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 Sunday, December 31, 2006

Saddam Execution: What Others Say

 

  1. VIDEO SHOW OF EXECUTION OF SADDAM HUSSEIN
    Dec. 30 - Iraqi state television and Al Arabiya television have shown footage of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein being led to the gallows and a noose being placed around his neck.

    CLICK HERE TO VIEW VIDEO


  2. VIDEO SHOW OF SADDAM HUSSEIN'S BODY

    Dec. 30 - Biladi, a Shi'ite-run channel in Iraq has showed Saddam Hussein's body lying with his neck twisted and with what appeared to be blood or a bruise on his left cheek.

    CLICK HERE TO VIEW VIDEO


  3. Carnage has gripped Iraq after Saddam Hussein has been executed when 77 people died in bomb attacks and December became the deadliest month for American forces in more than two years. In the hours after Saddam swung from the scaffold in the capital, a car bomb exploded in a fish market in the town of Kufa, a triple bombing ripped through a Baghdad neighbourhood and another blew up outside a children's hospital Saturday. Read here for more

  4. Saddam: The questions that will live on

    So why did George Bush decide to invade Iraq? Nearly four years and hundreds of thousands of casualties later, the reasons appear both as obvious and as elusive as they were in the spring of 2003.

    But if the alleged threat of WMD was based on manipulated intelligence, what else motivated the US? Many remain convinced the overwhelming factor was a desire to control Iraq's oil supplies, the second largest proven reserves in the world. Such a view has been reinforced by recent recommendations of Iraq Study Group which said: " The United States should assist Iraqi leaders to reorganise the national oil industry as a commercial enterprise, in order to enhance efficiency, transparency, and accountability."

    Did other factors influence Mr Bush? Was he seeking revenge against "the guy who tried to kill my dad" – a reference to an alleged plot to kill the president's father during a visit to Kuwait in 1993.

    Or was there even a broader strategic rationale, one that would benefit Israel – something claimed by peace activist Cindy Sheehan.Read here for more

  5. Arab pilgrims in Mecca expressed outrage on Saturday that Iraqi authorities had chosen to execute former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein on a major religious holiday, saying it was an insult to Muslims.Sunni Arabs at the haj were shocked at Saddam's hanging which followed his conviction for crimes against humanity against Iraqi Shi'ites.

    The death could harden hatred for Shi'ite Muslims in Saudi Arabia, a bastion of Sunni Islam whose Islamic orthodoxy -- known as Wahhabism -- regards Shi'ites as virtual heretics. Read here for more

  6. Hanging former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein was 'barbaric' and may turn him into a martyr, the European Union's aid and development Commissioner said. 'You don't fight barbarism with acts that I deem as barbaric. The death penalty is not compatible with democracy,' Louis Michel said.'Unfortunately Saddam Hussein risks to appear as a martyr, and he does not deserve that. He is not a martyr, he committed the worse things,' Michel said in a phone interview.Read here for more

  7. LIBYA declared three days of national mourning today after the execution of Iraqi ex-president Saddam Hussein who had been a "prisoner of war," official media said. Read here for more

  8. One thing is certain: The trial and execution of Saddam were about revenge, not justice.

  9. Instead of promoting national reconciliation, this act of revenge helped Saddam portray himself one last time as a symbol of Sunni Arab resistance, and became one more incitement to sectarian warfare.

    Saddam Hussein was tried under the shadow of a foreign military occupation, by a government full of his personal enemies. The first judge, an ethnic Kurd, resigned because of government interference in the trial; the judge who took his place was also Kurdish and had grievances against the accused.

    Three of Saddam's defense lawyers were shot down in cold blood. The surviving members of his defense team went on strike to protest the lack of protection afforded them. The court then appointed new lawyers who had no expertise in international law. Most of the witnesses against Saddam gave hearsay evidence.

    The trial ground slowly but certainly toward the inevitable death verdict.

    Iraq is on high alert, in expectation of protests and guerrilla reprisals. Leaves have been canceled for Iraqi soldiers, though in the past they have seldom paid much attention to such orders.

    But perhaps the death of Saddam, who once haunted the nightmares of a nation, will soon come to seem insignificant.

    In Iraq, guerrilla and criminal violence executes as many as 500 persons a day. Saddam's hanging is just one more occasion for a blood feud in a country that now has thousands of them. Read here for more

  10. VIDEO: Ramsey Clark reacts to the execution of Saddam Hussein.

    ""A tragic assault on truth and justice""

    CLICK here to view Video

  11. SADDAM'S HANGING VERDICT IS ILLEGAL AND UNJUST

    Human Rights Watch said yesterday: " The Iraqi government should not implement the death sentence against Saddam Hussein, which was imposed after a deeply flawed trial for crimes against humanity."

    Are we now going to compound our illegal preemptive attack and occupation of Iraq, where we set up and implemented a U.S. controlled coalition government, where we stage managed a flawed election and judicial system and where we now have condoned the hanging of this sovereign country's leader after a mock U.S. managed monkey trial ?

    All of this so that George W Bush, in an act of institutionalized revenge, can claim a pyrrhic victory while Baghdad roils in a brutal civil war ~ which he instigated.

    Have we gone mad ?

    Have we, as a nation, completely lost our moral bearings ? Read here for more

  12. The execution of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein serves not justice, but the political purposes of the Bush administration and its Iraqi stooges.

    The manner in which the execution was carried out—hurriedly, secretively, in the dark of night, in a mockery of any semblance of legal process—only underscores the lawless and reactionary character of the entire American enterprise in Iraq.

    The decision to send Hussein to the gallows was not a judicial but a political one. It was signaled by al-Maliki himself after the death sentence was pronounced by a special tribunal on November 5, when the Iraqi prime minister declared that Hussein would be executed before the New Year. In the rush to impose the penalty on that timeline, Iraqi officials ignored both elementary principles of judicial fairness and even their own constitution, which requires confirmation of a death sentence by the current Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani.

    As Richard Dicker, international justice director of Human Rights Watch, explained in a column Friday in the Guardian, the legal procedure was a travesty.

    “The trial judgment,” he wrote, “was not finished when the verdict and sentence were announced on November 5. The record only became available to defense lawyers on November 22.

    According to the tribunal’s statute, the defense attorneys had to file their appeals on December 5, which gave them less than two weeks to respond to the 300-page trial decision.

    The appeals chamber never held a hearing to consider the legal arguments presented as allowed by Iraqi law. It defies belief that the appeals chamber could fairly review a 300-page decision together with written submissions by the defense and consider all the relevant issues in less than three weeks.”

    Rather than a tribunal modeled on Nuremberg, where the surviving Nazi leaders received far more extensive due process rights than were accorded Hussein, the proceedings in Baghdad resembled a Stalinist or Nazi show trial, with a puppet judge, a predetermined verdict and a sentence carried out in the dead of night.

    Read here for more

  13. The execution of Saddam Hussein is another grim chapter in the catalogue of war crimes perpetrated against the Iraqi people. It is a gratuitous act of barbarism devoid of justice.

    What right does Bush have to kill Saddam? What right does the author of Abu Ghraib, Falluja, Haditha and countless other atrocities have to pass judgment on the former leader of a nation which posed no threat to the United States?

    Let’s be clear, the lowliest, most ruthless Iraqi has more right to rule Iraq than the most upright American. That’s what’s meant by “self determination”. When we honor “self rule” we avoid bloody interventions like the invasion of Iraq.

    Bush believes that killing Saddam will achieve the “closure” which has eluded him through 4 years of occupation. But he is mistaken. Saddam’s death will only eliminate any opportunity for a political solution. Reconciliation will be impossible and Saddam will die as a hero.

    Is that what Bush wants?

    Or does Bush really know what he wants? Perhaps, he is just a war-mongering psychopath completely disconnected from reality.

    Capital punishment is a moral evil. The state never has the right to kill its own people regardless of their crimes; Saddam is no exception. Read here for more

  14. It should have been a historic opportunity. For the first time since the end of the Second World War, a tyrant and his henchmen were being put on trial for crimes against humanity by a special domestic court.

    Yet the first trial against Saddam Hussein, in which he was charged with human rights violations dating back to 1982, was so rife with defects that the guilty verdict was unsound, according to Human Rights Watch.

    In a 97-page report on a trial which centred on the execution of almost 150 Shia Muslims and the arrest of 1,500 in Dujail, Human Rights Watch identified the flaws. Read here for more

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 Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saddam's Execution: A Dictator Created Then Destroyed by America

  by

Robert Fisk
(Described by the New York Times as "probably the most famous foreign correspondent in Britain",[3] he has over thirty years of experience in international reporting, dating from 1970s Belfast and Portugal's 1974 Carnation Revolution, the 1975-1990 Lebanese Civil War, and encompassing the 1979 Iranian revolution, the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, 1991 Persian Gulf War, and 2003 Invasion of Iraq. He is the world's most-decorated foreign correspondent,[4] having received numerous awards including the British Press Awards' International Journalist of the Year award seven times. Fisk speaks good vernacular Arabic, and is one of the few Western journalists to have interviewed Osama bin Laden (three times between 1994 and 1997).[5] In the British journalistic tradition of the foreign correspondent, Fisk has developed a personal analysis of the foreign affairs that he covers and presents them in that light, often with trenchant criticism of the British government and its allies. His admirers take this as a sign of his depth of knowledge; his critics take it as confirmation of his incorrigible bias. Fisk is a consistent critic of what he perceives as hypocrisy in British government foreign policy.)

Read here full article

Who could be more deserving of that last walk to the scaffold - that crack of the neck at the end of a rope - than the Beast of Baghdad, the Hitler of the Tigris, the man who murdered untold hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis while spraying chemical weapons over his enemies?

But history will record that the Arabs and other Muslims and, indeed, many millions in the West, will ask another question this weekend, a question that will NOT be posed in other Western newspapers because it is not the narrative laid down for us by our presidents and prime ministers -

What about the OTHER guilty men?

No, Tony Blair is not Saddam. We don't gas our enemies.

George W Bush is not Saddam. He didn't invade Iran or Kuwait. He only invaded Iraq.

But hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians are dead - and thousands of Western troops are dead - because Messrs Bush and Blair and the Spanish Prime Minister and the Italian Prime Minister and the Australian Prime Minister went to war in 2003 on a potage of lies and mendacity and, given the weapons we used, with great brutality.

In the aftermath of the international crimes against humanity of 2001 we have tortured, we have murdered, we have brutalised and killed the innocent - we have even added our shame at Abu Ghraib to Saddam's shame at Abu Ghraib .

And yet we are supposed to forget these terrible crimes as we applaud the swinging corpse of the dictator we created.

  • Who encouraged Saddam to invade Iran in 1980, which was the greatest war crime he has committed for it led to the deaths of a million and a half souls?

  • And who sold him the components for the chemical weapons with which he drenched Iran and the Kurds? We did.
No wonder the Americans, who controlled Saddam's weird trial, forbade any mention of this, his most obscene atrocity, in the charges against him.

Could he not have been handed over to the Iranians for sentencing for this massive war crime? Of course not. Because that would also expose OUR culpability.

And the mass killings WE perpetrated in 2003 with our depleted uranium shells and our "bunker buster" bombs and our phosphorous, the murderous post-invasion sieges of Fallujah and Najaf, the hell-disaster of anarchy WE unleashed on the Iraqi population in the aftermath of OUR "victory" - our "mission accomplished". Who will be found guilty of this?
Hours before Saddam's death sentence, his family - his first wife, Sajida, and Saddam's daughter and their other relatives - had given up hope.

His execution will go down as an American affair and time will add its false but lasting gloss to all this - that the West destroyed an Arab leader who no longer obeyed his orders from Washington, that, for all his wrongdoing (and this will be the terrible get-out for Arab historians, this shaving away of his crimes) Saddam died a "martyr" to the will of the new "Crusaders".

When he was captured in November of 2003, the insurgency against American troops increased in ferocity.

After his death, it will redouble in intensity again.

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SADDAM HUSSEIN, Former President of Iraq, EXECUTED

 

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Click here ->Time Line: His Life

Read here full article

Saddam Hussein was hanged Saturday under a sentence imposed by an Iraqi court.

Saddam, who said in court he had no fear of dying, had a farewell meeting with two of his half-brothers on Thursday, his lawyers said, adding the fallen dictator was in high spirits and ready to die a "martyr."

The deposed president was found guilty over the killing of 148 members of the Shiite population of the town of Dujail after militants tried to assassinate him there in 1982, during Iraq's war with Shiite Iran.

Saddam has been held at a U.S. base near Baghdad airport, but the place of execution has been kept secret.

A U.S. judge refused late Friday to stop the execution, rejecting a last-minute court challenge by the former Iraqi president.

The governments of Yemen and Libya made eleventh-hour appeals that Saddam's life be spared.

Yemeni Prime Minister Abdul-Kader Bajammal wrote to the U.S. and Iraqi presidents, warning in his letter to President Bush that Saddam's execution would "increase the sectarian violence" in Iraq, according to the official Yemeni news agency Saba.

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi made an indirect appeal to save Saddam, telling Al-Jazeera television that his trial was illegal and that he should be retried by an international court.

The Pentagon said U.S. forces, always on high alert in Iraq, were braced for any upsurge in violence from Sunni insurgents loyal to Saddam.

"Petitioner Hussein's application for immediate, temporary stay of execution is denied," U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said in Washington after a hearing over the telephone with attorneys.

An Iraqi appeals court upheld Saddam's death sentence Tuesday for the killing of 148 people who were detained and tortured after the attempt on his life.

Najeeb al-Nueimi, a member of Saddam's legal team, said U.S. authorities were maintaining physical custody of Saddam until the time of the execution to prevent him from being humiliated beforehand. He said the Americans also want to prevent the mutilation of his corpse, as has happened to other deposed Iraqi leaders.

Saddam's conviction was hailed by President Bush as a triumph for the democracy he promised to foster in Iraq after the 2003 invasion.

International human rights groups criticized the year-long trial, during which three defense lawyers were killed and a chief judge resigned complaining of political interference.

Rights groups, along with the United Nations and many of the United States' Western allies, oppose capital punishment and have voiced unease over the decision to put Saddam to death.

Saddam's lawyers issued a statement Friday calling on "everybody to do everything to stop this unfair execution." The statement also said the former president had been transferred from U.S. custody, though American and Iraqi officials later denied that.

Impact from Saddam's Execution Read here for more

Many Iraqis and Americans have looked forward to the day when justice would catch up with Saddam Hussein. Yet, when it arrived, it seemed to be much less than the historic turning point many once had anticipated.

With Iraq beset by violence and turmoil, the dictator's demise no longer appeared to signal the beginning of new order. The execution seemed only another reminder that the country's divisions remain deep and seemingly insoluble nearly four years after the American invasion.

Even among some officials in the Bush administration, the potential for a positive reaction to Saddam's death was considered limited.

Two years ago, it appeared that Iraqis were beginning a dialogue about their common history and Saddam's place in it. If the country had made greater steps toward a unified view of their history, then Saddam's execution might have more weight, said Nathan Brown, a specialist in Arab politics at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

But with the country increasingly fractured along sectarian lines, "this is a bit more of a sideshow that it would have been," Brown said.

Saddam's execution also would have carried more significance had his trial been carried out differently, some experts said.

Juan R. Cole, a Mideast specialist at the University of Michigan, said the nature of the trial would also tend to further divide Iraqis, rather than heal past wounds.

Because the charges concerned Saddam's reprisals against members of a revolutionary Shiite party, Dawa — which happens to be the party of the current and last Iraqi prime ministers — the execution would look to many Sunnis as simple score-settling.

"This can be read as the Dawa party and a Kurdish judge taking revenge on Saddam," Cole said. "To the Sunnis it will look like just one more slap in the face.... This is the opposite of national healing and will just deepen the divisions."

Cole said he expected adverse Sunni reaction to the execution, noting that about 20 demonstrators were killed in Sunni-dominated Baqubah after Saddam's verdict was announced.

Even so, he agreed that the verdict's political significance will be limited.

"It won't change anything on the ground," he said.

Saddam insisted during his trial that he was still the president of Iraq. He said in a letter written after his conviction that he offered himself as a "sacrifice".

"If my soul goes down this path [of martyrdom] it will face God in serenity," he wrote in the letter.

Issam Jhazzawi, one of Saddam's defence lawyers, said on Friday that Saddam's daughters in Jordan were bracing for his imminent death.

"The family are praying for him every minute and are calling on God that He let his soul rest in peace among the martyrs," he said.

A source close to the family said that Saddam's daughter, Raghd, "is asking that his body be buried in Yemen temporarily until Iraq is liberated and it can be reburied in Iraq".Read here for more

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 Friday, December 29, 2006

Australia: Military Asked to Wage WAR AGAINST TOADS

  Read here for full article in Herald Sun

Australia's military has been asked to wage war on cane toads, which have spread across the country's north in near-plague proportions.

"We need as many people on the ground as we can possibly get, and if the military can work out strategies for controlling toads on their ground, well that's fine with us," Frog Watch spokesman Ian Morris said on ABC radio today.

There are now more than 200 million toads terrorising the northern part of Australia. The toads have spread 3000 km from northeast Queensland to Darwin in Australia's tropical north.

Since their introduction cane toads have evolved bigger legs to help them move faster, expanding their territory westward by around 40 km a year.

Killing the hardy toads with anything from golf clubs to air rifles has become a northern Australian pastime, and their carcasses are turned into comic tourist ornaments and fertiliser.

Cane toads are one of Australia's worst environmental mistakes, ranking alongside the catastrophic introduction of rabbits.

The toads were introduced in a batch of 101 from Hawaii in 1935 in a failed bid to control native cane beetles.

The spread of the toads, whose skin is poisonous, has led to dramatic declines in populations of native snakes, goanna lizards and quolls. A quoll is a cat-sized marsupial.

Graham Sawyer of Frog Watch, a pressure group that cares for frogs but battles the invading toads, has organised "Toad Busts" among Darwin residents, who catch the animals with traps and plastic bags in a bid to slow their steady march westwards.

"It's still early enough. We're not going to stop every single cane toad from getting in to Darwin, but what we'll do is get rid of them all as they arrive, and stop that build-up of toads," Mr Sawyer said.

A Northern Territory lawmaker called in 2005 for a legislated national attack on cane toads, but withdrew the demand in the face of criticism from animal rights groups.

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 Thursday, December 28, 2006

Death of Religious Tolerance in Malaysia

  by

Greg Sheridan

December 27, 2006

Read here full article by Greg Sheridan in The Australian

LAWYER Malik Imtiaz Sawar seems a most unlikely person to attract death threats. A small, softly spoken, friendly man, the impression he gives is above all one of consideration.

What has earned him the death threats is his appearance in court on behalf of Lina Joy, a case that has become a battleground of Malaysian political and cultural identity, and of freedom of religion.

The case highlights what some analysts believe is the Arabisation of Malaysian Islam, a dynamic that can also be seen in Indonesia.

Lina Joy was once a Muslim but has converted to Christianity.

She didn't do so to make any broad point or to lead any social movement. It was entirely a private decision. But in Malaysia the state takes official notice of your race and religion.

Lina Joy tried to get herself deregistered as a Muslim and reregistered as a Christian. As a Muslim she is not allowed to marry a Christian man and any children she has must be brought up as Muslims.

The state authorities refused to accept her conversion.

She appealed to the courts on the basis of Article 11 of the Malaysian constitution, which guarantees freedom of religion.

The case, in which judgment could be given at any time, has polarised Malaysia. Many Muslims believe apostasy - changing your religion - is not only a sin but should be punishable by death.

Imtiaz told The Australian that traditionally Malaysia was pragmatic and liberal about such matters. Apostasy would always cause a social reaction but if a Malaysian converted they could make this official by changing their name and publicising the change.

In recent years, however, a body of case law has grown up that requires a Malaysian to go before a sharia - Muslim religious - court to get a kind of exit permit from the religion.

Sharia courts, Imtiaz argues, were only ever meant to consider a fairly narrow range of family matters exclusively for Muslims, not to impinge fundamentally on a citizen's relationship to the state.

But the Lina Joy case, and a raft of others involving similar issues, have touched off a wave of Islamist activism in Malaysia. There has been a rash of anti-apostasy campaigns. Islamic defenders' groups, mirroring those in Indonesia but without the violence, have been set up.

A crazy text message spread to the effect that there was to be a mass baptism of Islamic converts in northern Malaysia. It led to much hysteria but was baseless.

Then came the death threats to Imtiaz, a Muslim, with posters branding him an enemy of Islam and urging his murder.

It is important not to exaggerate Malaysia's problems.

Malaysia remains a mostly peaceful, prosperous and law-abiding society in which the different races and religions mostly rub along OK. But there is a good deal of evidence that popular Malay Muslim attitudes are hardening, are being at least somewhat Arabised.

A well conducted survey of Malay attitudes recently found that a majority of Malays think of themselves first as Muslims, rather than as Malays or Malaysians, the one civic identity that embraces all of Malaysia's races and religions.

The same survey also shows that Malays tend to conceive of Malaysia as an Islamic state, and want it in the future to be more Islamic.

Similarly, while supporting freedom of religion, there is little community support for the idea that a Muslim has the right to change their religion.

Says Noordin, a young Malaysian working in the non-government sector:

"When I was growing up here there weren't as many people cloaked in religious piety.

In Malaysia it (the process of Arabisation) denotes a sense of insecurity about our comprehension of Islam, and of our place in Islam.

We have more Muslims in Southeast Asia than anywhere else but we still look to the Middle East to set the standard.

"Unfortunately, when we think of Islam here we think of it in its Middle Eastern guise."

Haji Zaid Kamaruddin does not agree with Noordin.

Kamaruddin is the president of Jamaah Islah Malaysia, a non-government organisation that aims for the full implementation of Islamic sharia law by 2020.

I meet Kamaruddin in JIM's modest offices in a Kuala Lumpur shopping centre. One of his book cases contains English-language titles. Some of these are leadership manuals.

But I am struck by the familiarity of so many other titles. There is Rogue State, which denounces US foreign policy, there is a book by George Soros, who denounces George W. Bush, and inevitably there is Noam Chomsky, the chief denouncer of them all.

Kamaruddin, an amiable, balding man with a pious goatee, is no extremist. He stresses the obligation of courtesy and good treatment that all humans owe to each other regardless of religion. And he wants Malaysia to evolve to a sharia state, not have it forced on the society.

He does not use the term "Arabisation" of Malaysian Islam, but, revealingly, he talks approvingly of the standardisation of Islam, a beneficial consequence, he believes, of the information revolution.

"Traditional Malay Islam is becoming more like international Islam," he says.

I ask Kamaruddin whether it is not the case that it says in the Koran that apostasy is punishable by death.

"Let me check the precise reference," he says, rising to consult a religious book.

After a few moments he gives up the search for the particular reference and continues:

"That is the general understanding among the ulamma (Muslim people) that it is punishable by capital punishment. But there is the question of how this should be handled.

In Islam, punishment is the last resort - the first is to encourage the good. But this system (in Malaysia) is not an Islamic system so there is no authority that will enforce it. But even in an Islamic society as practised in the time of the Prophet, you don't seek out those who have converted and hunt them down.

"This is the difficulty where the state has not lived up to its responsibility to uphold Islam. I don't think it's relevant here."

Malaysia's Prime Minister, Abdullah Badawi, himself an Islamic scholar, has pioneered the concept of Islam Hadari, by which he means a tolerant and inclusive Islam. Abdullah is certainly a foe of extremism and a beacon of tolerance in his own society.

But even Islam Hadari, Imtiaz argues, suggests a special role specifically for Islam in determining the constitutional relationship between the state and the citizen.

Zaid Ibrahim, a politician from the ruling United Malays National Organisation and a successful commercial lawyer, worries more about racial than religious attitudes. "Obviously we must have done something right in the past, but race relations are fragile," he says.

This is evident in schooling.

Only 6 per cent of Chinese Malaysian students attend national schools, which are meant to be for all races.

The Chinese prefer Chinese schools. This may be partly because of the increasing role of Islam in national schools.

Khairy Jamaluddin is the deputy president of the UMNO, a much more powerful position than it sounds. Oxford educated, suave and polished in every way, he is also married to the Prime Minister's daughter and destined for great things. He accepts the proposition of a greater degree of Arabisation and Islamisation in Malaysia over the past few years but offers a wider context:

"There's nothing particularly new about the Arabisation of Islam around the world. You see the rise of Islamic movements of a more conservative type after the oil shocks of the 1970s and Iranian revolution produced a surge of Islamic consciousness.

"Today is the culmination of two decades of the Islamic situation. Islam has a more conservative colour today, yes. Default position is a more conservative one. It also has something to do with the post-9/11 world.

There is a feeling that Muslims are under siege."

Khairy adds that this deepening religiosity is not unique to the Muslim world. "Look at non-Muslim societies like the United States. The conservative population is larger than the liberal population. It's really a worldwide trend."

Malaysia's success, and its social strength, remain formidable and it is overall a tolerant and decent society.

But the trend for cultural, religious and ultimately political norms to be imported from the Middle East is unmistakable, and must be profoundly troubling.

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 Monday, December 25, 2006

"What Would Happen if the VIRGIN MARY Came To Bethlehem TODAY ? "

 

by

Johann Hari

23 December 2006

Read here full article

In two days, a third of humanity will gather to celebrate the birth pains of a Palestinian refugee in Bethlehem.

But two millennia later, another mother in another glorified stable in this rubble-strewn, locked-down town is trying not to howl.

Fadia Jemal is a gap-toothed 27-year-old with a weary, watery smile. "What would happen if the Virgin Mary came to Bethlehem today? She would endure what I have endured," she says.

Fadia clutches a set of keys tightly, digging hard into her skin as she describes in broken, jagged sentences what happened. "It was 5pm when I started to feel the contractions coming on," she says.

She was already nervous about the birth - her first, and twins - so she told her husband to grab her hospital bag and get her straight into the car.

They stopped to collect her sister and mother and set out for the Hussein Hospital, 20 minutes away.

But the road had been blocked by Israeli soldiers, who said nobody was allowed to pass until morning. "Obviously, we told them we couldn't wait until the morning. I was bleeding very heavily on the back seat. One of the Israeli soldiers looked down at the blood and laughed. I still wake up in the night hearing that laugh. It was such a shock to me. I couldn't understand."

Her family begged the soldiers to let them through, but they would not relent.

So at 1am, on the back seat next to a chilly checkpoint with no doctors and no nurses, Fadia delivered a tiny boy called Mahmoud and a tiny girl called Mariam.

"I don't remember anything else until I woke up in the hospital," she says now.

For two days, her family hid it from her that Mahmoud had died, and doctors said they could "certainly" have saved his life by getting him to an incubator.

"Now Mariam is at an age when she asks me where her brother is," Fadia says. "She wants to know what happened to him. But how do I explain it?" She looks down. "Sometimes at night I scream and scream."

In the years since, she has been pregnant four times, but she keeps miscarrying. "I couldn't bear to make another baby. I was convinced the same thing would happen to me again," she explains. "When I see the [Israeli] soldiers I keep thinking - what did my baby do to Israel?"

Since Fadia's delivery, in 2002, the United Nations confirms that a total of 36 babies have died because their mothers were detained during labour at Israeli checkpoints.

All across Bethlehem - all across the West Bank - there are women whose pregnancies are being disturbed, or worse, by the military occupation of their land.

In Salfit, on the other side of the West Bank, Jamilla Alahad Naim, 29, is waiting for the first medical check-up of her five-month pregnancy.

"I am frightened all the time," she says. "I am frightened for my baby because I have had very little medical treatment and I cannot afford good food ... I know I will give birth at home with no help, like I did with Mohammed [her last child]. I am too frightened to go to hospital because there are two checkpoints between our home [and there] and I know if you are detained by the soldiers, the mother or the baby can die out there in the cold. But giving birth at home is very dangerous too."

Hindia Abu Nabah - a steely 31-year-old staff nurse at Al Zawya Clinic, in Salfit district - says it is "a nightmare" to be pregnant in the West Bank today. "Recently, two of our pregnant patients here were tear-gassed in their homes ... The women couldn't breathe and went into premature labour. By the time we got there, the babies had been delivered stillborn."

Many of the medical problems afflicting pregnant women here are more mundane than Jamilla's darkest fears: 30 per cent of pregnant Palestinians suffer from anaemia, a lack of red blood cells.

The extreme poverty caused by the siege and now the international boycott seems to be a key factor. The doctors here warn grimly that as ordinary Palestinians' income evaporates, they eat more staples and fewer proteins - a recipe for anaemia.

There is some evidence, they add, that women are giving the best food to their husbands and children, and subsisting on gristle and scraps. The anaemia leaves women at increased risk of bleeding heavily and contracting an infection during childbirth.

Earlier this year, conditions for pregnant women on the West Bank - already poor - fell off a cliff.
Following the election of Hamas, the world (mainly the Christian world) choked off funding for the Palestinian Authority, which suddenly found itself unable to pay its doctors and nurses.

After several months medical staff went on strike, refusing to take anything but emergency cases. For more than three months, the maternity wards of the West Bank were empty and echoing. Beds lay, perfectly made, waiting for patients who could not come.

In all this time, there were no vitamins handed out, no ultrasound scans, no detection of congenital abnormalities. Imagine that the NHS had simply packed up and stopped one day and did not reopen for 12 weeks, and you get a sense of the scale of the medical disaster.

Some women were wealthy enough to go to the few private hospitals scattered across the West Bank. Most were not. So because of the international boycott of the Palestinians, every hospital warns there has been an unseen, unreported increase in home births on the West Bank.

I found Dr Hamdan Hamdan, the head of maternity services at Hussein Hospital, Bethlehem, pacing around an empty ward, chain-smoking. "This ward is usually full," he said. "The women who should be in this hospital - what is happening to them?"

They have been giving birth in startlingly similar conditions to those suffered by Mary 2,000 years ago. They have delivered their babies with no doctors, no sterilised equipment, no back-up if there are complications. They have been boycotted back into the Stone Age.

The strike ended this month after the PA raised funds from Muslim countries - but the effects of stopping maternity services are only now becoming clear. Hindia Abu Nabah says: "There is a clear link between the deteriorating health situation and the international boycott.

Amid this horror, one charity has been supporting pregnant Palestinian women even as their medical services fell apart.

Merlin - one of the three charities being supported by the Independent Christmas Appeal - has set up two mobile teams, with a full-time gynaecologist and a paediatrician, to take medical services to the parts of the West Bank cut off by the Israeli occupation. They provide lab technicians and ultrasound machines - the fruits of the 21st century.

I travelled with the team to the Salfit region - scarred by Israeli settlements pumping out raw sewage on to Palestinian land - to see women and children desperately congregating around them seeking help.

Amid the dozens of nervous women and swarms of sickly children, Rahme Jima, 29, is sitting with her hands folded neatly in her lap. She is in the last month of her pregnancy, and this is the first time she has seen a doctor since she conceived.

"The nearest hospital is in Nablus, and we can't afford to pay for the transport to get there through all the checkpoints," she says, revealing she is planning - in despair - to give birth at home. Even if she had the cash, she says she is "too frightened of being detained at the checkpoint and being forced to give birth there".

She sighs, and adds: "I will be so relieved to finally be seen by a doctor, I have been so worried." But when she returns from seeing the doctor, she says: "I have anaemia, and they have given me iron supplements," supplied by Merlin.

She can't afford to eat well; she lives with her husband and four children in a room in her mother-in-law's house, and her husband, Joseph, has been unemployed since his permit to move through the checkpoints expired. "The doctor says I should have been seen much earlier in my pregnancy. My baby will probably be born too small."

All the problems afflicting these 21st century Marys are paraded in Merlin's clinic. One terrified, terrorised mother after another presents herself to the specialists here, and leaves clutching packs of folic acid, calcium, iron and medicine. Dr Bassam Said Nadi, the senior medical officer for this area, says: "I thank Merlin for the specialist care they have brought. Not long ago, we didn't even have petrol in our cars. Alongside other organisations, they are helping us survive this terrible period in our country's history."

Merlin can only maintain these mobile clinics with your help.

Leaning in the doorway of her bare clinic, Hindia Abu Nabah says:

" Tell your readers that we need their help. There are no Hamas or Fatah foetuses. They don't deserve to be punished.

I couldn't stand to look another anaemic woman in the eye and tell her that her baby will be underweight or malformed and we don't have iron supplements to give her.

I can't go back to that.

I can't."

Read here what former President Jimmy Carter, a devout Christian, said about the country of God's Chosen People or the land of Islam's People of the Book.

Read here related article : Excerpts from Jimmy Carter's book "Palestine: PeaceNot Apartheid."

Read here related article: Former President Jimmy Carter: Speaking Frankly about Israel and Palestine

Quote:

".......The overriding problem is that, for more than a quarter century, the actions of some Israeli leaders have been in direct conflict with the official policies of the United States, the international community, and their own negotiated agreements.

Regardless of whether Palestinians had no formalized government, one headed by Yasir Arafat or Mahmoud Abbas, or one with Abbas as president and Hamas controlling the parliament and cabinet, Israel’s continued control and colonization of Palestinian land have been the primary obstacles to a comprehensive peace agreement in the Holy Land.

In order to perpetuate the occupation, Israeli forces have deprived their unwilling subjects of basic human rights. No objective person could personally observe existing conditions in the West Bank and dispute these statements.

Two other interrelated factors have contributed to the perpetuation of violence and regional upheaval: the condoning of illegal Israeli actions from a submissive White House and U.S. Congress during recent years, and the deference with which other international leaders permit this unofficial U.S. policy in the Middle East to prevail.

There are constant and vehement political and media debates in Israel concerning its policies in the West Bank, but because of powerful political, economic, and religious forces in the United States, Israeli government decisions are rarely questioned or condemned, voices from Jerusalem dominate in our media, and most American citizens are unaware of circumstances in the occupied territories.

At the same time, political leaders and news media in Europe are highly critical of Israeli policies, affecting public attitudes. Americans were surprised and angered by an opinion poll, published by the International Herald Tribune in October 2003, of 7,500 citizens in fifteen European nations, indicating that Israel was considered to be the top threat to world peace, ahead of North Korea, Iran, or Afghanistan.

The United States has used its U.N. Security Council veto more than forty times to block resolutions critical of Israel. Some of these vetoes have brought international discredit on the United States, and there is little doubt that the lack of a persistent effort to resolve the Palestinian issue is a major source of anti-American sentiment and terrorist activity throughout the Middle East and the Islamic world. ..."

- Jimmy Carter
Former President of the United States


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 Saturday, December 23, 2006

The "Scumbags" Who Went After A Former President of the United States

  by
Chris Hedges
(Chris Hedges, a senior fellow at The Nation Institute, is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning (Anchor). His new book, American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America, was published this month by the Free Press. )

Read here full article

Quote:

"..... On one of Yitzhak Rabin's first visits to Washington after he assumed office as Prime Minister of Israel, according to one of his aides, he was informed that a group of American Jewish leaders were available to meet him.

The surly old general, whose gravelly cigarette voice seemed to rise up from below his feet, curtly refused.

He told his entourage he did NOT have time to waste on "scumbags."

These American groups (i.e Israel Lobby), to Yitzhak Rabin's dismay, had gone on to build, with Likud,
an alliance with right-wing Christian groups filled with real anti-Semites whose cultural and historical ignorance of the Middle East was breathtaking.

This collection of messianic Jews and Christians, leavened with rabid American imperialists, believed they had been handed a divine or moral mandate to rule the Middle East, whether the Arabs liked it or not.

The Israel lobby in the United States serves the interests of the Israeli extreme right wing.They had morphed into extensions of the right-wing Likud Party."
-Chris Hedges

Jimmy Carter, by publishing his book Palestine Peace Not Apartheid, walked straight into the buzz saw that is the Israel lobby.

Among the vitriolic attacks on the former President was the claim by Abraham Foxman, who is Jewish, and national director of the Anti-Defamation League, that Carter is "outrageous" and "bigoted" and that his book raises "the old canard and conspiracy theory of Jewish control of the media, Congress, and the U.S. government."

Many Democratic Party leaders, anxious to keep the Israel lobby's money and support, have hotfooted it out the door, with incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announcing that Carter "does not speak for the Democratic Party on Israel."

Carter's book exposes LITTLE about Israel.

The enforced segregation, abject humiliation and spiraling Israeli violence against Palestinians have been detailed in the Israeli and European press and, with remarkable consistency, by all the major human rights organizations.

The assault against Carter, rather, says more about the failings of the American media--which have largely let Israel hawks heap calumny on Carter's book.

It exposes the indifference of the Bush Administration and the Democratic leadership to the rule of law and basic human rights, the timidity of our intellectual class and the moral bankruptcy of institutions that claim to speak for American Jews and the Jewish state.

The bleakness of life for Palestinians, especially in the Gaza Strip, is a mystery only to us.

  • In the current Israeli campaign in Gaza, now sealed off from the outside world, almost 500 Palestinians, most unarmed, have been killed.

  • Sanctions, demanded by Israel and imposed by the international community after the Hamas victory last January in what were universally acknowledged to be free and fair elections, have led to the collapse of civil society in Gaza and the West Bank, as well as widespread malnutrition.

  • And Palestinians in the West Bank are being encased, in open violation of international law, in a series of podlike militarized ghettos with Israel's massive $2 billion project to build a "security barrier."
    This barrier will gobble up at least 10 percent of the West Bank, including most of the precious aquifers and at least 40,000 acres of Palestinian farmland.

    The project is being financed in large part through $9 billion in American loan guarantees, although when Congress approved the legislation in April 2003, Israel was told that the loans could be used "only to support activities in the geographic areas which were subject to the administration of the Government of Israel prior to June 5, 1967."
  • But it is in Gaza that conditions are currently reaching a full-blown humanitarian crisis.Gideon Levy wrote recently in the Israeli paper Ha'aretz:
    "Gaza is in its worst condition ever. The Israel Defense Forces have been rampaging through Gaza--there's no other word to describe it--killing and demolishing, bombing and shelling, indiscriminately...

    ... How contemptible all the sublime and nonsensical talk about 'the end of the occupation' and 'partitioning the land' now appears. Gaza is occupied, and with greater brutality than before......

    .... This is disgraceful and shocking collective punishment."
  • And as Gaza descends into civil war, with Hamas and Fatah factions carrying out gun battles in the streets, Ha'aretz reporter Amira Hass bitterly notes, "The experiment was a success: The Palestinians are killing each other. They are behaving as expected at the end of the extended experiment called 'what happens when you imprison 1.3 million human beings in an enclosed space like battery hens.'"

  • In fact, if there is a failing in Carter's stance, it is that he is too kind to the Israelis, bending over backward to assert that he is only writing about the occupied territories.

    Israel itself, he says, is a democracy. This would come as a surprise to the 1.3 million Israeli Arabs who live as second-class citizens in the Jewish state.
  • The poverty rate among Israeli Arabs is more than twice that of the Jewish population.

  • Those Israeli Arabs who marry Palestinians from Gaza or the West Bank are NOT permitted to get Israeli residency for their spouses.

  • And Israeli Arabs, who do not serve in the military or the country's intelligence services and thus lack the important personal connections and job networks available to veterans, are systematically shut out of good jobs.

  • Any Jew, who may speak no Hebrew or ever been to Israel, can step off a plane and become an Israeli citizen, while a Palestinian living abroad whose family's roots in Palestine may go back generations is denied citizenship.
  • The Israel lobby in the United States serves the interests of the Israeli extreme right wing.

    They had morphed into extensions of the right-wing Likud Party.

    These American groups, to Yitzhak Rabin's dismay, had gone on to build, with Likud, an alliance with right-wing Christian groups filled with real anti-Semites whose cultural and historical ignorance of the Middle East was breathtaking.

    This collection of messianic Jews and Christians, leavened with rabid American imperialists, believed they had been handed a divine or moral mandate to rule the Middle East, whether the Arabs liked it or not.

    When Rabin, who had come to despise what the occupation was doing to the citizenry of his own country, was sworn in as prime minister, the leaders of these American Jewish organizations, along with their buffoonish supporters on the Christian right, were conspicuous by their absence.


    On one of Rabin's first visits to Washington after he assumed office, according to one of his aides, he was informed that a group of American Jewish leaders were available to meet him.

    The surly old general, whose gravelly cigarette voice seemed to rise up from below his feet, curtly refused.

    He told his entourage he did NOT have time to waste on "scumbags."

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     Friday, December 22, 2006

    REALITY CHECK: President Jimmy Carter's Accusation of Israel's APARTHEID Policies

      by
    Saree Makdisi
    (Saree Makdisi, a professor of English at UCLA, is the author of Romantic Imperialism: Universal Empire and the Culture of Modernity (Cambridge University Press, 1998) and William Blake and the Impossible History of the 1790s (University of Chicago Press, 2003). He can be reached at: makdisi@humnet.ucla.edu)

    Read here full article

    Read here related article : Excerpts from Jimmy Carter's book "Palestine: PeaceNot Apartheid."

    Read here related article :Words Even an Ex-President Can't Say in America

    Read here related article: Former President Jimmy Carter: Speaking Frankly about Israel and Palestine

    Read here related article: FOX News Launches Jihad Against Jimmy Carter and His New Book

    Former President Jimmy Carter has come under sustained attack for having dared to use the term "apartheid" to describe Israel's policies in the West Bank.

    However, NOT one of Carter's critics has refute his central claim that Israel bestows rights on Jewish residents settling illegally on Palestinian land, while denying the same rights to the indigenous Palestinians.

    1. Israel maintains two separate road networks in the West Bank: one for the exclusive use of Jewish settlers, and one for Palestinian natives. Is that not apartheid?

    2. Palestinians are NOT allowed to drive their own cars in much of the West Bank; their public transportation is frequently interrupted or blocked altogether by a grid of Israeli army checkpoints -- but Jewish settlers come and go freely in their own cars, without even pausing at the roadblocks that hold up the natives. Is that not apartheid?

    3. A system of closures and curfews has strangled the Palestinian economy in the West Bank -- but none of its provisions apply to the Jewish settlements there. Is that not apartheid?

    4. Whole sectors of the West Bank, classified as "closed military areas" by the Israeli army, are off limits to Palestinians, including Palestinians who own land there -- but foreigners to whom Israel's Law of Return applies (that is, anyone Jewish, from anywhere in the world) can access them without hindrance. Is that not apartheid?

    5. Persons of Palestinian origin are routinely barred from entering or residing in the West Bank -- but Israeli and non-Israeli Jews can come and go, and even live on, occupied Palestinian territory. Is that not apartheid?

    6. Israel maintains two sets of rules and regulations in the West Bank: one for Jews, one for non-Jews.

    Israeli Racism

    Israeli law affords differences in privileges for Jewish and non-Jewish citizens of the state -- in matters of access to land, family unification and acquisition of citizenship.

    Israel's amended nationality law, for example, prevents Palestinian citizens of Israel who are married to Palestinians from the occupied territories from living together in Israel.

    A similar law, passed at the peak of apartheid in South Africa, was overturned by that country's supreme court as a violation of the right to a family. Israel's high court upheld its law just this year.

    Israel loudly proclaims itself to be the state of the Jewish people, rather than the state of its actual citizens (one-fifth of whom are Palestinian Arabs).

    In fact, in registering citizens, the Israeli Ministry of the Interior assigns them a whole range of nationalities other than "Israeli."

    In the official registry, the nationality line for a Jewish citizen of Israel reads "Jew." For a Palestinian citizen, the same line reads "Arab."

    When this glaring inequity was protested all the way to Israel's high court, the justices upheld it:
    "There is no Israeli nation separate from the Jewish people."
    Obviously this leaves non-Jewish citizens of Israel in, at best, a somewhat ambiguous situation.

    Little wonder, then, that a solid majority of Israeli Jews regard their Arab fellow-citizens as what they call "a demographic threat," which many -- including the deputy prime minister -- would like to see eliminated altogether.

    What is all this, if not racism?

    The only thing wrong with using the word "apartheid" to describe such a repugnant system is that the South African version of institutionalized discrimination was NEVER as elaborate as its Israeli counterpart -- nor did it have such a vocal chorus of defenders among otherwise liberal Americans.

    The glaring error in Carter's book, however, is his insistence that the term "apartheid" does not apply to Israel itself, where, he says, Jewish and non-Jewish citizens are given the same treatment under the law.

    That is simply NOT true.

    Many of the very individuals and institutions that are so vociferously denouncing President Jimmy Carter would NOT for one moment tolerate such glaring injustice IN the United States.

    • Why do they condone the naked racism that Israel practices?

    • Why do they (almost all of them are prominent pro-Israel American Jewish commentators, politicians and academicians) heap criticism on our former President for speaking his conscience about such a truly unconscionable system of ethnic segregation?

    Perhaps it is:

    • because they themselves are all too aware that they are defending the indefensible;
    • because they are all too aware that the emperor they keep trying to cover up really has no clothes.

    There is a limit to how long such a cover up can go on.

    And the main lesson of Carter's book is that we have finally reached that limit.


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     Thursday, December 21, 2006

    Israel Imbedded in American Politics: A New Israel Lobby To Counteract AIPAC -The 'Soros Initiative'

     

    by

    Gregory Levey

    Read here full article "The other Israel lobby" by Gregory Levey

    A new alliance, including financier George Soros and former Bill Clinton advisor Jeremy Ben-Ami, aims to take on the powerful lobbyist group AIPAC -- and reshape U.S. policy.

    .....it is an open secret that this past September, Morton Halperin, the Director of U.S. advocacy for Soros' Open Society Institute, met with a group of lobbyists, political strategists and former politicians who are seeking to create a new well-funded, well-organized, left-leaning Israel lobby, as an alternative to AIPAC.

    This past June, on my last day working as a speechwriter for the Israeli government -- first at the United Nations and then in the prime minister's office -- I met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in his private office at the Israeli parliament to discuss a speech he had just given to the U.S. Congress.

    The speech, which I helped write, was largely about the future of U.S.-Israeli relations. Also at the meeting was a high-ranking official in the Israeli Foreign Ministry. When we left the building together, he told me that the next day officials from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) , the powerful lobbying group, would be visiting.

    He asked if I had any suggestions about what to tell them about how they could more effectively help Israel in Washington. "Some people would say that maybe the best thing would be for them NOT to be so reflexively pro-Israel on every issue," I said. He laughed. "Well, I don't think that's going to happen anytime soon," he said.

    Many American Jews, it seems, have similar feelings. Eighty-seven percent of them voted Democratic in the recent midterms -- the highest number since 1994 -- belying the oft-repeated claim that the Bush administration's staunch support for Israel would move the traditionally Democratic Jewish vote toward the Republicans.

    The fact is that most American Jews, and many other American supporters of Israel, do NOT see eye-to-eye on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with the most hawkish, knee-jerk Israel supporters in the U.S. government -- even if their presumed leadership, represented by AIPAC, often appears to do so.

    Moreover, AIPAC's influence in Washington may soon begin to decline. AIPAC, a juggernaut that the New York Times has called the "most important organization affecting America's relationship with Israel."

    In "The Israel Lobby," their highly controversial article earlier this year, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer argued that AIPAC, along with a very wide array of allies, pushes American foreign policy inflexibly in a pro-Israel direction.

    The article was criticized as simplistic, sloppy and above all reductive, but in its core suggestion that AIPAC often hinders the American government's ability to freely maneuver in the Middle East, it is difficult to argue with.

    As AIPAC itself proudly reports, the organization is "consistently ranked as the most influential foreign policy lobbying organization on Capitol Hill. " It uses this influence to very successfully push a viewpoint that its critics claim puts Israel's total military dominance above efforts to broker Middle East peace.

    Earlier in the year, AIPAC put all its muscle behind a congressional bill called the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act, which even some pro-Israel observers called "draconian." Going beyond even the Bush administration's own hard-line stance on the Hamas-led Palestinian government, it would have essentially cut off all American contact with any element of the Palestinian leadership, and hampered the U.S. government's ability to strengthen Palestinian moderates.

    A group of small, left-leaning Jewish lobby groups, including the Israel Policy Forum, the Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, banded together to battle AIPAC on the issue, and in the end were successful.

    A watered-down version of the bill was passed, with what they saw as the problematic language stripped away.

    It was, in fact, an impressive demonstration of what political cooperation and grass-roots advocacy can do. However, for these groups to replicate that success on a larger scale and with more of a substantive effect on U.S. foreign policy, there is a key missing element: real money.

    That is where billionaire financier George Soros may come in, along with a group of other left-leaning philanthropists, many of them Jewish.

    In the relatively close-knit Middle East lobbying community, it is something of an open secret that this past September, Morton Halperin, who served in both the Nixon and Clinton administrations and is now director of U.S. advocacy for Soros' Open Society Institute, met with a group of lobbyists, political strategists and former politicians who are seeking to create a new well-funded, well-organized, left-leaning Israel lobby, as an alternative to AIPAC.

    Several key figures in this group had been active in the effort to quash the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act, and include Jeremy Ben-Ami, a former advisor to President Clinton, and Daniel Levy, a former special advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and now a senior fellow at the New America Foundation in Washington.

    In late October, Soros himself attended a follow-up meeting, along with liquor magnates Edgar and Charles Bronfman, former Democratic Rep. Mel Levine and others.

    The idea -- by this point labeled the "Soros Initiative" -- now began to gain traction and substance, with large sums of money being pledged by several parties.

    Several people involved have told me that there is now almost enough money firmly on the table to launch the new organization -- an eight-figure dollar amount, they say, and that's just for starters. Several people have told me that there is already work in progress to establish the organization's core structure and operations.

    What exactly would the NEW organization do?

    According to Diane Balser, a board member of the Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace, one of the small left-wing groups involved in the discussions, the goal is clear:

    "Organizing systematically to affect U.S. foreign policy."

    Levy, the former Barak advisor, explained that the movement is "coming from a place where inside the mainstream Jewish community, people are increasingly confused about something that describes itself as pro-Israel, but is so out of sync with what they believe are good politics for the U.S. or Israel."

    "The right-wing orientation in the community is losing people by the droves, particularly young people," M.J. Rosenberg of the Israel Policy Forum, one of the main groups involved, added. "Most U.S. Jews support peace in the Middle East, and don't want to shoot down doves anytime they appear."

    The point of the initiative, Levy told me, is not to "turn American policy against Israel. It is to reach out to groups of philanthropists to get better resources and better focus and to translate this into a political statement," so that members of Congress will know that they "will have cover if they seek to do what we and many in the American Jewish Community think is right."

    There has been talk before about establishing an alternative to the status quo represented by AIPAC, but the added element of money from Soros and others could prove the pivotal difference now.

    There is also the possibility that a connection to Soros could itself be problematic.

    Soros has never been at all friendly to Israel, and his involvement might scare off others who are left-leaning but still support Israel.

    He is also one of the major funders of MoveOn.org and other left-wing causes, and Republican lawmakers, and even some centrist Democrats, may NOT want to be associated with him.

    An AIPAC insider repeatedly stressed to me that one reason this new group will never be able to compete with AIPAC is because AIPAC is bipartisan, while what he called the "Soros connection" shows that the new group will not be.

    Levy, meanwhile, said that it is "a misnomer" even to call it the "Soros Initiative," because, as one of his allies said, it's not "Soros' baby. He doesn't want to be out front on it."

    The AIPAC insider said that he believes the "Soros Initiative" is little more than a fundraising drive to raise money for some impoverished organizations that "have to define themselves in opposition to something."

    In fact, a contentious issue is exactly how much the new organization would allow itself to be seen as being in direct opposition to AIPAC.

    Still, one of those present at the early meetings said that he sees his organization as "the anti-AIPAC."

    Levy, meanwhile, said simply that if "there are differences in policy, those will be expressed in one group advocating one thing and another advocating another thing."

    This would at least be an improvement, he said, over the past, when Israeli leaders who honestly sought to make peace "pulled their hair out because of the lack of support from the Jewish community in the United States."

    Once, when I was still a speechwriter for the Israeli government at the U.N., I sat in on a meeting with a group of right-leaning American Jewish lobbyists who were discussing how harshly to react to the International Court of Justice's ruling that Israel's separation barrier was illegal.

    Afterward, a senior strategist for the Israeli government said to me, "See, people inside the Israeli government who are sincerely looking for peace have NO choice but to wait. This prime minister is NOT going to bring peace. This ambassador is NOT going to bring peace."

    He added, "And those people that we just met are sure as hell NOT going to bring peace."


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     Wednesday, December 20, 2006

    Israel's Middle East Policy: American Support for Sowing Discord and Civil War in Neighboring Countries

      Quote:

    "...... a chaotic and feuding Middle East, although it would be a disaster in the view of most informed observers, appears to be greatly desired by Israel and its neocon allies.

    They believe that the whole Middle East can be run successfully the way Israel has run its Palestinian populations inside the occupied territories, where religious and secular divisions have been accentuated, and inside Israel itself, where for many decades Arab citizens were “de-Palestinianised” and turned into identity-starved and quiescent Muslims, Christians, Druze and Bedouin.

    That conclusion may look foolhardy, but then again so does the White House’s view that it is engaged in a “clash of civilisations” which it can win with a “war on terror”.

    All states are capable of acting in an irrational or self-destructive manner, but Israel and its supporters may be more vulnerable to this failing than most.

    That is because Israelis’ perception of their region and their future has been grossly distorted by:

  • the official state ideology, Zionism, with its belief in Israel’s inalienable right to preserve itself as an ethnic state;

  • its confused messianic assumptions, strange for a secular ideology, about Jews returning to a land promised by God; and

  • its contempt for, and refusal to understand, everything Arab or Muslim."
    - Jonathan Cook
  • by
    Jonathan Cook
    (Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His book, “Blood and Religion: The Unmasking of the Jewish and Democratic State” is recently published by Pluto Press. His website is www.jkcook.net)

    Read here full article "End of the Strongman" by Jonathan Cook "

    The era of the Middle East strongman, propped up by and enforcing Western policy, appears well and truly over.

    Replaced with rule by civil war, apparently now the American Administration’s favoured model across the region. Fratricidal fighting is threatening to engulf, or already engulfing, the occupied Palestinian territories, Lebanon and Iraq.

    Both Syria and Iran could soon be next, torn apart by attacks Israel is reportedly planning on behalf of the US.

    The reverberations would likely consume the region.

    Each of these breakdowns of social order appears to have been engineered either by the United States or by Israel.

    In Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq, sectarian difference is less important than a clash of political ideologies and interests as rival factions disagree about whether to submit to, or resist, American and Israeli interference.


  • Palestine is in ferment because ordinary Palestinians are torn between their democratic wish to see Israeli occupation resisted -- in free elections they showed they believed Hamas the party best placed to realise that goal -- and the basic need to put food on the table for their families. The combined Israeli and international economic siege of the Hamas government, and the Palestinian population, has made a bitter internal struggle for control of resources inevitable.

  • Lebanon is falling apart because the Lebanese are divided: some believe that the country’s future lies with attracting Western capital and welcoming Washington’s embrace, while others regard America’s interest as cover for Israel realising its long-standing design to turn Lebanon into a vassal state, with or without a military occupation. Which side the Lebanese choose in the current stand-off reflects their judgment of how plausible are claims of Western and Israeli benevolence.

  • And the slaughter in Iraq is not simply the result of lawlessness -- as is commonly portrayed -- but also about rival groups, the nebulous “insurgents”, employing various brutal and conflicting strategies: trying to oust the Anglo-American occupiers and punish local Iraqis suspected of collaborating with them; extracting benefits from the puppet Iraqi regime; and jockeying for positions of influence before the inevitable grand American exit.

  • All of these outcomes in Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq could have been foreseen -- and almost certainly were. It looks increasingly like the growing tensions and carnage were planned.

    The violence and fragmentation of these societies seems to be precisely the goal of the intervention.

    Evidence has emerged in Britain that suggests such was the case in Iraq. Carne Ross, a diplomat who helped to negotiate several UN security council resolutions on Iraq, told the inquiry that British and US officials knew very well that Saddam Hussein had NO WMDs and that bringing him down would lead to chaos.

    I remember on several occasions the UK team stating this view in terms during our discussions with the US (who agreed)," he said, adding: “At the same time, we would frequently argue, when the US raised the subject, that ‘regime change’ was inadvisable, primarily on the grounds that Iraq would collapse into chaos.”

    The obvious question, then, is :

    Why would the US want and intend civil war raging across the Middle East, apparently threatening strategic interests like oil supplies and the security of a key regional ally, Israel?

    Until the presidency of Bush Jnr, the American doctrine in the Middle East had been to install or support strongmen, containing them or replacing them when they fell out of favour.

    • So why the dramatic and, at least ostensibly, incomprehensible shift in policy?

    • Why allow Yasser Arafat’s isolation and humiliation in the occupied territories, followed by Mahmoud Abbas’s, when both could have easily been cultivated as strongmen had they been given the tools they were implicitly promised by the Oslo process: a state, the pomp of office and the coercive means to impose their will on rival groups like Hamas?

    • Why make a sudden and unnecessary fuss about Syria’s interference in Lebanon, an interference that the West originally encouraged as a way to keep the lid on sectarian violence?

    • Why oust Damascus from the scene and then promote a “Cedar Revolution” that pandered to the interests of only one section of Lebanese society and continued to ignore the concerns of the largest and most dissatisfied community, the Shia? What possible outcome could there be but simmering resentment and the threat of violence?

    • And why invade Iraq on the hollow pretext of locating WMDs and then dislodge its dictator, Saddam Hussein, who for decades had been armed and supported by the US and had very effectively, if ruthlessly, held Iraq together?

    Again from Carne’s testimony, it is clear that NO ONE in the intelligence community believed Saddam really posed a threat to the West. Even if he needed “containing” or possibly replacing, as Bush’s predecessors appeared to believe, why did the president decide simply to overthrow him, leaving a power void at Iraq’s heart?

    The Jewish NeoCons in the US

    The answer appears to be related to the rise of the neocons, who finally grasped power with the election of President Bush.

    Israel’s most popular news website, Ynet, recently observed of the neocons:

    “Many are Jews who share a love for Israel.”

    The neocons’ vision of American global supremacy is intimately tied to, and dependent on, Israel’s regional supremacy.

    It is not so much that the neocons choose to promote Israel’s interests above those of America as that they see the two nations’ interests as inseparable and identical.

    The consistent aim of Israeli policy over decades, from the left and right, has been to acquire more territory at the expense of its neighbours and entrench its regional supremacy through “divide and rule”, particularly of its weakest neighbours such as the Palestinians and the Lebanese.

    For many years Israel favoured the same traditional colonial approach the West used in the Middle East, where Britain, France and later the US supported autocratic leaders, usually from minority populations, to rule over the majority in the new states they had created, whether Christians in Lebanon, Alawites in Syria, Sunnis in Iraq, or Hashemites in Jordan.

    The majority was thereby weakened, and the minority forced to become dependent on colonial favours to maintain its privileged position.

    Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982, for example, was similarly designed to anoint a Christian strongman and US stooge, Bashir Gemayel, as a compliant president who would agree to an anti-Syrian alliance with Israel.

    But decades of controlling and oppressing Palestinian society allowed Israel to develop a different approach to divide and rule: what might be termed organised chaos, or the “discord” model, one that came to dominate first its thinking and later that of the neocons.

    During its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, Israel preferred discord to a strongman. A pre-requisite of the latter would be the creation of a Palestinian state and its furnishing with a well-armed security force. Neither option was ever seriously contemplated.

    Only briefly under international pressure was Israel forced to relent and partially adopt the strongman model by allowing the return of Yasser Arafat from exile.

    But Israel’s reticence in giving Arafat the means to assert his rule and suppress his rivals, such as Hamas, led inevitably to conflict between the Palestinian president and Israel that ended in the second intifada and the readoption of the discord model. This latter approach exploits the fault lines in Palestinian society to exacerbate tensions and violence.

    Initially Israel achieved this by promoting rivalry between regional and clan leaders who were forced to compete for Israel’s patronage.

    Later Israel encouraged the emergence of Islamic extremism, especially in the form of Hamas, as a counterweight to the growing popularity of the secular nationalism of Arafat’s Fatah party.

    Israel’s discord model is now reaching its apotheosis: low-level and permanent civil war between the old guard of Fatah and the upstarts of Hamas. This kind of Palestinian in-fighting usefully depletes the society’s energies and its ability to organise against the real enemy: Israel and its enduring occupation.

    The neocons, it appears, have been impressed with this model and wanted to export it to other Middle Eastern states. Under Bush they sold it to the White House as the solution to the problems of Iraq and Lebanon, and ultimately of Iran and Syria too.

    The provoking of civil war certainly seemed to be the goal of Israel’s assault on Lebanon over the summer.

    The attack failed, as even Israelis admit, because Lebanese society rallied behind Hizbullah’s impressive show of resistance rather than, as was hoped, turning on the Shia militia.

    Last week the Israeli website Ynet interviewed Meyrav Wurmser, an Israeli citizen and co-founder of MEMRI, a service translating Arab leaders’ speeches that is widely suspected of having ties with Israel’s security services. She is also the wife of David Wurmser, a senior neocon adviser to Vice-President Dick Cheney.

    Meyrav Wurmser revealed that the American Administration had publicly dragged its feet during Israel’s assault on Lebanon because it was waiting for Israel to expand its attack to Syria.

    The anger [in the White House] is over the fact that Israel did NOT fight against the Syrians … The neocons are responsible for the fact that Israel got a lot of time and space … They believed that Israel should be allowed to win. A great part of it was the thought that Israel should fight against the real enemy, the one backing Hizbullah. It was obvious that it is impossible to fight directly against Iran, but the thought was that its [Iran’s] strategic and important ally [Syria] should be hit.”

    Wurmser continued: “It is difficult for Iran to export its Shiite revolution without joining Syria, which is the last nationalistic Arab country. If Israel had hit Syria, it would have been such a harsh blow for Iran that it would have weakened it and [changed] the strategic map in the Middle East.”

    Neocons talk a great deal about changing maps in the Middle East.

    Like Israel’s dismemberment of the occupied territories into ever-smaller ghettos, Iraq is being severed into feuding mini-states.

    Civil war, it is hoped, will redirect Iraqis’ energies away from resistance to the US occupation and into more negative outcomes.

    Similar fates appear to be awaiting Iran and Syria, at least if the neocons, despite their waning influence, manage to realise their vision in Bush’s last two years.

    The reason is that a chaotic and feuding Middle East, although it would be a disaster in the view of most informed observers, appears to be greatly desired by Israel and its neocon allies. They believe that the whole Middle East can be run successfully the way Israel has run its Palestinian populations inside the occupied territories, where religious and secular divisions have been accentuated, and inside Israel itself, where for many decades Arab citizens were “de-Palestinianised” and turned into identity-starved and quiescent Muslims, Christians, Druze and Bedouin.

    That conclusion may look foolhardy, but then again so does the White House’s view that it is engaged in a “clash of civilisations” which it can win with a “war on terror”.

    All states are capable of acting in an irrational or self-destructive manner, but Israel and its supporters may be more vulnerable to this failing than most.

    That is because Israelis’ perception of their region and their future has been grossly distorted by the official state ideology, Zionism, with its belief in Israel’s inalienable right to preserve itself as an ethnic state; its confused messianic assumptions, strange for a secular ideology, about Jews returning to a land promised by God; and its contempt for, and refusal to understand, everything Arab or Muslim.

    If we expect rational behaviour from Israel or its neocon allies, more fool us.





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