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Dr. Ilan Pappe. (Nir Kafri, Ha'aretz)

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Memorial to 418 Palestinian Villages Which Were Destroyed, Depopulated and Occupied by Israel in 1948, by Emily Jacir, Refugee tent and embroidery thread, 138 The Answers Have Changed
By Miko Peled, Electronic Intifada 1/29/2007

     It is said of Albert Einstein that he gave a particular exam to a class that had already been given that exam. Alarmed at what he saw and thinking it to be the result of the professor’s absent-mindedness, an assistant warned Einstein of what he was about to do. The Professor just smiled and said: It’s alright the answers have changed. The same thing goes for the Israeli Palestinian conflict, the questions remain the same but now sixty years after the establishment of the Jewish State, the answers have changed.
     Until about ten years ago the answer to the question of how to achieve a lasting peace in the Middle East was clear: Allowing the Palestinians to establish a free, independent state in the West Bank and Gaza, alongside Israel. But this answer known as the "Two State Solution" belongs to a reality that no longer exists. Today, after 40 years of occupation the West Bank is riddled with settlements and highways designated for Jews only; Palestinians in the West bank and Gaza are imprisoned within a wall, impoverished and starved and there is no political will within Israel to partition the land of Israel and allow Palestinian independence -- all of which indicate that clearly the answers have changed.
     So what is the answer to this very difficult question? Ten million people reside between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Approximately 5.5 million Jewish Israelis and 4.5 million Palestinians, all ruled by the state of Israel, the Jewish State. The conditions under which Palestinians live range between being third class citizens within Israel, and living under a military occupation with no representation, no human rights and no civil rights. Clearly this cannot go on forever and at some point Israel will be forced to grant the Palestinians equal rights. What remains to be seen is whether this will come as a result of intense violence and bloodshed or a negotiated agreement.
     Two books that have come out in recent months are relevant to this conflict and both of them demonstrate that there is a tremendous amount of change in the air. The first book that has received a great deal of attention is Palestine, Peace Not Apartheid by former US President and staunch Israel supporter, Jimmy Carter. This book has opened the door for the first time for a serious debate in the US regarding the Palestinian tragedy. In a development that is almost unparalleled, a former US President characterizes Israeli rule in the West Bank and Gaza as apartheid. Since the book came out the debate has indeed been intense and there are no signs that this will change any time soon. more..

A Civilized and Sophisticated Argument
By Ghassan Khatib, MIFTAH 1/30/2007

     The recent publication of the "Future vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel" by leaders of the Palestinian community in Israel is not a unique incident in the history of the relations between that community and the state of Israel.
     Since the creation of Israel, there has been serious tension between successive Israeli government and Zionist political parties on the one hand and the leading personalities and political parties that represent the Palestinian citizens of Israel on the other. This tension arises from the unresolved status of the Palestinian community.
     The Jewish inhabitants of Palestine were for a long time a growing minority in this land. It had been growing for a mixture of political and ideological reasons, with the Zionist movement encouraging Jews to come to Palestine to create a homeland here. Two things radically changed that demographic reality in the middle of the last century.
     First, there was the massive Jewish immigration from Europe as a result of the tragedy that faced Jews there. That was aided by the subsequent readiness of European governments to compensate Jews for the Nazi crimes against them by encouraging the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine.
     Second, there was the forced expulsion of 800,000 Palestinians to neighboring Arab countries by Zionist organizations.
     Combined, these two factors created on the one hand the main underlying problem of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the Palestinian refugee issue, and on the other, a Jewish majority in the part of historical Palestine where Israel declared its independent state. more..

Abbas: Far from ’the right and moral point’
By Rima Merriman, Electronic Intifada 1/30/2007

     At the Davos World Economic Forum recently, the Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas accurately summarized the terrible state of the Palestinians in the occupied territories, the economic siege and resulting deprivation inflicted upon them, the segmentation, the Israeli theft of Palestinian land and resources, and the daily humiliations they must endure.
     Nevertheless, he avowed that he was optimistic, based, apparently, on the strength of his last meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister: "I have recently had a good conference with Israeli Prime Minister Olmert, during which we talked very frankly about several issues, and it was agreed that Israel will carry on certain procedures that will alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people."
     It’s really hard to understand the source of Abbas’s expressed optimism. He has no power whatsoever to achieve anything in his present capacity without, in his words, "a behind-the-scenes international conduit", which is not even on the horizon.
     But the most telling factor that evokes skepticism in Abbas’s optimism is his implicit acceptance of the spurious Israeli point of view regarding the reasons behind the stalling of progress in the peace process these past many years (Palestinian terrorism). Also appaling is his misreading of Israeli’s new administrative procedures as signs of good intentions, when they are clearly and simply meant to entrench and streamline the occupation by providing such mundane things as special privileges to some and special permits to others. more..

Abbas at Davos / Incapable of effecting change
By Danny Rubinstein, Ha’aretz 1/29/2007

     Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ speech to the World Economic Forum in Davos during the weekend was first and foremost one of despair. He presented numbers: 79 percent of the residents of the Gaza Strip live below the poverty line. Annual per capita income in the Strip is less than $800 a person, as opposed to nearly $20,000 in Israel. Restrictions on travel, destruction of infrastructure, fragmentation of the Palestinian territories, 10,000 prisoners in Israeli jails and a Palestinian economy in thrall to Israel, were all listed as causes of the present misery.
     How should the Palestinians extricate themselves from this situation? Abbas said at Davos that if a unity government does not emerge in the Palestinian Authority in two or three weeks, he would call early elections for the presidency and the parliament. He has presented this ultimatum to Hamas at least three times in recent months. Nothing happened. Now it makes no impression on his adversaries in the Gaza Strip, who have turned its streets into a battlefield.
     With the central government in Gaza crumbling, its place is being taken by local and tribal militias, Ghassan al-Khatib, former PA minister of planning said.
     The truth is that Abbas cannot do much. At Davos he reiterated his plan for ending the conflict: establishing a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders including East Jerusalem, and solving the problem of the refugees through UN Resolution 194. more..

Iraq: Jordan Becomes a Doubtful Refuge
By Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily, Inter Press Service 1/29/2007

     AMMAN, Jan 29 (IPS) - Hundreds of thousands have fled the violence in Iraq to seek refuge in Jordan, but refugees are now beginning to find its borders closing.
     Jordan and Syria are the only two countries where fleeing Iraqis can hope to find shelter. Western countries have shut their doors to Iraqi nationals - even to refugees.
     And now much the same is happening with Jordan too.
     "I had major eye surgery in Jordan, but my doctor told me it failed and so I need to have it re-operated," Ahmad Khalaf of Saqlawiya, 62 km west of Baghdad told IPS. "I arrived at the Iraqi-Jordanian crossing point with my medical reports and a letter from the hospital in Jordan demanding my arrival in Amman on a certain date in order to remedy the damage of the previous operation."
     Khalaf found what tens of thousands of Iraqis are now finding when they attempt to enter Jordan. "The Jordanian boarder authorities turned me back without telling me why, leaving me to face the unknown."
     The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that 100,000 Iraqis are fleeing the country every month. UNHCR estimates that approximately 700,000 Iraqis are currently living in Jordan and another 600,000 in Syria -- although many experts believe the real numbers are higher, given the numbers leaving every month.
     The UNHCR estimates also that there are more than 1.5 million internally displaced people within Iraq itself. more..

The Façade of the Israeli Cease-fire
By Danny Felsteiner, Electronic Intifada 1/30/2007

     This morning I opened the Haaretz Internet website to read the following headline: “Olmert decided: we will retain cease-fire; IDF has bombed a tunnel in northern Gaza Strip.” An inevitable coffee stain appeared on my shirt.
     Although this headline screams absurdity, it constitutes the essence of Israel’s propaganda, and many an Israeli will not find it ambivalent. I have to admit that a year ago, I would have found it reasonable as well. The logic is simple: army officials say that the IDF has a perpetual green light to operate against terrorist groups on their way to commit their suicidal operations inside Israel. If it means the death of civilians, the destruction of homes or the arrest of innocent, then naturally it is the Hamas government to blame for not taking preemptive measures and therefore violating the truce.
     So what does cease-fire truly mean for us Israelis? If it means the suspension of all active hostilities in order to allow the opponents to discuss peace terms, then in the current state of affairs, his definition seems ridiculous. While the Palestinian offensive obviously translates into terror attacks, the Israeli military agenda is never portrayed as offensive, but as defensive measures to keep Israel safe and sound. The same Israeli truism was used during the second Lebanon war. And although twenty-seven times more Lebanese civilians were killed than Israelis during the war and four times more Palestinians since September 2000, Israel does not consider itself hostile. On the contrary, it is continuously brainwashing us, its citizens, that we are under existential danger and that the IDF must regain its military dominance and deterrence in the region as if we were the weak, as if we were the oppressed, as if we were under constant threat.
     Therefore, a cease-fire from the Israeli side does not really exist, because Israel is never on the offensive and naturally cannot violate the right to defend itself. more..

Israeli Realism on Iran Belies Threat Rhetoric
By Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service 1/30/2007

     WASHINGTON, Jan 30 (IPS) - When Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert declared last week at the Herzliya conference that Israel could not risk another "existential threat" such as the Nazi holocaust, he was repeating what has become the dominant theme in Israel’s campaign against Iran -- that it cannot tolerate an Iran with the technology that could be used to make nuclear weapons, because Iran is fanatically committed to the physical destruction of Israel.
     The internal assessment by the Israeli national security apparatus of the Iranian threat, however, is more realistic than the government’s public rhetoric would indicate.
     Since Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to power in August 2005, Israel has effectively exploited his image as someone who is particularly fanatical about destroying Israel to develop the theme of Iran’s threat of a "second holocaust" by using nuclear weapons.
     But such alarmist statements do not accurately reflect the strategic thinking of the Israeli national security officials. In fact, Israelis began in the early 1990s to use the argument that Iran is irrational about Israel and could not be deterred from a nuclear attack if it ever acquired nuclear weapons, according to an account by independent analyst Trita Parsi on Iranian-Israeli strategic relations to be published in March. Meanwhile, the internal Israeli view of Iran, Parsi told IPS in an interview, "is completely different."
     Parsi, who interviewed many Israeli national security officials for his book, says, "The Israelis know that Iran is a rational regime, and they have acted on that presumption." His primary evidence of such an Israeli assessment is that the Israelis purchased Dolphin submarines from Germany in 1999 and 2004 which have been reported to be capable of carrying nuclear-armed cruise missiles. more..

Decision on UN consultative status for Jewish National Fund postponed
By Arjan El Fassed, Electronic Intifada 1/25/2007

     Last week, the United Nations postponed a decision to honor the Jewish National Fund consultative status with the world body’s Economic and Social Council.
     At the meeting, the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations recommended nine non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for consultative status with the Economic and Social Council, closed 4 applications and postponed a decision on some 25 more applications.
     Consultative status would allow the Jewish National Fund to attend meetings of the Council, circulate statements of a certain length, speak at meetings and propose items for the Council’s agenda.
     The Jewish National Fund was founded more than a century ago by the fifth Zionist Congress at Basle in 1901 for the purpose of land purchase and development in Palestine. In the wake of the 1948 war and the expulsion of Palestinians, the Israeli authorities created irreversible facts on the ground as lands belonging to Palestinians were formally taken over by the ’Custodian of Absentee Property’ and sold to a fictitious ’Development Authority’ which had the options of selling to the state, to the Jewish National Fund, to municipalities, or to "an institution for settling landless Arabs." The latter option was not used and in fact most of the land was sold to the Jewish National Fund.
     ....During the ECOSOC meeting last week, a representative of the Jewish National Fund said his NGO would fit in well with the Millennium Development Goals, particularly those on water and sustainable development. more..

Avocados, Diamonds at Core of Anti-Israel Trade Campaign
By Moyiga Nduru, Inter Press Service 1/28/2007

     JOHANNESBURG, Jan 26 (IPS) - A call from a South African trade unionist for national supermarket chains to stop importing avocado from Israel could ultimately lead to the banning of all imports from the Jewish state, if unions and human rights activists have their way.
     Katishi Masemola, secretary general of the Food and Allied Workers’ Union (FAWU), told South Africa’s supermarket chains earlier this week that Israel produces avocado under "slave-type conditions". He says the International Labour Organisation (ILO) forbids the use of child labour which, he claims, Israel is employing on avocado farms.
     IPS contacted the Israeli embassy in Pretoria, the capital of South Africa, for comment. It did not return IPS’s call.
     Masemola told IPS in an interview: "Israel is occupying parts of Palestine and it’s frustrating its moving towards statehood. In those occupied territories, avocados are produced under harsh slave-type conditions. Israeli farmers hire Palestinian children and pay them peanuts."
     "The amount of avocado the South African supermarket chains import from Israel is negligible. It’s just two percent of the total avocado they procure from overseas and locally," he said. "The supermarkets can do without it."
     Derek Donkin, general manager of the South African Avocado Growers’ Association (SAAGA), said South Africa produces 100,000 tonnes of avocado a year. "Between 40,000 and 45,000 tonnes are exported. The rest is sold for local consumption," he told IPS from his organisation’s headquarters in Tzaneen, a four-hour drive from South Africa’s commercial hub of Johannesburg. more..

Palestinian National Auto-mutilation
By Tariq Shadid, Palestine Chronicle 1/29/2007

     Apparently, to the forces who are aiming to subdue the Arab peoples of the Middle East, one old and dark fact seems to be quite obvious: it’s easier to kill your neighbour, if you set his house on fire first.
     Auto-mutilation, in psychiatry, is always a shocking phenomenon to those who witness it the first time. To the spectator, it is incomprehensible why a person would inflict wounds upon himself. Wounds of a kind, that one would fear suffering even in some horrifying nightmare. If one even shudders at the mere thought of these injuries, it is, at that time, difficult to empathize with the person, who has inflicted them upon himself.
     To the experienced psychiatrist who treats this patient, however, it is less of a shock, and he sees it as a symptom of deep psychological anguish. For such aggression to have been built up inside, there must be a compelling reason, and he will be curious to know this reason. For it to be directed not at the outside world, but at oneself, must usually signify a deep sense of incapacity of engaging that outside world.
     The psychiatrist will first, of course, call in the surgeon to treat the wounds. However, in the ensuing sessions, the psychiatrist will want to know everything about the family history, relationships and other factors, that reveal something about this person’s interaction with the outside world.
     When we see Palestinians shedding each other’s blood, on the basis not of some ethnical or sectarian divide, but on the basis of differing political aims, it would be wise to approach this issue in a similar way. This nation is obviously in some deep collective psychological anguish, since this unprecedented infighting is not happening out of the blue.
     What, for instance, is the reason for this aggression? Why the use of violence, instead of dialogue, to settle the differences? This indicates a high level of frustration, both in the originally socially coherent Palestinian rural and urban communities, and in the refugee camps. Life there, in the past years, has been made truly unbearable, by any human standards, by Israel’s iron-fisted oppression of the people living in the occupied territories. more..

The hidden cost of free congressional trips to Israel
By Jim Abourezk, Christian Science Monitor 1/26/2007

     Branded as ’educational,’ these trips offer Israeli propagandists an opportunity to expose members of Congress to only their side of the story.
     SIOUX FALL, S.D. - Democrats in Congress have moved quickly – and commendably – to strengthen ethics rules. But truly groundbreaking reform was prevented, in part, because of the efforts of the pro-Israel lobby to preserve one of its most critical functions: taking members of Congress on free "educational" trips to Israel.
     The pro-Israel lobby does most of its work without publicity. But every member of Congress and every would-be candidate for Congress comes to quickly understand a basic lesson. Money needed to run for office can come with great ease from supporters of Israel, provided that the candidate makes certain promises, in writing, to vote favorably on issues considered important to Israel. What drives much of congressional support for Israel is fear – fear that the pro-Israel lobby will either withhold campaign contributions or give money to one’s opponent.
     In my own experience as a US senator in the 1970s, I saw how the lobby tries to humiliate or embarrass members who do not toe the line.
     Pro-Israel groups worked vigorously to ensure that the new reforms would allow them to keep hosting members of Congress on trips to Israel. According to the Jewish Daily Forward newspaper, congressional filings show Israel as the top foreign destination for privately sponsored trips. Nearly 10 percent of overseas congressional trips taken between 2000 and 2005 were to Israel. Most are paid for by the American Israel Education Foundation, a sister organization of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the major pro-Israel lobby group. more..

Hegemony and Appeasement: Setting Up the Next U.S.-Israeli Target (Iran) For Another "Supreme International Crime"
By Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, ZNet 1/27/2007

     Still digesting their recent and ongoing aggressions in the Middle East, the Bush and Israeli regimes now threaten to attack Iran. As these warrior states cast their long shadow across the region, they find themselves aided and abetted by the Security Council, the other major powers, parties of the opposition, and the media.
     The ease with which a supposedly independent media in a supposedly democratic society like the United States can demonize enemies and convert third- and fourth-rate official targets into major threats is almost beyond belief. And the collective amnesia of the establishment media enables them to do the same thing over and over again; they never learn, and most important never have to learn, because the collective amnesia they help instill in the society protects them against correction—an unending series of victories over memory in the exercise of "reality-control" (Orwell). This enables the media to serve as de facto propaganda agents of their state while still claiming to be independent watchdogs. Less than three years ago, in 2004, the New York Times and Washington Post were hardly alone in offering partial mea culpas for having swallowed and regurgitated Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Powell-Rice lies about Saddam Hussein’s menacing weapons of mass destruction (WMD),2 thereby making a major contribution to the criminal and costly quagmire they now bemoan (but, along with Bush, still declining to urge any quick exit or meaningful withdrawal.) And yet they had barely gotten out their apologies before they eagerly climbed aboard the Bush-Cheney-Rice-Olmert bandwagon on the Iran menace and urgent need to do something about that grave threat.
     And what a threat it is! Admittedly, Iran doesn’t possess a single nuclear weapon, and won’t have one for some years even if it is trying to get one, which its religious leaders vigorously deny. If it got a nuclear weapon it couldn’t use it except in desperate self-defense as both Israel and the United States have many nuclear bombs and superior delivery systems, so that any offensive use of its nuclear weapon(s) would entail Iranian national suicide. It may be recalled that Saddam used his WMD only against Iran and his Kurds, but not even in self-defense during the 1991 Persian Gulf war attack on Iraq by the United States and its “coalition”—the former use was with U.S. approval, the latter case of non-use was because Saddam would have suffered disproportionate retaliation by the United States and his restraint followed. This point is not made in the establishment media, possibly because it would seem to qualify the Iran nuclear menace.
     The media also do not draw the further inference that an Iranian nuclear weapon would therefore serve only as a means of self-defense and to give Iran a little more leverage in dealing with the nuclear power states—the United States and Israel—that openly threaten it. Instead, the media, following the official line, talk about an Iranian nuclear weapon as “destabilizing,” when what they really mean is that the Israeli-U.S. continuous war-making, ethnic cleansing, and deliberate and effective destabilization of the Middle East would be made more difficult. more..

Brave New World War
By Gilad Atzmon, peacepalestine blog 1/26/2007

     The United States hopes that the United Nations General Assembly will vote by the end of this week on a resolution that condemns "any denial of the Holocaust". (CNSNews.com)
     "We respectfully urge your country to co-sponsor and support the Resolution on Holocaust Denial that is to be voted on in the General Assembly this Friday." (from a letter to UN ambassadors, Glen S. Lewy, ADL National Chair and Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director 23 January, 2007)

     The draft resolution proposed by the US "condemns without any reservation any denial of the Holocaust," yet, it doesn’t single out any specific country for criticism. It doesn’t take a genius to realise that it is Iran’s Ahmadinejad who the Americans are after. Clearly, the new American initiative at the UN, which is aiming at transforming the world into a ‘Holocaust Denial Free Zone’ has very little to do with genuine truth-seeking or an authentic interest in historical research. The Americans are there to furnish us all with the futureless nightmare of hard capitalism. They mistakenly believe that they can do so as long they restrict our vision of the past. If to be honest, It isn’t really Abe Foxman and the ADL that the Bush Administration is caring for. And it should be evident that the American decision makers could not care less about the notion of history or the truth of European Judeocide. What’s it about, then? America wants oil and Ahmadinejad has plenty of it. Not wanting to stop there, America also has as its priority stopping Iran from joining the nuclear club that they themselves lead. Yet, It is rather amusing that America - with all its fleets, airplane carriers, cruise missiles, ultimate air power and nuclear might - needs the Holocaust to win what seems to be its next war.
     I am not a Holocaust scholar nor am I a historian. My primary interest is not the story of Auschwitz nor the destruction of European Jewry. But I am very interested in Holocaust politics, in the range of discourses that employ Auschwitz. I happen to ask, how come America, once the leader of the ‘free world’, finds itself engaged in ‘global thought policing’?
     It is clear beyond doubt that America foreign affairs needs a popularity injection boost. American ideological hegemony is in a state of total bankruptcy. Bush’s administration desperately craves for support within the European community. It is not a secret that Continental Europe, in itself a multi-ethnic community, doesn’t succumb in the same way to the Anglo-American notion of cultural clash. The Europeans so far have refused to join Blair and Bush’s war against Islam in a real, dynamic way. Yet, with the new holocaust denial resolution, America hopes to introduce a change of spirit. Rather than conveying the repeated false image of Judeo-Christian versus Islam, this time it is the ‘Holocaust’ versus its ‘Deniers’. Rather coincidently, the Holocaust conformists (us) need oil, the ‘deniers’ (them) happen to possess it. more..

World ignores signs of civil war in Lebanon
By Robert Fisk, The Independent 1/27/2007

     This is how the 1975-90 conflict began in Lebanon. Outbreaks of sectarian hatred, appeals for restraint, promises of aid from Western and Arab nations and a total refusal to understand that this is how civil wars begin.
     The Lebanese army lifted its overnight curfew on Beirut yesterday morning but the smouldering cars and trucks of a gun battle was matched only by the incendiary language of the country’s bitterest antagonists. Beirut’s morning newspapers carried graphic pictures of gunmen - Sunni Muslims loyal to the government and Shia supporters of Hizbollah - which proved beyond any doubt that organised, armed men are on the capital’s streets. The Lebanese army - which constantly seeks the help of leaders on all sides - had great difficulty in suppressing the latest battles.
     One widely-used picture showed a businessman firing a pistol at Shia during the fighting around the Lebanese Arab university, another a hooded man with a sniper’s rifle on a rooftop.
     All three dead men were Hizbollah supporters whose funerals in south Beirut and in the Bekaa Valley yesterday were accompanied by calls for revenge and - in one case - by a colour guard of militiamen and farewell shots over his grave. After 29-year old Adnan Shamas’s widow and young children were brought to his funeral in Ouzai, there were cries of "blood for blood". more..

Curfew and questions in Beirut
By Sami Hermez, Electronic Intifada 1/25/2007

     Today, January 25, 2007, violence broke out around 2:30pm at the Beirut Arab University, which is around the sports stadium close to the airport road. According to one report, it seems like the original conflagration occurred in the cafeteria and was then taken out into the streets. By now most people have seen images of the chaos that ensued. Many of us learnt about it when we first tried to use our phones and found all lines down.
     It is 11:30pm as I sit to write this; I am locked in my apartment along with the rest of the residents of Beirut. There is a military enforced curfew that went into affect at 8:30pm and will last until tomorrow morning at around 10:00 or 11:00am. Speaking to my family outside of Beirut, in Mansourieh, it seems like the rest of the country is functioning normally. I step outside onto my balcony and the silence is deafening. There is no one walking in the streets, no taxis waiting around, Hamra Street is deserted. But suddenly I see movement. A jeep whizzes by but as I get a glimpse I realize it is a military vehicle. Nothing else seems to be moving though in the distance I hear the sound of mopeds.
     Reports say that four people died today, and there are more than 30 injured, 13 of which are soldiers. This brings the count up to nine since Tuesday. What do we call the events around us? Clashes, riots, scattered violence, civil strife, war? The way we define things governs the way we act and react. And now we are at a moment of loss, partly because we are unable and partly because we are unwanting to define; but the media will jump in to define for us.
     I speak to a friend on MSN and she calls this a civil war, others are saying this is just an outbreak of violence and the more we call it war the more our anticipations will lead us down that path. At some point though we need to recognize the situation at hand; perhaps defining in advance can minimize the impending catastrophe rather than if we recognize the disaster in hindsight. If we consider that the war has begun we can work to end it; if we deny that it has begun then we will continue to triage the situation until it turns into a state of emergency. more..

Saad Qandeel - A boy in a wheelchair (PDF)
Caritas Jerusalem 1/22/2007

     Saad Saleh Qandeel, a 9-year-old boy from the Maghazi Camp in Eastern Gaza, knows the difference between running and not being able to run. He has knows the difference between playing football and wanting to play football.
     "Football is my favorite sport. I was a good football player. I used to play with my friends in our yard, but now I go there just to watch my friends playing," painfully said Saad, who became handicapped six months ago.
     Through the SOA 9/2006 program, Caritas Jerusalem has provided Saad with a wheelchair to help him have increased mobility, to go outside with his friends and see the world outside of his small room at home. Now he sits on his wheelchair and he watches his friends playing. His friends bring him outside to help him not to feel alone.
     Saad cannot play football with his friends anymore as he used to six months ago. He just watches his friends while they are playing in the nearby makeshift football pitch. Saad cannot run or even walk now. His injury restricted his movement and now affects every aspect of his life. He says sadly, "Before I was injured, I ran with my friends all the time, but now I only look at them running." Saad recalls the day he was injured. "It was 11:30 in the morning. I was standing with two of my uncles and some of my relatives in front of my grandfather’s house. Then, a missile hit the area and we all fell down. I don’t know what happened next, but when I woke up I was in a hospital in Israel."
     Saad was severely injured by this event. The shrapnel of the Israeli missile that hit the area has irreparably damaged his left hand and leg. His injury has confined him to a wheelchair and he cannot walk anymore. more..

Britain’s Arms Trade with Israel
By Ruth Tenne, Palestine Chronicle 1/26/2007

     In spite of over 30 UN resolutions demanding the establishment of nuclear-free zone in the Middle East, Israel is reported to have over 400 thermonuclear and nuclear weapons (Jane’s Intelligence Review ,1997) and is refusing to join the Non-Proliferation treaty (NPT) of which all Arab states are signatories.
     In the wake of Israel’s threat of striking Iran’s nuclear facilities and the recent earth-scorching bombardment of Lebanon (summer 2006 ), the escalating arming of Israel has become a burning issue.
     Britain’s licensed military exports to Israel nearly doubled from 12.5 millions in 2004 to 22.5 millions in 2005. The British Government has been consistently selling weapons to Israel such as small arms ammunitions; anti-aircraft guns; armored vehicles; and components for tanks, combat aircraft and missiles.
     The global integration of the arms industry means that many companies are involved in arming Israel by making parts for weapons which are assembled elsewhere and "battle-tested" in the Occupied Territories.
     Since 2000 the British Government has used a set of consolidated EU and national criteria for arms export licensing - taking into account the respect for human rights by the destination country. Yet, the number of REJECTED license applications for arms export to Israel has fallen from 84 in 2002 to 9 in 2005 irrespective of the fact that Israel’s abuse of human rights in the OT and the number of Palestinian casualties has dramatically increased (Read: "Arming an Oppressor" the Morning Star 16 October 2006).
     As part of the ongoing campaign launched recently by “stop arming Israel " I have written to my MP (Glenda Jackson) who in turn expressed my concerns in her letter to Kim Howells - a Foreign Office Minister. His reply, not unexpectedly, was diplomatically couched and non-committal... more..

EI EXCLUSIVE: Leaked Israeli document gives frightening glimpse of apartheid
By Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada 1/25/2007

     President Jimmy Carter angered Israel and its friends by describing "the abominable oppression and persecution in the occupied Palestinian territories, with a rigid system of required passes and strict segregation between Palestine’s citizens and Jewish settlers in the West Bank."
     Now, The Electronic Intifada has obtained an Israeli Ministry of Defense Powerpoint presentation which provides a frightening glimpse into the mindset of the bureaucracy of apartheid.
     The first page of the document bears the name "Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories" as well as the acronym "COGAT" at the bottom of each page. These appear to refer to the unit of the Israeli army that enforces the occupation against the Palestinian civilian population.
     The top of the first slide also bears the names and insignia of the "State of Israel" and the "Ministry of Defense." Dated January 12, the presentation is titled "Key Measures for easing the daily lives of the Palestinian Population."
     Far from that, the document provides detail of the regime of severe movement restrictions, bureaucratic ethnic cleansing and political manipulation and fostering of collaborators that Israel operates in the the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
     The document, in English, appears to be genuine. While its exact purpose or audience is not known, it may have been designed to impress foreign diplomats with Israel’s generosity to the Palestinians. more..

Taken for a Ride by the Israeli Left
By Steven Friedman and Virginia Tilley, Electronic Intifada 1/26/2007

     A Response to Uri Avnery
     Uri Avnery is a human rights crusader of venerable standing. He has fought, written, published and campaigned for Palestinian rights for some sixty years. He has stood on the political barricades and faced down bulldozers to defend Palestinians from Israeli military abuse. His articles, books, and magazine denounced Israel’s seizure of Palestinian land before most of the "new historians" learned to write. He even denounces legalized discrimination against Palestinian Israelis in uncompromising terms and has called for Israel to become "a state of all its citizens", although still retaining a large Jewish majority (e.g., see his recent "What Makes Sammy Run?"). As a founder of the peace group Gush Shalom, he remains the recognized godfather of liberal Zionism and no one doubts his sincerity in insisting on a two-state solution.
     Given all this, it may seem odd that many people working hard for a stable peace in Israel-Palestine find Mr. Avnery so immensely irritating. The reason stems from his moral contradictions, all too common to liberal Zionism: that is, while taking an unflinching moral stand against racist abuses of Palestinians, he somehow drops the same principles in assuming that Israel itself has a right to preserve its "Jewish character" at the expense of Palestinian rights. For it is all too obvious that sustaining an "overwhelming" Jewish majority in Israel, essential to preserving its "Jewish character," requires that Israel sustain a whole cluster of racist practices, such as giant Walls to keep people from mixing and not allowing Palestinian exiles to return.
     Liberal Zionists who cling to Mr. Avnery’s analyses consistently trip over this moral fallacy. They want the occupation to end and find oppression of Palestinians morally abhorrent, and some even believe that discrimination against Palestinian Arabs must end. But they don’t want Israel’s status as a state run for only one ethnic group to end. They must therefore endorse whatever discrimination is deemed essential to preserving Israel’s Jewish majority, particularly in keeping those Palestinians expelled from what is now Israel from ever coming back. In this view, Israel itself is morally okay -- a "miracle," as David Grossman recently put it -- or it would be okay if its leaders hadn’t stupidly stumbled into military occupation after the 1967 war. more..

The Art of War
By Eyal Weizman, Frieze.com 1/26/2007

     The Israeli Defence Forces have been heavily influenced by contemporary philosophy, highlighting the fact that there is considerable overlap among theoretical texts deemed essential by military academies and architectural schools
     The attack conducted by units of the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) on the city of Nablus in April 2002 was described by its commander, Brigadier-General Aviv Kokhavi, as ‘inverse geometry’, which he explained as ‘the reorganization of the urban syntax by means of a series of micro-tactical actions’.1 During the battle soldiers moved within the city across hundreds of metres of ‘overground tunnels’ carved out through a dense and contiguous urban structure. Although several thousand soldiers and Palestinian guerrillas were manoeuvring simultaneously in the city, they were so ‘saturated’ into the urban fabric that very few would have been visible from the air. Furthermore, they used none of the city’s streets, roads, alleys or courtyards, or any of the external doors, internal stairwells and windows, but moved horizontally through walls and vertically through holes blasted in ceilings and floors. This form of movement, described by the military as ‘infestation’, seeks to redefine inside as outside, and domestic interiors as thoroughfares. The IDF’s strategy of ‘walking through walls’ involves a conception of the city as not just the site but also the very medium of warfare – a flexible, almost liquid medium that is forever contingent and in flux.
     Contemporary military theorists are now busy re-conceptualizing the urban domain. At stake are the underlying concepts, assumptions and principles that determine military strategies and tactics. The vast intellectual field that geographer Stephen Graham has called an international ‘shadow world’ of military urban research institutes and training centres that have been established to rethink military operations in cities could be understood as somewhat similar to the international matrix of élite architectural academies. However, according to urban theorist Simon Marvin, the military-architectural ‘shadow world’ is currently generating more intense and well-funded urban research programmes than all these university programmes put together, and is certainly aware of the avant-garde urban research conducted in architectural institutions, especially as regards Third World and African cities. There is a considerable overlap among the theoretical texts considered essential by military academies and architectural schools. Indeed, the reading lists of contemporary military institutions include works from around 1968 (with a special emphasis on the writings of Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari and Guy Debord), as well as more contemporary writings on urbanism, psychology, cybernetics, post-colonial and post-Structuralist theory. If, as some writers claim, the space for criticality has withered away in late 20th-century capitalist culture, it seems now to have found a place to flourish in the military. more..

The Israel Lobby Trips and Tilts
By Alexander Cockburn, Ramzy Baroud’s Website 1/24/2007

     Suppose the movers and shakers in the Israel lobby here -- Abe Foxman, Alan Dershowitz and the rest of the crew -- had simply decided to leave Jimmy Carter’s Palestine Peace Not Apartheid alone. How long before the book would have been gathering dust on the remainder shelves?
     Suppose even that Dershowitz had rounded up his unacknowledged co-authors in all their tens of thousands and sallied forth to buy up every copy of Carter’s book and toss each one into the Charles River, would not that have been a more successful suppressor than the blitzkrieg strategy they did adopt?
     Of course it would. For weeks now the lobby has hurled its legions into battle against Carter. He has been stigmatized as an anti-Semite, a Holocaust denier, a patron of former concentration camp killers, a Christian madman, a pawn of the Arabs who “flatly condones mass murder” of Israeli Jews. (This last was from Murdoch’s New York Post editorial, relayed to its mailing list by the Zionist Organization of America.)
     Any day now I expect some janitors at the Carter Center to resign, declaring that they can no longer in all conscience mop bathrooms that might have been used by the former President, their letter of protest duly front-paged by the New York Times, just like the famous fourteen members of the Carter Center’s Board of Councilors. Actually there were, at the time of resignations, 224 people on this board, where membership is mostly a thank you for a financial donation to the center. So the headlines could be saying, “Nearly 95 per cent of Carter Center Board Members Back Former President.”
     But the assault on Carter is all to no avail. With each gust of abuse, Carter’s book soars higher and higher on the bestseller lists, reaching number 4 on Amazon itself. This doesn’t prove the lobby has no power. It proves the lobby can be dumb. Adroit lobbying consists in preventing unpleasing material reaching the light of day. Lobbying thrives in furtive darkness: slipping language into a bill at the last moment, threatening to back a campaign opponent, making quiet phone calls to the Polish embassy. Pressure is now being exerted on Farrar, Straus and Giroux to abandon its impending publication of Mearsheimer and Walt’s attack on the lobby. more..

AIC Settler Violence Report for December 2006
By Ahmad Jaradat, Alternative Information Center 1/14/2007

     Hebron Region
     3 December: Six-year-old Mohammed Faras el-Atrash sustained injuries to his neck and shoulder when a Jewish settler opened fire at him at 9:00 am. Mohammed was walking with his father near Bypass Road 60, in an area called Qalqas, south of Hebron, when the settler, who was driving his car at the time, stopped and shot at them. Medical sources in al-Ahlee Hospital in Hebron stated that Mohammed was injured seriously in his neck and right shoulder. It is well known that many Palestinians have been shot on this road by settlers in recent years of the Intifada. Many of these incidents have occurred during the evening hours, when pedestrians are walking home. Due to these dangers, Palestinian residents have avoided using this road or walking near it during the night.
     On the same day, a group of settler women gathered and remained for some time on land located to the west of the Kiryat Arba’ settlement, to the east of the city. The land belongs to the Palestinian Jaber family, and has been targeted by the settlers in order to confiscate it. However, the case has been through the courts. The intention of the group was to mount pressure on the family and send them the message that the settler community will obtain the land sooner or later and annex it to the settlement. Israeli soldiers arrived and prevented the Palestinian owners of the land from entering it to protest against this action.
     9 December: Settlers from Ramot Yashai in the Tel Rumeida area of the old city of Hebron, renewed their attacks against the residents of the area. They beat three Palestinian children from the Tayseer Abu Aisha family with sticks. The children are 10-year-old Fida, 14-year-old Ibraheem and 7-year-old Waleed. The attack occurred while the three were walking home after school. On the same day, settlers from Kiryat Arba’ stoned the house of Kayed S’eed Da’n, located to the south of the settlement. The aggressive incident occurred during a settler march being held on the street near the house. more..

Palestine and Israel: Twilight of Apartheid?
By Roger H. Lieberman, Palestine Chronicle 1/24/2007

     Recently, the High Follow-Up Committee – the leading representative body of Palestinians inside Israel - put forth their vision for a future Israel in which Jews and Arabs would enjoy equal rights as individuals.
     There is something disturbingly clinical about the way America’s establishment politicians and pundits will fret profusely over something as minor as a book title, while refusing to do anything to amend the dire problems the book itself brings to light. It is through such puerile tactics that Israel’s “defenders” have attempted to stymie thoughtful evaluation of former President Jimmy Carter’s monumental book, “Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid”.
     As has happened far too many times since 1948, Palestinian suffering – the central reality of the Middle East crisis – goes largely ignored by the American “mainstream”, as the conflict is transmogrified from its proper geographical setting onto the minus-land of domestic politics. Creativity and humanism, alas, do not fare well a society whose elected (and unelected) representatives display these qualities almost as rarely as the Soviet Politburo did during the Brezhnev years.
     As long as the preponderance of American politicians remain so willfully divorced from the realities of the Israel-Palestine conflict, the Bush Administration – and whoever their successors may be – will simply continue the tiresome charade of promoting “the peace process” while continuously augmenting Israel’s means to render the very concept of a “two-state solution” irrelevant. For the international community to allow this deadly farce to continue without offering an alternative is dangerous in the extreme – as the longer Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians continues, the more unstable and prone to wider conflagrations the Middle East will become. The devastating war in Lebanon last summer, the horrific collapse of civil society in US-occupied Iraq, and the growing threat of a wider war involving Iran and Syria, are all stark warnings of what lies ahead if Israel and its neo-conservative apologists in Washington are permitted to “stay the course”.
     Despite all the similarities between South Africa in the waning years of Apartheid and Israel-Palestine today, there is a still a profound difference – one which makes the crisis in the Holy Land so much the worse. While the course of history has drawn Palestinians and Israeli Jews irreversibly together in the same land, neither community has yet produced a major political movement devoted to reconciling them according to a non-discriminatory, democratic framework. To understand why this is the case, it is necessary to review the political forces that have shaped both Palestinian and Israeli identity. more..

Canada Meets the Zionist Right
By Jim Miles, Palestine Chronicle 1/24/2007

     Canada, as represented by Harper’s current minority government, is following the American path of nationalistic hubris, of championing the ‘rights’ of one people to trample over the lives and rights of another.
     Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Peter Mackay completed a visit to Israel recently, reinforcing Canada’s growing militant support of a government that continues to deny the basic essentials of human democracy to its own people and especially to the people of the occupied territories of Palestine. Apparently, Canada’s relations with Israel are “particularly warm” and “bilateral and diplomatic ties are currently at their peak.” [1]
     The minority Steven Harper government, currently standing at 33 per cent in public opinion polls, was the first to deny the validity of the democratically elected Hamas government, before the Americans and before the British. The emphasis of this point in MacKay’s recent visit would indicate that Harper and MacKay choose to remain ignorant of the atrocities perpetrated by the Israeli’s against the Palestinian people.
     The government, Mackay in particular, puts itself into a contradictory position. When speaking to a UN meeting on the effects of warfare on children, MacKay says, “progress has been made on the wider protection of civilians in armed conflict agenda, where leaders have confirmed their commitment to the legal and physical protection of civilians.” For Harper and MacKay, this rhetoric is wonderful if applied to Uganda or Nigeria or Sri Lanka, but there is no connection with the children of generations who have suffered in Palestine under Israeli military occupation, nor any connection to “wider protection of civilians,” and their “legal and physical protection” that his speech espouses.
     In the same speech, MacKay adds more fluff to his rhetoric, indicating there is a “gap between words and deeds” using as an example “Recent events in the Middle East saw hundreds of thousands of people displaced obviously a large number of them children and it can happen virtually overnight. The size and scope of these conflicts and the speed of these erupted is stagger at times [sic].” [2] Is not Palestine a part of the Middle East? Have not enough generations of Palestinian children suffered under the occupation of the IDF, living lives destroyed by murder, torture, fear, humiliation, degradation, starvation and the lack of all the things that Canadian children take for granted?
     Yes, there is a gap between words and deeds, a credibility gap between what MacKay says in one situation and the ideological politics - of Christian Zionism sucking up to the Canadian Jewish-Zionist community - it plays in another. more..

The winding road to Zuwata: soldiers, guns and chaos
By Amin Abu Wardeh, Palestine News Network 1/25/2007

     In order to avoid the Beit Iba Checkpoint, Palestinians drive the road winding around the northwestern Nablus town of Zuwata. They are trying to save themselves the beatings, humiliations and arrests common at the northern West Bank checkpoint, but instead drive the road the links an Israeli settlement and the one of the Israeli forces’ largest military camps.
     Journalist Mousa said that the winding road causes agony and suffering, “a real hell” for the population, but it is still better than dealing with the abusive practices and “extra-humiliation carried our by occupation forces."
     Israeli forces bulldoze Palestinian land and confiscate property in the area, while also shooting at Palestinian cars on the road, claiming to be defending themselves. Farmers have it the worst, says Mousa, with access to their fields near the bypass road also hindered. Reaching olive groves is difficult while assaults are not uncommon.
     The journalist reported that the road has claimed the lives of seven Palestinians and led to the injury of dozens. Dozens of acres of land have been bulldozed under the pretext of protecting the street, in addition to daily attacks on local residents and anyone else trying to pass through from the surrounding areas.
     Zuwata Village resident, Amjad, told PNN, “The usual practice is that we enter our land now located near the bypass road and an Israeli military jeep inevitably stops us, forces my parents and brothers out of the car under threat, and then demands our identification.”
     He continued, “One day after the soldiers looked at the ID they expelled by father and uncle from the region; just ordered them to leave. We were stuck there on the side of the road with their guns trained us. We stood like than for over an hour before we asked how long it takes them to reach their work, the military camp. They said, ’We are here.’ To reach nearly the same spot it takes us two hours.” more..

Money can’t close the sectarian divide in Lebanon
By Robert Fisk, The Independent 1/26/2007

     If only money could buy peace - or was the £4bn handed out to Lebanon’s Prime Minister in Paris yesterday supposed to help him defeat America’s Hizbollah enemies in Beirut’s increasingly savage street battles?
     For, even as President Jacques Chirac of France was taking the applause for leading Lebanon’s debt conference - the US itself pledged £405m, Lebanese troops were fighting to control the worst sectarian fighting so far in the capital. At least four students, one of them a Sunni Muslim government supporter, were killed, apparently by gunfire.
     At one point yesterday, thousands of Hizbollah and Amal Shia Muslims were taken by truck from the southern suburbs to the campus of the Lebanese Arab University in Tarek el-Jdeideh. There, students - the Sunnis siding with the government, the Shias with the Hizbollah - were fighting in the lecture theatres. Many local Sunnis feared that the Shias were going to drive them from their homes, and Lebanese troops had to evacuate Sunni students in their own army trucks.
     From both the Hizbollah leadership and from Saad Hariri, whose future party is in Fouad Siniora’s elected government, came demands for an end to the latest fighting - needless to say, they blamed each other - in which another 36 young men were wounded. For several hours, the Lebanese army - yet again - failed to restore order, reduced to firing into the air in a vain attempt to force the crowds apart. Many of the Paris donors must have been wondering how Lebanon, which has a crushing - indeed, astonishing - £23bn (repeat: billion) debt, planned to spend their money when the country is apparently falling apart by the day. more..

Hizbollah warn that Lebanon will see more violence
By Robert Fisk, The Independent 1/25/2007

     There is worse to come. That is what Lebanon’s opposition, led by the Hizbollah, said only hours after they lifted their violent day-long "strike" on Tuesday night and - here is the rub - there are few in this country who do not believe it.
     At least three deaths, 120 wounded and sectarian fighting across a hundred miles of Lebanon, we are now told, was only a "warning to the government". If Christian versus Christian and Sunni versus Shia Muslim is not enough, then, what will be? And how planned is the coming tragedy?
     Planning is what came to mind yesterday among all those who live here. How, we are asking ourselves, did those thousands of violent young men all have near-identical, brand new wooden coshes? How come so many men emerged on to the Beirut streets in near-identical hoods? How come the "general strike" called to demand the resignation of the Prime Minister, Fouad Siniora, was switched off in a matter of minutes?
     But there were other, far more disturbing elements to Tuesday’s scandalous day of violence. Two of the old civil-war fault lines - on the road north of Beirut and in the suburbs of the city - were reopened. Siniora himself started warning of the dangers of civil war and the United States - as Hizbollah must have hoped - came out in support of the government, claiming, quite falsely, that the violence came from the Hizbollah-led opposition.
     It certainly did come from their Amal militia ally but Sunni Muslim supporters of the government were in gun battles in Tripoli - they continued yesterday - and the "Lebanese Forces" youths of Samir Geagea, an ex-militia murderer who supports the government, were engaged in pitched stoning battles with other Christian Maronites. more..

Another Lebanese generation is being schooled in self-destruction
Editorial, Daily Star 1/26/2007

     Lebanon’s leaders are succeeding in goading a new generation of young citizens into following the country’s well-worn path toward civil war. For nearly two months, the governing coalition and the opposition have been locked in a political confrontation in which both sides have shown a lack of restraint and a tendency to take uncompromising stances.
     The fruits of this brand of "leadership" were evident on the streets of Beirut on Thursday, whens groups of university students - young individuals who ought to represent hope for the nation’s future - ignited a conflict that quickly spread to adjacent neighborhoods. After unleashing these forces, the same leaders who have been inciting their followers over the past two months issued statements urging calm and self-restraint - traits that they themselves have seldom shown throughout their confrontation.
     The government is still vowing to "stand firm" in the face of opposition attempts to unseat it. But Lebanon’s political terrain is rapidly shifting away from a phase marked by mild tremors and toward another era of civil-war-style earthquakes in which no government will be able to find firm footing. Likewise, the opposition still vows to press ahead with its campaign to oust the Cabinet at any cost, promising "far worse" protests if the government refuses to give in. But given the frailty of the Lebanese system, any additional pressure or escalation will no doubt have consequences that are "far worse" than even they can imagine.
     The opposing camps are demonstrating a lack of imagination and leadership by failing to peacefully conclude the confrontation. Instead, they are relying on outside parties - currently Iran and Saudi Arabia - to try to bring about a workable resolution. But a viable deal must begin with Lebanese parties, all of whom need to recognize that they cannot rely on outside parties to save them from themselves, nor can they continue to govern without - let alone against - the will of the other. more..

Bush’s Three-Front War Blunder
By Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service 1/25/2007

     One veteran military expert on Iraq, retired Army Colonel Douglas Macgregor, told IPS that Bush’s new policy is a "war against all" in Iraq and called it "a blunder of Hitlerian proportions".
     WASHINGTON, Jan 25 (IPS) - George W. Bush’s State of the Union address appears to confirm other indications in recent weeks that the president is not merely sending more troops to Iraq to do more of the same, but has adopted a new strategy of fighting all three major Iraqi Arab political-military forces simultaneously.
     Bush hinted strongly that he has decided to make Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army a major military target of the increased U.S. troop presence in Baghdad, while continuing to wage war against both al Qaeda and its Sunni extremist allies, on one hand, and the non-jihadist Sunni resistance, on the other.
     Two weeks before the Jan. 23 State of the Union speech, Lt.-Gen. Raymond Odierno, the number two U.S. commander in Iraq, told reporters he wanted to use most of the additional 20,000 troops to launch a new military push against both Sunni and Shiite militias in Baghdad.
     The new policy appears to have been prompted by both the need to demonstrate to the U.S. public that the administration is doing something different and to use force against a presumed ally of Iran in the region. But it means that the United States is now planning to fight what is in essence a three-front war without any reliable Iraqi Arab ally. Only the Kurds can be counted on to cooperate with the U.S. military in such a war, because of their reliance on U.S. support for their aspirations for quasi-independence. more..

Once Bitten
By Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, Alternative Information Center 1/14/2007

     Every now and then it is useful to take a closer look at the nature of the ongoing struggle in Palestine, for it is easy to miss the forest for the trees. The general idea is simple. The Palestinians are fighting for a fully independent state on all the land occupied in 1967, including Jerusalem, and demanding recognition of the rights of Palestinian refugees. Meanwhile, Israel, which wants to create a system of apartheid and domination, is trying to get the Palestinians to accept a state with temporary borders, minus Jerusalem and other areas, and minus independence. Israel’s recent decision to build a new settlement in the Jordan Valley is a case in point.
     Shall we have a comprehensive and final solution to the conflict, or a temporary and interim one similar to that of the Oslo Accords? This is the big question facing the Palestinians today. A long-term transitional deal is what Israel wants. The Israelis want to force the Palestinians to give up large segments of the West Bank, including Jerusalem, and abandon refugee rights as part of an interim solution. But such a solution is likely to be permanent, not temporary.
     Also, Israel wants the Palestinian Authority to remain ineffective and shorn of sovereignty. It wants the authority to act as Israel’s bodyguard while Israel maintains all economic, political and security power.
     Israel is pushing for an interim solution because it doesn’t want the Palestinians to benefit from opportunities the US debacle in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the rest of the Middle East has created. With the Baker-Hamilton report calling for a solution to the Palestinian problem and with international community increasingly critical of Israel’s policies, the tide is turning. Who would have imagined that a former US president, Jimmy Carter, would conclude that apartheid is worse in Palestine than it ever was in South Africa? The pressure on Israel is mounting, as is evident in the Spanish-French-Italian call for an international conference and a final settlement of the conflict. Europe wants a lasting solution to the Palestinian issue, and Israel—fully cognizant—is buying time. more..

Palestine and the Long Arm of the Occupation
By Agustín Velloso, Palestine Chronicle 1/23/2007

     For decades people have gone around in dizzy circles after reasons and a thousand and one more or less fanciful political formulas so as to come up with a solution which turns out to be impossible precisely because the nub of the problem is never addressed: the Occupation.
     The Palestinians, as they have been for so many years, are these days once again the protagonists of news involving violent events. Most recently, the Palestinians are killing one another other, which, according to newspapers and TV reports, just confirms their extremist, bloodthirsty, aggressive nature and that of Arabs and Muslims in general, since the Iraqis are immersed in a bloody fraticidal struggle as well.
     In the past, the media have habitually reported Palestinian attacks against Israelis, so it is not strange today for news-consumers that the Palestinians, just like the Iraqis, have tipped over into civil war, as if this were the most natural thing in the world, the logical, inevitable consequence of the politics and, as likely as not, the character of Arabs and Muslims - that is to say, backward, when compared with Western politics and culture, which, by definition, are advanced and democratic.
     What these reports habitually fail to report is the role of those Western governments in the political situation of the Middle East. If something is mentioned, it is to write, without trace of shame or awareness, that the Israeli government cannot possibly negotiate with Hamas extremists because they do not meet the conditions the international community demands so as to undertake a dialogue with them.
     This maneuver is shared by a minority of citizens, who follow the conflict and are pro-Israeli, and accepted by the great majority who are unaware of the nub of the problem because they have been cleverly confused by the false and biased information supplied to them by the media. For their part, the Palestinians are turning into the paradigmatic case of a victim, blamed by their persecutor and left to their fate by the persecutor’s supporters.
     It seems almost impossible to believe that a population, which according to international law enjoys special protection as a result of being mostly refugees and living totally under military occupation, should be the object of political and economic sanctions instead of receiving protection and justice from the international community, whom one supposes has to obey that law and see it is respected rather than align itself with the occupier and abuser of the human, political and social rights of the Palestinians. more..

Cloned generals
By Gideon Levy, Ha’aretz 1/23/2007

     The prime and defense ministers are faced with a decision of marginal importance. Contrary to the sea of verbiage and pathos, and the facade of serious discussions, the choice between the various candidates for the important post of Israel Defense Forces chief of staff is not an important matter. Gaby Ashkenazi or Moshe Kaplinsky? Or even Benny Gantz? Can anyone point to any significant difference between them? True, they say that Kaplinsky gives soldiers a pat on the back, unlike Ashkenazi, who reprimands them for nonregulation haircuts. Both of them were trained in Golani, while Gantz came up through the Paratroopers, and there is even a slight age difference. But what does all this mean? Nothing. There is no difference between them.
     The choice between the three is no more than a vapid power struggle, and the only questions it will answer is whether the defense minister will succeed in twisting the prime minister’s arm or vice versa, and which of the three has the most effective lobby, and who was photographed first eating hummus on the front page of Yedioth Ahronoth. Except for the personal aspect and the differences in style, it really does not matter who is ultimately selected. Perhaps that is why none of the many commentators or interviewees has dared to take a stand in favor of one of the three. Everyone knows that they are cloned generals, nearly identical.
     They all come from the same village. They grew up in the IDF and the General Staff of recent generations, meaning in an organization that does not allow independent and original thinking or overstepping the bounds of convention. It is an organization that in recent years has produced only dreary and lackluster figures, an army in which the best and the brightest no longer continue serving in it. A short retrospective look produces a gloomy picture: Which of the previous chiefs of staff, with the exception of Ehud Barak, can we remember? Which of them left some kind of mark? Rafael Eitan? Moshe Levy? Dan Shomron? Moshe Ya’alon? Shaul Mofaz. more..

Opposition demonstrations turn Beirut into a violent sectarian battleground
By Robert Fisk, The Independent 1/24/2007

     So the worst nightmare years may have begun again. There were thousands of them - Christians fighting Christians north of Beirut, Sunni and Shia Muslims in the capital, a rain of stones, shrieks of hatred and occasionally even gunfire - that turned Lebanon into a sectarian battleground yesterday.
     At the corner of a street off Corniche al-Mazraa, I watched what historians may one day claim was the first day of Lebanon’s new civil war, huge mobs of young men, supporters and opponents of Fouad Siniora’s government screaming abuse and throwing tens of thousands of rocks at each other as a wounded Lebanese soldier sat next to me and wept.
     For the army of this tragic country is now the thin red line ­ some actually were wearing red berets ­ that stands between a future for Lebanon and the folly of civil conflict.
     After 31 years in this country, I never truly believed I would see again what I witnessed on the streets of Beirut yesterday, thousands of Shia and Sunni Muslims, the first supporting the Hizbollah, the second the government once led by the murdered ex-prime minister Rafik Hariri, hurling stones and hunks of metal at each other. They crashed down around us, smashing the road signs, the advertisement hoardings, the windows of the bank against which seven Lebanese soldiers and I were cowering. Again and again, the soldiers ran into the roadway to try ­ with a desperation all of them understood, and they were brave men ­ to drag the youths from each other. Some of the Shia men, Amal members, loyal (heaven spare us) to the Speaker of Parliament, wore hoods and black face masks, most wielding big wooden clubs. more..

Australian Delegation Visits Cluster-Bombed Areas of Lebanon, Calls for Ban
Electronic Intifada/Joint humanitarian delegation 1/23/2007

     A joint humanitarian delegation, representing Australians For Lebanon (AFL), the Medical Association for Prevention of War (MAPW), and later joined by the Australian Lebanese Youth Association (ALYA), has recently returned to Australia from areas of Southern Lebanon heavily affected by cluster bombs. It is calling for a global ban on these inhumane weapons.
     The delegation comprised Dr Hadia Mukhtar, Melbourne GP and Chair of AFL, Mr Phillip Salem, Sydney lawyer and member of AFL, and Dr Sue Wareham, Canberra GP and former president of MAPW. It was later joined by Mr Michael Helal, vice- president of the ALYA. The delegation spoke with authorities in Lebanon who are attempting to clear the munitions, including the National De-Mining Office and the UN Mine Action and Coordination Centre near Tyre in Southern Lebanon, and saw at first hand the terrible impact the weapons have on communities.
     The UN Mine Action and Coordination Centre estimates that there are around one million unexploded cluster bombs still to be cleared in Southern Lebanon. Although all the cluster bombs are designed to detonate on initial impact, the failure rate is up to 40 percent, according to the UN. This means that very large numbers remain live, as land mines, on or just below the surface of the ground.
     Dr Mukhtar, said, "Practically all of the victims are civilians, including children. In one location in Nabatieh, there were 14 casualties within a short time of the August 14 ceasefire coming into effect, as people started returning to their homes. Cluster munitions were found in houses, on roads, in gardens and in the rubble of destroyed buildings." Dr Wareham commented, "These weapons make a mockery of the term ’ceasefire’". more..

Fear climate change, not our enemies
By Robert Fisk, The Independent 1/20/2007

     It was a warning. Scratched, of course after more than 50 years, but a home movie, shot by my mother in colour. But most of the colour is white. Bill Fisk, the 57-year-old borough treasurer of Maidstone, is standing in the garden of our home in his long black office coat, wearing - as always - his First World War regimental tie, throwing snow balls at his son. I am 10 years old, in short trousers but up to my waist in snow. There must have been two feet of it in the garden. You can even see the condensation from my mouth. My mother doesn’t appear on the film of course. She is standing in the snow behind my father, 36 years old, the daughter of café proprietors who every Boxing Day would host my own and my aunt’s family with a huge lunch and a roaring log fire. It really was cold then.
     I think was it Andrew Marr, when editor of The Independent, who first made me think about what was happening. It was a stiflingly hot summer and I had just arrived in London from Beirut and commented that there wasn’t much difference in temperature. And Andrew turned round and pointed across the city. "Something’s gone wrong with the bloody weather!" he roared. And of course, he was right.
     Now I acknowledge it silently: the great storms that sweep across Europe, the weird turbulence that my passenger jet pilots experience high over the Atlantic. Because I have never travelled so far or so frequently, I notice that at year’s end it’s 15 degrees in Toronto and Montreal - a "springtime Christmas", the Canadian papers announce in a land famous for its tundra. In Denver, the airport is blocked by snowfalls. I return to Lebanon to find so little snow has fallen that much of Mount Sannine above my home is the colour of grey rock, just a dressing of white on the top. The snow is deep in Jerusalem. There is a water shortage in Beirut. more..

The Things We Take for Granted
By Ramzy Baroud, Palestine Chronicle 1/22/2007

     As I opened my eyes to the welcomed sight of my children, one carrying a ’get well’ balloon, and another clinging onto a bunch of roses, I was still too anxious to ask the question: how did it go?
     I opened my eyes to the sound of my children, so innocently unaware of what had befallen their father: "is Daddy going to die?" asked one, in a voice engulfed with a worry that transcended her years; "no, but I think that he will have to use a wheelchair for the rest of his life," answered the other, the older of the two. In fact, I was neither dead, nor dying, however, the second possibility was not completely ruled out.
     I tried to speak but couldn’t. The post-opt room at the University of Washington Medical Center was decidedly cold. My gown provided an insignificant degree of warmth. All I could feel was the painful tubes and needles and other medical devices penetrating my veins on both sides in so painful a manner. The wound in my back was numbed by the anaesthesia. Its untold pain was yet to haunt me, though once it did, the nightmare resumed.
     My journey with chronic pain began nearly a decade ago; "typical back pain", it was then decided by my doctor; she found it extravagant to bother with an MRI or even X-rays. "Do you know how many Americans will suffer from back pain at one point of their lives?" she asked me in a reprimanding voice. I wasn’t interested in her statistics, nor she of wasting her time hearing me insist that my pain is too real to shelve or to serve as a further validation to her theoretical figures. The 5 minute visit was abruptly over, so was my faith in the government subsidized health care system. I simply tried to live with my pain. more..

Jewish Like Me
By Jesse Rosenfeld, Electronic Intifada 1/22/2007

     Like most kids growing up Jewish, I loved Israel. I identified with the country and saw my Jewish identity expressed in it.
     Maybe it was because I found inspiration in an Israeli culture that seemed to focus on youth. I liked how David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister, referred to the "New Israeli Jew" -- strong, committed and independent -- as opposed to the idea of a "European Jew" -- weak, emasculated, and dependent. Or maybe I wanted to identify with something other than tedious family gatherings in Toronto complete with a grandmother who pinched my cheeks.
     Either way, as a short, underweight early teen looking to find a form of community and feeling of empowerment, Israel and its image provided me with a feeling of masculinity. The Israeli myth allowed me to reject the stuffiness of North American Jewish culture while keeping a sense of an imagined community that was still accepted, and even encouraged, by my family and community.
     As I explored this more, I began to realize that Zionism was synonymous with a violent colonization and occupation of another people. more..

Dan Halutz to the Hague!
By Michael Warschawski, Alternative Information Center 1/23/2007

     Major General Dan Halutz, the IDF Chief of Staff, has finally decided to resign. Good news, but not good enough. Last summer, during the war against Lebanon, we demanded his resignation due to the war crimes the Israeli military forces were committing under his command. Following the war’s end, reserve soldiers and officers called for his resignation, due to his miserable failure as head of a powerful military, defeated by a relatively small guerilla group. Half a year after his failure in Lebanon, and while the Winograd Commission has not yet issued the conclusions of its official inquiry on the Lebanon war, Dan Halutz decided to anticipate the expected recommendations and resign.
     The fact that this man will no longer command the Israeli military, however, is certainly not enough. He must also be put on trial for war crimes, as Yesh Gvul, the reserve soldiers movement, has been petitioning the Israeli Supreme Court to do for more than three years.
     He must be put on trial for the numerous war crimes committed in Lebanon under his command, and particularly the bombing of cities, villages, and car convoys of civilians trying to escape the combat zones, as well as for the bombing of electric power plants and other Lebanese civilian infrastructure.
     But, more specifically, for his decision, in July 2002, to bomb a residential building in Gaza, where dozens of civilians, including many children, lost their lives; a building in which military intelligence had located Hamas leader Salah Shehadeh. The massacre of the Daraj neighborhood in Gaza that day, is only one of many such war crimes, but it will be remembered as a special event because of the reaction of Halutz. When interviewed by the Israeli media about the many civilian casualties, he explained that he felt no remorse or anything else, outside “a slight tremor in the wing of the airplane,” at the very second the bomb was dropped. more..

The transformation of the IRA shows why Israel should talk to Hamas
By Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian 1/24/2007

     Only negotiations with both main Palestinian parties can deliver the peace deal that the two peoples now support
     Jerusalem -- The Israeli novelist Amos Oz once said Israelis and Palestinians were like patients who know exactly what painful surgery they need to undergo and are ready to face it. The trouble is, their surgeons are cowards. That’s certainly how it seems now. The two peoples have come, without enthusiasm, to a realisation of what will have to be done, what will have to be sacrificed, to live alongside the other. Polls show large majorities on both sides ready to back a peace deal on the now-traditional lines: two states, one for each nation. A recent survey had 72% of Palestinians wanting their leaders to sign a peace treaty with Israel. Meanwhile, assorted members of Israel’s cabinet have been tripping over each other to offer their own peace plans - recognition that there’s a hunger among Israelis to escape the status quo.
     Yet the two leaders - the surgeons - are frozen. Tonight Israel’s prime minister, Ehud Olmert, will address the Herzliya security conference, an occasion that has come to be associated with high political drama ever since Ariel Sharon used it to announce his planned disengagement from Gaza. Yet few among Israel’s punditocracy expect any such thunderbolt from Olmert. Ever since his core unilateralism strategy was discredited last summer by what Israelis call the second Lebanon war - which seemed to prove that unilateral pullouts from once-occupied territory only bring trouble - Olmert has been without an agenda, let alone a vision.
     Meanwhile, the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, is a byword for weakness. With next to no powerbase, even in his own Fatah movement, he has seen a virtual civil war erupt between his men and Hamas, which a year ago won a majority in the Palestinian parliament. More than 60 Palestinians have been killed by Palestinians. Before he can even think about reconciling with Israel, Abbas has to reconcile Fatah and Hamas. more..

Impossible travel
By Amira Hass, Ha’aretz 1/20/2007

     All the promises to relax restrictions in the West Bank have obscured the true picture. A few roadblocks have been removed, but the following prohibitions have remained in place. (This information was gathered by Haaretz, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and Machsom Watch)
     Standing prohibitions
     * Palestinians from the Gaza Strip are forbidden to stay in the West Bank.
     * Palestinians are forbidden to enter East Jerusalem.
     * West Bank Palestinians are forbidden to enter the Gaza Strip through the Erez crossing.
     * Palestinians are forbidden to enter the Jordan Valley.
     * Palestinians are forbidden to enter villages, lands, towns and neighborhoods along the "seam line" between the separation fence and the Green Line (some 10 percent of the West Bank).
     * Palestinians who are not residents of the villages Beit Furik and Beit Dajan in the Nablus area, and Ramadin, south of Hebron, are forbidden entry.
     * Palestinians are forbidden to enter the settlements’ area (even if their lands are inside the settlements’ built area).
     * Palestinians are forbidden to enter Nablus in a vehicle.
     * Palestinian residents of Jerusalem are forbidden to enter area A (Palestinian towns in the West Bank).... -- See also: Machsom Watch more..

The hate that dare not speak its name
By Eoin Murray, Electronic Intifada 1/20/2007

     West Bank, occupied Palestine
     Topography here is in constant fluctuation. From one visit to the next a whole area, or just a small street, can look completely different. In Gaza, maybe it has been destroyed or, sometimes, rebuilt.
     In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, a flow of ongoing construction manifests itself in the wall, in the illegal settlements and in the construction of the discriminatory road system.
     Today, while driving through the western edges of the West Bank, we began to understand what the "forbidden roads regime" actually means -- through an intricate series of road systems Israelis will travel on one set of roads while Palestinians will travel on roads built underneath them.
     It is claimed that the system is designed to facilitate so-called ’viability’ of any potential Palestinian state by making it territorially contiguous. More importantly, as Trocaire’s partner B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights information centre, say: "The Forbidden Roads Regime is based ... on a racist premise, that indiscriminately harms the entire Palestinian population, in violation of their human rights and of international law." (B’Tselem has a map of the road system here.)
     Many of the roads we passed are still under construction. We drove along the Israeli-only highways and saw, to the side, dirt tracks that will be turned into small roads for Palestinians. Although we were driving through the occupied West Bank we did not see any Palestinians and we didn’t see their villages or towns. Only Jewish settlements were visible.
     The view has been "sanitised" so that Palestinians are never seen, or heard. more..

Hebron Occupied, And Deserted
By Nora Barrows-Friedman, Electronic Intifada/IPS 1/22/2007

     HEBRON, Occupied Palestinian West Bank
     As the illegal Israeli occupation grinds on, the daily situation for Palestinians worsens by the day. Hebron presents a vivid picture of the cumulative face of this colonial project.
     Hebron, about 35km south of Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank, has historically existed as a mixed Muslim-Jewish city, but over the last few decades the Israeli authorities have been choking its 150,000 Palestinians while supporting the settler movement.
     Approximately 650 radical right-wing settlers have taken over parts of the old city, destroyed Palestinian neighbourhoods and the economic infrastructure, and are free to terrorise Palestinians at whim.
     Hebron is divided into two parts called H1 and H2, drawing a line between the settlements and the rest of the city. Today, most Palestinians are not allowed anywhere near H2.
     Once a bustling marketplace and residential neighbourhood, that part of the city has become essentially a ghost town inhabited by settlers who are protected by the occupation soldiers and the Israeli police force.
     Graffiti is sprayed all over the closed metal shop doors and mosques, with Stars of David and slogans such as ’Kill the Arabs’, ’God will take revenge on the non-religious’, ’Arabs to the gas chambers’.
     Hani Abu Akker was born in his house 40 years ago in the Tel Rumeida neighbourhood, now a part of H2, at the top of a steep hill that overlooks the old city of Hebron. Here, the cacophony of the lively Palestinian market below blends with the shouts and sounds of children playing soccer against the walls of apartments near Hani’s home. more..

Important Lessons: Integrated Education in the State of Israel
By Ilona Drewry, Electronic Intifada 1/22/2007

     The current public education system in Israel mirrors the wider divisions in society. It is divided into separate sectors: religious Jewish, secular Jewish, Orthodox Jewish and Arab. Although roughly one quarter of Israel’s 1.6 million schoolchildren are Arab, their parallel education system reveals fundamental inequality. The 2001 Human Rights Watch report "Second Class: Discrimination against Palestinian Arab Children in Israel’s Schools" details the extent of the inequalities in funding, facilities, teacher-student ratios.
     Integrated schools represent a glimmer of light in this picture of a discriminatory and segregated education system.
     Integrated schools provide a neutral space where the children of fractious and opposing groups can be educated together. Their model reflects the widely held belief that "contact" between people and communities will improve relations. Contact opportunities fall into two distinct categories -- the short-term and largely symbolic, and the longer-term and sustainable focused. Too often, interventions facilitated by well-meaning international or local NGOs in Israel fall into the first, superficial category. Joint Arab-Jewish projects to clean up the polluted River Jordan, the replanting of olive groves and one-off theatrical events all fall into the first, more symbolic category. Although not without value, they are too often the window-dressing the Israeli and international communities present to show that something is being done to "break down barriers" and "reduce prejudice" amongst young people.
     In contrast, integrated schools offer an opportunity for the sustainable contact that is critical if lasting relationships between the two groups are to be built. The Arab and Jewish children who attend the four bi-national and bilingual schools in Israel supported by the Ministry of Education, do so every day, year in and year out. Similarly, the parents, teachers and administrators involved with the school are in constant contact; in this way the communities are drawn together through their children. more..

New rules for the Middle East game
By Raanan Eliaz, Ha’aretz 1/20/2007

     [How co-opting Europe into becoming Israel’s second nursemaid will eventually lead to a "solution". - Ed.]
     The current discussions about the future of American foreign policy in the Middle East touch directly upon Israel-U.S. relations. U.S. policymakers, however, have not yet given enough consideration to the unprecedented weight that the European Union increasingly exerts in the region. In the case of Israel as well as on other U.S. fronts, no durable progress is reachable without the agreement, not to say the active involvement, of the slowly uniting Europe.
     A historic window of opportunity may be brought on by the development of the EU over the past decades, the escalation of the conflict in the Middle East to include a nuclear threat, and the volatility of the U.S. role in the region. In view of this, the United States should realize the strategic value of gradually integrating Israel into the European Union. Although a full membership is not in the cards at the moment, the EU becoming Israel’s second closest strategic ally, alongside the U.S., is in everybody’s best interests. Over the next decade or two, relations between the U.S., the EU and Israel should be progressively formulated anew.
     Raanan Eliaz, former Coordinator at the Israeli National Security Council, is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium, and a consultant on European-Israeli Affairs. more..

A Freedom Ride
By Uri Avnery, Gush Shalom 1/20/2007

     Mahatma Gandhi would have loved it. Nelson Mandela would have saluted. Martin Luther King would have been the most excited - it would have reminded him of the old days.
     Yesterday, a decree of the Officer Commanding the Central Sector, General Yair Naveh, was about to come into force. It forbade Israeli drivers from giving a ride to Palestinian passengers in the occupied territories. The knitted-Kippah-wearing General, a friend of the settlers, justified this as a vital security necessity. In the past, inhabitants of the West Bank have sometimes reached Israeli territory in Israeli cars.
     Israeli peace activists decided that this nauseating order must be protested. Several organizations planned a protest action for the very day it was due to come into force. They organized a "Freedom Ride" of Israeli car-owners who were to enter the West Bank (a criminal offence in itself) and give a ride to local Palestinians, who had volunteered for the action.
     An impressive event in the making. Israeli drivers and Palestinian passengers breaking the law openly, facing arrest and trial in a military court.
     At the last moment, the general "froze" the order. The demonstration was called off.
     THE ORDER that was suspended (but not officially rescinded) emitted a strong odor of apartheid. It joins a large number of acts of the occupation authorities that are reminiscent of the racist regime of South Africa, such as the systematic building of roads in the West Bank for Israelis only and on which Palestinians are forbidden to travel. Or the "temporary" law that forbids Palestinians in the occupied territories, who have married Israeli citizens, to live with their spouses in Israel. And, most importantly, the Wall, which is officially called "the separation obstacle". In Afrikaans, "apartheid" means separation. more..

The wild Negev
By Israel Harel, Ha’aretz 1/22/2007

     Over a decade ago, several Bedouin families set up their tents near Kibbutz Revivim. Members of the kibbutz, apparently for humanitarian reasons, did not rush to expel them. When the grazing season ends, they figured, the Bedouin will move on. But this was being naive: No one moved on, dozens of additional families joined the encampment, and it became a village. Today, it is already a town of over 6,000 people, spread over hundreds of dunams. And, as in other towns in the Negev that sprouted in a similar way, a culture of poverty, drug use, drug trafficking and theft, especially of agricultural property, is also developing there.
     The head of the regional council, Shmuel Rifman of Kibbutz Revivim, says that from his kibbutz alone, some 300 olive trees have been uprooted and dozens of calves and pieces of agricultural equipment have been stolen. Rifman, who is also chairs the regional councils’ umbrella organization, wrote last month to Public Security Minister Avi Dichter: "[The police] have left the rural sector exposed ... A shocking amount of property is being stolen and transferred to the Palestinian Authority ... hundreds of olive trees, hundreds and perhaps thousands of heads of cattle ... entire greenhouses have been dismantled and stolen, [as well as] hundreds of tons of agricultural produce, farming tools and more." And he warned: "I am afraid of the dire ramifications of the wave of crime we are experiencing ... We are sitting on a barrel of explosives. Our security has been abandoned. The feeling of helplessness is clear to the criminals. Don’t lead us into a situation of loss of control." Among his recommendations: Since there is no police presence or enforcement, "enable farmers to strike at those who trespass on their property to steal cattle and agricultural produce." more..

Bush Urged to Make Israeli-Palestinian Peace Now
By Jim Lobe, Inter Press Service 1/22/2007

     WASHINGTON, Jan 22 (IPS) - As U.S. President George W. Bush puts the final touches on his State of the Union Address, an unusually broad group of Middle East specialists here is hoping that he will make his proposed two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a centrepiece of both his speech and his last two years in office.
     Despite the political weakness of both Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the group, the Campaign for American Leadership in the Middle East (CALME), believes that the current moment offers a major opportunity for a breakthrough in the 60-year-old conflict, so long as Bush is prepared to become far more deeply involved in the effort than he has in the past.
     The group includes a large number of regional and national security specialists, including most of the members of the 10-person bipartisan Iraq Study Group (ISG), such as its co-chair, former Rep. Lee Hamilton and former Republican Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, as well as a number of other cabinet members of both Republican and Democratic administrations.
     "Momentum is building," said CALME chairman William Cohen, who just returned from a trip to Saudi Arabia and Egypt -- which have also been calling with growing urgency for Bush to commit himself to a peace settlement. "We must seize this opening." more..

Carter and Camp David, where it all began
By Zachary Wales, Electronic Intifada 1/22/2007

     Now it’s on. The debate over President Jimmy Carter’s Palestine: Peace not Apartheid has become a mainstream staple. Turn on Fox News and see resigned Carter aid Steve Berman bullied into saying that Carter is not only anti-Semitic, but supports terror. Open the New York Times, Amazon.com, Washington Post and find outraged columnists, petitioning consumers, D-Rep. Lady Macbeth washing her hands of that dreaded a-word.
     But like most things Israeli and Palestinian, few are taking note of history and what it might mean to an ex-president. Carter is no longer in "the game," which affords him the liberty to speak frankly, unlike Howard Dean, who once hinted at criticisms of Israel before quickly retreating to behavioral protocol. Perhaps then it is fairer to judge Carter’s present in light of his past, when political cards were stacked and he spoke with another voice.
     It is mid-September 1978, and President Carter has invited Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to Camp David for thirteen days of negotiation over an Arab-Israeli peace. The event was preceded by Sadat’s diplomatic visit to Jerusalem in November 1977, the first public meeting between an Arab leader and Zionist or Israeli official since the June 1918 meeting between Chaim Weizmann and the Emir Faisal. Opposition proliferated: the government in Damascus instituted a "Day of National Mourning," Iraq canceled the celebratory Al-Adha feast, Libya withdrew recognition of the Sadat government, and Egypt’s Foreign Minister Ismail Fahmy submitted his resignation. more..

The State of Judea
By Danny Rubinstein, Ha’aretz 1/23/2007

     In the 1980s, with the peace agreement with Egypt and the Israeli withdrawal from Sinai, Kach movement activist Michael Ben-Horin founded what he and his friends called "the State of Judea."
     Their intention was symbolic: to indicate a possible alternative to Israeli rule in the West Bank, if and when Israel withdraws from the territories.
     Ben-Horin took for himself the title of president of the State of Judea. Later he was one of the editors of the book Baruch Hagever, which eulogized Baruch Goldstein, the Tomb of the Patriarchs murderer, and was one of the heroes of the pulsa denura - the death curse - hounding of Yitzhak Rabin.
     The hard core of settlers in Judea and Samaria, veterans of Gush Emunim, do not absolutely identify with Ben-Horin and his colleagues. They have also never declared the possibility of establishing a separate state in the West Bank along the lines of the State of Judea. However, in many respects, with the encouragement of the governments of Israel and under their auspices, a state entity with a character of its own has indeed been established in the West Bank.
     At one time, there was a lot of talk about how rule over the Palestinian people is corrupting Israel. It was said it’s impossible to maintain a democracy in an Israel that’s ruling over a foreign people, and that the manifestations of violence and corruption in Israeli society will increase because of the denial of rights to the Palestinians. more..

By Gideon Levy, Ha’aretz 1/22/2007

     What happened in the courtyard of the impressive old building that laborer Wahib al-Dik was helping to renovate that caused a paratrooper to fire a barrage of bullets and kill him? Why did the soldiers enter the courtyard in the first place? Did Dik really intend to throw a large rock at the soldiers? And if so, does that mean he should have been killed? After being shot, Dik fell down the ancient staircase to the sand floor before the terrified eyes of his father, Maslah al-Dik. Both were in part of the group of plasterers renovating the building in their village, with funding from the Swedish government. Just 27 when he died, Wahib left four children between the ages of six months and six years, and a widow who is three months’ pregnant.
     The renovations have been halted. Several weeks after the killing, the bloodstains are still visible in the sandy courtyard. Also visible is the blood on the two buckets that Dik was carrying just before he was killed. The building is large and beautiful, with an inner courtyard surrounded by giant, ornately decorated arches and an old staircase that goes up to the second floor, to the place where the plasterer stood before plummeting to his death. The old ruin in the center of the village of Al-Dik, west of Ariel, near the Barkan industrial zone, was being renovated with funds from Sweden’s international development agency, SIDA. The project was supposed to provide employment while preserving the structure.
     "The soldier shot to kill," the project architect with the REVAC company, Khaldun Bishara, wrote. "Dik was a dedicated worker who contributed a lot to the renovation work," he added, demanding that the guilty parties be brought to justice. more..

Never Forget the Prisoners
By Joharah Baker, MIFTAH 1/18/2007

     While the Palestinians have unfortunately become all too familiar with unnecessary deaths, they will never come to accept them hands down. On January 16, 38-year-old Jamal Sarahin from the Hebron-area village of Tarqumiya died in an Israeli hospital apparently from complications resulting from pneumonia. Sarahin had been under Israeli administrative detention for the past eight months in the Negev Detention Center.
     According to Fateh prisoner representative in the Legislative Council Issa Qaraqe, Sarahin passed away in the Soroka Hospital in Beer Sheva after his health severely deteriorated that morning. Qaraqe said Israeli prison authorities refused to offer immediate medical attention to the prisoner and only heeded repeated calls to have him transferred to the prison clinic and later to the hospital after his condition took a dangerous plunge for the worse.
     Naturally, the prisoners and people at large are holding the Israeli prison authorities at the Negev Detention Center responsible for Sarahin’s death. Irate prisoners have clashed with prison guards in the desert penitentiary and all Palestinian prisoners have declared a hunger strike as of this morning in protest of Sarahin’s death.
     Sarahin is certainly not the only Palestinian prisoner to perish in Israeli jails. Throughout the six years of the Aqsa Intifada alone, the Palestinian Prisoners Club has documented the deaths of 14 men behind Israeli bars. more..

Return to Arab survival
By Azmi Bishara, Al-Ahram Weekly 1/18/2007

     Over Iraq, Arab states lost their way, putting the survival of the Arab order subservient to external favour, and US-inspired coalitions
     Will the deception of historical progression -- or the irony of fate -- manifest itself in this region with the collapse of Arab nationalism, not at the hands of pan-Arab or pan-Islamic movements but by force of local kin and sectarian groupings, which had originally inspired the ideology of pan-Arab statehood in the colonialist mandate era? It seems that these forces, with the help of some petit politicians, are incapable of tearing down the edifice on their own. However strong the ambitions of their leaders are to free themselves from the constraints of ideology and to mobilise popular bases behind them, not on the basis of a political calling, but on the basis of blood ties and cries for vengeance without going so far as to exact revenge, not all countries are Somalia.
     Elsewhere there are actual states, with governing institutions and national armies. It is in their interest to survive, even, perhaps, if that requires reform, and their survival instinct should have been sharpened by having been first-hand witnesses to the catastrophe that is Iraq. Yet the danger looms that the regimes of these states will ally themselves, individually or in coalitions, with the organic tribal or sectarian groupings inside each separate country, heedless of the exorbitant costs entailed in the attempt to realise their short-term and narrow political ambitions. The price will be no less than the sacrifice of any dream of national unity and all possibility of creating an overarching bond of citizenship because these will have been cast to the winds by the drive to fuel fears and to inflame ethnic and sectarian hatreds, and by the cries for blood that resound from the primitive depths of the earth.
     Iraq was smashed to pieces because various Arab powers colluded with American designs and the Arabs that opposed this war were effectively isolated by force of the same collusion. Iran rose to the vanguard of the most vocal opponents to the war as a result of the official Arab stance, particularly that of the Gulf states, which could barely conceal their glee at the fall of the Iraqi regime beneath relentless bombardment and at the subsequent capture of Saddam Hussein. But what a different tune they were singing then in contrast to their recent protests against the execution of Saddam on the first day of the Feast of Sacrifice... more..

This is what democracy looks like
By Eoin Murray, Electronic Intifada 1/18/2007

     Gaza City, occupied Palestine
     We left Dublin airport last Friday evening. This time it was harder to leave. Perhaps because each time I travel to the Occupied Palestinian Territory the situation has deteriorated in some unexpected way and I become more depressed about the lives of friends and colleagues.
     Perhaps it was just because there was a taste of something lingering that I didn’t want to leave behind. Anyway, some suprise, then, when I arrived in Gaza. It took us (myself and Aine Bhreathnach, Middle East Emergency Programme Officer) two days to reach Gaza.
     On Saturday the Israeli military hadn’t ’processed’ our applications, so we weren’t allowed in. Luckily for us they spent 11 hours processing it on Sunday. Unfortunately for us, we had to spend seven of those hours physically sitting at the Erez checkpoint in to Gaza.
     We reached Gaza tired and already depressed -- the long walk through the cages at Erez is a deeply humiliating experience. Humiliating not because we have to go through it but because we see people on wheelchairs being pushed through, we see children cowering through, we see women and men covered in bandages hobbling through. The humiliation is because I can’t bear to see one set of people being treated like this by another.
     Anyway, all that was a long way of saying that we reached Gaza, tired and depressed. We were immediately kidnapped, in the best sense, by staff from Trocaire’s partner the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights.
     And here comes the surprise. It’s a good one. more..

We, the Jewish state
By Jonathan Cook, Al-Ahram Weekly 1/18/2007

     The state of Israel seems poised to impose its Zionist character using the force of the law. With this legislating of loyalty, it reveals its racism.
     Nazareth -- When I published my book Blood and Religion last year, I sought not only to explain what lay behind Israeli policies since the failed Camp David negotiations nearly seven years ago, including the disengagement from Gaza and the building of a wall across the West Bank, but I also offered a few suggestions about where Israel might head next. Click to view caption Demolition of Bedouin homes by Israeli security forces in the village of Al-Twail in the northern Negev last week
     Making predictions in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict might be considered a particularly dangerous form of hubris, but I could hardly have guessed how soon my fears would be realised.
     One of the main forecasts of my book was that Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line -- those who currently enjoy Israeli citizenship and those who live as oppressed subjects of Israel’s occupation -- would soon find common cause as Israel tries to seal itself off from what it calls the Palestinian "demographic threat": that is, the moment when Palestinians outnumber Jews in the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.
     I suggested that Israel’s greatest fear was ruling over a majority of Palestinians and being compared to apartheid South Africa, a fate that has possibly befallen it faster than I expected with the recent publication of Jimmy Carter’s book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. To avoid such a comparison, I argued, Israel was creating a "Jewish fortress", separating -- at least demographically -- from Palestinians in the occupied territories by sealing off Gaza through a disengagement of its settler population and by building a 750 kilometre wall to annex large areas of the West Bank.
     It was also closing off the last remaining avenue of a right of return for Palestinians by changing the law to make it all but impossible for Palestinians living in Israel to marry Palestinians in the occupied territories and thereby gain them citizenship. more..

Petro-Power and the Nuclear Renaissance
By Michael Klare, Middle East Online 1/17/2007

     With global demand for energy constantly rising and supplies contracting (or at least failing to keep pace), the world is being ever more sharply divided into two classes of nations: the energy haves and have-nots. Not "Islamo-fascism" but "Energo-fascism" -- the heavily militarized global struggle over diminishing supplies of energy -- will dominate world affairs (and darken the lives of ordinary citizens) in the decades to come. This is so because top government officials globally are increasingly unwilling to rely on market forces to satisfy national energy needs and are instead assuming direct responsibility for the procurement, delivery, and allocation of energy supplies. The leaders of the major powers are ever more prepared to use force when deemed necessary to overcome any resistance to their energy priorities. In the case of the United States, this has required the conversion of our armed forces into a global oil-protection service; two other significant expressions of emerging Energo-fascism are: the arrival of Russia as an "energy superpower" and the repressive implications of plans to rely on nuclear power.
     Energy Haves and Have-nots
     With global demand for energy constantly rising and supplies contracting (or at least failing to keep pace), the world is being ever more sharply divided into two classes of nations: the energy haves and have-nots. The haves are the nations with sufficient domestic reserves (some combination of oil, gas, coal, hydro-power, uranium, and alternative sources of energy) to satisfy their own requirements and be able to export to other countries; the have-nots lack such reserves and must make up the deficit with expensive imports or suffer the consequences. more..

The War Becomes More Unholy
By Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily, Inter Press Service 1/17/2007

     A stepped up military offensive that targets mosques, religious leaders and Islamic customs is leading many Iraqis to believe that the U.S.-led invasion really was a ’holy war’.
     Photographs are being circulated of black crosses painted on mosque walls and on copies of the Quran, and of soldiers dumping their waste inside mosques. New stories appear frequently of raids on mosques and brutal treatment of Islamic clerics, leading many Iraqis to ask if the invasion and occupation was a war against Islam.
     Many Iraqis now recall remarks by U.S. President George W. Bush shortly after the events of Sep. 11, 2001 when he told reporters that "this crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take a while."
     "Bush’s tongue ’slipped’ more than once when he spoke of ’fascist Islamists’ and used other similar expressions that touched the very nerve of Muslims around the world," Sheikh Abdul Salam al-Kubayssi of the Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS), a leading Sunni group, told IPS in Baghdad. "We wish they were just mere slips, but what is going on repeatedly makes one think of crusades over and over."
     Occupation forces claim that mosque raids are being conducted because holy places are being used by resistance fighters.
     ....Local people refute these claims made by coalition forces.
     "Fighters never used mosques for attacking Americans because they realise the consequences and reactions from the military," a member of the local municipality council of Fallujah told IPS on condition of anonymity. "Nonetheless, U.S. soldiers always targeted our mosques and their minarets." more..

Left foot forward
By Gamil Mattar, Al-Ahram Weekly 1/18/2007

     The recent histories of Latin America and the Arab world share many features. But now their paths are diverging.
     Manuel Ortega of Nicaragua, Evo Morales of Bolivia, Lula de Silva of Brazil, Tabaré Vàzquez of Uraquay, Hugo Chàvez of Venezuela, Michelle Bachelet of Chile, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the Democratic Revolution Party candidate in Mexico’s 2006 presidential elections, Olanta Humala, the Union for Peru candidate in Peru’s 2006 presidential elections -- these are some of the names that are shaping the new reality in Latin America, a continent that, for two decades or more, was thought to have lost its self-confidence and sense of direction.
     The Cold War had cast a long shadow over Latin America, just as it did in the Middle East, and the left was fragmented, under constant attack and relentlessly suppressed. These were days when it took great courage for a leftist leadership or movement to refuse to obey the will of the US, for to do so would almost automatically seal its fate.
     In the early 1950s, for example, Guatemala’s first stab at self-determination under a leftwing, democratically elected government, was struck down by the US with a brutality that remains the substance of stories. Guatemalans, particularly the indigenous Indian population, often relate these to their children. Chronic violence in small countries whose people, forests and mines were controlled by an American company or two, was one of the products of this phase in the relationship between the US and those Central American countries that American political commentators often sneeringly referred to as "banana republics".
     The left made another bid for power in Chile when Salvador Allende fielded himself for the presidency against Eduardo Frei. The latter represented the International Christian Democrats and, particularly, the ethnically German contingent of that party. Although the left lost that battle it, rallied its strength again and won the next elections. Washington refused to accept the results and soon conspired with the Chilean military to stage a coup. Allende was assassinated, and Chile fell under the control of a fascist government that implemented Chicago school laissez-faire economics and installed Augusto Pinochet as the new president. There followed a period of brutal repression after which the left was reduced to small pockets that would occasionally resurface in Latin America. more..

Farmers lands are on one side of the Wall and house is on the other: Israelis ban cars & horse carts
Palestine News Network 1/17/2007

     Qalqilia -- The Israeli government already will not issue permits for Palestinian farmers to use their cars, or any type of motor vehicle, to reach their lands now on the other side of the Wall, but horse drawn carriages have just been banned as well.
     In one of the many areas of the West Bank that was cut in two by the Israeli Wall, farmers in Qalqilia have their land now on one side of the Wall and their town on the other. As Qalqilia is encircled, the situation is as bad in the north as it is in the west.
     Getting to and from one’s land has been more restrictive with each passing months. It is often not possible at all. If a farmer manages to obtain a permit from the Israeli administration office located in a settlement in the northwestern West Bank, then he must pass through the myriad checkpoints, restrictions and humiliations.
     In addition to land confiscation, the ability of farmers to reach their land, to keep it alive and economically viable, is a process which aims to exhaust until it is finally disallowed altogether. The latest move is that Israeli forces will not allow Palestinian farmers to bring their farm carts from their town to their land because of a settler road. Israeli settlements have their own roads linking them to inside Israeli boundaries and now Palestinian farmers cannot pass through the gate in the Wall with their horse-drawn carts because the Israeli administration says they pose a danger to the settlers.
     The Israelis imposed this latest restriction after a cart and car collided last week and the settler driving the car was injured. Farmer Ahmed Antori said, “The Israeli army issued the statement claiming that our carts constitute a danger to the lives of settlers.” It changes nothing in this claim that settlers and settlements in the West Bank are contravening international law by being there, or that this is the Palestinian state which the American Secretary of State and President are talking so much about this week. Israeli settlements are being expanded throughout the West Bank, creating cantons. The Wall is still being built, despite the International Court of Justice ruling that it is illegal. more..

The battle within
By Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 1/14/2007

     RAMALLAH - Sufian Abu Zeida’s blue eyes are tired and lifeless. He cannot get the battle in the Jabalya refugee camp in Gaza last Thursday out of his head. Hamas militants killed his neighbor and fellow Fatah member Mohammed Gharib, head of Preventive Security in the Gaza Strip, in a raid on his home. The same force also blew up Abu Zeida’s home. After a week of battles in Gaza, the likelihood of peace with the Israelis appears greater than reconciliation with his neighbors in Hamas.
     "Our future is black," Abu Zeida, a senior Fatah official and former Palestinian Authority cabinet minister, told Haaretz this week in an interview in Ramallah. "We have no way out. In one day my world turned upside down. My wife and children no longer sleep at home, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to return to my work. Mohammed Gharib had been my friend since childhood, he was in the class below me in school. But I tell myself I can’t complain - compared to Mohammed, I’m fortunate. All they did was blow up my house. The Hamas activists executed him with smiles, with pleasure. They laughed and joked among themselves and then shot him to death. Afterwards they tied up his nephew and held him for several hours, a boy of 16. At one point he asked for water. They returned a few minutes later with a suspicious-looking liquid and the boy understood that he shouldn’t drink it. Then they poured it on his hands. Do you know what it was? Acid. Do you understand the depths of the hatred?" Abu Zeida asked.
     "Who would have believed," asks his friend Salim Abu Safiya, a senior Fatah official and the head of border crossings for the PA, "that of all people Hamas would try to kill Sufian, who is so well known for his nationalist struggle. Allah and I rescued him from death," he says. That day the father of a mutual friend, businessman Ihab al-Ashkar, died after a long battle with cancer.
     .....At that point, the other occupants of the house began to surrender as well. The gunmen waited for them outside, and each young man who emerged was shot in the knees. Some were taken for a "walk" in Gaza City and then thrown, bleeding, into the street. Two Fatah men - Hussein Abu Khalil and Ihab Al-Mabhouh - were killed in the course of the battle. After the fact it turned out that one of the Hamas gunmen who shot Ihab was his brother. Both were masked and were unaware that they were shooting at one another. more..

Tunnels for hire as Gaza’s smugglers risk their lives
By Conal Urquhart, The Guardian 1/17/2007

     Young men of Rafah dig their way to Egypt to bring out arms and cigarettes
     The sun has dropped below the horizon and the muezzins in Gaza and Egypt produce two distinct walls of sound at either side of the deserted strip that buffers the border.
     Darkness falls quickly on the no man’s land that used to be patrolled by Israeli tanks. The 100 metre wide strip is a graveyard of bulldozed houses. Mounds of rubble and steel spikes are monuments to what used to be streets.
     A faint orange glow can be seen from beneath one destroyed house, its two floors lying like a sandwich on what remains of the walls. Under the collapsed floor and through what remains of three rooms, a group of tunnellers are beginning their night’s work.
     The people of Rafah have been tunnelling to Egypt for more than 20 years in order to smuggle goods. Now there are more tunnels than ever as poverty forces increasing numbers of people to risk death underground.
     Ahmed and his partners chose the ruined house because it is 30 metres from the fence that marks the border yet far from any Egyptian watchtowers. It is easy to guard from a distance by day and there are no neighbours to disturb by night. The tunnel shaft is five metres deep and more than a square metre in cross-section. A pulley hangs above it to fetch up the yellow jerry cans that are used to carry the earth. The earth is then emptied into flour sacks to be discreetly emptied later.
     Below the shaft, the horizontal section is much smaller, around 60cm by 70cm (about 2ft by 2ft 4ins) - the optimum size to give space and stability. Air is pumped into the tunnel with vacuum cleaners and via ventilation shafts. The latter also show partners on the Egyptian side where the tunnel is heading so that its path can be corrected. more..

Who needs an Arab minister?
By Wadi'a Ua'da, Ha’aretz 1/18/2007

     The potential appointment of Labor MK Raleb Majadele as minister of culture, science and sport is indeed a precedent in the history of Arab politics in Israel, but it is not even the harbinger of a change in Israel’s attitude vis-a-vis its Arab citizens. The context and the timing of the appointment weigh heavily on the move, and the breaking of the taboo looks more like a maneuver than a milestone in the citizenship of Israel’s Arabs, and the muddy relations between them and the state.
     The new ministerial position that will grant to Arab citizens, if the appointment comes to fruition, a place at the government table is no different from similar appointments of deputy ministers or Supreme Court justices. Despite the differences in circumstances, such appointments are not far from the choice of Rana Raslan as Israel’s beauty queen or Sakhnin’s win of the national soccer trophy three years ago.
     The civil status of the Arabs was not advanced by those events, which Israel used as if they were a bouquet of fresh flowers to decorate its table of democracy before the nations of the world. It brings honor neither to the Labor Party, nor to its head, nor to the State of Israel or its Arab sector, to appoint politicians to positions that have the appearance of dominion but lack influence and are divorced from reality.
     How much more so, when we are facing an embarrassing and ridiculous situation in which an Arab citizen is supposed to be taking the place of Labor MK Ophir Pines-Paz, who resigned from the government in protest of the bringing into the government of Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman. Majadele’s appointment is far from advancing the cause of a common existence of all of the country’s citizens, and is based on an act of deception. more..

Iraqis will never accept this sellout to the oil corporations
By Kamil Mahdi, The Guardian 1/16/2007

     The US-controlled Iraqi government is preparing to remove the country’s most precious resource from national control
     Today Iraq remains under occupation, and the gulf between those who profess to rule and those who are ruled is filled with blood. The government is beholden to the occupation forces that are responsible for a humanitarian catastrophe and a political impasse. While defenceless citizens are killed at will, the government carries on with its business of protecting itself, collecting oil revenues, dispensing favours, justifying the occupation, and presiding over collapsing security, economic wellbeing, essential services and public administration. Above all, the rule of law has all but disappeared, replaced by sectarian demarcations under a parliamentary facade. Sectarianism promoted by the occupation is tearing apart civil society, local communities and public institutions, and it is placing people at the mercy of self appointed communal leaders, without any legal protection.
     The Iraqi government is failing to properly discharge its duties and responsibilities. It therefore seems incongruous that the government, with the help of USAid, the World Bank and the UN, is pushing through a comprehensive oil law to be promulgated close to an IMF deadline for the end of last year. Once again, an externally imposed timetable takes precedence over Iraq’s interests. Before embarking on controversial measures such as this law favouring foreign oil firms, the Iraqi parliament and government must prove that they are capable of protecting the country’s sovereignty and the people’s rights and interests. A government that is failing to protect the lives of its citizens must not embark on controversial legislation that ties the hands of future Iraqi leaders, and which threatens to squander the Iraqis’ precious, exhaustible resource in an orgy of waste, corruption and theft.
     Government officials, including the deputy prime minister, Barham Salih, have announced that the draft oil law is ready to be presented to the cabinet for approval. Salih was an enthusiast for the US-led invasion of Iraq, and the Kurdish militia-led administration he represents has signed illegal oil agreements that it is now seeking to legalise. Given that parliament has not been meeting regularly, it is likely that legislation will be rushed through after a deal brokered under the auspices of the US occupation. more..

Bush’s New Iran Policy - No Evidence for IED Charge
By Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service 1/16/2007

     For 18 months now, the George W. Bush administration has periodically raised the charge that Iran is supplying anti-coalition forces in Iraq with arms.
     But in the past, high administration officials have always admitted that they have no real evidence to support it. Now, they are going further. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters on her current Middle Eastern trip, "I think there is plenty of evidence that there is Iranian involvement with these networks that are making high-explosive IEDs [improvised explosive devices] and that are endangering our troops, and that’s going to be dealt with."
     However, Rice failed to provide any evidence of official Iranian involvement.
     The previous pattern had been that U.S. and British officials suggest that Iranian government involvement in the use by Sunni insurgents or Shiite militias of "shaped charges" that can penetrate U.S. armoured vehicles is the only logical conclusion that could be drawn from the facts. But when asked point blank, they admit that they have no evidence to support it.
     That charge serves not just one administration objective but two: it provides an additional justification for aggressive rhetoric and pressures against Tehran and also suggests that Iran bears much of the blame for the sectarian violence in Baghdad and high levels of U.S. casualties from IEDs.
     The origins of the theme of Iranian complicity strongly suggest that it was a propaganda line aimed at reducing the Bush administration’s acute embarrassment at its inability to stop the growing death toll of U.S. troops from shaped charges fired at armoured vehicles by Sunni insurgents. more..

US-Ethiopian Christmas Gift to Somalia
By Matthew Yglesias, Middle East Online 1/17/2007

     There are still more questions than answers regarding American involvement in Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia. There were no ‘al-Qaeda targets,’ and now Somalia is crumbling into chaos due to the US-supported Ethiopian invasion - perhaps providing fertile ground for al-Qaeda.
     The government of Ethiopia, the only Christian regime in the Horn of Africa, did something a bit unusual for Christmas -- it conquered Somalia and began an occupation of the capital, Mogadishu. In this day and age, obviously, one doesn’t just "conquer" a country, one implements regime change. In the case of Somalia, Mogadishu and most of the country had been under the control of something called the Islamic Courts Movement (ICU), a grassroots Islamist enterprise that inspired clichés about a "harsh brand of justice" but did manage to bring some law and order to the formerly warlord-plagued country.
     All this time, however, Somalia had a powerless de jure government set up by the international community, deeply divided amongst itself, and so lacking in support on the ground that its members didn’t dare enter the capital. It did, however, control the town of Baidoa, where Ethiopia had stationed thousands of troops to protect it. And so things stood, with the stated American policy being efforts to avoid a larger regional war between Ethiopia and the ICU. Then came Christmas. While nobody was paying attention, Ethiopia’s large and powerful military started marching on Mogadishu alongside some Somali government forces, which is to say warlord bands. Several thousand ICU soldiers were killed during routs of ICU forces in towns on the road between Baidoa and Mogadishu. At this point, the remaining ICU military began to "melt away," the Ethiopians marched into Mogadishu, and strict sharia law was rapidly displaced by Somalia’s customary blend of moderate Islam and total anarchy, as militia roadblocks and disorder once again spread throughout the capital.
     The United States gave what the papers called "tacit support" to all of this, partly on the grounds that three suspects from the 1998 East African embassy bombings were in Somalia. This, to the best of my knowledge, is true, though only one of the three individuals was actually indicted and all had come to Somalia before there was an ICU. more..

"The Arab-Isaeli conflict: Moving forward", Gareth Evans
By Gareth Evans, International Crisis Group 1/16/2007

     Remarks by Gareth Evans, President, ICG, to Concluding Plenary Session, Madrid +15 Conference, Towards Peace in the Middle East: Addressing Concerns and Expectations, Madrid, 12 January 2007.
     How can we now move forward, to capture and build on whatever momentum this conference has generated, following the two days of concentrated, frank and constructive debate we have witnessed between its Israeli, Arab, international, government and non-government participants? What in particular should be the role of the outside players - the major states, major intergovernmental organizations and major civil society actors - who are not immediate parties to the inter-related Israel-Palestine-Syria-Lebanon conflicts but have been generally acknowledged as having an important part to play in settling them?
     Nobody can be under any illusion as to how difficult a task we face. On a personal note, I have to say, for what it’s worth, that in all the years I have been working on conflict prevention and resolution, both as Australia’s foreign minister and president of the International Crisis Group – from Cambodia in the 1980s to Darfur today – I have never seen any set of conflict issues on which there is such a huge and depressing gap between, on the one hand, the collective awareness of what needs to be done and, on the other hand, collective impotence when it comes to doing it.
     There are reasons for that discrepancy, and all of them have been mentioned over the last two days: inherent flaws in the Madrid I and Oslo processes, with their focus on sequentialism, incrementalism and confidence building at the expense of the endgame; inadequate preparation – and time – when a more comprehensive (or ’totalist’, as Terje Roed Larsen puts it) approach has been adopted, as by Barak in 2000); dysfunctional Palestinian – and, let’s be frank, Israeli - political systems; U.S. disengagement; European divisions; and insufficient, and inadequately sustained, Arab leadership. more..

Palestinian news: Now in English
By Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 1/18/2007

     RAMALLAH - "It’s not that publishing a Palestinian newspaper in English was my idea," says Othman Al Haj Mohammed, the proprietor of the new Palestine Times, "but I was the only madman who decided to go for it."
     What makes you a madman?
     "Because everyone says I am. Everyone who wanted to put out a Palestinian newspaper in English wasn’t prepared to take the economic gamble. But I say, ’No courage, no glory.’ There is a vacuum that needs to be filled. The foreigners who live in the territories and Israel, the educated people in Israel - all these people are interested in reading news from a Palestinian point of view as well."
     Haj Mohammed, a 41-year-old resident of Beit Hanina, north of Jerusalem, says he dreamt of running a newspaper from an early age. By age 10 he had a subscription to Time magazine. He attended high school in Ramallah, later went to the United States, and returned to Ramallah in 1995.
     "Three years later, my fondness for magazines and journalism led me to try to put out a magazine called Zaman, in the hopes of creating an Arabic Newsweek. But after a year, I realized there weren’t enough readers in the Arab world. We didn’t have customers.
     "But the field continued to fascinate me. I understood that setting up a magazine or a newspaper isn’t all that complicated, but that keeping it up over the years is the real challenge. I spent a number of years in England, and in 2003, when I returned to Ramallah, I started to think about why there wasn’t an English-language newspaper that exposes people who don’t read Arabic to the Palestinian-Arab angle... " more..

Help, they want peace
By Uzi Benziman, Ha’aretz 1/17/2007

     It is enough to observe the panicked responses in Jerusalem to the report by Akiva Eldar yesterday in Haaretz on the outlines of an agreement between Israel and Syria cobbled together in unofficial talks, to feel yet again that generations of governments of Israel, including the present one, are responsible in no small way for prolonging the Israeli-Arab conflict. Unlike the first 30 years of the state’s existence, when the Arab world refused to recognize Israel, its neighbors have gradually come to terms with the reality starting in 1977. And since then, the Arab world has also started to bear responsibility, at least partially, for fanning the embers of the conflict.
     Olmert’s bureau raced yesterday to deny any connection, even a passive one, to the talks that took place in Europe on the Israel-Syrian conflict. Associates of Ariel Sharon, who, according to the report, was aware of the secret negotiations, did the same. The insulted added their voices to the deniers: A senior minister told Israel Radio that he is privy to all secret diplomatic moves and if he was not party to this, then there was nothing to be party to. And MK Yuval Steinitz said that he had spoken at the time with Sharon, who told him he ruled out any relationship with the present Syrian regime because of its ties to terror. A united front of deniers emerged, as if on command, to clarify that the Israeli government was not involved nor is it tainted by an attempt to come to an arrangement with Bashar Assad.
     This is a ludicrous spectacle, the irony of which fades in light of its depressing significance: Israel’s leaders are trying hard to prove to its citizens that they are not involved in a move to end 60 years of hostility with its Syrian neighbor. These leaders are kowtowing to residents of the Golan Heights, the settlers and the American government. The desire to mollify them seems to be the government’s top priority; otherwise, it is impossible to understand the complete and utter denial of the efforts reported by Eldar. It is as if Olmert decided that a confession on his part to any involvement in a channel of communication with Assad is politically lethal. more..

What Hamas Wants
By Paul Delmotte, Middle East Online 1/16/2007

     Hamas does not formally recognize Israel. This has brought about an international intransigence with regard to its victory in a democratic election. Paul Delmotte shows that Hamas has taken steps toward possible negotiation with Israel - and de facto recognition - which neither Israel nor the international community has acknowledged.
     The failure to form a Palestinian coalition government again raises the question of why Hamas persists in refusing to recognise Israel officially and explicitly, despite considerable pressure at home and abroad. The first answer, which is rarely discussed, is that Hamas is convinced that recognition would be a pointless concession.
     It has not forgotten that for decades the international community pressured the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and Fatah, both secular bodies, to make the same concession: They were given nothing in return, neither a Palestinian state nor a capital in East Jerusalem. Worse, Israel did not accept any responsibility for the Palestinian exodus of 1947-49 nor did it recognise the right of return (or the entitlement to compensation) of some 5 million refugees.
     In March 2006, the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, announced a unilateral programme of withdrawal from occupied territory, stipulating that Israel intended to keep 36.5% of the West Bank, not including East Jerusalem and the Jordan valley. This represented almost half of the 22% of the post-1949 Palestine on which Yasser Arafat had hoped to build a Palestinian state. Hamas consequently seems to have decided to stick to the position the PLO defended in the 1970s and 1980s, keeping recognition for Israel in reserve, while making a succession of minor statements reflecting de facto recognition of Israel.
     Many commentators maintain that Hamas’ radical stance is due entirely to its Islamist worldview. As researchers Bruno Guigue and Khaled Hroub have often pointed out, this analysis of Hamas policy is based only on its charter, published in August 1988.
     Hroub has analysed in detail three key documents published by Hamas since the charter: its autumn 2005 election manifesto, Change and Reform; its March 2006 draft programme for a government of national unity; and the government programme presented by the Palestinian prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, to the new parliament on 27 March 2006. Hroub points out that Hamas is now a different organisation from the Hamas that took shape at the beginning of the first intifada in December 1987. more..

The High Court of Justice is in no hurry
Ha’aretz 1/17/2007

     Had Defense Minister Amir Peretz wanted to prove in his actions that he views racism as despicable and dangerous - as it was possible to understand from his remarks on Monday to his colleague, Minister of Strategic Affairs Avigdor Lieberman - he would have used his authority to cancel in a timely manner an instruction issued by GOC Central Command Yair Naveh that will go into effect on Friday. He has not, however, done so, and starting on January 19, 2007, Israelis and foreigners will be prohibited from taking Palestinians as passengers in their cars throughout the West Bank.
     Had Education Minister Yuli Tamir truly wanted to change patterns that have become fixed in the education system during the course of 40 years of occupation, she would have already used her exalted position to raise an uproar in the Knesset and the government against the GOC’s instruction, which undermines the right of Palestinians and Israelis to develop relationships on a friendly, familial and ideological basis. She has had sufficient time for this: The instruction was signed on November 19, 2006.
     Had Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh, who is shocked, shocked, by the situation in Hebron, and has come to the conclusion that the law does not operate effectively there, been interested - he could have blocked the instruction that adds another building-block to the rule of the Jewish settlers in the West Bank: Naveh’s instruction allows only Israeli employers (mainly settlers and people who live inside Israel proper) to drive their Palestinian workers. That is, it makes explicit a perception whereby the only possible natural relationship between a Palestinian and an Israeli and Jew is that of employee and employer.
     Had members of the Israeli media, who were appalled by the sight of the young Jewish settler woman cursing her Palestinian "neighbors" in Hebron, in master-like gestures, been interested in being effective as well - they would have organized in time to express their shock at Major General Naveh’s instruction, which will make a criminal of every Israeli who gives a ride in the West Bank to a Palestinian friend or a family member who is not a first-degree relative. But the media as a whole, and the Journalists Association and jurists who specialize in media law, have left the fight to the human rights organizations and a few lone journalists. Had the media not forgotten the innumerable reports that it itself has published about the doings of the settlers in Hebron and the military government there - it would have concluded that the demographic separation that Naveh’s new instruction imposes is the offspring of the same mode of thinking and action that has brought about ethnic cleansing in the old city of Hebron. more..

People’s Revolt in Lebanon
By Mohamad Bazzi, Electronic Intifada/The Nation 1/16/2007

     Ever since Hezbollah and its allies began an open-ended protest against the US-backed government on December 1, Beirut’s gilded downtown--built for wealthy Lebanese and foreign tourists--has become more authentically Lebanese. Where Persian Gulf sheiks once ate sushi, families now sit in abandoned parking lots, having impromptu picnics, the smell of kebabs cooked over coals wafting through the air. Young men lounge on plastic chairs, smoking apple-scented water pipes, and occasionally break out into debke, the Lebanese national dance.
     Most protesters are too poor to afford $4 caffe lattes, but men hawking shots of strong Arabic coffee for 30 cents apiece are doing a brisk trade. Nearly all businesses are shuttered, but a few enterprising store owners have figured out how to cater to the crowd. One hair salon converted itself into a sandwich shop, selling cheese on bread with a cup of tea for $1. The smiling cashier works behind a counter filled with L’Oréal hair products.
     "I never came to downtown before these protests. I can’t afford to come here. If I ate a sandwich here, I’d be broke for a week," says Emad Matairek, a 35-year-old carpenter from the dahiyeh, the Shiite-dominated suburbs of Beirut. "It’s well-known that this area was not built for us."
     The protests are being portrayed in much of the Western media as a sectarian battle, or a coup attempt--engineered by Hezbollah’s two main allies, Syria and Iran--against a US-backed Lebanese government. Those are indeed factors underlying the complex and dangerous political dance happening in Beirut. But the biggest motivator driving many of those camped out in downtown isn’t Iran or Syria, or Sunni versus Shiite. It’s the economic inequality that has haunted Lebanese Shiites for decades. It’s a poor and working-class people’s revolt. more..

Which Way Lies Democracy
By Roxana Saberi, Electronic Intifada/Inter Press Service 1/15/2007

     BEIRUT, Jan. 15 (IPS) - Anti-government demonstrations held in downtown Beirut since Dec. 1 have sparked debate about democracy in Lebanon.
     Protestors, largely Hezbollah supporters, have been calling on Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to give more cabinet posts to the opposition, or resign. Siniora has warned that the demonstrations are threatening democracy, but many demonstrators say they are actually working to strengthen it.
     Siniora’s government was formed in 2005 after massive demonstrations over the assassination of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri. The demonstrations brought political pressure that forced Syrian troops to withdraw from Lebanon.
     The Bush Administration held up what has been called the "Cedar Revolution" as a model for defeating extremism and spreading democracy in the Middle East. But Siniora says that democracy is now in danger.
     Some Lebanese analysts, like Elie Fawaz, agree. The opposition is essentially staging a coup, he says.
     "They are threatening the Lebanese way of democracy because democracy in Lebanon is built around consensus," he told IPS. "And all of sudden you have one group trying to impose its will on another group, which is not built into the Lebanese democratic system."
     Lebanon is not a ’normal’ democracy. Power is divided among the 18 religious sects -- all of them minorities.
     "Lebanon certainly passes the first litmus test of democracy, in that it has free, regular and competitive elections," said Andrew Tabler, a fellow with the U.S.-based Institute of Current World Affairs, who specialises in Syrian and Lebanese affairs. more..

Lebanon crisis feedback report Sept. 2006
By Othman Moqbel, ReliefWeb/Muslim Hands International 1/15/2007

     A personal account of Muslim Hands’ Aid Mission to Lebanon - 27 Sep 2006
     Longer than we had expected. Despite the he journey to Saida, from Amman took much ceasefire, the normally five hour long journey was extended to over 16 hours. Unable to cross the Jordanian Lebanese border at Al Masna due to heavy Israeli bombing, we were forced to travel via Tartus in Syria, crossing over into north Lebanon along a small rural road and then driving along the coastal highway to our destination Saida (Sidon). This coastal route, renowned for its scenic beauty was now littered with remnants of war. The revenue it bought to this region through tourism had now gone for the foreseeable future.
     Even here in the north, the destruction we witnessed was on a much larger scale than expected, with every single bridge on route between Tripoli and Saida, bombed and destroyed.
     As we finally arrived in Saida, almost a day late, we found the streets filled with tens of thousands of cars, minibuses, trucks and lorries –all crammed with people leaving the overcrowded city, trying to get home now that the ceasefire had finally been agreed. The fact that many of them would find only rubble where their homes once stood and would be forced to endure many months of hardship if not years did not allow us to share in their joy of returning home.
     Our mission to south Lebanon was two-fold. Firstly, to carry out first hand assessments of humanitarian needs in the area south of the Litani River and also collect feedback from the worst hit areas on how MH emergency teams had reached the sufferers in this area during the war. more..

The Saudi crescent
By Saleh Machnouk, Daily Star 1/17/2007

     A destroyed Iraq, a marginalized Syria, and a deteriorating US policy have placed Saudi Arabia in a continual pool of growing responsibilities.
     Recently, Saudi Arabia has invited Palestinian Premier Ismail Haniyya to Mecca, hosted a high-level Hizbullah delegation, actively worked to set the ground work for the Paris III donor conference for Lebanon, and threatened through anonymous sources in Washington both to intervene in Iraq and to help undermine Syrian President Bashar Assad. What has happened to a nation most notorious for its apathy toward foreign affairs?
     It is not Saudi Arabia that chose its status-in-formation. It is events in the contemporary political history of the Middle East and the kingdom’s exclusive capacity to exercise political and economic influence - given that it is an oil-producing giant and the birthplace of Islam - that has imposed upon it a rational imperative to lead. Here is the round-up since September 11, 2001:
     The only three Arab leaders of substantive significance in regional affairs were assassinated. Yasser Arafat, historic symbol of the Palestinian struggle and Nobel Peace Prize winner, was flown to Paris on a stretcher after having been put in house arrest by Israeli tanks in Ramallah for two years. He died of "unknown reasons." Rafik Hariri, Lebanon’s former premier and father of its postwar quest for revival, was killed by a car bomb in Beirut after having led the political struggle to end Syria’s 30-year occupation of Lebanon. Saddam Hussein, Arab hero of Iraq’s eight year war with Iran, was assassinated, on tape, by members of a radical pro-Iranian Shiite militia in Baghdad following a mock revenge trial by an American set-up court.
     In Syria, Hafez al-Assad’s death in 2000 brought about major changes in the geopolitical landscape of the country’s foreign policy, previously defined by the maintenance of a regional balance. His son Bashar quickly transformed Syria into a quasi-satellite state whose foreign policy is mostly defined by Iran. He also managed to bring about a swift deterioration in Syria’s relationships with its Arab neighbors (who repeatedly tried courting him even after Hariri’s assassination); namely Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt.
     After having set the tactical ground work for Iran’s regional expansion by ousting the Taliban in 2002, Bush’s administration self-designed a nuclear Persian empire - the "Shiite crescent" ranging from Tehran to South Lebanon - by invading Iraq with an Iranian mandate. Tehran’s Revolutionary Guards then managed to expand over the Arab world’s second-richest and most powerful country (formerly Iraq), the land of its most sacred cause (Palestine), and its only vibrant democracy (Lebanon). more..

It’s All About Iran
By Justin Raimondo, Antiwar.com 1/16/2007

     Washington wants war…
     As American troops storm what is, or was, an Iranian consulate – at least that’s what the Iraqi government calls it, in spite of American denials – and the president accuses Tehran of arming and aiding Iraqi insurgents, the answer to the question "Why are we in Iraq?" should begin to dawn on even the dullest. The answer: Iran. We’re in Iraq so we can go after the mullahs in Tehran, and, perhaps, those other Ba’athists in Syria.
     All indications point to a strike at the Iranians before Bush leaves office. The appointment of a Navy guy, Adm. William J. "Fox" Fallon, at present head of the U.S. Pacific Command, to oversee U.S. operations in the Middle East, is widely seen as a sign that war with Iran is on the table, if not yet a sure thing. A U.S. attack on Iran would be a naval and air operation, and Fallon, a former deputy director for operations with Joint Task Force Southwest Asia in Riyadh, is surely qualified for the job. As Pat Buchanan put it, "What Fallon does not know about securing streets, he does know about taking out targets from the air and keeping sea lanes open in a time of war."
     Seymour Hersh reported on the gathering storm over Iran last year, and now we may have more concrete evidence that something big is afoot. Laura Rozen, writing in The American Prospect, says that a presidential "finding," or perhaps a secret White House directive may have been issued:
     "There is evidence that, while Bush probably has not signed such a finding regarding Iran, he has recently done so regarding Iranian-supported Hezbollah in Lebanon; further, there is evidence that he may have signed an executive order or national security presidential directive regarding a new, more aggressive policy on Iran. Such directives are not required to be reported to Congress – they are more in the realm of the president communicating to authorized people inside the administration his expectations for a policy."
     And the noise level coming from the pro-war peanut gallery is getting louder: Israel’s lobby in the U.S. has long pushed for aggressive American action against the supposedly nuke-seeking mullahs, and an Israeli general, Oded Tira, recently came out explicitly with the thrust of the Israeli campaign. more..

President Bush: Meet Walter Jones
By Patrick J. Buchanan, Information Clearing House/WorldNetDaily 1/16/2007

     America is four years into a bloody debacle in Iraq not merely because Bush and Cheney marched us in, or simply because neocon propagandists lied about Saddam’s nuclear program and WMDs, and Iraqi ties to al-Qaida, anthrax attacks and 9-11.
     We are there because a Democratic Senate voted to give Bush a blank check for war. Democrats in October 2002 wanted the war vote behind them so they could go home and campaign as pro-war patriots.
     And because they did, 3,000 Americans are dead, 25,000 are wounded, perhaps 100,000 Iraqis have lost their lives, 1.6 million have fled, $400 billion has been lost and America stands on the precipice of the worst strategic defeat in her history.
     Yet, Sens. Clinton, Biden, Kerry and Edwards – all of whom voted to give Bush his blank check – are now competing to succeed him. And how do they justify what they did?
     "If only we had known then what we know now," they plead, "we would never have voted for the war." They are thus confessing to dereliction in the highest duty the Founding Fathers gave Congress. They voted to cede to a president their power to take us to war.
     Now they wash their hands of it all and say, "It’s Bush’s War!"
     And now George Bush has another war in mind...
     ...Biden sputters that should Bush attack Iran, a constitutional crisis would ensue.
     I don’t believe it. If tomorrow Bush took out Iran’s nuclear facilities, would a Senate that lacks the courage to cut funds for an unpopular war really impeach him for denying a nuclear capability to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? Bush’s lawyers would make the same case Nixon made for the 1970 "incursion" into Cambodia – and even a Nixon-hating Democratic House did not dare to impeach him for that.
     Bush’s contempt for Congress is manifest and, frankly, justified. more..

Offering an Alternative Vision: "One Country" Reviewed
By Remi Kanazi, Electronic Intifada 1/16/2007

     For years the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been mired by a series of failed peace negotiation, enmeshing Israeli Jews and Palestinians in a seemingly intractable struggle. Even 59 years after the creation of the state of Israel the quest for Jewish security has not been realized, while Palestinians -- those dispossessed in 1948, 1967, and the 3.8 million living under Israeli occupation -- have not seen a just resolution to a conflict that has marred their history and shaped their identity. The international community, including many Israeli and Palestinians, still subscribe to the notion that the two-state solution is the only way to settle the conflict.
     Ali Abunimah’s new book, One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse, exposes the impracticality of partition and presents an alternative vision, one that encompasses both peoples on the basis of equal rights. The vision Abunimah presents is a one state solution.
     Two-State Solution at an Impasse
     One Country begins by revealing the various layers of Israel’s occupation and the grim realities of the proposed two-state solution. The accepted international and Palestinian call for a two-state solution is based on 22 percent of historic Palestine -- the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital. The Palestinians (entitled under United Nations Resolution 194) insist on the right of return to their homeland or to be duly compensated for their expulsion. Yet, no Israeli prime minister or prominent figure to date has endorsed this right, nor has any Israeli government proposed a full withdrawal from the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. Abunimah reveals that, during the Camp David talks of 2000, Israel’s most "generous" offer to the Palestinians included just 76.6 percent of the West Bank (while Israel would effectively annex East Jerusalem and the territorial waters of the Dead Sea) and demanded that "at least 80 percent of the settlers remain in place." Abunimah further states, "Israel ... insisted on permanent control of Palestinian airspace and a long list of onerous ’security’ arrangements that would rob the Palestinian state of any real independence from Israel and introduce enormous opportunities for delay and backsliding as had happened with the Oslo Accords." more..

Tomatoes, Gas, Coffee and their Stories
By Kole Ellis, Electronic Intifada 1/16/2007

     Balata Refugee Camp, occupied Palestine
     Every single object carries significance that goes far beyond those things we would normally associate with them. Here, in occupied Palestine, life is hard. Objects tell stories just like the people do: constant, beating stories. Like fierce monsoons, they pelt at you, daring you to challenge their significance. And yet like individual raindrops in a monsoon, each story is but one of millions. Like raindrops, each story takes a slightly different shape, but they all carry the same "Made in Israel" pollutants. Life here in occupied Palestine is hard.
     Objects carry significance here that a visitor simply cannot imagine. Each object carries with it millions of stories; they fill my heart and my head and make me feel at once like crying and screaming.
     Take first tomatoes: the Israelis have started a sinister campaign of buying nearly all of the Palestinian farmers’ tomatoes. They are then sold to Europe, for prices many times more than what the destitute farmers receive for their toil. This has had a double effect on the Palestinian economy. It has made local, Palestinian tomatoes so expensive that Palestinians cannot afford to buy them. Thus, they buy cheap, GMO and pesticide-filled Israeli tomatoes, injecting millions of shekels into the Israeli economy and boosting the subsidy-fat Israeli agricultural industry. (Bear in mind that the land upon which ’Israeli’ tomatoes are grown has, all of it, been confiscated from the Palestinian fellahin.
     The Israelis also force their will upon the Palesitnians through their control over the movement of gas. Most Palestinians rely on gas to survive. In the camps and villages, as in other parts of Palestine, there is no central heating or cooling in homes. People use gas powered heaters, and everyone uses gas to cook. The Israelis play a dangerous game with people’s lives: each month, here in Balata refugee camp, there is no gas for at least one or two weeks. Why? The Israelis close off the Jordanian and Egyptian borders to gas only. Israel will not sell gas to the Palestinians. ’What do people do without?’ I asked. ’They don’t cook, and they stay in bed,’ a friend said. No hot food, no hot showers, and no warmth beyond the waves emanating off of loved ones, or the smile of a child. This is but one example of many nefarious strategies Israel deploys in what Israeli academic Ilan Pappe has called an ethnic cleansing campaign in the Occupied West Bank. more..

Bill Moyers: "This is the moment freedom begins"
Information Clearing House/Democracy Now! 1/16/2007

     "Big Media is Ravenous. It Never Gets Enough. Always Wants More. And it Will Stop at Nothing to Get It. These Conglomerates are an Empire, and they are Imperial." "Virtually everything the average person sees or hears outside of her own personal communications, is determined by the interests of private, unaccountable executives and investors whose primary goal is increasing profits and raising the country’s share price. More insidiously, this small group of elites determine what ordinary people do not see or hear. In-depth coverage of anything, let alone the problems real people face day to day, is as scarce as sex, violence, and voyeurism are pervasive."
     Broadcast - 01/16/07 - Audio Runtime 50 Minutes - Audio links
     BILL MOYERS: Benjamin Franklin once said, “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for dinner.
     “Liberty,” he said, “is a well-armed lamb, contesting the vote.”
     My fellow lambs -- it’s good to be in Memphis and find you well-armed with passion for democracy, readiness for action, and courage for the next round in the fight for a free and independent press in America. I salute the conviction that brought you here. I cherish the spirit that fills this hall, and the comradery that we share here. All too often, the greatest obstacle to reform is the reform movement itself. Factions rise, fences are erected, jealousies mount, and the cause all of us believe in is lost in the shattered fragments of what once was a clear and compelling vision. more..

Escalation Against Iran: The Pieces Are Being Put in Place
By Col. Sam Gardiner, CounterPunch 1/16/2007

     The pieces are moving. They’ll be in place by the end of February. The United States will be able to escalate military operations against Iran.
     The second carrier strike group leaves the U.S. west coast on January 16. It will be joined by naval mine clearing assets from both the United States and the UK. Patriot missile defense systems have also been ordered to deploy to the Gulf.
     Maybe as a guard against North Korea seeing operations focused on Iran as a chance to be aggressive, a squadron of F-117 stealth fighters has just been deployed to Korea.
     This has to be called escalation. We have to remind ourselves, just as Iran is supporting groups inside Iraq, the United States is supporting groups inside Iran. Just as Iran has special operations troops operating inside Iraq, we’ve read the United States has special operations troops operating inside Iran.
     Just as Iran is supporting Hamas, two weeks ago we found out the United States is supporting arms for Abbas. Just as Iran and Syria are supporting Hezbollah in Lebanon we’re now learning the White House has approved a finding to allow the CIA to support opposition groups inside Lebanon. Just as Iran is supporting Syria, we’ve learned recently that the United States is going to fund Syrian opposition groups.
     We learned this week the President authorized an attack on the Iranian liaison office in Irbil.
     The White House keeps saying there are no plans to attack Iran. Obviously, the facts suggest otherwise. Equally as clear, the Iranians will read what the Administrations is doing not what it is saying. more..

Manara Square, Ramallah
By Uri Avnery, Gush Shalom 1/13/2007

     IT WAS murder in broad daylight. Undercover soldiers disguised as Arabs, accompanied by armored vehicles and bulldozers and supported by helicopter gunships, invaded the center of Ramallah. Their aim was to kill or capture a Fatah militant, Rabee’ Hamid. The man was wounded but managed to escape.
     As always, the place was teeming with people. Manara Square is the heart of Ramallah, full of life, both walking and driving. When people realized what was going on, they started to throw stones at the soldiers. These responded by shooting wildly in all directions. Four bystanders were killed, more than 30 wounded.
     The routinely mendacious army press release announced that the four had been armed. Indeed? One of them was a street vendor named Khalil al-Bairouti, who used to sell hot beverages from a small cart at this place. Another was Jamal Jweelis from Shuafat near Jerusalem, who had come to Ramallah to buy new clothes and sweets for the engagement party of his brother, which was scheduled for the next day. Hearing that approaching bulldozers were crushing vehicles in the street, Jamal ran out of the shop to remove his car.
     That happened nine days ago. A "routine" action, like so many others that take place in the occupied Palestinian territories almost daily. But this time it created an international uproar, because on that very day Ehud Olmert was due to meet the President of Egypt, Husni Mubarak in Sharm el Sheikh. The host was deeply offended. Do the Israelis despise him so much, that they so lightly put him to shame in the eyes of his people and the Arab world? At the end of the meeting, he gave vent to his anger in no uncertain terms, in the presence of Olmert, who muttered some weak words of apology. more..

In Madrid We Trusted
By Rami Bathish, MIFTAH 1/13/2007

     As a teenager growing up in Vienna, Austria, at the time, the collapse of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s and early 1990s is clearly enshrined in my memory as the single most significant historical event. Characterised by the dawn of a “new world order,” that period had reshaped the balance of power among nations and set the governing dynamics of what followed from regional and global events (and tragedies) until the present day. Meanwhile, as a Palestinian, first and foremost, I also recall that the winds of change had unmistakably stormed in another direction, one that is closer to home, and closer to heart. It was on 30 October, 1991, that the Madrid Peace Conference was convened, and consequently the assertion of our national aspirations for the first time since Al-Nakba on the largest possible scale. Within the context of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, this, in itself, was as historic as the end of the Cold War.
     Today, more than 15 years after Madrid, Palestinians find themselves desperately trapped between the evident threat of internal strife and a prolonged Israeli occupation that has multiplied in form and magnitude since 1991. At the merciless hand of time, the dream of an independent and truly viable Palestinian state has become a distant and vague object in our rear view mirror.
     National disunity, particularly following the second Palestinian Legislative Council elections of January 2006, has transcended political collisions between Fateh and Hamas and is increasingly following the catastrophic pattern of head-on militaristic confrontation, at the tragic expense of Palestinian blood. Israel, on its part, continues to relentlessly colonise what is left of Palestine (the territories it illegally occupies since the June 1967 war), through the imprisonment of the Gaza Strip and settlement construction and expansion, the construction of its Annexation Wall, and enforcement of demographic alterations in the West Bank, thereby creating irreversible realities on the ground and pre-empting the outcome of final status negotiations, let alone diminishing the prospects of their resumption altogether. more..

Palestinian refugees and exiles must have a say-so
By Rima Merriman, Electronic Intifada 1/15/2007

     Today, Palestinian refugees outside the occupied territories and Palestinian exiles feel completely excluded from the body politic and national debate currently taking place in the occupied territories. They listen to the feuding emanating from the territories in helpless dismay. They watch those on the inside who are caught up in a carefully engineered web of power struggles and passionate rifts that seem incomprehensible in their intensity and misdirection.
     This fragmentation in the Palestinian political process has long been in the making. The Palestinian National Authority, courtesy of the Oslo negotiations, is designed to represent only Palestinians living in the occupied territories and to function as no more than Israel’s administrative arm.
     The advent of Hamas on the Palestinian political scene has forcefully brought to the fore the question of adequate forms of representation for the Palestinian people. Far from enhancing democracy and representation, the elections of the Palestinian Legislative Council exclude Palestinians outside the territories. As it turned out, these last elections were also deemed by the international community as irrelevant.
     The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), the sole legitimate voice of the Palestinian people as recognized by the United Nations and the Arab League in 1974, is now separated functionally and structurally from the Palestinian diaspora. Its links with the outside were weakened and marginalized when the core elite of the PLO moved to the West Bank and Gaza as a result of the Oslo negotiations in 1994. more..

Separate and Unequal: The History of Arab Labour in pre-1948 Palestine and Israel
Electronic Intifada/Sawt el-Amel 1/15/2007

     The following is the introduction to the December 2006 report by Sawt el-Amel (The Laborer’s Voice) entitled "Separate and Unequal: The History of Arab Labour in pre-1948 Palestine and Israel":
     The existence of an Arab labour movement in Palestine before 1948 has virtually been erased from the collective memory of at least the non-Arabic-speaking world. No archives or other comprehensive, reliable written sources survived the Nakba and the subsequent collapse of organised Arab labour in Israel. The historical narrative prevalent in the Western hemisphere presents political initiatives of indigenous Arab workers either as instigated and facilitated by the Histadrut or as a mere propaganda tool of the ruling Arab bourgeois "effendis". Certainly, there was no labour movement and no working class consciousness in the largely rural, semi-feudal society of early 20th-century Palestine, but the local population adjusted quickly to the new challenges posed by mass immigration, industrialisation and Western colonial rule. Between 1925 and 1947, Palestine had a thriving Arab labour movement - though at times weakened by internal struggles - led by the largest union institution PAWS (Palestinian Arab Workers’ Society). The Palestinian Arab working class and their leaders displayed a diversity of political ideologies and different attitudes concerning the Histadrut and joint Arab-Jewish organisation. Palestinian Arab unions were also internationally recognised as legitimate representatives of the Arab workers in Palestine.
     The state of Israel is built upon the sweeping success of two interlinked political campaigns ran by the Labour Zionist movement in the first half of the 20th century in Palestine: namely, the Conquest of Land and the Conquest of Labour. "Separate and Unequal" focuses on the latter - the conquest of labour - and how the local Arab population dealt with this challenge. Moreover, this report argues that the policy of "conquering" labour has never been abandoned by the Israeli labour movement and continues to be implemented by contemporary Israeli governments. Over time, this exclusive approach has created a separate, low-wage sector for a largely unskilled and unorganised Arab labour force in Israel, which is nowadays joined by migrant workers from South Asia and new immigrants from Ethiopia and the Russian-speaking countries. This low-wage, manual labour sector occupied by the Arab labour force is now in times of globalisation gradually being transformed into an unemployed labour sector, and growing poverty and unemployment are further exacerbated by economic policies eroding the last resort, the public social safety net. In its most recent poverty report, the National Insurance Institute revealed that 52% of Arab citizens of Israel live below the poverty line, as opposed to 16% of Jewish Israelis (National Insurance Institute, 2006. more..

Ethiopia Rides The Tiger
By Immanuel Wallerstein, Middle East Online 1/15/2007

     The recent history of the Horn of Africa suggests that Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi - a questionable ruler in his own right - is bringing chaos to the Horn under the auspices of the United States and its ’war on terror’ The Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi, must have been studying the magnificent successes of the U.S. preemptive invasion of Iraq and Israel’s recent foray into Lebanon. He has clearly decided to emulate them. His argument is exactly that which was given by George W. Bush and Ehud Olmert. We must attack our neighbor because we have to keep Islamic terrorists from pursuing their jihad and attacking us.
     In each case, the invader was sure of his military superiority and of the fact that the majority of the population would hail the attackers as liberators. Zenawi asserts he is cooperating in the U.S. worldwide struggle against terrorism. And indeed, the United States has offered not only its intelligence support but has sent in both its air force and units of special troops to assist the Ethiopians.
     Still, each local situation is a bit different. And it is worth reviewing the recent history of what is called the Horn of Africa, in which countries have switched geopolitical sides with some ease in the last forty years.
     Throughout the first half of the twentieth century, Ethiopia was a symbol of African resistance to European imperialism. The Ethiopians defeated the Italian colonial troops at Adowa in 1896 and the country remained independent. When Italy tried again in 1935, Emperor Haile Selassie went to the League of Nations and pleaded for collective security against the invasion. He received no help. Ethiopia then became the symbol of Africa throughout the Black world. The colors of its flag became the colors of Africa. And at the end of the Second World War, Ethiopian independence was restored. more..

Tragedy rather than farce in Somalia
By Mohammed Ayoob, Daily Star 1/12/2007

     The fall of Mogadishu on December 28, 2006, to Ethiopian forces acting as proxies for the Somali transitional government had an uncanny resemblance to the fall of Baghdad to American forces on April 9, 2003. In the latter case, scenes of jubilation, some carefully staged by the invading forces, soon gave way to sullen resentment on the part of the local population. Within a few months a full-fledged insurgency had broken out that eventually descended into sectarian strife. Moreover, the collapse of the Iraqi state provided a safe haven for transnational jihadists who were being hounded out of Afghanistan.
     The Ethiopian invasion of Somalia, supported by the United States, appears to be a rerun of the same tragic movie. The invasion comes at a time when transnational militants in Iraq have been largely sidelined in the battles that are raging for the political future of that country between Shiite militias and Sunni insurgents. With the transnational jihadist threat in Iraq waning, Ethiopia and its friends in the West, principally the US, have repeated the error that America and Britain committed in 2003, providing a potentially fertile ground for international jihadists to gather and pursue their battle against the US and its proxies.
     The Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) had brought a modicum of order to a large swathe of Somalia that had been ravaged by internecine warfare among various warlords. A chief reason why UIC forces were welcomed by Somalis was that it delivered them from the chaos and anarchy induced by clan warfare and had sent the warlords packing. The Ethiopian invasion, by removing the only force that stood between Somalia and renewed mayhem, seems intent on forcing the country back into the chaotic state it had been in for 15 years. more..

Diverse allies in Lebanon
By Maria Abi-Habib, Electronic Intifada/Montreal Gazette 1/14/2007

     Beirut, Lebanon
     Ibtisam Jamaleddine stood in the room of her dead son, Maxim. Maxim was 18 years old when he was mistaken for a fighter and killed by an Israeli missile during this summer’s war between Israel and Hezbollah.
     Pictures of Che Guevara and soccer players as well as a plaque dedicated to Shiite Islam’s most revered imam, Ali, adorn the walls of his room. They tell a story unknown in the West, of the complex nature of forces that fought Israel last summer.
     During the war, U.S. President George W. Bush pitted the conflict as one fuelled by “Islamo-fascism,” pushed by Hezbollah, the Party of God. But fighting alongside Hezbollah was an older, more seasoned resistance movement - the Lebanese Communist Party, which allied with the Islamic party for the first time and showed its members that Islam and communism can complement each other.
     For Maxim’s mother, the alliance of these two ideologies was natural and the pictures in her son’s room of a communist martyr and a Muslim hero attest to that.
     She said her son wasn’t religious. She said she sees her son as part of a line of resistance fighters “that began with Imam Ali and went to Che and then to Maxim. It’s one lineage of struggle.”
     The Jamaleddine family has increasingly woven religious symbols into their lives since the Aug. 14 ceasefire went into effect. Ibtisam’s daughter, Lina, was hit by shrapnel from a missile that exploded outside the family’s house. She now wears a head scarf. Ibtisam hung a picture of Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, in her living room “just to spite Bush.” But both deny being very religious. more..

Israel Looking for an Extreme Makeover
By Bill Berkowitz, Electronic Intifada 1/12/2007

     OAKLAND, California (IPS) - It hasn’t been the easiest year for Israel.
     Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter’s strongly criticised Israel in his new bestselling book Palestine Peace Not Apartheid, and a recent international consumer survey found that Israel has the worst "brand name" of any country in the world.
     Finally, The Sunday Times of London reported this week that the Israeli Air Force may be preparing to use low grade, tactical nuclear weapons to strike at Iran’s nuclear facilities. So perhaps it is not surprising that Israel -- whose international image is of a country in continuous conflict -- would engage in a serious long-term effort to reshape global perceptions of itself.
     As part of its "re-branding" strategy, according to a report in the Washington Times, Israel is turning to "the wisdom of Madison Avenue".
     Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has "met with public relations executives, branding specialists and diplomats a in Tel Aviv to brainstorm about improving the country’s image by using the marketing insights first developed to sell peanut butter and Pontiacs," the newspaper reported.
     "When the word ’Israel’ is said outside its borders, we want it to invoke not fighting or soldiers, but a place that is desirable to visit and invest in, a place that preserves democratic ideals while struggling to exist," Livni was quoted as saying by Reuters. more..

Bush’s Iraq Plan - Goading Iran into War
By Trita Parsi, Inter Press Service 1/12/2007

     President George W. Bush’s address on Iraq Wednesday night was less about Iraq than about its eastern neighbour, Iran. There was little new about the U.S.’s strategy in Iraq, but on Iran, the president spelled out a plan that appears to be aimed at goading Iran into war with the U.S.
     While Washington speculated whether the president would accept or reject the Iraq Study Group’s recommendations, few predicted that he would do the opposite of what James Baker and Lee Hamilton advised. Rather than withdrawing troops from Iraq, Bush ordered an augmentation of troop levels. Rather than talking to Iran and Syria, Bush virtually declared war on these states. And rather than pressuring Israel to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the administration is fuelling the factional war in Gaza by arming and training Fatah against Hamas.
     Several recent developments and statements indicate that the administration is ever more seriously eyeing war with Iran. On Wednesday, Bush made the starkest accusations yet against the rulers in Tehran, alleging that the clerics were "providing material support for attacks on American troops."
     While promising to "disrupt the attacks on our forces" and "seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq," he made no mention of the flow of arms and funds to Sunni insurgents and al Qaeda from Jordan and Saudi Arabia. more..

The Plan for Economic Strangulation of Iran
By Dr. Abbas Bakhtiar, Information Clearing House 1/12/2007

     It is said that there is more than one way to skin a cat. It seems that United States is trying to skin this cat –Iran- in anyway that it can, including economic strangulation. While people are concerned with Iraq and the gathering armada in the Persian Gulf, United States has been quietly carrying out a not so covert economic war against Iran.
     Since the 1979 revolution in Iran, the country has been under constant US unilateral sanctions. “The first U.S. sanctions against Iran were formalized in November of 1979, and during the hostage crisis, many sanctions were leveled against the Iranian government. By 1987 the import of Iranian goods into the United States had been banned. In 1995, President Clinton issued Executive Order 12957, banning U.S. investment in Iran’s energy sector, followed a few weeks later by Executive Order 12959 of May 6, 2000, eliminating all trade and investment and virtually all interaction between the United States and Iran.” [[1]]
     Despite the sanctions Iran continued to attract foreign investment and technical cooperation for its energy sector. Countries such as France, Italy and others took advantage of absence of the American competition and tried to fill the gap. However, the threat of American retaliation kept the investment way bellow the desired levels. It only allowed Iran to continue to keep its oil export at its OPEC determined quota level.
     The Economic Chokepoint: Oil & Gas
     “According to the Oil and Gas Journal, as of January 1, 2006, Iran held 132.5 billion barrels of proven oil reserves. This figure, which includes recent discoveries in the Kushk and Hosseineih fields of Khuzestan province, means Iran holds roughly 10 percent of the world’s total proven reserves. The vast majority of Iran’s crude oil reserves are located in giant onshore fields in the south-western Khuzestan region near the Iraqi border. Overall, Iran has 40 producing fields – 27 onshore and 13 offshore. Iran’s crude oil is generally medium in sulfur and in the 28°-35° API range.”[[2]] more..

One Last Chance for Sanity in Iraq
By Ramzy Baroud, Palestine Chronicle 1/10/2007

     Bush must immediately provide a roadmap for withdrawal from Iraq to be carried out in stages to allow for synchronized, constructive regional and international roles that will engage the United Nations, the Arab League and, most important, all Iraqi social groups.
     US President George W Bush’s new war strategy due to be officially announced on Wednesday, which will likely meet an uphill battle at the now Democrat-controlled Congress, is a slap in the face of the majority of American voters, and indeed the democratic process.
     The majority of American voters made their voices heard loud and clear in November when they voted out Bush’s archaic thinking, a mixture of old imperialist ideas, bent on territorial accumulation and strategic positioning, notwithstanding misguided religious beliefs.
     According to the latest public opinion polls, nearly three out of four US respondents now say they disapprove of Bush’s handling of Iraq, while confidence in his overall leadership has fallen to record lows.
     Bush is yet to learn, however, that the Untied States is not Rome, and strengths and weakness are no longer measured alone by a nation’s number of combatants. The past three and a half years of utter failure in Iraq should have been the sign any rational leader would need to change course; but few ever argued that the president is an icon of leadership or even-headedness; thus the "new" Iraq strategy.
     Just one day after the leadership of the US Congress was handed over to the victorious Democrats, after many years of absence, Bush began to reshuffle his war generals in a way that is consistent with neither the wishes of the American people nor the majority of Congress. more..

Neutralizing Palestine, to better focus on Iran
By Clayton E. Swisher, Daily Star 1/12/2007

     US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s trip to the Middle East, which begins today, will be aimed at convincing the so-called "moderate Arab states" of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia that the United States is finally ready, after six years of promises, to help Palestinians achieve their state. While good-faith American mediation would be welcomed, many Arabs will greet her visit with well-founded skepticism, questioning why a Bush administration that is seemingly locked at the hip with Israel now wishes to roll up its sleeves and help the Palestinians.
     Six years of empty promises have bred considerable skepticism. Calls shortly after the September 11, 2001, attacks for a Palestinian state, the pressure applied by President George W. Bush on then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to end the first siege of Yasser Arafat’s Ramallah compound in 2002, and even the 2002 "road map" for peace were all viewed as no more than attempts to placate the international community, especially moderate Arabs, in order to prepare for war in Iraq. Without Arab cooperation, particularly from Jordan and Saudi Arabia, US plans to depose Saddam Hussein would have ended up in the same jar of formaldehyde as we now know was reserved for the Palestinian issue.
     In instances where the Bush administration chose to momentarily focus on Palestine, the international media rushed to applaud the US commitment, hoping hands-on involvement would follow. This was particularly true once the 2004 presidential elections passed. Bush was expected to reward the coalition allies that had confronted Iraq by producing the oft-promised Palestinian state.
     ....With two years left in office, the Bush administration wants to see Iran’s regime humbled, if not toppled. Neoconservatives who have had their sights set on Iran are buoyed by the new arrangement where Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Israel find themselves on the same page when it comes to confronting Iran’s uranium enrichment program. They all want to do business together, including with Israel - which has the motive and means to degrade Iranian targets through air strikes - but moderate Arabs demand progress on the Palestinian issue to retain some measure of legitimacy and avoid public embarrassment. more..

Suspected Citizens: Racial Profiling against Arab Passengers by Israeli Airports and Airlines
Electronic Intifada/Arab Association for Human Rights and Center Against Racism 1/12/2007

     The following is the introduction to the report "Suspected Citizens: Racial Profiling against Arab Passengers by Israeli Airports and Airlines", issued in December 2006
     Salah Ya’aqubi is an Arab citizen of Israel who lives in the village of Reineh, close to Nazareth. He is a cum laude student in the Department of Nursing in Tel Aviv University. In 2005, Tel Aviv University chose Ya’aqubi as one of its representatives at an international conference held in London. Three other students from the institution were also selected to participate in the conference. The four students served as representatives of the State of Israel at the event.
     On the day of their flight, Ya’aqubi and the three Jewish students arrived together at Ben Gurion Airport. The four were due to fly with the Israeli air carrier Israir. During the routine security inspection, the security staff inspected the baggage of all four students using x-ray scanners. The Jewish students then moved on and their passports were stamped, while Ya’aqubi was obliged to undergo a special security inspection. The security personnel stated that they intended to undertake a manual search of his baggage. During the course of the manual inspection, the security personnel overturned Ya’aqubi’s bag with all his belongings in it, and then asked him to accompany them to a side room so that they could ask him some questions. When Ya’aqubi attempted to ascertain the reason for this special interrogation, which his Jewish friends were not required to undergo, one security guard replied that "these are our instructions, and they come from high up." The security personnel asked Ya’aqubi numerous questions: where he was going, what the purpose of his visit was, and so on. After completing the questioning, the security personnel ordered Ya’aqubi to accompany them to another room, where he was again asked the same questions. When he commented that he had already answered these questions, and that his baggage had already been examined, one of the security personnel told him that these were their instructions, adding, "I don’t care what they asked you before." The security guards did not claim that there were any specific suspicions against Ya’aqubi or that he presented any danger. more..

Sole protester greets otherwise unchallenged Lieberman
By Michael F. Brown, Electronic Intifada 1/12/2007

     Every once in a while I end up at precisely the right spot at precisely the right time. Sunday 10 December 2006 was one such instance. I raced over that morning to the Ritz-Carlton at 22nd and M Street in Washington, DC with the hope that Member of Knesset Avigdor Lieberman was indeed speaking at 8:30 am.
     I parked, charged up the stairs, and then calmly walked in. I was sporting my wedding suit and a classy yellow tie. Hair cut short. Other than the touch long beard and some scuffs on my black dress shoes, I very much looked as though I belonged. And, in fact, it’s a shame I was not invited to the Saban Forum 2006 on "America and Israel: Confronting a Middle East in Turmoil."
     I would have liked the opportunity to stand up and ask how attendees plan to confront a region in turmoil with a racist like Lieberman at their side. I would have liked to question Lieberman directly on his bigotry. The transcript has not been posted to the Saban Center for Middle East Policy website as of yet and so it’s unclear to me whether anybody participating in the conference had the integrity to do so.
     Do I hold out hope that Lieberman could change? Yes, of course, such things have happened on rare occasions and I hope this will be one, but there is little prospect of it when members of Congress and other officials fail to call Lieberman to account. more..

Hard limits and long-observed taboos
By Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada 1/12/2007

     With his book Palestine Peace Not Apartheid reaching the top of the bestseller lists, former President Jimmy Carter appears to have made a breakthrough in the ossified debate on Israel-Palestine in the United States.
     In dozens of packed appearances and in the media, Carter has shattered long-observed taboos by talking about "the abominable oppression and persecution in the occupied Palestinian territories, with a rigid system of required passes and strict segregation between Palestine’s citizens and Jewish settlers in the West Bank." It is still difficult to imagine any other senior US politician doing that.
     Carter has been vilified by the pro-Israel lobbying industry in the United States with the frequent intimation that he is anti-Semitic. Yet even this furor demonstrates the hard limits which the debate still faces. In defending himself against such attacks, Carter has been careful to stress that he is only talking about the situation inside the territories occupied in 1967, East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. "I know that Israel is a wonderful democracy with equal treatment of all citizens whether Arab or Jew. And so I very carefully avoided talking about anything inside Israel," he said.
     Thus what even Carter acknowledges is that a debate about the racist nature of the Israeli state itself remains off-limits. An obvious question is how a "wonderful democracy" could operate a system of apartheid just a few miles away. Discrimination against non-Jewish citizens of Israel is legally enshrined and openly discussed in Israel. It includes separate and unequal education, laws that reserve the best land for Jews only, massive discrimination in allocation of resources, exclusion of non-Jews from government office, and the "Law of Return" that encourages Jews to move to the country while indigenous Palestinians remain banned from returning home. more..

A Ghetto Called Israel
By Rev. Joyce Antila Phipps, International Middle East Media Center 1/11/2007

     As the taxi sped from Tel-Aviv towards Jerusalem, I was struck by the vast open spaces between towns. Occasionally small olive groves and a cluster of small stone houses appeared. Stopped at a checkpoint by the police about 10 km. before reaching Jerusalem, the taxi driver nervously fumbled for his papers. After almost an hour, we were back on our way. As we approached Bethlehem, more checkpoints appeared. And then I saw it: The Wall – not quite the Great Wall of China but it certainly winds over the landscape much like it. Looking at it from a distance, however, pales beside the experience of approaching it on foot to cross from one part of Bethlehem to another.
     The Wall, like most walls, is full of graffiti: "We are not terrorists." "Give us justice and you will have peace." "All religions are equal." But the graffiti that says the most about the situation here is "Ghetto." The Palestinians who write the graffiti think that they are being ghettoized, but, in fact, it is the Israelis who have created their own ghetto. All over Palestine, Israelis in trailer outposts and fully constructed settlements have created little ghettos closed in by fences and barbed wire with soldiers patrolling the perimeters. Newly constructed roads and tunnels linking the settlements have walls and barbed wire around them. All that seems to be missing from the iron gates is the "Arbeit Macht Frei."
     Within the barbed wire fences and walls is the land confiscated from Palestinians whose families have been living and working there for thousands of years. The olive tree groves lie neglected; the fields are not plowed for the grain and fruit that has sustained this part of the world since before the time of Jesus. In many cases, families are unable to see even their closest family members due to the imposition of a permit system by the Israeli government since The Wall actually juts into Bethlehem itself, cutting and dividing old neighborhoods and communities. more..

Gush Shalom 1/12/2007

     As from next Friday
     Israeli drivers will
     Be forbidden
     To take Palestinians
     In their cars
     In the West Bank.
     That stinks of Apartheid.
     No "security" need
     Will be served
     By this disgraceful order
     Of the occupation authorities.
     Drivers with a moral sense
     Will ignore it.
     Gush Shalom ad published in Haaretz, January 12, 2007. more..

Palestine 2007: Genocide in Gaza, Ethnic Cleansing in the West Bank
By Ilan Pappe, Electronic Intifada 1/11/2007

     On this stage, not so long ago, I claimed that Israel is conducting genocidal policies in the Gaza Strip. I hesitated a lot before using this very charged term and yet decided to adopt it. Indeed, the responses I received, including from some leading human rights activists, indicated a certain unease over the usage of such a term. I was inclined to rethink the term for a while, but came back to employing it today with even stronger conviction: it is the only appropriate way to describe what the Israeli army is doing in the Gaza Strip.
     On 28 December 2006, the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem published its annual report about the Israeli atrocities in the occupied territories. Israeli forces killed this last year six hundred and sixty citizens. The number of Palestinians killed by Israel last year tripled in comparison to the previous year (around two hundred). According to B’Tselem, the Israelis killed one hundred and forty one children in the last year. Most of the dead are from the Gaza Strip, where the Israeli forces demolished almost 300 houses and slew entire families. This means that since 2000, Israeli forces killed almost four thousand Palestinians, half of them children; more than twenty thousand were wounded.
     B’Tselem is a conservative organization, and the numbers may be higher. But the point is not just about the escalating intentional killing, it is about the trend and the strategy. As 2007 commences, Israeli policymakers are facing two very different realities in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In the former, they are closer than ever to finishing the construction of their eastern border. Their internal ideological debate is over and their master plan for annexing half of the West Bank is being implemented at an ever-growing speed. The last phase was delayed due to the promises made by Israel, under the Road Map, not to build new settlements. Israel found two ways of circumventing this alleged prohibition... more..

Bush’s new strategy - the march of folly
By Robert Fisk, Information Clearing House/The Independent 1/11/2007

     So into the graveyard of Iraq, George Bush, commander-in-chief, is to send another 21,000 of his soldiers. The march of folly is to continue...
     There will be timetables, deadlines, benchmarks, goals for both America and its Iraqi satraps. But the war against terror can still be won. We shall prevail. Victory or death. And it shall be death.
     President Bush’s announcement early this morning tolled every bell. A billion dollars of extra aid for Iraq, a diary of future success as the Shia powers of Iraq ­ still to be referred to as the "democratically elected government" ­ march in lockstep with America’s best men and women to restore order and strike fear into the hearts of al-Qa’ida. It will take time ­ oh, yes, it will take years, at least three in the words of Washington’s top commander in the field, General Raymond Odierno this week ­ but the mission will be accomplished.
     Mission accomplished. Wasn’t that the refrain almost four years ago, on that lonely aircraft carrier off California, Bush striding the deck in his flying suit? And only a few months later, the President had a message for Osama bin Laden and the insurgents of Iraq. "Bring ’em on!" he shouted. And on they came. Few paid attention late last year when the Islamist leadership of this most ferocious of Arab rebellions proclaimed Bush a war criminal but asked him not to withdraw his troops. "We haven’t yet killed enough of them," their videotaped statement announced.
     Well, they will have their chance now. How ironic that it was the ghastly Saddam, dignified amid his lynch mob, who dared on the scaffold to tell the truth which Bush and Blair would not utter: that Iraq has become "hell. more..

Why the US Is Not Leaving Iraq
By Ismael Hossein-zadeh, Middle East Online 1/10/2007

     It is crucially important that public attention is shifted away from the confining official narrative of the war, parroted by the corporate media and political pundits, to the economic crimes that have been committed because of this war.
     “The military-industrial-complex [would] cause military spending to be driven not by national security needs but by a network of weapons makers, lobbyists and elected officials.” — Dwight D. Eisenhower.
     “There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket.” — General Smedley D. Butler.
     Neither the Iraq Study Group nor other establishment critics of the Iraq war are calling for the withdrawal of US troops from that country. To the extent that the Study Group or the new Congress purport to inject some “realism” into the Iraq policy, such projected modifications do not seem to amount to more than changing the drivers of the US war machine without changing its destination, or objectives: control of Iraq’s political and economic policies.
     In light of fact that by now almost all of the factions of the ruling circles, including the White House and the neoconservative war-mongerers, acknowledge the failure of the Iraq war, why, then, do they balk at the idea of pulling the troops out of that country?
     Perhaps the shortest path to a relatively satisfactory answer would be to follow the money. The fact is that not everyone is losing in Iraq. Indeed, while the Bush administration’s wars of choice have brought unnecessary death, destruction, and disaster to millions, including many from the Unites States, they have also brought fortunes and prosperity to war profiteers. At the heart of the reluctance to withdraw from Iraq lies the profiteers’ unwillingness to give up further fortunes and spoils of war. more..

Baghdad 2025: The Pentagon Solution to a Planet of Slums
By Nick Turse, Middle East Online 1/9/2007

     The dreams Pentagon planners are propounding about future war-fighting in the burgeoning slums of our planetary mega-cities and the high-tech gear and weaponry that is being produced for those dreams.
     So you think that American troops, fighting in the urban maze of Baghdad’s huge Shiite slum, Sadr City, add up to nothing more than a horrible mistake, an unexpected fiasco? The Pentagon begs to differ. For years now, U.S. war planners have believed that guerrilla warfare is the future -- not against Guevarist focos in the countryside of some recalcitrant, possibly-oil-rich land, but in growing urban "jungles" in the vast slum cities that increasingly dot the planet.
     Take this urban-labyrinth description, for instance. "Indigenous forces deploying mortars transported by local vehicles and ready to rapidly deploy, shoot, and re-cover are common… [Meanwhile,] an infantry company as part of the US rapid reaction forces has been tasked with the… mission to secure several objectives including the command and control cell within a 100 square block urban area of the capital…"
     Is it Baghdad? It’s certainly possible, since the passage was written in 2004 with urban warfare in Iraq’s capital already an increasingly grim reality for Washington’s military planners. But the actual report -- by an official from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Pentagon’s blue-skies research outfit -- focused on cities-of-the-future, of 2025 to be exact, as part of "a new DARPA thrust into Urban Combat."
     Fear of urban warfare has long been an aspect of American military planning. Planners remember urban killing zones of the past where U.S. forces sometimes suffered grievous casualties, including in Hue, South Vietnam’s old imperial capital, where "devastating" losses were incurred by the Marines in 1968; in the Black-Hawk Down debacle in Mogadishu, Somalia in 1993, where local militias inflicted 60% casualties on Army Rangers; and, of course, in the still-ongoing catastrophe in Iraq’s cities. more..

The "Normal" Violence of Everyday Life in Palestine
By Magdalen Hess, Electronic Intifada 1/11/2007

     Ramallah, occupied Palestine - 4 January 2006
     Israeli forces invaded Ramallah, West Bank today, marking the most severe incursion in several months. According to English-language Al Jazeera, four people were killed and about twenty wounded.
     When the incursion began I was in downtown Ramallah, on a service (a small bus) coming back from spending the day in Jerusalem.
     I arrived from the east on a busy road and we stopped at an intersection, one block from the city-center. There was a large amount of traffic at this intersection and horns were blaring. I gradually became aware of an increasing level of intensity and anxiety. I was on the right side of the bus, looking out of the window and I noticed several women running frantically into a store. It dawned on me that something was wrong. I looked out the windows on the other side and saw two Israeli armored jeeps immediately beside my bus. Just as I registered this, guns began going off, firing short quieter bullets in quick succession and then huge, enormous bangs. I spent about five minutes on the floor of the van with several Palestinian women. There were shouts and screams and women crying and people calling out to "Allah" and asking "why" over and over again. The driver backed up a little, then went forward and peeled out, screeching to a halt inside the bus depot which was just on the other side of where the jeeps had been.
     ....In my limited Arabic I tried to find out exactly where the Israeli soldiers were and to get my bearings.
     The woman with the child had a vehicle close by. She gave both myself and the other young woman a ride to a safer area and then called my mother from her phone (my mobile had no reception) to figure out where to take me. Many of the streets in Ramallah have no names, so there was no way to explain my location. I told her she could let me off -- I did not want her to risk her safety and the safety of her son on my behalf. She wouldn’t hear of it. She insisted on driving me safely home. She said, "This is my home, I know where to go, you don’t. You need my help." more..

A voice from Gitmo’s darkness
By Jumah al-Dossari, Information Clearing House/Los Angeles Times 1/11/2007

     A current detainee speaks of the torture and humiliation he has experienced at Guantanamo since 2002.
     JUMAH AL-DOSSARI is a 33-year-old citizen of Bahrain. This article was excerpted from letters he wrote to his attorneys. Its contents have been deemed unclassified by the Department of Defense. Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba — I AM WRITING from the darkness of the U.S. detention camp at Guantanamo in the hope that I can make our voices heard by the world. My hand quivers as I hold the pen.
     In January 2002, I was picked up in Pakistan, blindfolded, shackled, drugged and loaded onto a plane flown to Cuba. When we got off the plane in Guantanamo, we did not know where we were. They took us to Camp X-Ray and locked us in cages with two buckets — one empty and one filled with water. We were to urinate in one and wash in the other.
     At Guantanamo, soldiers have assaulted me, placed me in solitary confinement, threatened to kill me, threatened to kill my daughter and told me I will stay in Cuba for the rest of my life. They have deprived me of sleep, forced me to listen to extremely loud music and shined intense lights in my face. They have placed me in cold rooms for hours without food, drink or the ability to go to the bathroom or wash for prayers. They have wrapped me in the Israeli flag and told me there is a holy war between the Cross and the Star of David on one hand and the Crescent on the other. They have beaten me unconscious.
     What I write here is not what my imagination fancies or my insanity dictates. These are verifiable facts witnessed by other detainees, representatives of the Red Cross, interrogators and translators. more..

The latest Carandiru: Somalia and Palestine
By Zachary Wales, Electronic Intifada 1/11/2007

     In this sense, the "war on terror" is not, as critics have suggested, a "war on everything," but a war on anything.
     On Monday, Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman moderated a debate between Gil Troy and Norman Finkelstein over the current controversy over President Jimmy Carter’s book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. If debates are scored in cogency and temperance, then Troy lost in spades -- if that’s possible -- while Finkelstein was the clear winner.
     Troy is an American history professor at McGill University, and he markets himself as the author of Why I Am a Zionist: Israel, Jewish Identity, and the Challenges of Today. Meanwhile, Finkelstein is famous for a series of books criticizing Zionism and the Israeli occupation, his most recent being Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History. It would be rude to presume that with a book title like Why I Am a Zionist and a proclivity for colonial-settler narratives, Troy would be excitable, defensive, and a bit on edge. But alas he was.
     Troy’s argument on Democracy Now was a moving target, a firework display of one-liners that someone, somewhere is compiling for The Idiot’s Guide to Defending Zionism. His tenor went from bold to shrill, as Finkelstein schooled him like an unruly freshman.
     However, among the more interesting things that emerged from this debate were Troy’s framing tactics, or the way he constructed meaning. Particular examples included the way he harped upon suicide bombings, the "vicious and ugly" Palestinian political culture, and the notion that Carter "was good friends with Yasser Arafat." The implicit message is akin to statements like, "she likes to date black men" -- it explains nothing, implies anything, and forecloses debate with an assumed, often racist, moral sanctity. more..

Elliot Abrams’ Uncivil War
By Alastair Crooke and Mark Perry, Alternative Information Center/Conflicts Forum 1/10/2007

     Is the Bush administration violating the law in an effort to provoke a Palestinian civil war?
     Deputy National Security Advisor, Elliott Abrams—who Newsweek recently described as “the last neocon standing”—has had it about for some months now that the U.S. is not only not interested in dealing with Hamas, it is working to ensure its failure. In the immediate aftermath of the Hamas elections, last January, Abrams greeted a group of Palestinian businessmen in his White House office with talk of a “hard coup” against the newly-elected Hamas government—the violent overthrow of their leadership with arms supplied by the United States. While the businessmen were shocked, Abrams was adamant—the U.S. had to support Fatah with guns, ammunition and training, so that they could fight Hamas for control of the Palestinian government.
     While those closest to him now concede the Abrams’ words were issued in a moment of frustration, the “hard coup” talk was hardly just talk. Over the last twelve months, the United States has supplied guns, ammunition and training to Palestinian Fatah activists to take on Hamas in the streets of Gaza and the West Bank. A large number of Fatah activists have been trained and “graduated” from two camps—one in Ramallah and one in Jericho. The supplies of rifles and ammunition, which started as a mere trickle, has now become a torrent (Haaretz reports the U.S. has designated an astounding $86.4 million for Abu Mazen’s security detail), and while the program has gone largely without notice in the American press, it is openly talked about and commented on in the Arab media—and in Israel. Thousands of rifles and bullets have been poring into Gaza and the West Bank from Egypt and Jordan, the administration’s designated allies in the program.
     At first, it was thought, the resupply effort (initiated under the guise of “assist[ing] the Palestinian Authority presidency in fulfilling PA commitments under the road map to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism and establish law and order in the West Bank and Gaza,” according to a U.S. government document) would strengthen the security forces under the command of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Officials thought that the additional weapons would easily cow Hamas operatives, who would meekly surrender the offices they had only recently so dearly won. That has not only not happened, but the program is under attack throughout the Arab world—particularly among America’s closest allies.
     See also:Elliott Abrams and Return of Zionist Extremist Elliott Abrams more..

Federalism: A Solution More for Israel than for Iraq
By Nicola Nasser, Palestine Chronicle 1/9/2007

     The contradictory U.S. policies between Iraq and Israel would potentially lead to the failure of its plan for an un-viable federal Iraq and to the failure of the viable “vision” of a federal Israel and would certainly lead to a repetition of American and Iranian betrayals of Iraqi Kurds.
     Revealing both the double standards of U.S. policies and the propaganda-oriented Israeli advocacy of “minority rights” in the Arab world, the U.S.-allied Iraqi Kurdish and sectarian leaders reacted angrily to James Baker-Lee Hamilton report because it recommended what they perceived as a possible American retract from federalism in Iraq and the Israeli Jews condemned as a catastrophic declaration of war an Israeli Arabs’ “future visions” because those visions could lead to a “federal” Israel. Israel is still not “Jewish” neither in the demographic nor in the religious sense and the “Jewishness” of the state is still a strategic Zionist goal; hence the Israeli mainstream calls for the “transfer” of “non-Jews” and the Israeli official policies that boil down to nothing less than being ethnic cleansing practices. Jimmy Carter’s Palestine Peace Not Apartheid was only the latest reminder of this existential problem that threatens both the very existence of the indigenous Arabs in Israel as well as the Zionist dream of Jews to lead an independent Jewish life. Israeli Jews have to choose between Apartheid and a democratic state. A federal Israel could solve both an Israeli internal ethnic problem and as well be the right just, lasting and comprehensive approach to solving the Arab and Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which would spare the region more wars and violence; the ingredients of success are much more authentic than the U.S. , Israeli and Iranian-backed separatist and sectarian calls for federalism in Iraq . This approach would allow for the return of Palestinian refugees without “throwing the Jews to the sea” and would allow the Jews to lead an independent life without condemning Palestinians to an eternal exile in Diaspora. Of course the expected Israeli-U.S. rejection of this approach rules it out as unrealistic politics, but the rejection would in no way make the arguments for it less authentic. The promotion of federalism in Iraq is increasingly developing into a double-edged weapon against its U.S. and Israeli advocates and could also turn against its Iranian supporters, whose multi-ethnic country of Persians, Arabs, Kurds, Balushis, etc. will certainly not abandon its Islamic unity for a western-style pluralistic federal alternative. more..

The Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel
By The National Committee for the Heads of the Arab Local, Alternative Information Center 1/9/2007

     We are the Palestinian Arabs in Israel, the indigenous peoples, the residents of the States of Israel, and an integral part of the Palestinian People and the Arab and Muslim and human Nation.
     The war of 1948 resulted in the establishment of the Israeli state on a 78% of historical Palestine. We found ourselves, those who have remained in their homeland (approximately 160,000) within the borders of the Jewish state. Such reality has isolated us from the rest of the Palestinian People and the Arab world and we were forced to become citizens of Israel. This has transformed us into a minority living in our historic homeland.
     Since the Al-Nakba of 1948 (the Palestinian tragedy), we have been suffering from extreme structural discrimination policies, national oppression, military rule that lasted till 1966, land confiscation policy, unequal budget and resources allocation, rights discrimination and threats of transfer. The State has also abused and killed its own Arab citizens, as in the Kufr Qassem massacre, the land day in 1976 and Al-Aqsa Intifada back in 2000.
     Since Al-Nakba and despite all, we maintained our identity, culture, and national affiliation; we struggled and are still struggling to obtain just, comprehensive and permanent peace in the Middle East region, through achieving fair and lasting resolution concerning the Palestinian refugees’ status according to UN resolutions and for reaching peace through the declaration of an independent Palestinian State.
     Defining the Israeli State as a Jewish State and exploiting democracy in the service of its Jewishness excludes us, and creates tension between us and the nature and essence of the State. Therefore, we call for a Consensual Democratic system that enables us to be fully active in the decision-making process and guarantee our individual and collective civil, historic, and national rights. more..

When Birds are No Longer Birds: An Allegory
By Rami Almeghari, Electronic Intifada 1/8/2007

     Gaza, occupied Palestine
     "Bird Nicer was killed by unknown birds in the central countryside, while preaching that killing is prohibited in the Birds’ Shari’a (Law)".
     In an imagined (but somehow very real) countryside there live various kinds of birds, living in peace and enjoying their life among trees, waterfalls and gardens.
     Once, the birds had an idea that they should elect a chair-bird with a board, all the birds responded positively to the idea, so they set a date for such an election process. They day they set was a winter day, while they are all hibernating.
     All the birds were involved actively in the electoral process, although the rains were falling heavily overhead, but they appeared very happy for such a remarkable day, unlike any they had ever experienced before.
     Prior to the Election Day, the birds were sharing everything in the countryside equally; food, drink, flowers and waterfalls. They all used to live happily without any quarrels, although there was a group of blackbirds who used to maintain some kind of control over the white doves, simply because they were stronger and able to do so. more..

Interview: Fostering Muslim-West dialogue
By Humayun Chaudhry, AlJazeera 8/8/2005

     Alastair Crooke is a former official with Britain’s MI6 intelligence agency who has worked in some of the world’s most dangerous hotspots. He spent many years in the Arab and Muslim world and engaged in dialogue with Hamas and Hizb Allah, as well as facing paramilitary forces and drug cartels in Latin America and militias in Africa. His last posting, based in Jerusalem, was as a senior adviser to the EU high representative on foreign affairs, Javier Solana. During this time, Crooke helped end the Israeli siege of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in 2002 and worked to mediate the summer 2003 ceasefire between Palestinian armed groups and Israeli forces.
     Now retired and leading his own non-profit organisation, Conflicts Forum, Crooke hopes to foster a broader dialogue between the Muslim world and the West. Aljazeera.net spoke to him on the phone while he was in Lebanon recently. We asked him about the London and Sharm al-Shaikh bombings, the war on terror and dialogue with Islamist groups.

     Aljazeera.net: Do you believe the London attacks are a consequence of Britain’s participation in the war on Iraq?
     Alastair Crooke: I believe there is no causal motivation that has been established yet for what happened in London, on the two occasions, so I think it’s difficult to say what is the causal trigger to these two events.
     But I think it’s very clear that there has been a great deal of anger and hostility that has risen from Muslims everywhere, from not only events in Iraq - that is an important element - but much more widely, in Afghanistan, but also the Palestinian issue and others, that has radicalised many young Muslims, not only in the UK but everywhere.
     ....Aljazeera.net: You make a distinction between the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and Hizb Allah, and al-Qaida or al-Qaida related-groups, that are more global in their actions?
     Alastair Crooke: I think there is a big difference between the two, in that what you have is Hamas, Hizb Allah, Jammat Islamiya, Muslim Brotherhood and these groups.
     They may be seen on the one hand through the optic of using resistance or violence, in support of their objectives, but these groups all favour elections, they look for reform, they’re looking for constitutional change in their society, and that is an important difference between these groups and some of the other Salafi, Takfiri, extreme radical groups who are looking for polarisation. more..

Rice’s stillborn talks with the Iraqi resistance
Conflicts Forum - Reports 1/1/2007

     Over the last three months, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and her top aides have scrambled to build a “new security architecture” for the Middle East--one that will maintain pressure on Iran at the same time that it provides a cover for U.S. efforts to salvage some respectability from its collapsing position in Iraq. This “GCC-plus-two” security front is hardly news, but what is news is that it has been used as a potential back-channel by the Secretary of State to open talks with representatives of the Iraqi resistance--talks that, in spite of Rice’s best efforts, have been stillborn.
     The most important meetings with the “GCC-plus-two” have taken place in the region: in Riyadh, Amman and Cairo; and the most important of these meetings--and the one that included a potential opening to the Iraqi resistance--took place in Cairo in early October. Just last week our reporter in Baghdad talked with Iraqi officials, one of whom provided details of Rice’s efforts to use her meetings with the “GCC-plus-two” ministers to explore an opening to Iraqi resistance leaders. Our reporter obtained the following details of that early October meeting in Cairo and the results of that opening:
     On October 3, 2006, in Cairo the U.S. Secretary of State met with ministers from the Gulf Cooperation Council, Jordan, and Egypt. Afterwards the ministers from Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar received unexpected phone calls from one of Rice’s assistants asking them to attend a private meeting with Rice in a secure location in Cairo that same evening.
     ....In the wake of this meeting, Sheikh Harith al-Dari visited Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Emirates and had several meeting with senior officials in these countries on Rice’s proposal. Even so, after these briefings al-Dari flatly refused the idea of conducting any direct meetings with U.S. officials until the United States had responded positively to six “decisive demands” of “the Sunni Resistance and Opposition to the American Occupation of the Nation of the Two Rivers.” The six demands were put in writing--apparently by al-Dari--and delivered to U.S. National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley during his visit to the Saudi capital in December. After reading these demands, Hadley paid a surprise visit to Irbel, in northern Iraq, where he met the president of the Kurdistan region in Iraq, Masoud Barzani, and Iraq’s prime minister, Nouri Al Maliki, to seek their advice on how to respond to the demands. The six demands are... more..

Omertà in Palestine
Editorial, MIFTAH 1/9/2007

     Omertà is a popular attitude, common in areas of southern Italy, such as Sicily, Calabria and Campania, where criminal organizations like the Mafia, ’Ndrangheta and Camorra are strong. Omertà implies never collaborating with the authorities, or the police in particular. It can be intended also as a vow of silence among Mafiosi. A common definition is the "law of silence." (Source: Wikipedia).
     In the occupied Palestinian territories, Omertà has come to embody society’s unspoken law of silence towards atrocities committed against individuals in the name of "honour," patriotism, family loyalty, among other normative principles of which the victims are accused of undermining. The executioners’ ethical point of reference in punishing the accused is, at best, a severe blow to Palestinian efforts to foster a free and democratic society governed by the rule of law.
     One of the most common patterns of such atrocities takes place against Palestinian women in the name of “honour,” particularly the killing of females suspected of engaging in sexual activities outside marriage. In 2006 alone, 60 Palestinian women were reported murdered (by Palestinians) in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip on the basis of "honour." The alarming reality is that these figures only represent a mere fraction of all cases of killings, punishment, and retribution against women, who not only fall victim to a viciously conservative society (particularly in isolated Palestinian communities), but equally, to a consistent sense of apathy by Palestinians in tackling this taboo issue.
     The 60 cases filed in 2006 represent the minority of incidents where witnesses took the odd step of reporting these crimes to the authorities; there are countless other cases in which this harshest form of violence against women remains locked up in the memories of indifferent members of the community who choose to distance themselves from these so called “shameful acts.” Meanwhile, Palestinian law remains ambiguous towards holding perpetrators of "honour" killings accountable, and in most cases it is an anachronistic Palestinian (Arab) tribal code of conduct which supersedes any set of legal framework or principles. more..

The Lebanese deserve to know who is not cooperating with the Hariri probe
Editorial, Daily Star 1/11/2007

     The special panel appointed by the United Nations to investigate the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri has been touted by its supporters as a custodian of the truth, and many Lebanese are relying on the probe to help deepen and strengthen the roots of their country’s fragile sovereignty. Critics fear that the process has already been hijacked for political ends and that the purview of the international tribunal to try suspects in the killing will be to carry out targeted prosecutions aimed at producing certain results on the Lebanese political scene and in the wider Middle East.
     On lead investigator Serge Brammertz’s watch, the panel has strived to avoid the appearance of a rush to judgment, a wise policy given the approach of his predecessor, Detlev Mehlis. A glaring inconsistency has emerged, though, which threatens to undermine the integrity of the entire enterprise - and therefore to deny the Lebanese a key component of their maturation into a full-fledged nation-state. Brammertz’s most recent report indicated that 10 countries have not cooperated with the probe. Russia has launched an initiative to reveal the names of those 10 states, but Britain, France, the United States and other Security Council members have resisted.
     The Lebanese deserve to know the truth about who is assisting the investigation and who is slowing or obstructing it. Identifying non-cooperative countries is about more than just naming and shaming them: It is also about preserving the investigation’s credibility. There is a need to at least maintain an appearance of impartiality. Each and every report has included a public assessment of Syria’s cooperation. In his latest update, for example, Brammertz wrote that Syria’s cooperation "remains timely and efficient." But why would the probe only publicly evaluate Syria’s level of cooperation - especially when it acknowledges that others have been less forthcoming? more..

A crucial battle over ethical purity
By Ze'ev Sternhell, Ha’aretz 1/11/2007

     The social and moral ills that have surfaced recently were not created in the past year, but the present crisis is unprecedented. The crisis is, first and foremost, one of ethics and values. The very concept of "values" arouses a snicker: Anyone who dares to talk about ideology, public service, ethical purity, personal responsibility, human solidarity - and certainly about genuine equality - turns himself into an object of mockery.
     In a society whose criteria for success and worth are the power and money a person has accumulated, where everyone is constantly battling everyone else and worships Darwinian economics, the area of what is legitimately permissible extends to the horizon. To achieve one’s goal, it is permissible to trade in political influence for the purpose of promoting one’s business, and the opposite: It is permissible to exploit the power of capital to acquire a political post. It is also permissible to exploit any public or official job for the same purpose, and the concept of ethical purity provokes a forgiving smile.
     This is how public service disintegrates: A talented employee who wants a career in the civil service and does not prepare the ground for his transition to the private sector is seen as a strange bird. The employees in the Budget Division of the Finance Ministry, who dream of eliminating trade unions and collective work agreements, who without blinking an eyelash ax National Insurance Institute allotments and cause children to fall below the poverty line, see their work in the Finance Ministry as a period of apprenticeship in anticipation of the transition to the good life in the service of a bank or as a director of a large concern. For that purpose it is necessary to make connections and to provide proof of ability to serve the future masters. And is there any better proof than crude preaching in favor of eliminating trade unions and adhering to the principle that what is good for the shareholders is good for society as a whole. more..

More Power to the People
By Joharah Baker, MIFTAH 1/10/2007

     It is extremely difficult to wade through the endless expressions of violence, disunity and discord and uncover and appreciate those rare acts of sanity, which if nurtured, could ultimately be the answer to many of our woes.
     Over four weekends in January and February, the Palestinian Body for Peace Dialogue and Equality (HASM) has organized the “Thirty Days Against Checkpoints” Campaign during which Palestinian, foreign and Israeli activists will hold several activities at the Huwwara Checkpoint in Nablus in protest of Israeli occupation measures there.
     On January 14, Palestinian schoolchildren will gather at Huwwara, one of the most infamous Israeli military checkpoints in the West Bank. On the other side of the barrier will be foreign and Israeli peace activists to support the children and protest the continued presence of all West Bank checkpoints, which severely hinder the movement of all Palestinians living in the occupied territories and which also constitute major flashpoints between Palestinian citizens and occupying Israeli soldiers.
     While such a demonstration will most likely not bring about the demise of the Israeli occupation, it is certainly one of the few positive acts of nationalism we have seen for some time.
     Just for good measure, the organizers have added an ingenious twist. The children will all be donned in Native American dress, carrying banners that draw similarities between the plight of the Native Americans and that of the Palestinians today. more..

Israel’s Purging of Palestinian Christians
By Jonathan Cook, Palestine Chronicle 1/9/2007

     From Israel’s point of view, the loss of Palestinian Christians is all to the good. It will happier still if all of them leave, and Bethlehem and Nazareth pass into the effective custodianship of the international Churches.
     There is an absurd scene in Palestinian writer Suad Amiry’s recent book “Sharon and My Mother-in-Law” that is revealing about Israeli Jews’ attitude to the two other monotheistic religions. In 1992, long before Israel turned Amiry’s home city of Ramallah into a permanent ghetto behind checkpoints and walls, it was still possible for West Bank Palestinians to drive to Jerusalem and even into Israel -- at least if they had the right permit. On one occasion Amiry ventures out in her car to East Jerusalem, the half of the city that was Palestinian before the 1967 war and has since been engulfed by relentless illegal and state-organised Jewish settlement. There she sees an elderly Jew collapsing out his car and on to the side of the road. She pulls over, realises he is having a heart attack and bundles him into the back of her own car. Not able to speak Hebrew, she reassures him in English that she is taking him to the nearest hospital. But as it starts to dawn on him that she is Palestinian, Amiry realises the terrible problem her charitable act has created: his fear may prompt him to have another heart attack. “What if he had a fatal heart attack in the back seat of my car? Would the Israeli police ever believe I was just trying to help?” she wonders. The Jewish man seeks to calm himself by asking Amiry if she is from Bethlehem, a Palestinian city known for being Christian. Unable to lie, she tells him she is from Ramallah. “You’re Christian?” he asks more directly. “Muslim,” she admits, to his utter horror. Only when they finally make it to the hospital does he relax enough to mumble in thanks: “There are good Palestinians after all.” more..

Peace Index / They know the price of peace, but are unwilling to pay it
By Prof. Ephraim Yaar and Prof. Tamar Hermann, Ha’aretz 1/10/2007

     Education Minister Yuli Tamir’s decision to have the Green Line marked on maps in schoolbooks, and the controversy it sparked, led us to reexplore this month the Israeli Jewish public’s views on the future of the settlements and relations with the Palestinians. In keeping with the Knesset Education Committee, and unlike Tamir’s position, the rate of those who prefer that the Green Line not be marked on the maps is higher than the rate of those who agree with her. Likewise, even though a considerable majority of the Jewish public realizes that it is impossible to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians without evacuating most of the Jewish settlements in the territories, only a minority supports such an evacuation and an even smaller minority believes the Palestinians would sign a peace treaty in return. At the same time, opinions are divided on the government’s recent decision to expand some settlements in the territories to absorb evacuees from the Gaza Strip. That is, at least some of the opponents of an evacuation oppose a further expansion of settlements, apparently out of a fear of aggravating relations with the Palestinians.
     In other aspects of relations with the Palestinians, too, there is a certain ambivalence in the public’s positions, resembling or perhaps influenced by the government’s policy on the issue. Despite the prevailing assessments that most of the Palestinians would destroy the State of Israel if they could and that the recent decline in terror attacks was caused first and foremost by preventive Israeli actions and not by Palestinian measures, we found sweeping support in the Jewish public for holding contacts like the recent meeting between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Indeed, a clear (albeit smaller) majority says that if Hamas were to free Gilad Shalit, Israel should agree to talk with its leaders as well.
     The execution of Saddam Hussein was a source of satisfaction for the majority of the Israeli Jewish public, and the majority also thinks it was an appropriate measure that will increase the chances of regional calm. more..

Blind "New York Times" Continues Attacks on Jimmy Carter
By Patrick O'Connor, Electronic Intifada 1/9/2007

     The assault on Jimmy Carter and his new book which criticizes Israeli policy, Palestine: Peace not Apartheid, has been led by many of the usual, uncritical, knee-jerk Israel supporters - Alan Dershowitz, Martin Peretz and Abraham Foxman. However, the campaign to discredit Carter among more thoughtful, less partisan Americans is led by powerful, mainstream institutions like The New York Times, that are respected for their seeming objectivity and balance.
     In the January 7, 2007 Sunday Book Review, after the dust settled from weeks of frenzied coverage by other major media outlets, the Times made its bid to pronounce the "final word" on Carter’s book. In the review "Jews, Arabs and Jimmy Carter,"[1] Times Deputy Foreign Editor Ethan Bronner rejected the more hysterical claims that Carter is anti-Semitic, but simultaneously dismissed Carter’s book as "strange" and "a distortion," and described Carter, the only US President to have successfully mediated an Arab-Israeli peace agreement, as suffering from "tone deafness about Israel and Jews".
     If Carter is "tone deaf," Bronner’s review provides yet more evidence that The New York Times is willfully blind to Palestinians. New research detailed below shows that the Times’ news reports from Israel/Palestine, which Bronner supervises, privilege the Israeli narrative of terrorism, while marginalizing the Palestinian narratives of occupation and denial of rights. Bronner himself has quoted eight times more words from Israelis than from Palestinians in 18 articles he wrote for the Times since mid-2000. more..

Yes, There is Apartheid in Israel
By Shulamit Aloni, Palestine Chronicle 1/8/2007

     Did man of peace President Carter truly err in concluding that Israel is creating Apartheid? Did he exaggerate? Don’t the US Jewish community leaders recognise the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination of 7 March 1966, to which Israel is a signatory?
     Jewish self-righteousness is taken for granted among ourselves to such an extent that we fail to see what’s right in front of our eyes. It’s simply inconceivable that the ultimate victims, the Jews, can carry out evil deeds. Nevertheless, the state of Israel practises its own, quite violent, form of Apartheid with the native Palestinian population.
     The US Jewish Establishment’s onslaught on former President Jimmy Carter is based on him daring to tell the truth which is known to all: through its army, the government of Israel practises a brutal form of Apartheid in the territory it occupies. Its army has turned every Palestinian village and town into a fenced-in, or blocked-in, detention camp. All this is done in order to keep an eye on the population’s movements and to make its life difficult. Israel even imposes a total curfew whenever the settlers, who have illegally usurped the Palestinians’ land, celebrate their holidays or conduct their parades.
     If that were not enough, the generals commanding the region frequently issue further orders, regulations, instructions and rules (let us not forget: they are the lords of the land). By now they have requisitioned further lands for the purpose of constructing "Jewish only" roads. Wonderful roads, wide roads, well-paved roads, brightly lit at night--all that on stolen land. When a Palestinian drives on such a road, his vehicle is confiscated and he is sent on his way.
     On one occasion I witnessed such an encounter between a driver and a soldier who was taking down the details before confiscating the vehicle and sending its owner away. "Why?" I asked the soldier. "It’s an order--this is a Jews-only road", he replied. I inquired as to where was the sign indicating this fact and instructing [other] drivers not to use it. His answer was nothing short of amazing. "It is his responsibility to know it, and besides, what do you want us to do, put up a sign here and let some antisemitic reporter or journalist take a photo so he that can show the world that Apartheid exists here. more..

Take into account the mourning that goes into one death & imagine just one day when six are killed
By Maisa Abu Ghazaleh, Palestine News Network 1/8/2007

     The family was preparing for Mahmoud’s engagement ceremony. It was a thrilling time for everyone in the East Jerusalem household. His mother and father were there, as were his brothers. Twenty-nine year old Jamal took on the task of organizing purchasing the clothing, candy, decorations and gifts; everything for the celebration of his younger brother Mahmoud’s engagement.
     The engagement seemed last minute, scheduled for Friday. The Israeli invasion of Ramallah on Thursday lasted only a few hours, but it destroyed the hope of an entire family. Israeli forces killed six Palestinians that afternoon.
     Israeli Prime Minister Olmert was meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Sharm Al Sheikh at the time. The Egyptian President condemned the invasion. Israeli officials said today that they made a “mistake” in invading the city.
     Jamal’s younger brother Mahmoud explained why they were in Ramallah. “On Thursday my brother and I intended to go to Ramallah to buy supplies for the engagement party. We went together. Really, our souls were happy. We were together, I was going to be engaged, I was with my big brother.”
     He continued to tell the story, seeming at times to do so against his will, without wanting to transform his brother from life into memory. “We heard the sounds of shooting, we saw stones thrown in all directions, we were in a clothing store."
     Mahmoud continued. "Jamal told us that he wanted to move the car so it wouldn’t be damaged. He left the shopping center. We called out to him not to go. But he disappeared and the time became longer and longer. I called him on his phone. It was okay. But then I called him again and there was nothing." more..

Suspected Citizens: Racial Profiling against Arab Passengers by Israeli Airports and Airlines PDF Print E-mail
By Adv. Tarek Ibrahim, Alternative Information Center/Arab Association for Human Rights 1/8/2007

     Racial profiling usually occurs when the official institutions of a state—its security forces or any other institution—adapt the way they treat individual citizens on the basis of considerations relating to their national, ethnic, or religious affiliation, rather than on the basis of concrete and specific information regarding the individual.
     Studies on the effects and ramifications of racial profiling on the lives of citizens in various countries—for example, on the lives of Afro-American citizens in the United States—have shown that this policy has functioned as a pretext for the ongoing violation of a series of human rights on the individual level. On the collective level, it has constituted a tangible obstacle impairing the development of the Afro-American community within the overall mosaic of American society. In South Africa, the policy of racial profiling during the Apartheid era, which lasted through the 1990s, led to the committing of appalling crimes against African citizens. These crimes, which constituted gross violations of human rights, were condemned by the international community which rejected the Apartheid regime in a manner that ultimately promoted its collapse and the establishment of a democratic regime based on equal right for African citizens.
     The policy of racial profiling directly injures the dignity of those whom it subjects to discrimination. On the basis of their external appearance—the color of their skin, their style of clothing, their language, or other factors—the victims are prevented from playing an active role in society, from realizing themselves, and from realizing their human rights and basic liberty. This happens not because of any faults on their part or any mistake they have committed, but on the basis of an approach rooted in prejudice and reflecting racial discrimination. more..

Kiss of death
Gush Shalom 1/6/2007

     Since Judas Iscariot embraced Jesus, Jerusalem has not seen such a kiss.
     After being boycotted by Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert for years, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) was invited to the official residence of the Prime Minister of Israel two weeks ago. There, in front of the cameras, Olmert embraced him and kissed him warmly on both cheeks. Abbas looked stunned, and froze.
     Somehow the scene was reminiscent of another incident of politically-inspired physical contact: the embarassing occurrence at the Camp David meeting, when Prime Minister Ehud Barak pushed Yasser Arafat forcefully into the room where Bill Clinton stood waiting.
     In both instances it was a gesture that was intended to look like paying respect to the Palestinian leader, but both were actually acts of violence that - seemingly - testified to ignorance of the customs of the other people and of their delicate situation. Actually, the aim was quite different.
     ACCORDING TO the New Testament, Judas Iscariot kissed Jesus in order to point him out to those who had come to arrest him.
     In appearance - an act of love and friendship. In effect - a death sentence.
     On the face of it, Olmert was out to do Abbas a favor. He paid him respect, introduced him to his wife and honored him with the title "Mr. President".
     That should not be underestimated. At Oslo, titanic battles were fought over this title. The Palestinians insisted that the head of the future Palestinian Authority should be called "President". The Israelis rejected this out of hand, because this title could indicate something like a state. In the end, it was agreed that the (binding) English version would carry the Arabic title "Ra’is", since that language uses the same word for both President and Chairman. Abbas, who signed the document for the Palestinian side, probably did not envisage that he himself would be the first to be addressed by an Israeli Prime Minister as "President." more..

New Year Reflections
By Ramzy Baroud, Palestine Chronicle 1/5/2007

     This is yet another reckless American-Israeli experiment that if fully actualized, shall harvest untold political instability, debase America’s reputation even further and expand the list of innocent victims who have fallen as profusely as ever in this passing year.
     2006 was yet another year of tribulations in the ever tumultuous Middle East. It defied all early expectations that 2005 would be the worst for many years to follow. It ended on a sad note in Palestine, and left wide open the chance for many appalling possibilities that stretch from Baghdad, to Lebanon, to Mogadishu, and elsewhere.
     Like January 2005, January 2006 brought about momentous elections, the former in Iraq, and the latter in the Occupied Palestinian Territories; both occasions, which had the potential of becoming icons of democratic experiences, led to unmitigated disasters, exposing the American democracy charade for what it truly was, a farce, pure and simple.
     The 120 Iraqi parties that fielded candidates in the country’s 2005 first nationwide elections since the toppling of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, revealed the country’s sectarian divisions; expectedly, Iraq’s Sunni population boycotted the elections, fearing that their participation was a rubber stamp in a highly suspicious US experiment aimed at dividing the country by stripping it of any national cohesion, thus smoothing the progress of a more manageable occupation. Sadly, many Iraqis allowed the US plan to fester civil strife bordering on civil war, which left countless innocents dead or maimed; The outcome of those divisions never expressed itself as clearly as it did in 2006, which left even the most optimistic amongst us anticipate nothing less than a full-fledged civil war morphing out of the current chaos.
     Meanwhile, most Americans, as articulated in the Congressional elections of November 2006, expressed resentment for their country’s war in Iraq like never before on any foreign policy issue. Though their rejection of the Republican Party’s candidates was an illustration of their refusal of the Bush Administration staying the course mantra, the election brought back a divided Democratic Party that is equally supportive of the war, but wishes to convey its position in so clever a way so as to appear in disagreement of Bush’s war management style, but without offering any substantial policy shift. The elections will also likely position Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton of New York and Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona at the helm of Presidential candidates to follow the current lame duck president. Clinton is a staunch pro-war and pro-Israel savvy politician, and the latter wants to see a dramatic increase in the number of American troops in Iraq, as a way out of the quagmire. Using his constant opposition of President Bush’s foreign policies, McCain is unlikely to pay the price of Bush’s past failures, which, to varying degrees have damaged the credibility of most Republican politicians. more..

D.C. Notes: Wes Clark is Steamed, Jane Harman Isn’t, and Terry McAuliffe is High on Hillary (Big Shock There, Huh?)
By Arianna Huffington, Arianna Huffington’s blog 1/4/2007

     At the packed-to-the-rafters brunch preceding Nancy Pelosi’s formal swearing in, Melinda and I ran into Wes Clark (and I mean that literally; like I said, it was packed). Clark was really angry about what he’d read in this column by UPI Editor at Large Arnaud de Borchgrave. In the piece, which Clark quickly forwarded to my BlackBerry from his Trio, de Borchgrave details Bibi Netanyahu leading the charge to lobby the Bush administration to take out Iran’s nuclear facilities, and paints U.S. air strikes against Iran in 2007/08 as all-but-a-done deal.
     "How can you talk about bombing a country when you won’t even talk to them?" said Clark. "It’s outrageous. We’re the United States of America; we don’t do that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the military option is off the table -- but diplomacy is not what Jim Baker says it is. It’s not, What will it take for you boys to support us on Iraq? It’s sitting down for a couple of days and talking about our families and our hopes, and building relationships."
     When we asked him what made him so sure the Bush administration was headed in this direction, he replied: "You just have to read what’s in the Israeli press. The Jewish community is divided but there is so much pressure being channeled from the New York money people to the office seekers."
     At one point Melinda reminded him that she was taking down everything he said (a fact that would have been hard to miss, since she was taking notes on a not-inconspicuous legal pad). His response: ’Yes, I know." For Clark, this is the biggest foreign policy issue facing the U.S. "I’m worried about the surge," he said. "But I’m worried about this even more."
     [VTJP Ed: The following story reports: "...the Republican Jewish Coalition...released a statement [that] "strongly condemned ’blatantly anti-semitic’ remarks made by Retired General Wesley Clark in an interview with Arianna Huffington and urged the Democrat presidential aspirant to apologize... This is yet another sign that the veiled and not-so-veiled anti-Semitic sentiments that are rampant in the left-wing blogosphere are seeping into the ’mainstream’ of Democrats’ political discourse."] The General and the 'money people' more..

Dennis Ross’ curious maps problem
By Hugh Sansom, Electronic Intifada 1/9/2007

     To the Editor:
     Dennis Ross’s ["Don’t Play With Maps," 9 January 2007, The New York Times] concern over President Carter’s use of maps in Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid is curious.
     The first of the maps on page 148 does indeed resemble an Israeli map -- one presented at Eilat in May 2000. The Palestinians rejected it categorically then. Perhaps it was also presented in July 2000 at Camp David. That Israel should have presented it at all shows audacity -- and little Israeli interest in peace. That it might have been presented again boggles the mind.
     The second map seems a hybrid of one Israel presented in December 2000 and another at Taba in January, 2001. Barak recalled his representatives from the January discussions -- arguably because they were going too well for an Israeli leader determined to annex larger sections of the West Bank than he was advertising. Israel’s propagandists, like Ross, prefer to pretend Taba never occurred.
     One way or another, the mythology in question is not that of Carter or critics of Israel, but that of Ross and Israel’s supporters.
     Ross, understandably for one perpetuating a myth, makes no mention of key features of the "generous" proposal he pretends was offered. That proposal would have annexed a large portion of an East Jerusalem taken from Palestinians. That "currently Jewish" Ross uses casually glosses over the fact of Israeli expulsion of Palestinians from homes in the city.
     Map courtesy of Foundation for Middle East Peace more..

When Hamas learns how to adapt
By Amira Hass, Ha’aretz 1/10/2007

     A resident of a refugee camp in Nablus, a member of Fatah, used to worship at a mosque that is identified with Hamas. As an employee of the public sector, he is one of tens of thousands of wage-earners who are not getting a regular salary. Once every few days, he would find a generous food package on his doorstep, put there by anonymous benefactors. Recently he began to worship at a different mosque, one not identified with Hamas. Since then there haven’t been any packages. It’s a story that is in accord with various impressions to the effect that Hamas finds indirect ways to reward its supporters.
     These impressions are based on the legend that Hamas’ charitable organizations have long created alternatives to the official welfare services. However, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) is ahead of anyone else in providing emergency aid to Palestinian families: In the second quarter of 2006, 45.6 percent of the aid that was received by Palestinian families came from UNRWA. Second on the list is the Palestinian Welfare Ministry, with a 14.4 percent share of the aid. Various charitable organizations (many of them identified with Hamas) are responsible for no more than 3.5 percent of the aid. Nonetheless, this impression does have a connection to the general conduct of the Hamas leadership. Contrary to its pretension of being "the government of resistance to the occupation," in contrast to Fatah’s "government of adaptation to the occupation," it already began to imitate its predecessor at the moment it established a government along the lines of the previous format, the one shaped by Yasser Arafat’s self-deception that he was heading "a normal country."
     ...The Hamas government rejects claims that it owes its existence to the Oslo agreements. At the same time, however, it has sanctified the unjust distribution of the budget, Arafat’s legacy, among civil and "security" ministries: In 2006, this imbalance was maintained, when only 7 percent of the budget was directed to the health ministry, as compared to 24.3 percent to the Ministry of the Interior and National Security. Here, for some reason, the budget that was determined by the Oslo government is sacrosanct.
     Like the people of the security mechanisms under the Fatah government, a Hamas force has opened fire not only on its rivals, armed men of the Fatah, but also on unarmed demonstrators, who marched in Jabalya on Thursday evening with the aim of lifting the siege that the men of the "operational force" imposed on the home of a senior Fatah personage. An 18-year-old demonstrator was killed and about another 30 were wounded. more..

The "Ramallah Initiative"
Gush Shalom 1/8/2007

     The slogan was: "A New Hope". A new spirit is necessary in order to overcome despair and pessimism, in view of the violent events between the Israeli army and the Palestinians, as well as between the Palestinians themselves. In order to rekindle hope, close Israeli-Palestinian cooperation is needed, as well as steadfastness and courage.
     Timing and location of the conference underlined more than anything else: a day before, the Israeli army had invaded the center of Ramallah, killed four bystanders and caused an explosion of anger among the Palestinian population. Less than 24 hours later, dozens of Israeli peace activists came to the same place in order to hold out their hands to their Palestinian colleagues and to create a new joint framework for the struggle against the occupation and for peace.
     However, in spite of the hesitation, it was decided to hold the meeting precisely at this place and time, even if some of the invited persons would fail to come.
     At the impressive opening session, representatives of 23 Palestinian, 22 Israeli and 15 international organizations were present. After hearing very depressing reports about the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories and the ongoing annexation and settlement activities, the discussion on the character and direction of the joint action began. The deliberations, which also split into workshops, continued for three days. Most of the participants remained in Ramallah during all the time. Gush Shalom was represented by Uri Avnery, Rachel Avnery and Teddy Katz. more..

The IDF and my daughter’s hamburger
By Sam Bahour, Electronic Intifada 1/6/2007

     El-Bireh/Ramallah, occupied Palestine
     I wanted to write this two nights ago but was exhausted from playing umpteen hands of the card game UNO with my six-year-old daughter, Nadine. Why this card frenzy, especially given that I hate playing cards? Well, we were in the center of Ramallah Thursday afternoon, at 3:40 pm when the almighty Israeli military decided, again, that it was time to wreak havoc on our city. I should not really complain since what happened in Ramallah yesterday happens across the West Bank and Gaza regularly. Nevertheless, I will make an issue about it and urge every Palestinian, in every city, to make an issue about every Israeli infraction on our lives.
     Thursday I was extremely busy all day and had a dinner appointment with a serious venture capitalist in Jerusalem in the evening, so I agreed with my wife and girls that since I would not be home all day and night, that I’d pick them up at 3:30 sharp and we would go for a late lunch. We haven’t been out much given all of the infighting lately so my girls were thrilled. I rushed home at 3:30 to pick them up and found my daughters dressed to kill. To them, this was a serious outing after a long holiday break which was spent mostly at home. The restaurant they had as first choice was closed due to the holidays, so they reverted to their favorite popular place, Angelo’s Pizzeria, for those that know it.
     Angelo’s Pizzeria is on the main street in Ramallah, a few hundred meters from Manara Circle, the smack middle of town where you saw on the the news Israeli bulldozers destroying cars last night. I parked on the Friends Girls School road which is behind the restaurant. As soon as I exited the car I felt something was wrong. As we walked into the restaurant I looked up and could see an Israeli gunship helicopter hoovering overhead firing at some unknown target. We thought it would be safer to enter the restaurant rather than return home. more..

The Greatest Settler
By Gideon Levy, Palestine Chronicle/Ha’aretz 1/8/2007

     This act of unification was an act of occupation and the fact that a charming and charismatic figure like Kollek presided over it does not change a thing.
     Among the many obituary notices published by various groups after the death of Teddy Kollek, one group’s notice was conspicuous in its absence: the Yesha Council of Jewish Settlements. It is a bit difficult to comprehend this ingratitude by the settlers toward the person who brought approximately 200,000 Jews to the occupied territories - perhaps more than any other person. The settlement enterprise owes a great historic debt to Kollek. Neither Rabbi Moshe Levinger nor Hanan Porat nor Aharon Domb nor Ze’ev "Zambish" Hever are responsible for settling so many Israelis beyond the Green Line as Kollek, the enlightened Viennese liberal.
     The fact that most of the eulogies for the former Jerusalem mayor left out this detail and that Yesha did not embrace the mega-settler Kollek is no coincidence. Israeli society has adopted sundry and strange codes to whitewash the settlement enterprise. The settlement of the occupied territories in Jerusalem has never been considered hitnahalut (the term used for Jewish settlement in the territories). And the gargantuan neighborhoods of the capital, which were built during Teddy’s term and span extensive Palestinian territory, have never been considered a controversial issue.
     The fact that almost no one in the world recognizes this enterprise and the new borders it charts does not change a thing: In our eyes, but only in our eyes, not every settlement is the same and each settlement has its own moral code. But this is a game we play with ourselves. Every home built beyond the Green Line - in Yitzhar or Itamar in the West Bank, in Nov in the Golan, or in French Hill in Jerusalem - is built on occupied land and all construction on occupied land is in violation of international law. Occupation is occupation. Not everything is legal, even if it is anchored in Israeli law, as in the case of the Golan Heights and Jerusalem. more..

Iraq: Terrified Soldiers Terrifying People
By Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily, Inter Press Service 1/8/2007

     FALLUJAH, Jan. 8 (IPS) - Ten-year-old Yassir aimed a plastic gun at a passing U.S. armoured patrol in Fallujah, and shouted "Bang! Bang!"
     Yassir did not know what was coming. "I yelled for everyone to run, because the Americans were turning back," 12-year-old Ahmed who was with Yassir told IPS.
     The soldiers followed Yassir to his house and smashed almost everything in it. "They did this after beating Yassir and his uncle hard, and they spoke the nastiest words," Ahmed said.
     It is not just the children, or the people of Fallujah who are frightened.
     "Those soldiers are terrified here," Dr. Salim al-Dyni, a psychotherapist visiting Fallujah told IPS. Dr Dyni said he had seen professional reports of psychologically disturbed soldiers "while serving in hot areas, and Fallujah is the hottest and most terrifying for them."
     Dr. Dyni said disturbed soldiers were behind the worst atrocities. "Most murders committed by U.S. soldiers resulted from the soldiers’ fears."
     Local Iraqi police estimate that at least five attacks are being carried out against U.S. troops in Fallujah each day, and about as many against Iraqi government security forces. The city in the restive al-Anabar province to the west of Baghdad has been under some form of siege since April 2004.
     That has meant punishment for the people. "American officers asked me a hundred times how the fighters obtain weapons," a 35-year-old resident who was detained together with dozens of others during a U.S. military raid at their houses in the Muallimin Quarter last month told IPS.
     "They (American soldiers) called me the worst of names that I could understand, and many that I could not. I heard younger detainees screaming under torture repeating ’I do not know, I do not know’, apparently replying to the same question I was asked."
     U.S. soldiers have been reacting wildly to attacks on them. more..

Norman Finkelstein vs. Gil Troy On Jimmy Carter’s Controversial Book "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid"
Democracy Now! 1/8/2007

     Controversy continues over Jimmy Carter’s recent book "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid." We host a debate on the former president’s book with two leading scholars: DePaul University professor Norman Finkelstein, author of "Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History" and McGill University professor Gil Troy, author of "Why I Am a Zionist: Israel, Jewish Identity, and the Challenges of Today." [includes rush transcript]
     ....On Sunday, the New York Times published a long-awaited and largely critical review of the book written by Times Deputy Foreign Editor Ethan Bronner. Bronner dismissed charges of anti-semitism but he characterized the book as "a distortion," and criticized what he called its "narrow perspective."
     The book has seen growing media attention which began even before its publication in late November. Leading Democrats quickly distanced themselves from the book and it was immediately condemned by Jewish leaders and organizations around the country. Long-time Carter Center Fellow Kenneth Stein resigned his position in protest of the book. In a letter addressed to Carter and distributed to the media, he accused Carter of omission, factual errors, and plagiarism.
     Today - a debate on the book with two leading scholars:
     * Gil Troy, professor of American history at McGill University and author of several books including "Why I Am a Zionist: Israel, Jewish Identity, and the Challenges of Today."
     * Norman Finkelstein, professor of Political science at DePaul University in Chicago. His latest book is "Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History." His latest article is titled "The Ludicrous Attacks on Jimmy Carter’s Book" is posted on Counterpunch.org. more..

The Bottom Line / Is there anyone left who’s not corrupt?
By Sami Peretz, Ha’aretz 1/5/2007

     Every part of the story on its own seems to be the same old, worn-out thing: appointing cronies, political intrigue, pressure, a case of one hand washing the other.
     There is no government ministry, public authority, or even private business that does not have a bit of all those things. But when you put them all together, and see the entire picture that the police presented in the most recent weekly scandal at the Israel Tax Authority (ITA), the only real conclusion is both frightening and earth-shaking: We are a corrupt country, rotten to the core.
     And even if only some of the suspicions turn out to be correct, it will not be enough just to replace the head of the tax authority, Jacky Matza, nor to appoint a squeaky clean white knight in his place.
     We will be forced to admit that the whole process is rotten, that numerous shady political honchos are involved in a variety of matters of personal corruption, sexual harassment, and who knows what else. And now the tax authority - not even one of the most important law-enforcement bodies, and a foundation of proper government in Israel is immune to corruption.
     The sorry fact is that it is also hard to trust the police, which blew the the lid off the story this week in a huge media blitz. more..

A six-year mistake
By Akiva Eldar, International Solidarity Movement/Ha’aretz 1/6/2007

     The story of Shuhada Street is in essence a microcosm of the story of the “easing of restrictions” in the West Bank. It illustrates the gap between the smiling promises the prime minister makes to the head of the Palestinian Authority, and the reality on the ground. It demonstrates how complicated it is to get an Israeli army officer to change direction, and to teach his soldiers to treat the Palestinian population better.
     Less than two weeks ago, it was published for the first time in these pages that the senior officers of the Israel Defense Forces Judea Brigade had discovered that the closure of Old Hebron’s Shuhada Street to Palestinians had been done “by mistake.” The mistake has now lasted for six years - without a proper closure order, relevant legislation or a court hearing. The attorney general promised activists of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) that the mistake would be corrected very soon. Captain Harel Weinberg from the attorney general’s office wrote to Limor Yehuda, a lawyer for ACRI, that “new directives are currently being issued that will allow movement at that location.” The snag, it immediately transpired, lay in the words “subject to security checks.”
     Last Friday, activists from the Israeli organization Children of Abraham and from the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) accompanied a small group of Palestinians as they walked in the direction of the army outpost next to Hebron’s Beit Hadassah community. The soldiers on duty blocked their way. The group produced Weinberg’s letter, but the soldiers said that they had orders from their battalion commander not to let Palestinians use the street. After a 45-minute argument, the officer in charge ordered the barrier opened, and sent the group on its way - with an army and police escort.
     Here is the essence of a report prepared by volunteers over three days: On Sunday morning, negotiations with the soldiers went on for almost two hours, in pouring rain. One of the ISM people was arrested on the grounds of failing to obey a soldier. At midday, the soldiers arrested Mary, a 75-year-old volunteer, after she tried to prevent one of the soldiers from kicking one of her colleagues. After an extensive “security check,” the group walked down the street, under a barrage of stones thrown at them by Jewish girls from the settler families; the policemen and soldiers did nothing to stop them. more..

A Death Threat Wrapped Around a Bullet
By Kathy Kelly, Palestine Chronicle 1/5/2007

     Turn the page back to May 2006, when sectarian violence had already begun to consume Iraq, and here is how President Bush depicted what the U.S. had done for Iraq, following Iraqi elections.
     An Iraqi friend whom I’ve known for 10 years looked worn and very weary yesterday when he came to visit me at my apartment in Amman, Jordan. He hadn’t slept the night before because he’d been on the phone with his wife, who throughout the night was terrified by crossfire taking place over the Iraqi village where she stays with their four small children. My friend longs to soothe and protect his wife and kids. But now he lives apart from them, in another country.
     His life was completely changed when a piece of paper was tossed into his kitchen in Baghdad. It read: "Leave now or you will die like a dog." Many Iraqis have been receiving notes like this. This piece of paper was sent to him with a bit of extra emphasis. It was wrapped around a bullet.
     Weeks later, assailants killed his younger brother who was returning home from university studies. My friend moved his family to a village outside Baghdad and then ran for his life.
     Here in Amman, where the UN cites a figure of 700,000 Iraqis who’ve fled their country, he feels trapped. Like other Iraqis, he lives without legal protections: he is not allowed to work, he is unable to obtain proper documentation to settle here, and each embassy to which he has applied for resettlement has given him the cold shoulder. He may walk the sunburst streets of Amman, ride in taxis, eat in kabob shops, but he lives a shadowy, underground existence. Everyday, Iraqis in Jordan are arrested (for working, for overstaying their visas, etc.) and deported. This, too, is a death threat of sorts. Meanwhile, in Iraq, his family lives on a battlefield, and who knows what tomorrow will bring?
     Still, my friend’s case is hardly unique. Relative to other stories we’ve heard, he is somewhat fortunate. He was not captured and tortured before fleeing Iraq. His wife has not been raped. His children are still alive.
     Anyone listening to my friend’s experience of loss and tragedy would surely understand his feelings of cynicism, even bitterness, when he thinks about how the Bush administration has sold this ongoing war... more..

A New Congress? Not When It Comes to Iran
By Joshua Frank, Palestine Chronicle 1/8/2007

     Similarly, if we want the Democrats to change their tune on Israel and Iran, we’ve got to hold their feet to the fire. If left to their own devices Democrats will continue to mimic the neocon’s strategy for the Middle East, not alter it.
     Now that the Democrats are back in power, the American public can finally exhale. Bush is doomed. Cheney is on the ropes. Condi is updating her résumé while Rove prepares his exodus. Well, such an optimistic outlook is boldly misguided. The Democrats may have regained control of both houses of government after twelve long years, yet small changes are all we’re likely to see come out of the 110th United States Congress.
     On the surface things look like they are moving in the right direction. Democrats are enthused to increase the minimum wage and roll back subsidies to the oil cartels. They want the Fed to work with Big Pharma to give Americans access to cheaper prescription drugs. Democrats also want to lower interest rates on student loans. Not bad for the first 100 hours in office. But not all that wonderful either.
     Most of what Democratic leaders are proposing are minor, long-overdue reforms, not the type of progressive restructuring we really need. As Ralph Nader recently warned, “Early and troubling signals from Capitol Hill indicate that the Democrats are not going to move to remove the brazen Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, are not going to go after the huge waste and redundancy in military weapons contracts ... are not going to end massive corporate welfare … and are not going to propose a serious crackdown on widespread corporate crime, fraud and abuse.”
     Perhaps even more alarming than Nader’s prescient omen is that our Middle East foreign policy isn’t on the road to recovery. Israel will continue to have an affable government in the U.S. that funds the occupation of Palestine and supports Israel’s bullying of Iran. As The Times in the UK recently revealed; Israel may be planning a nuclear strike on Iran to destroy the country’s uranium enrichment facilities, something Israel denies. All contradictions aside, the Democrats in Washington overwhelming back such an attack. more..

We love life whenever we can
By Mayssoun Sukarieh, Electronic Intifada 1/8/2007

     We love life whenever we can.
     We dance and throw up a minaret or raise palm trees for the violets growing between two martyrs.
     We love life whenever we can.
     We steal a thread from a silk-worm to weave a sky and a fence for our journey.
     We open the garden gate for the jasmine to walk into the street as a beautiful day.
     We love life whenever we can.
     Wherever we settle we grow fast-growing plants, wherever we settle we harvest a murdered man.
     We blow into the flute the color of far away, of far away, we draw on the dust in the passage the neighing of a horse.
     And we write our names in the form of stones. Lightning brighten the night for us, brighten the night a little.
     We love life whenever we can.

     Unconsciously, I started to recite this poem, written by Mahmoud Darwish in the eighties, as I first came across the "I love life" and "J’aime la vie" slogans written in red and white letters and carried on billboards around Lebanon. Even before I knew the story of the slogans, the poem came to mind, because the slogans felt cut: We love life whenever we can! But there is so much anger from occupation, imperialism, and injustice around us. The omitted part from the slogan gives a fantasy of a choice of being able to live a life we want in the current state of the world. more..

Denial of entry and its impact on higher education
By Birzeit University Right to Education Campaign, Electronic Intifada 1/6/2007

     Since the beginning of 2006, many thousands of Palestinian foreign passport holders have been denied entry to visit, work or study in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt). This policy has brought tremendous insecurity to Birzeit University and its financial and academic wellbeing.
     From March to September 2006 there has been a 50 percent drop in foreign passport holding staff, leaving most departments at the risk of being forced to drop courses and of losing irreplaceable lecturers on specialist areas. One department in particular risks losing up to 70 percent of its staff. Currently there are at least 14 faculty members who are at risk of not being able to continue teaching, and 383 students who fear deportation or prison sentences if they are caught at checkpoints.
     The Arabic language and culture programme is particularly at risk as it is entirely self-sufficient and dependent on their foreign students’ access to the University. In the last term alone, four students were not allowed to complete their studies as they were not allowed to enter or re-enter the oPt. The programme is also a major source of emergency funds for the university, which has recently come into use to cover staff salaries since the economic blockade post the 2006 elections. Since Israel’s restrictions on access to Palestinian education, applications for next term’s course fell by 50 percent - taking with it 50 percent of the programme’s income.
     However, for the first time since the prevalence of this deportation policy, the Israeli government has allocated an official to be responsible for the right to enter the Palestinian territories, Maj. Gen. Mishlav. In December 2006, Mishlav told EU officials that their policy has changed and that those given ’last permits’ would be able to stay and renew their visas. However, this does not help those who are already outside and have ’denied entry’ stamped in their passports, as is the case for two of Birzeit’s faculty staff: Somida Abbas and Bahgat Taiam. more..

Book Review: "One Country"
By Clayton E. Swisher, Electronic Intifada/Middle East Policy 1/6/2007

     Ali Abunimah, the increasingly prominent 34-year old Palestinian-American activist and writer, never shies away from confronting those who support Israel at the expense of Palestinians. Best known for creating in 2001 the popular electronic intifada website (www.electronicintifada.org), Abunimah and his cadre of bloggers are currently relied upon not only by activists but also by members of the U.S. intelligence community for analysis and reporting from areas deemed too hazardous for American passport holders. From The Washington Post to major broadcast media outlets, Abunimah’s profile rises each time he takes on pro-Likud Goliaths -- at times with calm intellect and at others with trenchant reprimands -- including debates with Jerry Falwell and Daniel Pipes.
     Abunimah’s intellectual insurgency continues in his first book, the recently published One Country, a provocative and well-written account attacking the same failure of imagination that delivered to the world the present Arab-Israeli calamity. Originally the basis for an academic presentation he delivered at St. Anthony’s College at Oxford in 2004, One Country powerfully advocates the creation of a "united, democratic state in Palestine-Israel." Abunimah writes succinctly, targeting neither the convinced nor the adamantly opposed but rather the very open-minded policy maker, journalist or moderately informed member of the general public.
     One Country begins with an indictment of the antecedent processes that were supposed to guarantee Palestinian rights and statehood. Abunimah takes us through the progressive worsening of American mediation before, during and after the Oslo peace process. He cites the steady erosion of respect for international law and condemns the fatally flawed Oslo agreement for its impractical features, including those that required Palestinians to stop all forms of violence while the occupying Israeli state could appropriate more Palestinian resources, demolish more Palestinian homes, confiscate more Palestinian land, and erect more illegal Jewish settlements than at any other time in history. more..

Palestine’s leaders have become their own worst enemies
Editorial, Daily Star 1/9/2007

     Ever since Hamas came to power in democratic elections last January, the specter of internecine violence has haunted the Palestinian territories. Attempts over the past year to negotiate an agreement that would allow Hamas and Fatah to share power were interrupted by armed clashes, but many still held out hope that the two factions would eventually recognize the futility of their ways and arrive at some form of compromise.
     However, this past week has seen a rapid degeneration from bad to worse: a series of gun battles, abductions and raids - occurrences which have become alarmingly common in the territories - culminated with officials from Hamas and Fatah issuing public threats to kill one another’s leaders. The chasm between the two factions has never been wider, and the leaders of both parties are to blame for dragging their population to the brink of civil war.
     In fairness, the situation in the Occupied Territories can be attributed to a long list of factors over which Palestinian leaders have little or no control. These include the crippling embargo that was imposed after the elections produced results that were unacceptable to Western nations, Arab leaders’ systematic neglect and exploitation of the Palestinians’ plight, the crushing of civil society and state institutions that occurred during the rule of late President Yasser Arafat, and the chaos, misery and destitution wrought by decades of oppressive Israeli occupation. But acknowledging the role that these and other factors may have played in creating the current crisis does not absolve Palestinian leaders of their share of responsibility. On the contrary, as elected representatives, the leaders of Hamas and Fatah have a greater responsibility than anyone else to act in the interests of the Palestinian people.
     But instead of acting like elected representatives and serving the interests of their public, Palestinian leaders are behaving like rival gang chiefs and are dragging their entire population into a deadly and pointless street war... more..

Book Review: A Century of Jewish Opposition to Zionism
By Jim Miles, Palestine Chronicle 1/4/2007

     Jewish strength is viewed as its pacifism, not seen as a weakness, but a strength able to resist violence, to accommodate for a mutual better future, a strength vested in the ability to control egotistical and violent impulses.
     A Threat From Within – A Century of Jewish Opposition to Zionism. Yakov M. Rabkin. Fernwood Publishing, Zed Books. 2006.
     Most readers who are familiar with the Israeli/Palestine situation are aware that Israeli attitudes towards Palestine and the actions of the Israeli government are not without some internal controversy. There are known Israeli peace activists who protest against the military actions, Israeli academics who write with historical accuracy about the establishment of the Israeli state and its depredations against the land and the people of Palestine, military personnel who refuse to fight against the Palestinian people, Jewish religious leaders who reject the Israeli actions in Palestine, and probably many others who are concerned about the injustice of Israeli actions without the security to voice their opinions. At the national level, the many different political parties try to preserve the appearance of a Jewish and democratic state, but are only successful at the level of propaganda and not with the effectiveness of their actions. Yakov Rabkin in “A Threat From Within” focuses on what would normally appear to be a narrow slice of this controversy and splits it wide open, exposing the Zionist regime as being essentially anti-Jewish. It is a powerful provocative book, exposing much of what western religious and political figures refuse to examine.
     Zionism as anti-Jewish is a large concept to discuss and to provide evidence to support, but Rabkin succeeds admirably well in supporting his argument, using a combination of rabbinical, theological, and sociological concepts. In sum, his position in as few words as possible is: Zionism is a nationalist ideology that has usurped the language, concepts, and beliefs of the Judaic religion to create a secular state based on an aggressive Russian militarist ideology. Zionism presents a travesty of Judaic beliefs. In more familiar terms, Israel is not a Jewish state, never has been, and never can be. It follows also that to criticize the Israeli state and Zionism is neither anti-Semitic nor anti-Jewish. more..

Twilight Zone / What are you doing for the holiday?
By Gideon Levy, Ha’aretz 1/4/2007

     The easing of restrictions of the closure" is already at its height: Hurray, we can travel to Qalqilyah. We can even somehow m ake it to Nablus, whose houses can be seen from every window in the village. Not in our private car, it’s true; they won’t dream of such luxuries here. But in several taxis and on foot, from checkpoint to checkpoint. A few checkpoints, believe it or not, are even temporarily deserted. Oh, the enlightened occupation.
     Incessant rain fell on the occupied West Bank this Sunday, the dark sky and freezing cold a supremely fitting backdrop to these festival days. It was the second day of the holiest of Muslim holidays, the Festival of the Sacrifice, and the last day of the accursed year 2006, during which no fewer than 683 Palestinians lost their lives, far more than the year before, which was also a bloody one. Only the new holiday clothes of the children who splashed in the mud and rain between the checkpoints, skipping from puddle to puddle, from taxi to taxi, carrying holiday gifts on the way to Grandma and Grandpa, lent a bit of joy to the scene.
     The boy Akram Arman also set out, accompanied by his two young sisters on the way to their aunt in Nablus, all three dressed in new sweaters and trousers. But the soldier at the Beit Iba checkpoint at the entrance to Nablus was not in a festive mood: ID cards, he demanded. But the girls don’t have ID cards yet; they are not yet 16 years old.
     "So bring birth certificates," ordered the soldier, and the embarrassed and frightened children went back home to their village to get their birth certificates. Imagine: Your children go to visit their aunt in Kfar Sava on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and they’re sent home rudely because they forgot their birth certificates. Happy holiday to the Arman family. more..

Saddam’s Execution and the coming Campaign in Baghdad
By Dr. Abbas Bakhtiar, Information Clearing House 1/4/2007

     On Saturday 30th Dec 2006 at approximately 5:45 AM, former dictator of Iraq, Saddam Hussein was executed by hanging at the former headquarters of Saddam’s military intelligence where many of his victims were executed in the same gallows. Shortly after the execution, the Iraqi government released a short film of the execution which showed the former dictator, very composed, declaring his faith and refusing the hood, walked to the trap door where a noose was placed around his neck. Here the sound track was either cleaned and/or missing. Shortly after, a new film (clip) supposedly taken by a mobile phone by one of those present at the scene was circulating around the world. This film showed all the gruesome details of the execution and most importantly recorded the sounds in the gallows. In this film, one can hear Saddam Hussein declaring his faith (similar to the last rites) while a person shouting “Moqtada is alive” (referring to the Shi’ite Cleric Moqtada al-Sadr) and “you are going to hell”.
     The trial and execution of Saddam raise important questions: why was he tried and executed for only one incident: ordering the 1982 killings of 148 Shiite Muslims in Dujail, (“small” as compared to other horrific atrocities committed during his reign of terror); why was he executed at such a (religiously) sensitive time; why the films were released; and finally why did the authorities allowed his body to be buried in Tikrit, his home town?
     Why was he tried and executed for one incident
     The list of crimes attributed to Saddam Hussein and his regime is indeed a lengthily one, but to show that there were much more serious crimes than the massacre of Shi’ites in Dujail, I shall just list a few of them here.
     Saddam’s use of chemical weapons against both military (Iran) and against civilians (both Iranian and Iraqis) is well documented. One of the most horrifying acts of Saddam was his ordering of chemical attack on Kurdish civilians in the town of Halabja. In this incident, more than 5000 Iraqis (men, women and children) were killed in a few hours.
     ....Keeping the accomplices hidden
     The problem with trying Saddam Hussein for really big atrocities, such as use of Chemical weapons on civilians was that many enablers of Saddam’s regime including Western companies and both Western and Middle Eastern governments would have been implicated. During 1980s, 29 countries supplied him with weapons while nine others fronted for him whenever a cover was needed. Countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, Jordan, United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, China and Russia (just to name a few) had to be named and their complicity explained. more..

How the IDF won over Peretz
Ha’aretz 12/29/2006

     The seminal event of Amir Peretz’s defense career took place soon after he relinquished his social agenda to don combat gear. One spring day, a request to declare a general curfew in the West Bank, on the eve of Jerusalem Day celebrations, appeared on his desk. The military attache explained to the new defense minister that this was standard procedure: When Jews are celebrating in the streets, Arabs stay home.
     Peretz considered this a golden opportunity to display leadership, and decided there was no reason to close off the territories. Jerusalem Day arrived and hundreds of revelers crowded the Ammunition Hill Memorial. At the height of the event, the secretary passed a small note to the minister. His face paled. The note informed him that a suicide bomber had penetrated Israel and was making his way to the ceremony. An hour later, it proved to be a false alarm. Peretz breathed a sigh of relief, but the idea that the story could have ended in tragedy remained with him. He visualized the headlines that would have appeared the following morning: "Terror attack in Jerusalem. Peretz refused to impose curfew on territories."
     The minister’s constituents do not know, to this day, if it was a false alarm or if someone in the Israel Defense Forces, Shin Bet security service, or both, decided to teach the new minister a lesson. And the student, according to the results, took in the information known to every commander in the territories: Whenever you are deliberating whether to close or open passage to the Palestinians, always close. Checkpoint commanders learn to save themselves questions about the long-term price of a sweeping policy of collective punishment.
     This dynamic may explain the checkpoint report that the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) presented to the defense minister. The comprehensive document maintains that, since the disengagement from the Gaza Strip in August, 2005, the number of physical blockades in the West Bank has increased by 39 percent. more..

More is less
By Amnon Barzilai, Globes Online 1/2/2007

     Higher defense spending will erode Israel’s strength, not enhance it.
     The additional billions of shekels that will flow into the IDF’s coffers at the expense of budgets for education, welfare, and infrastructure development will be a source of waste and irresponsibility. The IDF will lose its only chance to heal and strengthen itself through internal streamlining.
     Spending on war, any war, has never deterred Israel’s enemies.
     In an interview with a Japanese newspaper this week, Jordan’s King Abdullah II said it had emerged that Israel was not as strong as might have been thought. As someone with an interest in preserving Israel’s power, the king focused on the decline in Israel’s general strength, more than on the performance of the IDF in the second Lebanon war. Note the difference between Abdullah’s voice and the claims heard by many in Israel that the IDF’s failures in the war harmed Israel’s deterrence capability.
     According to this perception, voiced by both politicians and generals, Israel was lucky. The IDF’s weaknesses were discovered in time in a limited military confrontation against a quasi-military organization, and the war provided a great opportunity to fix the problems uncovered by massively increasing the IDF’s budget in order to strengthen it.
     ....The obvious conclusion is that the results of war, any war, have never deterred Israel’s enemies, nor stayed their hands. Therefore, even if the IDF’s failures in the war against Hizbullah are a good cause for concern, talk about damage to Israel’s deterrence capability is beside the point. Israel’s real problem is the widening cracks in its national strength. They are not new, but the second Lebanon war brought them to the fore. On one hand, the Lebanon war revealed Israel’s economic stamina. But on the other, Israel’s national strength (or national security) is made up of many components, not just the IDF.
     Some of these components were weakened, including a further undermining of government stability and the fragmentation of political parties, the high frequency of elections, weak law enforcement agencies, the rising power of organized crime, falling standards of education, wide gaps in levels of pay, and a sharp increase in the number of poor. more..

By Yossi Sarid, Ha’aretz 1/5/2007

     Even if Ehud Olmert were a successful prime minister, we would tell him: Ehud, go home. Go, and take care of your own interests as you like to do; that’s what you do well. But to be both unsuccessful and tainted - that’s really too much. Listen: The time has come to put a stop to this.
     Now the Income Tax Authority is also shrouded in heavy suspicions, and is pouring acid rain on the entire country. The tax collectors are held in high esteem, and if they fall and bring others down, then all hope is lost. If they are found to be corrupt, it’s like finding pedophiles in a kindergarten.
     We have also become tired of those who cry, "we are tired of all you corrupt people." They are burned out from overuse, and are in need of a serious shaking. Blaming large numbers of people blurs the picture. Because there are so many corrupt people, we fail to spot the corrupt individual.
     Beware of people who are acquitted repeatedly, who then become the source of iniquity. Olmert has already been acquitted twice in his life, and he has two certificates of integrity in his pocket: Once he received a loan without interest; and once he signed a false report presenting fictitious invoices to the state comptroller. The Likud had two signatory treasurers at the time. One was tried and convicted, and the second, Olmert, was acquitted of the same crime; he claimed absentmindedness due to hard work.
     ....That is the portrait of the prime minister of Israel as an arrogant, hasty and careless man. And we are already sick and tired of the suspicions and the investigations, the open and closed files, and even of the acquittals. This poor country is rotting and is crying "help!". And its citizens are looking on in disbelief: It cannot be, they’re saying, that we have become so weak and impoverished; it cannot be that there is not a single decent person around who is worthy of assuming leadership; it cannot be that the 2,000-year-old-hope has landed on the doorstep of Olmert, of all people. more..

Has Regime Change Boomeranged?
By M. Shahid Alam, Palestine Chronicle 1/4/2007

     A sober reckoning of all the costs of the Iraq war suggests that the US bid for regime change in the Middle East has boomeranged. Instead, the war has been forcing a regime change on the protagonist.
     In the early 1990s, the fall of the Soviets produced a surge of triumphalism in the US. After defeating the fascist challenge in the 1940s, liberal capitalism had trumped its last adversary, global communism. This triumphalist mood was caught pithily in Francis Fukuyama’s claim that mankind – of course led by the West – had reached ‘the end of history.’
     This quickly produced a global regime change. Within a few years, the capitalist centers stripped most countries in the periphery of the autonomy they had gained in stages, starting in the 1930s. In this latest wave of integration, the periphery would not be ‘colonized,’ but Washington would define their economic rules. Most countries in the periphery would now be forced to open their doors to foreign capital, privatize their economy, scrap their plans, and dismantle their welfare systems. In all but name, they began to look like the Open Door economies of the nineteenth century.
     US economic dominance, however, was not enough for two segments of the American neoconservative movement, consisting of ultra-nationalists (Cheney, Rumsfeld and Bolton) and the Ziocons (Wolfowitz, Feith and Perle), a term coined by James Petras. They wanted the US to take advantage of the unipolar moment – opened up by the demise of Soviet Union – to make its political dominance irreversible.
     There were two components to the neocon plan. First, they began to work on plans to extend US military superiority to a point where no potential rival would dare to challenge its hegemony in any region of the world. In violation of international laws, the US would enforce its total hegemony by waging preventive wars against any country that acted contrary to its economic or political interests.
     This military plan would first be tested in the Middle East. This is what brought the ultra-nationalists and the Ziocons together. The first wanted to take complete control of the world’s oil spigot in order to destroy the OPEC and hold Europe, Japan and China at ransom. The Ziocons wanted to destroy the few remaining centers of resistance to Israeli hegemony in the Middle East – Iraq, Iran and Syria.
     But these plans had to be put on hold. President Bill Clinton was not ready to fully embrace their plans, even though his war and sanctions against Iraq prepared the base on which the neocons would build later on. The neocons were back in the saddle with the election of George W. Bush in 2000. They waited for the right time to unleash their wars in the Middle East. The events of 9-11 arrived as their Pearl Harbor. The Americans could now be bamboozled to support their dreams of creating a global and everlasting American Empire. more..

Ways of denial
By Azmi Bishara, Al-Ahram Weekly 12/21/2006

     The Holocaust must be contextualised, and its lessons learned
     The Nazi Holocaust aimed to rid Europe of its "Jewish taint". By this was meant banking capital as opposed to industrial capital and the moral degeneracy, lack of patriotism, scorn for national values, heritage and other such ills caused by the "worm" that ate away at all that was noble and pure in the Germanic people. That worm was the racial strain that never belonged, that was intrinsically alien and that nevertheless insisted on remaining in order to wreak its pollution; it was European Jewry and its various manifestations including capitalism, communism and liberalism, and its mere presence, according to this diabolical system of thought, that were a scourge to racial purity.
     Late capitalism, as forcefully imposed by the centralised bureaucratic state, converged with a fanatical and rabidly xenophobic and very ideological late nationalism of the "vesrspaeteten Nationen" with a history of religious anti-Semitism dating back to the Middle Ages and the crusader expeditions that attacked Jewish villages in central Europe en route to Palestine, a religious exclusionism that targeted both Muslims and Jews in Andalusian Spain and that shaped part of European identity in terms of both an external determinant -- the Muslims -- and an internal determinant -- the Jews.
     But the Nazis’ obsession with the annihilation of the Jews was also fired by an ideology that incorporated totalitarian social engineering, founded upon social Darwinism and assorted recent biological discoveries that were applied to human beings, together with a populist romantic socialism that was hostile to communism, democratic socialism and liberalism, all regarded as alien to the "Volksgeist", "the spirit of the people".
     This form of pseudo-scientifically justified and coldly carried out mass extermination would not have been possible without a strong ability to compartmentalise between the bureaucratic functionary and the duty to obey orders, on the one hand, and the individual and his private moral sphere on the other, a phenomenon that is one of the characteristics of the modern state apparatus. Nor would it have been possible without all the business of documentation, recording and archiving, which is also a characteristic of the modern state. more..

We didn’t disappear
By Jonathan Cook, Al-Ahram Weekly 12/14/2006

     Arabs in Israel call for a "state of all its citizens" to replace Jewish-only policies
     The official political leadership of Israel’s more than one million Palestinian citizens issued a manifesto in Nazareth last week demanding a raft of changes to end the systematic discrimination exercised against non-Jews by the state since its creation nearly six decades ago.
     Included in the manifesto -- the first ever produced by the community’s supreme political body, known as the High Follow-Up Committee -- are calls for Israel to be reformed from a Jewish state that privileges its Jewish majority into "a state of all its citizens" and for sweeping changes to a national system of land control designed to exclude Palestinian citizens from influence.
     The document is likely to further increase tensions between the Israeli government and the country’s Palestinian minority, and has already been roundly condemned in the Hebrew media.
     Although individual Arab political parties have made similar criticisms of the state before, it is the first time in its history that the High Follow-Up Committee -- a cautious and conservative body, mainly comprising the heads of Arab local authorities -- has dared to speak out. The committee is seen as setting the consensus for Israel’s one in five citizens who are Palestinian.
     The most contentious issue raised in the document, called "The Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel", is Israel’s status as a Jewish state. The authors -- leading academics and community activists -- argue that Israel is not a democracy but an "ethnocracy" similar to Turkey, Sri Lanka and the Baltic states.
     Instead, says the manifesto, Israel must become a "consensual democracy" enabling Palestinian citizens "to be fully active in the decision-making process and guarantee our individual and collective civil, historic and national rights."
     An editorial in Israel’s liberal Haaretz newspaper denounced the document as "undermining the Jewish character of the state" and argued that it was likely its publication would "actually weaken the standing of Arabs in Israel instead of strengthening it." more..

Friedman, Rice, Goode - The Polluting of Our National Discourse
By Dr. James Zogby, Arab American Institute, Washington Watch 1/2/2007

     An article by Tom Friedman, a quote from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and a letter by a Virginia Congressman hit in one day last week reminding me how tolerant our national discourse has become of bigotry toward Arabs and Muslims and how condescending policy-makers and analysts have become in their dealings with the Middle East region.
     Tom Friedman’s Article
     In the lead up to the Iraq War, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman was one of the invasion’s strong advocates. Friedman has now figured out why the war has gone so badly, and so in a rather remarkable piece appearing in the Times this week, he offers advice to President Bush.
     Never known for humility or apologies, here’s what Friedman has concluded: it’s the Arabs’ fault. I said the article was remarkable, and it was, not for its wisdom, but for its shameless self-serving bigotry.
     Here’s why.
     The article “Mideast Rules To Live By” makes the following observations:
     * Arabs are dishonest (they say one thing in private, another in public); * Arabs are illogical (prone to conspiracies); * Arabs are weak-kneed, without principles (“moderates”, in particular, are dissemblers, with no backbone); * Arabs are more violent and vengeful than “we” are; * Arabs are petty and tribal, and so on.
     The Friedman lesson for the President appears to be, “It’s not your fault, sir, it’s theirs. You and I weren’t wrong about the war; they weren’t ready for the gift you were giving them.” I have often been disturbed by Friedman’s dismissive tone coupled with his weird obsession with all things Arab. With this piece my reaction went from disturbed to outrage. more..

Rattling the Cage: A bigot called Bibi
By Larry Derfner, Jerusalem Post 1/3/2007

     By rights, Binyamin Netanyahu, who every poll says is by far the most popular politician in Israel, should be ranked with Jean Le Pen, Jorge Haider and the rest of the Western world’s racist demagogues.
     But he won’t be, because anti-Arab racism in Israel is either supported or strategically ignored by the mainstream of the Jewish world, and pretty much taken for granted by the gentile world.
     What Netanyahu said Tuesday night was not new for him; he was reported to have made the same appeal to the same sort of audience - haredi political leaders - a couple of years ago as finance minister.
     Then, as now, he was apologizing for the way his child welfare cuts had hurt large haredi families, while at the same time asking the haredim to look at the bright sides of that policy.
     "Two positive things happened," he told a conference of haredi government officials in Nir Etzion this week. "Members of the haredi public seriously joined the workforce. And on the national level, the unexpected result was the demographic effect on the non-Jewish public, where there was a dramatic drop in the birth rate." (Quoted in Ynet, Yediot Aharonot’s Web site. The speech was also reported in Haaretz.)
     The once-and-possibly-future prime minister of Israel says publicly that he’s sorry his welfare cuts made life harder for Jewish families who are "blessed," as he put it, with many children, but isn’t it "positive" that these cuts resulted in fewer Arab children being born? Then Netanyahu went on to suggest a national remedy for the victims of his economic policies - but for Jewish victims only, not Arab victims. more..

Engineered clashes between Fateh and Hamas rage on in Gaza
By Rashid Hilal, Palestine News Network 1/4/2007

     Ramallah -- Renewed clashes in the Gaza Strip left five Palestinians dead Wednesday evening. Not surprising is the return of the Fateh-Hamas fight. Once it was engineered by the boycott and then exploited by the blame-game, it can not get itself under control.
     The respite was brief and hopeful leading up to the Eid and through its first days. Calls made by the Supreme National and Islamic Forces to refrain from incitement and factional military shows were heeded for a time, but then the statements themselves seemed instead to add fuel to the fire. Gaza conditions are prison-like; that is well-known with the Israeli closures and attacks that leave no where to get out of harms way, and poverty continues to rise. It is the perfect place to engineer a civil war.
     Invitations to even talk about the meeting between President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniya in this Arab country or that, are still under discussion in the press. The agenda of this meeting is not in the hands of the President or the Prime Minister.
     Everyone is awaiting word from Hamas to relaunch the national dialogue on forming the national unity government, which has become the anecdotal talk of the elderly on cold winter nights. The sense in the Palestinian citizen is simple; this government will not come and the path to it is blocked.
     The end of the Eid Al Adha holiday and the simultaneous expected return of the Hamas government from its pilgrimage to Mecca, signals an expected return to diaglogue. Hamas is determined to keep Ismail Haniya as Prime Minister. But that is not to forget that they did try to replace him during earlier unity government talks but President Abbas refused the Hamas party member choice and the independent choice. more..

US, Israel seek to strengthen Abbas against Hamas
By Khalid Amayreh, Palestine Times 1/1/2007

     With the US effectively at loss over the quagmire in Iraq, and with the Baker-Hamilton report accentuating the centrality of resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as maker-or-breaker of stability in the region, Israel and the Bush Administration as well as British Prime Minister Tony Blair are adopting a new motto: Strengthening Abbas against Hamas.
     The motto is not new, of course, and is not really aimed at achieving a genuine and historical of the seemingly irreconcilable Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The main aim seems to bolster the “moderate camp” (Fatah) against the “extremists” (Hamas), especially militarily and financially.
     In the context of expediting this new-old policy of divide and conquer, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert hosted in his official residence in West Jerusalem Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas.
     The meeting, which took place on 23 December was preceded with all the necessary and unnecessary trappings, pleasantries and kissing, and hugging, representing a stark contrast to the bleak reality of Israeli Palestinian relations, especially since Olmert came to office earlier this year.
     Indeed, since his Kadima party won the general elections in spring, the Israeli army has killed over 700 Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, the vast bulk of them innocent civilians. more..

America’s outrageous meddling in Palestine
By Khalid Amayreh, Palestine Times 1/1/2007

     At a time when the Bush administration is utterly unable or unwilling to get Nazi-like Israel to remove even a single roadblock in the West Bank, the U.S. government appears hell-bent on stoking up the fire of civil war in Palestine.
     In December, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she would ask Congress for “tens of millions of dollars” to “strengthen the security forces” of PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas. But strengthen Abbas against whom? Against Israel which is savaging Palestinians and occupying their country and gravely violating their human, civil, political and national rights? Or perhaps they want to strengthen him so that his “strengthened” security forces would force Israel to dismantle the gigantic wall it has built in the heart of Palestinian population centres for the purpose of stealing more and more Palestinian land for Jewish settlement expansion?
     Well, everybody knows why the mendacious American administration is seeking to strengthen Abbas. It is simply trying to effect in Palestine what it has effected in Iraq, Lebanon, Somalia and Afghanistan, to mention just a few countries. America is seeking nothing short of sparking the flames of civil war in Palestinein order to promote and expedite Zionist ambitions and, consequently, abort Palestinian aspirations for freedom and independence from Jewish imperialism. It is very lamentable (and shameful), indeed, that Abbas and his coterie of sycophants and hangers-on are putting their trust where it shouldn’t be, namely in the Bush administration and the deceitful Rice.
     When will they realize that the U.S., not Hamas, is the Palestinian people’s tormentor? more..

Freed lawmaker says Israel is maltreating prisoners
Palestine Times 1/1/2007

     On Friday, 15 December, the Israeli occupation authorities freed Palestinian legislative council member Hatem Qafisha after more than 19 months of incarceration without charge or trial, otherwise known as “administrative detention.”
     Qafisha said the impression in the West and much of the world that Israel is a democracy is false to a very large extent. He pointed out that Israeli prison personnel were routinely “beating, humiliating and systematically persecuting” Palestinian detainees, including detained cabinet ministers and lawmakers, in ways unbefitting any democracy worthy of the name. Palestine Times spoke with Qafisha hours after his release. The following are excerpts of the interview.
     Palestine Times: How long have you been in prison and why?
     Answer: I have spent 19 months of internment without charge or trial. I really don’t know and don’t understand the specific reason or reasons for this punishment. My lawyer and I strove to know the charges, but to no avail. And every time we would appeal for ending this farce, we were told that there was a secret file that couldn’t be disclosed.
     PT: Yes, but there ought to be a specific reason, otherwise why would they arrest you?
     Answer: As I told you, there is no specific reason. I guess the reason was that they didn’t like my political ideas, because I am a member of the Change and Reform bloc. I honestly can’t think of any other reasons for this unjust imprisonment.
     PT: How much time have you spent in Israeli jails and detention camps?
     Answer: All in all, about 90 months.
     PT: Is it true that the Israeli treatment (or rather mistreatment) of Palestinian political and resistance prisoners has worsened markedly since the advent of the Hamas-led government?
     Answer: Yes, this is true. Now, prisoners are subjected to harsh treatment, including physical beating and kicking. For example, I know that Israeli security personnel beat and mistreated Finance Minister Omar Abdul Razzaq and Prisoner Affairs Minister Wasfi Qabaha. And they did so without any justification; it is only sheer sadism, sheer barbarianism. more..

Support a Palestinian Civil Rights Movement
By Rima Merriman, Electronic Intifada 1/3/2007

     Sometime in 2003, Condoleezza Rice declared to Reuters: "One of the really bad actors in the Middle East has just been deposed, and the president is not going to miss this opportunity" - meaning the opportunity to broker peace between the Palestinians and Israelis. But, as it turned out, not only did this promise remain unfulfilled, the "opportunity" of which Rice spoke did not even exist.
     The really bad actor has now been hanged and hastily buried in what appears like Wild West justice to many in the Arab world. All that was missing from the spectacle was the picnicking rabble come to watch the hanging for entertainment. Far from being liberated, Iraq is a quagmire for both the US and the Iraqis. Neither the US’s disastrous machinations in Iraq nor its past performance with regard to the Palestinians inspire confidence in its abilities to understand the complex sensibilities of the Arab world. Far from it.
     In as much as the US has energy to spare for a peace plan between the Israelis and Palestinians, it means to bolster Abbas and give the upper hand back to Fateh with certain dire consequences obvious to everyone in the Middle East except to the US itself and to the Palestinian ruling elite whose economic interests are connected to Israel and who are supposedly in charge of the defunct "process" dreamed up at Oslo. What’s more, if the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, there is no reason at all that US intervention is likely to result in anything close to fair negotiations for the Palestinians or that the US and Israel will meet Abbas even half way. more..

Let’s Do It Again: Doubling Down on the Imperial Mission in 2007
By Tom Engelhardt, Middle East Online 1/3/2007

     Rest assured, as the year 2007 begins, our imperialists and militarists are deep into preparations for General Schissler’s 100 Year War. They are already producing the next set of sledgehammers, the next set of military responses, for our next set of crises.
     Okay, folks, it’s time for a year-opening sermon. And like any good sermon, this one will be based on illustrative texts, in this case from 2006, and inspirational passages plucked from them. Its goal, as in any such quest, will be to reveal a world normally hidden from us in our daily lives.
     Every day, it seems, essential choices are being made in our names by our top officials, civilian and military, many of whom, as the year ended, only reaffirmed that our country is headed down an imperial path in the Middle East and elsewhere, a path based on dreams of domination and backed, above all else, by the principle of force. No matter their disagreements over the administration’s Iraq catastrophe, on this, agreement has remained so widespread as to make all discussion of the basics seem beside the point. Despite recent failures on the imperial path, consideration of other paths remains almost inconceivable.
     Naturally, the continual act of choosing the path we are on, and the hardly noticed Pentagonization and Homeland Securitization of our own society that goes with it are never presented to Americans as such. If no alternatives to what we are doing are ever suggested, then logic is with the doers, no matter the staggering problems on the horizon. more..

Why an academic boycott of Israel is necessary
By Lawrence Davidson, Electronic Intifada 1/3/2007

     Let me begin by stating that any successful academic boycott imposed upon Israeli institutions of higher education will assuredly have an impact on the academic freedom of Israeli scholars and teachers, at least in terms of its expression beyond their national borders. Is this acceptable? After all, other teachers and scholars who obviously have a stake in academic freedom, will have to cooperate with the boycott if it is to have an impact. As one of those academics, my answer to this question is that it is not only acceptable but absolutely necessary -- and for the following reasons:
     1. Academic freedom is an ideal, and ideals if they are to be responsibly adhered to, must be judged against their consequences in real life situations. One of the major real life situations we are dealing with here is the fact that Israeli academic institutions and personnel have been intimately involved for nearly 40 years in their country’s systematic destruction of Palestinian educational endeavors (and thus Palestinian academic freedom) within the Occupied Territories. And even longer, if less dramatically, as regards the Arab-Israeli community within Israel proper. The vast majority of Israel academics have either been silent, or active participants in this process.
     The passive aspect of this complicity with the occupation has been commented upon by Tanya Reinhart, formerly a professor of Linguistics at Tel Aviv University. She tells us that "Never in its history did the senate of a any Israeli university pass a resolution protesting the frequent closure of Palestinian universities, let alone voice protest over the devastation sowed there [in the OT]....It is not that a motion in that direction failed to gather a majority, there was no such motion anywhere in Israeli academia." And then there is Professor Ilan Pappe of Haifa University, who estimates that the number of Israeli academics who have "raised their voices against occupation" is "roughly 100 out of 9000." And many of these, like Pappe himself, are subject to harassment by university administrators and social ostracization by their peers. more..

Truth at last, while breaking a U.S. taboo of criticizing Israel
By George Bisharat, Electronic Intifada 1/2/2007

     Americans owe a debt to former President Jimmy Carter for speaking long hidden but vital truths. His book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid breaks the taboo barring criticism in the United States of Israel’s discriminatory treatment of Palestinians. Our government’s tacit acceptance of Israel’s unfair policies causes global hostility against us.
     Israel’s friends have attacked Carter, a Nobel laureate who has worked tirelessly for Middle East peace, even raising the specter of anti-Semitism. Genuine anti-Semitism is abhorrent. But exploiting the term to quash legitimate criticism of another system of racial oppression, and to tarnish a principled man, is indefensible. Criticizing Israeli government policies - a staple in Israeli newspapers - is no more anti-Semitic than criticizing the Bush administration is anti-American.
     The word apartheid typically evokes images of former South Africa, but it also refers to any institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over another. Carter applies the term only to Israel’s rule of the occupied Palestinian territories, where it has established more than 200 Jewish-only settlements and a network of roads and other services to support them. These settlements violate international law and the rights of Palestinian property owners. Carter maintains that "greed for land," not racism, fuels Israel’s settlement drive. He is only partially right.
     Israel is seizing land and water from Palestinians for Jews. Resources are being transferred, under the guns of Israel’s military occupation, from one disempowered group - Palestinian Christians and Muslims - to another, preferred group - Jews. That is racism, pure and simple. more..

Illegal Settlements and Constructive Naturalization
By Louis Frankenthaler, Electronic Intifada 1/2/2007

     Approaching forty years, the Israeli Occupation of the Palestinian Territory has become an indelible stain, creating conditions for violence and significantly reducing the credibility of Israeli assertions of democracy. Recently, former United States President Jimmy Carter was has been widely chastised by so-called "friends of Israel" for associating the word apartheid with Israel’s Occupation regime in the Palestinian Territory (the West Bank and Gaza). While it may be possible to question the wisdom of importing the term apartheid from the lexicon of what was a regime of racist tyranny in South Africa, the underlying and long term effects, and, quite obviously, the goals, of the Occupation have been to separate Palestinians from their homeland and to divide them internally while disinvesting them of any and all political and cultural rights. This may not technically be apartheid but it certainly describes a system of oppression that has embedded itself into the current and foreseeable reality in Israel and Palestine. The point, about the word Apartheid, is that the atrocious and opprobrious nature of the Occupation ought to suffice in order to secure it a meaning in the global lexicon that is comparable to that of Apartheid. Then, even if Israeli Prime Minister Olmert does remove a few roadblocks or an outpost or two it remains clear that the real barrier to normal civil life for all persons in the region remains Israel’s Pharaoh like refusal to relinquish its hold on the OPT and to allow the Palestinian people to be free of the Occupation.
     In many ways the nature of the Occupation is most visibly illustrated by the settlement policy, which continues to be imposed on the Palestinian people. The Israeli advocacy group Peace Now’s recent report on Israeli settlements built on private (and stolen) Palestinian land is an important document that clearly informs the Israeli public about the appalling nature of the Occupation and its assault on the rule of law, democracy and human rights. Following the report, neither a single Israeli nor "supporter of Israel" can, in good conscience, deny knowledge of the brutal nature of Israel’s forty-year occupation of the Palestinian Territory (OPT) which is most visibly manifested by Israel’s illegal policy of transferring and settling Israeli citizens onto Palestinian land. more..

The Christmas Gate
By Toine van Teeffelen, Electronic Intifada 1/2/2007

     Bethlehem, occupied Palestine
     Looking back at Christmas in Bethlehem, I found there were too many absurdities to compensate for the familiar gay scenes of drum bands and parents with kids on their shoulders characteristic for the entry of the Patriarch and next day’s festivities around Nativity Square.
     Imagine, the Patriarch entering Bethlehem through the old Jerusalem-Hebron road, passing through a city quarter deadened by so many circling Walls that a talented photographer can make a surrealistic exhibition out of it. Three gate locks - at the main Wall on the road to Jerusalem and then two more gates near Rachel’s Tomb - open up sequentially and allow the Patriarch and his following to drive through a road which the rest of the year does not exist. According to the religious status quo regulations, dating back to the Turkish times, the Patriarchs (Roman-Catholic, Greek-Orthodox and Armenian, each at different Christmas Days) follow this route along Rachel’s Tomb. In fact, when doing so they do not pass one tomb but several tombs as some houses near Rachel’s tomb are surrounded by Walls and actually resemble tombs. Weeks ago somebody told me that there is a legal term for what is happening to Bethlehem and several other Palestinian cities: urbicide, the killing of a city, or quarters of a city.
     Imagine, the Israeli government announcing in advance of Christmas that they hand out little presents and Christmas cards to pilgrims entering Bethlehem. To gauge the depth of the insult committed here, one has to picture the entrance to Bethlehem. As a visitor coming from Jerusalem, and after having followed the Christmas lights above the Hebron road, you face the concrete 9-meter high Wall which is decorated with armed watchtowers and an enormous banner declaring "Peace Be Upon You." There the pilgrims got their Christmas present. In fact, not so many presents were distributed; I think the show took place only on Christmas day. more..

What Makes Sammy Run?
By Uri Avnery, Gush Shalom 12/30/2006

     "I DON’T care about the principles! All that I want is that my wife can live with me and that we can raise a family!" cried out the engaging young man on the TV talk show.
     Sammy is an Arab citizen from Acre, studying for a doctor’s degree at Haifa University. Something terrible happened to him: he fell in love with the wrong woman - a Palestinian from Jenin in the occupied territories. He had met her by accident in Ramallah, obtained for her (on false pretences, he admits) a permit to stay in Israel for one day and married her. Since then he can visit her only once every few weeks in Jenin.
     She cannot come to live with him in Acre, because the Knesset has enacted a "temporary" law that forbids categorically, without any exceptions, Palestinian women in the occupied territories from joining their husbands in Israel. (That applies equally, of course, to the Palestinian husbands in the occupied territories of Israeli Arab women.)
     The freedom of love and marriage is one of the basic human rights. Its denial to 1.4 million Israeli citizens, solely because they are Arab, is a severe violation of the international Bill of Rights that has been signed by Israel. It also attacks the roots of Israeli democracy.
     The pretext - what else could it be? - is "security". Among the 105,000 Palestinian women from the occupied territories who, in the course of the years, have married Israeli citizens, 25 have taken part in terrorist acts. 25 (twenty-five!) as against 104,975 (one hundred and four thousand nine hundred and seventy-five. more..

The Embarrassment of the Wretched
By Ran HaCohen, Alternative Information Center 12/27/2006

     A recent call for a cultural boycott against Israel by John Berger and others has elicited one of its more wretched responses in the Guardian (Dec. 22), signed by Anthony Julius and Simon Schama. I confess I haven’t heard of Anthony Julius before—I am told he is a lawyer, and lawyers sometimes bend truth for their clients. But Simon Schama is a prominent academic, professor of history at Columbia, a man of science. He should know better.
     Who’s Singling Out?
     A recurrent theme in anti-Palestinian propaganda (usually misnamed “pro-Israel”) is “Don’t Single Out.” The idea is that evil should be addressed everywhere; the greater the evil, the greater the protest against it should be; and since there are worse cases of evil than Israel’s, Israel should not be criticized. Not now, at least: perhaps after all other evils have been eradicated.
     The article by Julius and Schama is no exception: you’ll find this cliché as argument number three:
     “[T]hough the call [to boycott Israel] purports to affirm universal, human rights values, it is incapable of explaining why it seeks a boycott of Israel, alone among the nations of the world. It says nothing about the abuses and human rights breaches inflicted on Israel’s citizens. It says nothing about the egregious human rights abuses committed elsewhere in the world (Darfur, Chechnya, and many other places).”
     Let’s apply the Don’t-Single-Out argument to the writers themselves. If, as they claim, evils should be addressed top-to-bottom, then Schama and Julius must either consider the proposed boycott the greatest evil on earth, or else they have already done their best to address all greater evils.
     Is the proposed boycott really the greatest evil on earth? Well, I haven’t heard of a single human injured, killed, or even suffering because of it. But while Julius and Schama were busy writing their article, Gaza had been under Israeli siege for months on end. Numbers of dead reached historic levels; a million and a half human beings have been locked in the tiny Strip, deprived of proper medical care and on the verge of starvation. Schama and Julius don’t even mention this evil. more..

Five Years Ago: Israel’s Move to Destroy the Palestinian Authority was a Calculated Plan, Long in the Making
By Prof. Tanya Reinhart, Centre for Research on Globalization - Middle East 12/22/2006

     "There are few regimes in the world like Israel, so eager to risk the life of their citizens for some new regional war."
     This incisive review article by Professor Tanya Reinhart was published by Global Research exactly 5 years ago:
     22 December 2001: The ’Foreign Report’ (Jane’s information) of July 12, 2001 disclosed that the Israeli army (under Sharon’s government) has updated its plans for an "all-out assault to smash the Palestinian authority, force out leader Yasser Arafat and kill or detain its army". The blueprint, titled "The Destruction of the Palestinian Authority and Disarmament of All Armed Forces", was presented to the Israeli government by chief of staff Shaul Mofaz, on July 8. The assault would be launched, at the government’s discretion, after a big suicide bomb attack in Israel, causing widespread deaths and injuries, citing the bloodshed as justification.
     In mainstream political discourse, Israel’s recent atrocities are described as ’retaliatory acts’ - answering the last wave of terror attacks on Israeli civilians. But in fact, this ’retaliation’ had been carefully prepared long before.
     Already in October 2000, at the outset of the Palestinian uprising, military circles were ready with detailed operative plans to topple Arafat and the Palestinian Authority. This was before the Palestinian terror attacks started. (The first attack on Israeli civilians was on November 3, 2000, in a market in Jerusalem). A document prepared by the security services, at the request of then PM Barak, stated on October 15, 2000 that "Arafat, the person, is a severe threat to the security of the state [of Israel] and the damage which will result from his disappearance is less than the damage caused by his existence". (Details of the document were published in Ma’ariv, July 6, 2001.) The operative plan, known as ’Fields of Thorns’ had been prepared back in 1996, and was then updated during the Intifada. (Amir Oren, Ha’aretz, Nov. 23, 2001). The plan includes everything that Israel has been executing lately, and more.(1) more..

Israel’s dominance may be going into slow reversal
By Rami G. Khouri, Daily Star 12/30/2006

     By most measures, it would seem the Israelis are winning the Palestinian-Israeli war. They control and colonize Arab lands, enjoy military superiority and total American support, and unilaterally define most diplomatic parameters of the conflict. Yet this may be a mistaken assessment: The Palestinians and Arabs are perhaps starting to win some battles, while Israel is losing some of its dominance. Seven events in the past five months seem to lend credence to this view.
     The first was Hizbullah’s ability to fight Israel for 34 days this summer, and on the 34th day to keep firing hundreds of rockets into Israeli territory. Morality and political consequences aside, this reflected a truly historic combination of political will, technical military proficiency, and a capacity to remain shielded from Israeli, Western and Arab spies and infiltrators. No Arab party had ever crossed this threshold in the century-long conflict with Zionism and Israel.
     The second event was Israel’s (and Washington’s) having to accept the August cease-fire resolution at the United Nations, after the United States had given Israel weeks of extra warfare to hit Hizbullah. A determined Arab group forced Israel and the US to accept a political resolution instead of military victory, and the cease-fire resolution included measures that Israel had previously always rejected - addressing the occupied Shebaa Farms area in the context of the Israel-Lebanon conflict, rather than as occupied Syrian land, and specifying the return or exchange of Israeli and Lebanese prisoners.
     Israel quietly dropped its previous position that the two Israeli soldiers snatched by Hizbullah on July 12 had to be returned unconditionally. The stationing of over 20,000 Lebanese and international troops in Southern Lebanon has long been an Israeli demand, but also came at a price: limiting Israel’s scope of action in Lebanon and its overflights. more..

Disturbing trends for the years ahead
By Rami G. Khouri, Daily Star 1/3/2007

     "...we may be witnessing the birth of an odd new system in which Middle Eastern countries are governed by elites umbilically linked to foreign patrons."
     A journalist’s tendency to look back on the past year and spot important new trends is heightened when the setting for such an exercise is the idyllic northeastern shore of the Dead Sea in Jordan, where I spent the last days of 2006. Reviewing the past year, I jotted down recent and ongoing developments worth keeping an eye on in the years ahead.
     Polarization and confrontation, with occasional violence, have become the prevailing political norm in the Middle East, as the docile ideological center of years past temporarily leaves the stage. Militant polarization manifests itself on three levels, evident in many countries such as Lebanon, Palestine, Iran, Sudan, Egypt, Morocco, Bahrain and others: local power balances, regional alliances aligned around the Arab-Israeli conflict, and a global confrontation pitting Arab-Iranian Islamism against American-Israeli-Arab power elites.
     If the increasingly common use of violence by most local and foreign parties in the region becomes the norm of political expression, it could remove negotiated politics as a credible means of conduct for years to come. Political and military violence are now routinely used by all: Arab states and regimes, Iran and Turkey, Anglo-American-led foreign armadas, local hegemonic and occupying powers like Israel, assorted terrorist groups, several resistance movements, and local gangs and criminals. No wonder that the most common symbol of the contemporary Middle East is the security guard and metal-detecting scanner. It is the sad icon that defines and unites us, but it is also an icon of our own making.
     Foreign intervention in domestic affairs, though not new, has become more common and audacious, involving primarily countries like Iran, the United States, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt, and some low-key Europeans. Foreign support for local proxies is most obvious in Lebanon and Palestine, but also in Somalia, Iraq and Sudan... more..

Divide and conquer: The strength of a regional Sunni-Shi’i alliance executed along with Saddam
By Kristen Ess, Al-Jazeerah Info/PNN 1/2/2007

     Why execute Iraqi President Saddam Hussein on Eid Al-Adha, the Muslim holiday of sacrifice and feast; the time to slaughter the sheep and give the meat to the poor, money to relatives and the impoverished, and toys to the children?
     Why did the United States choose a Shi’i client government after it captured Saddam Hussein?
     The "divide and conquer" technique seems so easily employed in the Middle East. Under US occupation, Iraq has fallen apart in Sunni – Shi’i fighting, not that it did not exist before, but not to the same extent in intention. Under Israeli occupation, Palestine has fallen apart with the Hamas – Fateh fighting. But the issue of timing and political party in Iraq may have more to do with the United States’ publicly stated plan this summer for its “New Middle East” than originally thought.
     Shi’i Iran would not back down to the US and Shi’i Syria was gaining power and influence. Shi’i Hizbullah in Lebanon defeated the Israeli army in the minds of the local population. And the Shi’is are the underdogs in Lebanese government and society; the trouble makers to the middle class, and powerful Sunnis, and the even more powerful Christians. But with the Hizbullah perceived defeat of Israel that is all it took: perception. No matter how many Lebanese the Israelis killed this summer, in the end Hizbullah was deemed to defeat the undefeatable Israeli military even with all of its US backing. The myth that Israeli forces were invincible in the Middle East was shattered.
     And Saddam Hussain was also one who was considered to have fought the Israelis and won in the past. Why have a Shi’i government execute him on the first day of Eid Al-Adha while the American press reported that “in the end it was his Shi’i enemies who carried out the execution?” Now Iran is getting nearly as [many] condemnations in Palestine for the execution as the Americans are. more..

NATO: The Bathtub Of Unreadiness
By Sarah Meyer, Index Research 5/11/2006

     “In a word, we are at the beginning, not the end, of a profound crisis in the US’ relations with NATO.” Gabriel Kolko.
     1. The PNAC and NATO Coven 2. NATO and Europe 3. NATO Goes Global 4. NATO, Israel and Mediterranean Partners 5. NATO in Lebanon? 6. The Bathtub is Overflowing 7. The Bathtub is Draining Out 8. Overstretched NATO in ‘Asscrackistan’ 9. NATO and Secret Armies 10. Updates
     One of the key Project of the New American Century (PNAC) documents is Building America’s Defenses. The thrust of the large section, Building Today’s Armed Services, is about the “bathtub of unreadiness.” The PNAC document expresses the need to build up all branches of the armed forces in order to obtain “long term political or regime change, global expansion and security, for which a huge extended budget is required as the “American security perimeter expands.”
     This ‘bathtub of unreadiness’ includes NATO.
     “Further, improvements should be made to existing air bases in new and potential NATO countries to allow for rapid deployments, contingency exercises, and extended initial operations in times of crisis. … Some of the cost could be covered, it is suggested, by the host nation or NATO.”
     “Until the process of transformation is treated as an enduring mission – worthy of a constant allocation of dollars and forces – it will remain stillborn.”
     The PNAC and NATO COVEN
     NATO’s ’transformation’, a favoured word in PNAC documents - and used frequently by Rumsfeld and his coven - was already taking place as early as 1996. The U.S. Committee on Nato was founded in that year by Bruce Jackson and Greg Craig. Originally, it was called ‘The U.S. Committee to Expand NATO’. After its disbandment in 2003, it became the ‘Project on Transitional Democracies’ – in the same office. In 2003-04, ‘The Project on Transitional Democracy’ received 6 grants totalling £229,400. more..

An Islamic Civil War?
By M. Shahid Alam, Palestine Chronicle 12/22/2006

     During his recent meetings with Israeli leaders and Sunni Arab potentates, according to a headline in NY Times, British Prime Minister Tony Blair was working to lay the groundwork for an “alliance against extremism.”
     The war that Western powers – primarily US, Israel and Britain – began against the Islamic world after September 11, 2001, is about to enter a new more dangerous phase as their early plans for ‘changing the map of the Middle East’ have begun to unravel with unintended consequences.
     Codenamed ‘the war against terror,’ the imperialist war against the Middle East was fueled primarily by US and Israeli ambitions. Britain’s participation is mostly a sideshow. US and Israel have convergent aims in the region. The US seeks to deepen its control over the region’s oil. Israel wants to create regional conditions that will allow it to complete the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.
     As a first step, both objectives would be served by removing four regimes – in Iran, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan – that still resisted US and Israeli ambitions in the region. Once these regimes had been removed, the US and Israel would carry the war into Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, to dismember them into smaller, weaker client states.
     Iraq and Afghanistan were chosen as the first targets – the easy points of entry into the war. They had been ravaged by years of war, weakened by internal divisions, and, in the case of Iraq, hollowed out by sanctions. It was believed that occupation would be easy. With friendly regimes in power, the US could start working on regime change in Iran and Syria. more..

Why Condemning Israel and the Zionist Lobby is so Important
By James Petras, Information Clearing House 12/26/2006

     “It’s no great secret why the Jewish agencies continue to trumpet support for the discredited policies of this failed administration. They see defense of Israel as their number-one goal, trumping all other items on the agenda. That single-mindedness binds them ever closer to a White House that has made combating Islamic terrorism its signature campaign. The campaign’s effects on the world have been catastrophic. But that is no concern of the Jewish agencies.” December 8, 2006 statement by JJ Goldberg, editor of Forward (the leading Jewish weekly in the United States)
     Many Jewish writers, including those who are somewhat critical of Israel, have raised pointed questions about our critique of the Zionist power configuration (ZPC) in the United States and what they wrongly claim are our singular harsh critique of the state of Israel. Some of these accusers claim to see signs of ‘latent anti-Semitism’, others, of a more ‘leftist’ coloration, deny the influential role of the ZPC arguing that US foreign policy is a product of ‘geo-politics or the interests of big oil. With the recent publication of several widely circulated texts, highly critical of the power of the Zionist ‘lobby’, several liberal pro-Israel publicists generously conceded that it is a topic that should be debated (and not automatically stigmatized and dismissed) and perhaps be ‘taken into account.’
     ZPC Deniers: Phony Arguments for Fake Claims
     The main claims of ZPC deniers take several tacks: Some claim that the ZPC is just ‘another lobby’ like the Chamber of Commerce, the Sierra Club or the Society for the Protection of Goldfish. Others claim that by focusing mainly on Israel and by inference the ‘Lobby’, the critics of Zionism ignore the equally violent abuses of rulers, regimes and states elsewhere. This ‘exclusive focus’ on Israel, the deniers of ZPC argue, reveals a latent or overt anti-Semitism. They propose that human rights advocates condemn all human rights abusers everywhere (at the same time and with the same emphasis?). Others still argue that Israel is a democracy – at least outside of the Occupied Territories (OT) – and therefore is not as condemnable as other human rights violators and should be ‘credited’ for its civic virtues along with its human rights failings. Finally others still claim that, because of the Holocaust and ‘History-of-Two-Thousand-Years-of-Persecution’, criticism of Jewish-funded and led pro-Israel lobbies should be handled with great prudence, making it clear that one criticizes only specific abuses, investigates all charges – especially those from Arab/Palestinian/United Nations/European/Human Rights sources -- and recognizes that Israeli public opinion, the press and even the Courts or sectors of them may also be critical of regime policies. more..

Marking the territory
By Amira Hass, Ha’aretz 1/3/2007

     At 6:30 last Friday morning, two cars waited for soldiers to open the checkpoint at the eastern entrance to Ramallah. This checkpoint is only for diplomats, Palestinian VIPs, journalists, employees of international organizations and anyone whose presence is welcomed by the military authorities. The checkpoint obligates thousands of villagers living in the vicinity to travel from 30 to 60 kilometers, instead of three to four km, so the settlers of Beit El and Psagot and of the outposts of Migron and Givat Asaf can exercise their landlordism.
     The cars waited but the soldiers did not come, even though the checkpoint officially opens at 6 A.M. The iron gate was unlocked; one could have opened it and advanced toward the watchtower. Drivers began honking to attract the soldiers’ attention, but if they were sleeping they did not wake up; if they were in the guard tower, they did not come out. Were they derelict in their duty to uphold national security?
     Of course not. As in hundreds of other blockades and checkpoints, the security pretext serves consistent strategic aims. Their function is to mark territory, to distinguish between "territorial units" (in Israel Defense Forces lingo), into which the Palestinians will be restricted as part of the permanent arrangements that will be imposed upon them, and the area Israel intends to annex. The territorial marking took place before September 2000 as well: generous construction permits for the settlements, prohibitions against construction and the prevention of development for the Palestinians, and an expansion of the settlements’ jurisdiction. The means change, the ends do not.
     The declaration of "easements" helps to divert discussion from the real intentions. And still, if at a few checkpoints (out of about 80), people will wait for 20 minutes instead of three hours, they will feel some relief. If a few of the 400 obstructions between villages are removed, their residents can reach their plots of land by tractor rather than on foot. And if, in the third promised stage, Palestinians will be permitted to travel to the Jordan Valley, then that will be a real celebration. more..

The Hamas factor
By Robert Malley and Henry Siegman, International Herald Tribune 12/27/2006

     The latest American and European bid to revive the long-dormant Israeli-Palestinian peace process apparently goes something like this:
     Tighten the squeeze on Hamas’s government to curtail its acquisition of money and weapons. Tip the military balance by pouring in tens of millions of dollars to train and equip security forces loyal to Fatah. Strengthen the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, politically with the kinds of immediate, tangible concessions — money transfers, prisoner releases, lifting of roadblocks — mentioned by the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, at his dinner last Saturday with Abbas.
     Then, the thinking goes, press the two sides to agree on a plan involving Israel’s withdrawal from areas of the West Bank and creation of a Palestinian state, while conditioning implementation on a Palestinian government that recognizes Israel and renounces violence. Formalize that accord at a ceremony attended by American, European and Arab dignitaries, who would pledge substantial funding for the soon-to-be state.
     By then, the choice before the Palestinian people will be clear: a life of isolation and hardship under Hamas, or potential peace and prosperity under a new, internationally backed government. Abbas will schedule early elections or a referendum. Hamas will resist. In the ensuing violent confrontation, Abbas — militarily bolstered and enjoying broad domestic support — will prevail.
     The theory is elegant and appealing. It also is unworkable.
     There is, to begin, the colossal suspension of disbelief — of reason, really — in which one is asked to indulge. In the next two years, the Bush administration would have to do what it has shown neither will nor capacity to accomplish in the past six: Focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, engage in skillful diplomacy and extract Israeli concessions. Israel would have to take significant steps under precarious security conditions and for the sake of an uncertain outcome. more..

Democracy Remains on Trial In Palestine
By Dr. Daud Abdullah, Palestine Chronicle 12/27/2006

     Jimmy Carter is no anti-Semite. He belongs to a prominent group of American presidents who made more important contributions toward the advancement of the Zionist project than the Zionists themselves.
     Two words explain the Palestinian democratic experience during the past year - disappointing and frustrating. Palestinians in the Occupied Territories [OT] feel this way not because their elections were flawed. Rather it was because of their inability to gain universal recognition for the result of those polls. Today the chickens hatched by the international sanctions are coming home to roost. They are witnessed in the complete paralysis that has grounded the Palestinian economy, the attendant political confusion and declining social security.
     For the first time in living memory an Occupied [Protected] People have been subjected to an international economic blockade of this magnitude. These punitive measures were taken in support of the Occupying Power, which after six decades still refuses either to define its international borders or recognize an independent Palestinian state in the territories occupied in 1967, (a mere 22% of historic Palestine). Hence the sanctions imposed on the Occupied Territories since the parliamentary elections of 26th January 2006 amount to no less than a dreadful violation of Article 54 of the Fourth Geneva Convention:
     The Occupying Power may not alter the status of public officials or judges in the occupied territories, or in any way apply sanctions to or take any measures of coercion or discrimination against them, should they abstain from fulfilling their functions for reasons of conscience.
     Only those blinded by prejudice and narrow interests could not have foreseen the consequences of these sanctions on the Palestinian people. One individual who did not jump on the bandwagon was former US president Jimmy Carter. One month after the elections he warned that any tacit or formal collusion between Israel and the international community to subvert the elected Hamas government by punishing the Palestinian people could well result in their alienation and an increase in the domestic and international standing of Hamas. more..

My mother gave birth to me here 80 years ago. I prefer death than to see the Wall eat this land
By Najib Farag, Palestine News Network 12/27/2006

     Twenty Israeli military vehicles stormed Umm Salamuna Village south of Bethlehem to protect four military bulldozers. The bulldozers were massive and there to bulldoze Palestinian land for Wall construction. What they needed protecting from was the nonviolent demonstration that farmers and residents began in order to save their land.
     Hundreds of farmers rushed to the area, with people coming from surrounding villages to advocate for the citizens of Umm Salamuna in defending the land.
     Village resident Mohammad Brijeh alerted the local media to what was happening at 11:00 am on Tuesday. Quickly confrontations began as the people refused to allow Israeli forces to destroy the Palestinian land. Fist fights and scrambling, rifle butts and fire were the Israeli responses to the farmers.
     Six Palestinians were injured, including 70 year old farmer Mousa Mohammad. Israeli soldiers beat him in the head with clubs. He was wrested away by fellow demonstrators and rushed to a neighboring village’s medical center for treatment. Twenty seven year old Amer has bruises all over his body and internal injuries due to a violent beating with clubs and rifle butts.
     President of the Umm Salamuna Village Council, Mahmoud Rashid, said that the Israelis intend to overtake 700 dunams of this area for the Wall. "The land is planted with trees, grapevines and olives, which is all for the families of the village, with a population of about 1,000 people." more..

Israeli policy in the Occupied Territories: what should one call it?
By V. Buch, Occupation Magazine 12/29/2006

     Let us summarize the principles governing Israeli policy: Principle 1: “The more damage to Arabs, the better”. Principle 2: Keep the violence rolling; dodge peace initiatives. Principle 3: Bully anybody who dares to criticize Israel.
     The State of Israel calls it “fight for existence” or “fight against terror”. Its detractors call it “colonization”, “apartheid”, or “ethnic cleansing”. Baruch Kimmerling coined the term “politicide of Palestinians”. Edward Said spoke of slow bleeding. Recently, even words such as “genocide”[1] have been used. Let us try to define the Israeli policy, and then grapple with the question of proper naming.
     It should be stated in advance, that by “policy” I mean consistent long term developments pursued by the different Israeli governments in the Occupied Territories . Its major element has been massive settlement construction in conjunction with land grab. By now the number of Israeli Jewish citizens residing beyond Israel ’s 1967 border nears 0.44 million (including Jerusalem ). The built-up area of the settlements consists of less than 3% of the area of the West Bank , but the area which they officially dominate (municipal jurisdiction) constitutes over 40% [2]. Presently, more than 1/3 of the West Bank is out of reach for most Palestinians [3]. A second element has been confinement of West Bank Palestinians to disconnected enclaves, and attrition of the enclaves by military invasions and economic blockade [4].
     On the other hand, I shall attach little significance to the recent Olmert-Abbas meeting, and to recent declarations by PM Olmert of forthcoming goodwill gestures towards Palestinians. Similar declarations by Israeli leaders were made periodically in the past, and have thus been an integral part of the Israeli policy. However, the “goodwill gestures” were never carried through to any significant extent, for any significant length of time [5]. Not a dent was made in the large-scale settlement and expropriation projects noted above. Thus, the obvious significance of such declarations is a publicity gimmick designed to make Israel look good in the eyes of the public, which is ignorant of the reality on the ground, and mistakes the declarations for reality. Also, as noted astutely by D. Breslau, such declarations often serve as a prelude for a major military invasion to the Occupied Territories. more..

The New Refugees
By Amira Hass, International Solidarity Movement/Ha’aretz 12/26/2006

     Until Enaya Samara, who has been living in forced exile for the past eight months returns to her village near Ramallah, and until Someida Abbas, who was banished from his home 10 months ago accompanies his children to kindergarten again, it will not be possible to believe the defense establishment’s promise to change its policy. So long as American, Brazilian and German citizens whose name is not Cohen but Abdullah, are refused entry at the borders, we will know that the policy is still in effect - the policy of causing tens of thousands of Palestinian families to break up, or to leave their homes and emigrate. This is not a new policy in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Since 1967, Israel has been carrying out demographic manipulations which should actually be called expulsion. Military edicts have caused some 100,000 people to lose their status as permanent residents in the occupied territories and to remain exiles in the countries to which they went to study or work. These manipulations have turned 240,000 people who were born in the West bank and Gaza and left the territories because of the 1967 war, and another 60,000 who were abroad when it broke out, to become new refugees.
     All of them left behind families in the territories, but Israel prevented the vast majority from reuniting again in their homeland. (During those years, Israel was actively promoting the right of Jews in the USSR to emigrate and reunite with their families in Israel). After 1994, Israel made it possible for several thousand Palestinian families to unite every year; in other words, it granted their children the status of permanent residency. But the quota it fixed was always less than the real needs, and since 2001, Israel has even frozen the family unification process and barred Palestinians who are citizens of Arab countries (particularly Jordan and Egypt) from coming to visit.
     Until 2006, Palestinians with Western citizenship (Europeans and Americans) were able to avoid this comprehensive policy. In the 1990s, they were considered a welcome population (investors, businessmen, academics working in international organizations such as the World Bank). Even if most of them did not get permanent residency, Israel permitted them to live here and visit regularly. This was also the case with Western spouses of Palestinian residents. Until someone in the political echelons decided that this “positive discrimination” (as opposed to citizens of Jordan and Egypt) was intolerable. And from the start of 2006 their entry has been blocked.
     Ha'aretz more..

Banality and barefaced lies
By Robert Fisk, The Independent 12/23/2006

     I call it the Alice in Wonderland effect. Each time I tour the United States, I stare through the looking glass at the faraway region in which I live and work for The Independent - the Middle East - and see a landscape which I do no recognise, a distant tragedy turned, here in America, into a farce of hypocrisy and banality and barefaced lies. Am I the Cheshire Cat? Or the Mad Hatter?
     I picked up Jimmy Carter’s new book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid at San Francisco airport, and zipped through it in a day. It’s a good, strong read by the only American president approaching sainthood. Carter lists the outrageous treatment meted out to the Palestinians, the Israeli occupation, the dispossession of Palestinian land by Israel, the brutality visited upon this denuded, subject population, and what he calls "a system of apartheid, with two peoples occupying the same land but completely separated from each other, with Israelis totally dominant and suppressing violence by depriving Palestinians of their basic human rights".
     Carter quotes an Israeli as saying he is "afraid that we are moving towards a government like that of South Africa, with a dual society of Jewish rulers and Arabs subjects with few rights of citizenship...". A proposed but unacceptable modification of this choice, Carter adds, "is the taking of substantial portions of the occupied territory, with the remaining Palestinians completely surrounded by walls, fences, and Israeli checkpoints, living as prisoners within the small portion of land left to them".
     Needless to say, the American press and television largely ignored the appearance of this eminently sensible book - until the usual Israeli lobbyists began to scream abuse at poor old Jimmy Carter, albeit that he was the architect of the longest lasting peace treaty between Israel and an Arab neighbour - Egypt - secured with the famous 1978 Camp David accords. The New York Times ("All the News That’s Fit to Print", ho! ho!) then felt free to tell its readers that Carter had stirred "furore among Jews" with his use of the word "apartheid". The ex-president replied by mildly (and rightly) pointing out that Israeli lobbyists had produced among US editorial boards a "reluctance to criticise the Israeli government". more..

Olmert and Abbas "push the wedge" in Palestine
By James Brooks, Electronic Intifada 12/29/2006

     Does a "head of state" go begging for crumbs from a foreign power that is holding abducted members of his own government?
     The recent "peace" overtures between Israeli Prime Minister Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Abbas do not promise significantly improved conditions for Palestinians or an end to the Israeli occupation. More likely results include intensified efforts to split the Palestinian public and undermine their legally elected government.
     The meeting has been portrayed as an opening to relations between Israel and the PA that "boost Abbas" and exclude Hamas altogether. Olmert, Abbas, and their backers in Washington and Europe have insisted that Hamas, the popularly elected majority party, "renounce violence" and "recognize Israel’s right to exist". These are the stated objectives of the crushing economic blockade that Israel and the western powers have enforced against occupied Palestine since last March.
     Objectively, neither demand has much substance. Hamas recently renounced violence by maintaining a unilateral ceasefire for well over a year. The same period saw a steady escalation of Israeli raids, arrests, killings, and settlements in the occupied territories. Everyone, including Israel’s general staff, knows that Hamas would return to a ceasefire if it thought Israel were serious about reciprocating. Hamas leader-in-exile Khaled Meshaal’s recent proposal for a 10-year ceasefire was summarily rebuffed.
     It is not Hamas that is launching most of the rockets into Israel these days, but the Al Aqsa Brigades attached to Mr. Abbas’ Fateh Party, seconded by the Al Quds Brigades of Islamic Jihad. And all the Israeli casualties and destruction caused by the last two years of Palestinian rockets would not equal the damage wrought in one average week of IDF operations in occupied Palestine. more..

He takes his secrets to the grave. Our complicity dies with him
By Robert Fisk, The Independent 12/31/2006

     How the West armed Saddam, fed him intelligence on his ’enemies’, equipped him for atrocities - and then made sure he wouldn’t squeal
     We’ve shut him up. The moment Saddam’s hooded executioner pulled the lever of the trapdoor in Baghdad yesterday morning, Washington’s secrets were safe. The shameless, outrageous, covert military support which the United States - and Britain - gave to Saddam for more than a decade remains the one terrible story which our presidents and prime ministers do not want the world to remember. And now Saddam, who knew the full extent of that Western support - given to him while he was perpetrating some of the worst atrocities since the Second World War - is dead.
     Gone is the man who personally received the CIA’s help in destroying the Iraqi communist party. After Saddam seized power, US intelligence gave his minions the home addresses of communists in Baghdad and other cities in an effort to destroy the Soviet Union’s influence in Iraq. Saddam’s mukhabarat visited every home, arrested the occupants and their families, and butchered the lot. Public hanging was for plotters; the communists, their wives and children, were given special treatment - extreme torture before execution at Abu Ghraib.
     There is growing evidence across the Arab world that Saddam held a series of meetings with senior American officials prior to his invasion of Iran in 1980 - both he and the US administration believed that the Islamic Republic would collapse if Saddam sent his legions across the border - and the Pentagon was instructed to assist Iraq’s military machine by providing intelligence on the Iranian order of battle. One frosty day in 1987, not far from Cologne, I met the German arms dealer who initiated those first direct contacts between Washington and Baghdad - at America’s request.
     See also: Robert Fisk: A dictator created then destroyed by America more..

Stop the Ethiopian-US aggression on the Somali Islamic Courts
By Lars Akerhaug, Campo Antiimperialista 12/30/2006

     The threat of disaster is again looming over Somalia after Ethiopia, supported by the US, has begun pulling in military troops, until recently described as "advisors" in an attempt to topple the government of the Islamic courts. They want to put power in the hands of the Ethiopian and Western-backed (UN recognized) "interim government" controlling only a small percentage of the country. They are backed by the Americans, too busy in Iraq and Afghanistan to themselves military intervene.
     Today the Somali Islamist courts are calling to make Somalia ground for "holy war" for Muslim Mujahedin fighters from around the world. But even though conflict between Ethiopia and Somalia has been common latter years, it is not necessarily the norm.
     According to the Hadith, the Prophet of Islam ordered his followers to leave Ethiopia out of the Muslim conquest. - The Prophet himself instructed his followers to respect and protect Ethiopians. In 615, Muhammed’s wife and cousin sought refuge at Axum (Aksum) with a number of these followers. This group was fleeing from Mecca’s leading tribe, the reactionary Kuraysh, who sent emissaries to bring them back to Arabia, but the Negus Armah protected them. Today the tradition tells that Ethiopia cannot be attacked by a Muslim army unless the country itself is aggressing against an Islamic state. This is the rationale for the Islamic courts threatening Ethiopia with war unless they leave the country. more..

In Somalia, a reckless U.S. proxy war
By Salim Lone, International Herald Tribune 12/26/2006

     Undeterred by the horrors and setbacks in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon, the Bush administration has opened another battlefront in the Muslim world. With full U.S. backing and military training, at least 15,000 Ethiopian troops have entered Somalia in an illegal war of aggression against the Union of Islamic Courts, which controls almost the entire south of the country.
     As with Iraq in 2003, the United States has cast this as a war to curtail terrorism, but its real goal is to obtain a direct foothold in a highly strategic region by establishing a client regime there. The Horn of Africa is newly oil-rich, and lies just miles from Saudi Arabia, overlooking the daily passage of large numbers of oil tankers and warships through the Red Sea. General John Abizaid, the current U.S. military chief of the Iraq war, was in Ethiopia this month, and President Hu Jintao of China visited Kenya, Sudan and Ethiopia earlier this year to pursue oil and trade agreements.
     The U.S. instigation of war between Ethiopia and Somalia, two of world’s poorest countries already struggling with massive humanitarian disasters, is reckless in the extreme. Unlike in the run-up to Iraq, independent experts, including from the European Union, were united in warning that this war could destabilize the whole region even if America succeeds in its goal of toppling the Islamic Courts.
     An insurgency by Somalis, millions of whom live in Kenya and Ethiopia, will surely ensue, and attract thousands of new anti-U.S. militants and terrorists.
     With so much of the world convulsed by crisis, little attention has been paid to this unfolding disaster in the Horn. The UN Security Council, however, did take up the issue, and in another craven act which will further cement its reputation as an anti-Muslim body, bowed to American and British pressure to authorize a regional peacekeeping force to enter Somalia to protect the transitional government, which is fighting the Islamic Courts.
     [Salim Lone was the spokesman for the UN mission in Iraq in 2003.] more..

The Demolitions in Hajja and Al Funduq
International Womens’ Peace Service 12/14/2006

     When we arrived in the village of Al Funduq, Salfeet, the aftermath of the first house demolition was already evident. A family stood on a pile of rubble, silenced and shocked. The second house demolition was just beginning, with the Caterpillar and Volvo bulldozers ripping into the top floor of the nearly completed house. The family, 2 of whom were handcuffed throughout the demolition, were powerless in this situation. Within an hour, years of labour and money was obliterated by the Israeli army. Caterpillar and Volvo are profiting from this family’s grief.
     Without pause the bulldozers and army went to the site of the third demolition, an agricultural structure. Money had clearly been invested and no doubt many mouths were dependent on the income.
     The fourth demolition was in the nearby village of Hajja. This family had fire. They wanted to resist. They stood at the top of the hill, angry and shouting at the Israeli army. They were frantically waving and hollering for neighbours to join them in their resistance. We ran over the field and up the rocky, thorny hill to join them in their struggle to preserve their livelihood. As people started approaching the army started throwing sound bombs at us. This did not deter us, and we joined the family up against the wall and gate of their huge agricultural structure. The family had papers with their lawyer, which they hoped would prevent the demolition. No wonder they had fire. They had a slither of a chance of preventing this crime. It was only ever a slither. They needed time.
     And time is exactly what is not available living under this Military Occupation. The family was frantically calling their lawyer. We called everyone who might have been able to buy some time. There was a sense of inevitability about the demolition, soldiers had already entered the compound, and the family members inside the walls and gate were "allowed" to move some of the animals. Much like the hierarchy of human beings in this part of the world, some are "worth" saving, some are not.
     The predictable happened. The army would not wait for the papers and the demolition started. It took two hours to rip this multi-storied building apart. During the demolition a group of around 10 soldiers took off across the field in which I was standing. They threw a sound bomb and fired at least one rubber bullet into a small group of boys aged around 12 who were passing by. The boys were in no way threatening. Throughout the day I lost count of the number of times I shouted "Stop! Do not shoot!"
     The final house demolition was by far the worst. It was extremely traumatic for the family involved. It was unclear which of the two houses the bulldozers were aiming for. Outside the first house there were several women, gathering up their young children, petrified. We had a brief moment of opportunity and dived into the house with the women and children, locking ourselves in. It was then that we became aware of what was happening in the next house. A family up on the roof, were hysterical in their grief. Four internationals stayed with the women of the first house, three of us dodged the soldiers and joined the family in the next house, on the roof of their semi constructed house.
     I will never forget the agony of that family. As I emerged onto the roof I was met by a scene of utter chaos. I had no idea what was happening. One young man was lying motionless, with family members desperately trying to rouse him. Periodically he would writhe around screaming in agony. A second man dropped to the floor, writhing uncontrollably. We had to keep pulling him back from the edge of the open roof. I heard a bang and then a third man screaming and holding his leg. An elderly woman collapsed. Everyone was wailing and screaming and crying out to Allah. The Divine arrived in the form of the medics. Fortunately the army did not try to prevent them from entering the building.
     Things became marginally quieter and calmer for a brief moment. Then the 30 soldiers who stood around the house massed together. It was clear they were going to act. What was not clear was what that action would be.
     En masse they entered the house. They scrambled up the concrete framework where the steps were still to be built. They pushed past me and started grabbing and pushing the Palestinians down the rough steep concrete slope. Four people were still being treated by the medics. They grabbed these people off the ground and dragged them outside.
     Once the house had been cleared the Israeli army started throwing sound bombs and firing rubber bullets. Sound bombs were exploding all around the ambulance and one man was shot with a rubber bullet a couple of meters from the ambulance.
     A few people were being beaten by the soldiers. They pushed people to the ground and they screamed with hatred into our faces, the saliva of their anger meeting my skin.
     As the demolition was happening, the soldiers began firing rubber bullets into a group of predominantly women and children, who were standing outside their house, watching what was happening. There were so many outrageous happenings that happened that day. But this indiscriminate shooting is where I felt my anger boiling. One soldier had his gun aimed at a woman. I shouted with as much power as I had left, but with complete clarity ‘Stop!’. He looked at me. We held each others eyes for what felt like an eternity. He did not shoot. I am utterly aware the only reason I could do this and for it to work is because of an inherent and deep racism that exists within the Israeli identity. Fortunately there are still situations where this international privilege is working.
     Three people went to Qalqiliya hospital that day, seven to local clinics to be treated for rubber bullet injuries and shock.
     A young man sobbed, tears racking his body as he sat on a pile of rubble that was his family’s future.
     Sadly the story does not end there.
     The following morning, on 23rd November, IWPS received a phone call informing us that more house demolitions were underway in the village of Qarawat Bani Hassan. We arrived shortly afterwards but the army and bulldozers had gone, leaving in their wake more devastation: a family, including seven children, aged three to fourteen, left homeless. After three years of construction and many years of saving, the family had finally moved into their house just two months previously. On Oct 10th they received a demolition notice, and on the night of the 22nd November were informed the occupation forces would demolish their house the following morning.
     The army and bulldozers then proceeded immediately to demolish an agricultural structure, including within it an office. The 60 year old owner said he had not received any demolition papers.
     On the same morning, 23rd November, in Kifl Hares, a car wash and garage was demolished. The business, which was shared by three families, had been operating for six years. The owners stated they had received no prior warning. The demolition took two hours- the entire area was ploughed up making it impossible for vehicles to use. The family members who witnessed the demolition were clearly shaken and another source of independent income in this fragile economy was destroyed.
     In the days since these demolitions IWPS has learned of many more houses in the surrounding area which are under threat of demolition. This includes 4 houses in Hares, which were given papers on November 29th ’06. In Hajja, a further 12 buildings are under threat of demolition, comprising of 8 inhabited houses, 2 houses under construction and 2 agricultural structures. In Bruqin between 50 and 70 have demolition papers, although many of these date back a long time. Three houses have been demolished, one in October ’05 and two in May ’06.
     The demolitions which have occurred and those under threat correspond with the planned route of the Apartheid Wall cutting up the West Bank. The reason cited by the Israeli army for the demolitions is that Palestinians built without permits. The virtual impossibility of getting building permits is another story all together, go to www.btselem.org/English/Planning%5Fand%5FBuilding/, www.icahd.org to learn more.
     The real reason for any of these demolitions is a racist illegal Occupation. At the heart of this Occupation is a desire to ethnically cleanse the land of Palestinians. Those that cannot be massacred, injured or imprisoned will be forced out by many means of collective and punitive measures, including house demolitions on the pretext of them not having building permits
     On Dec the 6th an entire Bedouin village, Twail Abu-Jarwal, within Israel (’48 Palestine) was demolished. For full details of this see www.icahd.org OCHA has noted that recently there have been a high number of house demolitions including in the Qalqilya, Hebron and Bethlehem governates. See the weekly OCHA report for 29 Nov to 5 Dec 2006 at www.ochaopt.org
     In excess of 12,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished since 1967.
     For photos and video footage and photos of the 22nd November demolitions in Hajja and Al Funduq go to, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9UHAcun3qaU, http://www.iwps-pal.org, www.rainbow70.blogspot.comOriginal Publication at IWPS and Photos and video of the 22nd November demolitions in Hajja and Al Funduq more..

Al-Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah’s Speech to the Members of Hezbollah’s Committees
Al Manar 11/21/2006

     Transcript of Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah’s Speech Before Hezbollah’s Committee Members.
     There are two groups in the country; one is the ruling authority and the forces of power, and on the other side the forces of the opposition or the trend of the opposition; and this is certainly a lining up of political groupings, it is neither sectarian nor religious. In the ruling government there are Muslims and Christians, and in the opposition there are Muslims and Christians and people from all sects. I make a point of this because there is a vigorous attempt to convert the existing ongoing political issues into religious or sectarian divisions. I will first address the ruling authority that is trying to maintain its position and rejecting the demands for a true opposition force to form a government of National Unity. What do we say to them? The opposition is not telling you to go home, and we are not saying we don’t want you as partners nor that we don’t want you in power– even though if we try to evaluate your actions during the war, before the war and after the war, we go beyond this assessment. The speech was firm– "We want a national unity government in which everyone can participate." They [the majority parties] are refusing the formation of a government of national unity so that they can hold onto power for reasons I will address in due course. What are their excuses? In the nature of political conflict, the ruling party wants to attack the opposition forces and direct to it accusations– sometimes they launch accusations at the opposition as a whole and sometimes the emphasis is on a particular individual or group. I will try to focus primarily on the general accusations before I talk about the accusations directed at us (Hezbollah). All the accusations bought forward by the ruling government are only part of a media and political campaign against us; the accusations are not based on any logic or evidence but merely evade the facts. I will say why they are focusing on these accusations, specifically targeting Hezbollah, and in doing so accusing the whole of the opposition. There is a common denominator between the accusations directed against us and which they are employing on specific places. more..

Gaza Resident Looks Back on the Year
By Martin Patience, Palestine Chronicle 12/22/2006

     Before the embargo, Hatim was unemployed and depended on relatives, friends, and neighbours for small handouts to pay for his family’s frugal existence.
     When Hatim Muhammad wants to escape from Gaza he listens to the birdsong of his 31 canaries.
     The 41-year-old, a former militant who is now unemployed, has turned one of the rooms of his house into a makeshift aviary.
     In the same room, seven of his 11 children sleep at night.
     "I feel like I’m free when I hear the canaries," says Hatim, the birdcages swaying gently above his head. "They help me forget about all my problems."
     Like many in Gaza, Hatim will remember 2006 as the year problems piled up. Even by Palestinian standards, the hardships suffered this year have been extraordinary.
     First came the international economic boycott which followed the election of Hamas. That embargo plunged many Palestinians here into poverty.
     Over the year, Israeli military operations in Gaza and the West Bank killed more than 600 Palestinians.
     Operations intensified in Gaza in June after Palestinian militants captured an Israeli soldier in a cross border raid.
     Military operations to secure the release of the soldier and to stop Qassam rocket fire into Israel have failed to do either.
     ...."This has been the worst year of my life," says Hatim. "I swear to God, I now have no money for milk and food for my children," he says. more..

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