Saturday, May 10, 2008

Happy birthday Israel from an Iranian dissident
By Amil Imani   May 10, 2008

Israel, your people, as well as people of good will, are celebrating your sixtieth birthday. We, the children of Cyrus the Great, also would like to offer our heartfelt best wishes to you on this occasion. Yet, this, in fact, is your rebirth. Your birth occurred some 4,000 years ago.

Regrettably, your journey from your early beginning to the present has been fraught with great suffering. It is a tribute to the indomitable spirit of your people that they persisted in their valiant struggle to re-gather again in the land of their birth.

A noble and just Persian king, Cyrus the Great, rescued your people from captivity in a foreign land and empowered them to return home and build their sacred temple. By his action of freeing an entire people from captivity and restoring their rightful dignity, Cyrus the Great, the author of the first code of Human Rights, cemented a bond of friendship between the Jews and the Persians. It was the Just King?s way of setting the world on a course of freedom, equality, and justice for all people, irrespective of any and all considerations.

Yet, your people, Israel, were unable to settle down for long in their own homeland, to worship their God as they wished, and to live in peace. They were assaulted once again by the forces of destruction that sent them scurrying for the relative safety of other lands.

Your rebirth, Israel, is in reality a culmination of thousands of years of gestation during which the Jewish people, dispersed through much of the world, endured immense degrees and varieties of suffering. The Nazi murderers and their collaborators capped the crimes committed against your people by brutally slaughtering six million innocent men, women and children.

Now, Israel, you are a sovereign state but hardly safe. You are surrounded by nations and peoples who are bent on your destruction. It is tragic that your neighbors and you have not been able to find an equitable way of living side-by-side with mutual respect and in peace.

Many of us Iranians co-suffer with this tragic state of affairs that harms you as well as your neighbors. We earnestly hope that ways can be found for a peaceful resolution of this destructive impasse.

We appreciate the fact that you, Israel, have welcomed the Iranian Jews who could no longer tolerate the rule of the oppressive venomous mullahs. These mullahs are indeed traitors to the lofty long-standing tradition and values championed by Cyrus the Great and revered by Persians throughout the ages.

We applaud you for affording millions of Israeli Arabs opportunities denied to them in many other lands.

Your fair treatment of the Baha'is, Israel, is a further testimony to your ability and willingness to live in harmony with any and all people. In Iran, the birthplace of the Baha'i faith, Baha'is are ruthlessly subjected to a form of gradual genocide by the savage mullahs. Some Baha'is are executed for their faith, Baha'i children are denied university studies, Baha'i holy places destroyed and even their cemeteries are bulldozed, just to cite a few examples. You, Israel, by contrast, have provided the Baha'is freedom to care for their holy places which were established in the Holy Land during the 19th century, long before your rebirth.

Your perennial prayer, "Next Year in Jerusalem" has finally been answered. We also pray that you succeed in taking the steps necessary for making the New Jerusalem a place of hope and lasting safety for your people as well as people of all religions and those with no religion at all.

Happy Sixtieth Birthday, Israel.

Ahmadinejad: Israel is a 'stinking corpse' doomed to disappear

As Israel marked its 60th anniversary, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Thursday called the Jewish homeland a "stinking corpse" doomed dissappear.

"Those who think they can revive the stinking corpse of the usurping and fake Israeli regime by throwing a birthday party are seriously mistaken," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.

"Today the reason for the Zionist regime's existence is questioned, and this regime is on its way to annihilation," he said.

Ahmadinejad added that Israel "has reached the end like a dead rat after being slapped by the Lebanese" -- a reference to the 2006 war between Israel and the Shiite Hezbollah militia.

The comment by the Iranian leader is the latest in a string of anti-Israel, anti-American remarks he has made in recent years.

He has told the West to prepare for Israel's "imminent collapse," said the state was doomed to fail, and threatened that the state would "be wiped off the map."

Iran-backed Hizballah offensive closes in on Israeli border

May 10, 2008, 12:05 PM (GMT+02:00)

DEBKAfile's military sources report: Hizballah's advance on two key Lebanese locations Saturday, May 10 had immediate effect on the strategic balance between the Iran-backed Shiite group and Israel. Sidon in the south, Lebanon's second largest city, which provides Hizballah with control of a continuous coastal strip from its southern Beirut district all the way to Tyre.

The second point is on the northern slopes of the Hermon range. After Hizballah seizes control of this enclave and the Syrian 10th and 14th armored divisions step over the border into Lebanon, the two forces can join to form a strong military line opposite Israel near the Litani River.

Our military sources report that the vanguard of the 10th Division has already moved across to the Lebanese side of the border.

Hizballah's victory in taking over western and central Beirut therefore has had the effect of adding another link to the pro-Iranian chain encircling Israel. In many ways it is a more damaging setback for Israel's national security than the Palestinian Hamas' seizure of the Gaza Strip

Yet Israel's prime minister, defense minister and foreign minister are all too busy with the political fallout of the bribery case against Ehud Olmert to lift a finger to arrest Lebanon's decline to a Tehran satellite before it is too late - any more than Hamas was stopped from developing into a major military menace.

Equally inert are the two presidents who are pledged to support the Siniora regime, George W. Bush and Nicolas Sarkozy. The United Nations, which maintains 15,000 armed peacekeepers in southern Lebanon, backed by marine forces off the shores of Beirut, has no thought of stopping the Iranian-Syrian-backed terrorist militia from capturing the country.

Lebanese PM opens door to surrender. Army grants two key Hizballah demands

The end for Lebanon as a democratic state? Islamists supported by Iran strangle Lebanon with Syria's complicity and the indifference of the Christian world.

May 10, 2008, 11:23 PM (GMT+02:00)

After four days of fierce fighting in which at least 37 people died, the Lebanese army revoked two government measures in obedience to Hizballah demands: the Shiite group's independent telecommunication network will not be shut down and the pro-Hizballah Brig. Gen Wafiq Shqeir would keep his job as Beirut international airport head of security.

In a broadcast speech, Saturday, May 10, the pro-Western prime minister Fouad Siniora asked the army to defuse the crisis after Hizballah seized control of western Beirut, besieged the government center and attacked pro-government Sunni centers across Lebanon. Government loyalists found no support from Sinora's powerful backers, the United States, France or even Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The pro-Western government was therefore forced to back down.

This means its acceptance of Hizballah's communication system in central, southern and eastern Lebanon and its direct link to Syrian and Iranian command centers in Damascus; and the Shiite group's Beirut headquarters online communications link to its Revolutionary Guards bosses in Tehran.

DEBKAfile's military sources report: Triumphant, the Hizballah chief Hassan Hasrallah will be a more dangerous enemy than ever. The army rather than the government laid down the condition that Hizballah withdraw from the Sunni districts of Beirut and the rest of the country and remove its armed men from the streets.

Even so, a government minister remarked that the deal awaits approval by Hizballah leaders and the Iranian ambassador in Beirut. It is far from certain that the Shiite terrorists will give up the territory they gained in the last four days.

Also in question are the roadblocks on highways and the shutdown of Beirut air and sea ports.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Force is the only Language that Hezbollah knows and understands

Force is the only Language that Hezbollah knows and understands
By: Elias Bejjani

May 10/08

The recent on-going bloody terrorism riots that Hezbollah has inflicted on Lebanon and its peaceful people since last Wednesday, tragically shows that this country today is confronting challenges of a magnitude unseen since the end of its civil war in 1990.
Hezbollah's military criminal acts against the Lebanese civilians, and its armed rebellion coup d'état against the country's legitimate Government were not, in fact, a surprise to those well-informed observers and political activists who have been closely monitoring this Iranian armed militia since it was founded in Lebanon by the Iranian mullahs (Shiites clergymen) in 1982. It is worth mentioning that Hezbollah's main mission is to export, advocate for, force and spread the Khomeini's religious ideology and its revolution to all the Middle East countries.
Hezbollah is not a Lebanese party by any criteria, but a foreign army in Lebanon no more no less. Its decision-making process, financing, ideology, training, supplies and weapons all come from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards headquarters and leadership. It is well documented by many neutral informed resources that Iran annually pays Hezbollah more than three billion dollars.
Hezbollah's Iranian mission and objectives have never ever been a secret at any time. They are public and well known to each and every Lebanese, while Hezbollah boasts with their divinity every day. Simply this group and as planned by its masters the Iranian mullahs has been from day one working on all levels, and by all means, to topple the Lebanese democratic, peaceful, consensual, multicultural, free and liberal regime in a bid to replace it by a religious state, replicate to that forced on the Iranian people.
Hezbollah, who has an actual state inside the Lebanese Central state, fully controls more than 40% of Lebanon's territories in Beirut, the South and Bekaa. His state was erected during the Stalinist Syrian occupation era to Lebanon (1976-2005). Iran with Syrian helped Hezbollah to control the Shiites Lebanese community and in fact to take its members as hostages of intimidation and oppression. The Lebanese people in general and the Shiites Lebanese community in particular had no say whatsoever in this matter. Syria forced Hezbollah on the Shiites and on the rest of the Lebanese communities through murder, kidnapping, terrorization and violence.
When the Syrian Army was forced to withdraw from Lebanon in 2005 after thirty years of nasty occupation, Hezbollah replaced Syria's occupational and criminal role. Since than it has been purposefully crippling the country and not allowing its democratic process to take place. Numerous pro-Lebanon - anti Syrian MP's. Journalists, officials, army officers and intellectuals including ex PM Raffic Hariri were assassinated by Hezbollah and Syria. The country's Parliament was closed by force and the MP's have been unable to elect a president. In 2006 Hezbollah instigated a devastating war with Israel that costed the country more than1500 victims and about 30 billion dollars in loses.
Hezbollah refuses to disarm and has kept the central Lebanese government and its authority on all levels out side its closed cantons. It has its own army (60 thousand well armed and well trained men), it runs its own schools, jails, hospital, social services, construction companies, communication network, transportation, foreign relations, etc.  It does not recognize the central government and has withdrawn its ministers from it in a bid to stop the Hariri International Tribunal and protect the Syrian regime and its leaders whom many believe are behind the Hariri assassination.
In simple mathematics we can assume that one state has to cancel the other. It is either the Lebanese Central government that will prevail and Hezbollah's state inside the state will disintegrate or visa versa. Hezbollah backed by both Axis of evil countries Iran and Syria is systematically working on destroying the Lebanese state and toppling all its institution, the parliament. the cabinet, the presidency, the judiciary, the armed forces etc. Syria, Iran and Hezbollah are viciously planning to take control of the whole country.
Hezbollah Party wants to keep by force its own communication network and appoint his own loyal men in all government key positions and specially the security ones. In this context its present on going bloody riots took place after its leadership falsely accused the country's cabinet of declaring a war against the Shiites community because the government is questioning the party's communication illegal network and has decided to transfer the country's airport security chief who was helping Hezbollah to keep an on going surveillance over the Beirut International airport through very advanced cameras planted secretly and without the government's knowledge.
Hezbollah's General Secretary, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah is threatening to severe the hands and cut the necks of any one who dares to approach his party's weapons. Nasrallah tagged his weapons as holy and sacred and tied its fate to the Holy Quran and Jihad.
Hezbollah is endeavoring to force on the Lebanese an education of Jihadism (war against Israel, USA and the infidels), in conjunction with the Iranian mullah's religious ideology (Welaet Al Fakeh Islamic governing concept), the same ideology that is forced on the Iranian people.

Simply Hezbollah is not a resistance group as it alleges, but a mere Iranian-Syrian terrorism army stationed in Lebanon. It bloody global and regional terrorism record is extremely notorious and there is no way in the world that this terrorist armed party will peacefully or willingly give up its state inside the state. (Hezbollah launched suicide attacks on Western targets and took Westerners hostage in Beirut in the 1980s. The most spectacular attack was a suicide bombing that destroyed the U.S. Marine headquarters in Beirut in October 1983, killing 241 servicemen. One of the groups, Islamic Jihad, was thought to be led by Imad Moughniyah, who was Hezbollah's military commander when he was assassinated on February 13 in Syria).

Hezbollah was supposed to disarm like all other Lebanese militias after the "Taef accord" in 1990, but the Syrian occupation hindered this procedure and imposed it as a resistance armed organization through force and terror and not through consensus.

The whole world should be put on notice, and understand that losing Lebanon for Hezbollah will create a fundamentalist monster that will devour the middle East countries one after the other. Meanwhile Hezbollah's actual and serious danger will not be limited to the Middle East, but will definitely target all the free world countries.
Based on all the above, we call on the UN, USA, European countries, Canada, Australia, the Arab states and the rest of all the free world countries to help Lebanon and its government in disarming Hezbollah by all means including the military one before it takes over Lebanon and becomes a serious threat for peace and stability not only in the Middle East, but in the entire world.

In the face of this organized and intentional evil deadlock that Lebanon and its people are facing alone, we call on the Free World democratic countries, the moderate Arab countries, the United Nations and the Arab League to step in militarily under UN Security Council Chapter Seven mandate and  take over Lebanon for a rehabilitation interval as was the situation in Afghanistan, East Timor, Kosovo and some African countries. It will be even more effective and deterrent if NATO forces can assume this mission and not the UN.
The solid and proved fact that no one in the entire world should ignore is that Hezbollah, like the rest of the regional and global terrorist groups understands and bows to one language only. This language that they master and understand is a combination of force, deterrence and decisiveness. Hopefully the world will be able to communicate with Hezbollah with the only language that it knows and understands.


Elias Bejjani
Chairman for the Canadian Lebanese Coordinating Council (LCCC)
Human Rights activist, journalist & political commentator.
Spokesman for the Canadian Lebanese Human Rights Federation (CLHRF)

LCCC Web Site
CLHRF Website


Thursday, May 8, 2008

Israelis Mark Milestone Amid Prosperity They Struggle to Enjoy

By David Rosenberg

May 8 (Bloomberg) -- By plenty of objective measures, Israelis have reason to celebrate as they observe the 60th anniversary of their nation's founding today.

Their economy is growing at almost twice the pace of the world's developed countries, the average citizen can expect to live longer than a German or an American and Israeli millionaires are snapping up prestige properties like New York's Plaza Hotel.

Yet an exhibit at Jerusalem's Israel Museum marking the nation's birthday focuses on ``dread of global catastrophe and a yearning to escape to distant borders.'' With concern mounting that Iran is developing nuclear arms, a Tel Aviv University poll this week showed that three of four Israelis expect to have to fight the nation's seventh war since its 1948 founding within five years.

``There's a certain sense of hysteria here, like a small village under a volcano,'' said Tom Segev, a journalist and historian. ``It hasn't created so much a mood of depression as of cynicism.''

The Israeli sense of foreboding has its roots in history. The state was founded in the wake of the Holocaust that killed 6 million European Jews. Some 22,500 Israelis have been killed in wars and terror attacks since 1948. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said the Israel should be ``wiped out.''

More about Hezbollah in Lebanon

Hezbollah's Endgame? Pt. 2

by Lee Smith

David Wurmser, formerly Vice President Cheney's Middle East adviser, writes in to comment on Iran's role in the Beirut crisis.

"Iran has suffered some pretty serious defeats in Iraq, foremost is that the Shiites there kind of turned on Iran. May they not need to pull back and focus on their role as the champion of the Shiites right now, even at the cost of compromising their efforts to jump the Sunni-Shiite divide? They may actually be in no better a shape among Lebanon's Shiites as they are among Iraq's. Second, there were these really odd nasty exchanges between Zawahiri and Iran, which may have been born of Iran's desire right now to solidify its own role as Shiite champion.

"Ahmadinejad himself has presided over a fairly turbulent few weeks, as the principalist faction, of which he and the speaker of the Majlis are both part. That faction has descended into caustic bickering – probably as a result of the traditional clergy of Qom's resisting his increasing militarization of government – over a number of matters from ministerial resignations to constitutional wrangling to banking and fiscal independence, while his own mentor had one of his papers unusually slam him for meeting with former nationalists associated with Mossadeq. He may even face a no confidence move if the Majlis maneuvers to force another cabinet resignation. And all this while faces a chorus of response from the traditional clergy of Qom, who are horrified about his claims to be informed by the 12th imam.

"And there's something else, too: In that press conference Walid Jumblatt held about the airport security, he also called for the expulsion of Iran's ambassador. That could be a redline for Iran. And if it happened, it would deal a heavy blow to the Iranians."

I asked David if Jumblatt's request might signal that Washington is fully aware of, and behind, March 14's actions at this point.

"It may be part of our effort to push back on Iran right now. As far afield as Afghanistan you find the Afghani government saying that Iran is sending weapons. So, across the board, we are pushing back against Iran. But the thing with the Iranians is, if you push you had better be ready to take it to the next level with them, because they will push back hard."

While countless US, European and Israeli policymakers, analysts and journalists counseled that diplomacy would manage to "wedge" Syria away from Iran, there was really only wedge issue between them: Iran wanted to avoid sectarian warfare while the Syrians were willing, eager, to set fire to Lebanon – again. If this crisis is different, as David Wurmser says, different from the rest of the various crises that have plagued Lebanon the last three years, ever since the April 2005 withdrawal of Syrian troops, it is because there no longer is any difference between Tehran and Damascus' Beirut strategy.

Israel at Sixty: The Right to Exist

Israel at Sixty: The Right to Exist

Today's LA Times marks the sixtieth anniversary of Israel's independence with a report extolling the virtues of the so-called "one-state solution."

It's no secret that advocates of the two-state solution are worried that the prospects for such an outcome are being eroded - as the LA Times piece makes abundantly clear, with quotes from, among others, Yasser Abed Rabbo and Condoleeza Rice.

However, to argue that there needs to be a renewed effort in underscoring the credibility of a two-state solution is one thing; to ditch it in favor of the "one-state" option is something else entirely.

Here is the nub of the problem with the LA Times piece. If this article was your first exposure to the "one-state" idea, you would come away thinking that it's eminently reasonable. That rather than being the preserve of genocidaires and antisemites like the Iranian theocrats, Hamas and Hezbollah, the "one-state solution" truly belongs to visionary democrats.

In the abstract, there is, of course, nothing wrong with states pooling their sovereignty or even merging with each other. Indeed, a principle rather like this has driven Europe's political development since the Second World War. Israel, moreover, offers a democratic beacon in a region blighted by tyranny, corruption and reactionary ideas. In the LA Times piece, Sari Nusseibeh suggests "that many Palestinians would feel more at home in a democracy shared with Israelis than in a Palestinian state run by Hamas."

Nusseibeh qualifies this statement by insisting that such an arrangement would need "to come about by consent." But it is nigh impossible to imagine any circumstances whereby such a proposal would secure the agreement of Israelis.

To begin with, it would mean abandoning the ideal of a Jewish state. Someone like Tony Judt would argue that there is no cost in abandoning an "anachronism"; I would respond that there is nothing anachronistic about Israel. if the European Union is the model for the one-staters, they would do well to remember that the member states of the EU are precisely that - member states. These states have not been asked to abandon their independence and their identity, nor have they been compelled to do so. Conversely, Israel is not being asked to join a regional community of states; it is being told to dissolve itself, and to do so in a neighborhood which exhorts the slogan "Kill the Jews!" with alarming frequency.

Moreover, those who would demand that Israel dissolve itself are hardly duplicating the notion of equal legitimacy which underlies the EU. To the contrary, they regard Israel as a colonial usurper, born in "original sin" - a citadel of "neo-Jews', in the words of a recent inchoate rant published on the one-statist website, Counterpunch.

For such people, a single state is an opportunity for Israeli Jews to atone for the historic crime of forming their own state, rather than an instrument for them to live with their neighbours as equals.

Continued - Right to Exist

Fighting rocks Beirut, five killed

By Nadim Ladki

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Fierce clashes raged in Beirut on Thursday after the Iranian-backed group Hezbollah said the U.S.-supported Lebanese government had declared war by targeting its communications network.

Security sources said the fighting killed at least five people and wounded 12.

The street confrontations have aggravated the worst internal crisis since the 1975-90 civil war and exacerbated sectarian tension between Sunni Muslims loyal to the government and Shi'ites who support the opposition.

The U.N. Security Council called for "calm and restraint", urging all sides to return to peaceful dialogue, while the White House urged Hezbollah to stop "disruptive" acts.

Fighters from Hezbollah and the allied Amal group exchanged assault rifle fire and rocket-propelled grenades with pro-government gunmen in several areas of the capital in the worst domestic fighting since the civil war.

Security sources said Hezbollah gunmen overran at least three offices of the pro-government Future group. Many cars and shops were set on fire and scores of terrified civilians fled the hot spots.

Hezbollah's Endgame?

May 8, 2008

Hezbollah's Endgame?

By Lee Smith

Elie Fawaz, a friend and colleague with the Lebanese Renaissance Foundation in Beirut, provides on-the-ground analysis on the developing situation in Lebanon:

"Beirut witnessed another round of sectarian violence yesterday following decisions of the Lebanese government to sanction and remove Hezbollah's illegal private telecommunication lines, and to replace the head of the international airport security for his direct responsibility in allowing Hezbollah to install private spying cams on one of its runaways.

"Hezbollah closed down the roads leading to the airport, and a couple of others leading to its headquarters in Dahieh by unloading trucks of dirt and sand and by burning tires. They also clashed with Sunni groups in areas of Beirut.

"The Christian suburbs stayed calm, unwilling to participate in the demonstrations despite the calls of Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun to join in. This proves clearly that Aoun's popularity is seriously damaged, as it also shows that the majority of the Christians refuse to grant Hezbollah a cover for its attempted coup.

"More remarkably, the Grand Mufti of the Lebanese Republic Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Qabbani (the religious head of the Sunni community) accused Hezbollah of staging a coup, and warned that Sunnis of Lebanon are fed up with Hezbollah's ways and Iran's interference. He also called on all Arab and Muslim nations to help put an end for this crisis. These two developments, for the first time since the conflict between the opposition and the majority began, left Hezbollah, alone and uncovered.

"For years Hezbollah has tried to jump the sectarian divide by defending the causes of the umma. But when Israel withdrew from South Lebanon in 2000, Hezbollah's armada lost its raison d'etre. Yet even after the Syrian occupation ended in 2005 following the assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri, the party refused to terminate its mission and give up its arms and the many privileges enjoyed under Damascus' tutelage. To survive, Hezbollah needs its perpetual resistance, but the Party of God is today at odds with the rest of the Lebanese, and the survival of Lebanon as a state depends on the government bringing an end to this conflicted situation. There is no way one state can have two centers of decision-making, two policies, two armies, two economies, that are at odds with each others. The road to the airport must be re-opened at any cost, and Hezbollah must cease his state within a state either by negotiations or by force."

Tony Badran, also blogging here in Michael Totten's absence, weighs in as well:

"What this has done is lay bare all the charades of the last two years that Hezbollah's is a "national" opposition, etc. What we saw yesterday is that Christians didn't budge (Aounists that is), in any region. And so, what you have here is Hezbollah vs. the rest, and Hezbollah vs. the state. Politically this is very bad for them, and obviously for Aoun. In that sense it was a shrewd political move by March 14, because it hit them on a point that they can't get sympathizers for outside their thugs (i.e., they have no allies, and they're fighting the state!). Second, it puts them in a corner: they either force the government to capitulate, or they lose themselves. Nasrallah is against the wall."

In his press conference today, Nasrallah demanded that the government must back down from its decision. The government says no, that would mean the end of the state. Washington, along with the other international and regional actors like France, Saudi Arabia and the UN that have stood alongside the Lebanese government these last several years can only be pleased that the government has asserted its sovereignty in key respects; and it should be noted that Hezbollah's redline appears to consist of the government acting like a government. However, as Michael Young points out in The Daily Star, Hezbollah's security apparatus had penetrated the Rafiq al-Hariri international airport long before it installed cameras. Indeed, the assassinations of several March 14 figures a day after they had returned from abroad, especially Gebran Tueni and Antoine Ghanem, indicated that the airport was riddled with pro-Syrian assets. The question then is, why did the government act now?

In an email, Michael Young suggested it might be because of the debate today at the UN on Security Council 1559 that calls for the disarmament of all militias in Lebanon. "Suddenly the issue of Hizbullah's weapons is back on the table internationally, where the majority wants to put it," writes Michael.

There are two other possibilities Tony Badran and I have been entertaining today.

The first is that the government may believe that Hezbollah's preparations for another war with Israel have reached a critical point; given that Siniora and his cabinet have long understood that their actions would lead to a confrontation with Hezbollah, another war with Israel is a more daunting threat.

Second, as Tony conjectures, the Lebanese are watching closely a the US presidential campaign unfolds and are likely concerned what an Obama presidency represents for March 14, especially if Hezbollah starts a war with Israel: it means the pillar of the international alliance supporting a democratic Lebanon is apt to go hat in hand to Hezbollah's patrons in Tehran and Damascus looking to "engage." If there is another war, the US impulse will likely be to go over March 14's head and sue for peace with Iran and Syria, which is precisely what Bush resisted.

Finally, as Tony and Elie Fawaz and Michael Young are always careful to insist to Lebanon watchers, it is important to consider not just the local situation, but also the regional and international dimensions of the Lebanese arena. Assuming that the Syrians have no problem with sectarian strife in Lebanon, or anything to delay or obscure the international tribunal into the Hariri assassination, the foremost questions then concern Iran.

A Shia-Sunni conflict in Lebanon might well damage Iran's own efforts to jump the sectarian divide. What level of control does Tehran have over Hezbollah at this stage while the Party may well be in an existential fight over its role not just as an armed militia, but as a Lebanese party? Further, and perhaps most importantly to Washington, what will Hezbollah's actions, and Tehran's decisions, say about Iran's war against the US-backed order throughout the rest of the region – from Gaza (Hamas vs. Israel and Egypt), through the Arab Gulf states, and most especially Iraq? If the Iranians fear they are losing in Iraq, will they agree to heat up Lebanon, or do they understand that Hezbollah is inviting a civil war it cannot win, and thus risking Tehran's near 30-year, multi-billion dollar investment in exporting the Islamic Revolution?


Non-freedom of the press in Bangladesh

Press under attack in Bangladesh

Sunita Paul - 5/2/2008

Case of a female journalist: Sumi Khan, a 34-year-old journalist working with local and national magazines and based in the city of Chittagong, was attacked and received death threats as a result of her investigative journalism against corruption. She was stabbed in an attack in 2004, and her attackers remain at large.

It is claomed by some sources that, Sumi Khan wrote investigative articles alleging the involvement of local politicians and religious groups in attacks on members of minority communities, and about kidnapping and land-grabbing by landlords.

On 12 March 2005 Sumi Khan received a written death threat telling her to retract articles she had written on Islamist groups.

Khan received a number of international awards including that from Amnesty International. And after receiving such recognitions, she virtually turned silent and is no more in the mainstream media in Bangladesh.

Unheard case of Zahid:

Zahid Al Amin, a young and promising journalist from Chittagong was not fortunate like Sumi Khan. He became a prime target of Jamaat-e-Islami's armed cadres when we wrote a number of investigative reports of trafficking of narcotics and arms by Jamaat cadres in Chittagong. During publication of such reports, Jamaat men left life threats on Zahid several times and finally attacked him thus mercilessly beating him with the goal of murdering this young journalist. At one stage, attackers thought Zahid Al Amin was already dead and left him in blood on a road in Chittagong. But, luckily, Zahid survived. He went through series of surgeries and medical treatments in Bangladesh and abroad and finally was forced to leave Chittagong for ever, as the attackers gave ultimatum to him for either leaving the city or Zahid's family members would be their next prey.

Zahid Al Amin's case was reported in a number of newspapers in Bangladesh. But, he was never within the attention of Amnesty International or Reporters Sans Frontiers. Because, Zahid Al Amin did not have any cherishma to reach into such 'precious' attentions. Moreover, people representating Amnesty or RSF were not intending to report Zahid's case for reason unknown.

Being in Dhaka, Zahid is present working with a vernacular daily newspaper named Amadershomoy as a reporter.

Zahid case came to attention of a number of international organizations as well as media personalities just last week, when Dhaka's most influential English language newspaper Blitz published a brief report on this courageous reporter.

The convicted editor:

Matiur Rahman Chowdhury is almost a household name in Bangladesh because of his cherismatic personality and high profile journalistic career. In past several decades, Chowdhury worked with a number of leading newspapers in Bangladesh thus finally landing in his own Daily Manabzamin, a tabloid sized vernacular daily newspaper. He is also the correpsondent of VOA Bangla service in Dhaka.

Few years back, Motiur Rahman Chowdhury published the text of telephonic conversation between former military ruler Hussain Muhammed Ershad and a judge with Bangladesh Supreme Court. The entire conversation was on Ershad's requests to the judge in according special favor to him. Publication of the report in Manabzamin created virtual havoc in the country, which finally led the judiciary in taking approrpriate decision on the case. But, very unfortunately, Motiur Rahman Chowdhury was summoned by the judges in Bangladesh Supreme Court, on charge of Contempting the court. After prolonged hearing for days, the court awarded three months conviction to Motiur Rahman Chowdhury. Although Chowdhury made appel against such judgement and yet to go to jail for serving the conviction, such punishment to an eminent and front-ranking editor in the country reminds every other members of the press community that, they should even keep silent in many cases, although they get evidences of high profile corruption.

In his life as the editor, Motiur Rahman Chowdhury was the first person to raise the demand of establishment of diplomatic relations between Bangladesh and Israel. He has also published series of investigative reports in Manabzamin on various extremely important issues. Recently, Chowdhury was the only editor in Bangladesh's vernacular press to protest government's ridiculous attitude towards the newly appointed American ambassador Mr. Moriarty.

Censorship on media:

People in Bangladesh may not be aware of the ongoing severe repression of press, which mostly continue behind the screen or silently. It is evidently proved that such actions are continuing in the country under the present military backed interim government. Although under any State of Emergencies, basic human rights as well freedom of expressions are greatly abused by the rulers. In Bangladesh, when political scenarios suddenly changed on 11 January 2007, for the first time, army did not intervene in the freedom of press or freedom of expression. Print and electronic Medias were publishing reports and commentaries, which even went against the rulers. At one stage, policymakers of the present rulers termed media as the alternative parliament, in absence of real parliament in the country. Members of the press community were extremely delighted to get such compliments from the government. But, suddenly, things are changing. Government reportedly has sent unsigned written instructions to the private television channels banning a number of noted intellectuals and journalists like Mahfuzullah, Nurul Kabir [editor of New Age], Asafuddowlah [editor of Bangladesh Today], Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury [editor of Bangladesh Observer], Manzurul Ahsan Bulbul [executive editor of Sangbad], Amir Khosru [senior journalist], Shawkat Mahmud [general secretary of National Press Club], ABM Musa [senior journalist], Golam Sarwar [eminent journalist], Farhad Mazhar [columnist], Asif Nazrul [professor], Barrister Tania Amir while the government has allowed Nayeemul Islam Khan [editor, Amader Shomoy], Dilara Chowdhury [professor], Dr. Ataur Rahman [professor], Mahbub Ullah [editor, The Independent], Farid Ahmed [Bureau chief of Associated press], Major General Syed Muhammed Ibrahim [politician], Dr. Kamal Hossain [lawyer], Ferdous Ahmed Qureshi [controversial politician] and some others in any of the commentaries in private television channels. Such actions of the government will stop the outspoken editors and social activists from expressing their minds anymore in the mass media. On the other hand, government is continuing to put pressures on owners of newspapers in the country, which will either cause in closure of the newspaper or facing tremendous repressions of the owners and editors of such newspapers by the state machinery.

Case of Weekly Blitz editor:

Internationally known anti Jihadist award winning Bangladeshi journalist and editor of Dhaka's most influential newspaper, Weekly Blitz, Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is also facing trial in sedition, treason and blasphemy charges for confronting radical Islam and jihad, advocating inter faith understanding and for demanding Bangladesh's relations with Israel. For past five years, Choudhury is facing extreme adversity as well as mental and financial constraint for his courageous stand against Islamists. His office was bombed while there had never been any action by the former BNP-Islamist Coalition government. There had not been any action against the attackers [belonging to Cultural wing of Bangladesh Nationalist Party], who attacked and physically assaulted him in October 2006. The present government is also playing dilly-dally in taking any action against the criminal officers in Rapid Action Battalion [Unit-3] for abducting the editor and another member of Weekly Blitz of 18 March 2007, looting cash and valuables and for total reign of terror. Despite repeated written complaints with the chief advisor as well as army chief, looted items have not been returned yet.

Mr. Choudhury received Freedom to Write Award from PEN USA in 2005, American Jewish Committee's prestigious Moral Courage Award in 2006, Monaco Media Award in 2007 and many other awards and recognitions from international community.

Commenting on Shoaib Choudhury, The New York Times in its editorial said, "Bangladesh may now be among the world's most dangerous countries for journalists. That makes, Mr. Choudhury's courageous stand for Muslim-Jewish dialogue all the more admirable and vital to defend."

The Washington Times in its editorial said, "The United States must encourage people like Mr. Choudhury to speak out. But when they do, it also should do all it can to protect them. Freeing Mr. Choudhury will tell others like him that when you stand against Islamists, the United States will stand with you."

The New York Sun wrote, "Mr. Choudhury is a man in the mold of such heroes of freedom as Vaclav Havel and Lech Walesa."

The Berliner Zeitung wrote, "Would Choudhury consider it, if along with this acknowledgement the request also nevertheless came to give up his fight and to free the family from their state of siege? The family would have enough money to lead a calm life abroad, and they would have a good chance of leaving Bangladesh despite the current legal proceedings. But for Choudhury his struggle has long ago become his. Who leaves the battleground, has lost, he says. However, whoever struggles for the right cause always wins."

The Australian wrote, "This is why we ought to be taking notice of Choudhury. It's not just a question of saving one man's life. He is part of a threat that is facing all of us. And he is on the right side in a very long battle of ideas."

The Daily Pennsylvanian wrote, "Now that we've found a man willing to advocate for peace and denouncing extremism, we must seize the opportunity. No one else will speak out if we allow those who already have spoken to die."

The Jerusalem Post wrote, "In this tense atmosphere, Choudhury has paid a very heavy price for his beliefs. In November 2003, he was arrested at Dhaka's international airport just prior to boarding a flight on his way to Israel, where he has been scheduled to deliver an address on promoting understanding between Muslims and Jews."

The Australian Israel Review wrote, "Shoaib in an outspoken supporter of Muslim-Jewish and Muslim-Christian dialogue, opposes anti-Israel" maximalism and has exposed the agents and activities of Islamists who have been gaining in strength and influence in his country."

The Suburban in its editorial wrote, "They are neither. They work alone, with no support, forging ahead to bring the truth into open. The International Press Freedom Awards that recognizes courage in journalism is an important event that brings the plight of these journalists to light. But it's not enough. They deserve encouragement and support because in dangerous situations, they champion everything we hold dear, and often take for granted."

Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is possibly the most quoted Bangladeshi journalists in the global media. But, authorities in Dhaka are reluctant in recognizing his courage. To them, he is a 'bad man'. To the Islamists, he is an 'evil'. To journalists selling their ideologies in exchange of few leafs of bucks, Choudhury is 'a paranoid'.

But to United States Congress, Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is a real hero. US Congress, Australian Senate and European Parliament have passed resolutions in favor of this courageous man. Unfortunately, in the eyes of rulers in Dhaka, people like Choudhury are headache. That is why possibly, the present military emergency government in Bangladesh has listed Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury in the list of 1608 black listed journalists thus terming them as 'not journalists' and instructing authorities concerned not to issue press accreditation cards to them.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

EU Funding for Israel Bashing

Funding Israel's Detractors
May 6, 2008


In the 60 years of Israeli independence, relations with Europe have gone through phases of cooperation as well as conflict. Some of the recent friction results from hidden European Union funding for anti-Israel "civil society organizations." While supposedly promoting peace and coexistence, these groups often preach division and confrontation. The secrecy of the NGO funding process also stands in sharp contrast to the EU's pious claims of transparency and accountability. There is no central database on NGO funding and many EU officials contacted proved unwilling or unable to provide any information.
Among the recipients are a number of Israeli political groups that focus on allegations of human rights abuses, such as Machsom Watch and B'tselem. They diligently take down every Palestinian complaint at face value and write inflammable reports castigating Israel as the aggressor. They do so by leaving out essential context, such as the constant Palestinian terror attacks that prompt the criticized Israeli policies, including road blocks and incursions, in the first place.
Even more radical are Israeli Arab NGOs, such as Adalah, Mossawa, the Arab Association for Human Rights (HRA), and HaMoked. Their titles and mission statements use the language of human rights and peace and they receive EU money in this guise. But actually they do the opposite. These groups poison any reasonable dialogue by demonizing Israel, for example by drawing parallels to the apartheid regime. Their advocacy for a single state, where Jews would quickly become a minority, is just another way of calling for the end of Israel as a Jewish state.
The EU was also one of the main funders of the infamous NGO Forum of the 2001 Durban conference. Designed to fight racism, it turned into one of the most despicable displays of modern anti-Semitism. The Forum accused Israel of ethnic cleansing and genocide, and called for "a policy of complete and total isolation of Israel as an apartheid state" through boycotts, divestment and sanctions. After leading the Forum, the Palestinian NGO Network became the primary sponsor of the academic boycott and divestment campaigns against Israel. Under the guise of promoting peace and understanding, the EU thus indirectly funds campaigns to ban Israeli academics from international conferences.
In justifying support for groups which oppose the EU's own policies, officials claim that their funding is narrowly confined to specific projects that supposedly don't contradict EU positions. But given the fact that money is fungible, this is a rather weak excuse. Apart from funding Israel's critics, the EU is also surreptitiously trying to manipulate the Israeli democratic process.
The EU's Partnership for Peace program, with an annual budget of over €8 million, lists a number of mysterious recipients, such as the H.L. Education for Peace Ltd. This organization has no Internet site, and a check at the Israeli government registry for non-profit organizations failed to turn up any trace of this group. Our research found that H.L. Education for Peace was a cover for the Geneva Initiative -- a controversial attempt to bypass the Israeli government and negotiate a private peace agreement between former (left-wing) Israeli officials and Fatah members.
Furtively funded by the EU, this NGO bombards Israelis with exhortations to attend rallies and takes out expensive newspaper ads extolling the virtues of the initiative, while attacking the government's policies. It is hard to imagine the EU interfering in such blatant ways in the political process of any other democratic country.
Among the numerous and highly confusing EU funding frameworks for NGOs claiming to promote democracy and peace, the European Commission's Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid (DG ECHO) is both the wealthiest and the most secretive. ECHO's 2006 budget was approximately €700 million, of which over €80 million was allocated to the West Bank and Gaza, including an unspecified amount for NGOs. As elsewhere, there is no public record of which NGOs receive the funds, the projects for which they are allocated, or the evaluation process, if any.
However, many recipients advertise the fact that they receive EU support, thereby increasing legitimacy and visibility. In this way, we uncovered details of funding for groups such as Medical Aid for Palestinians, which received over €1 million in 2004-2006. Its full-page ad published in The Times in January proclaims: "After two years of sanctions, the cutting-off of fuel supplies, repeated military incursions and the closure of its borders, Gaza is in the grip of a humanitarian crisis." There is no mention of terror attacks, corruption, or Hamas.
With the Durban review conference and another round of vitriolic NGO-led attacks against Israel scheduled for 2009, Jerusalem is watching for a change in European policy. Canada, for example, already said that it won't participate in Durban II because it's likely to become another anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli hate fest. Ottawa has also barred government funding for NGOs participating in the conference.
Both Canada and the U.S. practice full transparency by providing details for their NGO funding. They have strict guidelines designed to prevent grant recipients from using the money for hostile campaigning instead for humanitarian projects. The EU could do worse than follow this example.
Mr. Steinberg is executive director of NGO Monitor and chairman of the Political Studies Department at Bar Ilan University.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Peres: Iran wants to rule the region

Recent language from Teheran is "unacceptable" and, contrary to its repeated denials, Iran is developing a nuclear bomb and wishes to rule the Mideast, President Shimon Peres told a meeting of the Foreign Press Association yesterday.

Peres speaks during a press conference for the foreign media at his Jerusalem residence.
Photo: AP

The main purpose of the meeting was to outline details of the convention that Peres will be hosting in Jerusalem on May 13-15, but reporters were more interested in Peres's views on other issues - specifically Iran and Hamas.

Peres said Iran trained and financed terrorism, but while the situation with Iran was more complicated than with the Nazis, because "Hitler didn't have nuclear weapons," he did not advocate military action as a preventive measure. He was still convinced that united action on the part of the world community could be just as persuasive.

A Swiss reporter quoted an AP report stating that Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey had expressed disappointment that no member of her country's government had been invited to attend the convention celebrating Israel's 60th anniversary and asked the president if the absence of an invitation was in reaction to Calmy-Ray's recent visit to Iran.