Saturday, May 24, 2008

Iran: Mahmoud is mad and I'm glad

Syria's vehement denial that it would cut its ties with Iran is beside the point. The very mention of peace talks with Israel drives a wedge between Iran and Syria. Assad had to know that would be the result of the announcement.
Mahmoud is mad
And I'm glad
And I know what will please him
A bottle of Arak to make him shine
and Bashar Assad to squeeze him
Ami Isseroff


Sources close to Iranian president tell London-based al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper he did not hide discontent, amazement after being informed of negotiations between Damascus, Jerusalem. 'This is a violation of the mutual commitments between the two countries, and Tehran will prepare an appropriate response,' source says
Roee Nahmias Published:  05.23.08, 17:01 / Israel News 
The joint statement issued simultaneously Wednesday in Jerusalem, Damascus and Ankara on the resumption of mediated talks between Israel and Syria has raised tensions between Tehran and Damascus, the London-based Arabic-language newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat reported Friday.
According to sources close to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the latter did not hide his discontent and amazement after receiving detailed information on the secret talks held between Syria and Israel.
This took place only several weeks after Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem paid a visit to Tehran, during which Ahmadinejad attempted to strengthen the "bear hug" around Syria's neck.
The Iranian leader warned Moallem and the moderate Arab states that whoever will join the United States will be doomed along with Washington.
A source noted that Ahmadinejad referred to the developments as "a Damascus violation of the mutual commitments between Syria and Iran."

It was also reported that the Iranian Supreme National Security Council will look into the message relayed by Damascus in regards to its talks with Israel, in order "to prepare an appropriate response."
On Thursday, Damascus rejected Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's demand that Syria distance itself from terror organizations, including Hamas and Hizbullah. Syrian Information Minister Muhsin Bilal said that "when they make these demands, they are setting conditions and the issue of peace, the peace process does not require prior conditions."
Following the publication of the Israel-Syria talks Wednesday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he had no illusions regarding the negotiations with Damascus.

"The negotiations will not be easy or simple and the process will involve difficult concessions," he said during an event at the Kibbutz College of Education, adding however that "in situations like this it is always better to talk than to shoot and I am happy both sides here have decided to talk."

Friday, May 23, 2008

Corruption of Saudi Youth by the Kabbalah

No kidding...

Dammam, Asharq Al-Awsat- Today it is common to see large numbers of young Saudi men sporting a piece of red string around their wrists. This trend has spread all over the world in recent years especially since A-list celebrities and football players were spotted wearing the red string bracelet that is believed to ward off the evil eye. However, the cultural connotations of this trend that include a religious or ideological belief in the Jewish sect known as Kabbalah are a cause for concern amongst some Saudi experts who are against what they consider a form of "cultural invasion".
The wearing of the red string is practiced by followers of the Kabbalah, a school of thought that focuses on the mystical aspects of Judaism.
A number of Arabic websites have warned against this trend that is gaining popularity amongst secondary school students in Saudi Arabia.
Dr Abdullah al Yusuf, professor of sociology at Imam Muhammad Bin Saud Islamic University in Riyadh, told Asharq Al-Awsat that any imported foreign trend will have an influence on the society to which it has been introduced and that the consequences of such a trend are considered a form of cultural invasion as new behaviors are adopted. He added that young people in general are attracted to eccentric concepts and like to follow new trends.
In a telephone interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Dr Amal al Arfaj, associate professor of Tafsir [Quran interpretation] at the Faculty of Arts in Dammam, who is also active in preaching the Islamic faith, said that young people often follow trends without fully understanding what they represent.
As an example, Dr Amal explained that young people purchase clothes and other items that carry phrases that could be deemed morally or religiously offensive. These young people, she said, buy and keep these products without understanding their meanings or any dangers that they entail. She argues that if young people were asked about the significance of the red string that is worn around the wrist they would not be able to give an adequate answer.
Dr al Arfaj expressed regret towards the weak role of the family in this regard and believes that young people are primarily influenced by their friends and peers. Moreover, according to al Arfaj, shop owners and market traders also contribute to the spread of foreign cultures in Saudi society by promoting new trends and do not differentiate between what is good and what is bad and fail to understand the effects of some new trends on the youth.
The majority of male youth who have embraced the Kabbalah-inspired fashion make their own red string bracelet by cutting a piece of thread rather than buying the bracelet from a shop like their female counterparts.
Thamir Abdullah, a secondary school student, said that many of his friends were influenced by international football players in wearing the red string bracelet. He added that he stopped wearing his own red string band after reading some of the warnings that were carried by websites.
Some young Saudi girls wear green or yellow thread around their wrists as they believe that this would bring them good luck.
Another trend that is gaining popularity amongst young Saudi girls is EMO fashion accessories such as colored rubber bracelets. Experts attribute this to an eagerness amongst the young to follow fashion regardless of any cultural or social consequences.

A shameful act: UN backs Lebanese gov't capitulation to Hezbollah

Western leaders have dangerous illusions about the events in Lebanon. They view them in terms of public opinion effects in a democratic society. Public opinion will not matter in the sort of state the Hezbollah are about to create
Last update - 11:07 23/05/2008       
West backs Lebanese gov't capitulation to Hezbollah
By Shlomo Shamir, Haaretz Correspondent and News Agencies
The United Nations Security Council on Thursday welcomed a Lebanese peace deal brokered by Qatar, an agreement that may have averted a new civil war in the Middle East.
The council said it "welcomes and strongly supports the agreement reached in Doha ... which constitutes an essential step towards the resolution of the current crisis, the return to normal functioning of Lebanese democratic institutions, the complete restoration of Lebanon's unity and stability."
In the nonbinding statement, a French initiative, the council also urged the parties to implement all aspects of the agreement.
Rival Lebanese leaders signed the deal on Wednesday to end 18 months of political conflict that had threatened to push the country into a new civil war.
The agreement, which was reached after six days of Arab-mediated talks, also paved the way for the election of a new president.

The declaration thus represents a Western stamp of approval to an agreement that is in practice a capitulation to Hezbollah demands, including a greater share of the political decision-making power in Lebanon.
The agreement was the culmination of weeks of turmoil, during which violent incidents initiated by Hezbollah, including the group's takeover of parts of Beirut, gripped the country.
According to the terms of the Doha agreement, Prime Minister Fouad Siniora will resign in the coming days; the commander of the army, Michel Suleiman, will be installed as president, and the government will comprise 30 ministers.
Most significantly, however, the agreement meets a key Hezbollah demand to reshape the structure of government representation. Members of the Shi'ite organization will account for one-third of the government ministers, plus an additional portfolio, thus enabling the group to veto any government decision. Hezbollah will now wield more political clout than it ever has in the past.
Despite enhancing Hezbollah's position within the Lebanese power structure, the U.S. will support the Security Council statement praising the agreement, which is viewed as a vehicle to promote the internal stability of the country.
The representatives of all Security Council member states are currently holding consultations over the precise language of the statement in hopes that the wording will be approved by consensus. One of the drafts being considered by the body includes an expression of gratitude to the Arab parties who worked in mediating the deal, among them the Arab League and Qatar.
One potential stumbling block over the final wording of the statement centers around the issue of whether to include references to prior Security Council resolutions passed in relation to Lebanon in recent years, including Resolution 1701, which brought an end to the Second Lebanon War.
Another Security Council resolution that is to be mulled is 1559, which includes a clause stipulating the decommissioning of weapons belonging to the various militia forces in the country. The U.S. and France insist on including mention of the resolution in the statement. Libya has stated its opposition, while Russia has also expressed reservations.
U.S. and U.K. say Hezbollah weaker after Beirut fighting
The United States and Britain said on Thursday they believed Hezbollah had been weakened by this month's fighting in Beirut despite the greater
influence the militant group gained in Lebanon's Cabinet.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband rejected the view that the show of force by Hezbollah had increased its power.
"Hezbollah lost something very important, which is any argument that it is somehow a resistance movement on behalf of the Lebanese people," Rice told reporters traveling with her and Miliband on a trip to her California hometown.
"What it is, is a militia that, given an opportunity, decided to turn its guns on its own people. It is never going to live that down," she said.
Miliband said Hezbollah had shown an "unacceptable" show of force in the streets which created an "illusion" of its power. More than 80 people were killed in the military campaign by Hezbollah amid fears of a return to full-scale civil war.
"What struck us in subsequent days is that the reaction of the people of Lebanon has been very negative about that. The guns of Hezbollah were trained on their own people. The long term consequences of that are potentially going to strengthen the forces of democracy in Lebanon," said Miliband.
Zvi Barel contributed to this story.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Muhamad Al Dura - The little Shahid who never was

Muhamad Al Dura - The little Shahid who never was and the war that was made by the media

France-2's film of Muhamad al-Dura supposedly being murdered by Israeli troops was very dramatic. It was used to kindle Palestinian violence that lasted five years and resulted in thousands of death. But al-Dura was probably not killed by Israeli soldiers, and France-2's film does not prove that he did.
It will be interesting to see how many of the media that highlighted the original story and kept it in front of the public, will now publish the truth. So far, very few large media outlets outside of Jewish and Israeli media have published the news. Liberation, in France is an exception.
Ami Isseroff

French court overturns al-Dura libel judgment

The French Court of Appeals on Wednesday found in favor of Jewish activist Philippe Karsenty, overturning a lower court decision that he had libeled France 2 and its Jerusalem correspondent Charles Enderlin when he accused them of knowingly misleading the watching world about the death of the Palestinian child Muhammad al-Dura in the Gaza Strip in 2000.

"The verdict means we have the right to say France 2 broadcast a fake news report, that [al-Dura's shooting] was a staged hoax and that they duped everybody - without being sued," Karsenty told The Jerusalem Post shortly after the verdict was issued at 1:30 p.m. Paris time.

Al-Dura was filmed cowering with his father, Jalal, behind a barrel at the Gaza Strip's Netzarim junction on September 30, 2000, during an apparent gun battle between Palestinians and IDF troops.

Fifty-five seconds of video footage were released to the world by France 2 at the time, out of some 18 minutes that were shown in court and even more footage that France 2's detractors claim is not being shown to the public.

The video, taken by Palestinian cameraman and France 2 stringer Talal Abu Rahma, shows al-Dura hiding, and then cuts to footage of him lying, apparently dead, at the junction. It does not show the child killed.

The footage, and Enderlin's broadcast assertion of Israeli responsibility for the killing of al-Dura, turned the 12-year-old's death into a cause célèbre in the Muslim world.

According to Middle East and media expert Tom Gross, "Osama bin Laden referred to al-Dura in a post-9/11 video; the killers of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl placed a picture of him in their beheading video; streets, squares and academies have been named after al-Dura. He became a poster child for the [second] intifada."

Karsenty, the head of the media watchdog Media Ratings, was sued for libel after calling for Enderlin's and France 2 news director Arlette Chabot's dismissal, saying the footage was "a hoax."

Enderlin, who was not present in Gaza at the time of the incident, has vehemently denied the charge, expressing confidence in cameraman Abu Rahma's honesty.

Convicted of libel in 2006, Karsenty was slapped with two $1,380 fines - one to be paid to France 2 and one to the station's reporter - and ordered to pay another $4,000 in court costs when he wrote that the incident constituted a "masquerade that dishonors France and its public television."

On Wednesday, his appeal against that conviction was upheld.

The IDF, which initially apologized for the death of al-Dura, concluded after an investigation that the boy could not have been hit by Israeli bullets.

A statement forwarded to the Post from Enderlin said "the appeals court ruled that Karsenty's words were, in fact, libelous, and that Karsenty failed to prove that the news was staged and/or false."

The statement added that the case was nevertheless overturned because "the court believed Karsenty had the right to stridently criticize the [France 2] report, since it dealt with an emotional topic, and that Karsenty's investigation into the matter convinced the court he was being sincere."

A source close to Enderlin's side of the case explained that "you can get out of a libel suit either by proving you're right, or by showing you were sincere and had some research. The court found the latter to be the case."

The source also said Enderlin and France 2 would appeal the verdict, noting that they had won three out of four instances of judgment in the matter.

But, replied Karsenty, the only appeal left would be to France's Supreme Court.

"If they continue to insist they are correct," added Karsenty, "we will have victims of terror attacks that directly resulted from the [al-Dura] footage sue France 2."

Karsenty also called on French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who Karsenty sees as "ultimately responsible" for the publicly owned television station, "to take responsibility for the French state's defense of the worst anti-Semitic lie around. It's time to apologize to the world for broadcasting a fake news report that has inflamed the Muslim world and endangered world peace."

Karsenty's claims are based on inconsistencies in the footage, including a publicly available video-taped admission by Abu Rahma that there are untold secrets related to the case, the fact that only seven bullet holes are seen behind al-Dura despite Abu Rahma's repeated statements that the child survived 45 minutes of continuous shooting by Israeli forces directed at the boy, footage clearly showing pretend gun battles and faked ambulance runs at the junction that day, testimony of the IDF soldiers stationed at the junction who said they did not participate in any firefight that day, and the lack of footage of al-Dura's actual shooting.

Despite France 2's playing down of the verdict, some analysts believe it is significant. According to Gross, "Today's ruling shows there are serious doubts about France 2's version of events, and that the entire world press was irresponsible in being so quick to take at face value the claims of a local Palestinian cameraman, who has admitted his partisanship."

Several months ago, the deputy commander of the IDF Spokesman's Office, Col. Shlomi Am-Shalom, wrote to France 2 asking for the entire unedited 27-minute film shot by France 2's Palestinian cameraman on September 30, 2000, as well as footage the cameraman filmed on October 1, 2000. Am-Shalom stressed that the IDF had "ruled out" the notion that al-Dura was killed by Israeli fire.

Citing the findings of the IDF's probe into the incident, ordered by then-OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Yom Tov Samia, Am-Shalom wrote, "The general has made clear that from an analysis of all the data from the scene, including the location of the IDF position, the trajectory of the bullets, the location of the father and the son behind an obstacle, the cadence of the bullet fire, the angle at which the bullets penetrated the wall behind the father and his son, and the hours of the events, we can rule out with the greatest certainty the possibility that the gunfire that apparently harmed the boy and his father was fired by IDF soldiers, who were at the time located only inside their fixed position [at the junction]."

The text of Wednesday's ruling has not yet been released to the media.


Springtime for Nasrallah and Iran, winter for Lebanon and France

 Springtime for Nasrallah and Iran, winter for Lebanon and France


The news from Doha is that the long Lebanese impasse is finally over. Aided by the good offices of the ostensibly pro-Western Qatar government, the Hezbollah has seemingly scored a knockout blow over its Lebanese opponents. Qatar mediated a "compromise" that apparently gives Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran everything they wanted, and puts an end to Lebanese independence in all but name. The crucial issue, which pro-government forces had supported during the many months of the Hezbollah siege, was the question of granting Hezbollah and its allies over 1/3 of the 30 cabinet members in the government. This provides them with veto power, and will probably make it possible to stop the international tribunal that was to try the murderers of Rafiq Hariri.

Beirut will also be redistricted to allow elections that will guarantee a Shi'a majority.

Saad Hariri, leader of the opposition, had been intimidated and harassed, his television stations silenced by Hezbollah goons and his house surrounded by them. Evidently, he no longer felt himself in a position to object.

In reality, Hariri and the forces supporting the government apparently had little choice. Hezbollah made them "an offer they could not refuse." Either their names would be on the agreement, or their brains would be on the agreement. When Hezbollah took over Beirut, France and the United States, the mainstays of Lebanese government support, did nothing more than expostulate (See Lebanon: Frozen in the headlamps of history). "America is tired" as the astute Israeli pundit Nahum Barnea pointed out. That is the meaning of non-intervention in Lebanon. France has been tired since 1918. The most threatening thing to come from those quarters was hot air. The Lebanese army should have been responsible for maintaining order. Instead, it found a way to put the stamp of legality on hooliganism. The army is led by prospective Lebanese president Michel Suleiman, whose speedy election now seems assured thanks to the "compromise." Suleiman demonstrated his usefulness to the cause of the Hezbollah by granting their demands and using the authority of the army to nullify government decisions. With Suleiman firmly in the hands of the Hezbollah and Syria, the way was open to this "compromise." Hariri may object, but how many divisions has Hariri? None. Arming his supporters and starting a civil war would have been pointless. It would have led to an ignominious and bloody defeat, since the army was against him, the Hezbollah has decisive military superiority and the world community will do nothing to enforce UN Security Council Resolution 1559, which calls for disarming of all groups. Only Walid Jumblatt, with more valor than discretion, dared to confront the Hezbollah briefly in the north.

Some may have initially had doubts about the value of the victory scored by the Hezbollah. In AsSharqalawsat, Editor in Chief Tareq al Homayed cited "Hezbollah's defeat" noted that Nasrallah had lost his popularity by turning the weapons of the Hezbollah against the Lebanese. Much as one would like to agree with this wishful thinking, Middle East power politics are not governed by popularity contests. Nasrallah has succeeded. Nothing succeeds like success, nothing fails like failure, incompetence and spinelessness. Nasrallah will be a hero for having bested the French and the US. Even better for Nasrallah: Somehow, the Arab popular mind has succeeded, thanks to Hezbollah propaganda, in associating the cause of Lebanese independence with Israel. Therefore, a victory for Hezbollah, Syria and Iran is perceived as a defeat for Israel. Nasrallah has probably retrieved his popularity. And if anyone in Lebanon thinks Nasrallah is not a great gift to the cause of Lebanese independence, they had better keep it to themselves.

When Iran forms a "resistance" group in Qatar and succeeds in taking over their government, presumably the "compromise" will be negotiated in Beirut.

Ami Isseroff

Lebaneseh Agreement to end Crisis

According to the headline: Lebanese Leaders Reach Agreement Ending Crisis
That remains to be seen. Here is the story from Naharnet:
Lebanese leaders reached an agreement in Doha early Wednesday to end a long-running political crisis that nearly drove the country to a new civil war.

"An agreement has been reached," between the pro-government majority and the Hizbullah-led opposition, MP Ali Hasan Khalil told reporters.

The agreement calls for electing a president immediately, formation of a government based on a 16-11-3 formula (16 for the majority, 11 for the opposition and 3 to be chosen by the president), adoption of the Qada-based 1960 electoral law such as Beirut is divided into three constituencies ( 5 – 4 – 10) for one time only.

"We expect a (parliamentary) vote to elect a president on Thursday or Friday," Khalil said ahead of a Wednesday deadline for the Doha talks to wrap up.

Another opposition delegate who requested not to be named had said earlier that a joint committee formed to iron out differences over a decisive electoral law for parliamentary polls due next year had been "making final touches to a deal."

Lebanese rivals agreed last year on electing army chief Gen. Michel Suleiman as a successor to Damascus protégé Emile Lahoud, who stepped down at the end of his term in November.

But they have differed over shares in a proposed unity government and the electoral law.

The talks hung in the balance Tuesday after Qatari hosts announced a Wednesday deadline to receive responses to two proposals put forward by an Arab ministerial committee led by Qatar.

Qatar had put forward a compromise proposal calling for an immediate parliamentary vote to elect Suleiman as president and the formation of a unity government while postponing talks on a new electoral law, a government delegate said earlier.

The Syria- and Iran-backed opposition refused to put off discussion of the disputed electoral law, and insisted on getting a "blocking minority" in a proposed unity government.

According to the government delegate, a second proposal suggested a return to an electoral law adopted in 1960, which is no longer in force. That would require amendments to disputed constituency boundaries in the capital Beirut -- the bedrock of support for Sunni parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri.

Rival parties aim to secure as many as possible of the capital's 19 seats in the 128-member parliament.

Both proposals also offered the opposition the long-demanded blocking minority, the same delegate said.

The 18-month-old political deadlock erupted into bitter sectarian fighting earlier this month that saw 65 people killed and during which Hizbullah and its Shiite allies briefly seized Sunni areas of mainly Muslim west Beirut.(AFP-Naharnet)

Beirut, 21 May 08, 07:05

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Saudi's attack "illegal" Iraq war

An editorial in the Saudi government's Arab News, a showpiece English language newspaper, has blasted the 'Illegal War' in Iraq, while Saudi Arabia continues to expect US backing against extremist regimes.  The Saudis have placed themselves as judges, interpreting the US constitution and international law, and as jury and prosecuting attorneys.
Quoth the editors:
Even if the US-led invasion had brought stability and reconstruction quickly to Iraq, the war would still have been illegal because Bush acted without the approval and backing of the international community and on the basis of deliberate lies. Now Washington is bogged down trying to clear up the bloody chaos that it itself created.
The Iraq war may have been a mistake, but there are few criteria for judging "legal" or "illegal" wars. Someone should tell these folks that every country is allowed to act in self defense according to the US charter, that the president of the United States is responsible for the defense of his (or her) country and that this responsibility does not depend on the United Nations. There is no provision in the UN charter for declaring a war to be illegal. The Iraq war could, theoretically, be declared an act of aggression, but it was not.
It would serve the Saudis right if the US withdrew from Iraq, and allowed Iran to take over the entire Gulf region.
Ami Isseroff