Saturday, May 24, 2008

Real News Video: Iran's role as a regional power

"The Real News Network's Paul Jay talks to Gareth Porter about Iran's goals in supporting Hamas and Hezbollah. Hezbollah may have started with the help of Iran but it has evolved into something that is quite independent. Iran's position in relation to Hamas and Hezbollah are as "bargaining chips" in a negotiated settlement with the US to be recognized as a regional power in the Middle East."

Video: The Easiest Targets

Contributed by v

No sign of Sistani image-refurbishment in Iraq

From Missing Links

".......Speaking of Sistani, the evidence so far is that there isn't any basis at all for thinking that the Najaf authorities were responding to domestic pressure and trying to distance themselves from the oppressive policies represented by the Sadr City campaign. On the contrary, they seem to have made no meaningful effort to have any part of the AP story reflected in Iraqi news accounts. On the official website, the only reference to the meeting is a few lines from the AFP story, which merely quoted Maliki on the theme of Sistani's "support for the government in general". And Aswat al Iraq, which would be the natural place to launch something into the Iraqi media, dismisses the whole dustup this way:

A source close to [Sistani] denied reports circulated by global [meaning foreign] news agencies about Sistani having issued a fatwa permitting the use of arms to oust the foreign forces from Iraq, stressing that [Sistani] has been calling for peaceful resistance since the fall of the prior regime.

The "not at the present time" phrase, so far, seems to have occurred only in a couple of lines at the end of a story in AlSharq al-Awsat this morning; and on the obscure website I cited yesterday. (By contrast, the big proponent of refurbishing his image, and holding out the prospect of an eventual turn against the foreign forces by Najaf (and by Maliki and Hakim too!) was none other than Juan Cole himself. Whether refurbishment of the Najaf/Maliki image in America via Cole was in any way behind the whole AP kerfuffle or not, of course one cannot say. But the fact it didn't have that effect at all in Iraq does make one wonder...)"

More on Finkelstein: Israel denies entry to high-profile critic Norman Finkelstein

"The Shin Bet security service detained and deported an American Jewish professor who is a prominent critic of the Israeli occupation when he landed at Ben-Gurion International Airport on Friday.

Professor Norman Finkelstein was interrogated for several hours and held in an airport cell before being put on a plane back to Amsterdam, his point of departure. Finkelstein said he was told he could not return to Israel for 10 years......

Finkelstein visited Lebanon a few months ago and met with Hezbollah operatives there, and subsequently published articles.

Finkelstein, 55, has accused Israel of exploiting the Holocaust for political ends. He recently left DePaul University following pressure by Jewish organizations and individuals, including Professor Alan Dershowitz.

He also said in the interview that he was "en route to Palestine to see one of my oldest and dearest friends, Musa Abu-Hashhash."

Finkelstein said he was asked whether he had met with Al Qaida operatives, whether he had been sent to Israel by Hezbollah and how he intended to finance his stay in Israel.

"I was kept in a holding cell at the airport for approximately 24 hours. It wasn't a Belgian bed-and-breakfast, but it wasn't Auschwitz either. I had several unpleasant moments with the guards at the airport and in the holding cell, but since martyrdom is not my cup of tea, I'll spare you the details," Finkelstein said.

He said he eventually used a cellphone belonging to another detainee and called another friend he was scheduled to see in Israel, the journalist Allan Nairn, who called attorney Michael Sfard. Sfard met with Finkelstein and told him he could appeal the ban; however, Finkelstein said he has been to Israel at least 15 times and declined to appeal.

Sfard on Saturday said banning Finkelstein from entering the country "recalls the behavior of the Soviet bloc countries." "

Celebrating Ethnic Cleansing

An Open Letter to Nancy Pelosi on Israel


"Dear Nancy Pelosi,

Check your history books.

Celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the State of Israel is celebration of the Zionist ethnic cleansing of Arabs from Palestine, the celebration of the expulsion of 750,000 Arabs who generations later still people the refugee camps of Lebanon, Syria, Jordon, who still mourn their families slaughtered by Zionists as they completely destroyed Arab villages in Palestine, who still hold keys to their homes that were seized by the new Israeli state in 1948.

I stand with Jews, with Palestinians, with every people who seek protection from persecution, but never with those who persecute others, who conduct well documented ethnic cleansing to gain their own protection which in six decades of Israeli wars has been no protection at all for Israelis.......

It has been nearly eight years since George Bush’s violent disregard for human life, especially human life in the Arab world where he has chosen to make and support wars, made me ashamed to be an American. Listening to you, following your speech to the Knesset, I am deeply saddened that you have only reinforced that shame.

I long for the America who will not justify the persecution of ANY people, who will protect and defend the human rights of ALL human beings. I no longer imagine you as part of that possibility....."

Wayne Madsen Report: May 20, 2008 -- Carnaby had access inside the Israeli Prime Minister's office

Posted by Evelyn on Free Iraq Blog

"Roland Carnaby, the one-time CIA Station Chief for the Southeast Region, headquartered in Houston, had sources inside the office of Israel's Prime Minister. A source who knew Carnaby said the agent, killed by Houston police on April 29, had a certificate of appreciation personally signed by former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The certificate was embossed with the seal of the HaMossad leModi'in v'leTafkidim Meyuhadim [המוסד למודיעין ולתפקידים מיוחדים‎], the Mossad.

Carnaby maintained close links to Israeli intelligence and sponsored and vouched for a number of Israeli security contractors who wanted to provide services to the George Bush International Airport in Houston. However, it is now clear that Carnaby obtained knowledge about Israeli and Bush administration plans to start a Middle East conflagration that was enough for elements inside the Bush White House, Israeli intelligence, and their contacts inside the Houston Police Department to have him assassinated.

On May 6, 2008, WMR reported: WMR has learned from its Middle East intelligence sources that a leak from the office of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office resulted in the last minute scuttling of an Israeli intelligence operation in Beirut that would have started a series of events that would have likely resulted in the outbreak of warfare between Israel and Lebanon, Syria, and possibly, between Iran and the United States.

Israel's Mossad planned an April 25 assassination, likely by its favorite method, a massive car bomb, of Lebanese Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. Because the assassination would have triggered the "perfect storm" for the outbreak of war in Lebanon, with the involvement of Israel, the United States, Syria, and Iran, an official in Olmert's office leaked the assassination plan. When it became apparent that there was a leak, Mossad scuttled the entire operation.

The plan was immediately known by the CIA and Hezbollah. It is known that retired CIA officer and contractor Roland Carnaby, a Lebanese-American, had close contact with all of Lebanon's various factions. On April 29, four days after the planned assassination of Nasrallah by Mossad, Carnaby was killed in broad daylight by Houston police. WMR previously reported that Carnaby had successfully penetrated a Mossad ring active in the Houston area.

WMR has learned from CIA sources in Lebanon that Carnaby maintained a close link to retired Lebanese General Michael Aoun, a major Christian leader who has allied his party to Hezbollah and its leader Hassan Nasrallah. Aoun was once considered an ally of Israel but broke his ties after Israel's devastating sneak attack on Lebanon in 2006.

It is likely that Carnaby was the nexus that served to pass the leak from Olmert's office to Aoun and then to Nasrallah. It was the plan for a U.S. and Israeli assault on Lebanon following Nasrallah's assassination that prompted the Hezbollah leader to carry out a show of force against the pro-US government of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora. Plans by the United States and Israel to attack Lebanon would have been coordinated with a military assault on Syria and eventually, Iran.

Carnaby was very close to former President George H. W. Bush, who WMR has been told is adamantly opposed to any U.S. military strike on Lebanon, Syria, or Iran. Although the senior Bush is beginning to suffer symptoms associated with Alzheimer's, it is also known that he has worked behind the scenes to stop further U.S. military attacks in the Middle East.

Carnaby was so close to the elder Bush that while at a Houston restaurant, the elder Bush, after spotting Carnaby at the bar having a drink with a friend, jumped up, ran over to Carnaby, and warmly embraced him. Bush is also reportedly incensed at Carnaby's shooting by the police and he has blamed the neocons who have infiltrated his son's administration for the death of his friend.

The elder Bush resents the heavy hand dealt by Vice President Dick Cheney to Syria's President Bashar Assad. Bush still recalls that it was Assad's father, Hafez Assad, who contributed troops for Operation Desert Storm against Assad's fellow rival Baathist Saddam Hussein. Bush also was appreciative that Bashar Assad's intelligence chief helped take out Hezbollah's military commander Imad Mugniyah in a Damascus car bombing in February. Mugniyah was blamed for the kidnapping and torture execution of CIA Beirut station chief William Buckley in 1985. Buckley was Carnaby's boss in Lebanon and Bush, as Vice President, was coordinating America's counter-terrorism program.

WMR has also discovered that before the planned assassination of Nasrallah on April 25, Carnaby was talking on his cell phone at a Houston restaurant. The patrons of the restaurant were startled to hear the mild mannered Carnaby began shouting in the phone, yelling "Who the hell ordered that?" and pounding the table. Those who knew Carnaby thought it was out of character but also knew that something serious was going on.

It is also known that Carnaby, fearful of a U.S. war with Iran, wanted to leave the CIA. He was reportedly very nervous, behavior described by a friend as "skittish," during the week before his death. WMR has also learned from a reliable source that Carnaby had information that he was trying to get to Washington the morning that he was killed. The Houston police impounded Carnaby's laptop computer, which contained details on a CIA non-official cover (NOC) network tasked with protecting U.S. and foreign ports from terrorist attacks and the smuggling of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). That network, like Valerie Plame Wilson's Brewster Jennings & Associates non-official cover firm that tracked the proliferation of WMDs, may have been compromised to Mossad, which is considered by the CIA to be a hostile intelligence agency that seeks to damage U.S. national security."

UN says more roadblocks were installed by Israel in the West Bank

"The United Nations stated in a press release on Friday that Israel increased the number of roadblocks in the Palestinian territories since September last year although it officially pledged to reduce them.

The United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that since September 2007 until April this year the Israeli army installed 41 additional roadblocks, and that the total number of roadblocks is now 607 while the number was 566 in September last year.

The UN report indicated that Israel erected 144 new checkpoints and removed 103.

The UN added that these roadblocks are restricting the mobility of the Palestinian people and goods and that even UN staff living in the West Bank are affected by these roadblocks as they hinder them from entering Jerusalem.

In spite of Israeli allegations of easing restrictions imposed on the Palestinians, closures, repeated invasions, and roadblocks in addition to the Annexation Wall continue to obstruct the freedom of movement of the Palestinian people and even bar them from reaching the farmlands.
When The US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, visited the region recently, Israel vowed to remove 50 roadblocks in the occupied West Bank.

The International Community uttered repeated calls on Israel to ease the restrictions on movement as part of peace talks with the Palestinian Authority.

Israel claimed that it removed 61 roadblocks but the OCHA said that the army only removed 44 roadblocks.

These numbers do not include the temporary roadblocks which the soldiers install frequently on Palestinian roads and remove them later on before they install them again in other areas.

The UN report comes shortly after the French Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner, slammed Israel for the large number of roadblocks in the occupied West Bank. He stated that these roadblocks are impeding any Palestinian economic development.

The statements of Kouchner came during the Palestinian Investment Conference in the West Bank City of Bethlehem. He stated that Israel is still restricting the movement of the Palestinians and added that Israel must “practice more efforts to ease the restrictions without endangering its security”.

Israel claims that it cannot speed the easing on restrictions of movement “because Palestinian fighters are still posing threats”. Yet, the vast majority of the roadblocks are isolating Palestinian cities, villages and refugee camps from each other and are not even close to the Green Line which separates between the West Bank and Israel. "

Damascus divided over peace talks

Editor-in-chief of al-Quds al-Arabi says Syrian leadership deeply divided over return to negotiations with Israel, sees resumption of talks as clear victory for those advocating jumping ship on Tehran

"The indirect negotiations between Syria and Israel have flamed existing tensions between the two camps dominating the regime in Damascus. At least according to the London-based 'al-Quds al-Arabi' newspaper on Saturday.

According to an editorial penned by the paper's editor-in-chief, Abdel Bari-Atwan, on the one side of the spectrum is President Bashar Assad's deputy, Farouk al-Sharaa and on the other – his foreign affairs minister, Walid al-Mualem, who supports dialogue with Israel and the United States.

Bari-Atwan asserts that the two have polar opposite views of what Damascus' next step should be.

Al-Mualem advocates negotiations that would lead to an agreement with Israel, a move which could extract Syria from its US-imposed isolation and, furthermore, possible prevent the establishment of an international criminal tribunal to deal with the assassination of Lebanon's Rafik al-Hariri.

Al-Sharaa, however, maintains a stringent belief that Syria must not compromise its principles and continue its policy of supporting 'resistance,' while preserving the current alliances with Russia, China and Iran. He also believes that Damascus should not abandon organizations under its patronage, namely Hizbullah, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad......."

Real News Video: Will Sistani end the war in Iraq?

"According to an AP dispatch, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani is inclined to issue a series of fatwas declaring what amounts to a defensive jihad against the occupying US troops. The Ayatollah's spokesman Abdul Mahdi Karbala'i, recently said that Sistani was against the Maliki government offensive on the Mahdi Army in Basra and Sadr city."

Real News Video: Iran, US and the possibility of war

Gareth Porter part 2: Ahamdinejad's rhetoric does not reflect official Iranian policy towards Israel.

"The Real News Network's Paul Jay talks to Gareth Porter about the pretext of waging a war on Iran. Although Ahmadinejad's rhetoric does not reflect the official Iranian policy toward Israel, it does reflect the Iranian government's disapproval of the existing regime. Though Iran dosen't seem to have nuclear weapons aspirations, the possibility of such could begin to stall emigration of Jews to Israel thus worsening the demographic balance."

U.S. Fourth Fleet in Venezuelan Waters


"With U.S. saber rattling towards Venezuela now at its height, the Pentagon has decided to reactivate the Navy’s fourth fleet in the Caribbean, Central and South America.

It’s a bold move, and has already stirred controversy within the wider region.

The fleet, which will start patrolling in July, will be based at the Mayport Naval Station in Jacksonville, Florida and will answer to the U.S. Southern Command in Miami. Rear Admiral Joseph Keran, current commander of the Naval Special Warfare Command, will oversee operations. About 11 vessels are currently under the Southern Command, a number that could increase in future. The Navy plans to assign a nuclear-powered air craft carrier, USS George Washington, to the force.

It’s difficult to see how the revival of the Fourth Fleet is warranted at the present time. The move has only served to further antagonize Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, already rattled by a U.S. navy plane’s violation of Venezuelan airspace over the weekend. In the long-term, the Pentagon’s saber rattling may encourage South American militaries to assert great independence from Washington, a trend which is already well under way as I discuss in my new book, Revolution! South America and the Rise of the New Left (Palgrave-Macmillan).

Reacting angrily to the Navy’s announcement, Chávez said: ``They don't scare us in the least.'' Chávez remarked that ``along with Brazil we're studying the creation of a South American Defense Council'' which would defend South America from foreign intervention. “If a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) exists,” the Venezuelan leader postulated, “why can’t a SATO exist, a South Atlantic Treaty Organization?"

Though the resuscitation of the Fourth Fleet has led many to believe that the U.S. is pursuing a course of gunboat diplomacy in the region, there was a time when the force arguably served a real need. What is the history of the Fourth Fleet in Venezuelan waters?......

Unlike the Second World War, when many South Americans welcomed the Fourth Fleet in Caribbean waters, some view the current U.S. naval presence as a veiled threat directed at the region’s new Pink Tide countries. In an interview with Cuban television, Bolivian President Evo Morales remarked that the U.S. naval force constituted "the Fourth Fleet of intervention."

Cuba’s former leader Fidel Castro has asked why the U.S. has sought to revive the Fourth Fleet at this precise moment. Writing in the Cuban newspaper Granma, Castro suggested that the move constituted a return to U.S. gunboat diplomacy. Castro, whose island nation confronted a U.S. naval blockade during the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, remarked "The aircraft carriers and nuclear bombs that threaten our countries are used to sow terror and death, but not to combat terrorism and illegal activities.”"

Hamas: Israel overtures old trick

Hamas political leader Khalid Mashaal says Israeli premier Ehud Olmert is too weak to take necessary steps for peace with Syria.

"During a joint press conference with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki on Saturday, Mashaal cast doubt on Israel's seriousness in peace negotiations with Damascus.

"There is great skepticism about Israel's seriousness to return the Golan," Heights occupied by the regime in 1967 to Syria, the Hamas leader said.

He termed the overtures made by the Israeli regime as a well known game adding that "Olmert's weakness will not allow him to take this step."

Olmert is under investigation for receiving bribe from an American businessman during his tenure as trade minister in 2006.

The recent corruption probe and a series of other scandals have raised doubts about his ability to conclude recently confirmed peace talks with Syria.

The Israeli regime and Syria announced last week they had begun a dialogue to reach a peace deal, with Damascus rejecting any preconditions for a peace deal."

An Act of War

by Gordon Prather

"Just as you thought the chances of the United States going to war with Iran were diminishing (largely because our own Iraqi sock-puppet regime has rejected U.S. accusations that Iran is directly responsible for American soldiers being killed in Iraq and because Director-General ElBaradei continues to report to the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency that he can find "no indication" that Iran now has or ever did have a nuclear weapons program) Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives, goes to Israel, presumably to help celebrate the 60th anniversary of al-Nakba, but also to discuss "the threat posed by Iran" to Israel.

Do you copy? Iran does not pose a threat to us or our troops in Iraq, but – in Pelosi's view – may somehow pose a threat to Israel?......

Well, according to Haaretz, Prime Minister Olmert "suggested" that, among other more drastic steps, the US impose a "naval blockade," using U.S. warships, "to limit the movement of Iranian merchant vessels."

Now, Iran is already subject to a third "round" of sanctions, preventing the import into or export from Iran, of goods, many of them commercial items, totally unrelated to Iran's Safeguarded nuclear programs, imposed by the Security Council "in order to strengthen a global response to this serious challenge and threat to international security."

What constitutes a serious challenge and a threat to international security? Why, Iran's IAEA Safeguarded programs, of course......

But, as Prime Minister Olmert must know, and Speaker Pelosi should have known, a "naval blockade" – which goes beyond the imposition of "sanctions" – involves the interdiction and/or seizure of all civil "merchant vessels" and their cargoes on the high seas. It's an act of war!

Hence, upon Pelosi's return to Washington – perhaps after frantic consultation with State Department officials – Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elsharri denied "there was ever any mention of a US naval blockade of Iranian ports."

Well, someone's lying.

So what the candidates for our presidency must make clear to Americans – most of whom are not paranoid – is actually what they mean when they say will "defend Israel."

Will our next president be willing to blockade Iran, to starve Iranian women and children, to effectively launch a war against Iran because the Likudnik paranoids, here and abroad, consider Iran's Safeguarded nuclear programs a "threat" to Israel?"

توجه سوري محفوف بالمخاطر

توجه سوري محفوف بالمخاطر

عبد الباري عطوان

"المفاوضات السرية غير المباشرة التي رعتها تركيا بين مندوبين سوريين واسرائيليين في انقرة بدأت قبل ستة اشهر، اي انها ليست وليدة الساعة، ولكن موضع التساؤل هو اختيار هذا الاسبوع للاعلان عنها في كل من دمشق وانقرة والقدس المحتلة بتنسيق مسبق، والدوافع الكامنة خلف هذا التوجه السوري نحو السلام مع اسرائيل في وقت يعتقد كثيرون ان المنطقة تتجه نحو الحرب، وان الحكومة الاسرائيلية هي الاضعف منذ قيام الدولة العبرية قبل ستين عاما.
الأمر المرجح ان هناك دوافع سورية ملحة، وقوية، بعضها اقتصادي خانق وبعضها الآخر سياسي ذو بعد اقليمي ودولي، دفعت في الاتجاه التفاوضي الحالي، في توقيت يعتقد كثيرون انه غير ملائم، علاوة علي المخاطر التي يمكن ان تترتب عليه، في حال نجاحه او تعثره. ولا بد ان القيادة السورية قد اجرت عملية حسابية دقيقة لكل الاحتمالات هذه، ولا يملك المراقب الا اللجوء الي التكهن ومحاولة القراءة بين سطور التصريحات الرسمية، والتقارير الاخبارية القادمة من دمشق.
ولا شك ان المحكمة الدولية المتعلقة بجريمة اغتيال السيد رفيق الحريري، رئيس الوزراء اللبناني الأسبق، والمتهم فيها بعض المسؤولين السوريين واللبنانيين، تشكل محور ارتكاز اساسيا في معظم الخطط السياسية والاستراتيجية للنظام في دمشق، لانها يمكن ان تستخدم كورقة لتقويضه، مثلما جري استخدام ذريعة اسلحة الدمار الشامل العراقية لاحتلال العراق وإطاحة نظامه.
اصحاب هذه المدرسة يعتقدون ان البوابة الاسرائيلية يمكن ان تقود بطريقة مباشرة او غير مباشرة الي صفقة مع واشنطن علي غرار الصفقة الليبية، اي حصر الاتهامات في ضابطين كبيرين او اكثر، وابعادها عن رؤوس النظام، حتي لو كانت سورية بريئة من جميع التهم الموجهة اليها، وربما تكون كذلك فعلا، تماما مثلما هو حال ليبيا في ما يتعلق بجريمة لوكربي التي الصقت بها.
واللافت ان السيد احمد قذاف الدم رجل المهام الصعبة ومبعوث الزعيم الليبي معمر القذافي لم يكف طوال العامين الماضيين عن التردد علي دمشق في زيارات شبه مكوكية، وكأنه يقدم لنظرائه السوريين حصيلة التجربة الليبية التفاوضية الصعبة مع الامريكان والانكليز، وكيفية ادارة الأزمة بما يؤدي الي تجنب الاخطاء والوصول الي افضل النتائج
المآخذ علي اصحاب هذه المدرسة كثيرة، ابرزها انها بالاعلان عن المفاوضات مع اسرائيل، اخرجت سورية بالكامل من معسكر الممانعة، وافقدتها الكثير من اوراق القوة التي في يدها حتي قبل ان تبدأ المفاوضات. فاستعدادها الضمني للتجاوب مع الطلبات الاسرائيلية في التخلي عن منظمات المقاومة والخروج من المعسكر الايراني مقابل استعادة الجولان، نقلها الي معسكر المعتدلين عمليا، وهو المعسكر الذي ظلت الأدبيات السورية تعارضه وتنتقده حتي قبل اسبوع، فحتي لو تعثرت المفاوضات، وارادت سورية التراجع عن خطها التفاوضي الحالي، فانه من الصعب عليها اقناع الكثيرين بجديتها هذه المرة، لان مصداقيتها قد تكون تضررت بشكل كبير، واستردادها يحتاج الي جهود كبيرة وإن كانت غير مضمونة النتائج
فاسرائيل تحاول استخدام الورقة السورية لاسباب داخلية، واللعب علي المسارات، والهروب من المسار الفلسطيني بفتح مسار سوري دون اي ضمانات بالنجاح.
ننصح القيادة السورية التي تدرس التجربة الليبية بعناية وتحاول الاستفادة منها، ان توجه الدعوة ايضا الي الرئيس الفلسطيني محمود عباس للاستفادة من تجربته التفاوضية العبثية مع الحكومة الاسرائيلية، لعلها تستفيد منها ايضا."

What’s the Fuss? Is Criticism of Israel Anti-Semitic? A Recent Appearance By Norman Finkelstein at The University of California, Irvine

The Muslim Students Union at the University of California, Irvine put together a very impressive program during the week May 7-14, Commemorating the Nakba. Among the speakers were Norman Finkelstein, Ilan Pappe, Craig and Cindy Corrie and Anna Baltzer. I attended both the Finkelstein and Pappe presentations and both were great. I even had a chance to ask Ilan Pappe a question about the one state/ two state solutions and get his response.

Below is a summary of the Finkelstein presentation. I am told that a video will be available on YouTube soon; I will post it when available.

"“You have the ability to turn things around,” Jewish-American political scientist Norman Finkelstein encouraged a stout crowd of 600 people at UC Irvine on May 7.

Show some courage, show some backbone, stick to the facts,” Finkelstein implored the crowd, encouraging them to speak out against Israeli atrocities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. “We have the facts on our side.”

Sponsored by the Muslim Student Union (MSU) as a part of their eighth-annual Palestine Awareness Week, Finkelstein’s visit was in hopes of answering the question: “What’s the fuss? Is Criticism of Israel Anti-Semitic?”

Finkelstein insisted that Israel and its supporters conveniently label their challengers as anti-Semitic in order to “divert attention from [and] sow confusion about what the actual documentary record shows.”

“Each time Israel commits egregious human rights violations we are told ‘What about the Holocaust?’” contended Finkelstein, who had family members perish in the Nazi concentration camps during World War II.

Finkelstein condemned terrorism but pointed out that the “indiscriminate use of force” by the Israeli Defense Forces is far deadlier than the worst suicide attacks.

Using the latest statistics from an impartial Israeli human rights organization, Bet’selem, he pointed out that since 2000 one Israeli civilian was killed for every five innocent Palestinians.

He strongly advocated the consultation of statistics from third party human rights organizations, insisting that responsible journalists should be skeptical when receiving information from parties involved in the conflict.

Maintaining a scholarly composure throughout, Finkelstein argued that Israel has fallaciously framed the conflict along racial or religious lines in order to marginalize supporters of peace and justice.

It’s not an ethnic issue…That’s what they what [Israel] wants to make you believe it is…It’s a human issue,” he explained.

A proud supporter of Hamas and Hezbollah, he also asserted that the “new anti-Semitism” is not in fact new, and is merely strategically employed as propaganda for warfare.

Every time Israel faces an international relations debacle they start up the new anti-Semitism,” he explained.

“The purpose is, number one, to turn to the perpetrator, Israel and its supporters, into the victim, focusing on the alleged suffering of Jews, rather than the very real suffering of Palestinians… And the second purpose is to discredit all criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism,” he alleged.

Finkelstein invited dissenters to question him afterwards, and urged those who doubted his credibility to do their own research.
You should doubt everything. You should go on your own to check the facts,” he insisted.

Later, Finkelstein answered questions while autographing copies of his acclaimed book Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History.

When a student thanked him for support of the MSU, Finkelstein replied, “I support whatever is just, whatever is fair.”"

Friday, May 23, 2008

Hamas fumes at Egypt as talks collapse. What Did Hamas Expect? It Knew That The Pharaoh Has No Balls!

"After rejecting Israel's conditions for a cease-fire, Hamas officials on Thursday expressed disappointment over Egypt's failure to endorse their stance.

"Instead of putting pressure on Israel to accept the truce, the Egyptians are pushing us to accept the Israeli conditions," a top Hamas official in the Gaza Strip told The Jerusalem Post......

Suleiman presented to the Hamas delegation what he described as Israel's "conditions" for accepting the Egyptian truce initiative, the official told the Post.

The conditions, he said, were "completely unacceptable" and were aimed at "further humiliating the Palestinians and aggravating their suffering."

The Hamas representatives left Cairo "with a sense of great disappointment," again according to the senior Hamas official from the Gaza Strip.

Hamas was particularly disappointed with the way the Egyptians responded to its reservations, he said. "Egypt appears to have endorsed the Israeli position. We were hoping that Egypt would be on our side because we were the first to accept the truce initiative," he said.

Israel's refusal to reopen the border crossings to the Gaza Strip and halt all military operations against the Palestinian factions immediately after a truce is declared remained the "major obstacle" to a deal, the official said......

Suleiman warned the Hamas leaders that by rejecting the truce initiative they were providing Israel with a good excuse to "invade" the Gaza Strip, the sources said.

He is also reported to have warned them that the entire Hamas leadership would be wiped out if Israel launched a massive military offensive on the Gaza Strip to halt the rocket attacks......."

Israel Arrests Outspoken Academic Norman Finkelstein

Democracy Now!

"And the American academic Norman Finkelstein has been arrested and ordered deported from Israel. Finkelstein arrived in Tel Aviv earlier today on his way to the Occupied Territories. He was immediately detained and told he is banned from Israel for ten years. He’s expected to be deported tomorrow. Finkelstein is known one of the most prominent academic critics of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza."

(Click on graphic to enlarge)
Norman Finkelstein Says
By Carlos Latuff

More on The Story

" Jerusalem - The US political author and critic of Israel Norman Finkelstein was denied entry to the Jewish state on Friday, his lawyer said.

Finkelstein landed at Ben Gurion international airport near Tel Aviv in the early morning and was told by a representative of the ministry of interior that he would not be allowed into the country on 'security' grounds, attorney Michael Sfard told dpa.
'This usually means a 10-year ban on entry,' Sfard added.

Finkelstein, who is Jewish and the son of Holocaust survivors, has written critical books on Israeli policies in the Palestinian territories and on what he called 'exploitation' of the Jewish tragedy during World War II.

Finkelstein has received with the fierce disapproval of some authors and academics, while others have praised his controversial works. "

What happened in Najaf

From Missing Links

"......And that is where the context comes in. Maliki, with his speech on the new era of foreign investment, and then his implication at the same time that Sistani agrees with continued foreign military involvement, was very boldly outlining a vision for the future of Iraq that went beyond anything that had been made public up to then, and obviously it was a vision not acceptable to the Ayatollah. Or, some would say, to any decent Iraqi for that matter. And I think that is the point of all of this: Not that the Ayatollah is against the occupation, something everyone already knew, but rather that Maliki and his American sponsors have for some reason made a point of touting a foreign-investment-first policy, against a background of foreign military involvement, that they would have been better off continuing to keep under wraps. (And probably, if you had to come up with a reason for rolling out the foreign-investment-first policy at this particular time, the answer would be that this was seen as necessary in order to foster an atmosphere of "investor confidence")."

Nahr al-Bared: more questions than answers

The "old" camp in Nahr al-Bared lies in ruins and remains off limits to the Palestinian refugees.

Ray Smith, Electronic Lebanon, 22 May 2008

"One year ago, on 20 May 2007, the fighting began between the Lebanese army and the militant group Fatah al-Islam in Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon. During more than three months of fighting between the army and the extremist group, more than 47 Palestinian civilians, 178 soldiers and at least 220 militants were killed. More than half a year after the battle came to an end, only a fraction of its residents have been allowed to return. Those who have come back to the camp do so only to find that most of their houses have been reduced to rubble......."

Institute for Palestine Studies commemorates Nakba on the Web

Announcement, Institute for Palestine Studies, 22 May 2008

"The Institute for Palestine Studies (IPS) has created a special on-line resource to commemorate the Nakba (catastrophe) of 1948.

"1948: Sixty Years On ..." draws on the Institute's rich archives and its flagship Journal of Palestine Studies to provide wide public access to incisive articles, analyses, memoirs, detailed maps, and chronologies. These materials illuminate the events leading up to and culminating in the establishment of the state of Israel and the beginning of the Palestinian tragedy.

Readers can download PDF versions of landmark articles, such as Walid Khalidi's 1961 documentation of "Plan Dalet: the Master Plan for the Conquest of Palestine," and a rare memoir of Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser focusing on the cataclysmic events of 1948. Scholars, journalists, policy makers and educators will find this on-line resource timely and useful. The articles, essays, and debates are grouped in seven categories. Memoirs and reflections

In addition to the memories of 1948 by historical personages such as Gamal Abdel Nasser and Fauzi al-Qawuqji, the section includes eye-witness accounts of the fall of Lydda, the conquest of Nazareth and its aftermath, the Tantura massacre, among other tragic events......"

The Mosul riddle

By Pepe Escobar
Asia Times

"While most attention in Iraq is focused on Baghdad and the troubles in Sadr City, under the global radar an invisible war in Mosul drags on, officially against al-Qaeda jihadis but in fact a barely disguised anti-Sunni mini-pogrom conducted by government-embedded militias....

No one has asked the million-dollar-question: How come multicultural Mosul - a non-Kurdish city - is now being ruled by deputy governor Khoso Goran, a Kurd?.....

Osama al-Najfi - a Mosul member of the parliament in Baghdad - swore that Peshmergas were forcing people to sign letters saying their property was tied up in a Kurdish-dominated area. On the other hand, Peshmerga General Yabbar Yawar strongly denied there were any Peshmergas in Mosul. But his justification has nothing to do with the sectarian reality on the ground in Iraq. He said there are Kurds in the Iraqi army, but they respond only to the Ministry of Defense in Baghdad. That's not how it works; every single "official" body in Iraq is militia-ridden.

Mosul may now look like filthy, blast-wall, under-siege Baghdad - with vast neighborhoods no more than ghost towns. Just so the point is made: for the Pentagon and dubious US client Maliki, any Iraqi nationalist, Sunni (in this case) or Shi'ite (the Sadrists) is nothing else than "al-Qaeda". "

Real News Video: Washington's conflicting strategies on Iran

"The Real News Network's Paul Jay talks to Gareth Porter about the dichotomy of Washington's two strategies for Iran. On the one hand recognizing that they share common interests like stabilizing Iraq. On the other hand Iran is seen as a threat as a regional power to the Bush administration's Middle East aims and therefore must be dealt with militarily."

60 Years of Apartheid

Israel's Grim Anniversary


"South Africa’s white minority government was finally overthrown in 1993, after decades of black popular and working-class resistance. That year, the black majority democratically elected the African National Congress--previously derided as a “terrorist” organization by apartheid’s imperial supporters, including the U.S.--to lead its government. Freedom fighter Nelson Mandela, having spent 27 years in a South African prison and reviled as an international terrorist, was reinvented in the Western press as an elder statesman......

As in South Africa, Israeli apartheid can only survive for so long before it is overthrown from below. Indeed, if Israel’s current starvation tactic toward Palestinians, currently locked down in their future “Palestinian state,” is any indication the Camp David solution is dead. Only a genuine democracy encompassed by one–person/one-vote, that Israel so fears, points the way for the future—in a single, secular state in which all citizens are equal, without regard to race or religion."

The Qassam Brigades confront an IOF incursion, blow up tank

"KHAN YOUNIS, (PIC)-- The Qassam Brigades said that an IOF tank exploded when it was hit with two RPG's fired by the resistance, Friday morning, during an incursion of occupation forces into the Fakhari neighbourhood to the east of the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis.

A statement published by the Qassam Brigades said that its fighters fired two RPG's at 5:40 am at an occupation tank that rolled into the Fakhari neighbourhood to the west of the Sofa crossing, adding that the two missiles hit the tank directly resulting in the explosion of the tank.

The Qassam fighters also fired ten mortar bombs at the invading occupation forces.

The statement further warned that the Qassam fighters were ready to confront "Zionist enemy conceit" and resist any invasion of the Gaza Strip, promising to "teach the occupation hard lessons at the doors of the Gaza Strip."

Local sources said that the IOF bulldozed vast tracts of land, raided a number of homes and detained a number of citizens.

Medical sources said that three wounded Palestinians were being treated at the Gaza European hospital and that at least one Palestinian was killed when an Israeli airplane fired two missiles at an abattoir in the area.

Local sources also said that a large number of Palestinians were kidnapped by the invading forces and detained them in the open as human shields.

Meanwhile, the IOF admitted that one soldier was injured when the tank was targeted by the resistance."

Could a Bush Orchastrated Strike on Iran Backlash?


"23/05/2008 Will there be a US strike against Iran? Is the recent US-Israeli rhetoric and General Petraeus' new mandate a sign to such move? In George W. Bush's last visit to the Middle East, he stressed his support to the Zionist entity against the Iranian threat. In Tel Aviv, they grasped the notion as a countdown to striking Iran, perhaps before Bush leaves his office in September.

On Thursday, top U.S. military officer, Gen. David Petraeus, said that the United States should increase diplomatic and economic pressure on Iran to counter its rising influence. He did not rule out the possibility of military action "as a last resort."

Petraeus, the nominee to the post that would put him in charge of U.S. military operations from the Horn of Africa to Central Asia, told the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that current international pressure on Iran already appears to be "affecting the Iranian energy market and may convince Tehran to focus on longer-term, less malign interests."

"At the same time, we should retain, as a last resort, the possibility of a range of military actions to counter Iran's activities," he said.

Central Command, known as Centcom, is responsible for U.S. military interests involving 27 countries including Iran, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Lebanon.

Petraeus succeeded Gen. George W. Casey, Jr. Casey did not quite agree with Bush's policy in Iraq. After him, Adm. William Fallon, the top U.S. military commander for the Middle East, resigned over difference with Bush's policy toward Iran; he was against using force against the Islamic Republic. Petraeus succeeded Casey and was Fallon’s subordinate.

The Bush administration has long said it retains a military option on the table as it presses Iran on its nuclear program.

Iran has been subjected to three rounds of U.N. Security Council sanctions over its nuclear program and last October, the United States designated the elite Qods military force of Iran's Revolutionary Guard a supporter of terrorism, giving itself the right to attack this force in the framework of the so called "war on terror."

Despite the sanctions, Iran grew stronger and offered to assist Arab states in developing nuclear technology. If sanctions did not do the job, Bush could go for the "last resort," but will it backlash?


The Bush administration campaign to isolate Iran and Syria has backfired as the two Middle East countries ended up this week sidelining the United States, analysts said.

Supported by Iran and Syria, Hezbollah bolstered recent military gains in a deal with US-backed unconstitutional government of Fouad Saniora while Syria emerged from the shadows with the announcement of indirect talks with Israel, they contend.

Moreover, despite Rice's contention that Hezbollah was dealt a "setback" in Lebanon, the analysts insist it is the other way around: Saniora’s government suffered the reversal.

On the Syria-Israel front, an analyst argued that Syria has put its own interests ahead of its alliance with Iran in a bid to recover the Golan Heights. However, another contends the Syrians will try to preserve the alliance with Iran, saying Israel is deluding itself if it thinks Damascus would cut ties not only with Tehran, but also Hezbollah and Hamas.

The analyst added that the best that the Bush administration can do is to admit its losses, stabilize the situation and avoid doing "something crazy to balance things out" like launching a military strike against Iran. It should be up to the next administration to devise a more realistic and effective policy, he said. "

Doha Accord, Last But Not Least Blow to US Scheme


"23/05/2008 On Wednesday, Lebanese leaders from the opposition and the ruling bloc signed the Doha agreement, opening the way for a new political phase that would be characterized by participation and national unity. The agreement put an end to all endeavors to strain the situation in Lebanon, not to mention US promises of a hot summer in this small country.

So, the Doha agreement appeared to be just another episode in the series of US frustrations in Lebanon, a worn chain that passed through different stages since before the July 2006 Israeli war against Lebanon.

The Lebanese didn't yet forget how US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced, from Beirut during the first days of the destructive war, that what was happening was a preliminary step toward the birth of the so-called new Middle East. However, her announcement lasted less than 33 days and fell simultaneously with the Israeli fiasco and the Resistance's Divine victory, as acknowledged by the Zionist entity itself.

Since then, Washington's set eye on Lebanon's internal front through successive "diplomatic" maneuvers and incitement attempts by different US officials, particularly US President George W. Bush who never missed the slightest incident in Lebanon to exploit and put more pressure on this country.

Also remarkable was the fact that stances or visits made by US officials were always crowned with new crises. The Arab University clashes in January 25, 2007, and the Mar-Michael incidents in January 26, 2008, both took place after two visits for US Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern affairs David Welch to Lebanon. Those incidents nearly set the country on fire.

Today, the opposition's insistence on partnership, denouncing sedition and coexistence bore fruit and set Lebanon free from US tutelage. The Doha Accord saw light and dealt another blow to the US scheme in the region, only a few days after Welche's threat of a hot summer in Lebanon."

On The Road to Another Arab Capitulation....

Israel-Syria talks leave the 'Iranians in shock'

"The announcement of the renewal of negotiations between Israel and Syria will have an immediate effect on Iran's status in the region, senior Israeli sources said on Thursday.

The officials noted that Iran has not yet responded publicly to the talks. "It seems the Iranians are in shock," one of them said.

Israel and Syria will resume the indirect peace talks in a week or two, Turkish and Israeli government officials said on Friday......

However, Israeli officials feel that there is a better chance of reaching an agreement with the Syrians than with the Palestinians, and a Syrian agreement has a better chance of being implemented. A senior official in the Prime Minister's Bureau said that "the Syrians are serious and their intentions appear to be sincere. It is clear that if we reach an agreement it will be possible to implement it."

The sources say it should be easier to reach a deal with the Syrians because the issues on the Syrian front are only territorial [Translation: There is a country named Syria, but the zionists have always denied the existence of the Palestinians as a nation], while those relating to the Palestinians concern a number of sensitive matters including land.

In addition, because President Bashar Assad has full control over Syria, an agreement with him will be honored and implemented [Israel and the US have always preferred dealing with absolute Arab dictators], Israeli officials say......

Livni said Syria must distance itself from Tehran and cut ties to Iranian-backed groups like Hezbollah and Hamas if it wants to make peace with Israel.....

"The Syrians also need to understand that ... they must distance themselves completely from their ... problematic ties with Iran," Livni said before the start of a meeting with Kouchner......

Vice Premier Haim Ramon, who also met with Kouchner, told him that while Israel is ready to make painful concessions for peace, an agreement will not be reached if Damascus continues to provide support to Hezbollah and Hamas, and to serve as Iran's central ally......"

Egypt Takes a Step Back from Bush Embrace

Analysis by Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa al-Omrani

"CAIRO, May 23 (IPS) - On his trip to the region this week, U.S. President George W. Bush dismayed even his staunchest Arab allies by expressing unprecedented levels of U.S. support for Israel. In a rare sign of Egyptian displeasure with Washington, President Hosni Mubarak left a major economic summit before Bush had a chance to deliver a scheduled address.

"The incident revealed serious tensions between Cairo and Washington," Emad Gad, expert on Israeli affairs at the semi-official al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, told IPS......
"Bush spoke as if Israel were part of the U.S.," Gamal Zahran, independent MP and political science professor at Suez Canal University told IPS. "His statements revealed long-held beliefs that past U.S. administrations have tried to hide: that American support for Israel is absolute, and that the Arab side is of virtually no value." Officials from Palestinian resistance faction Hamas said Bush's statements were more apropos of "a Zionist rabbi" than of a U.S. president. ......."

River of Resistance

A Very Good Piece
By Michael Schwartz and Tom Engelhardt

".........Schwartz, whose original and canny analyses of Iraq have long been part of Tomdispatch, has now built on that work to create a striking new book, War Without End, which will soon be published. This piece on how a nation of 26 million managed to resist the planet's "sole superpower" – and the price it paid – is adapted from that book's conclusion. Tom

River of Resistance

How the American Imperial Dream Foundered in Iraq
By Michael Schwartz

..........As the occupation wore on, the Bush administration found itself swimming against a tide of resistance of a previously unimaginable sort, and ever further from its goals. Today, cities and towns around the country are largely under the sway of Shia or Sunni militias which, even when trained or paid by the occupation, remain militantly opposed to the U.S. presence. Moreover, though the prostrate Iraqi economy has been formally privatized, these local militias – and the political leaders they worked with – continue to raise demands for vast government-funded reconstruction and economic development programs.

The formal political leadership of Iraq, locked inside the heavily fortified, U.S.-controlled Green Zone in Baghdad, remains publicly compliant when it comes to Bush administration plans to transform Iraq into a Middle Eastern outpost – including the continued presence of American troops on a series of mega-bases in the heart of the country. The rest of the government bureaucracy and the bulk of Iraq's grass roots are increasingly insistent on an early American departure date and a full-scale reversal of the economic policies first introduced by the occupation.

In Washington, for Democratic as well as Republican politicians, the outpost idea remains at the heart of the policy agenda for Iraq in this election year, along with a neoliberal economy featuring a modernized oil sector in which multinational firms are to use state-of-the-art technology to maximize the country's lagging oil production.

Iraqi resistance of every kind and on every level has, however, prevented this vision from becoming reality. Because of the Iraqis, the glorious sounding Global War on Terror has been transformed into an endless, hopeless actual war.

But the Iraqis have paid a terrible price for resisting. The invasion and the social and economic policies that accompanied it have destroyed Iraq, leaving its people essentially destitute. In the first five years of this endless war, Iraqis have suffered more for resisting than if they had accepted and endured American military and economic dominance. Whether consciously or not, they have sacrificed themselves to halt Washington's projected military and economic march through the oil-rich Middle East on the path to a new American Century that now will never be.

It is past time for the rest of the world to shoulder at least a small share of the burden of resistance. Just as the worldwide protests before the war were among the upstream sources of the Iraqi resistance-to-come, so now others, especially Americans, should resist the very idea that Iraq could ever become the headquarters for a permanent United States presence that would, in the words of Bush speechwriter David Frum, "put America more wholly in charge of the region than any power since the Ottomans, or maybe even the Romans." Unlike the Iraqis, after all, the citizens of the United States are uniquely positioned to bury this imperial dream for all time. "

Animated discussions

A brilliant Israeli film about the Sabra and Shatila massacre is bound to stir controversy, but for the moment it's the toast of Cannes

By John Harris
The Guardian

".........So it is that some superficially strange and not-uncontroversial films are making the running. The best example: Israeli director Ari Folman's Waltz With Bashir, in which - among other things - the Sabra and Shatila massacre of 1982 are examined via an inspired conceit: real-life testimony from Folman and other one-time Israeli servicemen combined with elegant, unbelievably affecting rotoscope animation.

Against all expectations, this technique brilliantly evokes the shock, guilt and almost surreal horror of what happened: young Israeli troops placed in a horrible moral twilight, as they were apparently ordered to allow Christian Phalangists to rape and slaughter the occupants of two Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. Any one of several elements in the film once again highlights the questions surrounding the soldiers role, though one in particular is pointed up to very unsettling effect: their use of flares to light up what was quickly revealed as a killing field. What the story doesn't cover is the outbreak of condemnation that greeted the events, the chasm of tension that suddenly erupted between the Israeli government and opinion abroad, and the huge upsurge of protest within Israel itself. The same goes for the subsequent Kahan Commission - which declared that not just that Israeli forces bore "indirect responsibility", but that the then defence minister Ariel Sharon's role made his culpability even more direct. The background to all this, meanwhile, was the decisive spread through Europe of that habit whereby Israel's more outrageous actions are routinely compared with those of Nazi Germany, long the focus (as Cif regulars won't need reminding) of one of the most highly-charged stand-offs between pro-Israelis and their critics.

The complex moral arithmetic of Sabra and Shatila makes Folman's allusions to Nazi-era Europe a little more nuanced, but he nonetheless dares to once again go there. The image of some of the camps' occupants being brought out at gunpoint, says the film, brought to mind that famous photograph of a Jewish boy being marched out of the Warsaw ghetto; one of the reasons the massacre caused such outrage in Israel, says one character, is because it so directly drilled back into the collective memory of the Holocaust ("For us Israelis, it was a direct connection to our Jewish history"). At both points in the film, one can almost hear the raw nerves being tweaked once again, outrage rippling through the chat-rooms, and the film's merits being lost in a cacophony of the usual shouting.

Here, though, is the important thing. Folman, who claims the film is "personal" rather than political, was there. In that context, and indeed the film's references to his own family's experience of Nazi genocide, will anyone argue with him? And if they do, what will they make of the fact that Israeli public money has helped finance Waltz With Bashir?"

Al-Jazeera Video: Inside Story - Golan Heights - 22 May 08

Part 1

Part 2

Thursday, May 22, 2008

By Emad Hajjaj

Journalist Anthony Shadid discusses Qatar talks

Electronic Lebanon, 22 May 2008

"As negotiations in Doha, Qatar take place between Lebanon's political leaders in an effort to reach a settlement to the current internal conflict, Ola Hajar spoke with veteran journalist Anthony Shadid. Shadid spoke about the impact of US-driven policies in the Middle East within the context of the "war on terror" and their specific impact on Lebanon, and he also commented on the US position towards Hizballah's role in Lebanese politics.

As an internationally renowned and award winning journalist Anthony Shadid, of Lebanese origin, a reporter for The Washignton Post, reported during the 2006 Israeli attack on Lebanon and the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. Shadid won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting and is the author of Night Draws Near: Iraq's People in the Shadow of America's War which outlines the human impact to the US war in Iraq.......

OH: Now does this mean that the US isn't interested in a resolution to the current conflict in Lebanon?

AS: It's clear that the US doesn't want to see Hizballah taking its share of power in Lebanon today, as the US is following its own interests in the region not the interests of the people in Lebanon. It's not possible to disenfranchise Lebanon's Shi'ite community and have a stable situation, as this is the single largest group in the country. This is critical to understand.

US interest in Lebanon is defined by keeping Hizballah on the fringes of the government, on the fringes of the political system and not taking a direct or equitable share in power."

A Nakba inherited

Rami Almeghari writing from occupied Gaza Strip, Live from Palestine, 21 May 2008

"At the southernmost area of the Gaza Strip, where the Philadelphia route separates the coastal enclave from Egypt, there are scores of knocked down buildings. The destruction dates back to 2002, when Israeli army bulldozers demolished the houses of the Palestinian inhabitants of this border line.

Among the houses that used to stand here was that of Ali Shaath, a 75-year-old Palestinian refugee from the Beer al-Saba' village of historical Palestine, the current site of the Israeli town of Beer Sheva.

Ali's 39-year-old son, Marwan Ali Shaath, relayed the story of what he called "a Nakba [catastrophe] of my own, other than that my father had endured in 1948."

"Lucky me, my father lived two Nakbas, but I only lived one, maybe because I am younger. Or maybe I will be forced to live one more Nakba, who knows," said Marwan satirically.

"Our family house was placed exactly here before it was knocked down in 2002 by the Israeli army bulldozers," Marwan said, pointing at the ruins of a two-story building, home to all members of Ali's family.......

The story of 77-year-old refugee Rezeq Abu Taialakh, a neighbor of Marwan at the Badr refugee camp, demonstrates that the Palestinian story is one of constant dispossession. "I shot back at the Jewish armed groups in Beer al-Saba' while I was only 18 years old. Since 1948, up to this moment, we have been forced to move from a place to another, from Beer al-Saba' to Khan Younis refugee camp, to Abbassan, to Rafah and [within] Rafah again."

Rezeq added, "We have suffered quite a lot in this life, moving from one refuge to another. We ask God to relieve us and take our rights back from such repressors."

However, as Palestinians young and old cope with the ongoing Nakba, in the Gaza Strip such relief seems far off as Israeli media report that the Israeli army is ready to carry out a massive military offensive in the Strip to stamp out the Palestinian resistance. Israel acknowledging the Palestinians' right to return, enshrined in international law and upheld by numerous UN resolutions, seems as far off as ever.

"As you see, my brother, I am wrapping my tent. Maybe I or my children might need it one day," said Marwan."

Bush, Like Bin Laden, on the Sidelines

By Tony Karon

"By measure of each man’s negligible influence over events in the Middle East — despite florid denunciations of all compromise and accomodation with those each brands as evil — President George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden appear to have more in common than either would care to admit. And not just because Bush and Bin Laden are on the same page regarding the influence of Iran.

Lebanon is but the latest example of how events passing both men by. The agreement that ends the 18-month political standoff there is a stunning victory for Hizballah, and for the politics of accomodation rather than the binary good vs. evil strategy pressed on the Lebanese government by its U.S. sponsor. Indeed, it seals the collapse of the Bush Administration’s strategy there, which became obvious two weeks ago when the U.S.-backed ruling alliance was trounced on the street. Hizballah was never trying to take control of the country, it was simply ensuring that it maintained its military capacity to fight the Israelis and maintain its role as a regional player in concert with Iran and Syria. Which is exactly what the U.S. and its allies, from Saudi Arabia to Israel (and, of course, Bin Laden), have spent the past two years trying stop.......

But everyone in the region knows that the Bush Administration, with its surfeit of megaphone indignation and aversion to serious diplomacy, has nothing concrete to offer them — so they’re getting on with things on their own. Robin Wright makes the same point, noting that the Lebanon deal and the Syria-Israel talks “were launched without an American role, and both counter U.S. strategy in the region.”

A “new” Middle East, indeed — one in which the U.S. role has been substantially marginalized, largely as a result of the policies it has pursued. And the election-season debate over Hamas suggests that it might be naive to expect an instant turnaround next January. "

History in the making for Hezbollah

By Sami Moubayed
Asia Times

"Somewhere in Beirut, the head of Hezbollah, the resilient Hasan Nasrallah, is a happy man. Resolutions were hammered out in Doha on Wednesday giving Hezbollah and its backers long-coveted veto power in the Lebanese government - and the group gets to keep its arms, no questions asked. Syria and Iran were also winners and Saudi Arabia's proxies, defeated militarily last week, were beaten politically in Doha. Nasrallah is writing history, his way.....

Who wins now in Beirut politics? By virtue of avoiding another civil war, all sides win, topped with the Lebanese people. Certainly, Hezbollah came out victorious. So did the Syrians and Iran. The Syrians in particular seemed to be on cloud nine, since shortly after the agreement was announced in Doha another declaration came out, this time from Damascus, Tel Aviv and Ankara, saying that indirect talks had started between Syria and Israel, under auspices of the Turks.

The only side that might not be too happy with what happened in Doha is Saudi Arabia. The deal was brokered by the Qataris and not them, although they had been the ones to supervise the deal at Taif, which led to en end to civil war in 1990.

The Syrians, whom they had tried to sideline in Beirut and empower March 14, certainly proved that they still had a lot of weight in Lebanon, although they had been out of Lebanon - militarily - since 2005. Saudi Arabia's proxies were defeated militarily in the street confrontations last week, and politically in Doha. After all, despite all the macho talk, they finally bent and accepted the demands of the Hezbollah-led opposition. Hezbollah and its friends were actually given the veto power they had long wanted, kept their arms, and secured a president for Lebanon who was not a member of the March 14 coalition.

Nasrallah is writing history, just like Churchill but perhaps with a different pen and in a different handwriting. "

Is an attack on Iran a big risk?

"The standard assumption is that a military attack by the United States or Israel to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons would be disastrous for the attackers, and would threaten the stability of the entire Middle East.

Various experts outline doomsday scenarios for such an occurrence, and warn especially of Iran's harsh reaction. Fearing the reaction of the ayatollahs has a paralyzing effect. Even before the first shot has been fired, Iran can credit itself with a success. It created an image of an omnipotent country that will not hesitate to use its power to respond and avenge a military operation against it. This is an impressive psychological achievement.

But a new paper, to be published this month in the U.S. by two well-known experts on the subject, sketches a different and more complex picture. The paper is "The Last Resort," written by Patrick Clawson and Michael Eisenstadt of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. The main point, notes Dr. Clawson in an interview with Haaretz, is that the success or failure of a military attack depends on many variables, and not just the degree of damage the attack would cause.

What are these variables?

The type of weapons chosen for the attack - will nuclear or conventional weapons be used? Who attacks - the U.S. or Israel? Will the attack cause serious collateral damage to the surroundings, that is causing a lot of civilian casualties? Will only the nuclear sites be attacked, or other regime targets? After the attack, will President Ahmadinejad announce Iran's departure from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty? If the attack completely destroys Iran's nuclear program that is one thing, but if it does not, that is a different story. Then Iran will be able to continue to develop its nuclear program, and the world will no longer care about that. In short, this is subject that is dependent on many variables......

And what about Hezbollah? They will certainly mobilize to help Iran and respond against Israel.

There is no guarantee that Hezbollah will react automatically. They will make their considerations on the basis of their interests, as they understand them. In Hezbollah, they are very aware of Israel's strength, and of the harsh reaction that may result if Hezbollah attacks.

In other words, you're basically saying that things are not as they seem? That Iran is like a dog whose bark is worse than his bite?

There's something to that. My assessment is that contrary to the impression that has been formed, Iran's options for responding are limited and weak. "

As Bush Policy Crumbles, Allies Pick Up the Pieces

By Khody Akhavi and Jim Lobe

"WASHINGTON, May 21 (IPS) - "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold."

As the White House agenda for the Middle East continues to unravel, events over the past 24 hours seem to suggest that U.S. allies in the region are determined to construct a new edifice based on diplomacy, with or without Washington's help.

In spite of the President George W. Bush administration's efforts to isolate and defeat "terrorists and radicals" -- as Bush himself put it in a controversial speech to the Israeli Knesset last week -- U.S.-backed local actors are engaging precisely with those "forces of evil".

Indeed, engagement -- known as "appeasement" in the neo-conservative lexicon -- is bursting out all over the Middle East; in Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, Iraq, and between two nations that have existed in a state of "no war, no peace" for more than 40 years -- Israel and Syria......

"If you look at the Lebanon deal, Syria-Israeli resumption, Egyptian mediation of a potential ceasefire, either this all got the U.S. green light, and it's a major reversal, or it hasn't, and it's a rather major slap in the face," said Daniel Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator and fellow at the Washington-based New America Foundation.

"I think it shows U.S. weakness rather than a turnaround in the U.S. position," Levy told IPS......."

Israel-Syria peace deal could threaten Iran, Hezbollah

By Dion Nissenbaum McClatchy Newspapers

"ANKARA, Turkey — Newly launched peace talks between Syria and Israel face daunting odds, but a breakthrough could bring fundamental change to the Mideast by returning the Golan Heights to Syria, cutting off support for Hezbollah forces in Lebanon, and diminishing Iran's regional influence.

After eight years of stalemate and tension, the two countries announced Wednesday that they had launched a bid to end one of the region's longest-running disputes.......

It could also give Syrian President Bashar Assad a critical success to consolidate his power and point his country in a new direction.

"I think it's the biggest game in the region," said Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's Middle East Center in Beirut, Lebanon......

In exchange for the Golan Heights, Israel probably will expect Syria to sign a peace treaty with Israel, end its support for Hamas political leaders based in Damascus and sever ties to Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon who receive critical Iranian money and weapons via Syria.

Salem, who recently spent time in Damascus talking to negotiators involved in the talks, said there is a growing unease among some Syrian leaders about the influence of Iran in the Middle East.

"Peace between Syria and Israel would cause a serious rupture in the Syrian-Iranian relationship as it would represent a fundamental parting of the ways," said Salem......"

Where Are Those Iranian Weapons in Iraq?

By Gareth Porter

"The US military command in Iraq continues to talk about an alleged pipeline of Iranian weapons to Iraqi Shiites opposing the US occupation, implying that they have become dependent on Iran for indirect-fire weapons and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs).

But US officials have failed thus far to provide evidence that would support that claim, and a long-delayed US military report on Iranian arms is unlikely to offer any data on what proportion of the weapons in the hands of Shiite fighters are from Iran and what proportion comes from purchases on the open market.......

Gen. David Petraeus insisted last October that there is "absolutely no question" that Iran is providing RPG-29 rocket-propelled grenade launchers to Iraqi Shiite groups. But RPG-29s are manufactured by Russia, not Iran. Syria was known to have purchased large quantities of the RPG-29 in 1999-2000. Both the Israeli newspaper Haaretz and the Beirut-based defense monthly Defense 21 have confirmed that the RPG-29s used by Hezbollah in 2006 were Russian-made weapons obtained via Syria.

In weapons caches reported from Shiite locations, not a single RPG-29 has been identified. Of the 160 RPG launchers reported in Mahdi Army caches, along with 800 RPG missiles, none were identified as Iranian, although some were identified as being Soviet-made. Only 11 were reported to be RPG-7s – a type of launcher that is made by Russia and China as well as Iran and used by 40 countries around the world."

A true housing crisis

The scale of the Israeli government's crimes in the West Bank is all too clear on a tour organised by a local NGO

By Seth Freedman
The Guardian

".......So, today, I went on the exact same ICAHD tour for the third time - this time with an open mind and a clear conscience as to my previous encounters with them - and spent the entirety of the trip trying to look at the evidence through objective eyes. Of course, I can already envision the howls of derision that will appear on the thread, denouncing me as anything but objective, but there's little I can do about it. The raw truth of the occupation speaks for itself, and I see myself as little more than a conduit when it comes to shedding light on the facts on the ground.

After a lengthy briefing by ICAHD founder Jeff Halper at the organisation's West Jerusalem headquarters, in which he destroyed the credibility of the "separation barrier brings security" theory, we set off in a bus to tour the occupied zones of East Jerusalem and the adjoining West Bank neighbourhoods.......

We continued to Maaleh Adumim, an opulent and thriving city of 40,000 settlers deep in the occupied territories, witnessing for ourselves the flagrant breaches of international law taking place there. "The Geneva convention states that an occupying power may not make use of the area's natural resources," said Halper, "yet look around you." Everywhere was evidence of the theft being carried out by the authorities: lush, well-tended grass verges along the roadsides; huge municipal swimming pools in the heart of the town; and an ironic "doves of peace" fountain which spewed out streams of water into the baking desert air.

Israelis use 85% of the water in the West Bank, not to mention all of the other resources that are plundered on their behalf by the government. On top of this, there is the all-too-clear intention of the authorities to make the occupation a permanent one. "It began with Sharon in the 1970s", said Halper. "And now, after 30 years of unlimited budgets and continual expansion in the West Bank, the government has, by its own hand, destroyed the feasibility of a two-state solution." He maintained that it was impossible to create a viable Palestinian state whilst the settlement monoliths such as Maaleh Adumim prevented a contiguous band of territory being available to the Palestinians.

A professor of anthropology, Halper said that the way to understand the government's intentions was to approach the issue "from the ground up. We have to start with the facts on the ground, and every settlement expansion, every punitive measure taken to drive the Palestinians out, only points to one thing: that the authorities want to speed up the process of domination. We [the opponents of the policies] can't move slowly, since Israel's actions are proactive. Despite being framed as reactive measures against terror, the truth is they are not. Otherwise why, for example, hasn't the "security" wall been completed, if the true aim of their endeavours here is simply to protect themselves?"......."