Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Iranian newspaper closed after publishing an article favorable to Israel

Newspaper banned in Iran
Tehran, Dec 31, IRNA - Iran enws agency

Director General of domestic media at the Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry said 'Kargozaran' newspaper was shut down over a media offense on Wednesday.

Mohammad Parvizi said the paper was banned upon articles 6 and 12 of Press Law and the case has been sent to the court.

He added, "The paper was banned over publication of an article justifying anti-human crimes of the Zionist regime and calling Palestinian resistance as terrorism and claiming that Palestinian combatants take position in kindergardens and hospitals and so cause the deaths of children and civilians."

Israel Rejects Temporary Truce as Gaza Fighting Intensifies

By Calev Ben-David and Saud Abu Ramadan

Dec. 31 (Bloomberg) -- The Israeli government rejected a temporary cease-fire with Hamas, as its aircraft bombed targets in Gaza for a fifth day and rockets fired from the coastal enclave struck deeper throughout the country's south.

Israel will consider a truce only once the overall security situation changes, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said at the close of today's meeting of the Security Cabinet, his spokesman said.

"We believe a respite to Hamas just to rearm and regroup would be a mistake," Prime Minister's Office spokesman Mark Regev said in a telephone interview after the meeting. "It's important to continue the pressure on the Hamas military machine."

At least 30 rockets hit Israel today, including the first strike on the country's central roadway, Highway 6, and the cities of Ashdod, and Ashkelon, and Beersheba, which is about 35 kilometers (22 miles) from Gaza. There were no reported deaths or serious injuries.

As many as 390 Palestinians have been killed and 1,900 wounded since Israel started its aerial campaign, according to the Palestinian emergency services office in Gaza City. At least a quarter of the fatalities were civilians, said Chris Gunness, spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Work Agency, in a phone interview. Three Israeli civilians and one soldier have died in the rocket attacks.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Hamas is prepared to halt attacks on Israel if the government lifts its blockade of the Gaza Strip. Hamas's political leader, Khalid Mashaal, made the offer in a telephone call with Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on its Web site.


NOTE: Russian doublespeak again, in Soviet style.

Diplomatic Efforts

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni will travel to Paris tomorrow to discuss diplomatic efforts to end the conflict with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, said ministry spokesman Aviv Sharon. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner yesterday proposed a 48-hour cease-fire in the fighting.

Israel's Cabinet on Dec. 28 cleared the way for the army to draft as many as 7,000 reserves, and the military on Dec. 29 declared a swath of Israel just north of Gaza a closed military zone, where movement was restricted. Journalists were also prevented from entering. Tanks and troops have been moved up to the Gaza border, preparing for a possible ground invasion.

The decision by the Israeli government to reject calls for a temporary cease-fire is a sign that it is planning to launch a ground operation in Gaza, said Shlomo Gazit, former head of military intelligence. "If they didn't want to go in on the ground then it is likely that they would have preferred at this point to accept a cease-fire."

A six-month cease-fire with Hamas expired Dec. 19.

Tunnels Attacked

The Israeli air force attacked targets in the seaside Gaza Strip last night and this morning, including tunnels along the Egyptian border, weapon storage facilities, Hamas outposts and the office of Hamas leader Ismael Haniya, the army said in an e- mailed statement. Israeli naval forces also hit targets in Gaza, including vessels used by Hamas, it said.

The Hamas leadership met today in an undisclosed location in Gaza to avoid being targeted, according to a news statement given to reporters.

Hamas leaders condemned what they called the "fierce and barbarian attack carried out by the Israeli occupation," and called on Arab governments to take political action to stop Israel.

Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told an Arab League foreign ministers meeting in Cairo today that divisions between Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah led to the Israeli strikes on Gaza.

Amre Moussa, secretary general of the Arab League, called on Palestinian factions to hold reconciliation talks in Cairo immediately.

Israel is allowing 106 trucks of food and other supplies to pass through a border crossing with Gaza for humanitarian purposes, said army spokeswoman Major Avital Leibovitz in a phone interview.

To contact the reporters on this story: Calev Ben-David in Jerusalem at; Saud Abu Ramadan in Gaza City through the Tel Aviv newsroomt .

Last Updated: December 31, 2008 10:29 EST

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Interesting snapshot of war at Day 4 of Israeli response to a 3-year rocket barrage

The IDF is mulling a suspension of the ground operation if Hamas stops rockets launching against Israeli civilians and property.

Israel mulls truce offer on Day 4 of Gaza assault

The Associated Press
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Israel is considering suspending its Gaza offensive to give Hamas militants an opening to halt rocket fire on Israel, but the threat of a ground offensive remains if the cease-fire does not hold, an Israeli defense official said Tuesday.

Israel's defense minister is to raise the proposal during a meeting of Israel's security Cabinet on Wednesday, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly. Israel TV's Channel 10 also reported such a proposal.

At the same time, the security Cabinet will also be asked to consider various plans for a ground invasion, the defense official said. The public rhetoric from Israeli officials has indicated they expect the operation to continue.

Earlier Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the current, aerial phase of the operation was just "the first of several" that have been approved, an Olmert spokesman said.

Palestinian militants, meanwhile, kept up their rocket assaults on Israeli border communities, despite relentless Israeli air attacks against Gaza's Hamas rulers and unwelcome word from Egypt that it would not bail them out.

Israeli warplanes smashed a Hamas government complex, the largest one hit so far, dumping the biggest single load of bombs on the buildings, which had been evacuated since the bombardment began Saturday. Israel also hit security installations and the home of a top militant commander.

The question hanging over the Israeli operation is how it can halt rocket fire. Israel has never found a military solution to the barrage of missiles militants have fired into southern Israel.

Beyond delivering Hamas a deep blow and protecting border communities, the assault's broader objectives remained cloudy. Israeli President Shimon Peres acknowledged the challenge, saying the operation was unavoidable but more difficult than many people anticipated.

"War against terrorists is harder in some aspects than fighting armies," Peres said.

More than 370 Palestinians have been killed since the Israeli air onslaught against Gaza's Islamic Hamas rulers began Saturday, shortly after a rocky, six-month truce expired. Most were members of Hamas security forces but the number included at least 64 civilians, according to U.N. figures. Among those killed were two sisters, aged 4 and 11, who perished in an airstrike on a rocket squad in northern Gaza on Tuesday.

Israeli warplanes smashed a Hamas government complex, security installations and the home of a top militant commander. During brief lulls between airstrikes, Gazans tentatively ventured into the streets to buy goods and collect belongings from homes they had abandoned after Israel's aerial onslaught began Saturday.

Rasha Khaldeh, 22, from the central Gaza town of Deir al-Balah, said she dared go no further than down the block to look for food.

"We just don't know what they are going to shell next. It's not safe," Khaldeh said.

The campaign has brought a new reality to southern Israel, too, where one-tenth of the country's population of 7 million has suddenly found itself within rocket range. Militants have pressed on with their rocket and mortar assaults, killing three Israeli civilians and a soldier and bringing a widening circle of targets into their sights with an arsenal of more powerful weapons.

The military estimated that close to 700,000 Israelis are now within rocket range, with the battles shifting closer to Israel's heartland. Of the four Israelis killed since the operation began Saturday, all but one were in areas that had not suffered fatalities before. On Tuesday, a Bedouin Arab town became one of the new targets.

"It's very scary," said Yaacov Pardida, a 55-year-old resident of Ashdod, southern Israel's largest city, which was hit Monday. "I never imagined that this could happen, that they could reach us here."

By mid-afternoon, gunmen had launched about a dozen rockets and mortars, down from 80 a day earlier, the Israeli military said. But the number of firings have fluctuated sharply throughout the day, and that number could dramatically rise by day's end.

In the 72 hours since the offensive began, militants have fired off more than 250 rockets and mortars all told, they added.

"Zionists, wait for more from the resistance," Hamas spokesman Ismail Radwan wrote in a text message to reporters, referring to militants' armed struggle against Israel.

The offensive comes on top of an Israeli blockade of Gaza that has largely kept all but essential goods from entering the coastal territory since Hamas violently seized control June 2007 from forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

At the United Nations on Monday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon demanded an immediate cease-fire and urged Mideast and world leaders to do more to help end the Israeli-Hamas conflict and promote political dialogue.

He also urged urged Arab foreign ministers, who are holding an emergency meeting in Cairo on Wednesday, "to act swiftly and decisively to bring an early end to this impasse."

Egypt, which has been blockading Gaza from its southern end, has come under pressure from the rest of the Arab world to reopen its border with the territory because of the Israeli campaign. Egypt has pried open the border to let in some of Gaza's wounded and to allow some humanitarian supplies to enter the territory. But it quickly sealed the border when Gazans tried to push through forcefully.

In a televised speech Tuesday, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak responded to critics, including the leader of the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, who have accused him of collaborating with Israel.

"We tell anybody who seeks political profits on the account of the Palestinian people: The Palestinian blood is not cheap," he said, describing such comments as "exploiting the blood of the Palestinians."

Mubarak said his country would not throw open the border crossing unless Abbas regains control of the border post. Mubarak has been rattled by the presence of a neighboring Islamic ministate in Gaza, fearing it would fuel more Islamic dissidence in Egypt.

Israel's air force initially hammered security facilities, then broadened to weapons-making and storage facilities, the homes of militant field operatives, and government buildings that are the symbols of Hamas' power.

The initial wave of airstrikes took Gaza by surprise, targeting militants and Hamas security forces at key installations, often located in the midst of tiny Gaza's densely populated towns and cities.

But the government buildings targeted later were empty, as Gazans became fearful of venturing out into the streets. For Ziad Koraz, whose nearby home was damaged in the attack on the government compound Tuesday, that violence gratuitously put Gaza civilians at risk.

"More than 17 missiles were directed at an empty government compound, without regard for civilians who lived nearby," Koraz said. "If someone committed a crime, they should go after him, not after an entire nation."

Israel has allowed a trickle of aid through its cargo crossings with Gaza despite the military campaign, agreeing to allow 100 trucks in on Tuesday, defense officials said. Jordan, the Red Cross and the World Health Organization were also preparing to send medical supplies.

Israel's navy on Tuesday turned back a boat of pro-Palestinian protesters who had hoped to enter Gaza to demonstrate against the Israeli blockade.

The Israeli side of the border area was declared a closed military zone on Monday, obscuring operations in the area. But with thousands of ground troops, backed by tanks and artillery, massed on the border, and the air force knocking off target after target, the big question looming over the operation was whether it would expand to include a land invasion.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the operation would "expand as needed ... to restore tranquility to (Israel's) south and deliver a blow to Hamas so the rocket fire and other operations against the citizens and soldiers of Israel stop."

During the six-month truce that expired Dec. 19, gunmen fired 360 rockets and mortars, the vast majority in the agreement's waning weeks, the military said. In the year before it took hold, more than 4,300 projectiles were fired, it added.

Over the years, militants have improved the aim and range of the rockets. On Monday, a missile crashed into a bus stop in Ashdod, a city of 200,000 that is 23 miles (37 kilometers) from Gaza and only 25 miles (40 kilometers) from Israel's Tel Aviv heartland.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Go Barack Obama, go !

The transnational Jihad is revving up its motors, time for defense and to neutralize terror.
Obama Defers to Bush, for Now, on Gaza Crisis
Published: December 28, 2008

WASHINGTON — When President-elect Barack Obama went to Israel in July — to the very town, in fact, whose repeated shelling culminated in this weekend's new fighting in Gaza — he all but endorsed the punishing Israeli attacks now unfolding.

"If somebody was sending rockets into my house, where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that," he told reporters in Sderot, a small city on the edge of Gaza that has been hit repeatedly by rocket fire. "And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing."

Now, Mr. Obama's presidency will begin facing the consequences of just such a counterattack, one of Israel's deadliest against Palestinians in decades, presenting him with yet another foreign crisis to deal with the moment he steps into the White House on Jan. 20, even as he and his advisers have struggled mightily to focus on the country's economic problems.

Since his election, Mr. Obama has said little specific about his foreign policy — in contrast to more expansive remarks about the economy. He and his advisers have deferred questions — critics could say, ducked them — by saying that until Jan. 20, only President Bush would speak for the nation as president and commander in chief. "The fact is that there is only one president at a time," David Axelrod, Mr. Obama's senior adviser, told CBS's "Face the Nation" on Sunday, reiterating a phrase that has become a mantra of the transition. "And that president now is George Bush."

Mr. Obama, vacationing in Hawaii, talked to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Saturday. "But the Bush administration has to speak for America now," Mr. Axelrod said. "And it wouldn't be appropriate for me to opine on these matters." As the fighting in Gaza shows, however, events in the world do not necessarily wait for Inauguration Day in the United States.

Even before the conflict flared again, India and Pakistan announced troop movements that have raised fears of a military confrontation following the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. North Korea scuttled a final agreement on verifying its nuclear dismantlement earlier this month, while Iran continues to stall the international effort to stop its nuclear programs. And there are still two American wars churning in Iraq and Afghanistan. All demand his immediate attention.

Mr. Obama's election has raised expectations, among allies and enemies alike, that new American policies are forthcoming, putting more pressure on him to signal more quickly what he intends to do. In the case of Israel and the Palestinians, Mr. Obama has not suggested he has any better ideas than President Bush had to resolve the existential conflict between the Israelis and Hamas, the Palestinian group that controls Gaza.

"What this does is present the incoming administration with the urgency of a crisis without the capacity to do much about it," said Aaron David Miller, a scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington and author of "The Much Too Promised Land," a history of the Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts. "That's the worst outcome of what's happening right now."

The renewed fighting — and the international condemnation of the scope of Israel's response — has dashed already limited hopes for quick progress on the peace process that Mr. Bush began in Annapolis, Md., in November 2007. The omission of Hamas from any talks between the Israelis and President Mahmoud Abbas, who controls only the West Bank, had always been a landmine that risked blowing up a difficult and delicate peace process, but so have Israel's own internal political divisions.

Mr. Obama might have little to gain from setting out an ambitious agenda for an issue as intractable as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. But the conflict in Gaza, like the building tensions between India and Pakistan, suggests that he may have no choice. "You can ignore it, you can put it on the back burner, but it will always come up to bite you," said Ghaith al-Omari, a former Palestinian peace negotiator.

For Mr. Obama, the conundrum is particularly intense since he won election in part on promises of restoring America's image around the world. He will assume office with high expectations, particularly among Muslims around the world, that he will make an effort at dealing with the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Early on as a candidate, Mr. Obama suggested that he did not necessarily oppose negotiations with groups like Hamas, though he spent much of the campaign retreating from that position under fire from critics.

By the time he arrived in Israel in July, he suggested he would not even consider talks without a fundamental shift in Hamas and its behavior, effectively moving his policy much closer to President Bush's. "In terms of negotiations with Hamas, it is very hard to negotiate with a group that is not representative of a nation-state, does not recognize your right to exist, has consistently used terror as a weapon, and is deeply influenced by other countries," he said then.

Mr. Obama received an intelligence briefing on Sunday and planned to talk late on Sunday to his nominee for secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, and his choice as national security adviser, James L. Jones, according to a spokeswoman, Brooke Anderson.

One option would be for an Obama administration to respond much more harshly to Israel's policies, from settlements to strikes like those this weekend, as many in the Arab world and beyond have long urged. On Sunday, though, Mr. Axelrod said the president-elect stood by the remarks he made in the summer and, when asked, noted the "special relationship" between the United States and Israel.

Otherwise, Mr. Obama could try to pressure surrogates to lean on Hamas, including Egypt, which shares a border with Gaza. He can try to build international pressure on Hamas to stop the rocket attacks into Israel. He can try to nurture a peace between Israel and Mr. Abbas on the West Bank, hoping that somehow it spreads to Hamas. All have been tried, and all have failed to avoid new fighting.

"The reality is, what options do we have?" Mr. Miller said.

Jackie Calmes contributed reporting from Honolulu.

Next Article in Washington (1 of 4) » A version of this article appeared in print on December 29, 2008, on page A10 of the New York edition.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Iran's Ahmadinejad to give alternative Christmas message

December 24, 2008

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Jewish groups were up in arms today when it was revealed that Channel 4's "alternative" Christmas Day broadcast is to be delivered by President Ahmadinejad of Iran.

Mr Ahmadinejad's speech will go out at 7.15pm, four hours after the Queen's traditional Christmas Day message is broadcast on the main channels. His message is a spiritual one but includes some more nakedly political elements - including the implicit claim that if Jesus Christ were alive today, he would oppose US hegemony.

"If Christ was on Earth today undoubtedly he would stand with the people in opposition to bullying, ill-tempered and expansionist powers," Mr Ahmadinejad will say in a speech to be shown in Farsi with English subtitles.

"If Christ was on Earth today undoubtedly he would hoist the banner of justice and love for humanity to oppose warmongers, occupiers, terrorists and bullies the world over. If Christ was on Earth today undoubtedly he would fight against the tyrannical policies of prevailing global economic and political systems, as He did in His lifetime."

It is no the first time that the broadcaster has courted controversy since Quentin Crisp delivered Channel 4's first alternative Christmas message in 1993. In 2006 a fully-veiled British-born Muslim woman used the message to attack Jack Straw, then Home Secretary, for his criticism of the niqab (face veil) earlier the same year.

Stephen Smith, director of the Holocaust Centre, said Mr Ahmadinejad's message should be treated with caution. The Iranian President has repeatedly called the Holocaust a "myth" and called for the annihilation of Israel.

Mr Smith said: "Many of his political and historical views are very dangerous and do not uphold the views in his message. I think this benign message is deception. People need to be alert to the fact that this is a wolf in sheep's clothing."

Henry Grunwald QC, president of the Board of Deputies, added: "The appearance on our television screens of a man whose prejudices are so well-documented and who has openly called for the eradication of another member country of the United Nations is an affront to decency.

"To invite him to deliver a Christmas message, even a so-called alternative one, fills me with disgust. Whatever he may say in his 'message', his words on other occasions and his actions towards minority groups in Iran should have disqualified him from filling this television spot."

But Dorothy Byrne, Channel 4's head of news and current affairs, defended the choice. "As the leader of one of the most powerful states in the Middle East, President Ahmadinejad's views are enormously influential," she said. "As we approach a critical time in international relations, we are offering our viewers an insight into an alternative world view."

A Channel 4 spokesman said that the message was filmed in Iran but it was kept top secret in case it fell through at the last minute. The message will be broadcast several hours after the Queen's to avoid any implications of equivalence between the monarch and the Iranian leader.

Britain and Iran have rocky relations, particularly over Iran's disputed nuclear programme.

In October, David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, warned of a possible nuclear arms race in the Middle East if Iran was allowed to press ahead unchecked with a uranium enrichment programme.

In response, Tehran accused Miliband, who is Jewish, of having "strong ties with Zionists".

Relations between the two countries hit a low last year when Iran seized 15 British sailors and marines in disputed waters in the Shatt al-Arab waterway between Iran and Iraq. The troops were released safely nearly two weeks later after a televised meeting with Mr Ahmadinejad.

The Queen is to use this year's broadcast to acknowledge the impact of the credit crunch on many families as recession starts to bite.

"Christmas is a time for celebration, but this year it is a more sombre occasion for many," she will say, emphasing the need for cutbacks. "Some of those things which could once have been taken for granted suddenly seem less certain and naturally give rise to feelings of insecurity."

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Ahmadinejad fidlles while Iranians starve

Iranian president's fiscal policies come under attack by opposition claiming he depleted Islamic Republic's reserve fund, meant to help needy
Gil Feiler, Doron Peskin
Published:  12.24.08, 15:36 / Israel Money 
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's financial policies came under attack recently, as those opposing him within the Islamic Republic claimed that he has singlehandedly driven the country into financial ruin.
Several weeks ago, Ahmadinejad appeared before his parliament in order to defend his policies and announced that his government will allot the failing Iranian market a bailout plan, which will allow it, and the weaker socioeconomic classes, to get back on their feet.
The Iranian president's promises, however, proved empty. Earlier in the week, the reformist Iranian daily Saramiya reported that Ahmadinejad has depleted the Iranian reserve fund meant to aid the country's poor – somewhat of a problem when you consider the fact that Ahmadinejad won his presidency based on campaign promises pledging to improve the low social echelons' status.
According to the report, Ahmadinejad has managed to "irresponsibly and illegally" squander $140 billion. The blame, added the repot, lies with the continuous funding of projects is various Iranian provinces, which – according to his criticizers – is devoid of any financial logic, and demonstrates mainly fiscal foolery.
Moreover, many of the Iranians who voted him in office are feeling betrayed, faced with mounting financial distress. "Contrary to Ahmadinejad's claims, his policies have only increased poverty and hardship; and the financial gaps have widened since he came to power," said the report in Saramiya.
20 million Iranians living under poverty line

Hussein Ra'afer, advisor to the Iranian minister of Welfare and Social Security, was quoted as saying that according to the ministry's data, about a third of the Iranians – 20 million people – live under the poverty line, and the government "is not doing anything about the unemployment and drug problems."
Iran's inflation rate is also increasing rapidly, hitting 29.4% in September.
The social gaps are particularly evident between the country's north and it south: The south is mostly occupied by the Sunni minority, who live in poverty; while northern Iran is where the Shiite majority lives, and where wealth and luxury can be found. "It is as if there are two countries in Iran," said an Iranian analyst.
Financial experts in Iran are not oblivious to the crisis: earlier in December, a group of them sent a letter to Ahmadinejad in which they harshly criticized his financial policies. "The government's economic policies," said the letter, "is taking a heavy toll on a country in crisis."
Dr. Gil Feiler is founder and managing director of Info-Prod Research (Middle East) Ltd. , and Doron Peskin is head of research

Egypt: Al-Azhar approves woman's Quran interpretation (Tafseer)

Tafseer (exegesis) is a very important component of Muslim religious life. For the first time, the conservative Al-Azhar university, prestigious center of Sunni Muslim authority on theology, has approved a tafseer written by a woman. Famous tafseers have been written by ibn Kaseer (Kathir) and by Abul Ala Maududi,
Egypt clerics back woman's Koran 
The highest authority of Sunni Islam, al-Azhar University in Cairo, says it has approved the first interpretation of the Koran by a woman.
A senior cleric told an Egyptian daily that the new book respected established tradition, adding that gender was irrelevant to interpretation.
Liberal Muslim women have been critical of established interpretations, saying they are patriarchal.
The author says she wanted to make Koran accessible for the young.
Sheikh Ali Abdelbaqi Mitwali told the daily al-Masri al-Youm that al-Azhar has approved the interpretation (tafseer) submitted by Kariman Hamza, a former broadcaster.
Sheikh Mitwali said there was no such thing as a "male" or "female" reading of the holy book and that "what mattered for us was that the interpretation was in line with the text of the sacred Koran and that it did not contradict the rulings of Sharia".
Ms Hamza - who is a former presenter of religious programmes on radio - said she was delighted by al-Azhar's decision.
She said she wanted to write a book that simplified and clarified the Koran for the young and that she had no commercial motive.
Books in Egypt dealing with the Koran or Islamic tradition have to secure the approval of al-Azhar before publication.

Monday, December 22, 2008

and now the rest of the story the shoe thrower

Exclusive: Who Was Behind the Jihad by the Shoe – and Why?

Dr. Walid Phares

As I observed the immediate aftermath of the shoe throwing incident in Baghdad, I noted that the most striking effect occurred among the Western public, and particularly within the United States. Commentators and regular citizens were asking themselves again, seven years later, "why do they hate us?" missing one more time the fact that this particular violent expression, far from being a unique emotional reaction by one individual, is part of a war of ideas; it is a continuous organized confrontation over the future of the region. In short, this was another form of Jihadism, one I am coining now as a Jihad by the Shoe (Jihad bil Hizaa). Here is why.
Western Awe of So-Called Arab Reaction
The main question on anchors' minds and lips reflected the shock and awe felt by many Americans. It wasn't really about the Iraqi journalist … targeting President Bush with his two leather "missiles"… for in liberal democracies, the scene of flying eggs, pies or liquid in the direction of politicians, legislators, Prime Ministers or Presidents is part of the political culture. Even obscene gestures and words are frequently uttered against leaders; this behavior comes with the package of democratic freedoms. It ends up usually with a sensational picture on the front page, as a joke on TV's late night shows, and/or it can come with some minor legal consequences.  
But the shoe bombing of President Bush stunned Western commentators for another reason: the seemingly vast outpouring of support the thrower received in the region. In the absence of sound expert analysis as to the meaning of the colorful reporting on Arab channels, and as many Western media went overboard in their guilt-ridden commentaries, the public was left alone to figure this out. Obviously their conclusion was that "whatever we do for them, they will continue to hate us."
That's exactly the gist of almost every question I was asked by the media: "After all we've done for them, freed them from Saddam, lost three thousand American men and women and spent billions of dollars, they made a hero of a shoe thrower against our President." While the unease in America and in many Western countries is legitimate, the cause of their frustration, not the shoe thrower, should be blamed: as before, the public was very poorly served by its media and academia. The public simply wasn't told – with accuracy - what actually unfolded in that incident, which was another battle in the ongoing War of Ideas, aimed at defeating the will of the free world. Here is how:  
The Shoe Thrower
According to Arab commentators, Iraqi journalist Muntazar al Zaidi, who launched his two shoes against U.S. President George Bush while calling him "dog", is a controversial militant. Dr. Abdel Khaliq Hussein, writing in Elaph accused al Zaidi of being a "friend of the terrorists." Furthermore, along with other analysts, Hussein said the "shoe thrower" used to know about the "terrorist attacks before they took place and managed to be at the location beforehand." These are serious accusations against a person who was made into an icon of "Arab pride" by the Jihadi media machine. Furthermore, Hussein wrote that al Zaidi fabricated his abduction story last year to get "maximum publicity." One can see a pattern here. Maybe President Bush's instincts were right.
In the daily al Shaq al Awsat, another observer wrote that al Zaidi is a Sadrist. Others disagree and describe him as radical opportunist. Nidal Neaissi, also writing in Elaph, reminded his readers of an historical precedent in Bedouin history: a well known greedy man, Abi Qassem al Tamburi was always trying to get rid of his shoe by throwing it against well known people, attracting the support (and more) of their enemies. Too many comments about the so-called "shoe hero" have appeared in the Arab media - unread in the West - leaving us with one conclusion. The man had a plan for his shoe: a major show. And it worked. 
The Force behind the Shoe Thrower
It gets better when you investigate the organization paying his salary and expenses. Al Baghdadiya TV, based in Cairo, is owned by another controversial figure in the murky world of Middle Eastern media: Abdel Hussein Shaaban, an Iraqi Shia from Najaf and ex-Communist. According to Iraqi opposition sources based in London, Shaaban was an operative for Saddam, tasked with discrediting the Baathist leader's critics around the world. Obviously it comes with payroll, according to the same sources.
But more recent accusations leveled by media experts in the region claim that al Baghdadiya TV, like dozens of other recipients, are getting significant funding from the Iranian regime. Military expert W. Thomas Smith, Jr., writing in World Defense Review has described the huge propaganda operation unleashed by Tehran directly, and via its network in Beirut, to "influence" Arab and Western media and to direct them against the regime's foes.
Blasting George Bush, and more importantly his project of "spreading Democracy", is high on Iran's list but also on many other regimes' agendas. An article by Ali Al Gharash titled "Shoes Terrify Regimes Now" shows that a consensus exists within the region's establishment to demolish the image of the man who dared (despite the failure of U.S. bureaucracy) to "do it," that is to tear down their wall of radical ideologies. The shoe thrower was clearly on a mission to do just that by striking at the "head" of the enemy with his pair of shoes.  
The Making of a Jihadi Hero
Minutes after the incident took place and was captured by the media feed and aired worldwide, a snowball flurry of releases, special shows with commentators - gathered too fast for the circumstance - were on the airwaves. Interestingly al Baghdadiya TV issued – faster than the speed of light - a long press release calling for struggle. Minutes after, a vast magma of satellite channel sympathizers of Jihadism, and of sites virulently anti-democracy, exploded with incitement and calls for mobilization - and some were even as provocative as characterizing the ballistic exercise by al Zaidi as an "act of Jihad."
Within six hours, the airwaves in the region were invaded by the "shoe Jihad."  Within 12 hours, friendly voices beaming from Western networks joined the orchestra in aggrandizing the matter. "A shoe in the Arab culture is the worst epithet one can use, it expresses so deep an anger," blasted one of the oldest international media out of Europe. More seasoning was added on this side of the Atlantic. "Analysts" for mainstream networks - most of whom can't speak the language - began lecturing the stunned public on the "lessons to be learned and on the pain felt in those lands at the sight of President Bush." And the framing continued on. By the second day, both the Arab satellite cohorts and the "specialists" on "how to understand the region" were breaking to the world the grandiose news: a new hero was born in the Muslim world, the shoe thrower. Give it a few weeks and Hollywood will buy the story and make a movie out of it. Give it a year and it will be taught as a course by our academic cinema. 
The West is Dragged to Confusion
Within Western democracies, informational confusion reigns: this is "Bushophobia" claim the most sophisticated. It is impossible, after all the Coalition has done to free Iraqis from Saddam, that demonstrators are chanting for the shoe thrower. Others, less confident in the ability of the region's peoples to accept democracy and to be thankful to the liberators, began a psychological withdrawal: let them live under dictatorships for they don't deserve better, said many talk show hosts.
When a Western response like this happens, connoisseurs of Jihadi tactics know that the "shoe Jihad" worked impeccably. It spread doubts in the heads of Westerners, particularly among Americans, so that few will support a U.S. President in the future if he asks for sacrifices to "bring change" to the region. The combined propaganda machine of the Baathists, Salafists, Khomeinists and other authoritarians scored a major coup in a job lasting only 48 hours: they forced a confused West to believe that the region is utterly opposed to liberal democracy. Consequently, the next White House and other chanceries across the Atlantic need to learn from the shoe attack: do not intervene in Darfur; do not pressure the Iranian regime; do not help Lebanon against Hezbollah and let go of democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan.   
Pro-Democracy Voices Lash Out
But the critics of the "Shoe Jihad"were as fast as the petro-dollar machine in reacting. Indeed, and unlike what most Westerners were swift to conclude, pro-democracy voices were loud and clear: from Kuwait, Lebanon, Jordan, Morocco and across the Arab world, and particularly from Iraq, journalists, bloggers, talk show hosts, teachers and artists blasted the Jihadi comedy and rejected the "unholy shoeing." For each email on al Jazeera supportive of the insult, another email landed on liberal web sites and editorial rooms. How the incident was reported in the Middle East depended on who stood behind which medium. Sadly, if the funders were petro-regimes, the "Shoe Jihad" won. The other side's volume was too low to be broadcast throughout the world. International media, incorporating the West's global apology syndrome, obviously showcased the "partisans of the shoe" rather than those who were embarrassed by it.      
A War of Ideas
The West was left to see only what it was allowed to watch: a repeat of previous cycles in the War of Ideas. Viewers in New York and Paris can see the angry protesters of the Danish Cartoons and Guantanamo and the insulting of a U.S. President; but they cannot see the men and women who wish to shoe bomb their own dictators and oppressors. Sometimes the public has a mere glimpse of the other side: when Saddam's statue was toppled and beaten with shoes for few hours, and when a million people demanded the Assad regime to take their boots off of Lebanon's soil.
Meanwhile, the battle for minds and hearts rages relentlessly - a confrontation so far won by those who wage Jihad by all means, as they say. This time, it was by the shoe. Contributing Editor Dr. Walid Phares is the Director of the Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and the author of "The Confrontation: Winning the War against Future Jihad."

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Iran's Plans - Judge for yourself

According to Ayatollah Rafsanjani:
The Islamic Republic of Iran is a true follower of Islam and the Holy Quran and therefore is not in favor of war and conflict anywhere in the world, Rafsanjani added.

Rejecting the idea that Iran is determined to physically transfer its Islamic Revolution to other parts of the world, he stressed that the idea means that the way of thinking of the Islamic Revolution that is its anti-arrogance approach should be transferred to other countries.
According to Grand Ayatollah and Marj al Taqlid Rohollah Khomeini:
Islam makes it incumbent on all adult males, provided they are not disabled and incapacitated, to prepare themselves for the conquest of [other] countries so that the writ of Islam is obeyed in every country in the world.

But those who study Islamic Holy War will understand why Islam wants to conquer the whole world ... Those who know nothing of Islam pretend that Islam counsels against war. Those [who say this] are witless.

Islam says: kill all the unbelievers just as they would kill you all! Does this mean that Muslims should sit back until they are devoured by [the unbelievers]?

Islam say: Kill them [the non-Muslims], put them to the sword and scatter [their armies]. Does this mean sitting back until [non-Muslims] overcome us?

Islam says: kill in the service of Allah those who may want to kill you! Does this mean that we should surrender to the enemy?

Islam says: Whatever good there is exists thanks to the sword and in the shadow of the sword! People cannot be made obedient except with the sword! The sword is the key to Paradise, which can be opened only for Holy Warriors!

There are hundreds of other ayat [Qur'anic verses] and ahadith urging Muslims to value war and to fight. Does all that mean that Islam is a religion that prevents men from waging war? I spit upon those foolish souls who make such a claim.(Qom 1986. (Originally published in Qom in 1942 and reprinted in Teheran in 1980 and 1983). Translated  by Iranian journalist and Khomeini critic Amir Taheri, from: Holy Terror, London 1987, p.226-7.] )

Online Source  

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Report: 62 percent of UK Muslim schools connected to fundamentalists, teach bigotry and racism

Not too surprising, but not that easy to interpret. It is more interesting that the report will be toned down because of all that confusing and difficult to follow stuff: namely, evidence. Evidence is B*O*R*I*N*G
Exclusive: over 60 per cent of Britain's Muslim schools have extremist links, says draft report
Posted By: Damian Thompson at Dec 17, 2008 at 13:05:37 [General]
Britain's Muslim schools have been sharply criticised in a controversial draft report commissioned by a leading think tank which suggests that over 60 per cent of them are linked to potentially dangerous Islamic fundamentalists.
An early version of the report, entitled When Worlds Collide, alleges that of the 133 Muslim primary and secondary schools it surveyed, 82 (61.6 per cent) have connections or direct affiliations to fundamentalists. The 133 schools are in the private sector but supposedly subject to Ofsted inspection.
The report also claims that some of these schools teach "repugnant" beliefs about the wickedness of Western society and Jews.
The claims in the report, written by Denis MacEoin in response to a commission from Civitas, will provoke ritual cries of "Islamophobia" from the Muslim Council of Britain and fellow travellers such as Koran Armstrong. MacEoin has been careful to back up his claims with evidence - in particular, screen captures of links to Islamic hate-mongers, including supporters of Al-Qaeda.
Civitas, however, is not prepared to endorse MacEoin's 61.6 per cent figure, which will not appear in the published version of When Worlds Collide. A spokesman for Civitas explains: "We want to concentrate on claims that are absolutely robust, rather than complicated material, some of it in Arabic, that might unjustly damage someone's reputation."
Perhaps the most alarming finding of the draft I've seen is that so many of these schools (including ones with no connections to political extremism) are bricking up their pupils behind a wall of Koranic injunctions and Sharia law.
The schools known as Darul Ulooms, which base their curriculum on a seventeenth-century Indian teaching system, include very few secular subjects, claims the report. It says: "Their aim is not to prepare pupils for life in the wider world, but to give them the tools for a more limited existence inside the Muslim enclaves."
The consequences for bright Muslim British girls are absolutely dire. Lively intellects are being destroyed and brilliant careers cut off before they can begin. To quote the report again: "Every year, an incalculable number of Muslim teenagers and young women are lost to the wider world that informs their citizenship."
The numbers are increasing fast, and there is confusion over how many schools exist. The growth of non-Muslim schools, says MacEoin, is "hugely overshadowed by a rapidly growing sector of Muslim institutions. These now number 127 [sic] full-time schools and an estimated 700 part-time madrassas for intense religious instruction [and that doesn't include the Darul Uloom seminaries] … Many recreate in the UK the style and content of schooling that can be found in Pakistan, Bangladesh and India." Great.
And all this is happening with the implicit consent of the Government, Ofsted – and Christian leaders, who bang on about the threat to "faith schools" (and, in the case of R. Williams, the virtues of Sharia) while shielding their eyes from the evidence that many Muslim faith schools are poisonously anti-Christian.
I've seen many of the extremely damaging screen grabs on which MacEoin bases his claims. Memo to the Muslim Council of Britain: start lining up irate spokesmen now.

Cable breaks reportedly cut some Internet in Mideast and South Asia

In Israel at this moment there does not seem to be a problem getting mail from the United States. Web site visits may be down 15-20%. Web sites do not appear to be loading more slowly.
Cable breaks cut Internet in Mideast and South Asia
Sat Dec 20, 2008 3:48am EST
By Jonathan Wright

CAIRO (Reuters) - Breaks in three submarine cables which link Europe and the Middle East have disrupted Internet and international telephone services in parts of the Middle East and South Asia, officials said on Saturday.
The disruption reduced Egypt's Internet capacity by about 80 percent. Technicians were restoring some capacity by diverting communications traffic through the Red Sea, said a Communications Ministry official, who asked not to be named.
Users in the Middle East said Internet service was either non-existent or slow. The gravity of the outage, caused by breaks in cables in the Mediterranean off Italy, varied from area to area and according to the service provider.
The cause of the breaks was not immediately known.
In January, breaks in undersea cables off the Egyptian coast disrupted Internet access in Egypt, the Gulf region and south Asia, forcing service providers to reroute traffic and disrupting some businesses and financial dealings.
In Pakistan, Internet service provider Micronet Broadband said its customers were facing degraded Internet services because of "issues" on the SMW-3, SMW-4 and FLAG lines.
Micronet engineer Wajahat Basharat said on Saturday Internet traffic was slow and some was being diverted to other routes.
Etislat, the largest of two telecom firms in the United Arab Emirates, said it was using alternative routes to ensure continuity of service.
Users in the Gulf Arab nation said their connections were much slower than usual and suffered occasional disconnections.
Kuwait's Telecommunications Ministry said late on Friday it was trying to secure continued services until the damage to the cables was repaired and asked for users' understanding.
Several Egyptian residents said late on Friday it was impossible to call the United States but calls to Europe appeared to be going through.
The International Cable Protection Committee, an association of submarine cable operators, said it was "aware of multiple submarine cable failures in the Eastern Mediterranean area that may be affecting the speed of Internet communications on some routes."
It said in a statement on its website it did not know what had caused the problem.
Stephan Beckert, an analyst with the U.S.-based telecommunications market research firm TeleGeography, said the three affected cables were the most direct route for moving traffic between Western Europe and the Middle East.
"If those three cables were cut and are completely out, it would be a fairly significant outage," he said.
"It is going to cause problems for some customers. It's certainly going to slow things down," Beckert said, adding that he did not believe financial institutions would be hit hard.
"Generally speaking we find that they are extremely painstaking about making sure that they have redundant capacity," he said.
Officials with AT&T Inc and Verizon Communications, the two largest U.S.-based carriers, said that some customers in the Middle East had lost all service, while others were experiencing partial disruptions on Internet connections.
Verizon had rerouted some of its traffic by sending it across the Atlantic, then the United States, across the Pacific, and on to the Middle East.
A New York Stock Exchange spokesman said he was unaware of any disruptions in trading. Exchanges CME Group, and IntercontinentalExchange said they had no disruption in their trading on Friday.
(Additional reporting by Jim Finkle in Boston, Juan Lagorio and Elinor Comlay in New York, Robert Birsel in Islamabad, Inal Ersan in Dubai; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Saddam & the Shoe Thrower

BS Top - Nematt shoe hussein 174
Evan Vucci/AP
Did Saddam's daughter, who looted millions from Iraq, secretly fund both the shoe thrower and the bungled coup attempt?

New revelations in Iraq point to a possible link between the shoe thrower and the Iraqi Baathists who just made a botched attempt to topple the government of Nouri al-Maliki and return Saddam's party to power.

Reports in the Arab media indicate that the Iraqi shoe thrower, Muntather al-Zaidi may have been planning his assault on President Bush for more than a year, helped by Iraqi Baathists seeking to overthrow the U.S,-backed government. One leading Arab website said the al-Zaidi's handlers may have been funded by Raghad, the eldest daughter of former dictator Saddam Hussein.

The former dictator's eldest daughter, Raghad, currently lives in self-exile in Jordan and is wanted in Iraq for funding terrorism

Raghad, who currently lives in self-exile in Jordan, is wanted in Iraq for funding terrorism and for looting billions from state funds on the eve of the 2003 war that toppled her father.

Dia' al-Kanani, the judge investigating the shoe-throwing incident, said Thursday he turned down a request to release al-Zaidi on bail for security reasons, including fear for the suspect's own security. He said there was a real threat he may be attacked.

An Iraqi government spokesman said al-Zaidi sent a letter to al-Maliki on Thursday asking for a pardon. The journalist described his own behavior as "an ugly act" and asked to be pardoned. There was no comment from the Iraqi government.

Al-Zeidi is a correspondent for al-Baghdadia, a pro-Baathist television station based in Cairo, Egypt, that some suspect is funded by Raghad. He could face two years imprisonment for the assault and for insulting Bush and al-Maliki.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Free and Fair Elections in Lebanon Impossible with Hizballah’s Weap

Free and Fair Elections in Lebanon Impossible with Hizballah's Weapons

Posted by W. Thomas Smith Jr. on 17 December 2008 at 6:53 pm UTC

If the U.S. State Department-designated terrorist group, Hizballah, and Hizballah's allies gain control of Lebanon through parliamentary elections slated for June 2009, "American support for Lebanon will be placed in jeopardy" and "we should have no illusions about that," said former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin S. Indyk during a panel discussion hosted by the Washington, D.C.-based Aspen Institute, last week.

Indyk's remarks reflect a particularly disturbing reality for the pro-democracy majority in Lebanon, which lost much of its political power to Hizballah and its allies when concessions were granted to Hizballah in order to persuade Hizballah to stop the killings (after the organization turned its weapons on the Lebanese people in May 2008). And the remarks should reflect a disturbing reality for the rest of the world.

"[Hizballah] is a premier terrorist organization," Indyk said. "Beyond that, it has built up an independent military capability that is greater than the military capabilities of the Lebanese armed forces."

Indeed, as we have time-and-again reported, Hizballah – the so-called "party of God," which rules a Shia kingdom inside the sovereign state of Lebanon, which battled Israel in the 2006 war (inflicting enormous damage on Lebanon), and which gained enormous strategic / political leverage in May of this year – may well have evolved into the world's most formidable terrorist army.

Consider the following: 

  • Hizballah is trained, equipped, and heavily financed (an estimated one-billion dollars annually) by Iran, and the organization is operationally supported by both Iran and Syria.
  • Hizballah is expanding its base, and the organization is increasing its global reach.
  • Hizballah has "conducted very large, spectacular" terrorist operations worldwide.
  • Hizballah has defiantly refused to surrender its arms in Lebanon as called for under United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1701.
  • Hizballah has demonstrated time-and-again since May that it has no qualms about overtly killing Lebanese civilians as a means of furthering the organization's aims.
  • Hizballah has heavily infiltrated the Lebanese Army.
  • Hizballah, since May, has wormed its way into position as an official component of the overall Lebanese Defense apparatus. 

Yet the U.S. has provided – and continues to send – hundreds-of-millions-of dollars in military aid to Lebanon's armed forces and national police when some experts and analysts have surmised that money may well end up in the hands of the terrorists.

Moreover, last month, Lebanese Pres. Michel Sleiman – the pro-Hizballah, pro-Syrian former Lebanese Army commander – signed a new Defense pact with Iran, and Sleiman's newly dubbed Army commander, General Jean Kahwaji, traveled to Damascus for a series of schmoozing sessions with his Syrian counterpart General Ali Habib.

On Monday, Naharnet reported Iran's allocation of some "$600 million for the Lebanese elections" as told to the Kuwaiti newspaper, Alseyassah (Al-Siyassa).

Simply put, total control of Lebanon achieved by-and-for the Iranian-Syrian-Hizballah axis may well-be in the offing and under our noses. The pro-democracy movement may be effectively quashed within six months, and the West may lose – in fact it may have already lost – its Lebanese front in the broader war on terror.

In a letter just released by the World Council of the Cedars Revolution (Lebanon's largest pro-democracy movement), WCCR president Joseph P. Baini calls on both Sleiman and the "parliamentary majority" to postpone elections until Hizballah and all armed militias lay down their arms.

I'm not holding my breath, but at least Baini is saying what must be heard.

"It should be clearly stated that Hizballah is not the only faction to be fully armed," Baini writes. "There are of course its very close affiliates such as the Amal movement, the Palestinian Camps, and terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Fatah al-Islam and Islamic Jihad, who are all proxies for and subservient to Syria and Iran.  Therein lies the real dilemma for the people of Lebanon and the Cedars Revolution. Most of the military arsenal within Lebanon is in the possession of organizations classified by the free world as 'terrorists.'"

Speaking to Alseyassah, Tom Harb, secretary general of the International Lebanese Committee for United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559, says Hizballah must be disarmed before free and fair elections can take place.

"Elections cannot take place while groups are intimidating voters by force or the threat of force," says Harb, and after all, "elections in Lebanon have been postponed in the past."

If elections take place as is, Hizballah will be the one political party in possession of rifles, grenades, machineguns, missiles, and a demonstrated willingness to use them on anyone who does not wish for the same things the terrorists wish. And the Lebanese Army has demonstrated its unwillingness to confront Hizballah.

— Visit W. Thomas Smith Jr. at

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Arab world hails blogger who threw shows at Bush hailed as hero

Sentiment on Al Jazeera poll - 73% hail the shoe thrower as a hero. Americans should understand that the man was really throwing shows at every American.

Iraqi who threw shoes at Bush hailed as Arab hero

Dec. 15, 2008
Khaled Abu Toameh , THE JERUSALEM POST

Muntadar al-Zeidi, the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at US President George W. Bush during a press conference in Baghdad on Sunday, is being hailed throughout the Arab world as a hero, with many calling on other journalists to use the same method against the Arab heads of state.

The overwhelming majority of comments posted on various Arabic Web sites also heaped praise on the Iraqi journalist. Many described him as a "lion" and prayed to God that he would be released unharmed.

Dozens of Arab lawyers expressed their readiness to defend al-Zeidi, while many Arab journalists protested against his arrest and praised him as one of the most respected newsmen in the Arab world.

Bush ducked a pair of shoes hurled at his head - one shoe after the other - in the middle of a news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Both shoes narrowly missed their target and thumped loudly against the wall behind the leaders.

"Don't worry about it," the president said as the room erupted into chaos.

Iraqi reporters started shouting what Bush later explained were apologies for the incident.

"So what if the guy threw a shoe at me?" Bush said, comparing the action to political protests in the United States.

"If you want the facts, it was a size 10," he joked.

The shoe attack came as Bush and al-Maliki were about to shake hands. At that point al-Zeidi leaped from his chair and hurled his footwear at the president, who was about 20 feet away.

"This is a farewell kiss, you dog," he yelled in Arabic. "This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq."

The crowd descended on al-Zeidi, who works for Al-Baghdadia television, an Iraqi-owned station based in Cairo.

He was wrestled to the ground by security officials and then hauled away, moaning as they departed the room. Later, a trail of fresh blood could be seen on the carpet, although the source was not known.

In Iraqi culture, throwing shoes at someone is a sign of contempt. When US Marines toppled Saddam Hussein's statue on Firdos Square in 2003, the assembled crowd whacked it with their shoes.

When Bush met with reporters later aboard Air Force One, he had a joke prepared: "I didn't know what the guy said but I saw his 'sole.'"

Later, he said: "I'm going to be thinking of shoe jokes for a long time. I haven't heard any good ones yet."

Many Arab reporters are now worried that they will be asked to take off their shoes before attending press conferences with US officials. A Palestinian journalist joked that the Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank have begun confiscating all shoes from the local markets as a precautionary measure ahead of a scheduled visit by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Abdel Bari Atwan, the Palestinian editor of the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi daily, defended the Iraqi journalist's action, saying he must have felt frustrated because of the deterioration in his country.

"The new Iraq that Bush is boasting about has become a mass grave and a battlefield," he said in an editorial entitled, "An Appropriate Farewell for a War Criminal."

"One million Iraqis have died and another five million have fled the new democracy of Iraq," he added.

Atwan, who is known for his anti-American sentiments, said that while he disagreed with the journalist over the method he used to express his opinion, "he was only expressing the opinion of the silent majority of Iraqis who are suffering. There is no water, no electricity and no work opportunities in a country that is supposed to be one of the richest in the Arab world."

Atwan also criticized the Iraqi journalist's colleagues who were quick to apologize to Bush following the embarrassing incident.

"We don't agree with the Iraqi journalists who apologized to Bush," he said. "This Iraqi colleague was only practicing his right of expression. It's Bush who has to apologize to the Iraqis for shedding their blood. This journalist represents the true face of the Iraqis."

The Al-Jazeera Web site, one of the most popular in the Arab world, said it received a record of 3,500 talkbacks in response to the incident. Over 90% of the Arabs who posted comments expressed full support for al-Zeidi and condemned Bush as a war criminal who deserved to die.

Some of the comments hailed the journalist for "degrading the American president who has killed many Muslims and Arabs," while others described him as "national hero" and as the man who brought honor to all Muslims and Arabs.

Mohammed Gandi, one of the readers who posted a comment, said that the Iraqi journalist represented the wish of the majority of the Arabs who hate Bush and those who are conspiring with him - a reference to US-supported Arab dictators.

Ahmed Osman, another reader, advised the Arab rulers to hold their press conferences only in mosques to avoid being attacked with shoes, since Muslims are required to take off their shoes before entering a mosque.

Fadi Tahan called on journalists who attend press conferences with Arab leaders "to wear bigger shoes so that they could help us get rid of these dictators."

Rashid Ramadani prayed to God that he would "bless the hands of the Iraqi journalist. One billion thanks to this Iraqi hero. We are very proud of you; you made us cry out of joy."

Ahmed al-Kadry expressed hope that the Arab dictators would be punished in a similar manner.

"This journalist is one of the greatest men in the Arab world," he said. "I hope that all the Arab presidents will see what happened and draw conclusions. I think it's time to say to all the criminals of the world to go away."

Hussein al-Bassoumi predicted that the Iraqi journalist would become a "legendary" hero for the Arabs and Muslims and that future generations would be taught about his "legend."

He urged the Arab masses to name streets and public squares after the journalist. He also urged the Iraqis to place the shoes that were used in the attacks in a museum in Baghdad.

Huda Azzam wrote: "Thank you to this brave journalist who has taught the Arab leaders a lesson in bravery. We hope Arab lawyers will form a special committee to defend this hero."

Addressing the journalist, Mahmoud al-Arabi said, "We salute the symbol of the Arabs and Islam. Please allow us on this day to kiss your hand on behalf of all the Arabs and Muslims."

Mohammed Ghaleb said that the Iraqi journalist will be defended not only by 100 lawyers, "but by millions of Arabs and billions of Muslims. He is a bright light in our dark day, God bless him. This is a beautiful day."

AP contributed to this report.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Soviet Virus Is Still Entrenched in the Arabs' Minds

December 15, 2008 No. 2151 
Director of the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies: The Soviet Virus Is Still Entrenched in the Arabs' Minds
In an article published in the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Dr. 'Abd Al-Mun'im Sa'id, director of the Al-AhramCenter for Political and Strategic Studies, criticized the Arabs' attitude towards the current global economic crisis. He stated that the Arabs still harbored pro-Soviet sympathies, which had recently found expression in their gloating over the global economic crisis currently affecting the U.S. Said added that the Arabs were acting as if the world were still divided into blocs, as in the days of the Cold War, and that he found this attitude surprising, given that the crisis was bound to hit the significant Arab economic interests in the West.
Following are excerpts from the article: [1]
"Every Time Vladimir Putin Comes Out With a Strong Statement Against the West, and Especially the U.S… the Soviet Arab Lobby… Announces the Long-Awaited Soviet Comeback to the International Arena"
"The term 'lobby' has gained wide currency in the Arab world, since it has become part of the political process in the U.S. This term refers to a group that pressures various political institutions to adopt a certain policy. Occasionally, [lobbying] goes so far as to promote foreign interests. [In the U.S.,] the well-known examples [of lobbying] include the Israeli, the Taiwanese, and the Greek lobbies.
"While in the Arab world there are no institutionalized [lobbies] in the judiciary sense, 'pressure groups' mushroom wherever there is a conflict of economic or ideological interests, or whenever there is a need to choose between different policies regarding national or pan-Arab interests. All this is obvious…
"What cannot be either conceived of or accepted is [that] the Soviet Union, which no longer exists… has a strong Arab 'lobby.' [The Soviet Union] disintegrated in 1990, and in its place arose 15 sovereign republics, which were accepted as members of the United Nations, and each with commercial, economic, and political ties with the neighboring Arab countries…
"Every time Vladimir Putin comes out with a strong statement against the West, and especially the U.S… the Soviet Arab lobby immediately springs into action, applauds, and announces the long-awaited Soviet comeback to the international arena. But the Soviets' big return [to the real world] occurred when they invaded Georgia and backed separatist groups there, [thus] becoming the only country to acquiesce to two states - Abhasia and South Ossetia.
"Under normal circumstances… the Arab world would have automatically objected to the invasion of a small country by a large one, just as it would have rejected the idea of a separatist movement - which is understandable considering what the Arabs [have suffered under] imperialist powers, and Israel's crimes against the Palestinian people. [It is also understandable considering the Arabs'] fear of disrupting the balance of forces between the Arab states and their powerful neighbors, and of the disintegration of modern Arab states due to [internal] strife.
"In our times, the Arabs are concerned about the fate of Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, and Lebanon. It is difficult to foresee what the future holds as far as surrendering to cruel foreign forces, [internal] rifts, and internecine wars. [One might have thought that,] by now, the Arabs should have had enough of this - enough to unanimously oppose Russia's invasion of Georgia.
"However, the [Arab] countries remained silent, while the [Arab] media cheered in approval, [believing that] this invasion heralded the comeback of the Soviet Union to the international arena. [They reacted to the Russian invasion] as though a unified Arab state had been established, or the Arabs had joined the camp of the developed countries."

Ideologically, the Situation in the Arab World Is Anomalous
"The most serious developments, [however,] occurred in the wake of the current economic crisis. It is then that the Arabs' '[pro-]Soviet mentality' took the form of uncanny enthusiasm… Most of the Arab capital and financial reserves are invested in banks and institutions in the West… The upshot is that the Arabs have extensive [economic] interests in the West, and especially in the U.S., and as a result [depend on] its economic wellbeing.
"[But] what took place in the Arab world, [and particularly] in its press and media, was astounding. There were almost no efforts to make sense of the crisis and no attempts to envisage its impact on us and to find ways to cope with the situation.
"Some among us decided to announce the premature death of the U.S., the revival of the Soviet Union, and the return of the happy days when the world was bi- or multi-polar. But above all else, they hastened to announce the end of the capitalist [era, in hope that] this would enable the countries to run their economies in exactly the same way as during the time of the Soviet Union and socialism.
"What is especially odd is that 'the Soviet lobby' is not comprised solely of veteran socialists, but has [recently] been joined by new and old Islamist groups, which believe that both socialism and capitalism must [now] be replaced by an Islamic regime…
"[I reiterate:] Ideologically, the situation in the Arab world is anomalous. While the educated in India, China, and, of course, in Europe and the U.S. analyzed the developments and [took measures] to remedy the situation, the Arab [elites], propelled by the obsolete [pro-]Soviet mentality, gloated over what happened and wished for a overall collapse - as if they themselves, along with their compatriots, would remain unscathed and avoid going down with the ship.
"Exactly the same thing happened two decades ago, with the advent of globalization, that harbinger of the modern world order: The overwhelming majority of the world [elites] accepted this historical change, with the exception of a handful of the left, along with Arab journalists and spokesmen, who were swayed by their [pro-]Soviet yearnings.
"[The same pattern] re-emerged after the September 11 attacks, when the conspiracy theory and solidarity with Al-Qaeda and bin Laden were much more widespread in the Arab countries than elsewhere - even more so than in the [rest of the] Muslim world. Indeed, poll results in Turkey, Nigeria and Indonesia differed dramatically from those in the Arab countries.
"The reason for this is that the Soviet virus and the Cold War are still [part of] the aspirations and desires of the Arab capital cities - in cafes, in the newspapers, and on television channels."
[1] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), October 22, 2008.

Disappearing prisoners in Syria

Boutros Khawand Vanished in Syria
 Written by Ana-Maria Luca

The Media Line/ Published Tuesday, December 16, 2008

 [Beirut] Rana Khawand does not remember her father. She was four years old when he disappeared. Boutros Khawand, a well-known Lebanese Christian politician, is said to have been kidnapped in December 1992 in East Beirut, in an area controlled by the Syrian Army.

 "Witnesses saw his car intercepted by a squad of 11 gunmen who forced him into a red van and drove away," his daughter says. "We haven't seen him since. They say Boutros Khawand is not in Syria. But we know. Other prisoners have said they saw him in prison there," the girl whispers.
 Khawand is one of the many Lebanese who vanished into Syria during the 1980s and early 1990s.

 "We are speaking of hundreds of Lebanese prisoners in Syria. We had a list containing the names of 250–270 Lebanese prisoners before the Syrian withdrawal. From April 2005 until now, the number has risen to 600," journalist and human rights activist Pierre Atallah says.

 According to the Damascus government, there are no Lebanese political prisoners in Syrian prisons. The issue has been haunting the nascent diplomatic relations between Damascus and Beirut.

 "It's been going on for a while. We say 'give us our prisoners' – they say they don't have any. Then after a while, people show up at home and say they had been detained in Syria," Atallah says.

 Ali Abu Dehn is one of the people who came back from the Syrian prisons. He was released in 2000 after former Syrian President Hafez al Assad died and his son and successor, Bashar, pardoned 54 Lebanese political prisoners in honor of his father.

 Dehn's nightmare began on December 7, 1987, when the Syrian Intelligence took him from the Australian embassy in Damascus. He was trying to leave Lebanon for Sydney to escape the civil war.
 "Instead I was sent to hell for 13 years," he says, with a bitter smile.

 He was imprisoned in Saydnaya and Tadmur (Palmyra), together with dozens of Lebanese detainees. Dehn was charged at first with fighting against the Syrian presence in Lebanon, as well as with spying for Israel, a charge common to most of the detained Lebanese.
 He says they were tortured, beaten and humiliated.

 "What they did to us was inhuman. I was hanged by my wrist until the joint separated. The person interrogating me told me he would show my elbow to me. I didn't believe he could. But he twisted my hand, so I saw my elbow," he remembers.
 He also remembers how he got the dozens of scars on his body – the ones on his legs from the beatings – the broken hand, the cigarette burn on the back of his neck, the dislocated shoulder.

 He says he is not afraid to speak out, although he has been threatened with death several times.
 "I'm trying my best for the other prisoners who are still being tortured. There were many Lebanese with me. Bashar al Assad denies the existence of Lebanese in their prisons… but I left six of my friends in there. I know! We were sharing the little food, the small potato we had to split between five persons. They are still there! I don't know if they are alive or dead – but I left them in Syria!"

 The situation of Lebanese detainees was an official taboo in Lebanese-Syrian relations for decades. Damascus had a military presence and control over Lebanon from 1976 until April 2005, when it withdrew its troops after the Cedar Revolution, the Lebanese reaction to the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri on February 14, 2005.

 Several human rights organizations and the families of the detainees missing in Syria started to pressure the government in Beirut to take action and ask for information on the missing Lebanese in Syrian jails. But there has been little progress.
 "The problem is important for both political alliances in Lebanon, March 14 and March 8. They cannot deny it and can't run away from responsibility in this case," Atallah stresses.

At the request of hundreds of families, the Lebanese Ministry of Justice has recently started to update the files of the alleged political prisoners. But Atallah, who is a member of the Foundation for Human and Humanitarian Rights, says he is not very optimistic.
 "The Lebanese government is not well organized, it's not serious," he says.

 One by one, the Lebanese politicians who visited Syria after the establishment of diplomatic relations threw the ball into somebody else's court.
 The minister of justice, Ibrahim Najjar, has acknowledged the existence of 745 Lebanese citizens missing in Syria. In a television interview, he said these citizens were divided into two main categories – convicts and kidnap victims – and that the Justice Ministry should take responsibility for the convicts.
 However, Najjar did not say how the Lebanese government would deal with the situation of the kidnap victims.

 At the end of September 2008, the justice minister announced he had received an updated list of 120 Lebanese prisoners from Damascus. But no political prisoner was on it, Atallah says.

 "They are criminals imprisoned for drug trafficking or smuggling weapons or working in prostitution. There was no information about the soldiers detained during the 1990 Syrian attack on the Christian areas."

 After his visit to Damascus in November, Lebanese Interior Minister Ziad Baroud said his talks with Syrian Interior Minister Bassam Abdel Majid did not cover the dossier of missing persons and detainees in Syrian prisons.
 "The issue of missing Lebanese in Syrian jails was not excluded from discussions with the Syrians, but I did not want to exceed my authority, so we only discussed the role of the interior minister in this matter," Baroud said in a statement on his return to Beirut.

 When Lebanese President Michel Suleiman asked his Syrian counterpart, Bashar al Assad, about the fate of the political prisoners, the leader in Damascus is said to have replied that it was not a presidential matter.

 "They diverted this case to the joint committee, the Syrian-Lebanese Committee. It's not promising. The work of this committee is based on a routine.
 "At every meeting the Lebanese present a list of people who are allegedly detained in Syria, and the Syrians ask for information about their people lost in Lebanon in the civil war. In fact, this is not the same thing," Atallah says. "They were in Lebanon for 30 years. Why didn't they look for their people then? Now they remember?"
 Gen. Michel Aoun, the Free Patriotic Movement leader, also visited Syria recently. The human rights organizations, as well as the families of the people who vanished in Syria, asked him to bring up the issue in front of the Syrian president. Aoun refused to deal with the case because he said it was the responsibility of the president of the republic.

 The families of the people who vanished in Syria still hope they might hear from their relatives.
 "We hope that now, with the diplomatic relations with Syria, maybe we might know what happened to my father," Rana Khawand sighs. "The last time they heard of him was in 2004. A Lebanese prisoner was released and he said that he saw my father in prison."
 Her father would now be 79. She hopes he is still alive, but she knows that the chances of seeing him lessen every day.

 "If Syria doesn't admit it has Lebanese prisoners, nothing can be done. I can't see a good relationship with Syria if there are still Lebanese prisoners there," she says.
 Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem has confirmed that an embassy will be established in Lebanon by year's end.

 Atallah says he can hardly wait for a Syrian embassy to open in Beirut.  "The day they open it, the families of the prisoners will set up tents in front of it," he promises.

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