Palestinian Official Dies After Clashes at West Bank Protest

A Palestinian cabinet minister, Ziad Abu Ain, died after clashes with Israeli troops during a West Bank protest Wednesday.

Palestinian official Ziad Abu Ein (L), in charge of the issue of Israeli settlements for the Palestinian Authority, argues with Israeli soldiers during a demonstration in the village of Turmus Aya near Ramallah, on December 10, 2014. Abu Ein died after being beaten by Israeli forces during a protest march in the West Bank, medical and security sources told AFP. AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI (Photo credit should read ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/Getty Images)

A Palestinian cabinet minister, Ziad Abu Ain, died after clashes with Israeli troops during a West Bank protest Wednesday. Abu Ein headed the committee against the separation wall and settlements. He had been on his way, along with dozens of activists, to plant olive trees and protest near an Israeli settlement when the group was stopped by Israeli soldiers at an improvised checkpoint in the village of Turmus Aya. Reports vary as to the cause of Abu Ain’s death, including he was beaten by an Israeli solider, hit by a tear gas canister, or suffocated after tear gas inhalation. Reports in the Israeli media say the Israeli army believes Abu Ein died from a heart attack. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called the death “a barbaric act” and announced three days of mourning. Abbas said he would take “necessary steps” after an investigation. An Israeli army spokesperson said the military is looking into the incident.


U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said up to 39 countries have made offers to host an estimated 100,000 Syrian refugees after a “pledging conference” in Geneva Tuesday. While Guterres said he was “very happy” with the conference, the pledges still fell well short of the agency’s target. The Syrian opposition Orient News channel reported three of its journalists were killed by a missile strike in Syria’s southwestern Daraa province. Meanwhile, in a meeting Tuesday in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi pushed U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel for increased airstrikes and heavy weaponry to fight Islamic State militants. Abadi said the group is “on the decent at the moment,” but that Iraqi forces need more U.S. assistance. As the Senate Foreign Relations Committee prepares to vote on whether to limit U.S. engagement in the Middle East, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged Congress not to restrict the administration from deploying ground troops and not to set geographic limitations on the fight against Islamic State militants.


Arguments and Analysis

Don’t be Fooled by Appearances, Liberal Values are Spreading in the Arab World’ (Ahmed Benchemsi, Middle East Institute)

“Is there such a thing as Arab liberalism? Judging by U.S. mainstream media coverage, the answer is no. Out of ten stories on the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), chances are that nine cover terrorism and sectarian violence—and the tenth, government abuse. What is true for media is even truer for other circles of knowledge production. Washington’s MENA-oriented think tanks are transfixed by ISIS-like fanatic groups and focus what is left of their attention on Muslim Brother-type Islamists (though these lost much currency after the popular uprising and military removal of them in Egypt in 2013) as well as on the varieties of despotic regimes ruling the Arab world. Very little space, if any, is devoted to whatever is in between authoritarian establishments and their religious opponents—namely democratic, secular, liberal civil society actors. It is as if they don’t exist—or don’t count.

Yet three years ago, these same characters were making front-page news worldwide. Remember the “Facebook activists” and “Twitter revolutionaries?” Back in 2011, they were the darlings of global media. Reform-minded, free-spirited, and Internet-savvy Arab youths were taking over public squares by the tens of thousands, chanting their contempt of despotism and love of freedom—all without a hint of religious militancy—and ousting reviled dictators. How did that demographic fade to irrelevance after only a few years? What happened?”

The European Kurds rallying to fight IS’ (Janroj Yilmaz Keles, openDemocracy)

“If the media have only recently noticed that some young people are heading to Kurdistan to fight against IS, joining the Kurdish guerrilla groups has in fact been a trend since 1985. In particular, as the war between the PKK and the Turkish state intensified, the conflict spread to Europe, especially Germany, through Turkish and Kurdish organisations, political actors and media. The PKK has become a powerful Kurdish party straddling multiple nation-states, mobilising refugees and second-generation Kurds for homeland politics. Latterly, other conflicts in different parts of Kurdistan have further politicised the diaspora community and given rise to deterritorialised solidarity among Kurds around the world.

While the Kurdish authorities in south Kurdistan  / Iraq and Rojava / Syrian Kurdistan say they need weapons rather than ‘fighters’, a few hundred young people have recently joined Kurdish forces, in particular the peshmerga in south Kurdistan. Their parents stem from different parts of Kurdistan and various socio-economic backgrounds. Some are university students from middle-class families. An equally large group came to Europe as youngsters but later decided to go back to join Kurdish forces—they have usually studied to high-school level. Not only young people are joining the movement, however: the German newspaper Bild reported that more than 50 Yazidi/Ezidi men had travelled to Sinjar to fight IS and provide humanitarian aid and Die Welt said a ‘German Ezidi commander’ had been killed in Iraq.”


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