Saturday, July 17, 2010

Watch out for Saudi Arabia!

Two recent articles discuss the situation in the Saudi monarchy. One says the situation is bad, the other says the situation is much worse than that. A Forbes magazine commentary recently painted the following bleak picture of Saudi Arabia:
Turki bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, a prominent dissident now in exile in Cairo, issued an open letter to his fellow royals, urging them to abandon their desert fiefdom for greener pastures. According to the prince, the current social compact between the House of Saud and its subjects had become untenable, with the government no longer able to "impose" its writ on the people and growing grassroots discontent at the royals "interfering in people's private life and restricting their liberties." His advice? That King Abdullah and his coterie flee the Kingdom before they are overthrown--and before their opponents "cut off our heads in streets."
Grassroots prosperity, meanwhile, has headed in the other direction. Since the oil boom of the 1970s, per capita income in Saudi Arabia has constricted precipitously, falling from $28,000 in the early 1980s to below $7,000 in
2001. In other words, average Saudis have experienced a devastating reversal of economic fortune, even as the royal cohort that rules over them has become more numerous, indulgent and bloated.
In contrast a recent Economist article, When kings and princes grow old,  about the Saudi succession, studiously and apparently deliberately ignores Turki Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud's warning  entirely and paints the following fairly rosy picture:
... Its $420 billion economy faces little risk of losing its place as the biggest in the Middle East, given steady oil reserves and production, around $150 billion in annual energy exports and a strengthening world oil market. The country's net foreign reserves still nearly equal its GDP. Economists expect growth to accelerate slowly from around 4% this year, ensuring steadily rising living standards.
These are seemingly impressive figures. Indeed, the Saudi economy is expected to grow 3.8% in 2010, but that is evidently in nominal terms. Since there is inflation of 5%, the economy is actually shrinking as the population grows.
By any measure, the Saudi GDP is not the largest in the Middle East, as the Economist states. Following are some CIA estimates prices for 2009:
Iran:         Real GDP: $876 bil. Exchange Rate GDP: $336 bil. Real Growth:  2.6%
Turkey        Real GDP: $863 bil. Exchange Rate GDP: $608 bil. Real Growth: -5.6%:
Saudi Arabia: Real GDP: $586 bil. Exchange Rate GDP: $384 bil. Real Growth:  0.2%
Israel:       Real GDP: $207 bil. Exchange Rate GDP: $196 bil. Real Growth:  0.5%
Qatar:        Real GDP: $101 bil. Exchange Rate GDP:  $94 bil. Real Growth   9.5%
Turkey has a larger economy than Saudi Arabia any way it is measured. Iran has a larger economy in terms of purchasing power. In terms of real per capita GDP, Qatar, with $121,700, is second in the world. Saudi Arabia with a GDP of about $20,000 is ranked 60, but Israel, with only  7.5 billion people, and (until 2010) no developed energy resources, has a GDP of over $200 billion and a per capita real GDP of about $28,400 and is ranked 48 in the world. There are no data on the distribution of wealth in Saudi Arabia. That is probably the most problematic and threatening aspect of Saudi economics. There is evidently a very large income differential between the royal family and the poorest classes (see also this NYT article from 2008).   
It may be true, as the Economist notes, that Saudi Arabia sent 200,000 students to study abroad. But that is perhaps because of the highly unsatisfactory state of Saudi universities. Only 85% of males and 70% of females over the age of 15 are literate according to the CIA estimate.  
The Economist article does caution that the succession is uncertain, but it claims:

Most Saudis expect that their ruling family will, as it usually has, reach quiet consensus on whom to crown, assuming that King Abdullah and Prince Sultan depart in reasonably short order. Aside from the 1992 royal decree tipping the "best qualified" prince to rule (a term that in Arabic can mean either the most virtuous or the most capable), there are some established guidelines. Traditions of Muslim kingship suggest that the line should pass through brothers of one generation in order of age, before descending to the next.

Yet with their unique political system looking increasingly anomalous in the modern world, Saudis are beginning to worry about what might follow if the al-Sauds fail to agree...

Neither analysis mentions some other ominous factors. The specter of Shi'ite Iran has frightened the Saudis, not least because of a restive Shi'ite minority in south-east Saudi Arabia, where its oil reserves are concentrated. Not only Shi'ites threaten Saudi stability. From the first, it seems that the main goal of Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden may have been to overthrow and supplant the Saudi monarchy. Bin Laden's 1996 Fatwa was significantly entitled "Declaration of War against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places". In it he writes, among other things,

They stood up tall to defend the religion; at the time when the government misled the prominent scholars and tricked them into issuing Fatwas (that have no basis neither in the book of Allah, nor in the Sunnah of His prophet (Allah's Blessings and Salutations may be on him)) of opening the land of the two Holy Places for the Christian armies...

Both analyses agree that there are problems and signs of increasing instability in Saudi Arabia,. This cannot be good news for the United States, because Saudi Arabia is its prime ally in the Gulf region, and the Americans count on Saudi backing in the war in Afghanistan and in Iraq, though they don't always get such backing.

Someone in the U.S. should be devoting much more time to considering the problem of Saudi Arabia. After there is an Iranian-style revolution there, and U.S. admistration officials will again be "surprised" as they were by the Iranian revolution, it will be much too late.

Ami Isseroff

Friday, July 16, 2010

Brave Zionism: Israeli activist shares idea for unique peace center

Israeli activist shares idea for unique peace center

Thursday, July 15, 2010 | by stacey palevsky
What if there was a retreat center near the Dead Sea that was open equally to Israelis and Palestinians, where cultural and political boundaries were not barriers to working together toward peace?

Ultimately, it could grow into a residential village, with people from both sides of the conflict living as neighbors.

This is not a hypothetical situation. It's something Ilana Meallem is working to build.

"We need to create something in an area both [Israelis and Palestinians] have access to, that belongs to us both, where neither group is 'hosting' the other group," Meallem said. "There are many forces at play working to keep us separate — separated physically and separated emotionally by fear and mistrust — but we want to bring together, to humanize and to cooperate because we are the same human beings with a different narrative."

Ilana Meallem (second from left) with a Bedouin family.
Meallem, 32, is a London-born Israeli peace and environmental activist. She spent the past two weeks in the Bay Area, speaking at numerous events on behalf of the Arava Institute, Jewish National Fund and Hazon.

Meallem lived in Oakland in 2004 during a summer internship organized by Arava and the Sierra Club. More recently, Meallem has lived all over Israel  in a mobile home, a small white camper decorated with peace-loving stickers such as "I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends."

In three years of living her nomadic lifestyle, her most beloved home base was a small patch of land in the Judaean Desert, near the Dead Sea, where she befriended a number of Israeli Arabs and Palestinians.

During her first winter in the Judaean Desert, Meallem slept outside next to her camper. "I kept bumping into Palestinians walking past my house," Meallem recalled. "So I would invite them to sit, drink tea with me."

The following year, in 2008, she took things a step further, planning a pro-peace weekend gathering at the Dead Sea for Israeli Jews, Arabs and Palestinians. Through sheer word of mouth, 100 people attended — and more than half were Palestinians.

The experience proved to Meallem that Israeli, Arab and Palestinian peace activists need land where all can move freely and easily, and where they can gather at any time to dialogue, plan and be close to nature in an eco-friendly and sustainable setting.

Now, the Arava graduate is investing her time and energy into making this dream a reality. She's currently at work on a business plan with Israelis and Palestinians and is talking to a solar energy company about using some of their land for the project.

"Anytime we want to have a peace event with Jews, Palestinians and other activists in the Middle East, it's a challenge of where to do it," Meallem said.

If the gathering is in Israel, Palestinians must spend hours waiting to apply to get a permit to leave the West Bank, and the permit only allows them to leave for 24 hours, if they are granted a permit at all, Meallem said.

"It is a frustrating and humiliating process," she said.

But if the gathering is in Palestinian territory in the West Bank, say, in Ramallah, Israelis are legally barred from entering those cities.

To avoid the complications, peace activists from the Middle East often travel to Europe or Turkey to meet for conferences. Meallem's center, once built, would eliminate the need for peace activists to leave Israel to do peace work.

"There is a shifting in consciousness," Meallem said. "Many people are cooperating in ways we never before thought possible."

Meanwhile, Meallem also is continuing to work on the graduate project she started while at the Arava Institute.

She wrote the proposal, applied for grants and recruited environmentalists to help start the Biogas and Bedouin Women's Health Initiative.

Thanks to Meallem's efforts, Bedouin women are learning how to operate equipment that will turn their community's  solid waste into energy to heat their homes, cook their food and power their electricity. The project empowers women while making their environment cleaner, safer and healthier.

Meallem grew up in an Orthodox family with an Egyptian Jewish father of Iraqi descent. She moved to Israel after high school. After polishing her Hebrew on a kibbutz and a few months in the army, she studied biology and environmental studies at Hebrew University.

She traveled and volunteered abroad in her 20s, and in 2003 began studying at the Arava Institute, an interdisciplinary program that trains Palestinians, Israelis, Jordanians and internationals to be environmental leaders.

"Ilana personally is incredibly spiritual and able to connect with people," said Eric Berzon, who housed Meallem when she interned in Oakland and also serves on the board of trustees of Friends of the Arava Institute.

"She connects on a very real, personal level, and she's open to the world around her," Berzon added. "So we look at her in amazement as she has all these contacts around the world."

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Palestinian Authority's Institutionalization of Incitement

From Terrorists to Role Models:

Introduction to the report. The entire report: From Terrorists to Role Models: The Palestinian Authority's Institutionalization of Incitement

The Palestinian Authority's Institutionalization of Incitement


The PA's policy of naming schools, streets, sporting events, summer camps and ceremonies after terrorists fundamentally undermines the chance for peace

by Itamar Marcus, Nan Jacques Zilberdik, Barbara Crook and PMW staff

Executive Summary  The Palestinian Authority has named numerous locations and events after Palestinian terrorists responsible for killing Israeli civilians. In this special report, Palestinian Media Watch investigates the breadth of this phenomenon and to what extent it continues in 2010. Furthermore, PMW will assess whether this represents activities of a fringe group within society, or represents Palestinian Authority policy.

The Palestinian Authority's recent naming of a square in Ramallah (March 2010) after the terrorist Dalal Mughrabi, who led a terror attack that killed 37 civilians, was not an isolated incident. It is one example among many of how the PA has institutionalized incitement by systematically turning terrorists into role models.  In this report, Palestinian Media Watch documents the ongoing Palestinian Authority policy of glorifying terrorists through the naming of places and events after them, especially after those responsible for the most murderous attacks. Dalal Mughrabi, whose bus hijacking killed more Israelis than any other Palestinian terror attack, has been immortalized through the naming of numerous places and events, including: Two elementary schools, a kindergarten, a computer center, summer camps, football tournaments, a community center, a sports team, a public square, a street, an election course, an adult education course, a university club, a dance troupe, a military unit, a dormitory in a youth center, a TV quiz team and a graduation ceremony. And Mughrabi is just one example among many.  For this report, PMW has chosen 100 examples of places and events named after 46 different terrorists in order to show the scope of the phenomenon. 26 of the examples have been reported in the Palestinian media in 2010.  Terror glorification is highly visible in Palestinian society. A Palestinian child can walk to school along a street named after the terrorist Abu Jihad, who planned a bus hijacking that killed 37, spend the day learning in a school named after Hamas founder Ahmad Yassin, in the afternoon play football in a tournament named after suicide terrorist Abd Al-Basset Odeh who killed 31, and end his day at a youth center named after terrorist Abu Iyad, responsible for killing the 11 Olympic athletes in Munich. A young woman can join a university women's club named Sisters of Dalal, after Dalal Mughrabi, attend a week at Al-Quds University honoring suicide bomb builder Yahya Ayyash, and participate in university rallies named after numerous terrorists. Honoring terrorists envelops and plays a significant part in defining the Palestinian world.

Two types of incitement: Direct calls to kill vs. honoring terrorists who killed

The PA practice of honoring terrorists is a very dangerous form of incitement, because it praises the killer and the act of killing after the actual murder has taken place. When an Imam on PA TV calls to kill Jews, the murder is at that point a possibility. No one has yet been killed.  Honoring a suicide terrorist does not refer to a possibility, but glorifies an actual murder. When PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas funded a computer center named after Mughrabi, he was telling Palestinian society that killing Rebecca Hochman and her sons, 6-year-old Roi and 3-year-old Ilan, along with 34 other civilians in a bus hijacking, was not merely acceptable, but an act worthy of honor. When the PA Ministry of Education held a football tournament named after suicide terrorist Odeh who killed 31, it was saying that the act of murder is what turns Palestinians into heroes. The PA's message that terrorists are role models is as damaging to peace as it is disturbing. Honoring a murderer is incitement to murder. Palestinian Authority leaders honor terrorists The terror veneration that this report documents is not of a fringe group, but the policy of the PA, the Fatah party and the Palestinian leaders. PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad sponsored a sports event named after Abu Jihad in May 2010, who orchestrated Dalal Mughrabi's bus hijacking and many other terror attacks. And Abbas, in addition to funding the computer center named after Dalal Mughrabi in 2009, also publicly supported the naming of the square in her name in 2010. Palestinian Authority defends policy of honoring terrorists In response to PMW's exposing the plans to name a square after Dalal Mughrabi, the PA defended this practice at the highest levels, acknowledging that this terror veneration is part of PA policy:

Mahmoud Abbas, PA Chairman, on naming square after Mughrabi: "Of course I did not go myself, but I do not deny [the naming]. Of course we want to name a square after her." [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Jan. 17, 2010]

Siham Barghouti, PA Minister of Culture, on naming square after Mughrabi: "Honoring them in this way [by naming public places after them] is the least we can give them, and this is our right." [Al-Ayyam, Jan. 11, 2010]

Mahmoud Al-Aloul, member of Fatah Central Committee, defending immortalizing terrorists: "It is important to continue commemorating the memory of the Shahids (Martyrs) and the Palestinian acts of heroism, and most importantly the anniversary of the Martyrdom of Dalal Mughrabi, heroine of the Coastal Road operation [attack that killed 37], which falls on March 11th… Al-Aloul said that Fatah has acted and continues to act to immortalize its Shahids (Martyrs) and heroes… He added: 'It is our right and our duty to take pride in all of the Shahids (Martyrs), and it is our duty to convey this message in the most direct manner to the generations to come.'" [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Feb. 25, 2010]

Speaking on behalf of Mahmoud Abbas, about street named after Abu Jihad: "In his speech on behalf of the President [Abbas], Tayeb Al-Rahim said: 'Today we are celebrating the inauguration of a street named after the leader Abu Jihad, Prince of the Shahids… He had the honor of introducing the idea of the armed Palestinian struggle… We say that the entire [Palestinian] nation has become Abu Jihad, and that our people are proud of him. His name has been given to hospitals and schools and centers and streets. Abu Jihad did not die; he lives on in our midst. Abu Jihad is the engineer of the revolution; the first bullet." [Emphasis added] [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, April 21, 2010]

 Defining a terrorist for this report

In this report, a terrorist is defined as a person who carried out, planned, organized or assisted in attacks that deliberately targeted civilians for the strategic goal of killing civilians and/or terrorizing a civilian population. It does not include as a terrorist act the attacking of military or terrorist targets for the purpose of eliminating a real or perceived threat, even though civilians may have been killed. The strategic purpose is critical in the definition of terror. Attacks intentionally directed at civilian targets are terror. Attacks targeting military targets are not terror, even if civilians were also killed. Furthermore, this report does not include individuals who participated in terror activities but later turned to political activity. The many places and events named after Yasser Arafat are not included, even though he planned numerous terror attacks whose sole purpose was the killing of civilians, because he later received the Nobel Peace Prize.

Non-Palestinians included in this report

It is not only Palestinians involved in violence who are honored in this way by the PA. Iraqi insurgent Ali Al-Naamani committed the first suicide bombing attack in Iraq, killing four American soldiers. The Palestinians named an area in Jenin after him. Likewise, Saddam Hussein has a Palestinian school and a road named after him. While these two do not fit the strict definition of terrorists, they have been included in the report because they are important for showing the range of people involved in violence who have been honored within the PA.

Methodology - general terrorist glorification not included in this report

This report is documenting only the naming of places and events in honor of terrorists that have been cited in the PA media. PMW has not investigated all the PA schools or all street names and therefore the full extent of the phenomenon is certainly greater. In addition this report does not include the PA practice of glorifying terrorists directly through events in their honor, such as, assemblies, rallies, or TV specials on anniversaries of terror attacks. For example, on the annual anniversary of Dalal Mughrabi's bus hijacking, PA TV has broadcast many special  reports, interviews and programs about her and the attack. While all this greatly compounds the problem, it is beyond the scope of this report.


The explicit and unmitigated rejection of terror on moral grounds is a basic condition for a sincere and lasting peace. Whereas the PA leadership has publicly committed to fight violence, this message can only be seen as insincere by their own people, when numerous terrorists who murdered Israelis are repeatedly glorified by the PA leadership even in 2010. Indeed, there is no more fundamental statement of support for violence and terror than when the single act of intentionally targeting and killing Israeli civilians is enough to immortalize the name of the killer. If there is to be any chance for peace, the Palestinian leadership must convince their own people that terror is rejected -- not merely because it is damaging to Palestinian interests in 2010, but because it is immoral and wrong at all times. For peace to have a chance, terrorists must be ostracized as immoral outcasts, not immortalized as heroes and role models.


Beirut's airport is under Hezbollah's hegemony

Beirut's airport is under Hezbollah's hegemony
By: Elias Bejjani *

July 15/2010 mere

Day after day unfolding events show plainly and with no doubt that Hezbollah fully controls Beirut's International Airport while the presence of the Lebanese official authorities at this vital and dynamic facility is mere symbolic, totally marginalized and practically does not exist at all. This terrorist Iranian armed militia has the upper hand inside the airport and all over its vicinity that is adjacent to its mini southern suburb mini state (Al Dahya Al Janobia). In reality it is Hezbollah's air port par excellence and not Lebanon's.

Hezbollah has installed dozens of its own run cameras all over the airport and closely monitors around the clock offices, corridors, waiting halls, runways, control tower, entrances, exits, stores etc. Meanwhile the airport's security chief, Brigadier General Wafiq Choucair, is loyal to Hezbollah and not to the Lebanese official authorities. In 2008 when the Saniora Lebanese government tried to transfer Choucair to another post, Hezbollah was boldly defiant, and militarily invaded and occupied the Sunni West Beirut and tried but failed to occupy the Druze stronghold of Mt. Lebanon. Hundreds of people were killed and injured during the bloody invasion. Hezbollah's general secretary, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, called the invasion a glorious day.

Hezbollah has been holding the airport, as well as the whole country, hostage since 2005. In this terrorism context dozens of Lebanese nationals from Diaspora who support the sovereignty, freedom and independence of their homeland and oppose Hezbollah's hegemony and occupation were either unlawfully banned from entering Lebanon via the airport, or humiliated, threatened, detained arbitrarily, and wrongfully and falsely accused of treason. Many of them were flagrantly harassed and badly intimidated before they could return to their Diaspora countries.

Hezbollah freely uses the airport for importing all kinds of weapons and for all other illegal trafficking. Jihadists enter and leave through the airport freely as well as Iranian militant personal and officials. In this realm two Lebanese MP'S who opposed Hezbollah and Syria were assassinated only a few hours after they disguisedly and secretly returned to Lebanon via the airport (Gobran Tueini September 13/2005 and Antoine Ghanem in December 20/2007). Hezbollah's Camera's taped their entrance and assailants took care of them.

The latest Beirut airport - Hezbollah scandal unfolded last week when presumably a terrorist plot to explode a Saudi-owned (Nasair company) Airbus 320 failed.

News agencies stated that on Friday 09/10 passengers on board a Saudi aircraft at the Beirut airport runway reported seeing a man in a baseball cap with a backpack make a dash for the plane as it prepared to taxi. He stumbled once and then continued towards the plane. The passengers and flight attendants informed the pilot, but he did not take any action and continued takeoff without informing the Beirut control tower that anything was amiss.

The Nas Air flight XY 720 that took off from Beirut airport late Friday with 130 passengers on board including high ranking Saudi military officers, safely landed Saturday morning in the Saudi capital, Riyadh. At that time a body of an unidentified man was found by a maintenance worker while inspected the right rear landing gear of the plane. Saudi authorities reported that they found along with the dead man a picture for his wife, Jihadist verses and a picture for Al Khomeini. On Monday, after a series of investigations it was officially announced in Beirut that the man's name was Firas Haidar, a Shiite Lebanese, national from the area of Burj al-Barajneh near Beirut airport.
The question is how could this man alone and peacefully manage to freely infiltrate and fool all the security checkpoints and then easily reach the airport runway unnoticed by the dozens of cameras that are installed all over the facility? And how he was able without any kind of resistance or usage of weapons or force to run to the plane carrying his bag, climb to its wheel bay and grab hold of a wheel without the control tower noticing his presence before the jet took off?

It is very clear that the man was moving inside the airport freely, relaxed and not paying any attention to the cameras or to security personnel measures. This simply means that the airport officials on all levels were either facilitating his mission or deeply sleeping.

By mere analysis based on logic and available facts one can hypothetically assume the following scenario:
The man was a Jihadist assigned by his terrorist superiors to explode the Saudi plane by putting a kind of sophisticated explosives (that can be detonated via a remote control) at the wheel bay after all the plane's checking and supplying procedures were over, and then to leave the wheel bay before the plane takes off. It is worth mentioning that a big pair of scissors fell from him when the plane took off and was found later on the runway. Apparently his superiors had an upper hand inside the airport and accordingly were able to guarantee and secure his free movement and facilitate his mission.  

Why he failed? Presumably his stumbling before reaching the plane disturbed his scheduled time span, made him very nervous and perhaps the explosives fell with the scissors and accordingly did not have enough time execute the terrorist act and to get down before the plane took off.

Why the scissors were only found and nothing else? Again presumably and hypothetically those who sent him and secured his free and unnoticed entrance would have collected all the stuff that he either left behind or fell from him on the runway. 

Hezbollah who might have assigned the man to carry the terrorist mission tagged him as mentally unstable, a camouflaging tactic the Egyptian government resorts to all the time to cover terrorists and Jihadists who assault Christians in Egypt. Meanwhile Lebanese newspapers said the man knew exactly what he was doing because two cigarette filters were found inside his ears to safeguard him from the plane's loud noise.

In his bid to abort and block any kind of investigation, Hezbollah's strong man, the airport's security chief, Brigadier General Wafiq Choucair, submitted his resignation to the Interior minister. The government will not dare to accept the resignation and will not risk to go through the hassle of appointing a replacement in which Hezbollah will have the last saying. 

Definitely the formal investigation in the incident is going to be faked and forged and no one shall ever know what actually happened because Hezbollah will not allow the Lebanese authorities to exercise freely their duties and responsibilities as was the situation in many previous similar circumstances.

This very serious incident sheds light on the Ethiopian plane disaster that exploded in last January a few minutes after taking off from Beirut airport and all of its passengers were killed. One wonders if the same tactic was used to explode it? 

In conclusion, this serious incident will remain a mystery with no answers while similar incidents will continue to take place as long as Hezbollah and not the Lebanese Government dominates, controls and runs the Beirut airport.

Arabic Version:

Jerusalem, Tel Aviv best places to visit in Middle East


Travel and Leisure magazine has declared Jerusalem the number one city to visit in the Middle East and Africa for the summer and fall vacation seasons.

Cape Town, South Africa placed number two on the list of 10, and Tel Aviv came in third place.

The list was compiled based on a survey of readers who had recently visited the region. They ranked cities according to enjoyment of sights, culture and arts, dining, attitude of local residents, shopping and overall value.

From January to July of this year, Israel has seen a record number of tourists. Well over 1.5 million people have visited Israel during the first half of the year, and the numbers are only expected to grow as the biblical High Holy Days approach.

The Adventures of Itamar Marcus and the Hamas Bunny: Palestine at Play

The Adventures of Itamar Marcus and the Hamas Bunny: Palestine at Play


Itamar Marcus was in town, and instructions were that we had to eat "Kosher Kosher." Surprised to find neither the Zagat nor the Michelin had a listed kosher section, even here in New York City (home to more Jewish people than Tel Aviv), I began to realize how difficult it must be for an observant Jew looking to eat out. Fortunately Caravan of Dreams could accommodate us where I had arrived early, as is my custom. Red walled, with a low slung ceiling, the dining room ensconced me in bonhomie. While it was cold outside, in the womb-like room the air was pleasantly humid. A potted palm provided a far-from-here tropical ambiance. A breeze stirred, reminiscent of Al Nakheel's on the Jeddah Corniche. Nursing my thoughts in the pregnant silence, I sensed something about to hatch.

I thought about my invitation last month that had led to ringside seats at a Waziristan beheading. Tonight I was relaxed - whatever happened, I couldn't possibly see or hear anything worse. I leaned back into my chair, savoring the anticipation of unscheduled time in intelligent company.

The quorum began to assemble. Brooke Goldstein, founder of the Children's Rights Institute, arrived first. Soon after, my friend Richard walked in, made late by uncooperative trains. We all waited for Itamar.

I didn't notice him enter at first, even though the dining room was small. A diminutive, immediately friendly man approached our table, apologizing for his delay. Dressed in a sharply-pressed shirt, and yarmulke, this was Itamar. I signaled for him to sit next to me, under a feeble spotlight. I wanted to really see this person.

A few days earlier, in noisy traffic, over a bad blue-tooth connection, I had agreed to meet him, thinking he was the director of Palestinian Medical Watch. I imagined he ran some kind of NGO health organization. Only later did I realize it was media that he watched. Tonight, I would learn about Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), which examined the media output of the Palestinian Authorities. Indeed, I decided, it was a kind of medical surveillance, but of wholly alien diseases, diseases that propagate generational pandemics of terror.

Something about Itamar was immediately winsome, warm. I liked him at once. Without knowing why, I promptly recognized there was an air of urgency to the evening. Rather like taking a history from a complicated patient, I began peppering him with questions, worried I wouldn't have time to learn everything I needed. Practicing medicine is a lot like journalism - one gathers detailed eyewitness accounts of memorable events from multiple sources, repeatedly rechecking the story. This evening I wanted to know what Itamar had seen.

He told his story with simplicity, beginning with his birth in Uptown Manhattan, to his experience of making aliyah at 22, an ascent which would ultimately lead him to the fascinating Israeli destiny which, (as the Pirkeh Avot tells us) by Hasgahah pratis, patiently awaited him.

Over a decade and a half ago, while working as an advisor for an Israeli ministry, he stumbled upon Arabic medium broadcasts emerging from the Palestinian Authority. In his accidental discovery, he had fallen into an extraordinary abyss, leading headlong into the wellspring of an unparalleled Pop Culture of Death. As he talked, we each fell under his spell, transfixed for long silences as we followed his journey.

In the beginning, Itamar had examined speeches given by then Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. While never advocating terror explicitly, translators were discovering Arafat did acknowledge the need for "Amalia" during the day, ("acts") implying civil disobedience to Israeli directives, while simultaneously (and rather coyly) stating matters "after nightfall" were an entirely distinct issue. Arafat was condoning any kind of response, one entirely open to his supporters' interpretations. All bets, he seemed to say, were most certainly off.

Realizing that there appeared to be two broadcasts from Arafat, one tailored to the English language Israeli audience and one to the Arabic speaking Palestinian audience, Itamar consistently found messages were often quite opposing. This observation of conflicting statements became the nidus forming PMW, a foundation which Itamar continues to direct today.

Early the same week, Itamar had been in the United States specifically to present PMW's incredible findings in a new report in Congress entitled From Terrorists to Role Models: The Palestinian Authority's Institutionalization of Incitement. In a previous appearance in Washington, to testify before the Senate's Committee on Appropriations, the committee and other colleagues (including then Senator Hillary Clinton, and a solitary Palestinian representative to the UN) were left aghast. The findings are public, accessible here here.

His report showed the marching glorification of suicide martyrdom, which at first encroached, and now engulfs every aspect of Palestinian culture. His data shows a Palestinian child can wake up, walk down a street named after a suicide bomber, attend a school renamed after a martyr, read text books peppered with political ideology, after school, play in a football team named after a terrorist or learn in a computer lab named after a suicide bomber, and then come home and switch on the television to watch none other than the Hamas Bunny.

Overtime, PMW has been funded by both Israeli government monies and private benefactors, though now the foundation is granted by private citizens only. PMW gains intellectual freedom and avoids bias by declining governmental funds, Itamar explained.

Partway through dinner, Itamar pulled out a child's textbook from his bag. For very young children, it was written in such clear Arabic that even I could read it. Relying on my Arabic garnered at my mother's knee 35 years ago and child like, pointing to the sentence with my index finger, I read a sentence out loud. We were examining a math textbook. Itamar pointed out one of the questions.

"The State of Palestine was declared in 1988," said the math textbook.

What happened in 1988 I asked my dinner partners, unaware of the Arafat speech declaring Palestine as an independent state that year.

"How many years have passed since then, until today?" demanded the book.

Children were learning subtraction from this, small children, perhaps no more than six or seven? I remembered my own misery at learning math with nothing more troubling than an abacus or a series of apples. I would struggle to the correct answer counting on my worried fingers, still tubby with baby fat. These children, on the other hand, would know Arafat's politics better than I, and well before they could do long division. There was no time or space permitted for their innocence, even in the ordered world of rudimentary arithmetic.

Over the past decade and a half PMW has been the sole observer documenting the contradictions between the public image the Palestinian Authorities present to the world in English, and the messages they actually deliver to their own people in their own tongue. The publicly accessible findings are so jarring, you can draw your own conclusions irrespective of your perspective. I ask you do what every scientific reader must: evaluate the data, verify the sources of funding and draw your own conclusions. Over time, repeated observations are very, very difficult to ignore. It may also be worth knowing that many of these observations are made by Muslim Palestinians working alongside Itamar. That evening, very soon, I had seen enough to know that something very, very unhealthy is both clearly afoot and frighteningly well entrenched.

By now we had managed to tear ourselves away from his riveting accounts long enough to order dinner, courtesy of a diligent waiter who had made his third round to our table in valiant attempts to secure our attention. I had already lost all track of time and practically forgotten my dinner partners, so absorbed was I in the intensity of this man. To my side, under his breath, now and again Richard hummed along to a nameless tune, reminding me he was there. Briefly distracted, I glanced at him. Behind his mask of preternaturally alert impassivity, Richard too, was rapt.

Now that he had secured our full attention, Itamar leaned forward and opening his laptop, powered up the screen. In short moments, we pulled back the shades on Palestine through his unique, horrifying window. He began to play video clips. I blinked, squinting into the brightness as they loaded on the player. We huddled in for a closer look. In the burgundy gloaming, our illuminated faces against the pall gloom made for a modern day Caravaggio.

A costumed figure dressed in a giant pink bunny suit appears on camera. There is an adult sized person in the figure, which moves like a spiritless Sesame Street character. Unlike Big Bird, the puppet conveys no joy or humor. The bunny is in a garishly lit studio surrounded by childrens motifs and over-sized building blocks, rather like a simulated play area which will never belong to children. There is a stillborn aura to this charade.

A small girl, clearly prepubescent (no more than 8 at most) is the host, veiled in full hijab, revealing her child's face. Her voice is soft and endearing, a stark contrast to the bald hate which formulates the entire dialogue of the show. Her downy innocence strangely heightens the sedition.

"You must know about the Hamas Bunny," said Richard, as an aside, as I tried to make sense of what was unfolding. I giggled at his arid humor, to which I am gradually becoming accustomed. I prepared to quip a riposte, when I realized he had been serious.

"Watch!" he said, almost terse, immediately focusing my attention.

"This is Assud, the Hamas Bunny, Qanta," said Itamar. My eyes widened like a child's might, as I took in the full import of what I was seeing.

I watched the scene unfold. Assud the Bunny was surrounded by his TV parents: an overweight, veiled woman, apparently portraying his Palestinian mother and an overweight, bareheaded Arab man portraying his Palestinian father. The bunny is asking about his missing sibling, Nahoul. Strangely his sibling, Nahoul, is a killer bee.

The parents are wringing their hands. Evidently, something bad has happened to Nahoul, I decided. As the parents confirm Assud's sincerity as a believing Muslim - albeit a cartoon Muslim- the bewildered bunny rabbit attests to the same, his voice cresting to a strangled soprano. From his spiraling anxiety, the puppet, like me, can tell something bad has happened.

The parents begin to tell him the difficult news. Nahoul the killer bee, his beloved sibling, has died because he had been denied entry across the Egyptian border by Israeli authorities, where he could have received badly needed, advanced medical care ( apparently for killer bees). Nahoul must have had a medical condition, it seems. Because the Israelis had denied access, the parents continue, Nahoul is dead. As Assud the Hamas Bunny Rabbit comes to terms with the death of his sibling, his bunny voice rises in condemnation of Israeli brutality. His bunny Arabic becomes increasingly hysterical and, I notice, peppered with Islamic phrases. The children watching at home, wide-eyed like me, stay tuned and get to see Nahoul's death in greater detail.

Flashbacks show the peri-cardiac arrest killer bee on the brink of dying, surrounded by his parents who remind him at his own hour of death that "all children are dying in Palestine." A clumsy rendition of basic CPR follows - adult actors pretend to try and revive the polyester bee which is even wearing a Venturi oxygen mask. Nahoul promptly dies, without advanced life support I note, sardonically.

While the flashback is playing, these details are also being recanted to the newly bereaved Assud the Bunny rabbit, who, while he lacks the wile of Bugs' Bunny, compensates for the lack of wit with vapid, high-pitched psychosis.

The prepubescent network hostess, a kind of chirpy pre-teen Palestinian Rachel Maddow introduces Assud to the loyal viewership. I can tell, her endorsement carries weight with the crowd at home. Assud has thus assumed the mantle vacated by the martyrdom of the Palestinian killer bee.

Its staggering to see this content was produced, and expressly so, with extremely young viewers in mind. For them, the seven or eight year old network hostess is iconic, and older. Her voice greets the presumably heartbroken under-five audience at home with cheery joviality, assuring them that "not to worry kids," "a new friend has arrived on the scene," Assud. Assud, means Lion, an odd name for a bunny rabbit, I have to say, until you watch the rest of the scene.

As Assud recovers his composure at the death of his sibling and his muffled voice comes down an octave from the crescendo of hysteria, he makes a commitment to his TV parents and all the mourning child viewers at home. He reminds the viewers that Nahoul the bee actually took the place of Farfour, the Mickey Mouse doppelganger, who was martyred before Nahoul.

"Just like Nahoul took the place of Farfur, so I too will take the place of Nahoul and make all the children of Palestine happy again," says the awkward, Hamas- funded bunny.

"Inshallah, (God Willing)" encourage the grieving parents who have just buried one baby bee and now fearfully anticipate the inevitable burial of their child the Hamas bunny. I notice how facile the actors are at mimicking grief, how worn and listless their faces look. It's the only part of their acting which seems unforced. In fact, I don't believe they are acting at all. For them, this is reality.

"Inshallah, I will EAT the Jews," says the bunny, impassioned, "Kill the Jews!" This continues for sometime. Hence the bunny's name of Assud (lion)- this bunny was a carnivore, one with a penchant for Jews.

Over the course of perhaps twenty minutes, Itamar plays several such videos, all extracts of childrens broadcasting from the Palestinian Territories. This, and variations on the same theme, continue, in segment, after segment, after segment. It is mind numbing. While the storyboard reads like a bad Saturday Night Live skit, I don't find any of this funny. Rather, it is compelling in its stunningly fascinating horror.

Eventually Itamar had to eat something. So we turned off the videos and exited that world, but not before I noticed we had attracted some attention. From time to time, a woman at an adjoining table looks over, alarmed at the content. She can hear some of the dialogue because we had the volume dialed up. Subtitles play unsettling fragments like "Kill the Jews", "Eat the Jews" - lines the Hamas bunny speaks. The subtitles are in bold type, easily legible over six feet away. What must people think of us, I worried.

She makes assertive eye contact with me. I squirm in my seat almost on the verge of wanting to explain we four do not espouse such views, that three of us are Jewish and the other is a Muslim, but not a sympathizer to this madness. Her eyes look at me, and then the screen and then back again. I don't think anyone else at the table noticed her but somehow I feel guilty by association, guilty that the broadcasters, the scriptwriters, the producers, the puppet actors, the child hosts, and the viewers are all, like me, Muslim. Somehow, despite my French wardrobe, my short hair, my ambiguous race, I think she knows. Even as I type these words at Terminal One at Kennedy, or in a plane at 35,000 feet, I wonder if the Moroccan Muslim next to me can read over my shoulder, noticing the guilt follows me, even at altitude. Somehow, by sharing this reality of Itamar's, I have dirtied my hands in it. With this knowledge, I am soiled, in a way that the others, my friends the Jews, are not.

I return to the conversation. Itamar is still brimming with observations to share. I suspect it could be past midnight. I study his wide set eyes, flecked with a deep, intelligent kindness. Barely lined, his brow conceals a doting grandfather of very young people. We speak of how he protects his own grandchildren from the hazards of television. Together we wonder what is happening in Palestinian households where children the same age as his grandchildren follow the decimation of Farfur, Nahool, Assud without censure, protection, insulation.

Later, as I turn this over in my mind, I wonder can so much divide be created in the vacuum of absent opportunity? Is that the sole reason grandchildren on either side of the divide grow up so differently? Perhaps the Farfur-watchers cannot conceive of being a physician, a teacher, a lawyer. Instead, their conception of a future is an abstracted reality which centers on death as a vehicle to an alternate incarnation?

I want to relate to the Israeli, an uncomfortable habit of mine which immediately separates me from most Muslims. I change the subject, pleased to remember to tell Itamar the meaning of his name-I had been curious enough to look it up. "An Island of Palms" was the Hebrew translation, I announced. Itamar looked up, surprised, noting that while he knew the extraction of his name he had never conceived of it as such. As we smiled at each other I thought of another child named after a palm tree, a beloved daughter in Riyadh. She was a child I had seen presciently in a prophetic dream, full years before she was to be born. She was now growing up, the privileged daughter of an elite Saudi family.

Here was an Israeli, named after palms, seated across from me at the table and there, east from here, was a young Saudi girl, named after palms too. The similarity across cultures is astonishingly bonding. If only each culture could see their own reflection in the other's soul.

I dwelled on the issue of palms for a while. I suppose it was the potted palm in the corner which kept triggering the image. Every time I looked away from my dinner partners, my eye was drawn to the glossy leaves enlivening a recess of the uterine room, the green cutting a fresh, clean sharpness against the blood red wall. Finally, I captured the remnant of a surfacing thought. Amos Oz had said it best in his short treatise, How to Cure a Fanatic:

No man is an Island, said John Donne, but I humbly dare to add: No man and no woman is an island, but everyone of us is a peninsula, half attached to the mainland and half facing the ocean - one half connected to family and friends and culture and tradition and nation and sex and language and many other things and the other half wanted to be left alone to face the ocean.

This is what I felt when listening to Itamar. While the Israeli and Palestinian territories are ever more disconnected from one another - whether walls of concrete, walls of hate, walls of psychosis incubated in the vacant lots of empty childhoods, or even literary festivals celebrating Israeli and Palestinian writers at the same time yet completely without acknowledgment of the other - we remain insistent on our island-like existence, instead of accepting we are each promontories and peninsulas.

When a Palestinian child watches a cartoon character enact the ritualized suicidal ideation which has become venerated as an entire genre of terror - the martyred suicide bomber - we are not, as Muslims, blameless. We are not islands. We are peninsulas, promontories of the giant Muslim Ummah. She is, by definition, an extension of us. We bear association, responsibility, blame. There is no rationalizing this diabolical dementia which is now seizing our youngest members of Islam, for rationalization leads to justification, which leads to tolerance, which leads to covert approval and ultimately, to overt support. Every Muslim bears responsibility for the blood being shed in the execution of these deadly hallucinations which kill real people. Our voice remains the final bastion against incipient Islamic brain death, when Muslims will become spiritually decerebrate. In our current, persistent vegetative state of the intellectual denial of suicide bombing, specifically and Islamist terrorism more generally, we are fast approaching the last exit to sanity.

Suicide bombings are conducted in an inversed perversion of Islam where death of one's child is an act of aggrandizing self-sacrifice, where the murderous destruction of civilian non combatants is beatified as holy martyrdom, where a suicide bomber is canonized as a saint and where the burial of one who has conducted the ultimate offense in Islam - to terminate given life - has become a matter for public accolade and societal secondary gain marked in revered processions. Suicide bombers have become emotional and monetized commodities for their surviving families.

These ideologies, so fanatically nursed, are best described as spectacularly ass-backwards (to borrow an appalling, phlegmatic phrase). They are completely opposite to Islamic ideals. Islam teaches that the individual who commits suicide has so offended his or her Creator that believers are not allowed to supplicate on behalf of his soul. He or she is allowed a burial for matters of public hygiene only but no one can appeal for mercy on his behalf. His soul meets his Maker without the comfort of prayer, with the benefit of recommendation.

Fundamental, core Islamic values - of protecting one's children from death, of collaboratively living in the present rather than in suspended animation awaiting an ephemeral and much fictionalized afterlife ( one which can be attained only through the killing of others) - are utterly subjugated in the febrile, generational psychosis which has gripped much of mainstream Palestinian culture. If we are to judge the content on which the nascent Palestinian future is currently teething, this delirium will only deepen.

"How long have you been doing this Itamar?" I ask, finally, feeling utterly defeated.

"Fourteen years," he answered, unblinking

"What keeps you going, in the face of such futility?" I asked bluntly, feeling his work was no different than watching a psychotic individual auto-mutilate to the point of drawing blood- how much of that can one watch, after a while?

"Qanta, all my work is undertaken from a position of Peace. If this climate of terror is advancing, there can be no hope for peace to take root."

I studied him carefully, sensing the sincerity within him. I believed he and his foundation truly care. I had no further questions of Itamar, only questions of myself. Now that I knew what he did, how much did I care? Where did my responsibilities begin, and his end?

The evening ended, leaving me feeling both bleak and blessed. While there was enormous ideological warfare being conducted through the malleable pawn of collective Palestinian childhood, perhaps there could be ways to learn how to provide an alternate, ways which would ultimately break the deadly life cycle of suicide bombers.

I was deeply humbled: Itamar's draining, devastating work was ultimately about an Israeli Jew who cared deeply about Muslim children, his neshama, his niyyat, a lone green shoot of fragile hope sprouting forth from lakes of blood.

Whom, of you, will join him?

Follow Qanta Ahmed, MD on Twitter:

German documentary: Al Dura death report that triggered Intifada was a hoax

The Al-Dura Hoax: Truth, Finally, May Be Coming

France 2 may soon admit they aired a fraud, thanks to a defamation verdict and French Senator Jean-Pierre Plancade.

July 13, 2010 - by Chris Dreyfus

The al-Dura hoax was first broadcast by France 2 — French public television — on September 30, 2000. For years, people all over the world have fought for what seemed to be the impossible: have France 2 admit they aired a fraud. But this month, things have changed very positively in favor of the truth.

On June 10, Canal + (a private French television station which supported France 2's blood libel) was found guilty of defamation against Philippe Karsenty (one of the people who fought for the truth), whom they had described as a crazy conspiracy theorist.

Another step forward came on July 12, when the new president of French public television was heard at the French Senate. What was supposed to be a formal hearing designed to validate the choice of this new president, Remy Pflimlin, concluded with a question asked by Senator Jean-Pierre Plancade:

Mr. President, you talked about trust, independence, rigor and accuracy. I really care about these words. Your appointment comes at a time when each and every profession should show its deontology and ethics which are essential values on which we shouldn't mitigate. The French public TV should be irreproachable and exemplary.
This is why I'd like to talk to you about an affair which is so important to me, which has been lasting for much too long, and which concerns France 2.
I'd like to talk to you about the so-called death of Mohammed al-Dura, who according to this news report, was killed by an Israeli bullet.

After France 2 aired this news report came a suspicion that French public TV broadcast a fake news report; suspicion confirmed by the fact that France 2 didn't succeed when the channel sued one of our fellow citizens who accused France 2 of having aired, let me quote him, "a pure and simple staged scene."

I recently watched a documentary coming from the German public TV, ARD — "The Kid, the Death, and the Truth" — which also proves that France 2 aired a fake news report.

Let me remind you that this news report triggered the second Intifada, incited Muslims all over the world; that squares are dedicated to the child and that postage stamps have been printed with the picture of Mohammed al-Dura. The American journalist Daniel Pearl was even beheaded to avenge Mohammed al-Dura's death.
Recently, a book of the French philosopher Pierre-André Taguieff has been published in a prestigious book house which also claims that France 2's news report was a hoax, and he was not sued for defamation.
I think it is high time to raise this suspicion over France 2 which has probably breached the code of ethics of the French public TV.

Therefore, I'd like to know, Mr. President, what are the steps you intend to take to regain confidence and reveal the truth on this matter? I take advantage of our meeting to give you Taguieff's book and the DVD of the German public TV.

The new president of the French public TV answered as if he didn't know anything about the al-Dura hoax:

Of course, I'll look at this story.

The courage and the frankness of Senator Plancade has to be highlighted and commended, as well as the ignorance of the new president of French public TV who seemed to know nothing about such an important case regarding his new job.

The hearing revealed much about the lack of information the French public has received regarding the al-Dura hoax all these years. It has been a soft censorship, preventing all the media outlets from revealing the truth about this modern day blood libel.

(Read previous PJM coverage of the al-Dura hoax here [2], here [3], here [4],
and here [5].)

Article printed from Pajamas Media:

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Sounding the Alarm in Sauid Arabia: Report - Prince warns Saud family to leave in a hurry

Present Dangers
Saudi Arabia's House Of Cards
Ilan Berman, 07.13.10, 6:00 AM ET

How stable is Saudi Arabia? Not very, according to at least one member of the Kingdom's ruling class. Last month Prince Turki bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, a prominent dissident now in exile in Cairo, issued an open letter to his fellow royals, urging them to abandon their desert fiefdom for greener pastures. According to the prince, the current social compact between the House of Saud and its subjects had become untenable, with the government no longer able to "impose" its writ on the people and growing grassroots discontent at the royals "interfering in people's private life and restricting their liberties." His advice? That King Abdullah and his coterie flee the Kingdom before they are overthrown--and before their opponents "cut off our heads in streets."
Or so the story goes. Reports of Turki's missive have understandably made a splash in the Iranian press, with Riyadh's regional rival engaging in some thinly veiled schadenfreude. But the actual letter itself is exceedingly hard to come by, at least in its English translation. Were it not for a report from the country's official news agency denouncing the communiqué, you might think the entire episode was made up.
Real or fabricated, however, the warning is instructive. Seventy-eight years after Abdul Aziz ibn Saud triumphantly carved out his kingdom on the Arabian Peninsula following a quarter-century of warfare against rival tribes, Saudi Arabia is living on borrowed time. And the likely culprit of its eventual undoing is the one commodity that allowed ibn Saud to secure international legitimacy in the years following his country's founding: oil.
The problems start with the Kingdom's notoriously opaque energy sector. As veteran oil trader Matthew Simmons pointed out in his 2005 book Twilight in the Desert, "What we know about the Kingdom's oil is pretty much what Saudi Aramco, the Petroleum Ministry and the royal family want us to know." Indeed, empirical facts about Saudi energy wealth are exceedingly hard to come by. Today, the world's largest deposit of proven oil resides not in the Persian Gulf, but in North America. That is because, despite its claim to global energy dominance, Saudi Arabia has refused to allow objective, independently verified measurements of its oil reserves. (Canada, by contrast, has permitted both the U.S Energy Information Administration and the Paris-based International Energy Agency to conduct a comprehensive assessment of its energy potential, with spectacular results.)
The reasons for Riyadh's reticence are obvious. No major new energy fields have been found in Saudi Arabia since the 1970s, and the chances of such discoveries are now, in Simmons' words, "remote." This means that the Kingdom's position at the head of the world oil class is fragile; if Saudi reserves are found to be more modest than publicly proclaimed, its status as an energy superpower might be at risk.
For the moment, at least, the House of Saud still retains considerable muscle in that department. Saudi Arabia is currently estimated to be capable of producing a whopping 12.5 million barrels of oil daily, an increase of nearly 4 million barrels from just five years ago. (Because of the global recession, output this spring was far short of that--just 8.5 million barrels a day.) And, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, at current production levels the Kingdom's 264 billion barrels of reserve crude will last just over seven decades.
Saudi Arabia's energy wealth might run out much sooner than that, however, thanks to the country's ballooning entitlement class. The actual size of the Saudi royal family is subject to some debate, but informed estimates a few years ago placed the number at more than 30,000 members, with some 4,000 princes each afforded a luxurious monthly stipend of tens of thousands of dollars apiece. And because of officially sanctioned polygamy, their ranks are swelling exponentially, projected to reach 60,000 or more by 2020. Needless to say, their allowances, and the attendant extravagant indulgences, are possible solely because of Saudi petrodollars. All of which has prompted an insatiable appetite for ever greater production and consumption of the Kingdom's lifeblood.
Grassroots prosperity, meanwhile, has headed in the other direction. Since the oil boom of the 1970s, per capita income in Saudi Arabia has constricted precipitously, falling from $28,000 in the early 1980s to below $7,000 in 2001. In other words, average Saudis have experienced a devastating reversal of economic fortune, even as the royal cohort that rules over them has become more numerous, indulgent and bloated.
In recent years, the House of Saud has begun to get wise to the destabilizing potential of this disparity. King Abdullah's ascension to the Saudi throne in 2005, following the death of his long-incapacitated half-brother, Fahd, was seen by many as the start of a new era of incremental reform within the Kingdom. Real remedial change has been slow in coming, however. As researchers from Human Rights Watch recently pointed out, the past five years have seen some incremental progress on judicial independence, freedom of the press and gender equality. But glaring disparities--not least in the economic sphere--continue to persist, perpetuating a seething, impoverished underclass.

For Washington, the Kingdom's growing fragility poses a significant conundrum. The issue of Saudi stability has been on the U.S. government's radar since at least the mid-1970s when, in the aftermath of the Arab oil embargo, the Pentagon contemplated contingency plans to secure Saudi oil reserves in the event of sustained political upheaval. Over time, however, military planning took a back seat to political symbiosis. To paraphrase former CIA agent Robert Baer, the United States effectively decided to "sleep with the devil," protecting Saudi Arabia in exchange for preferential access to its crude. In the process, Riyadh became an essential energy supplier to the United States.
Not much has changed, even after 9/11. To be sure, Saudi Arabia's outsized role in the Sept. 11 attacks--and its subsequent indirect troublemaking in Iraq and Afghanistan--have led many to question the durability, and the advisability, of our historic partnership with Riyadh. But in practical terms, the same old corrosive status quo still obtains. Over the past decade, when adjusted for the war in Iraq and the global economic downturn, the amount of oil America receives from the Saudis has remained largely the same--an average of 1.25 million barrels a day, or 12% of total U.S. oil imports.
Which brings us back to Turki's warning. The prince's communiqué may have been long on hyperbole, but its admonition was apt. The domestic compact created over the past seven decades by the House of Saud is simply unsustainable in the long run. And its dissolution, when it eventually happens, is likely to be ruinous for the Kingdom. Given America's deep and enduring reliance on Saudi crude, it could be devastating for us as well. All of which makes a compelling case for serious thinking about the long-term viability of the Saudi state--and what the United States needs to do in order to prevent such a catastrophic collapse, or at least to manage it.
Ilan Berman is vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, D.C. His column, Present Dangers, appears monthly.

Hamas l urges Libya-sponsored "aid" ship to sail to Gaza

    * Published 09:33 14.07.10
    * Latest update 09:33 14.07.10
Ismail Haniyeh tells activists not to let their cargo ship be diverted to Egyptian port and calls for more pro-Palestinian "freedom flotillas."
By Reuters
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on Wednesday urged the activists aboard a Libyan-sponsored aid ship not to let their cargo ship be diverted from Gaza's shore and called in a speech for more pro-Palestinian "freedom flotillas."
"The sea and land convoys must continue. We hope we can depend on Islamic nations to help us lift the blockade," Haniyeh said, referring to a three-year siege imposed on the Gaza Strip by Israel.
The Libyan-chartered ship carrying humanitarian aid for Palestinians in the blockaded Gaza Strip reportedly began sailing toward Egypt's port of El Arish, Army Radio reported Wednesday, after Israeli navy forces had warned it to steer clear of Gaza.
Israel is keeping close watch on the ship, but remains mindful of international censure since Israeli commandos killed nine Turkish activists during a raid on another Gaza-bound aid ship in Mediterranean high seas on May 31.
Outcry at the bloodshed aboard the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara prompted Israel to ease overland trade with Gaza. But it kept the sea blockade, citing a risk of arms shipments to Hamas.
Israel Radio reported Wednesday that Jewish Austrian businessman Martin Schlaff had been mediating between Israel and the charity chaired by Saif al-Islam Gadhafi - son of Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi - which sponsored the aid ship, in an effort to prevent the vessel from steering toward Gaza.
Officials in El Arish said they had received instructions to prepare the port to receive the ship, the Amalthea, which was located less than 60 kilometers northwest of the Egyptian port, and sailing at a speed of 7.5 knots (approximately 8.6 kmh).
Israeli naval vessels were shadowing and monitoring the Amalthea, which had been immobile for much of the night due to engine trouble.
"We are not surrounding; we are following," a military spokeswoman in Tel Aviv said.
Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor told Israel Radio, "Anyone who wants to bring materials there which are not dangerous materials - munitions, etcetera - can bring them through El Arish, can bring them through the [Israeli] port of Ashdod."
"What we want is to set the arrangement for inspections, so we can always check and not allow them to bust their way in," Meridor said.
An Al-Jazeera correspondent aboard the ship said two of the Israeli ships were on the port side of the vessel, to prevent it from changing direction and sailing to Gaza.
The military spokeswoman said the Amalthea's Cuban captain had promised Israel Navy officials that he would not continue to Gaza and instead sail to El Arish.
Egypt said late on Tuesday that the Amalthea had asked to dock in its port, while mission organizers insisted the ship would hold course to Gaza.
The charity that chartered the Amalthea said on Tuesday it would sail to Gaza with its declared cargo of 2,000 tons of food and medicine. Charity director Youssef Sawani rejected accounts of the ship's El Arish destination as a ruse.
The confusion over where and when the Amalthea would dock prompted an Israeli official to suggest there was disagreement between the hired crew of 12 and some 10 pro-Palestinian activists aboard determined to defy the Gaza blockade.
Israel Radio aired what sounded like the navy warning the captain that he would be held responsible for any showdown at sea and legal ramifications. Other aid ships have been impounded in Israel, with some of their cargo eventually trucked to Gaza.
"You are in charge of the people on the ship, and any attempt to enter the area will be your fault only," a voice that the radio identified as a navy negotiator is heard saying.
The Amalthea set sail from Greece on Saturday on a voyage that would ordinarily see it reach Gaza by Wednesday. Rerouting to El Arish would still require the ship to skirt Gaza.

Report: Palestinians silencing peace activist victim of attempted rape

This is the darker side of "resistance" and "non-violent" protest. Imagine what would have happened had an Israeli done this. Would the report be a back page op-ed article like this one?
 Published 11:23 14.07.10
Latest update 11:23 14.07.10
What the PA may be doing to keep the darker side of its much lauded popular protest against the West Bank separation fence out of public view.
By Avi Issacharoff
The story of the Palestinian popular protest against Israel in several West Bank villages has recently garnered worldwide praise. However, as with any other massive movement, the popular protest too has its darker sides. The Palestinian Authority, as well as the leaders of the Palestinian popular protests in villages such as Bil'in, Na'alim, Umm Salmuna, have been trying to keep the following story away from both public knowledge and the media's eye: One of the more prominent Umm Salmuna activists – a village south of Bethlehem, long entrenched in a battle against the West Bank separation fence – is suspected of the attempted rape of an American peace activist who had been residing in the village as part of her support of the local protest.
Omar Aladdin, who had been arrested three months ago over suspicions he had attempted to rape the U.S. citizen, was subsequently released after agreeing to apologize to the young woman. However, Haaretz had learned that representatives of both the popular protest movement and the PA have since applied pressure on the American peace activist as to prevent her from making the story public.
The incident allegedly took place last April, as Aladdin, who had served a term in the Israeli jail in the past, arrived one evening at the guest house in which many of the foreign peace activists were staying. The European and American female activists reportedly agreed to let Aladdin stay with them after he had told them he feared the Israel Defense Forces were on his tail, adding that he had been severely beaten at an IDF checkpoint only a week before.
During his stay Aladdin allegedly attempted to rape a Muslim-American woman, nicknamed "Fegin" by fellow activists. The woman escaped, later accusing the popular protest man of the attempt. One villager who had encountered the American following the incident said she had been in a state of shock.
Aladdin then refused to apologize for the incident, when news of it reached the village's popular committee, the popular protests' governing body, allegedly saying that the incident had been marginal and normal. The American activist then asked the committee to notify authorities of the attempted rape, a request which resulted in the man being arrested by security forces in Bethlehem. After agreeing to apologize for the incident, Aladdin was released from custody by the PA police.
The U.S. citizen was then convinced to retract her complaint, as to avoid tainting the image of the popular protest, which had attracted praise from around the world in recent months.
However, the Umm Salmuna case is not the only one. Separation fence activists know of other incidents in which Palestinians molested and sexually assaulted foreign peace activists, a subject which was apparently raised in the discussions of the various popular committees.
Foreign female peace activists regularly participate in protests in the villages of Bil'in, Na'alin, and others, where the activists stay in separate houses. Some villagers do not agree with these housing arrangements, claiming that the villages' youth, who frequently visit the activists, are corrupted by the young women.
One villager said the female activists bring a different "culture with them, western, too open. The young people, especially from the villages, aren't used to stay near other girls, they do not know their culture, certainly when it's a young woman staying with other women in a strange house. They misinterpret it."
Mahmoud Zwahara, the popular committee's coordinator for the Umm Salmuna and Ma'sara region, said in response that "the struggle against the separation fence is a joint fight, which does not target Israeli identity or Jews. We hope that our activity will show the Israeli soldiers that they must cease their actions against us as well as human rights violations."

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Turkish soldiers mutilate bodies of dead Kurdish resistance fighters

Turkish army violates Geneva Convention


NORTHERN KURDISTAN, Turkey, -- Following the recent clashes between the Kurdish freedom fighters and the Turkish soldiers, the Turkish army distorted and destroyed the corpses of the Kurdish guerrillas in such a brutal way that the families of the slain guerrillas could not recognise them. The Turkish army had resorted to such brutalities in the 90's and the photo in which Turkish soldiers were posing with the heads of Kurdish rebels, chopped off their bodies are in living memories.


While the Turkish army executes the captured guerrillas, the PKK guerrillas fulfil the requirements of the Geneva Convention and treat the Turkish captives accordingly. Article 17 of the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War states: "No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever. Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to any unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind." Article 3 (a) further stated that "Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture" are war crimes. Despite the fact that Turkey is a party to this convention it violates the Convention in front of the eyes of the world.


Turkish army has tortured the dead bodies of the Kurdish guerrillas who lost their lives in the clashes took place in Gumushane, Siirt and Hakkari provinces. Some of the bodies were beheaded, their eyes were taken out and their organs were chopped off. These treatments remind Saddam Hussein's crimes against humanity.


It should be pointed out that this is not the first time that the Turkish soldiers treat the body of Kurdish guerrillas in a savage barbaric way. In the footage bellow the Turkish soldiers were filmed while dragging on the ground and kicking the bodies of two Kurdish guerrillas who had lost their life in fighting.

Turkish soldiers mutilate bodies of dead Kurdish resistance  fighters. 


Monday, July 12, 2010

Wacky Halper-ICAHD Commentary About the Arab-Israeli Conflict

Actually, it is not true that it is OK to question the legitimacy of any state, as the U.N. charter forbids it. This is the sort of thing we can expect from Jeff Halper.

By now, most people understand that Jeff Halper and the organization he leads, the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions (ICAHD), are not trustworthy sources of information about the Arab-Israeli conflict.

This doesn't stop him from being invited to speak to Christian audiences in the U.S., nor does it stop so-called Christian peace activists from distributing ICAHD materials in the U.S.

Halper was present at the Presbyterian Church (USA)'s recent General Assembly in Minneapolis and anyone who missed his presentation (organized by the Israel-Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA), could visit Sabeel's table in the convention center and purchase "Counter-Rhetoric: Challenging 'convention wisdom' & reframing the conflict," a 41-page booklet published by ICAHD in 2006. Sabeel activists were selling the booklet for $3.

Predictably, this booklet has a couple of what can be politely be characterized as "howlers."

For example, on page 20 of this booklet, the text attempts to refute the notion that "There is no partner for peace," by asserting that "the Palestinian leadership, including Hamas, and the entire international community are united in calling for a two-state solution on the 1967 borders, something Israel is not willing to agree to."

There are a couple of obvious problems with this passage. First off, the 1967 borders as they are called in this text are armistice lines and under UN Resolution 242, Israel's borders are to be determined under a final peace agreement, which so far, has not been achieved.

Secondly, the notion that Israel is not willing to agree to a two-state solution is contradicted by historical events.

Israel attempted to negotiate with the Arabs after the Six Day War in 1967 only to be rebuffed with the Three Nos of Khartoum in which the Arab League stated there would be no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with Israel and no peace with Israel.

It also ignores the failure of the Camp David negotiations in 2000 during which Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered the Palestinians a state of their own on all of the Gaza Strip and most of the West Bank, which Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat rejected, without making a counter offer. Israel also agreed to the Clinton Parameters, which Arafat rejected despite a warning from Prince Bandar from Saudi Arabia who told the Palestinian leader "I hope you remember, sir, what I told you. If we lose this opportunity, it is not going to be a tragedy. This is going to be a crime." (The New Yorker, March 24, 2003.)

The most egregious howler, however, is the assertion that Hamas is part of a group of organizations calling for a two-state solution. Hamas' own charter calls for Israel's destruction. Its leaders have made numerous statements reaffirming its commitment to this goal. For example, in January 2006, Mahmoud Zahar, Hamas' "foreign minister," stated "We do not recognize the Israeli enemy, nor his right to be our neighbor, nor to stay [on the land], nor his ownership of any inch of land. ... Our principles are clear: Palestine is a land of Waqf [Islamic trust], which can not be given up. (Jan. 17, 2006 translated by Palestinian Media Watch).

In light of the mountains of evidence proving otherwise, the notion that Hamas is willing to accept Israel's existence is frankly, laughable.

There's another laughable assertion – that no one is denying the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state.

On pages nine and 10, the booklet gives readers a response to affirmations of the Jewish right to self-determination by asserting that while it is "perfectly reasonable to question the basis of the legitimacy of any state, no one in the international community, or in the Palestinian leadership, is saying otherwise. Only that the Palestinians have an equal right to a Palestinian state, on Palestinian land, and that Palestinian citizens of Israel (Arab Israelis) have full civil rights inside Israel."

Who does ICAHD think it's kidding? Israel's legitimacy as a Jewish state, and the of Jews to exercise their right to self-determination, has been under assault for years. For proof, go see Hamas' charter and while you're at it, take a look at Sabeel's Jerusalem Document which calls for a one-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict with the formula being "One state for two nations and three religions."

Incitement Not a Problem

Things get really weird on page 17, when the booklet denies that anti-Semitic incitement in Palestinian society is not an obstacle to peace, stating that "while there is clearly a nationalist sentiment in Palestinian texts, as there is for Israelis, there is no call for incitement against Jews or Israelis in the Palestinian Authority's curriculum. The PA has even gone so far as to ban the posting of 'martyr posters' on schools out of concern that it will encourage violence among the youth." (The booklet offers this assertion to refute the notion that "the real problem is the anti-Semitic propaganda that Palestinians receive since childhood.")

To get a more accurate picture of the problem of incitement in Palestinian society, go to Palestinian Media Watch, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), or even youtube. This is no mere "nationalist" sentiment, but annihilationist sentiment and it is an obstacle to peace whether Halper and the group he leads want to admit it or not.

The booklet, (authored by Emily Schaeffer, Jeff Halper and Jimmy Johnson), was published with funding from the European Community. It includes the predictable disclaimer that the views expressed in the document do not "reflect the official opinion of the European Commission."

To make matters worse, the booklet expresses gratitude to ICAHD's other funders which include European Union, Christian Aid, the Catholic Committee Against Hunger and for Development, the Church of Sweden, the Austrian Development Agency and the government of Ireland.

What were these institutions doing supporting an organization that offers such a patently distorted view of the Arab-Israeli conflict?

And can someone tell us why ICAHD is a trusted "resource" in mainline Protestant community?

Jeff Halper testifying in favor of an overture convicting Israel of apartheid at the PC(USA)'s 2010 General Assembly in Minneapolis. (Dexter Van Zile)