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Resources updated between Monday, May 08, 2017 and Sunday, May 14, 2017

May 13, 2017

A view of Hebron with the Tomb of the Patriarchs

A Palestinian woman was arrested at a checkpoint near the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron Saturday after she was found to be carrying a knife.

Officials suspect the young woman, in her twenties, intended to carry out a stabbing attack against Israeli security forces.

She was taken for further questioning.

Earlier Saturday a Jordanian citizen stabbed an Israeli police officer in the neck and head near Jerusalem's Old City before being shot dead by the policeman.

The assailant was identified by Hebrew media as Muhammad Abdullah Salim al-Kassji, a 57-year-old Jordanian citizen who entered Israel several days ago.

The 37-year-old police officer was taken to Jerusalem's Shaare Tzedek Medical Center in moderate condition after the incident near the Lions' Gate. He had wounds in the neck and head, and was conscious and in stable condition when evacuated to the hospital. A second man was lightly wounded, with cuts to the hand.

Palestinian woman caught with knife at Hebron checkpoint Document

UN General Assembly President Peter Thomson wearing a a scarf with the word "Palestine" during the 2016 UN Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People

The UN's Obsession against Israel

Photos of Chinese lawyer Li Heping before his detention, on the left, and two years later after his detention, on the right

It's a form of restraint that would be more in keeping with the practices of a medieval dungeon than a modern, civilised state. But the device - leg and hand shackles linked by a short chain - is a well-documented part of the toolkit that the Chinese police use to break the will of their detainees. And it is one that they allegedly forced one of this country's most prominent human rights lawyers to wear, for a full month.

Li Heping was finally released from detention on Tuesday and his wife Wang Qiaoling has now had time to learn about the treatment he endured over his almost two-year-long incarceration.

"In May 2016 in the Tianjin Number One Detention Centre, he was put in handcuffs and shackles with an iron chain linking the two together," she tells me. "It meant that he could not stand up straight, he could only stoop, even during sleeping. He wore that instrument of torture 24/7 for one month." She adds: "They wanted him to confess."

China's 'war on law'

In one sense, Mr Li was lucky. A 2015 investigation by Human Rights Watch into the use of torture by the Chinese police revealed the case of a man who was forced to wear this type of device for eight years.

In 2014 an Amnesty International report documented the supply and manufacture of torture equipment by Chinese companies, including the combined hand and leg cuffs. "The use of these devices causes unnecessary discomfort and can easily result in injuries," William Nee, China Researcher at Amnesty International, tells me. "Such devices place unwarranted restrictions on the movement of detainees and serve no legitimate law enforcement purpose that cannot be achieved by the use of handcuffs alone."

Li Heping is one of a group of human rights lawyers who were detained in July 2015, in a crackdown since referred to by critics as China's "war on law."

Of course, threats, intimidation and violence have always been part of the risks for any lawyer daring to take on the might of the Communist Party in its own courts. But President Xi Jinping has made it clear that he sees the ideal of constitutional rights, guaranteed by independent courts, as a threat to national security. So his so-called "war on law" sends a clear message.

For those like Mr Li, representing the victims of China's illegal land grabs, religious persecution or political repression, the threat is not just from corrupt local officials or powerful businessmen, but from the state itself.

The before and after photos offer a visual clue to his time in detention. One taken in 2012 shows an assured, cheery lawyer.The one taken on his release shows him noticeably thinner and looking older than his years. Wang Qiaoling tells me she barely recognised him.

And she tells me about the other forms of ill-treatment that her husband has described to her since his release. "He was forced to take medicine. They stuffed the pills into his mouth as he refused to take them voluntarily," she says. "The police told him that they were for high blood pressure, but my husband doesn't suffer from that. "After taking the pills he felt pain in his muscles and his vision was blurred."

'Gruelling questioning'

"He was beaten. He endured gruelling questioning while being denied sleep for days on end," she goes on. "And he was forced to stand to attention for 15 hours a day, without moving."

Amnesty International's William Nee tells me that each of these methods of ill-treatment could be considered torture by themselves. "Cumulatively, they would demonstrate a clear intent by the authorities to inflict physical and mental torture with the goal of getting Li Heping to confess," he says.

"Since China is a party to the Convention against Torture, these serious allegations should prompt the Chinese authorities to immediately launch a prompt, effective and impartial investigation to assess whether this torture took place."

Despite the prolonged and extreme nature of the alleged torture, Ms Wang tells me her husband never did confess. "He was worried that he might be tortured to death in the detention centre and he wouldn't make it to meet his family again, so he reached an agreement with the authorities that the trial would be held in secret. "He would be given a suspended sentence but he never admitted guilt or confessed that he had subverted state power."

Barred from the media

At that secret trial, the details of which were released by China's state-controlled media afterwards, the court ruled that Mr Li had "repeatedly used the internet and foreign media interviews to discredit and attack state power and the legal system".

As a result of his conviction, he is now unable to practise law and has also signed an agreement that he will not carry out any further media interviews. But his wife, despite constant intimidation, refuses to be similarly constrained. Plain-clothes policemen still surround the family home and she was followed to our agreed interview location.

And while her account is impossible to independently verify, it tallies with that of other lawyers caught up in the crackdown, including Xie Yang, whose court case was heard this week. He had previously alleged similar abuses during his interrogations - including shackling, beatings and being made to remain in the same position for hours on end - although the court claims he retracted these allegations during his trial.

We called the Tianjin Number One detention centre to ask about the allegations that Li Heping was tortured there. "We don't do any interviews," came the reply. "If you want to do an interview, please go through the legal and proper channels."

China Tortured Prominent Human Rights Lawyer Document

May 12, 2017

The Mar Girgis church in Tanta, Egypt, where a bomb exploded during Palm Sunday Services

Christians, in an Epochal Shift, Are Leaving the Middle East Document

Marwan Barghouti eating candy during his "hunger strike," May 8, 2017

Palestinians Urge UN to Intervene in Terrorist Hunger Strike Article

May 11, 2017

Qatar’s former minister of culture, Hamad Bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari

"Irina Bokova made history when she acceded to the role of Director General of UNESCO. She was the first woman and first person from a former communist state to lead the organization which has an annual budget of over half a billion dollars.

Now the race is on to find a successor to Bokova and Qatar's former minister of culture, Hamad Bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari, is seen by many to be the frontrunner.

Qatar's long history of intolerance towards Christians, Jews, and other religious minorities should dissuade the United Nations from choosing Al-Kawari as the head of UNESCO.

A host of Jewish groups have pointed out that Qatari publishers routinely publish anti-Semitic tracts which are featured at Qatar's Doha Book Festival and other events in the region. Al-Kawari himself wrote a forward to a book of Arabic poetry which includes anti-Semitic conspiracy theories according to the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Some of these anti-Semitic books were part of Qatari funded display at a German book festival.

At UNESCO, Qatar is opposed to any Jewish character for Jerusalem.

Qatar's treatment of Christians and Christanity within the emirate is also worth noting...

Against considerable public backlash Qatar finally opened its first church in this century in 2008. Despite the rather generic appearance of the building it was widely protested by Qataris. I guess that's progress - neighboring Saudi Arabia still does not allow public places of worship for non-Muslims.

Yet, Qatar - which has a population of just over 2 million – has instead tried to buy its way into becoming a cultural super-power with mixed results...

It is bad enough that autocracies with a history of extensive human rights violations vote in the United Nations and serve on U.N. commissions. They should not be allowed to buy seats and influential positions in international humanitarian organizations."

Qatar's Anti-Christian And Anti-Semitic Policies Should Bar It From UNESCO Seat Article

The World Health Assembly of the World Health Organization in Geneva

'Palestine' Will Be There, But Taiwan Faces Exclusion From Annual UN Health Assembly Article

Russian-made UN helicopters

How the United Nations' Policies Hurt American Industry Article

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley (File photo)

Israel Asks U.S. to Nullify UN Security Council Settlement Resolution Article

May 10, 2017

Celebrations in Israel marking Independence Day (File photo)

"One of the many things that make Israel unique in the world is the response to its birthday. We don't remember international condemnation for the United States on the Fourth of July, for Canada on July 1 or for France on July 14 (mazel tov, by the way, to French President-elect Emmanuel Macron on his landslide victory May 7 over the scary Marine Le Pen). But while Israel's friends sent their best wishes when the Jewish state celebrated its 69th birthday on Yom HaAtzmaut on May 2, others couldn't resist trying to spoil the party.

Even as the saber-rattling between the United States and nuclear-armed North Korea increased to a level not seen in decades, even as the presidents of Turkey and Venezuela made public efforts to consolidate oppressive power, and even as Syria continued to bleed out, an agency of the United Nations took time to condemn Israel on its Independence Day.

The U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, in its ongoing competition with the U.N. Human Rights Council to be the world body's most anti-Israel arm, enacted its latest resolution denying any Jewish history or legal authority anywhere in Jerusalem and labeling Israel the 'occupying power' in its own capital..."

UNESCO's So-Called "Birthday Gift" to Israel Article

UNESCO Headquarters, Paris

UNESCO's Betrayal of Truth, History and Justice Article

UN headquarters in the Jerusalem Armon Hanatziv neighborhood

It's Time for the UN to Go Home Article

May 9, 2017

Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama entering the court room

The outgoing governor of Jakarta has been jailed for two years for blasphemy after judges handed down a sentence that was harsher than expected.

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, also known as Ahok, was accused of insulting Islam by referring to a verse in the Koran in a campaign speech last year.

Mr Purnama, a Christian in Muslim-majority Indonesia, has denied blasphemy and plans to appeal. His case was seen as a test of the country's religious tolerance.

Mr Purnama was taken into custody immediately after the verdict was read out. His deputy Djarot Saiful Hidayat will govern Jakarta until the term ends in October.

The sentence was harsher than that requested by prosecutors, which was a one-year suspended sentence.

The governor was "found to have legitimately and convincingly conducted a criminal act of blasphemy, and because of that we have imposed two years of imprisonment", the judge told the court.

The verdict was met with strong protest. Hard-line Islamic groups who called for the maximum penalty of five years said it was too lenient, but Mr Purnama's supporters said it was too harsh and that he should be acquitted.

Protesters from both camps had gathered outside the court, which was guarded by around 15,000 security personnel from the police and military.

Outside the court supporters of Governor Ahok broke down in tears when they heard the verdict. Some hugged each other.

Andi, a devoted Muslim, said she felt heartbroken. "He was such a good man and great leader... He didn't care what religion people were. Now he has been framed," she said.

Many here believe the case against him is politically motivated. But a short distance away, the atmosphere among the governor's critics - a coalition of Islamic groups - was one of anger.

"The sentence is too light, he should have got the maximum of five years, or better still be hung," said Solihin.

Men around him then threw their fists in the air and cried out that God would hand out justice. Riot police closed ranks to make sure both sides did not meet.

The battle is far from over. Governor Ahok will appeal the decision. Islamic groups who oppose him say they will push for a harsher sentence.

Mr Purnama was accused of blasphemy for comments he made during a pre-election speech in September 2016.

He implied that Islamic leaders were trying to trick voters by using a verse in the Koran to argue that Muslims should not vote for a non-Muslim leader.

His remarks, which were widely shared in an edited video, sparked outrage among religious hard-liners. They staged regular large rallies calling for him to face trial.

Throughout the trial, Mr Purnama denied wrongdoing, but did apologise for his comments.

Mr Purnama became governor after his predecessor, Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, was elected president in 2014.

As an ethnic Chinese Indonesian and Christian he is a double minority, and was Jakarta's first non-Muslim governor for 50 years.

His political success was also seen as a significant development given the violent anti-Chinese riots that occurred in the city in 1998.

Before the blasphemy allegations, he had been widely hailed as a straight-talking politician with a strong anti-corruption stance.

But the controversy overshadowed scheduled elections last month.

Despite his enduring popularity with many in Jakarta for his efforts to improve living standards, he lost to conservative Muslim candidate Anies Rasyid Baswedan.

Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim country. About 85% of its population are Muslim, but the country officially respects six religions.

Christian Indonesian Governor Imprisoned for Two Years for "Insulting Islam" Document

Raising of the Palestinian flag outside UNESCO Headquarters, December 2011

It Could Get Worse: Israel Frets 'Islamic Troika' May Take Helm at UNESCO Article

May 8, 2017

Gifts left on the seats of UN member states by countries seeking a seat on the UN Security Council the day of the election in 2014

"Canada is on track to spend millions over the next three years in its bid to win a rotating two-year seat on the United Nations' Security Council - even as some inside and outside the UN say the election process needs an overhaul.

According to the government's own estimates, Canada has already spent almost $500,000 on its campaign, which pits Ottawa against Ireland and Norway for the two available spots, opening in 2021...

'Whatever the number is that they're admitting to, you can be certain it is [many] times more,' says William Pace, the executive director of the World Federalist Movement, which advocates for more transparent elections at the UN...

Pace estimates almost one-third of the 193 UN member states are 'undemocratic', which forces some Security Council hopefuls 'to buy votes from countries that they ought to be insisting stop causing wars and denying human rights and committing religious and racial discrimination.'

He does not suggest that Canada is following that path...

Pace says giving aid money to developing countries in return for votes is a common aspect of 'horse-trading' for a seat at the UN's top table.

Then there are the free trips for UN ambassadors, which have become de rigueur for any country hoping to be elected to the council.

New Zealand's envoy to the UN, Gerard van Bohemen, says the trips are a costly and unfortunate aspect of the election process, but 'everybody does it now, including developing countries.'

Van Bohemen hosted about 60 ambassadors over four, week-long trips to New Zealand during his country's campaign for a Security Council seat starting in 2015...

On the day of the vote, delegates will find small gifts piled on their desks in the General Assembly, left by those running for a seat on the council.

In addition to the gifts and financial incentives, Pace says 'vote-swapping' among member states for posts on various bodies and organizations is common. 'You vote for us on this and then we'll vote for you on that.'...

Media reports suggest Turkey spent $85 million on its campaign when it won a seat on the council in 2008. Australia reportedly spent just under $25 million when it won a rotating seat in 2012..."

Buying Votes for UN Security Council Seats Costs Countries their Principles and Millions of Dollars Article

A military parade displaying missiles in North Korea (File photo)

"Protocol has its uses, not least at the United Nations. But when it comes to lavishing on murderous tyrants the same pro forma felicitations accorded to the elected leaders of free nations, it's time for Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to clean up the act of the UN Protocol and Liaison Service -- which reports to him.

What's the problem? There are many problems, actually, and they stem from the UN's morally incontinent practice of doling out to all member states - whether totalitarian or democratic; North Korea or Costa Rica - the same perquisites, including a lot of diplomatic swag for the most monstrous dictators on the planet.

Lest that sound too abstract, let's turn to one of the latest outrages. This cameo starts with a UN communique to war-wracked Syria, where last month the state news agency, SANA, reported that President Bashar al-Assad had just received 'a cable of congratulations from United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on the occasion of Syria's independence day.' According to the SANA dispatch, (boldface mine) Guterres in this cable 'expressed his warmest congratulations to the Syrian people and government on this occasion.'...

Not least, this UN protocol sideshow doesn't end with Syria. Curious about whether the UN sends out this same 'generic' message of congratulations every year to, say, North Korean tyrant Kim Jong Un, on his country's national day, I asked the UN press office. They provided a copy of the generic text, and confirmed that, yes, the same message goes out to Kim...

Apparently, it makes no difference to the UN Secretariat that Kim's regime is not part of any 'shared' effort to 'ensure peace, development and human rights for all.'..."

It's Time the UN Stopped Congratulating Kim Jong Un Article

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon (File photo)

"Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, told Arutz Sheva on Sunday that in order to achieve peace, the Palestinian Authority (PA) must return to the negotiating table...

Danon also noted a "new spirit" towards Israel at the UN since U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley took office.

'There's a new spirit in Washington which is coming to the UN headquarters. You feel this change in the discussions as well. They no longer focus only on Israel. The UN is no longer the Palestinian playground. Something is changing here,' he said.

As for Trump's upcoming visit to Israel, Danon added, 'We are very optimistic that it will be a successful visit that will convey a message to the world that the U.S. stands with Israel.'

Since taking office, Haley has made it a priority to stop the anti-Israel bias at the UN. Most recently, she urged the UN Security Council to devote less attention to the Arab-Israeli conflict and make Iran's 'incredibly destructive' activities a priority in the Middle East."

'The UN is no longer the Palestinians' playground' Article

UNESCO Headquarters, Paris

UNESCO: Adding More Fuel to the Fire of Hatred Article

Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, May 7, 2017

'Israel is Not the United Nations' Punching Bag Anymore' Article

Israeli border guards at the site of the stabbing attack in Jerusalem, May 7, 2017. (Menahem Kahana/AFP PHOTO)

Female Terrorist Tries to Stab Cop in Jerusalem Document

The Temple Mount in Jerusalem

Israel Debates Ousting UN from Jerusalem Headquarters Article