Saturday, October 7, 2006

Hazardous Intent: US Brokers in Palestine

Palestinian Hamas supporters protests US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's visit to the region in the West Bank city of Nablus, 6 October. The sign being held by the child reads, "Rice, you are not welcome in the land of resistance ... Hamas." (Ma'anImages/Rami Swidan)

Remi Kanazi, The Electronic Intifada, 7 October 2006

"Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is back in the Middle East and she is in a "very concerned" state. For someone who has played Israeli ambassador to the Middle East since her tenure began, her on again, off again concern for the plight of the Palestinian people has become more predictable than orange alerts during election season. In her newest stint, providing false promises and pernicious rhetoric, Rice vowed to "redouble" US efforts to "improve conditions for the Palestinian people." Rice, however, came to the table empty handed, with photographers trailing closely behind to capture images of hope, concern, and heartfelt declarations. Nevertheless, eye-catching headlines and West Bank photo ops will not put food on the table for the Palestinian people, nor will it end the economic, physical, and political blockade imposed upon the Occupied Territories by the international community.

If Rice was concerned for the well-being of the Palestinian people, she wouldn't have waited until hundreds of Palestinians had perished at the hands of Israeli forces to take interest. A humanitarian would have intervened to stop Israel's siege and immediately combated its effects: the rise in poverty and unemployment, the drop in wages, constant food shortages, and the heightening of tensions between factions in Gaza and the West Bank. At any point, Rice could have rode in on her white horse to fulfill last year's promises: the implementation of bus convoys between the West Bank and Gaza, the sustained entryway and exit through the Rafah border and a bolstering of freedom and democracy throughout the region. Furthermore, the feeding tube that had been inserted into the Palestinian economy -- made necessary by 39 years of occupation -- would not have been pulled with her expressed support."

Bleak Ramadan in Palestine

By Khalid Amayreh

"Normally, the holy month of Ramadan is a festive season of heightened spirituality and good will. It is also an occasion where family members share the usually exquisite Iftar meals immediately after sunset at the end of the day-long fast. However, for many Palestinian families, hard-hit by extremely harsh Israeli-western sanctions, this Ramadan has the smell of real penury. Abject poverty is also becoming increasingly apparent among the traditionally weak sectors of society, such as day-laborers.

“I really don’t know what to tell you. Would you believe me if I told you that last week we didn’t have bread for three days?” said Suleiman, with a clearly subdued voice. Suleiman, like the rest of the estimated 170,000 Palestinian public employees and civil servants, has not received his salary for the seventh consecutive month due to the financial blockade imposed by Israel, the US and EU on the Hamas-led government.

Palestinian families who don’t have the basic foods, such as flour and sugar, are normally helped by the local Zakat (Alms) committees. However, the assistance is getting more meager and more irregular and can hardly make up for the unpaid salaries which nobody knows when they will be paid in full.

And the rich Arab states prefer to heed America’s demands rather than shield Palestinian children from the ghoul of starvation.” He pointed out that the US, acting on Israel’s behalf, has bullied the Gulf states , including Saudi Arabia , to prevent Muslim donors from sending their charity to the occupied territories. “Now we mostly rely on local sources which are scarce, meager and can’t really meet the huge and growing demand.”

Another Zakat official in Bethlehem , who wouldn’t give his name for security reasons, urged Muslims to bypass government control mechanisms and help the Palestinians face “this criminals and cruel siege by the enemies of Islam.” “Please, send your charity money and donations to your brothers and sisters in Palestine . Don’t wait for your governments’ approval because your governments are likely to be mere puppets of the United States and Israel ." “ We must never reach a situation where we need a permission from the Americans to practice our religions. If helping a starving child in Rafah or Nablus is terror, then let all of us be terrorists.”

This week, visiting US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, instead of treating the situation in Gaza in particular and the occupied territories in general as a humanitarian disaster, congratulated her Israeli counterpart Tzipi Livni on the “success” and “effectiveness” of the Israeli-American sanctions against the prisoner Palestinian population.

With this moral depravity and criminal hypocrisy, unseen since Hitler’s armies surrounded Ghetto Warsaw during the Second World War, Palestinian suffering is even likely to exacerbate. And the world is also likely to keep silent, just as did then.

This is how Ramadan looks like in Gaza in 2006."

Haniya: We will never recognize the Israeli occupation

By Khalid Amayreh

"In a landmark speech on Friday, 6 October, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismael Haniya vowed to remain steadfast in the face of combined American-Israeli pressure and blackmail, saying the Palestinian government will never ever recognize the Israeli occupation or sell out Palestinian rights.

Speaking before thousands of supporters in downtown Gaza, Haniya said Hamas was willing to accept a Palestinian state on the entirety of the 1967 occupied territories, including al-Quds al Sharif (East Jerusalem) as well as the repatriation of Palestinian refugees in return for an extended hunda or truce with Israel.

The Palestinian premier castigated “those who are coercing us to recognize Israel ,” a clear allusion to some Fatah leaders, saying that this would never happen. Haniya called for “national reconciliation” between Hamas and Fatah. Haniya said he was still committed to the National Reconciliation Document (the Prisoners’ document), stressing that the proposed national unity government ought to be based on the said document.

However, Haniya hinted that the PA leadership was coming under pressure from the Americans to effectively abandon the NRD and adopt the Quartet dictates, including unconditional recognition of Israel, putting an end to armed resistance to the Israeli occupation and accepting outstanding agreements between the PA and Israel including those Israel no longer recognizes.

Haniya also criticized Arab states saying that while Palestinians were appreciating Arab solidarity, it was sufficiently clear that these states were not doing enough to help the Palestinians who are facing a sinister siege aimed at bullying them to give up their inalienable rights in Palestine . Haniya also tacitly warned Arab states to refrain from interfering in Palestinian internal affairs.

The Palestinian Prime Minister devoted the bulk of his speech to the internal Palestinian front, lambasting those who were seeking to destabilize the government by means of vandalism and lawlessness. “We have been cursed, called traitors, vilified and called all kinds of names. We read newspapers and we listen to radio stations, and they say all kind of things and indulge in all kinds of incitement, but we never arrested a single person for expressing his views.”

Haniya said despite the suffocating economic and financial siege, the government was able to procure hundreds of million of dollars from Arab and Muslim donors. “The problem is that due to this oppressive siege, we have not been able to bring the money.

Defying those within the Fatah movement who call for the resignation of the government Haniya said the government was enjoying four kinds of legitimacy:

“There is the legitimacy of resistance, for we all came from the womb of the resistance. And then there is the legitimacy of the ballot box which gave us one of the most transparent democratic experiments in the world. Then there is the popular legitimacy in addition to the legitimacy bestowed on us by the Arab and Muslim umma.”

Haniya’s speech is viewed here as a defiant gesture to the Fatah leadership and American-Israeli efforts to isolate Hamas. Earlier this week, visiting US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said openly that one of the key goals of here visit to the region was to empower Abbas and weaken Hamas. Abbas, seeking to appease the Americans, said the dialogue with Hamas over the formation of a government of national unity returned to square one, blaming Hamas for reneging on earlier agreements on this regard.

Moreover, Abbas hinted that he might dismiss the government or even dissolve the legislative council in which case he would have to call for early elections in less than three months. According to opinion polls in the occupied territories, Hamas could still win if elections were to be held now."

Thanks for liberating Iraqi women, Bush...

Hidden victims of a brutal conflict: Iraq's women

Abduction, rape and murder are the punishments for any woman who dares to hold a professional job. A month-long investigation by The Observer reveals the terrible reality of life after Saddam

Peter Beaumont in Baghdad
Sunday October 8, 2006
The Observer

They came for Dr Khaula al-Tallal in a white Opel car after she took a taxi home to the middle class district of Qadissiya in Iraq's holy city of Najaf. She worked for the medical committee that examined patients to assess them for welfare benefit. Crucially, however, she was a woman in a country where being a female professional increasingly invites a death sentence.

As al-Tallal, 50, walked towards her house, one of three men in the Opel stepped out and raked her with bullets.

A women's rights campaigner, Umm Salam - a nickname - knows about the three men in the Opel: they tried to kill her on 11 December last year. It was a Sunday, she recalls, and 15 bullets were fired into her own car as she drove home from teaching at an internet cafe. A man in civilian clothes got out of the car and opened fire. Three bullets hit her, one lodging close to her spinal cord. Her 20-year-old son was hit in the chest. Umm Salam saw the gun - a police-issue Glock. She is convinced her would-be assassin works for the state.

The shootings of al-Tallal and Umm Salam are not isolated incidents, even in Najaf - a city almost exclusively Shia and largely insulated from the sectarian violence of the North. Bodies of young women have appeared in its dusty lanes and avenues, places patrolled by packs of dogs where the boundaries bleed into the desert. It is a favourite place for dumping murder victims.

Iraqis do not like to talk about it much, but there is an understanding of what is going on these days. If a young woman is abducted and murdered without a ransom demand, she has been kidnapped to be raped. Even those raped and released are not necessarily safe: the response of some families to finding that a woman has been raped has been to kill her.

Iraq's women are living with a fear that is increasing in line with the numbers dying violently every month. They die for being a member of the wrong sect and for helping their fellow women. They die for doing jobs that the militants have decreed that they cannot do: for working in hospitals and ministries and universities. They are murdered, too, because they are the softest targets for Iraq's criminal gangs.

Iraq's women live in terror of speaking their opinions; of going out to work; or defying the strict new prohibitions on dress and behaviour applied across Iraq by Islamist militants, both Sunni and Shia. They live in fear of their husbands, too, as women's rights have been undermined by the country's postwar constitution that has taken power from the family courts and given it to clerics.

'Women are being targeted more and more,' said Umm Salam last week. Her husband was a university professor who was executed in 1991 under Saddam Hussein after the Shia uprising. She survived by running her family farm. When the Americans arrived she got involved in civic action, teaching illiterate women how to read and vote, independent from the influence of their husbands. She helped them fill in forms for benefits and set up a sewing workshop.

In doing so she put herself at mortal risk. And since the assassination attempt, like many women in Najaf, she has found it hard to work. Which is what the men in the white Opel wanted. To silence the women like Umm Salam, who is 42.

'It is very difficult for women here. There is a lot of pressure on our personal freedoms. None of us feels that we can have an opinion on anything any more. If she does, she risks being killed.'

It is a story familiar to women across Iraq, betrayed by the country's new constitution that guaranteed them a 25 per cent share of membership of the Council of Representatives. That guarantee has turned instead into a fig leaf hiding what women activists now call a 'human rights catastrophe for Iraqi women'.

After a month-long investigation, The Observer has established that in almost every major area of human rights, women are being seriously discriminated against, in some cases seeing their conditions return to those of females in the Middle Ages. In areas such as the Shia militia stronghold of Sadr City in east Baghdad, women have been beaten for not wearing socks. Even the headscarf and juba - the ankle-length, flared coat that buttons to the collar - are not enough for the zealots. Some women have been threatened with death unless they wear the full abbaya, the black, all-encompassing veil.

Similar reports are emerging from Mosul, where it is Sunni extremists who are laying down the law, and Kirkuk. Women from Karbala, Hilla, Basra and Nassariyah have all told The Observer similar stories. Of the insidious spread of militia and religious party control - and how members of those same groups are, paradoxically, increasingly responsible for the rape and murder of women outside their sects and communities.

'There is a member of my organisation, an activist who is a Christian,' said Yanar Mohammed, head of the Organisation for Iraqi Women's Freedom, who has had death threats for her work in protecting women threatened by domestic violence or 'honour' killings. 'She would have to walk home each day to her neighbourhood through an area controlled by one of the Islamic Shia militias, the Jaish al-Mahdi. She does not wear a veil so she gets abused by these men. About three weeks ago, one of them starts following her home saying that he wants a sexual relationship with her. He tells her what he wants to do, and if she doesn't agree he says she will be kidnapped. In the end he thinks that, because he is armed, because he threatens her existence, she will have to agree to a "pleasure marriage" [a temporary sexual union arranged by a cleric].'

Strong anecdotal evidence gathered by organisations such as that of Yanar Mohammed and by the Iraqi Women's Network, run by Hanna Edwar, suggests rape is also being used as a weapon in the sectarian war to humiliate families from rival communities. 'So far what we have been seeing is what you might call "collateral rape",' says Besmia Khatib of the Iraqi Women's Network. 'Rape is being used in the settling of scores in the sectarian war.' Yanar Mohammed describes how a Shia girl was kidnapped, raped and dumped in the Husseiniya area of Baghdad. The retaliation, she says, was the kidnapping and rape of several Sunni girls in the Rashadiya area. Tit for tat.

Similar stories are emerging across Iraq. 'Of course rape is going on,' says Aida Ussayaran, former deputy Human Rights Minister and now one of the women on the Council of Representatives. 'We blame the militias. But when we talk about the militias, many are members of the police. Any family now that has a good-looking young woman in it does not want to send her out to school or university, and does not send her out without a veil. This is the worst time ever in Iraqi women's lives. In the name of religion and sectarian conflict they are being kidnapped and killed and raped. And no one is mentioning it.'

Women activists are convinced there is substantial under-reporting of crimes against women in some areas, particularly involving 'honour killing' - there is a massive increase against a background of pervasive violence - and that families often seek death certificates that will hide the cause. In regions such as the violent Anbar province, the country's largest, which borders Jordan and Syria, there is little reporting of the causes of any death. And activists complain, in any case, that they have been blocked from examining bodies at the Medical Forensic Institute in Baghdad, or collecting their own figures to build up an accurate picture of what is happening to women.

While attacks on women have long been the dirty secret of Iraq's war, the sheer levels of the violence is now pushing it into the open. Last week in Samawah, 246 kilometres (153 miles) south of Baghdad, three women and a toddler were killed when gunmen stormed their home in an unexplained mass murder. Like Dr al-Tallal in Najaf, they were Shia Muslims in a Shia city. The three women were shot. The 18-month-old baby had her throat slit.

In the north, too, last week the killing of women became more visible, with the al-Jazeera network reporting that attacks on women in the city of Mosul had led to an unprecedented rise in the number of women's bodies being found. Among them was Zuheira, a young housewife, found shot dead in the suburb of Gogaly. Salim Zaho, a neighbour, quoted by the television station, said: 'They couldn't kill her husband, a police officer, so they came for his wife instead.'

It is one of the recurring narratives of murder told by Iraqi women. It is a violence that would not be possible without a wider, permissive brutalising of women's lives: one that permeates the 'new Iraq' in its entirety. For it is not only the religious militias that have turned women's lives into a living hell - it is, in some measure, the government itself, which has allowed ministries run by religious parties to segregate staff by gender. Some public offices, including ministries, insist on women staff wearing a headscarf at all times. A women's shelter, set up by Yanar Mohammed's group, was closed down by the government.

Most serious of all are the death threats women receive for simply working, even in government offices. Zainub - not her real name - works for a ministry in Baghdad. One morning, she said, she arrived at work to find that a letter had been sent to all the women. 'When I opened up the note it said, "You will die. You will die".'

The situation has been exacerbated by the undermining of Iraq's old Family Code, established in 1958, which guaranteed women a large measure of equality in key areas such as divorce and inheritance. The new constitution has allowed the Family Code to be superseded by the power of the clerics and new religious courts, with the result that it is largely discriminatory against women. The clerics have permitted the creeping re-emergence of men contracting multiple marriages, formerly discouraged by the old code. It is these clerics, too, who have permitted a sharp escalation in the 'pleasure marriages'. And it is the same clerics overseeing the rapid transformation of a once secular society - in which women held high office and worked as professors, doctors, engineers and economists - into one where women have been forced back under the veil and into the home. The result is mapped out every day on Iraq's streets and in its country lanes in individual acts of intimidation and physical brutality that build into an awful whole.

And so in Salman Pak, on the Tigris 15 miles south of Baghdad, The Observer is told, the Karaa Brigade of the Ministry of the Interior rounds up some Sunni men. Later some of the police return to the men's houses and promise their worried women to help find the missing men in exchange for sex.

In the Shia neighbourhood of al-Shaab in Baghdad, militiamen with the Jaish al-Mahdi put out an order banning women from wearing sandals and certain shoes, skirts and trousers. They beat up others for wearing the wrong clothes.

In Amaryah, a Sunni stronghold in Baghdad, Sunni militants shave three women's heads for wearing the wrong clothes and lash young men for wearing shorts. In Zafaraniyah, a largely Shia suburb south of Baghdad, the Jaish al-Mahdi militiamen wait outside a school and slap girls not wearing the hijab.

It is a situation bleakly recorded by the Human Rights Office of the UN Assistance Mission to Iraq. 'There are reports that, in some Baghdad neighbourhoods, women are now prevented from going to the markets alone,' Unami reported. 'In other cases, women have been warned not to drive cars, or have faced harassment if they wear trousers. Women have also reported that wearing a headscarf is becoming not a matter of religious choice but one of survival in many parts of Iraq, a fact particularly resented by non-Muslim women. Female university students are also facing constant pressure in university campuses.'

'Since the beginning of August it has just been getting worse,' says Nagham Kathim Hamoody, an activist with the Iraqi Women's Network in Najaf . 'There are more women being killed and more bodies being found in the cemetery. I don't know why they are being killed, but I know the militias are behind the killing... We went to the mortuary here in Najaf, but the authorities would not co-operate in helping to identify the murdered women. There was one doctor, though, who told us that some of the bodies showed signs that they had been beaten prior to their murder.'

And so the painful lives of Iraqi women go on.

Meanwhile in Palestine

Plan for the Olive Harvest Campaign 2006: On the 5th of October a special meeting made up of regional ISM coordinators took place to present their plans for the olive harvest and to make everyone aware of each other's activities so that better coordination between the regions can take place. Below is a summary of each region's activities to give an idea of how well organized we are this year and to hopefully encourage more people to come and support the Palestinian farmers and their families against the violence of the colonist settlers and the obstruction and harrassment of the Israeli army.

Palestinian child deaths in conflict with Israel already nearly double that of 2005 – UN: “They are confronted with regular military operations, shelling, house demolitions, checkpoints on their way to schools,” UNICEF Child Protection Officer Anne Grandjean said. “As a result we find high prevalence of signs of stress such as anxiety, eating and sleeping disorders, and difficulties concentrating in school. “All of these signs need to be tackled as soon as possible to avoid a long-lasting impact on the child’s development,” she added.

Hebron commemorates anniversary of massacre in Ibrahimi mosque: It was 13 years ago on this, the fifteenth day of Ramadan, that Dr. Baruch Goldstein walked into Al Haram Al Ibrahimi Mosque in the southern West Bank's Hebron and opened fire. He killed 29 Palestinians in the midst of prayer. Among them were three children. The Israeli response to the massacre was to punish the victims by taking over half the mosque and turning it into a synagogue - exactly what Goldstein had been hoping for.

We Can’t Go Home Again: Now the Israeli authorities have decided that my life here has come to an end. Even after the Oslo Accords were signed and the Palestinian Authority established, Israel retained control of all borders and of the Palestinian Population Registry. Nothing or no one gets into or out of the West Bank and Gaza without Israeli permission. For a dozen years I have waited for Israel to approve my application for Palestinian residency. American Jews, indeed Jews from anywhere in the world, can come to Israel and be granted automatic citizenship.

Women activists harvest/expose the Rabin Square olive trees: `You have no permit to demonstrate here, you must disperse!` `We are not demonstrating, we are harvesting olives.` `What?` For once, the tough Tel Aviv Municipal Marshals were caught unready. Nobody had ever thought of passing a municipal ordinance or by-law forbidding the picking of olives.

Jerusalem's patriarch visits area: "I hope he's able to spread the message that (Palestinians) are not terrorists. They are people; they are Muslims, and they are Christians," said Nancy Hemminger, chairwoman of Twal's visit and coordinator of the Children's Peace Project that brought the Palestinian children in Cincinnati.

Rice offers Abbas plan to ease blockade of Gaza: Ms Rice, who left yesterday for a surprise visit to Baghdad on her way back to Washington, proposed a $25.5m (£13.5m) security centre for checking lorries on the Palestinian side of Karni. To meet Israel's concerns, it would be manned by Mr Abbas's presidential guard, supported by international monitors. The Americans are also offering $26m to expand the presidential guard from 3,500 to 6,000 men.

Haniyeh: Hamas won't be forced out, won't recognize Israel:"There are new scenarios, such as an emergency government, a technocrat government, or early elections," Haniyeh told tens of thousands of supporters. "They all aim for one thing, getting Hamas out of the government."

Abbas, Haneya likely to meet this week: Hamas spokesman: Spokesman Ghazi Hamad told reporters that Abbas was expected to arrive in Gaza before Thursday and discuss with Haneya about the forming of the proposed government of national unity.

Non-Hamas officials criticize Haneya's Friday speech: Speaking to Voice of Palestine radio, lawmaker Hannan Ahsrawi called the speech "a popular, calling up speech away from real reading of the Palestinian people' suffering," adding that the speech addressed only Hamas supporters instead of the Palestinian people."

Fatah leader urges Abbas to sack Hamas government within two weeks: The comments from Azzam al-Ahmed, head of Fatah's parliamentary bloc, underlined the increasing bitterness of the power struggle between Islamist group Hamas and Abbas, from Fatah, after their failure to agree on a coalition government.

Olmert, Abbas aides meet to plan summit: Olmert's chief of staff Yoram Turbowicz and a senior advisor met with chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and one of Abbas's aides two weeks ago in order "to prepare the grounds for a possible meeting," the official told AFP Saturday.

P.A payment to Palestinian refugees in Lebanon stopped since March: One of the refugees, Qassem Ahmad, a member of Fateh at the Ein Al Hilwa refugee camp, said that his monthly salary from the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) has stopped since March. Ahmad depends on this salary as his main source in income and livelihood since the Lebanese government does not allow the Palestinian refugees to work, obtain work permits and to own lands.

Jordan denies hosting secret Saudi-Israel talks: "These sorts of reports are put about every time there are positive signs emerging in the peace process, probably with a view to damaging it and creating a climate of suspicion around it." Israel's top-selling daily Yediot Aharonot reported Thursday that Olmert had held a secret meeting lasting several hours with Saudi officials at the palace of Jordan's King Abdullah II.

Israeli academic speaks out about Palestinian conflict: So, since '67 Israel is holding to the territories and is not willing to give them up. So if there's no, so there's one route that Israel has never tried, namely ending the occupation, signing agreement with the Palestinians and opening a new page. But if you want to stick to the territories your fate is always to use more aggression and more violence on both sides and more, more and more need to protect yourself and then to destroy others.

'You Never Know What's Next': Lubin was born into a conservative Zionist family. She had been taught that the Jews needed to establish a state of their own, so that what had happened to her relatives during World War II, when their land was occupied, and family members murdered in camps, should never happen again. For much of her life Barbara Lubin felt that the Zionist ideal was the right thing. However, in 1982 her eyes were open to a new horror: a new form of occupation, enacted by Israelis.

Despite, not because: What should be done instead of the declamatory "because?" Aid should be transferred to Gaza, the routes for agricultural exports should be opened, help must be given in restoring the electricity supply, the number of Palestinian workers in Israel ought to be increased, Palestinian prisoners should be released (in the same numbers that will in any case ultimately be released) and Gilad Shalit brought back, talks should be held with the PA chairman and prime minister, a unity government should be encouraged rather than sabotaged, there should be serious discussion of the Saudi initiative.

Film considers Palestine peace: A film, “Gaza Strip,” that shows why peace is so difficult to achieve in Palestine, will be shown at 2 p.m. Sunday in the Martha Room at First United Methodist Church, 1165 N.W. Monroe Ave. Released in 2002, “Gaza Strip” shows a population under Israeli occupation and resultant frustration of the people, especially young Gaza males.

Past comes back to haunt us in form of Kissinger


"WASHINGTON -- Say it isn't so. Hawkish Henry Kissinger is advising President Bush about Iraq war strategy? This is déjà vu all over again.

The former secretary of state -- who served in that job from 1973 to 1979 and previously from 1969 as national security affairs adviser -- inspires too many bad memories of the Vietnam War.

I remember when Kissinger came into the White House press room in 1972 just before the presidential election and announced "peace is at hand."

Three years later, we fled Saigon by our fingertips. Who can forget the pictures of refugees piling into helicopters parked on Saigon rooftops, with the North Vietnamese army at the gate.

Kissinger is back as an elder statesman doling out advice to embattled Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney that "victory over the insurgency is the only meaningful exit strategy."

Kissinger's message to the president and his top aides -- including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice -- was they should not give an inch and to stick it out in Iraq.

He maintained that Vietnam collapsed like a house of cards because the Nixon administration did not have time, focus, energy and political support and the American people did not have the will.

White House press secretary Tony Snow said Kissinger told him "he supports the overall thrust and direction of the administration policy" in Iraq.

Kissinger also is quoted as saying that Bush needed to resist pressure to withdraw troops since that would create a momentum for an exit that is less than victory.

Woodward said on CBS-TV's "60 Minutes" on Oct. 1 that "Kissinger's fighting the Vietnam War again because, in his view, the problem in Vietnam was we lost our will." Well, Kissinger was right about that. The reason is simple: People saw no reason to lose more lives there.

His views match the administration's 35-page "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq" issued last year.

The administration would prefer not to evoke memories of the Vietnam quagmire, the 58,000-plus American war dead, and its bitter legacy, yet it all sounds too familiar when we hear officials insist we need to "stay the course" and deride dissenters as those who want to "cut and run."

They seem to forget that "those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.""

We Can’t Go Home Again

Sam Bahour
The New York Times

THIRTEEN years ago, I left a comfortable life in the United States for an uncertain future in the West Bank. Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization had just signed the Oslo Accords. Like many others, I saw an opportunity for Palestinians to finally build a society and economy that would lead to freedom — to a thriving Palestine alongside Israel.

As a Palestinian-American businessman, I was determined to do my part. So I moved to the West Bank city of El Bireh, where my family has lived for centuries. There I helped create a $100 million telecommunications company, which today employs more than 2,000 Palestinians. I earned an M.B.A. through Tel Aviv University. Then I developed a $10 million shopping center — the first of its kind in the Palestinian territories, employing more than 220 Palestinians. I married and had two beautiful daughters.

Now the Israeli authorities have decided that my life here has come to an end.

Even after the Oslo Accords were signed and the Palestinian Authority established, Israel retained control of all borders and of the Palestinian Population Registry. Nothing or no one gets into or out of the West Bank and Gaza without Israeli permission. For a dozen years I have waited for Israel to approve my application for Palestinian residency.

American Jews, indeed Jews from anywhere in the world, can come to Israel and be granted automatic citizenship. Thousands of American Jews freely enter and exit Israel to live in illegal Israeli settlements in the middle of the West Bank. But Palestinians whose families have lived here continually for centuries do not enjoy the same right. I need a residency card from Israel to live with my Palestinian family in my grandfather’s home in the Palestinian West Bank.

For 13 years, I’ve lived here by renewing my tourist visa every three months. Last month, an Israeli soldier stamped my American passport with a one-month visa and wrote “last permit” on it in Arabic, Hebrew and English. Now I am faced with a terrible choice. I can leave, uprooting my family and abandoning the businesses I’ve worked hard to build. I can leave alone and be separated from my wife and daughters. Or I can remain here “illegally,” risking deportation at any time.

My situation is not unique. Thousands of Palestinians are in a similar limbo. Most have less desirable options than mine. My children are American citizens. We can return to the United States. But I came here with a vision, and I remain determined to play a role in developing an economy, nonviolently ending Israel’s military occupation and building a Palestinian state.

Israeli policies effectively discourage people like me. According to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, it has been official Israeli policy since 1983 to “reduce, as much as possible, the approval of requests for family unification” of Palestinians. B’Tselem reports that in the last six years alone, more than 70,000 people have applied for permission to immigrate to the West Bank and Gaza to join family. Their applications have either been denied or, like mine, languish.

Each Palestinian who leaves lessens what Israelis openly call the “demographic threat” of a growing Palestinian population. But Israel needs to understand that the real threat comes not from demographics. It comes from controlling an entire population, breaking families apart and placing obstacles in the path of economic development.

Israelis and Palestinians are destined to be neighbors. One neighbor cannot ensure its security by condemning the other to hardship and despair. Many people like me — business owners, educators, artists and others — whom Israel is denying entry came to build bridges, not walls. We came to invest in a better life to follow this occupation — a bright, joint future for Palestinian and Israeli children alike.

Assad: Syrian military preparing for war with Israel

The Syrian military is preparing for war with Israel, Syria's President Bashar Assad told the Quwaiti newspaper Al-Anba on Saturday.

Assad also said he believes Israel has abandonded the peace process.

Syrian Information Minister Muhsen Bilal also said Saturday that his country is preparing for war with Israel, but added that Syria is interested in peace.

Bilal made the comments in an interview broadcast on Al-Jazeera.

"Syria is taking into account the possibility that Israel will embark on a military adventure in against Syria," said Bilal. "We are preparing for every possibility."

According to Bilal, Israel intended to "crush Hezbollah" and impose its control in Lebanon, but failed to do so.

"The crisis which Israel finds itself in today, following its failure in Lebanon, could lead it to attack Syria," said Bilal. "We always emphasized our lack of faith in Israeli governments, and this is especially true of the current government."

Bilal added that Syria is interested in peace with Israel, saying it was Israel that was responsible for the collapse of peace talks between the two nations in the year 2000.

Bilal presented the Syrian principles for peace with Israel. He said any agreement must be based on UN decisions calling for an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights, southern Lebanon, the Palestinian territories and the recognition of the right of return of Palestinian refugees to Israel."

The US, Israel and Lebanon

Historical Roots and Patterns of Conflict


"The destructive and lethal forces unleashed this past summer by the United States and Israel upon Lebanon are not surprising in light of their historical roots in at least four patterns of conflict:

First, the unwillingness of Israel and its American patrons to resolve the question of the Palestinian refugees and provide for a viable Palestinian state, but rather the exploitation of this conflict to intimidate other Arab states in the region, especially Lebanon.

Second, Israel's territorial ambitions in southern Lebanon, especially regarding water, as well as the economic challenge posed to Israel by a peaceful and thriving Lebanon as a center of finance and tourism.

Third, Israel's doctrine of massive and illegal retaliation against civilian populations in response to Arab terrorism and resistance, as a means of asserting unquestioned military superiority in the region and preventing the establishment of a deterrent force that would necessitate good faith negotiation.

Fourth, Israel's military alliance with the U.S., and its willingness to serve American interests in the latter's efforts to dominate the region's energy resources, as defined more recently by both neoconservative and neoliberal doctrines that have engendered the destruction of not only Lebanon but Afghanistan, Iraq, and Gaza; and have also justified the increased concentration of wealth and economic inequality in both Israel and the U.S.

Rhetoric and Reality in the "War on Terror"

As American and Israeli efforts to control events in the Middle East become increasingly problematic, there are increased efforts to re-cast the conflict in terms of a "clash of civilizations" between "Judeo-Christians" and "Islamo-fascists." Such propaganda is obviously intended to invoke both Nazi Germany and the Cold War, reframing power-driven conflicts over land and resources as an essentialized global conflict of culture and religion.

But the ironies inherent in this propaganda may portend changes in violent historical patterns. The Bush and Olmert administrations have proved to be corrupt and deceitful; the relation between their rhetoric and reality evokes none other than fascist propagandists and Pravda. Hezbollah and Hamas have proved to be incorruptible popular movements, unrelated to al-Qaeda, that rightly stand in opposition to the Palestinian Authority, the government of Lebanon, and Israel. Meanwhile, the religious subplot in the secular Jewish State evokes Jacob Talmon's 1965 assertion (quoted by Chomsky in Middle East Illusions) that "the Rabbinate (in Israel) is rapidly developing into a firmly institutionalized church imposing an exacting discipline on its members. The State . . . has given birth to an established Church." But the religious Jew stays at home or in the illegal settlements while the secular Jew is conscripted to fight in an American/Israeli war for oil and hegemony that targets civilians and infrastructure, and now invites serious retaliation against his community. One possibility to be hoped for is that the secular Jewish-Israeli conscript and impoverished American "volunteer" will come to see no future in all of this, and realize that their respective states are also (and just as fundamentally) at war against their own citizens."


The Emerging Russian Giant Plays its Cards Strategically

A Very Interesting And Long Article
by F. William Engdahl

"The September 2006 summit in Paris between Russia’s Vladimir Putin, French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, underscored the re-emerging of Russia as a major global power. The new Russia is gaining in influence through a series of strategic moves revolving around its geopolitical assets in energy—most notably its oil and natural gas. It’s doing so by shrewdly taking advantage of the strategic follies and major political blunders of Washington. The new Russia also realizes that if it does not act decisively, it soon will be encircled and trumped by a military rival, USA, for which it has little defenses left. The battle, largely unspoken, is the highest stakes battle in world politics today. Iran and Syria are seen by Washington strategists as mere steps to this great Russian End Game.

Since the devastating setbacks two years ago from the US-sponsored ‘color revolutions’ in Georgia, and then Ukraine, Russia has begun to play its strategic energy cards extremely carefully, from nuclear reactors in Iran to military sales to Venezuela and other Latin American states, to strategic market cooperation deals in natural gas with Algeria.

The ‘Cheney Presidency,’ which is what historians will no doubt dub the George W. Bush years, has been based on a clear strategy. It has often been misunderstood by critics who had overly focussed on its most visible component, namely, Iraq, the Middle East and the strident war-hawks around the Vice President and his old crony, Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld.

The ‘Cheney strategy’ has been a US foreign policy based on securing direct global energy control, control by the Big Four US or US-tied private oil giants-- ChevronTexaco or ExxonMobil, BP or Royal Dutch Shell. Above all, it has aimed at control of all the world’s major oil regions, along with the major natural gas fields. That control has moved in tandem with a growing bid by the United States for total military primacy over the one potential threat to its global ambitions—Russia. Cheney is perhaps the ideal person to weave the US military and energy policies together into a coherent strategy of dominance. During the early 1990’s under father Bush, Cheney was also Secretary of Defense.

The Cheney-Bush administration has been dominated by a coalition of interests between Big Oil and the top industries of the American military-industrial complex. These private corporate interests exercise their power through control of the government policy of the United States. An aggressive militaristic agenda has been essential to it. It is epitomized by Cheney’s former company, Halliburton Inc., at one and the same time the world’s largest energy and geophysical services company, and the world’s largest constructor of military bases.

Cheney’s PNAC group called on the new US President-to-be to find a suitable pretext to declare war on Iraq, in order to occupy it and take direct control over the second largest oil reserves in the Middle East. Their report stated bluntly, ‘While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification (sic), the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein ...’

Cheney signed on to a policy document in September 2000 which declared that the key issue was ‘American force presence in the Gulf,’ and regime change in Iraq, regardless whether Saddam Hussein was good, bad or ugly. It was the first step in moving the US military to ‘where the prize ultimately lies.’

In brief, NATO encirclement of Russia, Color Revolutions across Eurasia, and the war in Iraq, were all one and the same American geopolitical strategy, part of a grand strategy to ultimately de-construct Russia once and for all as a potential rival to a sole US Superpower hegemony. Russia-- not Iraq and not Iran-- was the primary target of that strategy.

By the end of 2004 it was clear in Moscow that a new Cold War, this one over strategic energy control and unilateral nuclear primacy, was fully underway. It was also clear from the unmistakeable pattern of Washington actions since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, that End Game for USA policy vis-à-vis Eurasia was not China, not Iraq, and not Iran.

The geopolitical ‘End Game’ for Washington was the complete de-construction of Russia, the one state in Eurasia capable of organizing an effective combination of alliances using its vast oil and gas resources. That, of course, could never be openly declared.

The invented term, Greater Middle East is the creation of various Washington think-tanks close to Cheney including his Project for the New American Century, to refer to the non-Arabic countries of Turkey, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Central Asian (former USSR) countries, and Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia. At the G-8 Summit in Summer 2004 President Bush first officially used the term to refer to the region included in Washington’s project to spread ‘democracy’ in the region.

Completion of the European missile defense system, the militarization of the entire Middle East, the encirclement of Russia and of China from a connected web of new US military bases, many put up in the name of the War on Terror, all now appear to the Kremlin as part of a deliberate US strategy of Full Spectrum Dominance."

"Cold War Shivers": War Preparations in the Middle East and Central Asia

by Michel Chossudovsky

"The overall significance of these military drills must be assessed in relation to the sequence of Russian, Chinese and Iran war exercises conducted since late August.

There is a consistent pattern. These war games are not isolated events. They are part of a carefully coordinated endeavor, in response to the US-NATO military build-up. They should also be considered as acts of deterrence, intended to display military capabilities to deter military action by US led coaltion.

The SCO and CSTO war games must also be examined in relation to the structure of military alliances. Both China and Russia are allies of Iran, involved in extensive military cooperation agreements.

China and Russia are major actors in Central Asian oil. They have significant strategic and economic interests in the Central Asian region and the Caspian sea basin. They also have economic cooperation agreements with Iran's State oil company.

The US military agenda is not limited to gaining control over Iran's oil and gas reserves, (using the "campaign against international terrorism" as a pretext). Reminiscent of the Cold war era, the objective of US military intervention also consists in weakening and ultimately displacing China and Russia from playing a significant role in Central Asia.

Directed against Iran and Syria, the US sponsored military operation, if it were to be launched, could result in a broader conflict marked by the indirect involvement of Russia and China and their central Asian allies. In fact that indirect involvement is already established through Iran's observer status to the SCO, various bilateral military cooperation agreements as well as the sale of Chinese and Russian weapons systems to Iran.

Known and documented, China is also supporting Iran in the development of its air defense system. Moreover, according to a report in the Daily Telegraph (5 October 2006), Washington has acknowledged that China has been involved in

"secretly fired powerful laser weapons designed to disable American spy satellites by "blinding" their sensitive surveillance devices, it was reported yesterday."

This article has attempted to document the various preparations for war.

The risk of an extended Middle East -Central Asian war must nonetheless be addressed. The devastation and loss of life which could result from this proposed military agenda would be incalculable, particularly if the conflict escalates to the broader Middle East- Central Asian region

Friday, October 6, 2006

AP Learns Gitmo Guards Brag of Beatings


Guards at Guantanamo Bay bragged about beating detainees and described it as common practice, a Marine sergeant said in a sworn statement obtained by The Associated Press.

The two-page statement was sent Wednesday to the Inspector General at the Department of Defense by a high-ranking Marine Corps defense lawyer.

The lawyer sent the statement on behalf of a paralegal who said men she met on Sept. 23 at a bar on the base identified themselves to her as guards. The woman, whose name was blacked out, said she spent about an hour talking with them. No one was in uniform, she said.

A 19-year-old sailor referred to only as Bo "told the other guards and me about him beating different detainees being held in the prison," the statement said.

"One such story Bo told involved him taking a detainee by the head and hitting the detainee's head into the cell door. Bo said that his actions were known by others," the statement said. The sailor said he was never punished.

The statement was provided to the AP on Thursday night by Lt. Col. Colby Vokey. He is the Marine Corps' defense coordinator for the western United States and based at Camp Pendleton.

Calls left for representatives at Guantanamo Bay on Friday were not immediately returned. A Pentagon spokesman declined immediate comment.

Other guards "also told their own stories of abuse towards the detainees" that included hitting them, denying them water and "removing privileges for no reason."

"About 5 others in the group admitted hitting detainees" and that included "punching in the face," the affidavit said.

"From the whole conversation, I understood that striking detainees was a common practice," the sergeant wrote. "Everyone in the group laughed at the others stories of beating detainees."

Vokey called for an investigation, saying the abuse alleged in the affidavit "is offensive and violates United States and international law."

Guantanamo was internationally condemned shortly after it opened more than four years ago when pictures captured prisoners kneeling, shackled and being herded into wire cages. That was followed by reports of prisoner abuse, heavy-handed interrogations, hunger strikes and suicides.

Military investigators said in July 2005 they confirmed abusive and degrading treatment of a suspected terrorist at Guantanamo Bay that included forcing him to wear a bra, dance with another man and behave like a dog.

However, the chief investigator, Air Force Lt. Gen. Randall M. Schmidt, said "no torture occurred" during the interrogation of Mohamed al-Qahtani, a Saudi who was captured in December 2001 along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

Last month, U.N. human rights investigators criticized the United States for failing to take steps to close Guantanamo Bay, home to 450 detainees, including 14 terrorist suspects who had been kept in secret CIA prisons around the world.

Described as the most dangerous of America's "war on terror" prisoners, fewer than a dozen inmates have been charged with crimes. This fall, the Navy plans to open a new, $30-million maximum-security wing at its prison complex there, a concrete-and-steel structure replacing temporary camps.

Pregnant Palestinians give birth at Israeli checkpoints

GAZA CITY - A report by the Palestinian Ministry of Health says that pregnant Palestinian women are often prevented by Israeli forces from reaching hospitals to receive appropriate medical attention, causing many miscarriages and the deaths of some women.

Since the beginning of the second Intifada, a Palestinian uprising against Israeli military occupation, in September 2000, 68 pregnant Palestinian women gave birth at Israeli checkpoints, leading to 34 miscarriages and the deaths of four women, according to the Health Ministry's September report.

Thoraya Obaid, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said these figures underline the need to put an end to the agony of pregnant Palestinian women held at Israeli checkpoints.

"It is urgent to facilitate access by pregnant women to life-saving services, as stipulated by international humanitarian law," Obaid said.

Rami Abu Shaaban of the Health Ministry's Information Centre said that the amount of time Palestinians spend waiting at border crossings has increased dramatically over the past five years.

"Ten per cent of women who wished to give birth at medical centres had to spend hours on the road before reaching a hospital, while six per cent spent more than four hours. The normal time, before the Intifada, was 15-30 minutes," Abu Shaaban said.

Munna al-Astal spent 19 days stranded at the Rafah Crossing between Gaza and Egypt before giving birth nearby.

She said she was among a number of Palestinians who were being processed through the crossing when it was closed by Israeli authorities for security reasons, leaving her and the others caught inside the terminal.

According to the Palestinians, Egyptian authorities do not let them back into Egypt once their passports have been given an exit stamp; and Palestinian authorities do not let them forward into Gaza if the border has been closed.

The stranded survive on food and water they are able to buy there and from handouts from the Egyptian Red Crescent. If they need urgent medical attention, they are taken to hospital in Egypt, but once they are able, they are returned to the crossing.

"I was visiting relatives in Egypt and on my way back to Gaza the crossing was sealed off by the Israelis," al-Astal said. "I was about to give birth. I went into labour for several hours with no one to help me. Finally an ambulance came to take me to the Al-Areesh Hospital [in the Sinai] but I gave birth in the ambulance.

"I named my daughter Ma'abar [Arabic for 'crossing'] to recollect the sufferings and hardships we both had at the Rafah terminal," she added.

According to the Health Ministry's report, there are currently 117,600 pregnant women in the Palestinian territories. This includes 17,640 women who are suffering difficult pregnancies due to a lack of prenatal and postnatal care.

"Inadequate medical care during pregnancy is the third leading cause of death among Palestinian women of childbearing age," said Abu Shaaban.

UNFPA has been helping pregnant women avoid suffering at checkpoints by training health personnel and equipping them with delivery kits to provide services within their communities. It has also formed local community support teams to assist health providers and raise awareness of the availability of delivery services.

Soon after the capture of an Israeli soldier on 25 June by Palestinian militants, Israel launched a military offensive in the Gaza Strip and tightened its control of border crossings. Damage to the Gaza infrastructure, including health, communication, power and transport facilities has been extensive.

This has compounded the suffering of the 1.4 million inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, particularly women and young people, health workers say.

"We conduct such restrictions at checkpoints because we receive security warnings of planned attacks on our soldiers and civilians," said Amira Aron, director of the Arab Media Department in the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"Israel has horrible experience of Palestinian women being used in carrying out suicide bombings against Israeli civilian and military targets. We know that such measures increase hatred between the two peoples, but we have to defend and protect our civilians," she added.

Meanwhile in Palestine

New Israeli wall another barrier to peace: Out on Highway 60, just outside Jerusalem, the bulldozers are at work. Next to the road that leads south from Jerusalem to Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the big yellow machines are scraping the earth, carving a flat, white, dusty shoulder. Along that strip, a high concrete wall is already being built, part of the newest segment of Israel's "separation fence." The planned route loops around the cluster of settlements known as the Etzion Bloc, putting them on the Israeli side of the de facto border.

Bil’in Defiant in Midday Sun: Not deterred by the intense midday heat and their empty stomachs, many villagers decided to continue the protest by marching down the slope along the wall and were immediately attacked by Israeli forces firing multiple rounds of tear gas. Around 20 protesters suffered from the effects of the gas and were forced to disperse into the olive groves where they watched as the IOF turned their attention to children in the olive groves on the opposite side of the road. Snipers took up positions and started firing rubber bullets at children in the groves who responded by throwing stones.

Commentary: Universal instincts - By Azmi Bishara: What are significant are the conditions. These the Palestinian Authority (PA) has to agree to in order to end the boycott, because by rejecting these conditions the elected government brought on the boycott to begin with." This is how people succumb to the logic and aims of the boycotters. It is how conditions stipulated by hostile external forces become the political agenda of a segment of internal forces. In the process, the freedom to choose and national unity are cast aside in exchange for the promise of bread for the masses. In turn, the masses become an instrument to topple the government and elect one the West approves of.

Gaza shootings kill Fatah activist: Muhamed Suleiman Atiyya was killed after evening prayers on Thursday in the southern Gaza town of Rafah. The AFP news agency reported that shortly afterwards a Hamas member of the interior ministry security force was injured when two hand grenades were thrown outside a Rafah hospital. Earlier, a Hamas member had been shot and wounded in Beit Lahiya, in the northern Gaza strip.

Palestinian PM urges Abbas to resume unity talks: Haniyeh is embroiled in an increasingly bitter power struggle with Abbas, fueled by their failure to agree a unity coalition that Palestinians hope will lift Western sanctions. "I urge the leadership of Fatah and Hamas to hold an urgent meeting, tonight, in my presence, to put an end to the internal strife. (But) we will not recognize Israel," Haniyeh said.

Israel is creating Mogadishu next to its Silicon Valley: Following the peace accords, scores of other Palestinian-Americans moved to the West Bank and Gaza. Professors came to teach at universities. Doctors came to help modernize the healthcare system and treat patients. Artists came to exhibit and perform. Other business professionals came to invest, modernize the economy and create jobs. Each, in their way, wanted to help build an independent Palestine. Each served as the real ambassadors of America, so different from the American-made Apache helicopters and F-16 fighter jets Israel uses to rain destruction on the Palestinian economy, cities and villages. But Israel has decided that we Americans are not welcome.

A time for peace?: In the summer of 2001, says Woodward, Bandar brought a blunt message to Bush, the sharpest ever delivered by him to an American president. The crown prince, Bandar told the astonished president, is planning to cut off all ties with you. We will not consider any U.S. interests and will act as we see fit. Why? Because of then prime minister Ariel Sharon and his war against the Palestinians. It is clear to us, the Saudi ambassador told the president, that the U.S. has made a "strategic decision" that means "adopting Sharon's policy." Bush protested. That's not true, he said to the ambassador. Two days later, Bush sent the crown prince a two-page letter in which he declared, for the first time, his support for the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Former U.S. President urges restoring aid to Palestinians: "The attempt to coerce Hamas leaders by starving the Palestinian people has failed, and it is time for the international community to alleviate their suffering and resort to diplomacy," Carter said in a statement. The former president added that he is doubtful that Palestinian leaders will make any progress toward reconciliation with Israel "as long as the Palestinians are subjected to this kind of debasement and personal suffering."

Israeli settlers take over Hebron mosque under armed protection of Israeli soldiers: Official Palestinian sources in the town told PNN on Thursday that the Israeli settlers carried machine guns and other weapons while overtaking the mosque for a half hour of Jewish prayer. Israeli soldiers occupying the area guarded the northern Hebron's mosque on behalf of the settlers.

Troops invade Balata refugee camp in Nablus: The Palestine News Network (PNN) reported that at least eight army vehicles and a military bulldozer, invaded the cap through Rojeeb street. The bulldozer destroyed doors and front walls of several shops in the area and fired rounds of live ammunition at street lights, especially in Al Hashasheen neighborhood.

Several residents injured while attempting to reach the Al Aqsa Mosque for Friday prayers: Palestinian sources reported on Friday that Israeli soldiers and policemen barred hundreds of Palestinians from reaching the Al Aqsa Mosque for Friday prayers, marking the second Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, several residents, including children, were injured.

Sukkot: Full closure on Gaza, West Bank: A general closure was imposed Friday on Palestinian territories and will remain in affect until the end of Sukkot; police have raised their alert level ahead of the holiday. The closure, which went into effect during the early morning hours and will be lifted in 24 hours.

Haniyeh promises right of return: Haniyeh sharply condemned the international community's economic blockade on the Palestinians. “The American regime is leading this seige to make us surrender and to politically exhaust us, but we are telling you – they won't wring us out and our fortress won't fall.

Senior Hamas official: Shalit deal to be finalized within 2 weeks: Yousef denied reports of Syrian involvement in the prisoner exchange negotiation process. "This is a matter within the Gaza Strip, and all of the sources handling the negotiations are there as well," he said.

Israeli DM promises to transfer tax revenues to Palestinians if captured soldier returns: "The key to releasing funds to the Palestinian (National) Authority is tied to the issue of returning Gilad Shalit home and to other issues that are part of our conditions, such as the halt of Qassams (rockets) and violence against communities in the Gaza area," Peretz said.

Muslim leader gets interfaith award in U.S. despite Jewish protests: Speaking at a Jerusalem Day rally, Hathout said: "We did not come here to condemn the condemned atrocities committed by the apartheid brutal state of Israel because butchers do what butchers do and because what is expected from a racist apartheid is what is happening now."

Carlos Santana coming to Israel: Guitarist Carlos Santana is scheduled to give a concert in Jerusalem in the spring of 2007 in the framework of project “Bridges of Music,” which was launched by Roy Scott in 1988 to advance peace between Jews and Muslims. The event will be sponsored by the Jerusalem Fund and the Foreign Ministry.
(Will people living behind the WALL have access to that "Peace" concert? )

Despite, not because: What can be done? The Israeli instinct has always been to spill all the old cliches over such scenes, from "there is no one to talk with" to jets of racist scorn for "the Arabs." We are having a hard time with them? They are also having a hard time with us. When at the beginning of the week, 12 Palestinians were killed in Fatah-Hamas battles, this of course made front page headlines in Israel. But the hundreds whom Israel has killed just in the darkened and hungry Gaza Strip over the past few months have already become stale non-news. The riots in the territories are a big asset for all haters of any agreement with those rioting gangs.

Siege within: While Western media reports tend to focus on the political scuffling between the Hamas government and Fatah, the once dominant party of President Mahmoud Abbas, the humanitarian crisis is duly ignored. If not for the sensitive and perceptive reporting of a few individual journalists such as Amira Hass of the Israeli daily Haaretz and Donald Macintyre of the British Independent, the untold suffering of the Palestinian people would have gone completely unnoticed.

Gaza Clashes - The Struggle for Palestine's Soul: If Peretz and others are to be believed, the gunmen could have done themselves and the 1.4 million people of Gaza a favour and simply executed Shalit weeks ago. Israel doubtless would have inflicted terrible retribution, such as the bombing of the Strip's only power station -- except, of course, it had already done that to avenge Shalit's capture. But, with the Israeli soldier dead, there would have been no obstacle to sitting down and talking.

Palestinian Affairs: Blazing battles: Mahmoud Abbas, his aides complained this week, is perhaps the only person in the Palestinian Authority who still thinks that Hamas can be transformed into a party that is willing to accept the Oslo Accords, renounce violence and implement all agreements that were signed between the PLO and Israel. "He really believes that Hamas will change, and that it will finally recognize Israel,"

كلمة الاستاذ اسماعيل هنية في مهرجان الصمود والثبات في غزة

Haniyyah's Speech (Arabic)

بيان المنتدى الثقافي الاجتماعي في فلسطين

"5 اكتوبر (تشرين الاول) 2006
بيان من فلسطين المحتلة:
هذا بيان للناس
قبل أن تكون فتنة، ولإنقاذ الشعب من الاقتتال لصالح العدو

المنتدى الاجتماعي الثقافي في فلسطين

بيان المنتدى الثقافي الاجتماعي في فلسطين

يتواصل تدهور الوضع الأمني والاجتماعي والإقتصادي والسياسي في الأراضي المحتلة باتجاه الإحتراب الداخلي الذي سيكون الضربة القاصمة للمشروع الوطني الفلسطيني. ويترافق مع هذا الإحتراب المحتمل مشروع أميركي لمزيد من الاحتراب والصراع الداخلي. ولن يكون لا الاحتراب ولا شقه الأخر المشروع الأميركي حلاً للآزمة الحالية بل تكريساً لها.
ولا يخفى على شعبنا ان الوصول إلى الوضع الحالي ما كان سوى نتيجة للإتفاقات التي بدأت من اوسلو، وهي الاتفاقات التي نقضها اساساً نفس الطرف الذي وقعها إلى جانب القيادة الفلسطينية.
أما والمؤامرة ليست حلاً، فالمطلوب هو خلق كتلة ممانعة شعبية في الأراضي الفلسطينية المحتلة يقوم موقفها على ما يلي:
حل الإشكالية القائمة ديمقراطياً، وذلك باستمرار وتواصل العملية الديمقراطية التي أوصلت الإخوة في حماس إلى السلطة، وذلك للحؤول دون الاقتتال الداخلي آنياً ولاحقاً.
التمسك بالثوابت الوطنية بعيدا عن المشروع الأميركي الصهيوني.
بلورة حكومة وطنية مستقلة من الموثوقين والمجربين على أن تكون هذه الحكومة مسؤولة أمام المجلس التشريعي وأن لا تكون مرجعيتها لا الإدارة الأميركية ولا النظام الصهيوني ولا القيادات التي أصبحت جزءاً من تفكيك المشروع الوطني. وإن يتم تصليب الموقف الشعبي، وتسيير الحياة اليومية على اسس نظيفة ووطنية واجتماعية سليمة.
هذا إلى جانب إعادة التركيز على تفعيل وتوسيع منظمة التحرير الفلسطينية ديمقراطياً وإعادة التمسك بالثوابت الوطنية إلى منظمة التحرير إلى جانب إعادة القضية إلى العمق الشعبي العربي، وسحبها من ايدي الحل العربي الرسمي الذي عليه أن يقترب من الموقف الشعبي لا ان يهمين عليه. ونحن في هذا نسترشد ونصطف إلى جانب قوى الممانعة التي ترسخت وتبلورت إثر الانتصار الأخير في لبنان بقيادة حزب الله، وهو الأمر الذي فرز الساحة العربية إلى شقين هما الممانعة والمساومة.

هذا بيان للناس
"قبل أن تكون فتنة، ولإنقاذ الشعب من الاقتتال لصالح العدو

Read the rest (Arabic)

Palestinians Refugees Targeted With Death Threats in Iraq

"Shi'a armed groups have threatened to kill Palestinian refugees living in Baghdad if they do not leave Iraq within 72 hours, Human Rights Watch said today.

Human Rights Watch urged the Iraqi government and the Multi-National Forces to investigate these threats and provide greater security to Palestinians in Iraq.

A new leaflet obtained by Human Rights Watch and bearing the name of the Al-Bayt Revenge Brigade Rapid Response Units states that "there is no place for Palestinians in the Iraq of Ali, Hassan, and Hussain." The names refer to three revered Shi'a imams; in contrast, virtually all Palestinians are Sunni Muslim. The leaflet also warns that "our swords can reach necks" and urges Palestinians to leave within 72 hours and "fight occupation in your own country," referring to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

According to Baghdad residents, trucks with loudspeakers passed through the al-Dura neighborhood on September 25 and September 30 issuing death threats against Palestinians.

"These death threats to Palestinians underscore the constant violence against Palestinian refugees in Iraq in the aftermath of the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's government," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "The Iraqi government and international forces in Iraq must take urgent steps to protect this community at risk."

Armed groups in Iraq have killed dozens of Palestinian refugees since 2003. Last month, Human Rights Watch documented killings, threats of violence and other security concerns of the estimated 34,000 Palestinian refugees in Iraq in the report, "Nowhere to Flee: The Perilous Situation of Palestinians in Iraq"."

Washington says its efforts in Palestinian territories go unrecognised

"PARIS (AFP) - US Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy Karen Hughes said she regretted Washington's efforts in the Palestinian territories went largely unrecognised in the media.

A close aide to President George W. Bush, Hughes was appointed to her ambassadorial post tasked with changing foreigners' perceptions of the United States, notably in the Arab and Muslim worlds.

"While I recognize that sometimes the coverage tends to portray the situation in a little different terms, I feel that the United States and President Bush don't always get much credit for the support that we provide to the Palestinian people," she told journalists during a visit to the Arab Institute in Paris.

But she said "we are working hard to work through the NGOs and others to deliver food and medical assistance and other assistance to the Palestinian people, because we are very concerned by the situation."



Coup In Iraq?

by Robert Dreyfuss

"Is the Bush administration considering a coup d’etat in Iraq before the end of the year, in a desperate effort to salvage its war? It’s not outside the realm of possibility. Like JFK in 1963, who—faced with a notoriously corrupt Saigon regime and a growing Viet Cong insurgency in Vietnam—gave the green light to topple and assassinate President Ngo Dinh Diem in Vietnam, President Bush might give a wink and a nod to the CIA, the U.S. military, and Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad to get rid of Iraq’s current regime. The Diem coup didn’t go well. Considering how unlikely it is that Bush has even heard of Diem, I doubt he’s learned that lesson.

Question is, what are they going to replace him with—and when? According to recent reports, the United States appears to have given Maliki a deadline: two months.

Some outside experts who have recently visited the White House said Bush administration officials were beginning to plan for the possibility that Iraq's democratically elected government might not survive.

''Senior administration officials have acknowledged to me that they are considering alternatives other than democracy,'' said one military affairs expert who received an Iraq briefing at the White House last month and agreed to speak only on condition of anonymity.

Time is short? Force the issue? Get tired of this? There’s only one way to read all this, namely that the Bush administration has given Maliki 60 days to fix Iraq, or else.

So what does this mean? As I see it, there are several options that desperate Bush administration officials might seize on, if they do indeed want to replace Maliki.

Third, entirely outside the constitution, there is the possibility of a military coup d’etat. Rumors of a coup have swirled in Baghdad for at least a year. Over the weekend, when Maliki announced a sudden, and unprecedented, curfew banning vehicular and pedestrian traffic in the entire capital, there were reports that an army coup d’etat had been thwarted. One Iraq expert I talked to told me that perhaps some of the Iraqi army units being moved into Baghdad as part of the current crackdown might be candidates to seize power in the Green Zone. Of course, such an action would have to be encouraged and sponsored by the U.S. command in Iraq and the CIA, which—according to Iraqi sources—has a firm hand on Iraq’s own intelligence service.

Still, how else to read the drumbeat of you’ve-got-two-months warnings? Desperate men do desperate things. If the Bush administration is truly unwilling to consider getting out of Iraq, then what are its options? I don’t expect a coup d’etat in Baghdad this month. But after the U.S. elections—say, in two months? Anything goes."

The Struggle for Palestine's Soul



"The international community's economic blockade of the Strip, for example, has nothing to do with the seizing of the soldier; that was because Gazans had the temerity to cast their vote for the politicians of Hamas in March. The Palestinians' exercise of their democratic rights is also the reason why Palestinians with American and European passports are being torn from their families in the occupied territories and expelled.

And what about Israel's refusal last year to coordinate its disengagement from Gaza with the Palestinian security forces? That was because Israel had "no partner for peace", even though the supine President Mahmoud Abbas, of Fatah, was then in sole charge.

In other words, Israel has always found reasons for oppressing, destroying and killing in Gaza, whatever the circumstances. Let us not forget that Israel's occupation began four decades ago, long before anyone had heard, or dreamt, of Hamas. Israel's rampages through Gaza have continued unabated, even though Hamas' military wing refrained from retaliating to Israeli provocations and maintained a ceasefire for more than a year and a half.

Shalit is the current pretext, but there are a host of others that can be adopted should the need arise. And that is because as far as Israel and its American patron are concerned, any Palestinian resistance to the illegal occupation of Gaza and the West Bank is unacceptable. Whatever the Palestinians do -- apart from submitting willingly to occupation and permanently renouncing their right to statehood -- is justification for Israeli "retaliation".

But the immiseration of Gaza does not, of itself, explain why the clashes are taking place, or what is motivating the factions. This is not just about who will get the scraps from the master's table, or even a struggle between two parties -- Hamas and Fatah -- for control of the government. It is now no less than a battle for the very soul of Palestinian nationalism.

In returning to the occupied territories as head of the Palestinian Authority, Arafat also renounced violence against Israel. He headed the new security forces whose job was to crack down on Palestinian dissent, not respond to Israel's many military provocations or fight the occupation. And of course, Arafat and Fatah, unlike Israel, had every reason to want previous agreements honoured: they mistakenly believed that they were their best hope of winning statehood. They did not factor in Israel's bad faith, and its continuation and intensification of the settlement project.

Following the outbreak of the second intifada, a majority of ordinary Palestinians voters began to understand how terminally damaging Fatah's complicity with the ocupation had become. For example, as Palestinian, Israeli and international activists tried to demonstrate against the building of Israel's wall across the West Bank, and the subsequent annexation of large swaths of Palestinian land to Israel, the protesters found obstacles placed in their way at every turn by the ruling Fatah party. Its leaders did not want to jeopardise their cement and building contracts with Israel by ending the wall's progress. Liberation was delayed for the more immediate prize of remuneration.

The question is: will Fatah force Hamas to cave in to Israeli demands and co-opt it, or will Hamas force Fatah to abandon its collaboration and return to the original path of national liberation?

The stakes could not be higher. If Hamas wins, then the Palestinians will have the chance to re-energise the intifada, launch a proper, consensual fight to end the occupation, one that unites the secular and religious, and try to face down the bullying of the international community. As with most national liberation struggles, the price in lives and suffering is likely to be steep."




P.S. The stadium where the rally was held is the soccer field of Al-Yarmouk Middle School in Gaza. This was my school 1956-1958. From the stands and looking east on a clear day you could easily see the mountains around Al-Khalil (Hebron) in the West Bank.