times to Gaza by sea to break Israel’s illegal stranglehold on1.5 million Palestinian civilians. We entered Gaza successfully five times in 2008; however, we have been violently intercepted on the past four voyages, including Israel’s MAY 31, 2010 lethal attack on our Freedom Flotilla,when nine of our colleagues were killed and many more injured by Israeli commandos.

The Free Gaza movement and its coalition partners, the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza; IHH — the Turkish Foundation for Human Rights, Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief; the International Committee to End the Siege on Gaza; Ship to Gaza Sweden and Ship to Gaza Greece are the only organizations that have sent boats directly to Gaza in defiance of Israel’s criminal closure of the Gaza Strip. We sail as an expression of citizen nonviolent, direct action, confronting Israel’s ongoing abuses of Palestinian human and political rights.

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Contact For Information and Interviews:
Audrey Bomse, audreybomse@hotmail.com This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , +1 856-986-2213
Greta Berlin, Iristulip@gmail.com This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , +33 607 374 512
Ewa Jasiewicz, freelance@mailworks.org This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , +447749421576

The ruined village Palestinians will never forget

The ruins of Lifta are the final remains of the Palestinian hamlets that fringed Jerusalem until 1948. Now plans to bulldoze them are causing outrage

A Palestinian looks at an abandoned security site after it was
damaged by Israeli air strikes in the northern Gaza Strip
Harriet Sherwood.Harriet Sherwood
guardian.co.uk,




Yacoub Odeh shows film-maker Mat Heywood around his deserted home village, now under threat from Israeli plans to build a luxury resort Link to this video
In the soft golden light of a late spring evening, as yellow flowers are beginning to bloom on giant cacti, Yacoub Odeh climbs up through knee-high grass to the ruin that was his childhood home. For a man in his eighth decade, he is surprisingly nimble as he navigates ancient stones that litter the ground. But behind his light step is the weight of painful memories of a lost youth and a fading history.
"Here is my house," he says, sitting on the remains of a stone wall in whose crevices wild flowers and saplings cling. "Now only the corners remain. Here is the taboun [outdoor oven] where my mother used to bake bread. The smell!"
With distant eyes, he describes an idyllic childhood in a place he calls paradise, where families helped one another and children played freely amid almond and fig trees and on the rocks around the village's natural spring.
The place is Lifta, an Arab village on the north-western fringes of Jerusalem, for centuries a prosperous, bustling community built around agriculture, traditional embroidery, trade and mutual support. But since 1948, shortly before the state of Israel was declared, it has been deserted. The population, according to the Palestinian narrative of that momentous year, was expelled by advancing Jewish soldiers; the people abandoned their homes, say the Israeli history books.
Lifta was one of hundreds of Arab villages taken over by the embryonic Jewish state. But it is the only one not to have been subsequently covered in the concrete and tarmac of Israeli towns and roads, or planted over with trees and shrubs to create forests, parks and picnic areas, or transformed into Israeli artists' colonies. Some argue that Israel set out to erase any vestige of Palestinian roots in the new country.
Now, 63 years on, the ruins of Lifta are finally facing the threat of bulldozers and concrete mixers.
Ultra-orthodox Jewish teenagers swimming in the village
spring in the ruins of Lifta.
Photograph: Quique Kierszenbaum
A long-term proposal to sell the state-owned land for the construction of luxury housing units and a boutique hotel on the site is awaiting the authorities' final approval. It has caused a furore.

Opponents of the plan include those who believe Lifta should be preserved as a monument to history; those who want to retain its charming environs as a rambling spot; and those – Odeh among them – who insist that one day they will return and reclaim their homes.
For many Palestinians, Lifta is a symbol of the Nakba, literally the "catastrophe", of 1948 in which 700,000 people were dispossessed. It embodies their longing for their land, and their bitterness at their continued refugee status. It is, wrote Palestinian author Ghada Karmi in a letter to the Los Angeles Times, "a physical memory of injustice and survival".
The development plan was approved by the Jerusalem municipality five years ago, but earlier this year the Israel Lands Administration – the state agency that took ownership of Lifta's land under the Israeli law governing property deemed to be abandoned – began marketing the plot to private developers. A legal challenge stayed the tender process, but a decision is due any day on whether to proceed. The proposal is for 212 luxury housing units, expected to be advertised to wealthy expatriate Jews, a chic hotel and shops, and a museum. It suggests that some of the ruins be restored. But Lifta as a sanctuary and de facto heritage site will be lost.
Shmuel Groag, one of the architects of the original proposal, has since reversed his position and has backed the campaign to preserve the ruined village. "I have changed my mind about conservation in general, and about Lifta in particular," he says. The site, he argues, should be "frozen". Others have appealed to Unesco to declare Lifta a world heritage site, saying that work must begin to halt further decay and the theft of valuable stones from the ruins. Alongside the ramblers, drug-users and illicit lovers frequent the ruins. Crowds of ultra-orthodox Jewish teenage boys, stripped to their underwear, swim in the spring, and light barbecues on the rocks. Graffiti scars many of the fragmented walls. For Odeh, this is distressing. "Why should they have free access to my home when I am stopped by security guards and questioned about my right to be here," he asks. "When I see these people coming here, I feel sorrow and anger."
The remains of the village are bounded by roads, along which traffic rumbles to and from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem's suburbs and settlements. On the ridge above Lifta, concrete mixers and diggers are at work on a high-speed rail link to Tel Aviv; deep in the valley below is a guarded complex, said to be the site of the Israeli government's underground nuclear bunker. Out of sight of Lifta's ruins, but built on its former farmlands are the Knesset (Israel's parliament), the supreme court, the Hadassah hospital, the Hebrew University and the city's central bus station.
In 1948, the village owned 1,200 hectares but they have long gone, along with olive, fig, apricot, almond, plum, pomegranate and citrus trees plus the fields of spinach, cauliflower, peas and beans that gave Lifta its prosperity. "Life was rich," recalls Odeh. "The spring watered the village gardens. We had more olives than we needed so we sold them and the oil in Jerusalem."
As we walk amid the ruins, Odeh points out the old landmarks. "Here was the mosque. This was the sheriff's house. Here was the olive press. There is the house where I was born, and where my father was born. Over there is the cemetery. This was the sahn [courtyard] where people shared happy occasions and sorrowful occasions. Here I breathed my first breath. The first water I drank, I drank here." It is painful, he says.
He points out what is remaining of the beautiful architecture of the houses, with arched windows, columns and graceful balconies. Over a door, a lintel is inscribed with Arabic writing. Enter in safety, it says; the owner of this house is God. "The people of the village cut the stones and built their houses themselves. They were proud of that. They helped each other build and harvest the olives. The village lived as a family, one family."
But in 1948, when Odeh was eight years old, the bucolic life of Lifta came to an end. At the gateway to Jerusalem, Lifta was strategically important to the advancing Jewish troops. A series of violent skirmishes caused fear and panic, he recalls. There was firing and attacks from both sides. And then came the day his family left.
"My mother was preparing a fire to warm the house. I was with my little brother. The gangs began to shoot in the direction of Lifta. My brother was shouting: 'Mama! Mama! They're shooting us.' My mother took us inside and put us in a corner. The people of Lifta were crying to one another."
Odeh's father, then 33, carried the youngest of the eight children, and the family crossed the valley and climbed up to the main road to Jerusalem. His mother took the key to the house but they left everything they owned. "We had nothing but the clothes we were wearing. We had everything – and in one moment we had nothing. We became beggars." As the villagers left, Jewish soldiers blew holes in the roofs of the houses to make them uninhabitable.
Odeh's father stayed in Lifta for a few more days. After boarding a truck heading away from the village, the rest of the family slept under fig trees. They spent the following two years in Ramallah before moving to Jerusalem's Old City. His father, a broken man, developed stomach problems and died at the age of 35. His mother suffered from asthma from the time she left Lifta until her death. Many of the 3,000 residents of Lifta scattered across the West Bank and beyond to Jordan, but a core still live in East Jerusalem within a few kilometres of their former homes. Odeh himself later joined the armed resistance against Israel and spent 17 years in prison.
Now, in his twilight years, he is as impassioned as ever about his home. "We will never forget nor forgive the destruction of our village. Lifta is in our memory and in our history. It is our fathers' and grandfathers' graveyard. The spring, the trees, the land – we will never forget it."
He is unshakeable in his belief in the Palestinians' right to return to their homes – something that cannot be countenanced by Israel because it would threaten the state's Jewish majority and hence its Jewish nature. "We still dream of coming back," says Odeh. "I'm sure the time will come to return to Lifta, to my home." There can be no lasting peace until the refugee issue is resolved, he adds. But he knows time may be running out. "Lifta is an eyewitness to history, to what happened in the Nakba. If we can't come back, then leave the village to this history."