The Veep Goads Russia: Cheney Scales New Heights (or is it depths?) of U.S. Hypocrisy (or is it mental illness?)

English (US)  September 14th, 2008 by admin ( Email )


While Alaska Governor and Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin is getting all the attention, the current vice president, Dick Cheney, was able to pontificate about Russia and Georgia with barely any notice from the media. However, while hardly anyone was watching, Mr. Cheney echoed the hypocrisy of his boss, President George Bush. While traveling in Italy, Mr. Cheney decided to become the moral arbiter of Russia’s foreign policies. His incredible remarks are worth studying.

“Recent occurrences in Georgia, beginning with the military invasion by Russia, have been flatly contrary to some of our most deeply held beliefs. Russian forces crossed an internationally recognized border into a sovereign state; fueled and fomented an internal conflict; conducted acts of war without regard for innocent life, killing civilians and causing the displacement of tens of thousands.”


If anyone doubted the vice president’s disdain for those who elected him and kept him in power, this speech should have been an eye-opener. How he could make that statement with a straight face is beyond comprehension. Was he not a major force in the U.S. military invasion of Iraq? Mr. Bush may not have needed much encouragement to embark on this deadly oil grab, but whatever encouragement he may have needed was gladly provided by the vice president.

Did not U.S. forces cross an internationally recognized border into a sovereign state? At least Russia’s incursion was to a country it bordered; the U.S. sent 130,000 soldiers halfway across the world to invade and occupy sovereign Iraq.

Russia, says Mr. Cheney, ‘fueled and fomented an internal conflict.’ It has been some time since people have been talking about civil war in Iraq, possibly because with the increase of 30,000 soldiers, Iraq may have finally, after five bloody, terrifying years, been cowed into submission. The U.S. overthrew the government with nothing to put in its place, disbanded the police, and turned a once peaceful nation into an inferno of deadly, daily violence.

He goes on to decry the idea that Russia ‘conducted acts of war without regard for innocent life, killing civilians.’ When Mr. Bush’s horrific and unspeakable ‘Shock and Awe’ campaign began, residential areas were targeted. The president said he was invading Iraq because it had weapons of mass destruction aimed at the U.S., but since he didn’t know exactly where they were, he would simple practice genocide on the Iraqi people and hope the weapons of mass destruction would turn up eventually (they didn’t). At the time his bombers were dropping death from the air over Baghdad, over half the population of that city was under the age of 15.

As far as conducting acts of war is concerned, could someone point out to Mr. Cheney that the invasion of a sovereign nation is probably the ultimate act of war? Occupying it for years, killing a million of its citizens and terrorizing much of the population for over five years may be business as usual for U.S. foreign policy, but that does not make those actions any less acts of war.

One could also point out that torturing political prisoners, some as young as 15, is an horrific act of war. The torture chamber that the U.S. operates at Guantanamo Bay is only the most famous; the U.S. uses ‘rendition’ sites around the world to torture those it considers dangerous. The supposedly cherished rights, such as due process, that the U.S. is said to stand for are meaningless to those who get in the way of Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney’s imperial designs.

The Russian incursion, said Mr. Cheney, caused ‘the displacement of tens of thousands.’ That number pales in comparison to the millions who have been displaced in Iraq due to the U.S. invasion and occupation. At least a million Iraqis are in crowded refugee camps, forgotten by the media and certainly ignored by that master terrorist, Dick Cheney. Perhaps two million more have had to leave their homes, although they remain in Iraq.

“The United States and many in Europe have made clear that Russia's actions are an affront to civilized standards and are completely unacceptable.” Mr. Cheney did not bother to explain why these behaviors exhibited by Russia are ‘an affront to civilized standards,’ and why they are ‘completely unacceptable,’ but when the exact same acts are perpetrated by the U.S., although on a far larger scale, they are, apparently, just fine.

“For its part, Russia has offered no satisfactory justification for the invasion -- nor could it do so.” In over five years since the U.S. invaded Iraq, it has offered ‘no satisfactory justification’ for doing so. All the original lies, including the falsehoods that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, was close to developing nuclear weapons, etc., have faded into oblivion, like the blood of millions of Iraqis on the desert sands. Mr. Bush also stated the need for ‘regime change;’ why he and his neocon cohorts felt this was their right has also never been explained.

“Differing views on the status of these two areas, within the sovereign borders of the Georgian democracy, cannot justify a sudden and violent incursion by Russia. This much, at a minimum, should be understood by all people of good will in the year 2008.”

Yet apparently the belief that Iraq posed an imminent threat to the U.S., despite the fact that United Nations weapons inspectors were combing Iraq and finding nothing, could justify a sudden and violent incursion by the U.S. People of good will in the year 2008 understand that that is simply wrong, as they did in 2003.

“This chain of aggressive moves and diplomatic reversals has only intensified the concern that many have about Russia's larger objectives.” The U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, continued threats against Iran and Cuba, and the fact that the U.S. has enough weapons of mass destruction to destroy the entire planet several times over have certainly intensified concern about the U.S.’s larger objectives.

Eight long years ago, Mr. Bush promised to bring dignity back to the White House. In his war-mongering mind the fact that President Bill Clinton had had an extra-marital affair was so disgraceful that the reputation of the U.S. was in tatters as a result. Today, following the Iraqi invasion and occupation that most of the world, including most of the U.S.’s allies, opposed from the start, the U.S. is the most hated and feared nation on the planet. With Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney now prancing around the world, criticizing Russia for actions that parallel in action but not in scope, the exact behaviors they have practiced and continue to practice, another mark of hypocrisy has been struck against the U.S.

As the U.S. plods towards the conclusion of its every-four-year election farce, the race for president is said to be too close to call. The Republican presidential candidate, the elderly Arizona Senator John McCain, the man who is so wealthy he does not even know how many houses he owns (or perhaps it is simply senility), calls for change by offering more of the same. This is the model his idol, Mr. Bush, used following the 2006 Congressional elections. After the war-mongering Republicans were thrown out of Congress, replaced by the spineless but equally war-mongering Democrats, Mr. Bush led the country on a ‘new way forward,’ by escalating the war. Mr. McCain has consistently supported Mr. Bush’s worst policies.

Mr. McCain’s Democratic challenger, Illinois Senator Barack Obama, has inspired many with his call for ‘change we can believe in.’ Whether or not we can actually believe in his idea of change, at the very least he offers a glimmer of the hope that U.S. citizens and the world have lived without for eight long years. He selected as his running mate Senator Joe Biden, a distinguished senator with a thorough knowledge of foreign policy, having served for many years on the senate Foreign Relations Committee, which he currently chairs. Mr. McCain selected Mrs. Palin, an (almost) one-term governor of a state with a population of less than 1,000,000. Her previous political experience was as mayor of an Alaskan town with a population of less than 7,000. She opposes every progressive movement known to man, encourages the shooting of wolves from airplanes, and believes that global warming is a natural occurrence, and not a man-made threat.

One wonders how more of the same will help to rebuild the reputation of the U.S. throughout the world, especially when it is ushered in by a cowgirl brandishing a gun and a chastity belt. Yet that is what change means to Mr. McCain.

The world is watching to see if the U.S. voters will make the same disastrous mistake in 2008 that they made in 2004. There was no excuse for it then, and there will be even less so if they do it again. The consequences of those mistakes grow with each one. It will not be long before those consequences are irreversible, to the detriment of the entire world population.

Robert Fantina is author of 'Desertion and the American Soldier: 1776--2006.

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    Bolivia: Fascist right launches ‘civic coup’

    English (US)  September 14th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

    By Federico Fuentes & Stuart Munckton
    13 September 2008

    “[Today] a civil-prefectural coup against the unity of the country and democracy has been initiated”, Bolivian minister of government Alfredo Rada declared on September 9, as a growing wave of violence by small gangs of fascist youth engulfed the city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra.

    The violence by armed fascist gangs, backed by local authorities, spread in the following days throughout the rest of the so-called “half-moon” — the four eastern departments of Santa Cruz, Pando, Beni and Tarija.

    The half moon is home to much of Bolivia’s natural resources and the main base of opposition to the left-wing government of President Evo Morales from the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS), who on August 10 won a recall referendum on his presidency with 67% of the vote.

    With a sizeable white middle class, compared the largely indigenous west, the oligarchy in the east has worked overtime to whip up a racist frenzy against a national government headed by Bolivia’s first ever indigenous president and the largely indigenous social movements that back it.


    The oligarchy has pushed for “autonomy” from the national government in a manoeuvre aimed to protect its privileges from the national government’s pro-people measures, and now appears to be attempting to impose its domination of the half moon by force.

    Reign of terror

    Incited by the Santa Cruz Civic Committee, which groups together sectors of the oligarchy, and with the collaboration of the departmental prefects in the east and the US embassy, on September 9 the fascist shock troops of the Santa Cruz Youth Union (UJC) laid siege to public institutions, NGOs, community radio stations and the offices of the state TV channel, in some cases attempting to burn them down.

    That same day, the head of the parliamentary bloc of the right-wing Podemos party and large landowner, Antonio Franco, “applauded” the violent takeovers, while Podemos deputy for Santa Cruz, Oscar Urenda, issued an open call to arms.

    “If we are going to talk about confrontation, then lets talk about confrontation, if we are going to talk about war, there will be war, but they are not going to able to impose things on us”, he proclaimed. “We are strong enough to split this country and if I have to grab a log, a gun, I will do it, I’m going to defend my territory.”

    An eyewitness account from September 12 published on writes: “What started on September 9th as vandalism against public institutions has developed into a fascist orgy of violence which threatens civil war.”

    The writer states: “The list of occupied institutions is long. Everything from tax offices, administration of land, immigration authorities to the department of forestry was brutally destroyed. The national administration of land had its entire inventory destroyed and burned, and the same happened to the nationalized telecom company ENTEL. ENTEL had its entire main building smashed and the fascist hordes stole everything of value.”

    The writer reported a “consistent attack on all social organizations and government supporters. In Santa Cruz, the human rights organization Cejis, is ravaged and their entire inventory is burned and destroyed. The same happens to CIDOB, the indigenous people’s main organization in Eastern Bolivia. All left wing leaders are hunted and many have had to go underground.”

    “In … Tarija, the fascist gangs attack the peasants’ marketplace. Molotov cocktails are thrown at all the stalls … One right wing leader declares Tarija to be independent and declares civil war in the region.”

    According to a September 12 Reuters report, the government has accused the fascists of “a real massacre” against government supporters in Pando with at least 15 people recorded killed. The national government is seeking the arrest of Pando prefect, Leopoldo Fernandez, who is alleged to have organised the killings. Fernandez has fled to Brazil.

    According to a September 10 AP report, opposition protesters blew up a pipeline in Tariji, reducing the flow of gas to Brazil by half at one point. The protests also interrupted the flow of gas to Argentina. Santos Ramirez, president of the state oil company, YPFB, called the explosion “a terrorist attack”.

    In response, additional troops were immediately ordered to the eastern departments to secure gas and oil installations. Gas exports to Argentina and Brazil were returning to normal by September 12, according to a Reuters report that day.


    The attempt to seize power through brute force in the half moon is clear, but it has been met by a counter-offensive by the government and the powerful social movements that support the process of change.

    The eyewitness account provides one example of the heroic actions of supporters of the government in the Plan 3000 working class neighbourhood: “The workers have rallied to a massive defence against the 400 young fascists who attack the marketplace with clubs, Molotov cocktails and hand weapons. Rapidly, thousands rally for the defence which develops into extreme violence with many wounded. About 3 o’clock at night, the fascists have been driven out, but the inhabitants keep the entrenchment defended.”

    In the lead-up to the current wave of violence, Morales declared that his government would ensure that the institutions and security of the state were respected and called for the “unity of the people and the Armed Forces to defend the process of change”, according to the September 9 Argentine daily Clarin.

    The article reported that phone calls had poured into the state radio station asking Morales to decree a state of emergency.

    Minister of the presidency Juan Ramon Quintana, however, stated on September 9 that the government would not declare a state of emergency, arguing that the opposition wanted to provoke repression in order to have a banner around which to mobilise wider sections of the population against the government.

    The commander of the army’s eighth division, General Marco Bracamonte, declared that the military would prevent any further takeover of oil and gas installations and defend the security of the state.

    On September 10, the Six Federations of Coca Growers of the Tropics of Cochabamba, the union organisation from which Morales emerged and still remains president of, along with peasant organisations in Santa Cruz, began to cut off Santa Cruz’s road access.

    The Chapare coca-growing region in Cochabamba — a MAS stronghold — is strategically located with the main highway connecting Santa Cruz to Bolivia’s west running through it.

    Other social organisations also began to block road access to the other eastern departments.

    A September 11 Prensa Latina article reported on the pledge to continue and strengthen the blockade of Santa Cruz by the National Coordinator for Change (CONALCAM), which unites many of the social movements that support the process of change led by Morales.

    Permanent mobilisation

    Fidel Surco, president of the Confederation of Colonisers — an organisation of indigenous campesinos — announced that CONALCAM had called for “permanent mobilisations” until Congress ratifies a referendum on adopting the new draft constitution scheduled for December, according to Prensa Latina.

    The draft constitution, which would expand the rights of indigenous people, enshrine greater state control over natural resources and open the way for redistribution of large land holdings to impoverished campesinos, is a key source of conflict.

    A key demand of the right-wing forces in the half moon is to withdraw plans for a referendum on adopting the text.

    On September 10, Morales announced the expulsion from Bolivia of the US ambassador, Philip Goldberg, for his role in backing the coup. Goldberg had publicly urged the US to intervene on the side of the ‘half moon authorities behind the violence.
    Golberg was given 72 hours to leave the country.

    On September 11, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez gave the US ambassador in Caracas 72 hours to leave, in solidarity with Bolivia. On September 12, ABN reported that Honduras had suspended recognition of the US’s ambassador to it in solidarity with Venezuela and Bolivia.

    The US responded be expelling the Venezuelan and Bolivian ambassadors from its territory

    On September 11, Chavez offered Venezuelan military assistance in defence of democracy to Bolivia. “If any or our governments is overthrown, we will have a green light to perform military operations of any type to give the power back to the people in those countries”, Chavez insisted according to a September 1 Xinhua report.

    Struggle for power

    The “civic coup” that has been unleashed comes on the back of three weeks of small but violent demonstrations, generally limited to the inner city areas of the capitals of the half moon departments.

    Protesters assaulted indigenous people, social movement leaders, MAS councillors, police officers and soldiers as well as initiating road blocks, occupying airports and state institutions and even physically taking over military airplanes.

    The protests have focused on the issue of the revenue from the “direct tax on hydrocarbons”. More of the revenue from natural gas used to be directed towards the departmental authorities, but the Morales government is seeking to redirect revenue towards anti-poverty social programs, such as a new universal old-aged pension.

    With moves towards nationalisation of Bolivia’s sizeable gas reserves — opposed by the opposition parties who, when in power, sought to privatise the industry — royalties from hydrocarbons have skyrocketed. As a result, even with the government’s redistribution policies, revenue to departments has still significantly increased.

    Five of the nine departments are controlled by prefects openly hostile to the national government (the half moon plus Chuquisaca) and these authorities have used the increased funds to help organise violent destabilisation measures against the national government.

    Since Morales’s crushing 67.4% victory in the recall referendum, his government has announced its intention for a referendum on the new constitution drafted by an elected constituent assembly.

    While Morales issued a decree to hold the referendum on December 7, the National Electoral Court ruled that it would not hold the consultation as such a referendum had to be approved by parliament.

    Oscar Ortiz, president of the Podemos-controlled Senate threatend on September 10 to intensify the violent protests if MAS insisted on its campaign to approve the new constitution, which would declare Bolivia a “plurinational state”.

    Behind the half moon prefects and civic committees stand large agribusiness interests and gas transnationals who see their interests threaten by the advance of the self-proclaimed “democratic and cultural revolution” led by Morales.

    Fearing the consolidation of the process of change, the rich elites have stepped up their attempts to oust the Morales government.

    US role

    The government has accused Santa Cruz Civic Committee president Branco Marinkovic, who only hours before had returned from a visit to Miami, of being the instigator of the plan to set the country alight.

    Marinkovic, who has helped direct the UJC violence, is accused of acting “with the financial support and advise by ex-minister Carlos Sanchez Berzain, who is accused of genocide in Bolivia”, reported ABI on September 9.

    Berzain is wanted in Bolivia on various charges relating to the deaths of more than 60 people in a massacre in 2003 that attempted to crush an uprising against plans to privatise Bolivia’s gas industry, when he was justice minister.

    While Bolivia has asked the US to extradite both Berzain and Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada (president in 2003), the Bush administration has refused to collaborate. Instead, Berzain was granted asylum in the US in July.

    Further evidence of the role of the US in the current coup was demonstrated in a brazen display of imperial arrogance when Goldberg declared that “Washington should interfere in [Bolivia’s] internal affairs” and “called on the Bolivian government of President Evo Morales to pay attention to the demands of the opposition”.

    Golberg merely confirmed what the MAS government has long asserted: Washington is directly involved in the plot to overthrow Morales, including via increased funding to opposition parties, “civil society” organisations and pro-autonomy groups.

    On August 25, Goldberg secretly met with Santa Cruz prefect Ruben Costas, only nine days after Costas had announced plans to violate the national law by implementing a series of “autonomy” measures aimed at undermining the national government.

    Morales declared the decision to expel Goldberg to be a homage to the historic struggle of the Bolivian people against imperialism — adding that only the people organised can defend democracy.

    According to a September 12 AP report, Morales decreed a state of emergency in Pando, sending fresh troops to secure control. The carrying of weapons is banned under the decree “to safeguard lives and the collective good”, according to Rada.

    The decree came after the authorities in the half moon finally agreed to national government requests to enter into talks to resolve the crisis.

    It is clear that the talks will centre on the question of the referendum on the new constitution, with the secretary for autonomy in Santa Cruz stating: “We all agree that we have to look for a point of compromise.”

    Speaking in Cochabamba, Morales stated that opponents “have every right to reject the new constitution, but through the vote and not through violence”.

    However the current crisis resolves itself, the battle between poor, mostly indigenous oppressed majority and the racist, US-backed oligarchy is a central part of the continent-wide struggle against US domination and neoliberalism.

    Supporters of social justice around the world need to raise their voices against US intervention and fascism in Bolivia, and for democracy.

    For ongoing news, as well as to sign on to an international statement of support for Bolivia, visit

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      Abbas: We will compromise on right of return

      English (US)  September 14th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

      International law says refugees have the right to return to their homes of origin, and receive real property restitution and compensation for the losses and damages they've suffered. The UN General Assembly set forth the framework for resolving the Palestinian refugee case in UN Resolution 194 (III) which provides: repatriation for those refugees "wishing to return to their homes and live in peace with their neighbors," or compensation for those choosing not to return. On November 22, 1974, Resolution 3236 clarified the right to return as an "inalienable right". therefore, neither Mahmoud Abbas nor any political party or group has the authority to "compromise" any refugee's inalienable right to return to his or her home and land.

      By Akiva Eldar and Avi Issacharoff

      RAMALLAH - Perhaps it was the daytime fast and abstention from smoking during the holy month of Ramadan, and perhaps it was the conversation about the exhausting negotiations with Israel that caused Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) to press the white button at least three times in the course of last Wednesday's interview.

      Sa'id, his personal assistant, enters without a word, pulls out the packet and lights a cigarette for the president. Abu Mazen's relaxed mood does not hint at all the troubles bombarding him from inside and out.


      He dismisses the threats of colleagues, including the chairman of the Palestinian negotiation team Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala) and rivals such as Prof. Sari Nusseibeh, to replace the negotiations over two states with a demand for equal rights between Israelis and Palestinians in one state. He also promises that, just as he opposed the second intifada, he will not support a third one.
      The message is almost self-evident: Don't miss your opportunity with me. You won't have a partner like me. But on one point he is insistent: the right of return. Israel will have to absorb refugees in its territory, he emphasizes, following negotiations regarding their numbers.

      He is aware of the arguments in Israel about his political weakness. "It's a good excuse for Israel not to fulfill its obligations," he says with a bitter smile. "I'm still reading in your newspaper that it won't be possible to reach a peace agreement because your prime minister, Ehud Olmert, is accused of corruption and I'm too weak. But even senior Israeli officials now admit that we are doing an excellent job."

      Even Amos Gilad, the head of the diplomatic-security headquarters in the Defense Ministry, and a sharp critic of the PA?

      "Even Amos Gilad. We have restored order to the West Bank cities, we are taking steps against anyone who tries to undermine security and stability, whether it is Hamas, Islamic Jihad or even Fatah. In Israel and in the United States they are well aware that the Palestinian security forces have prevented many attacks. We even dismantled Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades. Today there is one armed force and one authority in the field."

      Abbas' situation in public opinion surveys conducted in the territories is better than ever. The chaos that reigned in the cities of the West Bank has been replaced by the Palestinian police. The security systems are garnering praise from those very senior Israeli officials who in the past leveled penetrating criticism against their functioning - including the head of the Shin Bet security service, the defense minister and generals in the Israel Defense Forces. The economic situation in the West Bank is also improving. And nevertheless, Abu Mazen knows that without a diplomatic agreement, all these achievements will evaporate and the Palestinians will return to Hamas' embrace.

      Do you remember that Saturday, September 13, is the anniversary of the Oslo Accords?


      Why unfortunately?

      "Because it didn't succeed. Fifteen years have passed since then, and we are still far from an agreement."

      Olmert is about to resign. What do you feel on the personal level?

      "I admire him very much and for over a year we've been working together. Now he is about to leave and we will honor what the Israeli public decides. We will conduct negotiations with any prime minister elected in Israel, and bid farewell to Olmert. But I intend to conduct negotiations with him until his last moment in the job."

      It is evident that the elections for the leadership of Kadima are a source of great concern to those sitting in the Muqata, the PA's seat of government, in Ramallah. Abu Mazen's advisors are busy not only with issues related to Hamas and Fatah, but also with the attempt to guess who will win: Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz or Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. On this subject, as on others, MK Ahmed Tibi (Ra'am-Ta'al), who was present at the interview, serves as a guide for the PA president. In addition, Abbas makes sure to keep abreast of reports from the Israeli media.

      Olmert said that we have never been so close to an agreement. Had he remained in the job would that have changed anything?

      "I cannot say that 'an agreement is near' or 'not near' is the correct term to use, but it is doubtful whether we could have completed an agreement by the end of 2008 [as the sides promised at the Annapolis conference], even had he remained in the job. So far there has been no achievement in the negotiations. There are various proposals regarding borders and the refugee issue, but they have remained proposals only and all six central issues of the final status agreement [Jerusalem, borders, refugees, security, settlements and water] have remained open. I cannot say that there has been an agreement on a single issue. The gap between the sides is very large. We presented our ideas and demands regarding the six issues, and have yet to receive any answer from the Israeli side."

      Jordan's King Abdullah said recently to a French newspaper that he is not convinced that Israel wants to solve the conflict, due to the absence of a long-term vision. Do you agree with that statement?

      "I tend to agree with King Abdullah. We can reach an agreement because the outline is known, and it is not clear to me why there is no progress. Perhaps because of internal political disputes in Israel. I can say that the Americans continue to play a central role, and are even eager for us to reach an agreement by the end of the year. They are convinced we are capable of that."

      We have heard many different versions about the percentage of the area of the West Bank Israel is willing to transfer to the Palestinian state. Could you tell us the exact percentage?

      Abu Mazen smiles. "We have been presented with more than one proposal. I can tell you that, among other things, we raised the demand to conduct negotiations over no-man's land and not only over the entire West Bank." [One example is the Latrun area.]

      Have you told the Israelis that they have to refer to previous documents, to previous negotiations like those conducted in Taba in 2001?

      "Israel now claims that those talks were conducted by other teams. 'It's not us. It's Yossi Beilin,' they say."

      Abbas looks very excited when he mentions the 2002 Arab peace initiative, in which 22 Arab countries agreed to normalize relations with Israel if Israel withdraws to the 1967 boundaries. He asks his secretary of many years, Intisar, to bring the version of the Arab initiative adopted by the Islamic summit conference. The paper is decorated with the flags of various Islamic countries, including Iran.

      "Yes, yes, even Iran agreed at the time [2002 - before Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's era] to the principles of the Arab initiative, and never regretted it," he says. "I presented this paper to Olmert, who didn't react to it. Unfortunately, to date there has been no discussion of the initiative in the Israeli government. You should remember that this is the first time even the king of Saudi Arabia, who is the guardian of the places holy to Islam, enlisted for the sake of solving the conflict."

      Is it clear that on the issue of the right of return, the refugees will return only to the areas of the Palestinian state?

      "Not at all. This issue is not at all clear. There are today five million Palestinian refugees whose forefathers were expelled from the area of Israel, not from the West Bank and Gaza. We understand that if we demand of you that all five million return to Israel, the State of Israel would be destroyed. But we must talk about compromise and see to what numbers you can agree.

      "We have to talk about Israeli recognition of its responsibility for the refugee problem, and then discuss the right of return in practice. The Palestinians who don't return to Israel can return to Palestine. If they decide to remain in the countries where they are living, they will receive compensation, as will the countries that absorb them. There is a central issue that Israel tends to ignore: the assets of the absentees. That is a very important issue, almost the basis of the problem.

      "We intend to hold talks with Israel about the number of refugees who will return to its area. I am criticized for not demanding the return of all five million, but I say that we will demand the return of a reasonable number of refugees to Israel. The Arab peace initiative also discusses that - a solution to the refugee problem has to be agreed upon with Israel, according to UN General Assembly resolution 194 [from 1948]."

      Foreign Minister Livni said that when the Palestinians erase the word "nakba" from their lexicon [the "catastrophe," the expulsion and flight of the Palestinians in 1947-1948], there will be peace.

      "Can I forget the nakba, which happened to so many people and even to me? [Abbas is a refugee from Safed.] That is our memory. Just as I can't ask you to forget your national memory, you can't demand that of me."

      President Shimon Peres claims you said that you would oppose the participation of Hamas in the January 2010 elections, if it does not recognize agreements with Israel and international decisions.

      "Let's put it differently. If we want to establish a unity government of professionals, according to the Arab League's proposal, it must honor all the commitments and agreements that we have signed, like the road map. We cannot agree to any initiative that does not accept that. And of course, you have to accept the Arab peace initiative."

      When does your term end? Hamas claims in January 2009 and not in January 2010, as you claim.

      "I think that the elections for parliament and the presidency should take place together, in January 2010. We will decide, and issue a presidential order accordingly. And we will definitely demand that the elections be held in Jerusalem as well."

      Will you run in the next elections?

      "I don't know yet. It's too early to talk about that."

      Was it a mistake to allow Hamas to participate in the 2006 elections?

      "No, it was a good test as far as we're concerned. Had we rejected its participation we would have rejected a large part of the Palestinian people. Now, after the nation has come to know and experience Hamas, it will have to decide who to vote for."

      Do you see a possibility of reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, and unity between the West Bank and Gaza?

      "Gaza and the West Bank must unite, otherwise there will be no Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. But we will not use force to do that. There are contacts for reconciliation being conducted by the Egyptians, and in the end an Arab proposal will be presented, with the support of the Arab League."

      Are you aware of the fact that if Israel releases the Hamas members of parliament as part of a deal to release [kidnapped IDF soldier] Gilad Shalit, there is a good chance that the Palestinian parliament will not extend your term?

      "Yes, but without any connection to my term, I'm not opposed to their release. I have even demanded of Olmert more than once to release the speaker of the parliament, Aziz Dweik of Hamas. There is no reason to leave them in prison, and we have made it clear to Israel that in the context of any peace agreement, all the Palestinian prisoners will be released."

      What do you think of the rise of Al Qaida in Gaza?

      "I was the first to warn about it, and we are opposed to it. But you must understand that you have to remove the siege of the Gaza Strip in order to stop the strengthening of these extremist factors. You must open the trade crossings to the Strip, because distress will only strengthen organizations like Al Qaida."

      What do you think of the calls by senior Palestinian officials, in light of the failure of the negotiations, to dismantle the PA, transfer responsibility to Israel and establish one state for two nations?

      "That is an issue that came up in the Arab League, too. But in my opinion, we should stick to implementing a solution of two states for two nations. That is the best proposal. But you must not prevent this solution and push people into a corner. A continuation of your dangerous policy in the West Bank - construction in the settlements, the roadblocks, the raids on West Bank cities - will only distance the two-state solution."

      "We don't want one state for two nations, and various people who are doing that, including Abu Ala, are doing it out of despair. You must treat the Palestinians with respect, as full partners, human beings like you. If you believe in occupation and the Palestinian partner becomes irrelevant, no Israeli will feel secure."

      Did you make a mistake in the second intifada when you turned to violence?

      "I have said this in the past. We made a mistake when we turned the intifada into an armed struggle, and I will do everything possible so that there won't be a third, armed intifada. But you mustn't push people into acting violently."

      The interview takes place mostly in English. Occasionally MK Tibi whispers into the ear of the rais and the conversation continues. The secretary of the PA, Tayeb Abed al-Rahim, one of people closest to Abu Mazen, is present at the interview and adds his comments.

      When will you meet with U.S. President George W. Bush, and what will you tell him at your last meeting?

      "I'll be meeting with him on September 26, and I'll listen to what he has to say. I admire him very much. He did very good work, and nevertheless we did not succeed in reaching an agreement. It's not his mistake, nor mine. As far as he is concerned, he made the required effort."

      Did you think that 15 years after Oslo we would still be sitting here and talking about the chances for a peace agreement?

      "It's unbelievable, it's beyond any imagination that we haven't succeeded in reaching an agreement until now. But even today, I'm convinced that I would have signed the Oslo Accords. I risked my life for peace and if I have to pay for it with my life, that's a negligible price. I don't regret the Oslo Accords. Twenty years before the agreement I believed in peace with the Israelis, and I still believe in it."


      2554 words posted in PALESTINE, Law, , American Empire, , Human RightsLeave a comment

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        Iran says will stand by Palestine until final victory

        English (US)  September 14th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

        September 13, 2008
        Tehran Times Political Desk

        TEHRAN, Sept. 12 – President Mahmud Ahmadinejad on Friday said Iran will stand by the Palestinian nation until they achieve final victory.

        “Supporting the Palestinian nation is a humanitarian and Islamic duty,” Ahmadinejad told Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya by telephone.

        He said, “Palestinians’ resistance is a source of proud for all Muslims and freedom-seekers around the world.”


        Referring to the Gaza blockade by the Zionist regime, Haniya said, “The siege, plots, and aggressions are aimed at getting concessions from Palestinians. They want us to recognize Israel and put down the flag of resistance.”

        He asserted that Palestinians will never surrender to the Zionist regime. “Although we are facing so many problems…we are still on the road of resistance.”

        In a separate conversation with Haniya, Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani said Iran absolutely supports the Palestinian nation in their resistance against the Zionist regime.

        “I assure you that the Iranian nation and the Islamic system will support the Palestinian resistance by all means and will always stand by you,” Iran’s top lawmaker noted.

        He lauded the perseverance of Palestinians against the Zionists’ aggression, saying, the Palestinian issue will be resolved through pursuing Islamic objectives and resistance.

        Haniya briefed Larijani on the latest developments in Gaza and the occupied territories

        Larijani said the Zionist regime’s decision to intensify the Gaza blockade is due to its weakness.

        He said the Zionist regime is involved in numerous internal problems and has extended a needy hand to other countries. The plan of stepping up pressure on Palestinians will fail just like Annapolis plan, the Majlis speaker predicted.

        Haniya criticized the Arab League for pursuing the interest of the Zionist regime rather than Palestine.

        The 130th ordinary session of the Arab League Council at the level of foreign ministers kicked off in Cairo on Monday.

        Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and other senior Palestinian officials attended the meeting, which called for gaining a real and serious Palestinian unity before end of the year. Hamas was not invited to the meeting.

        “Excluding the legal government (of Hamas) which harvested a majority in the elections and inviting the illegal government of Ramallah doesn’t create a positive atmosphere to achieve success in the dialogue,” said Sami Abu Zuhri, Hamas spokesman in Gaza.

        A Yemeni initiative adopted by the Arab League Summit has called on Hamas to end its control of Gaza and hand all security headquarters it controlled to the Palestinian Authority.

        Hamas rejected Abbas decree and kept ruling the Gaza Strip, saying that Abbas has no right to depose the government, which its members were legally elected by a Palestinian majority.

        Abu Zuhri, however, said that his movement is still adhered to the Palestinian dialogue as an important way out of the current crisis, adding that his movement is ready to deal with the Arab efforts in this respect.

        “But any Arab interference into the internal Palestinian situation should be balanced and should be based on respecting the outcome of the last general elections and the Palestinian law,” said Abu Zuhri.

        Reuters quoted the head of the Arab League that he was angry with fractious Palestinian political groups and that sanctions against them were being discussed by Arab governments.

        “I am extremely angry with the Palestinian organizations,” Amr Moussa, secretary-general of the league, told a news conference in an unusually harsh criticism of the Palestinians.

        “We are studying the measures to be taken in the face of the current Palestinian chaos,” he said, after the meeting of Arab foreign ministers.

        The two main Palestinian groups, Fatah and Hamas, disagree on their approach to talks with Israel.

        Moussa gave no details of the sanctions the Arab states envisaged against the Palestinian groups. “They (the sanctions) are now all in the framework of closed consultations within the Arab system,” he added, referring to the Arab League.

        Egyptian authorities on Wednesday blocked an opposition convoy headed for the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip to protest the territory's punishing blockade, a security official told AFP.

        The group of judges, independent MPs, members of the main opposition Muslim Brotherhood and activists from other parties wants to protest the continued closure of the Rafah crossing by Israel and Egypt.

        Another security official said police had stopped an initial part of the convoy of about 50 people in Ismailiya, on the Suez Canal, with a second part of the convoy set to leave Cairo in the afternoon.

        Police have set up further checkpoints on the road between Ismailiya and the town of El-Arish in northern Sinai, about 30 miles (45 kilometers) from Rafah, the security official said, asking not to be named.

        “The authorities have reinforced security measures on ferries crossing the Suez Canal into the Sinai peninsula,” he added.

        The Rafah crossing in southern Gaza is the territory's only one that is not under the control of Israel, which sealed off the coastal strip after Hamas seized power there in June 2007.

        “We want the Israeli blockade that is making our Palestinian brothers live in inhuman conditions to be lifted,"" said Muslim Brother MP and convoy spokesman Hamdi Hassan before leaving Cairo.

        “We also want to denounce the Egyptian government which is keeping the Rafah crossing closed in agreement with Israel, which makes life even more difficult for the Palestinians.

        “The Egyptian government is destroying the tunnels which were the only means the Gaza Strip had to receive aid,” he said.

        While Israel allows limited amounts of aid through its crossings with the Gaza Strip, Egypt has been clamping down on the tunnels that take many staples from its territory into Gaza.

        Earlier this month, Egypt opened Rafah briefly to allow thousands in and out of the besieged territory, including Palestinians requiring treatment in Egyptian hospitals, and Palestinians holding Egyptian passports

        Egypt has refused to open the Rafah crossing permanently.

        Teheran Times

        972 words posted in PALESTINE, American Empire, , Iran, , Human RightsLeave a comment

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          Illegal Zionist Occupation Forces kill one Palestinian youth, injure another

          English (US)  September 13th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

          Body of Hasan Hmid leaving
          hospital morgue [Ma'anImages]

          BETHLEHEM – A young Palestinian was killed and another injured during clashes that erupted in the village of Tuqu south east of the West Bank city of Bethlehem.

          Palestinian medical sources affirmed that 16-year-old Hasan Mohammad Hmid was killed by a bullet wound in his chest. The bullet was fired by an Israeli soldier in the middle of the village. Twenty-year-old Abd Khalid Hmid was injured when hit in the leg by a bullet.


          An ambulance with the Palestinian Red Crescent had moved Hasn to the local hospital in Bethlehem, but the boy died before arriving. Abd Khalid was taken to a local clinic where he is being treated; his condition is described as mild.

          Reports say Israeli soldiers entered the village and confrontations erupted between village youth and soldiers. Clashes escalated and shots were fired.

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            Teacher Used Muslim Student As Terrorist Example

            English (US)  September 13th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

            By Mike Puccinelli

            CHICAGO ― A Chicago teacher is under fire for singling out the only Muslim student in her class while talking about the Middle East. The teacher has now been reassigned to another school. However, the young boy's family is demanding answers.

            CBS 2's Mike Puccinelli reports that the family met behind closed doors at Chicago Public Schools headquarters for two-and-a-half hours in a meeting presided over by a federal mediator. All sides have agreed to meet again next month.

            The teacher in question is no longer working at the same school, but if the Pakistani-American family at the center of this story has their way, she might not be working much longer.

            "He came home and before he even took his backpack off, he had tears in his eyes already," said Mohmmad Fahad Choudhary, victim's brother.

            Mohmmad talks about the day his little brother came home from school saying his teacher had singled him out in front of his class as an example of a terrorist.


            "She used the example of if Saleh were to go on to an airplane, put his backpack down and put two wires together and the plane were to blow up - and she didn't make a point," said Christina Abraham, Council on American-Islamic Relations.

            Saleh Choudhary did not want to go on-camera to talk about the incident, which happened last April while he was a sixth-grader at Brentano Academy, but his brother says the 13-year-old's life hasn't been the same since.

            "Everybody started teasing him and calling him a terrorist after the comments were made by the teacher," Mohmmad said.

            Within days after the teacher allegedly made the comment during a history discussion, the family filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights.

            Today, representatives from the federal government and CPS met with the family and the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

            "The family does want her fired, they don't believe that she should be teaching students anymore," Abraham said.

            The superintendent of Chicago Public Schools says lengthy suspension or possible termination is on the table.

            "We have huge concerns about the conduct of the teacher," said Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan. "From my standpoint, what happened is absolutely unacceptable and we're looking at some very severe sanctions because of that behavior."

            As of right now, the teacher is still on the job at a different school. The teachers union says it will do whatever it takes to ensure that its members' rights to due process are fully enforced.

            They also question the timing of today's announcement – on the seventh anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks – but the family says today was simply the first day when all the parties could agree to meet.


            461 words posted in Racism, Human Rights1 comment

            1 response(s) to Teacher Used Muslim Student As Terrorist Example

            1. Patrick Cloutier [Visitor] Email says:

              It is odd that the story includes the name of the minor involved, but not that of the teacher, who is an adult.

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            Bolivia province under martial law

            English (US)  September 12th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

            Police stood guard at the US embassy in
            La Paz as protesters gathered outside [Reuters]

            The Bolivian government says it has declared martial law in an eastern province where at least eight people have been killed in clashes between pro- and anti-government activists.

            On Friday, troops took control of the airport in the capital of Pando province and fired shots to disperse protesters, according to an Associated Press report.


            Earlier, Evo Morales, the president, said he had ruled out the use of force to clampdown on pro-autonomy protests that have raged across the country for several days.

            The move came as Morales began talks with a commission of opposition leaders from the four eastern provinces that have led the protests against his rule.

            The Bolivian government banned protests and meetings in Pando and said anyone carrying weapons would be arrested.

            The government also said more bodies had been found following a clash on Thursday in which at least eight people were killed although it did not give a new death toll.

            Opposition activists had allegedly shot dead farmers in Pando, an incident described by government officials as a massacre.

            Protests had diminished elsewhere in Bolivia on Friday, although activists demanding greater autonomy continued to block roads across much of the east of the country.

            Diplomatic row

            Morales had said that despite pressure to show a "firm hand," he was the "first to ban the army and police from using firearms against the population."

            Protests have erupted in several
            regions of Bolivia [Reuters]

            "We're open to dialogue not only with the governors, but also with the participation of mayors and different social sectors," Morales said.

            Protesters demanding greater regional autonomy and a bigger share of energy resources have taken to the streets in continuing protests across the country.

            The protests have sparked a regional diplomatic row after Bolivia expelled the US ambassador, accusing him of inciting violent demonstrations, with the US responding by expelling the Bolivian envoy to Washington.

            Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan leader, then expelled the US ambassador to his country, in what he said was solidarity with the Morales government, with the US again responding by saying it would expel the Venezuelan envoy.

            Dozens of Morales supporters gathered outside the US Embassy in La Paz, chanting anti-US slogans.

            Lucia Newman, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Santa Cruz, said the decision to expel the US ambassador came amid Bolivian accusations of US interference into the country's affairs.

            "The Bolivian government says that it has evidence that the US, and particularly the USAID aid agency, had been consorting with opposition leaders in Bolivia - and even funding them to bring about instability," she said.

            "No concrete eveidence has been presented but these allegations have been around for a long time, The expulsion of the US ambassador at this time is the icing on the cake, and was something that many people here had been expecting."

            Continuing unrest

            An employee of the opposition-led regional government was also killed in the clashes and at least two people were killed and a dozen wounded in clashes in the northeastern town of Cobija, officials said.

            The Bolivian government has blamed the unrest on the leaders of four states who demand greater autonomy and energy revenue and oppose his plans to change the constitution and distribute land to the poor.

            South America's poorest nation has been in the grip of political turmoil for months.

            Last month, Morales convincingly won a referendum on his rule but in the rebel states, voters also returned most of the governors forming the opposition coalition.

            After failed negotiations to find a compromise solution, Morales announced a new referendum, to take place in December, to vote on his rewritten constitution, which would redistribute land and national revenues to give more to the indigenous population.

            Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

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              The Palestinians: Warehousing a "surplus people"

              English (US)  September 12th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

              By Jeff Halper

              So rapid is the pace of systemic change in that indivisible entity known as Palestine/Israel that it almost defies our ability to keep up with it.

              The deliberate and systematic campaign of driving Palestinians out of the country in 1948 was quickly forgotten, the plight of more than 700,000 refugees becoming an invisible "non-issue." Instead a plucky, European, "socialist" Israel became the darling of even the radical left, and for many years after 1967 Israel's occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza also remained a non-issue. Even the mention of the word "occupation," not to mention "Palestinians," would get you labeled an anti-Semite in a wink of the eye, especially given the identity of Palestinians with terrorism in the 1970s and early '80s.

              Only with the outbreak of the first Intifada in late 1987 did the situation of the Palestinians under Israeli rule show upon the radar of public consciousness, in Israel as elsewhere, becoming a full-fledged and official "issue" with the opening of the Madrid and Oslo peace talks in the early 1990s. Still, Israeli ruled the all-important realm of PR. Once Arafat refused Ehud Barak's "generous offer" - a mythical proposal which put a positive spin on a blatant attempt to impose an apartheid regime of "cantons" on the Palestinians - the campaign to re-demonize Arafat and his people proved a relatively simple exercise. Sharon's imprisoning the Palestinian president in a dark room of his demolished headquarters, eliminating him politically, and I believe, physically, raised virtually no major opposition or even criticism in the international community.


              Still, a growing movement among civil society groups - human rights and political organizations, church and critical Jewish groups, trade unions, intellectuals and even certain political figures, in Israel as well as abroad - succeeded in the past decade or so in raising the Occupation to the status of global issue. A critical mass of descriptions of Israel's "facts on the ground, combined with the witness of international activists on the ground and a growing body of analyses critical of Israel's policies and intent, rendered both the term "occupation" and critiques of it valid in public and political discourse, despite the fact that Israel continued to deny the fact of occupation, casting its rule as one of "administration" over a "disputed territory."

              The rapid expansion of the facts on the ground, however, continued to overtake language and political analysis. An occupation is defined in international law as "a temporary military situation." While the establishment of more than 200 settlements and outposts in the Occupied Territories, all tied inextricably into Israel proper by a massive network of Israeli-only highways and, ultimately, the Separation Barrier, seemed to indicate that the Occupation was no longer temporary, that it grown into one indivisible system between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, many Palestinians, Israelis and international observers and decision-makers alike, committed to a two-state solution, were loathe to admit the transformation of the Occupation into a permanent state of apartheid. The implications of so doing were simply too daunting. The transformation of the Occupation into a country-wide system of apartheid meant the end of the Zionist dream of a Jewish state - unless apartheid could somehow be packaged as a two-state solution, a sleight-of-hand to which many liberal Israeli and Jewish peace groups have succumbed. Nevertheless, slowly, painfully (as Jimmy Carter discovered), the realization that we now have a de facto regime of apartheid over all Israel-Palestine - officially sanctioned if the Annapolis Process succeeds - has begun to sink in, although resistance, even among the Israeli peace movement, is still strong.

              Yet no sooner have we begun to shift from occupation to apartheid than political realities, defined in large part by an accelerated Israeli campaign of expanding its facts on the ground, have rendered even that conception, radical only a few months ago, completely outmoded. Signs of this came, fittingly enough, from South Africans who knew the apartheid regime there intimately. While experiences of oppression cannot be compared in any objective way and cannot be minimized, a number of prominent South Africans - most of whom were labeled "terrorists," a favorite term employed by colonial regimes to discredit indigenous struggles for freedom - have commented that what is happening to the Palestinians goes beyond even the despicable system they lived under. While black South Africans were deprived of their rights, apartheid's policy of "separate development" did not deny the very existence of black African peoples and nations, as does Israel 's policy of "Judaization." Demolishing the homes of African blacks was a common policy, but it was never as extensive as Israel's practice, which has seen some 18,000 Palestinian homes demolished in the Occupied Territories since 1967, on the background of tens of thousands of other within Israel, a policy extending from 1948 until today - ethnic cleansing in a most tangible form. Torture and imprisonment under Israel's Occupation and more widespread and institutionalized than they were in South Africa, Israeli courts are far less likely to challenge military policies or actions, and the level of violence is far higher: Apache helicopters never strafed Soweto nor were ANC leaders systematically assassinated in their dozens. Even segregation, the very essence of apartheid, is more complete, more institutionalized and more rigorously enforced that it was in South Africa.

              Overall, while both peoples suffered extreme economic oppression leading to the impoverishment of their entire populations, the daily repression suffered by Palestinians is on a scale that apparently surpasses that of South Africa in its apartheid days.

              "The absolute control of people's lives," said Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, a former deputy minister of defense and of health and a current member of Parliament on a recent visit to the West Bank, "the lack of freedom of movement, the army presence everywhere, the total separation and the extensive destruction we saw....What I see here is worse than what we experienced," Ronnie Kasrils, a Jewish South African cabinet minister and former ANC guerrilla, concurred. "This is much worse than apartheid. The Israeli measures, the brutality, make apartheid look like a picnic. We never had jets attacking our townships. We never had sieges that lasted month after month. We never had tanks destroying houses. We had armoured vehicles and police using small arms to shoot people but not on this scale."

              John Dugard, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 to the United Nations Human Rights Council: "Many aspects of Israel's occupation surpass those of the apartheid regime. Israel's large-scale destruction of Palestinian homes, leveling of agricultural lands, military incursions and targeted assassinations of Palestinians far exceed any similar practices in apartheid South Africa . No wall was ever built to separate blacks and whites." Dugard, a prominent South African judge, wrote in his report to the United Nations Human Rights Council: "Many aspects of Israel 's occupation surpass those of the apartheid regime. Israel's large-scale destruction of Palestinian homes, leveling of agricultural lands, military incursions and targeted assassinations of Palestini ans far exceed any similar practices in apartheid South Africa. No wall was ever built to separate blacks and whites."

              Apartheid is nevertheless a useful term. It advances the political discussion in that it helps people to "get it," to understand that we are speaking of a system that has gone beyond occupation in its scale and permanence. Boiled down to its essentials, apartheid comprises two elements: the separation of populations, whether on a racial basis or, in the case of Israel, according to religion or nationality, and the subsequent domination of one privileged people over others, institutionalized into a permanent system, supported by law. Not only do these elements accurately describe the system Israel has instituted over the entire country, Israel and the Occupied Territories included, but the Israeli government itself calls its system apartheid: hafrada in Hebrew, "separation" in English. The wall Israel is constructing is officially nam! ed the "Separation Barrier" (Mikhshol HaHafrada), not the "Security Barrier." Its tortuous route deep into the Palestinian areas of the West Bank, where it incorporates seven major "settlement blocs" into Israel comprising 80% of the settlers, is known as Israel 's "demographic border." In the end, Israel will expand to about 85% of the country, take all of its resources and elements of sovereignty (such as control of movement and borders), and leave the Palestinian majority to live in a truncated bantustan with no meaningful sovereignty, no freedom and no economy.

              Apartheid is linked to occupation in the sense that both are conceived as political situations, as political issues that must be resolved by the parties with the intervention of the international community. Both possess a political dynamic involving grassroots resistance, the mobilizing of public opinion and political forces, appeals to international law, human rights and competing political claims. Israel 's "Occupation," now more than four decades old, fully entrenched and with no end in sight, appears to have moved beyond both of these systems. It has evolved into a system of warehousing, a static situation emptied of all political content ( Israel 's policies are cast as a "war on terrorism" with no reference to occupation, which Israel officially denies having), which Israel is attempting to present as a permanent "given," a non-issue, a state of status quo (another Israeli term for its policy towards the Palestinians) immune to any genuine solution. "What Israel has constructed," argues Naomi Klein in her powerful new book, The Shock Doctrine,

              is a system,...a network of open holding pens for millions of people who have been categorized as surplus humanity....Palestinians are not the only people in the world who have been so categorized....This discarding of 25 to 60 percent of the population has been the hallmark of the Chicago School [of Economics] crusade....In South Africa, Russia and New Orleans the rich build walls around themselves. Israel has taken this disposal process a step further: it has built walls around the dangerous poor (p. 442).

              Warehousing is the best, if bleakest, term for what Israel is constructing for the Palestinians of the Occupied Territories . It is indeed worse than the apartheid-era South African bantustans. The ten non-viable mini-states established by South Africa for the black African majority on only 11% of the country's land were, to be sure, a type of warehouse. They were intended to supply South Africa with cheap labor while relieving it of its black population, thus making possible a European dominated "democracy." This is precisely what Israel is intending - its Palestinian Bantustan encompassing 15% of historic Palestine, but with a crucial caveat: Palestinian workers will not be allowed into Israel, which has found a cheaper source of labor, some 300,000 foreign workers imported from China, the Philippines, Thailand, Rumania and West Africa, au! gmented by its own Arab, Mizrahi, Ethiopian, Russian and Eastern European citizens. From every point of view, historically, culturally, politically and economically, the Palestinians have been defined as "surplus humanity;" nothing remains to do with them except warehousing, which the concerned international community appears willing to allow Israel to do.

              Not only should the permanent warehousing of an entire people be of concern to the Palestinians and those who support them, it should, as Klein stresses, concern anyone troubled with warehousing as a global phenomenon. In fact, it may constitute an entirely new crime against humanity, one that affects, Klein says, those who have been judged irrevocably superfluous: the urban poor (more than a billion of whom are imprisoned in what Mike David, in his seminal book Planet of Slums, calls global slums), the rural poor, particular minorities, refugees and undocumented immigrants and, most recently, peoples, religions and countries demonized for political purposes as "evil" or "uncivilized." To the extent that what we call Israel 's "Occupation" is, in fact, a model of warehousing, it has implications far beyond a localized conflict between two peoples. If Israel can package and export its layered Matrix of Control, a system of permanent repression that combines Kafkaesque administration, law and planning with overtly coercive forms of control over a defined population hemmed in by hostile gated communities (settlements in this case), walls and obstacles of various kinds to movement, then, as Klein writes starkly, every country will look like Israel/Palestine: "One part looks like Israel; the other part looks like Gaza." In other words, a Global Palestine.

              This goes a long way towards explaining why Israel is unconcerned about entering into genuine peace processes or resolving its conflict with the Palestinians. By warehousing them it has the best of both worlds: complete freedom to expand its settlements and control without ever having to compromise, as a political solution would require. By the same token, it explains why the international community lets Israel "get away with it." Instead of presenting the international community with issues that must be resolved - violations of human rights, international law and repeated UN resolutions, let alone the implications of the conflict itself - it is instead providing a valued service: it is offering a useful model that can applied to "surplus populations" everywhere, including right at home.

              Israel, then is in complete sync with both the economic and military logics of global capitalism, for which it is being rewarded generously. Our mistake, encouraged by such terms as "conflict," "occupation" and "apartheid," is to view Israel 's control of the Palestinians as a political issue which must be resolved. Instead, it will be "resolved" when the Palestinians are "disappeared," just as people were "disappeared" in Latin American under its military regimes. Dov Weisglass, the architect of the Sharon government's "disengagement" from Gaza, said as much in a revealing interview ("The Big Freeze," Ha'aretz Magazine, Oct. 8, 2004):

              The disengagement plan is the preservative of the sequence principle. It is the bottle of formaldehyde within which you place the president's formula [that Israel can retain its settlement "blocs," including a Greater Jerusalem] so that it will be preserved for a very lengthy period. The disengagement is actually formaldehyde. It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that's necessary so that there will not be a political process with the Palestinians.

              Is what you are saying, then, is that you exchanged the strategy of a long-term interim agreement for a strategy of long-term interim situation?

              The American term is to park conveniently. The disengagement plan makes it possible for Israel to park conveniently in an interim situation that distances us as far as possible from political pressure. It legitimizes our contention that there is no negotiating with the Palestinians. There is a decision here to do the minimum possible in order to maintain our political situation. The decision is proving itself. It is making it possible for the Americans to go to the seething and simmering international community and say to them, "What do you want." It also transfers the initiative to our hands. It compels the world to deal with our idea, with the scenario we wrote....

              Warehousing is the most stark of political concepts because it represents the de-politization of repression, the transformation of a political issue of the first degree into a non-issue, a regrettable but unavoidable situation best dealt with through relief, charity and humanitarian programs. It is a dead-end, a "given," for which no remedy is available. This, of course, is not the case. Warehousing is a policy, an economic and political consequence that can be addressed to the degree that a just "structural adjustment" is made to the system, including the possibility of replacing it if it proves recalcitrant. Using the term "warehousing," then, is not meant to name the final stage of repression but, rather, to highlight it so as to better eliminate it. For despite the almost unlimited and unchecked power Israel has over every element of Palestinian life, it has failed to nail down either apartheid or warehousing. Palestinian resistance continues, supported by the Ar! ab and wider Muslim peoples, significant sectors of the international civil society and the critical Israeli peace camp; the conflict's destabilizing effect on the international system grows steadily; and neither the Israelis nor the Americans (with European complicity) can force the outcome they seek, despite their overwhelming power.

              The term "warehousing," then, is meant as a warning. We must continue our efforts to end the Israeli Occupation, even if this is meant in a wider sense, of creating a genuine Palestine/Israel, or a wider regional confederation, rather than an apartheid-cum-two-state solution or outright warehousing. Yet looking at Palestine as a microcosm of a broader global reality of warehousing enables us to more effectively identify those elements appearing elsewhere and grasp the model which Israel is developing, all the better to counter it. Regardless, our language and the analysis it generates must not only be honest and unsparing; they must keep pace with political intentions and ever more rapidly developing "facts on the ground."

              (Jeff Halper is the head of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). He can be reached at

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                A Palestinian state first

                English (US)  September 12th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                Justice for Palestinians, including resolution of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees, can best be achieved after self-determination on the basis of the two-state solution, write Ezzedine Choukri Fishere and Omar Dajani

                In 2001, Israelis and Palestinians turned away from negotiations. Their differences seemed insurmountable and the alternatives to talks seemed beguiling: many Israelis advocated "letting the IDF win", while many Palestinians hoped a deeper crisis would prompt the international community to intervene to rescue them. Following seven years in which the situation has grown worse in every respect imaginable, the parties find themselves again having virtually the same conversations about the same issues. And faced again with a fractured Israeli coalition and with contentious arguments about the future of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees, voices on each side are calling upon the parties to quit -- to turn away from negotiations.


                By most accounts, Sisyphus's cycle seems poised to continue. But it need not. It is our hope that the Israeli government will at last make a proposal worthy of serious consideration by the Palestinians. Even if it does not, however, the Palestinians cannot resign themselves merely to rejecting the offers placed before them. Instead, the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) must muster the courage to articulate a bold vision of its own for a two-state solution, one that is both clear and capable of realisation. Moreover, it must use every available tool to ensure that the implementation of that vision begins now, not in some hypothetical future. For, if past is prologue, we fear that by that point Palestinians and Israelis will find themselves in a corner from which they cannot both emerge unscathed.

                Obviously, a comprehensive peace agreement remains the preferable option. But if it is not possible to reach agreement on the thorny issues of Jerusalem and refugee return in the current circumstances, what are the options available to the Palestinian leadership?

                The first option -- and, in the short run, perhaps the easiest -- is to insist on a comprehensive agreement, signing nothing with the current Israeli coalition government and waiting for it to fall. The general elections that follow will yield one of two results. In the best-case scenario, the new government that forms next summer will be a centrist coalition amenable to resuming talks. If that happens, we will have wasted a year, with further deterioration of the situation on the ground and the attendant suffering, before returning to the place where we find ourselves now.

                What is more likely, according to opinion polls, is the electoral triumph of a right- wing coalition led by Netanyahu. Such an outcome will spell the end of even the halting peace negotiations we have witnessed over the last year. If a new US administration is determined to push for a new deal, Netanyahu will dedicate himself to bickering with the Americans about minutiae while settlements continue to expand and even greater pressure is placed on the Arab character of Jerusalem. And then, in the very best of scenarios, we return to negotiations yet again, but in circumstances that make achieving the two-state solution even more difficult than it is now.

                A second alternative, much discussed these days, is abandoning the two-state solution altogether in favour of a struggle for a single, bi-national state. We will take up the efficacy of that strategy at greater length another time, but a few points bear emphasising now: first, it is reckless to advocate such an option merely to scare Israelis into a better deal. The questions it raises should be carefully and soberly considered. For example, is the abandonment of the goal of Palestinian statehood in the West Bank and Gaza Strip more likely to hasten Palestinians' return to Jaffa, Haifa, and West Jerusalem, or Israeli Jews' further settlement of Hebron, "Shechem" and East Jerusalem?

                Second, while we agree that the establishment of a single democratic state in mandate Palestine is ultimately a worthy goal, we believe that it is most likely to be achieved if both peoples feel equally self- confident and strong. In our view, that obliges the establishment of an independent Palestinian state first. Creating circumstances in which the parties are left with no alternative other than a one state solution will pose a challenge not only to Zionism, but also to Palestinian self-determination. Moreover, it seems naïve to presume either that Israelis will be persuaded, in the context of civil strife, to embrace a solution that they have long regarded as a prelude to genocide or that attempting to convince the international community to impose it on them will be more successful now than during the decades when it was the PLO's stated objective.

                Under any of the scenarios we have just described, the long wait for a political settlement seems likely to increase the burdens on the Palestinian Authority. When it collapses, as it surely will, there will be space for the ascendance of the only other coherent political force on the Palestinian scene, Hamas. And whether the Palestinians then opt for armed resistance or a mediated tahdia, or ceasefire, what seems likely to follow is some unsteady form of cohabitation based on the twin visions of Israel's unilateral disengagement and Hamas' hudna, or truce.

                None of these outcomes is cheerful. And, more importantly, none does much to safeguard the rights of the Palestinian people or to halt the steady assault upon their patrimony. But it is possible to avoid them if we cease to regard failure in negotiation as our unavoidable fate. The Arab world managed briefly to transcend its torpor and aversion to risk by advancing a peace offensive in 2006/2007 based on its peace initiative of 2002. That prompted a return to negotiation after years when the Palestinian cause was merely a sideshow in the war against terrorism.

                The Palestinians can also take the initiative at this critical juncture. In our view, this initiative should have three related premises: first, a clear and decisive conviction that the two-state solution is vital to the Palestinian people and their future; second, an acceptance of the principle that what cannot be fully achieved need not be fully abandoned, with the qualification that concessions should not be made if they would prejudice the fundamental rights of Palestinians; and, third, the need to jolt both sides back onto a genuine course of peace-building.

                We are not advocating a retreat from the Palestinians' longstanding substantive positions on any of the issues in contention in the peace talks. We do believe, however, that the issues that seem least amenable to resolution right now -- Jerusalem and refugee return to Israel -- may be deferred without prejudicing Palestinian fundamental rights.

                With respect to Jerusalem, an agreement allocating sovereignty and control over the Holy City may be postponed so long as Israel is prepared to commit to the following:

                1. The continuation of negotiations, with participation of members of the UN Security Council and representatives of Arab states and the Vatican, and a defined timeframe for completion;

                2. The suspension, pending a negotiated agreement, of policies regarding residency and housing construction that have the aim or consequence of altering the ethnic balance of the city;

                3. Facilitation of Palestinian access to the city, including guaranteed access to holy sites, and;

                4. The establishment of an international mechanism charged with verifying compliance with each of these commitments.

                Similarly, without abandoning the refugees' recognised rights, the parties can begin facilitating the resettlement of refugees who choose to live within the territory of the Palestinian state or in a willing third state. In addition, the parties can begin work on the institutional arrangements required to deliver compensation for all refugees. An agreement regarding the fate of refugees who seek to return to homes in what is now Israel could then be pursued in tandem with agreement regarding Jerusalem.

                Lest we appear naïve ourselves, we should add that we entertain no illusions about Israel's likely response to these proposals. But a proactive stance of this kind by the PLO would give all those genuinely committed to a two-state solution something to embrace: it would return the initiative to the Palestinian and Arab side and offer the world a balanced, reasonable position that would be difficult to dismiss. At the same time, it has the potential to avoid prejudicing the established rights of the Palestinian people while enabling them finally to realise the most consequential among them -- the right of self-determination on their own sovereign territory.

                Ezzedine Choukri Fishere is an Egyptian writer and professor of international relations at the American University in Cairo. Omar Dajani is a professor of law at the University of the Pacific and former legal advisor to the PLO's Negotiation Unit.

                Al Ahram

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                  Palestinians in crisis: the Arab solution

                  English (US)  September 12th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                  A Palestinian stands at Jerusalem's Old City Damascus gate
                  'In spite of the pessimism surrounding the Cairo-sponsored Palestinian dialogue, there remains a glimmer of hope of imposing an Arab solution that would supersede other proposed solutions and be binding on all sides'

                  Arab mediation of internal Palestinian strife need not end up a circus if planned and executed well and backed by collective will, writes Samir Ghattas*

                  It is the regretful opinion of many that the internal Palestinian situation has hit a nadir unprecedented in the history of the Palestinian cause. Compounding their distress is that the Palestinian factions, themselves, are largely responsible for this new calamity that has afflicted the Palestinian people.

                  A Palestinian stands at Jerusalem's Old City Damascus gate
                  'In spite of the pessimism surrounding the Cairo-sponsored Palestinian dialogue, there remains a glimmer of hope of imposing an Arab solution that would supersede other proposed solutions and be binding on all sides'


                  The deepening internal fissure has gravely obstructed the Palestinian national project. To make matters worse, influential forces in the Palestinian factions have deliberately sabotaged all attempts to mend the rift that followed bloody internecine fighting and to restore a minimal level of national unity. Indeed, for reasons of their own, some of these factions or portions of these factions appear determined to entrench and perpetuate the current separation between Gaza and the West Bank and to hamper any initiative aspiring to realise inter- Palestinian reconciliation.

                  Keen to the danger the deepening internal Palestinian rift poses to Arab national security, Egypt has intervened to try to remedy the situation. While this is not Cairo's first attempt to intervene, some fear it could be its last if the very parties it is trying to help insist on undermining its efforts.

                  Twice before now Egypt has brought together all the Palestinian factions, including those with little political or grassroots weight. The first meeting, which took place in March 2004, produced few tangible results. But the second Egyptian- sponsored Palestinian national dialogue, which convened a year later, resulted in what the Palestinian historical lexicon refers to as the Cairo Declaration. The chief focus of the agreement was to reform the Palestinian Authority (PA) and to reactivate the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) as the legitimate representative body of all Palestinians and the organisational framework that can best safeguard Palestinian unity in the face of divisions that were already threatening to fracture it. Unfortunately, following the January 2006 legislative elections, those fractures broadened into a sharp and rapidly broadening fissure.

                  As the situation now stands, it is difficult if not impossible to imagine that Egypt's latest initiative will succeed. This, at least, was the opinion of 73 per cent of Palestinians polled by the Near East Consultancy Company. In its survey, the results of which were published 6 September, this large proportion of respondents believed that the West Bank and Gaza could not be reunified before the end of this year. Clearly, Palestinians are very acute to the depth of their internal political divisions and the difficulty of remedying them. Their pessimism over the chances of success of Egypt's latest attempt to rescue the Palestinian situation is, unfortunately, grounded in the realities of the current situation in all its internal, regional and international dimensions.

                  The internal dimension of the current Palestinian crisis must be examined in light of an accurate and realistic appreciation of the true dimensions and ramifications of the current rift. What we are dealing with in Palestine is not merely a dispute or even a power conflict between two factions. The problem is far more dangerous, because factional conflict has torn through the entire social fabric, vertically from the family base up to most respected social and political institutions, and horizontally across the various demographic sectors and age groups. The division was severely aggravated when Hamas leaders made it clear that they intended to cling to power in Gaza, which they regard as the platform for a global Islamist project. Contrary to the economic straits of the majority of the inhabitants of Gaza, Hamas rank and file are comfortably off and well provided with money, food and arms. With regard to Hamas it is also important to bear in mind the following:

                  - Within a week after the Mecca Agreement was concluded on 7 February 2007, Mahmoud Al-Zahhar, who effectively leads Hamas in Gaza now, told the Palestinian parliament that the agreement was not binding on Hamas. He then took over leadership of the most extremist wing of Hamas that unleashed and won the bloody military takeover in the Strip on 14 June 2007.

                  - Al-Zahhar personally engineered a purging of Hamas ranks in Gaza. Recently he has managed to oust all erstwhile Hamas leaders and to replace most of them with people who owe their allegiance to the new Hamas triumvirate: Al-Zahhar, Said Siam and Ahmed Al-Jaabari. The latter is the effective commander of the Qassam brigades. This leadership had previously dismissed prominent Hamas figures that had been described as moderates. Among these were Ghazi Hamad and Ahmed Youssef, Ismail Haniyeh's spokesman and political advisor respectively. These changes have shifted the internal power balances in Hamas away from the Damascus- based politburo headed by Khaled Meshaal and towards the Shura Council in Gaza headed by Al-Zahhar and Al-Jaabari. Is also clear that the Hamas leadership, especially in Gaza, is playing a waiting game until 9 January 2009, the end of Mahmoud Abbas's term as PA president, at which point it will proclaim the current deputy speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Ahmed Bahr, the interim president pending elections that will be next to impossible to hold. Therefore, for ideological reasons combined with motives that have very much to do with power, status and influence, the current Hamas leadership in Gaza is hardly likely to agree to an arrangement that would lead to Hamas's return to the PA and end the current fragmentation.

                  - In view of the foregoing, the Hamas leadership is obviously trying to turn the subject of the national dialogue to its own political advantage. This is apparent in its recent statements questioning Egypt's integrity as a mediator in this dialogue. One of Hamas's immediate objectives here is to pressure Egypt into opening the Rafah border, and as additional leverage it has been hinting that it may drop Egypt as a broker in negotiating a prisoner exchange with Israel for the captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and turn, instead, to German or Qatari mediation.

                  n the other side of the fissure, the Abbas faction exhibits diverse tendencies. There are, of course, those who sincerely believe that it is impossible to fulfil the national aspiration of establishing an independent Palestinian state under the conditions of current disunity and who, therefore, advocate an unconditional reunification of the West Bank and Gaza. But there are also those that want Gaza back minus Hamas as well as those that are no longer interested in Gaza with or without Hamas. These last two camps are also perfectly capable of undermining national dialogue and obstructing an agreement.

                  But there is a third party on the Palestinian political map. Consisting of all the factions apart from Hamas and Fatah, it has put its full weight behind the Egyptian drive to find a way out of the current crisis. This camp further insists on being a party to any dialogue and agreement so as to forestall the prospect of a shaky bilateral Fatah- Hamas power-sharing agreement that would undoubtedly collapse again to the even greater detriment of Palestinian unity.

                  Perhaps to this latter camp we should add the more than 40 per cent of the Palestinian public that supports neither Fatah nor Hamas, and perhaps none of the political factions at all. This important silent majority has absolutely no one to represent its concerns and interests that are generally neglected in all those endless dialogues.

                  The internal Palestinian situation is, indeed, extremely dire. With their major factions at each other's throats, their leaders are more vulnerable than ever to outside meddling, especially from other regional forces, some of which may have no interest whatsoever in seeing an agreement emerge from the inter-Palestinian dialogues. Sadly, it seems that Arafat took both his virtues and flaws to his final resting place -- and, perhaps too, the last vestiges of any autonomous Palestinian will. One can only conclude, therefore, that the internal dynamics are far from conducive to a constructive dialogue that could be crowned with an agreement that restores Palestinian unity.

                  The regional dimension, too, offers little hope, precisely because of the above-mentioned rise in outside meddling in Palestinian internal affairs on the part of parties that see it in their interest perpetuate the current situation and, hence, to obstruct Egyptian efforts to help the Palestinians out of their predicament.

                  Israel, of course, is the first and foremost power that would like to perpetuate the gulf between Fatah and Hamas so as to keep the latter isolated in Gaza, out of touch with the West Bank and under its control. In fact, this is precisely the situation that Sharon had begun to engineer with his unilateral disengagement from Gaza in September 2005, a move essentially aimed to forestall the creation of a truly viable, independent and geographically contiguous state. Then both Olmert and Barak followed through with their "isolate and deter" policy towards Gaza following the Hamas takeover there. One has to admit that Israeli strategy succeeded in compelling Hamas to sue for the truce agreement that took affect on 19 June. It met with an even greater success in compelling Hamas to clamp down on other factions and families in Gaza in order to bring the security situation under control and sustain the truce with Israel. Minister of Defence Ehud Barak expressed both his pleasure and surprise at Hamas's ability to halt the firing of missiles from Gaza into Israel. Not even a massive Israeli incursion could have guaranteed the total calm that Hamas is now preserving in Gaza, he said recently.

                  At the same time, Israel has been deftly playing the factions off against each other. While dangling a few carrots before Abbas, it continues to express its doubts that he has the necessary support to implement a political settlement. At the same time, Israel has been keeping up just enough pressure to forestall any solution to the Fatah standoff with Hamas.

                  Israel clearly has many means to intervene in order to hamper an agreement between the Palestinian factions. Moreover, Israel has an additional interest in perpetuating the current Palestinian rift in view of the incessant security- based, economic and political headache the situation in Gaza is causing Egypt. We can therefore expect that at the first sign of anything positive coming out of the Cairo sponsored inter- Palestinian dialogue Israel will step in immediately to douse the hope.

                  In spite of the cold war between them, Iran shares Israel's interest in forestalling a solution to the Palestinian rift. For Tehran, perpetuating Hamas's control in Gaza accomplishes numerous ends. The Hamas connection places Iran at the borders of both Israel and Egypt. The relationship with the Sunni organisation is useful to refute the claim that Iran is a bastion of Shia evangelism. Thirdly, the Hamas card is an asset in Tehran's negotiations with the US and the West in general as it jockeys to establish itself as a dominant power in the Middle East. For these reasons, at least, Iran has sent out messages cautioning that if it does not get a seat in the inter-Palestinian dialogue with Cairo and other parties that dialogue will lead nowhere.

                  Syria is a third major regional player that could adversely affect Egyptian mediation efforts. Like Iran, Syria's close relationship with Hamas gives it an important asset in the Syrian-Israeli negotiations that are currently being brokered by Ankara and in its bid to improve its relations with the US and the West, which had deteriorated greatly when Damascus came under suspicion of having masterminded the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Al-Hariri.

                  o the foregoing parties we can add Qatar, which has also been scrambling to reserve a seat alongside the major players around the Palestinian gaming table. Qatar bases its claim on the part it played in brokering a Lebanese agreement in Doha, on its excellent relations with all parties from Israel to Hamas, Iran and Syria, and on its considerable financial capacities. The summit in Damascus on 4 September between France, Turkey, Syria and Qatar left no doubt that the latter has elbowed its way in as a broker in a prisoner exchange deal between Hamas and Israel. This is another indicator of the Qatari desire to play a role in the Palestinian dialogue, although this role may not necessarily be positive if the objective is to turn the dialogue to the advantage of Doha or other parties.

                  The general international situation at present does not offer much cause for hope either because of the general climate of transition and suspense. Everyone is waiting to see the results of the Kadima Party elections and whether Olmert's successor will be able to keep the ruling coalition in Israel together. In addition, everyone in the Middle East, as elsewhere, is waiting to see whom the US presidential elections will bring in as Bush's successor. It is little wonder, therefore, that no one in the region is in a rush to get anything done and that whatever actions the various parties are taking at present are little more than tactical manoeuvres as they position themselves on the Middle East chessboard in anticipation of the outcome of the Israeli and US elections. This applies in particular to the Palestinian situation and the Egyptian initiative to promote a breakthrough that would lead to the restoration of Palestinian national unity.

                  owever, in view of the current interplay within and between the Palestinian, regional and international dimensions few are holding their breath for such a breakthrough -- at least one that would be sustainable and binding on all parties. Aggravating the scepticism is the speed with which the Saudi-brokered Mecca Agreement collapsed. Signed between Fatah and Hamas on 7 February 2007, it broke down within three months, sweeping the Palestinians towards an even more recalcitrant impasse.

                  Still, in spite of the pessimism surrounding the Cairo-sponsored Palestinian dialogue, there remains a glimmer of hope of imposing an Arab solution that would supersede other proposed solutions and be binding on all sides. Perhaps, therefore, it would be useful here to cast an analytical glance over the various initiatives for resolving the so far unsolvable Palestinian dilemma.

                  Topping the list is the Palestinian initiative launched recently by Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister in Ramallah. Fayyad proposes the immediate formation of a unified interim government without waiting for the results of the Cairo dialogues. The interim government would consist of prominent independent Palestinian figures that are unallied with and not indebted to any of the factions or parties and whose primary tasks would be to oversee the reunification of Gaza and the West Bank, reunify the institutions of government, and prepare for new parliamentary and presidential elections to be held at the soonest possible opportunity. The initiative also calls for the restructuring of Palestinian security agencies on a professional, non- partisan and institutionalised basis.

                  Hamas rejected the Fayyad initiative, while most other factions, notably the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the People's Party and the National Initiative, proposed a very similar initiative to that of Fayyad, with the major difference being that its proponents prefer that it emanates from a consensus among all the factions taking part in the Cairo dialogues. These factions want the electoral law revised to provide for a system based on proportional representation. They also insist that the West Bank and Gaza should constitute a single electoral zone. These measures, they argue, will produce more equitable results and prevent the intensive polarisation between Hamas and Fatah. They also urge the implementation of the Cairo Declaration with regards to the rehabilitation and reactivation of the PLO and appeal to all parties and factions to abide by the National Concord document that was signed by all factions on 27 June 2006.

                  Hamas stands alone in rejecting any initiative that calls for new and early general elections.

                  There have also been Israeli initiatives to remedy the Palestinian situation, from the perspective of Israeli strategic objectives of course. The Israeli list of options includes in order of precedence:

                  1. Prolonging the separation and isolation of Gaza from the West Bank and feeding the factors conducive to perpetuating this situation and forestalling the establishment of a viable, geographically contiguous independent state.

                  There has also been talk in Israel recently of the creation of "three states for two peoples". These are, in addition to Israel, a Hamas state in Gaza and a second Palestinian state on the other side of the separation wall in the West Bank. This "proposal" was aired recently by at least two prominent Israeli figures: director of the Moshe Dayan Centre for Middle Eastern and African Studies, Professor Eyal Zisser, on 1 August, and the columnist Avi Bakharov in Haaretz on 27 July.

                  The so-called "regional solution" has also been receiving considerable play recently. According to this scheme, Egypt would resume indirect control over Gaza, overseeing the security, economic and political situation there while Jordan and Israel would work out a division of labour in the management of the situation in the West Bank.

                  To the foregoing initiatives we should also add the proposal to internationalise the Palestinian question. This proposal calls for placing the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 under a UN mandate for a set period in accordance with a Security Council resolution that would create an international board of guardians that would oversee the phased withdrawal of Israeli forces, the construction of Palestinian governing institutions and the establishment of a viable independent state alongside Israel.

                  So far there has been no official initiative to this effect. However, there have been important attempts to flesh out its central points, the most important being that by former US ambassador Martin Indyk. I, too, have written on the subject. Between the Israelis and Palestinians the idea of partial internationalisation has been tossed about. However, this focuses almost exclusively on the security dimension and does not begin to approach the comprehensiveness of the international mandate project.

                  Apart from such ideas and projects, there remains the opportunity for an Egyptian-Arab solution to the Palestinian internal crisis. Work towards this solution began when Egypt adopted the appeal by Abbas on 4 June calling for a comprehensive national dialogue aiming to restore Palestinian national unity. In order to get the ball rolling, Cairo put several fundamental questions to all factions. It then held preparatory meetings for which it insisted that the factions be represented at the highest level so as to ensure a minimum degree of commitment and to close off some avenues to wriggling out of the commitment. On the basis of what comes out of these meetings, Cairo will probably then prepare a draft national unity agreement that would then be put before an expanded conference attended by representatives of all Palestinian factions following the Eid Al-Fitr holiday.

                  t is also expected that, at a relatively advanced stage, the Arab League will lend its full backing to the Palestinian dialogue in order to ensure the broadest possible support and the greatest possible chances of success. In order for this dialogue to succeed, the following conditions have to be met:

                  1. Egypt's preliminary talks will at least have to establish the existence of Palestinian unanimity over the principles of a solution.

                  2. The Arab League General Secretariat will need to have formulated a clear and detailed perception of the role the Arab League will play in this process.

                  3. The members of the Arab League will have to reach consensus over the draft solution and the Arab League's role in it.

                  4. They will simultaneously need to forestall the emergence of parallel forums or channels intended to circumvent the Arab consensus, and they must also neutralise bids by non-Arab regional powers to meddle in the internal Palestinian dispute and to undermine the Arab project.

                  5. It will also be important to rally as much international support as possible behind this Arab drive.

                  6. Finally, the Arab solution will need to be linked to the creation of two important mechanisms. The first is a higher Arab committee in charge of overseeing the implementation of the agreement, compelling the various parties to meet their obligations, and publicising every breach of the agreement. The second mechanism is an Arab list of specifically defined political and economic sanctions that would be strictly and resolutely imposed on any Palestinian party that violates the agreement or otherwise obstructs its implementation or that fails to live up to its commitments.

                  In view of the circumstances that currently prevail in the region and given certain customary modes of Arab behaviour, meeting these conditions will certainly be an uphill drive. However, if they are not met, the Arab solution will end up a total circus while internal Palestinian dissension continues to blaze.

                  * The writer is director of the Middle East forum.

                  Al Ahram

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                    Experience suffering up close

                    English (US)  September 12th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                    Refusal by Israel and Egypt to let Western peace activists leave Gaza has given them a new will to protest against the siege, writes Saleh Al-Naami

                    British journalist and peace activist Lauren Booth, sister-in-law of former British premier Tony Blair who is now an international Middle East peace envoy, attends a protest against the Israeli siege in Gaza

                    A wide smile spread across the face of Jimmy Lail when the sunset call to prayer rang out announcing the end of another day of Ramadan fasting. Lail began to eat the fast-breaking meal, beginning with a few dates. Lail is one of the international peace activists stuck in the Gaza Strip since Israel and Egypt refused to allow them to leave, and he and his five colleagues were the guests that day of a Gazan family who insisted they break the fast with them.


                    Lail and his colleagues began fasting at the start of Ramadan in solidarity with the Palestinians. "We declared our fasting in solidarity with a million and a half Palestinians who fast under a deadly siege," he said. Since the start of Ramadan, Palestinian families and the Popular Committee for Ending the Siege have invited the six activists to their fast-breaking tables and have provided their pre-dawn meals. The six plan to fast the entire month of Ramadan as an expression of their solidarity with the Palestinians.

                    Although the Israeli and Egyptian authorities barred them from leaving the Gaza Strip, the international activists have shown no complaints over staying in Gaza. On the contrary, they have all expressed that this Israeli and Egyptian action has allowed them to better experience the reality of thousands of Palestinians' suffering. One of the solidarity activists who had intended to leave the Gaza Strip is Lauren Booth, the sister-in-law of former British prime minister and Quartet committee delegate Tony Blair. "I thank the Israeli army that allowed me, with its decision to prevent my leaving the Gaza Strip, to get to know what life is like in the world's largest prison," she told Al-Ahram Weekly. Booth said that although she had intended to leave the Gaza Strip and return to Britain to be present as her children returned to school, her staying in Gaza has allowed her to experience the extent of the humanitarian catastrophe Palestinians there suffer under the siege.

                    "This is organised state terrorism practised against Palestinians, when they leave the sick to die for lack of treatment or permission to travel," she said. "Only those who visit Gaza can know the truth of the tragic reality of people here, and can discover how misleading Israel is in its claims." Booth considers Israel's decision to prevent her from leaving the Gaza Strip a form of punishment for her participation in the Free Gaza boat trip that broke the siege, but stresses that this has not crushed her resolve to continue the struggle against the siege. What is more disturbing for Booth is the Egyptian position, for the Egyptian authorities refused to let her leave the Gaza Strip when she tried while the Rafah crossing was open for two days. Booth says that over three days she spent 25 hours trying to leave the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing in a bus with more than 100 people and in heat exceeding 50 degrees Celsius.

                    The six activists intend to make use of every moment they spend in Gaza to protest against the siege. They also want to share the experience of besieged Palestinians and encourage them to remain steadfast. Last Saturday morning the solidarity activists spent hours on a fishing boat across from the Rafah city coast in the furthest southern point of the Gaza Strip. They believed that they could record another "victory" over the Israeli army after having reached the Gaza coast and broken the siege despite Israel's initial rejection of their arrival. The goal of this activity was to attempt to widen the fishing area allowed to Palestinian fishermen.

                    The Oslo Accords allowed Palestinian fishermen to fish up to six kilometres from the coast, but since the outbreak of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, the Israeli navy has not allowed Palestinian fishermen to go further than two kilometres. It claims security factors as the reason for this, and any boat that goes past the allowed limit is fired at. The activists encouraged fishermen on Saturday to exceed the limit set by the occupation army and to place fishing nets four kilometres from the coast, but less than an hour passed before Israeli warships fired warning shots at the fishermen and international activists, forcing them to return across the set line. George Crafest, one of the solidarity activists, says that although the attempt failed, it served as a sign to the Israeli army that unfair measures against the Palestinians would not be obeyed.

                    The international activists have tried to learn about life in the refugee camps and have visited most of those spread across the Gaza Strip, speaking with residents about life there. The activists have also spent the night in the impoverished homes of refugee families. Andu Monica, a Greek activist, was deeply affected when he spent a night with a family consisting of 12 and living in two rooms. "It's horrible when 12 individuals are crowded into a house that is only big enough for four at the most," he said. "Life in the refugee camps is the worst picture of life under occupation more than six decades following the Nakba [catastrophe] and the expulsion of the Palestinians from their land."

                    The international activists are also continuing their visits to Palestinian institutions and have visited hospitals several times, where they have learned close up about the tragic results of the siege on the Palestinian people. Activists were not able to hold back their tears when they saw and heard the cries of chronically ill patients suffering during their final hours in the various departments of Dar Al-Shifa Hospital, Gaza City's largest.

                    It is clear that the Israeli and Egyptian prevention of international activists from leaving the Gaza Strip will not deter other international peace and rights activists from approaching Gaza by sea. Jamal Al-Khudari, head of the popular committee for confronting the siege on the Gaza Strip, says that a new ship carrying activists will arrive on the Gaza coast on 22 September to break the siege that has been imposed on the Gaza Strip for more than a year.

                    In statements to the Weekly, Al-Khudari said that the ship will transport eight members of the European parliament, as well as academics, artists, media professionals, and 22 surgeons who will perform urgently needed operations for Palestinian patients who cannot leave the Gaza Strip due to the siege. Al-Khudari added that another ship would later arrive from Scotland transporting humanitarian aid. On the tenth of Ramadan, Egyptian parliamentarians and professional syndicate members will also attempt to break the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip by attempting to enter via the Rafah border crossing with large quantities of humanitarian aid.

                    According to Al-Khudari, the success of the Free Gaza ship in breaking the siege forced the Egyptian authorities to temporarily reopen the Rafah crossing and allow more than 4,500 people stranded in Gaza to leave and more than 1,400 Palestinians to enter. Al-Khudari expects that this international mobilisation will lead to a similar mobilisation of Arab public opinion that will make it difficult for Arab regimes to continue their indifference to the suffering of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

                    Eyad Al-Seraj, director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme and a prominent activist in the struggle against the siege, says that a million signatures will be collected from Gazans in a document to be submitted to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki- Moon to ask him to intervene for the lifting of the siege on Gaza.

                    Al-Seraj adds that the document will be presented during the regular session of the United Nations' General Assembly. It aims to express Palestinian popular and national will and to place pressure on the international community and particularly the United Nations' General Assembly to end the siege on the Gaza Strip. Al-Seraj says that the document stresses that the siege is a violation of international humanitarian law and human rights standards, and that Israel, in its capacity as the occupying state, is violating the Fourth Geneva Convention that requires it to respect civilians in time of war.

                    The document also states that the siege has caused an unprecedented rise in "rates of poverty and unemployment and to deteriorating levels of living for citizens and of nutrition, especially for children and pregnant women. It has also led to the suspension of the industrial and agricultural sectors as well as infrastructure and public services. This siege has accelerated the deterioration of humanitarian sectors and particularly health and education by preventing the ill from receiving treatment abroad and students from travelling to their universities."

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                      Venezuela expels US ambassador

                      English (US)  September 11th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                      Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president, has ordered the US ambassador to leave the country amid a series of tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions between Bolivia and the US.

                      The US had ordered the expulsion of the Bolivian ambassador earlier on Thursday after Washington's envoy to Bolivia was expelled by Evo Morales, the president.

                      Chavez, who gave Patrick Duddy 72 hours to leave, added that he was also recalling his ambassador from Washington.


                      "That's enough ... from you, Yankees," Chavez said on Thursday, using an expletive.

                      The Venezuelan president also warned that he would halt oil supplies to the US if it attacked Venezuela.

                      Jennifer Rahimi, a US embassy spokeswoman in Caracas said: "We saw the speech and we're investigating, but we haven't seen anything official.''

                      Morales expelled Phillip Goldberg, the US ambassador, from La Paz on Wednesday, accusing him of instigating violent protests in the Andean nation.

                      On Thursday, at least eight people were killed in Bolivia during continuing protests, led by rebel state governors demanding greater autonomy and opposing Morales' plans to give more land to the poor.

                      "The ambassador of the United States is conspiring against democracy and wants Bolivia to break apart," said Morales, who is a fierce critic of US policy.

                      Russian bombers

                      Tensions between the US and Venezuela had already risen after Russian sent two strategic bombers to Venezuela for military exercises.

                      Chavez said the aircraft had arrived to counter US influence in the region.

                      On Thursday, the US said it was monitoring the situation.

                      "It is something that we will watch very closely, as we have with the movements of other military assets for the stated purpose of this joint exercise," said Sean McCormack, a state department spokesman, on Thursday.

                      The Russian move is reported to be Moscow's first strategic deployment in the Western hemisphere since the end of the Cold War and comes amid increased tensions between Russia and the US over the recent conflict with Georgia.

                      Moscow remains angry that US used military vessels to carry aid to Georgia during Russia's recent military intervention there.

                      However, Russia insists that the deployment is part of a training exercise and that the bombers will return to Russia within days.


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                        Zionist Israel asks U.S. for arms, air corridor to attack Iran

                        English (US)  September 11th, 2008 by admin ( Email )


                        A Zionist spy satellite image allegedly of Iran's uranium enrichment plant in Natanz.

                        By Amos Harel and Aluf Benn, Haaretz Correspondents

                        The security aid package the United States has refused to give Israel for the past few months out of concern that Israel would use it to attack nuclear facilities in Iran included a large number of "bunker-buster" bombs, permission to use an air corridor to Iran, an advanced technological system and refueling planes.


                        Officials from both countries have been discussing the Israeli requests over the past few months. Their rejection would make it very difficult for Israel to attack Iran, if such a decision is made.

                        About a month ago, Haaretz reported that the Bush administration had turned down an Israeli request for certain security items that could upgrade Israel's capability to attack Iran. The U.S. administration reportedly saw the request as a sign preparations were moving ahead for an Israeli attack on Iran.
                        Diplomatic and security sources indicated to Haaretz that the list of components Israel included:

                        Bunker-buster GBU-28 bombs: In 2005, the U.S. said it was supplying these bombs to Israel. In August 2006, The New York Times reported that the U.S. had expedited the dispatch of additional bombs at the height of the Second Lebanon War. The bombs, which weigh 2.2 tons each, can penetrate six meters of reinforced concrete. Israel appears to have asked for a relatively large number of additional bunker-busters, and was turned down.

                        Air-space authorization: An attack on Iran would apparently require passage through Iraqi air space. For this to occur, an air corridor would be needed that Israeli fighter jets could cross without being targeted by American planes or anti-aircraft missiles. The Americans also turned down this request. According to one account, to avoid the issue, the Americans told the Israelis to ask Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki for permission, along the lines of "If you want, coordinate with him."

                        Refueling planes. An air attack on Iran would require refueling of fighter jets on the way back. According to a report on Channel 10 a few weeks ago, the U.S. rejected an Israeli request for more advanced refueling tankers, of the Boeing 767 model.

                        The refueling craft the Israel Air Force now uses are very outmoded, something that make it difficult to operate at long distances from Israel. Even if the Americans were to respond favorably to such a request, the process could take a few years.

                        The IDF recently reported that it is overhauling a Boeing 707 that previously served as the prime minister's plane to serve as a refueling aircraft.

                        Advanced technological systems. The Israeli sources declined to give any details on this point.

                        The Israeli requests were discussed during President George W. Bush's visit to Israel in May, as well as during Defense Minister Ehud Barak's visit to Washington in July. In a series of meetings at a very senior level, following Bush's visit, the Americans made clear to the Israelis that for now they are sticking to the diplomatic option to halt the Iranian nuclear project and that Jerusalem does not have a green light from Washington for an attack on Iran.

                        However, it appears that in compensation for turning down Israel's "offensive" requests, the U.S. has agreed to strengthen its defensive systems.

                        During the Barak visit, it was agreed that an advanced U.S. radar system would be stationed in the Negev, and the order to send it was made at that time. The system would double to 2,000 kilometers the range of identification of missiles launched from the direction of Iran, and would be connected to an American early warning system.

                        The system is to be operated by American civilians as well as two American soldiers. This would be the first permanent U.S. force on Israeli soil.

                        A senior security official said the Americans were preparing "with the greatest speed" to make good on their promise, and the systems could be installed within a month.

                        The Israeli security source said he believed Washington was moving ahead quickly on the request because it considered it very important to restrain Israel at this time.

                        At the beginning of the year, the Israeli leadership still considered it a reasonable possibility that Bush would decide to attack Iran before the end of his term.

                        Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, in private discussions, even raised the possibility that the U.S. was considering an attack in the transition period between the election in November and the inauguration of the new president in January 2009.

                        However, Jerusalem now assumes that likelihood of this possibility is close to nil, and that Bush will use the rest of his time in office to strengthen what he defines as the Iraqi achievement, following the relative success of American efforts there over the past year and a half.

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                          Kucinich: Remembering 9/11 -- and moving on

                          English (US)  September 11th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                          By Rep. Dennis Kucinich

                          America must move from the errant, retributive justice of 9/11 to a healing, restorative process of truth and reconciliation.

                          Before the Congress adjourns, I will bring forth a new proposal for the establishment of a National Commission on Truth and Reconciliation, which will have the power to compel testimony and gather official documents to reveal to the American people not only the underlying deception which has divided us, but in that process of truth-seeking to set our nation on a path of reconciliation.

                          We suffer in our remembrance of 9/11, because of the terrible loss of innocent lives on that grim day. We also suffer because 9/11 was seized as an opportunity to run a political agenda, which has set America on a course of the destruction of another nation and the destruction of our own Constitution. And we have become less secure as a result of the warped practice of pursing peace through the exercise of pre-emptive military strength.


                          It is not simply 9/11 that needs to be remembered. We also need to remember the politicization of 9/11 and the polarizing narrative which followed, locking us into endless conflict, a war on terror which has wrought further terror worldwide and which has severely damaged our standing worldwide as an honorable, compassionate nation. As we were all victims of 9/11, so we have become victims of the interpretation of 9/11.

                          Our government’s external response to 9/11 was to attack a nation which did not attack us. Indeed on the first anniversary of 9/11, the Bush administration issued a well-publicized stern warning to Iraq which was part of a campaign to induce people to believe Iraq had something to do with 9/11.

                          The deliberate, systematic connection of Iraq with 9/11 has led America into a philosophical and moral cul-de-sac as over 1 million Iraqis and over 4,155 U.S. soldiers have died in a war which will cost over $3 trillion. Additionally, soldiers from 23 other countries have died in the Iraq war.

                          We attempt to unite Iraq by further dividing it. We talk about restoring Iraq while taking steps to place control of its vast oil wealth in the hands of U.S. oil giants. And we intend to impose upon the Iraqi people the cost of rebuilding a country which our government ruined, keeping a once prosperous nation lashed to debt and poverty for a long, long time. Iraq has paid for 9/11. We all continue to pay for 9/11.

                          The heartbreaking loss of the lives and injuries to America troops further bind us to the administration’s illogic of the Iraq war: We remember our troops’ sacrifice by demanding more sacrifice; we support our troops by continuing the war.

                          The dominant color of our new national security since 911 is neither red, white nor blue. Every day is orange. Everyday reminders of fear of 9/11 become banal. ... Yet we no longer hear the airport announcements or see the orange-colored warnings because they have become commonplace standards in our new national security state, as have the Patriot Act, wiretapping and a host of invasions of privacy and diminution of civil liberties. The Constitution has been roundly attacked by the very people who took an oath to defend it.

                          There is a powerful desire across America for change, not necessarily from control by one political party to another, but a change from living with lies to living with truth.

                          Over two dozen nations, facing peril within and without, deeply divided by politics and war, have traveled down a path of restoring civil society through a formal process of reconciliation. At some point within each of those countries it was understood that the way forward is shown through the light of truth. This process is not without pain, because it requires a willingness to study evidence to which eyes had been averted and ears had been closed. But in the process of truth and reconciliation, nations found new strength, new resolve and new commitment.

                          The South African Truth and Reconciliation enabled that nation to come to grips with its past through a public confessional, bringing forward those who committed crimes and having the power to grant amnesty for full disclosure of crimes against the people. Of course, our path may necessarily be different: High U.S. government officials stand accused in impeachment petitions of violating national and international law. Our continued existence as a democracy may depend upon how thoroughly we seek the truth. I will call upon the America people to join me in supporting this effort.

                          The truth can move us forward, as a unified whole, so that we can one day become a re-United States. 9/11 is the day the world changed. It is the day America embraced a metaphor of war. If we are open to truth and reconciliation, we may one day be able, once again, to embrace peace.


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                            And another 9/11: 9/11 in Nablus: July 22, 2006

                            English (US)  September 11th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                            THIS REPORT IS REPRINTED FROM JULY 22, 2006

                            Abed Al Illah Ateereh, the director of the Ministry of the Interior in Nablus, with an old handwritten ledger that was found in the rubble

                            By Gale Courey Toensing

                            NABLUS, Palestine _ July 22, 2006 - For anyone who witnessed the results of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center buildings in New York City, the scene was horrifyingly familiar, albeit on a smaller scale.


                            The first evidence of the devastation was seen and felt blocks away from the site – billowing clouds of brown dust that filled the air, stung the eyes, and clogged the back of throats.

                            The site itself was a landscape of obliteration – the legacy of the Israeli Occupation Forces’ three-day blitzkrieg on a complex of public buildings that included the muqata’a – an enormous command and administrative structure built in the 1920s by the British – a Palestinian security building, part of a prison, and the ministries of agriculture and the interior.

                            Mountains of still smoldering debris were everywhere. Piles of stones, building materials, wood, twisted metal, shards of glass, crushed cars, and wires dangling crazily from fragments of electrical systems covered the ground.

                            The Israeli soldiers assaulted the city on Wednesday searching for “wanted men” for the purpose of “national security.” The siege followed the death of an Israeli soldier last Sunday when a group of soldiers entered the Old City by foot and engaged in a shooting clash with Palestinian resistance fighters.

                            The soldiers had used high grade military explosives to blow up the buildings in blasts so loud and powerful they could be heard all over the city. Windows and doors in surrounding buildings, most of which are residential homes, were blown out.

                            In addition to the destruction of public buildings, the Israelis killed at least six Palestinians and injured 85 before leaving the city in their armored vehicles Friday after dark under cover of a final massive explosion they set at the building complex.

                            Hundreds of thousands of documents were buried in the soil by the Israeli Occupation Forces.

                            Buried and half buried in the ruins of the Ministry of the Interior were hundreds of thousands of file cases and documents – birth and death certificates, identification records, passports and other travel documents, ledgers of hand written information – a heritage of historical information about Nablus residents that covered more than 100 years of successive Palestinian occupations under the Ottoman Empire, the British Mandate, the Jordanian kingdom, and the current Israeli regime.

                            “We offered to give the Israelis the keys of the building so they could search it to make sure there was no one hiding there, but that was not good enough for the Israelis, who insisted on demolishing everything,” said Abed Al Illah Ateereh, the director of the Ministry of the Interior in Nablus.

                            Ateereh was at the site Saturday morning directing dozens of municipal employees and volunteers sifting through the piles of wreckage and digging in the ruins in an effort to retrieve the few documents that were salvageable..

                            It was not an easy task.

                            “There is 100 percent damage,” Ateereh said. “They destroyed the building completely, but that wasn’t enough for the Israelis. They then used their Caterpillar bulldozers to churn up everything and mix all the documents with the soil so that nothing is able to be preserved,” Ateereh said.

                            The ministry had at least 175,000 individual case files each containing multiple documents. It will be impossible to recover an entire case file, Ateereh said. Some of the newer documents are backed up on a computer, but the old historical records are priceless and irreplaceable.

                            A Nicaraguan passport retrieved from the rubble

                            “Passports, birth certificates, family information, identity records – all the kinds of information that an interior ministry would keep are all gone. These documents were used not only by Palestinians, but also by UNICEF and other agencies and foreigners who came to the ministry to do research,” Ateereh said.

                            The destruction will have an immediate impact on thousands of people who intended to travel out of the country soon – students going abroad to continue their education, old people or sick people seeking medical care, people planning to visit family and anyone who depended on the ministry’s records.

                            Refugees in exile and in local refugee camps may also be impacted by Israel’s destructive spree. Several refugees from the Nablus area who are now in Syria came to the ministry for proof of their history and status as refugees, Ateereh said.

                            The Israeli military also attacked the Ministry of the Interior in Gaza earlier this month, and recently, journalist Amira Hass reported in Haaretz newspaper on a new Israeli clamp down to stop Palestinians in exile and the non-Palestinian spouses of Palestinian residents in the West Bank from entering the country.

                            Observers of the conflict said the destruction of personal identification records may indicate a new phase in Israel’s ongoing policy of ethnically cleansing the indigenous Arab population while the Jewish state continues its land grab through construction of the Apartheid Wall, expansion of its illegal settlements, and expropriation of around 28 percent of the West Bank in the Jordan Valley, some of the best agricultural land in the country.

                            Nablus Mayor Adly R. Yaish was also at the site early Saturday morning consulting with Ateereh on the situation. Yaish said the devastation of the public buildings was deliberate and unjustifiable.

                            “This is a civilian institution where all the reports for people are kept. You can see they were determined not only to destroy it, they mashed it and turned it upside down. These documents are from 100 years ago. They destroy everything,” Yaish said.

                            Asked if the city could afford the massive clean up effort, Yaish said, “Of course, the city has no money for this kind of clean up.”

                            The city also has no means of testing whether the Israelis used any chemicals or depleted uranium in their explosions, Yaish said. None of the workers digging through the debris were wearing masks or other protective gear.

                            The city will declare an emergency and refer people to other cities to try to solve the problem, at least temporarily, Ateereh said.

                            The city also plans to take legal action against Israel for its wanton destruction.

                            “We plan to take this case to the international court. We will work on it and we plan to contact all kinds of humanitarian institutions in the United States and everywhere about this injustice and violation of human rights. We hope everyone will express the Palestinians’ feelings of suffering from this kind of operation,” Ateereh said.

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                              The Coup in Chile: The Other 9/11

                              English (US)  September 11th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                              By PAUL CANTOR

                              Why did Osama bin Laden choose September 11 for his attack on America?

                              On September 11, 1973 a military coup d'état supported by the administration of President Richard M. Nixon in the United States put an end to the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende in Chile. After the coup Nixon supported both diplomatically and economically the military Junta that seized power. The junta, led by Augusto Pinochet, arrested, tortured and murdered thousands of Allende's supporters.

                              It is not farfetched, therefore, to suppose bin Laden chose September 11 in order to make us look like the pot calling the kettle black when we charged him with being an antidemocratic religious fundamentalist. And if that is the case the choice was well made.


                              In the past the U.S. supported the repressive regimes of Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua, Fulgencio Batista in Cuba, Suharto in Indonesia and Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines. In addition it helped to overthrow the democratically elected governments of Mohammad Mossadegh in Iran and Jacobo Árbenz in Guatemala. Yet as a textbook example of how the U.S. has violated human rights and the enlightenment ideals embodied in its constitution while undermining democracy and the rule of law in another country nothing surpasses Chile.

                              Chile before the coup was the most democratic country in Latin America and one of the most democratic countries in the world. It had a democratically elected President and a democratically elected two house legislature, an independent judiciary, a free and active press, and prestigious universities. Allende ran for President in 1952, 1958, and 1964 but it wasn't until 1970 when he ran as the candidate of a coalition of parties called the Popular Unity that he finally won.

                              During the time Allende was President the opposition published six daily newspapers in Santiago with a weekday circulation of 541,000 while pro-government forces published only 5 with a circulation of 312,000. Additionally, the opposition controlled the majority of radio stations and most of the newspapers and magazines circulating outside of Santiago. Nevertheless, in the congressional elections that took place six months before the coup the Popular Unity parties that supported Allende picked up six seats in the house and two seats in the Senate.

                              Yet despite Allende's popularity and respect for the democratic process, powerful heads of multinational corporations with disproportionate influence in Washington were hostile to him. They were hostile before he was elected because he threatened to nationalize their investments in Chile and hostile after he was elected because he carried out his threats.

                              Consequently, when Allende ran for President in 1964 President Johnson ordered the CIA to support a propaganda campaign to discredit him. Then, after a similar campaign failed in 1970 President Nixon and his national security advisor Henry Kissinger directed the CIA to promote a coup d'état. And finally, after the coup took place, Nixon and Kissinger looked the other way as the military Junta led by Pinochet unleashed a wave of violence and repression far worse than anything Chileans imagined could occur.

                              Thousands of Allende's supporters were arrested, tortured and murdered. Thousands more were exiled. The Congress and labor unions were abolished. Political parties were banned. The press was censored. Military officials were appointed as rectors of the universities. Books were burned. The music of popular folk singers was prohibited and Victor Jara, one of the best known of those singers, was arrested, tortured and killed.

                              Hence if Osama bin Laden wanted to make the point that the United States lacks credibility as an arbiter of democracy he could not have chosen a better date to carry out his attack on America than September 11. That may be a hard pill for us to swallow but swallow it we must if we are to learn from the past and work to change our image so others view us as a country whose actions in the international arena reflect our democratic ideals.

                              Paul Cantor is a professor of economics at Norwalk Community College in Connecticut.

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                                Chomsky: Ossetia-Georgia-Russia-USA: Towards a Second Cold War?

                                English (US)  September 11th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                By NOAM CHOMSKY

                                Aghast at the atrocities committed by US forces invading the Philippines, and the rhetorical flights about liberation and noble intent that routinely accompany crimes of state, Mark Twain threw up his hands at his inability to wield his formidable weapon of satire. The immediate object of his frustration was the renowned General Funston. “No satire of Funston could reach perfection,” Twain lamented, “because Funston occupies that summit himself... [he is] satire incarnated.”

                                It is a thought that often comes to mind, again in August 2008 during the Georgia-Ossetia-Russia war. George Bush, Condoleezza Rica and other dignitaries solemnly invoked the sanctity of the United Nations, warning that Russia could be excluded from international institutions “by taking actions in Georgia that are inconsistent with” their principles. The sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations must be rigorously honored, they intoned – “all nations,” that is, apart from those that the US chooses to attack: Iraq, Serbia, perhaps Iran, and a list of others too long and familiar to mention.


                                The junior partner joined in as well. British foreign secretary David Miliband accused Russia of engaging in “19th century forms of diplomacy” by invading a sovereign state, something Britain would never contemplate today. That “is simply not the way that international relations can be run in the 21st century,” he added, echoing the decider-in-chief, who said that invasion of “a sovereign neighboring state…is unacceptable in the 21st century.” Mexico and Canada therefore need not fear further invasions and annexation of much of their territory, because the US now only invades states that are not on its borders, though no such constraint holds for its clients, as Lebanon learned once again in 2006.

                                “The moral of this story is even more enlightening,” Serge Halimi writes in Le Monde Diplomatique and CounterPunch newsletter, “when, to defend his country's borders, the charming pro-American Saakashvili repatriates some of the 2,000 soldiers he had sent to invade Iraq,” one of the largest contingents apart from the two warrior states.

                                Prominent analysts joined the chorus. Fareed Zakaria applauded Bush’s observation that Russia’s behavior is unacceptable today, unlike the 19th century, “when the Russian intervention would have been standard operating procedure for a great power.” We therefore must devise a strategy for bringing Russia “in line with the civilized world,” where intervention is unthinkable.

                                There were, to be sure, some who shared Mark Twain’s despair. One distinguished example is Chris Patten, former EU commissioner for external relations, chairman of the British Conservative Party, chancellor of Oxford University and a member of the House of Lords. He wrote that the Western reaction “is enough to make even the cynical shake their heads in disbelief” – referring to Europe’s failure to respond vigorously to the effrontery of Russian leaders, who, “like 19th-century tsars, want a sphere of influence around their borders.”

                                Patten rightly distinguishes Russia from the global superpower, which long ago passed the point where it demanded a sphere of influence around its borders, and demands a sphere of influence over the entire world. It also acts vigorously to enforce that demand, in accord with the Clinton doctrine that Washington has the right to use military force to defend vital interests such as “ensuring uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies and strategic resources” – and in the real world, far more.

                                Clinton was breaking no new ground, of course. His doctrine derives from standard principles formulated by high-level planners during World War II, which offered the prospect of global dominance. In the postwar world, they determined, the US should aim “to hold unquestioned power” while ensuring the “limitation of any exercise of sovereignty” by states that might interfere with its global designs. To secure these ends, “the foremost requirement [is] the rapid fulfillment of a program of complete rearmament,” a core element of “an integrated policy to achieve military and economic supremacy for the United States.” The plans laid during the war were implemented in various ways in the years that followed.

                                The goals are deeply rooted in stable institutional structures. Hence they persist through changes in occupancy of the White House, and are untroubled by the opportunity for “peace dividends,” the disappearance of the major rival from the world scene, or other marginal irrelevancies. Devising new challenges is never beyond the reach of doctrinal managers, as when Ronald Reagan pulled on his cowboy boots and declared a national emergency because the Nicaraguan army was only two days from Harlingen Texas, and might lead the hordes who are about to “sweep over the United States and take what we have,” as Lyndon Johnson lamented when he called for holding the line in Vietnam. Most ominously, those holding the reins may actually believe their own words.

                                Returning to the efforts to elevate Russia to the civilized world, the seven charter members of the Group of Eight industrialized countries issued a statement “condemning the action of our fellow G8 member,” Russia, which has yet to comprehend the Anglo-American commitment to non-intervention. The European Union held a rare emergency meeting to condemn Russia’s crime, its first meeting since the invasion of Iraq, which elicited no condemnation.

                                Russia called for an emergency session of the Security Council, but no consensus was reached because, according to Council diplomats, the US, Britain, and some others rejected a phrase that called on both sides “to renounce the use of force.”

                                The typical reactions recall Orwell’s observations on the “indifference to reality” of the “nationalist,” who “not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but ... has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.”

                                The basic facts are not seriously in dispute. South Ossetia, along with the much more significant region of Abkhazia, were assigned by Stalin to his native Georgia. Western leaders sternly admonish that Stalin’s directives must be respected, despite the strong opposition of Ossetians and Abkhazians. The provinces enjoyed relative autonomy until the collapse of the USSR. In 1990, Georgia’s ultranationalist president Zviad Gamsakhurdia abolished autonomous regions and invaded South Ossetia. The bitter war that followed left 1000 dead and tens of thousands of refugees, with the capital city of Tskhinvali “battered and depopulated” (New York Times).

                                A small Russian force then supervised an uneasy truce, broken decisively on August 7, 2008, when Georgian president Saakashvili’s ordered his forces to invade. According to “an extensive set of witnesses,” the Times reports, Georgia’s military at once “began pounding civilian sections of the city of Tskhinvali, as well as a Russian peacekeeping base there, with heavy barrages of rocket and artillery fire.” The predictable Russian response drove Georgian forces out of South Ossetia, and Russia went on to conquer parts of Georgia, then partially withdrawing to the vicinity of South Ossetia. There were many casualties and atrocities. As is normal, the innocent suffered severely.

                                Russia reported at first that ten Russian peacekeepers were killed by Georgian shelling. The West took little notice. That too is normal. There was, for example, no reaction when Aviation Week reported that 200 Russians were killed in an Israeli air raid in Lebanon in 1982 during a US-backed invasion that left some 15-20,000 dead, with no credible pretext beyond strengthening Israeli control over the occupied West Bank.

                                Among Ossetians who fled north, the “prevailing view,” according to the London Financial Times, “is that Georgia’s pro-western leader, Mikheil Saakashvili, tried to wipe out their breakaway enclave.” Ossetian militias, under Russian eyes, then brutally drove out Georgians, in areas beyond Ossetia as well. “Georgia said its attack had been necessary to stop a Russian attack that already had been under way,” the New York Times reports, but weeks later “there has been no independent evidence, beyond Georgia’s insistence that its version is true, that Russian forces were attacking before the Georgian barrages.”

                                In Russia, the Wall Street Journal reports, “legislators, officials and local analysts have embraced the theory that the Bush administration encouraged Georgia, its ally, to start the war in order to precipitate an international crisis that would play up the national-security experience of Sen. John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate.” In contrast, French author Bernard-Henri Levy, writing in the New Republic, proclaims that “no one can ignore the fact that President Saakashvili only decided to act when he no longer had a choice, and war had already come. In spite of this accumulation of facts that should have been blindingly obvious to all scrupulous, good-faith observers, many in the media rushed as one man toward the thesis of the Georgians as instigators, as irresponsible provocateurs of the war.”

                                The Russian propaganda system made the mistake of presenting evidence, which was easily refuted. Its Western counterparts, more wisely, keep to authoritative pronouncements, like Levy’s denunciation of the major Western media for ignoring what is “blindingly obvious to all scrupulous, good-faith observers” for whom loyalty to the state suffices to establish The Truth – which, perhaps, is even true, serious analysts might conclude.

                                The Russians are losing the “propaganda war,” BBC reported, as Washington and its allies have succeeded in “presenting the Russian actions as aggression and playing down the Georgian attack into South Ossetia on August 7, which triggered the Russian operation,” though “the evidence from South Ossetia about that attack indicates that it was extensive and damaging.” Russia has “not yet learned how to play the media game,” the BBC observes. That is natural. Propaganda has typically become more sophisticated as countries become more free and the state loses the ability to control the population by force.

                                The Russian failure to provide credible evidence was partially overcome by the Financial Times, which discovered that the Pentagon had provided combat training to Georgian special forces commandos shortly before the Georgian attack on August 7, revelations that “could add fuel to accusations by Vladimir Putin, Russian prime minister, last month that the US had `orchestrated’ the war in the Georgian enclave.” The training was in part carried out by former US special forces recruited by private military contractors, including MPRI, which, as the journal notes, “was hired by the Pentagon in 1995 to train the Croatian military prior to their invasion of the ethnically-Serbian Krajina region, which led to the displacement of 200,000 refugees and was one of the worst incidents of ethnic cleansing in the Balkan wars.” The US-backed Krajina expulsion (generally estimated at 250,000, with many killed) was possibly the worst case of ethnic cleansing in Europe since World War II. Its fate in approved history is rather like that of photographs of Trotsky in Stalinist Russia, for simple and sufficient reasons: it does not accord with the required image of US nobility confronting Serbian evil.

                                The toll of the August 2008 Caucasus war is subject to varying estimates. A month afterwards, the Financial Times cited Russian reports that “at least 133 civilians died in the attack, as well as 59 of its own peacekeepers,” while in the ensuing Russian mass invasion and aerial bombardment of Georgia, according to the FT, 215 Georgians died, including 146 soldiers and 69 civilians. Further revelations are likely to follow.

                                In the background lie two crucial issues. One is control over pipelines to Azerbaijan and Central Asia. Georgia was chosen as a corridor by Clinton to bypass Russia and Iran, and was also heavily militarized for the purpose. Hence Georgia is “a very major and strategic asset to us,” Zbigniew Brzezinski observes.

                                It is noteworthy that analysts are becoming less reticent in explaining real US motives in the region as pretexts of dire threats and liberation fade and it becomes more difficult to deflect Iraqi demands for withdrawal of the occupying army. Thus the editors of the Washington Post admonished Barack Obama for regarding Afghanistan as “the central front” for the United States, reminding him that Iraq “lies at the geopolitical center of the Middle East and contains some of the world's largest oil reserves,” and Afghanistan’s “strategic importance pales beside that of Iraq.” A welcome, if belated, recognition of reality about the US invasion.

                                The second issue is expansion of NATO to the East, described by George Kennan in 1997 as “the most fateful error of American policy in the entire post-cold-war era, [which] may be expected to inflame the nationalistic, anti-Western and militaristic tendencies in Russian opinion; to have an adverse effect on the development of Russian democracy; to restore the atmosphere of the cold war to East-West relations.”

                                As the USSR collapsed, Mikhail Gorbachev made a concession that was astonishing in the light of recent history and strategic realities: he agreed to allow a united Germany to join a hostile military alliance. This “stunning concession” was hailed by Western media, NATO, and President Bush I, who called it a demonstration of “statesmanship ... in the best interests of all countries of Europe, including the Soviet Union.”

                                Gorbachev agreed to the stunning concession on the basis of “assurances that NATO would not extend its jurisdiction to the east, `not one inch’ in [Secretary of State] Jim Baker's exact words.” This reminder by Jack Matlock, the leading Soviet expert of the Foreign Service and US ambassador to Russia in the crucial years 1987 to 1991, is confirmed by Strobe Talbott, the highest official in charge of Eastern Europe in the Clinton administration. On the basis of a full review of the diplomatic record, Talbott reports that “Secretary of State Baker did say to then Soviet foreign minister Eduard Shevardnadze, in the context of the Soviet Union's reluctant willingness to let a unified Germany remain part of NATO, that NATO would not move to the east.”

                                Clinton quickly reneged on that commitment, also dismissing Gorbachev’s effort to end the Cold War with cooperation among partners. NATO also rejected a Russian proposal for a nuclear-weapons-free-zone from the Arctic to the Black Sea, which would have “interfered with plans to extend NATO,” strategic analyst and former NATO planner Michael MccGwire observes.

                                Rejecting these possibilities, the US took a triumphalist stand that threatened Russian security and also played a major role in driving Russia to severe economic and social collapse, with millions of deaths. The process was sharply escalated by Bush’s further expansion of NATO, dismantling of crucial disarmament agreements, and aggressive militarism. Matlock writes that Russia might have tolerated incorporation of former Russian satellites into NATO if it “had not bombed Serbia and continued expanding. But, in the final analysis, ABM missiles in Poland, and the drive for Georgia and Ukraine in NATO crossed absolute red lines. The insistence on recognizing Kosovo independence was sort of the very last straw. Putin had learned that concessions to the U.S. were not reciprocated, but used to promote U.S. dominance in the world.Once he had the strength to resist, he did so,” in Georgia.

                                Clinton officials argue that expansion of NATO posed no military threat, and was no more than a benign move to allow former Russian satellites to join the EU (Talbott). That is hardly persuasive. Austria, Sweden and Finland are in the EU but not NATO. If the Warsaw Pact had survived and was incorporating Latin American countries – let alone Canada and Mexico – the US would not easily be persuaded that the Pact is just a Quaker meeting. There should be no need to review the record of US violence to block mostly fanciful ties to Moscow in “our little region over here,” the Western hemisphere, to quote Secretary of War Henry Stimson when he explained that all regional systems must be dismantled after World II, apart from our own, which are to be extended.

                                To underscore the conclusion, in the midst of the current crisis in the Caucasus, Washington professes concern that Russia might resume military and intelligence cooperation with Cuba at a level not remotely approaching US-Georgia relations, and not a further step towards a significant security threat.

                                Missile defense too is presented here as benign, though leading US strategic analysts have explained why Russian planners must regard the systems and their chosen location as the basis for a potential threat to the Russian deterrent, hence in effect a first-strike weapon. The Russian invasion of Georgia was used as a pretext to conclude the agreement to place these systems in Poland, thus “bolstering an argument made repeatedly by Moscow and rejected by Washington: that the true target of the system is Russia,” AP commentator Desmond Butler observed.

                                Matlock is not alone in regarding Kosovo as an important factor. “Recognition of South Ossetia's and Abkhazia's independence was justified on the principle of a mistreated minority's right to secession - the principle Bush had established for Kosovo,” the Boston Globe editors comment.

                                But there are crucial differences. Strobe Talbott recognizes that “there's a degree of payback for what the U.S. and NATO did in Kosovo nine years ago,” but insists that the “analogy is utterly and profoundly false.” No one is a better position to know why it is profoundly false, and he has lucidly explained the reasons, in his preface to a book on NATO’s bombing of Serbia by his associate John Norris. Talbott writes that those who want to know “how events looked and felt at the time to those of us who were involved” in the war should turn to Norris’s well-informed account. Norris concludes that “it was Yugoslavia’s resistance to the broader trends of political and economic reform – not the plight of Kosovar Albanians – that best explains NATO’s war.”

                                That the motive for the NATO bombing could not have been “the plight of Kosovar Albanians” was already clear from the rich Western documentary record revealing that the atrocities were, overwhelmingly, the anticipated consequence of the bombing, not its cause. But even before the record was released, it should have been evident to all but the most fervent loyalists that humanitarian concern could hardly have motivated the US and Britain, which at the same time were lending decisive support to atrocities well beyond what was reported from Kosovo, with a background far more horrendous than anything that had happened in the Balkans. But these are mere facts, hence of no moment to Orwell’s “nationalists” – in this case, most of the Western intellectual community, who had made an enormous investment in self-aggrandizement and prevarication about the “noble phase” of US foreign policy and its “saintly glow” as the millennium approached its end, with the bombing of Serbia as the jewel in the crown.

                                Nevertheless, it is interesting to hear from the highest level that the real reason for the bombing was that Serbia was a lone holdout in Europe to the political and economic programs of the Clinton administration and its allies, though it will be a long time before such annoyances are allowed to enter the canon.

                                There are of course other differences between Kosovo and the regions of Georgia that call for independence or union with Russia. Thus Russia is not known to have a huge military base there named after a hero of the invasion of Afghanistan, comparable to Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo, named after a Vietnam war hero and presumably part of the vast US basing system aimed at the Middle East energy-producing regions. And there are many other differences.

                                There is much talk about a “new cold war” instigated by brutal Russian behavior in Georgia. One cannot fail to be alarmed by signs of confrontation, among them new US naval contingents in the Black Sea – the counterpart would hardly be tolerated in the Caribbean. Efforts to expand NATO to Ukraine, now contemplated, could become extremely hazardous.

                                Nonetheless, a new cold war seems unlikely. To evaluate the prospect, we should begin with clarity about the old cold war. Fevered rhetoric aside, in practice the cold war was a tacit compact in which each of the contestants was largely free to resort to violence and subversion to control its own domains: for Russia, its Eastern neighbors; for the global superpower, most of the world. Human society need not endure – and might not survive – a resurrection of anything like that.

                                A sensible alternative is the Gorbachev vision rejected by Clinton and undermined by Bush. Sane advice along these lines has recently been given by former Israeli Foreign Minister and historian Shlomo ben-Ami, writing in the Beirut Daily Star: “Russia must seek genuine strategic partnership with the US, and the latter must understand that, when excluded and despised, Russia can be a major global spoiler. Ignored and humiliated by the US since the Cold War ended, Russia needs integration into a new global order that respects its interests as a resurgent power, not an anti-Western strategy of confrontation.”

                                Noam Chomsky's most recent book is Failed States: the Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy.


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                                  Zionist Israel kills one Palestinian, wounds another, and kidnaps two in illegal invasion into illegally occupied Nablus

                                  English (US)  September 11th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                  By Saed Bannoura

                                  Palestinian medical sources in Nablus, in the northern part of the West Bank, reported on Wednesday evening that one Palestinian resident was killed and another was wounded by Israeli military gunfire as the army invaded the city in an attempt to kidnap a fighter of the Al Aqsa Brigades, the armed wing of Fateh movement.


                                  The sources sated that, Waleed Freitikh, 25, was killed by gunshots fired by undercover forces of the Israeli army. The forces were attempting to ambush and kidnap Ja’far Ja’ara, a member of the Al Aqsa Brigades.

                                  The Maan News Agency reported that Freitikh was shot while he was at home and that he was shot in his legs but bled to death as the soldiers barred medics from reaching him. His body was later moved to Rafidia hospital, west of Nablus.

                                  The agency added that Ja’far Ja’ara, was kidnapped by the undercover forces along with another residents identified as Raef Sha’ban who was released from an Israeli prison two weeks ago as his name was among the list of detainees that Israel releases as “a gesture of good will” from Israel’s Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, towards president Mahmoud Abbas.

                                  Local sources reported that the undercover forces first surrounded the house of Freitikh during evening hours in Ras Al Ein neighborhood in Nablus, later on at least thirty military vehicles invaded the area.


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                                    A 10th grade student from Gaza speaks out: A Girl from Gaza Identified by her ID

                                    English (US)  September 11th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                    By Haneen Zaqout, Grade 10, Friends School- Ramallah

                                    We all spend a lifetime trying to figure out what makes someone who they are, and what defines them. Is it their characteristics, appearances, or behaviors? It may be a combination of all…for regular people. But for people who come from where I come from, figuring out who they are is not a choice for them. I come from Gaza City in Palestine, where surviving each day is a huge struggle for all Gazans. Leaving Gaza was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, partly because I miss my old life, and partly it is the guilt kicking in.


                                    When I left Gaza, I had to go through this checkpoint. It’s not ANY checkpoint. It is the Erez Checkpoint and its there to imprison the people of Gaza because as soon as the Israeli soldiers see a Gaza ID, that person is automatically considered an utter terrorist. Without knowing who they are, without any idea whatsoever about those people, they decide that they are criminals. Who has the right to take a person’s identity from them? Or to judge them based on a piece of paper or nationality? How can they take away people’s choice of trying to figure out who they really are? I don’t know… but as I was walking through that long tunnel in that checkpoint, I realized that no matter what I do, no one will accept me for who I am. In that tunnel, they make no difference whether I am a terrorist or a person who is yearning for peace, not only for my people but also for the Israeli people.

                                    I had the “privilege” to leave Gaza that others dream of having. Not because they don’t love Gaza, nor for the fun of it, but because it is so hard to live there. Home became something you want to escape from instead of being the place you can run to when life gets too hard. As soon as I was through that checkpoint, after being treated like an animal, after being “numbered” like baggage, checked out by all the screening machines that never occurred to my mind that I would ever see them. I now live in Ramallah, which is only 2 hours away from Gaza. I left that exotic part of the world called Gaza; but still have it on my mind every second of the day, still influenced by my past there, and still motivated by its people’s strengths.

                                    On the news, the talk about how Gaza has NO fuel, NO food, and even NO electricity; but the TV is just a source of information to pass on how people are suffering…does that mean that anyone outside Gaza understands what the people are really going through? No, they listen to that devastating news, ‘feel bad’ for the people going through it, and continue on with their lives like nothing happened. Maybe some people can pretend, but as for myself I can’t! This is the main reason I’m writing this for as much as I know that words can be inconsequential, they can also make a difference in many people’s lives.

                                    I hate that I feel guilty every time I eat a piece of chocolate, knowing that a friend or a little child is craving one. I hate that when I’m bored I can open the TV or the computer and waste time, while my friends have nothing to do considering they have no electricity. I hate how I can go wherever I want, whenever I want, even outside Ramallah, while my friends are stuck at home because they have no fuel to even go around Gaza city! I hate buying new clothes, because my friends can’t. I hate that I’m absolutely and utterly helpless.

                                    However in Gaza, regardless of the situation, you always find love and hope, you find people struggling for their lives. A mother trying to put a smile on her child’s face, a father trying to get the strength to protect his child’s little body from a missile. In Gaza you find those mixed feelings between love and hatred, between hope and despair, between frustration and satisfaction. In Gaza, you find people smiling when they cross the borders, even when it takes them hours and even days to cross. In Gaza you find just what you need. You find home.

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                                      Sarah Palin’s Record on Alaska Native and Tribal Issues

                                      English (US)  September 11th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                      1. Palin has attacked Alaska Native Subsistence Fishing

                                      Perhaps no issue is of greater importance to Alaska Native peoples as the right to hunt and fish according to ancient customary and traditional practices, and to carry on the subsistence way of life for future generations.

                                      Governor Sarah Palin has consistently opposed those rights.

                                      Once in office, Governor Palin decided to continue litigation that seeks to overturn every subsistence fishing determination the federal government has ever made in Alaska. (State of Alaska v. Norton, 3:05-cv-0158-HRH (D. Ak).) In pressing this case, Palin decided against using the Attorney General (which usually handles State litigation) and instead continued contracting with Senator Ted Stevens’ brother-in-law’s law firm (Birch, Horton, Bittner & Cherot).

                                      The goal of Palin’s law suit is to invalidate all the subsistence fishing regulations the federal government has issued to date to protect Native fishing, and to force the courts instead to take over the roll of setting subsistence regulations. Palin’s law suit seeks to diminish subsistence fishing rights in order to expand sport and commercial fishing.


                                      In May 2007, the federal court rejected the State’s main challenge, holding that Congress in 1980 had expressly granted the U.S. Interior and Agriculture Departments the authority to regulate and protect Native and rural subsistence fishing activities in Alaska. (Decision entered May 15, 2007 (Dkt. No. 110).)

                                      Notwithstanding this ruling, Palin continues to argue in the litigation that the federal subsistence protections are too broad, and should be narrowed to exclude vast areas from subsistence fishing, in favor of sport and commercial fishing. Palin opposes subsistence protections in marine waters, on many of the lands that Natives selected under their 1971 land claims settlement with the state and federal governments, and in many of the rivers where Alaska
                                      Natives customarily fish. (Alaska Complaint at 15-18.) Palin also opposes subsistence fishing protections on Alaska Native federal allotments that were deeded to individuals purposely to foster Native subsistence activities. All these issues are now pending before the federal district court.

                                      2. Palin has attacked Alaska Native Subsistence Hunting

                                      Palin has also sought to invalidate critical determinations the Federal Subsistence Board has made regarding customary and traditional uses of game, specifically to take hunting opportunities away from Native subsistence villagers and thereby enhance sport hunting.

                                      Palin’s attack here on subsistence has focused on the Ahtna Indian people in Chistochina.

                                      Although the federal district court has rejected Palin’s challenge, she has carried on an appeal that was argued in August 2008. (State of Alaska v. Fleagle, No. 07-35723 (9th Cir.).)

                                      In both hunting and fishing matters, Palin has continued uninterrupted the policies initiated by the former Governor Frank Murkowski Administration, challenging hunting and fishing protections that Native people depend upon for their subsistence way of life in order to enhance sport fishing and hunting opportunities. Palin’s lawsuits are a direct attack on the core way of life of Native Tribes in rural Alaska.

                                      3. Palin has attacked Alaska Tribal Sovereignty

                                      Governor Palin opposes Alaska tribal sovereignty.

                                      Given past court rulings affirming the federally recognized tribal status of Alaska Native villages, Palin does not technically challenge that status. But Palin argues that Alaska Tribes have no authority to act as sovereigns, despite their recognition.

                                      So extreme is Palin on tribal sovereignty issues that she has sought to block tribes from exercising any authority whatsoever even over the welfare of Native children, adhering to a 2004 legal opinion issued by the former Murkowski Administration that no such jurisdiction exists (except when a state court transfers a matter to a tribal court).

                                      Both the state courts and the federal courts have struck down Palin’s policy of refusing to recognize the sovereign authority of Alaska Tribes to address issues involving Alaska Native children. Native Village of Tanana v. State of Alaska, 3AN-04-12194 CI (judgment entered Aug. 26, 2008) (Ak. Super. Ct.); Native Kaltag Tribal Council v. DHHS, No. 3:06-cv-00211-TMB (D. Ak.), pending on appeal No 08-35343 (9th Cir.)). Nonetheless, Palin’s policy of refusing to recognize Alaska tribal sovereignty remains unchanged.

                                      4. Palin has attacked Alaska Native Languages

                                      Palin has refused to accord proper respect to Alaska Native languages and voters by refusing to provide language assistance to Yup'ik speaking Alaska Native voters. As a result, Palin was just ordered by a special three-judge panel of federal judges to provide various forms
                                      of voter assistance to Yup'ik voters residing in southwest Alaska. Nick v. Bethel, No. 3:07-cv-0098-TMB (D. Ak.) (Order entered July 30, 2008). Citing years of State neglect, Palin was ordered to provide trained poll workers who are bilingual in English and Yup'ik; sample ballots in written Yup'ik; a written Yup'ik glossary of election terms; consultation with local Tribes to ensure the accuracy of Yup'ik translations; a Yup'ik language coordinator; and pre-election and post-election reports to the court to track the State's efforts.

                                      In sum, measured against some the rights that are most fundamental to Alaska Native Tribes – the subsistence way of life, tribal sovereignty and voting rights – Palin’s record is a failure.

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                                        An Alaska Native speaks out on Palin, Oil, and Alaska

                                        English (US)  September 11th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                        By Evon Peter


                                        An Alaska Native speaks out on Palin, Oil, and Alaska

                                        By Evon Peter


                                        My name is Evon Peter; I am a former Chief of the Neetsaii Gwich’in tribe from Arctic Village, Alaska and the current Executive Director of Native Movement. My organization provides culturally based leadership development through offices in Alaska and Arizona. My wife, who is Navajo, and I have been based out of Flagstaff, Arizona for the past few years, although I travel home to Alaska in support of our initiatives there as well. It is interesting to me that my wife and I find ourselves as Indigenous people from the two states where McCain and Palin originate in their leadership.

                                        I am writing this letter to raise awareness about the ongoing colonization and violation of human rights being carried out against Alaska Native peoples in the name of unsustainable progress, with a particular emphasis on the role of Sarah Palin and the Republican leadership. My hope is that it helps to elevate truth about the nature of Alaskan politics in relation to Alaska Native peoples and that it lays a framework for our path to justice.


                                        Ever since the Russian claim to Alaska and the subsequent sale to the United States through the Treaty of Cession in 1867, the attitude and treatment towards Alaska Native peoples has been fairly consistent. We were initially referred to as less than human “uncivilized tribes”, so we were excluded from any dialogues and decisions regarding our lands, lives, and status. The dominating attitude within the Unites States at the time was called Manifest Destiny; that God had given Americans this great land to take from the Indians because they were non-Christian and incapable of self-government. Over the years since that time, this framework for relating to Alaska Native peoples has become entrenched in the United States legislative and legal systems in an ongoing direct violation of our human rights.

                                        What does this mean? Allow me to share an analogy. If a group of people were to arrive in your city and tell you their people had made laws, among which were:

                                        1. What were once your home and land now belong to them (although you could live in the garage or backyard)
                                        2. Forced you to send your children to boarding schools to learn their language and be acculturated into their ways with leaders who touted “Kill the American, save the man” (based on the original statement made by US Captain Richard H. Pratt in regards to Native American education “Kill the Indian, save the man.”)
                                        3. Supported missionaries and government agents to forcefully (for example, with poisons placed on the tongues of your children and withheld vaccines) convince you that your Jesus, Buddha, Torah, or Mohammed was actually an agent of evil and that salvation in the afterlife could only be found through believing otherwise
                                        4. Made it illegal for you to continue to do your job to support your family, except under strict oversight and through extensive regulation
                                        5. Made it illegal for you to own any land or run a business as an individual and did not allow you to participate in any form of their government, which controlled your life (voting or otherwise)

                                        How would this make you feel? What if you also knew that if you were to retaliate, that you would be swiftly killed or incarcerated? How long do you think it would take for you to forget or would you be sure to share this history with your children with the hope that justice could one day prevail for your descendents? And most importantly to our conversation, how American does this sound to you?

                                        To put this into perspective, my grandfather who helped to raise me in Arctic Village was born in 1904, just thirty-seven years after the United States laid claim to Alaska. If my grandfather had unjustly stolen your grandfathers home and I was still living in the house and watching you live outdoors, would you feel a change was in order? Congress unilaterally passed most of the major US legislation that affect our people in my grandfathers’ lifetime. There has never been a Treaty between Alaska Native Peoples and the United States over these injustices. Each time that Alaska Native people stand up for our rights, the US responds with token shifts in its laws and policies to appease the building discontent, yet avoiding the underlying injustice that I believe can be resolved if leadership in the United States would be willing to acknowledge the underlying injustice of its control over Alaska Native peoples, our lands, and our ways of life.

                                        United States legal history in relation to Alaska Natives has been based on one major platform - minimize the potential for Alaska Native people to regain control of their lives, lands, and resources and maximize benefit to the Unites States government and its corporations. While the rest of the world, following World War II, was seeking to return African and European Nations to their rightful owners, the United States pushed in the opposite direction by pulling the then Territory of Alaska out of the United Nations dialogues and pushing for Statehood into the Union. Why is it that Alaska Native Nations are still perceived as being incapable of governing our own lands, lives, and resources differently than African, Asian, and European nations?

                                        Let me get specific about what is at stake and how this relates to Palin and the Republican leadership in Alaska and across this country. To this day, Alaska Native peoples are among the only Indigenous peoples in all of North America whose Indigenous Hunting and Fishing Rights have been extinguished by federal legislation and yet we are the most dependent people on this way of life. Most of our villages have no roads that connect them to cities; many live with poverty level incomes, and all rely to varying degrees on traditional hunting, fishing, and harvesting for survival. This has become known as the debate on Alaska Native Subsistence.

                                        As Alaska Governor, Palin has continued the path of her predecessor Frank Murkowski in challenging attempts by Alaska Native people to regain their human right to their traditional way of life through subsistence.

                                        The same piece of unilateral federal legislation, known as the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) of 1971, that extinguished our hunting and fishing rights, also extinguished all federal Alaska Native land claims and my Tribe’s reservation status. In the continental United States, this sort of legislation is referred to as ‘termination legislation’ because it takes the rights of self-government away from Tribes. It is based in the same age-old idea that we are not capable of governing our people, lands, and resources. To justify these terminations, ANCSA also created Alaska Native led for-profit corporations (which were provided the remaining lands not taken by the government and a one time payment the equivalent of about 1/20th of the annual profits made by corporations in Alaska each year) with a mission of exploiting the land in partnership with the US government and outside corporations. It was a brilliant piece of legislation for the legal termination and cultural assimilation of Alaska Natives under the guise of progress.

                                        Since the passage of ANCSA, political leaders in Alaska, with a few exceptions, have maintained that, as stated by indicted Senator Ted Stevens, “Tribes have never existed in Alaska.” They maintain this position out of fear that the real injustice being carried out upon Alaska Natives may break into mainstream awareness and lead to a re-opening of due treaty dialogues between Alaska Native leaders and the federal government. At the same time the federal government chose to list Alaska Native tribes in the list of federally recognized tribes in 1993. Governor Palin maintains that tribes were federally recognized but that they do not have the same rights as the tribes in the continental United States to sovereignty and self-governance, even to the extent of legally challenging our Tribes rights pursuant to the Indian Child Welfare Act. What good are governments that can’t make decisions concerning their own land and people?

                                        Evon Peter is the Executive Director of Native Movement and former Chief of the Neetsaii Gwich'in from Arctic Village in northeastern Alaska. He has served as the Co-Chair of the Gwich'in Council International, on the Executive Board of the Alaska Inter-Tribal Council, and as an alternate area Vice-President to the National Congress of American Indians. Evon is a well-recognized advocate of Indigenous Peoples rights, youth, and a balanced world, active as a speaker, strategist, writer, and organizer. His experience includes work within the United Nations and Arctic Council forum representing Indigenous and environmental interests. He dedicates a significant portion of his time to youth leadership development, movement and coalition building, and gathering facilitation. He holds a bachelors degree in Alaska Native studies with a minor in Political Science and is pursuing a Masters degree in Rural Development from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. Evon is featured in the 2005 award winning feature film "Homeland: Four Portraits of Native Action," that follows the work of four Indigenous people who are working on issues of Environmental Justice in North America.

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                                          Bolivia president asks US ambassador to leave

                                          English (US)  September 11th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                          In this Sept. 22, 2007 file photo (left), Bolivia's President Evo Morales, left, shakes hands with US Ambassador to Bolivia, Philip Goldberg, during a meeting at the presidential palace in La Paz. Morales on Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2008 called for Goldberg's expulsion for allegedly encouraging anti-government protesters. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)

                                          By CARLOS VALDEZ

                                          LA PAZ, Bolivia — President Evo Morales said Wednesday that he is expelling the U.S. ambassador in Bolivia for allegedly inciting violent opposition protests.

                                          Morales' announcement came hours after a pipeline blast triggered by saboteurs forced the country to cut natural gas exports to Brazil by 10 percent.

                                          "Without fear of the empire, I declare the U.S. ambassador 'persona non grata,'" Morales said in a speech at the presidential palace. He said he asked his foreign minister to send a diplomatic note to Ambassador Philip Goldberg telling the American to go home.

                                          "We don't want separatists, divisionists," Bolivia's leftist president added.


                                          In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid called the accusation "baseless" and said the U.S. government had not yet received a note about the ambassador.

                                          Morales' close ally President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, who also often refers to the U.S. as "the empire," cheered the move, calling a two-week wave of increasingly violent anti-Morales protests the harvest of an alliance between Bolivia's "extreme right" and the U.S. government.

                                          The Bolivian leader did not offer specific evidence against Goldberg, but he has long accused the diplomat of conspiring with Bolivia's conservative opposition.

                                          In June, the government terminated USAID programs in the coca-growing Chapare region aimed at weaning farmers off the crop from which cocaine is produced. Farmers there had faulted the programs as heavy-handed and ineffectual.

                                          Goldberg met last week with Ruben Costas, one of Morales' most virulent opponents. Costas is governor of Santa Cruz, Bolivia's richest province and the seat of a pro-autonomy revolt against the nation's first indigenous president.

                                          Anti-Morales protests reached a crescendo on Tuesday with the sacking and burning of government offices in Santa Cruz in which at least 10 people were reported injured.

                                          Anti-government activists also seized several natural gas installations in the east.

                                          At one, in the eastern province of Tarija, demonstrators triggered Wednesday's pipeline blast by closing a valve, creating pressure that ruptured the line near the border with Paraguay and set off a fire, the government said.

                                          No injuries were reported in what state energy company president Santos Ramirez called "a terrorist attack."

                                          The government immediately ordered additional troops to Bolivia's rebellious eastern provinces to secure gas and oil installations. Ramirez said both gas plants remained occupied by protesters on Wednesday afternoon.

                                          The pipeline blast reduced by 3 million the 30 million cubic meters of gas Bolivia sends Brazil each day, he said. But in Brazil, Mining and Energy Ministry officials said the gas flow remained normal.

                                          Any supply interruption could have serious consequences for Brazil's booming economy. Bolivia supplies its bigger neighbor with 50 percent of its natural gas, used for power generation and as fuel for cars and cooking.

                                          Ramirez said it would take 15 to 20 days to repair the pipeline at a cost of US$100 million. He said Bolivia would lose US$8 million a day in revenues.

                                          Morales' opponents in the east are seeking a greater share of revenues from natural gas — Bolivia's chief export — for the richer lowland provinces, home to the bulk of its gas fields.

                                          Morales has devoted much of those revenues to programs that benefit the poor and elderly. He has called the protests a "civil coup."

                                          Opposition leader Branko Marinkovic, the owner of large land holdings in soy-growing Santa Cruz, said Tuesday that the only way out of the conflict is for the government to cancel a Dec. 7 referendum on a new constitution.

                                          The proposed new constitution, which would give indigenous groups greater control of their traditional lands and make it easier for the government to redistribute fallow land, was approved by a special assembly last year amid an opposition boycott.

                                          Associated Press writers Marco Sibaja in Brasilia, Brazil, and Frank Bajak in Bogota, Colombia, contributed to this report.


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                                            Zionist nationalist myth of enforced exile: Israel deliberately forgets its history

                                            English (US)  September 10th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                            An Israeli historian suggests the diaspora was the consequence, not of the expulsion of the Hebrews from Palestine, but of proselytising across north Africa, southern Europe and the Middle East

                                            By Schlomo Sand

                                            Every Israeli knows that he or she is the direct and exclusive descendant of a Jewish people which has existed since it received the Torah (1) in Sinai. According to this myth, the Jews escaped from Egypt and settled in the Promised Land, where they built the glorious kingdom of David and Solomon, which subsequently split into the kingdoms of Judah and Israel. They experienced two exiles: after the destruction of the first temple, in the 6th century BC, and of the second temple, in 70 AD.

                                            Two thousand years of wandering brought the Jews to Yemen, Morocco, Spain, Germany, Poland and deep into Russia. But, the story goes, they always managed to preserve blood links between their scattered communities. Their uniqueness was never compromised.


                                            At the end of the 19th century conditions began to favour their return to their ancient homeland. If it had not been for the Nazi genocide, millions of Jews would have fulfilled the dream of 20 centuries and repopulated Eretz Israel, the biblical land of Israel. Palestine, a virgin land, had been waiting for its original inhabitants to return and awaken it. It belonged to the Jews, rather than to an Arab minority that had no history and had arrived there by chance. The wars in which the wandering people reconquered their land were just; the violent opposition of the local population was criminal.

                                            This interpretation of Jewish history was developed as talented, imaginative historians built on surviving fragments of Jewish and Christian religious memory to construct a continuous genealogy for the Jewish people. Judaism’s abundant historiography encompasses many different approaches.

                                            But none have ever questioned the basic concepts developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Discoveries that might threaten this picture of a linear past were marginalised. The national imperative rejected any contradiction of or deviation from the dominant story. University departments exclusively devoted to “the history of the Jewish people”, as distinct from those teaching what is known in Israel as general history, made a significant contribution to this selective vision. The debate on what constitutes Jewishness has obvious legal implications, but historians ignored it: as far as they are concerned, any descendant of the people forced into exile 2,000 years ago is a Jew.

                                            Nor did these official investigators of the past join the controversy provoked by the “new historians” from the late 1980s. Most of the limited number of participants in this public debate were from other disciplines or non-academic circles: sociologists, orientalists, linguists, geographers, political scientists, literary academics and archaeologists developed new perspectives on the Jewish and Zionist past. Departments of Jewish history remained defensive and conservative, basing themselves on received ideas. While there have been few significant developments in national history over the past 60 years (a situation unlikely to change in the short term), the facts that have emerged face any honest historian with fundamental questions.

                                            Founding myths shaken

                                            Is the Bible a historical text? Writing during the early half of the 19th century, the first modern Jewish historians, such as Isaak Markus Jost (1793-1860) and Leopold Zunz (1794-1886), did not think so. They regarded the Old Testament as a theological work reflecting the beliefs of Jewish religious communities after the destruction of the first temple. It was not until the second half of the century that Heinrich Graetz (1817-91) and others developed a “national” vision of the Bible and transformed Abraham’s journey to Canaan, the flight from Egypt and the united kingdom of David and Solomon into an authentic national past. By constant repetition, Zionist historians have subsequently turned these Biblical “truths” into the basis of national education.

                                            But during the 1980s an earthquake shook these founding myths. The discoveries made by the “new archaeology” discredited a great exodus in the 13th century BC. Moses could not have led the Hebrews out of Egypt into the Promised Land, for the good reason that the latter was Egyptian territory at the time. And there is no trace of either a slave revolt against the pharaonic empire or of a sudden conquest of Canaan by outsiders.

                                            Nor is there any trace or memory of the magnificent kingdom of David and Solomon. Recent discoveries point to the existence, at the time, of two small kingdoms: Israel, the more powerful, and Judah, the future Judea. The general population of Judah did not go into 6th century BC exile: only its political and intellectual elite were forced to settle in Babylon. This decisive encounter with Persian religion gave birth to Jewish monotheism.

                                            Then there is the question of the exile of 70 AD. There has been no real research into this turning point in Jewish history, the cause of the diaspora. And for a simple reason: the Romans never exiled any nation from anywhere on the eastern seaboard of the Mediterranean. Apart from enslaved prisoners, the population of Judea continued to live on their lands, even after the destruction of the second temple. Some converted to Christianity in the 4th century, while the majority embraced Islam during the 7th century Arab conquest.

                                            Most Zionist thinkers were aware of this: Yitzhak Ben Zvi, later president of Israel, and David Ben Gurion, its first prime minister, accepted it as late as 1929, the year of the great Palestinian revolt. Both stated on several occasions that the peasants of Palestine were the descendants of the inhabitants of ancient Judea (2).

                                            Proselytising zeal

                                            But if there was no exile after 70 AD, where did all the Jews who have populated the Mediterranean since antiquity come from? The smokescreen of national historiography hides an astonishing reality. From the Maccabean revolt of the mid-2nd century BC to the Bar Kokhba revolt of the 2nd century AD, Judaism was the most actively proselytising religion. The Judeo-Hellenic Hasmoneans forcibly converted the Idumeans of southern Judea and the Itureans of Galilee and incorporated them into the people of Israel. Judaism spread across the Middle East and round the Mediterranean. The 1st century AD saw the emergence in modern Kurdistan of the Jewish kingdom of Adiabene, just one of many that converted.

                                            The writings of Flavius Josephus are not the only evidence of the proselytising zeal of the Jews. Horace, Seneca, Juvenal and Tacitus were among the Roman writers who feared it. The Mishnah and the Talmud (3) authorised conversion, even if the wise men of the Talmudic tradition expressed reservations in the face of the mounting pressure from Christianity.

                                            Although the early 4th century triumph of Christianity did not mark the end of Jewish expansion, it relegated Jewish proselytism to the margins of the Christian cultural world. During the 5th century, in modern Yemen, a vigorous Jewish kingdom emerged in Himyar, whose descendants preserved their faith through the Islamic conquest and down to the present day. Arab chronicles tell of the existence, during the 7th century, of Judaised Berber tribes; and at the end of the century the legendary Jewish queen Dihya contested the Arab advance into northwest Africa. Jewish Berbers participated in the conquest of the Iberian peninsula and helped establish the unique symbiosis between Jews and Muslims that characterised Hispano-Arabic culture.

                                            The most significant mass conversion occurred in the 8th century, in the massive Khazar kingdom between the Black and Caspian seas. The expansion of Judaism from the Caucasus into modern Ukraine created a multiplicity of communities, many of which retreated from the 13th century Mongol invasions into eastern Europe. There, with Jews from the Slavic lands to the south and from what is now modern Germany, they formed the basis of Yiddish culture (4).
                                            Prism of Zionism

                                            Until about 1960 the complex origins of the Jewish people were more or less reluctantly acknowledged by Zionist historiography. But thereafter they were marginalised and finally erased from Israeli public memory. The Israeli forces who seized Jerusalem in 1967 believed themselves to be the direct descendents of the mythic kingdom of David rather than – God forbid – of Berber warriors or Khazar horsemen. The Jews claimed to constitute a specific ethnic group that had returned to Jerusalem, its capital, from 2,000 years of exile and wandering.

                                            This monolithic, linear edifice is supposed to be supported by biology as well as history. Since the 1970s supposedly scientific research, carried out in Israel, has desperately striven to demonstrate that Jews throughout the world are closely genetically related.

                                            Research into the origins of populations now constitutes a legitimate and popular field in molecular biology and the male Y chromosome has been accorded honoured status in the frenzied search for the unique origin of the “chosen people”. The problem is that this historical fantasy has come to underpin the politics of identity of the state 
of Israel. By validating an essentialist, 
ethnocentric definition of Judaism it encourages a segregation that separates Jews from non-Jews – whether Arabs, Russian immigrants or foreign workers.

                                            Sixty years after its foundation, Israel refuses to accept that it should exist for the sake of its citizens. For almost a quarter of the population, who are not regarded as Jews, this is not their state legally. At the same time, Israel presents itself as the homeland of Jews throughout the world, even if these are no longer persecuted refugees, but the full and equal citizens of other countries.

                                            A global ethnocracy invokes the myth of the eternal nation, reconstituted on the land of its ancestors, to justify internal discrimination against its own citizens. It will remain difficult to imagine a new Jewish history while the prism of Zionism continues to fragment everything into an ethnocentric spectrum. But Jews worldwide have always tended to form religious communities, usually by conversion; they cannot be said to share an ethnicity derived from a unique origin and displaced over 20 centuries of wandering.

                                            The development of historiography and the evolution of modernity were consequences of the invention of the nation state, which preoccupied millions during the 19th and 20th centuries. The new millennium has seen these dreams begin to shatter.

                                            And more and more academics are analysing, dissecting and deconstructing the great national stories, especially the myths of common origin so dear to chroniclers of the past.

                                            Shlomo Sand is professor of history at Tel Aviv university and the author of Comment le people juif fut inventé (Fayard, Paris, 2008)

                                            Le Monde Diplomatique

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                                              Was America Attacked by Muslims on 9/11?

                                              English (US)  September 10th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                              By David Ray Griffin

                                              Much of America's foreign policy since 9/11 has been based on the assumption that it was attacked by Muslims on that day. This assumption was used, most prominently, to justify the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is now widely agreed that the use of 9/11 as a basis for attacking Iraq was illegitimate: none of the hijackers were Iraqis, there was no working relation between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, and Iraq was not behind the anthrax attacks. But it is still widely believed that the US attack on Afghanistan was justified. For example, the New York Times, while referring to the US attack on Iraq as a "war of choice," calls the battle in Afghanistan a "war of necessity." Time magazine has dubbed it "the right war." And Barack Obama says that one reason to wind down our involvement in Iraq is to have the troops and resources to "go after the people in Afghanistan who actually attacked us on 9/11."


                                              The assumption that America was attacked by Muslims on 9/11 also lies behind the widespread perception of Islam as an inherently violent religion and therefore of Muslims as guilty until proven innocent. This perception surely contributed to attempts to portray Obama as a Muslim, which was lampooned by a controversial cartoon on the July 21, 2008, cover of The New Yorker.

                                              As could be illustrated by reference to many other post-9/11 developments, including as spying, torture, extraordinary rendition, military tribunals, America's new doctrine of preemptive war, and its enormous increase in military spending, the assumption that the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked by Muslim hijackers has had enormous negative consequences for both international and domestic issues.1

                                              Is it conceivable that this assumption might be false? Insofar as Americans and Canadians would say "No," they would express their belief that this assumption is not merely an "assumption" but is instead based on strong evidence. When actually examined, however, the proffered evidence turns out to be remarkably weak. I will illustrate this point by means of 16 questions.

                                              1. Were Mohamed Atta and the Other Hijackers Devout Muslims?

                                              The picture of the hijackers conveyed by the 9/11 Commission is that they were devout Muslims. Mohamed Atta, considered the ringleader, was said to have become very religious, even "fanatically so."2 Being devout Muslims, they could be portrayed as ready to meet their Maker---as a "cadre of trained operatives willing to die."3

                                              But this portrayal is contradicted by various newspaper stories. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Atta and other hijackers had made "at least six trips" to Las Vegas, where they had "engaged in some decidedly un-Islamic sampling of prohibited pleasures." These activities were "un-Islamic" because, as the head of the Islamic Foundation of Nevada pointed out: "True Muslims don't drink, don't gamble, don't go to strip clubs."4

                                              One might, to be sure, rationalize this behavior by supposing that these were momentary lapses and that, as 9/11 approached, these young Muslims had repented and prepared for heaven. But in the days just before 9/11, Atta and others were reported to be drinking heavily, cavorting with lap dancers, and bringing call girls to their rooms. Temple University Professor Mahmoud Ayoub said: "It is incomprehensible that a person could drink and go to a strip bar one night, then kill themselves the next day in the name of Islam. . . . Something here does not add up."5

                                              In spite of the fact that these activities were reported by mainstream newspapers and even the Wall Street Journal editorial page,6 the 9/11 Commission wrote as if these reports did not exist, saying: "we have seen no credible evidence explaining why, on [some occasions], the operatives flew to or met in Las Vegas."7

                                              2. Do Authorities Have Hard Evidence of Osama bin Laden's Responsibility for 9/11?

                                              Whatever be the truth about the devoutness of the hijackers, one might reply, there is certainly no doubt about the fact that they were acting under the guidance of Osama bin Laden. The attack on Afghanistan was based on the claim that bin Laden was behind the attacks, and the 9/11 Commission's report was written as if there were no question about this claim. But neither the Bush administration nor the Commission provided any proof for it.

                                              Two weeks after 9/11, Secretary of State Colin Powell, speaking to Tim Russert on "Meet the Press," said he expected "in the near future . . . to put out . . . a document that will describe quite clearly the evidence that we have linking [bin Laden] to this attack."8 But at a press conference with President Bush the next morning, Powell reversed himself, saying that although the government had information that left no question of bin Laden's responsibility, "most of it is classified."9 According to Seymour Hersh, citing officials from both the CIA and the Department of Justice, the real reason for the reversal was a "lack of solid information."10

                                              That same week, Bush had demanded that the Taliban turn over bin Laden. But the Taliban, reported CNN, "refus[ed] to hand over bin Laden without proof or evidence that he was involved in last week's attacks on the United States." The Bush administration, saying "[t]here is already an indictment of Osama bin Laden" [for the attacks in Tanzania, Kenya, and elsewhere]," rejected the demand for evidence with regard to 9/11.11

                                              The task of providing such evidence was taken up by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who on October 4 made public a document entitled "Responsibility for the Terrorist Atrocities in the United States." Listing "clear conclusions reached by the government," it stated: "Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda, the terrorist network which he heads, planned and carried out the atrocities on 11 September 2001."12

                                              Blair's report, however, began by saying: "This document does not purport to provide a prosecutable case against Osama Bin Laden in a court of law." This weakness was noted the next day by the BBC, which said: "There is no direct evidence in the public domain linking Osama Bin Laden to the 11 September attacks. At best the evidence is circumstantial."13

                                              After the US had attacked Afghanistan, a senior Taliban official said: "We have asked for proof of Osama's involvement, but they have refused. Why?"14 The answer to this question may be suggested by the fact that, to this day, the FBI's "Most Wanted Terrorist" webpage on bin Laden, while listing him as wanted for bombings in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, makes no mention of 9/11.15

                                              When the FBI's chief of investigative publicity was asked why not, he replied: "The reason why 9/11 is not mentioned on Usama Bin Laden's Most Wanted page is because the FBI has no hard evidence connecting Bin Laden to 9/11."16

                                              It is often claimed that bin Laden's guilt is proved by a video, reportedly found by US intelligence officers in Afghanistan in November 2001, in which bin Laden appears to report having planned the attacks. But critics, pointing out various problems with this "confession video," have called it a fake.17 General Hamid Gul, a former head of Pakistan's ISI, said: "I think there is an Osama Bin Laden look-alike."18 Actually, the man in the video is not even much of a look-alike, being heavier and darker than bin Laden, having a broader nose, wearing jewelry, and writing with his right hand.19 The FBI, in any case, obviously does not consider this video hard evidence of bin Laden's responsibility for 9/11.

                                              What about the 9/11 Commission? I mentioned earlier that it gave the impression of having had solid evidence of bin Laden's guilt. But Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, the Commission's co-chairs, undermined this impression in their follow-up book subtitled "the inside story of the 9/11 Commission."20

                                              Whenever the Commission had cited evidence for bin Ladin's responsibility, the note in the back of the book always referred to CIA-provided information that had (presumably) been elicited during interrogations of al-Qaeda operatives. By far the most important of these operatives was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), described as the "mastermind" of the 9/11 attacks. The Commission, for example, wrote:

                                              Bin Ladin . . . finally decided to give the green light for the 9/11 operation sometime in late 1998 or early 1999. . . . Bin Ladin also soon selected four individuals to serve as suicide operatives. . . . Atta---whom Bin Ladin chose to lead the group---met with Bin Ladin several times to receive additional instructions, including a preliminary list of approved targets: the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the U.S. Capitol.21

                                              The note for each of these statements says "interrogation of KSM."22

                                              Kean and Hamilton, however, reported that they had no success in "obtaining access to star witnesses in custody . . . , most notably Khalid Sheikh Mohammed."23 Besides not being allowed to interview these witnesses, they were not permitted to observe the interrogations through one-way glass or even to talk to the interrogators.24 Therefore, they complained: "We . . . had no way of evaluating the credibility of detainee information. How could we tell if someone such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed . . . was telling us the truth?"25

                                              An NBC "deep background" report in 2008 pointed out an additional problem: KSM and the other al-Qaeda leaders had been subjected to "enhanced interrogation techniques," i.e., torture, and it is now widely acknowledged that statements elicited by torture lack credibility. "At least four of the operatives whose interrogation figured in the 9/11 Commission Report," this NBC report pointed out, "have claimed that they told interrogators critical information as a way to stop being "-tortured.'" NBC then quoted Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, as saying: "Most people look at the 9/11 Commission Report as a trusted historical document. If their conclusions were supported by information gained from torture, . . . their conclusions are suspect."26

                                              Accordingly, neither the White House, the British government, the FBI, nor the 9/11 Commission has provided solid evidence that Osama bin Laden was behind 9/11.

                                              3. Was Evidence of Muslim Hijackers Provided by Phone Calls from the Airliners?

                                              Nevertheless, many readers may respond, there can be no doubt that the airplanes were taken over by al-Qaeda hijackers, because their presence and actions on the planes were reported on phone calls by passengers and flight attendants, with cell phone calls playing an especially prominent role.

                                              The most famous of the reported calls were from CNN commentator Barbara Olson to her husband, US Solicitor General Ted Olson. According to CNN, he reported that his wife had "called him twice on a cell phone from American Airlines Flight 77," saying that "all passengers and flight personnel, including the pilots, were herded to the back of the plane by . . . hijackers [armed with] knives and cardboard cutters."27

                                              Although these reported calls, as summarized by Ted Olson, did not describe the hijackers so as to suggest that they were members of al-Qaeda, such descriptions were supplied by calls from other flights, especially United 93, from which about a dozen cell phone calls were reportedly received before it crashed in Pennsylvania. According to a Washington Post story of September 13,

                                              [P]assenger Jeremy Glick used a cell phone to tell his wife, Lyzbeth, . . . that the Boeing 757's cockpit had been taken over by three Middle Eastern-looking men. . . . The terrorists, wearing red headbands, had ordered the pilots, flight attendants and passengers to the rear of the plane.28

                                              A story about a "cellular phone conversation" between flight attendant Sandra Bradshaw and her husband gave this report:

                                              She said the plane had been taken over by three men with knives. She had gotten a close look at one of the hijackers. . . . "He had an Islamic look," she told her husband. 29

                                              From these calls, therefore, the public was informed that the hijackers looked Middle Eastern and even Islamic.

                                              Still more specific information was reportedly conveyed during a 12-minute cell phone call from flight attendant Amy Sweeney on American Flight 11, which was to crash into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.30 After reaching American Airlines employee Michael Woodward and telling him that men of "Middle Eastern descent" had hijacked her flight, she then gave him their seat numbers, from which he was able to learn the identity of Mohamed Atta and two other hijackers.31 Amy Sweeney's call was critical, ABC News explained, because without it "the plane might have crashed with no one certain the man in charge was tied to al Qaeda."32

                                              There was, however, a big problem with these reported calls: Given the technology available in 2001, cell phone calls from airliners at altitudes of more than a few thousand feet, especially calls lasting more than a few seconds, were not possible, and yet these calls, some of which reportedly lasted a minute or more, reportedly occurred when the planes were above 30,000 or even 40,000 feet. This problem was explained by some credible people, including scientist A.K. Dewdney, who for many years had written a column for Scientific American.33

                                              Although some defenders of the official account, such as Popular Mechanics, have disputed the contention that high-altitude calls from airliners were impossible,34 the fact is that the FBI, after having at first supported the claims that such calls were made, withdrew this support a few years later.

                                              With regard to the reported 12-minute call from Amy Sweeney to Michael Woodward, an affidavit signed by FBI agent James Lechner and dated September 12 (2001) stated that, according to Woodward, Sweeney had been "using a cellular telephone."35 But when the 9/11 Commission discussed this call in its Report, which appeared in July 2004, it declared that Sweeney had used an onboard phone.36

                                              Behind that change was an implausible claim made by the FBI earlier in 2004: Although Woodward had failed to mention this when FBI agent Lechner interviewed him on 9/11, he had repeated Sweeney's call verbatim to a colleague in his office, who had in turn repeated it to another colleague at American headquarters in Dallas, who had recorded it; and this recording---which was discovered only in 2004---indicated that Sweeney had used a passenger-seat phone, thanks to "an AirFone card, given to her by another flight attendant."37

                                              This claim is implausible because, if this relayed recording had really been made on 9/11, we cannot believe that Woodward would have failed to mention it to FBI agent Lechner later that same day. While Lechner was taking notes, Woodward would surely have said: "You don't need to rely on my memory. There is a recording of a word-for-word repetition of Sweeney's statements down in Dallas." It is also implausible that Woodward, having repeated Sweeney's statement that she had used "an AirFone card, given to her by another flight attendant," would have told Lechner, as the latter's affidavit says, that Sweeney had been "using a cellular telephone."

                                              Lechner's affidavit shows that the FBI at first supported the claim that Sweeney had made a 12-minute cell phone call from a high-altitude airliner. Does not the FBI's change of story, after its first version had been shown to be technologically impossible, create the suspicion that the entire story was a fabrication?

                                              This suspicion is reinforced by the FBI's change of story in relation to United Flight 93. Although we were originally told that this flight had been the source of about a dozen cell phone calls, some of them when the plane was above 40,000 feet, the FBI gave a very different report at the 2006 trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called 20th hijacker. The FBI spokesman said: "13 of the terrified passengers and crew members made 35 air phone calls and two cell phone calls."38 Instead of there having been about a dozen cell phone calls from Flight 93, the FBI declared in 2005, there were really only two.

                                              Why were two calls still said to have been possible? They were reportedly made at 9:58, when the plane was reportedly down to 5,000 feet.39 Although that was still pretty high for successful cell phone calls in 2001, these calls, unlike calls from 30,000 feet or higher, would have been at least arguably possible.

                                              If the truth of the FBI's new account is assumed, how can one explain the fact that so many people had reported receiving cell phone calls? In most cases, it seems, these people had been told by the callers that they were using cell phones. For example, a Newsweek story about United 93 said: "Elizabeth Wainio, 27, was speaking to her stepmother in Maryland. Another passenger, she explains, had loaned her a cell phone and told her to call her family."40 In such cases, we might assume that the people receiving the calls had simply mis-heard, or mis-remembered, what they had been told. But this would mean positing that about a dozen people had made the same mistake.

                                              An even more serious difficulty is presented by the case of Deena Burnett, who said that she had received three to five calls from her husband, Tom Burnett. She knew he was using his cell phone, she reported to the FBI that very day and then to the press and in a book, because she had recognized his cell phone number on her phone's Caller ID.41 We cannot suppose her to have been mistaken about this. We also, surely, cannot accuse her of lying.

                                              Therefore, if we accept the FBI's report, according to which Tom Burnett did not make any cell phone calls from Flight 93, we can only conclude that the calls were faked---that Deena Burnett was duped. Although this suggestion may at first sight seem outlandish, there are three facts that, taken together, show it to be more probable than any of the alternatives.

                                              First, voice morphing technology was sufficiently advanced at that time to make faking the calls feasible. A 1999 Washington Post article described demonstrations in which the voices of two generals, Colin Powell and Carl Steiner, were heard saying things they had never said.42

                                              Second, there are devices with which you can fake someone's telephone number, so that it will show up on the recipient's Caller ID.43

                                              Third, the conclusion that the person who called Deena Burnett was not her husband is suggested by various features of the calls. For example, when Deena told the caller that "the kids" were asking to talk to him, he said: "Tell them I'll talk to them later." This was 20 minutes after Tom had purportedly realized that the hijackers were on a suicide mission, planning to "crash this plane into the ground," and 10 minutes after he and other passengers had allegedly decided that as soon as they were "over a rural area" they must try to gain control of the plane. Also, the hijackers had reportedly already killed one person.44 Given all this, the real Tom Burnett would have known that he would likely die, one way or another, in the next few minutes. Is it believable that, rather than taking this probably last opportunity to speak to his children, he would say that he would "talk to them later"? Is it not more likely that "Tom" made this statement to avoid revealing that he knew nothing about "the kids," perhaps not even their names?

                                              Further evidence that the calls were faked is provided by timing problems in some of them. According to the 9/11 Commission, Flight 93 crashed at 10:03 as a result of the passenger revolt, which began at 9:57. However, according to Lyzbeth Glick's account of the aforementioned cell phone call from her husband, Jeremy Glick, she told him about the collapse of the South Tower, and that did not occur until 9:59, two minutes after the alleged revolt had started. After that, she reported, their conversation continued for several more minutes before he told her that the passengers were taking a vote about whether to attack. According to Lyzbeth Glick's account, therefore, the revolt was only beginning by 10:03, when the plane (according to the official account) was crashing.45

                                              A timing problem also occurred in the aforementioned call from flight attendant Amy Sweeney. While she was describing the hijackers, according to the FBI's account of her call, they stormed and took control of the cockpit.46 However, although the hijacking of Flight 11 "began at 8:14 or shortly thereafter," the 9/11 Commission said, Sweeney's call did not go through until 8:25.47 Her alleged call, in other words, described the hijacking as beginning over 11 minutes after it, according to the official timeline, had been successfully carried out.

                                              Multiple lines of evidence, therefore, imply that the cell phone calls were faked. This fact has vast implications, because it implies that all the reported calls from the planes, including those from onboard phones, were faked. Why? Because if the planes had really been taken over in surprise hijackings, no one would have been ready to make fake cell phone calls.

                                              Moreover, the FBI, besides implying, most clearly in the case of Deena Burnett, that the phone calls reporting the hijackings had been faked, comes right out and says, in its report about calls from Flight 77, that no calls from Barbara Olson occurred. It does mention her. But besides attributing only one call to her, not two, the FBI report refers to it as an "unconnected call," which (of course) lasted "0 seconds."48 In 2006, in other words, the FBI, which is part of the Department of Justice, implied that the story told by the DOJ's former solicitor general was untrue. Although not mentioned by the press, this was an astounding development.

                                              This FBI report leaves only two possible explanations for Ted Olson's story: Either he made it up or else he, like Deena Burnett and several others, was duped. In either case, the story about Barbara Olson's calls, with their reports of hijackers taking over Flight 77, was based on deception.

                                              The opening section of The 9/11 Commission Report is entitled "Inside the Four Flights." The information contained in this section is based almost entirely on the reported phone calls. But if the reported calls were faked, we have no idea what happened inside these planes. Insofar as the idea that the planes were taken over by hijackers who looked "Middle Eastern," even "Islamic," has been based on the reported calls, this idea is groundless.

                                              4. Was the Presence of Hijackers Proved by a Radio Transmission "from American 11"?

                                              It might be objected, in reply, that this is not true, because we know that American Flight 11, at least, was hijacked, thanks to a radio transmission in which the voice of one of its hijackers is heard. According to the 9/11 Commission, the air traffic controller for this flight heard a radio transmission at 8:25 AM in which someone---widely assumed to be Mohamed Atta---told the passengers: "We have some planes. Just stay quiet, and you'll be okay. We are returning to the airport." After quoting this transmission, the Commission wrote: "The controller told us that he then knew it was a hijacking."49 Was this transmission not indeed proof that Flight 11 had been hijacked?

                                              It might provide such proof if we knew that, as the Commission claimed, the "transmission came from American 11."50 But we do not. According to the FAA's "Summary of Air Traffic Hijack Events," published September 17, 2001, the transmission was "from an unknown origin."51 Bill Peacock, the FAA's air traffic director, said: "We didn't know where the transmission came from."52 The Commission's claim that it came from American 11 was merely an inference. The transmission could have come from the same room from which the calls to Deena Burnett originated.

                                              Therefore, the alleged radio transmission from Flight 11, like the alleged phone calls from the planes, provides no evidence that the planes were taken over by al-Qaeda hijackers.

                                              5. Did Passports and a Headband Provide Evidence that al-Qaeda Operatives Were on the Flights?

                                              However, the government's case for al-Qaeda hijackers on also rested in part on claims that passports and a headband belonging to al-Qaeda operatives were found at the crash sites. But these claims are patently absurd.

                                              A week after the attacks, the FBI reported that a search of the streets after the destruction of the World Trade Center had discovered the passport of one of the Flight 11 hijackers, Satam al-Suqami.53 But this claim did not pass the giggle test. "[T]he idea that [this] passport had escaped from that inferno unsinged," wrote one British reporter, "would [test] the credulity of the staunchest supporter of the FBI's crackdown on terrorism."54

                                              By 2004, when the 9/11 Commission was discussing the alleged discovery of this passport, the story had been modified to say that "a passer-by picked it up and gave it to a NYPD detective shortly before the World Trade Center towers collapsed."55 So, rather than needing to survive the collapse of the North Tower, the passport merely needed to escape from the plane's cabin, avoid being destroyed or even singed by the instantaneous jet-fuel fire, and then escape from the building so that it could fall to the ground! Equally absurd is the claim that the passport of Ziad Jarrah, the alleged pilot of Flight 93, was found at this plane's crash site in Pennsylvania.56 This passport was reportedly found on the ground even though there was virtually nothing at the site to indicate that an airliner had crashed there. The reason for this absence of wreckage, we were told, was that the plane had been headed downward at 580 miles per hour and, when it hit the spongy Pennsylvania soil, buried itself deep in the ground. New York Times journalist Jere Longman, surely repeating what he had been told by authorities, wrote: "The fuselage accordioned on itself more than thirty feet into the porous, backfilled ground. It was as if a marble had been dropped into water."57 So, we are to believe, just before the plane buried itself in the earth, Jarrah's passport escaped from the cockpit and landed on the ground. Did Jarrah, going 580 miles per hour, have the window open?58 Also found on the ground, according to the government's evidence presented to the Moussaoui trial, was a red headband.59 This was considered evidence that al-Qaeda hijackers were on Flight 93 because they were, according to some of the phone calls, wearing red headbands. But besides being absurd for the same reason as was the claim about Jarrah's passport, this claim about the headband was problematic for another reason. Former CIA agent Milt Bearden, who helped train the Mujahideen fighters in Afghanistan, has pointed out that it would have been very unlikely that members of al-Qaeda would have worn such headbands:

                                              [The red headband] is a uniquely Shi'a Muslim adornment. It is something that dates back to the formation of the Shi'a sect. . . . [I]t represents the preparation of he who wears this red headband to sacrifice his life, to murder himself for the cause. Sunnis are by and large most of the people following Osama bin Laden [and they] do not do this.60

                                              We learned shortly after the invasion of Iraq that some people in the US government did not know the difference between Shi'a and Sunni Muslims. Did such people decide that the hijackers would be described as wearing red headbands?

                                              6. Did the Information in Atta's Luggage Prove the Responsibility of al-Qaeda Operatives?

                                              I come now to the evidence that is said to provide the strongest proof that the planes had been hijacked by Mohamed Atta and other members of al-Qaeda. This evidence was reportedly found in two pieces of Atta's luggage that were discovered inside the Boston airport after the attacks. The luggage was there, we were told, because although Atta was already in Boston on September 10, he and another al-Qaeda operative, Abdul al-Omari, rented a blue Nissan and drove up to Portland, Maine, and stayed overnight. They caught a commuter flight back to Boston early the next morning in time to get on American Flight 11, but Atta's luggage did not make it.

                                              This luggage, according to the FBI affidavit signed by James Lechner, contained much incriminating material, including a handheld flight computer, flight simulator manuals, two videotapes about Boeing aircraft, a slide-rule flight calculator, a copy of the Koran, and Atta's last will and testament.61 This material was widely taken as proof that al-Qaeda and hence Osama bin Laden were behind the 9/11 attacks.

                                              When closely examined, however, the Atta-to-Portland story loses all credibility.

                                              One problem is the very idea that Atta would have planned to take all these things in baggage that was to be transferred to Flight 11. What good would a flight computer and other flying aids do inside a suitcase in the plane's luggage compartment? Why would he have planned to take his will on a plane he planned to crash into the World Trade Center?

                                              A second problem involves the question of why Atta's luggage did not get transferred onto Flight 11. According to an Associated Press story that appeared four days after 9/11, Atta's flight "arrived at Logan . . . just in time for him to connect with American Airlines flight 11 to Los Angeles, but too late for his luggage to be loaded."62 The 9/11 Commission had at one time evidently planned to endorse this claim.63 But when The 9/11 Commission Report appeared, it said: "Atta and Omari arrived in Boston at 6:45" and then "checked in and boarded American Airlines Flight 11," which was "scheduled to depart at 7:45."64 By thus admitting that there was almost a full hour for the luggage to be transferred to Flight 11, the Commission was left with no explanation as to why it was not.

                                              Still another problem with the Atta-to-Portland story was the question why he would have taken this trip. If the commuter flight had been late, Atta, being the ringleader of the hijackers as well as the intended pilot for Flight 11, would have had to call off the whole operation, which he had reportedly been planning for two years. The 9/11 Commission, like the FBI before it, admitted that it had no answer to this question.65

                                              The fourth and biggest problem with the story, however, is that it did not appear until September 16, five days after 9/11, following the collapse of an earlier story.

                                              According to news reports immediately after 9/11, the incriminating materials, rather than being found in Atta's luggage inside the airport, were found in a white Mitsubishi, which Atta had left in the Boston airport parking lot. Two hijackers did drive a blue Nissan to Portland and then take the commuter flight back to Boston the next morning, but their names were Adnan and Ameer Bukhari.66 This story fell apart on the afternoon of September 13, when it was discovered that the Bukharis, to whom authorities had reportedly been led by material in the Nissan at the Portland Jetport, had not died on 9/11: Adnan was still alive and Ameer had died the year before.67

                                              The next day, September 14, an Associated Press story said that it was Atta and a companion who had driven the blue Nissan to Portland, stayed overnight, and then taken the commuter flight back to Boston. The incriminating materials, however, were still said to have been found in a car in the Boston airport, which was now said to have been rented by "additional suspects."68 Finally, on September 16, a Washington Post story, besides saying that the Nissan had been taken to Portland by Atta and al-Omari, specified that the incriminating material had been found in Atta's luggage inside the Boston airport.69

                                              Given this history of the Atta-to-Portland story, how can we avoid the conclusion that it was a fabrication?

                                              7. Were al-Qaeda Operatives Captured on Airport Security Videos?

                                              Still another type of evidence for the claim that al-Qaeda operatives were on the planes consisted of frames from videos, purportedly taken by airport security cameras, said to show hijackers checking into airports. Shortly after the attacks, for example, photos showing Atta and al-Omari at an airport "were flashed round the world."70 However, although it was widely assumed that these photos were from the airport at Boston, they were really from the airport at Portland. No photos showing Atta or any of the other alleged hijackers at Boston's Logan Airport were ever produced. We at best have photographic evidence that Atta and al-Omari were at the Portland airport.

                                              Moreover, in light of the fact that the story of Atta and al-Omari going to Portland was apparently a late invention, we might expect the photographic evidence that they were at the Portland Jetport on the morning of September 11 to be problematic. And indeed it is. It shows Atta and Omari without either jackets or ties on, whereas the Portland ticket agent said that they had been wearing jackets and ties.71 Also, a photo showing Atta and al-Omari passing through the security checkpoint is marked both 05:45 and 05:53.72

                                              Another airport video was distributed on the day in 2004 that The 9/11 Commission Report was published. The Associated Press, using a frame from it as corroboration of the official story, provided this caption:

                                              Hijacker Khalid al-Mihdhar . . . passes through the security checkpoint at Dulles International Airport in Chantilly, Va., Sept. 11 2001, just hours before American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon in this image from a surveillance video.73

                                              David Ray Griffin is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy of Religion at Claremont School of Theology and Claremont Graduate University. He has published 34 books, including seven about 9/11, most recently The New Pearl Harbor Revisited: 9/11, the Cover-Up, and the Exposé (Northampton: Olive Branch, 2008).

                                              Inforamtion Clearning House

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                                                Israeli Palestinians: The Unwanted Who Stayed

                                                English (US)  September 10th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                By Jonathan Cook

                                                Among the images of Israel’s 60th Independence Day celebrations to be found on the internet is a photograph of CNN reporter Ben Wedeman being kicked firmly on the behind as he tries to run from the boot of an armed policeman. All around him, as other photographs reveal, journalists are fleeing for safety, families are being charged by mounted police, and parents can be seen grabbing toddlers as clouds of tear gas engulf them. The stragglers are shown with bloodied faces after a beating with police batons.

                                                Surprisingly, none of these shocking scenes, or even a description of them, made it into Wedeman’s Independence Day report—not even a reference to his having his butt kicked. No other mainstream media mentioned the incident either, despite the incongruity of so much brutality in Israel on a day supposedly of celebration. That is probably because the violent events took place not in the West Bank or Gaza but near Nazareth in the Galilee.


                                                The victims of the police attacks were not Palestinians under belligerent occupation but Israeli citizens—even if of a peculiar kind. These Israelis were Palestinians rather than Jews, the last vestiges of Palestine’s native people, most of whom were dispersed by the 1948 war that founded Israel. After the Jewish state expelled or terrorized into flight some 750,000 Palestinians, this group numbered just 150,000; today, there are 1.2 million Palestinian citizens of Israel, comprising a fifth of the country’s population. Like most incidents involving the Palestinian minority, or “Israeli Arabs” as they are more usually referred to, the story simply did not fit the simple journalistic narrative of the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

                                                In the ongoing battle between the Israeli army and Palestinian fighters—or “terrorists,” in the language of much of the U.S. media—where do Palestinians with Israeli citizenship fit? In this “clash of civilizations,” are they on the Israeli side or the Palestinian one? And if they are with Israel, why was a special paramilitary unit, the so-called Border Police, called in to deal with them on Independence Day?

                                                I, my wife from Nazareth, and our five-month-old daughter only narrowly avoided being caught up in the police violence. Like many other local families, we had chosen not to celebrate Israel’s independence but to take part that day in commemorating the Nakba, or Catastrophe—the mirror event that befell the Palestinians during the 1948 war that founded a Jewish state on the ruins of their society.

                                                As in years past, thousands of Israel’s Palestinian citizens joined a procession to remember the refugees from the fighting in 1948 and their several million descendants, all of whom are banned from ever returning to their villages or even to Israel. By marching to one of the more than 400 Palestinian villages erased by the Israeli army in the wake of the war, we did what so many Palestinians can no longer do: we returned, if only symbolically and for a few hours, to Palestine. Among our number were some of the original inhabitants of the villages, refugees who despite being forced from their homes in 1948 had nonetheless remained inside the borders of the new Jewish state. Today they comprise nearly a quarter of Israel’s Palestinian minority.

                                                The destination this year was Saffuriya, once a powerful village two miles northwest of Nazareth, whose homes are now buried under the foliage of a forest planted by an international Zionist organization, the Jewish National Fund, and paid for with charitable donations from European and North American Jews. The lands of Saffuriya, meanwhile, are farmed by a rural cooperative—a moshav—named Zippori to which only Jews can belong. As they must by law, the march organizers had applied for a police permit. We walked half a mile along the approved route across scrubland to the edge of Saffuriya’s lands and a point overlooking a field where the organizers had originally hoped we might hear speeches from the refugees.

                                                The police, however, had denied us permission to use the location, saying it was not suitable for a rally. Another spot had been chosen instead. But strangely, as we looked down on the destination we had been denied, we found the field occupied by a group of several dozen rightwing Israeli Jews waving flags, dancing and singing nationalist Hebrew songs. This was no spontaneous counter-demonstration: they had had the time and money to organize the hiring of eight portable toilets.

                                                There is rarely any doubt about where power resides in a Jewish state. Both the Palestinian marchers and the Jewish nationalists are Israeli citizens, and each ostensibly enjoys the same rights. But the authorities had already favored the Jewish group in the allocation of a rallying point; now they showed even more demonstratively where their sympathies lay. Armed police lined the road separating the two groups, their backs to the Jewish demonstrators as they faced off menacingly with our march. Confrontation was not the goal of the procession and, peacefully enough, we moved on to our approved rallying location, hidden from view in a nearby forest.

                                                For such a somber occasion, the mood was upbeat. The refugees were happy to have so many people show their support. Even a few dozen Israeli Jews had dared to cross the country’s ethnic divide in solidarity. There were many families there too, parents like myself and my wife who believe in the importance of our children knowing something about their people’s past and identity. Israel has a segregated education system and the Education Ministry bans all mention of Palestinian history in schools for Palestinian children. The domestic secret police, the much-feared Shin Bet, ensures compliance by interfering directly in the appointment and promotion of teachers and running a network of spies among the teaching staff and pupils. In other words, this was about the nearest thing to a field trip to Palestine most of these children are ever likely to have.

                                                After several hours in the sun, our young daughter was getting irritable. We decided to head off early, ahead of the main crowd, wending our way with our stroller slowly down the stony path back towards the road, the line of police and, further on, our parked car. As we neared the road, I saw something that should have set alarm bells ringing: members of a special unit of paramilitary police known as the Yassam were arriving on their motorbikes to join the Border Police. I have seen them a few times before but only in demonstrations where I knew from the outset that there would be trouble. Typically they are sent in to quell prison riots, and were frequently deployed early in the intifada to stop humanitarian aid convoys crossing from Israel into the besieged cities of the West Bank. Tear gas, batons and stun grenades are their calling card. It was entirely peaceful as we got into our car and drove away. I could not conceive of trouble at such a sensitive event, especially when so many young children were present. I should have known better.

                                                A couple of hours later I received the first phone call from a friend, a Dutch woman, Therese Zbeidat, who was there with her Palestinian husband Ali and their two teenage daughters, Dina and Awda. A veteran of such demonstrations, she nonetheless sounded in shock. Therese told me how the police had fired tear gas and stun grenades at the families as they emerged from the trees. Clouds of gas had enveloped them as parents swept up their children and ran terrified back into the forest. She told me of babies retching and screaming from the pain of the offensive gas, and of confused and inconsolable toddlers separated from parents in the mad scramble for safety as police on horseback charged towards them. Her daughter Awda had been kicked by a policeman, and Awda’s boyfriend seized and taken away after he stopped to help his mother who had stumbled and fallen. Palestinian journalists called to tell me about how they had been beaten and had their cameras “confiscated,” presumably in an effort to conceal what had taken place. The Israeli authorities probably knew that they could count on the silence of CNN’s editors.

                                                Fortunately, however, in an era of more open media, we no longer have to rely on CNN and its ilk to learn about what took place. There is plenty of video evidence of the police violence on websites like YouTube.

                                                Racial Profiling

                                                Live among Israel’s Palestinian minority for even a short time and one is forced to abandon the widely accepted notion of Israel as a liberal democracy.

                                                Consider the airport. Israel revels in its image as a state that takes the security of its citizens seriously. But which citizens? The country’s Jews usually pass through the departure and arrival procedures without interference. Foreign visitors, from business people to sports stars, can be seen being politely questioned and their bags searched. Palestinian citizens, however, fare far worse than the foreigners. The Israeli media have barely scratched the surface of the indignities the minority are systematically subjected to when traveling, not only if they catch a plane in Israel but also when they try to return from abroad.

                                                Uniquely, it seems, many of the world’s airports, especially in Europe and the U.S., have handed over their security—and a small slice of their sovereignty—to Israel’s security services concerning Israel-bound flights. In doing so, they have allowed Israel’s policy of racial profiling to be applied on their own territory, in violation of their domestic laws.

                                                Israel, of course, justifies its airport checks on security grounds, as it does all its violations of international law and moral norms. But the Palestinian minority has been responsible for precisely no attacks on Israeli carriers. In fact, the minority has shown itself to be quiescent in the extreme. Its ability and will to resist its dispossession—including the wholesale confiscation and nationalization of its remaining lands—was crushed long ago, during Israel’s first two decades, when Palestinian “citizens” were subjected to a separate military government. In those days there was not even a pretense of democracy inside Israel, even though the rest of the world was lauding the Jewish state. Israel’s Palestinian communities were isolated from each other through severe travel restrictions, independent newspapers and political parties were banned, dissident leaders were rounded up and held without charge, and the school curriculum was strictly controlled—as it still is—to prevent children learning about their history and identity. In this way, it was hoped, Palestinian citizens could be transformed into docile “Israeli Arabs,” denied the chance either to identify as a separate national group or to integrate into the Israeli mainstream.

                                                The goal of the airport checks should be seen in a similar light—as a continuation of the policies of the military government—rather than as security-related. They deter the country’s Palestinian minority, especially its leadership, from being visible to the wider world and establishing links to outside organizations. Israel has crafted an invisible cage for its Palestinian citizens that echoes the steel and concrete cages it is building for the Palestinians under occupation. That may explain why leading members of the Palestinian community, from professors to church leaders, are regularly humiliated with lengthy interrogations, and bag and body searches. In one case that received at least a little publicity, the editor of an Arab newspaper and the sole Palestinian representative in a press delegation accompanying Israel’s president on an overseas tour, bowed out of the trip rather than be the only member of the party body-searched. None of the Jewish journalists came to his defense.

                                                I have some idea of how he must have felt. When I fly with my wife, we are asked endlessly and disbelievingly about the circumstances of our wedding, as though we married only as a ruse to get past the security check and blow up a plane. Then our bags are X-rayed and searched at great length as we watch other passengers overtake us. But the experience pales in comparison with the occasions when either of us travels alone.

                                                I have gone through the standard checks enough times to know that I must arrive at the airport at least three hours beforehand to stand any chance of making my flight. The assumption seems to be that as I am married to a Palestinian (even if she is a citizen of the country), and as she is not traveling with me, she or her family must have placed a bomb in my luggage or on me to blow up the plane. The fact that I have flown dozens of times out of Israel uneventfully does not gain me the benefit of the doubt.

                                                As I approach the security officer before the check-in, she (and it is always a she) asks me where I am from. Given Israel’s strict enforcement of communal segregation based on ethnicity, this is a fairly accurate way of determining which side of the ethnic divide I belong to. My reply of “Nazareth”—given its international importance, my “Western-ness” and the fact that there is a Jewish city of almost the same name built on its confiscated land—does not provide the decisive evidence she needs. The questioning therefore intensifies in a coded format that needs deciphering for those untutored in Israel’s version of racial profiling.

                                                Why are you living in Nazareth? I work there. Did you make aliyah? [“Aliyah” literally means “ascension,” the right of all Jews to come to Israel and automatically receive citizenship. It is an indirect way of asking if I am a Jew.] No. I am married to an Israeli. [If I claim a right to live in Israel based on marriage, it means I am not Jewish. My answer, however, leaves open the question of my wife’s ethnicity.] What’s your wife called? [Names invariably give away whether a citizen is Jewish or Palestinian.] Sally Cook. [My mother-in-law was pregnant when she befriended a British couple on holiday and decided to name my wife after their daughter. My answer has not settled the matter of my wife’s ethnicity. Her maiden name, “Azzam,” would be a giveaway but I am not going to be that helpful.] What’s her father’s name? He died many years ago, but was called Edmond. [My wife’s family are Maronite Christians, a group that for historic reasons prefers European names. Still no clue for the security officer, as my wife’s family could have been Jewish immigrants who never Hebraicized their names.] What about her mother? Her name’s Diana? [To test the security officer’s racist intentions, I pronounce the name in as Anglicized form as I can, as in “Princess Diana,” even though in Arabic it is pronounced distinctively “Dee-ana”] Does she have any brothers or sisters? [The official is sounding exasperated at the lengths she must go to extract the information she needs.] Yes, a brother called Ghassan. [Bingo, she knows I am married to a Palestinian citizen.]

                                                Now the questions are over. She is scrawling coded numbers on stickers to be placed on every surface of my bags. I am sent to a separate queue where apparently a stronger X-ray machine will peer deeper into my suitcases. Then my bags are searched by hand for the best part of an hour. Depending on the circumstances, items may be confiscated or I may be told I am not allowed any hand luggage. “I hope you understand that these security precautions are necessary because we are concerned that someone may have placed something in your bags without your knowledge.” I might just believe the “without your knowledge” excuse, except that next they want to take me off to a cubicle for an intimate body search. With practiced indignation, I respond: “So you think that someone hid something in my body without my noticing?”

                                                And after all that, it is off to a holding center, often underground in foreign airports, as the final minutes to take-off tick by. There I make the most of consoling conversations with Palestinian citizens being detained alongside me. As the plane doors are about to close, I am escorted on in full view of the other passengers. Do they think I am a pop star? Their concerned expressions suggest not.

                                                In the Declaration of Independence, the document that established Israel as a Jewish state on 14 May 1948, its drafters promised unequivocally to “uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens, without distinction of religion, race, or sex.” My marriage to a Palestinian citizen and the subsequent residency procedures we have endured are proof enough that such talk of equality is hollow.

                                                In Israel there is no civil marriage, or freedom of religion. In fact, the only piece of legislation approximating a Bill of Rights—the Basic Law on Freedom and Human Dignity of 1992—does not even include equality among its provisions. Instead, in all personal areas of one’s life, one must subscribe to a confessional group and follow its rules. Need a divorce? Apply to the rabbinical courts if you are a Jew, to a panel of Greek bishops if you belong to the Greek Orthodox Church, or to the local sheikh if you are a Muslim. You’re a non-believer? Not possible—everyone must belong to a sect in Israel. In my case, that means that I am counted as a Christian. In terms of marriage, that at least proved an advantage. Sally is a Christian Maronite, so we were free to marry so long as we could find a willing priest. Had she been a Muslim or Jew, however, we would have been forced to leave the country to wed—although generously Israel would at least have recognized the marriage on our return.

                                                I was raised as a Methodist but, since there is no Methodism in Israel, Sally and I had to turn to a friendly Anglican bishop for dispensation to marry in his small church in Nazareth. Only after marriage, however, did the inequality of Israel’s citizenship laws strike me with force.

                                                Were I a Jew, I would have been entitled to citizenship even before our wedding. A Jewish friend who immigrated to Israel a few years ago told me she had caught a plane from London and completed the paperwork moments after landing. Her right to Israeli citizenship was guaranteed under the Law of Return of 1950. As a non-Jew, I have to rely on a different piece of legislation: namely, the Nationality Law of 1952. Under various amendments to this law passed since 2003, Sally would not have been able to marry and live with me had I been a Palestinian from the occupied West Bank or Gaza, or a citizen of an Arab country. Israel has blocked the freedom of Palestinian citizens to choose whom they marry, officially on security grounds.

                                                In practice, however, Israeli politicians and the Shin Bet have been clear that their real fear is demographic: they do not want the proportion of Palestinians or Arabs to rise above 20 per cent of the population and thereby threaten the state’s Jewishness. Such marriages are seen by Israeli Jews as a “right of return via the backdoor” because they could eventually confer citizenship on a Palestinian spouse. A Jewish state, after all, has to be allowed to gerrymander the population to ensure it maintains its Jewish majority.

                                                Fortunately, I am not covered by these amendments—so far at least. I get the more generous provisions offered to “Westerners,” even if they are nowhere near as generous as those for Jews. That means that Sally and I had to demonstrate conclusively that we really had married, even though the wedding was conducted in Israel. In total, we spent several months collecting some 20 different documents as proof. I now receive a temporary residence permit every year—as long as I pass the security checks. After five years I will be eligible for permanent residency, and could even seek citizenship, although I would have to be prepared to forgo my British passport.

                                                My Jewish friend, by contrast, has two passports in addition to her Israeli one. But then she is Jewish and this a Jewish state.

                                                Citizenship v. Nationality

                                                For many years, anyone could tell what ethnic group you belonged to—and more usefully for the authorities whether you were a Jew—simply by looking at your identity card. The older cards still have a line stating the holder’s “nationality” in exclusively ethnic or religious terms: Arab, Jew, Russian, Druze and so on. On the new cards, however, that line is gone. Strangely, however, the moment an official looks at my wife’s ID card, he seems to know exactly where she belongs in Israel’s ethnic hierarchy. Some observers say the answer is to be found in the card’s barcode number.

                                                Interestingly, on a related issue, Israel has just become the first “democratic” state to require all citizens to provide their biometric data (fingerprints, facial images, etc.) for a national database. The likely abuse of such information in a country like Israel is great indeed.

                                                The recording of “nationality” is a serious matter in Israel. In most countries, anyone who is a citizen is usually also a national. I am, for example, both a British citizen and a British national. In fact, I assumed these two words were virtual synonyms until I arrived in Israel. But here they most definitely are not. My wife’s passport records her nationality as Israeli, but that is actually a legal fiction. It is designed, I suppose, to satisfy border officials in other countries who expect the passport to describe her as an Israeli. Were it to state otherwise, she would technically be stateless and border guards might become suspicious in general of Israeli passports. But inside her own country, the pretense that her nationality is Israeli can be safely dropped. Here, recorded by the Population Registry, her nationality is “Arab.” Other Israelis have a nationality selected from more than 130 categories—some of them obscure—chosen by the Interior Ministry, including Jew, Hebrew, Samaritan, Assyrian and Ethiopian. Pretty much everything, in fact, apart from “Israeli.” Why?

                                                For a simple reason. Israel is a Jewish state, or, put another way, a state of the Jews. In other words, it belongs to Jews: it is their homeland, their birthright from more than 2,000 years ago. It does not belong to Israeli citizens, a fifth of whom are Palestinian. It cannot because then the Palestinians in Israel—and their relatives in exile—would also have a claim on the title deeds to the land. So a distinction must be made between citizenship and nationality to exclude them. That is why my wife can be an Israeli citizen but not an Israeli national. She has rights to live in Israel but no stake in “ownership” of her state, because only Jews can “own” the state. In fact, according to this view, even Jews who have never been citizens of Israel—Jews in the Diaspora—own the state. A Jew in Brooklyn who has never even visited Israel is officially seen to have more of an investment in the state than my wife whose family has lived in Nazareth for hundreds of years.

                                                Ariel Sharon once explained this distinction during a speech in the Knesset. Palestinian citizens—“Israeli Arabs,” as he called them—had “rights in the land” whereas “all rights over the Land of Israel are Jewish rights.” In other words, Palestinian citizens are merely tenants, temporary or otherwise, while the Jewish people are the landlords of Israel.

                                                Separate and Unequal

                                                By design of the state, Palestinian and Jewish citizens live apart, in segregated spaces. I first discovered the practical implications one Friday evening after I had visited a musical event in the Palestinian town of Shafa’amr, near Nazareth. As I reached the edge of the town, my car broke down. Stranded in the dark, with no one in sight, I took comfort in the thought that I had breakdown insurance. I called the 24-hour hotline and asked for a mechanic or tow-truck to come to my aid. The woman on the other end of the line asked where I was. Innocently, I replied that I was next to Shafa’amr. There was a pause, presumably while she checked a map. “We can send someone tomorrow morning,” she replied. “But I am broken down in the middle of nowhere and need help right now,” I argued. “Sorry, we cannot help you now. You’ll have to wait till tomorrow. Call again then.”

                                                I was saved that night by a passing Bedouin driver who picked me up and took me to Nazareth. When I related this story to friends the next day, no one was surprised. What then was I paying the breakdown company for, I asked. “You’re deluded if you expect a Jewish company to send a driver into a Palestinian community at night,” my friends agreed. “Their workers are taught to believe we’ll kill them.”

                                                Stories like this have become commonplace in my life. I bought a bedroom suite from the IKEA store in the Jewish city of Netanya, north of Tel Aviv. Delivery was promised within three days, but a week later I still did not have the furniture. Every time I called, the delivery company said a driver was off sick or a truck had broken down. After a fortnight of excuses, I called IKEA’s press office in Israel, told them I was a British journalist living in Nazareth and that I was planning to write a story about their delivery firm’s racist policy towards Palestinian communities. Would they like to comment? A truck with the furniture arrived later that day.

                                                Similarly, every time we move, Sally and I have had to wait weeks to get the national telecoms company, Bezeq, to sort out the connection to our home. None of my Jewish friends expects to wait more than a couple of days for a Bezeq technician. But then they live in Jewish communities. At the time of writing this article I have just moved to a central location in Nazareth and been told by Bezeq that we must wait six months for an internet connection. Apparently the technicians “have a problem reaching your area”—that is, the center of the largest Palestinian city in Israel.

                                                Therese, my Dutch friend, lives a few miles north of Nazareth in the Palestinian town of Sakhnin. She once managed to speak to Bezeq’s area manager after she had been forced to wait more than a month to get a technician to fix a broadband line she needed for work. At least he was honest: “We have orders from the government not to send our technicians into Arab areas. It’s too dangerous for them.”

                                                Even were this fear justified, which it is not, why then does Bezeq not send Palestinian technicians into communities like Nazareth and Sakhnin? Because, like most state utilities, it has a covert policy of refusing employment to Palestinian citizens. There are fewer than a dozen Palestinians among Bezeq’s 10,000-strong workforce. How do I know? Because I know one, someone who was given an apprenticeship in a special Bezeq training school in Jerusalem in the 1970s—a brief aberration in official policy.

                                                There is at least an official source for the figures for another massive state concern, the Electricity Corporation. Nachman Tal, a former senior adviser in the “Arab section” of the Shin Bet, revealed to the Ha’aretz newspaper that when he made an enquiry in 2004 he discovered that there were only six Palestinian citizens among the 13,000 staff of the electricity company. Fortunately, for electrical problems we can rely on local electricians.

                                                Enforcing this segregated employment structure are official public institutions, state monopolies, and the government itself. The most important is the Histadrut, the trade union federation and, peculiarly, also one of the country’s biggest employers. In the tradition of “Hebrew labor,” it has worked relentlessly to exclude the Palestinian minority from a voice in workers’ issues over many decades.

                                                The Histadrut runs some of Israel’s biggest firms and, until the 1990s and a wave of privatizations, had diverse concerns, including a newspaper, the country’s largest bank, a construction firm, the national bus company Egged, and a dairy production company. In the late 1970s, even though the Histadrut was the second largest employer in the country after the government and at the height of its power, there was not a single Histadrut-owned firm or factory in a Palestinian community, nor were there any Palestinian managers in its 600 industries. Things have barely improved since. Almost no industry has been established in Palestinian communities, both because of a lack of space following land confiscations by the state and because the government has encouraged businesses to locate to Jewish areas through special development grants.

                                                The Great Land Swindle

                                                My friend Ziad Awaisie was one of the organizers of the Saffuriya procession that marked this year’s Nakba Day. His parents, children at the time, were forced to flee from the village in July 1948, when the fledgling Israeli air force bombed their homes for two hours. Most of the villagers headed north towards Lebanon and permanent exile from their homeland. But the families of Ziad’s parents left for Nazareth, believing—rightly—that the new Israeli army would not dare to tarnish its image by attacking one of the holiest cities in Christendom. Along with other Saffuriya families, they created a refugee neighborhood in Nazareth called Sufafra, named after their former village. Their new homes look down on the fields in the valley their ancestors once farmed but which are now out of bounds to them.

                                                This exclusion is legally enforced. Ziad and his parents are known as “present absentees”—one of several Orwellian phrases invented by Israeli lawyers. Considered “present” in Israel but “absent” from their property, Ziad’s parents are denied—in violation of international law—the right to return to the homes they were forced to evacuate during the 1948 war. Immediately after that war, one in four Palestinian citizens found themselves classified as present absentees. Because this status is inherited, there are believed to be nearly 300,000 in Israel today. They are permanently denied any right to their families’ homes, land, bank accounts, businesses, and all belongings, which were taken by a state official called the Custodian of Absentee Property and then passed on to the government for distribution to Jewish immigrants. This was dispossession on a massive scale against a group that are supposedly citizens with equal rights.

                                                But the state’s systematic confiscation of Palestinian property has not ended there. One in 10 Palestinian citizens live in what are called “unrecognized villages”—that is, unrecognized by their own state. Many are Bedouin living in the desert region of the south, the Negev. In Israel’s early years, the Bedouin tribes—isolated by the military government from the rest of the country—were ordered by the army to move from their ancestral grounds to various locations in the northern Negev around the newly “Judaized” city of Beersheva (formerly the Palestinian city of Bir Saba). With amazing chutzpah, Israel now claims that these forcibly relocated Bedouin have no title deeds or historic connection to the lands they were transferred to and are therefore “squatters.” It has been seeking to evict them from their homes ever since.

                                                The Building and Planning Law of 1965 formalized this official view, criminalizing all the inhabitants of the unrecognized villages. It is illegal for state utilities like the Electricity Corporation and Mekorot, the water company, to supply the villagers with services. The unrecognized villages are also not entitled to council representation, depriving them of the right to access roads, schools and health clinics. Without a council, no master plan can be drawn up for the villages, making all homes there illegal and under continuous threat of demolition.

                                                The meaning of being unrecognized is particularly evident in Wadi al-Naim, a village of 4,000 Bedouin a few miles south of Beersheva. There, the state has built a giant electricity generating station for the Negev on top of the village, as though the inhabitants did not exist. The villagers have no access to the electricity, even though they have to suffer the environmental and health consequences of living under thousands of power lines.

                                                A stone’s throw from their homes is also to be found the country’s largest chemical waste dump, Ramat Hovav. A recent survey found a significant increase in cancer rates among those living within a 13-mile radius of the dump. The researchers, however, overlooked Wadi al-Naim, even though it is the nearest community to Ramat Hovav, failing in their duty of scientific rigor but cravenly abiding by official ideology that the village does not exist.

                                                The inhabitants of Wadi al-Naim, like other Bedouin in the unrecognized villages, must endure the special attention of a paramilitary police force set up especially for them by Ariel Sharon in the 1970s called the Green Patrol. The Patrol’s diverse environmental duties include killing the Bedouin’s herds of cattle, sheep and black goats, destroying their homes, and spraying their crops with herbicides from the air. Most Bedouin in unrecognized villages are forced to live in tin shacks, without heating in the winter or air-conditioning in the summer; they must carry water long distances to their homes from standpipes, a minimal concession forced on the government by the courts; and their children must walk miles to reach a school in an official and recognized Bedouin community, or simply not go.

                                                The purpose of this intimidation, neglect and violence is to force the unrecognized villagers off their lands again, but this time into a handful of profoundly neglected townships, or urban reservations, established for the Bedouin since the 1970s on a few of the formerly unrecognized villages. The state calls this policy “concentrating” the Negev’s “scattered” communities. So far half the Negev’s Bedouin population—about 80,000 people—have been relocated to the townships. The Bedouin are crammed into these towns without access either to the land they need to continue their way of life as pastoral farmers or the urban infrastructure for them to develop their communities. Instead those who are employed work at minimum wages in factories in Jewish communities. As a result, the Bedouin townships are at the bottom of every socio-economic index. The latest surveys suggest that the Bedouin are deserting the townships, preferring the dignity—despite the deprivations—of life in an unrecognized village.

                                                Much of the land belonging to the Palestinian minority has been taken through these twin policies of declaring large numbers of Palestinian citizens “absentees” and a significant proportion of their communities “unrecog-nized.” But other pretexts have been established in law to convert yet more land into state property: the creation of closed military zones in Palestinian areas (a policy later adopted in the occupied territories); the declaration of Palestinian land as uncultivated or “fallow” (in a Catch-22, often after it has been made a closed zone); and the use of Palestinian land for the building of national infrastructure projects or in the “national interest,” meaning in practice for the exclusive use of Jews.

                                                Nazareth, the effective capital of the Palestinian minority, has been subjected to such schemes in an aggressive manner. In the late 1950s most of its outlying lands were confiscated on the grounds that they were needed for the construction of government regional offices. In fact, not only were the offices built but so too was a new Jewish town. Upper Nazareth was the spearhead of a “Juda-ization” program in the Galilee that continues to this day.

                                                Upper Nazareth, still smaller in population than Nazareth, now has three times as much land as its Palestinian neighbor. It has also been generously allocated special development grants not available to Nazareth, and has many large industrial zones, compared to a minuscule site in Nazareth. Upper Nazareth’s local council alone benefits from the business rates and property taxes levied on its industry and government offices, even though they are built on land taken from Nazareth.

                                                At least 70 per cent of the minority’s land has been confiscated since 1948. Along with the property of the Palestinian refugees in exile, these lands have been taken by the state or transferred to the Jewish National Fund, to be held in trust for the Jewish people worldwide. Today, 93 per cent of Israeli territory is “nationalized,” for the benefit of the Jewish nation, with only about 3 per cent owned privately either by individual Palestinians or by their communities.

                                                Even much of this 3 per cent has been taken out of the control of its Palestinian owners and their elected local representatives. Outside the tightly defined limits of Palestinian communities, land in rural areas like the Galilee falls under the jurisdiction of regional councils, established to empower the hundreds of scattered and exclusively Jewish communities implanted next to Palestinian towns and villages. They ensure that Palestinian land cannot be developed for the benefit of the community or to meet the growing demand for housing, but remains as private smallholdings, usually cultivated as olive groves.

                                                In addition, Israel has not built a single new Palestinian community in six decades, despite the minority growing eightfold in the meantime. It has also strictly enforced a policy of house demolitions against Palestinian citizens who build illegally, which most must do because the planning authorities refuse to approve the master plans needed to legalize the expansion of Palestinian communities. Instead Palestinian towns and villages have become tightly contained ghettoes. This approach to the Palestinian minority contrasts starkly with the state’s determination to satisfy the “natural growth” of the illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank by endlessly building new homes there.

                                                The Glass Wall

                                                Most sympathetic studies of the Palestinian minority concentrate on the economic and social discrimination it suffers, creating the false impression that Palestinians are simply second-class citizens, much like blacks in America and Muslims in Europe. Certainly, Palestinians inside Israel suffer far greater levels of poverty than Jews, far higher unemployment and their separate school system is a pale reflection of the Jewish one.

                                                The following figures give a brief impression of this discrimination. A study last year revealed that Israel’s Palestinian citizens ranked in 66th place out of 177 countries in the Human Development Index (measuring standards of living, poverty and progress)—43 positions below the general ranking for Israeli citizens. The gross domestic product per capita for the Palestinian minority is a third of that of the Jewish majority, and is identical to that in Romania and Iran. The level of education in Jordan, Lebanon and Libya is higher than that of Palestinians in Israel. And the level of health among the Palestinian minority is lower than countries such as Costa Rica and Cuba.

                                                This kind of discrimination, however, barely scratches the surface of the Palestinian experience of life inside Israel. The core problem for Palestinian citizens is that they are not true citizens at all: they are more akin to guest workers, whose rights may be terminated at some future date should the Jewish majority so decide. Nonetheless, Israel has sought to create the illusion that it has extended meaningful citizenship to its Palestinian minority through a policy I characterize as the “glass wall.”

                                                The glass wall, like its steel and concrete cousins in the occupied territories, tightly limits the ability of Palestinians to exercise their rights but, unlike the more famous wall, is invisible to onlookers. Nowhere is this deception more true than in the minority’s apparent right to political representation. Thus, most observers assume Israel is a normal democracy for the simple reason that its Palestinian citizens have the vote. However, this has been an easy generosity for a state in which, after an earlier campaign of ethnic cleansing, there is a clear Jewish majority. In fact, in an indication of how irrelevant universal suffrage has been in ensuring meaningful representation for the Palestinian minority, Israel allowed its Palestinian citizens to vote in parliamentary elections from the moment the state was created, even though they were also subject to martial law for the next two decades.

                                                Two factors ensure that political power in Israel is retained solely in Jewish hands and used exclusively for the benefit of the Jewish population. The first is that the country’s independent Palestinian parties, including the one small Jewish and Palestinian coexistence party, have been excluded from every government coalition and every major decision-making body in Israel’s history. In contrast, small Jewish parties, of religious fundamentalists or openly fascistic groups, have been regularly invited into such coalitions. The second is that all the political parties participating in national elections must pledge their loyalty and commitment to the concept of Israel as a Jewish state. In this sense, therefore, even when Palestinian citizens contest elections, they must operate within a political framework that is an entirely Jewish, Zionist one. Because Palestinian parties, like Jewish parties, must pledge a commitment to a “Jewish and democratic state,” all of them skate close to illegality when they campaign for Israel’s democratization.

                                                The constant threat of disqualification, and prosecution, of the minority’s politicians has been an effective way to rein in free speech and silence dissent. In the years following the outbreak of the second intifada, Israel launched investigations of all of its Palestinian MKs, regularly accusing them of incitement or sedition when they promoted their political platforms. The country’s two most influential Arab leaders, the nationalist Azmi Bishara and Sheikh Raed Salah of the Islamic Movement, have both been hounded relentlessly by the security services. They were also prosecuted in cases that later largely collapsed because of a lack of evidence but which did grave damage to their reputations and that of Palestinian citizens generally. Salah ended up spending several years in jail and Bishara has been forced into exile under threat of long-term imprisonment for treason.

                                                Despite the Palestinian minority’s total exclusion from political influence, the climate is growing ever more hostile to their representatives. This trend has been particularly evident since the Palestinian parties began demanding Israel’s reform from a Jewish state to “a state of all its citizens,” or a liberal democracy. In the 2003 Knesset election, two Palestinian candidates and one party, that of Bishara, were banned from standing by the Central Election Committee, a body dominated by the main Zionist parties. The disqualifications were made possible by a May 2002 amendment to the Basic Law on the Knesset that outlaws candidates and parties that “deny the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.” The disqualifications were overturned at the last minute by the Supreme Court, though only by a wafer-thin majority.

                                                As a result, Jewish MKs have been seeking to bypass the court. The first piece of “loyalty legislation” was passed in July this year, allowing the citizenship of anyone committing a “breach of trust” with the state to be revoked. Such a breach is defined broadly, and includes anyone who has lived in any of nine Arab or Muslim states, as well as in Gaza. The revocation does not require a conviction for treason, and can be implemented without the citizen affected being present. At the time of writing, a related bill had passed its early readings to strip anyone of the right to stand for election if they have visited an “enemy state,” again most of the Arab countries, in the past seven years. Such legislation would disqualify the candidature of most of the current 10 Knesset members belonging to Palestinian parties.

                                                In contrast to the Palestinian minority’s exclusion from the corridors of power, Diaspora Jews (who do not have Israeli citizenship) have strong representation inside the political system and in state agencies through various international Zionist bodies: chiefly the Jewish Agency and the Jewish National Fund inside Israel, and the World Zionist Organization in the occupied territories. These bodies have a keen influence on the decision-making process relating to two key issues: the immigration and settlement of Jews in Israel (and the West Bank); and the confiscation of Palestinian land for exclusive use by Jews. Although these Zionist organizations enjoy a quasi-governmental status, none is subject to Israel’s anti-discrimination legislation (itself rarely enforced). According to their charters, these organizations represent the interests of world Jewry, not Israel’s population, and can therefore entirely ignore the Palestinian minority in their decisions.

                                                If the minority’s representatives are first in the firing line, Palestinian citizens are likely to follow closely behind. During the second intifada, concern about the country’s demographic trends has reached fever pitch, with concern regularly expressed from the prime minister down that the minority’s high birth rate and campaign for Israel’s democratization threaten Israel’s future as a Jewish state. The Herzliya Conference, an annual security convention launched in late 2000, set the ball rolling. Its theme was the danger posed by the growth of the Palestinian minority and its connections to its ethnic kin in the occupied territories.

                                                From this conference new kinds of legislative assault on the citizenship of Palestinians have emerged, including the amendments to the 1952 Nationality Law and a series of “loyalty” bills. Opinion polls soon identified similar worries among the Jewish public. A survey in 2003 showed 57 per cent thought Palestinian citizens should be encouraged to emigrate, through inducements or force. In a follow-up poll in 2006 the figure had risen to 62 per cent. In another survey that year 68 per cent of Israeli Jews said they did not want to live next to a Palestinian citizen.

                                                These racist views have been encouraged by leading journalists, academics and politicians of all persuasions, fearful that the presence of a growing Palestinian minority will one day destroy the state’s Jewishness. Many advocate “transfer”—the popular euphemism in Israel for ethnic cleansing—including revisionist historians like Benny Morris and former prime ministers from across the political spectrum: Binyamin Netanyahu, Ariel Sharon and Ehud Barak.

                                                Leading the charge in promoting “transfer” is Israel’s far-right, particularly Avigdor Lieberman, a Moldovan immigrant and leader of the increasingly popular Yisrael Beitenu party. Lieberman, once director-general of the Likud party, has been promoting the “Separation of Nations” whereby mutual transfers of territory ensure Jewish settlers in the occupied territories are included inside an expanded Israeli state, but as many Palestinians as possible are relocated to what he calls a future Palestinian state—though like most Israelis he appears to mean by statehood no more than a patchwork of ghettoes in the West Bank and a besieged prison in Gaza.

                                                In putting forward his proposal, Lieberman has exhumed the idea of transfer from the dark recesses of Zionism, freeing Israeli politicians to speak about it openly, especially as part of what may be presented as a potential “peace agreement” with the Palestinians of the occupied territories. In particular, he has made respectable the idea of transferring the Little Triangle, a small area of Israeli territory close to the West Bank and densely populated with a 250,000 Palestinian citizens, to a future Palestinian state. He also proposes to require a loyalty oath from Palestinian citizens who remain inside Israel, not to their country but to Israel as a Jewish state. Those refusing would presumably be expelled. In October 2006 Prime Minister Ehud Olmert appointed Lieberman to his cabinet as deputy prime minister. Shortly afterwards, on a trip to the U.S., Lieberman explained his vision of conditional Israeli citizenship to American Jewish leaders at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy in Washington: “He who is not ready to recognize Israel as a Jewish and Zionist state cannot be a citizen of the country.”

                                                A consensus appears to be forming behind the Lieberman approach. Shortly before the Annapolis conference in November 2007, called by President George W. Bush to revive the peace process stalled since Camp David in 2000, Israel’s foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, observed that a Palestinian state would be the “answer” to Israel’s Palestinian citizens: “They cannot ask for the declaration of a Palestinian state while working against the nature of the State of Israel as home unto the Jewish people.” Earlier, in August, President Shimon Peres, holder of a post intended to embody the nation’s unity, proposed exchanging Jewish settlement blocs in the occupied territories for Palestinian areas inside Israel.

                                                Today, it may be that the outlook for the Palestinian minority is bleaker than it has been for decades. ■

                                                Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist living in Nazareth, Israel. He is the author of “Blood and Religion: The Unmasking of the Jewish and Democratic State,” and “Israel and the Clash of Civilizations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East,” both available from AMEU. His website is

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                                                  Abbas planning to dissolve Palestinian Leglislative Council and stay in office illegally after his term ends

                                                  English (US)  September 9th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                  By Saed Bannoura

                                                  Palestinian sources reported on Tuesday that the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, intends to dissolve the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) should the anticipated Palestinian internal dialogue under Egyptian supervision and the support of the Arab League fail to achieve the expected results.

                                                  The sources added that the decision of Abbas will be supported by the Executive Committee of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) since the PLO is the sole representative of the Palestinian People.


                                                  The Committee would extend the legitimacy of president Abbas for additional six months after his term as president ends in January of next year.

                                                  Also, the sources stated that Abbas decision came after serious talks with senior Palestinian officials and senior advisors, and that he informed them that he intends to dissolve the Legislative Council.

                                                  The officials advised Abbas to dissolve the PLC, which is dominated y Hamas, fearing that the acting PLC head, Ahmad Bahar, would will take over the president’s position after Abbas’ term ends since the PLC head, Aziz Dweik , also from Hamas, is imprisoned by Israel.

                                                  The officials hinted that they obtained information which states that Hamas is not interested in the success of the internal dialogue which will be renewed next month under Egyptian supervision.

                                                  Abbas will end his term as president in January next year, and therefore, according to the basic Palestinian law, he should call for presidential elections three months before that date.

                                                  International Middle East Media Center

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                                                    Iran urges UN response to Israeli Zonist threats

                                                    English (US)  September 9th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                    Iran has called for a “resolute and clear response” from the United Nations to the dangerous Israeli threats against the Islamic republic.

                                                    Iran's Ambassador to the UN, Mohammad Khazaee, sent a letter to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday in which he described recent remarks by two Israeli ministers as "vicious threats ... in blatant violation of the most fundamental principles of international law."


                                                    Israel's pensioners affairs minister Rafi Eitan has told the German magazine Der Spiegel that President Ahmadinejad should be kidnapped and taken to the International Criminal Court in The Hague for what he claimed Ahmadinejad's threats against Israel.

                                                    Such remarks by the Israeli official “put on display the aggressive and terrorist nature of the Israeli regime," Khazaee stated in the letter which was carried by Reuters.

                                                    Last week, Ehud Barak said in an interview that Tel Aviv will use “any option” to halt Iran's nuclear program.

                                                    "These dangerous threats of resorting to criminal acts ... require a resolute and clear response on the part of the United Nations, particularly the Security Council," Khazaee explained.

                                                    "Iran ... in accordance with its inherent right under Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, would not hesitate to act in self-defense to respond to any attack against the Iranian nation and to take appropriate defensive measures to protect itself, its people and its officials," Iran's envoy underlined.

                                                    Press TV

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                                                      Thai PM must resign for violating constitution by hosting tv cooking show

                                                      English (US)  September 9th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                      Samak's appearance on a cooking show after taking office was deemed unconstitutional

                                                      Samak Sundaravej, Thailand's prime minister, has been found to have broken the Thai constitution by hosting a cooking show - seen as moonlighting while in public office.

                                                      Samak and his entire cabinet must resign over the scandal, Thailand's constitutional court said on Tuesday.


                                                      Chat Chonlaworn, head of the nine-judge court, said that Samak had "violated Article 267 of the constitution" and that "his position as prime minister has ended".

                                                      Thailand's constitution bans government ministers from private employment while in office.

                                                      The court said the cabinet will remain in a caretaker position until a new administration is installed.

                                                      The forced resignation does not, however, ban Samak from standing as prime minister again and his ruling People Power party (PPP) has vowed to re-elect him.

                                                      "I insist that our party leader will be the prime minister," Wittaya Buranasiri, chief government whip for the PPP, said shortly after the verdict.

                                                      Samak had hosted a popular TV cooking show called Tasting and Complaining before becoming prime minister seven months ago.

                                                      He made a few appearances on the show - a mix of cooking and rants on various topics - after taking office, prompting a group of senators to petition the court on grounds that a prime minister was not allowed under the constitution to work with private companies.

                                                      Political crisis

                                                      The case is the latest embarrassment for Samak, who has not been able to enter his office at Government House in the capital, Bangkok, since anti-government protesters stormed the compound two weeks ago.

                                                      Despite celebrations, PAD supporters vowed to remain at the protest site [AFP]
                                                      Supporters of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) continued their sit-in on Tuesday, breaking into cheers upon hearing the court's ruling.

                                                      Prapanth Koonmi, a PAD leader, announced: "We will continue the protest.

                                                      "The prime minister has stepped down but there's still the cabinet. I'm not sure the cabinet will listen to the law."

                                                      Around 5,000 demonstrators remain on the government office grounds.

                                                      They accuse Samak as acting as a proxy for Thaksin Shinawatra, a former prime minister ousted in a 2006 military coup after large demonstrations by the same group of activists.

                                                      Jazeera and agencies

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                                                        International lawyers and human rights activists accuse Zionist Israel of Gaza 'genocide'

                                                        English (US)  September 8th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                        DUBAI — A group of Arab international lawyers and human rights activists accused Israel on Sunday of committing "genocide" through its crippling blockade of the Gaza Strip.

                                                        "The catastrophic situation in which Gaza citizens live, which led to the deterioration of medical, economic, ecological and humanitarian conditions, in addition to the death of innocent people, amounts to genocide," said the 11 activists in a statement received by AFP.


                                                        By preventing food and medicines from reaching civilians "under the pretext of besieging 'a terrorist government'," Israel is committing "genocide" as defined in the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, they wrote.

                                                        Israel has blockaded the impoverished Palestinian territory since the Islamist Hamas movement seized power there in June 2007.

                                                        The activists said the blockade "does not comply with any international treaty," including those signed by Arab countries with Israel.

                                                        "Hence breaking the siege would not violate any international treaty signed by Arab countries with Israel.

                                                        "International legal responsibility for this crime is borne by anyone who abets or participates in it," they added.

                                                        More than 40 Western and other activists travelled by boat from Cyprus to the coastal strip in defiance of the blockade last month.

                                                        The Arab activists recalled that the blockade had been denounced by such prominent figures as South African Nobel Peace laureate Desmond Tutu, who said during a visit to Gaza last May that the international community's "silence and complicity" on the situation there "shames us all."

                                                        Signatories from Gulf countries included Mahmoud al-Mubarak from Saudi Arabia; Mohammed al-Roken, Mohammed Saqr al-Zaabi and Mohammed al-Qassemi from the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrainis Nabil Rajab and Abdelnabi al-Ikri.

                                                        Others were Swiss-based Tunisian rights activist Rashid Musalli, Algerian law professor Ahmad Si Ali, Syrian Ahmed Haj Suleiman, Egyptian Abdullah al-Ashaal and Waddah bin Edris of the Cairo-based Arab Programme for Human Rights Activists.


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                                                          Severe water shortage in West Bank; some homes without water for weeks

                                                          English (US)  September 7th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                          Filling storage containers at local wells

                                                          BETHLEHEM – A coalition of Palestinian and international NGOs issued a statement on Friday calling the water shortage across the West Bank a “humanitarian crisis” and said they were “gravely concerned.”

                                                          The coalition said that there was a reduction in water supplies from rainfall averaging 45% across the West Bank, which has left 200 communities not served by the municipal water sources at a loss. There is not enough water for cooking, cleaning, agricultural irrigation, or basic food-producing plant watering.

                                                          Even in cities and villages connected to water mains, reduction in supply means frequent cut offs for homes and offices. It is common in many areas to not have water for a week, and others only receive water once in a fortnight.


                                                          Several aid organizations have been providing emergency water resources so the basic needs to Palestinians can be met. The coalition, however, said it doubted whether even with the emergency support, that all basic needs would be met. The group said that unless Israel increases the current water supply to the area, health and hygiene, crops and fruit trees would suffer.

                                                          When wells dry up or water mains stay shut for long periods of time, homes and businesses regularly turn to water tanker services to fill the gaps in service. Most buildings have several water canisters on their roofs, used to store water when lines are full. The tanks are filled up by water tanker services, but cost 30-40% more than the municipal service.

                                                          For one tank of water (10 square meters), residents pay around 250 shekels, which will provide water for five homes, which lasts a family anywhere from 2-6 days.

                                                          Even when families can buy water, tankers often have to travel long distances to wells or “filling points.” Many of these are obstructed by Israeli military checkpoints, or physical obstacles like mounds of earth piled onto roads near the wells, or concrete blocks placed by the Israeli army to prevent traffic on a given route.

                                                          As a result, tankers have to travel circuitous routes to get to the wells, using more gas and time, and ultimately costing the customer more.

                                                          Many West Bankers spend between 3-5% of their monthly income on water, and more when families depend on crops and livestock for their livelihoods.

                                                          The coalition of organizations now providing emergency service, say that approximately 10% of West Bank communities are surviving on less than ten liters of water per person per day. This figure is well below the World Health Organization estimate of what average water usage should be for proper health and hygiene to be maintained, which is 50-100 liters per person per day.

                                                          According to the water coalition, “lack of economic and physical access to safe water is increasingly leading poor families to consume water from unprotected sources, such as agricultural wells, posing serious concerns about water quality and potential public health effects. The current water shortage is also increasing the levels of food insecurity among rural communities, herders in particular, raising the risk of displacement.”

                                                          The organizations in the coalition issued a call for the international community to respond with funds and aid for immediate relief, and the long term building of more wells and filling points for communities off the municipal grids. The group also called on Israel to issue permits for the construction of such wells, and immediately increase the amount of water West Bankers have access too. Finally, they called on the Israeli and Palestinian governments to come to an equitable decision on the sharing of water resources so that catastrophe and humanitarian crises can be avoided in the future.

                                                          The participating organizations are: PARC - Agricultural Development Association, PREMIERE URGENCE, G.V.C - Gruppo di Volontariato Civile, LifeSource, Palestinian Hydrology Group, Centre on Housing Rights and Eviction, The Applied Research Institute-Jerusalem, The Swedish Cooperative Centre, Palestine Farmer Union. Oxfam International, and Asamblea de Cooperacion Por la Paz.

                                                          Maan News

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                                                            Police suggest indicting Israeli PM

                                                            English (US)  September 7th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                            Olmert is alleged to have paid bribes to a US businessman]

                                                            Israeli police have recommended corruption charges against the country's prime minister.

                                                            Police said on Sunday that they possess enough evidence to charge Ehud Olmert for accepting bribes and breaching public trust.

                                                            The move to indict Olmert comes amid allegations that he unlawfully accepted envelopes stuffed with cash from Morris Talansky, a US businessman, before he became prime minister in 2006.


                                                            "The investigation found that Talansky transferred to Olmert over the years from 1997 and on, large sums of money in different ways, in cash and illegally," a police statement issued said.

                                                            Money 'pocketed'

                                                            Olmert is also suspected of invoicing non-governmental organisations and charities several times over for the same overseas trips.

                                                            He is allleged to have pocketed the difference or used the money for his own private visits.

                                                            The Yad Vashem holocaust memorial organisation is one of the groups alleged to have been double-billed by Olmert, the police statement said.

                                                            "In this manner, Olmert received tens of thousands of dollars that were kept for Olmert at the Rishon Tours travel agency and used to fund his private flights and those of his family," the statement said.

                                                            The prime minister's initial reaction was: "The police has no authority and the recommendations have no meaning," Channel Two, an Israeli television channel, reported.

                                                            Innoncence claimed

                                                            Jacky Rowland, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Jerusalem, said that Olmert had moved to head off the corruption claims by announcing his resignation in July.

                                                            "He has already announced that he is stepping down as Israeli prime minister," she said.

                                                            "Mr Olmert has always maintained his innocence and has said that things have been exaggerated."

                                                            Olmert's resignation is due to take effect later this month after his Kadima party holds a leadership contest, from which point it will aim to build a coalition government with Likud, its rival.

                                                            The recommendations against Olmert by the Israeli police will now be passed to state prosecutors, who will review the evidence in order to make their own decision on the case.

                                                            But the formal decision to indict a prime minister is in the hands of Menahem Mazuz, Israel's attorney-general.

                                                            Mazuz is expected to deliver his decision on whether Olmert should be charged within the next few weeks.

                                                            Should Olmert be indicted for bribery, he could face a maximum sentence of seven years in jail.

                                                            Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

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                                                              Rumi on the deeper meanings of fasting in Ramzan (Ramadan)

                                                              English (US)  September 7th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                              What sweetness lies in an empty stomach!
                                                              Man is like a lute: no more, no less.
                                                              If the lute is full
                                                              it cannot sing a high or low note.

                                                              If your mind and stomach
                                                              burn with the fire of hunger
                                                              it will be like a heavenly song for your heart.
                                                              In each moment that fire rages
                                                              It will burn away a hundred veils
                                                              And carry you a thousand steps
                                                              toward your goal.


                                                              Be empty
                                                              and weep with the fullness of the reed flute.
                                                              Be empty
                                                              and discover the mysteries of the reed pen.

                                                              If your belly is full on the day you are called
                                                              pain will come instead of freedom,
                                                              worldly cares will come instead of paradise.
                                                              When you fast, good qualities will gather round you
                                                              like faithful friends and servants.

                                                              Don’t break the fast
                                                              for it is Solomon’s Seal.
                                                              Don’t give the Seal to harmful spirits.
                                                              Don’t destroy your kingdom with a full belly.

                                                              Even if your kingdom falls
                                                              and your armies abandon you,
                                                              keep the fast.

                                                              Soon they will return
                                                              with their banners high in the air.
                                                              I say, by the prayer of Jesus,
                                                              Heaven’s Table will come to your fasting tent.

                                                              Fast and remember that the abundance
                                                              of Heaven’s Table will soon be yours -
                                                              And I assure you,
                                                              the food on that Table
                                                              is better than cabbage soup!

                                                              – Version by Jonathan Star
                                                              “Rumi - In the Arms of the Beloved”
                                                              Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, New York 1997

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                                                                Bush Extends 9/11 National Emergency Yet Again; "Continuity of Government" rules allegedly suspend Constitution and disempower Congress

                                                                English (US)  September 7th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                By Peter Dale Scott

                                                                Though few Americans realize it, Cheney and Rumsfeld worked through the 1980s and 1990s on emergency nuclear-response plans which allegedly suspended the American constitution and also Congress.[1] Through these decades Rumsfeld was CEO of a major pharmaceutical firm, and in the later 1990s Cheney was CEO of Halliburton; but their private status did not deter them from continuing to exercise a supra-constitutional planning power conferred on them by Ronald Reagan.


                                                                Even fewer Americans know that these rules, originally dealing with a nuclear attack on America, were extended by Reagan Executive Order 12656 to cover “any occurrence, including natural disaster, military attack, technological emergency, or other emergency, that seriously degrades or seriously threatens the national security of the United States.”[2] And few Americans realize that at least some of these rules, known technically as Continuity of Government or COG rules, were invoked before 10:00 AM on September 11, 2001.[3]

                                                                As he did in 2007, President Bush has again, on August 28, 2008, continued for another year the national emergency first officially proclaimed on September 14, 2001, along with “the powers and authorities adopted to deal with that emergency":

                                                                Notice: Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to Certain Terrorist Attacks

                                                                Consistent with section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)), I am continuing for 1 year the national emergency I declared on September 14, 2001, in Proclamation 7463, with respect to the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center, New York, New York, the Pentagon, and aboard United Airlines flight 93, and the continuing and immediate threat of further attacks on the United States.

                                                                Because the terrorist threat continues, the national emergency declared on September 14, 2001, and the powers and authorities adopted to deal with that emergency, must continue in effect beyond September 14, 2008. Therefore, I am continuing in effect for an additional year the national emergency I declared on September 14, 2001, with respect to the terrorist threat.

                                                                This notice shall be published in the Federal Register and transmitted to the Congress.

                                                                GEORGE W. BUSH
                                                                THE WHITE HOUSE,
                                                                August 28, 2008.[4]

                                                                Once again appropriate personnel in Congress should learn and review what those “powers and authorities” are, since almost certainly they include COG (Continuity of Government) rules. In 2007 National Security Presidential Directive 51 (NSPD 51), issued by the White House, also extended for one year the emergency proclaimed in 2001; and it empowered the President to personally ensure "continuity of government."[5]

                                                                NSPD 51 also contained "classified Continuity Annexes" to "be protected from unauthorized disclosure." Congressman DeFazio twice requested to see these Annexes, the second time in a letter cosigned by House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson and Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Christopher Carney. The White House denied these requests, claiming that the congressmen lacked the requisite clearances. But as I wrote earlier this year,

                                                                "Congress has a right to be concerned about Continuity of Government (COG) plans refined by Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld over the past quarter century….The story, ignored by the mainstream press, involved more than the usual tussle between the legislative and executive branches of the U.S. Government. What was at stake was a contest between Congress's constitutional powers of oversight, and a set of policy plans that could be used to suspend or modify the constitution."[6]

                                                                Oliver North, who worked on COG planning with Rumsfeld and Cheney in the 1980s, was asked in the Iran-Contra Hearings about his work on an emergency plan “that would suspend the American constitution.” Democratic Senator Inouye, who was presiding, pounded his gavel and interjected that this was a “highly sensitive and classified matter,” not to be dealt with in an open hearing.[7] Congress has never discussed COG plans publicly since that time.

                                                                According to Wikipedia, “The National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1601-1651) is a United States federal law passed in 1976 to stop open-ended states of national emergency and formalize Congressional checks and balances on Presidential emergency powers. The act sets a limit of two years on states of national emergency. It also imposes certain "procedural formalities" on the President when invoking such powers, and provides a means for Congress to countermand a Presidential declaration of emergency and associated use of emergency powers (emphasis added).

                                                                Bush’s denial of the Homeland Security’s right to review the COG plans in the classified Appendices of NSPD-51 should have been seen as a constitutional crisis -- a line in the sand for Congress to assert its constitutional rights and duties. Now, one year later, I understand (although I cannot corroborate it from the Internet) that Congressman Kucinich has introduced or will introduce a bill for Congress, under the terms of the National Emergencies Act, to countermand the presidentially proclaimed national emergency. This is an important move, but it should not obviate the need for Congress to review rules which allegedly restrict its own powers under the constitution.

                                                                Between now and November the American electorate have an opportunity to present this demand to everyone running for office: that they will insist on vigorous congressional action to expose and dispose of these secret COG rules -- rules that allegedly suspend the American constitution.


                                                                [1] "One of the awkward questions we faced was whether to reconstitute Congress after a nuclear attack. It was decided that no, it would be easier to operate without them," said one of the COG planners in the 1980s, who spoke to James Mann (The Rise of the Vulcans, 141-42). James Bamford reported the same remark in his book Pretext for War (p. 74).

                                                                [2] The provisions of Executive Order 12656 of November 18, 1988, appear at 53 FR 47491, 3 CFR, 1988 Comp., p. 585, “Executive Order 12656—Assignment of Emergency Preparedness Responsibilities,” The Washington Post

                                                                (Gellman and Schmidt, “Shadow Government Is at Work in Secret,” March 1, 2002) later claimed, incorrectly, that Executive Order 12656 dealt only with “a nuclear attack.”

                                                                [3] Peter Dale Scott, The Road to 9/11: Wealth, Empire, and the Future of America (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2007), 228; citing 9/11Commision Report, 38, 326; Richard A. Clarke, Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terrorism (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004), 8.

                                                                [4] .

                                                                [5] National Security Presidential Directive 51,

                                                                [6] Peter Dale Scott, “Congress, the Bush Adminstration and Continuity of Government Planning: The Showdown,”

                                                                [7] Scott, Road to 9/11, 9, 23, 184. The New York Times published a complete transcript of the interchange on July 14, 1987, but did not mention it in its news story about North’s testimony.

                                                                Global Research

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                                                                  East Jerusalem's education crisis: Zionist Israel takes Palestinian taxes, but provides no educational or other services

                                                                  English (US)  September 7th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                  East Jerusalem's education crisis

                                                                  Israel's main civil rights group is planning a mass protest to highlight the inadequate provision of classrooms and school places in East Jerusalem. Tim Franks has been to meet some of the children who do have places in public classrooms, but finds the conditions in which they are being taught to be crowded and unsafe.

                                                                  It is best to wear sturdy shoes to reach the overflow wing of Shuafat Elementary School for Girls. You get to the entrance over a small hillock of rubble and broken glass.

                                                                  It has been that way for the last 15 years, the length of time that the school has been open.

                                                                  Two hundred and eighty-five girls between the ages of six and 10 are crammed into a house, which was built as a home for a single family.


                                                                  We arrived just as the morning lessons came to an end. The children were, in some cases, literally tumbling down the stairs. Stairs that Abdel Karim Laafi, the head of the East Jerusalem Parents' Association, told us did not even meet local fire regulations (they are too narrow).

                                                                  We backed into the bare concrete walls in an attempt to avoid the skittering mass of girls.

                                                                  One small girl was knocked to the floor as a teetering pile of school chairs by the front door collapsed on top of her.

                                                                  Lack of facilities

                                                                  We went into the room where seven-year-old Mana al-Muri studies, along with 37 other girls. It is an enclosed veranda. There are three children wedged behind each small desk.

                                                                  Outside are the three toilets, the only three for the entire school

                                                                  The air-conditioning, for the long, hot summer is a small fan attached to the wall at the front.

                                                                  The heating for the winter - which can get bitterly cold - is a small electric heater towards the back of the room. The walls are bare.

                                                                  It is, as Mana told us in a small voice, "not comfortable".

                                                                  Outside are the three toilets, the only three for the entire school. There was another toilet next to Mana's classroom, but it has been converted into the room for the children with special needs.

                                                                  We were shown in. It smelled, strongly, of dust and mould. It was crammed with unwanted mess from the rest of the school.

                                                                  For the children there was one bench up against the wall.

                                                                  'Irredeemable mess'

                                                                  Ali Swalem is the man who rents the house to City Hall.

                                                                  "I do care," he told us. "I don't like it, but it's good money. This year I didn't want to rent it, but the board of education pleaded with me. In the end I gave them one more year, because the kids do need the classrooms."

                                                                  Ali has the cracked, gravelly voice and the raucous laugh of someone who has seen the system, thinks it is an irredeemable mess, and that he might as well make the most of it.

                                                                  The case of the Shuafat Elementary school for girls is not isolated.

                                                                  In June, The Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) submitted a petition to Israel's Supreme Court to try to force the Jerusalem Municipality to provide adequate access to education in East Jerusalem.

                                                                  The petition quotes from a report commissioned by City Hall six years ago, which predicted a shortage now of at least 1,500 classrooms.

                                                                  As of last year, fewer than 200 had been built.

                                                                  Classroom shortfall

                                                                  Only half of East Jerusalem's school children are enrolled in the state system.

                                                                  Despite the poverty of the population in that half of the city, the rest of the children are either in private or unofficial schools.

                                                                  An estimated 9,000 - more than one in 10 - are thought not to be going to any school.

                                                                  The petition quotes from a letter to the mayor from the city's own legal adviser at the end of last year. The legal adviser baldly described the provision of education in East Jerusalem as discriminatory and illegal.

                                                                  In an e-mail to us, the Jerusalem board of education conceded that there was a shortfall in classrooms, but they insisted that they were moving to solve the problems and that East Jerusalem receives proportionally just as many resources as West Jerusalem.

                                                                  The Association for Civil Rights in Israel disputes that.

                                                                  Unequal provisions

                                                                  In any case, while their petition before the Supreme Court case makes its slow progress, Jalal Hussein and the other parents at the new elementary school for boys in Shuafat, have taken matters into their own hands. They are on strike.

                                                                  The school year only began last week, but after one day Jalal and the parents of the other pupils withdrew their children.

                                                                  It was not just that the school was a barely converted storage centre for goats, with stinking, broken waste pipes, and rooms that had chairs but no tables for the children. It was that the fumes from the huge metals factory at the back of the school were giving the children blinding headaches.

                                                                  Jerusalem is - in the view of the state of Israel - the country's undivided capital city.

                                                                  That is not the view of the mainly Arab or Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem. Most of them boycott local elections, although they are expected to pay the same local taxes as the more affluent neighbourhoods of Jewish West Jerusalem.

                                                                  You might think that would give them the same provision of public services. It does not.

                                                                  When it comes to education, East Jerusalem remains a class apart.


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                                                                    Hypocrisy of this Magnitude has to be Respected

                                                                    English (US)  September 7th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                    By William Blum

                                                                    Im sorry to say that I think that John McCain is going to be the next president of the United States. After the long night of Bush horror any Democrat should easily win, but the Dems are screwing it up and McCain has been running more-or-less even with Barack Obama in the polls. The Democrats should run on the slogan "If you liked Bush, you'll love McCain", but that would be too outspoken, too direct for the spineless Nancy Pelosi and her spineless party. Or, "If you liked Iraq, you'll love Iran." But the Democrat leadership is not on record as categorically opposing either conflict.


                                                                    Nor, it seems, do the Democrats have the courage to raise the issue of McCain not having been born in the United States as the Constitution requires. Nor questioning him about accusations by his fellow American prisoners about his considerable collaboration with his Vietnamese captors. Nor a word about McCain's highly possible role in the brutal Georgian invasion of South Ossetia on August 7. (More on this last below.)

                                                                    Obama has lost much of the sizable liberal/progressive vote because of his move to the center-right (or his exposure as a center-rightist), and he now may have lost even his selling point of being more strongly against the war than McCain -- if in fact he actually is -- by appointing Joe Biden as his running mate. Biden has long been a hawk on Iraq (as well as the rest of US foreign policy), calling for an invasion as far back as 1998.[1] In April, 2007, when pressed in an interview about his vote for the war in 2003, Biden said: "It was a mistake. I regret my vote. ... because I learned more, like everybody else learned, about what, in fact, we were told."[2] This has been a common excuse of war supporters in recent years when the tide of public opinion turned against them. But why did millions and millions of Americans march against the war in the fall of 2002 and early 2003, before it began? What did they know that Joe Biden didn't know? It was clear to the protesters that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were habitual liars, that they couldn't care less about the people of Iraq, that the defenseless people of that ancient civilization were going to be bombed to hell; the protesters knew something about the bombings of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Panama, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan; they knew about napalm, cluster bombs, depleted uranium. ... Didn't Biden know about any of these things? Those who marched knew that the impending war was something a moral person could not support; and that it was totally illegal, a textbook case of a "war of aggression"; one didn't have to be an expert in international law to know this. Did Joe Biden think about any of this?

                                                                    If McCain had a role in the Georgian invasion of breakaway-region Ossetia it would have been arranged with the help of Randy Scheunemann, McCain's top foreign policy adviser and until recently Georgia's principal lobbyist in Washington. As head of the neo-conservative Committee for the Liberation of Iraq in 2002, Scheunemann was one of America's leading advocates for invading Iraq. One of McCain's primary campaign sales pitches has been to emphasize his supposed superior experience in foreign policy matters, which -- again supposedly -- means something in this world. McCain consistently leads Obama in the opinion polls on "readiness to be commander-in-chief", or similar nonsense. The Georgia-Russia hostilities raise -- in the mass media and the mass mind -- the issue of the United States needing an experienced foreign policy person to handle such a "crisis", and, standard in every crisis -- an enemy bad guy.

                                                                    Typical of the media was the Chicago Tribune praising McCain for his statesmanlike views on Iraq and stating: "What Russia's invasion of Georgia showed was that the world is still a very dangerous place," and Russia is a "looming threat". In addition to using the expression "Russia's invasion of Georgia", the Tribune article also referred to "Russia's invasion of South Ossetia". No mention of Georgia's invasion of South Ossetia which began the warfare.[3] In a feature story in the Washington Post on the Georgia events the second sentence was: "The war had started, Russian jets had just bombed the outskirts of Tbilisi [Georgian capital]." The article then speaks of "the horror" of "the Russian invasion". Not the slightest hint of any Georgian military action can be found in the story.[4] One of course can find a media report here or there that mentions or at least implies in passing that an invasion from Georgia is what instigated the mayhem. But I've yet to come upon one report in the American mass media that actually emphasizes this point, and certainly none that put it in the headline. The result is that if a poll were taken amongst Americans today, I'm sure the majority of those who have any opinion would be convinced that the nasty Russians began it all.[5]

                                                                    What we have here in the American media is simply standard operating procedure for an ODE (Officially Designated Enemy). Almost as soon as the fighting began, Dick Cheney announced: "Russian aggression must not go unanswered."[6] The media needed no further instructions. Yes, that's actually the way it works. (See Cuba, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Iran, Bolivia, etc., etc.)

                                                                    The president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, is an American poodle to an extent that would embarrass Tony Blair. Until their 2,000 troops were called home for this emergency, the Georgian contingent in Iraq was the largest after the US and UK. The Georgian president prattles on about freedom and democracy and the Cold War like George W., declaring that the current conflict "is not about Georgia anymore. It is about America, its values,".[7] (I must confess that until Saakashvili pointed it out I hadn't realized that "American values" were involved in the fighting.) His government recently ran a full-page ad in the Washington Post. The entire text, written vertically, was: "Lenin ... Stalin ... Putin ... Give in? Enough is enough. Support Georgia. ..."[8]

                                                                    UK prime minister Gordon Brown asserted that Russia's recognition of the independence of Georgia's two breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia was "dangerous and unacceptable."[9] Earlier this year when Kosovo unilaterally declared its independence from Serbia, the UK, along with the US and other allied countries quickly recognized it despite widespread warnings that legitimating the Kosovo action might lead to a number of other regions in the world declaring their independence.

                                                                    Brown's hypocrisy appears as merely the routine stuff of politicians compared to that of John McCain and George W. re the Georgia fighting: "I'm interested in good relations between the United States and Russia, but in the 21st century, nations don't invade other nations," said McCain [10], the staunch supporter of US invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and leading champion of an invasion of Iran.

                                                                    And here is Mahatma Gandhi Bush meditating on the subject: "Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century."[11]

                                                                    Hypocrisy of this magnitude has to be respected. It compares favorably with the motto on automobile license plates of the state of New Hampshire made by prisoners: "Live Free or Die".

                                                                    Our beloved president was also moved to affirm that the Russian recognition of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia: was an "irresponsible decision". "Russia's action only exacerbates tensions and complicates diplomatic negotiations," he said.{12] Belgrade, are you listening?

                                                                    It should be noted that linguistically and historically- distinct South Ossetia and Abkhazia had been autonomous Russian/Soviet protectorates or regions from early in the 19th century to 1991, when the Georgian government abolished their autonomy.

                                                                    So what then was the purpose of the Georgian invasion of Ossetia if not to serve the electoral campaign of John McCain, a man who might be the next US president and be thus very obligated to the Georgian president? Saakashvili could have wanted to overthrow the Ossetian government to incorporate it back into Georgia, at the same time hopefully advancing the cause of Georgia's petition to become a member of NATO, which looks askance upon new members with territories in dispute or with military facilities belonging to a nonmember state such as Russia. But the nature of the Georgian invasion does not fit this thesis. The Georgians did none of the things that those staging a coup have traditionally found indispensable. They did not take over a TV or radio station, or the airport, or important government buildings, or military or police installations. They didn't take into custody key members of the government. All the US/Israeli-armed and trained Georgia military did was bomb and kill, civilians and Russian peacekeeper soldiers, the latter legally there for 16 years under an international agreement. For what purpose all this if not to incite a Russian intervention?

                                                                    The only reason the United States did not itself strongly attack the Russian forces is that it's a pre-eminent principle of American military interventions to not pick on anyone capable of really defending themselves.

                                                                    Unreconstructed cold warriors now fret about Russian expansionism, warning that Ukraine might be next. But of the numerous myths surrounding the Cold War, "communist expansionism" was certainly one of the biggest. We have to remember that within the space of 25 years, Western powers invaded Russia three times -- World War I, the "intervention" of 1918-20, and World War II, inflicting some 40 million casualties in the two world wars alone. (The Soviet Union lost considerably more people to international warfare on its own land than it did abroad. There are not too many great powers who can say that.) To carry out these invasions, the West used Eastern Europe as a highway. Should it be any cause for wonder that after World War II the Soviets were determined to close down this highway? Minus the Cold War atmosphere and indoctrination, most people would have no problem in seeing the Soviet takeover of Eastern Europe as an act of self defense. Neither does the case of Afghanistan support the idea of "expansionism". Afghanistan lived alongside the Soviet Union for more than 60 years with no Soviet military intrusion. It's only when the United States intervened in Afghanistan to replace a government friendly to Moscow with one militantly anti-communist that the Russians invaded to do battle with the US-supported Islamic jihadists.

                                                                    During the Cold War, before undertaking a new military intervention, American officials usually had to consider how the Soviet Union would react. That restraint was removed with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. We may now, however, be witnessing the beginning of a new kind of polarization in the world. An increasing number of countries in the Third World -- with Latin America as a prime example -- have more fraternal relations with Moscow and/or Beijing than with Washington. Singapore's former UN ambassador observed: "Most of the world is bemused by western moralising on Georgia" ... While the western view is that the world "should support the underdog, Georgia, against Russia ... most support Russia against the bullying west. The gap between the western narrative and the rest of the world could not be clearer."[13] And the Washington Post reported: "Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi's influential son, echoed the delight expressed in much of the Arab news media. 'What happened in Georgia is a good sign, one that means America is no longer the sole world power setting the rules of the game ... there is a balance in the world now. Russia is resurging, which is good for us, for the entire Middle East'."[14]

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                                                                      The Past and Future of the Republican Party The Cryptkeeper and His Pitbull

                                                                      English (US)  September 6th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                      By WAJAHAT ALI

                                                                      McCain and company unveiled a ghoulish and predictable narrative from their crypt this week: a boilerplate and intellectually vapid narrative catering to base, knee jerk emotions. One that also shamelessly and hypocritically plays the divisive, “Culture –War” card to elicit orgasmic glee from a Convention audience so White that I had to increase the Contrast just to see some color.

                                                                      In order to win over undecided moderates and independents, McCain disguised himself as a maverick Yoda, a seasoned and unorthodox statesmen pledging a promise that “change is coming.” However, it seems that no one told the Convention audience. One could easily play “Where’s Waldo?” while watching the Republican delegates, but instead replace “Waldo” with “Minorities.” [I counted about 6.25.]


                                                                      “CHANGE IS COMING”

                                                                      In a sign of desperation or perhaps blinding ignorance, McCain misappropriated Obama’s “change” slogan [which has become more nebulous and faltering] to convince a domestic and international audience that the Republican Party will clean up The White House. Apparently unbeknownst to the Republicans, they have lived as owners of that house for the past 8 years. McCain’s history with the Keating-5 Savings and Loan scandal no doubt gave him experience in this specific case of rhetorical “impropriety.”

                                                                      He placated the “wealthy Republican base”- corporate interests, upper class and multinational companies - as he rehashed the tired and failed Republican mantra of “less taxes, less government spending. ” Along with it, he followed Bush’s playbook and attached a ridiculous claim to “moral” superiority in comparison to elite, cowardly liberals: essentially all those who disagree with him and his Party. The Bush economic policy of taxing the poor, government deregulation, annihilating welfare programs, and attempting to privatize everything under the Sun [if they could privatize the Sun, they would] has resulted in one of the most disastrous economic conditions since the Great Depression. One that McCain and company selfishly follow to appease their wealthy donors, fatten their military contract investments, and shield the rich from paying high taxes. This Republican “Big Government vs. the little guy” line is so successful because it terrifies American workers. The Republicans love stroking economic uncertainty and fear by blaming the dark skinned immigrants, government regulation and socially responsible welfare reforms as the real cause of economic turmoil instead of highlighting their own selfish malfeasance, corruption [Jack Abramoff, the loyal Republican lobbyist was just sentenced to four years in prison] and lack of accountability.

                                                                      MOTHER. MOOSE HUNTER. MAVERICK.

                                                                      To woo his “cultural, religious base,” McCain unleashed his light saber in the guise of a well coiffed, moose hunting pit bull named Sarah Palin. The Vice President candidate, governor of Alaska, came out with fisticuffs and blazing guns, playing the role of aggressive, go get ‘em “drill sergeant” as a foil to McCain’s persona as the wise, calm but forceful “General.”

                                                                      Palin unveiled herself as a fascinating, political Frankenstein. Like the computer-designed woman in the movie Weird Science, she seems to be the perfect wet dream composite as imagined by lustful and passionate right wing, radical Republican teenage boys.

                                                                      She’s a salmon fishing, Bible thumping, pistol packing, hockey mom who can hunt a moose, skin it, make a burger out of it for lunch, catch the pastor’s Sunday sermon, and also find time to wear a sexy -but not butch - power suit the following day for a press conference. And, according to her drooling, Conservative acolytes, she thankfully doesn’t look “lesbian-y” and aggressively intimidating like that alleged man-hating ogre Hillary Clinton.

                                                                      In one of the few moments of incisive self-awareness, Palin asked a self-referential question: “What's the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick.” The “Barracuda” has apparently evolved. Indeed, the pit bull is an even more apt metaphor. The pit bull, often referred to as the “All-American dog,” was bred primarily as a fighting terrier, an attack dog if you will. Furthermore, the image of the pit bull, draped with an American flag around its body, was used as WW1 pro-war propaganda to “fire up” the American masses. The jumbo sized, digital American flag behind Palin was sufficient for similar purposes.

                                                                      I, amongst many others, actually wish she would instead answer the thoroughly reassuring question she asked before being nominated: “What is it exactly that theVP does every day?”

                                                                      Apparently this VP candidate recites a mean spirited speech written by a George Bush aide, following the venerated smear tone perfected by Lee Atwater and Karl Rove, to mask her party’s intellectual and moral bankruptcy concerning foreign and domestic policy in favor of firing up a “base” infatuated with Guns, God, War, and randomly chanting “U.S.A.! U.S.A!”

                                                                      The Republican Convention touted this specific image of Palin: “Mother. Moose hunter. Maverick.” If the latter, then she resembles Tom Cruise’s reckless and ambitious Maverick from Top Gun, only without the loyal, wiseass counsel of Goose. [And McCain is no Goose. Can he play homo-erotic volleyball and karaoke to Righteous Brothers? I think not!] Even though Palin lays claim to God and moral superiority, the head of Alaska’s state police union recently alleged “Maverick” Palin’s aides improperly obtained her former brother-in-law’s state police personnel files to use the information to raise complaints against him- eventually leading to his improper dismissal.

                                                                      Furthermore, “The Maverick” decries the liberal elites’ lifestyle and values, yet her family now resembles the one portrayed in the “godless, leftist Hollywood” movie Juno [the Oscar nominated movie about a unwed, teenage pregnancy]. She maintains she has far more executive experience than the “12 years as elected official” Obama, even though she has been the Governor of Alaska for less than 2 years and previously a mayor of a city with less than 9,000 people. Along with McCain, she wants to bridge the bipartisan American community, yet she derides those community organizers, who sacrificed six figure incomes to help the disenfranchised, as lacking “actual responsibilities.” [Palin said: “I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities.'']

                                                                      She shamelessly uses her gender to win over Clinton’s female voters by repeatedly praising the Senator for breaking the “glass ceiling”, yet earlier she said she wouldn’t support Clinton because she couldn’t stand “Clinton’s whining.” However, when Republicans whine, it’s defensible because of that nefarious cabal known as the “liberal media” who have the audacity to ask the still unknown Palin critical questions. Just yesterday Palin complained, "The Obama-Biden Democrats have been vicious in their attacks directed toward me, my family and John McCain." When asked to cite an example of Obama-Biden’s attack on Palin’s family, Palin aides couldn’t find one, and instead offered as proof that the Obama-Biden camp erroneously attacked Palin as a “supporter of Buchanan.” Huh? Does that even make sense? But, hey, it’s OK. Let it go. She hunts moose, for God’s sake. Moose! Let’s leave the pit bull alone for now.
                                                                      CAPTAIN AMERICA

                                                                      Milking combat and aggression for all its worth, Palin acted like Flava-Flav and played hype man to bolster McCain’s war veteran narrative. McCain continued to revisit his “war” story; one told so many times throughout the convention that I wish McCain had simply parachuted to the stage wearing a Captain America uniform carrying a lifeless body of an “Islamic terrorist” whom he had either just shot with his handgun or strangled with his bare hands. I am still waiting for a mainstream talking head to ask how flying bombing raids on Vietnamese villages transforms one into an enlightened Commander in Chief capable of creating and implementing a competent foreign policy. I am also waiting for a talking head to ask if indeed being a veteran is such a sacred, hallowed status, then why did the Republicans implicitly endorse the “Swift Boat Kerry” smear campaign of 2004?

                                                                      Perhaps McCain’s most egregiously disingenuous claim is that he represents “average America” and its values. Most of my neighbors, who seem to be either working two jobs just to stay broke or dipping into their diminished savings to pay for gas and health care, aren’t married to a beer heiress worth more than one hundred million dollars. Also, most Americans, unlike John McCain, can answer the question: “How many homes do you own?” Many would say, “I don’t anymore – it got foreclosed.” When asked this question, McCain forgot how many he homes he owned. [Anywhere from 6 to 11 according to reports.] According to a Vanity Fair article, Cindy McCain’s Tuesday night wardrobe, including jewelry, cost more than $300,000. Apparently the “average American” family can afford to wear the cost of a house for an evening.

                                                                      All of these inconsistencies highlight the brilliant hypocrisy that fuels American political machinery. One that is straightjacketed by a two party system trumpeting candidates who talk pretty but deliver empty promises in favor of arrogant quests for power. As witnessed by the McCain-Palin Republican ticket, it seems the Empire finally struck back – just like it did four years ago.

                                                                      Wajahat Ali is a Muslim American of Pakistani descent. He is a playwright, essayist, humorist, and Attorney at Law, whose work, “The Domestic Crusaders” is the first major play about Muslim Americans living in a post 9-11 America. His blog is at He can be reached at


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                                                                        The Bush Administration Is an Ongoing Criminal Conspiracy Under International Law and U.S. Domestic Law

                                                                        English (US)  September 6th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                        Global Research, September 2, 2008

                                                                        Justice Robert H. Jackson Conference:
                                                                        Planning for the Prosecution of High Level American War Criminals
                                                                        Massachusetts Law School
                                                                        September 13-14, 2008
                                                                        Andover, Massachusetts

                                                                        By Prof. Francis A. Boyle

                                                                        Since the impeachable installation of George W. Bush as President in January of 2001 by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Gang of Five, the peoples of the world have witnessed a government in the United States that has demonstrated little if any respect for fundamental considerations of international law, human rights, and the United States Constitution.

                                                                        What the world has watched instead is a comprehensive and malicious assault upon the integrity of the international and domestic legal orders by a group of men and women who are thoroughly Machiavellian and Straussian in their perception of international relations and in their conduct of both foreign policy and domestic affairs. Even more seriously, in many instances specific components of the Bush administration’s foreign policies constitute ongoing criminal activity under well-recognized principles of both international law and U.S. domestic law, and in particular the Nuremberg Charter, the Nuremberg Judgment, and the Nuremberg Principles, as well as the Pentagon’s own U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10 on The Law of Land Warfare (1956), all of which apply to President Bush himself as Commander-in-Chief of United States Armed Forces under Article II, Section 2 of the United States Constitution.


                                                                        Depending upon the substantive issues involved, those international crimes typically include but are not limited to the Nuremberg offenses of crimes against peace: For example, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and perhaps their longstanding threatened wars of aggression against Iran and now Pakistan. Their criminal responsibility also concerns Nuremberg crimes against humanity and war crimes as well as grave breaches of the Four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and of the 1907 Hague Regulations on land warfare: For example, torture at Guantanamo, Bhagram, Abu Ghraib, and elsewhere; enforced disappearances, assassinations, murders, kidnappings, extraordinary renditions, “shock and awe,” depleted uranium, white phosphorous, cluster bombs, Fallujah, and the Gitmo kangaroo courts.

                                                                        Furthermore, various members of the Bush administration have committed numerous inchoate crimes incidental to these substantive offences that under the Nuremberg Charter, Judgment, and Principles as well as paragraph 500 of U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10 are international crimes in their own right: planning and preparation—which they are currently doing today against Iran and Pakistan—solicitation, incitement, conspiracy, complicity, attempt, aiding and abetting.

                                                                        Finally, according to basic principles of international criminal law set forth in paragraph 501 of U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10, all high level civilian officials and military officers in the U.S. government who either knew or should have known that soldiers or civilians under their control (such as the C.I.A. or private contractors), committed or were about to commit international crimes and failed to take the measures necessary to stop them, or to punish them, or both, are likewise personally responsible for the commission of international crimes.

                                                                        At the very top of America’s criminal chain-of-command are President Bush and Vice-President Cheney; former U.S. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld; Rumsfeld’s Deputy Paul Wolfowitz; Secretary of State Rice; former Director of National Intelligence Negroponte; National Security Advisor Hadley; his Deputy Elliot Abrams; former U.S. Attorneys General Ashcroft and Gonzales, criminally responsible for the torture campaign launched by the Bush Jr. administration; and the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staffs along with the appropriate Regional Commanders-in-Chief, especially for U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM).

                                                                        These U.S. government officials and their immediate subordinates are responsible for the commission of crimes against peace, crimes against humanity, and war crimes as specified by the Nuremberg Charter, Judgment, and Principles as well as by U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10. Today in international legal terms, the Bush Jr. administration itself should now be viewed as constituting an ongoing criminal conspiracy under international criminal law and U.S. domestic law because of its formulation and undertaking of serial wars of aggression, crimes against peace, crimes against humanity, and war crimes in violation of the Nuremberg Charter, Judgment, and Principles that are legally akin to those perpetrated by the former Nazi regime in Germany.

                                                                        Of course the terrible irony of today’s situation is that six decades ago at Nuremberg the U.S. government participated in the prosecution, punishment and execution of Nazi government officials for committing some of the same types of heinous international crimes that the members of the Bush administration currently inflict upon people all over the world. To be sure, I personally oppose the imposition of capital punishment upon any human being for any reason no matter how monstrous their crimes, whether they be Bush Jr., Tony Blair, or Saddam Hussein.

                                                                        As a consequence, American citizens possess the basic right under international law and United States domestic law, including the U.S. Constitution, to engage in acts of civil resistance designed to prevent, impede, thwart, or terminate ongoing criminal activities perpetrated by Bush administration officials in their conduct of foreign affairs policies and military operations purported to relate to defense and counter-terrorism. Today’s civil resisters are the sheriffs! The Bush administration officials are the outlaws!

                                                                        We American citizens must reaffirm our commitment to the Nuremberg Charter, Judgment, and Principles by holding our government officials fully accountable under international law and U.S. domestic law for the commission of such grievous international and domestic crimes. We must not permit any aspect of our foreign affairs and defense policies to be conducted by acknowledged “war criminals” according to the U.S. government’s own official definitions of that term as set forth in the Nuremberg Charter, Judgment, and Principles, U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10, the U.S. War Crimes Act, the Four Geneva Conventions and the Hague Regulations. The American people must insist upon the impeachment, dismissal, resignation, indictment, conviction, and long-term incarceration of all U.S. government officials guilty of such heinous international and domestic crimes. If not so restrained, the Bush administration could very well precipitate a Third World War.

                                                                        In this regard, during the course of an October 17, 2007 press conference, President Bush Jr. terrorized the entire world with the threat of World War III if he could not work his illegal will upon Iran. It is my opinion that the Bush administration is fully prepared to use tactical nuclear weapons against Muslim and Arab states and peoples in order to break the taboo of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. After the terrible tragedy of September 11, 2001 the United States of America has vilified and demonized Muslims and Arabs almost to the same extent that America inflicted upon the Japanese and Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor. As the Nazis had previously demonstrated with respect to the Jews, a government must first dehumanize and scapegoat a race of people before its citizens will tolerate if not approve their elimination: witness Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In post -9/11 America we are directly confronted with the prospect of a nuclear war of extermination conducted by our White Racist Judeo-Christian Power Elite against Peoples of Color in the Muslim and Arab worlds in order to steal their oil and gas. The Crusades all over again. But this time nuclear Armageddon stares all of humankind right in the face!

                                                                        We American lawyers must be inspired by the stunning example set by those heroic Pakistani lawyers who led the successful struggle against the brutal Bush-supported Musharraf military dictatorship in Pakistan. We American lawyers must now lead the fight against the Bush dictatorship and empire! This is our Nuremberg Moment!

                                                                        Global Research

                                                                        1240 words posted in Human Rights, LawLeave a comment

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                                                                          Palin, The Lipstick pitbull; "Is this a movie? Of course, it's a movie!"

                                                                          English (US)  September 6th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

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                                                                            Leaked US-Iraq agreement indicates no intent to set U.S. troops withdrawal; grants immunity to US soldiers and contractors who commit crimes

                                                                            English (US)  September 5th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                            A leaked draft of the US-Iraq status of forces agreement indicates that there is no intent to set a deadline for the withdrawal of "noncombat" troops from Iraq. (Photo: Ceerwan Aziz / Reuters)

                                                                            By Maya Schenwar

                                                                            A leaked version of last month's draft of the proposed US-Iraq status of forces agreement (SOFA) suggests that the Iraqi parliament may not be consulted before it is signed, despite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's promises to do so. The pact would govern the future US presence in Iraq. The draft indicates no intent to set a deadline for withdrawal of "noncombat" troops from Iraq. It also grants immunity from Iraqi law to US military personnel, no matter where they are located.


                                                                            The draft was translated and provided to Truthout by Raed Jarrar, Iraq consultant for the American Friends Service Committee. It comes after months of assurances from Maliki that the agreement would be sent to parliament. However, the draft SOFA states, "This agreement goes into effect on the day that diplomatic memos confirming all constitutional procedures have been met in both countries are exchanged," and sets a December 31 deadline for this memo exchange.

                                                                            Designating a memo exchange between executive branches as the go-ahead to put the plan into action opens up a gaping loophole, making it simple to bypass parliamentary ratification, according to Jarrar. Since the "constitutional procedures" that are to be followed aren't specified - and Iraq's laws are not yet set in stone - the Maliki administration's lawyers could easily interpret a bilateral executive agreement as constitutional. Unlike parliament, the Iraqi executive branch operates out of the US green zone and is backed by the United States.

                                                                            "I won't be surprised if someone in the Iraqi executive branch decides that it is enough to read the agreement before the parliament, or 'consult' with them, or pass it as a law with simple majority or whatever other tricks they might pull," Jarrar told Truthout, adding that the December 31 deadline makes the language even more suspect. "How can they make sure all 'constitutional procedures' [are completed] before December 31? What will happen if they are not done?"

                                                                            The prospect of an impending deadline certainly clashes with hopes of parliamentary approval, according to Dr. Mahmoud Al-Mashhadani, head of the Iraqi parliament. In a rare interview with the news agency Al-Arabiya, Al-Mashhadani stressed that parliament could not even consider a SOFA right now, since a law governing procedures on international agreements has not been passed.

                                                                            "The Iraqi constitution determines that the House of Representatives must first enact a law to ratify the Law of Treaties and Agreements, and must vote or pass this law through parliament by two-thirds majority," Al-Mashhadani said. "So, before discussing the treaty, we must enact this law by two-thirds."

                                                                            Al-Mashhadani stated that the Law of Treaties and Agreements would "take a long time to pass," and would "not be enacted before the end of the year."

                                                                            Therefore, the SOFA draft deadline would not allow the possibility of parliamentary approval before passage.

                                                                            Iraq's executive branch has a history of circumventing the legislature, according to Foreign Policy in Focus Fellow Erik Leaver: The administration did not consult parliament in 2007 when it agreed on the extension of the UN mandate allowing a continuing US presence in Iraq. However, says Leaver, because parliament has been so publicly vocal in its insistence on being involved in the SOFA process, ignoring the legislature may have heavier consequences this time around.

                                                                            "I would expect a legal challenge in Iraq - and perhaps the US - if the accord moves forward in an exchange of memos," Leaver told Truthout. "Beyond legal challenges, enormous political pressure would be put upon him, perhaps causing a rise in instability and a certain delay in the scheduled [2008] fall elections in Iraq."

                                                                            Jarrar suggested that bypassing parliament may even "lead to some groups quitting the political process."

                                                                            Ahmed Ali, an Iraqi correspondent based in Diyala, told Truthout that the possible circumvention of parliamentary approval reveals the nature of the agreement itself: It runs contrary to the wishes of most Iraqi people and their representatives, who would rather all troops leave the country quickly.

                                                                            "[The SOFA] is superficial," Ali said. "They are telling Iraqis, 'You have to accept it; you can say no word.'"

                                                                            Meanwhile, the American people and their representatives are getting a similarly short end of the stick, according to Steve Fox, director of the American Freedom Campaign, a nonpartisan organization that works to combat executive power abuses. Fox notes that, although SOFAs are usually bilateral executive agreements, the US-Iraq pact goes far beyond the bounds of a traditional SOFA, since it grants US military personnel the authority to continue fighting. (Typical SOFA provisions include US military members' banking and postal procedures, legal policies relating to military personnel and the transport of Americans' property into and out of the country.)

                                                                            "For the past seven years, the president has treated Congress like an inferior branch of government," Fox told Truthout. "This pending agreement with Iraq is just another example. It is clear that the agreement goes beyond the reach of a traditional SOFA and it should be approved by Congress before it goes into effect. But the president has no intention of seeking Congressional approval. In our opinion, Congress should issue a 'signing statement' of its own, declaring the agreement unconstitutional and signaling that it will fund the activities outlined in the agreement at its own discretion."

                                                                            Timetable for (Partial) Withdrawal

                                                                            Over the past couple of months, Maliki has firmly advocated a quick, total withdrawal of US troops. Many in Iraq believe that his strong language is intended to sell the SOFA to parliament. However, if parliament is not consulted on the deal, it will likely contain very weak withdrawal guidelines, as outlined in the leaked draft.

                                                                            The draft states that a deadline will be set to pull out "combat troops," though the exact date had not been filled in at the time of its release. No timeline is provided for the departure of noncombat troops. Those soldiers would be permitted to linger indefinitely on "installations and areas agreed upon" - the agreement's lingo for "military bases."

                                                                            The "noncombat" designation is notably vague, according to Leaver.

                                                                            "It doesn't define what role noncombatant troops would have, nor does it define the potential numbers left behind," Leaver said, adding that the agreement doesn't specify what role remaining military contractors would play in a "post-withdrawal" Iraq.

                                                                            Although its definitions might be murky, the way the agreement's "withdrawal" plan will be received in Iraq is fairly clear, according to Ali.

                                                                            "In a word, this arrangement is a new face for the occupation," Ali said.

                                                                            Troop Immunity

                                                                            The SOFA draft grants US troops full immunity from Iraqi law, stating, "The U.S. has exclusive legal jurisdiction over U.S. armed forces members and civilian members inside and outside installations and areas agreed upon."

                                                                            Following that clause is a "suggestion" from the Iraqi negotiators, which proposes that US personnel be given immunity "except for intentional crimes and major mistakes."

                                                                            "Intentional crimes and major mistakes" are not defined, and according to Jarrar, the "Iraqi suggestions" sprinkled throughout the draft do not hold much water.

                                                                            "All the Iraqi suggestions show that the Iraqi team doesn't have much leeway," Jarrar said.

                                                                            The generous immunity clause is not standard for SOFAs, according to Joseph Gerson, author of "The Sun Never Sets: Confronting the Network of Foreign Military Bases." In fact, in countries with more leverage, like Japan and western European nations, US soldiers who commit crimes may well be subject to native law. By seeking blanket immunity for troops in "post-withdrawal" Iraq, the Bush administration is following a treacherous historical pattern.

                                                                            "Such indemnification is often sought by the Pentagon when new bases are established, and it is as close to a raw practice of imperialism as one can imagine," Gerson told Truthout.

                                                                            Leaver notes that the wide-open immunity clause coincides with a high prevalence of US-inflicted civilian casualties in Iraq, leaving victims of those crimes with no recourse.

                                                                            According to Ali, that's an untenable loophole.

                                                                            "The US troops should be tried by Iraqi law," Ali said. "Every day, they kill people by mistake. Let's imagine that whole case in the United States, what the result would be - can you?"


                                                                            1368 words posted in American Empire, Iraq warLeave a comment

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                                                                              Teachers listen to Hamas; foil Fatah-ordered strikes

                                                                              English (US)  September 5th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                              Debilitating the educational and health sectors in Gaza is Fatah's new strategy for bringing down Hamas -- a strategy that is failing and will likely backfire, writes Saleh Al-Naami

                                                                              Palestinian youth watch a boat carrying foreign peace activists leaving Gaza last Thursday

                                                                              Amer Boreik, 42, came back to his home in Al-Maghazi Refugee Camp in Gaza at dawn, just as his wife finished preparing the morning meal for the first day of Ramadan. For the past 10 days, Boreik, who runs a non-governmental organisation, hasn't been home before dawn. He is busy running one of the numerous emergency committees the Ismail Haniyeh government set up to tackle strikes in the education sector. The strikes have been called by a Ramallah- based, Fatah-controlled labour union.

                                                                              Boreik has been asked to bring in teachers to keep the schools running. He is pleased with the results. Eight of the 10 schools he is supervising are now fully staffed, and the remaining two are almost so. Boreik says that at the beginning of the strike, 80 per cent of the staff stayed at home. "But thanks to the effort exerted by the emergency committees, schools in Gaza are now operating to near full capacity."


                                                                              The Ramallah government told teachers that they wouldn't be paid unless they stopped going to work, Boreik said. "We talked to every single teacher and told them that the Haniyeh government would pay their salaries regularly and in full." The majority of teachers went back to work, and some were replaced with fresh college graduates.

                                                                              The Palestine Teachers' Union (PTU), a non-elected body controlled by the PLO, called the strike. Palestinian factions in the past accused the PTU of being a "pawn" in the hands of the Ramallah government. A year ago, elections were held to form a rival labour union, the Palestine Teachers' Syndicate (PTS). Hamas candidates won and are now in control of the PTS.

                                                                              Mohamed Al-Masri, a teacher, said the Ramallah government of Salam Fayyad is threatening to cut off the salaries of teachers who fail to abide by the PTU-organised strike. The teachers know that the strikes are politically motivated, but they are obliged to comply. PTU Secretary- General Jamil Shehada denies the charge. He told Al-Ahram Weekly that the Haniyeh government was transferring many teachers to distant schools and demoting school principals.

                                                                              Hamas security forces have taken control of the PTU headquarters in Gaza. Shehada added that Hamas has arrested several teachers for organising the strike.

                                                                              PTS officials dismiss this account. Speaking to the Weekly, PTS Deputy President Iyad Aql said the strike was a political gimmick. "A professional strike would have started with professional demands followed by gradual actions of protest." For example, the teachers could have issued statements, organised sit-ins, or held a one-day strike. To hold a strike for five days with no warning is unacceptable, Aql added.

                                                                              The PTU is unelected, Aql charged. Shehada, the PTU leader, never worked as a teacher and is just an employee in one of the Ramallah government's departments, Aql said. He pointed out that the PTU took no action when the Fayyad government discontinued the pay of 1,000 retired teachers in Gaza and 6,000 new teachers in the West Bank and Gaza -- nearly 15 per cent of the teachers' workforce.

                                                                              Fatah, Aql stated, has arrested dozens of teachers, tortured them, and fired them from their work. "Where were Shehada and his union when the teachers were being arrested?" By contrast, the PTS was formed through elections in which 60 per cent of the West Bank and Gaza teachers took part, which makes it the only association entitled to speak for teachers, Aql added.

                                                                              Mohamed Abu Shoqeir, deputy minister of education in Haniyeh's government, told the Weekly that he telephoned Shehada and asked him to release the name of one school principal who had been demoted by Hamas. Shehada had no answer to that, Abu Shoqeir claimed. He added that Hamas is not in the business of firing school principals. Nearly 80 per cent of school principals are from Fatah, and Hamas has no desire to replace them, he pointed out.

                                                                              Abu Shoqeir said the Hamas security services took control of the PTU headquarters following the bombing on the Gaza beach, a precautionary measure applied to dozens of other buildings.

                                                                              One week after the teachers went on strike, the Health Workers Association, based also in Ramallah, called for a strike "in solidarity with the teachers' demands". Bassem Noeim, minister of health in the Haniyeh government, told the Weekly that Ramallah-based officials called doctors and nurses and told them to stop going to work or else. Some were told that their dependents wouldn't receive treatment abroad unless they comply.

                                                                              Analyst Nehad Al-Sheikh Khalil says that the attempts by the Fayyad government to disrupt life in Gaza may backfire. Mahmoud Abbas's presidential term will expire 9 January 2009. Fatah officials are provoking Hamas ahead of upcoming elections, Khalil said. Indeed, Fatah may "declare Gaza a mutinous region, disband the legislative council, and then hold elections," he said.

                                                                              So far, Hamas has been able to ride the storm. Haniyeh's government says that it can pay the salaries of those employees who come to work and has kept the schools running. It is likely to do the same in the health sector. At that point, it may turn out that the strikes have more invigorated than weakened Hamas.

                                                                              Al Ahram

                                                                              888 words posted in PALESTINE, EducationLeave a comment

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                                                                                Hard bargaining: Hamas holds fast in prisoner release deal with Zionist Israel

                                                                                English (US)  September 5th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                Hamas is holding fast in the Shalit affair, to the chagrin of Israel, under pressure to see its soldier freed, writes Khaled Amayreh in occupied East Jerusalem

                                                                                Reacting to Israeli "dithering and procrastination", Hamas has decided to up the ante as to the price Israel has to pay in order to secure the release of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier Palestinian fighters captured during a cross-border attack in the Gaza Strip more than two years ago.


                                                                                Hamas officials in Gaza said this week the group was now demanding the release of 1,500 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails and detention centres in exchange for freeing Shalit.

                                                                                The new demands by Hamas, that Israel dismisses as a "bargaining tactic", was conveyed by Egyptian officials to Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak who visited Cairo last week. Barak said the Israeli government was making strenuous efforts to get Shalit released as soon as possible, adding that he expected indirect negotiations with Hamas in this regard to be accelerated.

                                                                                Barak also suggested that Egyptian-mediated negotiations be conducted in secret to ensure a successful outcome.

                                                                                Barak's statements came amid growing public pressure on the Israeli government to conclude the Shalit affair before the Israeli premier and Kadima leader Ehud Olmert leaves office in a few weeks. Olmert, who has been implicated in a corruption and graft scandal and interrogated several times by the police, decided recently to resign from his post as prime minister.

                                                                                The Shalit family and many other Israelis are now demanding that Olmert make the utmost effort to get the imprisoned Israeli soldier released before his departure.

                                                                                There are several reasons why Israel may now be more willing to engage in serious negotiations with Hamas over the Shalit affair. During its frequent incursions and military operations prior to the ceasefire with Hamas more than two months ago, the Israeli occupation army and Israeli intelligence services rounded up numerous Palestinians from Gaza in order to extract information that might lead to the discovery of Shalit's whereabouts. These efforts failed to provide results.

                                                                                Further, the Hamas movement has been showing an extraordinary degree of tenacity and patience ever since the capture of Shalit by refusing to kowtow to Israeli military pressure. In recent weeks, some London-based Arabic newspapers published reports alleging that Israel was planning to assassinate key Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip if Hamas insisted on its demands with regards to a prospective prisoner swap. Hamas officials have dismissed these reports as mere disinformation, throwing the gauntlet down before the Israeli intelligence services.

                                                                                Meanwhile, Israel is pushing Egypt to pressure Hamas into lowering its "exaggerated demands" as to the number and quality of Palestinian prisoners the group wants Israel to release in return for Shalit. The Israeli media has been publishing reports alleging that Egypt is blaming Hamas for the "stalemate" reached in the Shalit affair. There has been no word from Egypt corroborating the Israeli allegations.

                                                                                This week, Hamas spokesman in Gaza Fawzi Barhoum said during a radio interview that Egypt was showing understanding to Hamas's demands. "The problem is not with Egypt, which is making appreciated efforts to end this problem. The problem is with the Israeli occupation regime which thinks that Hamas will budge under pressure."

                                                                                In fact, Hamas itself is coming under intense pressure from the families of Palestinian prisoners to cling to its demands, namely that Israel should free 450 veteran prisoners whose names have already been transferred to Egypt. The list includes the bulk of Hamas's political and resistance leaders held in Israeli jails. It also includes dozens of Hamas-affiliated lawmakers and former cabinet ministers, as well as other elected officials who were abducted by Israel soon after Shalit's capture and held as bargaining chips in Israeli jails ever since.

                                                                                Hamas is also demanding the release of dozens of women and children detained in Israeli jails for resisting the Israeli occupation.

                                                                                A Sunni movement, Hamas seems also eager to prove to the Palestinians as well as to the overall Arab and Muslim masses that it won't be any less tough than Hizbullah, the Lebanese Shia organisation that eventually succeeded in getting Israel to release all Lebanese prisoners, including Samir Al-Kuntar, from Israeli custody. Israel considered Kuntar a "grand terrorist" for killing Israeli settlers in northern Israel nearly three decades ago.

                                                                                Israel has always sought to justify its refusal to free Palestinian inmates with hefty prison sentences on the grounds that their hands are stained with Jewish blood. However, the release of Al-Kuntar two months ago, as well as the recent freeing of two veteran Palestinian prisoners also with "Jewish blood" on their hands, proved that this sacrosanct mantra is losing credence and may be collapsing.

                                                                                If Israel has been willing to release "killers of Jews" in return for the repatriation of the bodies of dead Israelis, then Israel should be even more willing to do the same in return for liberating from captivity an Israeli soldier who is alive. This is the view of Benyamin Benaliezer, Israeli minister of national infrastructure.

                                                                                Speaking during a local election campaign in the town of Migdal Haeimek Tuesday, 2 September, Benaliezer said that Israel should be willing to pay any price to get Shalit freed. "Of course any swap deal would have to be approved by the government, but we must get done with this issue," he said.

                                                                                Benaliezer rejected the view that the release of so many Palestinian prisoners, including Hamas leaders, would weaken the standing of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. "Abbas is already too weak," he said.

                                                                                Al Ahram

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                                                                                  Large picture lost: Fatah does Zionist Israel's dirty work against Hamas

                                                                                  English (US)  September 5th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                  With Fatah clamping down hard on Hamas in the West Bank, Palestinian unity is the clearest victim, writes Khaled Amayreh in Ramallah

                                                                                  Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (r) welcoming Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (l) and senior Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erakat

                                                                                  Despite largely facetious denials, the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority (PA) has been carrying out a vindictive campaign against Hamas sympathisers and supporters. According to various sources, hundreds of schoolteachers, college students, journalists, and other professionals as well as ordinary citizens have been arrested and imprisoned on largely amorphous charges such as "constituting a threat to state security" -- when the PA is neither a state nor a sovereign entity -- and "violating the rule of law".


                                                                                  In cities and villages throughout the West Bank, PA security agencies raided Islamic-oriented cultural and academic centres, non-governmental organisations, sports clubs as well as schools and charitable associations, closing them down and arresting members.

                                                                                  In the Al-Khalil (Hebron) region, security forces this week closed down four charitable associations aiding orphans and needy kids. In Dura, 10 miles south west of Hebron, heavily armed PA security personnel stormed the Anwar Cultural Centre where high-school students receive tutoring in such subjects as math, sciences and English. When two teachers showed up at the centre the next day, PA security personnel ganged up on them, beating them savagely before dumping them in the local jail in Hebron.

                                                                                  Similarly, journalists critical of the PA crackdown on human rights and civil liberties have been detained on frivolous charges such as "libelling the legitimate Palestinian government" and "stirring up division" among the people. Among the detained journalists is Awadh Rajoub, a young journalist who works for the Arabic service of Rajoub was arrested nearly two weeks ago from his office in Dura. The PA is refusing to say why he is being detained.

                                                                                  Even lawyers defending detainees, such as Mohamed Farrah from Hebron, are being arrested. Al-Ahram Weekly asked Hussein Al-Araj, governor of Hebron, why the PA security agencies were arresting people nearly haphazardly and closing down civilian institutions with Islamic orientations. The governor said the PA was targeting "Hamas's military presence only". "We don't arrest Hamas's people. Supporting Hamas is not against the law. We are only targeting real and potential members of the Executive Force."

                                                                                  The "Executive Force", which is made up of a few thousand well-trained Hamas fighters, spearheaded Hamas's counter- coup in Gaza in June 2007, which eventually thwarted Fatah's plans -- reportedly in collusion with the United States -- to dismantle the Hamas government in Gaza. The PA and Fatah continue to claim that Hamas is planning to repeat the "coup" in the West Bank -- hence the heavy-handed clampdown. However, this claim seems as ridiculous as it is mendacious.

                                                                                  Hamas maintains a negligible "armed presence" in the West Bank and Hamas's "wanted fugitives" spend more time hiding from the ubiquitous eyes of Israel's domestic security agency, the Shin Beth, than fighting Israel or preparing to fight the PA. Moreover, in order for Hamas to be able to defeat Fatah in the West Bank and take over, it would have to defeat the Israeli occupation army first, which is currently far-fetched.

                                                                                  This shows that the ongoing campaign by Fatah against Hamas's "public presence" in the West Bank has more to do with revenge than with efforts to forestall an imagined coup by Hamas in the West Bank. Nonetheless, Fatah is miscalculating since the exaggerated repression by Fatah militias of Hamas's public presence is bound to generate a backlash, at least in terms of people's perceptions.

                                                                                  "They are behaving like a gang, not as a government. Their actions are spurred by an overwhelming desire for revenge without any thought for Palestinian national interests," said one Fatah leader in the southern West Bank who spoke to the Weekly on condition of anonymity. "They have been brainwashed into believing that Hamas, not Israel, is the enemy."

                                                                                  It is not really clear who stands behind the crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank. PA leader Mahmoud Abbas ordered "his" security agencies to free all Hamas political activists rounded up two weeks ago in retaliation for Hamas's crackdown on Fatah elements suspected of involvement in a Gaza-beach bombing that killed six people, including a young girl, three weeks ago. However, the security agencies have apparently refused to heed the "presidential order", which suggests that either the order was disingenuous and meant as a PR manoeuvre -- or that Abbas is losing all authority over the security agencies.

                                                                                  On the political front, Fatah has been successfully enlisting Arab -- especially Egyptian -- support against Hamas, apparently in order to force the Islamic movement into an inferior position in any prospective national reconciliation dialogue. According to reliable sources in Ramallah, Fatah has been able to convince Cairo to refrain from reopening the Rafah border crossing unless Hamas agrees to allow Abbas's Presidential Guard to monitor the crossing. Leaving the crossing closed effectively continues the strangulation of Gaza and its people.

                                                                                  But Fatah precisely hopes that "strangling Hamas" in Gaza would eventually force its political rival to succumb to Fatah's demands of "ending the coup" of 2007 and agreeing to the organisation of new elections early next year. Egypt's siding with Fatah has drawn angry -- though measured -- reactions from Hamas. Moussa Abu Marzouq called on the Egyptian leadership to keep "an equal distance from [all] Palestinian factions" and not to take sides. Similarly, Yehia Moussa, a Hamas lawmaker, accused Egypt of foot-dragging in its efforts to spur Palestinian reconciliation.

                                                                                  Regardless, it is unlikely that Hamas, which has shown an extraordinary level of resilience and fortitude in withstanding the harsh Israeli blockade of Gaza, will cave in to the combined pressure of Egypt and Fatah. In terms of its options, Hamas could abruptly terminate the ceasefire with Israel, stonewall vis-à-vis the Gilad Shalit affair, or repeat January's massive incursion by tens of thousands of desperate Gazans across the border into Egypt. This could end up with Egyptian blood being shed by Palestinians and Palestinian blood being shed by Egyptians, which would be in no one's interests, except perhaps Israel.

                                                                                  While Hamas is facing a predicament, mainly due to Egyptian obstruction, Fatah, too, is facing a real crisis. This week, chief Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qurei admitted that peace talks with Israel were going nowhere. Speaking during a meeting of Fatah leaders, Qurei warned that the Palestinians would abandon the goal of Palestinian statehood and opt for the one-state solution if Israel continues to insist on retaining settlements and rejecting a total withdrawal from the occupied territories.

                                                                                  Israel immediately rejected Qurei's warning, saying that the one-state solution was unthinkable. However, Palestinians are fast coming to the conclusion that the creation of a viable Palestinian state on the West Bank is impossible, given the intensive proliferation of Jewish-only settlements and roads. Locked in a dead end, much will ride on who prevails as the just representative of the will of the Palestinian people -- Fatah or Hamas.

                                                                                  Al Ahram

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                                                                                    Police use tear gas to disperse protestors

                                                                                    English (US)  September 4th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                    ST. PAUL, Minnesota -- Police arrested an estimated 200 anti-war protesters Thursday night after using tear gas and percussion grenades to disperse a crowd near the State Capitol, about a mile from the Republican National Convention.
                                                                                    An officer in riot gear pushes back a protester near the capitol building Thursday.

                                                                                    An officer in riot gear pushes back a protester near the capitol building Thursday.


                                                                                    Police used the gas when dozens of marchers -- most in their 20s, some chanting "F--- the police! F--- the police! F--- 'em!" -- tried to cross a bridge leading to the Xcel Center convention site after being warned not to.


                                                                                    Minnesota State Public Safety Commissioner Michael Campion estimates 200 arrests at the interstate overpass near on Marion Street in St. Paul, where police used chemical agents and flash grenades to disperse the crowd.

                                                                                    He said the objective was to contain the protesters and keep them from reaching the convention hall. He says the first night and the last night of the convention were expected to be big for trouble, and they were.

                                                                                    As a line of police clad in riot gear and walking with bicycles approached a woman who refused to get out of their way, several sprayed her with a liquid.

                                                                                    She covered her eyes with one hand and raised two fingers of the other in the shape of a peace sign . Video Watch the protesters march »

                                                                                    A man standing nearby yelled, "I love you! Why are you doing this?" as the woman was shoved to the pavement.

                                                                                    Each time the protesters attempted to cross over the interstate highway separating them from the convention center, police attempted to stop them.

                                                                                    At one point, police on horses, motorcycles and bicycles followed marchers on a street-to-street chase that led through a shopping mall parking lot.

                                                                                    A number of people wound up on the ground with their hands behind heads.

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                                                                                      Meet the Senator Most Likely to Start a Nuclear War: The Real McCain

                                                                                      English (US)  September 4th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                      By JEFFREY ST. CLAIR

                                                                                      It's November 19, 2004, a mere two weeks after the election that returned George W. Bush to power, and Senator John McCain has traipsed off to New Hampshire to give a speech calling for 50,000 more troops to be sent into the quagmire of Iraq, press flesh and raise money for an expected run at the presidency in 2008. John Sununu, former New Hampshire governor and Bush family consigliere, wryly quipped about McCain's junket to the Granite State, "What took him so long?"


                                                                                      The press corps, already bored with Bush and election post-mortems, tags along. McCain's the darling of the moment, the opinion press's favorite senator, a media-made maverick, who was sedulously courted by both John Kerry and George Bush. McCain, true to form, flirted with them both and sniped at them both, but in the end remained wedded to the GOP, even as the party fell further under the sway of neo-cons and Christian fundamentalists that McCain publicly claims to abhor.

                                                                                      But that's all part of the McCain profile. He is the senator of the hollow protest. McCain is nothing if not a political stunt man. His chief stunt is the evocation of political piety. From his pulpit in the well of the senate, McCain gestures and fumes about the evils of Pentagon porkbarrel. He rails about useless and expensive weapons systems, contractor malfeasance, and bloated R&B budgets.

                                                                                      But he does nothing about them. McCain pontificates, but never obstructs. Few senators have his political capital. But he does nothing with it. Under the arcane rules of the senate, one senator can gum up the works, derail a bad (or good, though those are increasingly rare in this environment) bill, dislodge non-germane riders, usually loaded with pork, from big appropriations bills. McCain is never that senator. He is content to let ride that which he claims to detest in press releases and senate speeches.

                                                                                      A recent example. In late October, McCain went on 60 Minutes to decry a footnote in the Defense Appropriations Bill of 2004 that transferred billions of dollars from so-called Operations and Maintenance accounts for US troops in Iraq to porkbarrel projects, such as gold mines and museums, in the states of powerful senators. In his stern voice before the cameras, McCain made congressional looting sound like a treasonable offense. But what he failed to disclose is the fact that he actually voted for the bill. Not only that, he was personally approached by each senator who wanted just such a transfer of funds and gave it his seal of approval.

                                                                                      McCain the Maverick is a merely a fine-honed act, underscored by these kinds of casual hypocrisies.

                                                                                      * * *

                                                                                      In the past few years, McCain has been portrayed as one of the doves the senate. It's a stunning transformation and a phony one. Instead, throughout his career in Congress McCain has often been one of the hottest hawks around. During the war on Serbia in 1999, in one rhetorical bombing run after another, McCain bellowed for "lights out in Belgrade" and for NATO to "cream" the Serbs. At the start of May of that year he began declaiming in the US senate for NATO forces to use "any means necessary" to destroy Serbia.

                                                                                      McCain is often called a "war hero", a title adorning an unlovely resume starting with a father who was an admiral and graduation fifth from the bottom at the US Naval Academy, where he earned the nickname "McNasty". McCain flew 23 bombing missions over North Vietnam, each averaging about half an hour, total time ten hours and thirty minutes. For these brief excursions the admiral's son was awarded two Silver Stars, two Legions of Merit, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, three Bronze Stars, the Vietnamese Legion of Honor and three Purple Hearts. US Veteran Dispatch calculates our hero earned a medal an hour, which is pretty good going. McCain was shot down over Hanoi on October 26, 1967 and parachuted into Truc Boch Lake, whence he was hauled by Vietnamese, and put in prison.

                                                                                      A couple of years later he was interviewed in prison camp by Fernando Barral, a Spanish psychiatrist living in Cuba. The interview appeared in Granma on January 24, 1970.

                                                                                      McCain's fragile psyche runs on what Barral described "the personality of the prisoner who is responsible for many criminal bombings of the people." Barral went on, "He (McCain) showed himself to be intellectually alert during the interview. From a morale point of view he is not in traumatic shock. He was able to be sarcastic, and even humorous, indicative of psychic equilibrium. From the moral and ideological point of view he showed us he is an insensitive individual without human depth, who does not show the slightest concern, who does not appear to have thought about the criminal acts he committed against a population from the absolute impunity of his airplane, and that nevertheless those people saved his life, fed him, and looked after his health and he is now healthy and strong. I believe that he has bombed densely populated places for sport. I noted that he was hardened, that he spoke of banal things as if her were at a cocktail party.

                                                                                      McCain is deeply loved by the liberal press. As Amy Silverman, a reporter at the Phoenix weekly New Times who has followed the senator for years, puts it, "As long as he's the noble outsider, McCain can get away with anything it seems -- the Keating Five, a drug stealing wife, nasty jokes about Chelsea Clinton -- and the pundits will gurgle and coo."

                                                                                      Indeed they will. William Safire, Maureen Down, Russell Baker, the New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, have all slobbered over McCain in empurpled prose. The culmination was a love poem from Mike Wallace in 60 Minutes, who managed to avoid any inconvenient mention of McCain's close relationship with S & L fraudster Charles Keating, with whom the indulgent senator romped on Bahamian beaches. McCain was similarly spared scrutiny for his astonishing claim that he knew nothing of his wife's scandalous dealings.

                                                                                      McCain's escape from the Keating debacle is nothing short of miraculous and it's probably the activity for which he most deserves a medal. After all, he took more than $100,000 in campaign contributions from the swindler Keating between 1982 and 1988, while simultaneously logrolling for Keating on Capitol Hill. In the same period McCain took nine trips to Keating's place in the Bahamas.

                                                                                      When the muck began to rise, McCain threw Keating over the side, hastily reimbursed Keating for the trips and suddenly developed a profound interest in campaign finance and reform.

                                                                                      Yet McCain is legendary among those who have worked with him for a pathologically vicious temper, also for his skill in adopting apparently principled stands which are never exposed to any rigorous test.

                                                                                      The pundits love McCain because of his grandstanding on soft money's baneful role in politics, thus garnering for himself a reputation for willingness to court the enmity of his colleagues.

                                                                                      In fact, colleagues in the Senate accurately regard McCain as a mere grandstander. They know that he already has a big war chest left over from the corporations that crave his indulgence, as chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee. Communications companies (US West, Bell South, ATT, Bell Atlantic have been particularly effusive in McCain's treasury, as have banks, military contractors and UPS. They also know he has a rich wife and the certain knowledge that his supposed hopes for an end to soft money spending will never receive any practical legislative application.

                                                                                      * * *

                                                                                      John McCain says he models himself after TR. "I'm a Teddy Roosevelt kind of Republican", McCain told a crowd of about 1,000 people in East Lansing, Michigan. "I believe America needs a strong leader. And most Republicans take in pride in identifying with TR, who believed that second only to the national defense, one of our most important public duties is to wisely husband the country's natural resources. Like TR I'll be the kind of president who will have the courage stand up to the special interests and no. There are some things they just can't have." The crowd of students plus those elusive Reagan Democrats cheered lustily as McCain raised his arms in his now customary crimped victory salute.

                                                                                      Two days later McCain was in Spokane, capital of Washington's Inland Empire, where the Republican Party is dominated by big timber, big agriculture and the hydro-power conglomerate that includes the aluminum factories, the barge fleets and the pulp mills. Over his 18-year career in the House and Senate John McCain has rarely let them down. He has supported property rights legislation, backed the salvage logging rider, fought measures for stricter control over pesticides and harshly denounced proposals to breach dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers to save endangered salmon.

                                                                                      Even in that crowd, McCain claimed to be a conservationist: "It's possible for a conservative president to be an environmentalist." So the question is what kind of environmentalist is John McCain?

                                                                                      McCain has confused many observers. Even staunchly Democratic organizations such as the League of Conservation Voters, can't seem to find it in themselves to pin him down on the environment. The League's profile of McCain notes that "on most issues dealing with Arizona, National Park protection and auto-efficiency standards, his record ranges from good to excellent". But the group's own annual ranking (heavily prejudiced against Republicans, it must be admitted) gives the Arizona senator a lifetime rating of only 20 per cent. Several years he rated a zero.

                                                                                      When he's out West, McCain is fond of saying that his political mentor was Barry Goldwater. But McCain is no Goldwater. And that's not a compliment. Goldwater was, essentially, a western populist, a Libertarian version of Mike Mansfield, Lee Metcalf and Frank Church. Goldwater always had a passion for the outdoors and in the end singled out as his greatest political regret his vote to authorize the construction of Glen Canyon dam. McCain is not one for searing self-scrutiny. As with the rest of his political agenda, McCain's environmentalism has always been pointedly opportunistic. Voting for a popular Arizona wilderness bill when he faced a tough election. Introducing legislation at the behest of local businesses to limit overflights of planes and helicopters at Grand Canyon National Park. Perhaps, this is a sign for optimism. After all, he isn't a Wise-Use ideologue.

                                                                                      McCain tends to analyze the polls with an obsessiveness comparable to the Clintons. Of particular interest has been Republican pollster Frank Luntz's work, which shows that upwards of 70 per cent of Republicans favor strong environmental laws and increased funding for national parks. The environment, in other words, might be a wedge issue, one that can win over independents, Reagan Democrats, Republican moderates and women. Hence, a recent McCain speech on the environment in San Diego, where he thundered, "Republicans have to do a lot more than they are doing today on the environment." Aside from generic calls to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (which gets its money from royalties from offshore oil drilling), McCain tends to leave the particulars fuzzy.

                                                                                      Of course, McCain is hardly alone in this regard, of course. Indeed, on a bad day he can even sound a bit like Hillary Clinton. "One area I believe we must focus upon is to ensure that our laws and rules are more performance-based and that we focus better on outcomes rather than means," McCain writes on his webpage. "To that end we should work to instill greater flexibility to employ new approaches to meeting our standards and environmental goals."

                                                                                      His votes in the Senate have gone somewhat beyond "greater flexibility", embracing takings legislation, opening of the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, and Bob Dole's regulatory reform bill.

                                                                                      When the interests of the military and the environment come into conflict, as often happens in the Western states, there's no question where John McCain stands. In 1993, McCain placed a hold on the nomination of Mollie Beatie, Clinton's choice to head the Fish and Wildlife Service. McCain had been told by his buddies in the Marine Air Corps that the Fish and Wildlife Service planned to halt low-level flights above the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Reserve, near Yuma, Arizona. McCain's strong-arm tactics worked. Bruce Babbitt sent the senator a letter pledging that the military fly-bys would not be impeded. With this easy victory conquest of Babbitt under his belt, McCain struck again the following year, when he placed a rider onto the California Desert Preservation Act, allowing military flights over the wilderness areas and national preserves created by the act. Now, McCain shouldn't be forced to shoulder all the blame for that one. His amendment was fondly received by the bill's author, Senator Dianne Feinstein, who had already perverted the bill by permitting mining claims inside in the so-called national preserve.

                                                                                      In 1999 McCain attached a rider to the Defense Appropriations bill that would have permanently transferred to the Pentagon 7.2 million acres of federal wildlife refuge land managed by the BLM and the Fish and Wildlife Service, where they would become used as a bombing range and a testing ground for a new generation of missiles. McCain's rider exempted the military from conducting any environmental review of its programs.

                                                                                      One of the issues that divides the often united Western delegation is the Department of Energy's plan to bury the nation's commercial nuclear waste inside Yucca Mountain, an earthquake prone region on Shoshone lands in western Nevada. The plan, dubbed "mobile Chernobyl", sets up an MX missile system for nuclear waste, with trains shipping the radioactive materials from across the country on a maze of rail routes. McCain, happy to keep the waste out of Arizona, enthusiastically supports the scheme. And he backs the creation of even more nuclear waste by standing forth as one of the nuclear power industry's most reliable allies. "While waste and proliferation issues present unique challenges, nuclear energy can play a key role in reducing pollution emissions and controlling releases of carbon dioxide."

                                                                                      "If there's one thing we know about McCain, it's that he can't be trusted", says Roger Featherstone, director of the GREEN, an Albuqueque, New Mexico environmental group. "Anybody who promotes McCain is environmentalist is either an idiot or a liar." Much of the blame for McCain's reputation can be laid to our gullible press. Living on Earth, the NPR environmental show, recently produced a puff piece touting McCain as the Senate's most environmentally conscious Republican. Of course, most of McCain's act is scripted for the photo op. When the chips are on the table, McCain can be counted on to do the bidding of industry. Take the issue of subsidies. In 1996, McCain introduced a bill that would have slashed corporate welfare, including millions in subsidies to big timber in form of federally funded logging roads. The measure was enthusiastically received by liberals and the Washington press corps, which wasted no time hailing McCain as a "maverick" and a "renegade Republican". But a few months later McCain had the opportunity to make part of his plan reality, but he defected, voting against a measure offered by then-Senator Richard Bryant, the Nevada Democrat, that would have eliminated the very same timber road subsidies. McCain didn't explain his flip-flop.

                                                                                      McCain played a malign role in one of Arizona's most controversial issues, the mad scheme by the University of Arizona to erect seven deep space telescopes on national forest lands at the summit of Mt. Graham. Mt. Graham is known as a sky island, a lush montane oasis rising out of the Sonoran desert. In its upper reaches, Mt. Graham is cloaked in a dense alpine spruce-fir forest unique in the world. It is home to more than 18 endangered plants and animals, the most famous of which is the Mt. Graham red squirrel, found nowhere else. Mt. Graham is not only an ecological marvel, it is also a sacred mountain to the San Carlos Apache.

                                                                                      Neither of these factors carried weight with McCain, who was hell-bent on doing favors for the University. He duly introduced legislation exempting the $520 million project from compliance with the Endangered Species Act, Antiquities Act and the Native American Religious Freedom Act.

                                                                                      In the spring of 1989, the Forest Service began to raise questions about the project. Worried about the impacts on the endangered Mt. Graham red squirrel, Jim Abbott, the supervisor of the Coronado National Forest, ordered a halt to road construction at the site. The delay infuriated McCain. On May 17, 1989, Abbott got a call from Mike Jimenez, McCain's chief of staff. Jimenez told Abbot that McCain was angry and wanted to meet with him the next day. He told Abbott to expect "some ass-chewing". At the meeting, McCain raged, threatening Abbott that "if you do not cooperate on this project [bypassing the Endangered Species Act], you'll be the shortest tenured forest supervisor in the history of the Forest Service." Unfortunately for McCain, there was a witness to this encounter, a ranking Forest Service employee named Richard Flannelly, who recorded the encounter in his notebook. This notebook was later turned over to investigators at the GAO.

                                                                                      A few days later, McCain called Abbott to apologize. But the call sounded more like an attempt to bribe the Forest Supervisor to go along with the project. According to a 1990 GAO report on the affair, McCain "held out a carrot that with better cooperation, he would see about getting funding for Mr. Abbott's desired recreation projects". Environmentalists attempted to bring an ethics complaint against McCain, citing a federal law that prohibits anyone (including members of Congress) from browbeating federal agency personnel. The Senate ethics committee never pursued the matter. When the GAO report, condemning McCain, surfaced publicly, McCain lied about the encounter, calling the allegations "groundless" and "silly"

                                                                                      In 1992, Robin Silver and Bob Witzeman went to meet with McCain at his office in Phoenix to discuss Mt. Graham. Silver and Witzeman are both physicians. Witzeman is now retired and Silver works in the emergency room at Phoenix hospital. The doctors say that at the mention of the words Mount Graham McCain erupted into a violent fit. "He slammed his fists on his desk, scattering papers across the room", Silver tells us. "He jumped up and down, screaming obscenities at us for at least 10 minutes. He shook his fists as if he was going to slug us. It was as violent as almost any domestic abuse altercation."

                                                                                      Witzeman left the meeting stunned: "I'm a lifelong environmentalist, but what really scares me about McCain is not his environmental policies, which are horrid, but his violent, irrational temper. I think McCain is so unbalanced that if Vladimir Putin told him something he didn't like he'd lose it, start beating his chest about having his finger on the nuclear trigger. Who knows where it would stop. To my mind, McCain's the most likely senator to start a nuclear war."

                                                                                      This article is adapted from Jeffrey St. Clair's book, Grand Theft Pentagon.

                                                                                      Jeffrey St. Clair is the author of Been Brown So Long It Looked Like Green to Me: the Politics of Nature and Grand Theft Pentagon. His newest books, Born Under a Bad Sky and Red State Rebels: Tales of Grassroots Resistance in the Heartland (co-edited with Joshua Frank) are just out from AK Press. He can be reached at:


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                                                                                        Going on an Imperial Bender: How the U.S. Garrisons the Planet and Doesn't Even Notice

                                                                                        English (US)  September 4th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                        By Tom Engelhardt

                                                                                        Here it is, as simply as I can put it: In the course of any year, there must be relatively few countries on this planet on which U.S. soldiers do not set foot, whether with guns blazing, humanitarian aid in hand, or just for a friendly visit. In startling numbers of countries, our soldiers not only arrive, but stay interminably, if not indefinitely. Sometimes they live on military bases built to the tune of billions of dollars that amount to sizeable American towns (with accompanying amenities), sometimes on stripped down forward operating bases that may not even have showers. When those troops don't stay, often American equipment does -- carefully stored for further use at tiny "cooperative security locations," known informally as "lily pads" (from which U.S. troops, like so many frogs, could assumedly leap quickly into a region in crisis).


                                                                                        At the height of the Roman Empire, the Romans had an estimated 37 major military bases scattered around their dominions. At the height of the British Empire, the British had 36 of them planetwide. Depending on just who you listen to and how you count, we have hundreds of bases. According to Pentagon records, in fact, there are 761 active military "sites" abroad.

                                                                                        The fact is: We garrison the planet north to south, east to west, and even on the seven seas, thanks to our various fleets and our massive aircraft carriers which, with 5,000-6,000 personnel aboard -- that is, the population of an American town -- are functionally floating bases.

                                                                                        And here's the other half of that simple truth: We don't care to know about it. We, the American people, aided and abetted by our politicians, the Pentagon, and the mainstream media, are knee-deep in base denial.

                                                                                        Now, that's the gist of it. If, like most Americans, that's more than you care to know, stop here.

                                                                                        Where the Sun Never Sets

                                                                                        Let's face it, we're on an imperial bender and it's been a long, long night. Even now, in the wee hours, the Pentagon continues its massive expansion of recent years; we spend militarily as if there were no tomorrow; we're still building bases as if the world were our oyster; and we're still in denial. Someone should phone the imperial equivalent of Alcoholics Anonymous.

                                                                                        But let's start in a sunnier time, less than two decades ago, when it seemed that there would be many tomorrows, all painted red, white, and blue. Remember the 1990s when the U.S. was hailed -- or perhaps more accurately, Washington hailed itself -- not just as the planet's "sole superpower" or even its unique "hyperpower," but as its "global policeman," the only cop on the block? As it happened, our leaders took that label seriously and our central police headquarters, that famed five-sided building in Washington D.C, promptly began dropping police stations -- aka military bases -- in or near the oil heartlands of the planet (Kosovo, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait) after successful wars in the former Yugoslavia and the Persian Gulf.

                                                                                        As those bases multiplied, it seemed that we were embarking on a new, post-Soviet version of "containment." With the USSR gone, however, what we were containing grew a lot vaguer and, before 9/11, no one spoke its name. Nonetheless, it was, in essence, Muslims who happened to live on so many of the key oil lands of the planet.

                                                                                        Yes, for a while we also kept intact our old bases from our triumphant mega-war against Japan and Germany, and then the stalemated "police action" in South Korea (1950-1953) -- vast structures which added up to something like an all-military American version of the old British Raj. According to the Pentagon, we still have a total of 124 bases in Japan, up to 38 on the small island of Okinawa, and 87 in South Korea. (Of course, there were setbacks. The giant bases we built in South Vietnam were lost in 1975, and we were peaceably ejected from our major bases in the Philippines in 1992.)

                                                                                        But imagine the hubris involved in the idea of being "global policeman" or "sheriff" and marching into a Dodge City that was nothing less than Planet Earth itself. Naturally, with a whole passel of bad guys out there, a global "swamp" to be "drained," as key Bush administration officials loved to describe it post-9/11, we armed ourselves to kill, not stun. And the police stations… Well, they were often something to behold -- and they still are.

                                                                                        Let's start with the basics: Almost 70 years after World War II, the sun is still incapable of setting on the American "empire of bases" -- in Chalmers Johnson's phrase -- which at this moment stretches from Australia to Italy, Japan to Qatar, Iraq to Colombia, Greenland to the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia, Rumania to Okinawa. And new bases of various kinds are going up all the time (always with rumors of more to come). For instance, an American missile system is slated to go into Poland and a radar system into Israel. That will mean Americans stationed in both countries and, undoubtedly, modest bases of one sort or another to go with them. (The Israeli one -- "the first American base on Israeli territory" -- reports Aluf Benn of Haaretz, will be in the Negev desert.)

                                                                                        There are 194 countries on the planet (more or less), and officially 39 of them have American "facilities," large and/or small. But those are only the bases the Pentagon officially acknowledges. Others simply aren't counted, either because, as in the case of Jordan, a country finds it politically preferable not to acknowledge such bases; because, as in the case of Pakistan, the American military shares bases that are officially Pakistani; or because bases in war zones, no matter how elaborate, somehow don't count. In other words, that 39 figure doesn't even include Iraq or Afghanistan. By 2005, according to the Washington Post, there were 106 American bases in Iraq, ranging from tiny outposts to mega-bases like Balad Air Base and the ill-named Camp Victory that house tens of thousands of troops, private contractors, Defense Department civilians, have bus routes, traffic lights, PXes, big name fast-food restaurants, and so on.

                                                                                        Some of these bases are, in effect, "American towns" on foreign soil. In Afghanistan, Bagram Air Base, previously used by the Soviets in their occupation of the country, is the largest and best known. There are, however, many more, large and small, including Kandahar Air Base, located in what was once the unofficial capital of the Taliban, which even has a full-scale hockey rink (evidently for its Canadian contingent of troops).

                                                                                        You would think that all of this would be genuine news, that the establishment of new bases would regularly generate significant news stories, that books by the score would pour out on America's version of imperial control. But here's the strange thing: We garrison the globe in ways that really are -- not to put too fine a point on it -- unprecedented, and yet, if you happen to live in the United States, you basically wouldn't know it; or, thought about another way, you wouldn't have to know it.

                                                                                        In Washington, our garrisoning of the world is so taken for granted that no one seems to blink when billions go into a new base in some exotic, embattled, war-torn land. There's no discussion, no debate at all. News about bases abroad, and Pentagon basing strategy, is, at best, inside-the-fold stuff, meant for policy wonks and news jockeys. There may be no subject more taken for granted in Washington, less seriously attended to, or more deserving of coverage.

                                                                                        Missing Bases

                                                                                        Americans have, of course, always prided themselves on exporting "democracy," not empire. So empire-talk hasn't generally been an American staple and, perhaps for that reason, all those bases prove an awkward subject to bring up or focus too closely on. When it came to empire-talk in general, there was a brief period after 9/11 when the neoconservatives, in full-throated triumph, began to compare us to Rome and Britain at their imperial height (though we were believed to be incomparably, uniquely more powerful). It was, in the phrase of the time, a "unipolar moment." Even liberal war hawks started talking about taking up "the burden" of empire or, in the phrase of Michael Ignatieff, now a Canadian politician but, in that period, still at Harvard and considered a significant American intellectual, "empire lite."

                                                                                        On the whole, however, those in Washington and in the media haven't considered it germane to remind Americans of just exactly how we have attempted to "police" and control the world these last years. I've had two modest encounters with base denial myself:

                                                                                        In the spring of 2004, a journalism student I was working with emailed me a clip, dated October 20, 2003 -- less than seven months after American troops entered Baghdad -- from a prestigious engineering magazine. It quoted Lt. Col. David Holt, the Army engineer "tasked with facilities development" in Iraq, speaking proudly of the several billion dollars ("the numbers are staggering") that had already been sunk into base construction in that country. Well, I was staggered anyway. American journalists, however, hardly noticed, even though significant sums were already pouring into a series of mega-bases that were clearly meant to be permanent fixtures on the Iraqi landscape. (The Bush administration carefully avoided using the word "permanent" in any context whatsoever, and these bases were first dubbed "enduring camps.")

                                                                                        Within two years, according to the Washington Post (in a piece that, typically, appeared on page A27 of the paper), the U.S. had those 106 bases in Iraq at a cost that, while unknown, must have been staggering indeed. Just stop for a moment and consider that number: 106. It boggles the mind, but not, it seems, American newspaper or TV journalism.

                                                                               has covered this subject regularly ever since, in part because these massive "facts on the ground," these modern Ziggurats, were clearly evidence of the Bush administration's long-term plans and intentions in that country. Not surprisingly, this year, U.S. negotiators finally offered the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki its terms for a so-called status of forces agreement, evidently initially demanding the right to occupy into the distant future 58 of the bases it has built.

                                                                                        It has always been obvious -- to me, at least -- that any discussion of Iraq policy in this country, of timelines or "time horizons," drawdowns or withdrawals, made little sense if those giant facts on the ground weren't taken into account. And yet you have to search the U.S. press carefully to find any reporting on the subject, nor have bases played any real role in debates in Washington or the nation over Iraq policy.

                                                                                        I could go further: I can think of two intrepid American journalists, Thomas Ricks of the Washington Post and Guy Raz of NPR, who actually visited a single U.S. mega-base, Balad Air Base, which reputedly has a level of air traffic similar to Chicago's O'Hare International or London's Heathrow, and offered substantial reports on it. But, as far as I know, they, like the cheese of children's song, stand alone. I doubt that in the last five years Americans tuning in to their television news have ever been able to see a single report from Iraq that gave a view of what the bases we have built there look like or cost. Although reporters visit them often enough and, for instance, have regularly offered reports from Camp Victory in Baghdad on what's going on in the rest of Iraq, the cameras never pan away from the reporters to show us the gigantic base itself.

                                                                                        More than five years after ground was broken for the first major American base in Iraq, this is, it seems to me, a remarkable record of media denial. American bases in Afghanistan have generally experienced a similar fate.

                                                                                        My second encounter with base denial came in my other life. When not running, I'm a book editor; to be more specific, I'm Chalmers Johnson's editor. I worked on the prophetic Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, which was published back in 2000 to a singular lack of attention -- until, of course, the attacks of 9/11, after which it became a bestseller, adding both "blowback" and the phrase "unintended consequences" to the American lexicon.

                                                                                        By the time The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic, the second volume in his Blowback Trilogy, came out in 2004, reviewers, critics, and commentators were all paying attention. The heart of that book focused on how the U.S. garrisons the planet, laying out Pentagon basing policies and discussing specific bases in remarkable detail. This represented serious research and breakthrough work, and the book indeed received much attention here, including major, generally positive reviews. Startlingly, however, not a single mainstream review, no matter how positive, paid any attention, or even really acknowledged, his chapters on the bases, or bothered to discuss the U.S. as a global garrison state. Only three years later did a major reviewer pay the subject serious attention. When Jonathan Freedland reviewed Nemesis, the final book in the Trilogy, in the New York Review of Books, he noticed the obvious and, in a discussion of U.S. basing policy, wrote, for instance:

                                                                                        "Johnson is in deadly earnest when he draws a parallel with Rome. He swats aside the conventional objection that, in contrast with both Romans and Britons, Americans have never constructed colonies abroad. Oh, but they have, he says; it's just that Americans are blind to them. America is an 'empire of bases,' he writes, with a network of vast, hardened military encampments across the earth, each one a match for any Roman or Raj outpost."

                                                                                        Not surprisingly, Freedland is not an American journalist, but a British one who works for the Guardian.

                                                                                        In the U.S., military bases really only matter, and so make headlines, when the Pentagon attempts to close some of the vast numbers of them scattered across this country. Then, the fear of lost jobs and lost income in local communities leads to headlines and hubbub.

                                                                                        Of course, millions of Americans know about our bases abroad firsthand. In this sense, they may be the least well kept secrets on the planet. American troops, private contractors, and Defense Department civilian employees all have spent extended periods of time on at least one U.S. base abroad. And yet no one seems to notice the near news blackout on our global bases or consider it the least bit strange.

                                                                                        The Foreshortened American Century

                                                                                        In a nutshell, occupying the planet, base by base, normally simply isn't news. Americans may pay no attention and yet, of course, they do pay. It turns out to be a staggeringly expensive process for U.S. taxpayers. Writing of a major 2004 Pentagon global base overhaul (largely aimed at relocating many of them closer to the oil heartlands of the planet), Mike Mechanic of Mother Jones magazine online points out the following: "An expert panel convened by Congress to assess the overseas basing realignment put the cost at $20 billion, counting indirect expenses overlooked by the Pentagon, which had initially budgeted one-fifth that amount."

                                                                                        And that's only the most obvious way Americans pay. It's hard for us even to begin to grasp just how military (and punitive) is the face that the U.S. has presented to the world, especially during George W. Bush's two terms in office. (Increasingly, that same face is also presented to Americans. For instance, as Paul Krugman indicated recently, the civilian Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA] has been so thoroughly wrecked these last years that significant planning for the response to Hurricane Gustav fell on the shoulders of the military's Bush-created U.S. Northern Command.)

                                                                                        In purely practical terms, though, Americans are unlikely to be able to shoulder forever the massive global role the Pentagon and successive administrations have laid out for us. Sooner or later, cutbacks will come and the sun will slowly begin to set on our base-world abroad.

                                                                                        In the Cold War era, there were, of course, two "superpowers," the lesser of which disappeared in 1991 after a lifespan of 74 years. Looking at what seemed to be a power vacuum across the Bering Straits, the leaders of the other power prematurely declared themselves triumphant in what had been an epic struggle for global hegemony. It now seems that, rather than victory, the second superpower was just heading for the exit far more slowly.

                                                                                        As of now, "the American Century," birthed by Time/Life publisher Henry Luce in 1941, has lasted but 67 years. Today, you have to be in full-scale denial not to know that the twenty-first century -- whether it proves to be the Century of Multipolarity, the Century of China, the Century of Energy, or the Century of Chaos -- will not be an American one. The unipolar moment is already so over and, sooner or later, those mega-bases and lily pads alike will wash up on the shores of history, evidence of a remarkable fantasy of a global Pax Americana.

                                                                                        Not that you're likely to hear much about this in the run-up to November 4th in the U.S. Here, fantasy reigns in both parties where a relatively upbeat view of our globally dominant future is a given, and will remain so, no matter who enters the White House in January 2009. After all, who's going to run for president not on the idea that "it's morning again in America," but on the recognition that it's the wee small hours of the morning, the bender is ending, and the hangover… Well, it's going to be a doozy.

                                                                                        Better take some B vitamins and get a little sleep. The world's probably not going to look so great by the dawn's early light.

                                                                                        [Note on Sources: It's rare indeed that the U.S. empire of bases gets anything like the attention it deserves, so, when it does, praise is in order. Mother Jones online has just launched a major project to map out and analyze U.S. bases worldwide. It includes a superb new piece on bases by Chalmers Johnson, "America's Unwelcome Advances" and a number of other top-notch pieces, including one on "How to Stay in Iraq for 1,000 Years" by TomDispatch regular Frida Berrigan (the second part of whose Pentagon expansion series will be posted at this site soon). Check out the package of pieces at MJ by clicking here. Perhaps most significant, the magazine has produced an impressive online interactive map of U.S. bases worldwide. Check it out by clicking here. But when you zoom in on an individual country, do note that the first base figures you'll see are the Pentagon's and so possibly not complete. You need to read the MJ texts below each map to get a fuller picture. As will be obvious, if you click on the links in this post, I made good use of MJ's efforts, for which I offer many thanks.]

                                                                                        Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project, runs the Nation Institute's He is the author of The End of Victory Culture, a history of the American Age of Denial. The World According to TomDispatch: America in the New Age of Empire (Verso, 2008), a collection of some of the best pieces from his site, has just been published. Focusing on what the mainstream media hasn't covered, it is an alternative history of the mad Bush years.


                                                                                        3222 words posted in American EmpireLeave a comment

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                                                                                          Spiro T. Palin: McCain's attack dog

                                                                                          English (US)  September 4th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                          The point (of Palin's speech and the McCain campaign in general) was not to debate the Democrats. The point, as in Spiro Agnew's day, was to destroy the opposition.

                                                                                          By John Nichols

                                                                                          ST. PAUL – Forty years ago, mounting a comeback campaign after losing a presidential race eight years earlier, Richard Nixon secured the Republican nomination and then selected as his running-mate a former local official who had served a scant twenty months as the governor of a small state.

                                                                                          The choice was questioned by pundits and mocked by Democrats. They called the vice presidential nominee: "Spiro Who?"

                                                                                          But when Maryland Governor Spiro T. Agnew hit the campaign trail, he did so as "Nixon's Nixon" – the attack dog the party needed to take the opposition apart while making the Republican presidential nominee look presidential.

                                                                                          It was the same role that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin assumed Wednesday night at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul.


                                                                                          In her speech accepting the Republican nomination forn vice president, Palin did a full Agnew.

                                                                                          Like that other Republican vice-presidential nominee in that other time, the newly-minted Republican nominee defended herself against unsettling revelations with regard to her personal and political missteps by attacking the messengers.

                                                                                          "I've learned quickly, these past few days, that if you're not a member in good standing of the Washington elite, then some in the media consider a candidate unqualified for that reason alone," she announced with a sneer in her voice. "But here's a little news flash for those reporters and commentators: I'm not going to Washington to seek their good opinion - I'm going to Washington to serve the people of this great country."

                                                                                          The "average hockey mom" from Wasilla was devoted most of her first real speech to the American people to the serious political work of tossing verbal brickbats at the men who lead the Democratic ticket.

                                                                                          Palin barely even mentioned Barack Obama or Joe Biden by name. But everyone knew who she was talking about when she picked up her party's new theme of belittling Obama's experience as a community organizer working with laid-off steelworkers in Chicago.

                                                                                          The former mayor of the small city of Wasilla, Alaska, turned questions about whether her tenure in that position qualifies her to be second in line for the presidency into a populist defense of small-town America that highlighted an embarrassing off-the-cuff comment made by Obama at a San Francisco fund-raising event with regard to "bitter" rural voters that embarrassed the Democratic candidate during his Pennsylvania primary campaign.

                                                                                          "(Since) our opponents in this presidential election seem to look down on that experience, let me explain to them what the job involves," said Palin. "I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a ‘community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities. I might add that in small towns, we don't quite know what to make of a candidate who lavishes praise on working people when they are listening, and then talks about how bitterly they cling to their religion and guns when those people aren't listening. We tend to prefer candidates who don't talk about us one way in Scranton and another way in San Francisco."

                                                                                          Sarcastic, bombastic, at times witty, at times savage, Palin ripped and ridiculed Obama with an eye toward challenging the common sense, logic and patriotism of the Democrat.

                                                                                          I've noticed a pattern with our opponent.

                                                                                          Maybe you have, too.

                                                                                          We've all heard his dramatic speeches before devoted followers.

                                                                                          And there is much to like and admire about our opponent.

                                                                                          But listening to him speak, it's easy to forget that this is a man who has authored two memoirs but not a single major law or reform -- not even in the state senate.

                                                                                          This is a man who can give an entire speech about the wars America is fighting, and never use the word "victory" except when he's talking about his own campaign. But when the cloud of rhetoric has passed ... when the roar of the crowd fades away ... when the stadium lights go out, and those Styrofoam Greek columns are hauled back to some studio lot - what exactly is our opponent's plan? What does he actually seek to accomplish, after he's done turning back the waters and healing the planet? The answer is to make government bigger ... take more of your money ... give you more orders from Washington ... and to reduce the strength of America in a dangerous world. America needs more energy ... our opponent is against producing it.

                                                                                          Victory in Iraq is finally in sight ... he wants to forfeit.

                                                                                          Terrorist states are seeking new-clear weapons without delay ... he wants to meet them without preconditions.

                                                                                          Al Qaeda terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America ... he's worried that someone won't read them their rights?

                                                                                          Government is too big ... he wants to grow it.

                                                                                          Congress spends too much ... he promises more.

                                                                                          Taxes are too high ... he wants to raise them.

                                                                                          Never mind the conflicts between reality and Palin's over-the-top mischaracterizations of Obama's record and positions. The governor of Alaska was not about to be constrained by the facts.

                                                                                          The point was not to debate the Democrats.

                                                                                          The point, as in Spiro Agnew's day, was to destroy the opposition. "(Though) both Senator Obama and Senator Biden have been going on lately about how they are always, quote, ‘fighting for you,' let us face the matter squarely," shouted Palin. "There is only one man in this election who has ever really fought for you ... in places where winning means survival and defeat means death ... and that man is John McCain."

                                                                                          This is the Sarah Palin America will hear in the fall of 2008.

                                                                                          Those who listen closely will hear echoes of 1968.

                                                                                          The echoes will not be precise.

                                                                                          John McCain is not Richard Nixon.

                                                                                          Barack Obama is certainly not Hubert Humphrey.

                                                                                          There is no George Wallace dividing the Democratic vote.

                                                                                          But there is a Spiro Agnew, and her name is Sarah Palin.

                                                                                          The Nation

                                                                                          984 words posted in Arts, Culture & Entertainment2 comments

                                                                                          2 response(s) to Spiro T. Palin: McCain's attack dog

                                                                                          1. Martin Edwin Andersen [Visitor] Email says:

                                                                                            Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

                                                                                            Please see my blog, "Spiro T. Palin?" (, and this three days later in The Nation by John Nichols. ...

                                                                                            The Nation

                                                                                            Spiro T. Palin
                                                                                            posted by John Nichols on 09/04/2008 @ 01:28am

                                                                                            ST. PAUL – Forty years ago, mounting a comeback campaign after losing a presidential race eight years earlier, Richard Nixon secured the Republican nomination and then selected as his running-mate a former local official who had served a scant twenty months as the governor of a small state. ...

                                                                                            There is a Spiro Agnew, and her name is Sarah Palin.

                                                                                          2. jigster [Visitor] Email says:

                                                                                            “The world is not inherited from our parents, it is borrowed from our children.”

                                                                                            Palin-McCain – Too dangerous for the world

                                                                                            John McCain may be dangerous but Sarah Palin is certainly dangerous! Beside the understandable fear of McCain's health due to age, it is the nature of the U.S constitution that warrants vice presidential candidates to be examined and scrutinized as presidential candidates. An assassination, natural death, resignation due to health/scandal... can easily make a vice-president a president.

                                                                                            While I am not surprised that ordinary Americans welcome her as surprise, it saddens me that the mainstream Media embraces her on claims and obscure affirmations. They keep describing her as “pro-life”, “hockey-mum”, and under-scrutinized her experience, illusory religious leaning, and meretricious accomplishments .

                                                                                            “Pro-life”? The media should not complyingly devote such acclamations to the Republicans and certainly not to a frantic person like Palin. I fully understand it is term supposedly deduced and limited to abortion standing. However, Labels are political enough to influence weak minds, thus deserve scrutiny and perhaps corrections. A person who supports the death penalty, pro-war, and pro-hunting shouldn't acclaim “pro-life” as a political label to win the emotional. We can call them anti-abortionists or pro-painful life until they coin a term more befitting. The fact is there are many cruel abortions that emotionally affect millions who may sympathize with anything “pro-life”.

                                                                                            Just because Palin kept a Down Syndrome baby or arrogantly thinks she can decide for others on abortion cannot make her “pro-life”. She had the choice to abort the child and her 'party' or keep the baby and surge politically – she chose the latter. She personally goes on hunting, killing healthy non-down syndrome babies frivolously. She described the Iraq war as “task from God” -- a war that was waged on lies and taking countless innocent lives. She supports the death penalty and we know the countless suspects who were/are on death row but acquitted by DNA. How can such a person be called “pro-life”? When she, McCain, and Barack Obama rhetorically appeal through the emotional distress of abused Children to justify the death penalty, we should remind them they are hypocrites or simply misguided on a too complex issue.

                                                                                            Likewise, we cannot let her call herself a “hockey mum” and we applaudingly repeat to her political gain. Why can't we call her “hunting mum” or “double standard-mum” on her pregnant daughter? We saw how she rightly defended her daughter and how Republicans are fond of harsh words and minority-stereotype against out of wed-lock pregnancy. The emotional 'basketball-mums' may vote for her due to such label but only to be blamed on 'poor parenting' on every Gang bang and unwanted pregnancy. I doubt if Rappers can influence her son to be a gang banger more than her hunting habits. Even more, I doubt if her “poor parenting” led to her daughter's pregnancy or if she can “reform” Washington and our poor girls when she cannot straighten her rich daughter/house in less problematic Alaska. It takes more than money to make good person but it also takes more than teaching and punishment to make a good person or society.

                                                                                            On international affairs, she is extremely dangerous. Her stand on Iran is worse than McCain who sang “bomb, bomb, bomb Iran”. On her first interview after dodging the media, she talked tough on Russia and claimed Russia attacked Georgia “unprovoked”. Even, the proven liars, George W Bush and his administration, admitted Georgia attacked first. The Bible described the devil as “liar and murderer”. We all know the Iraq war was waged on lies and is murdering people. Imagine a person who called that war a “task from God”, lied that Russia attacked Georgia “unprovoked” and suggest Nato should 'fight' for Georgia. Considering these facts, shouldn't we ask is Palin 'catapult by Satan from Nowhere'?

                                                                                            Alaska was part of Russia. Although the official History books claim the U.S bought the Land from Russia in 1867 but became a state only in 1959. Alaska is so isolated that it has no border with any U.S state, it is between Canada and Russia. Satan will have a very easy Job if America is dumb enough to vote Palin. Satan can either influence Russia to reclaim Alaska with financial offer or influence Palin to claim Russia attacked Georgia “unprovoked” and now ' hunting on our land or they are stealing our oil unprovoked...'. I guess the Americans who believed George W Bush may then believe Palin or should they understand the dangers of mendacious presidents and avoid voting Palin?

                                                                                            On meretricious Achievements: Whereas Alaska is big land wise, it is among the least populated states. Alaska also happens to be one of the riches places on earth in respect to natural resources. So a governor who lords over such a rich place with little over half a million people cannot mean she can lead a populated U.S and 'populated world' with limited resources. Even the smallest country in mainland Africa, The Gambia, is over twice more populous than Alaska. With all of Alaska's Resources, Palin heartlessly squeezed federal money from poorer states to rich Alaska, even as the U.S is in recession. Alaska is too different from the rest of America for Palin to understand America, much more the world.

                                                                                            John McCain is a paving shield but the fewer evil men prefer Palin and will somehow remove McCain if America is dumb enough to vote McCain-Palin. To substantiate my spiritual insight requires a deep look in the “Neo-cons” inner circle. McCain as a person is not bad enough for the fewer evil men and their resort support comes with a plan. McCain may have voted “90%” with George Bush but has been too vocal against preferred positions of the neo-cons to be labeled “maverick” and hated by the very people who secondly support him today. For example, Ms. Ann Coulter, a misandrist racist with Islamo-phobia was so much against McCain that she once claimed she will support Ms. Hillary Clinton over McCain. Ann Coulter, a fervent republican, wrote countless articles against McCain but is not only supporting McCain today, she titled “The best man turns out to be a woman” when Palin was picked. Coulter is intrinsically against Men, Blacks, and Islam beyond calling for Ms. Clinton to “divorce” Bill Clinton in 2008 over 90's Monica Lewinsky, or defending the 'Jesse Helms' as non-racist, rages and hate Islam so much to still refer Obama as “Hussein” for political misinformation. Well before the Reverend Wright's remarks... she clinged her evil spirit against Obama without reason. After the Wright's remarks and Obama's speech, Coulter claimed Obama was wrong on existing racism and insisted Obama should instead talk about the out-of -wed-lock children of blacks among other things. Today, she is defending Palin's daughter. She used to talk about Barack's “limited experience” but she is mute on Palin isolated experience to handle America's complex problems. Time and space won't allow me to detail other examples but there are countless 'Ann Coulters' whose resort support for McCain due to Palin is banking on betrayal and ultimate control of Palin as “Pitbull” if America is dumb enough.

                                                                                            Too conservative: Both McCain and Palin are too conservative with hypocritical religious leaning to stand up to today's challenges and shape better future. Their standing on Kyoto and climate change is too shameful. They kept referring to building a America as our “founding fathers” wanted. Neither the 'founded mothers' among the Indians, nor the 'struggling spirits' of the blacks, nor the 'evolved white children' want to be dictated on the faulty interpretations of your “founding fathers”. I want to remind you and the world about a beautiful African saying that states, “the world is not inherited from our parents, it is borrowed from our children.” The wisdom in this saying is centered on “inherited” and “borrowed” -- what is inherited is own... what is borroowed should be carefully guarded and return. Those who erroneously think parents (past) and children (future) are the key words may illusorily impose “parental thoughts” like “founding fathers”. The best of Humankind including the beloved Jesus Christ, Abraham, and Ahmat of Mecca suffered because the heathens wanted to conserve their father's ways – con-serve serves cons in this world of evolution. We will gladly learn from your “founding father's” but we won't worship neither their hypocritical and faulty theory, nor their abhorrent practice of cliquey allies, arrogance, and obsession with punishment. A conservative in Saudi Arabia may guard what s/he considers Ahmat's ways in Abu Lahab's illusions and is no different from a conservative in America who believes in democracy by the sword of B52s, fighting hip-hop culture with imposed cowardice, and misguided economic sanctions. WHY we do things is important but HOW we do things is likewise important. We shouldn't con-serve, we should preserve through the beauty of Showlove Trinity and Justice. Your so called moral standing within America is hypocritical and your world standing is cruel and unjust. May God Bless Showlove Trinity: Let's learn, let's work, let's have fun.

                                                                                            By Jigster, An African Philosopher
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                                                                                          Obama's Zionist Wannabe Veep

                                                                                          English (US)  September 4th, 2008 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                          By Robert Weitzel - Madison, WI

                                                                                          "If I were a Jew, I would be a Zionist. I am a Zionist. You don't have to be a Jew to be a Zionist." - Senator Joseph Biden

                                                                                          Considering the last eight years and the current (viable) options, I’ll admit to wanting Barak Obama in the White House in January. Undoubtedly, more people around the world will have a better chance of surviving the next four years with his finger on—or rather off—the button. However . . .

                                                                                          For all of Obama’s campaign promises of “change,” his choice of Joseph Biden as his running mate sends a clear signal to Israel’s lobby in Washington and its right-wing government in Jerusalem that for the next four years there will be no change in the United States’ unconditional support or its annual $6 billion in direct and indirect aid.


                                                                                          Predictably, neither will there be a change in the hopelessness and the impotent rage of the Arabs suffering under a U.S.-supported Zionist ideology in Palestine.

                                                                                          Senator Biden is the ardently pro-Israel chair of the Foreign Relations Committee. He is a 36-year veteran politician whose specialty is foreign policy. When he told a reporter from the Jewish cable network, Shalom TV, that he is a Zionist, he knew the implications of that admission for the Palestinians, the entirety of the Arab world, and America’s global “war on terror.”

                                                                                          Matt Dorf, the Jewish outreach coordinator for the Democratic National Committee, said that “Israel would have no better friend in the vice president’s office than Joe Biden.” Dorf might just as easily—and as honestly—have said, “Palestinians would have no greater foe in the vice president’s office than Joe Biden.”

                                                                                          Commenting on the unrest in Palestine in 2007, Biden planted his flag deep in Israel’s camp: “The responsibility rests on those who will not acknowledge the right of Israel to exist, will not play fair, will not deal, will not renounce terror.”

                                                                                          Obama’s running mate has chosen his side. He cannot be a neutral American statesman brokering a Middle East peace or he cannot be a Zionist.

                                                                                          One cannot be a Zionist and place the suffering of Palestinians on the same moral plane as that of Israeli Jews.

                                                                                          One cannot be a Zionist and demand that Israel dismantle its illegal settlements that co-opt nearly half the land in the Gaza Strip and Occupied West Bank.

                                                                                          One cannot be a Zionist and place the blame for sixty years of violence and the deaths of innocent thousands—both Palestinian and Israeli—on the cold-blooded determination with which the Zionist cadre executed the ethnic cleansing of 800,000 Palestinians from the land they had inhabited for untold generations.

                                                                                          One cannot be a Zionist and contemplate the return of Palestinians to their homes that are now occupied by Israeli Jews or the rebuilding of the 500 Palestinian villages destroyed during the great Nakba (catastrophe) of 1948.

                                                                                          One cannot be a Zionist and abandon the dream of Eretz Israel in order to live as equals with an Arab neighbor in a truly democratic Palestine-Israel.

                                                                                          On e cannot be a Zionist and demand that Israel’s apartheid wall be torn down.

                                                                                          One can be a Jew. One can be an Israeli. But one cannot be a Zionist.

                                                                                          Joseph Biden is neither a Jew nor an Israeli. He is the Democratic vice presidential candidate who unabashedly declared, “The Democrats’ support for Israel comes from our gut . . . and ends up in our heads.” Sound familiar? Haven’t we already had eight years of a president who “thinks” with his gut and expects the rest of us to behave like dung beetle larvae? Speaking strictly for myself, I’m tired of their balls of poo.

                                                                                          Could it be there is no difference, no possibility of change as Obama promises, between the Democratic and Republican parties’ subservience to Israel’s shadow government on K Street or their tacit support of Israel’s internationally condemned policies toward the Palestinians?

                                                                                          Could it be that the two parties’ overt support for Israel’s regional aggression exacerbates the “war on terror” and makes the people their candidates swear to God to protect and defend less safe?

                                                                                          Could it be that the “ball of dung” being fed to the American people by both parties conceals the obvious truth that there is no strategic value in our irrational alliance with Israel?

                                                                                          Commenting on the unrest in Palestine in 1921, Winston Churchill, one of the architects of the modern Middle East, told the House of Commons: “The cause of unrest in Palestine, and the only cause, arises from the Zionist movement, and from our promises and pledges in regard to it.”

                                                                                          Joseph Biden’s self-professed Zionism plays well on Shalom TV, but it is a liability for the United States in the global “war on terror” and a death warrant for Palestinian and Israeli innocents.

                                                                                          -Robert Weitzel is a contributing editor to Media With a Conscience. His essays regularly appear in The Capital Times in Madison, WI. He contributed this article to Contact him at:

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                                                                                            Ramzan (Ramadan) - A month of Piety

                                                                                            English (US)  September 3rd, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                            Contributed by Sadia Dehlvi

                                                                                            As children we aimed our eyes at the horizon trying to spot the small sliver and once the Ramzan moon was sighted we went around the house greeting all the elders with Ramzan Mubarak. The house would soon be filled with Pheniyan, khajla, dates and other Ramzan specific delicacies for sehri (pre dawn meal) and iftaar. The radio was locked in the cupboard and the television was veiled with a cloth only to be unveiled on Eid. Going to the movies was simply out of question, a childhood rule I still obey.


                                                                                            When we were too young to fast, the elders said we could observe ek daad ka roza❠(one jaw fast) so we eat carefully through the day from one side of the mouth. When one of the children reached the age of ten or eleven, the first fast was observed with festivities. There was a rozakushai ceremony and friends and family were invited for iftaar, a tradition is still observed in most Muslim families.

                                                                                            We were a God fearing family and almost everyone in the family fasted in Ramzan. Those who did not fast pretended to and eat behind closed doors. The dining table in our house was pushed to one side of the room and we kept the traditional floor seating for the special month. Minutes before sunset which is iftar time, every member of the family would sit with their heads covered and hands folded in prayer. We were told that this was the time God would answer our prayers.

                                                                                            The Islamic months also called Lunar months are based on the sighting of the moon. The Islamic calendar known as the Hijri began when Mohammed (pbuh) did hijrat(migrated) to Medina from Mecca. Ramzan is the ninth Hijri month, the month when the miracle of the Quran was revealed by God through Gabriel.

                                                                                            Islam is built upon five pillars: that you worship none else but Allah and accept Prophet Mohammad as the seal of prophethood, establishing regular prayers, giving of zakat(charity), performing the pilgrimage to Mecca and fasting in the month of Ramzan. Fasting is a Quranic order O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint.(2:183).

                                                                                            It is known that Prophet Mohammad was the most generous of people, and in Ramzan he was even more generous. His companions described him as a wind that bears gifts. The Prophet said that the best charity in Ramzan is setting things right between people who are in conflict and those who harbour hatred for each other. Another tradition quotes the prophet saying that fasting is half of patience. He also said that patience was half of imaan(faith). The Messenger of God swore that the breath of a fasting person was more pleasing to God than the fragrance of Musk.

                                                                                            Harbouring suspicion, rancour or negative opinions about others is specially noxious in Ramzan. The same goes for all forms of cheating, vanity and irrational anger. Islamic scholars have said that in order to get the most from Ramzan, one should not engage in excessive speech and be vigilant with the tongue. The sacred month is a time to examine shortcomings and build resolves to rectify them. Another objective of fasting is a way of experiencing hunger and developing compassion for the less fortunate.

                                                                                            We grew up being taught that fasting was a believer's shield which protects from the gameplan of Satan. It is a time when the gates of paradise are open, the devils locked up and the doors of hell closed. Ramzan is marked with iftaar dinners and some lighter moments. I am reminded about an anecdote about Ghalib, the poet. It was the month of Ramzan and Ghalib was sitting alone in a room sipping his wine. One of his students arrived and seeing him in a state of intoxication commented that he thought Satan was chained in Ramzan. Ghalib known for his wit remarked, Indeed he is. It is this room he is locked in.

                                                                                            Through the ages, Muslim scholars have written of the bounties of Ramzan and how good deeds are multiplied over and over again in the eyes of God. Love of the world is what is weaned in Ramzan by volantary deprivations of food, drink and sexual intimacy. It is a month for the remembrance of God and gaining position and status with Him. Each year Ramzan comes and passes before our eyes until it is again upon us. The first days of fasting seem long and stretched but after that the days dash by. Ramzan presents an exceptional opportunity for purifying oneself and shedding the maladies of the heart, to increase ones faith through the power of abstinence and patience.


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                                                                                              Palin Slashed Funding for Teen Moms

                                                                                              English (US)  September 3rd, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                              By Paul Kane

                                                                                              ST. PAUL -- Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential nominee who revealed Monday that her 17-year-old daughter is pregnant, earlier this year used her line-item veto to slash funding for a state program benefiting teen mothers in need of a place to live.


                                                                                              After the legislature passed a spending bill in April, Palin went through the measure reducing and eliminating funds for programs she opposed. Inking her initials on the legislation -- "SP" -- Palin reduced funding for Covenant House Alaska by more than 20 percent, cutting funds from $5 million to $3.9 million. Covenant House is a mix of programs and shelters for troubled youths, including Passage House, which is a transitional home for teenage mothers.

                                                                                              According to Passage House's web site, its purpose is to provide "young mothers a place to live with their babies for up to eighteen months while they gain the necessary skills and resources to change their lives" and help teen moms "become productive, successful, independent adults who create and provide a stable environment for themselves and their families."

                                                                                              Palin's own daughter, Bristol, is five months pregnant and has plans to wed.

                                                                                              "Bristol and the young man she will marry are going to realize very quickly the difficulties of raising a child, which is why they will have the love and support of our entire family," Palin said in a statement released by the McCain campaign. "We ask the media to respect our daughter and Levi's privacy, as has always been the tradition of children of candidates."

                                                                                              Earlier today the Associated Press reported that Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, opposed funding to prevent teen pregnancies, a position that Palin also took as governor. "The explicit sex-ed programs will not find my support," she wrote in a 2006 questionnaire distributed among gubernatorial candidates.

                                                                                              Reporters asked McCain in November 2007 whether he supported grants for sex education in the United States, whether such programs should include directions for using contraceptives and whether he supports President Bush's policy of promoting abstinence.

                                                                                              "Ahhh, I think I support the president's policy," McCain said.


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                                                                                                Whether anyone admits it or not, Hamas appears to have won

                                                                                                English (US)  September 3rd, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                Commentary by Daoud Kuttab
                                                                                                Wednesday, September 03, 2008

                                                                                                Daily Star

                                                                                                Whether those supporting the moderate leadership of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas admit it or not, Hamas appears to have won. Now, before Islamists around the world start celebrating, it is important to note that the Middle East, let alone the world, is far from embracing hard-line fundamentalists. Hamas, for the record, has made some important ideological and practical changes, the most important of which was the tahdiya, or temporary cease-fire with Israel.


                                                                                                The signs of Hamas' victory can be seen all over. From the success of the siege-breaking peace boats to the partial opening of the Rafah crossing with Egypt and the serious talks Hamas leaders are holding with Egyptian and Jordanian intelligence chiefs.

                                                                                                Part of the reason for Hamas' success is the fact that the region and the world have little choice but to accept the reality that emerged in February 2006 and that Hamas in June 2007, with its takeover of Gaza, served notice that it was not going away.

                                                                                                Another reason is global and regional changes. The Russian-Georgian struggle exposed Washington's geopolitical weakness, a result of its military overstretch in Iraq and Afghanistan. It also comes at a time when George. W. Bush, a president with the lowest approval ratings in decades, seems to have blinked. America is near agreement on a timetable for a withdrawal from Iraq and Washington clearly lacks the stomach for a confrontation with Tehran. The Iranians have called Bush's bluff and seem to have succeeded.

                                                                                                Israel too has blinked. To its north, Israel has been incapable of preventing Hizbullah from rearming, while the Israelis consented to a prisoner swap not long ago that clearly favored the Shiite group. The Lebanese national unity government is yet another sign that hard-line rejectionist regional and international positions are not producing results.

                                                                                                Politically things are stalled. Israelis are now preoccupied with elections for a new leader of Kadima and will soon enter what promises to be a long-winded coalition-building process. The Americans too are busy with their presidential elections, and Palestinians are due to face presidential elections in January and could well face parliamentary elections as well.

                                                                                                In this shifting strategic landscape, Jordan and Egypt - staunch US allies that they are - have nevertheless shown enough independence to begin to tango with the Palestinian Islamists. If Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, considers the Lebanese unity government (which many see as a Hizbullah victory) a good thing, and if she backs the release of Palestinian prisoners accused of killing Israelis, she certainly can't stop Jordanian intelligence from reaching agreements on ground rules with the Islamists.

                                                                                                Hamas has clearly made some important politically moderating decisions and ideological and practical calls, yet the group is still far from gaining legitimacy in the region. Such legitimacy will only be delayed by actions such as the recent round-up of Fatah leaders in Gaza and the banning of Ramallah-based Palestinian publications.

                                                                                                But changes in the Middle East are palpable at different levels. Regionally, it seems clear that little major change is going to take place. Perhaps Syria will move slightly to the pro-US camp, but not by much. Within each country, however, the region is still very volatile. The information revolution coupled with the large percentage of young people in the Arab world dictate to all leaders the need for new and more inclusive strategies.

                                                                                                Such new strategies will require groups like Hamas to be much more careful in their actions than in the past, and Hamas will pay close attention to the example of Hizbullah. There is currently a very clear offer on the table by Arab countries vis-ˆ-vis the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. If Hamas moderates its views, its rhetoric and, most importantly, its actions to accommodate that offer, the Islamist group will find a much more welcoming Arab leadership than it might have found in the past.

                                                                                                Leaders of Jordan and Egypt understand that they can't blindly follow the policies of a discredited American government and a failed Israeli leader to break the Islamists. They say all politics is local in America. The local angle is also important here.

                                                                                                Daoud Kuttab, a Palestinian columnist, is the director general of Community Media Network, a media NGO that is registered in Jordan and Palestine. This commentary first appeared at, an online newsletter.

                                                                                                720 words posted in Op-Eds, PALESTINELeave a comment

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                                                                                                  Palestinians Calculating Next Move: Coexistence with Occupation Not an Option

                                                                                                  English (US)  September 2nd, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                  A Palestinian group has laid out a new strategy for ending the Israeli occupation that breaks with the old worn out ways of thinking -- the old paradigms of "peacemaking" and "state building" that have allowed Israel to avoid its responsibilities as an occupying force while continuing to occupy more and more land and at the same time completely obscuring the reality of its occupation on the world stage. The group consisted of 45 Palestinians from all walks of life. The strategic plan is laid out in a document called “Regaining The Initiative: Palestinian Strategic Options To End Israeli Occupation.” The document is posted at Sam Bahour outlines the work in the article below.

                                                                                                  By Sam Bahour

                                                                                                  Palestinians have been historically outmaneuvered, politically neutralized, and made totally dependent on international handouts. Or have they? A newly released Palestinian strategy document which outlines strategic political options gives witness to a renewed breath of fresh air in the Palestinians’ struggle for freedom and independence.

                                                                                                  Those who have dealt the Palestinians out of the equation for the future of Palestine need to take a closer look at history and at the struggle of this great people. Palestinians recognize better than most the dangers that are posed by the current powder keg of internal disunity and foreign intervention into their livelihoods. Palestinians know better than anyone else that the current state of affairs generates tremendous fear as their struggle for freedom and independence is set back by decades. Yet, at defining times in their history Palestinians have always reclaimed the initiative and carried on, like any oppressed and struggling people are wont to do.


                                                                                                  After 60 years of dispossession and 40 years of a brutal Israeli military occupation, many of the world’s power brokers are convinced that the Palestinians are successfully being forced into submission and acceptance of the colossal injustices that have been carried out against them.

                                                                                                  Leading the choir is the U.S. and its Israeli ally, along with several undemocratic Arab regimes.

                                                                                                  On the political front, they continue to take great pride in a never-ending “peace process” that has created a peace industry in Palestine, all underwritten by taxpayers from around the world. This peace process has no intention of realizing peace with justice, but rather looks to fragment Palestinians’ national aspirations into bite-sized pieces with state-like trappings -- the antithesis of a state with real sovereignty, let alone self-determination.

                                                                                                  On the security front, they claim that the Palestinian Authority (referring to the unelected government of Salaam Fayyad in Ramallah) is excelling by installing a heavy-handed security regime, frighteningly reminiscent of the undemocratic, police-state Arab regimes such as Egypt, Jordan and the entire batch of oil-rich Gulf states, which the U.S. has propped up for decades. Driven by US General Keith Dayton and sanctioned by the Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership, this security-heavy thrust of activity appears to many observers to be nothing more than another outsourcing option for an Israeli version of its own “security” needs.

                                                                                                  On the economic front, they point to grand plans to establish a handful of industrial mega-zones, the majority being located on the unilaterally-defined (illegal) Israeli border between the West Bank and Israel. These industrial zones are meant to absorb the over 150,000 Palestinian laborers that Israel has prohibited from working in Israel. Moreover, as I was recently told by an Israeli promoting these industrial zones, for every job created in such a zone, three will be created for Palestinians outside the industrial zones -- thus, in essence, creating an entire artificial economy built around Palestinian and foreign-owned, but Israeli-controlled economic bubbles.

                                                                                                  The 1.5 million Palestinians trapped by Israel in the world’s largest open air prison, Gaza, are not even a part of the discussion.

                                                                                                  In short, the approach of the international community is one of creating a dynamic whereby Palestinians co-exist, not with their Israeli neighbors, but rather with the system of Israeli military occupation, or put simply, sugar coating the status quo which benefits Israel.

                                                                                                  What the international community fails to mention is that the dynamic on the ground is explosive. The Israeli military occupation is alive and well and causing structural, possibly irrevocable damage to Palestinian lands and persons. The Jewish-only Israeli settlement enterprise is off the leash and building more and more illegal settlements as if there were no tomorrow, not to mention the increasing tides of settler violence which remains unpunished. All this settlement activity is happening with full approval of the Israeli government and in full view of the international community. The failing (or failed) health care and education systems in Palestine are producing a generation of Palestinians with much less to lose and little hope for the future.

                                                                                                  Those who have dealt the Palestinians out of the equation for the future of Palestine need to take a closer look at history and at the struggle of this great people. Palestinians recognize better than most the dangers that are posed by the current powder keg of internal disunity and foreign intervention into their livelihoods. Palestinians know better than anyone else that the current state of affairs generates tremendous fear as their struggle for freedom and independence is set back by decades. Yet, at defining times in their history Palestinians have always reclaimed the initiative and carried on, like any oppressed and struggling people are wont to do.

                                                                                                  Over the past several months, I participated together with a group of 45 Palestinians from all walks of life -- men and women, on the political right and left, secular and religious, politicians, academics, civil society and business actors, from occupied Palestine, inside Israel, and in the Diaspora. We were a group that is a microcosm that reflects the dynamics of the Palestinian society. We could not all meet in one room anywhere in the world because the reality (of travel restrictions) that Israel has created does not permit it, nevertheless we continue to plan and to act. Our mission is to open a discussion on where we go from here: What are the Palestinians’ strategic options to end the Israeli occupation, if any?

                                                                                                  After several workshops in Palestine and abroad and a continuous online debate we have produced the first iteration of “Regaining The Initiative: Palestinian Strategic Options To End Israeli Occupation.” The document is posted at and reflects an alternative to an official but impotent Palestinian discourse that will very shortly, in the judgment of most Palestinians, run head-on into a brick (cement) wall.

                                                                                                  Palestinian society is a dynamic, thinking society which has been so battered and demeaned by Israel and its supporters that many folk, including many Palestinians themselves, will be surprised that the Palestinians have any options whatsoever. One thing is for sure: No matter how long the illegal Israeli occupation continues, do not expect the Palestinians to wake up one morning and accept that they are somehow less human than any other free person in this world.

                                                                                                  The Palestinian people have given everyone – including their own traditional leadership – plenty of time to end this humiliating and brutal occupation. When all else fails, Palestinians will reclaim the initiative, and will continue to do so over and over, until this occupation is consigned to the trash bin of history, along with all the war criminals who allowed it to persist for so many years.

                                                                                                  Sam Bahour lives in occupied Palestine and is co-editor of "Homeland: Oral History of Palestine and Palestinians." He may be reached at

                                                                                                  September 3, 2008


                                                                                                  1255 words posted in PALESTINE, Law, , American Empire, , Human RightsLeave a comment

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                                                                                                    Elephants show flair for arithmetic

                                                                                                    English (US)  September 2nd, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                    A female elephant at Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo - sharper than your average child

                                                                                                    By Leo Lewis in Tokyo

                                                                                                    The elephant's memory is legendary, but in a large, grey surprise to science the mighty Asian elephant turns out to have a distinct flair for maths as well

                                                                                                    Under carefully controlled experimental conditions — essentially comprising a large cage and two buckets of assorted fruit — one elephant at Ueno Zoo in Tokyo managed to get its sums right 87 per cent of the time. A slightly less gifted pachyderm across the country in Kyoto scored a still respectable 69 per cent.


                                                                                                    The curiously accurate adding skills of Elephas maximus have been discovered by Naoko Irie, a behavioural ecologist at the University of Tokyo putting the finishing touches to her doctoral thesis. In her tests, three apples were dropped into one bucket and five into a second one next to it. Two more apples were added to each bucket, leaving the first with five and the second with seven apples.

                                                                                                    Unable to see inside the buckets or probe them with her trunk, 30-year old Ashiya selected the bucket with the more apples having, apparently, counted the contents of each as it was being loaded-up with fruit. Nothing spectacularly rare about that, say scientists – plenty of animals have been shown to possess basic counting abilities but most animals fail when the numbers get much bigger than three or four or the margin of difference between the available choices become too narrow.

                                                                                                    “I couldn’t believe it at first,” said Irie, “They could instantly compare numbers like six and five."

                                                                                                    The elephants she subjected to the fruit-based arithmetic tests were as good at telling the difference between five and six as they were at spotting that five is greater than one, she said.

                                                                                                    Speculation among scientists over why the elephant should have developed its limited but nonetheless impressive mathematical ability centres on the way in which the lumbering creatures move in herds. A basic counting ability, say experts, might act as a guarantee that no calf is left behind.


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                                                                                                      Geopolitical Diary: The Medvedev Doctrine

                                                                                                      English (US)  September 2nd, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                      From Strafor

                                                                                                      September 2, 2008 | 0202 GMT

                                                                                                      Russian President Dmitri Medvedev gave an extraordinary interview on Russian television’s Channel One over the weekend. In the course of the
                                                                                                      interview, Medvedev unveiled a five-point doctrine that would govern Russia’s foreign policy going forward. It came in the course of an interviewer’s questions, but the statement was obviously well thought out and planned. It is to be seen as a statement of Russian national policy and is worth presenting here verbatim in translation by the


                                                                                                      “I will make five principles the foundation for my work in carrying out Russia’s foreign policy. First, Russia recognizes the primacy of the
                                                                                                      fundamental principles of international law, which define the relations between civilized peoples. We will build our relations with other countries within the framework of these principles and this concept of
                                                                                                      international law.

                                                                                                      Second, the world should be multipolar. A single-pole world is unacceptable. Domination is something we cannot allow. We cannot accept a world order in which one country makes all the decisions, even as serious and influential a country as the United States of America. Such a world is unstable and threatened by conflict.

                                                                                                      Third, Russia does not want confrontation with any other country. Russia has no intention of isolating itself. We will develop friendly relations with Europe, the United States, and other countries, as much as is possible.

                                                                                                      Fourth, protecting the lives and dignity of our citizens, wherever they may be, is an unquestionable priority for our country. Our foreign policy decisions will be based on this need. We will also protect the
                                                                                                      interests of our business community abroad. It should be clear to all that we will respond to any aggressive acts committed against us.

                                                                                                      Finally, fifth, as is the case of other countries, there are regions in which Russia has privileged interests. These regions are home to countries with which we share special historical relations and are
                                                                                                      bound together as friends and good neighbors. We will pay particular attention to our work in these regions and build friendly ties with these countries, our close neighbors. These are the principles I will
                                                                                                      follow in carrying out our foreign policy.

                                                                                                      As for the future, it depends not only on us but also on our friends and partners in the international community. They have a choice.”

                                                                                                      The interviewer then asked for greater definition of the Russian areas of interest. Medvedev replied, “The countries on our borders are priorities, of course, but our priorities do not end there.”

                                                                                                      The most important points to take away from this, from our point of view, are as follows. First, the events in Georgia are not to be seen as isolated, but as part of a general shift in Russian policy. Second, the Russians are claiming responsibility for Russian citizens anywhere. This is particularly important in the Baltics, where Russian citizens constitute substantial minorities, and in Ukraine. Russia is
                                                                                                      making it clear that the treatment of Russians in other regions is a fundamental interest in its foreign policy. Third, the Russians are declaring a sphere of interest in the former Soviet Union, and saying that friendly relations with these countries is essential to Russia. This also means that these countries may not have the option of pursuing policies that Russia regards as unfriendly. Finally, Russian interests are not confined to the former Soviet Union. That obviously means that they extend to Eastern Europe and, in all likelihood, the Middle East as well.

                                                                                                      We see this interview as not quite a formal doctrine, but a clear indication of Russian thinking. It is clear that the Russians have now publicly announced what is obvious: Russia has a new foreign policy, and it is ambitious and will unfold quickly rather than slowly.


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                                                                                                        The Dutch Connection : "A propaganda piece"

                                                                                                        English (US)  September 2nd, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                        See previous story from the Jerusalem Post

                                                                                                        By Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich

                                                                                                        ‘Without doubt, psychological warfare has proved its right to a place of dignity in our military arsenal.’
                                                                                                        - Eisenhower

                                                                                                        The recent De Telegraaf article[i] ‘revealing’ the Dutch intelligence cooperation with the CIA is a propaganda piece aimed at undermining the credibility of United Nations, its specialized agency, the IAEA, and its chief Mohammad ElBaradei. It also seeks to demoralize the Iranians and undermine their resolve in confronting outside enemies.


                                                                                                        De Telegraaf would have the readers believe that the Dutch intelligence has been secretly operating inside Iran and the information gathered is being shared with the CIA. It is common knowledge that the American administration is frustrated with the lack of information it has on Iran and its civilian nuclear program. Equally frustrating is the Administration’s dissatisfaction at being in the dark about the complex Iranian society and its government. There are no or few Iran specialists; certainly few who are willing to cooperate with the CIA. Likewise, it is an open secret that the terrorist cult Mojahedeen-e Khalg which according to sources receives its information from Mossad, has been providing the CIA with -- not reliable and accurate-- information. There is no doubt that the Dutch are cooperating with the CIA – but the extent of their cooperation is limited to communication – disseminating rumors.

                                                                                                        Writing in Mein Kamp, Adolf Hitler claimed that the masses were more influenced by their emotions than by their brains; to this end, “all effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and must harp on these in slogans until the last member of the public understands what you want him to understand by your slogans”. It would seem the neoconservatives are students and fans of Adolf Hitler.

                                                                                                        Planting rumors with the intention of waging war against Iran, the neocons are well aware that misinformation which spreads through a third country lends more credibility to their propaganda. The psychological warfare waged on August 29 by the Dutch-Israel-American axis - De Telegraaf article, the threat by the former Labor Knesset Member, Eprahim Sneh[ii], and the Israeli lobby war games over Denver skies during the Democratic Convention[iii], are propagandist use of communication to achieve one objective – sacrifice peace to promote Israel’s expansionist policies in the Middle East.

                                                                                                        Deceit has become an essential tool of statecraft with this administration and its allies. Lies have become more urgent and exaggerated as Iranians continue to succeed and Mr. Bush’s time to leave office draws to an end. While Iran proudly announces its peaceful accomplishments in various fields, the controlled media in the West hijack the news and undermine the success of such advances in order to weaken the morale of the people and the government’s credibility. Iranians are immune to this style of warfare.

                                                                                                        When on March 31, 1949, VOA launched its first Farsi program, Harry Truman praised it and said that he hoped it would help facilitate greater understanding between Iran and America and promote prosperity and peace. His successor, Eisenhower, used it for covert operations to undermine the nationalist Mohammad Mossadeq in a CIA-backed coup. Today, Iranians are not affected by propaganda; whether they are planted in a Dutch paper or transmitted otherwise.

                                                                                                        Tragically, the manipulation and propaganda has had its effect on the American people. Unruffled, the Conventions are hijacked and used to intimidate Americans into yet another war. And the Dutch continue to insult another Mohammad – this time one who was awarded a Nobel Peace prize in Oslo in accordance to Alfred Nobel’s will "to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses."

                                                                                                        Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich has a Master’s of Public Diplomacy from USC Annenberg for Communication and USC School of International Studies. She is an independent researcher with a focus on U.S. foreign policy and the influence of lobby groups. She is a peace activist, essayist, radio commentator and public speaker


                                                                                                        [ii] 'Israel reaches strategic decision not to let Iran go nuclear' Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST Aug. 29, 2008


                                                                                                        Information Clearing House

                                                                                                        723 words posted in Iran, American EmpireLeave a comment

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                                                                                                          Jerusalem Post: Dutch intelligence says US to strike Iran in coming weeks

                                                                                                          English (US)  September 2nd, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                          Keep in mind that the Jerusalem Post is a mouthpiece for the Zionist Israeli government and see the next story.

                                                                                                          By JPOST.COM STAFF

                                                                                                          The Dutch intelligence service, the AIVD, has called off an operation aimed at infiltrating and sabotaging Iran's weapons industry due to an assessment that a US attack on the Islamic Republic's nuclear program is imminent, according to a report in the country's De Telegraaf newspaper on Friday.

                                                                                                          The report claimed that the Dutch operation had been "extremely successful," and had been stopped because the US military was planning to hit targets that were "connected with the Dutch espionage action."

                                                                                                          The impending air-strike on Iran was to be carried out by unmanned aircraft "within weeks," the report claimed, quoting "well placed" sources.


                                                                                                          The Jerusalem Post could not confirm the De Telegraaf report.

                                                                                                          According to the report, information gleaned from the AIVD's operation in Iran has provided several of the targets that are to be attacked in the strike, including "parts for missiles and launching equipment."

                                                                                                          "Information from the AIVD operation has been shared in recent years with the CIA," the report said.

                                                                                                          On Saturday, Iran's Deputy Chief of Staff General Masoud Jazayeri warned that should the United States or Israel attack Iran, it would be the start of another World War.

                                                                                                          On Friday, Ma'ariv reported that Israel had made a strategic decision to deny Iran military nuclear capability and would not hesitate "to take whatever means necessary" to prevent Teheran from achieving its nuclear goals.

                                                                                                          According to the report, whether the United States and Western countries succeed in thwarting the Islamic Republic's nuclear ambitions diplomatically, through sanctions, or whether a US strike on Iran is eventually decided upon, Jerusalem has begun preparing for a separate, independent military strike.

                                                                                                          Jerusalem Post

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                                                                                                            Media Blackout: The Armada in the Gulf

                                                                                                            English (US)  September 2nd, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                            By Gary North

                                                                                                            The media have covered such recent events as the Olympics, the selection of Joe Biden as the Vice Presidential candidate for the Democratic Party, and what John McCain is going to do about the selection of the Vice President of the Republican Party. Now the media will focus on the national convention of the Democratic Party.

                                                                                                            The most important news for the month of August was the fact that President Bush has quietly sent the largest armada into the Persian Gulf since the Iraq war began in 2003, when there were six carrier groups. This is a huge number of ships to be concentrated in one location in peacetime.

                                                                                                            This story has been completely ignored by the news media all over the West. The only coverage is from special-interest websites. It was only on Saturday morning, August 23, that I learned what was going on.


                                                                                                            I spent most of Saturday in an attempt to verify the basic story. Some of this story is easily verifiable. Other parts of it are circumstantial, but nevertheless compelling. I posted the story on my site late in the afternoon. You can read the details here.

                                                                                                            Here is the basic story. Two aircraft carrier task forces, the Abraham Lincoln and the Peleliu, are already in the Persian Gulf. This is verifiable on the Websites of the carriers. A third task force, the Iwo Jima, was dispatched to the Gulf on August 22. This has been verified by a naval source. Two more – the Theodore Roosevelt and the Ronald Reagan – are said to be sailing to the Gulf, but I was unable to verify this from official sources. The Jerusalem Post reported this, as did at least one Egyptian newspaper cited by the Post. The Arab world is aware of all this. Western audiences are not.

                                                                                                            We do know from naval sources that in July, the Theodore Roosevelt was involved in joint naval maneuvers with the French Navy. Think about this for a moment. When was the last time you read of joint naval operations between the United States Navy and the French Navy? In 2007, in the North Arabian Sea.

                                                                                                            Third-party sources report that French ships, along with British ships, are accompanying the Theodore Roosevelt to the Gulf. This would indicate a joint military venture.

                                                                                                            THE BLACKOUT

                                                                                                            This is receiving no coverage by the media of the Western nations. It is a non-event. Yet if I know about it, and if I have been able to verify three-fifths of the story by official sources, then there is no question in my mind that any of the major news media that wanted to assign one lone individual to tracing down the details of this story would be able to do this without a great deal of difficulty. Yet the media have remained absolutely silent about this.

                                                                                                            This sounds fishy to me. It sounds as though there is a coordinated effort among Western owners of the media to make certain that the voters are kept in the dark.

                                                                                                            Why should this story not be front-page news? Two very good reasons are the fragility of the economy with oil under $130 a barrel, and what could happen if it goes to $400. Nobody wants to trigger bank runs. The existence of an armada of this size raises an obvious question: Against which nation in the Persian Gulf is such an armada to be used? The answer is obvious: Iran.

                                                                                                            If this armada is to be used against Iran, the next question arises: What will happen to the price of oil if Iranian exports of oil are cut off by an armada whose purpose is to stop all trade with Iran? Second question: What would happen to the price of oil if Iran sinks two oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz?

                                                                                                            Third question: What would happen to maritime insurance rates for oil tankers in the Persian Gulf?

                                                                                                            This raises a fourth question: Is the fleet's purpose to police the Strait of Hormuz, to make certain that the land-based anti-ship missiles that may have been installed by Iran can be stopped?

                                                                                                            Fifth question: Why would Iran sink oil tankers, apart from wartime?

                                                                                                            These questions relate to the supply of oil. The price of oil, as with the price of all other commodities, is set at the margin. The problem with the price of oil is that it is so volatile. There are no short-term supplies of oil that can come on-stream in response to rising prices. Because increased supplies do not respond to an increase in the price of oil, prices rise very fast and very high whenever there is a major interruption of oil production or delivery.

                                                                                                            IRANIAN RETALIATION

                                                                                                            If Iran is attacked by either the United States or the Israeli Air Force, there will be retaliation by the Iranians. Iranian leaders have made it clear repeatedly that an attack on Iran by the Israeli Air Force will be regarded as an attack by the United States. At that point, the Middle East will begin to unravel.

                                                                                                            If the Israeli Air Force attacks Iran, this will create an instant unified resistance movement by Muslims throughout the Middle East. This will include Sunni Muslims. The hatred of the Israelis by Muslims in the region is so intense that even though the Israeli Air Force attacks at Shi'ite nation, Sunni leaders will not be in a position to publicly justify such an attack. They would risk a revolution in their own countries if they did this. The best that the Israelis could expect would be silent neutrality. Retaliation on the part of Iran will be expected by all Muslim nations in the Middle East.

                                                                                                            What could Iran do to impose negative sanctions on the United States? The first thing it can do is to stop all oil exports. This would create an economic depression in Iran. But if the armada is controlling the flow of goods into Iran anyway, then why not stop the export of Iranian oil? If Iran cannot buy the goods that revenues from the sale of the oil would provide, then Iran's leaders might as well get some credit with their people for having stood up to the Americans. Iranian leaders will be able to say, accurately, that since United States has gone to war with Iran by creating an embargo around Iran, the smart thing to do is to inflict great economic damage on the United States. The leaders will be able to tell the people to buckle down, cut expenses, and suffer because this is the price of war with the Great Satan, which has indulged in an act of war against Iran. All the bad effects can be blamed on the United States, and all the tough talk will strengthen the regime that is in power at the time that the embargo is first announced. This will wipe out any so-called moderates in Iran. The nation will come together against the United States.

                                                                                                            Next, Iran can begin to create havoc for American troops by supplying small arms to Shia militias inside Iraq and by supplying resistance fighters inside Afghanistan. There is nothing that the United States can do to stop the flow of low-cost, low-intensity arms out of Iran. The American death toll in both Iraq and Afghanistan would increase. The surge would find itself facing a much greater counter-surge.

                                                                                                            NATO forces in Afghanistan will begin to suffer a series of defeats. This will certainly please Vladimir Putin. This will advance Russian hegemony in the region. All the Russians have to do is tell the world that they oppose this unauthorized embargo on Iran, and that it opposes any air strikes inside Iran by the United States or the Israeli Air Force. At this point, Russia will become a verbal ally of the Islamic world. This will be an enormous diplomatic advantage for Russia. It will be an extraordinary diplomatic disadvantage for the United States.

                                                                                                            Because imposing an embargo was an act of war, and because Iran would have no particular reason to settle with the United States on terms that are in any way favorable to the United States, the Iranians need only bide their time. At some point, if the armada is removed from the Strait, the Iranians will again be in a position to sabotage oil tankers going through the Strait. So, once this embargo is imposed, it has to become permanent.

                                                                                                            The tactic that would impose the greatest financial loss on the United States would be to sink oil tankers in the Strait. If the Iranians can sink as few as two tankers, this will result in huge increases in maritime insurance premiums for oil tankers sailing through the Strait. This would reduce the supply of oil reaching the West. Whether Iran can attack oil tankers in the Strait when the Strait is protected by American warships is a tactical question that I am not capable of answering accurately. It may be that Iran's land-based missiles can be taken out by naval air power. But this would mean that the armada must remain inside the straight permanently.

                                                                                                            If Iran ceases to export oil, this alone would be sufficient to drive the price of oil into regions that will push the West into a recession. Thus, it is ominous that President Bush, as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, has ordered the five carrier task forces into the region. I realize that the price of oil has not responded yet to this strategic move. The best thing we can say at this point is that the oil markets do not appear to regard this strategic move of the United States Navy as a serious threat to the supply of oil from the Middle East.

                                                                                                            Given the high-risk situation that has been created by the failure of subprime mortgages in the United States, an oil shock that drives oil above $200 a barrel is likely to create bankruptcies in major banks all over the West. Depositors are already jumpy. If it appears that the Western economies are going to go into a simultaneous recession, because of a sharp increase in the price of oil that is likely to become permanent, the West's banking system, and surely its capital markets, will be at risk. The Iranians understand this. There is no reason why the rest of us should not understand this. Hence, there is a blackout on all information of the assembling of the armada all over the Western world.

                                                                                                            A UNITED FRONT

                                                                                                            Islamic societies do not tolerate military activities of non-Islamic nations against Islamic nations except in support of one Islamic nation against an invasion by another Islamic nation. It was possible for President George H. W. Bush to mobilize support from Sunni Islamic nations in the first Gulf War because Saddam Hussein had invaded Kuwait. This was perceived as an attack by a secular national leader against an Islamic nation. President Bush understood that this did not authorize the conquest of Iraq by the West. This is why he stopped American troops from capturing Baghdad. The capture of Baghdad and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein were not part of the agreement by which the United States received financial and logistical support from oil-exporting Islamic nations in the Gulf.

                                                                                                            The United States since 2003 has been able to gain grudging support by Sunni nations in the region only because the official justification for the invasion was to fight Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda is perceived by the oligarchies of the region as a threat to their own existence. Also, Saddam Hussein was perceived, not as a practicing Muslim, but as a secular autocrat. The United States was able to gain support from Pakistan, but this has created such resistance inside Pakistan that Musharraf has finally been forced out of office.

                                                                                                            The thing that oil-exporting Muslim nations worry most about is the possibility that Iran will retaliate by sinking oil tankers that pass through the Strait of Hormuz. On this issue, oil-exporting Muslim nations may be willing to accept the presence of a Western armada in the Middle East. If the justification of the armada is to keep open the Hormuz Straight, oil-exporting nations may cooperate with the United States. They will not be able to say anything favorable toward Israel, but they may keep quiet about the use of the armada as a way to maintain revenues for themselves.

                                                                                                            IF NOT OIL, THEN WHAT?

                                                                                                            I have three other questions.

                                                                                                            What is it that oil investors believe is a legitimate role for these carrier groups in the Persian Gulf that is not in some way related to the export of oil?

                                                                                                            What is it that these carrier groups will do for the stability of oil exports from the region?

                                                                                                            Why is it that these carrier groups are required to do what one carrier group was expected to earlier in the year?

                                                                                                            There is no question that this is a major military show of force in the region. President Bush has decided to make this show of force. He has done so without informing the American media regarding the reason for this show of force. If the reason has nothing to do with Iran, he should say so. If the reason has something to do with Iran, then he should publicly discuss the question of the supply of oil exported from the Middle East. He should discuss how he intends to enable Iran to continue to export oil to the West, yet at the same time persuade the Iranians to change their policy on nuclear development. What is it that five carrier task forces in the Persian Gulf can do to persuade the Iranians to change their policies, other than by interdicting oil trade with Iran? If this armada does this, how will Iranian oil exports not be affected? If these carrier forces are to interdict goods coming into Iran, what motivation does Iran have for continuing to export its most vital commodity, when Iran will not be able to use the proceeds from the sale of this commodity in order to buy Western goods?

                                                                                                            If President Bush imposes an embargo on shipping in and out of Iran, and he does so after the November election but before the inauguration of a new President, he will deliver to the new administration a third war. The surge in Iraq will prove to have been a short-lived operation that succeeded only because Shia militias and the Shia-run government of Iraq decided to let the Americans alone. Meanwhile, Afghanistan will become a disaster zone, and will remain a disaster zone for as long as Western troops are in the country.

                                                                                                            Iran need only sit and wait. The new administration will find that the world economy is disintegrating, that oil prices have moved up to such an extent that American voters will demand action, and the only action that will make any sense will be to withdraw all forces from the region.

                                                                                                            At that point, the Western economy will be completely dependent upon the good will of the Iranians. If Iran stops the flow of oil by sinking tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, the price of oil will become astronomical. The greatest winner in such a scenario would be Russia. Russia would be in a position of almost complete monopoly over the oil markets.

                                                                                                            Under such a scenario, the new administration would have one problem to deal with, and that problem is war in the Middle East. All other issues, domestic and international, would fade into insignificance on the day oil goes over $200 a barrel. Yet this could happen after the election but before the inauguration. President Bush will depart, and his replacement will be saddled with an economic disaster, a military disaster, and a domestic political disaster.

                                                                                                            There will not be a thing that the newly elected President can do prior to January 20 to deal with this problem. President Bush will be in absolute control because he is lawfully the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.

                                                                                                            There could be a move to impeach him, but Congress has proven so utterly impotent over the last two years, and so utterly fearful of challenging the President on the issue of the war, that it is unlikely that Congress could mount a successful impeachment and trial by the Senate during the two-month period between the election of a new President and his inauguration. If you think the price of oil would be astronomical under the conditions I have already described, add to this an impeachment attempt by Congress. That would tie up the Bush administration, which would mean that its policies in the Middle East will be set in concrete until January 20, 2009.

                                                                                                            All of this may seem hypothetical. But, as Forrest Gump's mother might say, hypothetical is as hypothetical does. What is not hypothetical is the presence of this many carrier task forces in the Persian Gulf. If the carriers sailing in are merely to replace carriers which will soon be sailing out, the Defense Department's public affairs spokesman could say so. He could also cite the Joint Chiefs of Staff. With the Middle Eastern press warning of an invasion, and rhetoric against Iran escalating, and Pakistan falling apart, now is not the time for silence. Business as usual is for times as usual.

                                                                                                            The media have been completely successful in blocking all information about this, not just in the United States, but in the Western countries generally. Nobody is paying any attention to this, except in the Middle East press. This includes oil investors. My opinion is that this blindness is going to result in a military disaster before the end of 2009.

                                                                                                            If President Bush goes on national television this week to explain why he ordered this armada into the region, and this explanation is plausibly unrelated to Iran, oil, and the Strait of Hormuz, then I am willing to consider the possibility that the scenarios that I have outlined here are simply hypothetical. There may be a cogent explanation for why this many ships should be in the Persian Gulf. But in the middle of a tinder box, it is unwise to light matches.


                                                                                                            You should think carefully about the implications of $400 oil on your family's finances. You should also think carefully about $400 oil's effect on your employer's finances. You should then think very carefully about what might be a plausible explanation for five carrier task forces in the Persian Gulf that do not point to $400 oil by January 20, 2009.

                                                                                                            August 27, 2008

                                                                                                            Gary North [send him mail] is the author of Mises on Money. Visit is also the author of a free 20-volume series, An Economic Commentary on the Bible.

                                                                                                            Lee Rockwell

                                                                                                            3112 words posted in American Empire, IranLeave a comment

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                                                                                                              Amy Goodman, others, arrested outside RNC

                                                                                                              English (US)  September 1st, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                              Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman was among more than 100 people detained outside the Republican National Convention here as police clashed with demonstrators on the streets of St. Paul.

                                                                                                              Goodman was arrested in near the XCel Center, where the convention opened Monday, at approximately 5 p.m. Minnesota time.


                                                                                                              According to a statement issued Dennis Moynihan and Mike Burke of Democracy Now!:

                                                                                                              Goodman was arrested while attempting to free two Democracy Now! producers who were being unlawfuly detained. They are Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar. Kouddous and Salazar were arrested while they carried out their journalistic duties in covering street demonstrations at the Republican National Convention. Goodman's crime appears to have been defending her colleagues and the freedom of the press.

                                                                                                              Ramsey County Sherrif Bob Fletcher told Democracy Now! that Kouddous and Salazar were being arrested on suspicion of rioting. They are currently being held at the Ramsey County jail in St. Paul.

                                                                                                              I was with Goodman earlier this afternoon, as she was reporting on the major anti-war demonstration. She and her crew were, as always, interviewing everyone they could in the calm, assured manner that has made the daily Democracy Now! program a widely-watched and well-regarded news programs on radio and cable television stations across the country.

                                                                                                              Moynihan and Burke, in their statement, say that:

                                                                                                              Democracy Now! stands by Goodman, Kouddous and Salazar and condemns this action by Twin Cities law enforcement as a clear violation of the freedom of the press and the First Amendment rights of these journalists.

                                                                                                              They are urging journalists and concerned citizens to contact the office of St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman (651-266-8535) and the Ramsey County Jail (651-266-9350) and demand the immediate release of Goodman, Kouddous and Salazar.

                                                                                                              The calls are important.

                                                                                                              The American Civil Liberties Union and the National Lawyers Guild are also on the case.

                                                                                                              The Nation

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                                                                                                                Campaign 08: Protesters and Police Clash in St. Paul

                                                                                                                English (US)  September 1st, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                posted by Ari Berman on 09/01/2008 @ 1:47pm
                                                                                                                The Nation

                                                                                                                If you thought the Twin Cities was a security state over the weekend, when police preemptively raided the homes of suspected protestors, you should've seen it today, on Day One of the Republican Convention.

                                                                                                                Cops in Denver were ready for protests. Cops in St. Paul were ready for the apocalypse, with downtown turning into a surreal scene from "Children of Men."


                                                                                                                An estimated 50,000 antiwar protestors gathered in the morning for a big rally outside the state Capitol building. As the rally neared its conclusion, roughly 1,000 students, led by the revamped Students for a Democratic Society, led a breakaway march downtown. They were met, according to eyewitnesses, by a crew of bike cops who sprayed a number of protestors with tear gas. One such protestor, a documentary filmmaker named Marcus Washington, described his experience while lying on the ground in a serious amount of pain. I captured it on film.

                                                                                                                After the rally, I overheard two Republican delegates from Minnesota discussing the protests at the nearby Hilton Garden Inn.

                                                                                                                "Did you see those bogus protestors," one said.

                                                                                                                "Oh yeah, what a disgrace!" the other responded.

                                                                                                                "They can't even do it right."

                                                                                                                Whatever that means.

                                                                                                                Later in the day, an employee at a Starbucks near the Xcel Center (home of the RNC) informed customers that protestors had supposedly smashed some windows a few blocks away. I happened to be sitting in a chair near the window and was asked if I wanted to move. I decided to stay.

                                                                                                                260 words posted in American Empire, Human Rights1 comment

                                                                                                                1 response(s) to Campaign 08: Protesters and Police Clash in St. Paul

                                                                                                                1. Dave Becker [Visitor] Email says:

                                                                                                                  So are you suggesting that the bleach attack on the CT delegation as they got off their bus by the anarchists who were "demonstrating" by smashing windows (USA Today) and attacking folks didn't actually happen? Would the Pelosi/Reed lovefest last week had this happen...... and if not, why not?

                                                                                                                  Anti-war protesters using violence against random citizens to make their point... whatever it was? Kinda ironic, ain' it? And apparently appropriate that it was written about in something mistakenly called American Fascism, it should've been Anarchy Times instead.

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                                                                                                                Sarah Palin thinks the government should meddle in the reproductive health of women, but asks for privacy for her unmarried pregnant 17-year-old daughter

                                                                                                                English (US)  September 1st, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                Bristol Palin, 17, holds her brother during the campaign rally where John McCain introduced her mother as his vice presidential running mate.

                                                                                                                Palin's teenage daughter pregnant

                                                                                                                Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, newly picked as Republican John McCain's running mate, has revealed that her 17-year-old daughter is pregnant.

                                                                                                                Mrs Palin, a social conservative who is opposed to abortion, said in a statement her daughter Bristol would keep the child and was to get married.


                                                                                                                The Alaska governor, a mother-of-five, was presented three days ago as her party's vice-presidential candidate.

                                                                                                                The news comes as the Republicans' national convention gets under way.

                                                                                                                The McCain campaign and Palin family asked for respect for the young couple's privacy.

                                                                                                                Mrs Palin and her husband Todd said in a statement: "Bristol and the young man she will marry are going to realise very quickly the difficulties of raising a child, which is why they will have the love and support of our entire family."

                                                                                                                Bristol is reportedly five months pregnant and would be due to give birth in late December.

                                                                                                                The news of Sarah Palin's daughter's pregnancy is gut-wrenching for Republicans
                                                                                                                BBC North America editor Justin Webb

                                                                                                                Advisers to the McCain campaign said they had known about the pregnancy before offering Mrs Palin the vice-presidential nomination.

                                                                                                                "Senator McCain's view is this is a private family matter," said McCain spokesman Steve Schmidt.

                                                                                                                "As parents, [the Palins] love their daughter unconditionally and are going to support their daughter. Life happens."

                                                                                                                Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, asked for his response to the news while campaigning in Michigan, said people should "back off" from such stories.

                                                                                                                "I think people's families are off-limits, and people's children are especially off-limits," he told reporters.

                                                                                                                "This shouldn't be part of our politics. It has no relevance to Governor Palin's performance as a governor, or her potential performance as a vice-president."

                                                                                                                The announcement of Bristol's pregnancy followed rumours on internet blog sites over the weekend suggesting that Mrs Palin's youngest child, Trig, born in April, had actually been born to Bristol. The boy has Down's Syndrome.

                                                                                                                The National Journal reported that a spokesman for Mrs Palin had also confirmed that her husband had been arrested for driving under the influence in 1986.

                                                                                                                Talking point

                                                                                                                The BBC's Justin Webb in St Paul, Minnesota, where the Republicans' national convention is taking place, says the news will certainly be a talking point but may not damage Mrs Palin's standing.

                                                                                                                She was brought on board to appeal to social conservatives, our correspondent says, and they may respect the decision by her daughter to keep the baby and to marry the father.

                                                                                                                However, some people in the party who already had concerns about the lack of knowledge about Mrs Palin's record may fear what other revelations lie in wait, our correspondent adds.

                                                                                                                Janis Thurston, attending the convention, told the BBC News website: "This won't affect my view of Sarah Palin.

                                                                                                                "This sort of thing happens all the time these days. As long as [Bristol] goes through with the pregnancy..."

                                                                                                                The party's four-day convention opened on Monday but its schedule has been curtailed because of the threat of Hurricane Gustav to states on the southern US coast.

                                                                                                                Mrs Palin is due to be formally nominated by delegates as the party's vice-presidential choice later this week.

                                                                                                                She was elected governor of Alaska in 2006 and before that was mayor of the small town of Wasilla, Alaska.

                                                                                                                Story from BBC NEWS:

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                                                                                                                  Curb Your Enthusiasm for Obama

                                                                                                                  English (US)  September 1st, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                  By Chris Hedges

                                                                                                                  Barack Obama’s health care plan coddles the corporations that profit from the misery and illnesses of tens of millions of Americans. The plan is naive, at best, and probably disingenuous when it insists that we can coax these corporations, which are listed on the stock exchange and exist to maximize profit, to transform themselves into social service agencies that will provide adequate health care for all Americans. I wish we lived in such a rosy world. I know, and I suspect Obama knows, that we do not.


                                                                                                                  “Obama offers a false hope,” said Dr. John Geyman, the former chair of family medicine at the University of Washington and author of “Do Not Resuscitate: Why the Health Insurance Industry Is Dying, and How We Must Replace It.” “We cannot build on or tweak the present system. Different states have tried this. The problem is the private insurance industry itself. It is not as efficient as a publicly financed system. It fragments risk pools, skimming off the healthier part of the population and leaving the rest uninsured or underinsured. Its administrative and overhead costs are five to eight times higher than public financing through Medicare. It cares more about its shareholders than its enrollees or patients. A family of four now pays about $12,000 a year just in premiums, which have gone up by 87 percent from 2000 to 2006. The insurance industry is pricing itself out of the market for an ever larger part of the population. The industry resists regulation. It is unsustainable by present trends.”

                                                                                                                  We face a health crisis. The Democratic and Republican parties, awash in campaign contributions from the beasts they should be slaying on our behalf, have no interest in addressing it. A report in the journal Health Affairs estimates that, if the system is left unchanged, one of every five dollars spent by Americans in 2017 will go to health coverage. Half of all bankruptcies in America are because families are unable to pay their medical bills. There are some 46 million Americans without coverage and tens of millions more with inadequate policies that severely limit what kinds of procedures and treatments they can receive.

                                                                                                                  “There are at least 25 million Americans who are underinsured,” said Dr. Geyman. “Whatever coverage they have does not come close to covering the actual cost of a major illness or accident.”

                                                                                                                  Obama, like John McCain, did not support HR 676, the single-payer legislation. The corporations that run our for-profit health care industry, which would be shut down if the bill was enacted, have vigorously fought it through campaign contributions and armies of lobbyists. A study by Harvard Medical School found that national health insurance would save the country $350 billion a year. But Medicare does not make campaign contributions. The private health care industries do. They have lavished money on Obama. He received $708,000 from medical and insurance interests between 2001 and 2006, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. And Michelle Obama is a vice president for community and external affairs at the University of Chicago Hospitals, a position that paid her $316,962 annually.

                                                                                                                  “The private health insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry completely and totally oppose national health insurance,” said Dr. Stephanie Woolhandler, one of the founders of Physicians for a National Health Program. “The private health insurance companies would go out of business. The pharmaceutical companies are afraid that a national health program will, as in Canada, be able to negotiate lower drug prices. Canadians pay 40 percent less for their drugs. We see this on a smaller scale in the United States, where the Department of Defense is able to negotiate pharmaceutical prices that are 40 percent lower.”

                                                                                                                  Sen. Obama argues that we can improve the system by expanding government oversight. The government, he says, should require doctors and hospitals to prove they provide quality care. His plan links payment with reported quality. This would mean that health care providers would have to hire even larger staffs to collect and report this data to the government. There would be a $10-billion federal investment in health care information technology over five years under the Obama plan, in essence turning record keeping from paper to electronic data.

                                                                                                                  Obama’s plan, said Dr. Don McCanne, who writes on health care issues, would actually make health plans “more expensive, which compounds the problem.”

                                                                                                                  Obama says he would require insurance companies to use more income from premiums for patient care.

                                                                                                                  “There isn’t an enforcement mechanism,” Geyman said bluntly. “Most states have been unable to control rates or set a cap on rates.”

                                                                                                                  Obama’s plan would also not cover all Americans. Unlike in Canada, citizens would not be enrolled in a plan automatically. Americans would have to go looking for one they could afford. And if they could not find one they would remain uninsured. Dr. Woolhandler, who is also a professor at Harvard Medical School, estimates that “tens of millions” of Americans would remain uninsured under Obama’s plan. These numbers would swell as employers, who provide plans for 59 percent of those who are employed, continue to reduce coverage.

                                                                                                                  “The only way everyone will get insurance is with national health insurance,” she said from Boston in a phone interview. “There is nothing in the Obama plan that will change the bitter reality that working-class families face when their breadwinner gets sick. People with catastrophic illnesses usually lose their jobs and lose their insurance. They often cannot afford the high premiums for the insurance they can get when they are unable to work. Most families that file for bankruptcy because of medical costs had insurance before they got sick. They either lost the insurance because they lost their jobs or faced gaps in coverage that meant they could not afford medical care.”

                                                                                                                  Obama has borrowed John Kerry’s idea to have the government absorb certain severe costs, although again the details are not spelled out. Insurers, he says, would no longer be able to discriminate based on preexisting conditions. All children would have health coverage. He would, he says, expand Medicare and Medicare-like coverage to protect the very young and the elderly. This is laudable, if he can make it happen. But the fundamental problem is a health industry run for profit. Our health system costs nearly twice as much as national programs in countries such as Switzerland. The overhead for traditional Medicare is 3 percent, and the overhead for the investment-owned companies is 26.5 percent. A staggering 31 percent of our health care expenditures is spent on administrative costs. Look what we get in return.

                                                                                                                  We on the left, those who should be out there fighting for universal health care and total and immediate withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, sit like lap dogs on the short leashes of our Democratic (read corporate) masters. We yap now and then, but we have forgotten how to snarl and bite. We have been domesticated. And until we punish the two main parties the way big corporations do, by withdrawing support and funding when our issues are ignored, we will remain irrelevant and impotent. I detest Bill O’Reilly, but he is right on one thing—we liberals are a spineless lot.

                                                                                                                  Labor unions don’t negotiate with corporations on the basis of good will. They negotiate carrying the threat of a strike. What power do we have as long as we cave on every issue we stand for, from opposition to the death penalty to battling back against the military-industrial complex?

                                                                                                                  It is not about liking or not liking Obama. It is not about race or class or gender. It is not about growing up poor or a member of the working class. There is no shortage of greasy politicians who, once in power, sold out their own. Look at Bill Clinton. It is about fighting back. It is about confronting a system that belittles us, what we stand for and what is best for the majority of Americans. We need to throw our support behind alternative candidates who champion what we care about, whether Cynthia McKinney or Ralph Nader. Bob Barr’s health care plan, like John McCain’s, is even worse than Obama’s tepid proposal. We need to begin to actively and militantly defy the corporate state, and this means stepping outside of the two-party system. Universal health insurance is one issue. There are others. Nothing we care about will change until we do.

                                                                                                                  The Democrats, who promise to end the war in Iraq, create jobs and provide universal health care, ignore these promises once election cycles are over. And we never make them pay. They gave us NAFTA, the destruction of welfare and increased military spending, and we gave them our vote. This is the party that took back Congress in 2006 on an anti-war platform and then increased troop levels and funding for the Iraq war. This is a party that talks about the crushing weight of debt carried by Americans and then refuses to cap predatory interest rates as high as 30 percent imposed by credit card companies. This is a party that promises to protect our constitutional rights and then passes the FISA bill to protect the telecommunications companies. The list goes on. These politicians, including Obama, must begin to feel heat. They must learn that there is a cost to be paid for working on behalf of corporations and disempowering citizens.


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                                                                                                                    Nader channels Eugene Debs; gains support; endorses Burbank for Connecticut’s 5th Congressional District

                                                                                                                    English (US)  September 1st, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                    Ralph Nader, left, a long time citizen activist, lawyer and writers, is running for president for the fifth time. He endorsed Harold Burbank II as candidate for Connecticut's 5th Congression District at a house party in Sherman on Sunday.

                                                                                                                    By Gale Courey Toensing

                                                                                                                    SHERMAN, Conn. – When people ask presidential candidate Ralph Nader what he wants to achieve, he has a simple answer: A better world, he says.

                                                                                                                    “I simply start with what we all hope to achieve – clean elections, universal heath care, and a living wage – the modest first stage improvements for a civilized, caring society,” Nader told a group of several dozen people at a private house party on Sunday.


                                                                                                                    Not many people would disagree with those goals or with Nader’s battle to take back the country from the multinational corporations that now control the government, or the dozen or more put-people-first issues that he and his vice presidential running Mate Matt Gonzalez have put “on the table” on their website, Nader said.

                                                                                                                    A visit to the website details Nader and Gonzalez’s platform, but also provides a remind of the remarkable list of achievements Nader has gained as a citizen activist for more than four decades. He was responsible for safety belts in cars, the creation of the Freedom of Information Act, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the Safe Drinking Water Act, and more. He founded or helped start more than 100 public interest groups that help improve safety and the quality of life for all Americans.

                                                                                                                    “Ralph Nader has saved more lives than anyone else in America,” one supporter said.

                                                                                                                    The party had two objectives: to raise funds for Nader’s presidential campaign and to announce his support for Harold Burbank II, the Green Party candidate who is running for Congress in the state's 5th District against first term Democratic incumbent Chris Murphy, and his Republican challenger David Cappiello, a state senator from Danbury.

                                                                                                                    Harold Burbank II is challenging first term Democratic incumbent Christ Murphy for the 5th District congressional seat.

                                                                                                                    Burbank, a civil rights attorney, introduced both himself and Nader to the gathering. The two men’s friendship goes back several years. Burbank volunteered his legal services to Nader’s 2004 presidential campaign.

                                                                                                                    Burbank has worked in the peace and justice movement for 30 years. During that time he worked in the public sector, including the attorney general's office, and has never worked for a corporation. Among the issues Burbank supports are universal health care, full employment with a living wage and job protection, and ending the war in Iraq and U.S. imperialism.

                                                                                                                    He calls for the impeachment of President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney for war crimes.

                                                                                                                    “No one is above the law, especially for war crimes under international treaties such as the UN Charter, Geneva Conventions and Nuremberg Charter, which make war crimes the ultimate crimes against humanity,” Burbank said. More information about Burbank and his positions is available at his website at

                                                                                                                    Burbank is the only candidate for Congress that Nader has ever supported during his long career as an advocate for public safety, the environment and honest government.

                                                                                                                    Nader launched his fifth bid for president last February. So far, he has qualified for the ballot in 45 states, plus the District of Columbia without having filed a single ballot access lawsuit. This year, Nader has exceeded his “personal best,” which occurred in 2000 when he was on the ballot in 43 states and D.C.

                                                                                                                    Relaxed and informal, Nader spoke extemporaneously to the group and held a question and answer period afterward.

                                                                                                                    This is the first time in the history of the country that a minority party actually represents the majority opinion of the people, Nader observed.

                                                                                                                    The public’s “discomfort” level is reflected in the current polls: 81 percent of Americans polled think the country is going in the wrong direction; 75 percent think corporations have too much control over our lives; and 61 percent think the two major parties are failing.

                                                                                                                    Historically, most third parties espouse issues that are supported by a minority and later picked up by one of the major parties, such as the 19th century anti-slavery and pro-women’s rights movements.

                                                                                                                    “So, were coming in on a bizarre situation where we now are the dissenters and our positions are supported by the majority,” Nader said.

                                                                                                                    But people have bought into two major party system and the likelihood – or certainty – that one of its candidates will win – and that’s why they keep voting for them, creating a self fulfilling prophecy.

                                                                                                                    “This always upsets me because the 60th seat at Wimbledon has a shot at center court; the 60th seat at the NCAA has a shot for the final four, but the third seat in the presidential candidacy is considered tiling at windmills,” Nader said.

                                                                                                                    The major parties understand “intuitively” that the system itself is “monumentally obstructive,” locking out challengers through a variety of questionable methods, including harassing petitions and getting petition signatures for specious reasons.

                                                                                                                    That’s why one of Nader’s top priorities is to open up the election process and the presidential debates. The first step is to get rid of all special interest funding and have public funding of elections, an initiative that the two parties claim to support, but never actually implement, Nader said.

                                                                                                                    It’s all about civil liberties, Nader said.

                                                                                                                    “Let’s face it, people who are well to do can live in a world of their own that’s pretty comfortable and they have a lot of personal freedom, but along with tens of millions of other Americans, they don’t have civic freedom,” Nader said.

                                                                                                                    He quoted Cicero, who said, "Freedom is participating in power."

                                                                                                                    "That's a fantastic definition of freedom," Nader said. Civic freedom is having a say in whether the country goes to war or not, how taxpayer dollars are used, and whether everyone is going to have health insurance, he said.

                                                                                                                    People often ask Nader why he doesn’t try to achieve his goals outside of the electoral system.

                                                                                                                    “Because for 20 years ever since the Democrats started dialing big time for corporate dollars, they’ve shut the door on solutions and we can’t get anything done. We can’t get congressional hearings; we can’t get regulatory agencies to respond to our petitions,” Nader said.

                                                                                                                    Perhaps one of the most cogent questions Nader posed – and answered – was “When was the last time we solved a major problem? We couldn’t even clean up and help people after Katrina and it’s because of the paralyzed government. The government has been high jacked by big corporations whether it’s the Defense Department or the treasury. So you try to bring young people into the electoral area, try to mobilize new energies and you push the system so its fangs come out when you challenge it and you force people to look at themselves in the mirror and ask themselves how do they continue to succumb to a two party duopoly that makes them vote against people they believe in and for people they don’t believe in,” Nader said.

                                                                                                                    He quoted labor leader Eugene Deb, an American labor leader in the 19th and early 20th centuries, who was one of the founding members of the International Labor Union and the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).

                                                                                                                    More than 100 years ago, Debs said, “It’s better to vote for someone you believe in and lose than vote for someone you don’t believe in and win because that someone’s going to betray you.'

                                                                                                                    Nader stressed the importance of bringing young people into the process. “It you don’t do that the future is pretty clear: Things are going to get worse and the concentration of power gets worse.”

                                                                                                                    He rolled out the statistics:
                                                                                                                    --100 million poor people “and the Democrats never mention the poor, only the middle class, which is shrinking”;
                                                                                                                    -- 47 million people who make $10 an hour or less before deductions. “You can’t live on that,” Nader said.
                                                                                                                    --50 million people without health insurance
                                                                                                                    --50 million who are under-insured
                                                                                                                    --18,000 people dying each year because they cannot afford health care
                                                                                                                    --58,000 people dying because of work-related diseases
                                                                                                                    --65,000 people dying because of air pollution.

                                                                                                                    “At the end of his career, Eugene Debs was asked by a reporter around 1920 – and, by the way, he ran for president five times so I have an affinity for him – “What’s your greatest regret?’ And he said, ‘My greatest regret is that under our Constitution Americans can have almost anything they want, but it just seems like they don’t want much of anything at all,’” Nader said.

                                                                                                                    Americans expectations -- or demands – of their government is the worst in the western developed world, Nader said.

                                                                                                                    He pointed out that, at the end of World War II when Europe was in rubble and America was the most powerful country in the world, Europeans through their social democratic governments, trade unions, associations and other non-governmental organizations demanded -- and got – universal health care, decent pensions, living wages, efficient public transportation systems, four weeks or more of paid vacations, day care for their children, paid maternity leave, paid family sick leave, and universal free tuitions to universities.

                                                                                                                    “We don’t have any of that here today, 63 years later,” Nader said.
                                                                                                                    People are faced with two choices, Nader said.

                                                                                                                    “We can sort of give up on ourselves and live in our comfortable personal lives and accumulate our estates or we can elevate our own self respect and develop a determination to turn things around. And I have no doubt that they can be turned around. There are a lot of good people in this country. They’ve just got to get to know each other civicly, not just socially,” Nader said.

                                                                                                                    He estimated that the political system and agenda could be turned around by about one million people organized into congressional watch dog groups, 2,000 per district with two full time staff to bring the first stages of improvement to the collective life in America.

                                                                                                                    “It’s not all that much. I’m told there are 10 million bird watchers in our country,” Nader said.

                                                                                                                    1698 words posted in Arts, Culture & Entertainment2 comments

                                                                                                                    2 response(s) to Nader channels Eugene Debs; gains support; endorses Burbank for Connecticut’s 5th Congressional District

                                                                                                                    1. Joe Mustich [Visitor] Email says:

                                                                                                                      Glad to read Ralph Nader's endorsement
                                                                                                                      of Harold Burbank for Congress in the 5th!

                                                                                                                    2. Judy [Visitor] Email says:

                                                                                                                      I am aggressively hitting my local television's forums as an Independent campaigning for Ralph and Matt.

                                                                                                                      I have not gotten this involved in a presidenital campaign, and I regret having to say this but since I campaigned for Jimmy Carter in 1976.

                                                                                                                      Open up the Presidential Debates!

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                                                                                                                    Obama-Biden and Iran

                                                                                                                    English (US)  September 1st, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                    The Obama-Biden worldview with Eric Margolis, Phyllis Bennis and Paul Heinbecker

                                                                                                                    15 words posted in Iran, American EmpireLeave a comment

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                                                                                                                      Israel's Outposts Seal Death Of Palestinian State

                                                                                                                      English (US)  August 31st, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                      By Jonathan Cook in Migron, West Bank

                                                                                                                      Yehudit Genud hardly feels she is on the frontier of Israel’s settlement project, although the huddle of mobile homes on a wind-swept West Bank hilltop she calls home is controversial even by Israeli standards.

                                                                                                                      Despite the size and isolation of Migron, a settlement of about 45 religious families on a ridge next to the Palestinian city of Ramallah, Mrs Genud’s job as a social worker in West Jerusalem is a 25-minute drive away on a well-paved road.

                                                                                                                      Mrs Genud, 28, pregnant with her first child, points out that Migron has parks, children’s playgrounds, a kindergarten, a daycare centre and a synagogue, all paid for by the government -- even if the buildings are enclosed by a razor-wire fence, and her husband, Roni, has to put in overtime as the settlement’s security guard.


                                                                                                                      From her trailer, she also has panoramic views not only of Ramallah but of the many communities hugging the slopes that gently fall away to the Jordan Valley.

                                                                                                                      Long-established Palestinian villages are instantly identifiable by their homes’ flat roofs and the prominence of the tall minarets of the local mosques. Interspersed among them, however, are a growing number of much newer, fortified communities of luxury villas topped by distinctive red-tiled roofs.

                                                                                                                      These are the Jewish settlements that now form an almost complete ring around Palestinian East Jerusalem, cutting it off from the rest of the West Bank and destroying any hope that the city will one day become the capital of a Palestinian state.

                                                                                                                      “These settlements are supposed to be the nail in the coffin of any future peace agreement with the Palestinians,” said Dror Etkes, a veteran observer of the settlements who works for the Israeli human rights group Yesh Din. “Their purpose is to make a Palestinian state unviable.”

                                                                                                                      The majority of the half a million settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, according to Mr Etkes, are “economic opportunists”, drawn to life in the occupied territories less by ideological or religious convictions than economic incentives. The homes, municipal services and schools there are heavily subsidised by the government.

                                                                                                                      In addition, the settlements -- though illegal under international law -- are integrated into Israel through a sophisticated system of roads that make it easy for the settlers to forget they are in occupied territory surrounded by Palestinians.

                                                                                                                      But Migron, with its supposed links to the Biblical site where King Saul based himself during his fight against the Philistines, attracts a different kind of inhabitant.

                                                                                                                      “This place is holy to the Jewish people and we have a duty to be here,” Mrs Genud said. “The whole land of Israel belongs to us and we should not be afraid to live wherever we want to. The Arabs must accept that.”

                                                                                                                      Unlike the 150 or so official settlements dotted across the West Bank, Migron is an example of what the Israeli government refers to as an “illegal outpost”, often an unauthorised outgrowth from one of the main settlements. Today there are more than 100 such outposts, housing several thousand extremist settlers.

                                                                                                                      Mrs Genud, however, argues that Israel’s refusal to turn Migron into an authorised settlement, as it has done with many other established outposts, reflects pressure from Washington.

                                                                                                                      Back in 2003, Israel committed itself to dismantling the more recent outposts under the terms of the Road Map, a US-sponsored plan for reviving the peace process and creating a Palestinian state. Two years later the cabinet approved the removal of 24 outposts, although barely any progress has been made on dismantling them. Israel confirmed its pledge again in January when George W Bush, the US president, visited.

                                                                                                                      Established six years ago by a group from the nearby settlement of Ofra, Migron is now the largest of the outposts. Two residents -- Itai Halevi, the community’s rabbi, and Itai Harel, the son of Israel Harel, a well-known settler leader -- have demonstrated their confidence in Migron’s future by each building permanent homes.

                                                                                                                      “We are connected to the water grid, we have phone lines from the national company Bezeq, we have been hooked up by the electricity company and have street lighting,” Mrs Genud said. “We also have a kindergarten paid for by the state and a group of soldiers stationed here to protect us. How can we be ‘illegal’?”

                                                                                                                      Daniella Wiess, a leader of the most extreme wing of the settlers, agreed. Like the inhabitants of Migron, she said the outpost was first suggested by Ariel Sharon when he was housing minister in the 1990s. It was also among the first outposts to be set up after he became prime minister in 2002.

                                                                                                                      An official report published in 2005 found that more than $4 million was invested in Migron in its first years, with the money channelled through at least six different ministries.

                                                                                                                      There is good reason for official complicity in such outposts as Migron. “This place is very strategic,” Mrs Genud said. It looks down on Route 60, once the main road serving Palestinians between Jerusalem and Jenin in the northern West Bank.

                                                                                                                      Today, even those Palestinians who can get a permit to travel the road find regular sections obstructed by checkpoints or closed for the protection of neighbouring settlements.

                                                                                                                      “We can also see all the Arabs from here and keep an eye on what they are doing,” she said referring to her Palestinian neighbours. “And in addition, we can see the other settlements and check on their safety.”

                                                                                                                      But despite its significance to the settlement drive, Migron is under threat. Last week, the Israeli government agreed that the outpost must be destroyed, although it was tight-lipped about when. Few are expecting such a reversal to happen soon. The government’s decision was largely foisted upon it by a series of unforeseen events.

                                                                                                                      In 2006, several West Bank Palestinians, backed by Israeli peace groups, petitioned Israel’s supreme court claiming that Migron had been built on their private land.

                                                                                                                      Over the past four decades, Israel has declared nearly two-thirds of the West Bank as “state land”, seizing it on a variety of pretexts and transferring much of it to the jurisdiction of settler councils. According to the figures of the Israeli group Peace Now, the settlers are in direct control of more than 40 per cent of the West Bank.

                                                                                                                      Land belonging to Palestinians who hold the title deeds, however, has been harder to confiscate. As a result, a dubious industry of front companies both inside Israel and in the occupied territories has been spawned to transfer private Palestinian land to the settlers.

                                                                                                                      One such company appears to be behind the sale of the land on which Migron was built. A police investigation has revealed that one of the Palestinian owners, Abdel Latif Hassan Sumarin, signed over his power of attorney to an Israeli real estate company in 2004, even though he died in the United States in 1961.

                                                                                                                      During the court hearings, Israel has been dragging its feet. According to its own figures, there are a dozen outposts built entirely or partially on private Palestinian land -- and the true number may be higher still.

                                                                                                                      The settlers believe that the decision to destroy Migron, if carried out, would set a dangerous precedent. “They are very afraid that this will become simply the first of many settlements to fall,” Mr Etkes said.

                                                                                                                      Last week, faced with another hearing before the court, the government finally conceded on Migron -- but only after striking a deal with the main settlement lobby group, the Yesha council. Israel promised that the outpost would go, but not before new homes had been built for Migron’s settlers and they had been relocated en masse to a newly created -- and authorised -- settlement. According to reports in the local media, Migron’s families may be moved only a few hundred metres from their current location to an area of the West Bank designated as “state land”.

                                                                                                                      “The settlers know that preparation of an alternative site could take years,” said Yariv Oppenheimer, the head of Peace Now, fearful that this was simply a delaying tactic.

                                                                                                                      Others believe that relocating Migron may, in fact, set back the struggle against the settlements. There is already talk of moving the settlers to the jurisdiction of a neighbouring settlement, Adam.

                                                                                                                      “The danger is that Migron will be destroyed only to be resurrected in ‘legalised’ form by the government as a new settlement close by Adam,” Mr Etkes said.

                                                                                                                      Such a suspicion is confirmed by the main settler council, Yesha, which issued a statement last week: “We believe it is possible to find a solution for the outposts that will strengthen the settlements.”

                                                                                                                      Nonetheless, the residents of Migron, backed by hardline settler groups, are talking and acting tough for the time being. In a show of defiance, they moved another mobile home into the outpost last week. For several months the residents have also been erecting a large stone building close by the outpost that will become a winery.

                                                                                                                      The settlers’ rabbinical council denounced the threatened loss of the outpost, as did settler leader Gershon Masika, who warned of a bloody confrontation to save it.

                                                                                                                      Mrs Genud is not sure what she will do if the crunch comes and she has to give up her home and life in Migron. “All of this land is Jewish,” she said. “It would be a big mistake if we give up what is rightfully ours.”

                                                                                                                      Jonathan Cook is a journalist and writer living in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are "Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East" (Pluto Press) and "Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair" (Zed Books). His website is

                                                                                                                      This article originally appeared in The National (, published in Abu Dhabi.


                                                                                                                      1618 words posted in PALESTINE, Law, , American EmpireLeave a comment

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                                                                                                                        In case you missed it: The Keating Five: One Crook Went to Prison, the Other is Running for President

                                                                                                                        English (US)  August 31st, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                        What is the Keating Five?

                                                                                                                        For anyone not aware of the Keating Five, here’s a very simple summary:

                                                                                                                        Charles Keating owned a savings and loan in California. He was illegally using the money of his bank’s customers to give loans to himself and friends that they didn’t have to repay, and to speculate on risky real estate investments, which was strictly forbidden by U.S. law (the latter was one cause of the Great Depression).

                                                                                                                        When the feds found out what was going on and launched an investigation into Keating and his company, Keating called five U.S. Senators whom he had wined, dined, and lavished with hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations and personal gifts for years.


                                                                                                                        Keating asked the five Senators to tell the feds to bug off, and the five Senators, later known as the Keating Five, obliged, meeting with federal investigators twice and pressuring them to stop investigating Keating’s crimes. They bought Keating some time, but the feds didn’t give up and eventually Keating was nailed. The reason the feds were so persistent was because Keating wasn’t playing with mere chump change. Keating blew $3.4 billion through illegal personal loans and bad investments, and the FDIC eventually had to reimburse Keating’s customers who had been ripped off. (The FDIC is a part of the federal government funded by taxpayers dollars, so when Keating stole from his customers you and I were the ones who paid for it.)

                                                                                                                        (Background Info - Keating wasn’t the only Savings and Loan owner who was committing fraud, 20% of the S&L’s that failed during that three year period were found to have been caused by fraud and/or insider trading. The failure of the Lincoln Savings and Loan and other S&L’s pushed the country into a recession, costing the U.S. government $126 billion dollars in FDIC insurance payouts to investors. All of this came to a crescendo during the first year of the presidency of George H.W. Bush, who pushed through the S&L bailout plan to keep the economy afloat.)

                                                                                                                        When the involvement of the Keating Five was made public, a scandal erupted and the Senate Ethics Committee launched their own four month long hearing into whether the Keating Five senators had violated Senate ethics rules. It was a giant mess (see the Keating Five Videos section). The other four Senators left office either immediately or within one term. John McCain was formally rebuked by the Senate Ethics Committee for exercising “poor judgment” for intervening with the federal regulators on behalf of Keating, but because McCain accepted Keating’s gifts of travel and vacations to Bahama while McCain was a member of the House of Representatives (he served one term there before moving to the Senate), the Senate claimed they had no jurisdiction to censure McCain. (However the meetings to pressure federal regulators occurred during the first few months of McCain serving in the Senate in 1987, so that excuse doesn’t hold up)

                                                                                                                        John McCain then went back to the drawing board and re-invented himself as “the Straight-Talk Express” and the media gobbled it up. “Tax-Evading-Criminal” doesn’t sound as catchy as “Straight-Shooting-War-Hero”.

                                                                                                                        Ever since the scandal, when McCain lies today, it’s never questioned, because he’s a “straight talker”. The man has more skeletons in his closet than any politician in history. The Keating Five is just one bone.

                                                                                                                        There are two fantastic articles about the Keating Five we highly recommend reading.

                                                                                                                        One is from 1989, written by the Phoenix New Times, called McCain: The Most Reprehensible of the Keating Five. That article does a good job of capturing the anger at the time at John McCain and the other corrupt Senators. It took an incredible spin job for McCain to have survived the scandal.

                                                                                                                        The other article is from, written in 2000 and titled, Is John McCain A Crook?

                                                                                                                        McCain Keating Five

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                                                                                                                        0 response(s) to In case you missed it: The Keating Five: One Crook Went to Prison, the Other is Running for President

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                                                                                                                          An Open Letter to Barack Obama: Symbolism Alone Will Not Bring Change

                                                                                                                          English (US)  August 31st, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                          By LEONARD PELTIER

                                                                                                                          I have watched with keen interest and renewed hope as your campaign has mobilized millions of Americans behind your message of changing a political system that serves a small economic elite at the expense of the peoples of the United States and the world. Your election as president of the United States, where slaves and Indians were long considered less than human under the law, will undoubtedly constitute a historic moment in race relations in the United States.


                                                                                                                          Yet symbolism alone will not bring about change. Our young people, black and Native alike, suffer from police brutality and racial profiling, underfunded schools, and discrimination in employment and housing. I sincerely hope your campaign will inspire some hope among our youth to struggle for a better future. I am, however, concerned that your recent statement on the Sean Bell verdict, in which the New York police officers who fired 50 shots at a young man on the eve of his wedding were acquitted of criminal charges, displays a rather myopic view of the law. Until the law is harnessed to protect the victims of state violence and racism, it will serve as an instrument of repression, just as the slave codes functioned to sustain and legitimize an inhuman institution.

                                                                                                                          As I can testify from experience, the legal institutions of this nation are far from racial and political neutrality. When judges align with the repressive actions and policies of the executive branch, injustice is rationalized and cloaked in judicial platitudes. As you may know, I have now served more than three decades of my life as a political prisoner of the federal government for a crime I did not commit. I have served more time than the maximum sentence under the guidelines under which I was sentenced, yet my parole is continually denied (on the rare occasions when I am afforded a hearing) because I refuse to falsely confess. Amnesty International, South African Bishop Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama of Tibet, my Guatemalan sister Rigoberta Menchu, and many of your friends and supporters have recognized me as a political prisoner and called for my immediate release. Millions of people around the world view me as a symbol of injustice against the indigenous peoples of this land, and I have no doubt that I will go down in history as one of a long line of victims of U.S. government repression, along with Sacco and Vanzetti, the Haymarket Square martyrs, Eugene Debs, Bill Haywood, and others targeted by for their political beliefs. But neither I nor my people can afford to wait for history to rectify the crimes of the past.

                                                                                                                          As a member of the American Indian Movement, I came to the Pine Ridge Oglala reservation to defend the traditional people there from human rights violations carried out by tribal police and goon squads backed by the FBI and the highest offices of the federal government. Our symbolic occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973 inspired Indians across the Americas to struggle for their freedom and treaty rights, but it was also met by a fierce federal siege and a wave of violent repression on Pine Ridge. In 1974, AIM leader Russell Means campaigned for tribal chairman while being tried by the federal government for his role at Wounded Knee. Although Means was barred from the reservation by decree of the U.S.-client regime of Richard Wilson, he won the popular vote, only to be denied office by extensive vote fraud and control of the electoral mechanisms. Wilson’s goons proceeded to shoot up pro-Means villages such as Wanblee and terrorize traditional supporters throughout the reservation, killing at least 60 people between 1973 and 1975.

                                                                                                                          It is long past time for a congressional investigation to examine the degree of federal complicity in the violent counterinsurgency that followed the occupation of Wounded Knee. The tragic shootout that led to the deaths of two FBI agents and one Native man also led not only to my false conviction, but also the termination of the Church Committee, which was investigating abuses by federal intelligence and law enforcement agents, before it could hold hearings on FBI infiltration of AIM. Despite decades of attempts by my attorneys to obtain government documents related to my case, the FBI continues to withhold thousands of documents that might tend to exonerate me or reveal compromising evidence of judicial collusion with the prosecution.

                                                                                                                          I truly believe the truth will set me free, but it will also signify a symbolic break from America’s undeclared war on indigenous peoples. I hope and pray that you possess the courage and integrity to seek out the truth and the wisdom to recognize the inherent right of all peoples to self-determination, as acknowledged by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. While your statements on federal Indian policy sound promising, your vision of “one America” has an ominous ring for Native peoples struggling to define their own national visions. If freed from colonial constraints and external intervention, indigenous nations might well serve as functioning models of the freedom and democracy to which the United States aspires.

                                                                                                                          Yours in the struggle.

                                                                                                                          Until freedom is won,

                                                                                                                          Leonard Peltier
                                                                                                                          # 89637-132
                                                                                                                          U.S.P. Lewisburg,
                                                                                                                          P.O. Box 1000,
                                                                                                                          Lewisburg, PA USA 17837

                                                                                                                          Special Note:

                                                                                                                          Please Help Support the LPDOC for Leonard's Freedom

                                                                                                                          As Leonard Peltier marks his 64th birthday on Sept. 12, the LPDOC is redoubling its efforts to win his freedom. We are planning an ambitious organizing drive in our new Fargo office to persuade North Dakota Senator Byron Dorgan, chair of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, to investigate the federal government's role in the violent counterinsurgency on the Pine Ridge Reservation from 1973-1976, the FBI's withholding of thousands of pages of documents related to the AIM activist, and the unfair federal trial in Fargo which led to Leonard's conviction in 1977.

                                                                                                                          Leonard is suffering from partial blindness, diabetes, a heart condition, high blood pressure, and prostate problems. He needs your help.

                                                                                                                          We need your help too, if we are to do the work that needs to be done to obtain justice for one of the longest-serving political prisoners in the world. At the moment, we are barely keeping up with our rent and phone bills, our two full-time staff members are working without pay, and we badly need a new photocopier. Due to the damaging actions of a former LPDC employee, who removed valuable office equipment and contributor records, we are rebuilding our committee virtually from scratch. We have found an experienced volunteer editor for our Spirit of Crazy Horse newspaper, but in order to resume publication, we will need your support.

                                                                                                                          If you are able to contribute $20 or more for this campaign, you will receive a free subscription to the newsletter to keep abreast on developments in Peltier's campaign and in Indian Country generally. Please contribute as generously as you are able, and also take the time to write and/or call Sen. Dorgan With your help, we can win Leonard's freedom from the same city in which it was taken away. Even if you are unable to contribute at this time, please send us your name and address to help us rebuild our list of supporters at the state and national level.

                                                                                                                          Please send your donation to:

                                                                                                                          PO Box 7488
                                                                                                                          Fargo, ND 58106

                                                                                                                          Thank You,
                                                                                                                          Betty Ann Peltier-Solano,
                                                                                                                          Executive Director
                                                                                                                          Leonard Peltier Defense Offense Committee


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                                                                                                                            Sarah Palin on the Prowl: A Cougar for the PUMAs?

                                                                                                                            English (US)  August 31st, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                            If Al Qaeda sneaks through the forests, Palin can single handedly take them out with one of her many rifles.

                                                                                                                            By WAJAHAT ALI

                                                                                                                            Sarah Palin, a good looking, former beauty queen, hockey mom who reads “Guns N’ Ammo,” was announced as John McCain’s Vice Presidential running mate yesterday. “Tina Fey with an AK-47” exploded on the international political scene shocking everyone – except those of us who predicted it last week – as the second ever-female VP candidate since Geraldine Ferraro. The second year Alaskan governor, former mayor of Wasilla, Alaska [home to a whopping population of 8,500] and PTA mom brings a staunch social conservative record to the table: vociferously anti-abortion, anti same sex marriage, pro gun rights, pro free market, and solid supporter of teaching creationism in elementary schools. Her “MILF-Cougar” hotness doesn’t hurt with the polls and Internet chat rooms either. Although her values cement her popularity with the Republicans, her gender strategically caters to a very vocal, disenchanted “female first” Hillary fan base.


                                                                                                                            Using a tragic Shakespearean metaphor, indeed the ghost of Banquo [Hillary Clinton] yet again returns to the banquet to haunt Macbeth [Obama] over a disputed, usurped kingdom [Democratic Presidential candidacy.] Although recently the Clintons passionately – and perhaps even sincerely – supported Barack Obama’s nomination as the Democratic candidate, a zealous, myopic and pyrrhic pro-Hillary group known as PUMA has emerged ravenous and bloodthirsty from the political jungle. The acronym now officially stands for “People United Means Action” but was originally “Party Unity, My Ass.” It’s comprised mostly, but not entirely, of a band of irrationally angry and jaded middle aged women accusing Obama and the Democratic Party of misogyny in unfairly taking “their woman” down.

                                                                                                                            In an utterly shameless stroke of political expediency transparently masquerading as a platform of change, McCain and the Republicans chose Palin to unconvincingly prove they are no longer an elite cabal of upper class, geriatric, White men. At her public unveiling, Palin invoked the ghost of two “Banquos” [Geraldine Ferraro and Senator Hillary Clinton] by name. She praised the latter for putting 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling, and continued to say, "but the women of America aren’t finished yet, and we can shatter than glass ceiling once and for all."

                                                                                                                            McCain and the Republicans, whose corrosively negative “smear machine” would have sickeningly insinuated Clinton was a feminist-y, man-hating lesbian had she won the ticket instead of Obama, have now begun courting the spurned PUMAs for their vote. At last week’s “Happy Hour for Hillary” in Denver sponsored by the Republican National Committee and approved by the McCain campaign, disaffected PUMAs united with McCain supporters to oppose that icon of dark, patriarchal misogyny: Obama. One of the nuttier PUMAs, Cristi Adkins, verbally sparred on television with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews. She passionately advocated her futile case that Obama is a “registered Muslim” and studied at a “madrassa.” Yet again, the blatantly incorrect and inexcusably prejudiced connotation of “Muslim” as some sort of a vile Scarlet Letter was used to sully and question Obama’s loyalties and patriotism.

                                                                                                                            As a practicing Muslim American born in the faith allow me to assure the American public the closest I ever come to “registering” as a Muslim is when I visit the airport. I get treated like a Hollywood celebrity – they show me so much love. The not so friendly pat downs, pseudo interrogations, eyeball molestations and multiple verifications of my name, hometown, job and background probably fit the bill as a valid “registration” with the United States Government courtesy of the TSA. Other than that, no other registration – I swear to Allah!

                                                                                                                            Also, one must recall the ugly Pastor Jeremiah Right controversy, which should have confirmed to everyone - except the congenitally deranged, irretrievably stupid, or stubbornly prejudiced –that Obama is not nor has ever been a quasi, pseudo, stealth, ninja Muslim but instead a “believing” Christian. However, the smear by association is a hallmark play in the Republican playbook and one that is now adopted by the “female first, second and last” PUMA Democrats.

                                                                                                                            The nomination of Palin, a woman whom McCain previously met all of once in his entire life, is so amusing and laughable due its obvious catering to the superficial, knee jerk reactions of the American voting public. And that’s precisely why it’s semi brilliant as well. Many, such as PUMAs, jaded conservatives, some poor Whites and middle class workers, who later supported Clinton over Obama apparently due to her considerable “experience” [the same that would qualify her to pick up that “3 am call’] would now rather side with McCain and Palin, whose greatest skill as of now seems to be picking power suits.

                                                                                                                            Recall, Obama was depicted as being weak on “national security.” But Palin, who is a card carrying member of the NRA, apparently qualifies because she is an avid “moose hunter.” If Al Qaeda sneaks through the forests, Palin can single handedly take them out with one of her many rifles. McCain can air bomb them. Oddly, I am not assuaged.
                                                                                                                            As for foreign policy experience, I guess Vice President Sarah Palin, who was nicknamed “The Barracuda” for her point guard skills in high school basketball, could call an Iso, do a mean cross over on Putin, fake out Ahmadenijad, and drive on Mullah Omar straight to the democracy hoop. Score.

                                                                                                                            Of course, this is all absurd and hypocritical. We now have those same voters who were critical of Obama’s inexperience pledging allegiance to an even more thoroughly inexperienced vice presidential candidate who merely “looks” good and has right wing, conservative beliefs. And, disturbingly, she is a Vice President who very well could step in the President’s shoes considering her running mate is a 72-year-old man with four previous battles with cancer.

                                                                                                                            This superficial aesthetic of “image branding” and personal biases is what trumps substance and integrity in nearly every election. For some, Palin, the spunky, feminine, driven but non-threatening, White woman is less frightening then the biracial, dark, Arabic sounding Obama, who will apparently remodel America as the next “Black Planet.” Palin, with her sophisticated but not elitist designer glasses, her sexy but not bougie highlights, her “go-getter” but not “lesbiany-anti patriarchal” femininity, reminds the PUMA generation of what they’d like to be and “see” in the White House. It seems they took their misguided cue from the other “Banquo ghost,” Geraldine Ferraro, who voluntarily resigned from Hillary Clinton’s committee over the fallout from these controversial and very telling remarks:

                                                                                                                            "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman (of any color) he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept.”

                                                                                                                            Sadly, some of McCain and Clinton’s followers think they suffer from an unbearable Whiteness of being, one that Obama’s Blackness allowed him to transcend. To those who suffer from this delusion, Sarah Palin-John McCain is the perfect substitute for the Obama-Biden ticket. And, as for the PUMAs and their like minded brothers and sisters, they have resoundingly answered Clinton’s question that she posed at the Democratic National Convention: "Were you in this campaign just for me?"

                                                                                                                            Wajahat Ali is a Muslim American of Pakistani descent. He is a playwright, essayist, humorist, and Attorney at Law, whose work, “The Domestic Crusaders” is the first major play about Muslim Americans living in a post 9-11 America. His blog is at He can be reached at


                                                                                                                            1266 words posted in Arts, Culture & Entertainment1 comment

                                                                                                                            1 response(s) to Sarah Palin on the Prowl: A Cougar for the PUMAs?

                                                                                                                            1. rob fuoco [Visitor] Email says:

                                                                                                                              when describing the sparkling credentials of palin, please dont forget to add that she is for drilling in the wildlife refuge, and also for taking polar bears off the endangered species list. il ove the corner report , it is brilliant and truthful, thank you for all the work you put into it. best rob f

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                                                                                                                            Interview with Hamas

                                                                                                                            English (US)  August 30th, 2008 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                                            Deputy Political Chief Answers IOL Readers' Questions

                                                                                                                            By Muslim Affairs Team

                                                                                                                            On board an EgyptAir plane from Cairo, we were worryingly preparing ourselves for possible questions in Damascus Airport. "How should we respond to officers' questions about the purpose of the trip? Coming to interview Dr. Mousa Abu Marzook, deputy chief of Hamas' political bureau? Or should we rather say we are just tourists?"

                                                                                                                            The airport was so crowded with tourists that officers didn't have time to ask much. Yet, being in a country known for its authoritarian regime, we could still feel nervous as we gazed at the picture of President Bashar El Assad, who seemed as if overlooking everyone in the airport from his frame. Later on, we would get more familiar with that picture that appears literally everywhere in the city, from the wall of the simplest grocery store to that of the fanciest hotel.


                                                                                                                            We took a sigh of relief after exiting the airport of one of the so-called "Axis-of-Evil" countries, and headed to a hotel booked by one of our friends in Damascus. "Arrive at any place in the country, settle, and give us a call. We will send you a car that will take you to the interview's location," Abu Marzook's assistant had said, insisting on not telling us the exact place where the interview was to be held.

                                                                                                                            About this Interview

                                                                                                                            • Throughout 10 days we recieved more than 100 questions from the readers of IOL's Arabic website and 35 questions from the English site's readers

                                                                                                                            • All questions were categorized, filtered, and asked to the interviewee

                                                                                                                            • The interview lasted for 3 hours

                                                                                                                            • The interview was conducted in Arabic and translated into English

                                                                                                                            • The Arabic version of the same interview is published on IOL's Arabic website
                                                                                                                            The car drove through a very hilly landscape, which added to the adventurous atmosphere of interviewing a Hamas high-ranking figure in exile ? an atmosphere that was enriched with the zealous songs about resistance and martyrdom played in the car.

                                                                                                                            All our possessions were taken at the gate. We expressed our need for the audio recorder and camera. "We will examine them and send them to you."

                                                                                                                            We were guided to a simple but nicely furnished room, with a striking big poster of assassinated Hamas leaders Sheikh Yassin and Abdel Aziz El Rantissi beside a map of historic Palestine. The two late leaders' photos were all over the place.

                                                                                                                            After a short wait, the entrance of our interviewee brought a spirit of warmth into the room. With his dark complexion and bald head, the 57-year-old welcomed us with a smile. His relaxed look and hospitality made us forget, for a short while, his eventful past that included exile, jail, and expulsion.

                                                                                                                            All the stereotypes about a veteran leader in an organization on the US' "terrorist" list, responsible for scores of militant operations against Israelis; someone who had just finished, two days earlier, prisoner swap talks with the generals of Egypt's powerful intelligence body ? all melted upon meeting a simple man, after all … as he entertained us with drinks and fruits, as he spoke seriously with his aides about work, then smoothly shifted with them to down-to-earth jokes.

                                                                                                                            During a three-hour interview, he answered the questions that we delivered from's readers across the globe.

                                                                                                                            About Dr. Mousa Abu Marzook
                                                                                                                            • Born in 1951 in the Palestinian Rafah refugee camp.
                                                                                                                            • Activist in the Islamic Palestinian sphere since year 1968.
                                                                                                                            • Re-organized Hamas after the arrest of most of its members in 1989 by the occupation.
                                                                                                                            • Was elected to be the president of the first political bureau of Hamas in 1992.
                                                                                                                            • Served as vice-chairman of the Political Bureau of Hamas movement since his release in 1997.

                                                                                                                            Hamas as an "Islamic Resistance Movement"

                                                                                                                   (IOL): What does it mean for Hamas to be an "Islamic" resistance movement? What makes it different from other resistance movements? (Questioners: Mohamed Abdi, Ethiopia)

                                                                                                                            Dr. Mousa Abu Marzook: Hamas is an Islamic resistance movement. But why resistance? And why Islamic?

                                                                                                                            It is a resistance movement because the Palestinian people are under occupation, and any national liberation movement has to reflect the reality it is living, in its raison d'être and program.

                                                                                                                            It is a national liberation movement because it works toward liberating the nation from the Israeli occupation, and it's concerned with national causes, like reform and other political issues. Hamas is committed to the Palestinian cause.

                                                                                                                            Hamas is an Islamic movement because its main frame of reference is Islam, and thus its name and program reflect this concept.

                                                                                                                            As to how it differs from other non-Islamic resistance movements, the Palestine question makes Hamas' issue not limited to the geographical area inside Palestine and not limited to Palestinians; it gives Hamas a broader vision that takes into consideration the entire Islamic depth.

                                                                                                                            IOL: What do you mean by Islam being a "frame of reference" for Hamas?

                                                                                                                            Abu Marzook: Hamas' behavior, approach, and membership criteria are all in line with Shari`ah (Islamic Law).

                                                                                                                            Any movement that is not Islamic can have in its program, in a way or another, ideas that are based on unrestricted human reasoning. Human reasoning is present in all movements, but in Hamas' case, it is restricted to what Islam entails.

                                                                                                                            {It is not fitting for a Believer, man or woman, when a matter has been decided by Allah and His Messenger to have any option about their decision.} (Al-Ahzab 33:36)

                                                                                                                            Hamas is different from other Islamic movements, because most Islamic movements have internal reform as their goal. Yes, Hamas's program includes reform issues but its program's backbone is resisting the occupation.

                                                                                                                            Hamas & Shari`ah

                                                                                                                            IOL: Some readers ask why Hamas does not apply Shari`ah in Gaza. Others, especially in the West, speak of the Western world's concerns and fears about the possibility of Hamas applying Shari`ah.

                                                                                                                            (Questioners: Mark Hudgins; Dan Nemrodov, Israel; Fatema Suleman, UK; Siraj Al Aqsa; Mamdouh)

                                                                                                                            Abu Marzook: Many think that Islam is all about hudud (Islam's prescribed penalties), whereas Islam is a comprehensive system. Applying hudud is a very small part of this system.

                                                                                                                            Islam is a way of life that deals with the individual Muslim, family, and society. It also deals with [issues like] the economy. It deals with the individual's relationship with its surroundings and also the relationship between Muslim society and other societies.
                                                                                                                            [As to why Hamas does not apply hudud in Gaza, we notice that] under the rule of `Umar ibn Al-Khattab (second Caliph), Muslims faced a year of famine, during which Al-Khattab suspended the application of theft's prescribed penalty. In this way, one can measure why Hamas is not applying hudud.

                                                                                                                            It is not logical to apply hudud without full public consent, because Islam is for all Muslims, and thus the choice has to be made collectively.
                                                                                                                            In the first place, Hamas doesn't have sovereignty under occupation. It doesn't have sovereignty to enforce hudud or anything else.

                                                                                                                            It is not logical to apply hudud without full public consent, because Islam is for all Muslims, and thus the choice has to be made collectively.

                                                                                                                            No certain group should impose a certain situation neglecting the surrounding circumstances and reality.

                                                                                                                            When Prophet Mohamed (peace and blessings be upon him) first came to Madinah, his main concern was to set up a social contract among all the people of Madinah although Muslims were a minority in Madinah's society; however, he established a social contract that entailed responsibilities for everyone in Madinah. For example, Jews, as well as others in Madinah, had their share of duties and rights in society.

                                                                                                                            Islam's message is universal; it came with mercy to all, not only Muslims. This human mercy entails considering the rights of "the other." That a group is Islamic doesn't mean that it imposes its vision regardless of surrounding circumstances.

                                                                                                                            Hamas & Other Islamist Groups

                                                                                                                            IOL: There are questions about Hamas' relationship with other Islamic groups. Is there coordination between Hamas and other resistance groups in other places in the world? Why is there no clear strategy for dealing with these groups, especially that liberating Palestine is sacred to all Muslims.

                                                                                                                            (Questioner: Shaaban Imam Sayed)

                                                                                                                            Abu Marzook: Currently, we are living in the era of the nation-state. This has been the case since the eighteenth century, with the emergence of nationalist movements in Europe, which enabled each group ? ethnic, religious, or geographically based ? to have its program and its country within its ethnic or geographical boundaries. With the emergence of the nation-state in Europe a lot of centuries-long, bloody struggles have been solved.

                                                                                                                            As stability prevailed in Europe, Europeans started to spread their trend ? of nation-state ? through their domination of some parts of the world. This trend was fragmentary, not of a unifying nature.

                                                                                                                            When Europeans came to our region, Islam was the dominant power with no geographical boundaries or ethnic and sectarian struggles. Society was like one block, with Islam as the main identity that dissolved all differences and boundaries.

                                                                                                                            Occupation then arrived into the Muslim world to spread its principles. Underdevelopment, among other reasons, helped to engrave the division inside the Muslim world. Each ruling group started to defend its boundaries and people, and consolidate the situation by the enforcement of new laws and regulations. Allocation of resources, relations with the other, the style of life ? all were set accordingly.

                                                                                                                            Boundaries became sacred and started to be defended. All of that was the result of historical evolution of the European theory that was reflected on Muslims.

                                                                                                                            Today's reality of disunity and the prevalence of the mentioned nation-state dogma have made it impossible for the people of each Muslim nation to share equal responsibilities toward the Palestinian cause.
                                                                                                                            IOL: But don't you see that this theory is in decline, to some extent, particularly in the region. The role of people ? and resistance movements ? is currently on the rise vis-à-vis the role of the state.

                                                                                                                            Abu Marzook: On the contrary, this theory gets enhanced every day in our region. What you have said is now gaining momentum in Europe.

                                                                                                                            Back to the question, why doesn't the Palestinian cause accommodate all other resistance movements in the Muslim world and why doesn't Hamas engage them in the struggle? Theoretically, Hamas sees the Palestinian cause as an Islamic one that all Muslims have to defend, but at the same time we understand that not all Muslim countries or communities have to be shouldering the same amount of responsibilities towards the Palestinian cause because they may be living under different circumstances.

                                                                                                                            I think that we have to adapt to the reality we are witnessing in order to be able to live up to the Palestinian cause as a Muslim nation. The Zionist movement, on the other hand, is an international movement and is supported by the West, so the Palestinian cause has to be the first priority of the Muslim world.

                                                                                                                            However, today's reality of disunity and the prevalence of the mentioned nation-state dogma have made it impossible for the people of each Muslim nation to share equal responsibilities toward the Palestinian cause.

                                                                                                                            Thus, Hamas, decided to spearhead the resistance, yet only inside Palestine. We agreed to have our resistance and our political work inside our country and welcome all other types of support from those who would like to cooperate with us depending on their own calculations and circumstances.

                                                                                                                            As for our relations with other Islamic groups, we found that normal relations that would be inconsiderable of the political realities those groups are living in inside their countries will be unfeasible. Thus, we decided not to interfere in other countries' internal affairs.

                                                                                                                            IOL: How does Hamas cooperate with other movements in the Muslim world, bearing in mind the latters' agendas?

                                                                                                                            Abu Marzook: Hamas' relationship with all Islamic movements is balanced and satisfactory. We have dealt with all those movements in a responsible way. We have cooperated in what we agreed on and forgave each other for what we are at odds about.

                                                                                                                            We have never sided with any movement against its regime or vice versa.

                                                                                                                            This way, we give a chance to every movement to help us as much as they can.
                                                                                                                            Our main source of support is the peoples of the Muslim world everywhere.
                                                                                                                            We know that the majority of Muslims feel responsible towards the Palestinian cause, whether through prayers, spreading a spirit of hope, or material support.

                                                                                                                            Our main source of support is the peoples of the Muslim world everywhere. Their endless support has made it very hard [for our enemies] to deplete Hamas' financial resources. Muslims worldwide fully understand their duty towards their brothers and sisters in Palestine. This, in turn, helped the movement to remain as strong as it is without any official aid or support for a long time.

                                                                                                                            I can thus assert that if we Palestinians gave out our souls, bodies, and children in defense against the Israeli occupation, we will always find those Muslims who back our side and give us support either by a bullet or by helping our martyrs' families and children. Those Muslims stand by Hamas in its struggle and prove true the theory we are talking about.

                                                                                                                            Hamas has been able to face the siege imposed by the US and Israel.

                                                                                                                            Military Operations: Either Resistance or Politics?

                                                                                                                            IOL: There are some questions concerning Hamas' stance on "martyr operations,” referring to a notable drop in the number of “suicide bombings” that Hamas used to claim responsibility for. Does this reflect a change in Hamas' policy towards these operations, and do you still view such operations as in the interest of resistance?

                                                                                                                            (Questioner: Khaled)

                                                                                                                            Abu Marzook: Undoubtedly, when one takes into consideration the developments of the political course in Palestine, and properly scrutinizes what is happening on the Palestinian arena, one will see that in 1996 and afterwards, compared to the 2006 new reality, there was a wave of martyr operations and other operations. In 2006 the general elections took place, then the new government was formed, and Hamas had to deal with a different political reality.

                                                                                                                            One should look at the issue based on the different circumstances and judge every point in time on its own according to its surrounding conditions.

                                                                                                                            For instance, if we neglected the element of time in judging issues, we would find that the contentment with the partition decision was better than agreeing to Resolution 242, as both options had their own circumstances and conditions then.

                                                                                                                            Hamas was and still is a resistance movement and it will remain to be so. Its primary program is resisting the occupation; this is the backbone of its program. And we firmly believe that nothing would enable us to accomplish any achievements on the Palestinian arena better than the program of resistance.

                                                                                                                            We have two tracks in the political sphere: a settlement track and a resistance track.
                                                                                                                            Hamas sticks to the resistance track. The settlement track achieved successes in the early 90s. These successes faced barriers. Oslo accords had to be implemented in 1996, but negotiations extended to 2000. Even with that, they failed, and were not able to achieve their goals.

                                                                                                                            Al Aqsa Intifada: All Factions Choose Resistance

                                                                                                                            Consequently, this program began to stumble, and the resistance choice started to rise. Resistance has become the choice of all factions including Fatah, which previously adopted the track of settlement. Fatah has played an integral role in the resistance that resurged with the Al-Aqsa Intifada.

                                                                                                                            The Al-Aqsa Intifada resulted in Israel destroying the fundamentals upon which peaceful settlement had been established: The Palestinian Authority (PA) and the presidency.

                                                                                                                            As for the PA, many of the headquarters of the security forces as well as other places were hit. Thus, many security officers aligned themselves to the resistance. Israel also besieged [late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat] Abu Ammar and it started to practically demolish the outcomes of the Oslo Accords. Resistance started to gain momentum. Hamas acquired strong popular support by virtue of its resistance program.

                                                                                                                            This steadfastness in front of the siege is a kind of resistance against the imposition of the Western domination over the Palestinian dominion.
                                                                                                                            The PA became weak, frazzled, and corrupt. Then came the martyrdom of Abu Ammar to bring out new issues on the Palestinian sphere, the most important of which was that Abo Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] was elected and carried out general elections to change the then existing corrupt situation in a way to satisfy the people and undermine Hamas' increasing power.

                                                                                                                            A New Situation for Hamas

                                                                                                                            Hamas found itself in a situation that it wasn't ready or mature enough for, because Hamas was built wholly on a program of resistance. The elections put it in power and consequently it had to deal with this new reality in a new way. It added to its program of resistance a program of reform and administration.

                                                                                                                            Political, social, and economic values were added to the resistance program and this in turn involved a severe complication because there is a kind of contradiction between resistance and governance. Governance seeks stability, while resistance is about instability. Governance seeks imposing security, while resistance seeks confronting the dominant powers, and so on. Hamas then had to deal with both programs with efficiency and creativity.

                                                                                                                            The elections were originally planned to contain Hamas' program, However, Hamas jumped over this containment to become the ruler. Those who pressured for this scheme are the same people who confronted Hamas later. Hamas has resisted US and Israeli plans, as well as the local forces that became part of the plan.

                                                                                                                            Being able to stand against this huge scheme is not less than the kind of resistance people are talking about ? like bombings or martyr operations.

                                                                                                                            A New Phase of Resistance

                                                                                                                            Hamas faced Israel, the US, the PA, Fatah, and some Arab countries. It faced them all with the results of the elections and has endured a lot. This steadfastness in front of the siege is a kind of resistance against the imposition of the Western domination over the Palestinian dominion.

                                                                                                                            That is why many people, including Israeli leaders, are now speaking about their astonishment with Hamas' ability to stand firm, and its ability to endure this siege and massive bombardment.

                                                                                                                            Hamas continues its resistance but in different ways after the Zionist enemy's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the non-existence of any direct clashes between the Israelis and the resistance.

                                                                                                                            Do they want us to accept occupation, subjection, and enslavement?
                                                                                                                            New techniques and new inventions were employed — like the [Qassam] rockets and others. I mean that if you say that there was a phase of car bombs, followed by a phase of martyr operations, now there is a new phase of resistance that is not lesser in importance, though lesser in casualties. But its sociological impact and its impact on sovereignty is more profound than the martyr operations.

                                                                                                                            A martyr operation is about a man who goes and blows himself up in one of Tel Aviv's streets, which at the end does not embarrass the army or the security forces ? whereas a small entity like the Gaza Strip managed to embarrass the state and its army and launch 50 - 60 rockets everyday.

                                                                                                                            Imagine the impact of such diminished sovereignty and lack of security that Hamas has imposed on the South [of Israel] and the strategic area that connects other areas.
                                                                                                                            Day after a day, the rockets get advanced. This made the Israelis seek, for the first time in the history of the conflict a bilateral truce with the Palestinians, after it was the Palestinians who used to seek such truces.

                                                                                                                            Despite the intensity of operations and the big number of killings on the Israeli side in the past, never there were any sort of bilateral ceasefires or truces between the Israelis and the Palestinians. It had always been from one party, the Palestinians.
                                                                                                                            They used to label any operation by the Palestinians an act of terror and thus refuse to negotiate or conclude a deal with Palestinians, but this time the situation is reversed. The basic condition is stopping "military" operations form both parties. This entails a recognition that Hamas' operations are military not terror operations, unlike what had been said in the past.

                                                                                                                            All of this means that the reality that the resistance has imposed on the ground is profound. That is why the issues should be understood according to their historical contexts, not just by comparing one picture to another.

                                                                                                                            The tools of resistance differ according to the circumstances and capabilities.

                                                                                                                            The elections' results were beyond our expectations.
                                                                                                                            IOL: So, you believe that Hamas' participation in elections, and its ascendance to power is a way of resistance, but you think that it was more of a necessity dictated by the circumstances rather than a choice.

                                                                                                                            Some readers believe that Hamas' decision to pursue the path of politics has negatively affected its role as a resistance movement; therefore, it has deeply influenced Hamas' image due to domestic developments. Many people believe that Hamas was well aware that by engaging in politics, the movement was giving up its role as a resistance group ? people believe a choice has to be made, either politics or resistance.

                                                                                                                            Abu Marzook: Resistance itself is part of politics, and we cannot separate the two because at the end of the day violence or resistance are the climax of politics; yet, resistance is a kind of politics that uses bullets as a means of communication.

                                                                                                                            Hamas participated in elections based on a carefully deliberated decision, and with much effort and planning. However, the elections' results were beyond our expectations. We expected to be an influential minority within the Palestinian political system; we did not expect to win 80 out of the 130 seats of the Legislative Council (more than 66 percent).

                                                                                                                            Ascending to power was an obligation more than a choice, because of the number of parliament seats we won. If we had refused to shoulder the responsibility, we would have been blamed for that.

                                                                                                                            Some people raised the question: why did not you maintain your members in the Legislative Council while letting Fatah ? which won 40 seats only ? form the government and be in power?

                                                                                                                            This is a very difficult thing to do because Fatah would have ruled according to its program, and Hamas would have been obliged to approve all the decisions and appointments because it has the majority of parliament seats. Thus, we would have given them all the rights and freedoms while taking the whole responsibility for decisions that are not in line with our program.

                                                                                                                            Moreover, we have succeeded with our electoral program; therefore, it is meaningless to make the failed program rule. After elections, we entered an obligatory tunnel called "forming the Palestinian government". We tried to fulfill our promises to the Palestinian people regarding change and reform, which resulted in the clash with the minority [Fatah] in the Legislative Council and the majority in the country's bureaucratic apparatus, further complicating the situation.

                                                                                                                            Al Qassam Rockets

                                                                                                                            IOL: Some readers, especially Westerners, say that launching rockets at Israel only increases the misery of the Palestinian people. A single rocket can result in the death of five Palestinians due to the Israeli reaction. How wise is Hamas’ policy with regard to rocket attacks, especially that this issue antagonizes the international public opinion — for instance, when Obama visited Israel, he visited an Israeli child who lost his leg as a result of an Al Qassam rocket.

                                                                                                                            (Questioners: Kamalluddin Vahrott, India; ATZ R, student, UK)

                                                                                                                            Abu Marzook: First, all the injured Palestinians were hit by [Israeli] missiles, and if Obama had visited Gaza, he would have found around 1000 Palestinians who lost hands or legs as a result of [Israeli] missile attacks. If they have a single injured child, we have thousands of amputees. In Tulkarm, there is a pregnant woman whose both legs were amputated.

                                                                                                                            Second, rockets are domestically made because Gaza is under a siege, and no one exports advanced weapons, especially Western weapons, to us. Those who criticize the capabilities of our rockets should bring us better ones that can cause more injuries. And those who complain about the targets of our rockets should guide us to a way to make them smart enough to hit military personnel and equipment only.

                                                                                                                            We resist and produce weapons according to our capabilities because we have a very strong will. Those who have sympathy for the Palestinian people should help us develop our capabilities.

                                                                                                                            And if they are not pleased with our methods, they should deal with the cause; let them end the occupation in order for us to stop the rocket attacks.

                                                                                                                            The rockets we launch are an expression of our will to end the occupation and gain freedom. Yet, despite our strong will, we have only modest capabilities. Everyone participates in the production of [Al Qassam] rockets that are produced in kitchens because that is how we can resist occupation.
                                                                                                                            If they have a single injured child, we have thousands of amputees.
                                                                                                                            Do they want us to accept occupation, subjection, and enslavement? If they disagree with the methods we use, let them guide us to the way that can lead us to freedom.

                                                                                                                            They urged us to negotiate, and we have been trying negotiations for 17 years, but to no avail; we have not gained our freedom, but rather the situation has worsened. Our land is eroding and our mosque [Al-Asqa mosque] is about to collapse, and we have no other means to defend ourselves. We have no other means to claim our freedom and get rid of occupation.

                                                                                                                            The Outcome of Rocket Attacks

                                                                                                                            Concerning the outcome of our rocket attacks, I do not think that it is that modest. If our attacks are not influential, why are they asking us to stop them?

                                                                                                                            A real assessment of the impact of our rocket attacks should be done in light of the fact that around 500,000 Israelis are thinking about leaving their homes and they are not willing to settle in the Gaza rocket range.

                                                                                                                            Israelis are worried that our rockets might be developed to the extent that enables them to separate southern [historic] Palestine from northern Palestine. In other words, if they do not hit difficult targets today, they will hit them tomorrow.
                                                                                                                            Those who complain about the targets of our rockets should guide us to a way to make them smart enough to hit military personnel and equipment only.
                                                                                                                            They are incapable of stopping them because ours are blind rockets that do not operate according to scientific standards. So, there is no specific way that they can use to stop them because each rocket is dissimilar from the other. There is no way they can develop weapons that can stop such a variety of rockets, given that their capabilities differ according to the material they are made of.

                                                                                                                            Such a situation wanes the sovereignty of Israel, which has the strongest army in the Middle East. The rocket attacks remind them that we are here and that they have to end their occupation of our land. Our message is that they have to give the Palestinian people their freedom.

                                                                                                                            Jews Under Hamas' Rule?

                                                                                                                            IOL: We received a question from an Israeli reader who has Soviet origins. As an Israeli, he wants to form his opinion about Hamas through the interview with you, Dr. Mousa, not through the media. Assuming that the Zionist state was destroyed and Palestinians returned from their diaspora, what kind of state would Hamas establish? Would you force him and his family to leave, force him together with the other Jews to live under Shari'ah rule, or accept the "democratic one-solution"? Israel, for instance, is considered a liberal, democratic state — at least when it comes to Jews. So, would this change under Hamas' rule?

                                                                                                                            (Questioner: Dan Nemrodov,Israel )

                                                                                                                            Abu Marzook: The logical question that should precede this one is why did Jews come to live in the houses of other people, to cultivate the land of other people, to collect the harvest that they did not cultivate, and live in houses that they did not build? What mistake did Palestinians ? who have been living on that land for thousands of years and who buried their ancestors there ? make to be ousted from their land? Why did Jews do that?

                                                                                                                            Regarding the issue of Jews living among Muslims, the Jews who were living under the Islamic rule were the happiest on earth. Jews were not massacred in the Muslim world like they were massacred in Moscow, Poland, Germany or Spain. People wrongly think that the only holocaust was in Germany; however, the numbers of Jews who were massacred in Poland and Spain are more than the numbers of those who were killed in Germany.

                                                                                                                            Jews lived freely and ran prosperous businesses in Egypt and Baghdad, and the markets of Baghdad are evidences of what the Jews owned.

                                                                                                                            Jews did not face any persecution or mistreatment; rather, sometimes they enjoyed more privileges.

                                                                                                                            Currently the Bahrain representative in the US is a Jew.

                                                                                                                            Islam is different from other religions. There is no religion that accepts the other like Islam. No one can call himself Muslim without believing in Moses and Jesus.

                                                                                                                            Jews who were living under the Islamic rule were the happiest on earth. Jews were not massacred in the Muslim world like they were massacred in Moscow, Poland, Germany or Spain.
                                                                                                                            Thus, Islam understands the other. At the same time, the other denies my existence, my Palestinian identity, and my religion.

                                                                                                                            Concerning the future, what is on the table now is ending the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. We want to live in peace without any sort of occupation or persecution. We want the Israelis to withdraw from the land they occupied in 1967, including Jerusalem and the settlements. That is what we call for now, and what we resist in order to achieve in the meantime.

                                                                                                                            With regard to our rule, there is no doubt that it will be in accordance with our ethics, religious teachings, and historical values.

                                                                                                                            During the Crusades, Saladin did not treat his enemies the way they treated him; rather, he treated them in a [noble] way that the European history still mentions; he allowed them to leave safely, and he did not treat them the way they treated Muslims, who were murdered brutally. They killed [Muslim] women and children to the extent that their horses treaded through Muslim blood.

                                                                                                                            Thus, we do not have a problem when it comes to dealing with the other. We understand and recognize other people's rights, which are part of our belief system and ethics.

                                                                                                                            However, what we cannot accept is giving up our rights. We will continue to defend our rights with all the strength we have until we gain them all. But, at the same time, we will not be unjust to anyone, and we will not take what is not ours.

                                                                                                                            Democratic One-State Solution

                                                                                                                            IOL: What is Hamas’ view on the democratic one-state solution?

                                                                                                                            (Questioners: Isma’il Kushkush, Sudan; Dan Nemrodov, Israel)

                                                                                                                            Abu Marzook: Several solutions were suggested at different stages of the Arab-Israeli conflict, including the democratic one-state solution.

                                                                                                                            The one-state solution has been proposed recently after the failure of the two-state solution, or the impossibility of its implementation. It was introduced in the early 1970s under different names, such as the "democratic country" and the "equal-rights country".

                                                                                                                            This option was dropped from the agenda of the [Israeli] nationalist movement when it was introduced at that time because it was considered ? per se ? a failure for the Zionist movement. The Zionist movement struggled for one century to establish a Hebrew state.

                                                                                                                            The one-state solution can be applied in two ways, and both of them contradict the Zionist theory.
                                                                                                                            The one-state solution choice is also not appealing for Israelis because the state will not be Jewish.
                                                                                                                            The first way is establishing a state that belongs to all of its citizens, i.e. granting equal rights to all citizens. This option invalidates the concept of a Jewish state, and it will make it like any other country. Why would Jews then choose to live in such a state as a minority? Normally, they would prefer to live in any European country.

                                                                                                                            The other way is establishing a country that has a multi-ethnic composition, and that grants some sort of autonomous status to the different groups. In this context, every ethnic or religious group can have its own cultural, educational, and economic identity. So, Jews will preserve their cultural identity, have their own educational system, and – in a way – their legal system. And the same goes for other ethnic groups. However, this choice is not also appealing for Israelis because the state will not be Jewish. Why would Israelis accept not to be the dominant group?

                                                                                                                            Israelis are talking now about an Israeli state that does not even accommodate the Palestinian minority. How can an Israeli state accommodate this vast number of Palestinians, even if they are only in the West Bank and Gaza Strip? There would be a balance [between the number of Palestinians and Israelis] in historic Palestine, i.e. there would be five million Palestinians and five million Israelis. So, why then would they accept the one-state solution while they are the dominant power and are the ones who decide on their own what to do in most issues in the region, cashing in on the US-European support for their side.

                                                                                                                            Thus, I believe this solution is rejected on both the theoretical and practical levels by Israelis, and the Zionist movement.

                                                                                                                            If we are speaking about change by force, the issue will then not be a struggle of ideas, but rather a power struggle that depends on the balance of power. The party with greater power will impose the solution it prefers, which is the case now.

                                                                                                                            Concerning the two-state solution ? which involves the existence of an Israeli and Palestinian states side by side ? it is very obvious that it is not viable, and this is the reason why the one-state solution was introduced in the first place.

                                                                                                                            Hamas believes that the one-state solution is almost impossible because it does not fulfill the wishes, ambitions, and rights of the Palestinian people. On the other hand, Israelis are deeply concerned about this solution being the very antithesis of the Zionist ideology.

                                                                                                                            Palestinians believe that this land will [eventually] return to them, without partners; Israelis too believe that this land is theirs, without partners.

                                                                                                                            Then again, if this solution gets practically proposed

                                                                                                                            The nature of the conflict makes it difficult to come up with a solution. The conflict is extremely complicated, and I believe that all the proposed solutions are not up to its level of complication.

                                                                                                                            Recognizing Israel

                                                                                                                            IOL: Ahmed from the UK: Would Hamas recognize Israel after it withdraws to the 1967 borders?

                                                                                                                            (Questioner: Abdulkadir Jam)

                                                                                                                            Abu Marzook: No, we will not recognize Israel whether it withdraws or not.

                                                                                                                            We are talking now about a solution [withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders] that spares the current generations the vicious cycle of violence. However, this does not mean giving up our right to the rest of Palestine. There are millions of refugees who are waiting to return back home. Neither Hamas, nor any other group has the right to give up the rights of those people.

                                                                                                                            Final Solution

                                                                                                                            IOL: What is your vision for the conflict's resolution? You mentioned the solution in the short run; what about the long-run, final solution?

                                                                                                                            Abu Marzook: The solution currently accepted by Hamas is temporary: Truce between the two sides; Israel's complete pullout from all of the West Bank and Gaza; and the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.

                                                                                                                            Now the truce is in effect — but without a recognition of Israel.

                                                                                                                            This solution does not guarantee Palestinians' rights. It's not a complete or just solution. For a solution to be final, it has to be just. Justice entails that all the Palestinian people return to their lands and restore their properties.

                                                                                                                            As long as this solution is currently not possible, we are accepting a temporary solution for the time being.

                                                                                                                            Israel or the "Zionist Entity"?
                                                                                                                            Israel does exist in the region, and no one can say it doesn’t exist, but the problem is that it doesn’t have the right to, and we don’t recognize Israel’s right in Palestine.
                                                                                                                            IOL: A Palestinian questioner who works in the media asks: Many of Hamas leaders use the words “Israel” and “the Israeli side”. Is this a sort of formal recognition?

                                                                                                                            Are terms like "Israel" and the "Israeli side"… some kind of verbal recognition of the Zionist entity? Or is it an attempt to appeal to the Western world? Or maybe there’s a difference between Hamas’ recognition of Israel’s real existence and right to exist? Are the concepts of "Zionist entity" and the "Zionist enemy" no longer in Hamas' dictionary?

                                                                                                                            (Questioner: A Palestinian who works in the media)

                                                                                                                            Abu Marzook: Mentioning a term doesn’t necessarily mean you are convinced with it and is not indicative as to whether you believe in it or not.

                                                                                                                            Concerning legal and real recognition, Israel does exist in the region, and no one can say it doesn’t exist, but the problem is that it doesn’t have the right to, and we don’t recognize Israel’s right in Palestine.

                                                                                                                            [Israel entertains de facto existence,] but to recognize its right to co-exist within secure and stable borders, is the question. We are not dealing with ghosts, but with a reality, the most indispensable reality in the region: military and scientific power, good governance and transparency. We must first recognize [all of] this and then say that Israel does not have the right to seize other people's land and expel a whole nation.

                                                                                                                            Hamas-Fatah Relations: Torture in Prisons?

                                                                                                                            IOL: IOL Reader Bilal Salameh asks: “On the 28 July, Al-Haq (the Palestinian Human Rights Group) issued a report slamming both Hamas and Fatah for political arrests, torture and cruel treatment. It also mentioned that at least 3 detainees have been killed in Gaza under the jurisdiction of Hamas and one in the West Bank under the jurisdiction of Fatah. As Palestinians, we always bring up the issue of torture and prisoners in Israeli jails, why are we letting this happen? What are you, in Hamas, going to do about these accussations? You must do inquiries into all deaths and reports of abuse in Gaza and then publish these to the world, because I find it hard to beleive that Al-Qassam Brigades would torture and be cruel to detainees, what are your thoughts?”

                                                                                                                            (Questioner: Bilal Salameh)

                                                                                                                            Abu Marzook: Torture is without doubt unacceptable by all means, and we can not defend one single act of torture, and if that happened, it's intolerable. We also don't accept political arrests that are not justified. Also human rights violations, under whatever pretexts, are rejected.

                                                                                                                            Man is honored by Allah Almighty and posed in a lofty status.

                                                                                                                            Regarding the three [detainees that claimed to have been killed in Gaza], they were not die of torture, as the report said, even if they did die inside prison. Two of them were severely ill, even before they were handed to the authorities in Gaza. And the third didn't survive a medical surgery. But in the West Bank, Hamas' Sheikh Barghouti, he was tortured to death, and the media showed the signs of torture on his body; this was also testified by the doctors.

                                                                                                                            At the end, torture cannot be justified for neither side. There will be severe punishment for anyone proved guilty of such acts.

                                                                                                                            Previously, we asked all international and local [watchdog] organizations to visit prisons to check for any case of detention for political reasons. [That's what we do in Gaza] but this is not the case in the West Bank. Then again, the picture is not rosy in Gaza, as there are mistakes that should be handled. We will not stand by any unacceptable mistake in the Gaza Strip.

                                                                                                                            Prisoner Swap & Egypt's Mediation
                                                                                                                            Hamas decided to keep details of the prisoners' swap deal away from the media.
                                                                                                                            IOL: Does Hamas Plan to withdraw the prisoners file from Egypt. And why Egypt is not moving forward with this file and what the benefits do you get from keeping it in the hands of Egypt's mediators despite the fact that Egypt has not achieved any progress for a long time in this regard?

                                                                                                                            (Questioners: Mohammed Abdallah Aljazaeri; Watheq Maali )

                                                                                                                            Abu Marzook: In the latest talks in the past three days (Jul 29 – Aug 1), this issue was widely discussed.

                                                                                                                            These questions were made to the Egyptian side in different ways; some were made through Hamas' representatives, the others through the masses ― because these are logical questions.

                                                                                                                            We receive many questions in this regard: If this issue hasn't been resolved for a long time, being in the hand of the Egyptian mediator, so why wouldn't it be handed to other mediators? Frankly, a big number of countries have contacted Hamas ― Arab, Muslim, and European countries ― all proposing to mediate in the issue of Shalit and the Palestinian prisoners.

                                                                                                                            How Hamas evaluates the Egyptian mediation: Without doubt, there is a kind of lack of achievement and a prolongation in the period spent [in the process]. But the movement's decision for this issue is to continue to be with Egypt as a mediator. Although our assessment is that it has taken a prolonged time Egypt's hands, but our decision is to keep it in the Egyptian hands.

                                                                                                                            Now it is Israel that is looking for an alternative and is urging other sides so that they come and speak about it. Those who moved the most in this direction are the British. The British got involved in mediation, but it achieved no results.

                                                                                                                            Anyway, we believe that ― for several reasons, related to the nature of the issue; Egypt and its role; the overlapping of other issues [with Egypt] like the border crossing with the imprisonment of the soldier ― the issue should continue to be mediated by Egypt. And we have told the Egyptians so, pointing out that we have a vision about the mechanism that should be adopted or how the issue should move forward. And I believe that in the coming days talks on the prisoners issue will go on.

                                                                                                                            At the same time, this issue has reflections and implications on a big number of prisoners and their families. As you know, the number of Palestinian prisoners is now reaching 12 thousands, 95% of whom are from the West Bank, so you are speaking about 11400 prisoners from the West Bank: 11400 families from the West Bank. So this number comprises all people's strata and Palestinian people in the West Bank.

                                                                                                                            Talking about this [prisoners] issue, really provokes emotions and sorrow and questions, etc.

                                                                                                                            Thus, at the same time Hamas decided to keep the issue in Egyptians' hands, it also decided to keep its details away from the media.

                                                                                                                            I believe that in sha’ Allah (Allah willing) there will be a swap soon, because we have been working toward getting the issue over with as long as the other side works in the same direction too.

                                                                                                                            Axis of Evil? Syria, Iran
                                                                                                                            The relations of friendship and animosity should not be determined according to the US compass.
                                                                                                                            IOL: Syria is getting out of the axis of "Reluctance" countries (countries that opposed peaceful settlement with Israel in the late 70s) and is now talking about the expulsion of Hamas from Syria to Beirut's Southern District. Is this true?

                                                                                                                            (Questioner: Mamdouh)

                                                                                                                            Abu Marzook: This is an old term, as far as I know, that was used in the late 70s, after the Camp David accord between Egypt and Israel, and included a number of Arab countries, like Iraq, Syria, Algeria, and Libya and many other countries that opposed peace with Israel.
                                                                                                                            There are [various] terms like this that came out in the political sphere for a certain time and then disappeared.

                                                                                                                            Without doubt, we don't support negotiations or peace deals between any country and Israel, be it Syria or any other country. We are with resistance and confrontation until Palestinian and Arab rights are restored; this is because we know the nature of the Zionist enemy and its project, and how it should be dealt with. So we are fully for resistance, either at the level of countries or movements, like Hamas.

                                                                                                                            We are assured about the Syrian stance and that it's not like how the respected questioner has put it [that Syria would expel Hamas from its lands]. And we are sure that such indirect negotiations do not reach results,

                                                                                                                            Israel puts for example certain conditions in return for their pullout from the Golan Heights, and they will reach no where with such conditions.

                                                                                                                            We also know well the Syrian goals from this dialogue in the end, and Syria knows well to where the talks are heading and how. So we are not worried neither about the Syrian stance nor its future course of actions.

                                                                                                                            As to the assumption [of the questioner], it might have been valid during the Syrian troops presence in Lebanon, as Syria was able to put whom it wants in Lebanon's Southern District, but now, in light of the apparent diplomatic relations between Syria and Lebanon, Syria can't settle any people neither in the Southern District nor anywhere else.
                                                                                                                            Hamas should not be blamed for its relationship with Iran as much as the other Arab and non-Arab countries should be blamed for their negative attitude towards Hamas.
                                                                                                                            IOL: What is the relationship between Hamas and Iran, especially in light of the recently increasing Shiite domination seen by some critics of Iran?

                                                                                                                            (Questioner: Abu Omar)

                                                                                                                            Abu Marzook: Without doubt, we would like our relationships with all countries to become similar to our relationship with Iran.

                                                                                                                            Iran's political stance is the closest to Hamas'; it's almost identical to our stance.
                                                                                                                            We work towards making the stances of all Arab and non-Arab countries close or identical to Hamas' stances, which would get us closer to achieving our goals and attaining the rights of the Palestinian people.

                                                                                                                            We are grateful to Iran for its policies and positions that support the Hamas movement and the Palestinian people. Iran is a supporter that helps us maintain the Palestine cause in the right direction and protect our national rights.

                                                                                                                            Hamas should not be blamed for its relationship with Iran as much as the other Arab and non-Arab countries should be blamed for their negative attitude towards Hamas. Other countries' relationships with Hamas should be as strong as that of Iran, if not stronger.

                                                                                                                            With Regards to evoking the sectarian issue, I think mixing up the sectarian issue with Hamas' relationship with Iran is not innocent ― this is a confusion that was not there during the Shah's reign in Iran, when Iran was allied to Israel, with all Israel's oil coming from Iran. There was a flourishing trade relationship, and an active Israeli embassy in Iran. Back then Shiism was never brought up as an issue.

                                                                                                                            It is Iran's revolution that raised the slogan of Islam and handed the Israeli embassy to the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), cutting ties with Israel and considering it an enemy, or even a cancerous gland that should be removed, that's why the sectarian issue is raised against it.

                                                                                                                            Is this spontaneous? Or it is meant to isolate Iran's progressive political position towards Palestine from the Arab and Islamic sphere? Definitely, bringing up the sectarian issue is not in good faith.

                                                                                                                            And now, there is an American and European pressure on all Arab countries to normalize relations with Israel, and to impose a peaceful solution between Israel and the Palestinians and between Israel and the Arab countries. Meanwhile, the US and Europe suggest to these countries that Iran is the enemy for different reasons. So now, because we are Sunnis we should show enmity towards the Shiites? Has Israel become a Sunni country that we should deal with and make peace with. The whole sectarian issue is questionable and serves only the interests of Israel.

                                                                                                                            The Arab hostility should not be directed at Iran. It should remain directed at Israel.
                                                                                                                            Iran adopts the religious sect of Twelver Shiism, which will not change into Sunnism. And we Sunnis won't convert to Twelver Shiism. The relations of friendship and animosity should not be determined according to the US compass.

                                                                                                                            If Iran had been Shaffite (one of four main Islamic Schools of Thought) and we were Hanbalis (another Islamic school of thought), the sectarian issue would still have been raised, for political reasons indeed, and not for sectarian or religion-based reasons.
                                                                                                                            The US plays the sectarian card the same way it has done in Iraq to divide the country so that it becomes the dominant power.

                                                                                                                            Without doubt, Iran has its own goals that serve its interests in the region, but it has its legitimate project, and this is its right. The blame should be laid on other countries. Why don't the Arab countries do the same to achieve their interests?

                                                                                                                            Yes, Iran is an ally to Hamas. And our common political and strategic positions have strengthened this alliance.

                                                                                                                            IOL: However, for Western readers, the media demonizes Iran and depicts it as a nuclear monster. They are concerned about this issue. So, why does Hamas ally itself to this western-portrayed "Iranian nuclear devil"?

                                                                                                                            Abu Marzook: So far, Iran's nuclear program has been going on within in a legal context and with the permits of the international system.

                                                                                                                            The problem, in fact, is not about Iran's nuclear project. The problem is that the West doesn't want Iran to possess nuclear technology ― whereas the international law states that all countries have the right to possess technology and mechanisms for peaceful use of nuclear energy. Accordingly, there are more than 14 countries that utilize these rights and have reached what Iran has reached; they include Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, and a number of other countries.

                                                                                                                            Why is it only Iran that is denied this right?

                                                                                                                            There is a Western decision to veto Iran's right, which is granted by the international law. We acknowledge that moving from a peaceful use of nuclear technology to a military one is in the end a political decision. But at the same time, we can't say that dealing with those who make such decisions is up to the US and Israel. Israel is afraid of the presence of another nuclear power in the region, which would end its monopoly over this field.

                                                                                                                            I know that there are worries with Iran's appropriation of nuclear technology and ability which would give it a great weight in the region, but this is its right, and other countries too have to seek the same right.

                                                                                                                            Why don't Egypt and Saudi Arabia, for example, do a joint nuclear program? They have the financial, scientific, and practical abilities to start such a program. Why not Turkey? eventually, the main source of energy in the near future as well as the economic hegemony will be in the hands of those who acquire this technology. So the question remains, why should we lag behind?

                                                                                                                            Yet, when it comes to the nuclear armament; I believe that this weapon will be neutralized internationally because if it spreads, it will be a factor of mutual deterrence, thus it won't be used. I think that these nuclear fears are overstated.

                                                                                                                            Hamas & the Media

                                                                                                                            If there is a Western bias, and the media power is within the hands of the biased side, so what can you expect but a biased image against Hamas?
                                                                                                                            IOL: There are many questions raised by readers in the West on the reason why Hamas doesn’t use the media platforms and public relations techniques to deliver the right picture about itself to the international community in order to gain their solidarity and sympathy?

                                                                                                                            ( Questioners: Jil Davis; Akram Raouf;Ahmed Siraj, Malaysia )

                                                                                                                            Abu Marzook: It is known that Israel has wide support in the West. There is a clear bias toward Israel, at least at the official level, if not also at the popular level. Also, in one way or the other, the West has a bigger influence on the East — Africa and Asia — which makes the Western perspective more authoritative.

                                                                                                                            The second main factor is the influence of the mainstream media. Most of the influential media organizations that report and analyze incidents are Western-controlled; the Zionist movement owns the biggest share of these organizations. The two biggest media organizations in the world are owned by Jews.

                                                                                                                            This makes it clear that there is bias in dealing with the conflict. If there is a Western bias, and the media power is within the hands of the biased side, so what can you expect but a biased image against Hamas?

                                                                                                                            The third reason is Hamas' presence on the terrorist-organizations list, which has limited Hamas' chance to deal with the Western world openly or officially
                                                                                                                            This has denied Hamas the chance to exist and influence the US and the West or have positive and official — or even unofficial — relationships with the Western organizations, or effectively reach their media. All of this has weakened Hamas' communication with the West.

                                                                                                                            Another point is that the regional strategy of dealing with Hamas. I think Hamas would have had a better position in the media and better relationships if the region — especially the Arab countries — had not been for the settlement, which is a strategically different attitude from that of Hamas regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict.

                                                                                                                            That's to say, if the conflict had been going on without the strategy of peace or imposed settlement, the media would have been fairer and more helpful to Hamas' agenda, which is the agenda of resistance.

                                                                                                                            All these aspects have made it difficult for Hamas to have a better position in the media that so many people look forward to.
                                                                                                                            If the Israeli child was hit by a Qassam rocket, Palestinian children are also hit by Israeli missiles.
                                                                                                                            IOL: Editors in Western media organizations say that, for example, when one Israeli and 10 Palestinians get killed in any clash, they receive huge numbers of emails and press releases from different Israeli organizations informing them of the killing of this Israeli. On the other hand they receive nothing from the Palestinian side. So they publish what they are informed about.

                                                                                                                            Abu Marzook: When I lived the United States, I took part in establishing a number of political bodies, [which should have been doing the job you mentioned in your question], but what happened is that they were officially rejected and their press releases were widely condemned and rejected; and even legal actions were taken against the statements we used to release. Our speeches or statements were unfairly dealt with. So, the official governmental stance was unfair.

                                                                                                                            Second, the Western organizations are also unfair toward the Palestine cause.

                                                                                                                            Take for example the Reuters news agency.

                                                                                                                            When you check the political terminology that Reuters uses in dealing with the Arab-Israeli conflict, you find that [for example] they use the term "suicide bombing" instead of "martyr operation."

                                                                                                                            The second problem is with their correspondents' work. Correspondents cover news in a biased way. They rely on Israeli then Palestinian sources, which results in a biased coverage. So, for example, they focus of that Israeli child who lost his leg [in Sderot] and ignore tens and hundreds of Palestinian children with torn limps in Gaza. And the situation is the same: If the Israeli child was hit by a Qassam rocket, Palestinian children are also hit by Israeli missilies.

                                                                                                                            Decline in US Power?
                                                                                                                            The failure of the American policy does not mean it does not exist or that its competitors have succeeded.
                                                                                                                            IOL: In the light of the apparent decline of the US power and global political and economic hegemony, is the Palestinian cause then expected to gain momentum in the near future, especially that the US is the main supporter for Israel?

                                                                                                                            (Questioner: Ishtar )

                                                                                                                            Abu Marzook: First, there is no real decline in the US economic power to the extent that people think. The US is still number one economically, exceeding the second-ranking country with a substantial margin. And if you are speaking about the debts, it is mostly a deficit in the balance of payment and bonds, which is not hard to settle.

                                                                                                                            While if you mean the US military power, the current budget allocated to the military is almost half of what the whole world combined spends on defense. Scientific research is also a factor that places the US ahead of all other countries.

                                                                                                                            Thus, it is power ― be it military, economic, scientific, or even developmental and cultural ― that places the US far ahead any competing country. However, that does not mean that the American policy is to be successful in every field; we have to understand that its failure does not mean it does not exist or that its competitors have succeeded.

                                                                                                                            We can say is that Hamas made the American policy fail in Palestine but at the same time the former was not able to implement what it sees suitable in Palestine. The [Iraqi] resistance was able to hinder the US from attaining its goals in Iraq; yet, the resistance was not able to achieve its goals in the country either. The same applies in all other causes.

                                                                                                                            I believe that what we claim as our victories in the Middle East is our ability to hinder the US from accomplishing its goals in the region, despite its giant power and capabilities.

                                                                                                                            Messages From Hamas

                                                                                                                            IOL: What are the shortest sentence that you would tell to: Abu-Mazin, Arab leaders, Israel, and the US Congress?

                                                                                                                            (Questioner: Sofian Gobran )

                                                                                                                            Abu Marzook: To [Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas] Abu Mazin I say: Betting on your people is the way to salvation.

                                                                                                                            To Arab leaders: The Palestinian cause will remain the main bid that holds the future of the region's stability.

                                                                                                                            To Israel: No matter how big the hopes for the present are, the future of peoples does not get determined by present facts nor is it shaped by agreements and the balance of power; rather, the right of the Palestinian people will be achieved, and there is no other option.

                                                                                                                            To the US Congress: {Such days (of varying fortunes.} Aal `Imran 3:140. And the strong does not stay strong forever, nor does the weak stay as such. Justice and fairness should be the guarantee that makes one people better than the other.

                                                                                                                            Muslim Affairs Team: Abdelrahman Rashdan, Amat el Rauf Tawfik, Amr Elshazli, Dina Abdel-Mageed, Hany Ramadan, Omar Ghanem, and Rana Menshawi. Arwa Mahmoud and Sara Khorshid conducted the interview in Syria.

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                                                                                                                              War Powers Act

                                                                                                                              English (US)  August 30th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                              Public Law 93-148
                                                                                                                              93rd Congress, H. J. Res. 542
                                                                                                                              November 7, 1973
                                                                                                                              Joint Resolution

                                                                                                                              Concerning the war powers of Congress and the President.

                                                                                                                              Resolved by the Senate and the House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

                                                                                                                              SHORT TITLE

                                                                                                                              SECTION 1.
                                                                                                                              This joint resolution may be cited as the "War Powers Resolution".

                                                                                                                              PURPOSE AND POLICY

                                                                                                                              SEC. 2.
                                                                                                                              (a) It is the purpose of this joint resolution to fulfill the intent of the framers of the Constitution of the United States and insure that the collective judgement of both the Congress and the President will apply to the introduction of United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicate by the circumstances, and to the continued use of such forces in hostilities or in such situations.
                                                                                                                              (b) Under article I, section 8, of the Constitution, it is specifically provided that the Congress shall have the power to make all laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution, not only its own powers but also all otherpowers vested by the Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.
                                                                                                                              (c) The constitutional powers of the President as Commander-in-Chief to introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, are exercised only pursuant to (1) a declaration of war, (2) specific statutory authorization, or (3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.



                                                                                                                              SEC. 3.
                                                                                                                              The President in every possible instance shall consult with Congress before introducing United States Armed Forces into hostilities or into situation where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, and after every such introduction shall consult regularly with the Congress until United States Armed Forces are no longer engaged in hostilities or have been removed from such situations.


                                                                                                                              Sec. 4.
                                                                                                                              (a) In the absence of a declaration of war, in any case in which United States Armed Forces are introduced--
                                                                                                                              (1) into hostilities or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances;
                                                                                                                              (2) into the territory, airspace or waters of a foreign nation, while equipped for combat, except for deployments which relate solely to supply, replacement, repair, or training of such forces; or
                                                                                                                              (3) in numbers which substantially enlarge United States Armed Forces equipped for combat already located in a foreign nation; the president shall submit within 48 hours to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and to the President pro tempore of the Senate a report, in writing, setting forth--
                                                                                                                              (A) the circumstances necessitating the introduction of United States Armed Force