Thursday, July 30, 2009

Senators Want Obama to Press Arabs

July 26, 2009

WASHINGTON (JTA) -- Two U.S. senators, a Democrat and a Republican, are circulating a letter pressing President Obama to lean on Arab nations to make peace overtures to Israel.

"Such steps could include ending the Arab League boycott of Israel, meeting openly with Israeli officials, establishing open trade relations with Israel, issuing visas to Israeli citizens, and inviting Israelis to participate in academic and professional conferences and sporting events," said the letter from Sens. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) and James Risch (R-Idaho), circulated July 23 for co-signatories. "We also believe that Arab states must immediately and permanently end official propaganda campaigns which demonize Israel and Jews."

The letter praises what it says have been Israel's overtures, including Netanyahu's reiteration of Israel's backing for a two-state solution and his easing of some travel conditions in the West Bank, although it avoids mention of a settlement freeze, a component that Obama's aides say they need in order to entice Arab leaders.

Mordechai Kedar in al-Jazeera about Jerusalem & Islam.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Hezbollah's wickedness & Our People In Israel

By: Elias Bejjani*

July 07/2009


"Let no one ask us to tag as traitors our Southern "Lebanese" citizens who entered Israel at a certain period, because the "Lebanese" state has abandoned them. They are our brothers and we will definitely demand that they return to their homes, and families." (Lebanese MP, Sami Gemayel 28/6/09).


We value, and greatly appreciate MP Sami Gemayel's courageous, genuine and transparent stance in regard to our Southern Lebanese citizens who because of serious and imminent fears for their lives and the fate of their children were forced in May 2000 to take refuge in neighboring Israel. These citizens are not traitors by any means, but patriotic, noble, decent, and Lebanese par excellence.

It is worth mentioning that in May 2000, the Israeli government after its occupation of the "Southern Lebanese Security Zone" for 25 years had decided for internal reasons to unilaterally withdraw its troops in accordance with
 UNSC Resolution 425. 


In the aftermath of this withdrawal, more than 6,500 Southern Lebanese men, along with members of their families, had no option but to leave their towns, villages and abandon all their properties and to hastily run for their lives. While Israel was logistically preparing for withdrawal, Hezbollah waged a merciless and savage media campaign against the Southern Lebanese Citizens. The campaign was aired publicly on all local and international TV and radio stations. The most frightening threats were uttered personally by Hezbollah's General Secretary, Sheik Nasrallah, who savagely said, "We will enter their bedrooms, pierce their stomachs, slaughter them and slice their throats."


Between 2000 and 2005, Syria which was still occupying Lebanon,  accordingly had the sole and upper hand in appointing, firing, disciplining, exiling and fully controlling all the country's governments officials, officials, armed forces and members of the parliament, at the same time was intimidating and manipulating the judiciary to serve its schemes.


The Syrians not only fully hindered the dignified return of our people from Israel, but made hell the lives of those southern citizens who hesitated and did not escape to Israel. They were ripped of their civil rights and deprived of all governmental services while been tagged as collaborators and traitors. Many of them were exposed to arbitrary trials and sentenced harshly.


The 4000 Lebanese whose nostalgia made them take the risk, not consider the consequences and return from Israel to Lebanon were immediately arrested, tortured, humiliated, imprisoned and charged with treason, collaboration, contacting an enemy and living in an enemy country.


The trials that they had were a mere farce, biased, fabricated, false and void from all recognized standards of international laws. The military prosecutor tried all these cases, and in the majority of these trials, the accused Southern Lebanese citizens were not allowed to even hire lawyers to defend them. Most of the local and international human rights organizations have stated in their documented reports that each of these theatrical trials did not last for more than 10 minutes. Many of these victims were sentenced in absentia and more than seventy of them received death penalties.


In  2005, the Syrian army was forced to withdraw in accordance with UNSC Resolution 1559, and the Syrian occupation was over. Since then numerous attempts were initiated by the Maronite church,  a few Christian MPs and other human rights bodies all aiming to secure a dignified and safe return for the more than 2,500 Southern Lebanese  people who had remained in Israel.  Unfortunately all these genuine attempts were aborted by Hezbollah, the Iranian terrorist militia who after the Syrian military withdrawal in 2005 had become the sole controlling military power in Lebanon.


Hezbollah's mullahs' swollen and inflated egos and their mere detachment from reality have made them hostages and prey to a set of sickening grandiose delusions. They are damn mistaken to falsely believe that they can continue to forever block the return of our people from Israel to our Land of the Holy Cedars, and to unjustly deprive them from embracing the Lebanese soil that they, their fathers and their grandfathers have for the past 7000 years been safeguarding, plowing, planting, and enriching with their sweat, blood and sacrifices.


No matter what the hardships are or will be, the free people of Lebanon will not allow Hezbollah's mullahs to topple the Lebanese regime of multiculturalism, freedom and peaceful co-existence and replace it with a replicate of the Iranian mullah's Islamic Republic.  Iran's denominational "Wilayat Al-Faqih doctrine" of  Khomeini has been stubbornly rejected by the majority of the Lebanese people and will never ever be forced on them.  


Meanwhile, the ongoing suffering of our people in Israel is not that different from the kind of suffering that our people in West Beirut and Mount Lebanon went through last year when Hezbollah fighters, the "Mujahedeen" invaded their suburbs, destroyed their homes, vandalized, shut down and occupied their schools, hospitals, media facilities and institutions, kidnapped, humiliated, tortured and with cold blood murdered more than 100 innocent civilians.


It is both a shame and a crime for all of Lebanon's 18 mosaic communities dignitaries and members, and for all Lebanon's clergy, politicians, officials and intellectuals to be demoralized and scared by Hezbollah's rhetoric, and accordingly succumb to its derailed "Khomeini" criteria for treason and patriotism, as well as for good and evil. These criteria that Hezbollah tags as "divine" have been sadly hindering the honorable and safe return of our people from Israel.


We call on Lebanon's President, House Speaker, Prime Minster and all politicians and clergy to help in ending the dilemma of our people in Israel. Their return needs to be a priority, and it must be with honor, dignity, respect and definitely without any kind of farce trials. These people are heroes and not traitors, and every Lebanese with faith and conscience is fully aware of this reality and substantially unshaken tangible fact.


MP Sami Gemayel has taken the initiative in courageously and transparently addressing the dilemma of our people in Israel. Hopefully he with the help and support of other MPs  from all Lebanon's religious denominations will soon see that an appropriate amnesty law is drafted and passed in the Parliament, for enough is enough.


History teaches us that nothing in this mortal, earthly life lasts except the face of God, and that all human wicked traits such as injustice, lying, heresy and arrogance, eventually hurt those holding on to them in the face of  their fellow men.


We advise all those who evilly and intentionally are inflicting pain and injustice on our people in Israel and arrogantly blocking their return to their homeland, to read the following biblical verse and take notice on how Almighty God rewards the meek and how He takes revenge on the wicked: 


"For, behold, the day comes, it burns as a furnace; and all the proud, and all who work wickedness, will be stubble; and the day that comes will burn them up," says Yahweh of Armies, "that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. 4:2 But to you who fear my name shall the sun of righteousness arise with healing in its wings. You will go out, and leap like calves of the stall. 4:3 You shall tread down the wicked; for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I make," says Yahweh of Armies"). (Malachi 4/1-3".


Elias Bejjani
Canadian-Lebanese Human Rights activist, journalist and political commentator
Web sites &
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Monday, July 27, 2009

Letters from Germany, 1933-1936



Letters from Germany 1933-1936


On this Holocaust Remembrance Day, and on the day when Ahmadinejad can stand up in Geneva at a UN conference on racism and be given an international podium to lash out his hate against Israel and America, I feel it is important to send you 4 letters written by a 20 year old German girl to a penpal, my mother, in New Zealand, between the years 1933 and 1936. She did not know that my mother was Jewish, thus we have a rare opportunity to see the reaction of the "ordinary "German to the rise of Hitler. I have coloured these parts in blue, and you can see how the mundane chit chat of a young girl becomes more and more entwined with the overtones of the Nazi doctrines. The change in tone over the years in the German woman's letters is telling and chilling as she describes her adoration and support of Hitler.

The letters, which were kept by our mother, are over 70 years old, and are in a delicate state. I managed to transcribe almost all of what was written there, but there are some places where the paper was torn, or the wording illegible, thus there are some gaps.

The family have donated the letters to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem , where they will be carrying out the proper preservation of the material.The archivist at Yad Vashem was very anxious to receive the letters as it turns out that they have no documentation of this sort, I.e. The simple German  citizen's reaction to the rise of Hitler.

You are welcome to pass them on by email or use them in any other forum.







A Jerusalem Response to Obama



by Yoram Ettinger
Published: 07.22.09, 11:15 / Israel Opinion,7340,L-3750386,00.html

Twenty five towns in the United States, from Massachusetts to Oregon, bear the name of Jerusalem – Salem. This is a reflection of the unique bonds that exist between the USA – since the 17th century Pilgrims and the Founding Fathers – and the Jewish capital, land, history and religion.

The US Congress – the most authentic representative of the American People – has passed a series of bills and resolutions reaffirming the role of Jerusalem as the indivisible capital of the Jewish State and the appropriate site for the US embassy in Israel. US constituents and their representatives on Capitol Hill are aware that 3,000 years before President Obama entered the White House, and 2,770 years before the US gained its independence, King David entered the City of Jerusalem – the Heart of the Jewish People. However, notwithstanding his speech at the 2009 AIPAC Conference, Obama wishes to repartition Jerusalem, to prohibit free Jewish construction and entice Arab construction there. Obama does not recognize pre-1967 Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish State.

In 1949, at the end of the War of Independence, the US Administration, Europe and the UN exerted brutal pressure on Prime Minister Ben Gurion to refrain from declaring Jerusalem as the capital, to accept the internationalization of the city, and to abstain from establishing facts on the ground. They also leaned on Israel to "end the occupation of the Negev" and absorb and compensate the 1948 Arab refugees.

Ben Gurion's response was immediate and appropriate. He declared Jerusalem the capital of the Jewish State, relocated government departments and agencies to Jerusalem, expanded construction all the way to the ceasefire lines, directed a massive number of Olim (immigrants) to Jerusalem and upgraded the transportation infrastructure to the city. Ben Gurion's determination and defiance clarified to the US that neither Jerusalem nor the Negev was subject to negotiation. It accorded Jerusalem the space required for security and development for the next generation.

In 1967, the US Administration and the international community threatened Prime Minister Eshkol that the reunification of Jerusalem, and any construction beyond the 1949 ceasefire line, would undermine severely Israel's global standing. Eshkol replied firmly by annexing the Old City, the eastern suburbs and substantial land reserves and built the Ramat Eshkol neighborhood (beyond the ceasefire lines.)

In 1970-1972, Prime Minister Golda Meir defied the (Secretary of State) Rogers Plan, which called for Israel's retreat to the pre-1967 lines and for the transfer of the Old City to the auspices of the three religions. She laid the groundwork for a series of satellite neighborhoods around Jerusalem (beyond the "Green Line"): Neve Ya'akov, Gilo, Ramot Alon and French Hill. These neighborhoods provided Jerusalem with the land required for development until today.

Dramatic expansion needed

In 2009, President Obama is exerting psychological pressure on Israel to repartition Jerusalem, which would rob the city of essential land reserves. This land constitutes the prerequisite for the dramatic enhancement of Jerusalem's transportation, residential and industrial infrastructures, which are critical for the transformation of Jerusalem from a city of net Jewish emigration to a city of net Jewish immigration.

An appropriate fast-track-response to Obama – which would be aimed at attracting entrepreneurs, job-creation, affordable housing, as well as providing Jerusalem with the developmental space for future generations should include:

• Upgrading "Begin Road" to a "Jerusalem Loop"

• Expanding freeways (to Jerusalem) 1 and 443

• Building freeway 45 to the coastal plain

• Fast railroad to Jerusalem

• Completion of light rail system in Jerusalem

• Construction of an international airport

• Traditional and high-tech industrial zones

• Residential construction zones

• Fast roads connecting new zones

Such dramatic enhancement of infrastructure requires an equally dramatic expansion of Jerusalem's city limit: eastward to the Dead Sea, Herodion and Mt. Ba'al Hazor, westward to Modi'in and Kirayt Sefer and southward to Beitar Ilit and Gush Etzion.

The battle over Jerusalem necessitates that the Jewish State join forces with the US public and its representatives in the House and Senate. This is the time to resurrect the 1999 initiative – which was co-sponsored by 84 Senators – to relocate the US embassy to Jerusalem. This is the time to encourage Israel's friends on the Hill, and especially the Chairmen of the Congressional and Senatorial campaign committees, to revisit bills and resolutions, which highlighted Jerusalem's indivisibility as the capital of Israel.

Jerusalem's growth requires – as it did during Ben Gurion's, Eshkol's and Golda's terms – a defiance of the US Administration. On the other hand, succumbing to Obama's pressure would exacerbate Jewish emigration from Jerusalem, subjecting the Jewish capital to its worst security and demographic threats since 1967.

Anglican priest disgraces authentic Christianity

By Dexter Van Zile

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Dexter Van Zile, a JWR reader (and lifelong Christian) asks what type of god inheres in the so-called peacemaking ministry of Anglican Priest Naim Ateek, founder of Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center | Anglican Priest Naim Ateek is making the rounds in support of his most recent book, A Palestinian Christian Cry for Reconciliation (Orbis, 2008), in which he falsely accuses Israel of perpetrating a "slow and creeping genocide" against Palestinians — who have one of the fastest growing populations in the world.

Apparently, leveling false accusations at the Jewish people and their homeland is not enough to get one barred from polite society in 21st century America.

So much for history progressing in an upward spiral.

In February, Ateek, founder of Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, appeared at churches in Boston, Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta and Washington, D.C.

And on July 18-20, Ateek appeared at a number of venues in the Puget Sound region of Washington State. In addition to appearing in churches, Ateek appeared for the first time before a congregation of American Jews — at the Kadima House in Seattle.

The centerpiece of Ateek's Puget Sound tour was his June 20, 2009 appearance on Weekday, a radio show hosted by Steve Scher and broadcast on KUOW, an NPR station in Seattle. During his radio appearance, Ateek returned to a persistent theme in his writings: the notion that the god described in some of the Hebrew Scriptures is a primitive, violent and territorial god who cares only about Jews.

During the interview, during which Scher lobbed softball questions, Ateek described Palestinian liberation theology as a way of helping people understand "how the Bible has been abused by Jewish religious extremists and Christian Zionists [who are] using the Bible against the Palestinians."

According to Ateek, "people quote from Genesis that G-d has given the land to the Jewish people. So the land is given by God so they have a divine right to the land and the Palestinians have no rights. They need to go. It is the wrong way of interpreting scripture. Palestinian liberation theology comes to really help people understand that the message of the Bible is not about a god who is a person concerned about a piece of land here or there, but a god of justice, a god of peace, a god of compassion."

During the interview, Ateek stated that some books in the Hebrew canon — most notably Daniel and Jonah — offer a critique and an alternative to this "exclusive, bigoted god who says I'm gonna go with you to war, I'm gonna kill your enemies."

Scher, who did not raise concerns about Ateek's use of anti-Jewish polemics from the New Testament against the modern state of Israel, also failed to address a central question that needs asking: What type of god is propounded in Ateek's so-called "peacemaking" ministry?

It's an obvious question given Ateek's criticism of the exclusive and bullying god that he says Jews and Christian Zionists use to justify Israeli policies.

Ateek, who condemns belief in a god that would direct its blessing exclusively toward the Jewish people, propagates the agenda of a god who directs its judgment and anger at Israel, especially its Jewish inhabitants. Ateek does not openly confess allegiance to such a deity — in fact he denies doing so. Nevertheless, his commentary about the Arab-Israeli conflict provides a resting place, an ark, for just such a god.

For example, during his appearance on Weekday, Ateek asserted that the "Today the Jewish people are not suffering. They are the oppressors. … They can be relieved from their suffering if they do justice. I think part of the suffering of the Jewish people, or Israeli, I mean — not Jews I mean because there are still more Jews outside Israel than there are Jews there — they can have greater security. Israel doesn't want peace. That's part of the problem and Israel wants to get rid of the Palestinians and that's unfortunately what has been happening. So Israel can relieve itself from so much suffering if it does justice in that sense."

On this score, Ateek accords Israel with the power to unilaterally bring an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict through concessions and peace offers. In Ateek's logic, the fact that Palestinians have engaged in persistent acts of violence against Israel is proof of Israeli intransigence — not Arab rejectionism. Exactly who wants to get rid of whom in the Middle East?

For Ateek, Israel's offer at Camp David in the summer of 2000, its acceptance of the Clinton Parameters the following winter, its withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005, and Olmert's 2008 offer to withdraw from 93 percent of the West Bank are meaningless. Despite these and other concessions and withdrawals, Ateek regards violence against Israel as Israel's fault.

In sum, nothing Israel does is good enough for the god who animates in Ateek's sermonizing, and very little of what the Palestinians have done wrong is worthy of divine judgment, or even a benign admonition.

For example, on October 5, 2000, soon after the beginning of the Second Intifada, when a real peacemaker would be calling for calm and for an end to violence, Ateek issued a statement that portrayed Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount on Sept. 28 as a "violation" and a "desecration" and asserted that "It was right for our Palestinian Muslim brothers and sisters to stand up in the defense of their holiest place, al-Haram al-Sharif, when it was being threatened and desecrated."

On its face, "standing up in defense of their holiest place," seems like a pretty benign affirmation of nonviolent action, unless of course one takes into account the fact that five Israelis had been killed by Palestinian violence in the two weeks before Ateek issued this statement.

While Ateek gives close scrutiny to the theology of Christian Zionists and Jewish extremists, he gives light treatment to the theology motivating Muslim violence against Jews and the Islamic refusal to accept the notion of a sovereign Jewish state. His painstaking exegesis of the Hebrew scriptures and repeated invocations of Christianity's universalism — which are invariably targeted at Jewish beliefs and policies — testify to a god obsessed and offended by the Jewish refusal to accept Christianity, and silently indifferent to a Muslim intolerance toward Jews.

Muslim theology regarding the land and the Jewish people plays a significant, if not dominant, role in fomenting violence against Israel in the Middle East, but neither Ateek nor the group he leads, Sabeel, address these subjects in a meaningful way.

One question that Scher could have asked of Ateek is why he spends such a disproportionate amount time condemning Christian Zionists, who have never blown up a bus, and the small number of Jewish settlers whose violence toward Palestinians, while condemnable, does not even come close to the misdeeds perpetrated by groups like Hamas and Al Aqsa Martyr's Brigade against Israelis.

The story Naim Ateek tells about the Arab-Israeli conflict, cloaked as it is in the language of Christian peacemaking, attests to the existence of a deaf, dumb and blind god who would use Muslim and Arab violence against Israel as a scourge against the Jewish people.

Such a god is not worthy of worship.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Egypt: After Muabarak, what?

Palestine Nakba 1948: Who created it?

Even more important than who is responsible for the Palestine Nakba - the Palestinian refugee problem, is the question of who is perpetuating it. Who is it that has refused to find new homes, for the last 61 years, for this unique population of "refugees," the only refugee community to persis for three generations? Who opposes breaking up the refugee camps and sending the refugees to permanent homes?  
Arab leaders are responsible for refugee problem 
by Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik
July 23, 2009  
"The radio stations of the Arab regimes kept repeating to us: 'Get away from the battle lines. It's a matter of ten days or two weeks at the most, and we'll bring you back to Ein-Kerem [near Jerusalem].' And we said to ourselves, 'That's a very long time. What is this? Two weeks? That's a lot!' That's what we thought [then]. And now 50 years have gone by." [PATV, July 7, 2009]

With these words an Arab resident of a refugee camp recounts the reason why his family left Israel in 1948, in an interview broadcast on PA TV this month.
In recent years, Palestinian leaders, writers and refugees have spoken out in the Palestinian media, blaming the Arab leadership for the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem. According to these accounts, and contrary to the Palestinian myth that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were deported by Israel in 1948, the vast majority of the Arab exodus from Israel was voluntary, and the result of orders by the Arab leadership.
Furthermore, the fact that this information has been openly discussed by public figures and refugees in the Palestinian Authority media itself suggests that awareness of this responsibility may be widespread - even though Palestinian leaders continue to blame Israel for "the expulsion" for propaganda purposes.
The following statements in the PA media shed significant light on the events of 1948 and counter the attempts by the Palestinian Authority to hide this part of history.
Click here to view the Palestinian testimonies
1. Arab resident of refugee camp:
"This picture was taken a week before we left Ein-Kerem [near Jerusalem] in June 1948, in front of our house. The radio stations of the Arab regimes kept repeating to us: 'Get away from the battle lines. It's a matter of ten days or two weeks at the most, and we'll bring you back to Ein-Kerem.' And we said to ourselves, 'That's a very long time. What is this? Two weeks? That's a lot!' That's what we thought [then]. And now 50 years have gone by."
[PATV, July 7, 2009]
2. Jawad Al-Bashiti, Palestinian journalist in Jordan:
"Remind me of one real cause from all the factors that have caused the 'Palestinian Catastrophe' [the establishment of Israel and the creation of the refugee problem], and I will remind you that it still exists... The reasons for the Palestinian Catastrophe are the same reasons that have produced and are still producing our Catastrophes today.
During the Little Catastrophe, meaning the Palestinian Catastrophe, the following happened: the first war between Arabs and Israel had started and the 'Arab Salvation Army' came and told the Palestinians: 'We have come to you in order to liquidate the Zionists and their state. Leave your houses and villages, you will return to them in a few days safely. Leave them so we can fulfill our mission (destroy Israel) in the best way and so you won't be hurt.' It became clear already then, when it was too late, that the support of the Arab states (against Israel) was a big illusion. The Arabs fought as if intending to cause the 'Palestinian Catastrophe'."
[Al-Ayyam, May 13, 2008]
3. Mahmoud Al-Habbash, Palestinian journalist in PA official daily, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida:
"The leaders and the elites promised us at the beginning of the 'Catastrophe' in 1948 that the duration of the exile would not be long, and that it would not last more than a few days or months, and afterwards the refugees would return to their homes, which most of them did not leave only until they put their trust in those "Orkubian" promises made by the leaders and the political elites. Afterwards, days passed, months, years and decades, and the promises were lost with the strain of the succession of events..."
[The term "Orkubian" invokes Orkub, a figure from Arab tradition who was known for breaking his promises and for his lies.]
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Dec. 13, 2006]
4. Asmaa Jabir Balasimah, woman who fled Israel in 1948:
"We heard sounds of explosions and of gunfire at the beginning of the summer in the year of the 'Catastrophe' [1948]. They [Arab leaders] told us: The Jews attacked our region and it is better to evacuate the village and return after the battle is over. And indeed there were among us [those who fled Israel] those who left a fire burning under the pot, those who left their flock [of sheep] and those who left their money and gold behind, based on the assumption that we would return after a few hours."
[Al-Ayyam, May 16, 2006]
5. Ibrahim Sarsur, Head of the Islamic Movement in Israel:
An Arab viewer called Palestinian Authority TV and quoted his father, saying that in 1948 the Arab District Officer ordered all Arabs to leave Palestine or be labeled traitors. In response, Ibrahim Sarsur, now Arab Member of Israeli Parliament Knesset, then Head of the Islamic Movement in Israel, cursed those Arab leaders, thus acknowledging Israel's historical record.
Viewer: "Mr. Ibrahim [Sarsur]: I address you as a Muslim. My father and grandfather told me that during the 'Catastrophe' [in 1948], our District Officer issued an order that whoever stays in Palestine and in Majdel [near Ashkelon - southern Israel] is a traitor, he is a traitor."
Ibrahim Sarsur, now MK, then Head of the Islamic Movement in Israel: "The one who gave the order forbidding them to stay there bears guilt for this, in this life and the Afterlife throughout history until Resurrection Day."
[PA TV April 30, 1999]
6. Fuad Abu Hajla, senior Palestinian journalist:
Fuad Abu Hajla, then a regular columnist in the official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, wrote an article before an Arab Summit, criticizing Arab leaders. One of the failures he cited, in the name of a prisoner, was that an earlier generation of Arab leaders had "forced" them to leave Israel in 1948.
"I have received a letter from a prisoner in Acre prison, to the Arab summit:
To the [Arab and Muslim] Kings and Presidents: Poverty is killing us, the symptoms are exhausting us and the souls are leaving our body, yet you are still searching for the way to provide aid, like one who is looking for a needle in a haystack or like the armies of your predecessors in the year of 1948, who forced us to leave [Israel], on the pretext of clearing the battlefields of civilians... So what will your summit do now?"
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, March 19, 2001]

Arab states missing the boat in Iran

Arabs and the Iranian upheaval
Hazem Saghieh, 9 - 07 - 2009
The missed chances and false trails of the Arabs' political projects are highlighted in their reaction to Iran's proto-revolution, says Hazem Saghieh.
9 - 07 - 2009
When eastern and central European countries turned from communism to democracy following the collapse of the Berlin wall in November 1989, Arabs found themselves facing a great predicament - one for which they were not prepared. They were not acquainted with the youthful democratic forces that were becoming the leaders of those countries now free of Soviet domination. But, more important, as allies of the former Soviet Union, the Arabs looked at the transformation and the forces behind it with doubt and suspicion.Also on the disputed election in Iran and its bitter aftermath:
This tendency was reinforced by the fact that the "change" was welcomed by Israel, as well of course as by the west in general. In this context, there were prominent voices in the Arab world who warned against an evil "conspiracy"; and others who spoke of the suspected role of the "Jews". All this increased in turn feelings of aversion and estrangement in east-central Europe itself towards the Arabs.
There was a definite cultural dimension to this complex of attitudes. The prevailing  tendencies of Arab political thought persisted in their allegiance to despotic ways of thinking - whether nationalistic, religious, or class. They turned away from the vibrant and vital emerging ideas from the public squares of Berlin, Prague, and Warsaw that were inflaming the imagination of the rest of the world.
The tragedy culminated when the Arabs sought to justify their stance, naturally by relating everything to the Israel-Palestine issue. But the question of Palestine, with all its principles and values, proved not enough to refine or smarten the Arab bias to totalitarian regimes. Indeed, Arabs behaved and argued as if they preferred to remain in the narrow alleys instead of the wide highway. More significant, they did everything to ensure that they remained in those alleys and lengthened the distance separating them from the highway. In the end, Arabs lost the friendship of states with tens of millions of newly conscious democratic citizens who were preparing to re-enter the arena of history with plenty of enthusiasm. What we, the Arabs, lost was - equally naturally - won by Israel.
Today, something similar is taking place in Arabs' stance towards Iran and the upheaval in the country after the stolen election of 12 June 2009. It is true that Iran had long been repressed and sunk in atrophy, but what is certain is that the events surrounding the election have wrecked the regime of Ayatollah Khamenei and put "change" on the Iranian people's agenda. It has become clear that the most regressive sectors of Iranian society are losing their ability to practice hegemony over the most dynamic, young, educated and modern sectors by any means other than crude violence.
Without falling into determinism, it is most probable that the future is going to belong to the latter groups - if not tomorrow then the day after; not least as  they will be joined by many thousands of professional and skilled Iranians in enforced or voluntarily exile. This prospect is heightened by the deepening of cracks in the Khamenei (and basiji) state's legitimacy - thus enabling the new forces to spread their impact.
There is no sane or rational person who would exchange a promising future for an obsolete past represented by the likes of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Moreover, only the egoist who sees his cause as the motor of the entire universe - admittedly the western left as well as the Arab world contains not a few such people - would ask 80 million Iranians to meekly accept subjugation by a brute authority that seizes their freedom and appropriates their progress for the sake of upholding his tattered banner.
In any event, it is necessary to challenge the very assumption that Ahmadinejad and his cohorts in any way serve Palestinian and Arab causes or interests. But the weak response to the Iranian tumult especially amid the Arab "radical" environment poses a deeper question: is it really possible to combine the cause of democracy and progress with a system of  "national"-collective priorities  where the struggle with Israel dominates Arab minds and actions?
In fact, to tread such a path is the best gift to fanatical Iranian nationalists who traditionally consider that the Arabs have done nothing throughout history except harm Persia and its culture! Such chauvinists abound among Iranians as much as they do among Arabs. What is happening in Iran is the birth of a modern, progressive, enlightened country led by a young and fearless generation. That is what Arabs should be supporting:  as the Poles say, for your freedom and ours!
Hazem Saghieh is senior commentator for the London-based paper al-Hayat

Israel and the Arabs: Can there be peace?

The elusive goal of peace between Israel and her Arab neighbors may have become the alchemic quest of the twenty-first century. Is there a resolution, or is the game set up so that there can never be a resolution?
Two articles explore the issues:
Solutions may or may not suggest themsleves.
Ami Isseroff

Egyptian Succession: The Crisis Waiting to Happen

Egyptian Succession: The Crisis Waiting to Happen

By Barry Rubin

There's one crisis in the Middle East to which attention is rarely paid but which will one day, soon, explode onto the front pages: Who will be Egypt's next president?

President Husni Mubarak will pick his successor all by himself. And if he dies without doing so? A meeting of the regime's elite will make the decision.

Mubarak is 81 years old, was made vice-president 34 years ago, and has served as president without any vice-president for 28 years. His health is not good but those who know how bad it is don't say and those who say don't know.

There are two main candidates to be taken seriously: Gamal Mubarak, 46, the president's son who had a career as an investment banker, and Omar Suleiman, the head of Egyptian intelligence. For Egypt to follow Syria's example and have what looks like a hereditary monarchy under the guise of a republic would be to invite ridicule.

Otherwise, Gamal might appear impressive on the surface to Western governments but that could well be a deceptive. When Syrian President, dictator Hafiz al-Asad decided to hand over to Bashar, he spent years preparing the ground, grooming the young man superficially, securing the agreement of the elite, and getting rid of any possible rivals. Bashar has been repressive, adventurous, murderous, and radical. He has murdered Lebanese politicians, also dispatched terrorists against Jordan, Iraq, and Israel. But from a Syrian regime standpoint, his reign has been successful precisely because he's been so terrible in his foreign policy.

Gamal seems a nice young man, Westernized, technocratic, friendly to business. Yet in the Middle East, nice guy dictators finish up in front of firing squads, in a manner of speaking. Contrary to his reputation as monster, the last shah was closer to Gamal than to Bashar in character.

Can Gamal really control a country of 80 million people with seething poverty and a growing radical Islamist movement? He may well lack the required toughness and is certainly unlikely to become a popular figure.

And if members of Egypt's elite don't think so, they will try to keep him out of office and start plotting if he ever does sit on the throne, um, presidential seat.

In contrast, Suleiman, 73, is tough and street-smart. He is well-regarded at home and in the West, but how the all-important army high command feels about him is not so clear. Moreover, given his age, he would likely prove an interim president. Still, he knows how to play the Middle East political game quite well.

If Gamal can claim that he would be better from a developmental standpoint, Suleiman would do a better job in the regional and domestic security areas.

The danger to Egypt is more medium- than short-term. The country is nowhere near an Islamist takeover. But if Gamal becomes president would one be able to say that in five or ten years?

Finally, the regime elite might come together to insist on a third candidate, say a former general who has gone into administration. The timing of the decision and implementation on succession is going to be a central factor. Keep a close eye on this issue. It may soon be a crisis.