Saturday, June 28, 2008

African immigration tragedy continues

Israel and Egypt both have to find a more humane and reasonable way to deal with the problem of African immigration. The UN and its agencies must help. It is impossible to expect that Israel will hold all the immigrants fleeing Africa. On the other hand it is totally unacceptable to look on while people are being killed for trying to reach freedom and a better life.
Ami Isseroff

Last update - 16:05 28/06/2008    
Egyptian police kill African man, 7-year-old girl at Israel border
By Reuters
Egyptian police shot and killed two African migrants, including a seven-year-old Sudanese girl, as they tried to cross the border into Israel on Saturday, security and hospital sources said.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the security sources said an Egyptian patrol opened fire on the migrants to stop them getting across the border south of the Rafah crossing.
They added that seven other African migrants had been detained, including the dead child's mother.
Their deaths bring to 16 the number of migrants killed at the border this year.
Hospital sources said the other victim was an unidentified African in his thirties, killed by a gunshot wound to his back.
Egypt has pursued a crackdown on African migrants that has seen up to 1,000 Eritrean asylum seekers deported since June 11, despite UN objections.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Human rights in Iran: 'And then they came for the Bahai'

Roya Hakakian warns against renewed persecution of Bahai in Iran. I bet you didn't know that Bahai have been executed, did you?

Isn't it peculiar that that there are no UN resolutions regarding human rights violations in Iran? The Presbyterian Church is not concerned about justice and tolerance in Iran, Amnesty International is hardly worried either.
How can we explain it?
and: A Tale of two Shrines (large presentation)
Ami Isseroff
By Roya Hakakian
Thu. Jun 19, 2008
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If one must master the knowledge that even bigotry is relative and comes in gradations, then I was a premature pupil. I learned this lesson when I was only 10.
In 1977, in an eclectic neighborhood in Tehran, my Jewish family lived on a narrow, wooded alley in what was then an upscale area, alongside two other Jewish families and many more Muslims. There was also a Bahai family, the Alavis, next door.
By then, I had already intuited that my relatives, in the presence of Muslim friends and neighbors, were somehow less flamboyant creatures, quieter and more measured. But the Alavis, debonair and highly educated, were mere ghosts.
Theirs was a corner house on the alley, one of the most beautiful in the neighborhood, and the first to be sold within days in 1979, after the return of the exiled Ayatollah Khomeini. In a neighborhood so closely-knit that even the mailman dispensed pearls of pedagogical wisdom to our parents, the Alavis simply vanished one day.
No chance for tears, or promises to keep in touch. Not even a forwarding address. My mother insists they said goodbye to her, but my mother considers inventing happy endings a maternal virtue.
American audiences, their eyes brimming with anxiety, often ask me about the condition of Jews living in Iran today. But the hardships they assume to be the burden of the Iranian Jews is really the daily experience of the Bahais.
In a 1979 meeting with five of the Iranian Jewish community leaders, Khomeini summarized his position on the local Jews in one of his quintessentially coarse one-liners: "We recognize our Jews as separate from those godless Zionists." The line has served as the regime's position on the Jewish minority ever since. So important were these words that they were painted on the walls of nearly every synagogue and Jewish establishment the day after the ayatollah spoke them.
It did not prevent Jews from being relegated to second-class citizenry, nor did it enable them to thrive in post-revolutionary Iran. But it recognized the legitimacy of the Jewish existence in Iran and allowed the community to live on, albeit extremely restrictedly.
But it is the Bahai community that has been suffering the bleak fate assumed to be that of the Jews. It is the Bahais who are not recognized by the Iranian constitution. Decades ago, Khomeini branded them, among other unsavory terms, a political sect and not a religion, circuitously defining them as plotters against the regime. Iranian Bahais have been accused of espionage for every major power save the Chinese, and simultaneously so. They are not allowed to worship. Their properties are vandalized. Even their dead know no peace, as their cemeteries are systematically destroyed.
Their children cannot attend schools, nor can Bahai academics teach. That is why in 1987, unemployed professors, in an act reminiscent of the Middle Ages, established underground universities to educate the Bahai youth.
Last month, six Bahai leaders were arrested. They had already been accustomed to routine weekly harassments and interrogations, which is why some of their wives have taken up sewing blindfolds to keep the guards from forcing dirty ones onto their husbands' eyes. What is most alarming about this particular arrest is that they have not returned home and are being kept incommunicado.
What compels me to write these lines is the eerie similarity between this and another historical parallel to which I have been a witness. When the American embassy was seized in Tehran in November 1979, the world took the ayatollah at his word for the egregious act he vehemently supported — that it was solely against America. But for those living in Iran, the hostage taking turned out to be about everything but America.
Newspapers were shut down. Political parties were banned. Opposition group members were arrested and their leaders hauled off to stand before firing squads.
When it was all said and done, the hostages, despite their great suffering during 444 days of captivity, eventually returned home. But the secular opposition of the regime was practically obliterated, and in perfect silence, too, as all attention was focused on the news from the embassy.
The current Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has taken a page from Khomeini's book. He rails against Israel. He denies the Holocaust. Through these means he focuses all attention on Jews, and while the world remains perfectly oblivious his men assault the Bahais.
Though Ahmadinejad's intentions against Israel are gravely alarming, in immediate terms, the community that is paying the most for his pan-Islamist ambitions is the Bahai. Since Ahmadinejad's election to presidency, there has been a sharp rise in anti-Bahai literature in government-sponsored journals, which has, in turn, led to a rise in gang attacks against the community.
That the Bahais shy away, per religious mandate, from advocacy on their own behalf surrounds their predicament with even greater silence. But for those in the West — especially for Jews, who know the lessons of World War II — the plight of the Iranian Bahais is most urgent: It is an act of destruction, not simply promised, but already underway.
Roya Hakakian, the author of "Journey from the Land of No: A Girlhood Caught in Revolutionary Iran" (Crown, 2004), is a recipient of a 2008 Guggenheim fellowship.

Is Israel on the Iran Brink?

The very fact that Israel allowed the exercises to be leaked - perhaps made certain they would be leaked - may show that they are meant as a warning, rather than preparation for an attack.
Israel on the Iran Brink
June 23, 2008; Page A16

Israel isn't famous for welcoming public scrutiny of its most sensitive military plans. But we doubt Jerusalem officials were dismayed to see news of their recent air force exercises splashed over the front pages of the Western press.
Those exercises – reportedly involving about 100 fighters, tactical bombers, refueling planes and rescue helicopters – were conducted about 900 miles west of Israel's shores in the Mediterranean. Iran's nuclear facilities at Bushehr, Isfahan and Natanz all fall roughly within the same radius, albeit in the opposite direction. The point was not lost on Tehran, which promptly warned of "strong blows" in the event of a pre-emptive Israeli attack.
The more important question is whether the meaning of Israel's exercise registered in Western capitals. It's been six years since Iran's secret nuclear programs were publicly exposed, and Israel has more or less bided its time as the Bush Administration and Europe have pursued diplomacy to induce Tehran to cease enriching uranium.
It hasn't worked. Iran has rejected repeated offers of technical and economic assistance, most recently this month. Despite four years of pleading, the Administration has failed to win anything but weak U.N. sanctions. Russia plans to sell advanced antiaircraft missiles to Iran and finish work on a nuclear reactor at Bushehr, though spent fuel from that reactor could eventually be diverted and reprocessed into weapons-usable plutonium. Chinese companies still invest in Iran, while the U.N.'s chief nuclear inspector, Mohamed ElBaradei, has repeatedly downplayed Iran's nuclear threat.
As for the U.S., December's publication of a misleading National Intelligence Estimate that claimed Iran had halted nuclear weaponization signaled America's own lack of seriousness toward Iranian ambitions. Barack Obama is leading in the Presidential polls and portrays as a virtue his promise to negotiate with Iran "without precondition" – i.e., without insisting that Tehran stop enriching uranium. All the while Iran continues to enrich, installing thousands of additional centrifuges of increasingly more sophisticated design while it buries key facilities underground.
No wonder Israel is concluding that it will have to act on its own to prevent a nuclear Iran. Earlier this month, Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz, a former army chief of staff, warned that "if Iran continues with its program for developing nuclear weapons, we will attack." Other officials distanced themselves from those remarks, but September's one-shot raid on Syria's nuclear reactor ought to be proof of Israel's determination.
An Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear sites would of course look nothing like the Syrian operation. The distances are greater; the targets are hardened, defended and dispersed; hundreds of sorties and several days would be required. Iran would retaliate, with the help of Hezbollah and Hamas, possibly sparking a regional conflict as large as the 1973 Yom Kippur war.
Mr. ElBaradei predicted this weekend that such an attack would turn the Middle East into a "ball of fire," yet his own apologies for Iran and the West's diplomatic failures are responsible for bringing the region to this pass. They have convinced the mullahs that the powers responsible for maintaining world order lack the will to stop Iran.
Israelis surely don't welcome a war in which they will suffer. Yet they have no choice but to defend themselves against an enemy that vows to obliterate them if Iran acquires the weapon to do so. The tragic paradox of the past six years is that the diplomatic and intelligence evasions offered in the name of avoiding war with Iran have done the most to bring us close to this brink. Appeasement that ends in war is a familiar theme of history.

Will Israel attack Iran?

John Bolton has been known to be wrong, but the noise about an Israeli attack on Iran is increasing.
Last updated: 9:50 AM BST 24/06/2008 
John Bolton, the former American ambassador to the United Nations, has predicted that Israel could attack Iran after the November presidential election but before George W Bush's successor is sworn in.

The Arab world would be "pleased" by Israeli strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities, he said in an interview with The Daily Telegraph.

"It [the reaction] will be positive privately. I think there'll be public denunciations but no action," he said.

Mr Bolton, an unflinching hawk who proposes military action to stop Iran developing nuclear weapons, bemoaned what he sees as a lack of will by the Bush administration to itself contemplate military strikes.

"It's clear that the administration has essentially given up that possibility," he said. "I don't think it's serious any more. If you had asked me a year ago I would have said I thought it was a real possibility. I just don't think it's in the cards."

Israel, however, still had a determination to prevent a nuclear Iran, he argued. The "optimal window" for strikes would be between the November 4 election and the inauguration on January 20, 2009.

"The Israelis have one eye on the calendar because of the pace at which the Iranians are proceeding both to develop their nuclear weapons capability and to do things like increase their defences by buying new Russian anti-aircraft systems and further harden the nuclear installations .

"They're also obviously looking at the American election calendar. My judgement is they would not want to do anything before our election because there's no telling what impact it could have on the election."

But waiting for either Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate, or his Republican opponent John McCain to be installed in the White House could preclude military action happening for the next four years or at least delay it.

"An Obama victory would rule out military action by the Israelis because they would fear the consequences given the approach Obama has taken to foreign policy," said Mr Bolton, who was Mr Bush's ambassador to the UN from 2005 to 2006.

"With McCain they might still be looking at a delay. Given that time is on Iran's side, I think the argument for military action is sooner rather than later absent some other development."

The Iran policy of Mr McCain, whom Mr Bolton supports, was "much more realistic than the Bush administration's stance".

Mr Obama has said he will open high-level talks with Iran "without preconditions" while Mr McCain views attacking Iran as a lesser evil than allowing Iran to become a nuclear power.

William Kristol, a prominent neo-conservative, told Fox News on Sunday that an Obama victory could prompt Mr Bush to launch attacks against Iran. "If the president thought John McCain was going to be the next president, he would think it more appropriate to let the next president make that decision than do it on his way out," he said.

Last week, Israeli jets carried out a long-range exercise over the Mediterranean that American intelligence officials concluded was practice for air strikes against Iran. Mohammad Ali Hosseini, spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry, said this was an act of "psychological warfare" that would be futile.

"They do not have the capacity to threaten the Islamic Republic of Iran. They [Israel] have a number of domestic crises and they want to extrapolate it to cover others. Sometimes they come up with these empty slogans."

He added that Tehran would deliver a "devastating" response to any attack.

On Friday, Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency, said military action against Iran would turn the Middle East into a "fireball" and accelerate Iran's nuclear programme.

Mr Bolton, however, dismissed such sentiments as scaremongering. "The key point would be for the Israelis to break Iran's control over the nuclear fuel cycle and that could be accomplished for example by destroying the uranium conversion facility at Esfahan or the uranium enrichment facility at Natanz.

"That doesn't end the problem but it buys time during which a more permanent solution might be found.... How long? That would be hard to say. Depends on the extent of the destruction."

Monday, June 23, 2008

Hezbollah is Iran's Army In Lebanon

Hezbollah is Iran's Army In Lebanon
By: Elias Bejjani

June 24/08

 "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing," (Edmund Burke, 17th century philosopher and author )

Unfortunately, Lebanon is facing at the present time a crucial and fatal threat to the core and essence of its existence, its soul of coexistence and freedom.

The free world is apparently turning a blind eye to the threat to Lebanon, the land of the historic cedars, the home of the great Phoenicians, and the unique mosaic and multi-cultural country of the Middle East. This tragedy has been unfolding without a decisive deterrent stance from the free world.
Lebanon, the land, entity and country, was cited more than seventy two times in the Holy Bible with reference being made to it of reverence, power, beauty, tranquility, peace and divinity. Lebanon, referred to as the 'Land of Milk and Honey', has a deeply rooted 7000 years of history, marked by freedom and tolerance.

Lebanon's ancestors, the Phoenicians, were the architects and craftsmen of the great Temple of King Solomon in Jerusalem. The 'Temple of the Cedars of God', was constructed from the valuable, fragrant wood of the Lebanon Mountains. These ancestors worked in tandem with the ancient Jews and forged strong familial and cultural bonds. These seafarers explored the whole world in their ships, trading culture in the form of the alphabet, mythology, religion, knowledge in sciences and art and other exotic goods for riches of gold, silver, gems and many other items of value. In addition to the color purple, the great North Star, the art of navigation, Lebanon has left history with the great men of Hannibal the General, Astarte, Cadmus and Pythagoras.  More recently, Lebanon has given the world the revered Christian saints of Charbel, Rafqa, Hardini, Yacoub and many others.

Lebanon's "Cedar Revolution" is being abandoned and its followers are being starved of independence, freedom, sovereignty and peace. These words which hold much power are being emptied to be mere rhetoric and hollow slogans in the face of the axis of evil namely Syria, Iran and Hezbollah.
Lebanon is being forced through terrorism, murder, and political intimidation into a subservient regime that is modeled on the backward and repressive system imposed on the Iranian people by the Shiite Mullahs, under what is known in Islam as, "Wilayat al-Faqih." [Guardianship of the Jurists].
 Wilayat al-Faqih is a religious theology that is divisive amongst the Muslims themselves. It is a bizarre, autocratic concept created and tailored by the late Ayatollah Khomeini in the early seventies. The basis of this system provides all the ruling powers and authorities with unlimited vetoes on every aspect of life and governance into the hands of one man, the Highest Shiite Imam, whose headquarters is located in the Iranian city of Qom.

Hezbollah, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard proxy in Lebanon, has been entrusted by the Iranian Mullahs to topple the Lebanese Free State and erect in its place an Iranian satellite state, in order to complete the sought after Shiite Crescent. This militant theocratic group fully controls 40% of the Lebanese territories and has in effect established a state within a state. They have been devouring the country piece by piece in a well thought out diabolical plan. Last month's  attempted armed coup was the straw that broke the camel's back that put the entire majority of Lebanese and with them the moderate Arab countries, Israel and the entire free world at the front step of Iran's dreadful and criminal scheme.

So what did the standard bearers of democracy, the free world and the spineless Arab countries do? Sadly and pitifully, they threw to the media more empty slogans of support for Lebanon and weak condemnation, empty of substance.

They did not move a single finger while the leaders of the Cedar Revolution, the democratically elected government and pro-western politicians were rounded up and herded to the Arab Emirate of Qatar with Hezbollah's guns pointed to their heads. All the while, predominantly Sunni, west Beirut, remained occupied and under siege by Hezbollah, the Iranian-Syrian Army in Lebanon.

One may wonder why Lebanon had rejected the Israeli call for direct negotiations last week. This call was declared officially twice in a bid to reach a peace agreement between the two neighboring countries?

The answer is simple; the Lebanese government could make an independent and patriotic decision on the Israeli call because it is held captive and hostage to the Axis of Evil. Hezbollah is like a cancer that has penetrated and crept into all Lebanese governmental institutions from the Army to the Airport to various primary ministries. The Hezbollah state was erected and given a free hand during the devastating Syrian occupation that lasted for almost 27 years and ended in 2005.

The Western world and in particular Europe, Canada, Australia and the United States, need to prioritize as primary the Hezbollah dilemma before this cancerous militia lands and spreads in their own sovereign territories. Proof of this infiltration can recently be seen in the report of Hezbollah operatives canvassing the Israeli embassy and various other unidentified locations in Canada! They need to understand that Hezbollah is a serious threat to their national security and interests not only in the Middle East, but in the whole world. Based on this terrifying reality, they need to act immediately.

These beacons of freedom and democracy need not fool themselves by hoping that the UN Resolutions or the Lebanese government will handle Hezbollah's weapons and tame its schemes that aim to topple the Lebanese democratic system. The Western world ought to immediately eradicate and finish Hezbollah's military capabilities by all means available to them. Needless to say that the UN Resolutions will remain toothless, ineffective and useless unless the needed full scale military power backs fully their implementation.

Hezbollah is devouring Lebanon piece by piece and if the Western world does not come to the rescue of the Lebanese people, Lebanon will very soon be lost as an independent and free country and transformed into an Iran satellite state.

Hezbollah is not a Lebanese party by any criteria, but rather a foreign army in Lebanon. Its decision-making process, financing, ideology, training, supplies and weapons all come from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards headquarters and leadership. It has been well documented by several informed resources that Iran annually pays Hezbollah billions of dollars. This group was founded in Lebanon by the Iranian mullahs in 1982 and it is worth mentioning that Hezbollah's main mission was and still is to export, advocate and spread the Khomeini religious ideology to all Middle Eastern countries. Hezbollah's Iranian mission has never been a secret and each and every Lebanese is reminded of this Iranian agenda daily with signs of Hezbollah's divinity on every street.

Hezbollah is purported to be the most dangerous terrorist organization in the world. The organization is trained, heavily armed and very well equipped. It is operationally supported by Syria and heavily funded by Iran. In fact, Hezbollah is so dangerous in terms of its global reach and influence, that the US Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff recently warned that the Hezbollah organization "makes Al Qaeda look like a minor league team."

Needless to say that force and deterrence is the only language that Hezbollah and its masters in both Iran and Syria understand.

And so the question remains; is the West ready to finally face with force and firmness that premier terrorist organization of the twenty first century?


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