Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Arabs’ Feelings of Love and Hate for Saddam Hussein

By Ramzy Baroud

"......Saddam, in his eccentric ways, symbolized the last drive for pan-Arab nationalism. In many ways, he was unrivalled. He was one of very few who dared to stand up to what many people in the world see as a harsh and domineering United States. To many people living in the Middle East, Saddam Hussein was simply the "lesser of the two evils."

Arab nationalism, even under the shabby state of the former Iraqi leader, remained important, for it represented the only collective political identity Arabs aspired to attain. Politically fragmented and easy prey to outside interests, many Arabs, especially in poorer countries, held tight to the fading dream of unity.

But as the dream of unity was dying, irate alternatives were forcefully offered; the "Islamic option" had suddenly augmented from its minimal, symbolic presence to the only intellectual substitute to pan-Arabism. Both ideologies championed the recourse of revival, liberation even, from within, and a full-fledged unity as the only shield in the face of the self-seeking invaders from without.

As youths growing up under a brutal Israeli occupation, my peers and I inanely believed that a collective Arab determination was the only solution to oppression and humiliation. Often, I went to sleep, during an Israeli military curfew in my refugee camp in Gaza, finding comfort in the thought that an Arab army could cross at any minute to set us all free from this prison. It never came.

As I grew, I realised that things are not as simple and pure as once thought. Arab rulers were no Saladin, but in fact, they were just as guilty for their people’s plight as those foreign powers that see Arabs as faceless numbers, associated only with every negative stereotype one can envisage. Although I must admit that I was strongly moved by the last words Saddam proclaimed, calling on Iraqis to forgive, to strive to be driven by the love for freedom, rather than disdain for ones enemies. Of course these words also were disregarded by western mainstream media.......

In Gaza, my sorrow of losing countless friends and family members to the Israeli occupation forces was the shared destiny of well over one million refugees in Gaza’s camps. With each new innocent casualty, the desire for a collective Arab will became stronger. But time has passed, and the dream of a collective Arab will has yielded to collective Arab chaos.

Despite the uncertainty awaiting Arab nations, most Arabs were never so clear as to the source of their misfortune. They loathed the imperialism that finally culminated in an up-front invasion of the prized "jewel of Arab civilisation," Iraq. They protested "client regimes" and subsequently marched behind (irrationally, may I add) whomever disassociated himself from such a rule.

Maybe this explains the reason behind the love-hate relationship many Arabs had towards Saddam: He was a brutal dictator, and yet he defied the United States and its imperialist designs in the Arab world. It was not hard for me to fathom why many Iraqis celebrated when Saddam was executed, while others vowed to carry on with their attacks against US-led occupation forces. That same paradox struck me watching Saddam’s glum photo on my computer on that morning of uncertainty......"

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in talks in Damascus Saturday night. A high Iranian official is keeping tabs on Asad and Meshaal

"Abu Mazen’s trip to Damascus, ostensibly to see Syrian president Bashar Asad, connects with efforts by Palestinian intermediaries to arrange a meeting with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal. DEBKAfile’s sources disclose that a high-ranking Iranian intelligence officer arrived in Damascus this week with requests for information about Abu Mazen’s talks in the Syrian capital.

The live wires behind them are Palestinian tycoon Muhammad Rashid and Fatah activist Nabil Amar, who is now working for Hamas. They are in Damascus pushing hard for an Abbas-Mashaal meeting and have drafted a “Document of Principles for the Establishment of a Palestinian government,” for them to sign.

So far, neither side has accepted the document’s wording or the make-up of the potential government of technocrats that is supposed to include Fatah and Hamas representatives.

The rancor between Abbas and Mashaal is so rooted that Rashid and Amar hope at best for a photo opportunity showing them together, signing the document with a handshake and going their separate ways without speaking to each other. This too has not yet been agreed.

Tehran’s emissary has asked Asad for an explanation on how Muhammad Rashid – seen by Iran as a broker of the reconciliation between Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi and the US and Britain – came to be given a free hand in Damascus to mediate ties between Hamas and Washington through Abu Mazen.

When Rice was in Ramallah last Monday, she informed Abbas that the US was vehemently opposed to his trip to the Syrian capital. Later, Rashid and Abbas’ aide, the Gaza-based Muhammad Dahlan, called her several times to talk her round. They argued that the Fatah-Hamas crisis might be resolved if Abbas talked to Asad and Meshaal. The US secretary was not convinced.

The success of the Rashid mediation effort depends very much on the instructions the Iranian emissary brought from Iran to the hardline Hamas leader Meshaal and whether he will obey them.

DEBKAfile’s sources in Tehran report that the Islami Republic is not happy with the Syrian government’s frequently published offers of friendlier relations with the US and the revival of peace talks with Israel. The Iranian emissary to Damascus asked Asad to describe how he perceives his strategic partnership with Iran in two or three years’ time.

This query was Iran’s way of checking to see if Asad intended to stick to their alliance in the foreseeable future or break away. The Iranians are also uneasy over Syria’s non-response to the Israeli demand to rein in the Hizballah. The Iranian high-up demanded an unambiguous statement from Asad that his attitude to the Lebanese Shiite terrorist group was unchanged. He asked for a pledge that Damascus would not restrict Iranian arms consignments transiting Syria to the Hizballah, or curb the Shiite militia’s activities in Lebanon. Asad reassured the Iranian official and promised him Tehran had nothing to fear about any change of policy.

Our Middle East sources note that this is the first time since the Iran-Syrian strategic alliance was forged seven years ago that Tehran is showing uncertainty and concern about the Syrian ruler’s commitment."


Please Also See The Next Post.


This Is Important News:
Syria Appears To Be Re-Aligning!
Is An Olmert-Assad Kiss Far Away?

This Is A Major Success For Condoleezza. The Syrian Regime Has Agreed to Play The Role Condoleezza Has Demanded All Along. Next, Syria Will Abandon Hizbullah and Hamas; You Just Wait And See.

Syria vows to arrest Iraq strife

"Syria has condemned attacks by fighters opposed to Iraq's US-backed army and security forces as "terrorism", marking a shift in Damascus' relation with its eastward neighbour.

A statement issued on Saturday at the end of a visit by Jalal Talabani, Iraq's president, to Damascus, stated that Syria will aim to help arrest civil strife in Iraq.

A joint Syrian-Iraqi statement said: "The two sides affirmed the need to preserve Iraqi unity and condemned all forms of terrorism that target Iraqi civilians, infrastructure, places of worship, army and security."

"[Syrian] President Assad affirmed that Syria will exert all its efforts to help the process of national reconciliation and spread the suitable political and media climate to achieve this noble goal," the statement said.

Shift in approach

Syria's offer of assistance comes in spite of its opposition to the US-led invasion of Iraq, which removed Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi president, from power in 2003 and ushered in sectarian conflict.

Talabani left Syria earlier on Saturday after a six-day visit aimed at securing increased backing for the Iraqi government and closer security and economic cooperation with Syria.

Syria has adopted a friendlier tone to the Shia-led government in Baghdad, after US pressure to stop what Washington describes as a flow of insurgents and weapons across Syria's border with Iraq.

Damascus has links to a number of political forces in Iraq, including former members of the Baath, Saddam's party prior to his removal from power.

Syria has stopped calling for an immediate US troop withdrawal from Iraq and signed an accord in November which accepted that US forces should stay as long as the Iraqi government needed them.

Foreign presence

Saturday's statement said Iraq had to rebuild its army and disband sectarian militia before the foreign military presence in the country could end.

"Syria's readiness to stand with the brothers in Iraq is driven by the conviction that the security situation in one country affects the other," the communique said.

Last month Iraq and Syria re-established diplomatic ties which ruptured during the 1980s when Syria sided with Iran during its 1980-88 war with Iraq.

Damascus has also strengthened its links with Shia-led Iran, which supports major figures in the Iraqi government."

Neocons “Clearing a Path to the Targets” in Iran

By Kurt Nimmo

"It takes a “specialist” on “Persian Gulf affairs, with special emphasis on Iran and Iraq” to get at the real reason behind the impending neocon attack on Iran.

Kenneth Katzman, who analyzes U.S. policy and legislation on the Persian Gulf region for members of Congress and their staffs, assigned to the House International Relations Committee, talks the talk across the corporate media spectrum, i.e., he is a neocon propagandist. Katzman tells us “Iran’s ascendancy is not only manageable but reversible,” that is if one “understands the Islamic republic’s many vulnerabilities,” Reuters reports.

As should be obvious by now, the neocon plan to deal with Iran’s “ascendancy” has nothing to do with nukes. It has everything to do with the fact our rulers, in particular the neocon faction, believe Iran is too big for its britches and thus will be cut down to size.

As the Clean Break boys told us a decade ago, an “effective approach, and one with which American can sympathize, would be if Israel seized the strategic initiative along its northern borders by engaging Hizballah, Syria, and Iran.” In this context, we can define “strategic initiative” as back-to-back bombing runs, wanton destruction of civilian infrastructure, and plenty of mass murder and prolonged misery, and not simply along Israel’s northern border.

According to Wayne White, former top Middle East analyst for the State Department’s bureau of intelligence and research, the neocon plan for mass destruction will not be limited to a “surgical strike” against phantom nuke facilities.

I’ve seen some of the planning,” claims White. “You’re talking about a war against Iran” that likely would destabilize the Middle East for years. “We’re not talking about just surgical strikes against an array of targets inside Iran. We’re talking about clearing a path to the targets” by taking out much of the Iranian Air Force, Kilo submarines, anti-ship missiles that would undoubtedly target “commerce” (i.e., oil tankers) or U.S. warships now parked in the Gulf, patiently waiting for a new Gulf of Tonkin incident to get the World War Four ball rolling. Mr. White, no longer attached to the State Department, is “much more worried about the consequences of a U.S. or Israeli attack against Iran’s nuclear infrastructure,” and rightfully so.....

Iranian troops are reportedly gathering along the border with northern Iraq,” reports United Press International this morning. “An Iraqi Kurdish source told the Kuwait News Agency, KUNA, that Iran is massing troops stationed at its main border crossing with Iraq, in Pashmakh.” DPA adds: “The Iranian soldiers were positioned east of the northern Iraqi province of Suleimaniya at the Bashmakh border station, the most important crossing between Iran and the Kurdish autonomous region in Iraq…. Iranians were witnessed yelling ‘Death to America,’” a quite natural response considering the United States kidnapped Iranian diplomats in Erbil, Iraq.....

“The United States has signaled to Gulf Arab allies that an attack on Iran could take place in 2007,” reports the Middle East Newsline. “Diplomatic sources said the Bush administration has raised the prospect of a U.S. strike on Iran over the next few months. The sources said the discussions with Gulf Cooperation Council states have also been conducted by U.S. Central Command as well as the U.S. intelligence community.”

In addition, as now appears obvious, Condi the Destroyer trekked to the Middle East under the cover of yet another Israeli-Palestinian “peace deal” nonstarter in order to hand-deliver the message “that the GCC must get ready for any contingency.”

Increasingly, with every passing day, it becomes more obvious that the neocon plan to attack Iran will indeed occur sometime this year, more likely sooner before later as the neocon marshaled armada of warships are now convened, with the USS Stennis not far behind, ready to unleash their murderous fury on the people of Iran. "

One Hundred Years of Jewish Solitude


"Zionism is no longer a young movement. It has been almost one hundred and ten years since the 1st Zionist Congress was held and nearly ninety years have passed since the Balfour Declaration (1917) was issued. It’s been just under six decades since the formation of the Jewish State and the mass ethnic cleansing of the vast majority of the indigenous Palestinian population took place. Not only isn’t Zionism young anymore, it is far from being a unified ideological movement. In fact, it is almost impossible to determine these very basic elements: where Zionism is aiming, where the Zionist headquarters are located; is it in Olmert’s office in Jerusalem or rather Wall Street NYC? Is there a linear ideological continuum between the Israeli vision of Middle East interests and the architects behind the New American Century project? Is there continuum between the crime carried out against the Palestinian people in Gaza in the name of the war on terror and the crime against the Iraqi people committed in the name of ‘liberation’?
In a previous paper of mine (The "third category" and the Palestine solidarity movement, Jewish identity, Zionism and Palestine), I suggested that it is quite possible to grasp the subject of Zionism in terms of a network operation in which each of its elements contributes towards the maintenance of the entire system. Within the Zionist network there is no need for a lucid system of hegemony. In such a network, each element is complying with its role. And indeed the success of Zionism is there to reveal that the whole happens to be far greater than its parts......."


Lebanon opposition to stage national protest strike Tuesday


"The Lebanese opposition called Saturday for a one-day general strike, stepping up a protest campaign to bring down the Western-backed government that has paralyzed the nation's leadership for weeks. The stoppage called for Tuesday marked the first escalation by the opposition since its supporters began an open-ended sit-in around government offices in central Beirut on December 1 to demand a national unity cabinet.

"In the face of the obstinacy of the government barricaded behind the walls of the Grand Serail, the opposition calls on its supporters to step up their peaceful and democratic protests and on all Lebanese to observe a general strike on Tuesday," an opposition statement said. The action was announced the day after Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah vowed that the opposition would be taking more action to see that its demands are met. The immediate target of the industrial action, which was first announced by the trade union confederation, was an austerity package unveiled by the government earlier this month ahead of a major donors' conference in Paris on Thursday.

"In accordance with its peaceful plan of action against the reforms proposed by the prime minister, the General Conference of Workers of Lebanon is calling a general strike for Tuesday... to put an end to the savage cuts being put forward," a statement said.

But the opposition stressed that the strike was just one part of its campaign for a revision of Lebanon's electoral law and the holding of fresh parliamentary elections."

13 killed when U.S. forces chopper crashes in Iraq

"BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- All 13 people aboard were killed Saturday when a U.S. military helicopter went down northeast of Baghdad, the U.S. military said.

The victims were described as passengers and crew members. Their identities were "being withheld pending notification of next of kin," the military said in a statement.

It was not disclosed exactly where the craft went down, and the cause of the incident was not known.

"Emergency coalition forces responded and secured the scene," the military said in the statement.

Congress Can Stop the Iran Attack, or Be Complicit in War Crimes

by Jorge Hirsch

"President Bush is invoking his "commander in chief" authority to escalate the war in Iraq, and he will likely also invoke it to launch an aerial attack against Iran. Congress has long ago abdicated and delegated to the president its constitutional responsibility to initiate wars. Yet Congress still has one surefire way to influence events: it has the constitutional authority to make the "nuclear option" against Iran illegal. In so doing, it would stop the relentless drive to war against Iran dead in its tracks.....

.....If Congress doesn't legislate on the US use of nuclear weapons, and President Bush orders the use of nuclear weapons against Iran, he will be doing it in the name of each and every member of the 110th Congress.

The United States will have instantly offered the world 535 new defendants for future war crimes tribunals. Nuclear weapons are a million times more powerful than conventional weapons. If 535 million people die in ensuing nuclear conflicts, each member of the 110th Congress will have 1 million human lives on his/her own personal account.

Saddam Hussein and Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti went to the gallows for a mere 148."


Here is the way to go around it: Have Israel launch the nuclear attack. If and when Iran responds, Congress will authorize full U.S. military support for Israel and massive U.S. strikes on Iran. It is a simple strategy and has a 100% chance of succeeding.

Current Al-Jazeera (Arabic) Online Poll

The question is:

Do you agree with President Mubarak's warning that the Muslim Brotherhood poses a danger to Egypt?

With over 4,000 responding so far, here are the responses:



Condoleezza: To Hell With Democracy! You Go Mubarak Boy!

Egypt cracks down on 'Islamists'

"Egypt has detained "73 Islamists" in the Nile Delta pending investigation into what ties, if any, they have with the banned Muslim Brotherhood group, security sources have said.

Mohamed Habib, the Brotherhood’s deputy leader denied his group - Egypt's largest opposition movement - had any connection to the men in detention on Saturday.

The security sources said the men, arrested in the province of Manoufiya mostly during the past few days, were members of salafist groups that follow a conservative purist brand of Sunni Islam.

The daily al-Masry al-Youm newspaper, said the detained salafists were accused of forming a group to support the Brotherhood, especially in elections due later this year for the Shura Council, the upper house of Egypt's parliament.

It said the detentions of the salafists had started this month after the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday and accelerated alongside a crackdown against Brotherhood members, scores of whom have been detained.

Egyptian authorities launch regular crackdowns on the Muslim Brotherhood, which operates openly despite being officially banned in 1954.

But some analysts say the government is preparing a wider assault on the group after Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, said this month the Brotherhood posed a threat to Egypt's security.

University protests
The government was also angered by a protest march at al-Azhar University last month in which Islamist students wore militia-style uniforms and black balaclavas.

Egyptian state media said the march showed that the group was forming a militia. This accusation was dismissed by the Brotherhood.

Mubarak has proposed constitutional amendments that include a ban on forming political parties based on religion. The Brotherhood says it wants to establish a civil, democratic party that is not exclusive to Muslims.

Brotherhood members elected as independents hold 88 seats in the 454-member lower house of parliament, which is dominated by Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party.

Torture allegations

Ahead of the 2007 elections, the government has also cracked down on journalists, after Egyptian newspapers published several photographs of people reportedly being tortured by the security services.

Last week Howaida Taha, a documentary producers with Al Jazeera, was released on bail after being detained by security officials for investigating claims of torture inside Egyptian prisons.

Taha's film depicted actors dramatising scenes of people being tortured in Egyptian prisons.

"One of the charges was that I tarnished Egypt's reputation and harming Egyptian national interests, so I showed him all the videotapes," she said after her release."

Fear climate change, not our enemies

By Robert Fisk
The Independent

".....I curl down deep in my bed, because the nights are strangely damp and read by the bedside light, Hans von Sponeck's gripping, painful account of his years as the UN's Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, A Different Kind of War, an analysis of the vicious, criminal sanctions regime levelled against the Iraqi people between 1990 and 2003. Here, for example, is what Sergei Lavrov, the Russian ambassador to the UN wrote in March 2000: "...the scale of the humanitarian catastrophe in Iraq is inexorably leading to the disintegration of the very fabric of civil society." It was "a situation where an entire generation of Iraqis has been physically and morally crippled". The French ambassador to the UN, Alain Dejammet, spoke similarly of "the very serious humanitarian crisis in Iraq", a crime that would eventually persuade von Sponeck to resign.

Another warning. I remember how von Sponeck said the very same words to me in Baghdad. So did Denis Halliday, his predecessor. But when Peter Hain - now so desperately anxious to distance himself from US policies in Iraq - was asked to comment, he said that von Sponeck and Halliday were "obviously not the right men for the job". James Rubin, then earning his keep as Madeleine Albright's spokesman, said that von Sponeck "is paid to work, not to speak".

Yet there are all the warnings. Did we really think that after we had impoverished them and destroyed so many of their children; after a generation of Iraqis had been "physically and morally crippled", they were going to welcome our "liberation"? From this wreckage of Iraq was bound to come the insurgencies and the hatreds now tearing its people apart and destroying the presidency of George W. Bush and the prime ministership of Tony Blair.

Yet what do they tell us? They still want us to be frightened. Terror, terror, terror. Now we have Doctor Death, our Home Secretary, telling us that the War on Terror could last as long as the Cold War. Recently, it was the Dowager of Fear in charge of our intelligence services who said that the War on Terror could last "a generation". So that's 30 years? Or 60 like Dr Death claimed? Bush claimed it might last "forever", surely an ambitious goal for an ex- governor-executioner....."

Bush’s War on Perception; the bombing of the Golden Mosque

An Excellent, Long Article
(I recommend reading it in its entirety)
By Mike Whitney

"......Here's what we know: Less than 4 hours after the explosion, the Bush public relations team cobbled together a statement that the bombing was the work of Sunni extremists or al Qaida terrorists. But, how did they know? They didn’t have witnesses on the ground in Samarra and they’ve never produced a scintilla of evidence to support their claims. It may be that the administration simply saw the bombing as an opportunity to twist the facts to suit their own purposes?

After all, the incident has been a propaganda-bonanza for the Bush team. They’ve used it to support their theory that Iraq is "the central battle in the war on terror" and that "we must fight them there if we don’t want to fight them over here". It’s become one of the main justifications for the occupation; implying that the US military is needed as a referee to keep the warring factions from killing each other. It’s all just nonsense that’s designed to advance the administration’s political agenda......

The incident may well have been a "false flag" operation carried out by US intelligence agencies to provoke sectarian violence and, thus, reduce the number of attacks on American troops.......

In the first 30 hours after the blast, more than 1,500 articles appeared on Google News providing the government version of events without deviation and without any corroborating evidence; just fluff that reiterated the Pentagon’s account verbatim and without challenge. 1500! Now that’s a well-oiled propaganda system!......

The Golden Mosque; truth or psy-ops?

The Bush administration is very serious about controlling information. That’s why they launched the Pentagon’s Dept of Strategic Information. The military is now deeply engaged in "full spectrum dominance" of all information technologies. Consequently, "controlling the narrative" is more important than one might think. Propaganda is the cheapest and most effective way to control public behavior. The growth in public relations illustrates the importance that political leaders put on managing perception in a way that compels the masses to conform to an elite agenda. That’s why the administration has spent zillions on PR campaigns and inserted themselves into every area of human communication. They are forever looking for the right combination of patriotic and religious imagery that will get the public to march along in harmony.

The Bush administration has made some notable contributions to the traditional propaganda-paradigm. In fact, former Counselor at the State Dept, Philip Zelikow, (who was also executive director of the 9-11 Commission and author of the National Security Strategy NSS) is an expert in "the creation and maintenance of 'public myths’ or 'public presumptions’, which he defines as beliefs thought to be true although not necessarily known to be true with certainty, shared in common with the relevant political community (sounds like Rumsfeld)….He has taken a special interest in 'searing’ or 'molding’ events that take on 'transcendent’ importance and, therefore, retain there power even as the experiencing generation passes from the scene". ("Thinking about Political History" Miller Center report; winter 1999) "Searing’ or 'molding’ events that take on 'transcendent’ importance"?!? Like 9-11, for example?.....

The same pattern of terrorizing the public through "the application of extreme violence" has reemerged in Iraq with many of the same US leaders supervising the covert operations. The plan was clearly designed to eliminate the need for more US troops to provide security and, instead, aimed at "pacifying" the resistance through a well-coordinated and fully-funded campaign of terror.

The (predominantly) Shiite militias operating out of the Interior Ministry were armed and trained by the CIA and were used to secretly to carry out assassinations and torture of suspected "Sunni insurgents." .....

The Pentagon’s counterinsurgency strategy was developed long before the mutilated bodies of Sunni men began showing up daily bobbing along the Euphrates River. It’s part of a broader plan to dominate the entire region through military force. The purpose is to extend the Bush Caliphate--the "new world order"-- throughout the entire Middle East.....

Zelikow’s theories have provided a master-plan for shaping public opinion around "searing" events. He is right to assume that people will accept all manner of absurdities if they are assembled in the context of a larger catastrophe. Clearly, the Bush administration is venturing into uncharted waters, proactively fabricating "historical events" to create their own reality and, thus, support the narrow objectives of an elite agenda.

The destruction of the Golden dome Mosque bears the same bloody fingerprints as do the victims of the occupation’s unrelenting violence. The guilty parties may have escaped accountability so far, but when the smoke clears, we’ll know whose bombs they really were. "

One Gone, Two More To Go!

Southern Tribes Joining Armed Resistance

Iraq Caught By Both Iran And The U.S. Occupation

By Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily

"BAGHDAD, Jan. 19 (IPS) - Violence is spreading further across Iraq, as Shia Arab tribes in the south begin to engage occupation forces in new armed resistance. Resistance in the southern parts of Iraq has been escalating over the last three months, leading to increased casualties among British and other occupation forces......

Attacks against occupation forces appear to stem more a growing nationalism.

"This is not about vengeance," a former Iraqi army officer from Kut, 200 km south of Baghdad told IPS in Baghdad. "People have lost hope in the U.S.-led occupation's promises, and they are thinking of saving the country from Iranian influence which has been supported, or at least allowed by the Multi-National Forces."

British and U.S. military leaders tend not to say who has been targeting their forces in the south. They simply call the resistance fighters "terrorists", or they point to the Mehdi Army led by Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr as the only source of disturbance in the south.

While members of the Mehdi Army certainly carry out attacks against occupation forces in southern Iraq, other home-grown resistance seems to have taken root, fed also by earlier memories. "People here have always hated the U.S. and British occupation of Iraq, and remembered their grandfathers who fought the British troops with the simplest weapons," Jassim al-Assadi, a school headmaster from Kut told IPS on a recent visit to Baghdad.

Al-Assadi was referring to the Shia resistance that eventually played a key role in expelling British forces from Iraq during the 1920's and 1930's.

Armed resistance against the occupation in the south was slow to begin with because religious clerics instructed their followers to give the occupation time to fulfil promises made by the Bush and Blair administrations, al-Assadi said. "But now they do not believe any cleric's promises any more. They have started fighting, and that is that."

A political analyst in Baghdad, who asked to be referred to as W. al-Tamimi, told IPS that he believes occupation forces have been working in tandem with death squads. "We have been observing American and British occupation forces supporting those death squads all over Iraq, but we were still hoping for reconciliation."

Al-Tamini said the sheikh of his tribe, which is both Shia and Sunni, was "under great pressure by the tribe's young men to let them join the resistance."

The force of the growing resistance in the south has become more and more evident. Late last August 1,200 British soldiers known as The Queen's Royal Hussars abruptly evacuated their three-year-old base after taking continuous mortar and missile fire from Shia resistance fighters......

In another significant event last August, Sheikh Faissal al-Khayoon, chief of the major Shia Arab tribe Beni Assad, was killed by death squads with suspected Iranian backing. The killers are believed by men from the tribe to have been working for the Iraqi Ministry of Interior in Basra.

Khayoon's tribe members reacted immediately. They took over the streets and government offices, and set fire to the Iranian consulate in Basra. The protests continued until clerics and Iraqi government officials promised them a full investigation. "It was another lie that some of us believed," a senior Beni Assad leader told IPS on condition of anonymity. "The Sheikh was killed by Iranian collaborators and we made a promise to his soul that his precious life will be avenged."

Beni Tamim is another tribe with both Sunni and Shia members. Members say their Sheikh, Hamid al-Suhail, was killed Jan. 1 this year by the Mehdi Army, which they believe has Iranian support. He died in the northern Baghdad Shia-dominated Shula Quarter.

"He was 70 years old, and brutally killed by Mehdi death squads by pushing him from a high building," one of the sheikh's nephews told IPS in Baghdad. "Iran is behind all this and we, Beni Tamim are well prepared to face their yellow winds that are blowing Iraq apart."

Leaders of the two tribes, among many other tribal chiefs in the south, are working to achieve unity between Sunni and Shia groups."

Hush now, little one ...

By Layla Anwar

"I have good news for you.
American "consumer sentiment has improved to a 3 years high, propelled by falling gasoline prices and a favorable view of personal finances and economic growth" says a survey. You must be happy. This means more savings for you so you can consume more, eat and spend some more. Go right ahead and anesthetize yourself.

Now what this survey won't show you, is that during those three comparative years, over 260'000 Iraqi children died since 2003 to make your life smoother over there, wherever you are . Now,Iraq has the highest mortality rate for children in the world.(read full article here).....

Add to that Abeer Janabi, the Haditha kids, Al Ramadi, Al Qaem,Tal Afar, other unreported children deaths in Baghdad and elsewhere , I will say around 500 and again am being very kind to you here.

So a quick summing up will give us a total of : 829'300 Iraqi children Dead. Again, I repeat this is a conservative estimate as the official figures lie and the UN figures are always "toning" issues down.
829'300 Iraqi Children DEAD.

The above figure does NOT include : the injured,the sold,the trafficked, the abandoned,the cancer ridden with your Depleted Uranium, the sick,the malnourished, the hungry, the destitute, the kidnapped, the raped children of Iraq......

So over 800'00 plus, little ones dead. Huh ? What have you got to say about that? Who are you going to blame now ? Saddam Hussein or the old regime? (just for your info, Iraq used to have the lowest mortality rate in the Middle East and the best health care service until you all screwed it up.)(see also here)

Do you understand what we are talking about here? We are talking about CHILDREN. Not adults you can blame , nor elderly you can dispense of , we are talking about CHILDREN.....

And since you are so caring, had there been 800'000 plus: dolphins, monkeys, donkeys, cats or dogs massacred, the western world would be on the brink of a revolution by now. The left would have armed and gone underground as guerillas freedom fighters, the democrats would have issued irreversible statements of condemnation, the liberals and progressives would have stood in pickets or gone on strike. We would have mass demonstrations and mass mobilization.

Had these 800'000 children be western children, we would be having a Third World War by now.......

As for the few honest voices left, let us commiserate together. Black sugarless coffee is on me, Arab hospitality oblige.

Meanwhile, my Iraqi little ones , die softly, make no noise, we don't want to disturb the slumbering consciences...Hush now, slip quietly, ever so quietly...into Death."

Get Carter! Iran, Too!

By Alexander Cockburn
The Nation

"Suppose the movers and shakers in the Israel lobby here--Abe Foxman, Alan Dershowitz and the rest of the crew--had simply decided to leave Jimmy Carter's Palestine Peace Not Apartheid alone. How long before the book would have been gathering dust on the remainder shelves? Suppose even that Dershowitz had rounded up his unacknowledged co-authors in all their tens of thousands and sallied forth to buy up every copy of Carter's book and toss each one into the Charles River . Would that have not been a more successful suppressor than the blitzkrieg strategy they did adopt?

Of course it would. For weeks now the lobby has hurled its legions into battle against Carter. He has been stigmatized as an anti-Semite, a Holocaust denier, a patron of former concentration camp killers, a Christian madman, a pawn of the Arabs who "flatly condones mass murder" of Israeli Jews. This last was from Murdoch's New York Post editorial, relayed to its mailing list by the Zionist Organization of America .....

But the assault on Carter is all to no avail. With each gust of abuse, Carter's book soars higher and higher on the bestseller lists, reaching number four on Amazon itself. This doesn't prove the lobby has no power. It proves the lobby can be dumb. Adroit lobbying consists in preventing unpleasing material from reaching the light of day. Lobbying thrives in furtive darkness: slipping language into a bill at the last moment, threatening to back a campaign opponent, making quiet phone calls to the Polish Embassy. Pressure is now being exerted on Farrar, Straus & Giroux to abandon its impending publication of Mearsheimer and Walt's attack on the lobby.....

The trouble with the lobby and the Christian zealots who act as its echo chamber is that they believe their own propaganda about Israel 's equitable social arrangements and immaculate political and legal record in its relations with the Palestinians. Use the word apartheid and they howl with indignation. The shock is about thirty years out of date. Israeli writers have used apartheid to describe arrangements in the occupied territories for years. Hundreds of prominent South African Jews issued a statement six years ago making the same link......

But if the lobby is fighting rear-guard and increasingly futile actions to suppress all discussion here of what Israel is doing to Palestinians, it continues to exercise very serious clout in such enclaves of timidity as the US Congress. Bush was not foolish in singling out Iran for threats in his January 10 address. The Democratic reaction to Bush's escalation against Iraq and Iran has mostly been confined to nervous talk of "symbolic votes." This emperate posture is surely not unconnected to the fact that the lobby's prime foreign policy task, joined by Israeli hawks like Bibi Netanyahu, has been to rally support for an assault on Iran.

What an irony! Desperate for an end to the war, the voters hand Congress to the Democrats. Barely more than two months later Bush is kidnapping Iranian diplomats from their consulate in Erbil , Iraq --a calculated provocation arousing scant tumult here. Bush is also deploying a larger naval force to the Persian Gulf, as Israel plants stories about its possible recourse to nuclear weapons. Some provocation, maybe a seizure by the United States of an Iranian tanker, is easy to imagine in early February. In Congress, there's barely a whimper out of the Democrats amid these terrifying prospects. It may have made a mess of its war against Carter's book, but as a ferryman across the Styx toward Armageddon the lobby is doing a competent job."

Friday, January 19, 2007

US chain pulls 'anti-war' keffiyehs

"Urban Outfitters, a popular American clothing store, on Thursday halted sales of a range of keffiyehs, the traditional Arab headdress, which it had been marketing this month as fashionable "anti-war woven scarves."

The firm's CEO, Dick Heyne, e-mailed a pro-Israel activist who had complained about the items earlier this week to stress that the company had not intended "to imply any sympathy for or support of terrorists or terrorism" in selling the keffiyehs and was pulling them.

The scarves, also sold on-line, were priced at $20 in several different color combinations as part of Urban Outfitters' Spring Fashion women's accessories range. "Due to the sensitive nature of this item, we will no longer offer it for sale," a notice on the Web site stated. "We apologize if we offended anyone, this was by no means our intention."

A manager at an Urban Outfitters on 6th Avenue in New York City close to the West Village, who wished to remain anonymous, said the item had been the "number one selling scarf."

The keffiyeh has bounced in and out of American and European fashion trends since roughly the 80s, when women draped them from their necks. But in the last few years the headdress, mostly associated by Americans with the Palestinians and especially the late Yasser Arafat, has reached a height of popularity. An article in the Los Angeles Times titled "'Terrorist Chic' and Beyond," published in April, 2006, featured the keffiyeh as the ultimate in fashionable military gear seen as chic in hip circles across America and Europe.

Many young Americans and Europeans, especially on college campuses, wear the headdress around their necks as a symbol of solidarity with the Palestinians. Increasingly, too, it has become a symbol of resistance in general, invariably featuring at anti-war rallies. It is also widely worn in many cities.

"I just found it amusing that the keffiyeh as a fashion item has become so ubiquitous that it is being sold at a store known for producing the trendiest items," said Daniel 'Mobius' Sieradski, a contributor to Jewschool, a popular Jewish blog. "It's amusing because on one level the Palestinian cause has become very popular, but as it gains popularity it gets watered down."......."

Cover: New Yorker Magazine, January 22, 2007
(Art: Anita Kunz / The New Yorker)

استجواب الدراجي والقوات الإضافية تبدأ الوصول للعراق

This is Muqtada Sadr's spokesman, Abdul-Hadi al-Darraji, who was arrested today by U.S. occupation forces. The news is that he is being interrogated by his captors. I wonder if electric drills, a specialty of Muqtada's Mahdi "army," might just speed up the interrogation. Just a thought.

Here Is Israel's Response To Peaceful Palestinian Protests

Palestinian mourners carry the body of ten year old girl Abir Aramin near the Dome of the Rock Mosque, in the Al Aqsa Mosque compound during her funeral in Jerusalem's Old City, Friday, Jan. 19, 2007. Aramin was struck on the head by a rubber bullet fired at close range by Israeli security forces during a demonstration Tuesday against Israel's separation barrier in the West Bank town of Anata, near Jerusalem, and suffered a fractured skull, her father said. She was taken off life support early Friday morning, hospital spokeswoman Yael Bossem-Levy said. (AP Photo)

Negev Bedouins fight to stay on land

UN Office For The Coordination Of Humanitarian Affairs

"TWAIL ABU JARWAL, 18 Jan 2007 (IRIN) - In the Negev Desert village of Twail Abu Jarwal, a Bedouin boy is hammering away at the roof of a new tin shack in the setting sun. Around him are the twisted ruins of the Talalka tribe’s 22 homes and a few animal shacks.

The Israeli authorities on 9 January demolished them for the second time in just over a month because Twail Abu Jarwal is among 34 Bedouin villages that officially do not exist, according to the Israeli government. Israeli officials say all homes are illegal because they were built without a permit.

“They came at 5 a.m. with police, a helicopter and bulldozers and just demolished everything,” said village chief Aqil Talalka. “Now we are rebuilding because we have nowhere else to go.”

About 150,000 Bedouin Arabs live in the Negev Desert in southern Israel and face discrimination over the provision of essential services, local aid workers say. Their claims to land ownership have been turned down by successive Israeli governments and those who do not live in government-approved new towns face having their homes demolished.

Aqil said he had little hope that Israel’s attitude to the Bedouin’s land claim would change. “Israel will only recognise my ownership of the land if I agree to sell it to them. Then they are only too happy to recognise it. Otherwise, I have no rights,” he said.

We believe the Bedouin should be treated as an indigenous people and should be given their rights,” said Yeela Ranaan of the Regional Council of Unrecognised Villages (RCUV).

“But the government is running a powerful campaign against them through the media, describing them as squatters and land-grabbers taking Jewish land. It’s easy because the Bedouin are Arabs and, therefore, in theory belong to Israel’s enemies,” said Ranaan.

Today’s Bedouin are descended from about 10,000 who remained in the Negev during the war of 1948; 80,000 fled to Jordan, refugee camps in Gaza and the West Bank and mixed Israeli cities farther north such as Ramle or Lod, Ranaan said.

The remaining communities were moved into the Siyag or Enclosed Zone, in the northeast of the Negev, with much of the rest of the region being declared state land.

Successive Israeli governments have tried to get people such as the Talalkas to abandon claims to land ownership and settle in one of seven towns built to house them. They are offered cheap plots of land for a house and access to electricity, water, health and education.

The idea was to get as many Arabs on as little land as possible,” said Ranaan.

Unrecognised villages

But despite Israel’s efforts, only about half the Bedouin have moved into the towns. The remaining 80,000 are still in unrecognised villages in the Siyag Zone, without access to water and electricity supplies and sewage facilities.

Under a government proposal in 1976, the 500-strong Talalka group had accepted and paid for land near the wealthy Beer Sheva suburb of Lagia, Aqil said. But after a 30-year wait, the land had still not been made available – so the Talalkas returned to the hillsides they say their tribe has lived on for centuries...."


Muqtada said today that he thought he and his "army" are the target of the U.S. escalation plan (Dah!). Today, his information official (Abdul-Hadi al-Darraji) was arrested by U.S. occupation troops. However, the "great warrior" told his followers not to fight the occupation. Why? Because it is the month of Moharram, and "it is forbidden for Muslims to kill during this month!" Of course, it is only forbidden to kill U.S. occupation soldiers, but killing fellow Iraqis is O.K., according to Sayyed Muqtada.

"وقال مقتدى إن القرآن الكريم "ينهانا على القتل خلال شهر محرم"، مضيفا "فليقتلونا فتلك أفضل ميتة للمؤمنين الصادقين والجنة ستكون بانتظارهم". وتعهد بأن يقوم التيار الصدري بالرد بعد شهر محرم.

واعتبر أن الحملة على تياره تستهدف الإسلام "وما نحن إلا عتبة" وتعهد بعدم التخلي عن المقاومة."

UK troops to stay in Iraq through 2007-general

Liars, Liars....!

"WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Britain's senior representative in Iraq said British forces will remain in Iraq through 2007 and perhaps into 2008 if the Baghdad government asks for continued help.

"Do I see ourselves being here throughout 2007? Yes," said Army Lt. Gen. Graeme Lamb, deputy commander of Multi-National Force-Iraq.

"Do I see that commitment being carried on to 2008? That will be for discussion among this sovereign government, my government, our part in the coalition and the like," he told reporters at the Pentagon in a teleconference from Iraq. "But if we're asked to stay here then I don't see any reason, although it's a political one, that we would not continue to remain committed to the Iraqis."

Lamb said Britain has about 6,200 troops in southern Iraq, mostly in Basra. That is slightly below the normal level of nearly 7,300, he said.

Prime Minister Tony Blair on January 10 said British operations aimed at preparing for the handover of security in Basra to Iraqi authorities could be completed in the next few weeks. The Daily Telegraph also has reported that Britain planned to cut troop levels in Iraq by almost 3,000 by the end of May."

Entry Denied: Palestinian-Americans Among Thousands Blocked by Israel from Occupied Territories

An Excellent, Highly Recommended Segment

Democracy Now!
With Amy Goodman

"The Israeli government has effectively frozen visitation and re-entry of foreign nationals of Palestinian origin to the West Bank and Gaza. We go to Ramallah to speak with two coordinators of the “Campaign for the Right of Entry and Re-Entry to the Occupied Palestinian Territory.” We’re also joined by a leading Israeli human rights attorney and a Palestinian-American filmmaker recently detained by Israeli officials and deported.
We begin in Ramallah where the Israeli government has effectively frozen visitation and re-entry of foreign nationals of Palestinian origin to the Occupied Territories. Activists and human rights advocates are claiming that since last year’s election of Hamas, thousands have been denied entry into the West Bank and Gaza. The Israeli government initially denied that there had been a policy change. But on Tuesday, the Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories released a letter stating that the policy of denying foreign nationals entry had been reversed. The letter was dated December 28th and had been sent to the Palestinian Authority.
Yet - the organization “Campaign for the Right of Entry and Re-Entry to the Occupied Palestinian Territory” maintains that they know of at least 14 foreign citizens who only last week were denied entrance to the Territories. They say that in addition to being discriminatory, this policy is tearing families apart, blocking students from finishing their education, and keeping people from their jobs and businesses. The Israeli human rights group B’tzelem wrote in a recent report that the crackdown is part of a broader policy to limit the growth of the Palestinian population by “preventing the entry of spouses and children of residents, and by stimulating emigration from the area.”

We go now to the Occupied Territories where Sam Bahour and Anita Abdullah are with us from Ramallah.

Sam Bahour. Palestinian-American businessman and one of the coordinators of the Campaign for Right of Entry/Re-Entry to the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Anita Abdullah. Anita is on the coordinating committee for the Campaign for the Right of Entry/Re-Entry to the Occupied Palestinian Territory. She is a researcher at Birzeit University, Institute of Community and Public Health.

Leah Tsemel. Israeli Human Rights Lawyer.

Suzy Salamy.Palestinian-American filmmaker recently denied entry by Israeli authorities."

Click Here To Watch, Listen or Read Transcript

(Click on cartoon to enlarge)
By Daryl Cagle

Democracy Languishes, but Neocon Strategy Lives

by Jim Lobe

"......It is, rather, the hard-edged strategy first enunciated in PNAC's letter to Bush published just nine days after the Sep. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon. That document called for the administration to focus its "war on terrorism" on what it considered the main regional threats to the security of Israel, "America's staunchest ally against international terrorism."

Indeed, the Sep 20, 2001, letter, signed by some three dozen prominent, mostly neoconservative, hawks, suggested that Afghanistan and al-Qaeda should be treated as mere hors d'oeuvres in a six-course meal in which Saddam Hussein's Iraq was to be only the main course.

The Palestinian Authority (PA), Lebanon's Hezbollah, Iran and Syria were also featured as part of the feast, a series of dishes which, with the notable replacement of the PA by Hamas as a result of last year's democratic elections, now appears to be, more than at any time since Washington's conquest of Iraq in 2003, back on the menu......."


George Bush's Crusading Scorecard (2001-2007)

by Tom Engelhardt
Tom Dispatch

"......The religion of Force has proven itself a remarkably weak reed in our complex and difficult world, but that doesn't matter to them. Like many cultists, deeply imbued with their own way of looking at life, our president, our vice president, and their dwindling band of compatriots can still imagine no other solutions than force, whatever the presenting problems. Not only can't they think outside the box, but the box itself is narrowing around this presidency and vice presidency – and believe me, given their crusading record, that's dangerous indeed."

Read The Full Article

We, the Jewish state

The state of Israel seems poised to impose its Zionist character using the force of the law. With this legislating of loyalty, it reveals its racism

Another Great Article
By Jonathan Cook in Nazareth

"When I published my book Blood and Religion last year, I sought not only to explain what lay behind Israeli policies since the failed Camp David negotiations nearly seven years ago, including the disengagement from Gaza and the building of a wall across the West Bank, but I also offered a few suggestions about where Israel might head next.

Making predictions in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict might be considered a particularly dangerous form of hubris, but I could hardly have guessed how soon my fears would be realised.

One of the main forecasts of my book was that Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line -- those who currently enjoy Israeli citizenship and those who live as oppressed subjects of Israel's occupation -- would soon find common cause as Israel tries to seal itself off from what it calls the Palestinian "demographic threat": that is, the moment when Palestinians outnumber Jews in the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.

I suggested that Israel's greatest fear was ruling over a majority of Palestinians and being compared to apartheid South Africa, a fate that has possibly befallen it faster than I expected with the recent publication of Jimmy Carter's book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. To avoid such a comparison, I argued, Israel was creating a "Jewish fortress", separating -- at least demographically -- from Palestinians in the occupied territories by sealing off Gaza through a disengagement of its settler population and by building a 750 kilometre wall to annex large areas of the West Bank.

It was also closing off the last remaining avenue of a right of return for Palestinians by changing the law to make it all but impossible for Palestinians living in Israel to marry Palestinians in the occupied territories and thereby gain them citizenship.

The corollary of this Jewish fortress, I suggested, would be a sham Palestinian state, a series of disconnected ghettos that would prevent Palestinians from organising effective resistance, non-violent or otherwise, but which would give the Israeli army an excuse to attack or invade whenever they chose, claiming they were facing an "enemy state" in a conventional war.

Another benefit for Israel in imposing this arrangement would be that it could say that all Palestinians who identified themselves as such -- whether in the occupied territories or inside Israel -- must now exercise their rights in the Palestinian state and renounce any claim on the Jewish state. The apartheid threat would be nullified.

I sketched out possible routes by which Israel could achieve this end: by redrawing borders, using the wall, so that an area densely populated with Palestinian citizens of Israel known as the "little triangle", which hugs the northern West Bank, would be sealed into the new pseudo-state; by continuing the process of corralling the Negev's Bedouin farmers into urban reservations and then treating them as guest workers; by forcing Palestinian citizens living in the Galilee to pledge an oath of loyalty to Israel as a "Jewish and democratic state" or have their citizenship revoked; and by stripping Arab Knesset members of their right to stand for election.

When I made these forecasts, I suspected that many observers, even in the Palestinian solidarity movement, would find my ideas improbable. I could not have realised how fast events would overtake my projections.

The first sign came in October with the addition to the cabinet of Avigdor Lieberman, leader of a party that espouses the ethnic cleansing not only of Palestinians in the occupied territories (an unremarkable platform for an Israeli party) but of Palestinian-Israeli citizens too, through land swaps that would exchange their areas for the illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Lieberman is not just any cabinet minister; he has been appointed deputy prime minister with responsibility for the "strategic threats" that face Israel. In that role, he will be able to determine what issues are to be considered threats and thereby shape the public agenda for the next few years. The "problem" of Israel's Palestinian citizens is certain to be high on his list.

Lieberman has been widely presented as a political maverick, akin to the notorious racist Rabbi Meir Kahane whose Kach Party was outlawed in the late 1980s. That is a gross misunderstanding: Lieberman is at the very heart of the country's right-wing establishment and will almost certainly be a candidate for prime minister in future elections, as Israelis drift ever further right.

Unlike Kahane, Lieberman has cleverly remained within the Israeli political mainstream while pushing its agenda to the very limits of what it is currently possible to say. Kadima and Labour urgently want unilateral separation from the Palestinians but are shy to spell out, both to their own domestic constituency and the international community, what separation will entail.

Lieberman has no such qualms. He is unequivocal: if Israel is separating from the Palestinians in parts of the occupied territories, why not also separate from the 1.2 million Palestinians who through oversight rather than design ended up as citizens of a Jewish state in 1948? If Israel is to be a Jewish fortress, then, as he points out, it is illogical to leave Palestinians within its fortifications.

These arguments express the common mood among the Israeli public, one that has been cultivated since the eruption of the Intifada in 2000 by endless talk among Israel's political and military elites about "demographic separation". Regular opinion polls show that about two-thirds of Israelis support transfer, either voluntary or forced, of Palestinian citizens from the state.

Recent polls also reveal how fashionable racism has become in Israel. A survey conducted last year showed that 68 per cent of Israeli Jews do not want to live next to a Palestinian citizen (and rarely have to, as segregation is largely enforced by present authorities), and 46 per cent would not want an Arab to visit their home.

A poll of students that was published last week suggests that racism is even stronger among young Jews. Three-quarters believed Palestinian citizens are uneducated, uncivilised and unclean, and a third are frightened of them. Richard Kupermintz of Haifa University, who conducted the survey more than two years ago, believes that responses would be even more extreme today.

Lieberman is simply riding the wave of such racism and pointing out the inevitable path separation must follow if it is to satisfy these kinds of prejudices. He may speak his mind more than his cabinet colleagues, but they too share his vision of the future. That is why only one minister, the dovish and principled Ophir Pines Paz of Labour, resigned over Ehud Olmert's inclusion of Lieberman in the cabinet.

Contrast that response with the uproar caused by the Labour leader Amir Peretz's appointment of the first Arab cabinet minister in Israel's history. (A member of the small Druze community, which serves in the Israeli army, Salah Tarif, was briefly a minister without portfolio in Sharon's first government).

Raleb Majadele, a Muslim, is a senior member of the Labour party and a Zionist (what might be termed, in different circumstances, a self-hating Arab or an Uncle Tom), and yet his appointment has broken an Israeli taboo: Arabs are not supposed to get too close to the centres of power.

Peretz's decision was entirely cynical. He is under threat on all fronts -- from his coalition partners in Kadima and in Lieberman's Yisrael Beitenu, and from within his own party -- and desperately needs the backing of Labour's Arab party members. Majadele is the key, and that is why Peretz gave him a cabinet post, even if a marginal one: minister of science, culture and sport.

But the right is deeply unhappy at Majadele's inclusion in the cabinet. Lieberman called Peretz unfit to be defence minister for making the appointment and demanded that Majadele pledge loyalty to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Lieberman's party colleagues referred to the appointment as a "lethal blow to Zionism".

A few Labour and Meretz MKs denounced these comments as racist. But more telling was the silence of Olmert and his Kadima Party, as well as Binyamin Netanyahu's Likud, at Lieberman's outburst. The centre and right understand that Lieberman's views about Majadele, and Palestinian citizens more generally, mirror those of most Israeli Jews and that it would be foolhardy to criticise him for expressing it -- let alone sack him.

In this game of "who is the truer Zionist", Lieberman can only grow stronger against his former colleagues in Kadima and Likud. Because he is free to speak his and their minds, while they must keep quiet for appearance's sake, he, not they, will win ever-greater respect from the Israeli public.

Meanwhile, all the evidence suggests that Olmert and the current government will implement the policies being promoted by Lieberman, even if they are too timid to openly admit this is what they are doing.

Some of those policies are of the by-now familiar variety, such as the destruction of 21 Bedouin homes, half the village of Al-Twail, in the northern Negev last week. It was the second time in a month that the village had been razed by Israeli security forces.

These kinds of official attacks against the indigenous Bedouin -- who have been classified by the government as "squatters" on state lands -- are a regular occurrence, an attempt to force 70,000 Bedouin to leave their ancestral homes and relocate to deprived townships.

A more revealing development came this month, however, when it was reported in the Israeli media that the government is for the first time backing "loyalty" legislation that has been introduced privately by a Likud MK Gilad Erdan's bill that would revoke the citizenship of Israelis who take part in "an act that constitutes a breach of loyalty to the state", the latest in a string of proposals by Jewish MKs conditioning citizenship on loyalty to the Israeli state, defined in all these schemes very narrowly as a "Jewish and democratic" state.

Arab MKs, who reject an ethnic definition of Israel and demand instead that the country be reformed into a "state of all its citizens", or a liberal democracy, are typically denounced as traitors.

Lieberman himself suggested such a loyalty scheme for Palestinian citizens last month during a trip to Washington. He told American Jewish leaders: "He who is not ready to recognise Israel as a Jewish and Zionist state cannot be a citizen in the country."

Erdan's bill specifies acts of disloyalty that include visiting an "enemy state" -- which, in practice, means just about any Arab state. Most observers believe that after the Justice Ministry has redrafted Erdan's bill it will be used primarily against the Arab MKs, who are looking increasingly beleaguered. Most have been repeatedly investigated by the attorney-general for comments in support of the Palestinians in the occupied territories, or for visiting neighbouring Arab states. One, Azmi Bishara, has been put on trial twice for these offences.

Meanwhile, Jewish MKs have been allowed to make the most outrageous racist statements against Palestinian citizens, mostly unchallenged.

Former cabinet minister Effi Eitam, for example, said back in September: "The vast majority of West Bank Arabs must be deported... We will have to make an additional decision, banning Israeli Arabs from the political system... We have cultivated a fifth column, a group of traitors of the first degree." He was "warned" by the attorney-general over his comments (though he had expressed similar views several times before), but remained unrepentant, calling the warning an attempt to "silence" him.

The leader of the opposition and former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the most popular politician in Israel according to polls, gave voice to equally racist sentiments this month when he stated that the child allowance cuts he imposed as finance minister in 2002 had had a "positive" demographic effect by reducing the birth rate of Palestinian citizens.

Arab MKs, of course, do not enjoy such indulgence when they speak out, much more legitimately, in supporting their kin, the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza, who are suffering under Israel's illegal occupation. Arab MK Ahmed Tibi, for example, was roundly condemned last week by Jewish political parties, including the most left-wing Meretz Party, when he called on Fatah to "continue the struggle" to establish a Palestinian state.

However, the campaign of intimidation by the government and Jewish members of the Knesset has failed to silence the Arab MKs, or stop them visiting neighbouring states, which is why the pressure is being ramped up. If Erdan's bill becomes law -- which seems possible with government backing -- Arab MKs and the minority they represent will either be cut off from the rest of the Arab world once again (as they were for the first two decades of Israel's existence, when a military government was imposed on them) or threatened with the revocation of their citizenship for disloyalty (a move, it should be noted, that is illegal under international law).

It may not be too fanciful to see the current legislation eventually being extended to cover other "breaches of loyalty", such as demanding democratic reforms of Israel or denying that a Jewish state is democratic. Technically, this is already the position as Israel's election law makes it illegal for political parties, including Arab ones, to promote a platform that denies Israel's existence as a "Jewish and democratic" state.

Soon Arab MKs and their constituents may also be liable to having their citizenship revoked for campaigning, as many currently do, for a state of all its citizens. That certainly is the view of the eminent Israeli historian Tom Segev, who argued in the wake of the government's adoption of the bill: "In practice, the proposed law is liable to turn all Arabs into conditional citizens, after they have already become, in many respects, second-class citizens. Any attempt to formulate an alternative to the Zionist reality is liable to be interpreted as a 'breach of faith' and a pretext for stripping them of their citizenship."

But it is unlikely to end there. I hesitate to make another prediction but, given the rapidity with which the others have been realised, it may be time yet again to hazard a guess about where Israel is headed.

The other day I was at a checkpoint near Nablus, one of several that are being converted by Israel into what look suspiciously like international border crossings, even though they fall deep inside Palestinian territory.

I had heard that Palestinian citizens of Israel were being allowed to pass these checkpoints unhindered to enter cities like Nablus to see relatives. (These familial connections are a legacy of the 1948 War, when separated Palestinian refugees ended up on different sides of the Green Line, and also of marriages that were possible after 1967, when Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza, making social and business contacts possible again). But when Palestinian citizens try to leave these cities via the checkpoints they are invariably detained and issued letters by Israeli authorities warning them that they will be tried if caught again visiting "enemy" areas.

In April last year, at a cabinet meeting at which the Israeli government agreed to expel Hamas MPs from Jerusalem to the West Bank, ministers discussed changing the classification of the Palestinian Authority from a "hostile entity" to the harsher category of an "enemy entity". The move was rejected at the time because, as one official told the Israeli media, "there are international legal implications in such a declaration, including closing off border crossings, that we don't want to do yet."

Is it too much to suspect that before long, after Israel has completed the West Bank wall and its "border" terminals, the Jewish state will classify visits by Palestinian citizens to relatives as "visiting an enemy state"? And will such visits be grounds for revoking citizenship, as they could be under Erdan's bill if Palestinian citizens visit relatives in Syria or Lebanon?

Lieberman doubtless knows the answer already

Luckovich: Bush Gives In to Popular Demand

(Click on cartoon to enlarge)
By Mike Luckovich

The great games over Iraq

By Kaveh L Afrasiabi
Asia Times

"No doubt, we are now witnessing the dawn of a new great game over Iraq. A recent communique by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has stated its "collective desire to prevent Iraq from becoming a battleground for regional and international powers".

The irony, however, is that this communique is also signed by two "out of area" Arab states, Jordan and Egypt, whose inclusion in the security calculus of the Persian Gulf rattles Iran and fuels the growing rivalry between the Shi'ite power bloc and the Sunni Arabs led by Saudi Arabia.....

Shi'ites betrayed again?
Are they going to be betrayed again? This is a question increasingly on the mind of many Shi'ites in Iran, Iraq and elsewhere, who have a vivid memory of how then-US president George H W Bush betrayed Iraq's Shi'ites during the Gulf War in 1991 by first exhorting them to rebel against the late Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and, when they did in Basra, Najaf and Karbala, became complicit in their suppression....

From the vantage point of many Shi'ites in the region, the new accent on Iran in Iraq is a ruse for a change of heart in Washington toward the post-Saddam political process, and a prelude for a U-turn."The US wants to have its cake and eat it too," a Tehran political analyst told the author, adding, "Bush is now appeasing the Sunni bloc and squeezing the Shi'ites and still wants to claim a continuity of US policy in Iraq when it is abundantly clear that discontinuity is gaining the upper hand.".....

A shade of Bosnia
"There is a shade of Bosnia here," explained the analyst, referring to the US-Iran cooperation in Bosnia-Herzegovina during the early 1990s, which saved the beleaguered Bosnian Muslims from Serbian atrocities, notwithstanding a United Nations arms embargo......

As a result of such political pressures, the Clinton administration shifted its policy toward the Iranians in Bosnia: the Revolutionary Guards' offices in Bosnia were ordered closed and, in one case reminiscent of the Irbil incident, US forces took over one of those liaison offices and temporarily apprehended several Iranians whom they accused of subversive activities. Expelling the Iranians from Bosnia after they were no longer needed seemed like the right policy, and all the signs are that the US is inclined to repeat it in Iraq, irrespective of the stark differences relating to Iran's proximity to neighboring Iraq and the wealth of historical and religious ties.....

The facade of a self-imposed mission to "spread democracy" is wearing thinner by the hour, seeing how Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice did not bother to invoke the word "democracy" once in her latest trip to Cairo and Riyadh, focusing instead on "stability" and raising the specter that "the Iranians are coming" - this from a specialist in Russia and the Cold War who is at home with Cold War posturing.....

Spring of military action
Various US pundits have openly opined that the first half of 2007 is the best time for military action against Iran, with that country internationally isolated, the Arab tide against Tehran at its all-time highest, and Iran's own house divided among competing factions unable to reach consensus on important foreign-policy priorities.

Bulking up its military presence by dispatching a fresh aircraft-carrier task force to the Persian Gulf, as well as several nuclear-armed submarines, and sending Patriot missiles to the US-friendly states in the region, the Bush administration might actually gain in Iraq by subduing Iran militarily, ostensibly over the nuclear issue.

The problem with this rationale, however, is that it disregards the likelihood of Iranian retaliation in Iraq, regional "blowback", and the threats to the world economy posed by curtailed oil traffic through the Strait of Hormuz. Concerning the last, the US has reportedly made contingency plans for the indefinite takeover of Iranian territory in Chah Bahar, which would deny Tehran its strategic leverage with Hormuz......

In a word, the long-term geopolitical ramifications for both China and Russia are too serious to ignore by their policymakers. Moscow and Beijing have joined the bandwagon over US-led efforts to impose sanctions on Iran, overlooking their own previously stated insight that such sanctions would be a "prelude to war".

Indeed, how little time Washington has lost in following up Security Council Resolution 1737 with ratcheted-up military threats against Iran. Looking far ahead, this, in turn, raises another vexing question: Is the US-Iran rivalry the outer ring of a broader, new Cold War between the US and the countervailing powers of China and Russia? "

Rice’s Israel-Palestine “Peace” Overture: More of the Same as Shock and Awe of Iran Looms

By Kurt Nimmo

"It’s like a broken record played over the decades with the same worn refrain. “US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday she heard strong encouragement from Israeli and Palestinian leaders and their neighbors for quick progress toward a Middle East peace agreement,” reports the Associated Press. “There is no doubt there could be a very important effect on the entire region if we are able to make progress on Middle East peace,” said Rice the Destroyer. “I did find the parties very desirous of making progress,” she droned. “I believe the whole region is looking for ways to make progress and drive toward the establishment of a Palestinian state.”

Of course, the “establishment of a Palestinian state” is not on the agenda, or at least not the sort of state envisioned by the Palestinians. Instead, the Palestinians will receive more of the same terminating in a series of isolated Bantustans surrounded by Israeli checkpoints and military garrisons......

....Unfortunately, “a better fate” is not possible with the neocons in control, working closely with the Israelis. As Stephen J. Sniegoski explains, the “Likudniks have always sought to deal in a radical fashion with the Palestinian problem in the occupied territories—a problem that has gotten worse, from their standpoint, as a result of demographic changes. A U.S. war in the Middle East at the present time provides a window of opportunity to permanently solve that problem and augment Israel’s dominance in the region. The existing perilous situation, as Likud thinkers see it, would justify the taking of substantial risks.” One such “substantial risk,” now boiling with ugly determination in the foreground, is the possibility the neocons and the Israelis will attack Iran.

Rice is playing the role of a carnival sideshow barker as she cajoles easily flimflammed Arab leaders into “high-level yet informal” meetings. Meanwhile, in the background, the clock ticks toward the shock and awe campaign long ago sketched out for Iran. Rice “announced the Israeli-Palestinian talks as she began three days of meetings with Sunni Arab allies in the region—Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf states—to rally support for President Bush’s new military and diplomatic strategy in Iraq,” according to the New York Times. In other words, Rice is calling together the most reactionary ruling elements in the region, urging them onboard the Good Ship Lollipop, another designed to fail “peace plan” intended to string the Palestinians along.

It is but another distraction, as the Israelis and their American counterparts are not interested in peace. In fact, they are interested in making life miserable for the Palestinians and punishing harshly all those who dare ask for a sincere and lasting peace. Soon enough, they will make life miserable for a whole lot of Iranians, as they have for Iraqis—a template based on years of work practiced with ghoulish determination on the Palestinians."

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Return to Arab survival

By Azmi Bishara

".....Iraq was smashed to pieces because various Arab powers colluded with American designs and the Arabs that opposed this war were effectively isolated by force of the same collusion. Iran rose to the vanguard of the most vocal opponents to the war as a result of the official Arab stance, particularly that of the Gulf states, which could barely conceal their glee at the fall of the Iraqi regime beneath relentless bombardment and at the subsequent capture of Saddam Hussein. But what a different tune they were singing then in contrast to their recent protests against the execution of Saddam on the first day of the Feast of Sacrifice. What has happened in the interval to cause this remarkable about-face? On the one hand, the Iraqi resistance has proven its efficacy and durability. On the other, the boundaries of regional axes have gelled, and the members of one of these are pounding their chests and protesting the insult to their honour, now that they've realised that Iran was the foremost beneficiary of the dissolution of the Iraqi army and anti-Baath Party law which they had once cheered so rowdily. Not that these Arab officials went so far as to actually denounce Saddam's execution. They were just upset that it had been carried out on the first day of the feast. Which is worse. What this implies is that they actually approved of the execution and hoped for the opportunity to exploit it, themselves, to stir sectarian passions against adversaries who had nothing to do with the fall of the Saddam regime or his execution, such as Hizbullah and the Palestinian resistance.

At various points along the way, most importantly when the constitution came out, certain parties called into question Iraq's Arab identity and scoffed at those who protested the refutation of this identity. Not a single voice from Arab officialdom, which is now wringing its hands over Iran's gains from the decimation of Iraq, was among the protestors. And, today, instead of responding to Iran's (and America's) sectarian tactics with calls for Arab unity, Arab officialdom is busily fuelling Sunni anti-Shia sentiments. Nothing could be further from the spirit and behaviour of the Sunnis who had once rallied and still rally behind the call to Arab nationalism and unity.

In none of the other trouble spots that flared up or that were ignited in the Arab world is there sufficient endemic cause for full-scale internecine conflict......

In Palestine, for example, a particular faction might contemplate changing the government in a manner that would guarantee it hold over such key authorities as the ministries of interior, foreign affairs and security. Add these to the presidency, recognised by the government, and access to various sources of money and it becomes possible to strike an agreement with Israel through secret negotiations. It's all a question of time. Afterwards, of course, the agreement can be put to general referendum, and the best way to ensure that this comes out in favour of an unjust settlement is to choke off the people's access to food, release the grip gradually to give them a taste, and then let the people use their imaginations to draw the comparison between times under economic blockade and the times to come after it is lifted......

States that had never stepped foot in Lebanon before are now gate crashing into the country through the torn off doors and windows of Lebanese domestic politics, because suddenly they discovered that the way to America's heart is to sign up with the anti-Iran axis. Lebanon is the place to be.....

Syria managed to sustain good relations with both Iran and with the Gulf countries and, therefore, was able to act as a pacifying mediator between them. But rather than capitalising on this role, the partners to coalition politics are contributing to the isolation of Syria. Iran, for its part, should reassure the Arabs -- by which I mean Arab public opinion -- that it recognises the Arab identity of Iraq. It should further relinquish its vindictive policies and its collusion with vindictive practices in Iraq, the most recent manifestation of which was the disgracefully bloodthirsty execution of the president of an Arab state, beneath the axe of the occupation -- a savage act recorded and broadcast with such disgusting felicity that even Arabs who hated Saddam could not help but to feel insulted and degraded. The only way to restrain Iran is to establish a relationship with it that keeps the channels of communication and understanding over Iraq open. To do so, Arab regimes must reassure Iran that they are not colluding with the US against it, as they colluded with the US during the build-up to the war against Iraq......"

عزة الدوري يتهم سوريا بالتآمر على حزب البعث العراقي

"ندد الرجل الثاني في النظام العراقي السابق عزة إبراهيم الدوري بما اعتبره مؤامرة على حزب البعث العراقي المنحل، متهما سوريا باحتضان مؤتمر يهدف إلى اختيار قيادة جديدة للحزب.

وقال الدوري في بيان ذيل بتوقيع القيادة القومية لحزب البعث العربي الاشتراكي "إن معلومات وردت عن دعوة بعض المفصولين من الحزب إلى عقد مؤتمر قطري غير شرعي في دمشق"، مضيفا أن مجرد احتضان سوريا لهذه الدعوة يؤكد أنها جزء مما سماه مؤامرة الاحتلال الأميركي لتصفية رمز نضال العراق ضد الاحتلال وهو الحزب، ودمجه في الحكومة السورية الحليفة الطبيعية للحكومة الإيرانية.

وهاجم الدوري، وهو أكبر مسؤول في النظام العراقي السابق مازال فارا، "المفصول محمد يونس الأحمد" أحد الأعضاء السابقين في البعث العراقي، داعيا "جميع مناضلي الحزب خارج العراق إلى التصدي لهؤلاء المتآمرين مع الاحتلال والمخابرات السورية وعزلهم".

الطالباني يرجح
وفي السياق ذاته رجح الرئيس العراقي جلال الطالباني أن يكون الدوري موجودا في اليمن وليس في سوريا كما كان يعتقد، مشيرا إلى أن السلطات العراقية تتعقب تحركات الدوري ولم تبحث بعد المطالبة بتسليمه.

وفي بغداد تظاهر مئات العراقيين في حي الأعظمية ذي الغالبية السنية تأييدا لاختيار الدوري لرئاسة حزب البعث خلفا لرئيسه الراحل صدام حسين الذي أعدمته السلطات العراقية نهاية الشهر الماضي بعد إدانته في قضية الدجيل.

وكان الجيش الأميركي أعلن في نوفمبر/تشرين الثاني عام 2005 أنه يقدم مكافأة قيمتها عشرة ملايين دولار لمن يعطي معلومات تؤدي إلى اعتقال الدوري."

Last Chance!
The sign says "For Sale."
Bush says, "Trust me; jump on the opportunity!"

(Art: Pancho / Le Monde)

This is what democracy looks like

Eoin Murray writing from Gaza City, occupied Palestine, Live from Palestine, 18 January 2007

"......And here comes the surprise. It's a good one.

For the past few months the biggest issue for people in Gaza has become the security situation caused by the the clashes between Hamas and some 'leading lights' in the decrepit Fateh party. People felt unsafe to leave their home. One friend lives near a hot spot -- her house has bullet holes through it. Her children are so afraid that even when no fighting is happening they are crawling from room to room. In the centre of Gaza City, in the square of the Unknown Soldier a movement has sprung up. Partially out of desperation, partially out of a desire to end the violent internal clashes and provide some protection for Palestinian civilians.

Ten people, six women and four men have decided to go on hunger strike. They are artists, doctors, human rights lawyers, poets and independent political activists. For the past eight days they have refused food and vowed to continue doing so until such time as a national unity government is formed and the internal clashes come to an end.

Civil society, the business community and people from all walks of life have gathered around to support them. They have been given tents, blankets, chairs, heaters (for Gaza at night is bitterly cold). Petitions are being circulated, the 'Oud is being played, national poems are being sung and recited through the night. Thousands of ordinary people have passed through in support.

Their slogan is simple: 'NO - to internal fighting.' We spend some time talking to Doctor Miriam who began organising the strike. She tells us, "This is the first step for fighting the occupation. We must be united as a people in order to achieve our rights and our dreams. Internal fighting can not bring us there. We have not hung any flags other then Palestinian flags here. We do not welcome guns into this area. We want real national unity to struggle for the human rights ofthe Palestinian people."

We move from the tent she shares with three other hunger strikers into the main tent. Over a hundred chairs are gathered around in a circle. A man is sitting, surrounded by his children, he is an ordinary man. He holds a microphone in his hands and talks about his desire that the clashes will end so his kids will be safer going to school. Over the course of hours the microphone passes through many hands -- anyone can speak and express their feelings, for as long as they need to. It is a truly open affair.

The microphone passes to one Palestinian woman. She is resplendent in her handwoven black, red and yellow dress. An elderly lady, with a lived-in face. Her name is Um Jaber Wishah. She begins to tell her own story. The story explains the lines on her face, and at times her eyes well with tears as she describes her journey in 1948 when she and her family were expelled from their village inside what is now the state of Israel. She talks about the pain of mothers who see their sons taken to prison, or killed. She reminds us that "the prisoners are calling for calm on the streets of Gaza and we must honour their desires. We must behave as Palestinians, with dignity and respect towards each other. Not to divide ourselves into Hamas or Fateh."

Her words are powerful and they move the crowd to applause and cheers. The evening in the tent reminds me of the words of Martin Luther King who, the night before he died, said, "You know, whenever Pharaoh wanted to prolong the period of slavery in Egypt, he had a favorite, favorite formula for doing it. What was that? He kept the slaves fighting among themselves. But whenever the slaves get together, something happens in Pharaoh's court, and he cannot hold the slaves in slavery. When the slaves get together,that's the beginning of getting out of slavery. Now let us maintain unity."

The work of these hunger strikers and their friends and fellow strugglers in human rights organisations such as those supported by Trocaire is for unity. They are doing it by creating real people power, by encouraging people to take back the streets and take back the responsibility for democracy and accountability themselves. This, indeed, is what democracy looks like.

I can only hope that they succeed."