Saturday, November 28, 2009

Breaking news: IAEA Adopts Anti-Iran Resolution

P5+1 Resolution Demands Iran Halt Construction of Qom Facility
In a 25-3 vote, the P5+1 (the permanent five members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) succeeded in getting their draft resolution condemning Iran’s civilian nuclear program passed through the IAEA. Every major nation supported the resolution, with Venezuela, Malaysia and Cuba voting against it.

The resolution is a blanket condemnation of the Iranian nuclear program and demands the immediate halt of construction at the Qom enrichment facility. The vote is seen as a first step toward more sanctions against Iran.

The legal basis for the demands are unclear, at best. Iran revealed the Qom facility in September, seemingly in keeping with its requirement to report such sites at least six months before completion. IAEA inspectors visited the site in October and officials say it is nothing to be worried about.
My comment: Sure enough! Iran's nuclear "ambitions" are a huge concern. The existing Israeli warheads aren't! We got it.

Interview: Bilin activist continues to struggle despite injury

Jody McIntyre writing from Bilin, occupied West Bank, The Electronic Intifada, 28 November 2009

(Left: Khamis Fathi Abu Rahmah after being shot with a tear gas canister by Israeli forces near Bilin.)

"Earlier this year, Khamis Fathi Abu Rahmah, 27, was shot in the head with a high-velocity tear gas canister while participating in a nonviolent demonstration against Israel's wall in the occupied West Bank near the village of Bilin. Israeli soldiers used the same weapon a few months later and killed his cousin, Bassem Abu Rahme. The Electronic Intifada contributor Jody McIntyre spoke to Khamis Fathi Abu Rahmah about his life in Bilin.....

Jody McIntyre: Tell me about the time you were injured at the wall.

Khamis Fathi Abu Rahmah: On Friday 23 January 2009, I went to participate in our weekly nonviolent demonstration against the wall. The Israeli soldiers immediately started throwing a huge amount of tear gas, so we were making our way back toward the village. The soldiers followed us in two jeeps, and started to shoot more gas at us. I was standing alone in the field, and my friend Bassem was crouched behind a rock nearby. They shot one tear gas canister at me, so I put my arms in the air to show that I was unarmed and clearly posing no threat. Then the soldiers shot me again -- this time, the high-velocity canister hit me directly in the head.....

JM: What do you think about the international volunteers who come to stay in Bilin?

KA: They are very good people, coming from other countries to help us here in the village. They often stay with me in my house during the night raids, and go to confront the soldiers, often suffering beatings and injuries as a result. We eat and talk together, and often become good friends. Sometimes they are deported from the country, just for helping people!...... "

STUC calls on Celtic fans to fly flag for Palestine at Israeli match

CELTIC fans are being asked to wave Palestinian flags during a football match against Israeli team Hapoel Tel Aviv in protest at the invasion of Gaza last year.

The Rangers-Maccabi Haifa match was disrupted by a fan draped in a Palestinian flag. Picture: SNS

The controversial call by the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) came in advance of the Europa League match next Wednesday, which will be seen by millions of football fans.

The gesture is aimed to cause maximum embarrassment to the Israeli ambassador to the UK, Ron Prosor, who is travelling from London to attend the game.

Union bosses said the flag-waving move was designed to mark the anniversary of the invasion and the deaths of "1,400 men, women and children".

But such an action by fans could fall foul of Celtic's own code of conduct, which states supporters at the ground would be guilty of "disorderly conduct" if they stir up "hatred or ill-will towards individuals or groups of people" because of "national origin".

The move might also cause division within the club itself – the Celtic chairman and former home secretary John Reid was an early member of Labour Friends of Israel, and his wife, Carine Adler, is Jewish.

STUC deputy general secretary Dave Moxham said: "When the Israeli team Hapoel Tel Aviv visit Celtic Park on Wednesday night, millions around the world will be watching, including those living in Israel and Palestine.

The Pharaoh Persists in his Role as the Faithful Gate Keeper for Zion.....

Egyptian authorities bar entry of American students into Gaza

"GAZA, (PIC)-- The Egyptian authorities have barred the entry of a group of American students into the Gaza Strip on Friday, the Khibra (expertise) institution for consultants and development in Gaza said.

It added in a statement on Friday that the 40-member American delegation was denied access through the Rafah border terminal.

The delegates are holding contacts with a number of official circles in Cairo to allow them access, it said, adding that the delegates might still have certain papers to complete before allowing them passage.

Khibra hoped that Cairo would facilitate the entry of the American students who seek to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian citizens through their show of solidarity."

Friday, November 27, 2009

Interview with PA dissident: "I cannot just stay silent"

Marcy Newman, The Electronic Intifada, 27 November 2009

"Abdel Sattar Qassem, a professor and author of numerous publications on Palestinian history and Islamic thought, is well-known for his pungent critiques of Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA). As a result he has been imprisoned by both the Israelis and the PA. Most recently his car was blown up as a warning from the PA. Marcy Newman spoke with Professor Qassem on behalf of The Electronic Intifada at his home in the Palestinian city of Nablus in the occupied West Bank.....

ASQ: ....In 1999 I wrote the "Statement of the Twenty." We had 20 prominent people in the West Bank and Gaza sign a petition in which we accused Arafat of being corrupt. I insisted on accusing Arafat in that statement because if we don't, none of us will go to jail. If we don't go to jail, nobody will hear about our statement. That was the price. Two of us were in prison for 40 days in Jericho, the others spent 15 days.

In 2005 they burned my car. In 2007 they shot around 60 [bullets] at my car. They arrested me in 2008 for one night. They burned my car in January 2009. The latest was that I spent three days in prison. I still have so much difficulty with the PA. But I cannot just stay silent while the PA rapes my land, my country and my people. They are collaborating with the Israelis. They are coordinating with them on security matters. They have been arresting Palestinians in defense of Israeli security......

MN: What about American imperialism? How does the dynamic of resistance change with US General Keith Dayton training PA forces?

ASQ: Now we have the American Dayton republic. Dayton is the High Commissioner of Palestine. He's in control. The United States spends so much money recruiting all of these Palestinians to serve Israeli security and American interests.

They are recruiting people who have a very narrow horizon. They just can receive and carry out orders. They depend on these kind of people. Some of them understand the situation, but they are under economic pressure. But so many of them do not understand. What alternative do I have to support these people financially? I cannot ask people to have their families starve for the principle of liberating Palestine. They will tell you, "Look, my family is much more important than Palestine." Would people like to starve or to be free? People like to fill their stomachs first. Afterwards they might think about freedom. So the Americans and the Europeans have been playing this game: keep the Palestinians always on the verge of starvation. Now they have a different situation where they feel they will starve to death if the Americans and Europeans do not give us money. Somebody like me will tell them, they will not let us starve because that will endanger Israeli security. They will allow outlets for us to bring money, food. This is not convincing because they cannot make the dialectical relationships. The Israelis in the first intifada decided to cut off the energy and gas for a couple of weeks. The international community started to protest against the situation: "What are you doing with these Palestinians?" There are several factors that we can play with. But to stand there and say, "If the Americans do not pay us money, we will starve," the conclusion is: we have to do what the Americans want."

Israel approves 28 schools for West Bank settlements

Israel's government has approved 28 new schools for settlements in the West Bank, a day after it announced a 10-month halt to new residential building.

Defence Minister Ehud Barak said construction would completed before the beginning of the 2010-11 school year.

Settlers have been angered by the decision to limit building, although the Palestinians say it is not enough.

They refuse to restart peace talks without a total freeze and are angry the policy does not include Jerusalem.

Under the Israeli new policy, backed by the security cabinet on Wednesday, permits for new homes in the West Bank will not be approved for 10 months. But municipal buildings and hundreds of houses already under construction will still be allowed to go ahead.

PA was informed in advance of settlement construction freeze


"Ynet learns Israel, Palestinians conducting talks in secret so as not to draw criticism against Abbas, Fayyad; officials in Jerusalem estimate PA will announce return to negotiation table within a few weeks......"

The Militarization of Sex

[Fascinating look at Mutaa marriage in Lebanon , it is basically religious sanctioned fornication/prostitution]

is a form of "temporary marriage" only acceptable within Shiite communities
, one that allows couples to have religiously sanctioned sex for a limited period of time, without any commitments, and without the obligatory involvement of religious figures. In conservative Muslim societies known for their strict sense of propriety, mutaa offers an escape clause. The contract is very simple. The woman says: "I marry myself to you for [a specific period of time] and for [a specified dowry]" and the man says: "I accept." The period can range between one hour and a year, and is subject to renewal. A Muslim woman can only marry a Muslim man, but a Muslim man can temporarily marry a Muslim, Christian, or Jewish woman, as long as she is a divorcée or a widow. However, those interviewed for this article confirmed that Hezbollah-the "Party of God"-has allowed the practice to spread to virgins or girls who have never married before, as long as the permission of her guardian (father or paternal grandfather) is obtained.

It is, of course, not only men who take advantage of mutaa. Zahra, a fully veiled 25 year-old Shiite woman who is completing her master's degree in English literature, comes from a family of Hezbollah supporters and party members, and has been a lifelong Hezbollah member herself. She explained that she practices temporary marriage because it is a religious duty.

"I take good care of myself, and make sure I look perfect every time I go into a mutaa marriage because I should please my husband, temporary or not," she said. "It is my religious duty to do so. God allowed this kind of marriage for a reason, and I never question God's wishes."

Al-Jazeera Video: The Listening Post - Israeli settlement - 27 Nov 09 - Pt 1

Al-Jazeera Video: Counting the cost - Dubai world going bust?- 27 Nov 09

Part 1:

Part 2:

Real News Video: Iraq inquiry: Blair deal on regime change?

UK former ambassador to Washington tells Iraq inquiry he was excluded from Blair and Bush talks in 2002

Congress: Selling out on American Values for Politics

By Adam Shapiro
Palestine Chronicle

".....When my friend Tom told me he was trying to become a Congressman, he assured me that he would maintain who he was. The man I knew was someone who fought for justice, who worked tirelessly to promote international law and human rights, and who was aware of the reality of Congress but determined to be different. Congressman Perriello, I am afraid, has become like so many of his colleagues, a mere tool of a hard-right AIPAC agenda that has no business dictating American policy. He has become part of an American dog wagged by an Israeli and AIPAC tail.

Voters are again disengaging because they continue to see too much business as usual. Tom is just the latest manifestation of a politician abandoning core beliefs.

What is most disappointing, perhaps, is not that my friend Tom is missing in this incarnation of Congressman Perriello - who seems willing to trade fundamental human rights for political expedience - but that in the end I was right to be cynical."

Lebanon 'Accepts' Hezbollah's Weapons; Congress Prepares Reply

By Franklin Lamb – Beirut
Palestine Chronicle

"....Privately, the reaction to legitimizing Hezbollah’s deterrence to Israeli aggressions is causing a strong reaction on Capitol Hill. AIPAC has another Congressional Resolution ready to condemn Lebanon for capitulating to ‘terrorism’. Hard to believe as it is, some members of Congress are actually tiring of all the Israel Lobby’s resolutions and the pressure tactics AIPAC uses to get them passed irrespective of what they say or whether they are read.

Before the Thanksgiving break, AIPAC organized an urgent conference call among 11 Chairmen, all Jewish or ardent Zionist, of key US Congressional committees, including Foreign Affairs, Intelligence, Appropriations, Banking, Homeland Security, Environment, and Aging, and Rules.

Together, the group forms what AIPAC calls “Israel’s Firewall” which it and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations conceived of and formalized in late September 2001 “to assure consultation and dialogue with respect to how best to launch Congressional initiatives that will preserve the special and unbreakable US-Israel relationship.”

In addition to the above members, others who have been approached to form the ‘firewall’ in the 111th Congress include all 13 Jewish members of the US Senate and the 28 Jewish House Members as well as a couple of dozen trusted evangelical Christian Zionist members.

According to a Zionist Organizations of America (ZOA) source, the group has not been very active until recently. Decisions, if any that were taken the past eight years by what is referred to by some on Capitol Hill as the “Israel Synod” is not currently known.

One recent decision that has been taken was revealed by ZOA. The ‘fire wall’ project is to ‘fast track’ a dramatic increase in US military aid to Israel to deal with perceived Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria, and Iranian threats to Israel. “These people see an urgent need to clean house and restore Israel’s military dominance and credibility”, claimed the ZOA source.

According to a staff member of the US Senate Armed Services Committee, the ‘ fire wall’ group plans to expedite US Congressional approval for more subsidies for all or part of the funds needed by Israel to purchase U.S. weapons. This will be in addition to Israel receiving over the past 24 months $ 2,070.1 billion from US taxpayers earmarked for this purpose........"

India may hold whip hand in this power game

By Robert Fisk

"....There are, however, two basic truths about Dubai which, predictably, have not found their way into market speculation or newspaper analysis. The first is that Dubai may soon find itself a satellite not of its Abu Dhabi capital but of India. The biggest merchants in Dubai are Indian – they run the gold market, even the bookshops in Sheikh Mohamed's playpen – and west India is only two hours' flying time away. In fact, until 1962 – and you have to be an oldie to understand the emirates' economic world – the Indian rupee was the currency for most of the Gulf, including even Kuwait......."

A morally bankrupt dictatorship built by slave labour

By Johann Hari
The Independent

"Dubai is finally financially bankrupt – but it has been morally bankrupt all along. The idea that Dubai is an oasis of freedom on the Arabian peninsular is one of the great lies of our time.

Yes, it has Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts and the Gucci styles, but beneath these accoutrements, there is a dictatorship built by slaves.

If you go there with your eyes open – as I did earlier this year – the truth is hidden in plain view. The tour books and the bragging Emiratis will tell you the city was built by Sheikh Mohammed, the country's hereditary ruler.

It is untrue. The people who really built the city can be seen in long chain-gangs by the side of the road, or toiling all day at the top of the tallest buildings in the world, in heat that Westerners are told not to stay in for more than 10 minutes. They were conned into coming, and trapped into staying......

Today Dubai will be bailed out by the United Arab Emirates, the oil-rich country of which it is only one state. But the oil will not last forever. More importantly, there is no Bank of Morality that could provide a bailout for this sinister mirage in the desert."

Israel's occupation, linked by rail

The Jerusalem light railway is set to link to illegal settlements such as French Hill. Palestinians need help stopping it

Seth Freedman, Thursday 26 November 2009

"The architects of Israel's occupation of the West Bank are highly skilled at the art of needlework, deftly stitching up land inside Israel proper and disputed territory over the Green Line as though it was the most natural thing in the world. According to their logic, it should be possible to seamlessly suture together the two parts without raising eyebrows either at home or abroad, regardless of the contravention of both international law and basic morality that such actions entail.

All that is required is a healthy dose of chutzpah, combined with a drip-drip effect in which a steady stream of expropriating activities are undertaken at a slow but relentless pace, in the hope that insufficient feathers are ruffled to put a halt to the overarching campaign of annexation......

The light railway and the construction plans for Gilo are not deal-breakers on their own, but the whole is greater than the sum of the parts when it comes to the annexation of the West Bank, and all interested parties should be doing their utmost to oppose anything that further cements an Israeli presence in the area. To sit back and do nothing is to be complicit with the insidious plans of those who seek never to accommodate Palestinian needs in terms of their statehood. Israelis, Palestinians and outsiders alike must continue to stand up to the occupation machine's operators, before the rot sets in completely and for ever."

The Golan Heights' long wait

The city of Quneitra is preserved in devastation as attempts to improve Syria's relations with its neighbours and the US stall

Simon Tisdall
The Guardian, Friday 27 November 2009

(Left: Golan Hospital; click on photo to enlarge)

"..... But Syrian officials have complained in recent weeks that Obama's words are not matched by actions – and that a rare opportunity may be missed. The deputy prime minister, Abdullah Dardari, warned that Washington's apparent disinclination to normalise relations had raised doubts about the "seriousness" of Obama's commitment to peacemaking.

Speaking in Paris during talks with the president, Nicolas Sarkozy, Assad was similarly critical. So far, talks with US officials had not got beyond "an exchange of views", he said. "The weak point is the American sponsor [of peace talks]. What Obama said about peace was a good thing. We agree with him on the principles. But what's the action plan? The sponsor has to draw up an action plan."

Syria's overall positive response to French and EU attempts to improve ties is one of several factors that has encouraged a belief that Assad's strategic calculus may be shifting. A recent rapprochement with Saudi Arabia, including a visit to Damascus by King Abdullah, has been matched by the signing of a range of bilateral co-operation agreements with Nato member Turkey, a country with which Syria almost went to war a decade ago......

And crucially, perhaps, Obama's Syrian overtures have received scant encouragement from Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel's hawkish prime minister. He says Israel will never retreat from the 1974 line. "The Golan will never be divided again, the Golan will never fall again, the Golan will remain in our hands," he said in February. Israeli commentators speculate that Netanyahu, rather than contemplating peace, is preparing for war in the spring against Iran and Hezbollah. That would once again place Syria, and the devastated city of Quneitra, squarely in the firing line."

The truth of UK's guilt over Iraq

Until Chilcot hears UN weapons inspectors' testimony, the fiction of Britain honestly seeking a WMD smoking gun prevails

Scott Ritter, Friday 27 November 2009

".....Among the more compelling testimonies provided to date has been that of Sir Christopher Meyer, the former British ambassador to the US who served in that capacity during the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq. Meyer convincingly portrayed an environment where the decision by the US to invade Iraq, backed by Blair, precluded any process (such as viable UN weapons inspections) that sought to compel Iraq to prove it had no WMD. Rather, Great Britain and the US were left "scrambling" to find evidence of a "smoking gun" that proved Iraq indeed possessed the WMD it was accused of having.

In short, Saddam had been found guilty of the crime of possessing WMD, and his sentence had been passed down by Washington and London void of any hard evidence that such weapons, or even related programmes, even existed. The sentence given – regime termination – mandated such a massive deployment of troops and material that all but the wilfully blind or intentionally ignorant had to know by the early autumn of 2002 that war with Iraq was inevitable. One simply does not initiate the movement of hundreds of thousands of troops, thousands of armoured vehicles and aircraft, and dozens of ships on a whim, or to reinforce an idle threat......

There is a big difference between searching for a "smoking gun", and searching for the truth. By ignoring and/or undermining the work of the UN weapons inspectors in the lead up to the war with Iraq, British officials demonstrated that they were not interested in the truth about Iraqi WMD, a fact that testimony provided by the likes of Sir Christopher Meyer alludes to, but falls short of actually stating.

The search for truth can be an inconvenient process, especially when it threatens to expose potential illegal activities in the prosecution of an unpopular war. Until he calls upon UN weapons inspectors themselves to deliver testimony before his inquiry, Sir John Chilcot perpetuates the perception that Britain simply can't handle the truth when it comes to uncovering the level of official British culpability in the deliberate fabrication of a case for war against Iraq that everyone knew, or should have known, was false."

The mission: Saving Abbas

Israel realizes PA’s survival crucial for preserving regional stability for now

Alex Fishman

"The construction freeze in the settlements is yet another oxygen tank en route to reviving the “diplomatic horizon,” without which we shall see the Palestinian Authority increasingly disintegrating.

This is not about getting sentimental with Abbas or a sudden love story between the Israeli government and the diplomatic process. Even the tough “ideologists” within the cabinet realized Wednesday that there is no other choice, and that every effort must be made in order to preserve regional stability, even for a limited time. The Palestinian Authority must not collapse.

Abbas has turned into a key player; the stability of his regime maintains the calm and stability everyone needs until matters clear up on the Iranian front. Even those who object to making concessions to the Palestinians realize that we have to buy time. And buying time means maintaining the diplomatic process vis-à-vis the PA.

Hence, when officials around here debate the Gilad Shalit question, they simultaneously discuss the question of how to minimize the damage to be caused to Abbas and the PA in the wake of the mass release of prominent Hamas terrorists.

Even before the Shalit deal, Israeli officials estimated that the PA will not survive without a diplomatic horizon. Abbas would eventually give up and quit, and this will mark the beginning of disintegration that may lead to anarchy and to a third Intifada, which Fatah heads are already characterizing as a “popular struggle.”

A popular struggle, for the benefit of those who may have forgotten, may indeed start with stone-throwing, but will end with fire. And who needs fire on the eve of fateful decisions on Iran......"

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Current Al-Jazeera (Arabic) Online Poll

This new poll asks:

In light of the "partial freeze" on new settlements announced by Israel, do you think that the PA will be able to maintain its refusal to negotiate?

With over 1,000 responding so far, 70% said no.

U.S Asked Israel To Release 1000 Fateh Detainees

"Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s Foreign Minister, head of the Yisrael Beiteinu fundamentalist party, stated that the United States asked Israel to release 1000 detainees of the Fateh movement, headed by Mahmoud Abbas.

He added that he personally opposes such a move and claimed that ‘all Israeli efforts to boost the Palestinian Authority ended in failure’.

Lieberman said he would vote against the issue, and will never conduct any act that would boost president Mahmoud Abbas.

Israeli TV Channel 10, reported on Wednesday at night that Abbas rejected an Israeli offer to release 400 detainees of Fateh movement in return for resuming unconditional peace talks.

Lieberman said that the previous government of Ehud Olmert released Palestinian detainees and accepted American conditions to freeze settlements activities for 10 months. This issue, he said, did not boost peace talks.

The Israeli Foreign Minister also stated that Israel considers Fateh leader Marwan Barghouthi as a red line, and will never accept to release him.

Israeli sources claimed that Hamas did not demand the release of Barghouthi as he is a powerful figure and could lead to its defeat in any upcoming elections. "

Refugees remain skeptical of Nahr al-Bared reconstruction

Ray Smith, Electronic Lebanon, 26 November 2009

"NAHR AL-BARED, Lebanon (IPS) - More than two years after their refugee camp was destroyed in a war between the Lebanese army and the Islamist militant group Fatah al-Islam, Nahr al-Bared refugees Wednesday witnessed the start of the camp's reconstruction. Their relief is mixed with skepticism, however......

Access to Nahr al-Bared's outskirts as well as to the construction site is still controlled by the Lebanese army.

Amr Saededine, a journalist closely following developments in Nahr al-Bared points to the army as a big obstacle to the reconstruction process. "The army interferes in anything. Nahr al-Bared was declared a military zone. But this here is a civilian area, not an army base!".....

The funding for Nahr al-Bared's reconstruction is yet another open question. As for now, UNRWA has only been able to raise about a third of the 328 million dollars required. Last week, representatives of about a dozen donor organizations visited Nahr al-Bared. UNRWA officials have recently expressed their optimism that the beginning of the reconstruction and the forming of the new Lebanese government will attract more funding.

As a result of the army's siege of the camp and the destruction of its businesses, unemployment has drastically spread in Nahr al-Bared......"

A People's History of Thanksgiving

By Ramzy Baroud
Palestine Chronicle

"This week Americans will observe “Thanksgiving” commemorating a romanticized era in their nations record, celebrating the supposed solidarity and brotherhood enjoyed by the first settlers and the indigenous people of what is now called the United States. However, this fantastic tale of friendship contradicts the candid remarks of many notable personalities in US history.....

Please allow me to shift the course of my thoughts to finish with these great words from the 1927 Grand Council of American Indians:

"We want freedom from the white man rather than to be integrated. We don't want any part of the establishment, we want to be free to raise our children in our religion, in our ways, to be able to hunt and fish and live in peace. We want to be ourselves. We want to have our heritage, because we are the owners of this land and because we belong here.

"The white man says, there is freedom and justice for all. We have had their "freedom and justice," and that is why we have been almost exterminated. We shall not forget this."

Similar are the sentiments of Abdelrazik Abu al-Hayjah, the Palestinian Administrator of the Jenin refugee camp, who declared after the Israeli massacre of Jenin in 2002:

"If they will destroy the camp many times, the people of Jenin will rebuild it, because with every time the peoples' courage and determination intensify. The more Israel brutalizes Palestinians, the stronger their resistance shall be. Israel cannot resolve its problems by force. They have to understand that Palestinians' quest for freedom cannot be stopped. Its only human nature for people to resist, to regain their freedom.

"The (Palestinian) people do not hate Israelis because their names are different, or because their language is different. Nor do they hate them because they have anything against the Jewish religion, but because they are occupiers, and as long as they are occupiers, the resistance will go on. The Palestinian resistance shall live as long as the occupation lives.""

The one thing Chilcot won't reveal is the truth

Those who think the establishment a myth should look to the inquiry's membership

By Adrian Hamilton
The Independent

".....while the Chilcot inquiry into the whole circumstances of a war that split the country and led to the loss of hundreds of thousand of civilian lives in Iraq as well as irreparably damaging the international reputation of the country and its Prime Minister will not, according to Gordon Brown in setting it up, aim to "apportion blame."....

If you want to know why this should have been a public inquiry led by lawyers and under oath and not an exercise in driving a difficult issue into the political long grass you have only to look at the two public inquiries which are being undertaken into the Iraq occupation – those into the deaths of Baha Mousa, killed with over 90 injuries inflicted by his guards, and the 20 Iraqis killed in the so-called "battle of Danny Boy" in 2004.

War isn't just a continuum of diplomacy by other means, as the committee's questioning this week seemed to imply. It is the single most important act that a government can undertake, and one with the most terrible of consequences, on the perpetrators as well as the victims. Baha Mousa and his fellow Iraqis deserve a proper investigation of what was done to them. But then so does the country for what was done in our name but not with our assent."

Regime change 'may have been planned at ranch'

The Independent

"Tony Blair and George Bush may have agreed the need for regime change in Iraq in private discussions at the US president's ranch, the Iraq Inquiry heard today.

Sir Christopher Meyer, who was Britain's ambassador to the US between 1997 and 2003, said the April 2002 meeting in Crawford, Texas, appeared to be a major turning point.

He said in evidence: "I took no part in any of the discussions and there was a large chunk of that time when no adviser was there.

"I know what the Cabinet Office says were the results of the meeting but to this day I am not entirely clear what degree of convergence was, if you like, signed in blood at the Crawford ranch."
He said the change in stance was evidenced in a speech given by the Prime Minister the following day.

"To the best of my knowledge, I might be wrong, this was the first time that Tony Blair had said in public 'regime change'," Sir Christopher said......"

الولايات المتحدة حثت إسرائيل على الإعلان عن «تجميد» البناء في المستوطنات قبل تنفيذ صفقة الأسرى مع حماس وتطالب بإطلاق ألف أسير فلسطيني


"كشفت صحيفة "يديعوت أحرونوت" أن الولايات حثت إسرائيل مؤخرا على الإعلان عن تجميد الاستيطان قبل تنفيذ صفقة تبادل الأسرى مع حركة حماس، وطالبتها بإطلاق سراح ألف أسير فلسطيني بمعزل عن الصفقة.

وقالت إنه على ضوء اقتراب موعد تنفيذ صفقة تبادل الأسرى مع حركة حماس، طلبت الولايات المتحدة من إسرائيل إطلاق سراح ألف أسير فلسطيني بمعزل عن الصفقة، مبررة الطلب بـ «ضرورة تعزيز مكانة رئيس السلطة الفلسطينية، محمود عباس، في مقابل احتفالات الانتصار التي قد تنظمها حماس بعد تنفيذ الصفقة».

وقالت الصحيفة إن الأمريكيين طلبوا من رئيس الوزراء الإسرائيلي بنيامين نتنياهو النظر في نقل السيطرة على مناطق في الضفة الغربية معرفة على أنها مناطق "سي" للسلطة الفلسطينية، وإتاحة المجال لقوات الأمن التابعة للسلطة الفلسطينية للانتشار في مناطق أخرى معرفة بأنها مناطق "بي". إلا أن نتنياهو رفض بادعاء أن «تسليم مناطق جديدة للسلطة الفلسطينية يتم فقط في في ختام مفاوضات سياسية، ولن تنفذ دون مقابل من جانب الفلسطينيين».

ويجري المبعوث الأمريكي الخاص، جورج ميتشيل، الأسبوع المقبل جولة للشرق الأوسط، وسيجتمع مع رئيس الوزراء نتنياهو، ورئيس السلطة الفلسطينية محمود عباس، بغية تحديد موعد وجدول زمني لاستئناف المفاوضات بين إسرائيل والسلطة الفلسطينية. على أن تطلق المفاوضات بشكل احتفالي.

China's backing on Iran followed dire predictions

Before Obama's visit, NSC warned leaders of Mideast turmoil

The Washington Post
Thursday, November 26, 2009

"Two weeks before President Obama visited China, two senior White House officials traveled to Beijing on a "special mission" to try to persuade China to pressure Iran to give up its alleged nuclear weapons program.

If Beijing did not help the United States on this issue, the consequences could be severe, the visitors, Dennis Ross and Jeffrey Bader, both senior officials in the National Security Council, informed the Chinese.

The Chinese were told that Israel regards Iran's nuclear program as an "existential issue and that countries that have an existential issue don't listen to other countries," according to a senior administration official. The implication was clear: Israel could bomb Iran, leading to a crisis in the Persian Gulf region and almost inevitably problems over the very oil China needs to fuel its economic juggernaut, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity......

U.S. officials have also attempted to explore ways to help to wean China off Iranian oil, State Department officials have said. Officials from the United Arab Emirates have said they plan to increase oil exports to China. Saudi Arabia is also moving toward closer ties with Beijing that would clearly involve selling more oil to China, officials said."

Israeli Official: Freeze a Gesture to US, not to Abbas


(Left: The kiss of death...)

"26/11/2009 Will the settlement construction freeze announced by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu strengthen Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, or is the effort doomed to fail? And who is the move directed at?

According to former National Security Council head Giora Eiland, "It's clear that this was a request by the Palestinians for a gesture to Abu Mazen (Abbas). But if you ask me, the gesture here is towards the Americans – not towards Abu Mazen."

He recalls Israel's past attempts to bolster Palestinian officials, and even then – the results were not pleasant. "Any Israeli attempt to bolster one Arab leader or another in order to make him more successful has always led to the opposite outcome. It's true in regards to Fatah versus Hamas, it's also true that Israel tried to nurture an organization against Fatah called 'the village's association', it's true in regards to the Phalanx in Lebanon.

"There is an iron rule in the Arab world: If there is someone Israel seeks to bolster, it will lead to the opposite outcome and will weaken them. They lose legitimization."......"

Video: Turkish protestors call for end to Yemen war

Press TV

Turkish protestors call for end to Yemen war

The House of Saud's War on Yemen: A Photo Gallery


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Part 1: Ali Abunimah: Campus BDS Conference keynote speaker: "Be patient and do your work — history is on our side.”

Ali Abunimah, co-founder of Electronic Intifada and author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse delivers the keynote address at the 2009 Campus BDS Conference at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA.

The Winner of the "Turkey of the Year" Award:
Mahmoud Abbas and his "Palestinian Authority."

More to Egypt riots than football

The tribalistic violence that followed the World Cup defeat to Algeria was fuelled by a genuine set of grievances

Jack Shenker, Wednesday 25 November 2009

"....Like most post-colonial countries, Egypt is a "nationalistic" state. Combined with poor education levels, low standards of living and the inevitable sense of disenfranchisement arising from systematic oppression (which is helpfully meted out to Egyptians daily by their own government), such patriotic fervour ensures the spectre of tribalism – the retreat into an exclusionary group identity – always bubbles just below the surface......

The key characteristic of tribalism is that it is aggravated far more by external actions – because it involves an image of the self that is inherently based on some conception of "the other" – than it is by threats at home. In fact the dignity and rights of Egyptians are assaulted a great deal more often, and to a far greater extent by Egypt's own elite than they have been by Algerians or any other recent outsiders; as Hossam el-Hamalawy, a local journalist and activist, pointed out recently, "Hosni Mubarak's thugs have beaten and killed more Egyptians than any hooligans.".....

As one Egyptian friend recently put it to me, Egypt's ruling class are "half-bright bureaucrats and armchair statesmen"; in the international arena they prefer to keep their heads down and avoid making enemies, which is why Egypt has so shamelessly sold out the Palestinians in Gaza and also failed to stand up to Libya or Saudi Arabia over the well-documented mistreatment of Egyptian migrant workers.

Indeed, the only good thing that might possibly emerge from the past fortnight would be a growing awareness of the duplicity of Egypt's political leaders, who are now promising to unleash "Egypt's wrath" on those who flout the rights of Egyptians. Championing those rights in recent years has involved arresting peaceful demonstrators, torturing dissidents and presiding over a state so corrupt and dysfunctional that recent train and ferry accidents have killed more than 300 and 1000 Egyptians respectively (tragedies, incidentally, that Mubarak did not think warranted a presidential visit). Tribalism may search for antagonists beyond the borders, but the real enemy of the Egyptian people lies closer to home."

Al-Jazeera Cartoon: Declaration of "a Palestinian State."

Can We Negotiate This?....
By Emad Hajjaj

The Impending Release of Gilad Shalit

What Palestinians Deserve in Return


"....That being said, is the swap of 500 prisoners including Barghouti for Shalit reasonable?

If Hamas’ motive in securing Barghouti’s release is simply meant for political gain – and there is no doubt that he is the prize – with hundreds of others tagging along for good measure, then certainly not.....

Although last minute negotiations are likely revolving around the terms of Barghouti’s release or whether so-and-so will be allowed to return home or be exiled to a third country, these details lose sight of what Hamas should demand: legal rights for Palestinian prisoners; respect for – not desecration of – the land; allowing Gaza’s reconstruction to proceed and its people to obtain medical care, and the guaranteed safety and well-being of Palestinian schoolchildren.

A soldier in exchange for humane and civilized behavior – a pity such a deal even has to be offered. Yet if Hamas does so, it would effectively shift the world’s attention from a soldier of the occupation to the desperate condition of the occupied. A better deal could not be had.

Obama to Announce Afghan Escalation Plan Dec. 1st

Democracy Now!
With Amy Goodman

"Administration officials say President Obama will unveil his decision on sending tens of thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan next week. Obama is expected to announce the plan in a prime-time address next Tuesday night. At the White House yesterday, Obama said he intends to “finish the job” in Afghanistan.

Christian Parenti, journalist who has reported extensively from Afghanistan....."

Real News Video: Luladinejad

Pepe Escobar: How the West could learn from Lula's way of playing politics

More at The Real News


Lula from Brazil and Ahmadinejad from Iran. What is this – the new axis of evil? No – Luladinejad is a new axis of business.

In the latest round of the increasingly warm embrace between Latin America and the Middle East, Lula and Ahmadinejad, meeting in Brazil, signed agreements on energy, trade and agricultural research........"


"Dear Norm (Finkelstein) ,
The events in brief as they happened :

The land of Golden opportunities

This is what the UAE has been trying to promote itself through itself through CNN and other major media tycoons but underlying these smooth golden dunes lies violations of human rights in all its facets

The man-hunt and the phone-tags started some while ago even before the Lebanese elections as I have figured out from the questions that were addressed to me during the 3 interrogations that were imposed on me by the Emirate CID …

A young man of not more than 25 years entered the room and seated himself across the room and started his extensive questions about my past including my family , professional life and politics. From his questioning, I recognized that they had bugged my home phone, were reading my mobile messages, were following me and checking out the people I was meeting for some while …

Not that there was anything worth listening, reading, or knowing …. I am just an ordinary dame!!!

His “polite questions” slowly transferred into accusations about my political views and religious beliefs…He also mocked my religious beliefs and practices (i.e. being a Shia) in a very callous way that was quite painful and agonizing since could not answer back or defend myself …Since this was the first time I had been faced with such insulting remarks …I think I was in shock ….He went beyond that to accuse me of being a member of “silent cells” (a term that I heard for the first time) that Hizbollah and Iran are trying to build in the UAE …

What a joke!!!......

During this final interrogation, I was forced into having my eyes scanned and was asked to sign a paper that I have been deported for security and special reasons …I refused of course and then they became verbally abusive with me and one of the officers attempted to dump me in a cell full of Phlipino , Indian and other Asian convicts. I still refused … I think they gave up on me and ordered me to go to the airport immediately and take the 4 o’clock plane …of which I did!!! I was deported on the 21st of October, 2009.

I am back in Lebanon … searching for a job and trying to put my life back together …The University in the UASE refused to even give me my month’s salary , the ticket , end of service, and other rights claiming that I have brought this to myself and they are not responsible for my “ political adventures” …

Talk about Human Rights in the land of Golden Opportunities … "

US headache over Afghan deserters

By Gareth Porter
Asia Times

(Cartoon by Carlos Latuff)

"According to data published by the US Defense Department, one in every four combat soldiers quit the Afghan National Army during the year ending in September. This high desertion rate not only flies in the face of US officials' long-time praise for the army as a success story - it is also very bad news for US President Barack Obama's latest Afghan strategy...."

Obama's Profile in Courage Moment

By Ray McGovern
November 24, 2009

"....Moreover, Obama is surely aware that the majority of Americans are no longer deceived by the pundits at Fox News. Recent polls show broader and broader popular opposition to sending more troops.

The choice, in my view, is between courage anchored in a determination to do the right thing and cowardice cloaked in the politics of the possible. Let me guess what you’re thinking — “But that’s asking too much of a young President; cowardice is too strong a word; Obama cannot possibly face down the entire military establishment.”

John Kennedy did. So the question is whether Barack Obama is “no Jack Kennedy,” or whether he will summon the courage to stand up to the misguided military brass of today.

We are talking, after all, about thousands more being killed — and for what?

I would suggest to the President that he give another close read to Goldstein’s Lessons in Disaster and then ponder the lessons that leap out of Barbara Tuchman’s The March to Folly: From Troy to Vietnam.

Obama may also wish to ponder the words of W.E.B. Dubois:

“Now is the accepted time, not tomorrow, not some more convenient season. It is today that our best work can be done and not some future day or future year. It is today that we fit ourselves for the greater usefulness of tomorrow.”"

Who Will Protest Obama’s War?

Libertarian youth must take the lead

by Justin Raimondo, November 25, 2009

(Cartoon by Carlos Latuff)

"Here we are on the verge of a momentous announcement – President Obama’s unveiling of his "comprehensive plan" for escalating the war in Afghanistan – and where is the so-called antiwar movement? Missing in action, as this news report reveals.

“‘There’s this trust that he’s going to fix it all,’ said Shara Esbenshade, 19, a sophomore at Stanford University and member of Stanford Says No To War. She says there are no antiwar marches on her campus, only vigils, educational events, and occasional protests against Condoleezza Rice, who has returned to Stanford after serving as George W. Bush’s secretary of state. ‘We’d really like to start doing more about Afghanistan,’ she added. ‘But students here rising up? I really don’t see that happening.’"

No need to ask who "he" is: it’s the Dear Leader, of course, the Big O: He Who Can Fix Anything. Well, I’ve got some really, really bad news for you, Shara, honey: he is getting ready to send somewhere between 30,000 and 40,000 more troops to the Afghan front, and not only that, but he’s come up with a brand-new strategy, one that means they’ll be sending a lot more troops that way pretty damned soon......."

Britain's ignorance of Iraq is already apparent

By Patrick Cockburn

"Ever since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 senior British officials have gently hinted that what went wrong was the fault of the Americans and, if there is any blame left over, it belongs to Tony Blair. The first day of the Chilcot inquiry suggests, on the contrary, that British mandarins of the day had little more idea of the mechanics of Iraqi politics than the most rabid and jingoistic neo-cons in Washington.

At no time, going by their evidence, did British officials in 2003 realise that the invasion of Iraq meant revolutionary change in the region. It would mean that the Sunni Arabs, who had traditionally ruled the country, would be displaced by the Shia and the Kurds. The Sunni were unlikely to go quietly.

The fall of Saddam Hussein was also going to start a political earthquake in the Gulf if it meant, as seemed likely, that the Sunni elite went with him. The main beneficiaries were going to be the Iranians, who had, after all, spent eight years of war trying to get rid of Saddam in the 1980s. Now the Americans and the British were doing it for them....."

Feeble excuses for Egypt's football riots

Don't point the finger at deeper ills. The violence in Cairo was just thuggery cynically fomented by President Mubarak

Joseph Mayton, Tuesday 24 November 2009

"....Reports that Egyptians were venting their anger over years of government neglect, corruption and poor living conditions are somewhat right. Egyptians may have plenty of reasons to be depressed, angry or frustrated but to blame that for the violence last week, which saw dozens of large police trucks roll into Cairo's posh Zamalek neighbourhood, would be taking the easy way out.

The real answer is that Egyptians have had little to cheer about in recent years.....The loss left a nation wounded, unable to deal with the fact that even on the football pitch, they cannot achieve success....

Actors and other "stars" of Egyptian society went on national television detailing attacks against Egyptians by Algerians. This is what the government wanted: to whip up fear and anger over football. And the media helped them out, with headlines such as "Algerian terrorism" following the loss, and reports of violence in Sudan.

The result was a preoccupation with football and raw nationalism rarely seen in the country. Mubarak and the ruling party took the opportunity to enrage a segment of society that has long been excluded from any political or social advancement. It was a chance to create anger against the "other" (in this case, Algerians) for what may or may not have occurred.

The false sense of nationalism created in the wake of the defeat.....

As the riots raged, the Egyptian leadership were most likely sitting in their villas smiling, knowing that for now, the Algerian conundrum would occupy the people, take their minds away from the real issues at hand and create weeks of "diplomatic" tension with Algeria....."

Netanyahu's Syrian distraction

France-brokered talks between Syria and Israel are unlikely to provide an avenue for peace – neither is offering anything new

Chris Phillips, Tuesday 24 November 2009

"....Netanyahu has perfected the art of procrastination and distraction and will happily accept plaudits for sitting down with the Syrians while openly defying Obama by expanding settlements in the West Bank. Assad, in the meantime, knowing his population would never accept a separate peace that sells out the Palestinians, would hope for economic benefits just for beginning negotiations even if they were ultimately doomed in this form.

There is a danger, though, that France, the US and the international community will allow the reopening of the Syria track to distract them. But after the abysmal failure to apply real pressure on Israel over negotiations with the Palestinians, is another bilateral distraction really better than an engaged drive for a comprehensive peace?"

Iraq war inquiry: Britain heard US drumbeat for invasion before 9/11

• UK dismissed idea in 2001 as having no basis in law
• Terror attacks ended US support for 'containment'

Richard Norton-Taylor, Tuesday 24 November 2009

"Tony Blair's government knew that prominent members of the Bush administration wanted to topple Saddam Hussein years before the invasion but initially distanced itself from the prospect knowing it would be unlawful, it was disclosed at the Iraq inquiry today.

British intelligence also dismissed claims by elements in the US administration that the Iraqi leader was linked to Osama bin Laden, it heard......"

Diktat Unto the Nations.....Israel Uber Alles?

Israel Won’t Accept Hezbollah's Membership in the Lebanese Gov’t!


"25/11/2009 Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Tuesday that Israel will not accept Hezbollah's membership in the Lebanese government and will hold Lebanon responsible for any military clash in the north.

"We will not accept the equation whereby a UN member state is home to a militia in possession of 40,000 rockets but also parliament members and ministers," he said while meeting municipal leaders in northern occupied territories. "The Lebanese government is responsible for any clash rather than the Hezbollah, and all of Lebanon's systems will be held accountable."

Barak noted that the government in Lebanon was sophisticatedly set up to resemble a normal state, while Hezbollah enjoys veto power and the freedom to act. "They entered the 2006 war with 14,000 rockets and missiles…today they possess more than 40,000 missiles with larger warheads," he said.

Barak claimed that Security Council Resolution 1701 has failed to curb Hezbollah's arming process, but said that "deterrence still exists."......"

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Latest Cartoon by Emad Hajjaj

On the Occasion of Eid Al-Adha (sacrifice)....

One Lamb Says, " continue peaceful struggle, until all legitimate goals have been achieved."

The Second Lamb retorts, "No! armed struggle until liberation of the last inch of land!"

A desperate throw of the dice

Ben White, The Electronic Intifada, 24 November 2009

"......Now, the prospect of the PA's collapse has been raised in relation to an apparent peace process fatigue amongst the Palestinian leadership. Like the proposed unilateral declaration of statehood, this is seen by many as a tactic by Abbas and his group, designed to push the US administration into applying pressure on Israel. Despite the denials by the likes of Erekat that anyone has really called for dissolving the PA, there has been enough for some commentators like the Adelson Institute's Dror Bar-Yosef to look ahead and imagine the potential consequences, namely "a new intifada and call for a one-state solution".....

While the focus is on Palestinian strategies regarding the peace process, there are other important "unilateral" developments taking place; The Washington Post reported on 21 November that the PLO seeks to keep Abbas in power with the possibility of the transference of the authority of the Palestinian Legislative Council to the PLO's own Central Council. This is the current kind of "unilateralism" favored by too many Palestinian leaders: a move that is a transparently partisan, undemocratic tactic resulting from the desire to keep the same elite in control and sideline Hamas, carried out under the pretext of avoiding a so-called "constitutional crisis."......

But the Palestinian "unilateralism" making recent news is more like a game of politicking -- and a dangerous one at that. Abbas could be keen to push the proposal for unilateral statehood/Security Council recognition as a way of undermining Fayyad's own "two year plan," amid worries that the US has already designated Fayyad to replace Abbas, just as Abbas himself was "empowered" by the US to sideline and eventually embrace the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Certainly, Abbas is more preoccupied with addressing the US than his own people. This is indeed a time of transition; but the proposed unilateralism of the PA and PLO leadership is more like the desperate throw of a dice from a regime on its way out, rather than the first steps of a bold, new path."

Obama Quietly Backs PATRIOT Act Provisions

With the health care debate preoccupying the mainstream media, it has gone virtually unreported that the Barack Obama administration is quietly supporting renewal of provisions of the George W. Bush-era USA PATRIOT Act that civil libertarians say infringe on basic freedoms.

And it is reportedly doing so over the objections of some prominent Democrats.

When a panicky Congress passed the act 45 days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, three contentious parts of the law were scheduled to expire at the end of next month, and opponents of these sections have been pushing Congress to substitute new provisions with substantially strengthened civil liberties protections.

But with the apparent approval of the Obama White House and a number of Republicans – and over the objections of liberal Senate Democrats including Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and Dick Durbin of Illinois – the Senate Judiciary Committee has voted to extend the three provisions with only minor changes.

Those provisions would leave unaltered the power of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to seize records and to eavesdrop on phone calls and e-mail in the course of counterterrorism investigations.

Blackwater’s Secret War in Pakistan: Jeremy Scahill Reveals Private Military Firm Operating in Pakistan Under Covert Assassination and Kidnapping

Democracy Now!
With Amy Goodman

"In an explosive new article in The Nation magazine, investigative journalist and Democracy Now! correspondent Jeremy Scahill [posted below] reveals the private military firm Blackwater is part of a covert program in Pakistan that includes planning the assassination and kidnapping of Taliban and Al-Qaeda suspects. Blackwater is also said to be involved in a previously undisclosed U.S. military drone campaign that has killed scores of people inside Pakistan. The article says the program has become so secretive that top Obama administration and military officials have likely been unaware of its existence. In a Democracy Now! exclusive, Scahill joins us for his first interview since the story broke......"

Al-Jazeera Video: Yemen's refugees face dire hunger threats - 23 Nov 09

"Children who are malnourished and undernourished are not difficult to spot in Yemen where hunger stalks the poverty-stricken population.

While fighting in northern Yemen between government troops and Houthi rebels has displaced thousands of civilians, aid workers fear they will not be able to address the country's growing hunger needs.

Several aid groups have warned that that widespread suffering could ensue if they unable to reach camps that have effectively been cut off by the conflict.

Some camps are running short of vital supplies and others are unable to accomodate the growing number of displaced.

Al Jazeera's Hashem Ahelbarra reports from a refugee camp in Sanaa, the Yemeni capital, where each tent is packed with at least four families."