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Tag Archives: Spain

Spain demands UK to remove Gibraltar reef

Al Ahed news

Spain demanded Britain on Tuesday to remove 70 concrete blocks that had been dropped into the waters off the autonomous Gibraltar before agreeing to dialogue.

For his part, Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo sharply slated Gibraltar’s concrete reef built last month in disputed waters of the Mediterranean.

Spain is renew dialogue talks with Britain, according to Garcia-Margallo, but “as Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy observed earlier month to his British counterpart David Cameron, it is first necessary for the UK to show that it intends to undo the damage that has already been caused, in particular by removing the concrete blocks.”

The Gibraltarian government, belonging to the British Overseas Territories, believes the concrete reef in the Bay of Gibraltar will regenerate marine life and that Spanish fishermen illegally fish in their waters.

However, Garcia-Margallo stated in response that “Spain had no doubt about its sovereignty over the waters,” and that “they were never included in the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht under which Spain ceded Gibraltar to Britain in perpetuity.”

“These waters and this land therefore have always remained under Spanish sovereignty,” he added.

The concrete reef came amidst heated diplomatic disputes over the 6.8 km2 Gibraltar territories, home to about 30,000 people of Gibraltarians and other nationalities.


British warships’ arrival at Gibraltar adds to already heated tensions

Press TV

Amid an escalation of diplomatic tensions between the UK and Spain over the disputed territory of Gibraltar, British warship HMS Westminster, accompanied by two smaller support vessels, have docked at a naval base in Gibraltar for what Britain claims as ‘navy drills’.

HMS Westminster, a Type 23 frigate fitted out with torpedoes, anti-ship and surface to air missiles as well as an anti-submarine helicopter arrived on Monday after a six-day-long sail from the UK’s southern naval port in Portsmouth.

London claims the “long-planned annual deployment” of the nine-vessel group is to take part in naval war-games, but the Spanish consider the deployment as a provocative move.

The war-game entitled Cougar ’13 officially starts later this week and involves thousands of Royal Navy, Marines and Fleet Auxiliary personnel as well as aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious, which arrived on Sunday, according to British media reports.

The row between Spain and Britain erupted last month after Gibraltar authorities began building an artificial reef in the sea which Madrid says is harming Spanish fishermen. In response, Spain imposed strict border controls on vehicles coming to or leaving the so-called Rock, creating long queues for workers and tourists entering Gibraltar.

Spanish fishermen have complained that since the artificial reef was constructed they have lost a large proportion of their annual revenue as they no longer have access to rich fishing grounds.

Gibraltar was occupied by Britain in 1713 and has been since a bone of contention between Madrid and London.

Spain claims ownership over the territory with a population of about thirty thousand. Spain ceded Gibraltar to Britain in a treaty three-hundred years ago.

The United Nations (UN) lists the strategic 6.8-kilometer area that overlooks the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea from the Atlantic Ocean as a territory waiting to be decolonized.

Britain sends warships to Gibraltar as dispute with Spain continues

Press TV

Britain is sending navy warships to Gibraltar amid growing tension between London and Madrid over the territory’s sovereignty.

According to reports, Royal Navy rapid-reaction force including aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious and two frigates will sail for the Mediterranean on Monday, August 12 for a four-month deployment after a diplomatic row with neighboring Spain over the territory heated up.

British Ministry of Defence (MoD), however, claimed the deployment was long-planned and not connected to recent tensions between the two countries.

“Gibraltar is a strategic base for UK Defence and as such Royal Navy ships visit its waters throughout the year as part of a range of regular and routine deployments,” an MoD spokesperson said.

The deployment of warships in Gibraltar follows weeks of rising tension after Spanish border officers caused delays of up to six hours for cars trying to enter Spain, carrying out searches on vehicles.

The move drew an angry reaction from London and British Foreign Office formally protested to Spain’s ambassador to London over the matter.

Tensions between Spain and Gibraltar flared up last month when the Rock’s authorities announced plan for creating an artificial reef for fish and boats began dumping concrete blocks into the sea. On other side of the border, Spanish authorities said the reef would block its fishing boats.

Gibraltar was occupied by Britain in 1713 and has been since a bone of contention between Madrid and London.

The United Nations (UN) lists the strategic 6.8-kilometer area that overlooks the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea from the Atlantic Ocean as a territory waiting to be decolonized.

Morocco King Mohammed VI regrets pardoning Spanish pedophile

Press TV

The king of Morocco has expressed regret for a pardon granted to a Spanish pedophile, which sparked violent clashes in the capital, Rabat.

King Mohammed VI said on Saturday that he did not know the gravity of the offenses committed by Daniel Galvan Fina.

“The king has ordered a thorough investigation to find out the responsibilities and failures that led to the regrettable release… and to impose the necessary punishments,” the Moroccan palace said in a statement carried by state news agency MAP.

“The king had not been informed at any time of the nature of the crimes perpetrated by that person,” the statement said, adding the king would never have agreed to the release of Fina if he had known of the “atrocity of the monstrous crimes of which he was found guilty.”

Thousands of protesters have expressed outrage at the royal pardon.

Dozens of protesters were injured on Saturday in clashes with police in front of the parliament building in Rabat.

The protesters say the pardon was an international shame and an alarming scandal for the judiciary of Morocco.

Similar protests were also held in the cities of Tangiers and Tetouan.

The Spanish man, who was jailed in 2011 for raping eleven children aged between four and fifteen, was sentenced to thirty years in jail for the crime. The pedophile is among dozens of imprisoned Spaniards who have been pardoned by the Moroccan king at the request of Spain’s King Juan Carlos, who visited Morocco in July.

Spain apologizes for role in Morales jet ban

by Carlos Latuff

Press TV

Spain has apologized to Bolivia for its parts in the recent incident, in which Bolivian President Evo Morales’ plane was forbidden to fly over some European countries on the rumors that US intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden was onboard.

Ambassador Angel Vazquez delivered on Monday the official apology to the Bolivian Foreign Ministry in La Paz.

Varquez gave a statement acknowledging an “apology for the obstacle and the hardships caused to the president.”

France, Spain, Portugal and Italy all refused to allow Morales’ plane, which was flying home on July 2 from Moscow, to cross their airspace.

The presidential plane was forced to land in Vienna, Austria where it was searched by authorities on false rumors that US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden was on board.

The Bolivian Foreign Ministry accused the Europeans of bowing to US pressure when it banned Morales’ plane.

After the incident, Morales revealed that Spain’s ambassador to Austria had tried to conduct a search of the aircraft.

“We recognize publicly that perhaps the procedures used in the Vienna airport by our representative were not the most effective,” said Vaszquez.

“We regret this fact … the procedure was not appropriate and bothered the president (Morales), putting him in a difficult situation.”

The incident also caused strong condemnation from several countries in Latin American, including Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who called it a “provocation” that concerned” all of Latin America.”

Meanwhile, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia have all offered asylum to Snowden, who is holed up at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport since June 23, when he landed in Russia from Hong Kong.

Thousands of Spaniards hold anti-austerity demos

Press TV

Thousands of Spaniards have staged rallies across the country to express resentment against austerity measures, recession and the soaring rate of unemployment in the country.

The protests took place on Sunday in 29 cities including the capital Madrid, the country’s second-largest city, Barcelona, and the Atlantic port of Vigo in the northwest.

The protesters — carrying banners, reading, “Austerity Destroys and Kills” and “Spending Cuts Are Robbery” — said they were opposed to the harsh austerity measures imposed by the government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

“We hope the government realizes that you can’t reverse the situation with cuts, cuts and more cuts. It is time to change course,” said a protester during the rally in Madrid.

The Sunday demonstrations were organized by Spain’s largest unions including the Workers’ Trade Unionist Federation, the Workers’ Commissions and the General Union of Workers.

Spain’s unemployment rate stands at 27 percent and is the second highest in the European Union after Greece.

Among the youth, the number is even worse with a staggering 56.4 percent of young Spaniards being unemployed.

Analysts say even if the country comes out of recession next year, job creation could lag until much later.

On May 3, credit rating agency, Fitch Ratings, said it predicted Spain’s unemployment rate to peak at 28.5 percent in the first quarter of 2014 as government measures such as wage-setting reforms take effect and a contraction in industrial output reaches its limit.

Deteriorating economic situation in Europe has created growing discontent among the European public, with many nations across the continent grappling with teetering economies.

The European financial crisis began in early 2008. Insolvency now threatens heavily debt-ridden countries such as Greece, Portugal, Italy, Ireland, and Spain.

The Fall of the House of Europe

by Dave Brown

by Pepe Escobar, source

The Enchanters came / Cold and old,
Making day gray / And the age of gold
Passed away, / For men fell
Under their spell, / Were doomed to gloom.
Joy fled, / There came instead,
Grief, unbelief, / Lies, sighs,
Lust, mistrust, / Guile, bile,
Hearts grew unkind, / Minds blind,
Glum and numb, / Without hope or scope.
There was hate between states,
A life of strife, / Gaols and wails,
Dont’s, wont’s, / Chants, shants,
No face with grace, / None glad, all sad.

W H AudenThe Golden Age

We have, unfortunately, no post-modern version of Dante guided  by Virgil to tell a startled world what is really happening in Europe in the wake of the recent Italian general election.

On the surface, Italians voted an overwhelming “No” – against austerity (imposed the German way); against more taxes; against budget cuts in theory designed to save the euro. In the words of the center-left mayor of Florence, Matteo Renzi, “Our citizens have spoken loud and clear but maybe their message has not been fully grasped.” In fact it was.

There are four main characters in this morality/existential play worthy of the wackiest tradition ofcommedia dell ‘arte.

The Pyrrhic winner is Pier Luigi Bersani, the leader of the center-left coalition; yet he is unable to form a government. The undisputed loser is former Goldman Sachs technocrat and caretaker Prime Minister Mario Monti.

And then there are the actual winners; “two clowns” – at least from a German point of view and also the City of London’s, via The Economist. The “clowns” are maverick comedian Beppe Grillo’s 5 Star movement; and notorious billionaire and former prime minister Silvio “Bunga Bunga” Berlusconi.

To muddle things even further, Berlusconi was sentenced to one year in prison last Thursday by a Milan court over a wiretapping scandal. He will appeal; and as he was charged and convicted before, once again he will walk. His mantra remains the same: ”I’m ‘persecuted’ by the Italian judiciary.”

There’s more, much more. These four characters – Bersani, Monti, Grillo, Berlusconi – happen to be at the heart of a larger than life Shakespearean tragedy: the political failure of the troika (European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund), which translates into the politics of the European Union being smashed to pieces.

That’s what happens when the EU project was never about a political ”union” – but essentially about the euro as a common currency. No wonder the most important mechanism of European unification is the European Central Bank. Yet abandon all hope of European politicians asking their disgruntled citizens about a real European union. Does anybody still want it? And exactly under what format?

Meet Absurdistan

Why things happened in Italy the way they did? There is scarcely a better explanation than Marco Cattaneo’s, expressed in this blog where he tries to understand ”Absurdistan”.

It all started with an electoral law that even in Italy was defined as ulna porcata (a load of rubbish), validating a ”disproportional” system (political scientists, take note) that could only lead to an ungovernable situation.

In Cattaneo’s matchless depiction, in the Senate the One for All, All For One coalition (Bersani’s) got 31.6% of the votes. The Everyone for Himself coalition (Berlusconi’s) got 30.7%. And the brand new One Equals One All the Others Equal No One movement (Grillo’s) got a surprising 23.8%.

And yet, defying all logic, in the end Everyone for Himself got 116 seats, One for All, All for One got 113 seats, and One Equals One All the Others Equal No One got only 54 – less than half.

At street level, from Naples to Turin and from Rome to Palermo, there’s a parallel explanation. No less than 45% of Italians, from retired civil servants living on 1,000 euros (US$1,300) a month to bankers making 10 million euros a year, don’t want any change at all. Another 45% – the unemployed, the underpaid – want radical change. And 10% don’t care – ever. Add that to the ungovernability lasagna.

And extract from it a nugget of cappuccino-at-the-counter wisdom. Absurdistan’s finances will soon be in a state as dire as Hellenistan – those neighborly descendants of Plato and Aristotle. And then Absurdistan will become a model to Europe and the world – where 1% of the population will control 99% of the national wealth. From Lorenzo de Medici to Berlusconi; talk about Decline and Fall.

Bunga Bunga me baby

Tried to death (including being convicted for tax fraud in October 2012; he walked); beneficiary of dodgy laws explicitly designed to protect himself and his enormous businesses empire; the Rabelaisian Bunga Bunga saga. He beat them all (so far). Silvio Berlusconi may be the ultimate comeback kid. How did he pull it off this time?

It’s easy when you mix a billionaire’s media wattage (and corporate control) with outlandish promises – such as scrapping a much-detested property tax. How to make up for the shortfall? Simple: Silvio promised new taxes on gambling, and a shady deal to recover some of the funds held by Italians in Swiss banks.

Does it matter that Switzerland made it clear it would take years for this scheme to work? Of course not. Even Silvio’s vast opposition was forced to admit the idea was a ”stroke of genius”. Nearly 25% of Italians voted for Silvio’s party. Nearly a third backed his right-wing coalition. In Lombardy – informally known as the Italian Texas – the coalition smashed the center-left to pieces; Tuscany on the other hand voted traditionally left, while Rome is a quintessential swing city.

Silvio’s voters are essentially owners of small and medium-sized businesses; the northern Italy that drives the economy. They are all tax-crazy; that ranges from legions of tax evaders to those who are being asphyxiated by the burden. Obviously, they couldn’t care less about Rome’s budget deficits. And they all think German Chancellor Angela Merkel should rot in Dante’s ninth circle of hell.

Frau Merkel, for her part, had been entertaining the idea of quietly cruising the eurozone waters towards her third term in the coming September elections. Fat chance – now thanks to Silvio’s and Beppe Grillo’s voters. Talk about a North-South abyss in Europe. The EU summit this month is going to be – literally – a riot.

Those sexy polit-clowns

All hell is breaking loose in the EU. Le Monde insists Europe is not in agony. Oh yes, it is; in a coma.

And yet Brussels (the bureaucrat-infested European Commission) and Berlin (the German government) simply don’t care about a Plan B; it’s austerity or bust. Predictably, Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem – the new head of the spectacularly non-transparent political committee that runs the euro – said that what Monti was doing (and was roundly rejected by Italians) is ”crucial for the entire eurozone”.

In 2012, Italy’s economy shrank 2.2%, more than 100,000 small businesses went bust (yes, they all voted for Silvio), and unemployment is above 10% (in reality, over 15%). Italy may have the highest national debt in the eurozone after Greece. But here Absurdistan manifests itself once again via austerity; Italy’s fiscal deficit is much lower than France’s and Holland’s.

Pop up the champagne; France is in vertical decadence. It’s not only the industrial decline but also the perennial recession, social turbulence and public debt beyond 90% of GDP. France, the second-largest eurozone economy, asked the European Commission for an extra year to lower its deficit below 3% of GDP. Jens Weidman, president of the Bundesbank, roared ”Forget it”.

Portugal is also asking the troika for some room. Portugal’s economy is shrinking (by 2%) for the third year running, with unemployment at over 17%.

Spain is mired in a horrendous recession, also under a monster debt crisis. GDP fell 0.7% in 2012 and according to Citibank will fall a further 2.2% this year. Unemployment is at an overwhelming 26%, with youth unemployment over 50%. Not everyone can hit the lottery playing for Barcelona or Real Madrid. Ireland has the eurozone’s highest deficit, at 8%, and has just restructured the debt of its banks.

Greece is in its fifth recession year in a row, with unemployment over 30% – and this after two austerity packages. Athens is running around in circles trying to fend off its creditors while at least trying to alleviate some of the draconian cuts. Greeks are adamant; the situation is worse than Argentina in 2001. And remember, Argentina defaulted.

Even Holland is under a serious banking crisis. And to top it off, David Cameron has thrown Britain’s future in Europe in turmoil.

So once again it was Silvio’s turn – who else? – to spice it all up. Only the Cavaliere could boom out that the famous spread – the difference between how much Italy and Germany pay to borrow on the bond markets – had been ”invented” in 2011 by Berlin (the German government) and Frankfurt (the European Central Bank), so they could get rid of himself, Silvio, and ”elect” the technocrat Monti.

German media, also predictably, has been taking no prisoners with relish. Italy and Italians are being routinely derided as ”childlike”, ”ungovernable”, ”a major risk to the eurozone”. (See, for example,Der Spiegel.)

The ultra-popular tabloid Bild even came up with a new pizza; not a Quattro Stagioni (Four Seasons) but a Quattro Stagnazioni (Four Stagnations).

The verdict is of an Italy ”in the hands of polit-clowns that may shatter the euro or force the country to exit”. Even the liberal-progressive Der Tagesspiegel in Berlin defines Italy as ”a danger to Europe”.

Peer Steinbruck, Germany’s former finance minister and the Social Democratic candidate against Merkel next September, summed it all up: “To a certain degree, I am horrified that two clowns won the election.”

So whatever government emerges in Italy, the message from Brussels, Berlin and Frankfurt remains the same: if you don’t cut, cut and cut, you’re on your own.

Germany, for its part, has only a plan A. It spells out ”Forget the Club Med”. This means closer integration with Eastern Europe (and further on down the road, Turkey). A free trade deal with the US. And more business with Russia – energy is key – and the BRICS in general. Whatever the public spin, the fact is German think-tanks are already gaming a dual-track eurozone.

The people want quantitative easing

This aptly titled movie, Girlfriend in a Coma, directed by Annalisa Piras and co-written by former editor of The Economist Bill Emmett, did try to make sense of Italy’s vices and virtues.

And still, not only via Prada or Maserati, Parma ham or Brunello wines, Italy keeps delivering flashes of brilliance; the best app in the world – Atom, which allows the personalization of functions on a mobile phone even if one is not a computer programmer – was created by four 20-somethings in Rome, as Republic reported.

Philosopher Franco Berardi – who way back in the 1970s was part of the Italian autonomous movements – correctly evaluates that what Europe is living today is a direct consequence of the 1990s, when financial capital hijacked the European model and calcified it under neoliberalism.

Subsequently, a detailed case can be made that the financial Masters of the Universe used the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis to turbo-charge the political disintegration of the EU via a tsunami of salary cuts, job precariousness for the young, the flattening of pensions and hardcore privatization of everything. No wonder roughly 75% of Italians ended up saying ”No” to Monti and Merkel.

The bottom line is that Europeans – from Club Med countries to some northern economies – are fed up of having to pay the debt accumulated by the financial system.

Grillo’s movement per se – even capturing 8.7 million votes – is obviously not capable of governing Italy. Some of its (vague) ideas have enormous appeal among the younger generations especially an unilateral default on public debt (look at the examples of Argentina, Iceland and Russia), the nationalization of banks, and a certified, guaranteed ”citizenship” income for everyone of 1,000 euros a month. And then there would be referendum after referendum on free-trade agreements, membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and, of course, to stay or not stay within the eurozone.

What Grillo’s movement has already done is to show how ungovernable Europe is under the Monti-Merkel austerity mantra. Now the ball is in the European financial elite’s court. Most wouldn’t mind letting Italy become the new Greece.

So we go back full circle. The only way out would be a political reformulation of the EU. As it is, most of Europe is watching, impotently, the death of the welfare state, sacrificed in the altar of Recession. And that runs parallel to Europe slouching towards global irrelevance – Real Madrid and Bayern Munich notwithstanding.

The Fall of the House of Europe might turn into a horror story beyond anything imagined by Poe – displaying elements of (already visible) fascism, neo-Dickensian worker exploitation and a wide-ranging social, civil war. In this context, the slow reconstruction of a socially based Europe may become no more than a pipe dream.

What would Dante make of it? The great Roberto Benigni, a native of Tuscany, is currently reading and commenting on in depth 12 cantos – from the XI to the XXII – in Dante’s Inferno, a highlight of theDivine Comedy. Spellbound, I watched it on RAI – the square in front of the fabulous Santa Croce church in Florence packed to the rafters, the cosmic perfection of the Maestro’s words making sense of it all.

If only his spirit would enlighten Inferno dwellers from Monti to Merkel, from Silvio to European Central bankers – aligning Man once again with the stars and showing troubled Europe the way.

Settlers abuse the Spanish Foreign Minister on visit to Al-Khalil

Jewish settlers abuse the Spanish Foreign Minister on visit to Hebron


Illegal Jewish settlers in the Old Town of Hebron (Al-Khalil) hurled verbal abuse at the Spanish Foreign Minister this week when he tried to visit the area to assess the situation of Palestinian residents. The settlers blocked the progress of the delegation which was accompanied by the Governor of Hebron, Kamel Hamid. According to the media officer of the Office of the Hebron Governorate, Fatima Abu Rahma, the settlers held a demonstration with banners calling for the Foreign Minister to leave the area.

Ms Abu Rahma said that an altercation occurred between the settlers and the delegation during which the settlers swore in several languages at the Spanish minister and the governor. Israeli security forces and police intervened and dispersed the settlers. It is believed that the latest demonstration was part of a deliberate policy by the illegal settlers to discourage delegations from seeing for themselves the conditions in which the Palestinians are forced to live in the Old Town.


Jewish settlers try to block Spanish MP from visit to Palestinians in Al-Khalil

AL-KHALIL, (PIC)– Jewish settlers in the West Bank city of Al-Khalil attempted to block on Tuesday Spanish MP Trinidad Jiménez from entering the Old City during a three-day visit she paid there.

Spain along with other EU states have spent millions since 1999 to renovate an Arab neighborhood in the city. When finished the project will have doubled the population of 1,500.

Jiménez was visiting to monitor the project’s development.

Jews angered protested at the district’s entrance and accused her of racism and taking sides with the Palestinians. She refused to speak with them. The protesters were then dispersed by the Israeli occupation army.

French, Spanish FMs: Lieberman Violated every Rule of Diplomacy

Al Manar

11/10/2010 Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told his visiting Spanish and French counterparts on Sunday that they should solve Europe’s problems before giving advice to Israel.
“Solve your own problems in Europe before you come to us with complaints. Maybe then I will be open to accepting your suggestions,” he said.
Lieberman added that he expects the European Union to solve the crisis in Kosovo and the conflict in Cyprus.
After the meeting, the Israeli minister expressed his strong support for the bill which obliges all citizenship applicants to promise loyalty to Israel as “a Jewish and democratic state.”
Lieberman caused a media frenzy when he made a controversial address at the United Nations General Assembly last month, suggesting that peace in the Middle East was unlikely to be achieved any time soon.
The foreign ministers of Spain and France were furious with their Israeli counterpart, telling him Monday morning during a phone conversation that he had “violated every rule of diplomatic etiquette,” an Israeli source reported on Monday.
The European ministers voiced their extreme dismay with the fact that details of the meeting were made public an hour after it took place. “You violated our trust,” they said to Lieberman, according to Haaretz.
Moratinos said that Lieberman had apologized for what had happened during the meeting, but Foreign Ministry officials denied this report, saying that Lieberman did not apologize but rather clarified that he did not intend for his remarks to be presented in the media as a reprimand of Kouchner and Moratinos.
The French and Spanish foreign ministers said that were very surprised by Lieberman’s remarks during Sunday’s meeting, especially in light of the fact that, according to them, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had made remarks contradicting Lieberman’s tone mere hours before the meeting.
While Netanyahu told the European statesmen that he aims to achieve a peace agreement with the Palestinians within a year, Lieberman stressed to them that “anyone who talks like that is naïve.” The men emphasized to Lieberman during their dinner that they completely disagreed with his assertion that a peace deal could not be achieved.
They explained to Lieberman that if a Palestinian state is not established within the next year or two, it would undermine Israel’s security, urging Lieberman to take advantage of the current Palestinian leadership, as no one knows what the alternative will be in the future.

Spain expels Israeli scientists from solar energy competition

Thanks to irish4palestine for alerting us of this, finally some sensible actions are big done even if it is an extremely small step compared to the hideous crimes in Palestine but any step in the right direction is welcomed.

As usual the Israelis who stole and killed the people to build that university cry anti-Semitism, boo hoo. Can we accuse them of anti-Semitism since they are killing Arabs? Because the Palestinians are Semites after all.

Scientists kicked out of contest because they are based in the West Bank, Spain’s government says

by Giles Tremlett in Madrid,, Thursday 24 September 2009

Spain has expelled a group of Israeli scientists from a state-funded solar energy competition because they are based in occupied areas of the West Bank, it said today.

The decision to expel the team from the Ariel University Centre of Samaria from Solar Decathlon Europe, an international competition involving 20 universities, has provoked angry reactions in Israel. The team was one of 20 finalists in a competition to design solar-powered housing that is part-sponsored by the US energy department.

Spain is hosting the first European version of the event next year and claims ultimate say over who takes part.

“All the ministry has done is apply the policy of the European Union,” a housing ministry spokesman said. “The EU does not recognise the occupation of the West Bank, which is where this university is.”

The university said it “rejects with disgust the one-sided announcement”. It claimed the decision “contravenes international law and international charters on academic freedom” and harms 10,000 students at the university, including 500 Arabs.

It was only after the Israeli project joined the finalists, which include the University of Nottingham, that officials at Spain’s housing ministry became aware that the university was in the West Bank. The Israelis and the US energy department were advised of the decision a week ago.

The Israeli team had described their “Stretch house” project as being inspired by the “Tent of Abraham”. “It is adaptable according to its owner’s wishes and is able to expand and create hospitable spaces,” they said. “In its closed state, when additional space is not required, it uses only half the energy necessary to operate a regular house.”

Pro-Palestinian groups claimed allowing the Israeli team to take part was a breach of international law. They said the university was in the second biggest zone in Israel’s expanding West Bank presence.

“I wonder how the Solar Decathlon can accept a project submitted by an institution that has stolen our land and will build its project on our stolen land,” said Fayeq Kishawi, coordinator of a Palestinian campaign group against the settlements, in a letter to the Spanish housing minister, Beatriz Corredor.

Jewish groups have recently claimed anti-semitism is on the rise in Spain.

A decision by El Mundo newspaper to publish an interview with the British historian and holocaust denier David Irving angered the Israeli ambassador, Raphael Schutz, who claimed it showed a lack of moral and ethical judgement.

He said he been subjected to racial abuse in Madrid, where three men shouted “dirty Jew,” “Jew bastard” and “Jewish dog” at him.

A report this week by the New York-based Anti-Defamation League complained of what it claimed was a rise in anti-Semitism across Spain and, especially, in its mainstream media. “We are deeply concerned about the mainstreaming of anti-semitism in Spain, with more public expressions and greater public acceptance of classic stereotypes,” said the league’s director, Abraham H Foxman.

“Among the major European countries, only in Spain have we seen viciously anti-Semitic cartoons in the mainstream media, and street protests where Israel is accused of genocide and Jews are vilified and compared to Nazis.”

No surprise: Spain shelves probe into Israeli crimes in Gaza

Tue, 30 Jun 2009, Press TV

Spain’s National Court has turned down a request by The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights to investigate a 2002 bombing by Israel in the Gaza Strip.

The report on Tuesday comes a day after court papers announced that the country’s highest court would try seven Israelis, including a former defense minister, for bombing that killed Hamas leader Salah Shehade and 14 others.

Seven children were among those killed in the July 22 attack that left more than another 150 injured.

Judge Fernando Andreu had argued that it could constitute a crime against humanity, which allows the persecution of the foreigners under Spanish law.

The suspects named by Andreu included former Israeli defense minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, currently serving as the industry ministry, and six current or former army officers or security officials.

The case had created some diplomatic tension between Spain and Israel.

The decision is in line with a preliminary approval by parliament of legislation limiting the right of Spanish judges to hold trials on the world stage.

Israeli Justice Minister Ya’akov Ne’eman ridiculed the Palestinian plaintiffs’ “cynical” efforts to “exploit the Spanish judicial system in order to advance a political agenda against Israel.”

He expressed Tel Aviv’s conviction that “the Spanish government and judicial system will do their utmost” to stop the proceedings.

Under the new legislation, the Spanish National Court can only investigate in cases where the victims or the charged parties are Spanish citizens.

The development comes as Israel’s devastating winter military offensive on the densely populated enclave prompted the UN to hold unprecedented public hearings in Gaza City and Geneva this week following an international outcry over war crimes during the conflict.

The non-stop air, land and sea strikes on the impoverished Palestinian territory left over 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis — 10 soldiers and three civilians.

Universal jurisdiction once again under threat


from The Electronic Intifada

by Sharon Weill and Valentina Azarov, The Electronic Intifada, 10 June 2009

Currently, the fate of one of the only remaining venues that offers a redress mechanism for Palestinians is at stake. It is one that can bring accountability of Israeli officials and decision-makers who committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. The amendment of universal jurisdiction laws, often incommensurably restricting access to these mechanisms, is at variance with the effect of certain crimes on humanity as a whole, on which the notion of universal jurisdiction is premised. The pressure exerted on the Spanish government to amend its law is an example of the regrettable phenomenon of the weakening of international law at the price of the individual.

On 22 July 2002, around midnight, an Israeli Air Force plane dropped a one-ton bomb on Gaza City’s al-Daraj neighborhood, one of the most densely-populated residential areas in the world. The military objective of this operation was to target and kill Hamas’ former military leader in the Gaza Strip, Salah Shehadeh, who at that time was in his house with his family. As a result of the operation, Shehadeh and 14 civilians were killed, most of them children and infants, and 150 persons were injured, about half of them severely. Houses in the vicinity were either destroyed or damaged. Seven members of the Matar family, whose neighboring house was totally destroyed, were among the casualties.

More than six years later, in Madrid, just a few days after Israel’s most recent invasion of Gaza ended, Judge Fernando Andreu Merelles decided to open a criminal investigation on the basis of universal jurisdiction against seven Israeli political and military officials who were alleged to have committed a war crime — and possibly a crime against humanity — in the course of that operation. The officials included Dan Halutz, then Commander of the Israeli Air Forces; Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, then Israeli Defense Minister; Moshe Yaalon, then Israeli army Chief of Staff; Doron Almog, then Southern Commander of the Israeli army; Giora Eiland, then Head of the Israeli National Security Council; Michael Herzog, then Military Secretary to the Israeli Defense Ministry; and Abraham Dichter, then Director of the General Security Services.

Although the allegations in the action referred only to war crimes, the court stated that the facts could amount to more serious crimes than what was initially claimed — namely, crimes against humanity. This preliminary legal assessment motivated the legal team to work toward basing a new charge. The lawyers announced that they would redouble their efforts to demonstrate that the al-Daraj bombing was part of a policy of “widespread and systematic” attacks directed against a civilian population, fitting the definition of a crime against humanity.

As the request for Israel to provide information on the existence of any judicial proceedings concerning the military operation was not answered and the state expressed its unwillingness to cooperate with the legal team, the Spanish court thereby ruled that the investigation be conducted by the Spanish jurisdiction. On the same day the decision concerning the commencement of the investigation was rendered, Israeli officials sent a 400-page document to the Spanish legal team, stating that the facts of the complaint regarding the operation were subject to proceedings in Israel, and therefore the Spanish court should have declined to exercise jurisdiction.

The proceedings in Israel

The army’s internal investigation found that the collateral damage was caused because of an intelligence failure, and therefore was not anticipated by military decision-makers. Yesh Gvul, an Israeli pacifist movement, asked the military advocate general, and later the state advocate general, to open a criminal investigation against those who planned and executed the operation. After their request was denied by the prosecution authorities, Yesh Gvul and five other well-known Israeli actors filed a petition to the Israeli high court in September 2003. The high court finally held a hearing in the Shehadeh case nearly four years later on 17 June 2007.

The court was due to examine whether the bombing of the Shehadeh house from the air could constitute a war crime, which therefore required a criminal investigation to be opened. However, the high court did not make a decision and instead shifted the responsibility by recommending that an “objective and independent body” examine the incident.

On 23 January 2008, an “objective and independent” commission of inquiry into the killing of Salah Shehadeh was appointed by then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. It was composed of three members, two of then former Israeli generals and a former official from the General Security Services. The structure, nature and mandate of this commission were to be entirely determined by the state — the very body whose actions were to be investigated. Moreover, it was mandated to function as a military inquiry, while the procedure, testimonies and even the final report were to remain confidential and thereby inadmissible before a court of law. The commission could only provide non-binding recommendations directly to the military. As of today, the commission has yet to complete its mandate.

Back to Spain

On 2 April 2009, following the delivery of the document by Israel to the Spanish court, the Spanish public prosecutor submitted a request for the court to decline competence over the case, since parallel proceedings were taking place in Israel.

Despite the political inconvenience in upholding its previous stand, on 4 May 2009, the court forcefully rejected the prosecutor’s request to decline competence. The court found that the procedure, and decisions made by the Israeli military advocate attorney general, the high court and the Committee of Inquiry, did not satisfy the constitutional right to effective protection by an independent and impartial court. It upheld that the decisions of the prosecution authorities, which endorsed an internal military probe, could not be perceived as independent and impartial, nor could the commission of inquiry that was appointed by the prime minister and functioned under the discretion of the executive branch. The Spanish court equally noted that an overarching deficiency of Israel’s decisions was that none of them provided a detailed legal assessment of the facts. This ruling was immediately appealed, and the case is still pending.

The Israeli media portrayed the Spanish procedure as a “cynical attempt by the Palestinian plaintiffs to exploit the Spanish judicial system in order to advance a political agenda against Israel;” an issue, as the press appreciated, that should have been resolved through diplomatic channels. The Israeli daily Haaretz quoted Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on 4 May 2009: “I intend to appeal to the Spanish foreign minister, the Spanish minister of defense and, if need be, the Spanish prime minister, who is a colleague of mine, in the Socialist International, to override the decision.”

Spain and universal jurisdiction

Spain is one of the most important contributing actors to the securing of accountability of international crimes, principally due to its state-of-the-art universal jurisdiction legislation. The Spanish judiciary was the one that initiated the procedure against Augusto Pinochet, the former Chilean dictator, in 1998, and it is currently investigating dozens of other cases. One of the specific features of the procedure in Spain is that the victims themselves can initiate the investigation, and directly submit their complaint to the court, thus avoiding political obstacles that usually exist if it is the national prosecutor or the police who determine what cases are to be investigated. Further, Spanish law does not require the presence of the foreign suspects for the commencement of the judicial investigation. However, trials in the absence of the accused are prohibited in Spain.

Following political pressure from the governments of Israel, China (regarding an ongoing investigation accusing its former foreign minister of committing genocide in Tibet) and the US (for two cases against US officials alleging torture), on 19 May 2009 the Spanish parliament passed a resolution backing a proposed amendment to the Spanish universal jurisdiction legislation. The amendment limits the legislation’s exercise to cases with a Spanish victim, or some other connection such as when the suspect is present on Spanish soil. It is not clear if the proposed amendments would apply to ongoing cases once in force. It is hoped that if the law is modified, victims can still initiate judicial investigations.

In 2003, Belgium faced a similar situation. It was bullied into changing its law and procedure, following Israeli and US pressure concerning the complaints brought against then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. In response, Washington threatened to move NATO headquarters from Brussels. In contrast, when a judicial arrest warrant was issued against Israeli Major General Doron Almog in 2005, then British Prime Minister Tony Blair declared his intention to modify the United Kingdom’s laws on universal jurisdiction. Four years later, no such amendment has even been proposed to the UK Parliament.

Amendments to universal jurisdiction laws, as well as the actual initiation of investigations by the state prosecutors, have historically been markedly affected by public opinion and action. Pressure of such kind stands to be the most effective means of ensuring that justice is achieved for the victims, and the law is upheld against those who have violated it. This is particularly important when international war crimes and crimes against humanity are at issue. Governments and the international community should be mindful of this reality, in which the law is politicized in order to be evaded, and act upon it (a sample letter to government officials and contact information is provided by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights). We must, in any way possible, ensure that all necessary measures are taken to guarantee respect of the most fundamental pillars of international law.

Sharon Weill is a PhD candidate in International Humanitarian Law (IHL), University of Geneva, and lecturer in IHL. Valentina Azarov is a Legal Researcher with HaMoked – Center for the Defence of the individual and author with the International Law Observer.

Changing laws for “Israel”?!

It has been reported that Spain may change some of its judicial laws to prevent the prosecution of Israelis. Are the Israelis lying as their habit? Because I can’t believe what some European rulers are doing to protect “Israel”. Why?! What it is about “Israel” that makes them do that? You can’t protect genocide makers, you can’t protect baby killers, you can’t protect mass murders, and you can’t protect racists. There is ample evidence for Israeli crimes, enough already! What does that say about these rulers are they puppets of “Israel”? It doesn’t make sense, who the heck is Livni with her own history as a Mossad assassin to promise her such a thing? Who is Olmert the corrupt politician who has failed flat on his face? Who is Barak, the war criminal who has enough dead people under his belt to make stones cry? Who are these people you are trying to protect? They deserve nothing from you but the utmost disgust and to rot in jail for all their crimes.

Israel says Spain says it will amend war crimes law

JERUSALEM, Jan 30 (Reuters) – Israel said on Friday the Spanish government had said it would work to amend a law under which a Madrid court is to consider trying seven Israelis over the killing of Palestinians.

Spain’s High Court announced this week it would launch a war crimes investigation into a Israeli ex-defence minister and six other top security officials for their role in a 2002 attack that killed a Hamas commander and 14 civilians in Gaza.

Spanish law allows the prosecution of foreigners for such crimes as genocide, crimes against humanity and torture committed anywhere in the world.

“I was just told by the Spanish foreign minister that Spain decided to change the legislation,” Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told journalists after a telephone conversation with her Spanish counterpart Miguel Angel Moratinos.

“In order to change the possibility of different organisations, political organisations, to abuse the legal system in Spain in order to put charges against Israelis and others that are fighting terror.”

Spain’s Foreign Ministry did not reply to repeated telephone requests for confirmation.

Spanish state television TVE quoted government sources as saying the possibility of a legal “adjustment or modification” may have been mentioned, but it would not be retroactive and would not affect the case before the courts.

The case, filed on behalf of the Gaza-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, has sent shockwaves through Israel, which is trying to fend off foreign censure over the civilian casualty toll from its 22-day offensive in Hamas-ruled Gaza.

Calls to investigate Israel over alleged war crimes in Gaza conflict prompted Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to promise military personnel state protection from foreign prosecution.

Any government-initiated changes to Spanish law would have to be approved by congress. TVE said Spain would not renounce universal jursidiction, which has been on its statute books since 1870.

Livni, who gave no details on how Spain planned to amend the law or handle the case against Israel, said of her conversation with Moratinos:

“I think that this is very important news and I hope that other states in Europe will do the same, and will follow this.” (Writing by Dan Williams; additional reporting by Jason Webb and Martin Roberts in Madrid; editing by Andrew Roche)