Freedom Flotilla ship the Marianne has been hijacked by the Israeli Navy.

The Freedom Flotilla Coalition is a group of activists that work peacefully for the end of the Gaza Blockade.

Activists, from various backgrounds and nationalities, were aboard the ship called Marianne. Marianne is a symbol of liberty in France, but Marianne, the ship, weren’t free to anchor in Gaza, Palestine.

The Marianne Activists.

It was hijacked by the Israeli Navy in International Waters. Israel forces a blockade over the Palestinian people in Gaza. Palestinians have not the right to move in and out of Gaza and Israel ensures that Gaza is impoverished by the blockade.

The Marianne crew describes how the navy arrested them:

At 02:06AM today (Gaza time) the “Marianne” contacted Freedom Flotilla Coalition (FFC) and informed us that three boats of the Israeli navy had surrounded her in international waters, while sailing approximately 100NM from Gaza coast. After that we lost contact with the “Marianne” and at 05:11AM (Gaza time) the IDF announced that they had “visited and searched” Marianne. They had captured the boat and detained all on board “in international waters” as they admitted themselves. The only positive content in the IDF announcement was that they still recognize that there is a naval blockade of Gaza, despite Netanyahu’s government recent denial that one exists.

Netanyahu quickly claimed after Marianne’s seizure, in an Orwellian lie, that “there were not a blockade against Gaza.”

The ship arrest proves obviously otherwise, and it carries a message: Gaza must be free and the illegal blockade must stop.

The effects of the Gaza blockade enforced by Israel are destructive. The siege is keeping Gaza from building a single house from the latest war, literally. Israel has killed more than 2200 persons, including more than 550 children, in the summer of 2014 during “Protective Edge”.

It is not the first time the Freedom Flotilla is arrested by the Israeli military. In 2010, a raid against one of its ships killed 9 Turkish activists.

Torture in Lebanon is widespread and a majority of Lebanese justify it.

Video leaks from the notorious prison of Roumieh have made the headlines last week. In the videos, we can see guards humiliating and abusing detainees. One of the detainee was Omar al Atrash, a cleric that smuggled car bombs and Islamist terrorists into Lebanon.

I have argued why we should never allow the use of torture and abuse against prisoners in this post. Abusing them and torturing them helps their propaganda and their recruitment, and it doesn’t make the authorities better than the inhumane acts of IS and the Nusra front.

The videos are just a “sample” of the current status of Torture in Lebanon. 

The videos were presented as an isolated incident by the Lebanese officials, but this claim is far from the reality on the ground, as argues Belen Fernandez in Middle East Eye. In fact, in 2014, the UN has already assessed the prisons in Lebanon and have found that torture use is systematic.

“Torture in Lebanon is a pervasive practice that is routinely used by the armed forces and law enforcement agencies for the purpose of investigation, for securing confessions to be used in criminal proceedings and, in some cases for punishing acts that the victim is believed to have committed.”

An article from al Akhbar in 2014 reports on UN findings.

The committee said that there is brutality in the torture methods used in detention centers. There are unusual tools and even special equipment designed especially for torture. Besides, the serious injuries observed on the bodies of victims during medical examinations suggest the widespread practice of torture and the impunity of the perpetrators.

Lebanon has signed and accessed in 2000 the United Nations Conventions against Torture, which stipulates in the second article that: No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.

Lebanon should follow the treaty rules it has signed.

70% of Lebanese justify the use of torture by their own government. 

It seems that the state authorities are acting with a tacit support from the population. Pew Research revealed, with regards to the US torture case, that over 70% of Lebanese justify torture. Pew Research has asked the following questions in numerous countries.

views-about-torture-by-u-s-government-track-with-opinions-of-torture-by-own-government

1) “In the period following the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks in the US, the US government used interrogations method that many consider to be torture on people suspected of terrorism. In your opinion, were these interrogations methods justified, or not justified?” 35% of Lebanese answered that they were justified.
2) “If the Lebanese government used torture against people suspected of terrorism to try to gain information about possible attacks in our country, do you think this could be justified or could not be justified? ” A bit more than 70% of Lebanese answered it could be justified. There is only one country in the survey that could justify torture, Ugunda.

Saudi Leaks: Saudi Arabia “buying” Lebanese Politicians and MTV Lebanon.

Wikileaks is releasing more than half a million and cables from Saudi Arabia foreign ministry and embassies around the world.

Numerous cables concern Lebanese politics, for example, Geagea, the leader for the Lebanese Forces, asked the Saudi Regime to help his party financially. The Saudi ambassador in Beirut, sent a letter to Riyadh and describe the meeting with a representative of the Lebanese forces, he said that “he [Geagea] expressed readiness to do what the kingdom asks him to do.”

Geagea, and therefore the Lebanese Forces, are exchanging their political freedom and sovereignty for money. The Lebanese Forces have always claimed to serve Lebanese interests and has criticised numerous times Hezbollah. It accuses the Shiite political party of serving Iranian interests. The Lebanese forces aren’t representing the “independence” of Lebanon and are serving Saudi interests.

Another cable shows the agreement between the MTV Lebanon, a generalist TV founded by Michael el Murr, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. MTV Lebanon has chosen to cut its freedom of speech for 5 Million dollars. It has first asked for 20 Millions, it seems that the station has been “bought” quite cheaply.

The Deal made between MTV Lebanon and Saudi Arabia is described in this document.

Lebanese Political parties aren’t serving the interests of Lebanese citizens when they allow themselves to be bought. They’re acting as vassals of big states.

The current state of newspapers and TV’s fulfil the interests of Political parties and foreign states, they’re a tool in their hands to control the opinions. TV’s like MTV, OTV, or NBN, have the freedom to criticise their political opponents, but can’t speak a word about their godfather. You do not cut the hands of your feeder…
For more details, read this piece by Joey Ayoub to understand that the Lebanese media is censored by political parties and the sectarian system of Lebanon.

We have a tangible proof that foreign countries directly mingle with Politicians and the Media.

Beating prisoners of Roumieh won’t help the fight against extremists.

Videos, taken inside the infamous prison of Roumieh, in Lebanon, emerged online. The videos show guards beating prisoners laying on the ground, with a large green stick. The prisoners were shirtless, half-naked, and had their hands tied-up. The abuses may date from April and could be answers or punishment to the riots that month, when prisoners briefly held 20 guards as hostages. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O3lFRYe88iY&feature=youtu.be

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7PyF9TCbBwo&feature=youtu.be

Nuhad Machnuk, Lebanon’s interior minister, announced that the guards who abused the prisoners were arrested.

Omar al Atrash is allegedly one of the prisoners beaten, he is a well-known Islamist cleric and was the Imam of a mosque in Central Bekaa. “He was charged of smuggling suicide bombers and car bombs between Lebanon and Syria through Arsal border crossings.” NOW Lebanon reported in 2014.  Does he and the other prisoners “deserve” the treatment from the guards? Absolutely not, never.

Beating a prisoner is useless. 

Beating a prisoner, abusing him, torturing him have never lowered the number of religious extremists over the years. Beating them won’t save lives. It is notorious that the Roumieh prison had an “operation room” for the extremists and helped them in their terrorist network, but after the police raid and the destruction of the room and the confiscation of phones, I believe that the connection with the external world is today minimal. The state, with force, took back the control of all the prison. Whether this video happened yesterday or before the full control of the prison by the state doesn’t make any difference to the online repercussion of the videos.

Beating prisoners helps radicalisation and terrorism. 

Opportunist extremists will use the video for propaganda purposes. While this abuse and beating may be isolated, the video will be used by some agitators to show that Sunni clerics are abused and that Sunni in general in Lebanon, are abused and oppressed against, no need to say that this is absurd. Some are calling the guards Shias and even Hezbollah members. The video is already a tool in the hands of extremists or agitators, and will help them recruit. Beating a prisoner isn’t “productive”, quite the contrary, their numbers will grow.

https://twitter.com/moonnor27/status/612670583659048960

There’s absolutely no proof that these guards are Hezbollah members or even sympathisers of Hezbollah. Saying this is only helping the propaganda and therefore the recruitment.

Beating prisoners could lead to unrest.

Some are already calling for protests in Tripoli and other towns. The town has sadly known numerous fightings between Alawites of Jabal Mohsen, Assad supporters, and Sunnis of Bab al Tabbane, a mini proxy war from Syria. The city has also witnessed battles between extremists and the Lebanese army. This video won’t help at all the security of this country.

https://twitter.com/Inghimasi18/status/612696655020883968

Beating and abusing a prisoner doesn’t make the guards better than them. 

IS, Nusra front, the two leading Islamist groups of Syria, are well known for inhuman acts: IS beheads their prisoners, enslaves woman, pushes homosexuals to their deaths, and it infamously burned a man alive. Nusra Front, though often presented as less violent, are not human rights advocates either, they’re the offshoot of al Qaeda, the same group responsible for 9/11. Omar al Atrash may be directly responsible for the deaths of innocent during multiple bombings in the southern suburb of Beirut. Beating him won’t make the innocent come back from their tombs. It’s useless and sadistic at best.

Isn’t beating them, on the ground, defenceless, resemble the doings of IS?

Countering Propaganda: In 2014, more children were killed in Israel than in Syria.

Disclaimer : This is not a post to say that the war in Syria is more humane than in Israel or vice-versa. Nor to support Assad over Netanyahu or vice-versa. 

If you’re present on Twitter and criticise Netanyahu, Israel and its war crimes, a response will be recurrent from obviously pro-Israel profiles. It is often the rationale of : “Why don’t you look at Syria crimes and all the crimes of the Middle East? Why don’t you condemn Syria? Assad is a dictator and a killer” And it often ends with: “Your singling out of Israel is antisemitic”.

It is as if we, people of conscience, when we criticise Israel, we ignore all the crimes of the World. Their conclusion is that condemning Netanyahu is saying Assad is innocent, it is of course zionist propaganda (Hasbara). The Electronic Intifada has reported last year that “interns” were paid by the state of Israel to “wash” the country of its crimes on social media.

With Israel coming under ever-increasing criticism for its human rights abuses and war crimes against Palestinians and other Arabs, changing the subject is a common tactic for Israel’s PR flacks and official propaganda or hasbara efforts.

This rhetoric isn’t only used by people on social media, it is often used by Israeli officials like Ron Prosol, Israel’s ambassador at the UN. In a article written for the New York Times, he condemned the UN and complained about Syria.

Knowing this history, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that, in the 2014-15 session alone, the General Assembly adopted about 20 resolutions critical of Israel, while the human rights situations in Iran, Syria and North Korea merited just one condemnation apiece. Day after day, member states turn a blind eye to the most deplorable crimes.

[…]

Syria? Again, just one resolution for a government that has pursued a war against its own people that has caused the deaths of at least 220,000 men, women and children — many by torture, starvation, chemical weapons and barrel bombs dropped on markets and schools.

This rhetoric is rather illogical, it’s disguising the fact that Israel is directly responsible of war crimes while exposing another fact, that the war in Syria, and other countries, amount to war crimes too. The crimes of Syria or any other country don’t render the crimes of Israel null.

This tactic is also baseless because of the current, factual UN numbers: Israel has destroyed more schools than any other country in the world in 2014. Israel also ranks infamously third position for most children killed in 2014. Syria is 4th. Hamas, with its unguided missiles killed one innocent child. Israel has killed more than 550 children, and its onslaught has killed much more civilians than militiamen from Hamas and other groups, so Israel is without doubt responsible for the number of children killed and its current rank

A Palestinian little girl cries in a Hospital during the Gaza war of 2014. 

Here’s what the UN report says :

[…] The unprecedented and unacceptable scale of the impact on children in 2014 raises grave concerns about Israel’s compliance with international humanitarian law, notably the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution in attack, and respect for international human rights law, particularly in relation to excessive use of force. It is of particular concern that “Operation Protective Edge” was the third major Israeli military operation in Gaza within six years. The cumulative impact on children and the civilian population in general of these military operations, and the ongoing military occupation in the State of Palestine, is devastating. As indicated earlier in the present report, the number of Palestinian children killed (557) is the third highest in 2014, after the number of children killed in (a) Afghanistan (710) and (b) Iraq (679), and before the number of children killed in (c) Syrian Arab Republic (368) and (d) Darfur (197). The number of schools damaged or destroyed in the State of Palestine (at least 543) was the highest recorded number of all situations in 2014.

And yet, Israel continues to claim that its war were lawful and legitimate, it has cleansed its blood-soaked hands regarding the sadly known murder of the 4 Bakr boys at Gaza Beach. The boys were murdered while running away from Israel first attack, the attack were directly witnessed by a lot of international media outlets, the reporting teams were staying in a hotel just nearby.

The UN, despite its owns research results, removed Israel from the annual list of serious children abusers following US pressure.

Lina Khattab, a Palestinian journalism student and activist, has been freed from Israeli prison.

Lina Khattab is a Palestinian journalism student and activist from the West Bank, Palestine, she has just been freed after 6 months in an Israeli Prison.

The IDF soldiers had kidnapped Lina Khattab on the 13th of December 2014, she was participating in a nonviolent protest to mark the 47th anniversary of PFLP, the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and to protest the numerous political prisoners jailed up in Israeli prisons.

IMEMC, the International Middle East Media Center has reported that she was mistreated and faced very difficult situations after her arrest and during her interrogation.

To have a strong voice against Israel in the West Bank is enough for the Israeli authorities to jail persons. Standing against apartheid, injustice, racism and the violations of Palestinian rights are crimes for Israel.

Her release doesn’t dwarf the violations of Israel against Palestinians, the Middle East Eye Monitor reports that for the last 48 years, 5 Palestinian children were arrested every day

Data provided by the Israeli military and the UN has revealed that since martial law was imposed on the occupied West Bank in 1967, around 95,000 Palestinian children have been arrested by Israel, an average of more than 5 children per day. Almost 60,000 are believed to have been subjected to some form of physical abuse whilst in detention.

The details were revealed this week in a report submitted by rights group Military Court Watch(MCW) to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Over 300 pages of evidence relating to the treatment of Palestinian children held in Israeli military detention were included in the report.”

Despite this alarming data, the United Nations dropped Israel from the annual list of countries that violate children’s rights. Israel not only jails up to 5 kids per day, the IDF has killed more than 500 children during last Gaza onslaught in 2014.

Lina Khattab has been freed, but many Palestinians remain detained, very often without charge or trial, Khader Adnan, starving himself for Freedom, is one of them.

To end this post in a happy note, here are some joyful pictures of Lina Khattab release from the International Solidarity movement of Palestine (ISM).

The moment of her release, Lina runs towards her family and friends.
The moment of her release, Lina runs towards her family and friends.
Lina Khattab in the arms of friends and family.

The video of her release.

Khader Adnan, a Palestinian starving for freedom again.

Khader Adnan is a Palestinian currently held by the Israeli authorities in what’s called an “Administrative detention”. It means he can be held and imprisoned without charge or trial.

Since 1999, Khader Adnan has been held 6 years in total in Israeli prison.

He is starving himself because hunger strike is his last resort, his last legitimate weapon against Israel abuses. It isn’t the first time that Khader Adnan uses this peaceful method, he starved himself in 2012 to protest his “administrative detention”. Only after international attention, he was released.

B’tselem, an Israeli Human Rights group, said in March that 412 Palestinians were held in the same circumstances, without charge or trial. Israel can choose and jail the Palestinians it wants without any form of justice.

His wife Randa laments the lack of mobilization in support of Khader Adnan although it has been more than 30 days since he began the strike, reports the Electronic Intifada.

“[During] the last time, serious protests on the ground began only after the 45th day of his hunger strike and after he was nearing [danger to his life]. We cannot wait so long this time,” she said.

Khader Adnan with his kids just after his release in 2012.

His father also laments the lack of support from the Palestinian authorities. Here’s what he said to the Electronic Intifada  “We received messages of support from people in Aleppo who are under shelling. We received messages of support from Homs and Yarmouk refugee camp; from Ireland where they know very well what it means to starve for freedom. But we got no word whatsoever from the PA or the ministry of prisoners,” He believe it’s the fear of the PA, and not Israel, that simmer down the support of Khader Adnan.

Khader Adnan has been forcibly hospitalized and chained in his bed, Harretz, an Israeli Newspaper reported.

Musa, who is refusing to undergo medical tests, objected to his hospitalization because he knew he would be chained to the bed, according to his attorney, Jawad Boulus. Boulus visited him last Wednesday, when he was still at the Israel Prison Service clinic in Ramle.

In 2012, when Adnan was almost freed, Israel has pledged not to renew his detention if there is not strong evidence, today, it renewed it, and today, Adnan renewed his hunger strike. We see no evidence from the Israeli authorities.

Adnan, a peaceful baker, starves himself for freedom and dignity.

80% of Lebanese find Homosexuality unacceptable but LGBT rights are slowly advancing.

The Pew Research Center has recently released an info-graphic called “Global Views on Morality” that include 40 countries. The studied issues are diverse, from notably homosexuality to divorce and alcohol use. It asks the simple question for every issue, for example: Do you personally believe that homosexuality is morally acceptable, morally unacceptable, or is it not a moral issue?

For homosexuality, Lebanese have answered 80% morally unacceptable, 7% acceptable and 11% not a moral issue. They also consider premarital sex and extramarital affairs as less morally acceptable, with 81% and 92%. 0% find extramarital affairs as acceptable.

Contraception use and divorce are the most accepted issues of Lebanon, Lebanese answered it was accepted with a percentage of 34% and 48%.

Source:  Pew Research Center.
Source: Pew Research Center.

The global median for Homosexuality is 59% unacceptable, 20% acceptable and 13% not a moral issue. Lebanon is quite far from the median, and yet it is close for the “not a moral issue” one.

While it can be easy and reasonable to think homosexuality unacceptability is because of a specific religion, especially the Middle East and Islam, it is an erroneous theory. For example, Ghana find homosexuality unacceptable with 98% (and ranks first for unaccepting homosexuality) and Uganda with 93%, both have an absolute majority of Christians.

Homosexuality and all the other issues that are unaccepted are not to be tied to a specific religion.

As for the Middle East, Lebanon is the Arab country that accept the most homosexuality with only 7%, Israel being the first country in the Middle East with 27%.

Lebanon, while behind on the homosexuality score, is slowly advancing towards better rights for LGBT people. In January 2014,  a judge ruled out article 534, the law that condemn people who have sexual acts “that contradict the laws of nature”. An advancement for equal rights in Lebanon and the region.

Finally, Lebanon’s government decides to actively fight religious extremists of Arsal.

The state tries to neutralise the army of Lebanon and is intelligent in doing so, but it should try to neutralise it by action, not inaction, the action of attacking the extremists with the backing of all political factions and all religious authorities.

The Hezbollah position of fighting against extremists of Arsal is politically dangerous because it gives the picture of a Shia-Sunni fight and this picture is explainable though not justifiable. It also gives the image of supporting Assad, and it is true, Hezbollah is directly Assad through this battle, but it is also, and most importantly, defending Lebanon of the Nusra front and the Islamic state policy of expansionism. IS and the Nusra front are expansionists and they will try to attack all country to expand the so-called caliphates, and they don’t care whether they have local support among Muslims.

Had the army decided to take matters more directly into its hands, that is, relentlessly fighting for Arsal as soon as the terrorists fell back with hostages last year, Hezbollah would have not taken the battle into their own hands.

The army has already given martyrs to the Lebanese people and territories, often with surprise attacks by the extremists. The government finally decided to have a proactive stance in the battle. Gebran Bassil, the Lebanese foreign minister, has criticised the vagueness of the cabinet statement. “What is needed is a decision rather than a statement. We support tasking the Army [with clearing Arsal’s outskirts of jihadis] as stipulated in the statement, but we oppose the vagueness of it, and we are waiting for results,”. “A statement said the government tasked the Army with doing whatever is necessary to drive out jihadis entrenched in the mountain terrain along the outer edge of Arsal” [Daily Star]

Let us then wait for the results. I’m not speaking about “containing” them, nor counter-attacking them, but attacking them, and driving Nusra front and the Islamic state out of the Lebanese territories. The longer these groups stay, the greater their forces will be to attack Lebanon Bekaa province.